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, June 18, 2012

Air Canada looks to Ottawa again for pension help

Pension woes are back at the top of Air Canada’s concerns as the carrier seeks a new reprieve from retirement funding to avert a looming financial crisis.

Faced with a cash crunch in 2014, the country’s largest airline is preparing to ask Ottawa for another moratorium on company contributions to pensions, and to request other measures to ease the pressure.

Egypt: A coup, and the seeds of a new revolution

Moves by Egypt’s ruling military council to dissolve the country’s elected parliament and grant itself sweeping legislative powers — including stripping the president of any control over the army — have justifiably been described as a coup d’état. They are also an enormous blunder.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces retained control of the country following last year’s uprising in Tahrir Square that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. The military threw its leader under the bus to preserve its power. Yet many Egyptians, at least initially, believed a transition to democracy was under way. This is what the military had promised, and unlike in other Middle Eastern dictatorships, the Egyptian army commanded broad credibility and affection.

The trouble with celebrating the war of 1812

Warmonger politicians customarily indulge in high rhetoric, attempting to rally the citizenry round the flag and boost the bloodletting. Or when invoking the glories of past wars. The War of 1812 was no exception.

Those who witness war's gruesome reality often remember things differently, as do many historians.

"It would be a useful lesson to cold-blooded politicians, who calculate on a war costing so many lives and so many limbs as they would on a horse costing so many pounds," wrote embittered battlefield surgeon William 'Tiger' Dunlop, "to witness such a scene, if only for one hour."

Ottawa’s plans to eavesdrop on travellers appall privacy commissioner

Ontario’s privacy commissioner says she is appalled that Ottawa plans to start eavesdropping on travellers’ conversation at airports and border crossings.

Ann Cavoukian said while it is federal jurisdiction she is no less taken aback that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is installing high-definition cameras and microphones with eventual plans to record what people are saying as they pass through certain areas of international airports and land crossings.

Europe to Canada: Don't lecture us

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken his tough talk about the European economic crisis to the G20 summit in Mexico, but his position earned him some criticism Monday from the head of the European Commission.

Harper welcomed Sunday night's Greek election result but warned again that the problems in Europe remain severe.

"We’re obviously very pleased the Greek people have given a clear mandate to remain in the eurozone and to fulfill the commitments they’ve made," Harper told reporters at the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.

The Commons: ‘Why is the PM showing his own MPs such blatant disrespect?’

The Scene. Page 11 of the Conservative Party of Canada’s campaign platform for the general election of 2006 contains no less than 11 individual promises. Three of those appear under the heading “Ensure truth in budgeting with a Parliamentary Budget Authority.”

“A Conservative government will,” the Conservative party promised, “create an independent Parliamentary Budget Authority to provide objective analysis directly to Parliament about the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy; require government departments and agencies to provide accurate, timely information to the Parliamentary Budget Authority to ensure it has the information it needs to provide accurate analyses to Parliament; ensure that government fiscal forecasts are updated quarterly and that they provide complete data for both revenue and spending forecasts.”

Outside experts called in to verify reliability of F-35 stealth fighter jets costs to be denied original information provided to DND

PARLIAMENT HILL—An outside review at the centre of the government’s promise to verify the reliability of F-35 stealth fighter jet costs produced by the Department of National Defence will be denied access to the original information that National Defence is using to come up with the figures, according to an obscure footnote in the plan Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose released last week.

Critics and opposition MPs say the exclusion—which will prevent a private-sector firm the government plans to hire for the review from seeing cost assumptions and forecasts from the main F-35 project office in the U.S.—will prevent the experts conducting the review from being able to judge whether the National Defence cost estimates for buying and maintaining the stealth jets are accurate.

Bombardier Buys Casablanca Property For Aerospace Facility

MONTREAL - Bombardier says it has bought land in Casablanca's tax-free zone near the airport for its new manufacturing facility that is set to open next year.

The Montreal-based aircraft manufacturer said it signed a deal with Moroccan property holding and management company Midparc Investment S.A. for the land in a free zone in Nouaceur.

Bombardier Aerospace president Guy Hachey said the selection of the site for the manufacturing facility is "an important first step" in establishing the world's third-largest aircraft manufacturer in the North African country.

