Saturday, May 24, 2014

The So Called Digital Privacy Act

Some things just never cease to amaze me.

Remember a few years back, there was a tremendous uproar because the long form Census wanted to know how many toilets you had in your home?  This was horrid!  Egregious!  An unjustified invasion of peoples’ privacy!

How many illegal toilets do people have?

Now the same people who decried the invasion of the Toilet Counters are backing the Stop the Child Pornographers Stop the Bullies Internet Act.

Remember that one?  The Pornographer one I mean.

Remember Vic Toews standing there and telling us that we either stand with the Harper Party or we stand with the Child Pornographers?

Well we weren’t standing with the pornographers and we aren’t standing with the bullies… but we sure as shootin’ aren’t standing with the Harper Party on this.

Listen, if the police suspect that someone is doing something illegal, there are ways to investigate this.  Take your evidence to a Judge and get the Judge to sign an order.  Take that to the ISP or the phone company and I have no issue.  It’s transparent and it’s legal.

What is being proposed is that the police check up on you because someone told them to.  Who is someone?  I don’t know and the police won’t have to tell you.  Maybe you ticked off your neighbour?  Maybe you ticked off the PMO?

And there is no messy getting a warrant or dealing with Judges part, they’ll just snoop and if they find something, they’ll act.

Nice huh?

Actually the police do have this power.  They can tap your phone or snoop your internet without permission but that information can only be used to help get a warrant.  It can’t be used in court.

Imagine this.  The police walk in unannounced and proceed to go through your house without your permission.  What would you do?  Call the cops?  They’re already there.  Demand to see the warrant?  Call your lawyer?

Why should you care?  If you’re not doing anything wrong they won’t find anything, will they?

That’s the tired argument proponents of this invasion use against you.  Wanting to retain your privacy makes you suspect?

You cannot justify one without allowing the other.

And you were worried about toilets.

Think about it…

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hello Ontario, Some Poll-erizing Thoughts on Polls.

I’m having a bit of a conversation with someone who appears to be a supporter of the PC party of Ontario.

Currently the polls are showing the Ontario PCs and Liberals to be in a dead heat in terms of support.  However the seat count favours the Liberals by 5.

Now the person I’m talking with thinks this is terrible, and thinks that there is some kind of scam taking place here.  He has convinced himself that Ontario has some special electoral system that is changing the numbers in the Liberal favour.

Sorry Bud, it’s not.

It is part and parcel of our First Past the Post (FPTP) system of electing representatives.

I have no doubts that if I offered to change the electoral system in Ontario to a Proportional Representation system or a Ranked Ballot my new friend would throw a fit.  For some reason most PC supporters have a blind allegiance to the FPTP system that we’ve used for the last, well who knows how long we’ve used it.  It’s the system we know, it’s the system that some of us love and some of us hate.

The conversation that I walked in on was about the recent polling numbers showing a lead for the Liberals and my friend was saying that there was something going on.  The seat count, in his opinion should be the same.  I pointed out that the ridings in Ontario were the same as the ones that put the Harper Party into power in Ottawa in 2011.  He doesn’t believe this.

Since the last seat assessment in 2005, Ontario has had 106 seats in Ottawa, but when the redistribution occurred, the Provincial government of the day opted to maintain the same number of seats in Northern Ontario which lost one seat Federally due to declining population density in the North.

So basically, the counts for the rest of the ridings are about the same as for the 2011 National Election.

What my new friend can’t see, or refuses to see is that in order to win a riding, a candidate does not need to win 50%+1 of the vote, a candidate needs to carry just one more vote than his or her nearest competitor.


I doubt that it would ever happen, but if a constituency consists of 100,000 people (all voters in this case) you could win your riding with 33,334 votes.

That’s 33.334% of the vote.  Most people would call that 1/3rd.

Here’s how it works.  Just about every riding in Ontario will have at least 3 candidates on the ballot, one from each of the major parties.  Some ridings will have more, but let’s just ignore them for the time being.  When Election Day rolls around, the three candidates in this imaginary riding are in a dead heat.  When the ballots are finally counted, Candidate A has 33,333 votes, Candidate B also has 33,333 votes, and Candidate C wins the day with a whopping 33,334 votes.

