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.]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Harper’s high risk gambit: building a national energy economy

The political economy of energy resource development and export is the biggest and most important issue to hit Canadian politics since the fight over Quebec secession and battle over free trade.

Now that Harper has his majority and passed the Omnibus Budget Bill to get unfinished business out of the way, he has taken on the huge and risky task of implementing his Conservative government’s agenda to create a national energy economy. He lost the battle over a national security commission when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against him but he really did not present a very strong case to the Court. He likely feared winning hands down because it would have forced him to go up against the premiers of Alberta and Quebec, both of whom strongly opposed a national security commission.

Ottawa reducing health funding by $36 billion over 10 years, premiers say

HALIFAX - Canada's premiers and territorial leaders say they stand to lose almost $36 billion in health transfers over a 10-year period if Ottawa proceeds with its disputed plan to alter how it calculates the payments to the provinces and territories.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger released the figures Friday on the final day of the Council of the Federation meeting in Halifax, saying the federal formula will cut billions out of equalization and health funding.

Disgraced Barclays executive in line for $13.6 million payout

LONDON — A former senior Barclays executive involved in the interest rate manipulation scandal is set to receive a $13.6 million payout, a compensation package that could add to the scrutiny of the British bank.

Jerry del Missier, the bank’s former chief operating officer who resigned this month, has been a central figure in the firestorm.

Ex-Harper aide Bruce Carson charged with influence peddling

Bruce Carson has been charged with one count of influence peddling following an investigation by the RCMP.

The 66-year-old former top adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a history of fraud convictions had been facing accusations of alleged influence-peddling and illegal lobbying after it was alleged that he told Ottawa-based water purification company H20 Pros that he could use his connections to arrange deals with First Nations communities.

In a news release issued Friday, the RCMP's A Division said Carson is "alleged to have accepted a government commission for a third party in connection with a business matter relating to the government."

The turning tide: Canadians and our energy future

Hands down one of the most interesting events at the Council of the Federation meetings in Halifax, Nova Scotia to date was a joint presentation by Merran Smith from Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada, Steven Guilbeault from Équiterre, and Gil McGowan at the Alberta Federation of Labour on what Canadians want from a national energy strategy. The springboard was a poll conducted on behalf of Tides Canada by Harris-Decima (1005 Canadians polled between July 5-9, 2012; results valid at +/- 3.1 per cent).

The results are striking. It's clear that a vast majority of Canadians want Canada to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels (66 per cent), to create more clean energy jobs (74 per cent), to reduce carbon emissions to slow down climate change (67 per cent), and to improve its energy efficiency (82 per cent). A minority (33 per cent) wants Canada to focus on exporting more oil and gas.

The pipeline debate is detached from reality

If you are looking for evidence that Canada’s political leaders are completely detached from everyday reality, consider the current dust-up over the Northern Gateway pipeline.

It is all about the spoils: is British Columbia getting its fair share of the resource bonanza promised by the pipeline, should Alberta be forced to compensate its unhappy neighbour for environmental risks, and what about the rest of Canada? How do Ontario and Quebec grab their share of the loot?

Or, its about the Constitution: does an enabling province have the right to demand a share of another’s energy wealth and, if so, won’t this make the country unmanageable? And what is the role of the federal government when provinces spar: impassive observer, or impartial arbiter?

Conrad Black: Privatizing Prisons 'A Catastrophic Idea'

Former media mogul Conrad Black has long been a fan of free markets, but when it comes to prisons, the ex-inmate says profits should have no place.

Privatizing the country's prions is “a catastrophic idea,” he told The Huffington Post Canada during an editorial lunch meeting.

Black, who served nearly four years in a federal U.S. prison, in total, after being convicted on charges fraud and obstruction of justice related to his time as head of Hollinger International, said the penal system is “fundamentally not a commercial matter.”

Canada, of all places, should understand climate change

Ontario and Quebec have been baking for months. The fields have turned beige, starved for water. In Vancouver, by contrast, it’s been wet most of the year.

Britain, with the Olympics opening today, has experienced the wettest year since record keeping began, which in Britain means a long time ago. In Russia, too, widespread flooding in the south has caused massive disruptions.

Militarism on rise in Conservative Canada

Six and half years into Harper’s Conservative government Canada has become so militaristic that the head of the armed forces can demand a new war and few bat an eye.

Two weeks ago the Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk told the Canadian Press “We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” The General added that “you also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

U.S. senator urges Washington to use China’s bid for Nexen as leverage

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said on Friday that the Obama administration should use a bid by China’s state-run CNOOC for Canadian oil company Nexen Inc. as leverage to fix long-standing trade and investment issues with China.

Mr. Schumer wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Friday, saying he does not object to the $15.1-billion (U.S.) deal on its merits, but suggested the government should require China to address some thorny foreign investment and trade issues.

