The Real Issues

image004 Deborah Frketich Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 08.27.34

The Real Issues 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

“…Stephen Harper and his Conservative strategists are absolute experts at running election campaigns. The trouble is that they are terrible at governing our country”.

Here we are!  After the longest federal election campaign in recent Canadian history it is time to vote. We at ready-set-vote.ca thought we would end our series of blogs where we began; with why this election is so crucial and why we absolutely need to defeat Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.

Reset-250At the beginning of the campaign we provided a list of 25 reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper and we want to highlight them again because none of those reasons have changed. In fact, the top three areas that make the need for change so critical; the environment, health care and creating a sustainable economy have all largely been ignored in this campaign thanks to the diversionary tactics used by the Conservatives. They have diverted voters’ attention from Stephen Harper’s poor performance on all three areas by making the niqab, refugees and this ridiculous 1-800 number for reporting barbaric practices election “issues”.

The three issues we need to focus our attention on are still:

  1. The Environment: The Conservative government has promoted the interests of oil companies to such an extreme that they have shut down all legitimate environmental movements by calling the people fighting for climate action terrorists. They have also muzzled environmental scientists, and completely sabotaged international climate change initiatives. Canada is now viewed as the odd person out since the United States and China have both announced aggressive carbon emissions targets. Canada needs a solid climate action plan and it is quite clear we’re not going to get one with the conservatives. We need to vote for a party that will take climate change seriously and we need to act now.
  2. Health Care: It is obvious to anyone who has tried to access health care for anything other than life threatening diseases or conditions that Canada’s health care system has been allowed to fall into a state of such disrepair that it has difficulty serving the needs of Canadians. They have avoided all conversation about health care during the election campaign and there has been no federal leadership on the issue during the 10 years of Harper’s rule. Their only solution is to further reduce the system’s capacity to serve Canadians. Their strategy seems to be to starve the health care system until people get very upset about it and demand that it be privatized to solve the funding crisis. Mr. Harper gets what he has always wanted, out of the health care business, and Canadians get a system they have to pay for themselves. Surely this is not what Canadians want. We need to vote for a party that will work with provinces towards providing Canadians with a functioning and sustainable health care system.
  3. The Economy: Prior to the election the Conservative government boasted that the budget was balanced through their prudent and careful managing of public money. In fact the very opposite is true. Within a very short time of being elected, the Conservatives amassed the largest deficit in Canadian history and then squandered our money on hyper-partisan projects like promoting the war of 1812, bombing campaigns in Algeria and now Syria, and subsidies to oil companies while cutting spending to programs that benefit Canadians. The budget was “balanced” just in time for the election by selling off government properties, severely cutting funding to programs and not spending money allocated in the budget. We need a government that is committed to spending our taxpayer dollars on programs that benefit all Canadians.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 16.01.06The three areas mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons not to vote Conservative on October 19. I haven’t even mentioned the Senate Scandal, omnibus bills, disregard for parliament and democracy, cutting the long form census so decisions could be made without bothersome facts getting in the way. These are all on the list.

Please remember that Stephen Harper and his Conservative strategists are absolute experts at running election campaigns. The trouble is that they are terrible at governing our country.

So many critical decisions have been based on ideology, often hidden in huge omnibus bills and supportive of resource extraction industry to the exclusion of other more sustainable sectors of the economy and most often do not reflect the needs and desires of Canadians.

On October 19 please vote strategically in your riding to bring change to Ottawa. We simply cannot afford even four more years of Stephen Harper or Conservative “values”.


Deborah Frketich: An educator by profession, Deborah has worked in several elementary schools as a teacher then as a vice-principal and principal. Deborah has also had two international teaching experiences, one in Japan for three years and one in Thailand for four years. Deborah has become increasingly concerned about the state of politics in Canada, which has led to a growing economic inequality among Canadians

 

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Policy | Leave a comment

Reasons Not to Vote Conservative in 2015

P1010897-2 Frank Frketich Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 11.52.23

A Refresher Course:

Reasons Not to Vote Conservative in 2015 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

At ready-set-vote.ca, we’ve explored many reasons for not supporting the conservative party of Stephen Harper in this election. An earlier post, Five More Reasons not to Vote Conservative, added to the now encyclopedic list of egregious examples of Harper’s abuse of power (see references below).

Let us be clear, our quarrel is not with the traditions of the Conservative Party per se, but rather the distinct brand of secrecy and fear mongering that has characterized the last four years of the Harper majority. In fact, long standing Conservatives are the folks who should be most upset with the current government’s heavy handedness. “Politics”, it is said, “makes strange bed fellows” and it would seem traditional Conservatives share much in common with other “minority” groups –  veterans, scientists, Muslims, charitable foundations, First Nations, immigrants, municipalities, environmentalists, students, to name a few – in the way Harper’s policies have eroded respect and dignity.

Reset-250This post revisits a couple dozen of the many reasons why Canadians of all political stripes should take the opportunity on Election Day to give Canada a fresh start.

  1. The Conservative Party pleaded guilty to Elections Act charges stemming from their exceeding spending limits in the 2006 campaign. The investigation into the “in and out affair”, as it was called, cost taxpayers over $2 million.
  2. Dean Del Maestro Harper’s parliamentary secretary was given a jail sentence in June for his own election spending violations. Del Maestro was frequently used as an attack dog in the House of Commons to allege misdeeds by opposition members.
  3. The RCMP reported widespread involvement of PMO staff in a secret payment to Senator Mike Duffy to try and make a political problem go away before it became public.
  4. A conservative party worker, Michael Sona, was given jail time for his role in the robocalls The judge suggested more than one person was likely involved but there was insufficient evidence for any further indictments. Another court case suggested the scandalous activity was not just limited to the Guelph riding.
  5. Peter Penashue, a Cabinet Minister in the Harper government, was forced to step down after it was learned his election spending was in serious violation of limits set by Elections Canada. He attempted to regain his seat in a by-election but to no avail.
  6. Parliament was willfully misled by the Harper Conservatives when they diverted $50-million from border infrastructure to political spending on projects in Tony Clement’s riding at the time of the G-8 summit. This became public as a result of the Auditor General’s report on the summit.
  7. The Harper government has taken partisanship to new heights (depths!) by blocking opposition members who wish to be accredited to attend international environment conferences.
  8. On an Iraq visit, the PMO broke security regulations by showing the face of a Canadian soldier thus putting that soldier in grave danger. In trying to cover up the National Post stated the PMO “stumbled from blunder to evasion and falsehood in the service of shamelessly manipulative partisanship, especially in using our troops as PR props.”
  9. The Harper government prorogued the House of Commons twice in 2010, once to avoid a no confidence motion and once to avoid condemnation on the Afghan detainees’ issue. The move sparked protests in Canada and abroad.
  10. facebook-thumbs-down-657x360The Harper conservatives thought the party logo would look good on government cheques. The federal ethics commissioner’s response: “Public spending announcements are government activities, not partisan political activities, and it is not appropriate to brand them with partisan or personal identifiers.”
  11. The conservative government scrapped the long form census prompting the Statistics Canada chief to resign in protest. It’s easier to make decisions when there is no data to suggest it may be the wrong decision to make.
  12. After the 2011 federal election Heritage Minister James Moore assured Canadians the Conservatives would “maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that.” What a surprise when the following year Harper made much deeper cuts to the CBC than to any other federal program.
  13. The Harper conservatives have a nasty habit of firing any government official who criticizes their actions. An excellent example was Veterans Affairs Canada ombudsman Pat Stogran let go after criticizing the government treatment of veterans.
  14. Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 5.32.03 PMThe Conservatives sent out “media minders” to report on the actions of Environment Canada scientists. Top scientists came under such heavy monitoring by the Harper Conservatives that they staged “Death of Evidence” protests to drive home the point that they were being denied freedom of speech.
  15. The Auditor General sounded the alarm about the “prodigious” growth and size of federal borrowing. As a result of a loophole buried in a 2007 Harper omnibus bill billions in “non-budgetary borrowing” no longer require Parliamentary approval. Where is our democracy?
  16. The United Nations Human Rights Committee investigated changes made to the Canada’s immigration and refugee system under Harper. Their report stated thousands of migrants are detained indefinitely without due process.
  17. In a brazen display of pork barrel politics, the Harper government placed 83 percent of infrastructure funding to projects in Conservative held ridings.
  18. The government deliberately withheld incriminating documents such as a Firearms Report during the long gun registry debate.
  19. While embarking on their prison building spree, the Conservatives suppressed any studies contradicting their political views that the crime rate is actually falling.
  20. The Harper government encouraged Revenue Canada to investigate and audit charities that did not seem to agree with the conservative’s world view. This included many environmental, aid, human rights and free speech charities.
  21. The Harper conservatives have used omnibus bill to amend major pieces of legislation without having any parliamentary discussion. These changes have included important legislation relating to fisheries and oceans, environmental regulations, and navigable waterways protection, to mention a few.
  22. The conservative government through its command and control systems interfered with independent federal agencies. This has included bodies such as the National Energy Board and CRTC whose autonomy has been significantly reduced. Another body especially targeted was the Parliamentary Budget Office, which was severely condemned and subjected to budget cuts for its critical reports.
  23. Harper has controlled the most secretive and closed government Canadian can recall. This is made more deplorable after his declaration during the 2006 election campaign that he would return openness and transparency to Ottawa. We have been delivered quite the opposite.
  24. All of the above…and too many more.

Taken together, these activities constitute a relentless assault on long held democratic principles and simply do not represent the majority of Canadians. Vote for a Canada fair to all, and let’s work on the important local, national, and global issues together.

Ready. Set. Vote. Please.


Frank Frketich: Frank is a former teacher and teacher educator with experience in Canada and Southeast Asia. Frank lives on Denman Island, BC where he and his wife have built a retirement home. He is currently involved in an island community organization practicing open democracy and transparent governance.


Sample References:

Abuses of Power

http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/08/10/Harper-Abuses-of-Power-Final/

Why Not Harper

http://www.whynotharper.ca/

We Didn’t Want This

https://www.facebook.com/WeDidntWantThis?fref=nf

Five More Reasons Not to Vote for Harper

https://ready-set-vote.ca/2015/08/five-more-reasons/

The Harper Record 2008 – 2015

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/Reports/2008/09/HarperRecord/index.cfm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve | Leave a comment

The Niqab – A Symbol For The Fear Gripping Canada

IMG_2064 Ray Grigg Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 17.45.40

The Niqab – A Symbol For The Fear Gripping Canada 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

Canada is in a political fuss about a little piece of cloth draped across the face of a Muslim woman who insists on wearing a niqab during her swearing of allegiance ceremony to become a citizen of this country. The Harper government has tried to deny her citizenship by launching successive court challenges — it keeps losing, most recently at the Federal Court of Appeal. The courts have invariably ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives a woman the option to wear a niqab even during such a solemn occasion — she reveals her face privately before the ceremony so she is properly identified.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.12.17 PMThe specific “she” is Zunera Ishaq, 29, the mother of four boys and a 2008 immigrant from Pakistan to Ontario who is working her way toward teacher certification. She made the decision to wear the niqab when she was 15 years old, against the advice of her siblings, mother and father — in an interview on CBC’s The Current (Oct. 11/15), she describes her father as a liberal Muslim science professor. Even her husband, she says, has tried to dissuade her from wearing a niqab. It is, for her, entirely a personal choice.

