17. March 2014 · Comments Off on SLAPPing democracy in the face · Categories: Democracy Undermined, Jason MacLean

What’s gone wrong with democracy? That’s the question recently posed by the British magazine The Economist, which observed that even in established democracies like Canada, “flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife.”

The Economist’s diagnosis of what ails democracy is disturbing. Politicians have been captured by special interest groups (read: powerful industries and their lobbyists) and undermined by anti-democratic habits like, say, proroguing parliament to dodge inconvenient questions and indefensible lapses of judgment. More »

11. March 2014 · Comments Off on Mayors back bullies · Categories: Democracy Undermined, Julee Boan

First Published in The Chronicle Journal Monday March 3, 2014

By Julee Boan

In 2010, two municipal councillors from Thornhill, Ont., advocating for the protection of prime farmland in their community were sued by a developer who accused them of trespassing on his land. The developer seemingly forgot that he had leased the land back to a local farmer who had given the councillors permission to hold a news conference on the side of the road at the farm.

The lawsuit was, of course, dismissed as nonsense by the courts. But it took two years and substantial lawyers’ fees to resolve. In response, one of the councillors said, “To us, this looks like an attempt at intimidation and bullying … In my opinion, this is a SLAPP suit.”

A SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is a lawsuit initiated against one or more individuals who speak out on an issue of public interest. More »

09. November 2013 · Comments Off on Senate is a sideshow, Harper’s the problem · Categories: Democracy Undermined, Freda Davies

Proposed new rules would limit power of prime minister, increase that of MPs

Sure, change has to happen with the Senate, but far more important is the runaway power we allow our prime minister. This is what needs to be reined in if we ever want to keep straight faces when calling our country a democracy.

Stephen Harper, with his dictatorial grip on Conservative MPs, has fired up all available power tools, either allowed by our Constitution or not mentioned in it, and has kept their engines running full tilt. More »

26. August 2013 · Comments Off on Proroguing participation in environmental decision-making · Categories: Activism, Democracy Undermined, Jason MacLean, Pipelines-Tarsands

As our prime minister prorogues Parliament (again), environmental advocates are suing the federal government over new rules restricting public participation in hearings conducted by the National Energy Board (NEB) on major energy projects, including Enbridge’s proposed reversal of its Line 9B pipeline.

Some background: In 2008 the government passed the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The unobjectionable purpose of this legislation is to make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable. In passing the act, the government acknowledged the “need to integrate environmental, economic and social factors in the making of all decisions by government.” More »

04. January 2013 · Comments Off on Making a buck and turning a blind eye · Categories: Democracy Undermined, Scott Harris

So it’s OK for John Baird to “quietly” allow Canadian gun dealers to sell fully automatic assault weapons, banned in Canada, to Colombians (Canada Opens Colombia to Gun Sellers — story in Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, Jan 3, 2013). It’s OK for Canada to contribute to mayhem in far-off places, as long as there’s a buck to be made at home. I’m guessing we’re already selling these Newtown specials to certain gun-happy Americans. More »

08. June 2012 · Comments Off on Grassy Narrows and the Tragedy of Joe Oliver · Categories: Democracy Undermined, Economic Policy, Fouling the Earth, Peter Globensky, Social Justice

Forty years ago I had the privilege of working with and securing financial resources for First Nation representatives and civil society organizations seeking redress from Dryden (REED) Pulp and Paper for the suffering inflicted on the residents of Grassy Narrows and White Dog First Nations and the destruction of an important life-sustaining ecosystem. Over an eight year period beginning in 1962 and without the benefit of environmental regulation, the company dumped nearly ten tons of methyl mercury, a lethal neurotoxin, into the Wabigoon River system. More »