Today I am very sad about the current state of our country.
Last fall, the Conservatives won their long sought after majority and this gave the Prime Minister the power to enact his intention to remake Canada so that we would “not recognize it.” And so Stephen Harper and his ministers and back benchers have been busy doing just that, with new legislation, new regulations, a new way of operating the budget and focusing more on values and attributes of Canadian life that reflects their view of the country and who we are.
That is their perogative. They won the election and the right to set the agenda.
However, this new budget bill, C-38, the much vaunted “Jobs Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act” which is an omnibus bill enacting tons of changes and repeals of existing legislation is something else altogether. Read it. It contains provisions that apply across a whole range of areas such as:
- Shutting down the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
- Changing the complaints process for the RCMP
- Repealing the definition of an “insured person” under the Canada Health Act
- Changing the Fisheries Act to create a commercial fishery to fund fisheries conservation science (what??)
- Defining what a poisonous food is, by allowing a certain amount of poison to be present in food.
- Redefining “60 years old” in the Old Age Security Act to mean”62 years old” by 2028.
- Setting up the process to wrap up the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development
- Making substantial changes to the Employment Insurance Act with respect to claimants and payments.
- Wrap up the National Council of Welfare
- The complete construction of a new government department called Shared Services Canada
And this is a small and somewhat random sampling of the things this bill will change. There are scads and scads of changes that have nothing to do with Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity. Lots of changes that have to do with centralizing decision making power though.
This bill contains huge amounts of change to the way Canada works, and so you would think that if the government aims to shift the direction of the country all at once, it would be willing to host a conversation about that, maybe even have a little debate on it in the House in which all MPs could participate. There may be people out there who have something to say about the closing of the National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment, or on the changes to environmental protection and energy project decision making that places more authority than ever before in the hands of the Minister. You might think that, in a working democracy, even such a radical plan as this would be allowed the time to be discussed.
And of course you would be wrong. The review process for this entire 400+ page bill will happen on a single committee and will be wrapped up by June 7. Major players are being completely shut out of the debate. For example, Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party and an elected MP will not even be allowed to speak to the bill in Parliament at all and she cannot sit on the committee reviewing it. She had to resort to a press conference to outline the MAJOR changes that this bill engenders. And this is an elected sitting MP who is also a party leader.
I have things to say about this bill. I tweet, email and phone my MP, John Weston, who is a Conservative but he never responds. And it’s not like his twitter stream is full of other mentions…I am the only one knocking on his door on this. My question is, where do I get to participate in this massive remaking of Canadian federal policy? Where does my voice get to be heard?
It doesn’t. My MP doesn’t ever respond, and I can’t force him to. Perhaps, PERHAPS, this blog post might compel him to say something. But when even a party leader can’t participate in the process it is clear that the game is up.
I have never felt so disempowered from the public process in my entire life. Democracy is not about voting once every four years and living with the results. Even China and Burma allow elections to be held. Rather, it is about participation. There is no way at all that my concerns can be officially heard and taken into account. There is no consultation, there is not even a conversation to be had. My MP is not out in the constituency holding discussions about what the changes mean and how we feel about them. There is literally no way to participate at all.
The promise of democracy has been violated. There is no where to turn to have a say. I feel like my mouth is full of cotton.
I don’t trust this government at all. I cannot find a single person who can describe to me the upside of doing it this way. We have had our democratic promise stolen from under our noses, and if this bill is allowed to pass using this process we may look back and regret the day we allowed legislation to be created this way. We now live very close to the shadow of an autocratic oligarchy, thrown the quardennial bone of a ballot to tick to keep up appearances.
I am sad for Canada. What else am I supposed to feel?