Archive for April, 2010

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Bill Shatner is the Governor General we do not deserve,

And if picked, if he is smart, he will choose not to serve.

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#34 – Restoring our political democracy.

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

It started in the 1980s with the departure of Pierre Trudeau from active politics. Ethnic groups were organizing their relatives and fellow newcomers in the major cities. They were coming en masse to seize local political organizations. We watched it happen. There was little we could do.

What was happening was summed with great simplicity by a dusky skinned young man who played hockey with my son at the local arena. I asked him what was happening at the annual general meeting of the local party association. He smiled and said without malice, “It’s our turn now.” He was part of the organization put together by a Jamaican immigrant that went through the list of nominees for the executive, caught them by surprise and defeated anyone with white skin. They rudely pushed aside people who had many years of experience in area politics in their eagerness to ’have their turn.’

When the coalition of dark-skinned party members finally lost interest because of the failures of their inexperienced executive, it left a serious vacuum that was quickly filled by an ethic group that was better organized. This was happening throughout the major urban areas and the Conservative and Liberal political party organizations were in crisis. (The union involvement in the New Democratic Party made that party more difficult to manipulate in this manner.)

The solution was brutal and simple. In 1992, the federal Liberal party executive, without reference to the rank and file of the party, came up with the simple expediency of having the party leader (or his authorized representatives) authorize all candidates for the party for Elections Canada. They further authorized the party leader to appoint candidates when necessary. The Conservatives and their soon partners, the Reform Party, were quick to agree to this. The party leaders now controlled the situation by the simple step of taking away the key power vested until then in the riding organizations.

The authorization of the candidate by the party leader was also key to accessing the public purse to help fund campaigns. This form of funding, along with constraints on business and individual funding of candidates, gave party leaders unprecedented control of the parties that they supposedly served. In business, it is the equivalent of a company’s chief executive officer controlling the only voting shares..

There were unimagined abuses of power by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his successors but they pale, in turn, beside the problems Mr. Harper’s imperial attitude creates. The most interesting Liberal abuse of this power was the manipulative tactics used to put Michael Ignatieff in as candidate in Toronto’s Lakeshore federal electoral district. Michael found himself a Member of Parliament before many of us found time to welcome him home to Canada. This was regrettable as, when I knew him as a young man, he was keen on promoting democracy in the party.

What is very clear today is that the political parties have to recover their supremacy over the functioning of their organizations. The membership must take and act with responsibility. The party leader is elected by the party as its parliamentary leader. To also act as chief executive of the party is not only an impossible task but a recipe for abuse and misuse. The party president has to control the services of the party and act in conjunction with the party leader in the interests of the party. Each, in their individual capacity, is a servant of the party.

In turn, the electoral district associations have to accept responsibility for initiating party policy, seeking out and identifying future candidates, improving political education in their electoral district and taking active roles in regional and national meetings of the party in the conduct of its activities. There might be the occasional maverick slip into parliament under this decentralized approach but every party needs a few mavericks.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Speaker Peter Miliken has ruled on supremacy of parliament,

He has given Harper two weeks to save his Tory government.

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COMMENT FOR TODAY

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The first objection we got on our political manifesto was a laffer,

He’s monarchist, anti-rights and freedoms and pro right-to-lifer.

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#33 – The challenge to liberate Canada.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

At the recent Liberal thinkers’ gathering in Montreal there seemed to be no concern for the political realities. It was a surreal event in that, while purporting to be an examination of Canada’s future, it ignored the political needs of our country.

And yet, if we had learned anything over the last four years of minority government, it is that we have to restore more than just the economy. We must restore the confidence Canadians should have in their government and in their country.

First of all and most serious, we need to change the relationship between citizens and their government. It starts with each electoral district. It starts with how we run our political parties. It is recognizing that the party headquarters in Ottawa and regional offices cannot run the party. These offices must function at the service of the party. It is in understanding that the party leader is not the chief executive. The party leader leads the parliamentary caucus. The members of that caucus must be chosen and elected solely by their electoral districts. The practice over the past years of having the party leader authorize each candidate is destroying Canada’s political parties.

In these days of immediate and unfettered communication, a top-down political structure feeds itself failure. With policies and people flowing from the ridings to the party caucus, a party is supplied with constant renewal of ideas and leadership.

The most serious failing in recent years is the lack of understanding that once elected, a Member of Parliament is required to represent all the voters in the electoral district, not just those who voted for him or her. You cannot do that if you are always sending material to the news media and sending mailings to voters that are nothing but unfettered smears of your election opponents. Canadians have got to return to civility in the process of government.

A government has to serve the needs of the citizens, not just promote an ideology. Government is not a choice between left wing or right wing but the choice of people who reflect the needs and wants of their constituents.

