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.]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Message on Iran weakened by confusing explanation

Why did they do this? Diplomats from many countries have been asking this for days about Canada’s sudden move to cut off diplomatic ties with Iran. Whether it was a good move or bad, there can be no doubt that in the execution Ottawa bobbled the ball.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wanted to deliver a clear message to the world about Iran, they didn’t. Instead, they confused the world.

Undergrad tuition up five per cent

By the time Natasha Cassel graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing next year, she’ll have racked up more than $35,000 in debt.

The 25-year-old Ryerson University student has resigned herself to the fact that she’ll have to postpone life’s important milestones, such as buying a house or getting married, while she spends years paying off her loan.

And Cassel considers herself lucky.

Canada's Foreign Aid Spending: Julian Fantino Denies Cuts Despite Slashed Budget

OTTAWA - Canada's new international co-operation minister said Tuesday his department's budget has not been cut, even though it shrunk by several hundred million dollars in the last federal budget.

"In actual fact, the CIDA budget has not been cut. We've just been more selective, if you will, in how we spend Canadian taxpayers' generosity," Julian Fantino told reporters on a conference call from Burkina Faso, in West Africa.

The federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in April called for almost $380 million, or 7.5 per cent, to be cut from the Canadian International Development Agency, which is Fantino's department.

Canada’s made a choice: health, not education

An incremental but fundamental change happened in Canada within the past decade. As a country, we began spending more on health care than on education. And with an aging population, the skew to more money for health relative to education will continue.

From 2000 to 2010, public spending on health-care spending grew by 2 per cent more each year than spending on education – K-12 to postgraduate university study. That’s not much of a yearly difference. Stretched over a decade, the gap becomes quite wide.

No need for National Energy Strategy, Oliver says

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says there is no need for the provinces to create a National Energy Strategy because Ottawa already has one.

Oliver said Tuesday he has spoken with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on a number of occasions about her plans for a NES. But he said as far as he could tell, Redford mentioned nothing in their conversations that his government wasn't already covering.

Unions scrambling to sink Tory MP’s transparency bill

A Conservative MP’s private members’ bill, currently before Parliament, has ushered in a new age of anxiety for Canada’s labour movement.

Such is the consternation in union-land that members are being called to mandatory special meetings to come up with some way, any way, to sink Russ Hiebert’s Bill C-377. Members of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators were informed they would be fined $50 if they failed to show up for one meeting.

The reason is that Mr. Hiebert’s financial transparency bill – which, among other things, would require unions to disclose how much money they spend on political activities – could shatter the union business model forever.

PM: Commons has gone too far

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is siding with auditor general Michael Ferguson in his court case against the House of Commons.

House lawyers are asking the Federal Court to stop Ferguson from releasing documents requested through access to information laws.

The NDP confirmed Tuesday they were behind the request. They asked for all emails involving Ferguson and his staff relating to his appearance before a parliamentary committee last spring.

Baird met with Mossad chief to discuss Iran 'threat'

During a visit to Israel in January, when Foreign Minister John Baird met with the head of Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, he was prepped to discuss at length the "threat" of Iran, documents have revealed.

Briefing notes prepared for Mr. Baird and released under access to information legislation show that during the meeting between Mr. Baird and Mossad director Tamir Pardo, the foreign minister was prepped with statements such as, "[Iran's] nuclear activities are very worrying, posing a threat to the security of Israel, but they could also lead others in the region to pursue similar activities."

Mr. Baird's meeting with the head of Mossad is mentioned in the foreign minister's public expense reports for that period as a meeting with a "Tamis [sic] Pardo, Director of Mossad."

Cost of learning growing faster than incomes

A new report by the CCPA, Eduflation and the High Cost of Learning, shows that the average university tuition bill in Canada has grown three times faster than inflation over the last 20 years. It's also outpaced the growth of family incomes, making university considerably less affordable for the average Canadian family than it used to be just 20 years ago.

The report tracks trends in university affordability for families by looking at the ratios between tuition fees and median family incomes over time, expressed as an index. The approach is very similar to the way we talk about housing affordability. The authors also compared tuition fees with poverty-line incomes to examine affordability for low-income families separately. Here's what they found.