Harper rethinking myopic decision to close research lakes: Selinger

HALIFAX — Ottawa’s controversial decision to close down the world-renowned research facility known as the Experimental Lakes Area may not be final, according to Manitoba premier Greg Selinger.

In an exclusive interview with iPolitics at the Council of the Federation (COF) meetings in Halifax, Premier Selinger said he had a “bilateral” meeting with federal Environment Minister Peter Kent at the recent Rio+20 Conference that left him with the impression that there was a “glimmer of hope” at the political level that Ottawa’s decision was not final.

 “I met with Minister Kent in Brazil and he indicated something of an openness to reconsidering this decision,” Premier Selinger said.

Harper government unilateral decision making unprecedented: Charest

HALIFAX – Canada is going through an unprecedented period of unilateral decision making by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and it has Canada’s premiers worried, says Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

Charest, a veteran politician whose elected political career goes back to former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government, said he could not remember a period marked by more unilateral decisions on the part of Ottawa.

Some Alberta seniors will soon be eating better meals -- they can thank the union for them

One of the least successful experiments of the short, unhappy reign of Stephen Duckett as CEO of Alberta Health Services was the so-called 21-day menu, the unpalatable tinfoil- and plastic-wrapped meals that were trucked in, reheated and fed to helpless residents.

Cooks who once prepared nutritious and more appetizing meals at more than 70 public long-term care facilities around the province were let go or assigned to other duties.

The TV dinner-style meals were hauled in by reefer truck from factories in faraway places like Ontario and Pennsylvania, just in case you were wondering if they came from a nearby, centralized kitchen.

Addressing health care at the Council of the Federation

The Council of the Federation has arrived in Halifax. And while I'd say it was the calm before the storm -- given that Wednesday and Thursday are filled with events and rallies -- it was raining cats and dogs outside! Fortunately I was able to use one of our new "medicare has got us covered" umbrellas while running across town to get all of the events' details finalized.

Wednesday was a big day for us. We had a Premiers' Puppet Parade planned through the main streets of Halifax. We teamed up with Puppets Et Cetera to create 6-foot tall puppets of each premier. The message we're taking to the streets is: Premiers, don't be puppets, stand up to Harper.

New Democrats look to solidify East Coast support with Newfoundland summer caucus retreat

Federal New Democrats are surging in popularity in Atlantic Canada, particularly Newfoundland and Labrador where the party is hoping to continue its East Coast breakthrough by holding its summer caucus retreat in St. John’s in September.

“We’re very keen on building in Atlantic Canada,” NDP national caucus chair Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C.) told The Hill Times. “It’s a region that we want to continue to build in, it's a province that is showing real breakthrough support for the NDP like we’ve seen in Quebec, British Columbia, and other parts of the country.”

Astronaut, brainiac, educational force … oh yeah, lesbian. Why is that the news?

I bristled a bit at the news that the great Sally Ride, who died this week in San Diego at 61 of pancreatic cancer, has now in death been labelled “the first lesbian astronaut.”

She was one of nature’s aristocrats – not only a PhD physicist and the first American woman in space (and at 32, the youngest American as well) but also a Shakespeare scholar, a tennis player who could have turned pro, an entrepreneur and an activist. Her company Sally Ride Science paved the way for more girls and young women to make their way to the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math.

London 2012: Mitt Romney in London: ‘Kind of like Mr. Bean, only American’

WASHINGTON—Mitt Romney’s trip abroad was meant to illustrate his command of the international stage as he aims to deny U.S. President Barack Obama a second term in November.

Instead, there was this headline Thursday adorning one of the biggest and most respected newspapers in Great Britain, the Guardian: “Mitt Romney’s Olympics blunder stuns No. 10 and hands gift to Obama.”

The Guardian even featured a live blog devoted to Romney ridicule.

“Romney in London,” read one Tweet highlighted on the blog. “Come on. We needed this. It’s a little comic relief. Kind of like Mr. Bean, only he’s an American.”

ORNGE: Former CEO of air ambulance service Chris Mazza refuses to return to testify

The medically fragile founder and ex-CEO of Ontario’s ORNGE air ambulance service is, once again, refusing to testify before a provincial probe.

Dr. Chris Mazza, did speak before an all-party hearing last Wednesday after threats of two legislative warrants. But he has informed the government through his lawyer, Roger Yachetti, that he won’t be back this summer.

Syrians flee Aleppo ahead of expected invasion

BEIRUT—The Syrian military shelled rebel targets in urban enclaves on Thursday as it readied assault troops and armoured columns for a possible invasion of Aleppo, Syria’s densely populated commercial capital, where insurgents have embedded themselves over the past week in preparation for a battle.

Antigovernment activists reached in Aleppo said the city’s residents were gripped by foreboding as government forces massed on the southern outskirts, and that fierce street clashes had sporadically erupted. But Syrian military commanders appeared to be awaiting reinforcements before issuing invasion orders.