Democracy Under Fire: When The Senate Works As It Should…..

After years of the Conservative dominated Senate rubber stamping legislation and blocking amendments in committee we now have a situation where they are doing their job and proposing changes to a clearly flawed bill. Despite the Liberals using their majority to turn down all of the many amendments propped in the House to the Assisted dieing legislation it is fairly well established that as written it will not pass the constitutional test and the Senate has proposed a change to correct this, the reaction is perhaps predictable.
Both the Conservatives and some others are screaming that this is going to produce a parliamentary deadlock in that the minister responsible continues to defend the bill as written and shows no indication of accepting the senates recommendations. It has yet to be seen in both sides dig their heels in and compromise cannot be found bur the rhetoric that says the Senate is interfering with the process of passing this legislation is pure bloody nonsense! Their job is to study legislation in depth, including the constitutionality of it, and propose corrections to it for the House to consider, that in the past when the majority party numbers in the House and the Senate have coincided and flawed bills have not been properly examined or changed does not mean that such actions are correct or desirable. I am sure that there have also be periods when the majorities did not coincide and bills have been “held up” in the Senate before.
Although the number of “independent” senators in the chamber is not substantive (yet) the general tone of the place seems to be improving and the partisanship reducing, now if we can get the Liberals in the HoC to stop “acting like the previous government” and be more accepting of amendments to proposed legislation be it from their fellow MPs or from the Senate we might have something going right for a change. This has also happened to another bill before the Senate, the RCMP Union legislation!

Let us wait and see how the changes are dealt with when the bills are returned to to the House, it will be another definitive test of whether the election promises and rhetoric were meaningful or just that, promises and rhetoric! Step one, a totally free vote by all partys on this important issue when it gets back to the House.

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Democracy Under Fire: When is our raise coming?

Members of Parliament and senators will get a $3,000 increase Friday in their base salary, while cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will receive a larger raise – at a time when Canadians are struggling with stagnant wages and rising unemployment.
The wage hike of 1.8 per cent for MPs and 2.1 per cent for senators is about four times what the federal government has offered public sector unions and executives in the federal public service……………..
Federal legislation automatically gives MPs an annual pay hike on April 1 that’s equal to the average percentage increase negotiated by unions with 500 or more employees in the private sector. The data are published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The pay hike for MPs is nearly double the average increase of one per cent that public sector unions negotiated in jurisdictions across Canada in 2015.
MPs have the option of freezing their own salaries through federal legislation, but the government has decided not to do so. Salaries for MPs were frozen at 2009-10 levels until the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year under legislation introduced and passed by the former Conservative government……………
Since the MP wage freeze was lifted in 2013, the base salary of members of Parliament has increased eight per cent, from $157,731.
Taxpayers will cough up an extra $25.4 million for an increase of 20 per cent to office budgets for MPs and House of Commons officers that also takes effect Friday.

I don’t think most Canadians have much sympathy for the notion that MPs need a pay hike, considering they already earn far more than the average Canadian.” said Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

And he would be right about that, why is it that their compensation is based upon average PRIVATE sector UNION wages when by far the greatest number of taxpayers are paid far less than union rates and rarely if ever see raises of any amount. Next thing you know they will want to be paid for two weeks of sick days just like or poor hard done by teachers …..oh wait, they get paid whether they show up or not don’t they Mr Harper?

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Democracy Under Fire: Goodby Harper, Hello Canada

I am going to be taking a short break from my weekly blogging over the holidays but before I do I wanted to write a little of my personal thoughts as to what I hope the new year will bring. I will admit to being very optimistic, perhaps too much so, for a return to a kinder, more inclusive, caring Canada as detailed by our new governments many proposed changes to things that were ignored, closed, silenced or abused by the previous regime. Just the tone of the PM and his various ministers gives me a renewed sense of hope for the future, a positive outlook and the reinvesting in people, the openness in listening to, and inviting such dialogue from, the provinces, the scientific community, our environmental groups and our native peoples is so refreshing.
I am not so naive as to believe that all the promises will be achieved in the next year or more, or even ever, but the fact that they are trying thus far for that “open and accountable” government promised to us so many times before is to be supported and encouraged. The reinstatement of the census, the unmuzzleing of our scientists and diplomats, the freedom of our charities to express an opinion without fear, the invitation to all Partys and Provinces to join the delegation at the climate change talks all show a real desire to actually fulfil such promises.
Its not going to be all plain sailing, the very practical proposals for appointing Senators (something that must be done if we are going to have a functional parliamentary system) is already being criticized by some of the very people who would have an increased say in such appointments, namely the Provinces. In trying to ensure a non partisan Senate but still be able to introduce government bills to that chamber previous procedures will need to be changed and some Senators are trying to do just that but some outside the chamber are going to do everything they can to block any efforts to make such changes. The new opposition, who are now in the same position as the Liberals were just a few brief weeks ago, are naturally against almost any move to undo legislation or decisions forced through whist they were in power. I hope they will learn to be a little less partisan with their rhetoric and debate future bills upon their merit, but I doubt that will happen. Just trying to form parliamentary committees has already turned into a squabble as to who can serve on or attend meetings.

So here is my message for 2016. Let us support and encourage the positive change that the new government is proposing, let us ensure that they keep their promises of consulting with the Provinces on shared issues, let us make sure that that open and accountable thing does not drop from sight again and, yes, let us hope for more ‘Sunny Days’ ahead for Canada.

I will be back in January with some thoughts upon the choices to be made in bringing in Electoral Reform. As Peter Lowry says “What we really need in considering these questions is people with open minds. You simply cannot consider solutions to the voting system until you have a clear idea of why you want to change it and what really are the options available. This is not as simple as people think.”

Meanwhile I wish all my readers Happy Holidays and a productive and prosperous 2016

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