Friday, 26 December 2008

Larry O'Brien's Lies and the Tragic History Behind OC Transpo's Scheduling System

This post is dedicated to the memory of Clare Davidson, Brian Guay, David Lemay, Harry Schoenmakers, and Pierre Lebrun, victims of the poisoned work environment at OC Transpo.


Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien would have us believe that it was the union that precipitated the OC Transpo strike and that the scheduling system is costing the city and OC Transpo money.

The truth is the strike was precipitated when management presented a final offer and made it clear that it's scheduling proposal was not negotiable, leaving the union with only two options, accept the offer (the substance of which had already been rejected by 98% of the membership) or strike. Further negotiations were not an option, and as we have seen, are still not an option as far as Larry O'Brien is concerned. Although the union has proposed changes to the current scheduling system to try and address OC Transpo's concerns.

But the biggest lie is that the scheduling system is costing the city money, while the truth is OC Transpo workers absorbed the costs of the scheduling system.

In an effort to improve the working conditions, the Union’s membership voted overwhelmingly to pay for these additional costs itself. Drivers did this by accepting a sub-standard wage increase in 1999. This substandard pay rate continues today. As recently reported in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, Ottawa’s transit workers are paid many thousands of dollars lower than transit workers in other Ontario municipalities of similar size. Simply put, Ottawa’s drivers are paid lower rates for the benefit of having the current scheduling system.
But the real story behind the strike is the unspoken tragic history of how the current scheduling system came about, a history that I am sure is on the minds of OC Transpo workers everyday they are on the picket line.
In the mid-1990s morale at OC Transpo began to fall, it hit bottom in 1998 and 1999. In response to this both the Union and Management knew that it had to carefully examine ways to turn the workplace around. Management at OC Transpo recommended to Regional Council, and Council approved a study by KPMG that cost in excess of one million dollars.

KPMG recognized the problem, noting in its February 1999 report:

"…[reduced public funding, deteriorating bus fleet, and increasing cost of providing public transit services] contributed to the strife between OC Transpo and its workers, demoralized workforce, resulting in poorer customer service…"

KPMG also noted that both the union and management shared a concern and hoped to work together to improve working conditions. KPMG went on to observe:

"There has been a strong commitment from both the unions and management to recognize the shortcomings of the system and to implement change and improvements as quickly as possible. The level of co-operation, and the commitment to consultation between the unions and management has improved dramatically.”

The KPMG study recommended that management allow the drivers, including their union, to have a greater role to play in the operation of the workplace. KPMG rejected the prevailing attitude in the workplace concluding that “the philosophy that “I put up with it so you have to” has been recognized as inappropriate in today’s environment.”

To further demonstrate their willingness to overcome problems, representatives from both management and the union attended negotiation training sessions at Harvard University. The result was a commitment by both sides to embrace “interest based negotiations” – a process where the parties openly share their concerns, expectations and information in negotiations. The Harvard program was partially funded by the federal Mediation Services department.

Improved morale could not come quick enough though – on April 6, 1999 an employee had entered the Belfast Road bus depot and opened fire – killing four long-service workers. This terrible event, and the memories of four workers, reinforced the need to make improvements in this workplace.

One such improvement was the scheduling system that is presently in dispute. The proposal originated with the employer negotiators – a way that drivers could have more input into the nature of their work. Prior to this, drivers reported in and were assigned routes and times. There was frustration and a feeling that drivers did not have even this small amount of control over their working lives.

The employer’s 1999 proposal on scheduling was also a method to relieve junior members from working less desirable times. For example one driver, Craig Watson recently commented, “under the old system I worked weekends for ten years, under the current system I had a better balance between weekends and weekdays.”

To create this flexibility the union and management agreed that more senior drivers could bid on weekend work in addition to their normally assigned hours. This would give the more junior members time off. The freely negotiated schedule did result in more overtime for those senior members – approximately 0.6% in 1999. The company said that while it supported the scheduling flexibility, it did not want to shoulder the additional cost, even though it was a small one.

The scheduling system now under assault by the City was the product of interest based negotiations in 1999 – for their efforts the Employer’s negotiators won an prestigious award for innovation and leadership. That isn’t being duplicated today.
As a result of those co-operative efforts made by workers and managers, employer and union, working conditions, morale, and service levels began to improve.

Then Larry O'Brien was elected Mayor of Ottawa.


