Friday (Fill)ibuster: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Senate

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Political News Friday, June 12, 2015 View Count = 2238

Friday (Fill)ibuster: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Senate

G7 Leaders Walk

Lots to report this week, from the return of Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe to environmental pledges at the G7 summit in Germany. We’ve assembled all your democracy news here in your weekly roundup!

The pre-campaign campaigning has continued this week for the federal parties. Recent polls have the Liberals flagging and the NDP inching forward, setting up a true three-way race for Parliament. The National Post reported on some Forum Research Survey numbers which show the race in a dead heat, while Tasha Kheiriddin riffed on how coalition talk is bad for the Liberals. Meanwhile, iPolitics took a closer (and very wonky) look at the numbers coming out of an Ekos poll: “New Democrats should be jubilant. Liberals should be very concerned. But the worst news here may be for the Conservatives….[Their] room for growth is extremely narrow. Not only are they below thirty points nationally, very few people seem to be taking them seriously as a second choice.” You can read more of this analysis (and take a peek at some fun graphics) here.

In Quebec , though, all these polls may be turned on their heads, where it was announced mid-week that Gilles Duceppe would be returning as leader of the Bloc. But Chantal Hébert warns us in the Toronto Star that while Duceppe’s return will make the election in Quebec a lot more interesting, it probably won’t be any more competitive: “As Duceppe found out at his own expense four years ago, a critical number of Quebecers have moved on since [the 1995 sovereignty referendum], and while he is personally still held in high esteem he may be projecting his own nostalgia for politics onto the well-wishers who have had good words for him over his forced retirement.”

The soap opera in the Senate took a new twist this week, with Attorney General Michael Ferguson releasing a report on the inquiry into Senators’ expenses. David Akin of Sun Media was aghast not only at Senators expenses but their own indignation towards the inquiry, while L. Ian MacDonald defended Senators against the “nickel and diming” of the report. Meanwhile John Milloy, former Ontario cabinet minister, wrote an op-ed for the National Newswatch on remembering the importance of fairly compensating our elected representatives: “A healthy debate about the pay and expenses of our politicians could be a good thing. But if it is guided by vindictiveness, it will serve no other purpose than to dissuade talented people from running for office by tarnishing the profession even further…Why can’t we acknowledge that politicians have great responsibility and should be well-paid?”

To step out from the haze of the federal fever for a minute, Benjamin Barber (author of If Mayors Ruled the World) wrote a blog entry for Huffington Post this week about the “Devolution Revolution” which is putting more power in the hands of municipal government — and why that’s a good thing: “Devolution to cities is both policy and fact. It is happening and is increasingly being embraced by government desperate to see action in a world paralyzed by ideology and cant[…]In Osborne’s description, when people feel ‘remote from the decisions that affect their lives,’ it’s ‘not good for our prosperity or our democracy.’”

The CBC was buffeted by another scandal this week, as the Toronto Star reported that TV and radio host Evan Solomon has been selling art as a side business. Solomon was accused of using his journalistic connections to broker extremely lucrative art deals, and was promptly let go by the CBC. Don’t get too discouraged though – if you’re in need of a pick-me-up, check out this light-hearted take from The Syrup Trap on how broadcaster and musician Shad will be taking over all CBC operations.

For some more fun, see this cheeky editorial from the National Post making fun of recent protests against Tim Hortons. The restaurant had pulled an Enbridge commercial from their stores after objections from some customers, giving rise to objections from pro-pipeline quarters: “You have ‘declared war on Canada’s energy industry,’ as Ezra Levant’s new venture Rebel Media puts it. This is a full-scale boycott, supported by radio ads. Sixes of people are protesting on the streets of Calgary.”

The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business had a revealing report on Tuesday for anyone invested in the Canadian Pension Plan (aka everybody): “As recently as 2000, the pension fund manager [of the CPP] had 95 per cent of its assets safely squirrelled away in boring Canadian government bonds and other fixed-income investments. Not any more. At the end of March, more than three-quarters of the fund was invested outside of Canada.” Why’s this significant? Read the piece to find out.

In international news, Prime Minister Harper was at the G7 summit in Germany committing Canada to ending fossil fuel use by the year 2100. If that seems like a strange promise to you, you might want to read David Akin explaining how the environment is a “shield” issue for the Harper government: “None of our allies, none of the major players in Canada’s oil patch, no credible think tank, and, I’ll bet, at least two-thirds of the Canadian electorate think Ottawa has any credible policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

In municipal news, Toronto Mayor John Tory called for an end to the police practice of carding, where police stop citizens to ask for identification, a policy which has been accused of unjustly targeting minorities. Recent debate about the issue was sparked partially be an excellent piece in Toronto Life by activist Desmond Cole about his experience as a black man in Toronto. It is a truly eye-opening read, and highly recommended.

Meanwhile, a big-ticket policy debate has emerged in Alberta, where the government is contemplating minimum wage increases and a minimum income as policies for addressing poverty. The Star has reported on Alberta mayors expressing interest in minimum income, while Andrew Coyne gave the economists’ argument for targeting income rather than wages. Here’s Coyne in the National Post: “A just society concerns itself first with the lot of those worst off, and the very worst off are surely those, not on low income, but no income at all; not those in work, but those out of work, priced out of the market by the tariff the state has thoughtfully place on their labour.” In those same pages, Kelly McParland expressed his skepticism for the program.

Speaking of Alberta, Gary Mason had an interesting piece in the Globe and Mail about why the NDP election in Alberta won’t help the federal party: “Mr. Mulcair has few of [the provincial party’s] advantages as he heads into this fall’s campaign. The best he can hope for is that the Alberta New Democrats helped smash stereotypes and gave people across the country something to think about.”

Last of all, we here at Samara were interested to read an interview in Vice Magazine with psychologist Per Espen Stoknes on why people don’t care about climate change. Stoknes claims the media and advocates have too often relied on a “catastrophe” framing of climate issues which people begin to tune out. Thankfully, he thinks this is changing: “The main shift is to telling stories about the people making the change happen; focusing on opportunities, solutions, and true green growth. From psychology, we know that the best mix to create engagement and creativity is a [ratio] of one to three in negative to positive stories.” Perhaps this has some implications for democratic engagement as well?


While you’re feeling that democracy rush, take a look to these upcoming events :

Our own Laura Anthony will be a panelist at the Mobilizing 22 conference in Mississauga, Ontario. All delegates must be between the ages of 14 to 24. Admission is free, but applications close June 30th and there are only 90 spots available, so spread the word!

And don’t forget that it’s less than two weeks to Samara’s own Everyday Political Citizen launch party! Held at Samara HQ in Toronto, the fundraiser will include food, drink, and good times with the Samara staff and past EPC participants. See below for the invite, and purchase your ticket here.

Samara EPC Invite

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