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, May 11, 2013

Another Day, Another Council Clusterf*ck on Transit Funding

Wednesday’s city council meeting was supposed to take a serious look at funding TTC expansion, the one thing all of Toronto desperately wants more than a Leafs win. Instead, it felt much more like the last day of school before summer break.

To recap: Last month, Mayor Ford’s executive committee voted to discuss transit funding only after hearing how Metrolinx wanted to proceed. Many councillors correctly rejected this out of hand, feeling instead that it behooved the city to choose how it would tax those who live within its limits to pay for new transit initiatives. Basically, the province is giving us a plan and the money, and asking for input. As city manager Joe Pennachetti put it: “It’s incumbent to say no to certain tools and yes to others. Or they may choose tools you don’t like.” Getting transit funding on the agenda at council was an achievement, but it was supposed to be a precursor to even more successes.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ontario and the Beer Cartel

In Ontario, drinking on long weekends involves planning ahead. Not only are stores closed for civic holidays, but you may have to schedule an extra hour of shopping in the days before, so that you can stand in lines that snake through all of the aisles of liquor you’ve traditionally avoided.  While it may be an opportune time to familiarize yourself with the various varieties of peach schnapps the LCBO offers, the whole experience might be more palatable if they let you open a beer and get social with your sweaty partners in frustration. Unfortunately, drinking at liquor stores is frowned upon by law, and in Toronto, conversing with strangers is taken for a sign of madness. Should the LCBO employees go on strike, as they have threatened to do this Victoria Day weekend, Ontarians will either have to endure longer lines at The Beer Store or purchase their bottles of Canadian Club a week in advance.

Stephanie Cutter, Former Obama Adviser, To Help Bank Of America Elude Regulation

"Big Banks Push Against Tighter Rules," says the headline in this piece from the Wall Street Journal. 'Twas ever thus, but now, "big banks" are doing so more overtly, and with more gusto, and with all kinds of interesting people helping them out. Per the WSJ:

    The banks have hired longtime, influential Washington hands to deflect regulatory and political pressure to strengthen their finances and to sell assets. Regulators and some lawmakers have raised concern that large banks remain "too big to fail" and could require another government bailout in the event of a new financial meltdown.

    The effort by banks marks a lobbying turning point for the industry, which adopted a mostly low-profile stance to new regulations in the wake of the financial crisis.

Guns Allowed In Some Pennsylvania State Schools Amid Review

KUTZTOWN, Pa. -- Students on some of Pennsylvania's college campuses might be carrying more than books.

At least five Pennsylvania state-owned universities are now allowing guns on campus after the state's lawyers concluded that an outright ban on weapons was likely unconstitutional.

We all pay for the government’s hockey ads

It’s Stanley Cup playoffs time again, and the playoffs mean hockey, yes, but also another barrage of Conservative Party advertising – oops, that should be “Government of Canada” advertising, paid for by you, the Canadian taxpayer.

When the playoffs end, one team will be champs; in the meantime, Canadians are taken for chumps. At your own expense, you will be sold the putative virtues of the government’s Economic Action Plan, which is central to Conservative Party political messaging.

Stephen Harper accelerates foreign efforts to promote energy and trade

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and senior members of his cabinet are accelerating efforts to promote free trade and Canada’s energy exports through an international charm offensive, arguing that economic prosperity is on the line.

With decisions imminent on climate-change legislation and free-trade negotiations in Europe, as well on whether to approve a major U.S. pipeline, the prime minister and his team have been multiplying their foreign trips to boost their case.

The Senate won't, so let the courts decide

Though Mike Duffy has always called himself ‘an Islander', those who know him know that he has worked and lived in Ottawa for over 30 years.

In 2008, questions were raised about his qualifications for the Senate because of his long residency in Ottawa. Mr. Duffy continues to live at his home in Kanata in the National Capital Region and he claimed living expenses for that home on the basis his ‘primary' residence was the cottage he owns and occupies in Cavendish during the summer.

Canadians have $170B stashed in top 12 global tax havens

OTTAWA — Canadians have stashed a staggering $170 billion in the top 12 global tax havens around the world, says a watchdog group that is calling on the federal government to do more to combat offshore tax evasion.

At the same time, only 44 Canadians were convicted of offshore tax evasion between April 2006 — shortly after the Harper government took office — and March 2012, according to new documents tabled in Parliament, raising new questions about the Conservative government’s record on the file.

Feds hike income threshold for people seeking to sponsor parents, grandparents

OTTAWA — People seeking to bring parents or grandparents to settle in Canada will have to have higher incomes and agree to financially support them longer starting next year.

These changes come as part of a revamp of the family reunification program announced Friday by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The program was overhauled as a result of a backlog of applications that had neared 165,000 with a wait time of almost eight years when the government stopped accepting new applications in 2011.

Oliver hurls more insults as he ends oilsands promotion tour through Europe

OTTAWA - Just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to the United States to win over hearts and minds on Canada's pipeline plans, his natural resources minister is wrapping up a similar tour in Europe by lobbing insults at oilsands critics.

In a conference call Friday from London, Joe Oliver dismissed suggestions that the government's transcontinental public-relations press on energy and the environment is a sign of desperation in Ottawa.