Sources:
Ottawa Transit Strike - The History of the Current Scheduling System
The Canadian Encyclopedia: Ottawa Massacre

Friday, 19 December 2008

Have A Holly Jolly Season of Cultural Diversity

Well the godless communist Fifth Column is about to take a break for the Christian Capitalist holiday season.

That is, of course, if you listen to some Christian proselytizers who would have you believe that Christians are the only ones celebrating at this time of year and the most terrible thing anyone could do, and an affront to god as well, is to wish non-Christians best wishes during their celebrations.

Ever since Europeans first set foot in this country Canada has been a multicultural and multi-religious country, and even before that, as our aboriginal peoples also have a variety of cultural traditions. We are a country with freedom of religion but no official religion.

Not only is this the Christmas season, but it is also the time of the winter solstice and the beginning of winter, a season that is very much a defining aspect of being Canadian. There is nothing more Canadian than winter and getting out and enjoying and celebrating it. It is something shared by all Canadians, no matter their cultural or religious backgrounds.

And of course, for those Canadians that are religious, it is a shared season of religious festivals for numerous faiths, including many of the “world's great religions”.

We have a real opportunity here, as Canadians, to turn this holiday season into a celebration of our diversity. That is not to take anything away from Christianity or other religions, who can, and still should, celebrate their religious festivals.

Indeed, the Christian community could use this opportunity to untether the secular aspects of Christmas from the religious celebrations of Christianity, freeing it from the commercialism that has overpowered it.

This is an opportunity for all Canadians to come together and celebrate beliefs shared by all the great religions, as well as humanism, the spirit of love, peace and caring for each other. We could combine the secular aspects of the winter season with these shared beliefs and turn it into one big Canadian festival of diversity.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Mountain Biking and Cycling: The Season in Review

Another season ended a few weeks ago when the roads were covered in white stuff, not snow but a heavy layer of salt that the city felt necessary to dump on the roads during a few light snowfalls. But as I do much of my riding from home, even the ride to the mountain bike (MTB) trails requires riding on the roadways so I decided it was time to end the season. A couple of weeks later everything was covered in snow. The bikes have been in and out of “Joe's Garage” for Eric's annual tune-ups and are waiting downstairs for the new season. Christine's Brodie Sterling is set up on a trainer, and my Devinci Remix “as good as new” with brand new Kenda Nevegals is waiting for next season.

My season started on April 6 on the Brodie hybrid riding the back country roads near Kanata and the mountain bike season started on May 6 on the Old Quarry trails and ended November 20 on those same trails. I rode a total of 2715 km (174 hours) this season, 1977 km (113 hours) on the hybrid and 739 km (61 hours) on the mountain bike.

We took a three week vacation in Austria but even managed to get 179 km of riding in there on Trans-Canada Trail type trails and paved paths, on borrowed mountain bikes. More on cycling in Austria in a future blog post.

We also decided not to take our bikes on our one week northern vacation this year, concentrating on kayaking up north instead, including a bit on the French River.

The highpoint of the season for me, as far as hybrid riding goes, is the Tour Nortel. I rode just over 80 km in 4.5 hours at an average speed of 19 km/hour and raised $525 for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. My longest hybrid ride this year was 101 km from Kanata up into the Gatineau's and back in 5.5 hours at an average speed of 19 km/hr. I did not manage to beat last years personal distance record of 110 km.

This Seasons Long Hybrid Ride
click image to enlarge

My mountain biking season this year was concentrated on the Greenbelt trails and Kanata Lakes with some exploring in the Marlborough Forest. We live right beside Old Quarry and those trails interconnect to all of the western Greenbelt trails so we spend a lot of time on these trails whose difficulty ranges from easy flat gravel to the highly technical Lime Kiln Trail and everything in-between.

I got a new toy this year, a new, much more accurate GPS to use on my mapping projects. I added maps of Greenbelt Trails 11 & 12 and the Marlborough Forest to my map archive this season. Mapping the trails is an added bonus to riding them since I have always loved and collected maps, and it adds some extra fun to the experience and is a way to give back to the community.

I first checked out the Marlborough Forest in the previous season attempting to follow the Rideau Trail through it. But as soon as the trail left the forest roads it became very muddy and unsustainable so I switched to the forest roads and mapped all of the forest roads that connected to my starting point this season. There may be a few other orphan roads out there. However there are lots of cart trails , snowmobile trails and other trails interconnecting with the forest roads that I have yet to explore and map. Perhaps next season.

