Miles Report No. 23
Colin Mayes on accountability, freedom and democracy.
Our local tri-weekly paper carries a weekly column putatively authored by Colin Mayes. The Harper Conservative government as represented by Colin Mayes has become quite adept at not being accountable in spite of a recent column promoting accountability and transparency.
Accountable and transparent they are not. This has been evident from the beginning with the election robo-calls, the election transfer of funds, the mis-use of funds for expenses (that would land the rest of us in jail for theft or fraud), as per Bev Oda, the Conservative appointed senator Duffy from Ottawa/PEI and Peter Panashue‘s election budget fraud, Tony Clements’s diversion of security funds et al. Then there are the larger items such as the expenses for the yet to be successfully flown F-35, while perhaps not an out and out lie, is at least an obfuscation (lacking transparency and accountability) on its overall costs.
Of course there are elements of internal control as well that deny any accountability and transparency. Many scientists for the government have been laid off. Others are muzzled and cannot speak to the media or anyone else without first being vetted through a Conservative media representative.
The Experimental Lakes Program garnered global attention and accolades for its many years of research on lake pollution - especially as the ‘discoverers’ of acid rain effects on lakes. One can only surmise that this is being shut down in order to avoid further examination of lakes in the tar sands region which are showing many signs of heavy metal and acid pollution. It will cost $50 million to shut down a valued research program that costs $2 million per year (whose accounting is that?).
One of the largest unrecognized items is contained on pages 144-5 of the recent budget. While it is there to be read, it certainly is far from transparent and hardly holds up standards of accountability for large banks. The section says,
“The Government proposes to implement a “bail-in” regime” that “will be designed to ensure… a bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital.”
Not exactly transparent, but what it signifies is that Canada may choose the Cypriot option wherein regular savings and chequing accounts are considered a “liability” and can be used to pay off the banks debts, mostly incurred through bad investments in stock funds, real estate, derivatives, and other financial manipulations that have little to do with the regular holder of savings and chequing accounts.
So who is accountable? Certainly not the corporations who can pollute and add to global climate change without any accountability, who receive multiple tax breaks and government support, and who are regularly bailed out when the going gets tough for them.
Accountability for the Harper Conservatives lies with the little guy, the person with the chequing and savings account trying their best to be accountable. It lies with the little guy who cannot find work, and is thus “accountable” for moving around the country to find work. It lies with the First Nations who cannot be accountable because the Department of Indian Affairs controls all aspects of their financial life. It is myself and all other individual tax payers that are accountable while the corporations and the banksters get a free ride at our expense.
Transparent? Accountable? Hardly - smoke screens, mirrors, and deception throughout.
Freedom - of religion and within the Arab states.
Even more recently Mayes (or someone within the Conservative party) wrote about celebrating freedom. Once again he uses rhetoric that is not backed up by his or the Harper Conservative government’s actions.
He writes most recently (today) that “Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are fundamental principles of a free society. One of the basic freedoms is the right to religious expression and assembly without persecution.” Sounds wonderful. He follows with a quote from Harper about how he “defends human rights around the world.”
But at the time this was being written, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been visiting the dictatorial tribal monarchies of Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAR, all for the purposes of free trade (mostly military trade - or maybe we are importing sand without the tar?). These governments received no criticism for their repression of their own religious dissidents - in the case of Bahrain the dissidents are in the majority, and they are suppressed with help from that other tribal monarchy with whom Canada sells military equipment, Saudi Arabia. These governments do not care about religion or freedom. Their main concern is retaining power - very similar to the current Harper government.
In an ironic juxtaposition, it is the Harper government that says the greatest threat to world peace is “Islamicism” an invented term with a suffix ( -ism) that means “a quality of a whole system,” in other words, all of Islam. All the above countries are Islamic, all have supported al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria. The Harper government actions do not match their rhetoric. In the world beyond the control of the western Washington consensus media groups, the main cause of terror in the world is the United States’ imperial war mongering and threats, trying to control the resources and people of the world for their corporate advantage. Canada plays a large role in that terror. All the nice rhetoric in the world cannot cover that up.
It make me wonder how much Harper really cares about democracy and freedom here in Canada. It is time not only for freedom of religion, but freedom from Harper’s militarised religiosity.
Do we live in a democracy? Nominally we do, after all we have elections. But the reality is a bit different for many reasons.
Our own electoral system dubbed “first past the post” is generally not a representative system of voting. Certainly it works for the ‘party’ system, but that in itself is not necessarily democratic, as political parties are subject to internal controls and caucus controls that eliminate a great deal of independent, creative, and logical thinking (see Mayes and Baird, above). The simplest fix for this is to require a simple 50% plus one for an electoral victory; if a run-off election is required so be it. In spite of Harper’s rhetoric about stable government, democracy can be messy if applied properly, which is essentially what the parties in power really do not want. (Hey, did you know that Israel has never had a majority government? And does not have a constitution? And has many discriminatory religious laws?)
Other drawbacks to democracy are the items listed above, the oft touted and never applied qualities of transparency, accountability, and rule of law. For a government that rode in electioneering about transparency and accountability there has been little of that except after the fact when they have been caught out on one item or another.
Rule of law is fine, except that the laws are generally made by the rich and the powerful. In modern times, most of the laws are made by the trade treaties that are negotiated in secret between colluding governments. The sovereign laws of the country are then expected to fall into line with these non-democratic non-accountable agreements that tend to affect all areas where money can be made. As for the lower levels of government, they are simply ignored and over-ridden in many instances of international trade ‘rules’. The general trend is for an increasing disparity in wealth distribution with the rich quite willing and able to write laws that confiscate the wealth of the mass of poorer workers.
The corporations, the banksters et al, have laws generally written in their favour, and as they control the media for the most part, very little is said about the ‘rule of law’ coming down from above, and not rising from the people of the country.
The media also does very little to represent the reality of Canada’s role in the world, not giving the full context of actions like Baird’s cozying up to the autocrats of the Middle East, or the corporate largesse of the government in relation to the mining companies operating against the will of the local citizens in several parts of the world (Columbia, Peru, Congo come to mind).
Certainly we have a lot of freedoms, but it is more of an hedonistic freedom than a well considered political freedom. As long as the populace is kept amused, as long as they have a common enemy to focus on (internally, the poor welfare bums and UI leaches of society; externally, the war of terror, and the great Satanic Islamicism), and as long as the media rides along with the general drift of the government, political freedom will be further and further restricted by the Harper conservatives.
And did I mention the F-35?
Recently a CBC reporter was sent by invitation to a U.S. air base to see what the F-35 was doing and to talk to some of the pilots. What he found was a plane the pilots were getting off on providing they did not fly at night nor in bad weather (technical problems with sensors and display information), nor full out (engine problems), nor with any weapons (something to do with them being over the engineered weight design load of the plane). Hey, but the pilots loved flying it - in the warm sunny days of the southern U.S.
Couldn’t ask for a better recommendation. At least no one will get killed - except maybe the pilots.