The voters also have to recognize that there is more to politics than party leaders. The local Member of Parliament matters. The voters cannot send the village idiot to Ottawa just because that person supports the leader who makes the biggest promises. This destroys the very essence of what the parliament should be.

Parliament is a place for debate. It is a place where needs and wants of the voters can be brought forward and discussed. It is where matters of confidence in the day’s government may be debated and voted. Parliament is not a whim of the prime minister. It is a place where the prime minister can be brought to heel. It is a place where prime ministers can be defeated. There is no divine right of prime ministers to shut down parliament.

Certainly, in the fullness of time, we must change how we are governed. Canada has reached the stage where we can no longer have an unelected head of state. The British monarchy has served us well but needs to be left to antiquity while we devolve into the twenty-first century. Canada has to either abolish or elect its senate but before we elect it, we have to define its role.

Canada needs a constitutional assembly to redefine a modern country. We must decide: what is this country called Canada? The purpose is not to appease the disgruntled but to discuss equally, with all our partners, this wonderful land we share. There is no line down the Ottawa River that separates Canada. It only divides provincial jurisdictions in an inseparable country. We Canadians share a proud past and an unlimited future.

In the process of renewal, we Canadians need to reclaim the promise of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We must stop further abuse of our rights through the ‘notwithstanding’ clause. It is being used indiscriminately by lazy legislators.

In the same vein we must loudly and clearly restate the rights of men and women to their individual rights. Women must have full and unequivocal rights to control of their own bodies and their reproductive rights. We have a responsibility to ensure that all pensioners live without fear of poverty and the debasing of their standard of living. And once we have done that for pensioners, we have to turn our attention to the essential concern for a guaranteed annual income for every Canadian citizen. Only when we have taken that step will we know we are starting to achieve the promise of the land in which we live.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Finally saw Avatar on a liquid crystal television set,

Script first written when Smith an’ Pocahontas met.

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COMMENT FOR TODAY

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Tim Hudak-Hutton talks the Mike Harris talk,

But he has a long way to go to walk the walk.

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COMMENT FOR TODAY

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The McGinty government never suggested sex is fun,

But in the battle for young minds, the dinosaurs won.

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#32 – America and Canada: the failed democracies.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

It is more American than Canadian to sing the praises of our democracy to those from other countries. Yet, the truth is there is no real democracy in North America. Americans continue to support a corrupt republic more reminiscent of Imperial Rome than the idyllic egalitarian society they want to portray. As for Canadians, they have little understanding of how their failed constitutional monarchy oppresses them. And yet we espouse our way of living as democracy to the rest of the world.

Democracy, by definition, is a form of governance by all the people that supposedly ignores hereditary class distinctions and is tolerant of minority views. And the best of luck to you if you think you can find that in North America. The truth is that in both countries more than a third of the possible voters would not know what to do in a voting booth. We consider any views that are not ours to be those of ignorant minorities and are abusively rude to those with other views. And as for class distinctions, the rights of wealthy parents to endow their idiot offspring, is one of the basic tenets of our pathetic social order.

The conundrum for Canadians is that they do not know they are oppressed. It would be frightening to actually take a reliable poll and find out how few of us even know we are ruled by a constitutional monarchy. Choosing our monarch is hardly a democratic exercise. When Elizabeth II passes on, the ascendency of Charles III to the throne of Canada might just wake up a few more of us. It is not that England’s already very wealthy monarchs make many demands on their Canadian subjects but there is much done in their name that needs to be discussed and corrected.

Having both a monarch and the Athabasca oil sands are the two current Canadian possessions that Americans covet the most. They try to cover their need for a monarchy by deifying entertainers and politicians but these upstarts pale beside people actually born to the purple. The oil sands are easily transported south by the barrel and the Canadians take the blame for the pollution that causes.

Canadians, in turn, are jealous of anything American. From outlet malls to Hollywood, Canadians are enthralled by what the American greenback can buy. And it is definitely not true that Canadians are just Americans who know how to make love in a canoe.

Regrettably, life is not long enough to delve into what is wrong with the state of the Excited States of America. Correcting the problems might require a second civil war—hopefully just between the Concorde Minutemen re-enactors and a force from the Texas Tea Party. And if the solutions came from Canada, they would be ignored in any event.

This effort must therefore be directed at the Canadian situation. Canada is a tenth the size and not as steeped in a culture that automatically pits the wealthy and their sycophants against any and all reforms. Reform is possible in Canada. We have done it before. We will do it again.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

COMMENT FOR TODAY

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

McGinty and friends have taken on big drugs,

The pharmacy guys should not act like thugs.

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