Friday, April 1, 2011
The Federal Election 2011 - What Does it Mean for Us?
In case you have not already heard, Canadians are in federal election mode. How did Canada get to the place where it will have its fourth federal election in only 7 years? It is because the Conservative government fell on March 27, 2011, after a non-confidence vote against them won by156-145 votes. The reason why a motion of non-confidence was brought forward in the first place was because the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, found both the Conservative government and one of its Ministers to be in contempt of Parliament for withholding information and misleading the Parliament.
Specifically, the Speaker made two key rulings about the Conservative government's behaviour which is no surprise to the rest of us, given their highly questionable actions throughout their time as minority government. The first ruling dealt with Bev Oda, the Minister for International Cooperation who failed to disclose her role in the decision to cut funding to Kairos.
He held that Oda breached her Parliamentary privilege - i.e. she is accused of lying about the decision. First she said that her bureaucrats had denied the funding, then it came to light that they had in fact approved it, but an unknown "someone" had scribbled "not" on the document, then she says she ordered the person to insert the word. It is all very convoluted and confusing, but the moral of the story is - she was not honest with Parliament.
The second ruling was against the Conservative government generally. This involved the allegation that the Conservatives were not being honest about the actual costs of its tough on crime legislation and plans to build prisons, its purchase of fighter jets and corporate tax breaks. Despite requests for the actual costing information, the Conservatives refused to disclose them. Therefore, the Speaker ruled that the opposition could continue its investigation of the Conservatives before committee because:
"There is no doubt that an order to produce documents is not being fully complied with and this is a serious matter that goes to the House’s undoubted role in holding the government to account."
They government fell because they were never about the people and were only in it for themselves. They also fell because they are dishonest - which is the biggest crime as far as Canadian citizens are concerned.
Even our counterparts internationally have commented that Canada is losing its sense of democracy, and very few Canadians seem to be upset about it. One particular article from Australia argues that Canadians are sitting back watching democracy be eroded, while people in other countries are willing to die for their freedoms.
Some commentators are even arguing that Harper should not even be allowed to run in this election because his government was found in contempt of Parliament and was thrown out by a vote of non-confidence. Makes me wonder if Oda will be campaigning along with the rest of the rejected Conservatives?
Is it just me, or does anyone else see the utter hypocrisy of the Conservatives? Remember how Senator Brazeau implied that First Nations leaders are all corrupt, that First Nations were hubs of illegal activity and another conservative MP introduced Bill C-575 asking for accountability? That is rich given that the conservatives have been found in contempt and thrown out of Parliament.
Or how about Harper who says one thing (never appoint people to Senate without elections) and does another to suit his own political needs (appoint people like Brazeau to Senate).
Or how about when they take a court of appeal case like McIvor, and draft limited and discriminatory legislation to respond to it, but when the federal court of appeal finds against the conservatives (for the in and out scheme), they dismiss it as an "administrative dispute".
It is almost like Harper and his Conservatives don't live in reality - like they actually believe that "government" is really just made up of the few who sit in Cabinet. Let's just pretend that none of this non-confidence stuff matters. Let's look at the Conservative's "honesty" record to date:
(1) Former Minister of International Affairs, Maxime Bernier, resigns over "scandal" related to his leaving security-sensitive documents at his girlfriend's house - a woman with former connections to the "biker underworld";
(2) Former Minister of State for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, resigned and her file referred to the RCMP after concerns related to her husband Rahim Jaffer using her office to peddle influence with the government. You will recall her husband had been charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession, while Guergis herself was accused of being belligerent to airline staff and using her staffers to flood editorials.
(3) MP Pierre Poilievre criticizes the residential school settlement as not being "value for money" on the same day that Harper makes the apology in Parliament.
