Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category


Vote Today! Why Wait Until Election Day

On Saturday, while I was canvassing door-to-door, I met a woman with acute macular degeneration – an eye disease that often leads to blindness.

She told me that it had been such a hassle to vote during the municipal elections that she wasn’t sure whether she would be bothered to vote this time. I offered to find out what the details were for federal voting and get back to her. Which I did.

And now I can pass them along to you.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you bring the correct identification.

While May 2, 2011 is the official voting day, there are lots of reasons why you might want to vote sooner than that. Perhaps you will be traveling, or volunteering as a scrutineer for your Party of choice (hey! let me know if you want to be a Green scrutineer!)…

In that case, you can vote at the Advance Polls on April 22nd, 23rd, or 24th. You may have noticed that these are the Easter weekend dates, and you may be busy on that weekend as well…

And you may think that leaves you out of luck and unable to vote.

AHA! There is a poorly kept Elections Canada secret that we all need to know.

You can vote any day during the writ period (for 36 days before the election) at your local Returning Office. Any. Day.

In Newmarket-Aurora the returning office is at 776 Davis Drive in Newmarket and the phone number is 1-866-249-5753.

If you would like to avoid line-ups and the rush of Election Day, which is also tax filing day, this is a completely viable option. And if you need assistance with your voting this is a great way to avoid feeling the pressure of May 2nd. This was my advice to the Newmarket resident – give them a call and then head in early.

In recent polls, only 56% of Canadians are planning to vote, which terrifies me. Not voting helps to ensure that we will have a government that does not represent Canadian values.

As one young voter put it, terrify the government, go vote.

Even better, vote Green.

Posted by Vanessa on April 11th, 2011

Filed under Democracy | Comments Off

My Plumber and Politics

I was up in Barrie this morning having a leaky pipe replaced and my plumber (who is fabulous!) and we got to talking about politics – specifically the HST and the effect it will have on Ontario’s economy (he didn’t think it would be good). I let slip that I was the nominated GPC candidate in Newmarket-Aurora and that got him all excited, apparently he always votes Green.

Not only does he vote Green, he has a pretty good working knowledge of the local Barrie chapter, and the Canadian political landscape in general, and some very firm opinions about certain politicians, and, sadly, politicians as a group.

But it was when he welcomed me to the military-industrial complex while we were discussing the BP oil spill, that I knew I had met someone out of the ordinary. He mentioned Halliburton’s role in the crisis, their purchase of the company that manufactures the dispersant, and the divestiture of stock by a BP exec just before the explosion.

I confess, I find these coincidences to be rather intriguing:

“7. Curiously, CEO of BP, Tony Hayward dumped 1/3 of his BP stock holdings($2.1 million dollars) weeks before the oil rig explosion

8. Coincidentally, Goldman Sachs dumped 44% – 4,680,822 shares – of its stock in BP Oil weeks before the spill – no other oil company, just BP. This also represented an unusual transaction, being two times the size of any normal stock trade for an institution its size.

9. Weeks before the oil spill, Haliburton acquired Boots & Coots, a Houston-based oil well intervention/oil safety/oil spill cleanup company, an investment criticized by many as an “unwise” investment at the time”

I know it isn’t worthwhile to keep breaking pipes just so we can continue our conversation but I think it might very well be worthwhile to meet at the pub for a pint.

Posted by Vanessa on July 14th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy, Economics, environment | 2 Comments »

What Charter rights were those?

Checked the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, after all the talk of the last few days. Of particular interest, I believe, are Sections 8, 9, and 10. For your perusing pleasure:

SEARCH OR SEIZURE. 8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

DETENTION OR IMPRISONMENT. 9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

ARREST OR DETENTION. 10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention
(a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
(b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
(c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

The question becomes, I believe, if you are exercising your FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOM (Sections 2c and 2d) to freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association do the police have the right to search your belongings and/or person, or haul you away and throw you in a detention centre?

Posted by Vanessa on June 29th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy, human rights, Ontario | 1 Comment »

Inside or Outside? With the PWPA it doesn’t matter…

Here’s the text of the amendment filed with e-laws earlier this month, designating “the area, within the area described in Schedule 1, that is within five metres…” So, it sounds like the five-metre security zone was actually inside the fence, not outside, as we were led to believe.

So, what’s up with our Chief and Police telling us that the five-metre zone was outside the fence? According to the Chief earlier today, he was “trying to keep the criminals out.”


What does the Public Works Protection Act, actually say? Here is the full text, but, the gist is that any person “entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto” can be required “to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise” and that the guard “may search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work.”

If the person refuses, they are guilty, because “the statement under oath of an officer or employee of the government, board, commission, municipal or other corporation or other person owning, operating or having control of a public work, as to the boundaries of the public work is conclusive evidence thereof. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.55, s. 4.”

