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.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Losing the Land Again; The risks of privatizing property on First Nations reserves

Sometime this year, the federal government is expected to introduce legislation that will pave the way for fee-simple (read: private) land ownership on First Nations reserves. According to its champions—former Kamloops chief Manny Jules and on-again, off-again Harper adviser Tom Flanagan—the new law will generate business efficiencies, investment opportunities, and individual prosperity for the 300,000 Native people living on reserves in Canada.

Editorial boards and political affairs observers have commended the First Nations Property Ownership Initiative, a working proposal crafted by Jules and Flanagan, along with Christopher Alcantara and André Le Dressay, in their 2011 book, Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights. Proponents, who include a handful of First Nations, dismiss the alarms raised by most of the 600-plus Native communities in Canada, as well as Native studies scholars and the Assembly of First Nations. The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson has summarized their objections thusly: “The first is that native land is traditionally communally owned. Private property is yet another assimilationist Western concept being imposed on native culture. The second is that once reserve members own their land, they can sell it to non-natives, eroding the land base.”

America’s $17 trillion debt grows with no budget in sight

WASHINGTON – In America, budgeting is a blood sport.

The idea is to tie a noose around your opponent’s neck and at the next election hang him on the end of a 15-second TV clip that accuses him of jeopardizing your children’s future by voting for a $1.2 trillion deficit. So get rid of him.

Budget reality check: Will tariff reductions translate into lower prices?

OTTAWA – The federal budget’s promise of tariff relief on items ranging from baby clothes to ice skates may lead to lower prices for consumers.

Then again, it may not.

Interviews with retailers and sales experts indicate savings are far from clear.

Decision to roll aid agency into Foreign Affairs seen as both an opportunity and a disaster

OTTAWA — Sitting between the Gatineau office building that houses the Canadian International Development Agency and Parliament Hill is the Ottawa River, a real and symbolic line separating the foreign aid agency from Canada’s political centre.

To some, that separation has let the agency and its dedicated staff chip away at global poverty in an effort to make life better for the world’s poorest people without any undue interference for decades.

The Senate's Doomed Budget Would Raise About $1 Trillion in Tax Revenue

During the long and arduous financial fights on Capitol Hill, one of the Republicans favorite attacks was how the Democratic Senate had not passed a budget in four years. Well, that changed last night. The Senate finally got around to approving a budget that will die on arrival in the House.

Maybe they didn't pass a budget because they were sure it would immediately fail once it hits the house? There's little point in going through the marathon voting session required to pass a budget if it won't mean anything once the Republican controlled house gets ahold of it. But they did just that yesterday, starting at 4 p.m. ET and finishing just before 5 a.m. Saturday morning. Yeah, that seems like a great way to spend a Friday night.

Infrastructure funding a "shell game," says Rae

An infrastructure funding announcement made Friday by Egmont MP Gail Shea can be described as a "shell game," says interim federal Liberal leader Bob Rae.

During an interview Saturday with The Guardian, Rae questioned Shea's announcement of the federal government pumping $400 million into P.E.I. over the next 10 years.

Is skills training plan a sign of labour-Conservative friendship?

If you want to know who to thank — or in the case of Quebec, who to blame — for much of the skilled worker training ideas contained in the federal budget, fix your gaze on Canada’s largest construction union.

For several years now, the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO union which represents half a million skilled workers in Canada, has been sounding the alarm about the looming shortage in tradespeople that is rapidly coming down the pipe.

Mulcair reaches out to labour

TORONTO -- NDP leader Thomas Mulcair used a labour gathering this weekend to try to shore up support from one of his party's traditional allies, organized labour.

Mulcair told a crowd of more than 500 union activists gathered in Toronto that New Democrats are the only ones who can be trusted with protecting the rights of working Canadians.

The union members were attending a weekend-long "political action conference" -- it was organized by the Canadian Labour Congress as a way of bringing more attention to labour issues.

Canada to update tariff system for first time since 1974: Will it hurt consumers?

For the first time in 39 years, Canada is updating its preferential tariff regime, increasing tariffs on more than 1,000 items imported from 72 different countries.

The changes to the system will take effect in 2015 and are estimated to bring in $1 billion in additional government revenue over the first four years, according to last week’s federal budget.

Cyprus Bankruptcy On 'Knife Edge', EU Warns Only 'Hard Choices Left'

British savers and companies are facing a nervous wait with negotiations over a bailout deal for Cyprus on a knife-edge, with the EU's finance commissioner saying there are only "hard choices" left for the country.

The island nation is expected to go bankrupt within days unless it can raise almost six billion euro (£5 billion) to qualify for a 10 billion euro (£8.4 billion) rescue package from other single currency members and the IMF.

Immigrant Families Could Be Forced To Wait Up To Five Years Before Joining Council Housing Waiting Lists

Immigrant families will be kept off council house waiting lists for up to five years, under a crackdown being unveiled by David Cameron.

The Prime Minister is to set out a tougher approach on housing and benefits, promising to tackle the culture of "something for nothing".

The intervention is due in a keynote speech on immigration on Monday.

Departing Budget Watchdog Warns Tories To 'Unwind' The PBO

Canada's first budget watchdog could also be the last, says the departing public civil servant with 27 years of experience who held the job until Friday when his five-year mandate came to an end.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, the former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page told host Evan Solomon that the federal government has already begun to undo the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer as Canadians have known it.

Steven Simpson, Gay British Teen, Dies After Being Set On Fire At Birthday Party

A young British man has been convicted of manslaughter after killing a gay teen by setting him on fire.

