29 March 2010

Per Vote Subsidy is Baaaack!

So I was partly right when I asked why Stephen Harper raised the per-vote subsidy issue in Question Period a couple of weeks ago.

According to the Hill Times, "Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives will campaign on killing the $30-million per-vote-subsidy to political parties in the next election, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed."

In an analysis of Canada's democratic deficit, I wrote the following:

The issue of party subsidies is much less about the health - and wealth - of parties than it is about inclusiveness of all members of the electorate. That per vote subsidy enables low income earners to contribute financially to their party of choice.

This may be a small thing to people whose incomes make donations affordable, even beneficial through the political donations income tax write-off. But it's a HUGE thing for those amongst us whose income is too low to pay income tax.

In other words, from the perspective of low income voters, the per-vote subsidy is less about the fortunes of political parties and more about our ability to give to the party whose policies, principles and philosophy we  favour. Voting, volunteering, and that subsidy are the only ways we can show such support and try to influence our country's direction.

The politicos, their elite backers, and much of the media keep focusing on the wrong thing when it comes to fixing our democracy. They keep focusing on parties, not VOTERS.

They use similar arguments with respect to reforming our electoral system. Better to preserve our 12th century single member plurality system to ensure Canada's two major parties continue to diddle power between them, than to bring fair, proportional representation to voters.

No wonder citizens are turning away from the system and from (formal) political participation. You politicos and political-wannabes have things ass backwards.

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28 March 2010

Reflections on Liberal Canada 150 Conference

Living in BC, I arrived late to the CAN150 webcast each of the three days. Still, I managed to capture and participate via Twitter for about half the time. Since all panels have been archived, I can catch up with the other half should I feel moved to do so.

Shall start off with the positive:

1. Considerable credit must go to the Liberal Party of Canada for making its conference available via the web, Skype, Twitter, live chat, and so on.

Due to affordability, I have no television, radio or phone. My only means to connect with others, to services, to my community and of accessing learning opportunities and getting news is via the Internet. People like me are normally left out of such events, even if we'd like to participate. As was mentioned during the conference, broadening access is crucial to engaging the full citizenry.

Comments to the live chat - it also picked up tweets - were accepted as is, unfiltered or moderated other than for technical reasons.

This type of accessibility and openness is a tremendous coup for a major political party and an example that other Canadian parties should follow.

2. Kudos to the LPC also, despite a number of members' squirming, to listening to panel recommendations on issues uncomfortable for the party. (Of interest to me, those recommendations often got online support from Liberal grassroots.) Two examples: the need for a carbon tax and Robert Fowler's apt presentation on the LPC's rudderless direction in recent years. (Robert Fowler is my new hero.)

In contraposition to the above were two major negatives:

A. The chosen conference themes presupposed the issues deemed key by party brass: jobs or a "productive society"; "How do we care?" which seemed largely focused on retirement and healthcare; the environment and energy; "Culture & the Digital World," a panel which seemed mostly intent on broadcasters' interests with a bit thrown to the issue of copyright; and Canadians, especially non-profits, exporting their knowledge and helping throughout the world. (I particularly enjoyed the last panel and the one on the environment.)

For the conference to have been truly open to "new ideas," there should have been solicitation of suggestions for topics from the public and Liberal grassroots.

B. There appeared to be little, if anything, on housing, the cost of which is driving so many people into poverty. There was also no panel dedicated to democratic reform, which must include electoral reform - and yes, Canadians DO care about process; witness the protests against prorogation 2.0.

All of which makes me wonder what an open, accessible conference by the NDP or Greens might look like...

ETA: Michael Ignatieff's closing speech was dull, certainly not what I was expecting or hoping for. It neither lived up to the conference nor to the introduction of Ignatieff as a former journalist, etc., etc.

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22 March 2010

Feeding Yourself on a Dollar a Day

So two teachers in the USA set about doing an experiment to see if they could eat on less than $1.00 per day for 30 days. Then they published a book about it.