Ontario's tuition problem

At a time when Ontario's government is promising a transformation of the province's postsecondary education system, it would be wise to focus on a problem it helped create: the problem of high tuition.

A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), Eduflation and the High Cost of Learning, shows Ontario's tuition and compulsory fees are the highest in Canada.

In 1990, Ontario's fees were slightly higher than the Canadian average, but they rose rapidly throughout that decade to become the second highest in Canada. After a brief tuition freeze between 2004 and 2006, fees began climbing with no apparent end in sight. Over the next four years, tuition fees in Ontario are projected to increase by a bigger amount than any other province.

Conservatives, NDP, Liberals distance themselves from House’s Federal Court fight with AG

PARLIAMENT HILL—The majority-governing Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals quickly distanced themselves on Tuesday from an unprecedented decision by House Speaker Andrew Scheer to ask the Federal Court for an order preventing Auditor General Michael Ferguson from releasing his correspondence with House committee clerks about his committee testimony earlier this year on the F-35 fighter jets.

Mr. Sheer (Regina-Qu’appelle, Sask.) would have authorized Commons legal counsel to submit the Federal Court application filed last Friday, said his communications chief Heather Bradley. Ms. Bradley had no other information available after the controversy exploded on Tuesday with The Halifax Chronicle Herald report about the court move.

Parliamentary privilege should not be overused

An odd by-blow of the F-35 fighter-jet controversy illustrates why the courts should not usually be resorted to in order to uphold the political principles of the unwritten constitution. In this instance, an injunction action by the House of Commons against the Auditor-General of Canada would hardly be likely to cast any additional light on military-procurement practices. Excessive punctiliousness can be a mere distraction.

Young Canadians need to be engaged in politics – but social media isn’t enough

Now is not an especially important time for youth in politics. Now is the time for young people to meaningfully engage with meaningful communities. On that note, social media is not generally a meaningful community. The authors’ glib comment that social media carries the same force as an airborne division is not only erroneous, it is naïve.

Facebook did not overthr ow Libya. Fighters on the ground (backed by Western air power) did. Egypt’s revolution came because the boots on the ground chose not to defend the existing regime. In counterpoint, Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war, and the massive web appeal to apprehend the African warlord Kony resulted in noise, but no action.

Gasoline prices soar; Montreal sees jump of 13 cents a litre

Motorists in the Montreal region got a rude shock Wednesday as gasoline prices soared by about 13 cents a litre.

That puts the price of regular in the Montreal area at just under $1.53 a litre, an increase of almost 20 cents since the start of summer.

Gasoline prices across southern and eastern Ontario rose by about 3.4 cents at midnight, according to the website

That puts the price of regular in the greater Toronto area at just under $1.37 a litre, and $1.34 in the Ottawa area.

Gas price watcher Dan McTeague says he can’t see a reason for the increase, other than a money grab, and his website calls the hike “absurd and unjustified.”

The increase prompted many drivers in the Toronto area to fill up before midnight, causing lineups of up to 30 vehicles long at some service stations.

Original Article
Source: the globe and mail
Author: CP

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s office aides help run his football teams

One week after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford testified under oath that he no longer uses taxpayer-funded staff and resources for football, fresh evidence has emerged that suggests he continues to do just that.

Mr. Ford appears to have relied on at least two mayor’s office employees and their taxpayer-funded cellphones to help administer the summer football teams he founded after winning Toronto’s top political job.

Billions needed to save Canadian roads, water systems, report says

Canada’s leaky municipal infrastructure faces an increasingly grim future unless the federal government sinks an estimated $171.8 billion into repairing or replacing aging roads and water systems, a new report says.

With the Conservatives’ infrastructure funding plan set to expire in 2014, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ first-ever national infrastructure report card called for a commitment from Ottawa to support cash-strapped municipalities, many of which are home to decaying, “at-risk” infrastructure.

Mayor Rob Ford misses committee meeting to coach football at ‘jamboree’

Mayor Rob Ford skipped the last 5.5 hours of a 9-hour meeting of his executive committee on Monday. Not even the allies who chaired the meeting in his absence knew where he had gone.

He was coaching his high school football team, he said on Tuesday.

“We had our first football game up in Newmarket. If I’m not there, the kids don’t play,” he told reporters, flatly, after an appearance at a United Way event in Nathan Phillips Square.