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Aviva Rubin

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The Top Three Democracy Bloopers of 2012

Posted: 01/01/2013 9:50 pm

I've been thinking a lot about democracy lately and realize I either slept through the politics courses, misconstrued what I thought I understood, or invented my own meaning of the word.

Bloopers have always been fun. A good collective laugh is a healthy thing for a society. This would be a perfect year to start the "Democracy Blooper Awards." I'll begin with a few of my favourites and others can jump in with theirs.

As an aside, I'll note this might also be the year I'm done with democracy. I've been very disappointed. Even at its best, it has proven to be an out of control PR performance where points are given for best spin, rather than outcome. How about a new reality TV show called "So You Think You Can Get Elected?"

I could be ready for a benevolent dictatorship except benevolence seems to be both fleeting and at odds with impenetrable belief systems. "Dogma Bloopers" could be next years' awards but that kind of humour tends to result in death, torture and entrenched inalienable rights.

Democracy needs a serious overhaul. Access to the club is far too lax, requiring only a "free" election, which, as far as I can see, means nothing more than not having to pay to vote (although you can get paid for your vote or strong-armed, or offered only one crappy choice).

Once elected and ensconced in the big, fancy ruler house, democratic leaders can take their democracies in pretty much any direction. Mightn't we add some criteria to the membership checklist?

I was going to suggest we start by identifying the obvious culprits -- like those who put the term democratic in their name i.e. The (People's)Democratic Republic of... but frankly, I'd rather start closer to home here in Canada in the slightly short of democratic fiefdom tightly ruled by Stephen Harper.

This isn't about policy and legislation that doesn't fit my progressive views. I hate that, but it's not the stuff of democracy bloopers. It's the stuff of inequity, and sadly equity and democracy are merely mistaken for synonymous.

So lest I go on too long, I'll start my blooper list in no particular order:

Canada -- Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, two encyclopedia-sized federal omnibus bills that decimate environmental protection, citizen input and native rights, rammed through parliament with virtually no time for review or input. Stephen Harper, you control freak. Might anyone else get a say?

Egypt -- Newly "approved" constitution that seeks to entrench Islamist sharia law and exclude the voices of women, liberals, and other minorities. A president who unilaterally grants himself the widest authority. Perhaps this young democracy should be cut some slack while its civil institutions fall into place -- but it's off to a really bad start from which I fear there is no just, peaceful return.

Russia (where to begin?) -- Pussy Riot imprisoned. Approval of paramilitary squads of Cossacks to patrol the streets for minor public disturbances and to promote Conservative values. Consistent backing of Bashar al-Assad's murderous dictatorship. Vlad, you're a Tyrannosaurus Rex in wolf's clothing.

Maybe I'm sadly mistaken and this form of government, that wars and revolutions have been fought to defend, is merely a thin veil of a costume. But I'd prefer to think there's more to it than that. When do the leaders of Russia, Egypt and Canada, to name just my choices, stop hiding behind the illusion that the majority of people have spoken, and they have listened?

I'm not arguing that these governments are equally offensive, but if one were to take a poll of successful democracies, Canada would be one of the tops, while the others would fall nearer the bottom. We should expect far more from those who are scoring the world's highest democracy marks.

Ok, so "Democracy Bloopers" are not as funny as sports or film bloopers. And maybe the word, much as I love it, doesn't fit. It's more for the accidental, unplanned and uncalculated.

So instead, I'll ask Stephen Harper, Vladimir Putin and Mohamed Morsi to step forward and receive their well-earned 2012 "Spitting in the Face of Democracy" award for successfully making a mockery of the form of rule they claim to represent.

How about for 2013 both leaders and democracies behave themselves better!

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  • The Conservative government has introduced Bill C-45, the second omnibus budget implementation bill. Here's a brief look at what's inside the 450-page document. <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • MP And Public Service Pensions

    <strong>UPDATE</strong>: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/19/mp-pension-changes-passed-bill-c-45_n_1987522.html">MP Pensions have been hived off from the omnibus bill and passed without further debate in a surprise deal between the government and opposition parties</a>. Starting as early as January 2013, public servants and MPs will have to contribute 50 per cent of the payments into their pensions. MPs will also have to wait until age 65 to start collecting their pensions, or be penalized if they start at age 55. The precise date for MP pension changes is Jan. 1, 2016. There will be no change to the current eligibility for MP pensions of six years of service.

  • Unemployment Insurance

    The Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board will be dissolved, and an interim means of establishing premium rates set up to replace its work. The Crown Corporation is currently run by a seven-member board. This move continues employment insurance changes started with the first omnibus budget bill, as cabinet gradually receives more authority to reform EI.

  • Changes To The Indian Act

    The bill makes what could be controversial changes to the Indian Act, amending it to change the rules around what kind of meetings or referenda are required to lease or otherwise grant an interest in designated reserve lands. The aboriginal affairs minister would also be given the authority to call a band meeting or referendum for the purpose of considering an absolute surrender of the band's territory.

  • Environmental Assessment Act Tweaks

    Last spring's changes to the Environmental Assessment Act are tweaked further in this omnibus bill.

  • Hiring Tax Credit

    The bill will extend a popular small business hiring credit.

  • New Bridge To U.S.

    C-45 also facilitates the construction of a new bridge across the Detroit River at Windsor, announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last summer. Certain legislation will be changed and other legislation won't apply to this bridge. Three federal bodies will cease to exist with the passage of this legislation.

  • Grain Act Amended

    The bill also amends the Canada Grain Act, simplifying the way it classifies grain terminals, repealing grain appeal tribunals, and ending several other requirements of the current Act, giving the Canadian Grains Commission more power to regulate the grain industry. These changes follow the end of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over wheat and barley sales in Western Canada, which take effect for this year's harvest.

  • Hazardous Materials Under Health

    All the work of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission will be transferred to the health minister.

  • Merchant Seamen Board Under Labour

    The Merchant Seamen Compensation Board will see its authority transferred to the Minister of Labour. The three-person board currently hears and decides benefit claims for merchant seamen who are injured or disabled as a result of their work and are not currently covered by provincial workers' compensation benefits.

 

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