What’s Wrong With This Picture? ProROGUE State

Why don't politicians listen?
So true!

Canadians are annoyed with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ill considered decision to use the prorogue procedure to avoid responsibility.   That’s the thing about being Prime Minister: You are ultimately responsible for the actions of your government.   From out here in the peanut gallery it certainly looks as though Prime Minister Stephen Harper micromanages everything anyway, so you would think he would be aware that it all comes down to him.

Instead of facing the questions and fixing the problem he decided to throw out months of work.

I can’t even conceive of the quantity of Canadian money prorogation has just flushed, but then I’m only a citizen.

This link shows the official government chart detailing the status of all legislation making its way through the legislature just before Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament.   The bills showing white boxes are those which did not make it all the way though… these are the laws that have been discarded. [Thanks Debbie Lapointe]

Certainly, much of the now discarded legislation will be resurrected for the next session, but it will have to start over again from the very beginning.   And of course, our elected representatives aren’t actually doing the work they are supposed to be doing during a legislative session, they are essentially on a prorogation vacation.

No Prorogue handbill on a pole
Get Back To Work ~ Photo by Mike Gifford

Not that the MPs caused this situation.

The misuse of prorogue is entirely thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.   In some ways the prorogue is more like a lockout…  the MPs have been locked out of the legislature.   But that’s where the analogy breaks down: they are still getting paid.

Three months off with pay is an inconceivable luxury for the average Canadian who can’t afford to take random days off work even when sick.   Three months.   With pay.   This alone is a very big part of Canadian anger.

How many Canadians are still unemployed in this recession who would jump at the chance to be back at work.   Any work.   So they can feed their families.

Could it be that our most highly placed elected representative doesn’t actually understand that there is a recession?   Or what that means to people?

“When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”

–Stephen Harper, April 18th, 2005

Our electoral system has problems, and is well overdue for electoral reform.   I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject.

I don’t belong to a political party.   Never have.

For pretty much the same reason I don’t belong to Costco: freedom of choice.   Once you pony up your ten bucks (that’s for party membership; methinks Costco membership is a tad more pricey) you have a vested interest.

I usually don’t even talk about politics. But things are getting out of hand.   I don’t have a degree in political science, I’m just a mom… a writer… a Canadian.

Why on earth is advertising “necessary” let alone “allowed”?

If the people running for public office want to explain their platform to the news media, I am quite sure it would be reported.   If I’m not mistaken there is some kind of legal guarantee as part of holding a telecommunications license.

Any debates politicians are brave enough to hold would be happily covered by the news media as well.   But instead politicians raise vast sums of money.   The single largest reason they need so much money is to advertise.

The ads don’t “tell” Canadians anything (well, I guess if it’s an attack ad it tells you something about whoever paid for it.)

These ads aren’t supposed to inform us, they exist to sell us on their political brand.   Paying for advertising is one of the ridiculous costs of running for office.

The amount of money burned through just to pay for advertising is incredible.   Years ago I heard that the largest Canadian advertisers aren’t corporations they are political parties.   Where do they get the money?   The bulk of party financing comes from corporations.   There are rules limiting donation size, but they are easily got around.   It would require much more effort to get the same kind of funding from individual donations.   Which explains why political parties subsidized by corporations are the ones with the most ads.   And the most votes.

It shouldn’t be allowed at all.

Then there are polls.

Polls are quoted breathlessly by the media as though they actually meant something.

A poll asks a small sampling of people questions.   One of the reasons polling companies make big bucks is that they know who to ask to get the answers they want.   To make doubly sure, the questions are slanted to lead you to the desired results.

Polling companies don’t spontaneously take polls just to find out what people think.   And like lawyers, they are not going to ask you a question without having a pretty good idea what your answer will be.

Because somebody is paying for the poll.   If you listen hard to the questions, you’ll probably even be able to figure out which party paid for it.

BATR: Political Polling takes a look at election polls.

Alternating Rule

On the federal level, the Canadian Prime Minister is always a Conservative or a Liberal.   One or the other of these parties always leads the country.

Although they of course prefer it to always be their own party, they know it will be their turn again soon enough, so neither the Liberals or Conservatives will ever embrace electoral reform.   Because then the competition stakes would be much higher.

Conservative Party Logo and Liberal Party Logo
Alternating Parties: Governing on behalf of Canadian Business not Canadian Citizens

During the current prorogation debacle, I have been hearing people point to how great the “alternate” party — the Liberals this time– have been for Canada in the past.

What is usually cited was their masterful financial policies.   Liberal supporters don’t mention the fact that they balanced the budget on the backs of the Unemployed.