Marlborough Forest Forest Roads
click image to enlarge

The other part of my regular riding schedule is in the South March Highlands, also known as the Kanata Lakes Trails. This year I managed to get out a number of my times on my own, in addition to the regular Thursday night Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) rides where I was asked and reluctantly agreed to lead the OMBA Group D ride. My reluctance was based on the large shoes I had to fill from previous Group D riders such as Peter and Mario (and Catweaver before I joined the rides). However I think I set my own tone for the rides making them an easy going beginner level ride. Indeed I think there is room for a group between D and C that would be a little more challenging than Group D as I lead it. It also looks like A and B might possibly be combined as they usually ended up being combined this last season. Leading Group D got me out a few more times in the season trying to scout out different routes for the group to take. Next season if I am still leading the group I think we will do more of the old Kanata Lakes trails between the rail line and GFR and I expect to spend even more time in SMH next season.

A Typical Group D Ride
click image to enlarge

As well as riding in SMH I also had the opportunity to participate in OMBA trail days doping trail maintenance. This season we managed to get Rock Hopper made into a much more sustainable trail. Trail days are a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun and a great way to give back to the trails that we all enjoy.

The City of Ottawa is currently preparing the management plan for the South March Highlands so helping keep the trails sustainable, as well as riding responsibly and avoiding the trails during muddy conditions, improves the chances of having mountain biking recognized as not only a legitimate but a desirable use of the trail system.

And besides all the riding I have gotten involved in a number of other MTB related projects this season. I just agreed to monitor the NCC's greenbelt review for OMBA and keep my eyes and ears open for any impacts on mountain biking.

I have also been helping PeterV learn about GPSing and mapping software for his Nakkertok project. I have also been providing Catweaver with some informal assistance on her Trips for Kids project. And I am now an EcoSteward for the Dominique's Creative Wheel Centre, an environmental retreat and MTB training school, for women and children, where I help out with mapping projects.

It has been a great season and I look forward to next season. I have already started to plan a short MTB holiday in the Muskoka region that I will be writing more about in the future.

Happy Riding to all of you that are continuing to ride through the winter.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Everything I've Ever Thought Was Wrong

I've always thought of myself this way:

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
knowing
acknowledges
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
practical
safe

But now I find out I'm this way:

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
believes
appreciates
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
impetuous
risk taking

So undoubtedly I am going to have to give up blogging and become a starving artist.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Friday, 12 December 2008

What's The Big Deal About OC Transpo Scheduling

The OC Transpo strike is not about the money. If the proposed changes to the scheduling system were taken off the table the drivers and mechanics would be back to work immediately and accept OC Transpo's wage offer without the signing bonus.

So what is the big deal about the scheduling system that gives drivers with more seniority better routes and schedules.

Perhaps, if your a new driver, you might think you could even benefit if the older drivers don't get the best routes and schedules. Until, of course, you realize driver fairness would not be a factor in scheduling, only administrative convenience.

As a newer driver under the current system you know you are going to get stuck with the worst routes and schedules now when you are young, to benefit from the system when you are older and family time is more important to you. If your an older driver, that did his time under the system, no doubt you are very upset to possibly lose the benefit that you paid for as a younger driver.

How does OC Transpo, the city and bus riders benefit from the current system. Well for one it is a great incentive for driver loyalty, and the more experienced drivers there are in the system the more efficiently the whole system will run, contributing to cost savings for the city.

The benefit of being able to choose your routes, even when your at the lower level, gives drivers a feeling of empowerment and belonging. For senior drivers the, system probably contributes to keeping the same drivers on the same routes, getting to know the routes and the regular passengers. It contributes greatly to job satisfaction, which is very important for workers who are dealing with the public on the front line, and that easily translates into rider satisfaction.

So why does the city want to change a system that works to everyone's benefit for some theoretical cost savings and put bus riders through a strike, that the city very well might lose, to try do it.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Harper In His Own Words: On Agreements with the BQ, Plus …

Thanks to some other bloggers' posts, Harper's past positions have come back to haunt him. I have pulled the relevant information together here:

September 9, 2004

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,
C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Governor General
Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1

Excellency,

As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the
Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister
to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons
fail to support some part of the government’s program.