Now this is the extreme case, but it has happened that elections have been decided by differences in the double digits. I think the closest race in 2011’s National Election was 26 votes.

If this imaginary scenario happened across Ontario, we could have a party theoretically sweep every seat in an election with nowhere near the majority of the vote.  This is what the supporters of Proportional Representation are going on about.  And they are right.

The thing in Ontario is that if you can win the seats close to Queen’s Park, say within a one hour drive of QP, you don’t need to win another seat to take a majority.  The population density in the Toronto/GTA/Hamilton region is enough to carry the day.

Any you only need to win them by one vote.

Taken to another extreme, if a party wins those seats close to Queen’s Park in squeakers and another party romps through the balance of the remaining constituencies we could (again in theory) have a majority government that came in second place in the popular vote.

Is this fair?  It must be, it’s what the rules allow.

Is Ontario special in this regard?  No, not really.  A number of provinces have “vote rich” major cities and if you can carry the seats in the biggest city and a good chunk of the second largest you’ll likely rule the roost in those provinces as well.


I’m no fan of Tim Hudak.  I remember when he sat on the government side in Queen’s Park.  When the ruling PCs sold off our assets to pay for their plans and in the case of Ontario Hydro, they just left the debts owed in a drawer for someone else to deal with later.

That debt repayment that you see on your electric bill each month?  That was Mike Harris and Tim Hudak that saddled us with that.

The other two leaders leave me cold as well.  Sorry folks, just the way it is.

I won’t tell you who to vote for, I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for.  I won’t even tell you who to vote against, that’s a decision you get to make for yourself too.


We’re closing in on Election Day.  I want you to think about one other thing.  There are people who are fighting for the ability to vote, there are people dying because they want to vote, get your butt out there and do those people proud and cast your vote.

Don’t like any of the candidates or any of the parties?  Go to the polling station and decline your ballot.  Or take your ballot and spoil it.  This tells the powers that be that you bothered to voice your opinion on them and their policies.  Staying home tells them that you are either too lazy to bother or that you just don’t care.

Thus endeth the sermon,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stephen Harper and the Supremes

Well I finally got my tax stuff into the mail this week.  I was much later than usual but I’m sure the government won’t mind.  I’ve got a refund coming.

Paying taxes is one place that I stand far apart from Stephen Harper.  He’s never seen a tax that he doesn’t hate while I, on the other hand am proud to be able to pay taxes.  It’s a cost of being a citizen, and it means I’m earning enough to warrant paying taxes as well.

While I don’t mind paying taxes (even I’m not happy about it), it bothers me when my tax dollars are misused and abused.  I think WiFi in National Parks is a waste.  I think TV ads telling me how wonderful the EAP is are a waste.  I think sending lawyers to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) to fight for poorly written laws is a waste.

My solution to the last one is simpler than Steve’s.  Let’s ask the Parliamentary Legal Department to look at these bills before we send them into the House instead of waiting until the court challenges are filed.

Steve, on the other hand likes to play the martyr.  Those horrible Justices struck down a law that the “People’s Representatives” passed.  It’s been a long time since some of us have had a representative in Ottawa. 

Between the omnibus bills and time allocation and committees that spend more time behind closed doors (in camera they call it) than they do in open meetings, our representatives don’t get to say doodley-squat. That, and the marionette theatre that votes “Yea” when Steve does and “Nay” when Steve does.  We don’t have representation in the House, we have Party Reps to the ridings.

This is why we need a Judicial System that has some independence from the politicians.

This is a toughie for the Justices, they are picked by the same person who picks the Senators and often for similar reasons.  The Justices might have biases towards one party or another, but they try to set these aside so that their decisions are based on the Rule of Law and measured against the Constitution of Canada including the Charter of Rights.

Steve seems to think that the “Law and Order” Party means he writes the laws and orders the SCC to enforce them. 

Currently Steve is involved in a dust-up where he has the chutzpah to blast the chief justice of the SCC, Beverley McLachlin, for improper actions.  She gave free advice to the government about the list of people under consideration for the vacant SCC seat and warned that there might be an issue with the appointment of Marc Nadon.

Steve and the PMO have turned this into some kind of a pissing match with the SCC and McLachlin.  A matter that was best left behind closed doors is now being contested in the media.