Andrew Coyne, a political columnist for The National Post (Oct. 1/15), explored this issue with illuminating insight. The number of women who have been denied citizenship since 2011 for refusing to remove their niqab has been exactly two. This is not a national crisis. “Absent some identifiable harm,” writes Coyne, “there is no basis in Canadian law to ban the niqab.” As for these women, adds Coyne, “Far from weak and submissive, they give every sign of being obstreperously independent, rock-ribbed individualists willing to assert their rights even in the face of a hostile majority. …In their ornery unwillingness to bend to others’ sensitivities, in their insistence on going their own way on a matter of principle, those women are in the finest Canadian tradition of hell-raising.” In short, they are the kind of strong and resolute people we want in this country.

The only reason the niqab became a nationally divisive issue is because the Harper government made it one, said NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who called it “a weapon of mass distraction”. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says his party continues to support minority rights.

Ishaq eloquently expressed her defiance and defence outside the Federal Court of Appeal building where the government lost its recent case. She expressed disappointment with the attention the government was giving her case, “when there is so much more that merits the attention of Canadians at this time.” She noted, “I’m also disappointed that Mr. Harper continually twists the facts of my case for his gain. I wish to confirm that I will be identified without my veil for the purposes of the ceremony.” On the issue of principle she added, “This has nothing to do with identity and everything to do with my right — and the right of all Canadians — to think, believe and dress without government interference.”

True to form, the Harper government says it will seek leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada — which it will probably lose. Meanwhile, Zunera Ishaq has identified herself, pledged a tearful oath of allegiance, and is now a Canadian citizen — in time for the federal election.

But the Ishaq niqab incident fits a pattern, part of the intolerance that has been building in Canada during the last decade. Don’t trust foreigners, refugees, minorities, scientists, civil servants, charity groups or environmentalists. Any of them could be engaged in nefarious acts undermining a good and righteous government. It’s part of the erosion of co-operation and trust that is fracturing and polarizing this country.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.02.33 PMThe resulting fear is spreading. We now worry obsessively about the economy, jobs, corporations, trade agreements, retirement funds, Chinese investments, the high cost of homes, the very rich, the very poor, the homeless, food banks, medical marijuana, safe injection sites for drug addicts, plus the cost of education, daycare, pharmaceuticals and even taxes — what we ironically pay to alleviate these worries. Environmental regulations have been so relaxed or neglected that we also worry about wild salmon, orcas, mountain caribou, oil spills, clean water, polluting mines, carbon dioxide emissions, extreme weather, melting glaciers, and rivers that are either drying up or flooding.

The sense conveyed is of a country fragmenting into suspicious individuals and conflicting factions — of a Canada tearing itself apart. The prime minister won’t talk to the provincial premiers, they then can’t talk to him, so national policies are not implemented. Confidence has been so eroded that we can’t trust the health care system, pension plans, fair voting, senators, the PMO, the Privy Council Office, or even the integrity of Parliament itself. Omnibus bills, premature closure on debates and obfuscation preclude traditional democratic processes. Questions are evaded rather than answered.

Truth, it seems, has become secondary to blatant political ideology and expedience. Environmental assessment reviews are rendered invalid by narrow frames of reference, undue constraints on testimony, conflicts of interest, collusion, and conspicuous prejudice. The mail is no longer being reliably delivered. Even casting a ballot in a national election has become inexplicably difficult. Lose transparency and the result is rampant suspicion.

In 1919, as the 20th century was shifting into its next chaotic phase of inflation, depression and wars, the Irish poet William Butler Years wrote so powerfully in The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”.

This is Canada these days. It’s a mess. And the niqab fuss is a symbol of why.


Ray Grigg: Ray writes Shades of Green, a long running weekly column on environmental issues. He is the author of internationally published books on the history and essence of Tao and Zen traditions  (The Tao of Relationships, Zen Brushpoems, and The Tao of Zen). An archive of his thoughtful and articulate comments on the most pressing issues of our times can be found at http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3995a/Democracy_and_Rational_Self-Interest Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 11.15.25 AM

 

 

Posted in Blog, Environment, Guest Post, International, Policy | Leave a comment

A Cautionary Tale

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 21.40.58 Peter Norman Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 21.39.35

A Cautionary Tale

At a recent seminar[1], I heard of the Harper government’s perplexing treatment of Canadian artist and writer Franke James, a story chronicled in her book and video, “Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship” (see book links below). Both comic and tragic, it is a tale of secret memos, high-ranking officials, international locales, hundreds of   redacted emails and a cast of characters difficult to parody.

James’ account of her surprise run-in with the government and subsequent blacklisting is indeed stranger than fiction, and should give every Canadian chilling pause as we approach the polls.frankejames_halifax_nickpearce_7301

Her story of the run-in is the heart of “Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship”, told through whimsical illustrations and simple text. Back in 2010, while preparing for the first of a twenty city European Art Tour featuring her childlike posters on climate change, James found herself caught up in a set of mysterious circumstances involving the Canadian government. End result, after much confusion, tour cancelled and James’ left bewildered.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 3.56.52 PMHer subsequent investigation and requests for information revealed an embarrassing, and large, trail of government emails and “off the record” innuendo suggesting her work spoke “against the Canadian government”. Seems she had earlier published an art book that had come to the attention of, and offended, god knows who. Both surprised and increasingly indignant, James began to inquire, gain support, and tell her story through art, books, billboards, and public engagements. Her work draws attention to the dark side of a government committed to secrecy and the muzzling of artists, scientists and citizens.

Franke James’ encounter is a vivid case study of the Harper government’s fear-mongering described in our recent blog by Ray Grigg, “Manufacturing Fear: A Canadian Epidemic”. While Grigg’s article described the larger conservative policy and tactical moves to establish a climate of divisiveness and mistrust, Franke James puts a very particular and human face on it.

Is there anyone out there, regardless of political leaning, who supports the notion that the job of government is to devote scarce resources to the targeting and censoring a poster artist’s show on climate change? If James’ experience was unique, it would be cause enough for alarm. Alas, it is now an oft-told tale in the complex web of the Harper government blend of ideology and policy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.01.32 PMAs a cautionary tale, take your pick of issues in the Franke James saga that are reason enough in themselves to hit the reset button on October 19 and vote the Harper Government out of office:

  • the government’s out-of-step denial of climate change;
  • secretly targeting Canadian citizens’ freedom of expression;
  • wasting precious resources on ideological and partisan activities;
  • simply displaying repeated atrocious judgment, lack of compassion, and misguided intervention.

About Franke James

James’ lively and challenging work as an artist and communicator “advocating a message that was contrary to government’s policies on the subject” led to her winning this year’s inaugural PEN Canada / Ken Filkow Prize, awarded annually to an individual or institution in Canada who has demonstrated courage and integrity in freeing information and ideas from restraint or interference.

James has also been awarded the Liberty Award for Excellence in the Arts, by the BC Civil Liberties Association, noting her focus on environmental and social justice, and her fight for free expression as a few of the reasons they named her recipient.


Picture Books and References

Gallery – Visual Essays

http://www.frankejames.com/category/visualessay/

Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship

http://www.frankejames.com/banned-on-the-hill/

Dear Prime Minister

http://www.frankejames.com/dear-prime-minister/

Manufacturing Fear: A Canadian Epidemic

https://ready-set-vote.ca/2015/08/guest-author-ray-grigg-2/

[1] Franke James’ Seminar and Public Address: 11th Annual Robert Bateman Lecture: Portrait of an Artist as an Environmental Truth-Teller, Royal Roads University, Victoria, British Columbia.


Peter Norman is a consultant with public sector agencies on staff development, leadership and change management. Peter is currently Associate Faculty at Royal Roads University in environment and leadership programs. His fundamental concern with the current government is it’s extraordinary and dangerous blind spot on climate change. Now living in Victoria, Peter has five grown children and four granddaughters.

Posted in Blog, Environment, Policy | Leave a comment

Guest Author: Brent Reid

BrentReid Brent ReidScreen Shot 2015-06-30 at 17.50.41

Progressives face a clear choice: cooperate and defeat Harper, or remain divided and help him win

Stephen Harper has been in power for nine years largely because he united three squabbling, vote-splitting right wing parties: Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Progressive Conservatives. In the current election campaign, Canada’s progressive parties remain disunited, which will lead to vote-splitting possibly handing the Conservatives enough wins in closely-contested ridings to keep them in power for four more years.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.36.24 PMSince Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May, and Tom Mulcair have not found a way to cooperate at the party level to beat Harper, the 70% of voters who want a change in government need to take matters into their own hands and vote in the way most likely to defeat the Conservative candidate in their local riding. In some cases it will be the Liberal candidate, in others it will be the NDP person. In one riding, Saanich – Gulf Islands, it will be the Green candidate. We the voters need to make the decision the three party leaders have been unable to make, look at all the progressive candidates and for this one election perhaps not vote our first choice. For some it will not be an easy decision, but it is essential if we really want to get rid of Harper.

If enough voters look at the past poll-by-poll results and current polling predictions in their ridings and vote for the candidate most likely to beat the local Conservative, several positive outcomes will occur immediately, or soon after, the election:

1. Harper will no longer be prime minister;
2. The Conservative regime will be over;
3. The “psychopaths in short pants” in the PMO will lose their jobs, and their death grip on the neck of Canadian democracy;
4. The new government will begin to reverse the damage Harper has done to the environment, the economy, our democracy, and other crucial aspects of our country;
5. Electoral reform will replace our broken first-past-the-post system with proportional representation, which will end the undemocratic process of awarding “majority” status to governments that received far less than 50% of the popular vote;
6. In future elections each party will win the percentage of parliamentary seats that matches the percentage of the popular votes it attracts, and politicians will have to cooperate in setting policies, budgets, and legislation, rather than continue the dysfunctional, toxic, over-polarized process that has failed us so badly.

Imagine how the political climate will change when voters are able to vote their values and conscience without “wasting” their votes on no-hope candidates. All that’s required is for enough voters to put Canada first this one time and make up their own minds about how each person’s vote can best help our country end the Harper regime and get onto the road to recovery from the damage he has done.

