Sunday, May 17, 2009

Damn straight Jim Travers:

Just where is the PM’s proof of tax leakage? Where’s the PM taking our democracy when legislation is based on patent lies? Patent lies that destroy people’s lives, their life savings and their dignity during retirement. Just where is PM taking us?

Jim Travers, I share your sense of outrage. It’s time you shared ours, but first you’ll have to free yourself from your corporate shackles of Torstar and start reporting the truth. Reporting the truth is part of democracy too......not to mention your journalistic obligation in a free society. One in which 2 plus 2 equals 4, and not the 3 hogwash advanced by Jim Flaherty and the Toronto Star rag:

Just where is PM taking us?
Harper used the Christmas crisis to paint a strikingly altered portrait of Canadian democracy on the dangerously blank canvas of public knowledge'
James Travers
Toronto Star
May 16, 2009


There's accidental comedy in new Conservative ads attacking the Liberal leader as a globetrotter who doesn't know the country and was only drawn home by opportunism. The dark laugh is that the Canada Stephen Harper is creating would be hard for Michael Ignatieff to recognize even if he had never wandered away.

If Ignatieff is just visiting the country, as this week's new TV spots claim, Harper is more than simply tinkering with the way it works.

This Prime Minister's Canada is as unfamiliar to those who stick close to the neighbourhood as it is to expatriates.

It grafts presidential powers and situational expediency to the Westminster democracy that has served well, if imperfectly, for 141 years and then wraps it in the rhetoric of Reform Party populism.

By incremental steps and leaps of logic, the Prime Minister is taking advantage of public confusion to advance a political hybrid. Worse, it's being finessed with little public debate and no national consensus.

There's nothing abstract about what's happening here. Piecemeal changes that erode Parliament's power are as recent as Ottawa's response to the recession and as real as the coalition crisis.

Under cover of hard times, Conservatives are distributing $3 billion in stimulus spending from behind closed cabinet doors, further eroding Parliament's defining duty to protect the public purse.

For policy and political purposes, that gives the Prime Minister spending freedom the envy of many presidents.

Less obvious, but at least as troubling, is how Harper used the Christmas crisis to paint a strikingly altered portrait of Canadian democracy on the dangerously blank canvas of public knowledge. With scant regard for process or national unity, he persuaded a remarkable number of Canadians that they directly elect prime ministers and that there can be no legitimate change of government without new elections.

Both are false. Both are also central to the populist Holy Grail of making as many public officials as possible as directly accountable to as many people as possible.

It's an appealing theory; it's just not the one that frames how Canadians consent to be governed. Surprising as it is to those influenced by U.S. presidential contests, federal elections here are more than popularity contests for aspiring prime ministers. In our responsible way, voters decide who sits in the House of Commons and then leave to them all the messy stuff, including deciding which leader and party enjoys enough confidence among the elected members to rule and for how long.

Michaëlle Jean, the otherwise effective Governor General, missed an opportunity to explain the nuts-and-bolts details of an elegantly simple, wonderfully flexible system. With Conservative ministers muttering about "coups" and threatening to somehow go over the head of the de facto head of state, Jean could have turned a roiling crisis into a unique teaching moment. A calming, non-partisan address to the nation had potential to strip away much of the hyperpartisan, unity-stressing bluster. It could have usefully explored valid solutions while educating the country at a time of extraordinary political engagement. Instead she quietly agreed to the Prime Minister's exceptional request for a parliamentary timeout and the rest, as some constitutional scholars now say, is precedent.

Where that leaves the country is tracking down the same old rut towards diminished accountability. Prime ministers who can't command the confidence of the Commons have found in proroguing yet another tactic to prolong their supremacy. Parliament's capacity to replace an infant government without resorting to a time-consuming and costly election – a useful remedy in a period of unstable minorities – has lost vital public opinion legitimacy.

Power continues to flow unabated to the Prime Minister and his appointed officials, some of whom distinguished themselves this week by "taking a day off" from running the country to unveil the attack ads.

While hardly unique to Conservatives, extreme partisanship is now the Ottawa norm. It makes nonsense of those other populist principles of accountability and broad-spectrum participation in polishing public policy. After promising transparency and open democracy, Harper is delivering arguably the most closed and controlling government of modern times.

Conservatives have a political interest as well as a right to ask where Michael Ignatieff has been. A more pressing question for the rest of us is where, exactly, is Stephen Harper taking this country and its declining democracy.

James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.


Dr Mike said...

"Blank canvas of public knowledge" is right--people are inherently dense until educated.

The problem is that when the teacher is filling their heads with half truths & some total fabrications then what can we expect other than a dysfunctional society that needs to be controlled from the top.

Hence we have Harper , Lord of all he surveys , friend of no one.


Dr Mike

CAITI said...

Just sent this reply to Paddy Torsney, former Liberal MP in Burlington and a copy to Travers and Hepburn:


Travers works for a grossly conflicted news organization in the form of Torstar and their voting/non-voting abusive corporate share structure that is imperiled in a “trust world”.

When I met with Bob Hepburn and the rest of the Editorial Board of the Toronto Star in April of 2007, they were actually DEFENDING the use of 18 pages of blacked out documents as “proof” of tax leakage. Huh? The Toronto Star clearly is not the Washington Post. All of Travers’ talk about democracy doesn’t mean a hoot if he is unwilling to confront his own gross conflicts of interest.......absent which his arguments are all empty and vacuous. Devoid of meaning. Questionable as to purpose. I have told him so on many occasions, including now.

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Brent, Dr. Mike - you both have it so right.

So tiring it is.

Democracy is being forced to go underground.