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, October 01, 2012

Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion And Protection Agreement ‘A Corporate Rights Pact,' Council Of Canadians Says

A China-Canada trade agreement the Harper government signed earlier this month amounts to a “corporate rights pact” that will make it harder for Canada to enforce environmental, energy and financial policies, the Council of Canadians says.

The left-leaning citizens’ group has issued a statement saying the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) would lead to lawsuits against the government of Canada that would inevitably force it to weaken environmental protections, and urged the government to follow Australia’s lead and stop negotiating these types of deals.

Baird Criticizes UN In Speech To General Assembly

The United Nations has to stop looking inward and start looking at what it's getting done in the world, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday in a speech to leaders from around the world.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Baird says the UN must spend less time looking at itself and more time focused on the problems that demand its attention.

Minister's Khadr comments threaten parole system's integrity: lawyers

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is threatening the integrity and independence of the penal and parole systems by publicly characterizing Omar Khadr as a remorseless, radicalized al-Qaeda terrorist upon his return, according to Canada’s criminal lawyers.

“When I read the quote I was immediately concerned,” said Norm Boxall, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, in an interview. “When the matter is going to be proceeding before a specialized tribunal, public officials should not comment on the outcome, because it can taint the process.”

Feds hint at EI reforms to solve problem for low-income EI recipients

OTTAWA—Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is hinting the federal government may go back to the drawing board to fix problems with its Employment Insurance reforms.

“We are always working to ensure our programs fulfill our goals,” Finley said in the Commons Monday.

The government has been studying ways to improve a new wrinkle in its EI plan that critics say puts EI claimants who take part-time work at a disadvantage. And an announcement on possible changes is expected this week.

But under fire from opposition parties Monday, Finley would only say the Conservatives routinely review their policies to see if they can be better.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been under mounting fire by the opposition parties for the new EI plan, which changes the amount of money recipients can earn in part-time work before Ottawa begins clawing back part of the workers’ wages.

It is believed the government realizes it made a mistake on this part of its EI reforms, which were introduced in the budget implementation bill last spring.

“What they’re really doing is attacking the unemployed,” NDP MP Chris Charlton said Monday. She said Finley’s claim that everyone who is on EI will be better off under the new rules is “categorically false.”

Under the new system, many EI claimants who work part-time are winding up with less money than under the old rules, a situation that critics say is unfair and a disincentive for the unemployed to supplement their income with part-time work.

The NDP is introducing a motion criticizing the government’s EI policies Monday.

Original Article
Source: the star
Author: Les Whittington 

New EI benefits for parents of sick kids won’t protect jobs

Prime Minister Harper’s recent announcement of up to 35 weeks of Employment Insurance benefits for parents of critically ill children beginning in June 2013 is laudable. However, unless parallel changes to provincial labour standards are made, parents who are off work to care for sick children may not have a job to go back to.

Since 2004, Canadians have had access to up to six weeks of Compassionate Care Benefits from EI after a two-week waiting period if they have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill.

May To Request Emergency Debate on Canada-China Investment Deal

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, will rise today in the House of Commons following the conclusion of Routine Proceedings to request an Emergency Debate on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). This follows the delivery of a notice of her intention to Speaker Andrew Scheer on Friday.

In her notice, May stated that the “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy” posed by FIPA – signed by Stephen Harper on September 9, but kept from the public and Parliament until quietly tabled on Wednesday last week – warrants much greater transparency and debate.

The Myth of Male Decline

SCROLL through the titles and subtitles of recent books, and you will read that women have become “The Richer Sex,” that “The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” and that we may even be seeing “The End of Men.” Several of the authors of these books posit that we are on the verge of a “new majority of female breadwinners,” where middle-class wives lord over their husbands while demoralized single men take refuge in perpetual adolescence.

 How is it, then, that men still control the most important industries, especially technology, occupy most of the positions on the lists of the richest Americans, and continue to make more money than women who have similar skills and education? And why do women make up only 17 percent of Congress?

