Symposium Summary

The Panel: Nick, Trish and Bonnie

Tina Agrell observed the day and made a brief summary at the end.  Here is that summary.

Summary: Symposium 2012 

 by Tina Agrell 

Well, we didn’t get to drink the three kraters of wine customary at a symposium, but even with clear heads we still had some fun!

We were mad with Prime Minister Harper when

- Parliament was prorogued twice, to avoid defeat in the Commons

- Watchdog officials were sacked for doing their jobs too well

- Omnibus Bills, hundreds of pages long, containing a bewildering maze of new legislation, were rushed through Parliament with little or no debate

- Funding was cut to agencies advocating for the poor and disadvantaged

- Control of Canada’s natural resources was put up for grabs by China and Europe.


Lawrence Martin spoke of Neanderthals, watchdogs and lap dogs, Trojan horses and black bears.

He told us how democracy has eroded steadily, as power has been centralized – with the most dramatic changes coming after the advent of the Reform Party. We have lost our checks and balances and nowadays propaganda rules. With rigid media controls, dismissal of oversight bodies and contempt for procedure in the House, this Prime Minister brooks no criticism from his own party. In these days, Democracy is what you can get away with.

Lawrence told us we must offer solutions, not just criticism. But without members of the public making a great big noisy fuss, nothing will change.

Nick Fillmore explained that even if we do get rid of the current Prime Minister and are able to force the adoption of Proportional Representation, we would still be restricted by the Power in the Shadows --the Council of Canadian CEOs, the Big Banks and Corporate Canada-- because neo-liberalism now runs the country. This group believes that democracy is a nuisance and a hindrance. They are calling the shots, but no one elected them.

We need to establish how can we wrest power back to the people, before we run out of accessible resources and our environment is destroyed.

Trish Hennessy (like the cognac!) told us how in the 1930’s and 40’s, after the Stock Market crash and the Depression (and whole new uses being found for the green tissue paper around mandarin oranges) people discovered that they could not go it alone. Trish noted that Canadians survived because social consensus gave them the power to act collectively to provide supports and services. Today we have lost that social consensus and the income gap continues to widen. Current research shows that in Canada today only 10% have any trust in their politicians, while 71% feel that inequality is undermining Canadian values. Perhaps changes around taxation and around arranging funding from banks could tip the balance. 
     Check out her one minute video on the benefits of taxes here.

Bonnie Brown pointed to the lack of civility in Parliament, omnibus bills and unnecessary prorogation as three major concerns today.

She noted that there is a lack of will in the House to follow Guidelines or enforce Standing Orders and a lack of knowledge among new MPs about the extent of their own powers.

Specific training on House procedure is needed.

Omnibus Bills can deal with an entire program of government in two pieces of legislation. After that, legislators might just as well go home.

Big changes in legislation need rational discussion and debate that takes place over a period of time.

Prorogation is a valid tool but not when misused to escape censure. Parameters around its use must be established.

At lunch it became clear that the situation was so serious that even Gilbert and Sullivan spoke to us from beyond the grave, via the medium of the talented Weiler family!

So then WE the people got together and made a plan. Our joint statement will be forthcoming.

We’re still mad, but now we’re getting organized and ready for action! 

Thanks to all of you, Canada IS still a Democracy.

But we have to be vigilant and active in order to keep it that way.