Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stephen, Why Do You Treat Our Veterans Like Political Pawns?

How do you put out a fire?

Simple question, first of all it depends on how big the fire is.  If it is a small fire, like a candle, it’s pretty simple.  You can blow it out, some like to dampen their fingertips and pinch the flame out, or the more elegant might use a candle snuffer.  Basically you can douse it with water (on your fingertips) or starve it for fuel (with the snuffer).

If it’s a larger fire, like a campfire you can toss a bucket of water on it, starve it for fuel and let it burn out on its own.

What if it’s a big fire?  Like a PMO/Senate Scandal?

Well Steve and Co. have tried just about everything you can think of.  They tried to let it burn itself out, no luck.  They threw water on it and tossed people under the bus to no avail.

They even sent their minions with torches at Justin Trudeau, the only problem is that Canadians like Justin Trudeau.  He may not be everyone’s choice for PM, but lots of us grew up with him.  He’s a nice guy.

And the fire the Harperistas started at JT’s feet just drew more people to him to sit by the fire.  Like going camping or enjoying a bonfire.  It just wasn’t working.

So the Harper folk looked for a new place to set a fire.  I mean intentionally.

So they set their torches toward recently retired Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie.  And they got a fire started.

A lot of people are upset that the General’s move to a new home not far from his existing home ran to $72,000.00 or so. 

CTV reported this, Minister Rob Nicholson is telling the DND to look into this.  But the bottom line is that it appears that the only thing that General Leslie did wrong was to join the wrong political party.

He joined the Liberal Party of Canada.

You see, because the Military requires members of the Forces to relocate, there is a provision that helps to take care of the move.  A benefit of serving for 20 or more years in the Military is that the government pays for one last move.  It could be across town or across the country, but the government has a third party company that takes care of packing, storing, and moving the retirees’ property to the new location.  The Integrated Relocation Plan (IRP) also takes care of some of the expenses in selling the old home and buying the new one.  In General Leslie’s case, this was $72,000.00.

General Leslie did not hire anyone, he didn’t do anything other than what a 20+ year veteran would do.  He submitted his information for the move.  The third party took care of the rest.

The IRP has been on the books for decades.  As a matter of fact, the Auditor General submitted a report on the IRP in November 2006 to the Harper government that pointed out a number of problems with the IRP.  The government did nothing about it.  They even repeated problems that the AG pointed out in 2006.

When General Leslie moved in 2011, no alarms went off, no one at the Treasury Board Secretariat (Tony Clement’s department) waved any flags and no one in Rob Nicholson’s National Defence Department raised any issues either.

Actually, the Harper Party was so enamoured with General Leslie that they offered him a job, even hinting that he should run for them in the next election.  No they didn’t get mad at him until after he had signed on to be an advisor to the Liberal Party on International Affairs.

Go figure.

The Harper Party should take care here.  They have already offended the Veterans and the Military with their treatment of our Warriors.  They are adding fuel to that fire by starting up with General Leslie.

You see the danger is that when you start fires, they can become unpredictable… especially when they are big ones. 

It just depends on which way the wind blows. 

Laters BC

Maybe Stever should be happy we don’t live in an emerging Democracy like Egypt… It’s not good to pee on the military there, is it Steve?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Elizabeth May, Fair Elections, and the Bear (Oh, My)

'Mr. Speaker, the crisis in Canadian democracy is not that Canadians are voting more than once but that they are voting less than once. And this bill will... increase cynicism.'

Debate on Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act

After the last few Federal Elections, I was involved in more than a few conversations about elections and how to increase voter turnout.  We talked about various ideas that we had come across that people thought would increase voter turnout.

These ideas ranged from penalizing people who did not vote, such as they do in Australia to rewarding people who do vote with tax breaks or otherwise.  We discussed the reasons that people don’t vote and tried to think of ways that people could be encouraged to vote.