An Open Letter to the Environment Minister

Dear Peter Kent:

I'’ve been told you are a faithful reader of my column, Science Matters. I hope it’'s true. I’'m writing to thank you and the government for the decision to make the Rouge Valley a national park. More and more Canadians live in urban areas, and this will be a truly progressive step that will make a wilderness experience possible for people in Canada’s largest city. Well done.

I have to add, though, that a study by the David Suzuki Foundation before the Kyoto conference on climate in 1997 showed that most of Canada’s national parks will be seriously threatened on a warming planet. National parks, now including Rouge Valley, are our great pride and joy as well as priceless treasures to inform us how nature works, yet they will be severely altered as different species of plants and animals move away to remain within their optimum temperature while new ones come in and take over. Ecologically, this will mean devastating change that will render the parks unrecognizable. So even as we protect Rouge Park and other parks and natural ecosystems from urban sprawl and other unsustainable land use, they cannot be protected from the impact of climate change that is already well underway.

Tories have violated law by failing to disclose budget cut information: lawyer

OTTAWA — A prominent constitutional lawyer says Canada’s top bureaucrat and 64 deputy ministers who have failed to provide details about the nature of the Conservative government’s $5.2 billion in spending cuts in their departments are violating the law and should turn the information over to the parliamentary budget officer.

Joseph Magnet, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said deputy ministers are obligated under the Parliament of Canada Act to release to Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Kevin Page economic data their departments have collected. Refusing to give that information contravenes the law, which was among the reforms the Conservatives passed in its signature Federal Accountability Act.

Google: Censorship Requests 'Alarming'

BRUSSELS - Google has received more than 1,000 requests from authorities to take down content from its search results or YouTube video in the last six months of 2011, the company said on Monday, denouncing what it said was an alarming trend.

In its twice-yearly Transparency Report, the world's largest web search engine said the requests were aimed at having some 12,000 items overall removed, about a quarter more than during the first half of last year.

"Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different," Dorothy Chou, the search engine's senior policy analyst, said in a blogpost. "We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."

Refugees left out in the cold by Canada

It was a visit to the dentist that convinced Parisa Rezaiefar she might have a chance in Canada after all.

It was 1992, and the 22-year-old refugee was living in Montreal, with no family beyond her older sister and no means of support beyond social assistance.

She had left her parents and university studies behind when she left a repressive life in Iran and flew to Canada, asking for asylum when she arrived at Mirabel Airport.

Stephen Harper and the almost unlimited power of a majority government

What a strange fuss it caused. There was our Prime Minister in France last week, thoughtfully instructing an attentive new socialist president exactly how to run his country, when he decided to underline some well-known views on how he likes Canada to operate. (Stephen Harper loves sharing government info with Canadians when he's not actually in Canada.)

Asked about his environmental critics getting government funding, he replied, more generally: "If it's the case that we're spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money and we'll look to eliminate it."

Unpopular Mandate - Why do politicians reverse their positions?

On March 23, 2010, the day that President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, fourteen state attorneys general filed suit against the law’s requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, on the ground that it was unconstitutional. It was hard to find a law professor in the country who took them seriously. “The argument about constitutionality is, if not frivolous, close to it,” Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law-school professor, told the McClatchy newspapers. Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine, told the Times, “There is no case law, post 1937, that would support an individual’s right not to buy health care if the government wants to mandate it.” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University professor who had clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, said, “There is a less than one-per-cent chance that the courts will invalidate the individual mandate.” Today, as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down its decision on the law, Kerr puts the chance that it will overturn the mandate—almost certainly on a party-line vote—at closer to “fifty-fifty.” The Republicans have made the individual mandate the element most likely to undo the President’s health-care law. The irony is that the Democrats adopted it in the first place because they thought that it would help them secure conservative support. It had, after all, been at the heart of Republican health-care reforms for two decades.

Eric Hovde, GOP Senate Candidate: Press Should Stop Writing Sob Stories About Poor People

WASHINGTON -- Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde (R) says he is sick and tired of reading sad stories about people struggling in the recession. Instead, he wants to see the media focus more on the debt and the larger problems afflicting the country.

Hovde made his remarks during a presentation on Friday to the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Hovde expressed his support for lowering the corporate tax rate, tackling the country's spending problems and lowering the national debt.