I guess it doesn’t matter, then, whether the five-metres was inside or outside the fence, you could still be arrested for ‘approach’ to the fence, and you would be guilty based on the word of the person who arrested you.

Sigh. I’m going to have a nap. Maybe it’s all a dream.

Or, then again, maybe what we need to do is look at where else this Act has been applied (airports?) and question whether we are cool with forfeiting our civil liberties in the name of ‘security’.

Posted by Vanessa on June 29th, 2010

Filed under Democracy, Ontario | Comments Off

Reverence and Political Discourse

I’m reading a wonderful little book on Reverence by Paul Woodruff and, very close to the beginning, he asserts that reverence is really more about politics and living in community than religion. For Woodruff, reverence is the feeling of awe and respect towards something that is not created by humans, something beyond us to which we secede authority.

So, for example, one would not feel reverence for the Canadian Parliament because it is an institution created by humans but one could feel reverence for the ideals of discourse, unity, truth, harmony, democracy, and freedom. Ideals which, I believe, are the ultimate goal of our Parliament but that our representatives seem to have forgotten.

To me, the current level of political discourse has become incredibly shallow and mean-spirited. I have not heard our political ‘leaders’ providing us with anything approaching a vision for the future of Canada that rises above the ‘we’re not them’ and ‘aren’t they terrible’ arguments. Nothing that deals with the realities of democratic and ecological crisis, globalization, peak oil, peak water, climate change, a crumbling infrastructure, and a radically changing demographic.

If our MPs had reverence for the ideals which inspired our democratic system they would remember that they are in Ottawa to help our country function better, both domestically and internationally, and to further the success and happiness of Canadians. They would remember that though they have different views, they are united by a love of Canada and democracy and would work to craft legislation that furthered that vision. They would listen with respect and stay open-minded to new solutions.

But they don’t. They appear to be ideologically frozen and bicker as they jockey for position in a series of meaningless and endless polls. It leads me to wonder if those who claim to represent us are irreverent, not recognizing the higher authorities of the ideals that led to the institutions where they practice. And, if this is true, weep for our children.

Posted by Vanessa on June 22nd, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy | 2 Comments »

The Circles of Responsibility from the BP Disaster

Great post from Glenn Hubbers on the wider implications of the ongoing BP oil disaster. Glenn has inspired me (as he so often does) and I’d like to add my two cents. It’s a bit of a diatribe but it feels good every now and then to blow off some steam. Hold on tight.

Let’s look at the widening circles of responsibility from this ‘low-probability/high-impact’ incident, which, by the way, is exactly how a nuclear meltdown would be described. Just sayin’.

The first circle is BP itself. There appears to be no doubt that the company was negligent, and willfully so, using lobbying money to buy their way out of legislated safety and environmental standards. But this is only the latest episode is a long series of moves by corporations to maximize profit. The next circle would be the oil and gas transnational but that rant has been done a thousand times.

The circle widens quickly to what it means to be a corporation. Certainly making money is not a bad thing but our government (which means WE the voters) has created an Incorporation system that allows, no, demands, that corporations act without social conscience in the maximization of profit for shareholders. In fact, the Conservatives are doing everything they can to block a piece of member-introduced Corporate Social Responsibility legislation from being passed. But that’s another rant.

As it stands, a company that does show care or consideration for its community and the earth can be sued by shareholders for not serving their financial interests fully. I believe that our Incorporation Acts need to be changed. Corporations are supposed to exist for the benefit of the community, but now it seems that the community exists only for the profit of the corporation. We have allowed ourselves to be reduced to consumers, mere units in an economic system that has somehow become more important than family, happiness, and spirit. No wonder we feel we have no power.

And wider. But who allowed this to happen? The government? It seems to me that our governments are increasingly more responsible to corporations than to citizens. Corporations use their influence more effectively than citizens and they are also able to create a culture that convinces us that Lost or American Idol matters more than paying attention to the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the water we need to live. Not to mention our next-door neighbour, or the despair of a country halfway around the world.

And, finally, it widens right out to us… as consumers: Glenn focused on the role of consumers in creating the demand that drives oil companies to increasing levels of profit. And it is true that we live in a culture that thrives on disposable, one-time-use products that is in no way sustainable, or justifiable from a social justice or global viewpoint.

… and as voters: I would put the focus right back on to the voters. One of the commenters on Glenn’s post suggested that voters have no power over public policy. Further, that we show up once ever few years, vote for a Party platform, and then have the right to return to our media-induced slumber, allowing our elected officials to do the best they can in our absence.

What a load of crap.

That is not democracy. And if we accept or, even worse, use that as an excuse to throw up our hands and say, ‘Oopsies, it isn’t my fault, I’m just a voter/consumer,’ then we will get the government that we deserve.