The Case for Free Post-Secondary Tuition

Quebec students, having helped put ex-premier Jean Charest out of office over the issue of tuition increases, have now raised the ante: They want entirely free post-secondary education.

This may seem like a scandalous idea, an indulgence for young people from middle- and upper-class families who form the majority of post-secondary students. Surely they can afford tuition, or at least borrow money against their future earnings. Otherwise, working-class Canadian taxpayers, whose kids rarely get beyond Grade 12, will be footing the bill for such students.

Pipeline Violations Poorly Enforced: Engineer

A pipeline materials engineer, who worked for TransCanada Pipeline for five years, says some of the nation's major pipeline companies are breaking the rules on pipeline safety and that National Energy Board is not adequately enforcing them.

Evan Vokes, a 46-year-old Calgary-based engineer and former TransCanada employee, has filed complaints with the National Energy Board, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA is a self-regulating professional group that represents engineers) and the Prime Minister's Office documenting repeated violations of standard safety regulations and codes.

Pipeline Whistleblower: Cracks in The System

Evan Vokes, a 46-year-old Calgary pipeline engineer, is a man with a mission, and a conscience.

While building natural gas pipelines in Canada, Mexico and the United States for TransCanada Corporation, he started raising concerns about industry practices.

Vokes had an important inside job: he was the guy that ensured the pipelines were constructed safely.

Carmageddon Improved Los Angeles Air Quality During 2011 Freeway Closure, Study Shows

On the eve of "Carmageddon II," researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles revealed that last year's July 15-17 closure of Interstate 405 resulted in significant air quality improvements in the vicinity of the freeway.

The study's findings, announced September 28, show that concentrations of ultrafine particles (air pollutants with a diameter of less than 0.1 microns) dropped by 83 percent within minutes around the closed 10-mile stretch of the 405, according to a UCLA press release. Concentrations of larger PM2.5 particles dropped 36 percent.

Climate Change To Shrink Fish By 2050 As Oceans Warm

OSLO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Fish are likely to get smaller on average by 2050 because global warming will cut the amount of oxygen in the oceans in a shift that may also mean dwindling catches, according to a study on Sunday.

Average maximum body weights for 600 types of marine fish, such as cod, plaice, halibut and flounder, would contract by 14-24 percent by 2050 from 2000 under a scenario of a quick rise in greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

Shell's Arctic Oil Exploration Plans Remain, Despite 2012 Setback

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The stars lined up — almost — for Shell Oil to drill exploratory wells this year in waters off Alaska's north coast.

The Arctic Ocean was on record pace for low sea ice. The Obama administration gave a qualified green light to drilling. Two drill ships and a flotilla of support vessels were staged off prospects.

But as the roughly four-month open water season wound down, Shell announced last week it would limit drilling to "top-hole" work, the shallow but time-consuming preparation for an offshore well. The final straw for the decision: damage during testing Sept. 15 to an undersea containment dome, part of a spill response system that Shell put in place to reassure federal regulators that Arctic offshore drilling could be done safely.

We Are The 100 Percent

As Election Day approaches, much of the nation must surely be experiencing Percent Fatigue.

The campaign took shape amid talk of the 99 Percent and the 1 Percent -- the divide delineated by Occupy Wall Street that speaks to how more and more of the spoils of the American economy have been flowing upward.

More recently, the 47 Percent joined the conversation, thanks to the now-infamous video of Mitt Romney telling campaign contributors in Florida that nearly half the electorate is comprised of deadbeats who mooch off the government.

DND Budget Cuts: Twin Budget Axes Expected To Carve $2.5 Billion Out Of DND, Says Report

OTTAWA - An independent analysis has concluded the waves of federal budget cuts washing over National Defence will run deeper and likely be more painful than advertised by the Harper government.

