Saturday, April 23, 2016

Define "Canada"

The conclusion of the Duffy show trial offers a useful point for Canadians to reflect on what their nation should mean and how Canadians should serve it and be served by it.

It's easy to lose sight of fundamental principles after a decade of technocratic rule facilitated by the application of deeply corrosive wedge politics.

How few of us appreciate how we and our democracy were down to our last line of defence - a brilliant constitutional enactment by a leader long past and a courageous Supreme Court. That alone was the wall through which Stephen Harper could never break. It contained him. It restrained him. It frustrated the hell out of him and his plans to reduce Canada into so much constitutional rubble.

How few of us understand that Stephen Harper waged an internal coup d'etat. He did it, with barely a whimper from the press, by seizing the public service, the armed forces and the national police apparatus and harnessing them to his personal partisan political purposes. He sequestered them from the public they were to serve, the citizens whose taxes paid for them. He blinded us to what they were doing. Harper set up what most closely resembled a corps of political commissars to screen incoming communications and to later edit outgoing responses to ensure they comported with the government's message. Even reporters couldn't have free access to public servants.

Here's something many have forgotten. It concerns the RCMP, the Cavendish Cottager and the commissioner, Bob Paulson. As the Duffy scandal broke and began to unfold, Paulson issued a directive to his senior officers by which they were absolutely prohibited from communicating or even socializing with MPs or Senators without the commissioner's express consent. Those wishing such permission had to submit their requests to an office jointly controlled by Paulson and then public safety minister, Vic Toews. Talk about an act of career seppuku. They weren't even supposed to talk about their inability to talk, their gag order. That only surfaced when Paulson's email directive was leaked to CBC.

There are some who think the magic elixir lurks within some sort of electoral reform. That would help but it's hardly any guarantee approaching what we need. Every country on Earth is entering what is going to be a difficult and protracted era, the very sort of thing tailor made for manipulative charismatics and I've never read of one yet who was frustrated by democratic fetters.

Maybe it would help to tighten up the running of this ship. Let's define duties. Who is being served by whom would be a good first step. Do you work for one guy and his personal, partisan interests? Do you work for the country? Do you work for the people? What are the boundaries that mark a state of political capture and hence corruption? So many questions.

What is Canada? What are Canadians? We know all too well what divides us but how much of that - the fear, the anger, the paranoia - will be washed away if we focus on what unites us, what we agree upon, what we want for our kids and grandkids? Yes our society is deeply divided but that was conditioned into us. That is not who we really are and that should concern us.

If we're going to rehabilitate our society, we have to think about raising the drawbridge and dropping the portcullis to ensure that we're never again taken over by another Harper. We've had his kind. We've seen what that means. We can't let another of his kind ever do the same to us.


Northern PoV said...

I lived through the Mike Harris years in Ontario then welcomed McGuinty & Co. They stopped the outright civic vandalism of the odious Harris regime but did not fix old problems nor introduce new solutions. (Now they're selling Ont. Hydro- the idiots are imitating Harris and Harper.)

'One step forward, two steps backward' is rapidly becoming 'two steps backwards then freeze in the headlights'.

Hoping Justin breaks the mold but not expecting it. Just a finger in the dam till the next Harper sneaks in. Sigh.

The Mound of Sound said...

Without hope, what's left?

Boris said...

That red maple leaf we stick on everything is a distraction that allows us to believe we're more than a petty provincial country with right or centrist upper middle-class political sensibilities. Our constitution as a confederation with an indigenous population governs means we are structurally regionally divided. The unequal distribution of population and assets between provinces and populations only fuels this. We are ruled by boomer sentiments, broadly wealthy and relatively immune to most of the global hardships endured by others since the end of the WW2 and this leaves us complacent and too trusting of our politics and convinced of our 'niceness'.

Bill said...

I am optimistic because the culture gap today between those over and under 40 is far greater than the one in the 60's. A few people have mentioned that lowering the voting age to 16 and ending it at 50 would eliminate the power base of most parties in power today. This would allow more progressive parties to gain power that hopefully will put people over the false god of jobs that the rich dangle as a carrot only to take it away when it will cost them a single penny. If the ndp and conservatives chose the wrong leaders this time around we will be stuck with the same old, same old bought and paid for and controlled by big business and big money corporations and families. There is no difference today to the feudal ages.

Anonymous said...

There would be no Beelzebub, er... Harper (or McGuilty) with low threshold PR.
In a multiparty coalition, politicians are scrutinized more and "big business and big money corporations and families" have logistical problems with "buying and controlling" said politicians.

the salamander said...

.. 'Define Canada' ... Perhaps its time you fired up the great yellow BMW & seek the answer a la John Steinbeck... as the definition may be found on in or within the wondrous & magical Vancouver Island ... Mound.. Certainly a critical & excellent starting point for such a search ..

