Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

For France’s immigrant outcasts, despair leads to dogma

CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, FRANCE—The sparkly new lowrise apartment buildings have balconies of glass and aluminum and a modern, Scandinavian air. The new school has clean, ultramodern lines. The new police precinct is designed with a rusted sculpture-wall that might have once been a Frank Gehry sketch.

Copenhagen? No. This is Clichy-sous-Bois, which most French people know only as the place where the worst wave of riots in contemporary France began; a place where young people from immigrant families clashed with police and started hundreds of fires among the dilapidated, overcrowded bunkers; a place few French recognized as their own country.

Border Agency Policy Spells Out Surveillance Rules

The Canada Border Service Agency is reluctant to explain the extent to which it monitors passengers across the country, but internal documents obtained by CBC News make it clear that overt audio-video surveillance occurs at "all CBSA offices."

The explanation is contained in a 15-page document, entitled Policy on the Overt Use of Audio-Video Monitoring and Recording Technology, which spells out CBSA’s surveillance policy in detail.

Elizabeth May makes her mark in Parliament

OTTAWA — Elizabeth May is holding the last staff meeting of a parliamentary session that is ending this week with the Green Party leader getting widespread accolades for her impressive, though predictably unsuccessful, battle to stop the Harper majority government’s controversial omnibus budget legislation.

Surrounding May as she tosses out questions and offers suggestions to her mostly youthful staffers, volunteers and interns are a half-dozen actual and honourary university degrees, two framed handwritten notes from “family friend” Bill Clinton, and photos of her with celebrities such as Clinton, Sting and Gordon Lightfoot.

Mulcair defends stance on resources

Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair spent much of his time at a convention of provincial New Democrats in Saskatoon defending his position on resource development, which has come under fire from western leaders, including Premier Brad Wall.

"The Saskatchewan NDP's meeting this weekend is about the future and that's been one of our key themes - sustainable development, our responsibility to future generations - so it dovetails nicely with the debates that have been going on recently," Mulcair told reporters after a 30-minute speech to delegates.

Empty rhetoric, empty oceans: Will Rio +20 change the tide?

On June 8, 2012, World Ocean's Day, I was fortunate to attend the eighth annual Elizabeth Mann Borgese Ocean Lecture, Blue Planet Under Threat: Challenges and Opportunities at Rio +20. The world's oceans were not so fortunate -- on that day or any other recent one.

Elizabeth Mann Borgese was the youngest daughter of Thomas Mann. After a tumultuous youth in which the family fled Germany after Hitler came to power, and a stint in the United States as an editor and researcher, she came to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia as an internationally recognized authority on the Law of the Sea. An early environmentalist, Mann Borgese was also a founding member of the Club of Rome. Since her death in 2002, Dalhousie has continued to honour her contributions through a lecture series intended to "create dialogue and stimulate discussion about global ocean issues and the implications for the future of the oceans."

Stephen Harper wonders how bad his luck can get in Quebec

Stephen Harper doesn’t announce many of his most important meetings. He routinely meets one-on-one with provincial premiers without either party mentioning the encounters to reporters. And from Stephanie Levitz at Canadian Press comes news that he met Brian Mulroney and, separately, Jean Charest last week. Why? Levitz’s sources have a hunch:

    A provincial by-election in Quebec last week saw the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois win a riding that’s been held by the Liberals for 46 years.

    It suggests the party’s strength is growing as support for the current Liberal government melts from the heat of sustained student protests and a provincial election is expected in the fall.

    If another national unity debate springs from a PQ victory, Harper would be in an enfeebled position relative to his predecessors: his Conservative party polls in the low teens in Quebec and there is no effective spokesperson for federalist forces in the governing party.

    The sit-down with Mulroney signals how skittish the federal government is about their continued failure to connect with Quebecers.

Tightened tactics breed dissent in Harper’s security detail

No Canadian leader has ever been protected like Stephen Harper.

During his six-year tenure, the Prime Minister’s Protection Detail has gotten new weapons, bigger all-wheel drive vehicles, and a new training regimen involving mock attacks, target practice and paintball drills. There is a growing use of SWAT teams in the Prime Minister’s motorcade, and the Mounties on the detail are fitter and better trained than ever.

NDP wealth tax a ‘bad move,’ Don Drummond says

The NDP wealth tax in the provincial budget was a “bad move” and will struggle to reap even half the $470 million a year the minority Liberal government expects, says economist Don Drummond.

Ontario will be fortunate to collect between “$200 million and $300 million, tops,” the former TD Bank executive and author of a report on Ontario’s financial situation said Friday in his first public comments on Premier Dalton McGuinty’s fiscal blueprint.

Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff

In 1992, world leaders signed up to something called "sustainability". Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: "sustainable development". Then it made a short jump to another term: "sustainable growth". And now, in the 2012 Rio+20 text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into "sustained growth".

This term crops up 16 times in the document, where it is used interchangeably with sustainability and sustainable development. But if sustainability means anything, it is surely the opposite of sustained growth. Sustained growth on a finite planet is the essence of unsustainability.

The conservative conscience is in turmoil

Are you among those baffled and alarmed by what’s going on with the Harper government — wild slashes to public services, every-thing connected to democratic process trashed, a bully-boy attitude that is soiling Canada’s international reputation, the attack on everything environmental, even the destruction of public records, all delivered in a dictatorial and malicious spirit?

You have company. Among the growing numbers of your friends are conservatives — real ones — realizing that Stephen Harper is not one of them, but rather a right-wing radical, maybe worse, out to conserve nothing. As some ex-Tory politicians, federal and provincial, stood up to oppose the manipulative omnibus budget bill, the PC Party of Canada declared the Harper party “corporatist” — essentially rule by and for corporations.

Red Deer River Oil Spill: Lawsuit Launched Against Plains Midstream Canada

CALGARY -- A prominent Regina-based lawyer is pursuing a class-action lawsuit over a recent oil spill in central Alberta.

The claim being organized by Tony Merchant is seeking more than $75 million from Plains Midstream Canada, owners of the pipeline that leaked up to 475,000 litres of light sour crude into the Red Deer River earlier this month.

High river levels flushed most of the oil downstream into Gleniffer Lake, a man-made reservoir and popular recreational area.

Nova Scotia Coyote Bounty: More Than 3,000 Animals Killed In 2011-12 Trapping Season

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government says licensed trappers killed more than 3,000 coyotes between last October and March as part of a provincial bounty program.

The Natural Resources Department launched the controversial program in April 2010, offering trappers $20 for each coyote pelt.

The move came in response to fears that the animals were becoming more aggressive toward people.

The government says it paid out $66,800 for the 3,340 pelts it received in the most recent trapping season, which ran from Oct. 15, 2011 until March 31 of this year.

It says 403 licensed trappers took part in the program, up from 366 the season before.

In October 2009, a young Toronto woman was fatally mauled by coyotes while hiking in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Taylor Mitchell's death marked the first recorded fatal coyote attack in Nova Scotia, and only the second in North America.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Rio+20: Canada Exits Environmental Summit 'Very Happy' With Lack Of Firm Commitments For Change

OTTAWA - The huge Rio de Janeiro summit on sustainable development is drawing to a messy close and the end results mean Canada does not have to lift a finger to fulfil the meeting's vision.

Dubbed the Rio+20 conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit that set out a global path to protect the environment, the Brazilian meeting was everything that summits have become in recent years: a colourful event with demonstrations, celebrities, cultural celebrations, business round tables, intense social media and riot police.

Access To Information Rankings: Canada Falls Behind Angola, Colombia

OTTAWA - As the 30th anniversary of the federal Access to Information law approaches, Canada finds itself tied for 51st in the world on a list of freedom-of-information rankings, languishing behind Angola, Colombia and Niger.

After some number-crunching to standardize findings, it turns out Canada is even lower on the list — 11 spots to be exact — than when it was first published last September as part of a groundbreaking project by Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe of Madrid.

Harper Meeting With Mulroney: Prospect Of Unity Crisis Ends Long Silence Between Two Men

OTTAWA - The potential for a national unity crisis to emerge out of the next Quebec provincial election has prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do something he has refused to do for years:

Meet with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Stephen Harper held a secret meeting in a Montreal hotel with Mulroney last week, The Canadian Press has learned, to seek advice on forming a better relationship with Quebec.

Public service unions file grievance with Treasury Board over job-swapping

OTTAWA — The two largest federal unions have filed a grievance against Treasury Board and 14 other federal departments for not creating a promised system to allow employees facing layoffs to swap jobs with those who want to leave.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada filed the grievance with Treasury Board, arguing job swaps aren’t happening because there isn’t a system to manage them and departments are refusing to participate. Treasury Board has 30 days to respond. Unions can then appeal any decision to the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

F-35s delivery won’t be complete before current fighters are retired: Documents

OTTAWA — Defence Department officials knew last year Canada would not have enough F-35 stealth fighters by the time the last of the country’s CF-18s were due to be retired in 2020, newly released documents show.

As a result, officials were preparing to ask the Conservative government for more money to again extend the lives of some of the CF-18s — which have already undergone a $1.8-billion overhaul — until the last of the F-35s could come online.

NDP out ahead of the Tories with 38% support, Liberals struggling: poll

OTTAWA — The federal New Democratic Party has become the leading choice among Canadian voters — especially those in Ontario and Quebec — as the most favoured party to govern the country, a major new poll has found.

