Mel Hurtig’s wake-up call for Canada’s democracy: by Bob Hepburn

Titled The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada, the book takes direct aim at Harper’s actions since becoming prime minister in 2006 that are systematically and deliberately in Hurtig’s view destroying our democratic institutions and values.

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Reviving Canadian Democracy

by C. Richard Tindal

The Downward Spiral of Canadian Democracy

Democratic government in Canada has been declining – at an accelerating rate. The House of Commons is ineffective. The Senate is not accountable and is scandal-ridden. Decision making is increasingly centralized in the largely invisible staff in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Many who have been active participants have turned off and tuned out because of understandable disillusionment. The result is that actions that undermine democracy can now be taken without much fear of reprisal.

This book explains how our democratic governing machinery and operating principles have been undermined and what can be done to reverse this downward slide. It is intended to enrage you and then engage you – in the fight to restore and to enhance our democratic institutions and practices.

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Tindal's Blog

 Party of One, Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover is a devastating critique of Canada’s present government and it is fair to say that author Michael Harris believes the prime minister to be a clear and present danger — an existential threat — to Canada’s democracy.

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The Nature of Economics  by Jane Jacobs 

It relates to many of the concerns of RODC - inequality, environment, government policies, and makes a case for human economy being part of the ecosystem.
" What are economies for? ... surely human needs include fair and just sharing of economic production?"
"I think economic life is for teaching our species it has responsibilities to the planet and the rest of nature."
The conversational style makes it an easy read.
I have added it to our BookBox.

Severn and the Day She Silenced the World by Janet Wilson

In 1992, 12 year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki addressed the first Earth Summit in Rio and stunned the delegates there with her plea to save the world for the children.
  Janet's book has been very successful among young people, but it is also a very impressive book about a very adult thinking group of 12 and 13 year old girls and their actions to save species and to draw attention to the environmental degradation of the world.
     RODC has often discussed environmental issues and how our government has failed badly in addressing global warming. This book will inspire us to do more.
     There is a copy in the Book Box.

Second Story Press 2014
Link to the book and the video of Severn's speech (scroll down)
Tragedy in the Commons by Alison Loat and Michael McMillan

Tragedy In The Commons - Conclusions
Notes by Tina Agrell

MPs respect the office itself – but voice grave concerns about how it is practiced and perceived. Party politics dominates lives of MPs and makes the public cynical.

The core work of the Federal government seems out of touch with reality

Public good is sacrificed on the altar of short -term political gain.

Strategic and independent thinking men and women apparently lose all sense of independence and initiative once subsumed under the party brand.

If we are going to get government right, Canadians must believe that politics is worth their time and more of us must actively participate

Individuals acting in their own self-interest will conduct themselves in a manner that is harmful to the community’s collective interest and ultimately their own. Without incentive to change, individuals will carry on depleting the shared possibilities for Canadian democracy. (economic principle know as tragedy of the commons)

How could Canada’s democracy be improved?

Role of the Media and the Public

Improve civics education

Press and citizens must create conditions and pressure for parties, and MPs to change.

Journalists and media outlets who cover politics must not pounce on every caucus member who expresses an opinion that diverges from their party line;

They must not treat healthy exchanges of opinion in public as tantamount to treason or an impending leadership revolt.

Citizens must demand a more nuanced political culture.

Role of the Parties

Better MP orientation and training,

Eliminate Friday proceedings in the House, so MPs can get home to constituency.

Adopt electronic mechanisms to speed up House votes

Give greater authority to committee chairs.

Institute Senate or party financing reform

Introduce Electoral Reform or PR

Move centre of power from political party leadership towards MPs themselves.

Parties should exert less control over Question Period and committees.

Do not permit substitute members to be parachuted into committee to get a vote through.

Allow committee members to develop expertise and let the committee function.

Encourage more sober debate, less throwing malicious barbs back and forth.

Party leaders must improve the way they manage – treat MPs as assets, not vote fodder.

Must develop Orientation procedures to assist new MPs in becoming productive more quickly after arriving in Ottawa

Job descriptions must be clearly outlined and understood by the public, with responsibilities defined in a way that is conducive to feedback and recognition

Create a culture in which achievement is tied to perceptible advancement.

Question the rationale of deliberately putting MPs on Committees where they have no prior knowledge or interest.

Encourage MPs to focus their own energies where they can have the greatest effect.

Require that MPs be allowed to serve out their full mandate in committee appointments

Increase tolerance for dissent- to allow better-informed policy to evolve from a wider diversity of views

Role of Parties/Riding Associations

Political parties must provide evidence that they operate openly and that decision-making processes and accountabilities are clear. Parties must be held to higher standards, by themselves and by their members.

Parties must report at least annually the number of members and the number of donors. Local party associations should report regularly (perhaps via on-line websites) on their activities and how interested citizens can get involved

Parties must publish amounts spent on policy research and development, membership engagement, polling and advertising. Who develops and authorizes advertising campaigns?

Nomination process is seen by many as distasteful, opaque and unpredictable.

Parties/Ridings should post clear nomination processes online to indicate how a citizen can get involved/become a candidate.

Negative voice advertisements should be voiced by the party leader

Develop standards for political advertising (require political parties to adhere to the code of Advertising Standards Canada.)

Specify in writing who decides what priorities in public policy should be pursued – and through what process?

Tax funding could be conditional on each party’s compliance with openness rules.

Role of the MP

Most MPs regard themselves as helpless outsiders. We need politicians who are willing to embrace their jobs and explain why politics matters

Very few MPs thought of their role as holding the government to account

They should not participate in (or by silence endorse) raucous behaviour in the House.