ThReset-250is site and others are offering riding-by-riding suggestions on which party is best positioned to beat the local Conservative: http://www.strategicvoting.ca/swingdistricts.php

If only a small number of ridings swing away from Harper, he will be out of office on October 20, leaving the country to celebrate his defeat, and to get busy with the electoral reform and start building the Canada that the majority of Canadians want, instead of one dictated to us by neo-liberal politicians and their corporate masters, many of them foreign.

Canadians, let’s begin to take back our democracy!  Each of us knows what we have to do and on October 19 let’s just do it!


Brent Reid: Vancouver-born Brent Reid taught English, journalism, and computer-based communications in three BC school districts for 28 years, and worked in teacher education at two universities for another 12. In retirement he’s enjoying travel, photography, and outdoor recreation. He and his wife, also an educator, live on Vancouver Island.

Posted in Goodbye Steve, Voting System | Leave a comment

The Harper Conservatives vs. Omar Khadr

Frank Frketich Frank FrketichScreen Shot 2015-06-24 at 11.52.23

The treatment of Omar Khadr by the Harper Conservatives is just one of the reasons why I cannot support or vote for them in the upcoming election. There has been no sense of justice in the treatment of Mr. Khadr, only a desire to punish.

To exert the maximum punishment without any consideration of rehabilitation was never the operating principle of the Canadian justice system. Yes, bad people do bad thing and must be punished for what they do. However, along with the need to punish went the understanding that the person must be brought back into society at some point in the future. The goal of the penal system was always to prepare individuals to be reasonable and productive citizens of our Canadian society. Public Safety Canada’s own website states:  “Helping inmates prepare for life after prison starts in the very first days of their sentence. Professionals assess inmates to determine problems that need to be addressed, such as substance abuse or family violence. This information is used to develop a Correctional Plan”.

The Harper Conservative government’s tough on crime agenda appears to be much more interested in the punishment aspect rather than the rehabilitation piece. This has certainly been the case with Omar Khadr.

omarkhadr_1280Mr. Khadr was fifteen years old when he was involved in a firefight resulting in the death of an American soldier, apparently from a grenade thrown by Khadr. This unfortunate incident occurred sometime after the Americans invaded Afghanistan to find the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack. There are a couple things about this that should bother our Canadian sense of fairness. One is Omar Khadr was only fifteen when the incident occurred, very much a child soldier by most country’s definition. The second problem here is this was war, not an isolated attack by a small group or an individual against another small group or individual. So why is it appropriate to charge one boy with the murder of another soldier when they were also trying to kill him?

Omar Khadr was severely wounded in this same firefight. The American soldiers who were part of the same firefight discovered him and had several courses of action open to them.  They could have left Omar where they found him, they could have killed him, or they could have tried to get him medical help. They opted for the third choice which makes one wonder, why?  Was it his size, his obvious youthfulness, or a sense of compassion mixed with a desire to help a wounded individual?  I rather think it was a combination of his youthfulness and compassion for a fellow human being that moved the American soldiers to act as they did.

So this generous act led to Omar Khadr’s incarceration at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison for Afghan detainees. We all understand this was at the height of George Bush’s war on terror where no quarter was about to be given to any prisoner regardless of his age. Now fast forward to Barack Obama’s election and his attempts to close Guantanamo Bay. One option that was explored was to get countries of origin to take prisoners back in order to depopulate the island prison. A few countries cooperated, but even though Khadr was a Canadian citizen Harper’s Conservatives did not want to have anything to do with him.

handcuffsFinally, in 2012, after pleading guilty to charges of causing the death of an American soldier in Afghanistan Khadr was released to serve out the remainder of his prison term in Canada.  However, the Harper Conservative government continued to do everything in its power to ensure that Mr. Khadr stayed in prison. Even during his parole hearings the government’s lawyers tried to paint him as a terrorist and a member of an international jihadi movement.

The judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta hearing the parole case stated that “Omar Khadr was ‘entirely cooperative’, a ‘model prisoner’ with ‘strong community support’ and a ‘low risk to public safety’. She highlights, in fact, that the government did not challenge any of that evidence”. It is noteworthy that the government did not challenge any of the evidence regarding Omar Khadr’s behaviour and how it would affect his release.

This obviously begs the question why the Conservative government fought so tenaciously to keep Khadr in prison?  Why did they spend so much public money to punish a young man who had already spent twelve years in prison for a questionable offence?  Where is the Canadian sense of fairness in this unfortunate situation?

David J. Climenhaga in his article in Rabble.ca stated: “Is the continued imprisonment of Omar Khadr actually a question of principle for the Harper Government, or has it become such an embarrassment that our Conservative leaders in Ottawa have concluded he must be kept under wraps as long as possible for reasons of political expediency?”

Considering the background, considering the situation, and all that Mr. Khadr has been put through I tend to agree with Mr. Climenhaga which is why I cannot vote for Harper’s Conservatives in this election.


Frank Frketich: Frank is a former teacher and teacher educator with experience in Canada and Southeast Asia. Frank lives on Denman Island, BC where he and his wife have built a retirement home. He is currently involved in an island community organization practicing open democracy and transparent governance.

Selected References

http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrng-crm/crrctns/rhblttn-eng.aspx

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/05/16/omar-khadrs-release-challenges-the-fearmongers-burman.html

http://freeomar.ca/2013/11/14/talk-sam-morison-omar-khadr-did-not-commit-a-war-crime/

http://www.amnesty.ca/blog/omar-khadr-bail-ruling-once-again-the-courts-stand-up-for-rights-and-the-rule-of-law

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, International, Policy | Leave a comment

A Dollar Saved

0604_UD_inkwellScreen Shot 2015-09-23 at 20.29.20

A Dollar Saved

By Norm daPlume

My mother was a cautious woman. She covered every piece of furniture in the house, even the carpet, with plastic sheets. When her brother asked what this was about she replied “I’m saving it”.

piggy_bankHer brother, ever the soul of pragmatism, replied “Alice, you’re 90 years old and you have lots of money – what are you saving it for?” To this she had no reply.

Which brings me to the astounding recent announcement that the current federal government has saved so much of our money, money we the taxpayers contributed in good faith that it would be used to do good things, that it has a surplus of 1.9 billion dollars.

Why, I wondered, was that money being saved? Surely not just so a surplus could buy the incumbent club of ne’er do wells another four years at the public trough. Surely not just to literally bribe dimwitted voters with their own money?

If not that then why has it been necessary at a time when 1.3 million are without jobs, for the federal government to toughen the criteria that employment insurance recipients must meet to hang on to their benefits.

In all, only 37 per cent of jobless Canadians are eligible for EI benefits.

At least 10 aboriginal organizations and more than a dozen environmental groups, including the Experimental Lakes Area research site and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission had funding drastically reduced or eliminated altogether.

Groups working on child care, rights advocates, health-care researchers, numerous immigrant support organizations and women’s groups — including the National Association of Women and the Law as well as the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health have all had government support cut or eradicated by Ottawa.

Gone are the Court Challenges Program, which had funded legal actions by gays and rights activists, and the Law Commission of Canada, a respected federal law reform agency. At the same time, the Conservatives took a swipe at that pesky Status of Women Canada, closing regional offices and barring the federal organization from funding women’s groups involved in advocacy and research.

An analysis by then parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page said $783 million, or 15 per cent, of that year’s cuts came out of social programs.

Government axed the renowned Katimavik youth program; cut the Canadian International Development Agency’s budget by $319 million; trimmed spending in the Aboriginal Affairs Department by $165 million and reduced Environment Canada’s budget by $88 million. It also scrapped the independent National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy that had been created in 1988 by the Mulroney government, and it informed everyone younger than 54 that they would have to work to the age of 67 — not 65 — to receive old age security.

The budget legislation overhauled environmental protections established over many years, weakened equal pay rules meant to protect women, aboriginals and others working for federal government contractors, and launched a crackdown on charities, including environmental groups, suspected of doing too much political advocacy.

And so on.

My mother, bless her watchful vigilant nature had lost sight of the fact that her house was no longer a home in which comfortable living was the primary purpose.

Saving the furniture and the carpet for a time that would never come seemed, to her brother at least, contradictory when she certainly had the means to replace or upgrade anything which needed attention.

So now our federal government can boast that it has 1.9 billion dollars of our money hidden away somewhere, money which should have been allocated on the services and organizations which make Canada, well, Canada a home we can all live in comfortably and proudly.

Overall, say anti-poverty activists, Harper government policies have contributed to a glaring social deficit. Food bank usage in Toronto is still higher than before the recession began in 2008. The number of children living in poverty is down 200,000 since the Tories came to power, but it still totals 967,000 — or one in every seven children, according to Campaign 2000, a national coalition of social organizations.

CoinsCAn estimated 30,000 people are homeless every night in Canada, and federally subsidized housing units have been on the decline for years.

But we’ve got money in the bank boys and to many out there in Voterland that equates with good government.

 


Norman daPlume: Norm is a retired educator who has taken less than no interest in federal politics until now. Enraged and awakened by the unconscionable and anti-Canadian policies of the Harper Government he has forthwith taken up his quill.

 

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Policy | Leave a comment

Searching for Canada

P1010897-2 Frank FrketichScreen Shot 2015-09-23 at 19.29.47

Searching for Canada 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

Where is the country I used to know and love?

The Canada I remember was a fair country where the government, to the best of its ability, used the tax system to progressively tax citizens and corporations to provide the services citizens needed. It was clearly understood those who were very fortunate paid more to aid those who were less fortunate. There was a sense of community and collective responsibility on the part of Canadians generally to pay their fair share for the common good.

canada-flag-abstract-wallpaper-1024x734The Canada I remember strived to provide for the collective good of its citizens by ensuring programs were in place that would benefit all Canadians. The clearest example of this was the government’s support for universal healthcare. Our sense of fair play suggested wealth did not provide an automatic guarantee of excellent health care.  Excellent healthcare was available to all. Now Harper’s Conservative wants to change that by taking $36 billion out of the healthcare transfers to provinces.  Surely everyone has noticed the increasing number of ads on TV for private healthcare insurance.  The Conservative would like us all to buy private health insurance so the government would not have to bear the costs. Mr. Harper has never been in favour of a publicly funded national healthcare system.

Another important program that came out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s was an unemployment insurance system available to citizens in all regions of the country. Fairness meant a person who was unemployed received assistance until he or she was able to find work again. There was a recognition that people were often out of work through no fault of their own and indeed would rather be working. The Harper Conservatives do not appear to favour any employment insurance scheme thinking those who are out of work are not trying hard enough to find a job.

