A Canadian's perspective on domestic and international issues. Independent coverage of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal elections and anything of interest in Canada.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Senate Reform Not On Harper's Agenda

A while back I received a comment on a piece I wrote about the need to do away with the Governor General. The writer, someone calling his or herself, the Radical Monarchist, argued that having the GG saves us from the unelected senate.
Personally, I don't know how anyone can argue that having an unelected appointee as head of state is better than having an elected head of state. Then again, these days, common sense doesn't seem to play much of a role in political argument. What seems to matter more is the ability to complicate issues to the degree that people just give up trying to figure things out, and accept the status quo, because its easier than fighting the status quo. "Acceptance", these new age pundits tell me, is the "key" to peace.
To follow the logic through, if a man is beating me about the head with a stick, I am better to just let him, because it will bring me peace quicker than fighting back will! To be fair, the argument makes some sense. If I just let the man continue beating me, I'll likely be dead soon, and there is some peace in that!
Way back in history, when I was a bona fide member of the media, I rode the Reform Party campaign bus in the days of Preston Manning. One of the main arguments Preston and his boys were beating like a dead horse, Stephen Harper included, was the need to reform and elect the Senate.
Now imagine, if Manning and his crew had succeeded in actually reforming and electing the senate, and based it on modern senates around the world, where not only are the senators elected, but the voter is given the opportunity to elect a chair, or president, of the Senate. If that had happened, Mr. Harper would have had to take his request for prorogue to the Senate, instead of to the stylin' lap dog he himself appointed to the GG's chair! Chances are, if he'd done that, he'd have met with the same response he would have won if he'd asked Parliament for the prorogue!
Yes folks, that means we'd now have a Liberal-led minority, with Mr. Harper in opposition!
Mr. Harper's claim, that he is merely trying to restore some "balance" to the Senate, and has chosen "reformers", is just more of the infamous double speak we've come to expect from him.
What Mr. Harper is really trying to do is increase the number of like minds in the Senate, so he can have his future legislation "rubber stamped", just as previous Liberal governments were able to do!
(Yes, I can hear the pundits on that side of the aisles crying, fair is fair, they had it their way, why shouldn't we?). But herein is the problem. The old way didn't work. It ultimately led the way for the formation of the Reform Party, and for their eventual co-opting of the Conservative Party! And if things continue as they are, it will lead to a similar amalgamation on the other side!
Mr. Harper earned his place in Canadian politics by appearing to be some sort of freedom fighter. He was going to end the legacy of entitlement in Ottawa. And one of the ways he was going to do that was by overhauling the Senate and making it elected! Now he has power, what does he do? He reinforces the status quo by stacking the Senatorial deck!
Conservative spin doctors are now explaining that Senate Reform would require too much work, that it is in fact, next to impossible to achieve. So, they say, we should work within the system that is already in place, but that's not what Mr. Harper was saying before he came to power, is it? Before he came to power Mr. Harper was saying it should be reformed, in no small part, so future governments could not stack the deck as he has now chosen to do!
There are some in this country who would like to do away with both the Senate and the GG. The NDP want the Senate abolished all together, and that's partly what keeps me from ever becoming a member of their party.
What really needs to happen, is Canadian governance needs to start reflecting Canadian political reality. Canada is unique in the world, with its large land mass and small population (for most countries it is the other way around). What we need is a system of representation that mirrors the Canadian reality.
For me, the solution is simple. First, we fire all current Senators, and the GG. Then we elect a new Senate, with every province and territory having equal representation in it, say five Senators per province and territory. That's five seats from each of the 13 provinces and territories, that's 65 seats. Then, we elect a President of the Senate, from the masses. Someone to chair the upper house and to occupy Rideau Hall, in sort of a domestic head-of-state role.
Doing this would result in several savings for the Canadian people. First, and most obvious, the number of senate seats would be pared dramatically, so we'd have to pay a lot less in wages, salaries and pension benefits. Secondly, it would give every province and territory equal voting weight, so the Regional District of York would have the same number of votes as Regional District Central Kootenay, thus balancing the population based parliament, against the rural land mass, and sparsely populated regions. Thirdly, no parliament or Prime Minister, would ever again be able to manipulate the GG, or to use an unelected official to prevent him from losing his job, or forestall the day to day operations of the house.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all, would be the final end of the Monarchy in our democracy. Monarchy is the antithesis of democracy. It is the BIG roadblock that keeps democracy from being truly democratic. As long as the Monarchy, and its unelected emissaries are the de-facto heads of our government, we will never truly be a Democracy. We will always be subjects, under the rule of others, and not citizens of a truly free society.
Mr. Harper's recent Senate appointments do little more than bolster the notion that Canada remains a fledgling society, unable to control its own destiny, and in need of the oversight and discipline of our "betters." His actions stifle our freedom, not endorse or encourage it.
What's more, Mr. Harper's most recent actions should clearly demonstrate to all the old Reform Party supporters that, the new boss is the same as the old boss they worked so many years to get rid of!
Change does not come through the same old action. Change requires change, and Stephen Harper is changing nothing. The Emperor doesn't have new clothes. He's simply wrung them out and put them on again, and anyone who ever went out and bought a Reform Party membership, because they believed it was time for a new type of government, should now be seriously considering sending the Emperor to the cleaners!

