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Friday, June 15, 2012

Democracy is as Dead as Monty Python's Parrot

Today, I wish to register a complaint. Democracy is dead. I know a dead democracy when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now. It's not stunned. It's not pining for the Fjords, it's not just tired and shagged out after a long squawk. It's dead. It has been nailed to it's perch since Harper got away with proroguing Parliament. Twice. But now there is no denying it really is dead, like the Norwegian Blue Parrot of Monty Python fame. It has ceased to be. Gone to meet its maker. Joined the choir invisible. 

Apparently, in Harper's world, democracy takes too long. He warned us we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was finished with it, and he was right.  As the Hamilton Spectator said, he treats Parliament as an inconvenience. It is more efficient to attach 400 pages to a five page budget bill that don't have anything to do with a budget because everything can be done at once. Amend or kill 70 Acts. End Fair Wages. End environmental assessment. Let the minister approve Gateway without it. Or with it. Why bother even doing an environmental assessment since the Minister now has the power to approve projects like Gateway no matter what the studies say?

The smarmy Andrew Scheer couldn't push back. As Speaker, he agreed to limit the time for votes on amendments and group the amendments. And Canadians could not find 13 brave CON MPs to stand for Canada and stand against this sham. Afraid to be made an example of like the hapless David Wilks, they towed the line for Steve, but not for us. They pulled a fast one on us. They got C-38 over with quick before Canadians woke up and smelled the stench of democracy rotting.

I've been concerned about what is happening to dissent and democracy in Canada for years. Recently, we've seen the Harper government muzzle scientists who want to talk about climate change. Even when they had a minority government, their efforts to control the message were clear. They have made the collection of data needed to write and refine public policy difficult by ending the long form census. Munir Sheikh, former head of Statistics Canada, resigned his post over Harper's decision to do this. He would have had to put up or shut up, and he couldn't do either. To me, he is a hero. Another high profile dissenter against the Harper agenda was Linda Keen. Remember her? She was dismissed as head honcho at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. when she refused to authorize the restarting of the aging Chalk River reactor because of safety concerns. The Harper government both kills the message and the messenger.  

Yesterday, while the Ominousbus Bill was being considered, news broke that Parks Canada employees had been sent emails warning them not to criticize the government. C-38 included massive cuts to Parks Canada, including cuts to ecological researchers and cultural and historical experts. One Parks employee had referred to the cuts as a lobotomy of the Parks system. I wonder if the fellow who said this still has a job. It has been made clear that criticism of the government would be considered disloyal to the government. Disloyal. Words like that scare the heck out of me. This is a word used in dictatorship. In a Democracy, we would call criticism free speech, or maybe even just "criticism."

Maybe next we'll have American style attempts to ban climate change action and limit information about the negative impacts of climate change offered to us on the already cow-towing CBC. I've been shocked by the lack of critical coverage of C-38 from CBC. With their knees knocked out from under them by Harper's funding cuts, I guess they've learned the lesson. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

But the thing is, it isn't Harper's hand who feeds them. My hands feed them, and yours. And I want CBC fed. I want the scientists fed and I want their dinner conversation too. I want reports from the parks from ecological researchers that can help me understand my world, not faded, dumbed down interpretive sign posts. I want real experts willing to share detailed knowledge. I want to know. But in C-38, any chance I have of knowing what's going on and influencing what's going on gets hit again. We might as well just turn the whole kit and kaboodle over the the Koch brothers now. That would really save time.

A local progressive paper, FFWD, has just completed a survey naming Stephen Harper as Calgary's best villain and most embarrassing citizen. The same survey ranked him third in the "claim to shame" category, but that was done before C-38. I'm sure he'd make the top of the list now.

Democracy, like the Norwegian blue parrot, has ceased to be. It is nailed to its perch, and the salesman, Harper, pretends it is alive. But we know a dead parrot when we see one.

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