Friday Fill(ibuster): Democracy dig digest

Blog Post

Political News Friday, April 17, 2015 View Count = 4187

Friday Fill(ibuster): Democracy dig digest

19th century view of Hill

Our roundup excavates the week's democracy and politics news and unearths everything from Samara job opportunities to lost archaeological fragments from Parliament Hill.

As the trial of former senator Mike Duffy digs deeper into the circumstances around his expense claims and sheds light on the operations of the Conservative caucus, Dan Leger at the Chronicle Herald has a piece about how something fundamental about the representative democracy has come out in the process: “the question of how the Senate is supposed to function within the context of partisan politics is at the root of the trial/political circus that is the Crown case against Duffy. The evidence suggests strongly that Harper appointed Duffy to represent the Conservative party and its interests. Representing Islanders was incidental.”

Speaking of things being unearthed in Ottawa, archeologists have uncovered remains of early settlement on pre-Confederation Parliament Hill. It seems that trash really can eventually make for some treasure: “north of the West Block, they found something even more significant—essentially the garbage dump, or ‘midden,’ of the former officers' quarters. Such discoveries can tell researchers heaps about a way of life in a particular era.”

Meanwhile, Tim Abray was on the Policy Options blog excavating the relationship between human psychology and the current win-at-all-cost mentality of political campaigners: "winning involves using methods of persuasion that have very little to do with the give and take of debate. [...] the traditional method of using information to persuade is passé. Information is dead weight in 2015. What you need to do is destabilize voters with emotional cues that poke at their vulnerabilities and insecurities (see: zit cream ads). Then? The candidate needs to swoop in and capitalize on that moment of vulnerability by coming across as the perfect combination of Superman and Linus’s blanket."

John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail explains why a coalition with the NDP doesn’t make much policy sense for the Liberals, but why a coalition with the Conservatives just might: “On the question of taxes, for example, the Liberals would retain all the Conservative measures, save for a minor income-splitting tax cut. The NDP, on the other hand, would raise corporate taxes. On the environment, Mr. Trudeau appears content to allow the provinces to lead the fight against global warming, as does Mr. Harper. Mr. Mulcair is committed to compulsory national standards to reduce carbon emissions. On natural resources, Mr. Trudeau backs the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and supports oil sands development, while Mr. Mulcair opposes Keystone and talks of a 'Dutch disease' of oil dependency. On national security, the Liberals support Bill C-51, the Conservative anti-terrorism legislation that the NDP opposes. The Liberals are also behind the Canadian military training mission in Ukraine, which the NDP insists must first be approved by Parliament.”

A piece in the Ottawa Citizen last week explored the politicization of Ottawa’s public servants, suggesting the introduction of a new framework to keep government of Canada employees from being roped into the work of partisan politics: “the next Parliament should enact legislation, called a Charter of Public Service, to protect the values and ethics of a professional, non-partisan public service, including strict new rules on government communications. […] It’s time to stand up for a professional, non-partisan public service, as described in all the official laws, regulations and policies of the government of Canada. But too often betrayed in practice.”

The Supreme Court of Canada handed down a couple of bold rulings this week, one on prayer in public institutions and another on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes. Chantal Hebert covers the former here, drawing attention to the interesting way that the ruling deals with institutions and individuals. From the ruling: “I note that a neutral public space does not mean the homogenization of private players in that space. Neutrality is required of institutions and the state, not individuals […] a secular state does not — and cannot — interfere with the beliefs or practices of a religious group unless they conflict with or harm overriding public interests”. John Ivison, meanwhile, suggests that the decision to strike down a section of the criminal code concerning mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes demonstrates the politicization of the highest court in the land: “When three such eminent jurists as Justices Rothstein, Moldaver and Wagner warn in such forceful terms that the Court has overstepped its bounds, we are in precarious constitutional territory.”

With a federal budget coming next week, the dialogue is heating up around Canada’s fiscal situation. The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson bemoans the likely flood of new tax credits for what the government calls “hard-working Canadians”: “The Conservatives have figured out that the opposition parties are too scared to oppose the vast majority of the tax cuts, with the exception of income splitting. In effect, the Conservatives have won the debate over the role of the state, because the other parties have more or less accepted that its shrunken size is appropriate. Any tax increases will be on business (as per the NDP) or business leaders, and all the wrong-headed tax reductions introduced by the Conservatives will remain. They have triumphed intellectually and, to this point, politically.”

And Andrew Coyne at the Post had some sharp words for those who see apocalypse in the government’s balanced budget legislation.

While some sources suggest that women in the UK are talking about politics less than their male counterparts, a piece in the Telegraph suggests an alternative: “Perhaps women also find genuine political discussion more compelling than the slightly disjointed interactions encouraged by networks such as Twitter. The broadcast model of political messaging – made even starker by election planning: ‘It’s Saturday, so everybody’s talking about the NHS’ – seems pretty ludicrous to those who don’t make their living writing, talking or thinking about politics. Our users, certainly, tend to be a lot more interested in dialogue. Conversations about political issues on the site can develop into extended exchanges of ideas, in which people express doubts and ask questions, and even consider changing their minds.”

And it was a pretty great week on the Samara Blog as we shared the Active Citizen Paper findings of a few engaged political science students at University of Ottawa. We also had a “How’d You Get That Job” Q&A with a former Chief of Staff to two Ministers of International Development: “If you want to move up in politics, it has to be more than just a job to you. You must view it as public service. It will come with ups and downs, so don’t get into it for the highs and don’t quit if you hit a low. Know that it isn’t something you can or should do forever. Set out to serve your fellow Canadians. Once you feel you have accomplished what you set out to do, think about moving on and setting new goals, even if they lead you away from politics or government. You can always come back to serve your country again in the future.” Worth a read.

Events and Opportunities

Speaking of jobs, Samara has three—count ‘em, three—job opportunities currently posted on our site. Check them out, share them and apply!

There’s a Civic Salon, organized by the amazing Jo Flatt, leaving to explore Hamilton on the April 25th.

And the Canadian Journalism Foundation has an event coming up in Ottawa with some media heavy hitters examining “how parties develop media strategies, how journalists counter the spin and the impact the resulting coverage has on voters.”

And FYI, David Moscrop's "Scholar's Corner" returns to the Friday roundup next week.


(Photo credit: Collections Canada)

On the Samara BlBlog logo representing the letter 'o'g