We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together
constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We
believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give
you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the
opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising
your constitutional authority.

Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Gilles Duceppe, M.P.
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois

Jack Layton, M.P.
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Sources: Excited Delirium
Macleans.ca



Source: Impolitical

And in breaking news, we have another reason Harper shut down Parliament to avoid being defeated.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

OC Transpo Union Chief - World's Worst Communicator

Some of you may have thought it was Stéphane Dion, but as OC Transpo workers start a strike that will impact thousands of members of the public, the award must go to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 President André Cornellier.

When you are a public sector union, public opinion is very important. I saw the union president interviewed on CTV and he came across as very arrogant and not caring about the public. I do not believe that he is, is but that is the impression he presented. And he failed to present the union's case very well, mainly because the facts he was trying to present got lost in his attitude.

And the union itself has not presented any information supporting their position on their website, not even a single press release.

So let me try to do what the union and it's president have failed to do so the public can see that the hard working OC Transpo workers do have a reason to strike.

The Ottawa Citizen reported the facts this way.

The union has been without a contract since March, and the two sides have held talks off and on over the months. Things heated up last week when the workers voted 98 per cent to reject a city offer and to give their leadership a strike mandate.


The main unresolved issues are wages, scheduling, sick leave and contracting out work.

The city is offering a three-year deal with three-, two- and two-per-cent wage increases in each year, retroactive to April 1st and a one-time $2,000 signing bonus to each member.

The union is proposing a three-year contract with increases of 3.5 per cent in each year and has said they will not accept smaller wage increases than other city unions have received recently, which are minimum three per cent per year.

The city is proposing to take some scheduling control away from workers in order to run operations more efficiently, while saying it will respect booking seniority rights. The union wants to maintain the current scheduling practices.

The city is looking to relax language about contracting out work, which prevents non-unionised workers from performing some duties, too.
So the first thing we note is that the union has given the bargaining process a long time to work before deciding it was necessary to go on strike to get the City and OC Transpo to pay attention to their concerns.

While this may not be a good time for the union to ask for new benefits, their major reason for striking is management's attempt to take away previously won contract provisions regarding scheduling and contracting out. If there is one thing that workers will strike for it is to protect hard earned rights and contract provisions, and attempts to replace their jobs with non-unionised contract employees. Such attempts are almost always certain to lead to strike action. According to the union, such attempts made in the past have always been withdrawn.

The one area that the union is asking for increased benefits is sick leave, where they are asking for the same sick leave provisions as other city workers. As well, in regards to wage increases, they are asking for the same increases given to other city employees.

These do not seem like extravagant demands being made by some of the hardest working city employees with very demanding and stressful working conditions.

So why has OC Transpo forced them to strike. One thing to note is that everyday OC Transpo operates it costs the city money. Everyday they are on strike the city saves money. An OC Transpo strike is an effective way for the city to save money while deflecting the blame for the inconvenience onto the OC Transpo workers and their union.

Is this a strategy dreamed up by Mayor Larry O'Brien or just the result of his arrogance and continued inability to lead the city.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Another Majority, Another Coup – Ottawa City Budget Passed

A majority of the members of Ottawa City Council passed the City budget last night and according to the Ottawa Citizen a "coup" has been staged by a "coalition" on Ottawa City Council and President Stephen Harper Mayor Larry O'Brien doesn't like it. How dare this coalition go against the elected President Mayor.

The city’s 2009 budget debates took a dramatic turn Monday night when a group of councillors, not including Mayor Larry O’Brien, brought and passed a package motion that results in 4.9-per-cent property-tax increase and avoids serious program cuts.

It was a coup from a new coalition on council made up of some very strange political bedfellows, and Mr. O’Brien was powerless to stop it.
As the Citizen reported:
Council had managed to close the gap by several million, and the meeting was heading into debate on some of the of more serious cuts to bus routes.

It was then that the coalition made its move with the package motion tabled by College Councillor Rick Chiarelli.

The coalition declined to make many of the cuts that more than 200 people had argued against during last week’s public submissions portion of the budget process.
Apparently if your not a right wing minority then your just another "coalition" imposing a "coup" and it just isn't right.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Final Words - Frustrated and Disheartened

Stephen Harper is the schoolyard bully who picks on the smaller kids and when they join together to fight back he cries – that's not fair you're only allowed to fight me one at a time. And the Canadian schoolyard is cheering him on.