"I wouldn't characterize it as desperate," Oliver said of the recent barrage of federal emissaries travelling the globe to talk up Canada's oilsands in the face of projects like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Democracy Watch Comes Down on Ethics Commissioner

Democracy Watch has issued a strongly-worded release condemning federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson for failing to investigate the case surrounding a funding announcement by Peter Penashue just days before the byelection call in Labrador. Democracy Watch submitted a complaint to the Ethics Commissioner after Prime Minister Stephen Harper allowed Penashue to make a $1.35 million spending announcement in his riding mere days before he resigned his seat.

Coordinator of Democracy Watch, Tyler Sommers, accused the Ethics Commissioner of ignoring clear ethics rules and instead using what he calls 'a narrow and incorrect' enforcement approach to the matter. Sommers accuses Dawson of being ineffective, so much so, he says the media have revealed all of the ethics violations in federal politics in the past five years.

Original Article

Joe Oliver not backing down in battle with EU over oilsands

Canada’s natural resources minister continues to hit back against the many critics of Canada’s oilsands, including a European Union proposal to designate its oil as dirty.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Joe Oliver said Canada’s first priority when it comes to the EU is to change proposed legislation from the 27-country bloc that would see crude oil from the oilsands fail new standards for greenhouse gas emissions.

Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations Surpass 400 PPM Milestone

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide surpassed a notable milestone this week.

They reached a daily average above 400 parts per million, reported NOAA, for the first time in human history.

Tom Mulcair is the smartest guy in the room. Does anyone care?

Andre Agassi once hawked cameras with the line, “Image is everything”.

Thomas Muclair should think about it. The application of Agassi’s unintentional insight is cruel in both dating and politics.

One couldn’t picture Robert Stanfield, for example, as a Facebook phenom. It was deadly enough to the Underwear King’s political career when he was up against Pierre Trudeau to look like a sleepy, if benevolent, simian in a telegenic age. In Stanfield’s case, the Harvard-educated businessman just never came across in public. The image of Stanfield which did penetrate was the guy who famously fumbled the football in the 1974 Wages and Price control election.

Conrad Black defends media strategist Tom Flanagan's child porn comments

CALGARY - Former media baron Conrad Black says comments by a one-time high-level political strategist on child pornography were reasonable and innocuous.

Last February, Tom Flanagan was highly criticized for suggesting that people who view photos of child pornography shouldn't necessarily be jailed.

The economy is in good shape, so why is support for the Conservatives slumping?

A half-dozen national polls now put the Conservatives behind the Liberals, by margins of as much as 13 percentage points. Averaging across them, the website puts Conservative support at 29%, the lowest it has been since they first took power in 2006 and a drop of more than 10 points from their share of the popular vote in the election just two years ago.

Well, you say, governments often go through troughs in support at mid-term. The Tories have been behind before — after Michael Ignatieff became Liberal leader in 2009, and again after Thomas Mulcair became NDP leader in 2012 — and soon recaptured the lead.

RCMP poised to open criminal investigation into senators' expenses

The RCMP is set to conduct a criminal investigation into improper spending by three senators whose expense filings were the subject of external audits, CTV News has learned.

Sources say that the Mounties have been investigating the three senators -- Liberal Mac Harb, Conservative Mike Duffy and Independent Patrick Brazeau -- for months, monitoring the ongoing Senate probe and media reports.

Rob Ford's confederacy of dunces: Doubling down on dumb on transit in the GTA

If it were not so terribly serious, one could almost be amused by the latest sad battle cry of Toronto's deeply confused politicians, calling on the province to give them subways that they ultimately want no one, at all, to pay for. To paraphrase Dire Straits, they seem to want to get their money from nothing and their transit for free.

And dire straits are exactly what transit plans for Toronto are in, now depending on a minority Liberal austerity government, whose only potential de facto budget "partners", the NDP, have outright rejected the proposed dedicated transit taxes and whose Hudak Tory opponents would no doubt cancel most existing transit plans, just as their 90's equivalent Mike Harris did. While the Liberals have indicated a willingness to support what is known as the "Big Move", the $50 billion long term  plan to expand and integrate transit in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and beyond, they have also made it clear, very recently, that they are open to rethinking it.

Tuition increase a sign of an underfunded system

Recently while taking the subway in the morning rush there was an almost business-as-usual delay that left hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand people crammed onto the platform as we waited for the train.

When the train did finally arrive, it was packed to the gills with people who had squeezed on at the previous station. Between the two trains there were more than 2,000 uncomfortable and annoyed people saying "excuse me" who had paid the $3 fare to ride a system that is straining from years of underfunding.

Report on expenses of Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy missing language on clarity of rules

OTTAWA—Two hundred and twenty words found in reports admonishing Sen. Mac Harb and Sen. Patrick Brazeau for claiming expenses for their Ottawa homes are missing from a similar write-up on Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy.

The Senate standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration that called in external auditors to examine the living expenses the three senators claimed for their time spent working in the Ottawa area tabled reports for each of them Thursday recommending they pay back the money they were given from April 1, 2011 to March 31 of this year plus interest.