Tag Archives: libya

Releasing Government Bad News Under Cover of a Hockey Game

Based on the bad news coming from the BC and Canadian governments under cover of game one of the Stanley Cup finals, we should be wary of the Canucks going to seven games.

It used to be Friday afternoons were a great time for governments to release bad news. The week’s media cycle was drifting off into a weekend and there would be less room for public analysis than if bad news was released at 9am on a Monday. This is why I am always scouring news websites after 3pm on Fridays. Just in case.

But yesterday, game one of the Stanley Cup finals was a perfect day for bad news because the city, province and much of the country was fixated on the hockey game. Here’s what contemptuous filth emerged while we were anticipating the game…in case you missed it:

1. A few days ago, the BC Liberal government changed the date and time of budget estimates debate for the premier’s office to coincide with the hockey game. Budget estimates debates are when the opposition can examine the contents of each line item of the provincial budget. In a contemptuous, cynical obstruction of democracy, transparency and accountability, the premier decided that debate about her office budget would take place when virtually no one would be interested in watching on Hansard TV and virtually all of the media would be distracted.

2. On a related note, BC Liberal cabinet minister Moira Stilwell [whose Twitter introduction to her leadership debate was a moderate failure] tweeted on Monday how much she was distressed at the legislature sitting past dinnertime this week. I’m sure she was being at least somewhat facetious, since they might have to miss the hockey game:

The house is sitting till 9pm this week; couldn’t we just talk faster? #BCPOLI

Since it was her government that chose to keep the legislature closed for around 600 of the last 700 days, her hypocrisy is galling. But then, if she’s being facetious, that’s ok, right? No. That makes it even worse because of how little regard her government holds for democratic accountability.

But then she followed up that gem with this one last night:

The house sits tonight during the game-ridiculous!! Go #Canucks!

Honestly? I’ll tell you what is ridiculous: her premier rescheduling her office’s estimates debate to occur during the game. And I agree that evening sittings aren’t terribly valuable, but they are necessary when the government’s goal is to minimize the number of legislative sitting days, thereby minimizing the number of question periods they must endure, and maximizing the opportunities to vote closure on debate so they can ram through legislation with their majority of votes. This is why I’d particularly enjoyed the recent years of minority governments in Ottawa and why we’ll be bothered by lots of majority closure motions in the House of Commons in Harper’s majority.

3. CBC BC’s legislative reporter, Stephen Smart, also reported yesterday that the BC Liberals’ public sector wage austerity program of net zero wage increases will continue for two more years. We’ll see about that. Again, not the kind of news to release on a Monday morning.

4. Laila Yuile discovered yet another announcement buried in Stanley Cup hype that affects the safety of citizens using court services: the firing of a few dozen more sheriffs leading to the closure of even more courtrooms. This, all during a time when millions of our tax dollars are funding stick men/mimes on TV commercials to explain to us what the government wants us to know about their beloved HST.

5. Shifting to Ottawa, we found out today Foreign Minister Baird announced before yesterday’s hockey game that parliament will be using their majority to ram through a 90-day [or more] extension to the Canadian Forces’ military involvement in Libya, which is set to expire in 14 days.

All I can say is that I hope the Canucks win the Stanley Cup in four games to minimize the likelihood of more bad news announcements buried on game days.

Political announcements are starting to remind me of a Rolling Stones song:

One hundred thousand disparus
Lost in the jails in South America
CURL up baby
CURL up tight
CURL up baby
Keep it all out of sight
Keep it all out of sight
Undercover of the night [or, Canucks game]

Flexing the Democracy Muscle

It all started last night in Twitter, the trigger of a harmonic convergence of indications that democracy is alive and well in the world. Here’s how it played out:

A woman on the news tonight complained that elections are time consuming. I appreciate her concern for my time.

via aaronwherry (aaronwherry) on Twitter.

Aaron Wherry is a parliamentary reporter with Mclean’s magazine. I appreciated his sarcasm. Elections are time consuming. They also cost about $10/Canadian, a small price to pay to be free of despotism.

Then it moved to Dale Smith, freelancer in the Ottawa press gallery:

I’m sorry that democracy is so inconvenient. MT @aaronwherry: A woman on the news tonight complained that elections are time consuming.

via Dale Smith-Journo (journo_dale) on Twitter.

More blessed re-calibrating principles about what ought to matter. I wonder if that woman on the news thought the Egyptian revolution last month was time consuming.

Then I reviewed the results of my wildly unscientific poll on the website yesterday about desire for a federal election this spring:


Would you like a federal election this spring?

Yes (79%, 15 Votes)

No (21%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

via Politics, Re-Spun.

That felt good, for what it was worth.

Then I was reminded of the various electoral events happening in BC this year:

  1. the BC Liberal party leadership race
  2. the BC NDP leadership race
  3. a by-election for the newly chosen premier to earn her seat in the legislature
  4. a referendum on the Harper Sales Tax [HST]
  5. a possible provincial election in the fall
  6. municipal and board of education elections in November
  7. recall campaigns against government MLAs accused of lying about the HST before the 2009 election or just about bringing in the HST at all
  8. and now a likely federal election in early May because Harper didn’t put in his budget funding for new healthcare professionals [only forgiving some of the student loan debt of some of them], ignored doubling the CPP, and gave a pittance increase to poor seniors getting the GIS.