Is My Country Gone

In all the years I have watched Canadian politics I have never seen anything like this and I have been watching Canadian politics for fifty years. When I was in high school I had the daily Hansard delivered to my home and read them everyday. After that I earned my degree in Political Science and spent over thirty years working for the House of Commons, reading, analyzing and indexing the House of Commons Debates.

The first election I took an interest in was when I was eight years old cheering for John Diefenbaker. I think I can be forgiven for cheering for a Tory due to my young age, but Diefenbaker captured the imagination of all Canadians. John Diefenbaker was a Parliamentarian and truly a House of Commons man. He must be rolling over in his grave as his successor as Tory leader colludes with the Governor General to overrule the will of the House of Commons.

The last ime I had to write about something like this was almost 40 years ago when Pierre Trudeau suspended the civil liberties of all Canadians. But at least Trudeau had the support of a majority of the House of Commons, with the notable exception of .Tommy Douglas and the New Democratic Party. Today it is Stephen Harper suspending the democratic rights of all Canadians. How ironic that Harper is following in the footsteps of his arch rival.

This is not to say that there are not precedents for what Harper is doing, just not in Canada.

1629 King Charles I in England
1799 Napoleon in France
1913: Victoriano Huerta in Mexico
1933: Adolf Hitler in Germany
1936 Fransisco Franco in Spain
1939: Benito Mussolini in Italy
1973: Augusto Pinochet in Chile
1975 Indira Gandhi in India
1999 Perez Musharaff in Pakistan
2008: Stephen Harper in Canada

Is the Governor General to Blame


I am reluctant to blame Governor General Michaëlle Jean for acceding to Stephen Harper's request for fear of stirring up Republican sentiments and because we do not know what lies Stephen Harper told her or what threats he may have made.

But we do know she has acted in a manner that no representative of the Queen should, by explicitly going against the clearly expressed wishes of a majority of the democratically elected House of Commons. And she did that to allow the government to avoid it's constitutional accountability to the House of Commons, by avoiding a vote of confidence. And she did that on the advice of an illegitimate Prime Minister whom she knew had lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

This must not be allowed to happen again. To deal with the specific prorogation decision the House of Commons Act should be amended to prevent the Prime Minister from requesting a prorogation longer than a week so that prorogation is only used to end a session to allow a government to introduce a new Throne Speech, and not used to shut down Parliament. To deal with the larger issue of the Governor General's constitutional decision making powers, I agree with other bloggers' advice, that this power be delegated to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who is truly independent and knowledgeable and experienced with ruling on matters of constitutional law.

Stephen Harper is to Blame For This Political Crisis

Stephen Harper ignored the fact that he had a majority in his first term and, with the collusion of the Liberals, governed as if he had a majority. Then he broke his own fixed election dates law, with the collusion of the Governor General, to attempt to win a majority. He then failed, attempted to ignore his minority status again, and when the democratically elected majority in the House of Commons calls him on it and is about to defeat him and present a democratically elected alternative coalition government, he shuts down Parliament, again with the collusion of the Governor General.

He engages in a campaign of lies, that even CBC commentators have to inform their viewers of the truth every time he speaks. He goes as far as to question the legitimacy of democratically elected Members of Parliament from Quebec and uses rhetoric best designed to create a national unity crisis. Indeed he uses rhetoric that experts and commentators believe will increase support for the Part Québecois in the Quebec election.

And for this his public support increases. And I cry for my Canada.

Stephen Harper's Lies and the Truth About Parliamentary Democracy and the Coalition

Stephen Harper would like to believe that he was elected all powerful President of Canada and he would like us to believe that somehow the people of Canada voted for him to be Prime Minister. The only people who voted for Stephen Harper where the residents of Calgary Southwest. The rest of us voted for individual Members of Parliament just as the residents of Calgary Southwest did.

Yes, we voted knowing that if the Conservative Party won a majority of seats Stephen Harper would become Prime Minister and if the Conservatives won the most seats but not a majority, he would be given the first opportunity to form a government and seek the confidence of the House of Commons.

But the most basic principle of Parliamentary Democracy is that the government is responsible to the legislature and can only govern while it retains the confidence of the legislature. The normal constitutional practice when a government loses the confidence of the legislature depends on how long the government has been in power. If it is late in the term of the government an election is usually called. If it is early in the term of the government the opposition is usually given an opportunity to form a government and seek the confidence of the legislature.