Pensions are provided to all Canadians when they reach 65 years of age. Fairness meant the government accepted its responsibility to look after it elder citizens by providing a reasonable pension to everyone who had reach retirement age. It is against our sense of fairness to allow corporate leaders to write their own pension provisions into their contracts then to try to deny the same right to Canadian workers negotiating their contracts.

question_mark_with_earthThe Canada I remember had respect for the land and environment exhibited through it National Parks program which protected areas of unparalleled beauty from coast to coast. Environmentally our government participated in early climate change initiatives recognizing it was a problem requiring international attention. Now we have a government that does not even consider climate change a serious issue. For the past ten years our government has done everything it can to curtail efforts to affect a coherent national and global climate change policy.

The Canada I remember valued its scientists and recognized the importance of public research to achieve the government goals surrounding a healthy human environment. There was a tacit understanding of the relationship between a healthy physical and human environment. Now we have a government dedicated to muzzling scientists, refusing to take their advice on any issue that does not agree with the position of the governing party.

The Canada I remember was an immigrant country. We took in and valued the skills of people from all areas of the world. In return those immigrants exhibited their appreciation by working hard for their adopted country. But what we have now is a temporary workers program, a short term, short sighted policy which does not appreciate the efforts of those workers. Wouldn’t we be better served by welcoming them as immigrants since the government’s own research indicate “the Canadian-born work force is declining. Statistics Canada research indicates that before the middle of the next decade, almost all labour force growth will come from immigration”.

The Canada I remember was respected internationally. The government worked through international organizations such as the UN to further interests that would benefit the global community. One does not have to look very long to realize how far Canada’s reputation has fallen. The repudiation of our country’s attempt to gain a UN Security Council seat in 2010 is a prime example. As noted by the Toronto Sun at the time, “Canada has sought a Security Council seat about once a decade for the last 60 years and has always won the seat when it wanted to – until Tuesday”. With two seats available we lost to Germany and Portugal.  [This was] “an embarrassing setback for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had personally campaigned for the seat two weeks ago at the UN”.

The Canada I remember had an intelligent foreign policy, prudently developed and carefully articulated, which was generally respected around the world. Now our foreign policy is based on how many votes the Harper Conservatives will garner at home rather than what is best for the community of nations. The unqualified support of Israel to get the Jewish vote and the pandering to the Ukraine, with two visits by the Prime Minister, to get the Ukrainian vote are just two examples of the “Harper style foreign policy”. Canada used to be recognized and respected for its even handed policy which fit accurately with our “middle power” status.

Hands4We need to take back our country. Please vote!  Encourage family, friends and colleagues, especially young adults, to get involved and help re-shape our country. Let’s start by bidding Mr. Harper’s brand of conservatism good-bye.


Frank Frketich: Frank is a former teacher and teacher educator with experience in Canada and Southeast Asia. Frank lives on Denman Island, BC where he and his wife have built a retirement home. He is currently involved in an island community organization practicing open democracy and transparent governance.


Selected References

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/employers/roadmap/section1-1.asp

http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/10/12/15662311.html

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Policy | 6 Comments

High Stakes

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High Stakes: Canada Election 2015 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

The ready-set-vote.ca Working Team (Debbie & Frank Frketich, Peter Norman, Ken Foster) extends a special thanks to our authors and readers as we head into autumn and the 2015 Canada Election. While our position is clear – we cannot afford four more years of a Harper Conservative government – we urge all Canadians to follow the issues and vote on October 19. One way to stay informed is to check out our recent posts, written by Canadians like you. Each is an authentic invitation to pay attention to the key issues, and above all get involved in this pivotal election.

Check out the posts and please share the site with your friends and colleagues by email and Facebook.

Thanks. More soon. ready-set-vote.ca Working Team.

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Why Not Harper?0604_UD_inkwell

Manufacturing Fear: A Canadian Epidemic by Ray Griggread more

What Would Darwin Do? by Bob Kullread more

Compulsive Control by Ray Griggread more

5 More Reasons Not to Vote for Steven Harper by Deborah Frketichread moreScreen Shot 2015-07-24 at 7.19.09 PM

Last Week in Politics by Norm DaPlumeread more

Reclaiming the High Ground by Norman DaPlumeread more

Climate Change

 When Off-Message is On-Message by Ray Grigg…read moreworld

Canada in the World

Canada in the World…a failing grade by Stewart Goodings with Frank Frketichread more

G7 Decarbonization – A Declaration For Qualified Celebration by Ray Griggread more

Election Rules and Voter News

Your Vote Counts…more than ever by Deborah Frketichread moreScreen Shot 2015-07-05 at 2.45.46 PM

Let’s end phony 40% “majorities” in Canada with a fair voting system: proportional representation by Brent Reidread more

Election 2015 – Are You Ready? by Ric and Rosemary Vernonread more

The Reluctant Voter • Interviewread more

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The Case for ready-set-vote.ca by Frank Frketichread more

An Invitation from ready-set-vote.caread more


Ready-set-vote.ca provides a forum to review and critique the Harper government record during its mandate. We invite all Canadians to understand and discuss the important issues and choices in the next election, and make your voice heard in 2015.

Posted in About R-S-V.ca, Blog, Environment, Goodbye Steve, International, Policy, Voting System | 1 Comment

Guest Author: Ray Grigg

IMG_2064 Ray Grigg RayGriggGuestPost

Compulsive Control: Stephen Harper and the “Harper Government”

The “Government of Canada” ceased to exist sometime in the autumn of 2010 when a directive from the Prime Minister’s Privy Council Office went out to all civil servants announcing that the elected body now ruling the country would henceforth be known as the “Harper Government”. Canadians should have known that this was the beginning of trouble. In an event reminiscent of Louis XIV’s famous dictate, “L’état, c’est moi” (“The state is me.”), it was a clue that Stephen Harper’s compulsive control would be the hallmark of his term in office.

Puzzle-FlagIndeed, much of Canadian politics during his leadership can be explained by this compulsion. It’s responsible for the dysfunctional hyper-partisanship, secretive style and toxic rancour that dominates the operation of the House of Commons. As for the Senate, his efforts to extend control to it have transformed this semblance of an independent institution for “sober second thoughts” into a “sober thoughtless stamp” of his policies — his disastrous appointments of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were blundered attempts to purchase power by converting the Senate into a fund-raising shill for the Conservative Party.

In his efforts to procure, perpetuate and project control, Stephen Harper has made the seat of government in Canada into a mockery of democracy. Two strategic prorogations were blatant violations of the Westminster parliamentary tradition. Omnibus bills and imposed time limits have subverted the ability of the Commons to adequately differentiate and debate legislation, leaving a trail of flawed laws that are often expensive, unnecessary or impractical. When coupled with his dissolution of the legal committee ensuring the compatibility of legislation with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the result has been numerous Supreme Court challenges, most of which his government loses.

In other examples, crucial statistics for governing the country are no longer available because of the unjustified abolition of the mandatory Long Form Census — the consequent paucity of relevant information is then used to advance purely ideological legislation, a de facto usurpation of power through “policy-based evidence’” rather than “evidence-based policy”. The Fair Elections Act, an Orwellian concoction that is exactly the opposite of “fair” by favouring Conservative voters while obstructing others, was rammed through parliament with the help of dubious testimony and faulty statistics. The “Harper Government” has even passed legislation to apply retroactively to avoid divulging uncomfortable information, a tactic that the Federal Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, has called a “perilous precedent”.

As Mel Hurtig, a former Canadian publisher, recently noted, “Not only does Stephen Harper demonstrate a lack of respect for the democratic foundations of our nation, all indications are that he is determined to undermine or destroy them. Information is withheld, dissent is stifled, and the checks and balances on government power are eroded or eliminated” (Globe and Mail, June 13/15).

Fingerprint_blueBut the process of shaping Canada into the image of Stephen Harper takes time. Michael Walker, founder of the right-wing Fraser Institute, expressed the operative strategy succinctly. “If you want to change society,” he said, “you have to change the ideological fabric of society.” This can only be done slowly, methodically, incrementally and patiently. The careful and persistent management of every political gesture and every iota of information is a crucial part of this deliberate and purposeful shaping process.

But shaping the “fabric” of a country is detailed and laborious work, an ambitious project that consumes vast amounts of attention and resources. The perpetual vigilance requires constant alertness, scheming and effort. This, perhaps, explains the failure of the “Harper Government” to accomplish much of significance during its years in office. Its preoccupation with supervising information, managing the message and propagating an image suggests that it has been too busy keeping power and control to do much else.

The priority of power and control became obvious soon after Stephen Harper was elected with a majority government. A critical instrument for this purpose is the Prime Minister’s Office, an inner circle of hired help with so much concentrated influence that both ministers and MPs have become extensions of its engineering. Veteran CTV reporter, Craig Oliver, expressed concern about the PMO’s relationship with the media in 2012. “(They have) highly paid people… hundreds of people. Their only job every day is try to manipulate a message,” said Oliver. “They want to influence what we’re saying, the approach we take to a story… . They want to have the story cast in a way they want.” In other words, the government they display to Canadians is not the real government of Canada.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has overseen a party that has violated election laws, has repeatedly subverted and disregarded parliamentary oversight, has routinely thwarted legitimate requests for information, and has habitually used taxpayer’s money to fund conspicuously partisan ad campaigns. He has created a party that labels legitimate dissenters as “terrorists”, that garners support by deliberately cultivating a national climate of fear, and seems to be harassing public societies that are not directly supportive of the Conservative agenda. The brazen use of partisan policies to limit the National Energy Board’s parameters of inquiry — and therefore to predetermine its findings — has made environmental review processes so conspicuously biased as to lose all credibility.

Scientists employed by the government — doing research for Canada, not for the Prime Minister — have been so muzzled by insurmountable bureaucracy that they have been prevented from communicating directly and meaningfully with Canadians. Apolitical by character, these scientists have been forced to use surrogates to protest with their slogan, “No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy.” In a milieu of frustration, threats, intimidation and concocted obstructions, their ability to collaborate with international colleagues has been impaired and their morale has plunged to dismal lows. Indeed, this toxic mood is infecting almost all federal employees.

Such a top-down structure of control even slows government business. Those with the authority to make decisions are implicitly or explicitly discouraged from making them. So responsibility is routinely passed upwards, where each successive level is infected with a similar reluctance. When the many deferred decisions finally reach the PMO, the emphasis is on cultivating image and the illusion of competence. The result is an administrative bottleneck in which the flow of information is stalled, contracts aren’t signed, ships aren’t built, the Canadian Forces aren’t supplied with required equipment, monies aren’t transferred, and allocated budgets aren’t spent. This atrophied bureaucracy is then described as budgetary restraint. A contagion of indecision and suspicion infects and stiffens the dynamic potential of the entire country. As its inner vitality slows and falters, anxiety and paranoia replace optimism and confidence.

