Prorogation, Disengagement and Cutting the Democratic Deficit in Canada

by matttbastard

With thousands of Canadians reportedly hitting the streets this past weekend to express their disapproval of Stephen Harper’s latest arrogant bird-flip to Parliamentary democracy, it seems apparrent that our political elites are out of touch with the people whose interests they profess to represent. A new report, to be released today, offers empirical evidence in support of the painfully obvious:

“…Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.”

Tonda MacCharles:

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing “a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline.”

“The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,” said the institute’s Lynne Slotek.

“At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque.”

Yet despite this cavernous divide separating institutional political activity and ordinary citizens, Canadians haven’t given up on democratic engagement — they just have to participate via alternative avenues:

Slotek said in an interview the public’s obvious dissatisfaction with that decision “is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can’t, they’ll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet.”

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on “voter interest” in the 2008 election isn’t yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for “formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups” has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for “informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high.” The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either “traditional or non-traditional.”

Part of the intent behind Harper’s cynical prorogation scheme was to take advantage of a disorganized, feckless opposition and lay the groundwork for a post-Olympic spring election victory, perhaps even a majority government (or, at the very least, a Conservative Senate). But with poll numbers tanking and protests mounting, it would appear that Harper and his too-clever-by-half cronies in the PMO neglected to consider a very important constituency: the people of Canada, who, regardless of partisan affiliation, are finally fed up with having once again been taken for granted by an out-of-touch government that has reasserted its entitled sense of invincibility and naked contempt for accountability one too many times.

As one protester put it this past Saturday, Stephen Harper is “abusing the power that the people of Canada have bestowed upon him.”

It’s beyond time for the people to take that power back.

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Dear Conservative Party of Canada

Stop fucking lying:

“Our objective is to get a majority of senators in the Senate who support reform. That is our objective. Once reform is passed, everyone will be standing for elections,” [a Conservative Party aide] told reporters at a background briefing yesterday.

“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” Harper said in a statement that accompanied the list of appointees.

“If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for,” he said, referring to the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement that was signed before Harper sought prorogation of Parliament earlier this month to avoid a confidence vote.

Despite the overwhelming ignorance of a majority of Canadians, we do not ‘elect’ a government; we elect a Parliament by voting for local candidates who, if successful, become Members of Parliament, followed by the formation of a government–which may or may not represent the  party that had a majority of its MPs elected to Parliament.  If a group of MPs (say, a coalition of opposition MPs who represent a majority of seats in the House of Commons) can gain the confidence of the House, they have every right to form a government, regardless of election results.  You know this, and yet you continually lie (yes, lieEd Broadbent sure called it earlier this month) in the process of stating your case as to why you should remain in power.

By now it should be more than apparent that you could give a flying monkey fuck about anything (including the welfare of the nation) apart from clinging to power and furthering your radical right-wing agenda by any means necessary. But what’s truly sad is the fact that, during the course of their report, Tonda MacCharles and Bruce Campion-Smith apparently felt that correcting a blatant falsehood was unnecessary.  When the press colludes with the PMO to spread disinformation, even unwittingly, is there any wonder why the people of Canada are so ignorant of the democratic process?

Look, I know that Goebbels is said to have once famously (and  perceptively) quipped that if you “repeat a lie a thousand times it becomes truth”; but one would hope that our nation’s elite would have higher standards with regards to whom they are channeling their PR strategy through.

With vexation and disgust,

matttbastard

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This Is What Harper Country Looks Like

by matttbastard

“D’oh Canada” indeed:

A new survey for the Dominion Institute taken in the aftermath of this month’s political crisis in which the word “prorogue” was dusted off political science textbooks suggests a woeful ignorance when it comes to our system of government.

For example, results of the Ipsos Reid survey show 75 per cent of Canadians asked believe the prime minister, or the Governor General, is head of state. Bzzzz – wrong.

It’s actually the Queen.

Only 24 per cent managed to answer correctly, according to the poll provided exclusively to The Canadian Press.

[…]

Given a choice how best to describe the system of government, 25 per cent decided on a “co-operative assembly” while 17 per cent opted for a “representative republic.”

Canada is neither.

Only 59 per cent correctly picked constitutional monarchy.

In a similar vein, 51 per cent wrongly agreed that Canadians elect the prime minister directly.

In fact, Canadians elect local members of Parliament and the leader of the party with the most members by tradition becomes prime minister at the request of the governor general.

Head. Desk.

Please, keep these results in mind the next time y’all wanna rag on our neighbours down south for collective national ignorance.

Srsly.

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Return of the Midnight Appointments

by matttbastard

(Current) Prime Minister Stephen Harper is quickly going nuclear, apparently about to play his one possible trump card–18 vacant seats in the Senate just waiting to be filled:

“It’s outrageous,” said New Democrat MP and reform critic David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre), whose party advocates abolishing the Senate. “I can’t believe that the Prime Minister is just literally giving Canadians the finger.”

Christopherson was angry over both Harper’s change of position and his timing.

“This is about a blatant power move by someone who does not have the legitimacy of the Canadian people in terms of the votes he got, nor does he have the confidence of the House,” Christopherson said.

“I can’t believe that the Prime Minister is just literally giving Canadians the finger.”

Why are we still surprised by the depths in which Stephen Harper will sink in order to further his partisan Conservative agenda? Ever since the election, he has comfortably settled into the role of a Nixon-like figure, veering wildly between equally potent expressions of partisan aggression and grievance, his deliberately divisive calculations polarizing the nation and Parliament along increasingly unstable regional and ideological faultlines with apparent disregard to the long term consequences.

