Monday, December 18, 2006

REMISSION FROM THE VIRUS POLITICUS

Joe Hueglin wrote:

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                 The VIRUS POLITICUS is what you and I have - as do all others receiving the Digest.   This time of years matters of a more pressing
                 nature intrude upon our fixation with the latest ebb and flow of events impacting on the future well being of our country and people.

                 Will the Agricultural Minister replace the President of the Canadian Wheat Board?  What impact will Operation Falcon have? What
                 are the overall reactions to proposed reshaping of the Senate?  While these and other questions remain with us completing the
                 "Honey Do" list for some of us (and concern for the list being accomplished satisfactorily for others) takes primacy.

                 This is reality as well as the other that not a great deal is happening as visiting these links will attest
                 CP http://www.recorder.ca/cp/National/national.html               CBC http://www.cbc.ca/news/?refresh
                 CTV http://www.ctv.ca/canada                               CNEWS http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/
                 G&M http://www.theglobeandmail.com/national/           POST http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/headlinescan.html
                 TORSTAR http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Render&c=Page&cid=968332188774

                 So all in all the Digest will be very irregular until the New Year.

                 Having said that (and having provided seven links to those needing a daily fix), some materials are included enabling you, should
                 you so choose, to obtain deeper knowledge relating to the Senate as well as several views relating to proposed alterations to it.

                 Monday December 18th is window cleaning and vacuuming the house day so best I hit the hay and be at least semi-awake come the
                 morn.

                           Joe

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Rosalie Piccioni

Joe.        Re:  Mahmood Elahi
                    To: <letters@thecitizen.canwest.com>
                    Subject: Respect for law is key to integration
 
Mr. Elahi puts it so well.  People come here because of the peace.  In order to have peace, we have to have laws.  Canada must remain that sanctuary for people to come to.
 
Stratos' remarks about Ontario Court of Justice Marion Cohen are appreciated also.  What is a country without traditions, especially when because of their uniqueness some of them attract new citizens?  Some of us wouldn't be without our Christmas trees - even if we do appreciate Hanukah as well because it too gives out light.

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Ron Thornton

Hi Joe:

I have a few observations stemming from the Dec. 17 D.D.

The London Free Press comments that "Canadians must have say" in Canada replacing its parliamentary model of governance for an American one.  I wonder if they asked the same thing 40 years ago or before when the Liberals starting to do just that.  No doubt the good paper figures that by allowing the electorate to indicate to the Prime Minister who they wish him to appoint to the Senate is somehow a threat to parliamentary democracy.  In fact, the American system of selecting Senators was more democratic in 1789 then our own as 2007 dawn upon us.  At least they allowed their state legislators to vote to elect their two senators, rather than just leave it up to one guy in Washington to pass out patronage.  I see that Australia actually elects a Senate and they still have parliamentary democracy.  Maybe the good people at the London Free Press need to study up a little on their subjects before exposing their ignorance to their readers.  Meanwhile, Parliamentary democracy is eroded and undermined when we remove debate from the checks and balances provided by Parliament itself and hand all decisions over to the PMO to do what it darn well pleases.   In short, we've already allowed our system to become screwed up...and I don't think Canadians had much of a say in that.

I begin to see what a Prime Minister Dion would bring to us. Quotas. 
The Vancouver Province thinks quotas for female candidates is a backward step.  I agree.  I don't care if the candidate is a man or a woman.  I just want the best candidate to choose from, not one handed a sympathy nomination. If quotas are the become the way to go, then let me submit the names of the men and women in my family, not one of whom is holding down an elected office but certainly worthy of being nominated should we all get sucked up into Dion World. My grandmother turned 92 last week. 
I nominate her first to represent the family in the next election.  I also notice damn few 90 year old women holding office.  There must be a problem.

I learned from the D.D. that future postal rate hikes will no longer send us charging to the post office for the 1-cent stamps to make up the difference.  While Stratos does not seem to get too warm and fuzzy over this, I think we are making progress when a stamp is a stamp for regular mail, whether you bought it last week, last month, or last year. 
Imagine, it seems that we actually do have some intelligent life in Ottawa.  We should send a Martian lander to that remote world to see if we can discover some more.

