Attacks on Parliamentary Democracy

The mainstream media does not like the idea of a coalition government, that much is clear.  After all, they were the bunch that promoted Steve, the Sweater Guy, into a second Minority term with all their glowing editorials about him, despite his many faults — faults they acknowledged.

So, now that Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has teamed up with the other parties in opposition and signed a guarantee of 18 months of stable governance following Mr. Harper’s recent ideologically motivated attack through Minister Flaherty’s Economic Update, the media is doing its best to attack democracy.  Here’s a brief summary.

Whole bales of comment seek to rhetorically delegitimize a clear-cut succession with considerable Commonwealth precedent; in the Post, Don Martin growls about a “putsch” and John Ivison sneers at an incipient “banana republic”, the Globe editorial mutters about “averting this politically illegitimate coalition”. Others, more troublingly, contort constitutional logic to legally delegitimize the idea of majority rule in a hung parliament. In the Citizen, Randall Denley calls it a “virtual coup that is perfectly legal” (and thus, not a coup at all); in the Post, L. Ian MacDonald rants near-identically about “a perfectly constitutional coup, endorsed by the Westminster tradition” (ditto).

It’s as though they’ve taken the Conservative’s Talking Points and memorized them. Or maybe it’s that they wrote them, being that the MSM is supposed to be comprised writers and editors and not propagandists. Take a look at these:

Opposition lacks mandate to take power

* This fall, Canadians gave the Conservative government a clear mandate to continue taking action on the economy.

* During a global downturn, the last thing our country needs for Opposition politicians to claim entitlements for your tax dollars and ultimately, to take power without a mandate from the people.

* Under Stephen Harper’s leadership, our government was ahead of the curve in anticipating the global economic slowdown. We are injecting billions in stimulus through tax cuts, investments in roads and bridges, and we are protecting the banking system.

* Our focus is the economy, but Opposition parties have their own priorities. While all Canadians are tightening our belts, they feel entitled to make taxpayers pay for political party staff, polls and advertising. They want to replace the elected government, just to preserve $17 million worth of entitlements.

* This is clearly unacceptable for a modern democracy.

* The Speech from the Throne was passed by the House of Commons yesterday – after the details of the Economic and Fiscal Update were known.

* After approving the Speech from the Throne, the opposition now is trying to orchestrate a backroom deal to “take” power rather than “earn” it. It would be fundamentally anti-democratic for the Liberals – after their worst popular vote showing in history – to:
o Offer up a surprise leader;
o Offer up a surprise coalition; and
o Have such a coalition backstopped by a party that wants to destroy the country.

* Furthermore, neither the Liberals nor the Bloc have any mandate to form a coalition as they explicitly campaigned against it:

* During the election the Liberals told voters they could not govern in coalition with the NDP because Layton “does not understand the economy”.

* The Bloc also told voters during the campaign that they categorically rejected the possibility of forming a multi-party coalition to stop the Conservatives.

If you listen to talk radio call-in shows, read letters to the editors of newspapers or frequent comments sections or blogs online, you’ll already be familiar with those points.  But now we have some new ones.  And they are nastier:

Sputtering with rage in the Post, Michael Bliss goes so far as to demand that the Governor-General reject any no-confidence vote supported by the Bloc — and if she doesn’t, it amounts to “an abuse of vice-regal power” that raises “fundamental questions about Ms. Jean’s loyalty to the Constitution and to Canada”.

I had expected the attack on the Governor General to come, just not so soon.  I thought they’d denigrate her after she’d decided on the course she must take.  Perhaps this is simply an encouragement to take that line of attack.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no Monarchist, but until we change our system, well, I can live with it.  What this attack does, however, is show how desperate the Stephen Harper supporters are to cling to power.

They will do whatever it takes.  And we can be sure that’s not good for Canada.

crossposted at rabble.ca

The Maple Syrup Revolution!

Whoever said Canadian politics was boring wasn’t paying attention! I certainly did not imagine that Minister Flaherty’s Economic and Fiscal Update – a tradition of modern Parliamentary democracies – would be the tipping point for a majority of Canada’s politicians. I’d been encouraged to participate in the grassroots’ push for a coalition government, urged to send emails and write letters, but I dismissed the idea as too pie-in-the-sky.

Well I’m taking a huge bite of some mighty fine humble pie right now!  The past few days have been a truly remarkable demonstration of how a Parliamentary system of governance can work. I’m not suggesting that it’s the best system around, just that what has been built into it, in terms of checks and balances, seems to work.  This is how would-be tyrants and dictators are prevented from taking power.

