This piece was first written and published (via various blogs) in Nov 2007, updated in Sept 08 and again in Nov 08. It is just as valid today, perhaps more so! The attack upon democracy continues………
When the Conservatives, New Conservatives, or whatever they now call themselves were elected to a minority government just 20 months ago I said to myself “OK so the other bunch gets a kick at the can”. Little will change, life still goes on, promises will be broken, parliament will continue in its usual rowdy rather dysfunctional fashion, some of the proposals will be different but our MPs will debate and vote upon them in the usual fashion. I was wrong!
We each can agree or disagree with the particular direction which the government wants to take us, to continue in Afghanistan or not, to support NAFTA / SPP or not, to protect Canadian resources and industries from foreign “investment” or not and so on and so on.
It is to debate these things and decide upon a reasonable course that we have our parliamentary system with its committees and debate and ability to propose amendments. Well we did have, no longer it would seem! I believe that the individual proposals from this government , whilst important, pale in comparison to what they are doing to our democratic processes, their total disregard for not only the opposition but for those in their own caucus who express an opposing opinion.
Having always, until recently, been rather uninterested in the day to day bickering between the various partys, my first inkling of something wrong was the refusal of our New Leader to meet with the press on an informal basis. I had heard about the appointment of non elected individuals to cabinet and the MP elected as a Liberal also joining the Conservative cabinet within a few days of the election and these things added to my concern to the point where I started sitting up and taking more notice.
This then is not about Conservative policies in regard to the direction they are taking us but more about the manner in which they are doing it. I have no real means of knowing if these methods are supported by the majority of Conservative MPs because few, if any have spoken out on the issue. I suspect that it is more a directive from the PMO with the knowledge and support of the few in cabinet and inner circle who have the ear of the PM. In order to illustrate my concerns for our democratic process I will list just some of the things that have come to my attention that show that this government has little regard for said system and is in fact knowingly destroying or subverting the normal checks and balances that customarily separate our system from that of an Oligarchy.
Here is my partial list of this governments anti democratic actions:-
1) Appointed Michael Fortier as Minister of Public Works rather that an elected MP.
2) Encouraged and enabled reelected Liberal Minister, David Emerson to cross the floor and move directly into a key position in the Conservative cabinet.
3) Refusal to talk with the press except in rare, highly controlled and predetermined, government dictated press conferences.
4) Dictating to elected MPs what they can and cannot say to the electorate and to the press. (All partys try and control the message to some extent but this one has gone way beyond the norm)
5) The summary removal from the party of any MPs who do speak out against a particular party policy. (Garth Turner, Bill Casey)
6) Dictating to the local party organizations who they can and cannot propose as their candidate for election. (as above, Mark Warner and others)
7) Actively disrupting the free and open debate of amendments in parliamentary committees by directing the appointed Conservative chairs to obstruct unfavorable comment and testimony.
8) Producing and distributing to said chairs a 200 plus page document to assist them in this disruption. (witness the committee debate on SPP)
9) Deciding to prorogue parliament rather than just the normal summer recess thus unnecessarily effectively killing any pieces of legislation already in progress.
10) Upon return dictating / threatening that ANY legislation proposed by the government shall be a matter of confidence and that NO opposition amendments will be considered.
11) The PMs threat to the Senate that there would be “consequences” if they stalled his big crime bill., (before it has even been voted upon by the MPs). He has also said several times that abolishing the Senate would be an option if it cannot be reformed.
12) Your choice, the list expands with each day this government feels it has “The Right to Govern” without regard to democratic process.
Addendum Sept 2008, little has changed, just more of the same, here are a few of the more obvious and more recent attacks upon our Parliamentary Democracy.
13) Requiring all government departments and diplomats to get prior approval of the text of any and all public statements or releases from the PMO before speaking to the press or public.
14) Firing the Chair of an arms length Commission, without due process, for doing her job, namely ensuring that nuclear safety protocols were followed to the letter.
15) Attempting to break the rules on election spending by “laundering” the money through local candidates bank accounts and then calling into doubt Elections Canada’s integrity when caught. Refusing to cooperate with a duly formed House of Commons Committee formed to investigate such claims.
16) Abusing the House of Commons rules on publicly funded printing and mail outs by exceeding the allowable 10% monthly volume and including partisan election type commentary in said flyers. (Some household have received as many as five in one month)
17) Sponsoring a series of election style advertisements attacking the integrity of a sitting member of the House of Commons (Mr Dion) outside of an election call. (this breaks no rules but is most certainly an anti democratic action)
18) And finally, ignoring his own legislation setting a fixed election date by calling this election for political gain and trying to lay blame upon the opposition partys for doing their job (opposing).
Update Nov 2008
19) Having fooled about 35% of the voters into electing them the Harpoons now propose to discontinue the public funding of political parties, brought in to minimize the impact of large corporate and union “donations” upon funding constraints. At less than $2 per voter it is hardly an onerous burden upon the taxpayer, the 50% to 75% tax rebate for such donations is NOT however subject to cancellation.
20) Calling the oppositions consideration of forming a coalition government "antidomocratic" a statement that in its self is antidemocratic, many governments across the world are in fact coalitions and there is precident within Canada for such.
-The presence of institutions and procedures through which citizens can express preferences about policies and leaders; existence of institutionalized constraints on the power of the executive; and the guarantee of civil liberties to all citizens.
-A form of government where political power effectively rests with a small, elite segment of society
I will let you decide which description is the closest to the form of government we have experienced of late. I think my view is quite clear. If anyone can explain how any of the above actions enhance our democracy or increase the “openness and accountability” of our government as promised during the 2006 campaign I would really like to hear the explanation!
(This article is an original piece by “Rural” and may be distributed in whole or in part for the purpose of highlighting the necessity of parliamentary reform and increased vigilance upon our political partys and their leaders. He is a Canadian citizen who believes we must actively protect our country, our sovereignty and our democratic process from those who would steal it from us, whether by public apathy, stealth, purchase or outright manipulation. He is not associated with any political party.)
A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.