Bill C-23 does nothing to encourage voting and it does nothing to make voting easier.  It does the contrary.  The Harper Party defenders of this bill keep saying that there are 39 pieces of information that can be used to allow you to vote.  What they don’t tell you is that if you are living with someone else, such as your parents, or if you are elderly, or if you are a student living in a dormitory, you may not have access to most of these pieces of information.

But as Elizabeth May points out, the real issue is that not enough people are making the effort to vote.

But how do you counter people who think their vote doesn’t matter?  It does matter, there are elections decided by a small number of votes every election.

It is your right and it should be your duty to vote in any election that you are allowed to vote in.  There are people fighting and dying for the privilege of voting all over the world.  But that doesn’t mean anything to some people.

But what is hard to defend is when an elected Member of the House of Commons cannot rise to speak to this bill simply because they are a Member of the House.  Because of the imposition of time allocation, only the three main parties were allowed to speak to the bill.  The only reason that Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Leader of the Green Party (a recognized federal political party) was able to speak was that the Liberal Party gave some of their allotted time to Ms. May.

How do you encourage people to vote when the people that they elect are not allowed to speak in the House of Commons?

You can’t. 

And that is a huge part of the problem.  Even if you do vote, your Member of Parliament will likely not be able to represent your interests anyway.  They vote the Party Line and unless they are selected to be a Minister or a Critic in the House, they don’t get much of a chance to say anything at all.  When the government decides to impose “Time Allocation” which is a polite way of saying “Closure” on a bill, your MP gets shoved even further back into the corner… even if they are the Leader of the Green Party.

This is why I keep hammering at the fact that “Democracy” is not limited to the day we cast our ballots, nor is it limited to the 30 days prior to that.

Democracy is the whole ball of wax.  Voting is part of it.  Debate and discourse is part of it.  The Media should be part of it, that is if the government will answer their questions.  And the House of Commons is supposed to be part of it too.

Every Member who wishes to speak in debate on a bill must have the right to speak, even if they are not the Official Critic or Minister or Party Leader. 

They are hired to be our voices in the House of Commons.  Any steps to stop them from speaking are decidedly UNdemocratic.  Time Allocation and Closure do have their place in the House of Commons, but only if it is a dire situation where we need to have legislation passed quickly.  Budget bills and C-23 don’t fall into this category.

If we want people to vote, maybe we should allow our Members to speak, all of them, to any bill that affects their constituents.  If people see this, they might be more inclined to pick one, instead of letting people like me vote for them.

Elizabeth May gets this.  It’s too bad the Harper Party does not.

*Random Thought*

When news came out that the Liberals had given some of their valuable time to Elizabeth May to speak on Bill C-23, some in the media were surprised.  I wasn’t.  Elizabeth May is a very smart person and a very effective speaker.  She doesn’t smother us or the House with bafflegab, the favourite of some in the House.  She speaks clearly to the issue in ways that most of us can understand, unless we wear Blue Sweater Vests I guess.

*Random Thought 2*

While Ms. May and I may not see eye to eye in all things, we are on the same page when it comes to Democracy.  Of all the people who sit on the Hill, she is one of the few that I wouldn’t mind having coffee with.

That’s meant to be a compliment, I hope you take it that way Ms. May.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Election Reform, The Railroad Job.

I had a bit of a funny pass through my Facebook News Feed today. 

It was a cartoon of a bunch of people in a room, and the caption was something like… Quick, Canadians are all watching the Olympics, let’s talk about election reform.

I snickered not just because it was funny, and I thought it was funny, but because it was true.  The sad part is the joke is being played on us.

I have some qualms about some of the items in the 247 page bill that Pierre Poilievre dropped on the House just the other day, but there is some good in there as well.  My biggest issue is in the way this bill was presented and the “debate” that has followed it in the House of Commons.