While it won't exactly be a return to the "decade of darkness" the Conservatives attribute to the Liberal years, the reductions will be significant and are expected to cut into the military's "readiness" — or ability to respond quickly to a crisis.

Mitt Romney's Real Agenda

It was tempting to dismiss Mitt Romney's hard-right turn during the GOP primaries as calculated pandering. In the general election – as one of his top advisers famously suggested – Romney would simply shake the old Etch A Sketch and recast himself as the centrist who governed Massachusetts. But with the selection of vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the shape-shifting Romney has locked into focus – cementing himself as the frontman for the far-right partisans responsible for Washington's gridlock.

Energy firms guaranteed revenue in sweetheart deals with Ontario

The Ontario government has inked a string of sweetheart deals with private-sector energy companies, promising them guaranteed revenue regardless of how much electricity they produce and sell into the market.

The practice began when the governing Liberals came to power in 2003, according to the Ontario Power Authority.

Nineteen natural gas-fired plants have been built in Ontario as part of the McGuinty government’s push to replace coal-fired electricity plants with cleaner sources of power. The plants accounted for about 15 per cent of the province’s electricity output last year.

Tory MP Woodworth lashes out at M-312 opponents, but spares Prime Minister

Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth criticized opponents of his private member’s motion to reopen the abortion debate last week and said he will continue to challenge Canada’s abortion laws, but denied that the Prime Minister and Chief Government Whip Gordon O’Connor have a problem within their ranks.

Mr. Woodworth slammed MPs who opposed his private member’s motion for being preoccupied with abortion “no matter the consequences,” after M-312 was defeated on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

“The MPs who spoke in favour of shielding subsection 223(1) [of the Criminal Code] from 21st century science and modern understanding, were quite willing to say that their personal preoccupation with abortion is more important than the need for our laws to honestly reflect reality,” he told media at the National Press Theatre on Sept. 27.

Lunch with Anders: Speaks from conviction and going nowhere

Rob Anders has a theory.

In between bites of gravlax and sliced beef from the Chateau Laurier buffet, he lets it be known – minimal prodding necessary – what he really thinks about Thomas Mulcair.

For 15 years, the Reform-cum-Canadian Alliance-cum-Conservative MP for Calgary West has, for better or worse, defined himself as a politician who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

And so, he has a theory.

“I actually think one of the great stories that was missed by journalists was that Mr. Mulcair, with his arm twisted behind the scenes, helped to hasten Jack Layton’s death,” he said.

Speaker urged to stem tide of partisan vitriol in House of Commons

OTTAWA - Opposition parties, and even some Tories, are urging the Speaker to stem the tide of partisan vitriol in the House of Commons before it becomes an all-party war of mutual rhetorical annihilation.

They want Andrew Scheer to clamp down on the trash talk that's turning members' statements — the 15-minute interval preceding question period each day — into little more than a series of nasty partisan attack ads.

Members' statements are intended to give MPs a chance to address the Commons for up to one minute on any matter they choose — tributes to deceased constituents, events in their ridings, causes dear to their hearts.

Opposition MPs accuse PCO Clerk Wouters of ‘protecting PMO’

PCO Clerk Wayne Wouters is “protecting the PMO” in refusing to hand over detailed information on budget cuts to the Parliamentary Budge Officer, say opposition MPs.

“I think there is a little defence going on here, protecting the PMO,” NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, Ont.) told The Hill Times last week. “I think it’s unfortunate that Mr. Wouters is doing that. I think it’s incumbent on the government and the Prime Minister to provide that information. They could do it in a heart beat and they’ve chosen not to.”

No justice, no peace

On Friday, George Horton became the only person convicted of assaulting an officer during the chaotic weekend of the G20 in Toronto.

A judge determined that he should spend 10 months in jail.

The victim? A police cruiser’s door.

While the cruiser was unable to deliver a victim impact statement, an officer who was inside of the car said he felt his life was in danger. He had been hit on the head, through Horton was not accused of that attack.

