Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Frances Russell laments the state of Canada's Potemkin Parliament (and the resulting harm the Cons are inflicting on our political system and our country alike):
Poll after poll show a majority of Canadians regularly confuse their parliamentary system with the American presidential-congressional system.

This inaccurate but endemic assumption has allowed successive governments to gradually toss out the foundations of Canada's British parliamentary heritage, one by one. By stealth and incrementalism, they have turned upside down the British traditions of parliamentary democracy where the government of the day answers to Parliament and is effectively hired and fired by Parliament.

Now, in Canada, it's the other way around. Now, it's the government of the day who hires and fires Parliament, routinely proroguing it or summoning it or dissolving it to serve its own political timing and interests.

This abuse of democracy has reached its apogee under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives. In 2008, Harper staged an effective coup d'├ętat. He managed to convince Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean to ignore the fact a clear majority of MPs had signed an agreement to govern as a coalition and instead prorogue parliament so he could continue in office even though he had lost the confidence of the majority of the elected representatives of the people.
Parliamentary committees meet in secret. MPs cannot speak openly about what they discuss behind closed doors in case they embarrass or contradict the government. The government routinely bundles its entire annual legislative agenda into massive omnibus bills hundreds of pages in length with little or no information and then invokes closure complete with all-night "legislation by exhaustion" routines. It abolishes vital commissions, agencies, scientific research bodies and programs with no reference to or debate in parliament. To satisfy the oil and gas lobby, it ravages Canada's parks and wilderness areas with impunity, fires world-renowned scientists and experts, simply throws away parts of Canada's historical heritage, attacks its civil servants and pushes aside the opinions and views of a growing majority of Canadians.
- And Benjamin Shingler catches Jason Kenney looking for ways to chase torture victims and other refugees away from Canada.

- Meanwhile, Richard Brennan reports on the latest abuses out of Ontario - where Tim Hudak's PCs look to have based their vote on an anti-union bill on a quid pro quo for corporate funding. But perhaps the most striking part of the story is the PCs' apparent belief that they can make backroom deals go away simply by whining they thought the story would stay in the back room:
Ian Robertson, Hudak’s chief of staff, said in an email internal caucus deliberations were not for public consumption.
“You know I am not going to comment on what may or may not have been discussed in caucus,” wrote Robertson.
- Trish Hennessy challenges the Fraser Institute's latest anti-labour propaganda campaign. And Andrew Jackson responds to Andrew Coyne's attempt to declare burgeoning inequality a dead issue.

- Erica Alini discusses why the Cons' decision to de-fund the Experimental Lakes Area never made sense as a matter of resource management.

- Finally, Pat Atkinson sheds some light on the Wall government's moves to privatize Saskatchewan health care one piece at a time for the sole purpose of enriching the corporate sector at public expense:
It now appears certain that Premier Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party government have decided to stop being so timid about the privatization of our province's health system.

Sources say the Wall government is now in serious discussions with business and health regions about contracting out or privatizing all services in our publicly funded health system that do not provide direct patient care. It looks as though many of our fellow citizens who work in maintenance, housekeeping, food services, laboratories, diagnostic imaging and health records in health facilities across our province are going to have their jobs taken over by private sector companies and their employees.

For the past six years, citizens have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking their premier was not going to take a decidedly private sector approach to our publicly funded and publicly administered health care system. We were wrong, and the evidence is mounting.
No doubt some will argue that Wall's latest foray into health care privatization will save citizens' money and that it is a good way to get rid of highly paid unionized employees. There is little doubt people who will work in these jobs, should Wall get his way, will be paid less and likely won't end up with a pension should they make a career of it. But to argue that this will save the taxpayers' money is a mug's game, as any margins that are realized in reduced labour costs will be taken up in profits for company shareholders.

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