And if you want to see some very useful consumption of time in the service of democracy, read these 5 questions for the BC NDP leadership candidates.

But we also have a 2011 context of democratic movements. Here are two videos showing time lapse map of global protests and uprisings in the last 3 months, as well as a map centred on Africa and the Middle East. If you have wondered whether something is up about exercising political rights, these videos are a testament to the movement.

And despite a corporate media blackout, kidnapped president Aristide returned triumphantly to Haiti last week.

There is also a movement now to force BMO to oppose the union-bashing Republican governor of Wisconsin, since BMO recently bought Wisconsin’s M&I bank that funded him, a bank that paid sickening bonuses to its exiting board. In fact, the Madison, Wisconsin firefighters union members forced their branch of M&I to close a couple weeks ago as they collectively withdrew over $100,000 of their money from that bank in protest of its support of the governor.

By the way, M&I received $1.4 billion in US government bailout money WHICH THEY NEVER PAID BACK before BMO bought it for $4.1 billion.

On a related note, on Saturday, April 2, 2011 from 2:00pm there will be a massive rally at the Peace Arch for workers and activists from Canada and the United States to support the workers in Wisconsin and all over North America who are suffering attacks on their collective bargaining rights, as has been the case in BC for the last decade.

So what is democracy? For certain it is time consuming. But it’s also the only thing that the majority of citizens have power to do. We outnumber the corporations and their well-funded right wing politicians who are trying to cut taxes and public programs that support our society.

Democracy is about standing up for our rights and our choices for how we want to live. We cannot sub-contract this democracy to elected politicians and professional political staff. They have jobs to do, but we must hit the streets to support the causes we care about.

Obama was elected with 3 million activists working hard on his campaign. Then they all went home when it was time to push Congress to pass a really good medicare bill. The political culture changed enough to get him elected, but not enough for activists to realize they need to be eternally vigilant.

If you are in Vancouver for the next week or so, you can catch 1984 at The Cultch, presented by Langara College’s Studio 58. It’s a great story. It’s also a description of the kind of world we can look forward to if we do not flex our democracy muscles.

We have everything to lose.

2011, The Year of Democracy: Haiti and Libya

Aristide has returned to Haiti in the last hour after Canadian troops, US marines and others kidnapped him almost 85 months ago, with Obama trying to impede his return. Bad move. This morning we are also seeing a Libyan cease fire in response to the UN Security Council’s resolution for a no-fly zone in Libya.

While the UN Security Council is usually an anti-democratic, imperialist body, this decision, is an unusual example of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine actually working. Libya is experiencing a grassroots democratic revolution along with many other nations in 2011, the year of democracy.

Haiti will experience the joy of their returned president in the coming days and months.

And there were 3 bald eagles in the Active Pass bald eagle count this morning.

Namaste, world.

Jasmine Revolutions, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Francis Fukuyama’s still wrong

Francis Fukuyama argued that the “end of history” was the emergence of liberal democracy – and, of course, capitalism – as the predominant ideological force in the world. According to Fukuyama, the shift to liberalism was inevitable – it was just, quite simply, better than anything else. When he wrote this, in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy was breaking out across the world, and it was indeed ‘liberal’ in many cases.

Some commentators have suggested that the recent uprisings across the Middle East are the ‘proof’ of Fukuyama’s argument that has been, for so long, elusive. This is a suggestion that the popular, people’s movements for democracy show that liberal democracy is still the ultimate stage in human political development, with its focus on the individual and its attendant trappings of capitalism.

With that in mind, I find it absolutely fascinating to read and to hear “market concerns,” or “business worries,” reflected in stock market trading and commodity prices, that these popular uprisings might spread across the region. The markets are afraid of this.

If Fukuyama was right, and if liberal democracy and capitalism is the ultimate stage in human development, that elusive ‘end of history,’ then shouldnt the markets be embracing these uprisings and revolutions?

They’re not, though. For a good reason. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, and nascent ones in China and Yemen and in so many other places are taking a different form. These uprisings are based on communities of action, they are leaderless, they feature collective action and mutual aid as ways that they operate. They’re not calling for democracy and the right to freely trade their stock options and derivatives, they’re calling for democracy and human rights.

These popular uprisings show that Fukuyama’s thesis is far from being confirmed – indeed, it’s again being shown to be just as preposterous as it always has been. Liberalism isn’t the end of history. Any number of these regimes that have fallen or will soon fit perfectly well into the liberal mode. The people are demanding something else – something beyond Fukuyama’s “end of history.”

They are demanding – actually, they are going beyond the demand and they are actively creating – their capacity to collectively decide their own futures. Something that liberal democracy and capitalism deny them.

And the markets and the stock traders and the businessmen know this. Which is why they are afraid of these uprisings spreading. Which is why Fukuyama is still wrong. And why the people in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and China and Wisconsin are right.