A coalition of Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs is the best outcome we can hope for at this time in our history. The coming together of a coalition as diverse as this is truly remarkable and will, I believe, force Parliament to work in the best interests of all who live in this vast and diverse place.  As I said elsewhere, it is the only logical response to an ideologue whose drive for power exceeds common sense and common decency in the House of Commons.

And now we see the Conservatives embarking on a massive PR campaign, a last-ditch effort to hang onto power. “It’s a PR war now,” according to a senior Conservative.

That about says it all, doesn’t it?  Public. Relations.  For the right wing alliance that became the Conservative Party of Canada, governance appears to be meaningless.  It’s about business, not government.  It’s about dog-eat-dog, not co-operation.  It’s about survival of the fittest, not love thy neighbour.  It’s really sad, actually.

And then, looking at the text of the Accord that all three parties in Opposition signed, in the Policy section, the coaltion lists its concerns, concerns over and above partisan politics:

Economic Stimulus Package
The top priority of the new Government is an economic stimulus package
designed to boost the domestic economy beginning with (but not limited to):
• Accelerating existing infrastructure funding and substantial new
investments, including municipal and inter-provincial projects (such as
• transit, clean energy, water, corridors and gateways). This would certainly
include addressing the urgent infrastructure needs of First Nations, Métis
and Inuit;
• Housing construction and retrofitting; and
• Investing in key sector strategies (like manufacturing, forestry and
automotive) designed to create and save jobs, with any aid contingent on
a plan to transform these industries and return them to profitability and
sustainability.
Rapid Support for those affected by the Economic Crisis
The new Government is committed to ensuring that the federal government has
the appropriate programs in place to assist those most affected by the economic
crisis so that all citizens will be in a position to fully participate in the economic
recovery to follow, including the following measures:
• Facilitate skills training to help ensure Canadian workers are properly
equipped to keep pace with the rapidly changing economy, while
respecting provincial jurisdiction and existing agreements;
• Amend the current law establishing a new crown corporation for
employment insurance in order to guarantee that all revenue from EI
premiums provides benefits and training for workers. Eliminate the current
two week waiting period;
• Lower the minimum required RRIF withdrawal for 2008 by 50 per cent;
• Reform bankruptcy and insolvency laws to better protect pensions; and
• Implement an income support program for older workers who have lost
their jobs in order to help them make the transition from work to receiving
retirement benefits.
Other Priorities to Stimulate the Economy
• Support for culture, including the cancellation of budget cuts announced
by the Conservative government.
• Support for Canadian Wheat Board and Supply Management
• Immigration Reform
• Reinstate regional development agency funding to non-profit economic
development organizations.
Families
As finances permit, we are committed to moving forward with improved child
benefits and an early learning and childcare program in partnership with each
province, and respectful of their role and jurisdiction, including the possibility to
opt out with full compensation.

It’s unfortunate that children fall to the bottom of the heap, but then again, this is a Liberal-led coalition and it took them 12 years of governance to actually put foward a plan, so I guess we know where we have to place some effort, eh?  My kids are 17 and 15 now so maybe by the time they have kids in a decade or so, we’ll have a real plan for childcare in this country!

But I digress.  It’s clear that the coalition partners have the interests of the people of Canada at heart and not their own partisan interests.  Layton made huge concessions in allowing the corporate tax cuts to proceed.  Dion has had to eat some humble pie, too, having said he’d never work with a socialist like Layton.  And Duceppe, by providing support to this coalition, could be seen by hard-liners as jeopardizing Quebec sovereignty.

Pretty sweet times in Canada, eh?  It’s definitely a Maple Syrup Revolution!

with thanks to skdadl @ pogge.ca for the blog post title.

Saskatchewan on the leading edge…of child poverty

[rant]

I’ve blogged about this before.

In 2006 nearly one in every five Saskatchewan children were living in families with incomes below the low-income cutoff line, according to a new report released Friday.

According to the 2008 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada this province’s child poverty rate is the second highest in the country, following only British Columbia. It would be even higher if the report included children inFirst Nations communities where it is estimated one in four lives in poverty.


I’ve blogged it in passing, here at rabble, and in more detail over here. I’ve also written about it for magazines and newspapers, in lobby documents and various other places. I don’t know why I bother.

