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.]

Monday, July 09, 2012

Alberta environmentalists set up tipline to report pipeline spills

Alberta environmentalists and landowners are setting up an independent, anonymous tipline for people to report oil pipeline spills and ensure news of the leaks reaches the public.

“Part of the role of this line is to actually get this information out to the public,” said Mike Hudema of Greenpeace, one of the two groups organizing the tipline. “We don’t trust the government or companies to give the public accurate information.”

What the Cabinet shuffle really means

Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet shuffle last week was trivial and disappointing. That’s the conventional view. In fact, it was significant and tells us a lot about the Prime Minister’s thinking.

A week ago no one would have suggested that Julian Fantino would be promoted from his position of Associate Minister of National Defence. He was considered to be largely incompetent on his key file – defending the government’s corner on their highly controversial decision to acquire F-35 fighter aircraft.

In fact, Fantino did about as well as anyone could have with the cards he was dealt. The real mistake was putting Fantino, the most inexperienced politician in the Conservative caucus, in charge of cleaning up the F-35 mess, the most acute political headache for the Harper government. It was akin to sending someone who had never played poker into a Las Vegas casino with a bag of money, a smile on his face and a sucker sign on his back.

Canada's PM Stephen Harper faces revolt by scientists

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, faces a widening revolt by the country's leading scientists against sweeping cuts to government research labs and broadly pro-industry policies.

The scientists plan to march through Ottawa in white lab coats on Tuesday in the second big protest in a month against the Harper government's science and environmental agenda.

Tackling the income gap in Canadian cities

Toronto’s middle-class suburbs of the 1970s have turned into “urban deserts” of growing poverty while the city centre has become an enclave for the ultra rich.

But in the Montreal region, the suburbs are growing increasingly wealthy while poverty is spreading in the band of communities just outside the city’s historic downtown.

Meantime, the wealthy suburbs of North and West Vancouver have grown richer while poverty has spread east and south of downtown since 1970.

What’s common for all three cities, however, is that the middle class is shrinking, notes University of Toronto researcher David Hulchanski, whose ground-breaking The Three Cities Within Toronto report in 2007 was the first to map Statistics Canada Census income data over time by neighbourhood.

mmigration Minister Jason Kenney thanks himself in petition posted to his website

OTTAWA—If you want to sign a petition thanking Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for his efforts to reduce health benefits for refugees, look no further than his own website.

“We, the undersigned, thank Jason Kenney for his efforts to streamline benefits afforded to refugees (sic) claimants under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and bring them in line with the benefits received by taxpaying Canadians, including new Canadians,” says the petition posted to the personal website for the Conservative MP for Calgary Southeast.

Stephen Harper’s surprise micro-shuffle

The Prime Minister must be chuckling, having put one over on reporters and pundits. Last week he conducted what can best be described as a micro shuffle as it really wasn’t big enough to be called a mini shuffle. With no warning to the media who cover such items, everyone was taken by surprise.

Julian Fantino moving to CIDA to replace the departing Bev Oda was certainly a surprise. One also has to wonder how that will improve the way the government handles CIDA or defends actions CIDA takes. Oda was notoriously weak in Question Period and when appearing before committees. Fantino fits into the same category and many of the existing parliamentary secretaries perform better than Fantino every day of the week in the House. To his credit though, he is supposed to be a very good administrator and perhaps that is the reason he was sent there.

John Roberts Health Care Switch Sparks 'Deep' Supreme Court 'Discord': CBS News

More than a week removed from the Supreme Court's landmark health care ruling, a new report of dissension among the justices has emerged.

In a Sunday appearance on "Face The Nation," CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford provided new details about the aftermath of the 5-4 decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as constitutional.

"The discord is deep and it is personal," said Crawford on the broadcast. "This could affect this court for a long time."

Crawford reported last Sunday that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote after initially siding with the court's conservative justices to strike down the mandate.

In the court's majority opinion, Roberts wrote that the individual mandate "need not be read to do more than impose a tax," which falls under Congress' constitutional power to collect taxes.

"No one has any idea how it's going to be resolved but conservatives feel this sense of betrayal -- that Roberts changed his mind for the wrong reasons," Crawford said on "Face The Nation." "If he had been with the liberals from the beginning … that would have been one thing. But to have switched his position -- and relatively late in the process -- infuriated conservatives."

Crawford interviewed Justice Clarence Thomas in 2007, and she interviewed Justice Antonin Scalia at an event held by the conservative Federalist Society in 2010.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: Chris Gentilviso

Mitt’s Gray Areas

Once upon a time a rich man named Romney ran for president. He could claim, with considerable justice, that his wealth was well-earned, that he had in fact done a lot to create good jobs for American workers. Nonetheless, the public understandably wanted to know both how he had grown so rich and what he had done with his wealth; he obliged by releasing extensive information about his financial history. 

But that was 44 years ago. And the contrast between George Romney and his son Mitt — a contrast both in their business careers and in their willingness to come clean about their financial affairs — dramatically illustrates how America has changed.