This disquieting mood is exacerbated by a virtual absence of the Prime Minister at press conferences. He refuses to meet the media in open dialogue because this invites unwanted questions, risks wayward messages, jeopardizes control and imperils his cultivated image of infallible competence.

cartoon-worldThe same reluctance explains Stephen Harper’s failure to gather with provincial premiers. When differences of opinion engender disagreement, then his judgment is questioned, his authority challenged and his control threatened. The secure option is to stay distant and aloof. Although his absence casts the provinces adrift, handicaps the creation of national programs and loosens the cohesion of federation, it leaves his Conservative policies undiluted and safe, free from being subordinated to the demands of the premiers. Besides, Stephen Harper was elected as the prime minister of Canada, not the provinces — they are politically unnecessary for his defence of control.

But the most ominous problems occur when Stephen Harper’s compulsive control confronts the intractable laws of nature. The Prime Minister cannot arrest the flooding tide by altering the pull of gravity. If he dismantles environmental regulations, ecosystems are inevitably degraded. If he refuses to curtail the burning of fossil fuels, then the climate warms, ecologies change, weather intensifies, sea levels rise and people become refugees in their own country. These are not negotiable consequences. Neglecting nature’s wellbeing is an exercise in folly, a tragedy created when the illusion of control collides with the finality of fact. A river cannot be pushed. Nature moves in its inexorable way and a compulsive control eventually begets ruin.

An obstinate and obsessive attachment to control will never realize that the art of governing is an enticing rather than a forcing, a kind of leading from behind. Compulsive control, numb to this awareness and oblivious to the auspicious signs of opportunity and timing, perceives only its own objectives. In the foolish struggle of managing and contriving, it fails to comprehend the deep and dangerous complexity of our unfolding circumstances.

By mistaking compulsive control for wisdom, Stephen Harper nurtures discord, distrust, frustration, anger, fear and a spreading enmity that disturbs the inherently peaceful order of things. Hardness begets hardness and contention begets contention. Differences are magnified, disagreements proliferate and a mounting tension shadows our tomorrows with a desperate hope.


Ray Grigg: Ray writes Shades of Green, a long running weekly column on environmental issues. He is the author of internationally published books on the history and essence of Tao and Zen traditions  (The Tao of Relationships, Zen Brushpoems, and The Tao of Zen). An archive of his thoughtful and articulate comments on the most pressing issues of our times can be found at http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3995a/Democracy_and_Rational_Self-Interest  Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 11.15.25 AM

 

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Policy | 1 Comment

Guest Author: Norman daPlume

0604_UD_inkwell Norm daPlume

Last Week in Politics 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

facebook-thumbs-down-657x360The week got off to a bad start when a member of my extended family proclaimed no confidence in any of the federal candidates and said he might not vote at all in protest.

Now the man is no fool. He’s been, until now, a rabid supporter of the incumbent government in all its shambling posturing swaggering gaucherie.

Convinced that the leader of his party of choice is nigh on perfect as evidenced by his perfectly coiffed melon my relative has read that poor voter turnout is always a gift for an incumbent government.

In some kind of meandering brand of circuitous Conservative logic he has concluded that his best hope of supporting his foundering party is to not vote for them or anybody else.

Either that or, like many Conservatives, he does not like the prospect of going down with Harper’s ship – still in full sail but now only visible by its topmasts.

Foundering did I say? Maybe I’ve been too influenced by reading the first few pages of Canadian writer Kelly Oxford’s 2013 collection of essays “Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar”. Perhaps PM Harper had read it as well and that’s why, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge this week, he allowed “I’m not perfect but……” and left Mansbridge to be thrown right off his game by such an extraordinary and out-of-character admission from possibly the least trusted man in the nation.

Could be I have been misled by the news that the Conservative Party have given up any hope of having their leader dig them out of the Syrian refugee quagmire (and too late to trade him in for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander or the tearful Paul Calandra now).

Unbelievably they have tacitly admitted that there is not a single person in Canada who can help them and have turned to an Australian vote wrangler for guidance.

What happened to the wicked witch of the East, Jenni Byrne, now “off the plane and back to Ottawa” according to the Globe and Mail. Thrown under the same bus as Ray Novak and what’shisname Wright? That job – being Harper’s closest advisor must be akin to being marriage advisor to Henry the Eighth.

Then there was the aforementioned Chris Alexander who, in the face of anything except the New Math appeared on CBC’s Power and Politics claiming “Our country has the most generous immigration policy in the world”. It’s just not being used just now.

This extraordinary claim was backed up by Paul Calandra whose specialty until now has been tearful admissions of blundering attempts to derail parliamentary discussions.

Nick“We’ve been ahead of the game” said Calandra, apparently unaware of two things – that we, the lost and lonely out in voterland grasp the meaning of Kelly Oxford’s book title and secondly that by last month Canada had taken in 2,374 Syrian refugees while Germany had taken in 105,000.

Not, as I say a good week for politics in general or the Harper Government (once known as the Government of Canada).

All that’s left is for someone to fly the national flag upside down on Parliament Hill. That is the internationally recognized signal for “we are in distress and need help”.

Help will come – but only if we all vote this time.


Norman daPlume: Norm is a retired educator who has taken less than no interest in federal politics until now. Enraged and awakened by the unconscionable and anti-Canadian policies of the Harper Government he has forthwith taken up his quill.

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Voting System | 2 Comments

Your Vote Counts

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Your Vote Counts … more than ever 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

Three Websites to Follow During the 2015 Federal Election Campaign

We at ready-set-vote.ca feel that the 2015 federal election is one of the most important elections in our country’s history. We have a Prime Minister who is bent on ignoring democratic principles, denying climate change and damaging the Canadian economy while claiming to be the only leader who is fiscally responsible. We need to rid ourselves of Stephen Harper so Canada can move towards a sustainable and renewable economy.

The following three groups are grass roots organizations each with a defined purpose and working to elect a more responsible and respectable federal government.

We encourage our readers to follow them and in turn encourage others to know the issues and, most of all, vote for the Canada we want for ourselves and our children.

1 LEADNOW: www.leadnow.ca

UnknownLeadnow is an independent advocacy organization that runs campaigns on the major issues of our time, engages people in participatory decision-making, and organizes in communities across Canada. Their mission statement envisions a country where people work together to build an open democracy, create a fair economy and ensure a safe climate for all generations.

The most critical campaign Leadnow is currently running goes under the title VOTETOGETHER. It includes a superb website that gives voters information about how best to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in their particular riding.

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If you haven’t already, check out this website now… it is amazing: www.votetogether.ca

VOTETOGETHER – move Canada Forward…

  • Vote together to defeat the Harper Conservatives
  • Historical voting results in each riding to help people vote strategically
  • Research provides information about each party’s stance on critical issues

Other recent Leadnow campaigns:

  • Defend our freedom day of action – stop bill C-51
  • Climate science
  • Defend health care
  • Who’s watching the spies – stop fear
  • Reject fear – stop Harper’s secret police
  • Jim Prentice – Alberta needs a new way forward
  • No bail outs for big oil
  • stop FIPA – secret trade agreement with China
  • reform act – one step towards a more independent parliament

2 FAIRVOTE CANADA: www.campaign2015.fairvote.ca

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 07.50.46Fair Vote Canada (FVC) is a grassroots multi-partisan citizens’ campaign that promotes voting system reform. They promote the introduction of a proportional representation system of voting focusing on the current federal election.

To determine the best model of Proportional Representation for Canada, where all MPs have faced the voters and will be accountable to voters, they call on federal parties and candidates to commit to:

  1. Conducting a citizen-led consultation process immediately after the upcoming federal election.
  2. Implementing the model in time for the following election.

3 DOGWOOD initiative: www.dogwoodinitiative.org

The following description is taken from the Dogwood Initiative website.

Who we are
Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 07.51.01If you haven’t noticed yet, we have kind of an odd name. We wish we could tell you it had a deep, philosophical meaning, but actually we chose Dogwood because it is B.C.’s provincial flower and Initiative because it is action-oriented.

Our team of super-talented people, based in Victoria, Vancouver and other areas of B.C. work with people in key communities throughout the province and the rest of the country. We find we get near daily reminders of why B.C. is worth fighting for. Together, we are building a new model for engaging British Columbians in the decisions that affect them most.

What we do
Everything we do is about giving British Columbians ways to take back decision-making power over their land and water. Right now, 96 per cent of British Columbia’s land is owned by the people, but 88 per cent of that land is controlled by large timber, mining and oil companies. That stinks.

We believe British Columbians should have the right to make their own decisions about how the land they live on is used and we know that there is power in numbers. That’s why we work with more than 170,000 supporters, as well as First Nations, businesses and communities, to leverage political victories and find common sense solutions to some of B.C.’s most pressing problems.

Initiatives

  • No pipelines
  • No tankers
  • Beyond coal

How Do These Organizations Work Together?

Leadnow, Dogwood Initiative and Fair Vote Canada communicate but don’t directly coordinate with each other as it is not permitted under the elections act.  Dogwood and Leadnow are working in different ridings and Fair Vote is doing incredible work on Proportional Representation, which Leadnow promotes whenever they can.

So for all of us it makes eminently good sense to check out what these various groups are doing and lend our support wherever we believe it would be most helpful.  No doubt for all of us this will mean putting different emphasis into different aspects of their work.  But that’s ok, right?


Deborah Frketich: An educator by profession, Deborah has worked in several elementary schools as a teacher then as a vice-principal and principal. Deborah has also had two international teaching experiences, one in Japan for three years and one in Thailand for four years. Deborah has become increasingly concerned about the state of politics in Canada, which has led to a growing economic inequality among Canadians

 

Posted in Blog, Voting System | Leave a comment

Guest Author: Ray Grigg

IMG_2064 Ray GriggRayGriggGuestPost

When Off-Message is On-Message

canada-dollar-symbol-flag-14826603_copyThe federal government’s budget is probably the most crucial economic and political document that is presented to parliament and the Canadian people. So it is fastidiously tuned and scripted to give the best possible impression of the competence of the party in power. Crucially, everything said and done with respect to this document is subject to information control that must be on-message.

But sometimes off-message is on-message. In April this year, an interviewer from the CBC was pointing out to the Federal Minister of Finance, Joe Oliver, that an economist had calculated the increase from $5,500 to $10,000 in allowable TFSAs would deprive the Canadian treasury of nearly $15 billion in a few decades. “I hear that by 2080 we may have a problem,” replied the Minister in an off-message comment. “Well, why don’t we leave that to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s granddaughter to solve?”