Norman Greenfield figures there is no separation of church and state up here in the Great White North, or down in the Excited States.  Pardon me?  If that were true, I'm thinking we would not have been talking about gay marriage again.  Rather than leave Paul Martin to figure it all out alone, the great holy poobaas would have sent out the edict to keep things as they were and that would have been the end of it.  If such a church ban has been put in effect by the government then, considering the gay marriages that have been conducted across this land since, I guess a lot of folks missed the memo.  Rather than being an issue of "separation of church and state",  the subject of Norman's comments had more to do with the influence between church and state.  Of course, churches not alone in this, with any number of organizations, special interest groups, and lobbies seeking government support for their causes from the state.  That is not to say one should not be vigilant.  Take the Church of Kyoto, for example.  Soon, its High Priests could order the state to have anyone claiming the Accord as nothing more than a wealth distribution system burned at the stake.  At least we hope that when that day comes, we will be turned to ash through an environmentally friendly method...unless someone buys a bunch of credits from Russia so we can be barbecued the old fashioned way.

Come to think of it, should we not advocate the separation of court and state?  Just a thought.

Have a good day, Joe.

Ron.
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STRATOS
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EDMONTON JOURNAL - Stubborn to the End, U.S. Still Stuck on Arar
http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/opinion/story.html?id=c65e61f0-8a2f-4dee-9437-f3eb2e44f763

When dealing with its internal security, the US is a lot more high-strung than Canada is. Case in point: my brother's unfortunate brush with US authorities. Back when he was a student at George Brown College in Toronto (so when he was 19 or so), one of his neighbours came by, offering to sell him a used, high-quality guitar amplifier at a good price. My brother, trusting his neighbour, did buy it. The problem: his first neighbour had stolen it ... from another neighbour!
 
Two days after having bought the amp, the police visits my brother following neighbour number two'S calling them in. My brother goes to court, explains his case, and is discharge. In other words, the judge found that the possession charges were groundless and he lifted them. LEgally, this is equivalent to my brother never having been charged in the first place, which means that he has no criminal record (and rightly so!).
 
Now the fun began: years later, while working at a Toronto firm for whom he was head technological guy, he was about to board a plane for the US, to attend a conference. The US border agent at Toronto's Pearson airport asked him why he was goig to the US. My brother answered "to attend a conference". The agent looked through my brother's bags, wherein he found a computer communication cable. When asked what the cable was for, my brother told him that it was to transfer files between two computers. Sounds innocuous enough ... except that the agent tells my brother that that's considered work and that he hadn't stated that he was going to work in the States. Now inquisitve, the agent takes a look into at my brother's "criminal record" on his computer ... and finds that he's been charged with possession of stolen goods. Now, being charged isn't sometyhing that's in one's criminal record, it's in one's POLICE records, which is what US border agents see on their computers. When asked earlier whether he had a criminal record, my brotehr had said no ... and the border agent now accused him of trying to enter the US under false pretenses. The penalty: the agent's banning my brother from ever entering the US again .. an irrevocable life sentence which can't be overturned by any US court.
 
So, what to do? Over the following months, my brother had to hire a lawyer who piloted the effort to get my brother's record expunged, that is to erase all record of his having been charged. (This is what his possession charge having been annulled amounted to but a stray record had been kept). And now, the kicker, revealing the US authorities' "stubborn" attitude, as witnessed during the case of Mr. Arar. Once my brother's record had been expunged, he wrote to US Immigration, which after several months answered him that it had lifted his banning ... and that "... despite evidence of moral turpitude" (the very words on the letter that he showed me). Harsh, pig-headed, or what? Plus ca change ...
 
 
U.S. troops should leave country, but how will America then keep control of oil fields, asks Linda McQuaig
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1166271550347&call_pageid=968256290204&col=968350116795

The issue isn't controlling them, it's ensuring that the oil keeps flowing and the the US can have access to it (buy it) if needed. In 2005, Iraq supplied about 5% of the US' crude oil (a drop from 6.5% the previous year), which put it somewhere around 6th place overall after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria, in that order. Thus, without being negligible, Iraq's contribution to the US oil supply is second-tier.
 