Canada used to have an Unemployment Insurance Program.   Employers would make deductions from employees and pass these deductions along to the federal government.   Then when an employee became unemployed, they could apply for unemployment insurance benefits.   They could receive payments for up to a year while they searched for suitable employment.   If a job could not be found during that time, the benefits would stop and the job seeker would have to instead apply for welfare.

The difference between unemployment and welfare was that welfare recipients must take any job.  A downsized engineer on welfare would have no choice but to accept a janitorial position if that was all that was on offer. If she didn’t, she’d be cut off.   My understanding of the Liberal budget balancing was that they made it pretty much impossible for most people to ever collect Unemployment Insurance benefits.   Thus, the UI funds were available for redistribution. In accounting circles, this type of book-keeping magic is routinely called “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. In government it’s called “balancing the books”.

This fact is that employees are not allowed to opt out of UI payments, these deductions are automatic.   So essentially, UI has been turned into yet another way to tax citizens.   I suspect that many Canadians have learned about this the hard way during the recession.

But we must remember: we DO have a choice. It does not have to be one or the other, they just want us to think it does.

Strategic Voting

Canadian Ballot ~ Photo by slightly-less-random on Flickr ~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/28321255@N00/90739175

Whenever Canadian unrest is building and we all know there is an election on the horizon, the alternate political party starts telling everyone not to vote for who we actually want, but rather to vote “strategically”.

The thing is, the people telling you this are asking you to vote for their candidate– invariably a member of the out of power alternate party.   They tell us that we need to vote strategically for their candidate, because that will give their candidate a chance of winning back power.   Funny, the people advocating strategic voting never offer to throw their votes behind your candidate.

If you have an awesome candidate in your riding who you are sure would do a great job and would actually represent you in the legislature, you are told it would be better to vote for their candidate instead — because it’s “strategic”.

It certainly is a strategic way to get the votes of people who wouldn’t have otherwise to voted for your own party.   It’s “strategic” for the recipients. (And if it works when they get strategically elected, they talk about how voters gave them a “a clear mandate”)

Strategic voting is never “for our own good”.

High Finance

When I was a kid, working mothers were a rarity.   (Yes, I’m that old.) With only one working parent, Canadian families could routinely afford to buy their own family home.   Today, even with both parents working buying a home is an unreachable dream for far too many families.

suburban bungalow circa 1960's
Suburbia: The Canadian Dream

The biggest difference between then and now is that individuals pay the lions share of tax today, while corporations pay little or none.   Back then people paid their taxes, but corporations paid their fair share too.   It seems to me that we got into this situation because the alternating parties cater to big business at the expense of Canadian citizens.

Even so, corporations beg the government for tax deferrals and the government gives them.

Why is that?

We are told to think that people on welfare are bad but corporate welfare is somehow acceptable.

What Can Canadians Do?

All across Canada there are non-partisan “Say No to Prorogue” rallies being organized for January 23rd.   Check the
No Prorogue!
website to find out what is happening in your area.   The sight of our warm bodies huddled out in the cold will no doubt do the most to tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper just how angry Canadians really are.   Dress warm and get out there.   Bring flags if you’ve got them!

[Many thanks to Colin Carmichael for providing Canadians of every political persuasion this excellent outlet.]

And as always you can start by sending Email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

You can also send him postal mail without a stamp.   Canada Post delivers mail to and from the Canadian government representatives gratis:

The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

The government gives more credence to postal mail than email.   Maybe because it’s more expensive.

And as always, send a copy to your own Member of Parliament.

Find your MP with this lovely link that will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know.
Find your Member of Parliament

Globe and Mail: Prorogation only a blip on ‘Richter scale of upset,’ Clement says

Seems Canadians need to tell Tony Clement what we really think.   Maybe if enough of us do, he will finally hear us.   The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B., Minister of Industry

The Hon. Tony Clement, P.C., B.A., LL.B.
126 Kimberley Avenue, Unit 1
Bracebridge, Ontario
P1L 1Z9

Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform.

P.S. You can also sign the online petition “Declaration of Voters Rights

Time for a change?

Back to Canada, we have a ProrogueBack Navigational Arrow

Forward to No-ProRogue Rally EtiquetteForward Navigational Arrow

P.S. Cindy’s Google Map of All Protest Sites

Thanks to Cindy, a Facebook Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP) member for compiling this awesome map of ALL the protests for Saturday.
Cindy’s Google Map of All Protest Sites

NOTE: You don’t have to join the Facebook Group, or the No Prorogue Group or any other group to attend a rally on Saturday. Dress warm, and bring a flag if you’ve got. See ya out there!


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