They needn't have bothered.

This is old news for anyone who lives in my peer group of income. I live like that all the time and have detailed on economicus ridiculous the struggle to eat nutritional food and still stay healthy. What differentiates those in true poverty from those merely experimenting are certain assumptions: that one has a car for toodling around to get the best deals and in bulk; a fully equipped kitchen; a garden or balcony or other area from which one can grow one's own food and the tools with which to do it; and so on.

In Canada, income in the lowest decile category demands no more than a $1.00 day spent on food. So let no one suppose there's no poverty in this country. It's all around us.

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21 March 2010

Dmitri Soudas: Non-critical thinker

According to Dmitri Soudas, if...

- Jack & Company mount a resistance against oranges and,
- Gilles & Company mount a resistance against apples, then

...Gilles is comparing apples to oranges.

Per Soudas, Gilles is not - as one might normally suppose - likening the resistance of the one to the resistance of the other; he is not comparing what is similar in the two contexts. No, he is instead comparing what is different, apples and oranges.

That is how we must interpret the following:

Duceppe: "The sovereignty of Quebec, no more than the liberation [of France], is not possible, would not have been possible, without the work of the resistance fighters. Our work is essential to achieving sovereignty."

Soudas: "[Mr. Duceppe] is making ridiculous and unacceptable comments in comparing Bloc MPs to French resistance fighters during the Nazi occupation. In so doing, he is comparing the government of Canada to the Nazi regime."

Mike Duffy must be so proud. Clearly, Mr. Soudas never got "brainwashed" by courses on critical thinking.

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18 March 2010

Per Vote Subsidy

Why did Stephen Harper during Question Period today raise the issue of per-vote subsidies again? Is it possible that, as his government tries to trim the fat, it will go after them, sneakily, as it tried to do with the public Internet access program?

I suspect Harper of either aiming for, or anticipating an election. He thus wants to make a non-confidence motion appear to be not about his government's failure to obey an Order of the House but about per-vote subsidies and the opposition parties' own vested interests. Such a strategy of misdirection worked well for him last time.

Note also Harper's allusion today to the 'illegitimate' coalition of yore and his umpteenth re-writing of our Constitution on the fly. Apparently, voters elected his government. That they didn't is irrelevant to Canada's neocon narrative.

To the contrary, the leader of the political party with the most MPs elected is declared the Prime Minister. Twenty-two percent of registered voters chose a Conservative MP in the last election.

But let's not let truth get in the way of propaganda.

h/t @GlobalObserver for last stat.

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14 March 2010

Media Fail

According to CTV, Canada's "Federal justice minister," Rob Nicholson, "addresses [the] Jaffer case." Or so one would think by the headline.

What Nicholson does instead is declare he's "all for allowing the public to know" stuff, about stuff.

On that, he might consult with his party leader. Stephen Harper prefers the public to know zilch about anything.

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UK Doing It ... While Canada Fossilizes

The UK plans not only to replace its House of Lords with an elected Senate, it plans to have the members elected using a proportional representation system.

Meanwhile, Canada remains mired in an unrepresentative, sham democracy. We've an unelected Senate, leaders who get crowned by their party's backroom boys, Members of Parliament who look to their parties' interests and not to the interests of their constituents and we remain wed to a 12th century electoral system.

Why do we still elect our political 'representatives' using a system from the Dark Ages? Because under that system, the party that can achieve, at most, a false majority, wins 100% of the power. And as we've seen with our ineffectual Official Opposition, a minority government might just as well be a majority for all the good said opposition does.

In fact, under proportional representation, there would be no minority governments. Either the party that won a true majority of the popular vote (50 percent, plus one) forms the government or two or more parties representing that number form a coalition government. Contrary to the dinosaur defenders of the status quo, proportional representation would deliver greater stability, not less. And it would deliver fewer elections.