And thus the issue: the US doesn't depend so much on  Iraq's DIRECTLY supplying it oil. It does so INDIRECTLY in the sense that Iraq's stopping shipments will cause other countries to seek other suppliers and thus those countries bidding up oil prices in an effort to get their hands on the supplies that they need. In other words, the US would be harder pressed to obtain oil from its current suppliers if Iraq leaves other countries in the lurch.
 
And thus, why the US doesn't need to so much control the oil fields themselves. All it has to do is to ensure that they keep on producing, which isn't the same thing. (To quote a metaphor: "No need to buy a cow if all you need is milk"). And as for gaining diplomatic leverage over countries dependent on Iraqi oil: all that the US has to do is to control the oil-trade routes. Right now, that means (to a large degree), the Persian Gulf (a US lake since 1990-91) and its outlet at the Straits of Hormuz.
 
So much for Ms M's ever-trenchant (<-- note: irony) perceptiveness.
 

Where do you come from?
DNA: City firm can track your ancestry back 150,000 years
http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/money/story.html?id=d506373d-7956-4f0d-a356-22a40b287068

Since I'm into family stories today, here's a story of me, my Dad, and Mongol invaders. A few years ago, I asked my (Greek immigrant) Dad what blood type he had. He told me B-positive. Interesting. Chuckling, I went on to tell him that B-type blood originated in southwestern China (Tibet-Nepal, I believe) and that it had been spread by Mongol hordes centuries ago. Abrupt end of conversation.
 
So much for ethnic humour (well, I thought that it was funny, anyway). For Heaven's sake, it's not like I called him a Turk or anything (hahahahaha?!?) ...
 

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Mahmood Elahi
To: <letters@thecitizen.canwest.com>
Cc:
Subject: Respect for law is key to integration
The Editor
The Ottawa Citizen
 
Respect for law is key to integration
 
Re "The duty to integrate," by Leonard Stern (Dec. 16).
 
In a democracy, you use the ballot and not the bullet to express your disapproval of the government. Integration may not mean assimilation, but it does mean acceptance of the core values of the society which are rule of law and tolerance of all views as long as they don't incite hatred and violence. To integrate, one must conform to the fundamental values of a democratic society.

The problem isn't so much integration, it's assimilation. In the case of Montreal's large Hassidic Jewish community, for example, one can argue that they're physically and economically integrated in the sense they fall in both our domestic physical domain (they share the same space as we do) and economic domain (they fall within Canada's overall economy). A weaker case can for their being "culturally" integrated,
given that members of the community tend to interact much more with members of the same community than with "outsiders".
 
Where the big difference comes is in their lack of assimilation. Hassidic Jews must respect a rigid dress code, strict social rules and schedules, strict dietary restricytions, and so on, which makes them markedly different from other communities. Mind you, this applies to several communities in the social arena (Sikhs have to wear turbans, grow their hair long, avoid shaving, and wear ceremonial daggers, for example). But the thing that distinguishes each of these communities isn't so mucg integration, it's assimilation or lack thereof.
 
Lack of integration means social / economic / whatever exclusion, that is society prevents certain groups from participating in it. Lack of assimilation amounts to a community's resistance to "society at large's" ethics, social codes, economic protocols, and so forth.  Integration is a "society at large" issue that we can work upon. Assimilation is a "particular community" issue that the community in question (or its individuals) can work upon. "Society at large" can also work upon assimilation issues (for example, everyone being subject to civil law, not to religious "rulings" and "legislation"), but only with difficulty and with contested legitimacy.

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THE SENATE
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The Canadian Senate
The History and Structure of Canada' s Upper Chamber

http://www.mapleleafweb.com/features/parliament/senate/index.html


by Rhonda Lauret Parkinson
January 8, 2004
The Canada West Foundation, a Calgary-based think tank, recently released recommendations to the federal government for reducing western discontent. Two of the ten recommendations concerned the Senate. But discontent with the state of Canada’s second chamber is not confined to the west. Until the controversy erupted over the federal government’s same-sex marriage bill, Liberal MPs planned to discuss Senate reform at their annual August caucus retreat.