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Tory Dog and Pony Show

When Stephen Harper prorogued parliament a few weeks ago, I thought we were all going to get a break from the dog and pony show in Ottawa, not.
You all know what a dog and pony show is, don't you? That's where someone tries to sell you a dog dressed up as a pony. The seller claims its a pony, and though it appears a little small, it is quite capable of plowing the fields and giving the kids a ride across the barnyard! Then, when you get it home, you find out its good for little more than snapping at the postal worker's heals, eating food scraps, and leaving little piles all over the lawn.
Since the Governor General granted Mr. Harper's Christmas present, at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, he has trotted out his finally dressed up dogs. The pooches are hybrids, Great Danes of sorts, but more akin to Greyhounds, busses not breeds.
These mongrels have been trotted out in two separate bands. One constitutes his "Economic Advisory" committee, their resemblance to real ponies so poor he is letting his good bud, Finance Flaherty, walk them down the kennel path, and his new "Senators", who are fearless, yet once anti-senate leader says will restore the balance in the "upper" house.
All mutt analogies aside, lets look at what the PM has done. In the midst of an economic crisis, perpetrated by billionaire financiers, chubby bankers and land developers, he has marched out a bunch of billionaires, bankers and land developers to save us all!
Then there's the senators. Does anyone out there remember Harper's old plan to do away with the unelected senate? Now he claims this bunch are reformers! Well, if they're really reformers, then why are they accepting appointment and not demanding they be elected?
Is anybody else getting this?
Now, to switch metaphors in mid stream, it appears Mr. Harper is going to stop the bank robbers by putting them in charge of security at the bank! Or, so to speak, throwing our countries economic future to the dogs! On top of that, he's appointing people to the senate who don't believe in the senate. Its like the Vatican appointing a Muslim pope!
Then there's the critters themselves.
First we have Mike Duffy, a St. Bernard of sorts, with a healthy girth, who made his living since I was a teeny bopper, presenting "unbiased" reportage of the goings on in parliament to the Canadian public. This is a guy, who since the days of Mulroney, has told the Canadian people that Ottawa has done right by them. He's been there, in the scrum, since Mulroney sold out the railway deal, opened the borders to "free" trade, and drove this country into debt deeper than his own esophagus. And Duffy has been faithful, like any good dog, the Man's best friend, all along, lapping up the table scraps tossed to him by successive governments for so long, his waistline has earned him the new name, Stuffy. He looks like a big old gelding, but really, he's nothing more than an aging, overfed, corporate mutt.
Then there is Nancy Greene Raine. Once a hero to us all, for propelling herself down a mountainside in France at break neck speed back in the '60s. She claims to have been a "Liberal" in her youth. A liberal recipient of great fanfare. Now she says, because she's older, she's become more "Conservative." Fact is, since she's become a billionaire ski hill developer, she's become more attached to governments that disregard things like "environmental policy" and favour development despite the long term cost. That's the trouble with aging Liberals, they lose their balance while sitting on the fence, and depending how much gold they have stuffed in their pockets, tend to fall off the fence on the right hand side! To be fair, perhaps Mr. Harper misunderstood what the Canadian people were telling him when they said they wanted him to be more "green." Once sleek and fast, Ms. Greene-Raine, has become an aging giant poodle, with failing insight.
Then there's Jimmy Pattison, the billboard king of the Coquihalla. A bulldog in his youth, Pattison is best remembered for two things. One, in true Social Credit pedigree, as a used car salesman who used to fire his least productive salesmen at the end of each month. His other claim to fame was as the CEO for EXPO '86, that big corporate orgy that cost the BC taxpayer nearly 10 years of economic hardship. Yup folks, he's the one who sold us the big beef bone that turned out to be a tainted chicken wing. While he barks a good howl, old Jimmy really is nothing more than a yappy Chihuahua, allowed to tear the stuffing out of the pillows because, when he's busy doing that, at least he's quiet.
The list continues. There are French Poodles, hairless pointers, some pinchers, a Shepherd or two, even a big web footed Newfoundlander, along with the odd mutt, but the point is, while Mr. Harper, and his kennel man Flaherty, want us to believe he's showing us around the stable, but his ponies are not ponies. They're dogs, Conservative lap dogs dressed up in fine saddles with blinders on their eyes. They will, like good pooches, go where directed, fetch what is tossed to them, and sit when instructed to sit.
In short, Mr. Harper's ponies, like all well fed dogs, are out to please only their master. And to anyone who thinks they will do anything but please their master, I have one things to say to you.
"Congratulations, you've just bought a pony! Careful it don't bite you!"