In the meantime, certain parties while in opposition (including the Conservatives and the NDP under Broadbent) will clamour for changing our electoral system to proportional representation. (While others will deny the evidence of recent history.) But once these parties get into power, either as government or as negotiators in a deal with the party that forms government, what's good for the electorate, rather than the party, becomes suddenly irrelevant.

More fools the voters who allow this to continue.

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13 March 2010

His Popishness Has a Problem

If His Popishness canna forgive paedophile priests and hence keep them in the church, then how can he ensure there'll be enough priests to herd the world's unruly flocks?

Proposed solution: 1. Let women become priests. 2. Let clergy marry - each other. (Hetero marriages, natch.)

In that event, your popishness, sir, will be all set to grow your own suitably indoctrinated band of insufferably moralizing doom-sayers.

Problem: If you allow women to become priests, won't they be priestesses? In which case, there'd be the hint of paganism - da devil! - having entered the church.

If you allow priests to marry priestesses, might not all that frolicking and child-rearing divert attention from your church's cause of world domination?

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12 March 2010

Gilles Duceppe Responds to 'Warren'

On yesterday's Talk Canada with Stephen Harper, a certain 'Warren' asked the following question:

With regards to the Bloc Québécois party, how can we justify having so much of the federal vote controlled by what is essentially a provincial party? Sanctioned federal parties should reasonably represent all Canada, not just a single province. Warren, Red Deer.

The question prompted a response from Gilles Duceppe. Included was this:

[L]es Québécoises et les Québécois votent en majorité pour le Bloc Québécois parce qu’ils partagent le sentiment que les députés québécois des partis fédéralistes ne font que représenter les intérêts de leur parti au Québec. Ils jugent que le Bloc Québécois, au contraire, représente une voix efficace pour porter leurs revendications et leurs aspirations à Ottawa. [My emphasis]

I have the most respect for Duceppe of all the party leaders and I am most in line with Bloc policies.

I agree with Duceppe here. If the other federalist parties won't properly represent the interests of their constituents, then regional parties like the Bloc and the recently formed Atlantica Party are increasingly necessary. If the 'federalist' Liberal and Conservative parties won't implement the necessary democratic reforms to FIX this representation problem - reforms such as a proportional representation voting system - then more regionalism is what they'll get, not less of it.

I only wish that British Columbia had its own federalist party - or two. Clearly, Alberta has one. It's called the Conservative Party of Canada.

Perhaps 'Warren' forgot that?

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11 March 2010

OMG! Not Again!

Not again! Children are being punished for the 'sins' of their parents. Lesbian parents, that is.

In Denver, Colorado, at the Sacred Heart of Jesus School, two children have been barred from attending school by the Catholic Archdiocese.

"Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment," the Archdiocese of Denver said in a statement.

However, the laity are speaking up against such discrimination to challenge the archaic teaching from their higher ups.

Aicila Lewis, executive director of Boulder Pride, a group that advocates for the gay community, said her organization has been hearing from Catholics.

"They want us to be aware that not everyone in the Catholic Church agrees with this decision. It's a wake-up call that this will cause a public outcry and not go unchallenged," Ms. Lewis said.

In my non-believing mind, I see any organized religion as causing more harm than good. Why would anyone subject themselves and their children to such vile behavior in the name of GOD?

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OMG! There's More!

Rob Johnstone has been moved to file a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over his inability to find a non-religious support group to help him fight his addiction to alcohol.

"I should not be forced to participate in someone else's religious beliefs. I shouldn't have to add to mine," said Johnstone, who added he has been an alcoholic for 40 years.

"I have my own beliefs and I'm happy with them."

Johnstone said his faith-neutral stance to his own treatment prompted him to be dismissed from an intense residential 12-step program at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (AFM), a provincially-run rehabilitation initiative.

What unbridled POWER is given over to Religion that is to be believed by FAITH alone.

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OMG! Da Devil Made Me Do It!