Like a national daycare program, Senate reform occasionally appears on the political landscape, only to fade away without any substantive changes being made. Since the 1960s, several reform proposals have been put forth. Nonetheless, the Senate’s structure remains virtually unchanged since the Fathers of Confederation decided to follow the example of most British North American colonies by establishing a Parliament with two chambers.


Confederation and the Canadian Senate

The Fathers of Confederation define the role of the Senate within the new Canadian nation.


The Structure of the Senate in Canada

How are Senators selected and what do they do?


Why Does the Canadian Senate Lack Legitimacy?

Despite efforts by Senators to transform their image, the Senate remains Canada’s least respected political institution.


Senate Chambers throughout the World

How does Canada’s Senate compare with other countries?


The Future of the Canadian Senate

Should the Senate be reformed or abolished?


Links and Further Reading

Find more information on the Canadian senate 
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Michael Watkins, Vancouver-Kingsway

Ian Berg wrote:
> The status quo is a Senate which represents the past rather than
> the present. If it relied on the wisdom of traditions and
 ...snip...
> tolerable. But instead it has become just a rubber-stamp of
> Commons decisions if both chambers happen to be led by the same
> party.

"Represents the past rather than the present" is one of those phrases that sounds good when said quickly and received without consideration, but what does it really mean?

I support keeping the status quo until there is a proposal worthy of consideration. So far there have been no such proposals made by the Harper government, and there is no reason to expect that Harper's "frankensenate" approach achieves anything positive for Canada.

In the short term, Harper's proposal is not designed to improve our system of governance; its designed to improve his electoral chances. While it might work in that narrow sense, its not going to result in a better Senate.

Taking a longer view, Harper very clearly is trying to jamb his foot in the door of change.  Canadians, and especially conservatives, ought to resist such overtures unless and until such time as the end goals and outcomes have been made clear to the Canadian public.

I support retaining the status quo until a full appraisal of the potential benefits, and risks, has been made perfectly clear to the public. There ought to be careful consideration of what our governance system looks like down the road if these dominoes start falling. What remains at the end might be something Canadians would
never vote for today.

The pious sloganeering promoting "democracy" as the rationale for changing the senate is perfectly hypocritical - Harper has already made it clear that he is perfectly comfortable living with undemocratic measures.

For example: converting a Liberal to a Conservative Cabinet minister less than 24 hours after votes were counted, and appointing another to the Senate to get a former campaign manager into Cabinet illustrate that Harper is only too eager to set new precedents (Emerson) and reinforce old ones (Fortier). Both are examples of an
unelected Executive - is this another Harper foot in the door of change? Change that many Canadians and many conservatives would not approve of, if they knew the ultimate destination?

No, if Harper were interested in improving our democracy, he'd focus first on legislating permanent reductions in the power of the PMO. He'd radically improve access to information legislation. He'd make government completely transparent to the people. Those would be meaningful reforms, reforms that would get votes too.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the senate's purpose and construction, it is a fundamental component of our parliamentary system of governance, and as such, any proposed changes deserve careful consideration by us all, not the frankenstienian approach proposed as a vote grab.

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The Hill Times, December 18th, 2006
LETTERS
Thumbs down PM Harper's Senate reform proposal
Suggesting that he's bringing democracy to the Senate with his proposal to make Canadian Senators elected politicians accountable to their provinces shows us just how little Stephen Harper knows about democracy in Canada and how great a threat he and his born-again Reform Party is to democracy, Parliamentary democracy and national unity.

A fully or substantially-elected Senate will cease to be a revising Chamber and it will shift the centre of gravity in Parliament from the Commons to the Senate. It will quickly become a place of provincial advocacy, under the Harper proposal. Further, under the proposal for election by plebiscite, and, particularly under the proposal for future proportional election, Senators will become creatures of party and partisan party politics in their pursuit and exercise of elected office accountable in partisan party matters to the Prime Minister.