The reply was glib and dismissive. The next day the Prime Minister excused Oliver’s comment as a sarcastic response to “a clearly preposterous argument.” But are future tax implications “clearly preposterous”? This is a control-obsessed government that prides itself in responsible fiscal planning, meticulous management of money, acute business acumen and carefully considered economic strategies. For years it has been systematically eviscerating programs in an effort to balance its 2015 budget. The loss of $1.3 billion from 2016 revenue is no small matter for a government that wants desperately to be re-elected on sound fiscal management; the loss of $15 billion in future decades must have been a calculated consequence with definite political objectives.

In the government’s obsessive use of information control to massage public opinion, Joe Oliver’s “granddaughter” comment was an off-message that exposed the on-message so carefully hidden in everything this government thinks and does. Their only sense of future is the present. This is the only explanation for behaviour so bizarre that it still remains inexplicable to political pundits.

How can a government that is so neurotically fastidious about political and financial matters be so dismissive and negligent about environmental ones? For a ruling party that meticulously calculates the impact of every move and weighs the effect of every whit of information, how can it totally disregard an environmental future that is heading toward wreckage?

global-warmingThe Harper government has been promising emission controls on Alberta’s tar sands bitumen production since 2006 but has set none. It has cancelled Canada’s legally binding greenhouse gas obligations made in the Kyoto Protocol. It is failing on its Copenhagen carbon dioxide reduction targets to the United Nations. Its promise to move in step with the emission reductions of the United States has now been abandoned in favour of a less ambitious objective. After gutting Canada’s existing environmental regulations and using the Prime Minister’s Office to silence government scientists—most of whose data conflicts with government policies—the conclusion must be that Finance Minister Oliver’s comments were not off-message but on-message. Problems arising from the government’s neglect of environmental issues are irrelevant because they don’t exist in the present; they will be left to future generations to solve.

Beyond finding $15 billion in lost revenue, here is a partial list of some of the other problems Prime Minister Harper’s granddaughter will have to solve in 2080:

  • Average global temperatures have exceeded the 2°C increase described by Dr. John Holdren, former Science and Technology advisor to US President Obama, as “the best we can do, while being the worst we can tolerate”; Canada is censured in the international community for its uncooperative, unhelpful, negligent and obstructionist measures regarding global climate change.
  • Most of the glaciers feeding Canada’s east-flowing rivers from the Rockies are melted, causing seasonal water shortages for agriculture and cities across Canada’s prairie provinces.
  • Stringent and desperate international carbon dioxide controls classify all fossil fuels as “stranded assets” unavailable for extraction.
  • BC’s wild salmon, unable to survive in the high temperatures and depleted summer run-off of the new climate regime, have abandoned the province for Alaskan and Arctic rivers.
  • Weather is eccentric and unpredictable, with more extreme storms, droughts and floods; insurance rates have become prohibitively expensive for many businesses and home owners.
  • Sea level rise threaten Canada’s coastal cities; shorelines are eroding; tidal surges regularly inundate coastal communities.
  • Ocean acidification has closed all shellfish industries; marine ecologies are collapsing; the world’s industrial fishing fleets are straining the seas for jellyfish protein.
  • Food production is precarious because of weather anomalies; food shortages are common; California is too hot and dry for crops; agricultural regions have moved northward but poor soils limit farming options.
  • Climate refugees strain humanitarian efforts, while collapsing social structures provoke innumerable military conflicts and create immigration chaos.

worldNo one, of course, can be certain what will happen in 2080. Prime Minister Harper is technically correct in saying that any speculation is “a clearly preposterous argument”. But, if the scientists he is attempting to muzzle are correct, the problems confronting his granddaughter will far worse than $15 billion in lost revenue from TFSAs, and will no doubt affect her assessment of her grandfather’s environmental policies.


Ray Grigg: Ray writes Shades of Green, a long running weekly column on environmental issues. He is the author of internationally published books on the history and essence of Tao and Zen traditions  (The Tao of Relationships, Zen Brushpoems, and The Tao of Zen). An archive of his thoughtful and articulate comments on the most pressing issues of our times can be found at http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3995a/Democracy_and_Rational_Self-Interest Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 11.15.25 AM

Posted in Blog, Environment, Policy | 1 Comment

Guest Author: Norman daPlume

0604_UD_inkwellNorm daPlumeScreen Shot 2015-08-25 at 20.41.27

Reclaiming the High Ground AppleC

When the Board of Directors of CP Rail, a group substantially comprised of Canadian business titans parted company with its CEO Fred Green, informed observers listed the three main reasons any serious organization will fire its CEO: lack of accountability, refusal to face facts and loss of confidence on the part of those around him/her.

The Conservative Party of Canada should take note and be considering if it is time for Harper to step aside.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 4.48.17 PMParty decision makers should and perhaps are at this moment pondering about whether there is some parallel to the CP situation. Conservatives find themselves coming to terms with the apparent fact that their Prime Minister is probably the single reason polls indicate that both small and large “C” conservative voters have become disenchanted enough with Harper to be looking seriously at more electable alternatives to Harper come October 19th.

Rumour has it that some within the upper echelons of the Conservative establishment have become concerned at the apparent lack of accountability demonstrated by the PM when blunder after blunder reveals a serious lack of judgment: the choice of wildly inappropriate candidates as senate nominees followed by the PM’s subsequent inability or refusal to respond to the ensuing national scandals when his choices outrageously disgrace the red chamber.

Then there is the lack of judgment and, again, silence from the PM when Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and the point man in defending the Conservative party in the recent robocalls scandal is jailed for electoral malfeasance.

The Party, and voters, will recall or be reminded that the PM’s own right hand man, Nigel Wright, fled to England to avoid the necessity of identifying the PM as the mastermind behind the Duffy payout. A spectacle now playing out daily in the Duffy Senate trial.

There is the choice of Dr. Porter whom Harper appointed as a member of the Privy Council, the body that serves as the watchdog for the country’s spy agency. Porter was subsequently wanted on charges of fraud and corruption in Canada and fled to Panama where he continued to vigorously resist extradition until his recent reported death

That’s just for starters. A second reason the party may be taking a long hard look at the man who could cost them the election would be the number of key political figures who have jumped ship in recent months before the voters throw Harper and “his” party out of government.

It isn’t just the half-dozen ministers who have, just months before the election, announced their retirements, in some cases (John Baird) without so much as a day’s notice, in others (James Moore) without a word of acknowledgment from the prime minister. It isn’t just the two dozen other MPs who will not be running again, or the notable absence of star candidates among the new recruits.

It is the other ministers maintaining their distance, unwilling to indulge in the harshly partisan attacks Harper apparently demands of those he regards as subordinates.

Thirdly it is time for a corporate board of directors, i.e., The Party in this case to fire the CEO when he or she consistently denies verifiable facts.

Harper’s notorious disregard for science and scientists and everything we may learn from them must be troubling to the big businesses types who have made their companies successful by relying not on faith based opinion but on fact, both in terms of market indicators but also on product quality and competitor comparison.

SciGagging the scientific community from engaging the public in debate about significant issues if their knowledge does not fit comfortably with Harper’s singular personal beliefs based on who-knows-what, is disconcerting to say the least to pragmatic business captains.

It is not too late, even now, for the movers and shakers within the Conservative party to take the PM aside and explain that it is over. Thanks for everything but the Party, which has served Canada so well has had enough. The Conservative Party of Canada in the mind of the PM now exists only to serve his agenda and his views about what makes the world go ’round. Time for some major changes at the top if the Party is to survive voter backlash to a hugely unpopular PM who is even now being reviled in historically right wing media like the National Post.

The Party has had its fill of undignified school yard attack ads, enough of the government’s elimination of the long-gun registry, enough of embarrassingly transparent dealing-off-the-bottom-of-the-deck omnibus bills like C-59, enough of attempts to retroactively change the law to make something that was illegal back then legal now, enough of being spanked by the Supreme Court for other egregiously unconstitutional activity, enough of shutting down debate as the “Harper Conservatives” have done over 100 times this parliament alone.

And that’s it at the heart of all the rest of it – enough of a once dignified political party now being referred to as “Harper Conservatives” led by a man who finds it necessary to travel with his own hairdresser.

Reset-250The party has had enough of Harper’s political toadies like the embarrassing Pierre Poliviere, a Minister of Labour whose CV reveals that he has never actually held a real job but now serves at the PM’s feet as the author of The Fair Elections Act which disenfranchises tens of thousands of those Canadians least likely to vote Conservative.

Enough. Time to invoke the mercy rule and for the boss to leave with some dignity while there is still time for the party to regroup. Time, before it is too late on October 19th, to avert Mulcair and the Red Tide from sweeping away what history will judge as just an unfortunate lapse in judgment by voters and the Party itself which had hoped for better and should now seek an alternative more in tune with the Canadian way of life.

 


Norm daPlume: Norm is a retired educator who has taken less than no interest in federal politics until now. Enraged and awakened by the unconscionable and anti-Canadian policies of the Harper Government he has forthwith taken up his quill.

 

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Guest Post, Policy | 1 Comment

ready-set-vote.ca – Interview

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 20.41.06 Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 20.41.53

 

 

 

ready-set-vote.ca interviews a voter who has lost faith in the system

 

The Reluctant Voter 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

RSV:  On behalf of ready-set-vote.ca thank you for taking the time to help us better understand why you and perhaps a significant number of other Canadians are turned off from voting. Perhaps we could begin with a brief explanation of your voting record?

Here is a synopsis of my voting behaviour over much of my adult life…

Federally, I have not voted Liberal since Trudeau. I have not voted Conservative since Mulroney. I have not voted Reformed conservative since Preston Manning. I have not voted since 2004.

Provincially, I have not voted Liberal since van der Zalm. I have not voted since 1995 (when I voted Reform Party and split the vote to enable another 5 years of an NDP government).

RSV: Your pattern of voting mirrors the way we tend to be more liberal or left of centre when young becoming more conservative, right of centre as we age. Do you feel that pattern describes you?

facebook-thumbs-down-657x360Perhaps it holds true in some respects, but it is not totally accurate. Coming out of UBC in 1971 I was somewhat Liberal (voted for Trudeau) but as I grew totally distressed with what I regarded as the eastern domination of our Federal Government I could no longer support the Liberal Party or Trudeau. I became more frustrated with the nationalization of BP and the attempted nationalization of Alberta’s energy industry.

I voted for the Mulroney Conservatives in 1984 and got NAFTA, foolishly believing it was a good thing for Canadians (arrggghhhhh!). How could I be so misled? While Mulroney was running Canada on behalf of multi-national corporations and handling Nixon-like wads of cash for the deals, I abandoned the Conservatives.

I liked Preston Manning’s positions on a Triple E senate and recall for house members coupled with the potential for separation of Western Canada, so I became a card carrying member of the Reform Party. When the Reform Party “merged” (more like a reverse take-over) with the Conservatives and turned their Senate and separation policies to mush, I gave up.

