Monday, October 29, 2012

Supreme Court of Canada VS Democracy

Well the Supreme Court of Canada heard the arguments and had their deliberations and reached a verdict…

And Ted Opitz retains his seat.

I think this is a bad ruling.  I am not alone.

This is not a partisan issue, but it could be in the future. 

It is a responsibility issue. 

Voting is not democracy, it is only a part of it.  But it is the only part that many people take part in.  The fact that ballots were cast without proper records kept is troubling.

Most of us take the Voter Card with us when we go to vote simply because it says to on the card.  Some of us forget our cards, some of us don’t have a card because we moved recently and didn’t have an opportunity to get the new card before the election and that is why there are provisions in place to handle these instances.

If I were to show up at the polls without my card and without enough documentation to show who I am, I can still vote if someone verifies who I am. 

“I know Bear Cat, he lives down the street from me. Here’s my documentation to show who I am, I’ll sign for him.”

This document is my proof.  It is a government document and should be treated as such.  If the document is lost, or not filled out properly then should my vote count?

The Court says yes.  I say no.

Simply put, the number of ballots in the box should equal the number of people stroked off the list plus any documents for people who weren’t on the list but were eligible to vote at that poll.

And the documents must be complete.

It is not that hard, and yet with our Elections Canada staff and scrutineers from the parties there it still happened.

I’m not calling for anything as severe as some of the legislation in the US where you cannot vote unless you provide proper documentation.  These laws are so strict that voters can be denied simply because they do not drive.  Let’s face it, besides our driver’s licence most of us don’t have enough Government Issue documentation to prove who we are.

Our system is simple and it works if it is applied properly.  In this case there was a breakdown and Elections Canada cannot show that every ballot cast was proper.  This leaves an opening for abuse and hindsight being what it is, if there is an opportunity for abuse, abuse will occur.

If this had happened during a “normal” election where the plurality is usually in the hundreds if not thousands, this would not be such an issue… But it still would be an issue.

Boris Wrzesnewskyj’s challenge to the results of the past federal election in Etobicoke was because the number of disputed ballots was greater than the plurality, the number of votes that decided the election in that riding.  Ted Opitz countered that overturning the result would disenfranchise voters, telling them that their vote didn’t count.

We do not know who the disputed ballots were for.  We do not know if they were all for one candidate or another.  But we do not know that they weren’t either.  We don’t know if these people voted twice, or were entitled to vote at all.

The Supreme Court of Canada had an opportunity to tell Canadians that their vote is important, that the rules in place are good.  They chose not to.

Four votes to Three.  The right of a citizen to vote is more important than the determination of whether an individual is entitled to vote.

At the very root of this it is not a Wrzesnewskyj vs Opitz matter or even a Liberal vs Harper Party matter.  It is about our faith in the system and that Elections Canada must show that they are capable of handling a proper election.

It appears that Elections Canada may not be capable… But the Supreme Court of Canada saved their bacon.

Afterthought… In a post ruling photo-op with Ted Opitz, Stephen Harper said something about improving our election system.  Why does this scare me?

Happy Hallowe’en, BC

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Does Dalton McGuinty’s Prorogue Pass the Smell Test?

I may annoy some friends with my thoughts, but when I started to do these Blogs I promised myself that I would try not to be biased and would rant at anyone in government who I felt deserved it.

This week Dalton McGuinty ticked me off.

What did he do?  Like you really have to ask… He prorogued the Ontario Legislature.

Like many others, I joined Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) back when Stephen Harper decide to start using the prorogue as a “Get out of Trouble Free” card pulled from the Community Chest stack. I felt it was wrong to use the power of the prorogue to shut and lock the doors to the House of Commons just because the Opposition had him on the ropes.

And now Dalton has done it and I’m just as annoyed with him.

Traditionally when the leader of the Government prorogues the Legislature, it is simply to indicate that the Government has met the goals that they set out to do in their Throne Speech.  It is like a bookmark for historians so they can point at something that happened in say the Second Session of the 39th Parliament or whatever.  Federally a session lasts about a year and usually ends with a break for the Parliamentarians, like the summer recess.  A prorogue.

An abuse occurs when the Government decides that it is getting too hot for them and they just want to lock the doors with everyone outside to air the House out and hope the heat goes with it.  It also shuts down Committees and kills everything on the agenda… including the item or items that are embarrassing the Government.

It seems to have worked for Stephen, now Dalton is going to try it too.

I can understand the reasoning… Dalton has a minority Government and he’s in a jam and wants to get around it.

So Dalton decides he’s had enough of being Premier, steps down as leader and prorogues the Legislature.  He says it is so the negotiations with the civil servants can go more smoothly, I don’t think so.  I think it is more likely to prevent the Opposition from forcing a vote of non-confidence and bringing down the Government while they are without a leader.  When a new leader is chosen, they’ll end the prorogue and deflect all the accusations by saying “I didn’t do it, he did.  I just brought the Legislature back.”

The PC leader Tim Hudak must be fuming.  How can he rail against Dalton’s prorogation without having Harper’s twin prorogues tossed back in his face?

Now, for the people who are outside of Ontario who are wondering why they should care…

Quite simply, our governments watch each other to see what works and what doesn’t.  I’ll admit that living here in Ontario, I was barely aware that British Columbia’s Legislature is shut down while Premier Christy Clark bails furiously trying to keep her Liberal Party afloat.

Don’t be surprised if your Legislature decides that a cooling off period is required when that government gets in a jam.

We in Ontario have seen the dreaded Omnibus Budget Bill raise its head here, following in the footsteps of the Harper Party who are trotting out yet another 400+ page behemoth Budget Bill… your turn will likely come soon.

