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.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bill C-377: What you need to know about the latest Conservative attack on civil society

The Conservatives have aggressively targeted civil society organizations that articulate a worldview different from their own.

Feminist groups, international NGOs and environmental organizations have all faced Harper government efforts to weaken their functioning. Now the Conservatives are targeting labour unions through an arcane bill known as an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Labour Organizations).

Sponsored by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, Bill C-377 is set for a third and final reading in the House of Commons this fall. Opposed by the opposition parties, almost all Conservative MPs have supported the Private Member's bill.

Canada-China investment deal allows for confidential lawsuits against Canada

The Harper government is very keen on Chinese investment. On this there is little doubt, now that the Canada-China investment deal has been released.

The deal will tie the hands of Canadian governments, especially in the resource sector, once Chinese firms buy Canadian assets. It allows Chinese companies to sue Canada outside of Canadian courts. Remarkably, the lawsuits can proceed behind closed doors. This shift to secrecy reverses a long-standing policy of the Canadian government.

Under the deal, Chinese firms can sue in special tribunals to protect themselves from Canadian government decisions. Canadian companies can do the same against China. The technical name for this is “investor-state arbitration.” In Canada, it has been in operation since NAFTA.

Strengthening the Parliamentary Budget Office

Kevin Page’s term as the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) expires in March 2013. He has already announced that he will not seek a renewal of his appointment. In this regard, he has done the government a favour since the chances of the Harper Government renewing his term are virtually non-existent given how they have treated him and his office.

Since its creation, the PBO has been in a constant battle with the government over its lack of independence, its inadequate budget, and its inability to hire staff. This is ironic given it was the Conservatives who promoted the idea of an independent PBO during the 2006 election. But no one should be surprised, given the government’s dislike of independent analysis and research, and opposing opinion.

Privacy vs. political marketing in the age of big data

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is getting concerned about political marketing. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s mass email to gays and lesbians is just the tip of the iceberg. The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are all building big databases that are full of Canadians’ personal information. Unlike governments and businesses, however, political parties are exempt from our privacy laws. As a result, Stoddart has no control over how they use the information. Is it time to bring parties under the privacy laws?

While most people would probably say yes, I’m leaning strongly to no. Not because I want to see more political marketing. I don’t. Rather, the information landscape is in the midst of a seismic change that could make these laws obsolete within a decade. If so, the real challenge is not to extend them, but to rethink them — while we still have time. Let me explain.

Kingston Penitentiary won’t deliver Toronto Star letters to inmates

Kingston Penitentiary officials, citing regulations that keep prisoners’ names and locations secret, seized Toronto Star letters mailed to dozens of inmates that request information and opinions on their lives within the 19th-century maximum security facility that is slated for closure.

The Star letters, inspired by California-based media group Coleman-Rayner that wrote to death-row inmates across the United States, were intercepted during the summer “for privacy reasons,” said Michele Vermette, assistant warden, management services, at Kingston Penitentiary.

Corporate Welfare Queens

Mitt Romney once seemed like a moderate technocrat. But, as the Republican Convention and the video leak of his comments about the “forty-seven per cent” of Americans who “believe that they are victims” made clear, Romney now seems to fancy himself a small-government zealot, who promises the end of the culture of entitlement. Yet even as he assails people on Medicaid and Social Security, and those who receive the earned-income tax credit, for being “dependent upon government,” Romney has had strikingly little to say about another prominent group that’s “dependent upon government”: the many American companies whose profits rely, in one form or another, on government assistance.

Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan could be speeded up, says Rasmussen

The retreat of western forces from Afghanistan could come sooner than expected, the head of Nato has said as he conceded that the recent Taliban strategy of "green on blue" killings had been successful in sapping morale.

In an interview with the Guardian Nato's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, responded to pressure for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan by stating that the options were being studied and should be clear within three months.

A Recent History of GOP Voter Suppression in Florida

The state of Florida has an unfortunate history of disenfranchising voters. We all remember the “hanging chads” of 2000. Less well-known is how Florida wrongly labeled 12,000 eligible voters as felons, 41 percent of whom were African-Americans, and kicked them off the voting rolls that year, which could have very well cost Al Gore the election. Florida attempted another controversial voter purge in 2004, but was forced to scrap the plan after public outcry (history is repeating itself this year). The 2008 election, however, was noticeably smooth in the Sunshine State, producing a surprising victory for Barack Obama.