Stephen Harper and his Tory talking points repeat over and over again the lie that the Bloc Québecois is part of the Progressive Coalition. That is a blatant lie. The coalition is made up of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. As to the claim that the Bloc Québecois has a veto over coalition policies. That is also an outright lie. The Bloc is committed to voting with the coalition on all matters of confidence. While it does reserve the right to vote against the coalition on other issues it would require the support of the Tories for them to block any coalition legislation. The only way the Bloc could block any coalition legislation is with the “collusion” of the Tories. And Tories never vote with separatists. Well unless it is to get their budget passed.

The Conservatives argue that we should not change Prime Ministers without an election. That might be true if we elected Prime Ministers, but we do not. Take the case of Kim Campbell who became Prime Minister between elections. On June 13, 1993, Kim Campbell was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. As the leader of the party in power in the House of Commons, Kim Campbell automatically became Prime Minister. That is how Parliamentary Democracy works.

The Conservatives argue that only the party with the most seats should be allowed to form a government. What would they say if the seats won by the four federalist parties were more evenly divided leading to the Bloc Québecois having the most seats. Would Stephen Harper and the Tories argue that the federalist parties should not be allowed to form a coalition. I think not.

Where Do We Go From Here

The Tories talking points are reminiscent of their policy approach of simple solutions to complicated questions – inflamed rhetoric and outright lies instead of fact and logic. Add a massive establishment media propaganda campaign to the mix and a large number of people are falling for it.

But Harper may have outsmarted himself. His campaign may be at its peak the day before the scheduled non-confidence vote would have taken place. Though Harper is hoping the “time-out” will give the Progressive Coalition time to fall apart, I believe he misjudges the coalition. It looks like prorogation will actually give the coalition time to replace Stéphane Dion, who, while he may be a competent leader, is clearly a poor communicator. And more importantly it will give the coalition time to educate the public about the real threat to democracy posed by Stephen Harper and his actions.

As to the replacement of Dion as Progressive Coalition leader, there is a way to avoid circumventing the democratic Liberal Party leadership process. Let the coalition caucus select a leader for the coalition. It need not be either coalition party leader, or it may turn out to be one of them. The chosen coalition leader could serve till the coalition government ends, or be revisited after the Liberals select a new leader.

What we have learned most from this crisis is that Stephen Harper will do anything to cling to power and anything to stop the democratically elected Progressive Coalition from taking power.

The bully must not be rewarded. The coalition must not allow the Conservative government to continue with Harper as Prime Minister. The only way the Conservative government should be allowed to continue is if they replace Harper as Prime Minister and present a budget that meets the real needs of the Canadian people.

If that does not happen and the government is defeated Harper will then undoubtedly request a new election, and if the Governor General accedes to the request of her illegitimate Prime Minister, who lacks the confidence of the House of Commons, we will be into an election campaign.

If that happens I would propose an electoral accord between the Progressive Coalition partners, The Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, as well as the Green Party. The Bloc Québecois would not be part of this electoral accord because it is important that Quebeckers have a federalist alternative to the Tories. The Electoral Accord partners would run the candidate best able to defeat the Conservative candidate in each constituency based on historical and other factors agreeable to all parties.

Proportional Representation is the Real Solution

But the real long term solution to to Canada's electoral problems is to adopt an electoral process that allows every vote to count and elects a House of Commons that truly represents the will of the Canadian people. If such a system had been in place during the last election we would now have a ”coalition we deserved”, where the seats held by each party would have reflected their portion of the popular vote. Such a system would give us a government that most of the public are demanding now, one where the House of Commons must work together for the good of all Canadians.

Postscript


The irony of all ironies would be if the Conservative budget was opposed by the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party but passed with the support of the Bloc Québecois. Would Stephen Harper resign because a government requiring the support of the evil separatists is illegitimate. I think not.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Jack Laytons Finest Hour

Jack Layton being Prime Ministerial in front to the House of Commons Chamber. How
appropriate.

Read it here

Watch it here If you get an error message at the start close it and hit play

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

RANTS

Well I have just learned that I am going to have to spend 10 minutes of my life this evening listening to Stephen harper spout lies and garbage. But it is my duty as a blogger to keep informed and this will provide a chance for the Progressive Coalition to respond to the government's disinformation and propaganda campaign.

