Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Democracy Canadian-style: How do you like it so far?"

This is an article from the Globe and Mail about the then upcoming prorogation of Parliament. Such prorogation at the whim of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party has occured and once again his and his parties contempt for Canadian parliamentary convention and democracy is painstakingly evident. I fear a Conservative majority government and I this is a mistake on their part, the Liberals force an election, and at least reduce the Cons to a smaller minority. I really hope this move bites the Cons and Stephen Harper square in the ass.

Random Uni Student

Democracy Canadian-style: How do you like it so far? - Globe and Mail by Lawrence Martin


Published on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 6:15PM EST Last updated on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 2:23AM EST by Lawrence Martin

When you think about it, the way to make governing easy is to dispense as much as is possible with the demands of democracy. The d-word is a drag. It gets in the way of the exercise of power. Ways need be found to circumvent it.

There are a variety of such ways. One is to limit the voice of the bureaucracy, the public service, making it more submissive and partisan. Ditto the foreign service. As well, you want to dispense with agency or commission heads who don't follow your thinking. If some agencies get particularly meddlesome, such as Elections Canada, take them to court.

There's an old-fashioned idea, once a Reform Party thing, that regular people – those grassroots folks – should have a sniff of the action. As nice as it sounds, don't go there. You need to amass unparalleled executive power so everything is top down and put through the filter of politics. For your own caucus, you enforce such tight discipline that no one dare cast an independent vote. You issue your members a secret handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary committees. For Question Period, you instruct your members to answer most queries with a putdown of the previous government's record.

A key facet of a downgrading democracy campaign has got to be cutting off access to information – so much so that you leave the Information Commissioner appalled, especially with the stonewalling at the Privy Council Office. Some sensitive documents are going to get out no matter how hard you try. So the strategy is to use national security as a cover to black out all potentially incriminating paragraphs. You may also wish to eliminate a huge government information registry (the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System) because the fewer the tracks, the better. You may also wish to prevent the publishing of departmental studies, especially ones that don't reflect well on your law-and-order proclivities.

It is said that a hallmark of democracy is the toleration of dissent. Best leave that one in the church pew. Exceptional measures need be used to crush the opposition. Stuff such as taking the unprecedented step of launching personal attack ads between election campaigns. Or trying to push through a measure that would effectively cut off financing to the opposition.

A heavy dose of demagoguery also can go a long way. Play on simple prejudices by accusing opponents of not supporting the troops or of being anti-Israel. If nothing's working, if the going gets really tough, don't hesitate to bring out the heavy timber. Just after Parliament has reopened, have it shut down.

If your campaign is waged effectively, you will enfeeble the checks and balances in the system and give the d-word a good clubbing, emerging very much in control.

That's effectively what's happened in Ottawa over the past four years. The Prime Minister is now in such command that he can get away with pretty much anything. And he is lauded for his conquests.

A test case of his powers is the re-emergence of the Afghan detainee controversy. The government is knee-deep in allegations of a cover-up, of obstruction of justice, of treating Parliament, as this newspaper said in an editorial, with contempt. The censoring of documents on the basis of national security – which also happened in the income trust controversy – is being met with great skepticism. The way the Military Police Complaints Commission has been blocked from probing the affair is unseemly. The treatment of diplomat Richard Colvin has spawned a letter of reproach from no fewer than 71 former ambassadors. William Johnson, a biographer of Stephen Harper, says flatly that “the government has subverted Canadian democracy.”

If true, it likely won't matter. The key is that once you've established such a pronounced degree of control over the levers of power, you're in position to strong-arm your way past anything. And so the government has halted hearings on the detainee file by boycotting them. And so the government is threatening to prorogue Parliament again so it doesn't have to face more detainee music.

It's more evidence from a stockpile of how the system's been brought to heel. It's democracy Canadian-style.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Hi everyone, I'm trying to read through Paradise Lost over the holiday break from classes and I forgot how much I love reading it. One passage that strikes me everything time I read it I thought was worth sharing. Paradise Lost is an epic (really friggen long) poem written in the later half of the 17th century by John Milton. By 1652 Milton was completely blind when he wrote the poem (or rather recited it) and in one passage in particular he laments the loss of his eyesight. The passage tears at my heart when I try to emphasize with Milton and comprehend what it must be like to no longer be able to witness sunshine or know the changing of the seasons by have no vision of them, or to never again see the face of any person. However, I am at least solaced by the fact that Milton, at least according to the poem, didn't dwell in depression but found strength in his faith, as seen in the last 4 lines.

Paradise Lost - Book 3, lines 21-55

(Milton here is talking to the Holy Spirit - his 'muse" for the poem)

thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital Lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs, [ 25 ]
Or dim suffusion veild. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Cleer Spring, or shadie Grove, or Sunnie Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred Song; but chief
Thee Sion and the flowrie Brooks beneath [ 30 ]
That wash thy hallowd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor somtimes forget
Those other two equal'd with me in Fate,
So were I equal'd with them in renown,
Blind Thamyris and blind M├Žonides, [ 35 ]
And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old.
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntarie move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful Bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest Covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal Note. Thus with the Year [ 40 ]
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev'n or Morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose,
Or flocks, or heards, or human face divine;
But cloud in stead, and ever-during dark [ 45 ]
Surrounds me, from the chearful wayes of men
Cut off, and for the Book of knowledg fair
Presented with a Universal blanc
Of Nature's works to mee expung'd and ras'd,
And wisdome at one entrance quite shut out. [ 50 ]
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes
, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight. [ 55 ]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Following the trends...

Just a quick note, I'm sitting in the library studying the trends of historical theory and thought and a thought came into my mind that has come and gone before. The farther I go on in university the more I see my thinking as following trends already laid out. This doesn't concern me, I don't see it as a bad thing and I still feel myself to be an individual, but it's both comforting, interesting, and disconcerting at the same time to realize that you are intimately linked to the trends in the atmosphere and community you live in...without you even realizing it. The more I read the more I realize, for example, that my historical thinking is deeply based in the inclusiveness and diversity that is present in post-modern historical thought....and I didn't even realize it was happening! I count it as a good thing that I feel that all fields of history are relevant in some respect and that all fields (both historical and non) are important to the study of history; an inter-disciplinary approach to history is necessary. This is why I love social history (very much a product of post-modernist thought) because it seeks to include EVERYONE AND EVERY GROUP so that nobody's history will ever be forgotten. Take a look at your own life, what trends and ways of thinking in your lifetime are you intimately affected by....maybe without realizing it?

Bye for now,

Random Uni Student