Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Wednesday reading.

- Pat Atkinson highlights what should probably be the story of the year for 2012: the continued degradation of Canadian democracy under a government which views Parliament and the public with an alarming degree of contempt:
Harper's Conservatives see Parliament as a nuisance. Committees meet in secret, and opposition MPs aren't to reveal what is learned. And it is clear that most of Parliament's power has been centralized into a prime minister's office that is determined to control governing party MPs and even its cabinet ministers.

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of politics at the University of Manitoba, describes the power and effectiveness of Canada's Parliament being "at the bottom of the heap."

"It has lost tremendous ground in terms of public support and confidence," he says.

So why should Canadians care about parliamentary democracy and whether the Harper government introduces two several-hundred-page omnibus bills? After all, the prime minister has a mandate from the people of Canada to govern.

But as Canadians we need to remind ourselves that we elect members of Parliament, not a government or, for that matter, a prime minister. We live in a parliamentary democracy which is "a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them."

Each time precedents, procedures and even laws are tossed out the window by the prime minister in the name of political expediency with little or no debate, it chips away another brick in our democratic foundation.
Democracy in Canada isn't quite what it used to be. Maybe next year we will start to pay attention.
- Meanwhile, David Pugliese reports on the Cons' efforts to hide even previously-available information about a Canadian troop killed by Israeli forces. [Update: And Dr. Dawg points to the report for those all the more curious about it now that it's being suppressed.]

- The Vancouver Sun makes the case to keep the Christmas spirit in mind throughout the year:
Whatever the origins of the current unofficial Boxing Day holiday, it's an opportunity to remember that while Christmas is always accompanied by a lot of natural Canadian generosity, it's needed all year round, not just on a seasonal basis.

It's one thing to make sure the homeless and the marginalized get a Christmas dinner and some festive cheer to mark the annual festival, it's another to make a commitment to keep the giving going at those times when it's still needed but not so high profile.
Whether we're out there today indulging ourselves or taking it easy at home in recovery mode, let's not forget that the spirit of Christmas isn't a momentary affair that ends on Dec. 26 - it actually begins there.
- Meanwhile, Gail Shea thinks Canada's unemployed should be a bit more charitable toward employers who would like to use them on the cheap.

- Finally, the Tyee's Ideas series checks in on the remarkable progress of the Rolling Jubilee:
In November, Perisic and members of Strike Debt launched the Rolling Jubilee, an initiative that buys up debt only to erase it. Described as a bailout for the people, the project uses online donations to purchase debt in secondary markets (where collectors pay pennies on the dollar for loans already charged off by the banks). Instead of employing aggressive bounty hunting tactics, Occupiers forgive the debt.

It's a symbolic gesture, allowing a few Americans struggling with out-of-control medical, credit card and student debt to start fresh. "We're trying to shine a light on the predatory nature of the industry," she says. "At the same time we're trying to shine a light on how the system works." So far nearly $500,000 in donations have rolled in: enough to buy over $9 million in distressed debt.

"It obviously touched a nerve," Perisic says of the Jubilee's eager public response. Combined with donations to Occupy Sandy, another relief-focused branch of Occupy 2.0, donations to the OWS movement in November 2012 outpaced donations for all of 2011. "We've been getting so many emails," she continues. "What's become obvious is that people are really looking for something to plug into. They want to be part of some collective action."

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