This is family business, dirty laundry if you will.  Not meant to be aired in front of the neighbours, much less the country…

And this is where I pull out my crystal ball and wipe the dust from it.

I was going to save it for the Ontario election, but here goes.

“Leaks and official statements chastising the SCC as well as the lower courts who don’t march to Harper’s tune will find their way into the media with increasing regularity.

The Fair Elections Act will no doubt go to the SCC if the 2007 legislation requiring ID to vote doesn’t get there first and knock C 23 for a loop.

The rhetoric will revolve around the “activist judges” who are imposing their will on the “People’s Representatives” rather than just enforcing the laws that the government writes and enforcing them unquestioned.

I’ve no doubt it will be said in ways that make it look more palatable, but the argument will be that the courts need to answer to Parliament, not the other way around… and the loonies and the toonies will fill the coffers of the Harper Party war chest for the 2015 election.” Thus foretells the Bear.

This frightens me.

We have few checks or balances on the government in Canada. Our national police force, the RCMP answers to the government.  Our Crown Prosecutors answer to the government.

The only layer that has any real distance from the government is the Judiciary.  They are government appointed, but many, if not most hold the law to be higher than the government.

We have a Constitution and part of that is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This is a very important document.  If you told Americans that the government there was going to erase parts or all of their Constitution they’d reach for their guns.  Here the government makes that threat to raise money from their supporters.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter, they consider the arguments and they measure our laws against the highest law in the land, the Constitution and the Charter.  If the law is found lacking, it is struck down.

Stephen holds that Parliament should be the highest authority, that any laws enacted by the House of Commons should not be impeded by the unelected Senate, or the Governor General, or the Judiciary at any level.

This is dangerous.

Parliament has long lost its original purpose, which was to make the government accountable for its actions.  The “government” is only the Prime Minister and the Minister in the Cabinet.  All other Members of Parliament are Private Members charged with trying to ensure that only bills that have been carefully vetted pass on to the Senate.

This does not happen, any Member who votes against the Party line risks sanctions or even expulsion from the Party.  This isn’t particular to the Harper Party, all parties tend to this sort of discipline.  Members get their marching orders in caucus and go and do their duty in the House.

Committees are made up of Private Members as well.  They are supposed to do the heavy lifting to ensure what the government proposes is good for us.  But Party loyalty and the risk of sanctions force these committees to divide along party lines as well.

That leaves only the Judiciary to protect us, and if they lose or give up that power, the genie will not go back into the bottle.

This is what I want you to think about, and think hard.  If the courts are answerable to Parliament, (and Parliament no longer does its job) the government is no longer accountable to anyone save themselves.  And that is a recipe for disaster.

Even if you think the Harper is the bee’s knees and that he can do no wrong, what about the people who will be in charge 2 years from now, or 20 years from now.

The Supreme Court of Canada said unanimously that Marc Nadon did not meet the requirements to sit on the SCC.  Even the justices that Harper appointed were in line with that decision.

The Supreme Court of Canada found that the government could not unilaterally impose changes on the Senate nor could the government abolish the Senate.

Without the Supreme Court, Marc Nadon would be sitting on that bench and the Senate would be whatever the Harper government decided it should be.

The Constitution would be relegated to just being a law, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the same.

With a stroke of a pen, the rights that you think you have could be taken away by a majority government.  Forever.

If you want to say that Harper would never do that, please be my guest.  But would you give that kind of power to Jean Chretien? to Pierre Elliott Trudeau?

The power you let Stephen Harper have today will be the same power that future leaders will have, are you willing to take that risk?

We’ve already seen what happened when Parliament lost its teeth.  It has devolved into a party driven marionette theatre.  They only support their team, pull one string and they say “Yea” and pull the other and they say “Nay.”

History shows us what can happen if there are no restraints on government.  1930s Germany where having the wrong religion could stop you from operating a business or get thrown in jail… or worse.

You might think that something of that order could never happen here, just have a look at the news from the past week in Brampton.  It ain’t pretty folks.

A couple of former Reform Party members are trying to revive the power of the Private Member.  It’s a long slow process and in the end, I fear it will not come to pass.  With MPs bound by party partisanship and voters blinded by it, it will be a cold day in Hell before the government of Stephen Harper will give up one iota of power.

God help us if he gets it all.