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Harper's Intentions

The question I'm not hearing, but want asked is: Should an unelected official be able to overrule the majority of parliament?
The answer seems obvious.
That said, I've been racking my brains for two weeks trying to figure out what Stephen Harper, the normally sly and masterful manipulator, is up to with such crass and blatant attacks on issues like Women's Equity, Campaign Finance, and Public Sector Unions. It seemed an odd approach from a Prime Minister who earlier pledged to work with the opposition.
My confusion was only increased when he responded to news of the coalition by raising the specter of Quebec Separation instead of bringing forward a revised economic plan.
All my befuddlement ended today when the Governor General set a precedent, throwing the issue of Monarchy into the already full mixing bowl, and granted the prorogue of parliament! It is now clear to me what Mr. Harper is up to.
Always a divide-and-conquer manager, it is clear to me our Prime Minister is out to wholly obfuscate matters to the point where things boil over and get out of hand. Why, I'm not sure. Perhaps he knows his only hope of ever achieving a majority is to throw Canadian society into such chaos the people opt for the strong-arm approach of a law and order party!
Should we be questioning the role of the Monarchy in our federation? Yes! But if we're going to fear anything, it ought to be Mr. Harper's intentions!

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Time to Reaccess the Role of the Monarchy in Canada

Perhaps now it the time to finally discuss the role of the Governor General in our governance. We have a non-elected official protecting a Prime Minister from facing a confidence motion. It amounts to the Queen interfering with the legislative process in this country.
Unelected officials should have no say in how parliament does its job. Now is the time to ask if we really want a government that can be directed by unelected officials. I say no.
If there ever was an argument for finally abolishing the monarchy and moving towards a republican style of democracy, it is now.

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Vancouver Sun biased in favour of Harper

A recent editorial from the editors of the Vancouver Sun, on the current kafluffle in Ottawa, suggests that Canadian voters gave Mr. Dion the brush off in the last election.
That's not quite true. What Canadians did was make it real clear to Mr. Harper that the Canadian people are not prepared to give him a majority, and want the checks and balances a minority provides.
If Mr. Harper isn't willing to operate as a minority leader, make concessions and cooperate, then perhaps it is time the other guys get a chance before we're thrown into another election.
The Sun editorial also suggested Mr. Dion he should give his "head a shake" for proposing a coalition
I think it is the editorial staff at the Sun who need to give their heads a shake.
One of two things is happening. Either Stephen Harper does not understand how the parliamentary system within a constitutional democracy works, or he is trying to pull the wool over the average Canadians eyes.
In the parliamentary system if the majority of parliament have lost confidence in the governing minority, they are obligated to do one of two things, either force an election, or form a coalition to govern in place of the toppled minority.
The Governor General has an obligation to ensure workable government. After two dysfunctional minorities in a row, the option of asking the opposition to form a coalition is well within her mandate.
More people voted against Mr. Harper then for him, in fact, the majority did! That makes his ongoing argument, supported by the Sun Editorial Board and other mainstream media, that the people selected him to be Prime Minister, or that the people gave him an expanded mandate (because he picked up a few extra seats), pure nonsense.
The majority of Canadian voters selected the opposition, so if the opposition can form a coalition, then it is they who should govern. This not a crisis! It happens in parliamentary systems everywhere. In fact, parliamentary systems are designed with minority rule and coalitions in mind.

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