Obama To Push For Extension Of Middle Class Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is launching a push to extend tax cuts for the middle class, as he seeks to shift the election-year economic debate from the dismal jobs market to assertions that Republican rival Mitt Romney protects the rich.

Obama, in an address from the White House later Monday, will call on Congress to pass a one-year extension of tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 a year.

B.C. Oil-Sands Pipelines: Tsleil-Waututh Nation Signs Save The Fraser Declaration, Objects Pipeline Construction

VANCOUVER - Another First Nation in British Columbia has taken a stand against the construction and upgrading of pipelines that will carry petroleum products from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific coast.

During a weekend ceremony, North Vancouver's Tsleil-Waututh (sail-wah-tooth) Nation added its name to the Save the Fraser Declaration.

Signatories to the document vow they will not allow pipelines carrying oil-sands products to cross their lands, territories or watersheds or the migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief Justin George says his band has an obligation and birthright to care for the lands and waters in its territory.

The band says more than 100 First Nations have now signed the declaration.

Two major pipeline projects are currently planned for B.C., including Enbridge Inc.'s (TSX:ENB) $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan Canada's expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: CP

Canadian Veterans Still Seeing Payments Clawed Back After Federal Court Ruling

HALIFAX - Some of Canada's most severely injured veterans say they are still seeing their military pensions clawed back despite a court ruling that found the practice illegal and a decision by Ottawa not to appeal the ruling.

Veterans with debilitating injuries said they thought their payments would increase when the federal government announced in May that it wouldn't challenge the Federal Court decision on the so-called clawbacks.

CRA Tips Audit: Taxman Targets Unreported Restaurant Gratuities In Canada

OTTAWA - A blitz by Canada Revenue Agency auditors on an unfortunate group of waiters and waitresses in one Ontario community has exposed "very surprising" amounts of unreported tips and gratuities.

The pilot project targeted 145 servers working in just four restaurants in St. Catharines, Ont., a blue-collar city on the Niagara Peninsula, south of Toronto.

Auditors reviewed two years' worth of income and found that every individual had hidden some portion of their tips from the taxman, with about half reporting no tips whatsoever.

Female B.C. Mountie files 2nd lawsuit against RCMP

A female RCMP officer in British Columbia has launched a second lawsuit against the national police force.

Const. Karen Katz is taking the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada to court over unproven allegations of harassment, sexual harassment and humiliation dating back to the late 1980s.

Candu Energy enacts contingency plans as workers hit the picket lines

TORONTO - Candu Energy Inc. enacted a contingency plan Monday after about 800 nuclear scientists, engineers and technologists walked off the job on strike when negotiators failed to reach a deal by the deadline.

But the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, which represents the workers, said there will be a noticeable effect on operations.

Decaying concrete raising concerns at Canada’s aging nuclear plants

Decaying concrete at nuclear power plants is the latest concern for nuclear safety authorities.

At Quebec’s sole atomic power station, Gentilly-2, eroding concrete has prompted federal licensing officials to suggest that any provincial attempt to refurbish and re-license the 30-year-old plant must satisfy federal concerns over the aging concrete’s ability to stand up to another two or three decades of service.

The move comes as economic pressures force nuclear utilities to consider refurbishing their nuclear plants and operating them well past their 25- to 30-year initial lives.

Higher ocean acidity is climate change’s ‘evil twin,’ major threat to coral reefs: US official

SYDNEY, Australia — Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world, acting as the “osteoporosis of the sea” and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday.

The speed by which the oceans’ acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change’s “equally evil twin,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco told The Associated Press.

Scientists unite to protest ‘death’ of research

Budget cuts are only partly to blame for Canada’s loss of federal science, say the scientists who do the research. They also say politics is undermining the research that governments need to make decisions.

With 2,400 biologists coming to town this weekend for a conference, scientists from universities and government labs have organized a protest march to Parliament Hill at noon on Tuesday.

They’re calling the event the Death of Evidence.

For their own good, Ontario’s unions need to give some ground

When the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association reached an agreement with the provincial government last week that includes a two-year freeze to cost-of-living increases and unpaid days off work, it was almost immediately denounced by the province’s other teachers’ unions. Their reaction, shared by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, suggests a heads-in-the-sand approach to fiscal and political realities that will do organized labour no favours.

Young Pierre Trudeau and the creeping decay of Canadian democracy

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, it has often been noted, was indifferent to economics. How did he manage to get away with this, let alone govern Canada for the better part of 16 years, becoming in the process a "modern father of Confederation"? The pragmatic necessities of the marketplace, we take for granted now, rule our political choices. Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks of economics incessantly. Have things changed so much?

It seems a worthwhile question to ask, with the elder Trudeau's legacy front and centre in the emerging Liberal leadership race. Is Justin Trudeau in any way his father's son, apart from their mutual charisma? Is anyone in the Liberal fold, constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne perhaps, the intellectual heir of Trudeau the elder?

Taking political discourse down, step by toxic step

Just when Canada seemed to be over cultural and constitutional divisions, a new kind of conflict emerges. Instead of squabbling over Quebec’s role, language or the division of powers, now we wrangle over who gets what.