My rant follows, but first of all, Thank You Rick Mercer:



Perhaps this will go a long way in counteracting the Tory propaganda campaign of lies.

This is a time for Parliament to work together for the good of the country, not a time for the Prime Minister to use lies and deception to try and divide the country to rescue himself from his own political failure.

And thank you Ed Broadbent for calling the Prime Minister on his disgraceful attempt to create a climate of fear and disunity through lies and deception. It is refreshing to hear the truth from one of our country's real Elder Statesmen (not that I'm trying to call Ed old).

If only Canada's premier constitutional expert, Eugene Forsey was alive to explain the truth about the constitutional validity of the coalition. However when you look beyond the hand-picked so-called experts the media have chosen and ask real constitutional experts you will see that there is a consensus that the coalition building process that we are going through is Parliamentary democracy working exactly the way it is supposed to.

But I must say that I am extremely frustrated by the success of the Tories talking points and campaign of lies and deception. Clearly the Canadian people do not understand how a Parliamentary democracy works. I am even more frustrated by the ignorance shown by people who call themselves “Progressive Bloggers”.

But it is not surprising that the Tory campaign is working – it is based on emotion and the people are likely to be much more responsive to that than to our attempts to lecture them on Political Science. Perhaps this is where Rick's Rant will be successful where we are not. But we should not be deterred from dealing with the facts. Democracy is about freedom and the truth shall make us free.

Our European friends must be watching in amusement as we turn a normal part of Parliamentary democracy into a political crisis.

But indeed, it is not as if the constitutiona precedents, such as
this one are not there.

Read more from York University professor James Laxer, here and here.

As to the claim the opposition parties are doing this for political reasons – what political benefit do they have to gain. All the Liberals had to do to ensure they would again replace the Tories as the natural governing party is to let the Conservatives ignore the economic situation and continue to lead the country into hell in a hand basket. Just ask Bob Rae about the political benefits of taking over government just as the county is going into recession. The only reason for the coalition partners to take this political risk is to save the country from the mismanagement and ineptitude of the current government. Actually if only it was just that - what is much worse at this time of economic crisis is the government putting their own political benefit and survival above the concerns and needs of the Canadian people.

As to the claim that the Bloc Québecois has a veto over coalition policies. That is an outright lie. The Bloc is committed to voting with the coalition on all matters of confidence. While it does reserve the right to vote against the coalition on other issues it would require the support of the Tories for them to block any coalition legislation. The only way the Bloc could block any coalition legislation is with the “collusion” of the Tories. And Tories never vote with separatists. Well unless it is to get their budget passed.

And as to the most blatant lie of them all.


Democracy Links

Perhaps they could have avoided this it they had acted co-operatively from the start, but as I said before, it is too late for a Do Over.

While this whole situation is very frustrating, because so many Canadians have been taken in by the deceitful Tory propaganda campaign, when all is done I have no doubt that the Governor General will examine the facts and constitutional precedents and power will pass peacefully to the Progressive Coalition in accordance with the principles of Parliamentary democracy.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

What Should Michaëlle Jean Do

The Governor General's duties are mostly ceremonial but she also has constitutional responsibilities, including ensuring there is always a Prime Minister.

I believe that the Governor General should not override the wishes of an elected government unless it is attempting to subvert the Constitution or the will of the House of Commons.

In the current political situation it is very clear that the government of the day is attempting to subvert the will of the majority of the House of Commons and the response of the Governor General should be to protect democracy.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Truth About Parliamentary Democracy – Majority Rule

Since some people seem to be having trouble understanding how Parliamentary democracy works, let me explain it for them.

In our Parliamentary system we do not directly elect the Prime Minister and government but they are determined by the composition of the House of Commons. The only people who voted for Stephen Harper were the voters in his constituency and they voted for him as a Member of Parliament, not as Prime Minister.

The main principle of our Parliamentary system is that it is based on majority rule. The democratic legitimacy of a government is based on the fact that it has the support, or confidence, of the majority of the Members of the House of Commons. The main principle of our democracy is not “party with the most seats” rule but “majority” rule. Let us repeat that – majority rule.

Currently in Canada it appears that the Conservative government is about to lose the confidence of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons and a Progressive Coalition is going to be formed that will have the confidence of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons.

That is how our democratic process is supposed to work – by majority rule.