The national survey commissioned by Postmedia News and Global TV also reveals that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Tories are slipping in popularity and the once-powerful Liberals are continuing to wane.

Quebec solidaire agrees to talks on electoral agreement with other parties

Yesterday, the National Coordination Committee of Quebec solidaire issued a statement in response to the "Call for a united front" in the next election in Quebec, saying it is open to a "limited and timely electoral arrangement" with two other pro-Quebec sovereignty parties.

The Call has received close to 11,000 signatures online. It urges the three pro-sovereignty parties- Parti québécois, Québec solidaire and Option nationale - to enter into an electoral agreement such that only one candidate of the parties would contest electoral districts against the ruling Liberal Party and the right-wing Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec (CAQ).

Why we must shift the state: Movement building after Bill C-38

I have two seemingly unrelated things on my mind today- two things, in fact, that I have been obsessing over for several days now. First, a recent report in the journal Nature, and, second, the passing of the Harper government's omnibus Bill C-38.

Both are more than a little depressing, but both also point in directions that could help us get out of this mess and past these, let's call them, threshold moments.

AG red-flags House procurement process policy, insufficient expense claims in audits

Auditor General Michael Ferguson says he found no wrongdoing and is “generally satisfied” with the findings of two-highly anticipated and long-awaited performance audits of the House and Senate, but in a report released on June 13 he found that there are some issues with procurement and staffing processes. He also says more information should be disclosed in annual reports.

The audit reports, which examine the 2010-11 fiscal year, packed a much softer punch than many observers expected. Mr. Ferguson said “with one exception,” they had found no major weaknesses in the Senate or House of Commons administration.

Prime Minister calls session ‘legislatively productive,’ opposition parties call it ‘a full frontal attack on democracy’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls it “one of the most legislatively productive periods,” but opposition MPs say the spring sitting was “a full frontal attack on democracy” and a “low note” for the majority governing Conservatives. 

After the 24-hour House of Commons filibuster marathon voting session on June 13 on the federal government’s 425-page massive omnibus Budget Implementation Bill, C-38, MPs head home to their ridings for the summer.

Mayor Ford won't attend Pride flag raising

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he can't attend next week's Pride Week flag raising event due to a scheduling conflict.

"No, I won't be able to," Ford said when asked if he was attending the event held on the rooftop of city hall in which Pride Week, a 10-day festival celebrating sexual diversity in downtown Toronto, is officially proclaimed.

"Because I've already committed to something else," Ford said when asked why he was missing the event. He did not provide further specifics.

Enbridge staff ignored warnings in Kalamazoo River spill

Enbridge pipeline controllers in Edmonton ignored repeated leak warnings for 17 hours before shutting down a pipeline that poured 20,000 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in July 2010, says a report from the U. S. National Transportation Safety Board.

The report details how pipeline-monitoring staff in Enbridge’s Edmonton control room could not agree that a leak had occurred, while ignoring alarms that should have triggered a shutdown of the pipeline within 10 minutes of the leak occurring.

Eavesdropping, Mr. Toews? You might not like what you’d hear

This week, amid some public outcry and criticism from the opposition, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced he’s postponing plans to record conversations at airports and border crossings.

Somewhat belatedly – the equipment has already been installed – Mr. Toews backtracked and said that he’d ask the federal privacy commissioner to review the policy that, according to the Canada Border Services Agency’s website, was designed to enhance “border integrity, infrastructure and asset security and health and safety.”

Insidious oil finds a way despite best efforts by response teams

When Michael Locke’s phone rings late at night, it’s a pretty sure sign that some part of Canada’s oil industry is in trouble.

Mr. Locke is the equipment manager for Western Canadian Spill Services, an industry co-operative that has stationed $9-million worth of spill response gear in 36 places across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. When oil leaks, especially into water, he is among the first to hear about it, because that equipment is crucial to cleaning it up.

Is bilingualism still relevant in Canada?

For three days in April, Chantelle Prentice camped outside in Salmon Arm, B.C., guarding her place in line – not for concert tickets or the latest iPhone, but to snag one of 17 coveted French immersion spots at Bastion Elementary School for her five-year-old son, Taylor.

An anglophone who hated her own high-school French courses, Ms. Prentice still feels strongly that bilingualism is central to Canada’s identity, as well as a gateway to other languages.

Harper reaches out to Mulroney as Tory woes mount in Quebec

The potential for a national unity crisis to emerge out of the next Quebec provincial election has prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do something he has refused to do for years: meet with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Stephen Harper held a secret meeting in a Montreal hotel with Mr. Mulroney last week, The Canadian Press has learned, to seek advice on forming a better relationship with Quebec. He sought similar advice that same day from Liberal Premier Jean Charest, government sources said.