What the Fed's Historic Bet Means for You

Don't ask me why but, since the Federal Reserve's dramatic policy announcement a couple of weeks ago, I have gotten repeatedly stopped -- in airports, in the grocery store, and on the street -- by people wondering what the Fed decision means for them. The answer is: it's a mixed bag

Those of you with financial assets are generally better off for now, having benefited from an immediate boost to your portfolios (including retirement accounts). Beyond this, however, the outlook is much more uncertain.

SNC-Lavalin Bribery? Report Says Engineering Giant Spent $22 Million To Land Billion-Dollar Contract

MONTREAL - The first day of any job is usually marked by hope and promise, but SNC-Lavalin's new CEO couldn't escape the company's problematic past as a report surfaced about millions of dollars in questionable payments made in its own backyard in Montreal.

The new CEO, American import Robert Card, and board chairman Gwyn Morgan refused to answer any questions about police investigations into SNC-Lavalin and $56 million in payments to undisclosed agents in North Africa, breaching the company's code of ethics.

Mitt Romney's Wealthy Donors May Be Fleeing Campaign: Report

Mitt Romney's campaign may be suffering in more than just the battleground states.

Fox Business' Charlie Gasparino reports that some wealthy donors who have made financial commitments to the Romney campaign are reneging, and instead, opting to send their money to Republican House and Senate candidates who they see as having a better chance of winning next month.

Redford London Olympics Cost: Alberta Government Lost $113,000 In Unused Hotel Costs

The Redford government lost $113,000 at the London Olympics in unused hotel expenses, the Edmonton Journal reported. The total travel cost for the trip was $518,280 which included the expenses of sending 29 people to London, the report adds.

The rooms at the five-star Le Meridien Hotel in London cost an average of $850 CDN and were paid in advance, CBC reported.

The information comes on the same day that Alberta Premier Alison Redford submitted her travel, meal and hosting expenses dating back to 2008 when she was first elected, as part of a transparent expense disclosure policy.

“Albertans expect accountability on how their tax dollars are used,” said Premier Redford in a statement. “Albertans must have confidence that the business of government is conducted with openness and transparency. This is my commitment to the people of Alberta," she added.

Alberta Tourism and Parks Minister Christine Cusanelli told the CBC that the cost of the hotels was not a cancellation fee but rather plans that were made well in advance.

"As you know, we have to book well in advance for something, an event like the Olympics. So the $113,000 is actually in the room costs that we were not able to recoup," she added.

Original Article
Source: huffington post
Author: The Huffington Post Canada

Military Pensions Canada: Disabled Veterans' Retroactive Payments Could Go Back 4 Decades, Document Says

OTTAWA - Compensating disabled veterans for the clawback of their military pensions could cost more than expected because the federal government is now considering retroactive payments going back almost four decades.

Internal government estimates have suggested the settlement could run to $600 million, a figure that may turn out to be low.

No more Mr. Fixit at the UN

The Harper government is turning its back on the UN. The Prime Minister’s UN bypass last week seemed snubby and small, but the message was clear — the UN is far removed from Canada’s international affections.

Harper’s acceptance speech for the World Statesman Award could easily have been recycled for a UN General Assembly audience, and probably should have been. It delivered a stark portrait of a dangerous and uncertain world while offering the clearest statement yet of the guiding principles behind the government’s foreign policy.

Border agency delves into workers’ personal lives with ‘integrity’ survey

The Canada Border Services Agency is asking its employees whether they have ever hired hookers, if they have ever taken Prozac, how much they drink and gamble – even whether they’ve ever threatened a pet.

In a voluntary “integrity questionnaire” unheard of in the Canadian civil service (or possibly within any government), the 23-page document basically asks employees to admit to anything bad that they’ve ever done.

Va. Tech Shooting Survivor Recounts 2007 Massacre and Urges Obama, Romney to Address Gun Violence

On the eve of the first presidential debate, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are being urged to address the problem of gun violence. Wednesday’s debate is taking place less than 10 miles from the site of the Columbine school shooting and 15 miles from the Aurora theater where 12 people were killed in July. At the site of the 2007 massacre that left 32 people dead at Virginia Tech, we’re joined by Colin Goddard, who survived the attack with four gunshot wounds. Goddard recounts his survival of the massacre and his backing of a campaign with fellow victims for presidential candidates to address gun violence. "The first presidential debate of this election is happening literally miles from both Columbine High School and Aurora, Colorado — two of the worst shootings in our country’s history," Goddard says. "This is the debate about domestic policy. If there ever is a time to pose a question about gun policy in America to our candidates for president of this country, then this debate that’s happening on Wednesday is the time to do it."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: --

Khadr's rehabilitation undermined by Tories, Dallaire says

Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire is accusing the Harper government of undermining efforts to help former Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr reintegrate into Canadian society.