If it's Alberta, it ain't going across the border: Time to connect the dots on XL Foods

Do you remember that brilliant advertising campaign, "If it ain't Alberta, it ain't beef”?

Well, nowadays -- as the continental recall of beef products from the sprawling XL Foods meatpacking plant in Brooks, Alberta, the largest slaughterhouse in Canada, keeps growing and growing and growing -- a lot of people are starting to substitute the last word in that slogan for something else.

If it ain't Alberta, at least a few folks are concluding, it's less likely to be …

Quebec's Maple Spring shows grassroots movements can force social and environmental change

Usually it takes social movements years, even decades, to significantly affect public policy. The movement unleashed by Quebec students last spring has had a much quicker impact.

Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois' government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.

Bramalea Secondary School students stage Queen's Park protest against Bill 115

By the time I arrived at Queen’s Park, the metal barricades were set up around the front of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building.

In less than half an hour, students from Bramalea Secondary School would stage a protest against Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, that freezes teachers’ wages for two years and prevents them from striking.

In response, teachers cancelled all extracurricular activities at Bramalea Secondary and some other schools around the province.

Embassy-sharing agreement ‘anglicizes’ Canada’s image abroad: some experts

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird flatly denied the government’s recent announcement that Canada and the U.K. would merge diplomatic resources in certain countries would influence Canadian foreign policy, and while foreign policy observers say the new initiative is more about image, they predict that future foreign policy will be more aligned with Britain and other members of the so-called “anglosphere.”

“We’re not talking about merging foreign policies, but we are talking about merging images once we start putting ourselves together with the British,” retired Canadian diplomat Paul Heinbecker said last week in an interview with The Hill Times. “I think the motivation was to add a little anglicization.”

Why can’t Mark Carney convince corporate Canada to spend its cash?

Mark Carney has never been more powerful. Canada’s Mensa central banker seems to gain influence every month; last year, he became head of the G20’s Financial Stability Board, and if you believed the British press this summer, he may have been a candidate to run the Bank of England. The financial world oozes respect for him. In Global Finance magazine’s latest report card, Carney was one of only six central bankers to merit an “A.” Take that, Ben Bernanke—yes, you, the one with the “B.”

Nexen deal divides Canada’s top executives

The spreading unease about the proposed takeover of Nexen Inc. by Chinese energy explorer CNOOC Ltd. extends deeply into Canada’s corner offices.

In the most recent C-Suite survey of corporate executives, 50 per cent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly oppose the deal if it has no special conditions, while 42 per cent support it.

The survey also underscores a deep geographic divide among those at the top of Canada’s corporate world. Fifty-six per cent of executives in the West support the deal without conditions, while only 35 per cent of those in Ontario are onside.

Omar Khadr’s mother Maha Elsamnah both ‘happy and sad’ after son returns to Canada from Guantanamo Bay

Visibly emotional, the mother of Omar Khadr said the fact her son has returned to Canada a convicted war criminal doesn’t make her happy and Canada needs to do more to give him his rights back.

“If he’s treated as a criminal, a convicted war criminal, I’m not happy,” Maha Elsamnah told the Star on Sunday. “I want him to come back as a person who has been abused and misunderstood. I want Canada to give him his right.”

Khadr, 26, landed at the Trenton military airbase early Saturday after a flight from Guantanamo Bay. American officials formally transferred Khadr into Canada’s care, bringing to an end U.S. involvement in the decade-long case.

Ontario restraint bill much more than two-year wage freeze

The Ontario government is selling its new public restraint bill as a simple, two-year wage freeze.

A close reading shows the proposed law is much, much broader.

Unveiled on Wednesday by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, it would give the provincial cabinet wartime-style powers over public sector compensation for at least six years.

If approved by the legislature, the Protecting Public Services bill would allow the government to not just freeze the wages it pays to unionized employees — ranging from nurses to home care workers to hydro linemen — but roll them back.