Greece as Victim

Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. Some of the accusations are true, some are false — but all of them are beside the point. Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe. 

No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places.

Thousands Hold Silent March to Mayor Bloomberg’s Home in Protest of NYPD’s "Stop-and-Frisk"

Thousands of people held a silent march in New York City on Sunday to protest the New York City Police Department’s controversial "stop-and-frisk" policies. The warrantless search initiative has drawn accusations of being unconstitutional and while mostly targeting people of color, overwhelmingly black and Latino men. We hear from several voices at the march: Reverend Al Sharpton; Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP; and New York City residents who have endured dozens of "stop-and-frisk" searches.

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

Don’t defund freshwater research, Ontario and Manitoba tell Tories

Two provincial environment ministers are pleading with the Conservative government to continue its funding of a research station in Northwestern Ontario that has studied the ecology of freshwater lakes for more than 50 years.

Gord Mackintosh, Manitoba’s Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship, and Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley say the work conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is relied upon by all Canadian bodies that are responsible for managing freshwater resources and many of their international counterparts.

Budget bill should be called the Lobbyists’ Bill, it’s a gift for oil and gas lobbyists

PARLIAMENT HILL—“Canada’s golden age,” one MP called it.

The House was in session, after dark, grinding through C-38, the Lobbyists’ Bill. Drafted in secret, frog-marched on closure, its provisions hidden from voters in the last campaign, the bill reads like it was ghostwritten at the Calgary Petroleum Club. It puts Canada dead last among G8 countries in environmental protection. C-38 is so outrageous Conservative MPs were not permitted to read it beforehand in caucus.

Carleton's $15M political school has secret funding deal

Carleton University is withholding key information about a $15-million donation that created a school backed by Preston Manning — and an adjudicator has ordered an explanation by Tuesday.

The university's request for a nine-week extension — the latest in a year-long battle over a freedom-of-information request — was rejected by the information and privacy commissoner of Ontario.

The Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management was launched in October 2010 to much fanfare, with Reform party founder Manning — and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy — front and centre.

Legal opinion backs watchdog on budget information request

Canada's budget watchdog is renewing his fight for detailed information about the government's planned cuts.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has sent a legal opinion to the clerk of the Privy Council, the country's top bureaucrat, explaining why he has the right to demand "information pertaining to the savings measures" planned in each department.

Most departments — 64 out of 84 — refused to provide the information.

Tory EI reform, NDP oil-sands barbs lay bare regional split in polls

Conservative changes to Employment Insurance and the debate over Thomas Mulcair’s “Dutch disease” comments appear to be moving the voting intentions of Canadians, as the Tories have dropped in the East and the NDP is down in the West, according to the latest polls.

Since late April, New Democrats have increased their support by 2.3 points to 35.2 per cent in’s weighted average of all available polling data. This puts them narrowly ahead of the Conservatives, who are down 1.2 points to 32.8 per cent. The Liberals, at 20.9 per cent, are down 0.8 points since the last projection of Apr. 28.

Feds’ efforts to improve water quality on reserves may not adequately address First Nations’ need: Senate report

The federal government’s move to improve water quality on reserves may not “adequately address” First Nations’ needs, says a Senate Aboriginal People’s Committee report.

“While investments and efforts over time have resulted in improvements to water conditions in First Nation communities, much more remains to be done,” states the committee’s report on Bill S-8, Safety of Drinking Water on First Nation Lands.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister supports ‘thrust’ of private member’s bill to replace Indian Act

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says he’s open to a Conservative backbencher’s private member’s bill that would require the minister to report annually on efforts to replace the Indian Act, but aboriginal groups and critics say the bill’s sponsor failed to consult with First Nations before introducing the bill.

Conservative backbencher Rob Clarke (Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Sask.) introduced Bill C-428, An Act to Amend the Indian Act and Provide for its Replacement, on June 4. If passed, the private member’s bill would repeal some aspects of the Indian Act pertaining to property, education, and governance, and would require the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to report annually to Parliament on efforts between the department and aboriginal groups to replace the Indian Act.

Taxing the Rich

The news is just in: It’s time to tax the rich in Ontario. In exchange for a promise to abstain from voting against the Liberals’ budget, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath got Premier Dalton McGuinty to include a provision to increase the basic tax rate for those who make more than $500,000 by two per cent.