A democracy is not something that will sustain itself against the onslaught of private interests and vice. A democracy cannot just be a hobby, and certainly not something you only have to look at once every four years.

Our democracy is our job. If it is weak, then it is our responsibility to strengthen it. If our democracy is ailing (look at my post to see that this is a growing perception) then it is our job to revive it. Yes. Ours. We voters have allowed our democracy to slip away into the hands of power-hungry ‘leaders’ and profit-driven corporations.

And it is time to take it back.

Posted by Vanessa on May 12th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy | Comments Off

Thinking About Saving Our Democracy

I listened to Ursula Franklin interviewed on The Current on Friday and the part that is really sticking with me, other than how inspiring she is and how I can only hope to ever be as passionate and cool as she is, is her concern about Conservative insinuations, if not outright accusations, that the Opposition Parties are not ‘trustworthy’. This is in relation, of course, to the government’s refusal to disclose un-censored documents to members of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. This issue has been somewhat mitigated by the Speaker’s decision that is forcing the documents’ release but it is the underlying implications that have really got me thinking.

What does it mean when the leader of the country says that the Opposition cannot be trusted? Where could this lead? Well, in the past it has led to the elimination of democracy under the guise of ‘national security’, a phrase that has been tossed about quite a lot lately. It has led to the rise of totalitarian states who claim to be acting in the best interests of the country and citizens and who allow their lust for power to guide them.

How much power should the Prime Minister’s Office have? How much power should a government that received less than a quarter of the potential vote have?*

I was just wondering: Are Canadians ready to give up their democracy for the illusion of security? Now is a good time to re-watch Professor Fonseca’s videos and maybe take a listen to Ms. Ursula Franklin – two people who chose to come to Canada from countries that had experienced dictators in order to participate in a lively democracy and who now feel that it is slipping away.

That queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach? Don’t ignore it. There is trouble afoot.

*Note: The Conservatives received 37.65% of the popular vote, but the voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history at 59.1%, so the total percentage for the Conservatives was 22%.

Posted by Vanessa on May 10th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Democracy | 2 Comments »

Burma’s latest step in the wrong direction

I know it is easy to let events here at home focus our attention but I just wanted to mention what is happening in Burma these days.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was the democratically elected leader in elections held in 1990. She has been under house arrest for 14 years and her party was never allowed to assume power. The military junta is supported mainly by China (and India?) and has been in control for decades.

After a new round of direct engagement by the United States as part of the policy to talk to everyone who will listen, the junta issued a statement a month or so ago that Ms. Suu Kyi would be released from her house arrest after her appeal was heard in court. They also agreed to hold elections later this year – the first in 20 years. Many people were hopeful that this marked the beginning of a new era.

Whatever oracles the junta consults have apparently pointed them in a different direction because over the last two weeks they have 1) cancelled her release 2) changed election laws so that she can no longer be the leader of her party, and 3) formally annulled her party’s 1990 election win.

This is an interview with Nobel Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu regarding the situation in Burma and the upcoming elections that he (and many others) consider to be a charade. Congratulations to the Archbishop for having the courage to come out in support of Ms. Suu Kyi and democracy in Burma.

If only our government had the courage to do the same.

Just thought you might like to know.

Posted by Vanessa on March 12th, 2010

Filed under Democracy | Comments Off

If democracy doesn’t function, it isn’t the fault of politicians

[Letter number 2 in what will most likely be a series of Letters to the Editor of the Era-Banner that I am not allowed to send because I am a declared candidate for an election that will happen sometime in the future. I wish I had realized that when I declared for the Green Party I would lose my voice at the Era-Banner but such is life. Now I get to make my letters longer. Ha!]

Dear Editor,

Re: Voter turnout low because politicians lie, letter from Mr. L. Rothwell, Feb 11 / Re: If you care about democracy, vote, editorial, Jan 28

With all due respect to Mr. Rothwell I must challenge his hypothesis that when “80 per cent of voters… stay at home. Then, maybe, politicians will get the message.”

While there are a few directions my disagreement could take – including my belief that when 80% of voters stay home we will live in a true oligarchy where only the select few have any say in government and tyranny will reign and Canada will weep. Though, this scenario is fairly close to the mark with respect to municipal elections. Anyways.

That was not the point.

What I really wanted to dispute was Mr. Rothwell’s obvious anger towards ‘politicians’ and his categorization of them as “people who lack integrity and ethics.”

Of course, as a recently declared political candidate I take it a little personally that because of my political choice I suddenly have no integrity nor ethics. I actually consider myself to be a person possessing both integrity and a high ethical standard.

But that is still not the point, though closer to it. The point is – there are no politicians. There are merely people, just like Mr. Rothwell and myself, that have chosen to join in the political process.

Politicians are not usually born. They are made. They are people who have decided to pursue a public life – hopefully in the service of their country and the best interests of the electorate.