When will homo sapiens sapiens earn its sapiens moniker? When will we be rid of religion once and for all? Until it happens, we'll continue to get bilge like this. Yet again, those who dictate to others what they should and should not believe or do absolve themselves of responsibility for their own actions and the abuses they do unto others.

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08 March 2010

Ignatieff a Disaster for LPC

Michael Ignatieff makes me sick. For the umpteenth time, he delivers a spineless ultimatum to his foe, one Stephen Harper, whose spine suggests there's a one-inch thick, two-foot long, poker up his ass.

I agree with Kady O'Malley's take (in the comments section) on Iggy's most recent foray into the snarling arena:

[I]t bothers me that the leader, at least, seems to be ignoring the fact that an Order of the House is not meant to be a political bargaining chip.

In other words, all well and good to 'demand', in an open letter to Stephen Harper, a public inquiry into the Afghan detainee issue. But why not at least include in that same letter the most immediate, pressing issue for Canadian democracy, that of an existing parliamentary Order to present the Afghanistan documents, unredacted, an Order the government continues to ignore?

Ignatieff hasn't got what it takes to defeat Harper, let alone defend what power Parliament has left. Expect to see the man sink in the polls again.

ETA: Could the NDP do any worse as the Official Opposition? It's hard to imagine.

It's time to switch the numbers, time for the Liberal Party of Canada to be relegated to third - or fourth - party status. Certainly the LPC's backroom boys deserve no better.

Do the party's rank and file members deserve better? Yes, but since when have they had any say in their party's leadership or anything else of substance? At least with the NDP, you know they run their party more democratically.

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A Long Way?

International Women's Day. Today. One day only. Set aside to 'celebrate' women's progress in a (still) male dominated world. The rest of the year is dedicated to men and the mess most of them are making of our little blue planet.

Like this diatribe visited on women unfortunate enough to be anywhere near 'right-wing ultra-extremists CHRISTIAN men'.

When Virginia Del. Bob Marshall publicly stated his desire to defund Planned Parenthood in his state (they receive a whopping $35,000 in Medicaid reimbursements NOT for abortions, but for primary reproductive and sexual health care for women, men and young people), he used his interpretation of certain Biblical passages to justify his positions. He said:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

In other words, a disabled child is a punishment from God doled out to the child’s mother for having had a prior abortion.

Hiding behind the guise of organized religion, these North American men are terrorists. And their target is women, much like the religious fanatics we so abhor from the Middle East.

To say that women have 'come a long way' or made 'progress' irks me to distraction. Why, oh why must women have to 'fight' for the right to be fully human and equal with their mates?

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05 March 2010

Liberals Face Dilemma of Own Making

If Canadians voted for their Members of Parliament by means of an electoral system of proportional representation, then the Leader of the Official Opposition wouldn't be faced with a dilemma forced upon him by our existing single member plurality voting system.

To whit, in a minority government situation - which is more, not less, likely as time goes by - the Official Opposition wouldn't be pushed into a position of simultaneously deriding the government's budget whilst declaring its MPs won't vote against it, the latter to avoid an election.

In governments formed by proportional representation, when the existing coalition government fails to satisfy the House, then a new coalition government is typically formed without forcing an election.

And yes, almost always with proportional representation, the government is formed of a coalition of two or more parties. Because any halfway decent pro-rep system ensures that the government must be represented by 50 percent or more of the MPs. Rare is it that a single party in Canada has been able to garner such a true majority.

Had the Liberals, whilst in government, advanced our voting system into the modern era, they'd not be in the pickle they are in now. And should Conservatives and their supporters be snickering at the Liberals' plight, your turn will come; at which point you'll be demanding, as you've done in the past (that includes Stephen Harper when he was in opposition), the government reform our electoral system to one of proportional representation.

Canadians are in for a long run of minority governments, with the rare (false) majority government added into the mix.

Get used to it. If politicians want to effect change in the House, then they must change the damn system that elects them. Or perhaps all they care about are their lucrative pensions - 'earned' after only six years of 'service'.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

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