“We have been dealing with this issue for almost 20 years and the numbers have not been changed in any significant way,” said Ailsa Watkinson, a member of the University of Regina Faculty of Social Work Social Policy Research Unit.

In fact, according to Watkinson, the depth of poverty has grown as the disparity between the rich and the poor widens.

Does anyone really care?  Hell no!  But apparently, the economy and the corporations are more important.  The markets have feelings, too, don’t you know?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking here on the eve of the APEC leaders’ summit, said markets “remain in a state of fear” and vowed to take “unprecedented fiscal actions if they are necessary” to stimulate economic growth and ease tightened credit conditions.

The markets are “in a state of fear.” Right. Markets have feelings, don’t they? Perhaps children do not.  Perhaps children are supposed to continue to bear the brunt of neoliberal and neoconservative agendas that have dominated our culture for the past two decades.  Perhaps children really don’t matter.  I mean, after all, they’re really just a burden, aren’t they?  A liability?  That’s really what political doctrine dictates, isn’t it?  The federal Mulroney/Chretien/Martin/Harper governments as well as the provincial Devine/Romanow/Calvert/Wall ones of the last 20 years have not cared about kids. They certainly didn’t take “unprecedented fiscal actions” when it was necessary to help kids!

Canadians — and Saskatchewanians, in particular — let’s just admit it, ok?  When it comes to tending to the needs of children, to the wellbeing of our future, politicians of all political stripes are effing LOSERS!

They penalize women for pregnancy, taking away almost 50 percent of their wages.  They force females through hell by refusing to provide decent, affordable, quality childcare to them when they’re ready to re-enter the workforce.  They place women at an economic disadvantage by providing next to nothing financially when women place their children in care or when they choose to stay at home.  And, on top of all that, they refuse to recognize in any meaningful way that the work women do in rearing the children contributes to the economy!

What kind of sick, sick effing world is this?

And we all know how much the corporate sector does for children, too, don’t we?  Of course, they’ll donate a couple of bucks to a program here, provide bling for a raffle there, take pretty pictures, and say they’re good corporate citizens while they rape our land, overcharge us for mostly useless goods and services, grossly overpay their executives, and run away with billions in profits.

All this they do while one child in four lives in poverty in my province.  It is despicable!

Markets have feelings?  Go to hell! Corporations care?  Chuck you, Farley! I spit in your face!

[/rant]

More on Cons refusing to participate

For as many federal and provincial elections as I can remember, the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance has distributed surveys on the arts to politicians and their political parties.  This election is no exception. Five questions of fundamental importance to artists and writers in this province were posed:

Questions for Saskatchewan Candidates

  1. How will you support sustainable and stable funding for arts and culture? Critical to this question is funding of central federal agencies such as the Canada Council, CBC, Canadian TV Fund, and others. Recent cuts to federal arts and culture programs amount to $60.6 million crippling or stripping to bare bones New Media Funding, cultural diplomacy and international trade, museums funding, to name only a few.
  2. As the Conference Board makes clear, the creative economy is of central importance to innovation, productivity, wealth creation and new jobs. The arts are an investment not a give away! How will you support and actively work for investment of federal funds in the creative economy as governments presently do for other sectors of the economy?
  3. Cultural diplomacy and international trade markets are important to sustaining and building Canada’s international image and markets. How will you work to restore the principal foundations of diplomacy and trade programs now cut?
  4. Canada’s artists are world class. But their economic circumstances are well below that of other workers. Their work conditions are unique, often self-employed, relying on seasonal work with incomes that fluctuate enormously year to year. Taxation and social policies need to be reformed to reflect the economic realities of artists’ work. Would you support the sector’s call for Canada Revenue Agency to adopt a fair tax policy for artists including income averaging? And would you provide access for self-employed to social benefits, including Employment Insurance?
  5. Arms length funding has long been a principle for funding in this sector. Do you support this principle as the guiding factor for arts funding, i.e. taking political involvement out of the process?

The response from the NDP is here and from the Liberal Party, here.  Kelly Block, the Stephen Harper Party candidate replacing Carol Skelton in the key battleground of Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, appears to be holding to the Harper strategy of silencing artists. Via her Communications Co-ordinator, she refused to respond and implied that she receives too many surveys and questionnaires to answer during the course of an election campaign.  But she does offer a telephone number, 306-652-6080, if you have an urgent need to discuss these issues before October 14th.

Ring those phones!!! 306-652-6080

Cross-posted at ActUp in Sask and rabble.ca.