The proper role of the Senate is as a check on the excesses of partisanship in the elected Commons, especially as manifested in the excessive powers of the Prime Minister. The Canadian Constitution refers to this duty to revise as "sober second thought." Instead, Harper wants to make the Senate a House of the Provinces through which the Canadian government will become a servant of the provinces and a creature of party politics stripped of its ability to keep the Prime Minister in check. Prime Minister Harper wants to be a president.

We need a change of political culture away from the inward looking, parochial politics of party and province and toward an invigorated Parliament. Mr. Harper's firewall proposals do neither.

Brian D. Marlatt
White Rock, B.C.
(The letter-writer is the Progressive Canadian Party's democratic reform critic.)

Democratic Reform Critic Submission November 19 2006

Senate reform is a dangerous priority of the present government. Canadians should be concerned that proposals to greatly reduce senate tenure, appoint only senators recommended or directly elected by the provinces, and comments by so-called senators-in-waiting that they should be accountable to their province, call into question the proper role of the senate as a revising chamber and institutional memory, and the place of the provinces within Canada.

Canada’s Senate is designed after the British House of Lords as a revising chamber, freed of partisan party or prime ministerial discipline by its appointed status and similarly prevented from being obstructionist for while its powers are considerable it lacks the democratic legitimacy to obstruct government legislation in ordinary circumstances. The Senate
does not exist to defend the provinces against the federal government nor is the Senate an advocate of individual or collective “provincial rights”; the Senate is a chamber of “sober second thought” within Canada’s parliament. In these contexts we are well advised to note the commentary of British deputy prime minister Prescott concerning recent
proposed changes to the House of Lords: “A[n]...elected Lords would cease to be a revising chamber and would shift the centre of gravity in parliament from the Commons to the Upper Chamber” (paraphrased source: BBC, February 2002). In Canada, we submit, such outcomes would threaten national unity.

As Progressive Conservatives our party has previously recommended senate reform which included both nonconstitutional reforms and reforms requiring constitutional amendments. Non-constitutional change included a) emphasizing the role of the Senate as representative of provincial and territorial interests in existing and new committees
and b) giving the Senate a greater role in reviewing federal appointments. Constitutional reform under the general formula (seven provinces representing 50 percent of the population) included a) electing Senators b) re-balancing the constitutional powers of the Senate to reflect provincial, territorial and regional representation in federal legislative
processes while maintaining the supremacy of the House of Commons and c) redistribution of seats on an equal basis through discussion with the provinces and territories.

Importantly, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada provided Guiding Principles as interpretative guides for the implementation of these policy priorities and to mitigate any potential misunderstanding of intent or unintended consequences. We recommend that any proposal for Senate Reform should adopt these Guiding Principles as affirmed
at the PC National Policy Convention in 2000 and reaffirmed in 2002. They are:

GP 235. The Senate fulfils important functions that cannot be adequately addressed by the House of Commons because of that body’s inherent instability, such as the ability to conduct thorough examinations of proposed legislation and regulation, and provide the opportunity for long-term study of complex issues.

GP 236. The Senate fills a valuable role as a check on the power of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

GP 237. The first duty of Canada’s Senators is to Canada as a whole and to all Canadians rather than to the party, interest, province or region from which they were selected. Non-partisan reflection is essential to the objective of “sober second thought”.

• The PC Party will adopt the Policy Priorities of its predecessor Progressive Conservative Party as interpreted through its Guiding Principles for Senate Reform.

Finally, we restate a key theme of these proposals which must underscore any proposal for genuine Democratic Reform: the need for a change of political culture and invigorated parliamentary institutions. We must pursue a course and propose democratic reform which addresses what are, perhaps, the main distortions of parliamentary democracy in our
time, to wit: 1) political parties have become too powerful through instruments of party discipline, finance, and popular understanding; 2) and thence, the prime minister, party leaders, and premiers have become too powerful, thereby diminishing the role of the private member of parliament elected to the Commons; and 3) the provinces and premiers
have become too powerful to serve the interests of Canada as a whole.

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Will ‘Senate Reform’ stick with Joe and Josephine Voter?
http://politicsblog.ctv.ca/blog/_archives/2006/12/14/2573893.html

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