It’s a toxic trend: people seem intent on dividing the country into regions of virtuous “givers” in the West and parasitic “takers” in the East. Now, this wouldn’t come up if Canada were less diverse and every part had equal populations, resources and markets. But it’s not set up that way.

Whether error or ill will, voting system needs fix

OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court is normally a pretty sleepy place in July.

The fact it is convening for a special hearing this Tuesday should alone be enough to suggest the importance of the subject matter.

It is the first time the country's top court is being asked to intervene in a case involving the results of an election.

Sorry Justin but this is not your father’s Canada or Liberal party

If this were 1968 over again, Justin Trudeau would have an excellent chance of carrying off the Liberal leadership, as his father did in ’68.

Appearing out of nowhere (relatively speaking), Pierre Trudeau defeated a field loaded with Liberal heavyweights — Robert Winters, Paul Hellyer, Paul Martin (Sr.), Joe Greene, Allan MacEachen, Eric Kierans and a young John Turner — to seize the leadership and, with it, the keys to 24 Sussex.

That April day in Ottawa in 1968 produced a perfect storm of opportunity, personality and public mood. Change was happening everywhere that year, from the streets of Chicago, to Prague Spring, to student riots in Paris. “Make love, not war,” was the mantra of the young.

A judgeship for Toews

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is destined for a new job on Manitoba's highest court, sources say.

There are currently nine judges on the Manitoba Court of Appeal -- one works part time -- but one is due to retire shortly when he hits the compulsory retirement age of 75.

There is also one opening on the Court of Queen's Bench that needs filling.

Question for regulators: Can Sun News Network be trusted to keep inconvenient agreements?

Whatever one may think of the value of obscenity to public discourse, the debate over the use on the air of an obscene Spanish phrase by Sun News Network commentator Ezra Levant established an unrelated but important fact about the broadcaster that employs him.

Sun News Network cannot be depended on to keep all its agreements.

This is an important consideration for Canadian broadcast regulators because Sun News Network is sure to be back at the well seeking improvements, extensions and changes to its licence.

PBO still waits for PCO’s response on feds’ $5.2-billion budget cuts

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who has sparked a high-profile war with the federal government by publishing a legal opinion pressuring the government to release details on its $5.2-billion in budget cuts, is still waiting for a response from PCO Clerk Wayne Wouters and says he’s prepared to wait weeks and months before taking the matter to court.

Mr. Page said he isn’t surprised he hasn’t heard from Mr. Wouters yet on the legal opinion the PBO sent him four weeks ago underscoring his right to information on government cuts.

Note to media: PM makes the call, and no one else

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made two changes to his Cabinet last week, shutting down endless speculation of a major shuffle this summer and telling Calgary radio host Dave Rutherford that he won’t conduct a major Cabinet shuffle until “mid-term,” but some Conservatives say a major shuffle could be on the
way sooner rather than later and another conservative pundit criticized the PM’s minor shuffle as “sloppy political management” and an “enigmatic” communications strategy.

British Columbia’s ridings to be ‘changed dramatically’ for 2015 election; Tories have most to gain, says Lyle

British Columbia’s ridings will be “changed dramatically” for the fall 2015 federal election and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority-governing Conservatives will have the most to gain from the six new seats and realigned electoral boundaries, says a pollster. 

“The existing ridings are going to be changed dramatically,” said Innovative Research Group pollster Greg Lyle. “To fully understand it, you really need to have a poll by poll overlay which I don’t have but there’s an obvious pattern. The Tories win, right? Not perfectly, but mostly. … The new ridings are going in areas of their strength.”

Science community to protest research cuts with funeral march

OTTAWA — A funeral procession — complete with a coffin, black-clad mourners and a scythe-wielding grim reaper — will make its way to Parliament Hill Tuesday as hundreds of scientists from across Canada rally in protest of federal science cuts.

Members of Canada's scientific community are staging the rally to mourn the "death of evidence" in what the rally's organizers say is the federal government's war on science.

Ottawa’s cuts to young offender programs are short-sighted and costly

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has slashed funding for programs that help keep young offenders out of jail and able to make something of their lives. It’s a terrible decision and surely the government knows it. Why else would Justice Minister Rob Nicholson have announced it in such a sneaky way?

This $36-million cut was not highlighted in the recent federal budget. It was not discussed with the agencies that provide these important services to troubled youth. Provincial ministers, who are the federal government’s partners in keeping Canada safe, were not consulted. The cut was made public last week in an announcement masquerading as good news.

The Conservatives repeat themselves

The Harper government is nothing if not predictable in how it goes about dismantling a program or service. It starts by denigrating the program and the program’s beneficiaries, and telling Canadians that they’ve been played for fools by the beneficiaries. Once that message has been drilled home, and the government judges that the moment is right and Canadians’ attitudes changed, it proceeds to get rid of the offending program – no matter how impractical, immoral or ultimately costly the exercise might prove to be.

Examples include the gun registry (accompanied by criticism of the police departments that claimed it was useful) and alternative sentencing programs (with much sneering at justice departments, notably Quebec’s, that believed having sentencing options was good for society).