(4) I don't even have to list all the vile words said by Senator Brazeau;
(5) Conservatives try to distance themselves from another scandal involving Access to Information and removed Sebastien Togneri from affiliation with their party:
(6) Minister of INAC John Duncan was against "race-based" Aboriginal fishing rights and recently made stereotypical remarks against First Nations saying it was "easy" for them to be "aggressively contrary";
(7) Conservatives said MPs who "cross the floor" should not be allowed to join other parties, but then made David Emerson, a former liberal who crossed the floor, the Minister of Trade:
(8) Don't forget the conservatives prorogued Parliament twice to avoid dealing with critical issues like the Afghanistan detainee affair;
(9) Then there is the Bruce Carson story, broke by APTN News, which revealed that this "Tory operative", together with his former-escort girlfriend, lobbied on behalf of a water filtration company to get contracts in First Nations with poor drinking water. He is accused of breaching rules about political staffers lobbying so soon after employment;
(10) The Chuck Cadman affair involved the allegation of bribery by the Conservatives to secure a vote that was settled out of court, but not in the eyes of the public:
(11) NWAC's Sisters in Spirit disaster where funding was cut for the program despite its international success:
(12) There is also Bill C-3, Bill S-4, Bill S-11, Bill C-575 that all went forward without any legal consultation with First Nations, which of course does not include the "expert" education panel announced that came from INAC and not First Nations. Or how about the "revolutionary" Specific Claims tribunal that has not heard a single case in 3 years??
It's all fun and games until you get booted from Parliment!
I could go on, but this list is sickening enough. What is more concerning to me is how little reaction any of this gets from the public and from our own National Aboriginal Organizations (NAOs). Regardless of whether you believe the Canadian government is your government, the fact of the matter is that they currently assert their jurisdiction over our peoples. Do we really need this kind of corruption and scandal to be "managing" our affairs? I would hope not.
This is where our NAO's need to be providing their "constituents" with information about what is happening, not just in our communities, but on the national scene as well. They are "National" Aboriginal organizations after all, and it is there job to keep us informed. Looking at the websites today, I don't see a single mention that there is even a federal election underway. Nor do I see any public letters to the parties telling them what our important issues are or what their party positions are in that regard.
I personally, would like to see what the AFN's views are on the events of late, or NWAC's list of priorities for the next Prime Minister. I don't expect much from CAP, who, having literally fallen off the face of the earth, recently posted public support for the Conservative budget - trying to prop up an unethical government that provided almost nothing for Aboriginal peoples - the poorest in our society.
What do the NAO's think about the Liberal's education promise of 1 billion dollars for non-Aboriginal people to go to school?? Is that not a bit insulting given our socio-economic statistics which show us as far behind non-Aboriginal people? Where are the promises to address housing, water, child welfare, education, food subsidies for the north, land claims, treaties etc etc?? Do none of the NAO's have a position on any of these issues?
What about providing us with a list of all the Aboriginal people across Canada running in the election so that we can support them? What about organizing ways to help Aboriginal people get out and vote if they want to? I know many of us do not vote for very good reasons that I discussed in my last blog, but we have to support those who do.
The federal election will be held on Monday, May 2, 2011 and Elections Canada 2011 has all the information you need regarding voting:
I have always had little faith in the Canadian election process because our numbers are so small as to make very little difference, and for the fact that even if we do elect Aboriginal MPs, they have to tow the party line - which rarely benefits us.
However, I have been hearing from lots of my readers and their arguments about why we should vote, and they are very persuasive. I am very close to being convinced. The majority of people I have heard from are not conservative, liberal, NDP, Bloc or otherwise politically affiliated. They are concerned Indigenous peoples who would rather vote for anyone, than see Harper get back in for all the reasons I listed above.
I am concerned enough about the evils of the Conservative autocracy that I am now thinking that every single vote will count to make sure they are not re-elected. Regardless of whether we get our own MPs or whether we ever participate in politics federally, the concern is more related to avoiding Harper's re-election or worst-case scenario, a majority government - which for Indigenous peoples would be the final nail in the coffin.
By saying this I am not submitting to the assumed sovereignty of Canada - I have never waivered from the fact that I believe our Indigenous Nations have the only legal sovereignty on this territory. However, I am not against using a wide variety of tools to stop the colonizers in their tracks on a "without prejudice" basis. At this point, if we don't act to bar Harper from re-election we can only expect more of the same and none of that benefits us.
Please keep sending me your comments and e-mails. I am an open-minded person and always ready to be convinced I should be considering a different point of view.
*(None of these pictures are my own, I found them all courtesy of "Google Images")