The answer lies within a mysterious matrix.. its elusive.. it is the wind
perhaps its within the people of the land.. or deep in the soil
it may be buried overseas.. or near the top of the Rockies
embedded in the decks of fishing boats
or in the mines

Perhaps its simpler to define what Canada is not ...

Rural said...

“How few of us appreciate how we and our democracy were down to our last line of defence - a brilliant constitutional enactment by a leader long past and a courageous Supreme Court. .........How few of us understand that Stephen Harper waged an internal coup d'etat. “ And whilst our 'new government' appears to be trying to fix some of the loopholes that allowed that to happen make no mistake it can happen again if we the public take our eye off the ball and let it!

“There are some who think the magic elixir lurks within some sort of electoral reform.” Many of whom think one particular flavor of reform will solve all our problems however the problems go much deeper than how we elect our 'representatives, clarifying “Who is being served by whom” would indeed be a good first step.

“What is Canada? What are Canadians? “ Damned good question Mound, how many of us think of ourselves as 'Canadian' bur say 'I am Ontarian (or Quebecker or whatever) or even I am a Torontarion (sp), until we think of ourselves as Canadian first and foremost the country will remain a collection of loosely connected factions doing their own thing.

So many questions, so few answers!

Northern PoV said...

Hey Anon 5:51

NZ went PR recently. They got one progressive gov't then increasingly right wing regimes ever since. Key (Harper-like) got 50% of the raw vote last time out.

Everyone sees PR as a panacea ...
BUT: it ain't so much the voting system as has has the money and control of the media.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Boris, I agree that we are "complacent and too trusting in our politics." My generation, the boomers of whom you write, have been real life lotus eaters. No seismic shocks for us. Nothing of the magnitude of the Great Depression or world wars. We just happened to arrive at that confluence of events that all but guaranteed us a life of comfort and plenty and ease. Even our climate was ideal. We surfed the GDP growth curve straight to the point where the wave began to break. Our false security and full bellies did lure us into complacency and naivete. Young people coming up today will have to be made of much sterner stuff as I suspect they will.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Bill - you touch on a good point, the descent into what in some ways appears like a state of neo-feudalism. Nowhere is this more evident that in the United States although Canada rarely escapes some symptoms of their contagions for long.

This emergence of an elite to whom both economic and associated political power has flowed, primarily out of what had been a robust middle class, leads to political capture and the steady weakening of liberal democracy.

In America's binary system, voters choose A or B, Republican or Democrat. They don't suffer the ills of a multi-party, first past the post electoral regime. Yet their more direct democracy has done nothing to prevent political capture, the insinuation of special interests between the electorate and those they vote into office. This is especially true for America's "bought and paid for" Congress. I can think of no more powerful object lesson to those who see electoral reform as some magic wand.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ A..non. I don't share your faith in the curative powers of PR. Sorry but I think these sentiments are naive and possibly, taken too far, dangerous.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Sal. Yes, the Great Yellow Beast. There's nothing to knock 50 years off a person like something that races like the wind. I do look forward to exploring the north island a little more this summer. I'm getting some more aggressive rubber on the Beast this year that should make getting up those forestry roads a bit more manageable. This place gets so busy in the summer with visitors that reaching remoteness is your only good chance of finding solitude. Still, those tourist dollars pay the bills and keep the place running.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Rural. I think you captured it with "so many questions, so few answers." I wish our political caste would find some way to reach out to ordinary Canadians beyond their party rank and file, to have the essential adult conversations we never seem to hold.

This "cruise control" mentality doesn't work any longer. The world is embarking on a long period of substantial change that will encompass social, economic and political conditions as well as environmental. No matter the country, everything is going to have to be re-jigged to some extent to suit this challenging new world. Those that don't invite chaos.

In Canada, our leaders too often choose to act as though we're still in the 80s. With each passing year we become more like the little piggy who built his house out of straw. We're falling behind and there's no collective will to tackle a problem that only gets more demanding by our ongoing default.These are the things on which we so badly need to have frank, adult conversations. It is on matters such as these that our leaders need to engage us and so generate our informed consent.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ NPoV - you're right. The manner by which we vote is no substitute for an informed electorate consciously exercising their democratic franchise.

Modern day afflictions such as the rise of the corporate media cartel that feeds the public messaging masked as information have had a powerful effect on "dumbing down" and, hence, manipulating their free will at the ballot box. Who cares the means by which they cast their vote if you can influence for whom they'll vote?

Can there be any greater proof that the powers that be know they have the voting public in their bag than when they proffer candidates of such low mettle as Cruz and Trump? That's not an election. That's a drunken tear. And when the booze wears off all they're guaranteed is a horrible, massive headache.