RSV:  Listening to you it sounds as if different leaders inspired you at different stages of your life only to leave you disappointed when they failed to follow through on what they said they would do. Does that ring true?

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 7.19.09 PMYes, I suppose that is a good way to look at it. The common thread through all of my political history is my sense of hope with a leader that seems to say things that appeal to me before becoming elected and then the disappointment as he or she (and almost all other politicians) turns out to be nothing more than power hungry, money grubbing examples of corruption. Every Canadian government with more than a few years in power (that would exclude Joe Clark, Kim Campbell and Paul Martin) has become surrounded by graft and abuse of power along with an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

While I have never voted NDP or Green, the NDP has proven its members are, in my opinion, also cut from the same political cloth as the Liberals, Conservatives and Reform members – succumbing to graft and abuse of power and entitlement.

RSV:  Besides your obvious frustration and disappointment with various political leaders are there any other factors that have influenced your voting pattern over the years?

Contrary to the notion that individuals get more rigid in their belief systems as they get older, my political affiliations in Canada have shifted notably over time. Whether due to my own fickleness or enlightenment I’m not sure. As most of my friends have shifted from real estate oriented business associates to retired education professionals, including my wife, I am being offered insights from a different perspective and value system. And as my self-preservation of the 1980’s shifted into comfort a decade ago, my value system shifted from profit making to sharing with others.

Unfortunately at this point, I have given up on the Canadian political systems. I see no one I want to vote for, only individuals and parties I want to vote against … although I’d like to hope for change. I’ll monitor ready-set-vote.ca to see if I can shake off my apathy…consider how I might participate.

RSV:  Thanks. We hope you and other discouraged Canadians will recognize the importance of this election. Every vote counts.

 

Posted in Blog, Voting System | 1 Comment

Guest Author: Stewart Goodings with Frank Frketich

stewart3-200x300 Stewart Goodings P1010897-2 Frank Frketich

Canada in the World…a failing grade 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

World MapFederal elections have seldom focused on international issues, and this one is unlikely to change the historical pattern. However, for thoughtful Canadians, the policies pursued by the Harper Government in the last few years offer some good additional reasons to vote strategically and help to remove the current Conservative administration from office.

Joe Clark, the former Conservative (though Progressive) Foreign Affairs Minister, pointed out in his recent book, How We Lead, that in recent years Canada has been good at lecturing on the international stage but not willing to do the hard behind the scenes diplomatic work to back up the tough words. We used to be respected global citizens, making full use of international fora such as the UN, the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, to advocate and offer practical help on a range of issues facing the world.

Now, our approach could be summed up this way: give unwavering support to Israel, no matter what; do nothing on climate change and environmental protection; press the hot button issues of terrorism and Russian incursions into Ukraine, even when more nuanced policies might actually have a more positive effect; turn our overseas aid programs into not very subtle support for Canadian mining interests; and send the Canada Revenue Agency in to harass charities whose goal is to end global poverty.

As with many other aspects of the Conservative platform, these actions seem aimed at placating the Tory base vote, rather than representing the best instincts of a mature democracy with a history of responsible international behaviour. Sadly, every move Mr. Harper makes on the international stage seems to be carefully orchestrated to have maximum appeal to a particular segment of voters here at home. While it may appear to be clever politics it does not produce enlightened foreign policy.

Here is one example of this politically motivated short-term foreign policy. In September, 2012 John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister, announced Canada was breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran. When pressed the minister and the government seemed to have no strong reason for taking this action. “There’s just a long list of reasons why we’re coming to this decision,” he said.

Compare this reaction with the Liberal government’s response in 1945 after Igor Gouzenko, a Soviet cipher clerk, defected and handed over information confirming the existence of a Russian spy ring operating in Canada. Did the government cut off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union? No. Did they expel the Russian ambassador? No. Why not? Because the government of the day realized how important diplomatic relations are and how serious a break would be. We would have no chance to understand what was happening within the Soviet Union. We would have no way of affecting anything that did happen within the country. We would never gain any knowledge or appreciation of why the Soviet did certain things and never have an opportunity to influence change in the Soviet government’s policies.

Breaking diplomatic relations is a very serious move as the Canada’s last ambassador to Iran stated: Cutting off diplomatic ties is a “grave step” that’s not easily repaired – now Canada cannot have any dialogue with Iran, provide consular services to Canadians in distress or gather its own analysis of what is happening there. Neither can Canada hope to exert influence over any Iranian government policies.

Reset-250We have both lived and worked in other countries for extended periods of time, experiencing first hand how much respect Canada as a country generates. Since the Second World War Canada has played a strong and effective role under both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments. Lester Pearson won the Noble Peace Prize for his dogged initiative in the Suez Crisis which led to the new concept of “peace-keeping”.  Brian Mulroney’s ardent anti-apartheid stance won Canada great admiration on the African continent. Lloyd Axworthy, the Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister, led the fight to obtain a land mine elimination treaty. These examples show what a principled and compassionate government can do on the international level.

Isn’t it time for another such government in Ottawa?

 


http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-canada-severed-relations-with-iran-1.1141348

http://circ.jmellon.com/history/gouzenko/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/envoys-out-as-canada-abruptly-severs-ties-with-iran/article4526167/


Stewart Goodings: Stewart was a career public servant and served as an Assistant Deputy Minister in both Ottawa and Victoria. Since retiring, he’s taken on short term consulting assignments in several countries. He mentors public sector managers, and stays busy as a volunteer in community activities such as the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival.

Frank Frketich: Frank is a former teacher and teacher educator with experience in Canada and Southeast Asia. Frank lives on Denman Island, BC where he and his wife have built a retirement home. He is currently involved in an island community organization practicing open democracy and transparent governance.

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, International, Policy | 2 Comments

Guest Author: Ray Grigg

RayGriggGuestPost

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Manufacturing Fear: A Canadian Epidemic

Canada is becoming a nation of fear. Threat is lurking everywhere. But the source is not terrorism. The fear now haunting Canada is a creeping and insidious sense of unease that has been rising almost unnoticed for a decade. It is now infecting the mood of the whole country.

SpyMuch of this fear is invented and unjustified, manufactured for political purposes. The Russians are going to claim the natural resources of our country’s Arctic so we need a strong and resolute national government to protect our interests. Crime is making Canada a dangerous place to live — even though statistics show the crime rate has been falling for decades, attributed almost exclusively to fewer youth as our demographics shift to an aging population. Addiction, of course, is profiled as destroying society so the perennially ineffective “war on drugs” must be intensified, punishment increased, incarceration mandatory, and socially beneficial injection facilities such as Vancouver’s In-Site subjected to exhaustive government legal challenges. An economically vulnerable Canada must rush to finalize those few multinational trade agreements that are still available. And any celebration or declaration of war, together with any publicity about a lurking enemy, always raises the level of useful fear.

The fear eroding Canadian comfort is difficult to articulate because it is the gradual accumulation of multiple events. In Parliament, it has been the cavalier use of prorogation, the omnibus bills that prevent the adequate examination of hidden legislation, the unprecedented closure on important debates, the so-called “Fair Elections Act” that makes a mockery of both “fair” and “elections”, the evisceration of the Fisheries Act, and the wholesale gutting of the country’s other environmental safeguards. Related to these events are the hidden layers of the senate scandal, and the robocall fiasco threatening the electoral process itself. Meanwhile, the government’s numerous failed appeals to the Supreme Court suggest that only an apolitical judiciary stands between Canada’s Charter and enacted laws that contradict Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

YieldCanadaFear also haunts civil servants. Any escaped and uncontrolled information is deemed dangerous to a government that is attempting to micromanage message and image. Federally employed scientists are muzzled, their interviews curtailed, their movements supervised, their communication with the press carefully vetted, their scientific conclusions adjusted to be more ideologically appropriate, and their collaboration with other scientists handicapped by implicit or explicit censure. In federal ministries, the climate of anxiety and threat is so pervasive that employees are afraid to discuss their work, to innovate, or to deviate from explicit managerial directions. Closed research facilities and libraries create fear by propagating ignorance. Even librarians of federal institutions are fearful of speaking openly lest they divulge knowledge or opinion that conflicts with official objectives. An atmosphere of stringent control from the political top to the bottom of civil servants has now created sufficient intimidation that the result is self-censure, contagious fear and oppressive silence — a model demonstration of fear’s political usefulness.

As for the public, innocuous non-profit organizations such as bird-watchers are being monitored to ensure they don’t engage in political activity incompatible with the current government’s agenda. Canada’s spy agency has been collaborating with industry to thwart protesters who might object to federally sanctioned projects such as Alberta’s tar sands and its associated pipelines of Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain and Keystone XL. The National Energy Board has been granted powers to promote these projects by overriding provincial, city and municipal laws. In the process, the NEB has set evidence parameters that are so dysfunctionally narrow as to prevent an adequate examination of the “public interest”, has allowed the proponents to avoid answering pertinent questions, and has compounded its conspicuous bias by eliminating the critical cross-examination of evidence.

Andrew Coyne, a noted Canadian political columnist, summarizes the situation nicely. “There is certainly plenty that is objectionable, even disturbing about this government: the unceasing partisanship, the peculiar nastiness, the crudeness, the expediency, the chronic secrecy and dishonesty. It picks fights needlessly, sees enemies everywhere, casts aside ancient parliamentary prerogatives as lightly as it does its own convictions, all for the single-minded, indeed obsessive pursuit of power.”

“The one thing it has not been is radical or transformative,” Coyne adds. “If the nastiness of its politics is the dominant impression of this government, it is in part for lack of anything else to identify it. It seems so pointless, all this poisonous effort for so little actual accomplishment, until you realize that is the point: the partisanship is in place of the policy, not in pursuit of it. The end is only power, and power is, with few exceptions, the only thing of consequence that this government has achieved” (The Vancouver Sun, Oct. 21/14).

A government that pursues power for power’s sake manufactures fear. When power is its only objective, such a government becomes paranoid, devious and ruthless, so anxious for its own survival that it spreads its fear everywhere, so fixated on its own security that it is incapable of recognizing or responding to the real fears haunting Canadians.World?

The principal fear now seems to be environmental, a deep and creeping dread that is casting doubt and controversy on almost everything we are attempting to accomplish in this country. When this dread is not addressed or even recognized, people become restive, trust erodes, confidence falters, institutions are questioned, laws are challenged, social order is shaken, and the fear feeds more fear.