The BBC reports that 20-year-old Jordan Sheard has been sentenced to three and a half years in jail for the death of Steven Simpson after pleading guilty to manslaughter charges. Simpson, 18, died one day after sustaining "significant burns" in June 2012, according to the report.

Residents Struggle As Poverty Hits American Suburbs

Like many Americans who move to the suburbs, Tara Simons came to West Hartford, Conn., because she wanted her daughter to grow up in a nice, safe place with good schools.

Her fall from a more financially secure suburban life to one among the working poor also happened for the same reason it's happened to so many others. She had a bout of unemployment and couldn't find a new job that paid very well.

Morsi Issues Vague Warning After Violence Rocks Cairo

CAIRO — Egypt's president delivered a stern warning to his opponents on Sunday, saying he may be close to taking unspecified measures to "protect this nation" two days after supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood and opposition protesters fought street battles in the worst bout of political violence in three months.

Nearly 200 people were injured in Friday's violence, some seriously, outside the headquarters of the Brotherhood, Egypt's dominant political group.

Wayne LaPierre: Michael Bloomberg 'Insane' On Guns

The National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre said Sunday that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has an "insane" approach to gun control, telling NBC's "Meet the Press" that universal background checks for gun buyers are a "dishonest premise."

"Criminals aren't going to be checked, they're not going to do this," LaPierre said, calling background checks a "speed bump for the law abiding."

Tears flow as residential school victims share stories of abuse and heartache

EDMONTON - Crumpled tissues damp with the tears of residential school survivors were collected in a small basket Saturday as men and women recounted traumatic childhood memories that torment them.

The Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Edmonton Saturday to collect statements, both privately and during public sharing circles, at Boyle Street Community Services, at 10116 105 Ave. It’s the first time the court-ordered national commission has held such an event at an inner-city agency.

Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath aim to transform politics

The throbbing beat of rock star Pink’s Raise Your Glass wafts across the cavernous hall as Kathleen Wynne makes her grand entrance amidst a sea of power suits.

Most of the 2,000 people at this $1,200-a-plate Liberal fundraiser seem oblivious to the tune’s risqué lyrics. But Ontario’s new premier marches to a different drummer.

In previous years, the steep ticket price bought a preview of the latest partisan lines being road-tested for the campaign trail. When Wynne ascends the podium, her own words are far more measured than her predecessor’s — or Pink’s.

Changes to NCC, CIDA best, Baird tells constituents

OTTAWA — Ottawa residents who go to Winterlude or Canada Day on Parliament Hill won’t notice much of a difference after the NCC hands over responsibility for celebrations on the Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird told supporters on Saturday morning.

“Canada Day is half run by Canadian Heritage and half by the NCC,” he told about 300 people at a breakfast for constituents.

“We’ve decided to consolidate the works on those kinds of festivities. If you go to Canada Day, you won’t notice much of a difference.”

Maritimers will remember EI changes at election time

SUMMERSIDE – When it changed the rules on employment insurance the federal government was messing with a system that has served Maritimers, and the rest of Canada, well for decades – and that’s just not acceptable.

This was the general message interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae brought with him on Saturday as he toured the Summerside Farmers Market.

The Penashue Show: now in reruns

“You’ve got a lot of nerve
To say you’ve got a helping hand to lend.
You just want to be on the side that’s winning.”
— From Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street”

Cue the sad violins, and pity poor Peter Penashue. He did the honourable thing by resigning his seat and cabinet position, all because of some inexperienced campaign volunteer’s multiple mistakes, and now he has to put himself out there all over again and run in a byelection to regain his justly deserved seat.

Broken election rules and no penalty in sight

As far as excuses go, they are not even good ones. The dog ate our copy of the “Political Financing Handbook for Candidates and Official Agents” would have been as plausible as the blame game and ignorance defence coming from former Conservative MP Peter Penashue and his former official agent, Reg Bowers.

Mr. Penashue, who accepted illegal and ineligible campaign donations during the last federal election, violating multiple election laws in the process, is blaming Mr. Bowers for everything. Mr. Bowers was rewarded for his efforts in Mr. Penashue’s campaign with a political patronage appointment on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. He has since resigned his position.

A new level of gall

Peter Penashue, I do believe, missed his true calling. He should have been a consultant.

After all, there are consulting firms throughout the world that make a fortune helping disgraced athletes, entertainers and, yes, politicians, crawl back into the good graces of the public, usually after a genuflection of apology and a time of penance.

But Our Man From the Labrador could provide those firms of spin-doctors with a unique take, based on first hand experience, on how to shed the cloak of ignominy in a flash, in a hurry, in the blink of an eye.

'There is no right to protest': Montreal police deny Charter rights

"This is approaching absurdist comedy," tweeted Montreal Gazette reporter Christopher Curtis Friday night, trapped in a police kettle from which Montreal's finest inexplicably refused to release him as his deadline approached.

"Did they really, actually arrest Anarchopanda????" replied well known Québécoise pundit Josée Legault.

Native leader frustrated by lack of consultation with Ottawa on job program

The head of Canada’s largest aboriginal group says the fact that a controversial job-training measure was written into the federal budget without his people’s input demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to treat first nations as equal partners.

Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says the big problem with programs like the First Nations Job Fund is the way they are conceived by governments and then rolled out without any two-way dialogue. Despite more than a year of government promises for increased consultation, and despite mounting first-nations frustration as demonstrated by the rise of protest groups like Idle No More, there is still a top-down approach, Mr. Atleo said.

“That’s got to change,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.