Ron Waller said...

"I don't share your faith in the curative powers of PR. Sorry but I think these sentiments are naive and possibly, taken too far, dangerous."

Thinking? Is that what you believe you do? We have voting system that awards absolute power to a 40% minority party. 40% of the electorate are conservatives: 10% Red Tory + 30% hard-core con. That means when we don't have right-wing government half the time, we get right-of-center government the other half because the Liberal party has to split the Red Tory vote to stop a Con majority.

A grade school student could comprehend what I just wrote. But the Mound never could, not in a million years. He blusters and rants half-baked nonsense having deluded himself into believing he is capable of thinking. I have yet to read an original thought on this blog that isn't completely worthless. (Maybe one day the Mound will be saved: when they invent brain transplants.)

The Mound of Sound said...

My, my, Waller returns. Sorry, Ron, but I didn't vote your man Mulcair out. I realize you're still licking your wounds from the last election but you'll get over it, in time.

BTW - the brain references were sooo childish but wholly in keeping with what I've come to expect from you, Ronnie.

Scotian said...


I couldn't let this pass without comment. Boomers had no seismic shocks? Really? Well, maybe so, but Boomers did grow up, and at least half of raised their children too, under the Sword of Damocles known as MAD. I'd say that had a certain imprinting effect no less than the other major shocks you mentioned. I'm honestly a little surprised you chose to leave that off the table when you made that comment, you know as well as I do that we could just have easily ended up a planetary cinder for most of the Boomer's lives (judging boomers as 1945-65 birth years, and allowing the last year or so we finally hit the halfway mark for the absolute youngest).

As to your wider point of the post, good questions, no easy answers and something we all need to think about. I was one of those few handful that truly understood what Harper was from the outset, I was one of those voices in the wilderness for so long, and I well appreciated the only protection we had was thanks to PET and the power of the Courts his Constitution/Charter enabled as protection against someone like a Harper. I've also not forgotten Paulsons various roles in this matter, and I for one not only think he needs firing, but he also needs to be hauled in front of committee and questioned under oath for his actions as head of the RCMP given all we have seen just in the Duffy affair, let alone any other dubious actions one can ascribe, and they are out there.

I also agree we are entering a turbulent period of history as a species and that too will have ramifications for us domestically we need to take into consideration, however I also think we have been seeing a lot of turbulence at the deeper levels already for some years now. I think the way the nature of power has been changing over the last few decades has been driving a lot more of the events of the past quarter century than many of us are aware. In this I think the Tofflers were quite correct in their core trilogy of Future Shock, Third Wave, and PowerShift. While of course they didn't get every detail right, they do seem to me as having done a very good job of the general direction flow, and right now we are in the area they expected to be the most turbulent and for the next decade or two. Now, that does not include the climate shifting aspect of course, that is yet another destabilizing factor, but even so, I think that we all need to be very aware of just how fragile our societal structures really are and will be through this next period, especially if we refuse to pay enough attention to what is going on around us.

As to the panacea of electoral reform some have so much staked in, there is a reason I do not get overly involved in this discussion, because while it can be a useful fix, until and unless I see real consideration of the importance of civil/civic awareness by the citizenry as a whole, I am not that confident. For me the problem isn't so much the process, it is the participation or lack thereof that really is the problem. Electoral reform may help with that, it also may not, which is why I do not have as much enthusiasm as some for this as the one true answer.

All in all, a good and interesting post MoS, glad I read it.

Scotian said...

Ron Waller:

Classic case of projectionism you are, need help you do. Waste of time you are, since incorrect you usually are.

Seriously Ron, you've shown a remarkable pattern of misreading political realities before, why at this point should anyone take you seriously? Mound, while I do not agree with on all things, and have had the occasional sharp disagreement with I know to be a solid thinker and serious person, you, you are more like a classic hyper-partisan whose only real function is to rant and rave either against others or for your own side. You rarely if ever provide serious substance to consider, you rarely if ever provide anything from beyond your narrow programming, and you rarely if ever are taken seriously by anyone not already a fellow traveler of yours.

Seriously, get a grip.

The Mound of Sound said...

Scotian, I was never too swept up in the Dr. Strangelove thing. Yes, I served in the air force - sharp edge too. I dutifully wore my little radiation meter from a chain around my neck. I knew all the drills and I learned all about the theory and workings of tactical nukes. As a child I lived in a very real "Ground Zero" area. I only had to go down to the river, two blocks, at noon Saturday to watch the Americans raise their gleaming white Nike Ajax missiles skyward to lower them again as the all-clear siren sounded. The point is, I was pretty thoroughly immersed in that stuff, both in and out of the military, but it left no lasting imprint on me.