Some of the members in the House have said that traditionally, a bill of this importance would have been discussed by all the Parties in meetings or committees and that each Party would have the opportunity to have their input and hear the reasoning behind what the government was proposing be in there.  There would probably have been invitations to people involved like the Head of Elections Canada and others who are knowledgeable about our electoral system.  None of this happened.

Poilievre says that he had a meeting with Marc Mayrand, the Head of Elections Canada to which Mr. Mayrand and Elections Canada said never happened.  Apparently they did meet, but that was some time ago and it sounds like that meeting was not considered a discussion of what should be in this bill, according to Mr. Mayrand, but rather a more general discussion about how elections should be run and possible changes.

Think about it.

The bill was introduced by Poilievre on February 5th at 3:30 pm and the ensuing debate lasted until about 5:30 pm.

By 1:10 pm On February 6th, the very next day, Peter Van Loan rose to move that Time Allocation be applied to the bill and by 6:15 pm on the 10th, the bill passed Second Reading and went to committee.  The government wants the bill back in the House by March 1st.

It doesn’t seem very Democratic to me.

The Harper Party is telling us that Democracy is only 30 days long and happens every 4 years or so during the election period.  They have it wrong.

The vote is not Democracy. 

The Election is not Democracy.

The campaign is not Democracy.

These are all parts of it, but no one thing is Democracy.

The Harper Party side seems to believe that once the votes are counted, that the winning side no longer has any responsibility to act Democratically.  What they don’t get is that the people that we elected are our representatives and it is their duty to ask questions that are pertinent on our behalf.  The shortened timeframe made it almost impossible for any of us to digest what is in the bill and to let our Parliamentarians know our feelings and to have our input considered in the House.  And heaven forbid that your MP is a Harper Party member, unless you side with him or her all you’ll get is lip service if you’re that lucky.

The way our Democracy is supposed to work is that a Prime Minister selects people who will make up his Cabinet.  That group is called “the government”.  Everyone else is a Private Member.  The government’s job is to produce legislation and the Members debate the bills.  They are supposed to hold the government accountable.

It is not supposed to be Blue Team, Orange Team, Red Team, and so on.  It is supposed to be People making the government prove its case that a bill is a good one.

I almost laughed when I scanned the “debate” on the Election Reform bill and saw none other than Ted Opitz stand up to laud the actions of the government to end vouching.  You may remember Ted took his case to the Supreme Court to avoid losing his seat after a court threw out a number of votes, enough votes to call the outcome of the election into question… not because there were “vouched for” votes but because the paperwork wasn’t properly filled out. 

Didn’t we send Ted to the Ukraine to oversee the elections there too? *sigh*

This isn’t a case of passing legislation.  It’s a Blessed railroad job.

We don’t know who thought up these proposed changes other than Poilievre brought it to the House.  Most of us have no inkling of what these changes really mean, and that includes the people sitting in the House voting on it.

Most of us know that when things get rushed they tend to get messed up.  That goes for baking a cake or bringing in laws. 

Poilievre had 18 months to talk with the Opposition, with elections experts, with everyday people… but he chose not to.  Instead he has chosen to ram who knows who’s ideas of what the reforms should be through the House using the same tools they foist on us every time (it seems) they want something passed.

If I make it sound like this is pretty much a done deal, I think it is.  We’ve seen in the past when the Harper Party has rushed bills through the House.  When they get to Committee any attempts at amendments are shot down without any real debate.  That and the enormous amount of time these Committees spend in camera… behind closed doors.

Yes we’ve seen this, even to the point where the Harper Party realized that a proposed amendment that they killed was necessary and order the Senate to amend the bill for them.  Rush jobs.

I’m reminded of a sign I saw in a computer shop.  “You can have it fast.  You can have it cheap.  You can have it right.  Choose any Two.”

Looks like the cutbacks have hit this sign too.  The only thing we’re going to get is fast.  Until the lawyers get hold of it, and it certainly won’t be cheap.

And guess who gets to pay the tab.

Think about it. BC