Do these people sometimes lose focus and become swayed by the pretty, shiny danglings of lobby groups? Yes.

Do they sometimes pursue power to the exclusion of everything else. Yes.

Do these people sometimes let us down? Yes. Often.

Do we have a democratic crisis in Canada? Yes. I believe we do.

But my point is that sitting at home and whinging about it is not the best use of one’s time.

Stand up. Get engaged. Make your voice count.

And if you can’t find a single political candidate that you can trust – then take the leap and become a candidate. For municipal, provincial, or federal politics quality candidates are desperately needed.

Of course, it would be super-spiffy if you would support me and my bid to be the first Green MP for Newmarket-Aurora, but if you can’t, then get your butt out there and run against me.

I also have an issue with your contention that “the population is a lot more educated these days.” Hardly. When the anti-proroguing rally was being organized most people did not even know that our democracy had been suspended. They didn’t understand what it meant. And they didn’t know why they should care. Some were happy to get the ‘liars’ out of Ottawa for a while. People know far more about what Britney Spears is up to than what our PM is doing showboating in Vancouver.

But that isn’t the politicians fault. If there are issues with our democracy it is because we expect ‘someone else’ to take care of it for us.

We are the change we wish to see. We are the smallest unit of a democratic society. And it is up to us to keep it safe and keep it strong. If we don’t have anyone to vote for then it is up to us to find them – or to become them. That is what I did. And it is what I encourage everyone else to do.

That is why I am so proud of local organizers like Liz, Neale, Nick, Carter and everyone else who helped make the January 23rd rally such a success – and who are now organizing a public meeting in Aurora on February 25.

Holding the Line on Democracy will take a frank look at what is happening in our society and, hopefully, send people away feeling more educated, more empowered, and more motivated to take action to keep our democracy strong.

Mr. Rothwell, I am personally inviting you to join us. It’s kind of fun to be around other people who care as passionately as you obviously do.

Posted by Vanessa on February 14th, 2010

Filed under Canada, Civil Society, Democracy, Newmarket-Aurora, politics | 2 Comments »

Suddenly, Harper cares about women?!

… oh! Wait. It’s just our uterus’ that he cares about. Okay, no change there.

A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago. In his inaugural speech as 2010 President of the G8, Mr. Harper proclaimed that he was very, very concerned about maternal and infant health and that, during his term, he was going to champion these two causes (Millennium Development Goals #4 and #5) and bring much needed attention and funding to them – on a global basis. No. Really. He said it.

Immediately, other commentators began to question his good intentions. Mr. Ignatieff, for one, thought it a bit odd and discussed how “Harper has made cuts to the status of women and equality programs, while salary gaps between men and women are increasing in Canada” and that, perhaps, Mr. Harper could “start showing at home in Canada the same commitment to women.”

And this is all well and good. I expect certain people to have problems with everything that Mr. Harper announces.

But when Stephen Lewis has problems with the same announcements, then my ears prick up. Why? Because I have seen no evidence that he is anything other than a profoundly humane and compassionate man in a very challenging and frustrating position, exposed to the most heart-breaking conditions on Earth and managing to carry on year after year. To him I listen.

His critique is that it seems odd that Mr. Harper would trumpet Canada’s burgeoning awareness of the issues of maternal and infant health when the G8 has been working on securing funding for the past year. Note that the MDGs were first developed leading up to 2000 with a due date of 2015 – sometimes it just takes a while to get the ball rolling, y’know.

In addition, Mr. Lewis noted that none of the other MDGs were mentioned and that it didn’t “include sexual violence, child marriage, sexual trafficking, female genital mutilation, economic autonomy, political representation, land rights or inheritance rights. It include[d] none of the panoply of women’s issues which consign women to subordinate positions around the world.”

Anyway, I’m sure that members of the G8 hope that Canada will stop actively opposing humanitarian causes and denying human rights and freedoms to as many groups as they possibly can. I wish I could believe Mr. Harper but I have seen no evidence that he cares about anyone except for white, straight males, and preferably corporate oil executives at that.

Especially since he considers women to be a ‘left-wing fringe group’.

The audacity of Mr. Harper is threatening to make my brain explode – is this his attempt at a kinder, gentler Harper to try and make us forget that he is a cynical, arrogant, autocratic leader who has shown only contempt for Canadian citizens and our democracy. Is this a reaction to the pro-democracy, anti-prorogue rallies that occurred all across Canada last month?

Probably. He honestly seems to believe that we will be easily lulled back to sleep with the belief that he is going to take care of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. When he doesn’t care about those same people right here.

How about raising the quality of life, or, heck, even the standard of living for our own aboriginal populations? How about taking care of the poorest and most vulnerable right here?

How about that Mr. Harper?

Posted by Vanessa on February 9th, 2010

Filed under Democracy, indigenous, MDG, women | 1 Comment »