So does Dalton’s prorogue pass the smell test?  Not from where I’m sitting.

And for all the Harper Apologists and Echoboxes that blather on about “Where are all the Lefties that cried out about Harper’s prorogues?” You’re looking at one of them here Sunshine.  What Harper did was wrong and what Dalton is doing is just as wrong.

As for the pundits who think Dalton is going to run for the Federal Liberal Leadership, I seriously doubt it.  Dalton fell on his sword to save his party.  The stink of this prorogue will follow him for a while.

Just for fun… The use of prorogation in Canada dates back to the first Parliament Federally.  In Ontario the first use of the prorogue was by Bill Davis, the patron saint of all Ontario conservatives and Harper Party loyalists.  Every Premier since has used it including Bob Rae and Mike Harris so all three Ontario Parties that have formed governments in Queens Park have done it.  Usually in the traditional manner.

‘Nuff said… If I never have to write the word prorogue again it will be too soon. Cheers, BC.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Where the Buck is Gerry Ritz?

“The buck stops here.”

That was the famous phrase on the plaque on the desk of President Harry S. Truman.  Simply put, Truman’s plaque says that “I am responsible.”

What do you think the plaque on Stephen Harper’s desk says?  How about the ones on the desks of his Ministers?

Maybe they say “ rolls downhill”?

With the recent E. coli outbreak from meat processed at the XL Foods plant you would expect the Agriculture Minister to be front and centre to ensure the situation is handled quickly and correctly.  Gerry Ritz, other than a quick statement is M.I.A.  Shhh.

It appears that the only thing the Harper Government has to say is that there were 46 inspectors at the plant.

Any bets on who gets hung out to dry on this one?  I’m betting on the inspectors.

Gerry Ritz isn’t going to lose a dollar over this.  He’ll still get his pay.  The workers at the XL Foods plant will be out until this is cleared up.  Two weeks is the last I heard, just long enough to get their waiting period in for EI.

The bosses at XL Foods aren’t likely to miss a paycheque over this either I imagine.

Who will get it in the teeth are the two groups at the ends of the food chain.

The cattle farmers are stuck with a backup at the meat plants.  They’re already seeing a drop in the value of their cattle if they can get them to market at all.  Large cattle farms may do okay but the smaller family farmers will struggle to stay afloat.

The other group to get hit will be the consumers.  The middle men will get fat because there will be around 30% less beef available and they’ll just up their cut and we’ll pay for it.

I think what frustrates me the most is the Harper Party echo boxes saying things like “its only 10 people who got sick” as if that’s not a big deal. What if it was your kids that got sick, or your Meemaw?  It would likely be a big deal then.

Look, we rely on the government to ensure our food network is safe.  The government through its agencies like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are supposed to monitor the meat packers to prevent things like this from happening.  When it happens, it is their job (both the CFIA and the Government) to react and set a corrective action in place.

Here is a timeline of what occurred and when from the Vancouver Sun.

On September 4th there was E. coli found in trimmings by both the CFIA and their US counterparts.

On September 6th CFIA asked for test results and distribution information for August 24th, 28th, and September 5th.

On September 7th CFIA formally requested detailed information to product details, distribution, sample results, and information on the plant’s preventative controls.

On September 13th the US Food Safety and Inspection Service finds 2 more E. coli samples and the CFIA removes XL Foods from the list of companies eligible to export to the US.

On September 16th CFIA and XL Foods start issuing health hazard alerts regarding the E coli contamination found in some XL Foods products.

On September 25th Alberta Health Services tell the CFIA that it has linked 4 illnesses to steaks purchase at and Edmonton Costco store.  CFIA asks Health Canada for a health risk assessment and that results in a recall of steaks from that particular store.

On September 27th CFIA temporarily suspends the operating licence of the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta.

Note that it took two full weeks from when the CFIA decided that XL Foods’ beef wasn’t fit for US consumption that they decided that it wasn’t good for Canadians to eat either.  And they were still processing 4,000 head of cattle each day until the 27th.

Obviously the system failed.  XL Foods failed to maintain proper cleanliness to prevent this from happening.  The CFIA failed to stop this from happening as well.

But the system is the one that the Harper Party put in place.

Think back to the Maple Leaf Foods listeriosis outbreak.  Part of the cause was determined to be the reduction in inspectors by the Harper Government.  The corrective action was the system that is now in place.  The one implemented by Stephen Harper and Gerry Ritz.

The added inspectors they talk about are the replacements for the same inspectors that they had just gotten rid of.

Even then the inspectors were warning that the amount of paperwork they had to do was cutting into the amount of time they spent actually inspecting.  They saw this coming, the Harper Government ignored their warnings

This brings us back to Harry S. Truman’s buck.

The system that is in place today is the one that Gerry Ritz signed off on.  The same system that failed and put the lives of countless Canadians at risk of illness and death at the hands of a little bug called E. coli.

If Gerry Ritz is unwilling or unable to stand in the House of Commons and defend his failed system and show Canadians why he should be the Minister of Agriculture then he should step down.  If he doesn’t, then Stephen Harper needs to take action and move Gerry Ritz to the back benches and place a competent manager into the Agriculture portfolio.

Where does the buck stop boys?  Shall we honour the time tested Harper Party technique of pointing fingers at everyone else or will you man up for once and deal with the issue you helped to create?

It’s Thanksgiving time here, we should be thankful that only a small number of people became sick enough to require hospitalization due to E. coli poisoning.  Who knows how many more just thought that they were suffering from a case of the flu.

I wonder, are unreported illnesses just as real as unreported crimes?