As for Harper, my senior PC friends in Ottawa asked me what to make of him and of Preston in the early Reform/Alliance years. I warned them that both were Alberta-centric and determined to shift the base of Canadian political power (including benefits) to the West. Yet, when it came down to it, even they were happy to support Harper initially because it meant a return of a Conservative government, even if not quite how they traditionally understood the term.

I agree that there are great destabilizing forces that are only just getting underway and, like you, I'm convinced that we have an unjustified confidence in our resilience to meet these challenges.

Friend Waller things I don't support electoral reform. I very much do. Yet I think that the mode of voting alone will not secure our society or our democracy without much more. This fellow champions an idea, fixates upon it and becomes like a dog with a bone. I think that's what makes him such a nasty little shit.

Scotian said...


I grew up in a well known first strike target, knowing it was, and it didn't imprint me either. However, my reading of our collective generations that did grow up in the shadow of MAD was that it did imprint most to some extent. I would in fact suggest that your time in military facing it directly actually served to help prevent/reduce such in your case, as it did for so many others I knew that served in that period, but how big a percentage of the overall numbers are ones that served? I do not think either of us would be a fair representative in this regard, which is sort of my point. Are you seriously able to tell me you did not know many in that period who were not in uniform that were more than a little freaked out or even simply feeling the shadow of the ever-present MAD Damocles Sword? I know I did here in Halifax, and we are a military city, and many others I've met in my lifetime from other parts of NA and I've seen the imprint too often not to be aware of it. Now, was it as traumatic and obvious a shadow as those that survived the Great Depression for example, perhaps not, but that it wasn't a real source of angst/pain/trouble, that also I cannot agree with, which is why I found your disregard of it as not on a par with seismic shocks a bit troubling. I'm not a boomer, I just missed that generation by a couple of years, I'm just a poor Centennial baby myself, so I have no real need to want to defend boomers per se, it is just I think you gave them a little too much short shrift there, sorry.

I was doing the same about Harper and Manning, although even then in Reforms beginnings I saw something darker in Harper, and was making that known to early Reform supporters down here in my circles. As I've noted before Harper popped on my radar in the late 80s because of his role within Reform, and he never left that awareness as someone to keep an eye on.

I agree with the unjustified confidence for coping with what is coming, but to be honest, I think I'd rather that then too negative a belief in our resilience too, but neither is a good thing, I quite agree there, and the overconfidence if taken too far is definitely the more dangerous of the two extremes of mindsets for the blind spots it enables.

As for Waller, I think you might be giving him too much credit in your description, but you have dealt with him more than I, so I will defer to you on that point. As to your not supporting electoral reform, reading comprehension does seem to be a problem for some, doesn't it *rolls eyes*. I agree entirely that while electoral reform would be a possible good start, there is a lot more needed, as I noted in my original comment. For me it is the lack of willingness of the citizenry to bother to be involved that strikes at the true heart, and what enables the power-brokers and 1%ers to have so much power, it isn't so much because they cheat to have it as too many citizens by their apathy let them grab it. It is why I tend to go off on those that for example claim not voting as a sign of moral superiority because none of the choices are the exact right/perfect one. We all, collectively have the power to do something, we just have to be willing to actually do so. One of the reasons I suspect corporate business has been ever increasing workloads is to keep too many people too busy and tired to be bothered as a long term strategy, it isn't just about profiteering, it is also a tool of societal control.

In any event, those like Waller seem to miss the point far more than ever really are able to make a good one. Pity. I don't mind disagreeing voices, I like them, so long as they are intelligent/capable/sensible ones that live in the real world. It is fine to have aspirations and ideals, but if you cannot show you understand how reality works when you try to enact them, I frankly have no real time for you, doesn't matter what ideal we are talking about. That's me though.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Scotian - funny how a conversation like ours can trigger old memories. I mentioned having to wear this black plastic radiation monitor. While I was chopping some veg for dinner the word "roentgen" came to mind. Yes, that was it. It was a roentgen metering device. I wasn't even sure of the spelling but I went online and - voila - there it was. I still can't recall what the lethal dose was over various numbers of days but I do remember the correct name after all these years. Wowser!

Scotian said...

I know what you mean, I figure it is yet another wonderful benefit of managing to live long enough to have this become a feature instead of a bug...LOL

It's been a while since I've seen reference to a roentgen meter, and even longer since I last saw one, although I never had occasion to need to use one myself. For me growing up in a first strike target left me with an interest in understanding exactly how nuclear weapons and their protocols worked, and being a hard core SF person from early on I was also strongly drawn to the hard sciences too.

Well, this has been an interesting stroll down memory lane for one evening, catch you later!

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