Much noise is being made by the newly impoverished one per cent in the mass media. A money manager told Rita Celli on CBC Radio that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that a Nazi takeover is in the wings. He also warned listeners that the sort of money he manages is quite mobile, and will take flight to Alberta if things don’t get better soon. The clean mountain air of Canmore beckons, with or without the scent of wild roses.

Opposition MPs say marathon House filibuster was worth it

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May took her seat in the House of Commons at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, and didn’t leave it until 27 hours later after casting her final vote against passing the omnibus budget implementation bill at report stage.

While her opposition and government colleagues were rotating food, bathroom and sleep breaks in various shifts, Ms. May drank minimal water to stay hydrated and did not eat anything throughout 156 roll call votes over 23-and a-half-hours. “If I leave to go to the ladies, I will miss a vote,” she said in an email to The Hill Times.

Newfoundland says Italy’s search and rescue assistance ‘Plan C’

The Coast Guard contracted a Nova Scotia emergency response company last week to field distress calls from mariners off the coast of Newfoundland, and said that from now on, relying on a free emergency service based out of Rome, Italy would be “Plan C.”

Praxes, a Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based company that provides around-the-clock access to medical professionals over the phone to people in remote locations, has won the year-long contract, worth $118,000. They will advise Canadian search and rescue teams whether or not they need to intervene in a medical emergency at sea.

Library and Archives Canada laments deterioration of heritage record keeping

The $9.6-million in cuts to Library and Archives Canada announced in the 2012 budget will only make a bad situation worse, say critics, who add that years of bad policy decisions and underfunding have contributed to the deterioration of Canada’s heritage-keeping organization. 

“It goes beyond the current cuts. There have been ongoing cuts to LAC, and as well the current Library and Archivist of Canada has introduced policies and directions that are making the situation far worse,” said James Turk, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the union behind the campaign Save Library and Archives Canada.

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.

UN calls Quebec's Bill 78 alarming

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is criticizing Quebec's Bill 78, a new law that imposes strict limits on student protests.

Navi Pillay spoke out about the special law in her opening address at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday morning.

In a speech of five single-spaced pages, Quebec was mentioned in two lines:

Natives challenge Ottawa, band governments with human-rights complaints

It’s been a year now since aboriginal people have had the full use of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and they’re using their new power to hold both the federal government and their own first nations governments to account, new data shows.

The cases involve fundamental conditions on reserves, and throw hundreds of millions of dollars in annual federal funding into question.

Statistics compiled by the Canadian Human Rights Commission show that 162 complaints were registered against first nations governments over the past year — mostly about on-reserve housing and eligibility to vote in band elections.

Record 800,000 refugees crossed borders seeking asylum in 2011

More than 4.3 million people joined the world’s growing refugee population last year, setting a new record for cross-border displacement since 2000, says a UN report.

Among the newly displaced were 800,000 refugees who were forced to flee their own countries and cross borders for safety and security, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2011 Global Trends report, to be released Monday.

The exodus of people — triple the number of 224,000 tallied the year before — began in late 2010 in the Ivory Coast, followed by other humanitarian crises in Libya, Somalia, Sudan and other places.

G20 Summit: Greece Election Results Ease Financial Worries As Harper Gears Up For Summit

LOS CABOS, Mexico - Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other world leaders at a meeting of the world's 20 most important economies can breathe a little easier after a political party that favours staying in the eurozone came in first in Greece's national elections Sunday.

All eyes at the G20 summit at the Mexican desert resort of Los Cabos were on the Greek election. A win by one of the parties that wanted to tear up Greece's huge bailout deals threatened to send ripples through financial markets and set the stage for the country's exit from the 17-member bloc of nations that use the euro.

Feds flagged Enbridge project for inadequate oil spill response plan: document

OTTAWA — Federal officials flagged safety concerns about Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project nearly two years ago, while warning that the Alberta-based proponent had an "insufficient" oil spill response plan along sensitive areas on its route from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, internal records reveal.

The warnings were highlighted during a meeting by a team of environmental assessment experts from multiple government departments, including Natural Resources Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, Transport Canada and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada.

