Thursday, March 06, 2014

Thursday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Chris Hall notes that Brad Butt's admitted fabrications can only hurt the Cons' already-lacking credibility when it comes to forcing through their unfair elections legislation. And Ed Broadbent sums up what's at stake as the Cons try to rewrite the rules to prioritize their own hold on power over public participation and the fair administration of elections:
Inspired by the tried and tested voter suppression tactics used by the Republicans to disenfranchise marginalized groups in the U.S., the new election law would make it harder for certain groups to vote. The law would end the ability to “vouch” for the bona fides of a neighbour, a tool that allowed 120,000 voters — disproportionately aboriginal, youth and seniors — to cast ballots in the last election.
The move is part of a broader sweep of changes that also serves to suppress the vote. For example, the new law will remove the ability of electors to use voter identification cards. Elections Canada had only in the last few years piloted the use of the cards to make it easier to cast a ballot at polling sites serving seniors’ residences, long-term care facilities, aboriginal reserves and on-campus student residences. The conclusion of this pilot project was that the “initiative made the voter identification process run more smoothly and reduced the need to ask the responsible authorities for letters of attestation of residence.”

In other words, voter identification cards had been successful in enfranchising these groups. Conservative MP Brad Butt, a member of the committee dealing with this measure, has been compelled to retract a completely fabricated story he had told in the House about this so-called fraud. Despite his apparent breach of parliamentary privilege, the Conservatives rejected an opposition bid to have a House committee look into Butt’s false claims that he saw voter identification cards stolen from recycling boxes to commit fraud.
Having spent more than two decades in the House of Commons, I can think of no prime minister who has been so focused on undermining electoral participation and public debate.

We have a tradition of Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals respecting everyone’s right to have a say. Past governments have avoided turning democratic process into a tool for one party’s advantage. Changes in electoral processes were always based on all-party consensus.

That Harper derides such all-party consensus is, sadly, no surprise. That his robotic backbench will unquestioningly obey is not news either. Except now, the victims of his disregard for debate aren’t only the people we elect. It’s those doing the electing as well.
- Meanwhile, Kathryn May discusses the witch-hunt mindset behind Mark Adler's bill to attack the partisan activity of anyone who is, or might want to become, a public servant.

- Stephen Maher looks at the Cons' data mining from Aga Khan's visit, while Susan Delacourt reminds us that a complete lack of checks on partisan use of information allows all parties to carry out similar data collection efforts.

- Andrew Leach offers some rare recognition of Brad Wall's fundamental lack of anything useful or coherent to say - in this case, on the subject of Keystone XL and environmental policy:
On new regulations, however, one environmental economist said Wall's logic defeats itself.

If the whole point of introducing rules is to convince the Americans you're doing something on climate change, and then you insist on weak rules so the oil industry isn't affected, he said, isn't there a conflict there?

"In some ways those arguments feed into the opposition," said Andrew Leach, a professor at the University of Alberta and a former federal official. "Then you're essentially saying exactly what the (Keystone) opponents are saying."

Leach said that kind of mixed messaging has been typical of the Keystone debate.

He said it's been similar with the Alberta government, which went from calling the pipeline indispensable to the expansion of the industry to now suggesting it won't really make a difference.
- And finally, Robyn Leach points out that the oil industry is using a glaring regulatory loophole to avoid environmental scrutiny for massive project expansions.

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