All blame “The Party”, although none will define who or what that is.

MPs should refuse party-drafted talking points in the House or in committees.

Individual MP’s must realize that they can articulate points of view that differ from those of their party, they don’t always have to toe the party line

They should take steps to reaffirm a place between constituents and Ottawa,

They should articulate a job description, prioritize its key responsibilities.

Following Speech from the Throne each MP should make a point of outlining what it means for their own constituency – make it locally relevant

Each incumbent MP should identify two or three pro-democracy commitments they’ll make if elected (Raise voter turnout, advocate for greater transparency in their own party, and/or local riding association, Draft a code of conduct for self and colleagues, ask constituents to suggest changes that would raise MPs in public esteem.)

A small group of MPs could band together to work towards a movement for political renewal.

Exporting Democracy: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea
by Bob Rae

The way most Western politicians talk, democracy is the pinnacle of civilization, the best political system there is. Many think it's the system the rest of the world ought to adopt. Bob Rae is not one of them. He is too well informed about the difficulties and dangers of implanting democracy in foreign lands. 
     Exporting Democracy is an eloquently argued book in which Rae brings his lively, nuanced understanding to bear on the history and current fortunes of this powerful idea. He shows how it and the related ideas of freedom, human rights, and federalism have been pushed to centre stage by the collapse of Soviet communism and by ongoing wars to topple secular and religious dictatorships in the Middle East.
     He's also witnessed attempts to implant democracy in three countries riven by tribal and ethnic divisions, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka, and offers readers a cool appraisal of the effort.
The Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years

This project of the Writers' Trust of Canada offers readers a
Judged the Best
selection of the very best in Canadian political books.

Over two months we asked thousands of Canadians for their favourite political/historical books of the last 25 years. 

We received hundreds of nominations. Theres something for everyone: from biography and history, to insider looks at the political parties or elections, to big ideas—theres even some amusing fiction. 

Of those hundreds, twelve finalists were chosen and put to a vote. (The contest closed in summer 2011).

Ezra Levant's Shake Down was judged the best of all.

Here are the 12 finalists.
The Longer I'm Prime Minister by Paul Wells: Toronto Star Review
The Harper endgame is the replacement of the onetime Liberal culture with a conservative one — that can’t be dismantled

By: Robert Collison Published on Wed Oct 23 2013It strikes me as perversely appropriate that veteran Maclean’s political writer Paul Wells’ thoroughly absorbing and intensely readable book on the Harper years in power — The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and Canada 2006- — arrives on the scene as the Senator Mike Duffy affair continues to fester. And that’s because this Senate scandal deftly illustrates what Wells believes are the lengths to which our prime minister will go to achieve his single most abiding strategic goal: survival.

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Wrestling with Democracy: Voting Systems as Politics in the 20th Century West by Dennis Pilon

This may be a pretty, but you can read an excerpt.

Read an excerpt here.

The Polite Revolution: Perfecting the Canadian Dream
by John IbbitsonJohn Ibbitson

From one of this country’s best and most controversial political writers, a searing blueprint for the Next Canada.

Five years into the twenty-first century, Canada is viewed as one of the most desirable nations in the world in which to live. Despite the worries of many Canadians — our country’s regional and linguistic divisions, our frequent identity crises — Canada, it seems, has a lot of good things going for it.


The Betrayal of Canada by Mel Hurtig, 1991 Hardcover reviewed in March 2012

Mel Hurtig's first book, The Betrayal of Canada, was the best-
selling book in Canada in 1991. He received the Lester B. Pearson Man of the Year Peace Award (1988) and has numerous honorary degrees. (quoted from the Fair Canada web site).

This book has made me very angry - angry at the politicians and business executives who saw to it that Canadians have given away control over their own destiny through lies and deceit. Although the majority of Canadians did not want the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), our unrepresentative first-past-the-post electoral system gave Mulroney a majority government that brought it in. The FTA is not, of course, about free trade at all; it was about the economic integration of Canada and the United States; it was about the selling off of Canada, and putting transnational corporations in charge of running the country. Money is at the heart of it.

Here is the list of what was promised before the 1988 election:

- new jobs

- increased investment

- greater economic activity

- better business conditions

- lower consumer prices

- lower inflation

- expanded consumer choices

- more exports

- better standard of living
- prosperity for all
-no erosion of the social structure and social values that Canadians had developed over generations. Our social programs would in fact be strengthened.

With chart after chart - 54 all together - these promises are examined, Hurtig shows the effects of the FTA, and they are generally bad for Canada and Canadians. These promises, made in the election advertising preceding the 1988 election, proved to be false. As Hurtig states on p.xiv 'Brian Mulroney and his friends lied to Canadians'.

Although the book is now over 20 years old some of it can as well apply to today. In 1984 Mulroney stated 'We have been in power for two months, but I can tell you this: give us twenty years, and it is coming, and you will not recognize this country'. Hurtig's recipe to prevent Mulroney getting another term in office was for the Liberals and NDP to collaborate; if 19,039 of these parties' voters had switched to the other party in selected electoral districts then Mulroney would have not got a majority. As it happened, the Conservatives became very unpopular and only won two seats in the next election. Now, Harper has promised to make Canada unrecognizable and there is a movement afoot to try to get the Liberal Party and NDP Party to collaborate to defeat the Conservatives in the next election.

Hurtig states, of course, that the cure for us having majority governments elected with under 50 % support is to have some form of proportional representation. The sooner the better.

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