This latest maneuver is precisely why Liberals–especially Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff–must remain firm in their commitment to taking down this government.

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A Liberal Government Without a Coalition: Clear, Refreshing and Zero Calories!

by matttbastard

pogge nails it–behold, the birth of the uncoalition:

[CTV News Ottawa Bureau Chief Bob] Fife also said senior Liberals have told him that they may not need a coalition to form a new government.

“If they do defeat the Conservative government… Ignatieff will go to the Governor General and say ‘We think we can form the government but we don’t have to do it with a coalition,'” Fife said.

“In other words we don’t have to give the NDP any seats in a Liberal government.”

He said the NDP and Block (sic) would have to support the Liberals because they already have expressed their hatred towards the Conservative government.

Y’know, I get the impression that this mysterious gaggle of “senior Liberals” who go running to Fife every time a gnat cuts a fart during a caucus meeting have an ongoing bet on who can convince CTV’s 1337 stenographer to breathlessly relay the most outrageous load of horseshit, no matter how absurd. Yes, the NDP will dutifully prop up the Grits without having a say in shaping policy. And Stephen Harper truly has the best interests of the nation at heart.

Tell me another one, Bob.

Anyway, Iggy just reiterated his (tepid) support of the coalition, stating in his first news conference as Liberal interim leader that “the ball is in Mr. Harper’s court” and that the (un)coalition is fully prepared to form a “stable” government, should the Governor General make such a request. So even though pogge’s skepticism is likely warranted (based on both Liberal scuttlebutt and Iggy’s equivocation about whether he will actually invoke the coalition option), I’m not quite ready to write off the coalition as DOA just yet. What Iggy has made abundantly clear is this: over the next several weeks the overtures and maneuvers undertaken by Harper and his minions will determine the fate of this Parliament.

One wonders if the current Prime Minister, based on the hubris he’s displayed over the past several weeks, will be able to resist hanging himself with the rope he’s just been handed.

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Harper, Ignatieff and “Big National Parties”

by matttbastard

Stephen Harper, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge, unveils the next stage in the Conservative divide-and-conquer strategy to destroy the Coalition for Change (and cling to power):

Harper called on all the “big national parties” to work together going forward, suggesting that he too was looking forward to a better relationship with Dion’s replacement.

“I hope the next Liberal leader, the first thing he’ll do, will be willing to sit down with me and have that kind of discussion.”

By know you’re all likely aware that “the next Liberal leader” is Michael Ignatieff, who, as many have pointed out, is rumoured to be “lukewarm” at the notion of forming a coalition government with the NDP (despite previously indicating in writing his support for the coalition accord).

Don Martin:

Mr. Ignatieff is better postioned [sic] to debate on serious economic matters, being no fan of interventionist Green Shift carbon tax schemes and more likely to share Harper’s forceful view on military matters and foreign affairs.

He’s expected to surround himself with the younger brasher MPs who rarely got the chance to shine under Mr. Dion and embrace fiscal policies that might not find favor with coalition-partner New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois.

That’s undoubtedly why Ignatieff’s always been so cagey about the coalition, choosing his words with deliberate precision to ensure they will not come back to haunt him.

He has little intention of bringing the coalition back to life as a shared power grab except in an emergency, opting instead to position the Liberals as a single-party alternative government.

Mr. Ignatieff might even take Prime Minister Harper up on his offer, repeated in a CBC interview Tuesday, to contribute Liberal ideas for inclusion in the budget. OK, perhaps that’s the dreamer gene in me, but Mr. Harper did pledge to “look at different kinds of arrangements” with Mr. Ignatieff. Surely that’s an olive twig, if not a branch.

It should be clear by now that those of us who represent the 62% majority need to fight if we are to have any hope of making Parliament work.  Via The Canadianist, here is a tool to contact your MP and register your support, courtesy of the CLC. Tell your MP that you support the coalition.

It is especially imperative that Liberal coalition supporters make their voices heard.  Don’t kid yourselves: you can’t trust a man who is, as Impolitical puts it, “totally oblivious to and shameless about the turmoil he’s caused” to work with the Opposition (even a “big national party” like the official Opposition) in good faith, “olive twig” or not.  As Murray Dobbin presciently observed prior to the hurling of Flaherty’s now-infamous ‘economic statement’ stuffed in a partisan Molotov cocktail, “Stephen Harper’s ultimate objective is not just a majority government. It is to destroy the Liberal Party as a contender for power [emph. mine].”

One hopes Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party will keep that paramount consideration in mind before seriously contemplating any deals with a silver-tongued devil.

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Bob Rae Bows Out

by matttbastard

Fuck:

Michael Ignatieff has secured the federal Liberal leadership without a fight after his last remaining rival, longtime friend Bob Rae, bowed out.

Rae informed his supporters of his decision during a conference call this morning and is to make it official at a news conference later today. His decision came just hours after the Liberal national executive rejected his plea to find an expedited way of giving all party members a vote for Stephane Dion’s replacement.

Rae gave his supporters an advance peek at his statement, in which he said he still believes an open process would have been “a vital and healthy process for the party.”

But he vows to accept the party’s choice “without rancour or undue disappointment.”

No, the rancor and disappointment will likely be left to those of us who (perhaps naively) hold faint hope that Iggy will actually do what’s right for Canada, instead of accepting whatever watered down “concessions” Harper offers come January 27th.  

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