 


Ray Grigg: Ray writes Shades of Green, a long running weekly column on environmental issues. He is the author of internationally published books on the history and essence of Tao and Zen traditions  (The Tao of Relationships, Zen Brushpoems, and The Tao of Zen). An archive of his thoughtful and articulate comments on the most pressing issues of our times can be found at http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3995a/Democracy_and_Rational_Self-Interest Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 11.15.25 AM

 

Posted in Blog, Guest Post, International, Policy | 10 Comments

Five More Reasons

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 08.27.34P1010885 2 Deborah Frketich

5 moreReasons Not to Vote for Steven Harper 562px-canada_maple_leafsvg

Soon after Steven Harper was sworn in as Prime Minister in 2006 I began to read, see and hear things that alarmed me. Some of these things like; abolishing the long form census, attacking environmental groups, lowering the tax rate to multinational corporations; came at us so quickly that I thought I should keep a list so I wouldn’t forget the reasons why I would never vote for Steven Harper. Very soon I ended up with a long unedited mess.Stop

One day, in our search for resources for this blog we found a website called: www.whynotharper.com. This website was like a dream come true for me because it presented a list of reasons not to vote for Harper in a professional format. I clicked through the whole list, nodding my head and saying “yes” under my breath as I read.

Before you visit whynotharper.com, I’d like to add five more reasons because Steven Harper just doesn’t stop doing things that should have every Canadian running to make sure they are registered to vote on October 19 (see Election 2015 – Are You Ready?). Be first in line to turf this government before they do any more damage.

  1. (un)Fair Elections Act: The so called Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23, is an example of Steven Harper’s habit of introducing bills that are so full of damaging changes that once they are amended the result can look good on the surface but still contain sections that do not serve Canadians well. A particularly worrisome section can prevent the Commissioner of Elections from compelling testimony during investigations into suspected violations of election regulations. In the next election we could have another robocall scandal and the commissioner would not have the necessary tools to deal with it. http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/fair-elections-act-2
  2. Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Justice Murray Sinclair worked for seven years listening to stories of the abuse, malnutrition and mistreatment of aboriginal children in residential schools. In the final summary the Commission called the forced assimilation and abuse of aboriginal children “cultural genocide”. What were Mr. Harper and his conservative government’s reaction? They totally ignored the results and they have announced no plan to address the 94 recommendations made by the commission. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/truth-and-reconciliation-is-canadas-last-chance-to-get-it-right/article24826036/
  3. Closing of Coast Guard Stations: The oil spill in English Bay on April 8, 2015 illustrated only too vividly what the oil industry and Steven Harper mean when they say they provide world class spill response. It’s another way of saying response will be slow and inadequate. It is clear that we need coast guard vessels and personnel on hand to respond in a timely manner.
  4. WeVoteCBC-welcomeCBC: Through a series of drastic cuts to CBC and the appointment of eight Tory supporters to the CBC board, most of whom have no broadcasting experience and are unwilling to stand up for public broadcasting – Steven Harper has succeeded, more than we would like to admit, in turning CBC into a vehicle for conservative talking points and propaganda. If this assault on our most valuable cultural institution and our ability to receive unbiased news makes your blood boil, get a “We Vote CBC” sign for your lawn. www.friends.ca
  5. Bill C-51: Although this bill is called an anti-terrorism bill by the conservative government, not many Canadians are fooled. This bill is aimed directly at the privacy rights of ordinary Canadians like you and I, especially if we happen to hold views that oppose those of Mr. Harper. Despite protests from coast to coast, this bill was passed in parliament and then the senate on June 9. www.OpenMedia.ca

So have a look at www.whynotharper.com and consider the reasons NOT to vote for the Harper Conservatives – and then add five more to your list. Comment below on your own reason for not voting conservative or drop us a note at reset@ready-set-vote.ca.


Deborah Frketich: An educator by profession, Deborah has worked in several elementary schools as a teacher then as a vice-principal and principal. Deborah has also had two international teaching experiences, one in Japan for three years and one in Thailand for four years. Deborah has become increasingly concerned about the state of politics in Canada, which has led to a growing economic inequality among Canadians.

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Voting System | 3 Comments

Guest Post: Bob Kull

bob_kull Bob KullScreen Shot 2015-07-27 at 13.24.19

What Would Darwin Do? Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 12.42.18 PM

By Bob Kull

I assume that anyone visiting this blogsite already knows that Stephen Harper’s majority government is a disaster for Canada. We are familiar with his rightwing, shortsighted economic and environmental policies, and his dismissal of scientific research that would do the US Tea Party proud. Even G.W. Bush seems to be less grounded in Christian fundamentalism than does Harper. It’s uncertain, but he might be a true believer in End Times ideology. This is a deeply problematic worldview for governing with the long-term in mind.

It’s unclear to me what Harper’s awareness of reality is. Does he truly not recognize that he and his family, as well as the rest of us, are part of and dependent on the biosphere? I don’t know. As a tasty thought experiment, it might be fascinating to be a fly on the wall of Harper’s mind for a week. Well, perhaps for a day; make that an hour or two. More than that might send one screaming for the exit.

And remember his outrageous move to prorogue Parliament—twice. Just as troubling, though, is that he led a minority government at the time and that the other parties didn’t call for an immediate vote of no confidence to get rid of him. They were complicit in that fundamentally undemocratic move.Scan

Having a majority government, especially led by a prime minister who ignores all perspectives but his own, elected by a minority of voters and an even smaller minority of the Canadian population as a whole, is simply unacceptable. But what to do about it? I agree with Brent Reid’s post that Proportional Representation is a fundamentally important electoral change (www.ready-set-vote.ca). Even run-off elections between the two leading candidates in each riding would be very helpful to insure that our elected representatives have secured a majority of the popular vote in their respective ridings. But neither of these changes will happen in the 2015 election. What we can do, I think and hope, is work to ensure that the Greens, the NDP and the Liberals don’t split the progressive vote.

What would Charles Darwin counsel us to do? As a student of mainstream biology, I was taught that natural selection “tries” to maximize fitness. That is, genetic selection selects for certain physiological traits and behaviours. But this is a distorted, if not erroneous, view. Natural selection, in fact, selects against physiology and behaviour that don’t work; that don’t allow an organism to survive, reproduce, and hopefully flourish. The genetic lines of those organisms that don’t manage to survive and reproduce are removed from the population. This allows for enormous freedom and diversity. Nature isn’t heading toward some ideal state, but rather is bumbling along as best it can.charles_darwin2_by_zuzahin-d6qvxfj

This seems to be the case in cultural evolution as well. We aren’t closing in on some ideal cultural state, but rather bumbling along toward social realities that allow us to continue to survive, reproduce, and hopefully flourish. I’d like to suggest that this perspective can also guide our voting behaviour. Instead of insisting on voting only for an ideal candidate with whose orientation and policies we fundamentally agree, and feeling guilty if we vote for the “lesser of evils,” perhaps in voting for the lesser of evils we’re fulfilling our evolutionary responsibility.

I tend to waver between voting for a candidate I actually believe in, but who has virtually no chance of winning, and a candidate who does stand a chance of winning, but who might be only marginally better than the alternative. Harper and his Conservative government are so awful, that the 2015 candidates for all three of the other parties are significantly better. My preference is Green and then NDP, but I’ve become a believer in Strategic Voting as Leadnow.ca is urging. An “anyone but Harper” approach. Decide which candidate—Green, NDP or Liberal—in each riding has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate and (holding our nose, if necessary) vote for him or her. If it’s a close race between the non-Conservative candidates in your riding, go for the one you prefer.

UnknownThis is equivalent to natural selection weeding out individuals or species that are not fit enough to survive. We might not end up with the ideal, but if we can avoid the worst, we might be able to muddle through and restore Canada—environmentally, socially, and politically—to something we can live with and in.


Bob Kull is the author of Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes—a year alone in the Patagonia wilderness. He teaches at Royal Roads University. His website is www.bobkull.org

End Time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_time

Brent Reid Post: ready-set-vote.ca

Leadnow: http://www.leadnow.ca

Posted in Blog, Goodbye Steve, Guest Post | 3 Comments

Guest Blog: Ric & Rosemary Vernon

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Election 2015 – Are You Ready?Reset

It was very interesting and timely to read Stephen Maher’s May long weekend article in the National Post.  The piece, titled “It Could Get Ugly at Polling Stations this Fall Thanks to the Fair Elections Act” is a reminder to Canadians of the changes to the voting process, which are now in place following the passing of the Act. Needless to say, without advance preparation, many Canadians could find themselves confused, frustrated and/or angry on voting day. But even worse still there is the possibility they may be unable to cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice.Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 2.45.46 PM

Fortunately opposition party filibustering and public protests have caused the Conservative government to back off on some of the more extreme sections of the Act. However, it is still wise to prepare carefully in order to avoid frustrations on Election Day.  Here are some basic things to remember. Please remind others.

  1. First and most important is to check to see if you are registered to vote. This is actually very easy to do.

Go to the Elections Canada Website (http://www.elections.ca/home.aspx) and look at the top left hand box.  It’s titled Voters: Everything a Voter Should Know.

  1. Click on that box and a list of categories will appear down the left side of your screen.
  2. Read down until you find Voter Registration then click on it.
  3. In the centre of the page you will see Online Voter Registration Service and in the middle of it will appear Check Your Voter Registration.
  4. Again click on that and you will be able to go through several steps where you will be asked you full name, your date of birth, and your postal code to determine if you are registered or not. If you need to update your address or actually register to vote you can do it all right there.  We went through all the steps of the process and it worked very well.  At the end it told us we were both registered to vote.

Now that you know you are registered to vote the next important information is how to prove your identity when you arrive at the polling station. There are several ways you can do this and it’s not difficult, but you must be prepared otherwise you could end up finding yourself unable to cast your ballot. Here are the things to prepare for before going to the polling station that will simplify proving your ID.

The most important bit of information to be aware of is that the Voter Information Card you receive in the mail telling you where to vote (your polling station) is NOT acceptable as a piece of ID. All it does is indicate where to vote. You should also be aware the Harper government has ruled out the use of mail out ballots, potentially disenfranchising tens of thousands of Canadian voters.

  1. There are three ways to prove your eligibility to vote at a particular polling station
    1. Present one piece of ID with your picture and your current address.
    2. Present two pieces of ID, one with your name on it and the other with your name and current address.
    3. Present two pieces of ID with your name on it. Then have someone who knows you verify your address.

It’s not difficult as long as you remember to take the information with you to the polling station.  If you are not prepared you could be disallowed from voting.

Share this information with your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. Canadian voters need to get ready for Voting Day!  For further information and to see other valuable tips about the election process, check the Elections Canada website.

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Ric and Rosemary Vernon have been residents of the Comox Valley for 40 years. During their careers, Ric taught elementary school while Rosemary enjoyed providing child-care to families. Besides his teaching duties Ric was active on the District Professional Development Committee as well as a founding member of the Merville Residents’ Association. Rosemary served as Parent Advisory Council Chair at each of their children’s schools, District PAC Chair and Secretary of the fledgling BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

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