"I think they are creating a scenario for him so it's almost impossible for him to reintegrate in society in Canada, in at least a fair chance of having that opportunity," Dallaire told CBC News on Monday. "They continue to demonize him."

Dallaire has been a vocal critic of the Harper government's handling of Khadr's case, including the delay in his repatriation.

The Commons: Ministerial accountability means the minister will hold someone to accountt

The Scene. Peter MacKay held in his right hand a white piece of paper, on which was apparently written everything he needed to know to get him through this odd spot he now found himself in.

With the Prime Minister away from the House, it was apparently Mr. MacKay’s turn to lead the government side. And with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz also absent, there was apparently no other option but to let the Defence Minister handle the increasingly insistent questions about the handling of the nation’s beef products.

Quebecers don’t support federal government's embassy-sharing initiative: Forum Research poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—The federal government’s agreement to share embassies abroad with Britain is the latest major initiative by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government to face opposition in Quebec, according to a new public opinion poll.

The poll by Forum Research, released on Sept. 30, found less than half of Quebecers of voting age support the initiative, which drew harsh opposition criticism when it was announced two weeks ago with a high-profile appearance in Ottawa by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Canadians kept in the dark for two weeks over tainted meat scandal: Liberals

Opposition parties are demanding to know why it took more than two weeks for the government to warn Canadian consumers of a tainted meat scandal that’s so far left nine people ill.

In Question Period on Monday, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked the Tories when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was informed of the problems at the XL Foods plant in Alberta, and why it took so long to tell Canadian consumers the meat may be tainted with E. coli.

Duncan Cameron Foreign policy behind closed doors: Why Harper snubs the UN

Stephen Harper was in New York when the 67th annual General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) opened, but did not see fit to attend. Indeed, he made a point of not attending.

Under Harper, Canadian foreign policy features over 40 secret bilateral negotiations of trade and investment agreements, conducted in consultation with business leaders.

For those interested in knowing the definition of Canadian national security see ... "American Republican." Canada is undertaking a major military build-up, and downgrading diplomatic missions. The government explains the latter as cost-saving, and offers no coherent account of the money wasting involved in the former.

Victor Toews demonstrates how wedge politics biteth like a serpent

You'd think Victor Toews would have felt a little empathy for Omar Khadr.

Toews is the Paraguayan-born public security minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

Khadr is the Canadian-born child soldier who came to adulthood during a decade in U.S. custody after being captured in a firefight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, and who last weekend was repatriated to a Canadian prison over Toews's noisy objections.

Toews (pronounced Taves) was raised by a Canadian family with strong, some might say extreme, religious views who, it is fair to conclude, had sufficient concerns about the bright lights and big cities of Western Canada to head for the safer rural confines of Filadelfia, Paraguay, where Toews was born in 1952. Filadelfia was populated by German-speaking Mennonites who left Russia for Germany in the early 1930s but sensibly moved on to the Southern Hemisphere before things went completely south in Europe. Toews's parents came to Canada from Russia as children in 1924 and 1926 in the same Mennonite migration.

Inquiry hears details of Quebec construction kickbacks

In a single day, a witness before Quebec’s corruption probe sketched out an elaborate portrait of bribes and kickbacks reaching from major Montreal construction firms to top city employees and into the political party of Mayor Gérald Tremblay.

For years, Quebeckers heard allegations of ties between companies obtaining lucrative construction contracts and the financing of political parties. On Monday, former construction boss Lino Zambito said he himself had participated in a payoff scheme, and offered explosive testimony that gave the allegations substance.

JPMorgan Chase Lawsuit: New York Attorney General's Suit Is First For Task Force

The New York Attorney General sued JPMorgan Chase on Monday, alleging that Bear Stearns, the troubled investment bank it bought in 2008, "kept investors in the dark" about the quality of the mortgage-backed bonds it was selling as the market started to sour.

The lawsuit is the first legal action against a Wall Street bank to come from a joint federal and state task force announced by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address in January. It alleges civil fraud violations, which means that potential penalties will be measured in dollars, not jail terms. Nevertheless, the JPMorgan Chase lawsuit qualifies as one of the more significant actions taken by a law enforcement agency to date against a Wall Street bank.