Arbitrator chooses Air Canada contract for machinists

A federal arbitrator ruled in favour of Air Canada in its 14-month-old labour dispute with the company's unionized machinists.

Arbitrator Michel Picher ruled to impose the airline's final, five-year contract offer on Sunday.

According to the airline, the deal between Air Canada and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) includes changes to the pension plan for any new hires. The pension plan for current employees will not change.

Egyptian military lays down law on presidency

The Muslim Brotherhood has declared that its candidate has won Egypt's election to replace former president Hosni Mubarak.

Mohammed Morsi, a conservative Islamist, "is the first civilian, popularly elected Egyptian president," the group says on its website.

However, the ruling military issued an interim constitution Sunday that handed themselves the lion's share of power over the new president, enshrining their hold on the state and sharpening the possibility of confrontation with the Brotherhood.

Greek pro-bailout party wins election

Fears of an imminent Greek exit from Europe's joint currency receded Sunday after the conservative New Democracy party came first in a critical election and pro-bailout parties won enough seats to form a joint government.

As central banks stood ready to intervene in case of financial turmoil, Greece held its second national election in six weeks after an inconclusive ballot on May 6.

Democracies can't live in perpetual stimulus

The British government has run a budget surplus in only six of the 37 years since 1975. The American government has run a budget surplus in only five of the 52 years since 1960. The Canadian government has run a budget surplus in only 10 of the 46 years since 1966. As Hudson Institute scholar Christopher DeMuth asserts in a prescient paper, Debt and Democracy, Keynesian doctrine – surpluses in the good years, deficits in the bad – has morphed in the advanced democracies into perpetual stimulus. As a result, the exponential accumulation of debt means that the next generation, people still unborn, could theoretically be required to pay all of their lifetime incomes in taxes merely to make the interest payments on an enormous debt.

“Obviously,” Mr. DeMuth says, “this will never happen.” But, based upon past experience, democracies are not yet prepared – with few exceptions – to balance their books. In these circumstances, what gives? In Mr. DeMuth's assessment, democracy gives. A day of reckoning comes. The Western world must either return to balanced books or risk a turbulent end to the great age of the dynamic democracies.

Fate of Ontario’s budget hinges on plan to privatize ServiceOntario

The showdown over Ontario’s budget bill has focused on a plan by the McGuinty government to create a one-stop online service for everything from birth certificates to licence-plate validation stickers and property title searches – and sell it to a private operator.

Premier Dalton McGuinty spent the weekend trying to salvage his budget bill after accusing New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath of wavering on her pledge to prop up his minority Liberal government. The budget bill is scheduled to go to a vote on Wednesday.

Let’s build a Canadian oil pipeline from coast to coast

The last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885. This was a remarkable accomplishment pitting the indomitable will of our early railroad pioneers against the rugged Canadian terrain. In a country where gravitational forces often move north and south, this ribbon of steel has helped knit the country together both symbolically and economically.

It is time for another bold project, national in scope: A pipeline network extending from coast to coast. This essential infrastructure project would be good for all regions of Canada. It would be an extraordinary catalyst for economic growth. It would be a powerful symbol of Canadian unity.

Canada wants to hold on to fossil fuel subsidies, leaked document reveals

Canada is making waves heading into the global Rio+20 Earth Summit by trying to prevent the conference from adopting commitments requiring an end to taxpayer subsidies of the fossil fuel sector.

Environment Minister Peter Kent was unable to explain why Canadian negotiators were trying to ask the conference to "consider" eliminating the subsidies instead of supporting the positions of others, such as the European Union, who are calling for a firm commitment for a full phase-out.

The details of the Canadian government negotiating tactics have emerged through a leaked draft text obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Government fails to address defence procurement problems

Is the government serious? Does it really expect Canadians to buy into its new structure to oversee its response to the Auditor General’s concerns? The government continues to treat Canadians like naïve children willing to swallow anything given to them.

Had the government truly wanted to chart a new course it would have put in place a credible team to oversee the action plan and it would have committed to undertaking an open, fair and transparent competitive process. The fact is, it did neither.

Many of the same people who were responsible for the current debacle are still in charge. Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is accountable for ensuring integrity in the procurement process. It is this minister and her officials who demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to do so throughout this process that are now being given more responsibility to oversee the process.