Reply from Jack Layton:
Thank you for your comments regarding Stephen Harper's unilateral
decision to prorogue Parliament. By locking out Members of Parliament,
Mr. Harper is shutting down democracy and preventing us from doing the
important work Canadians elected us to do.
I believe that Canadians value our democratic system. They are telling
the Prime Minister that he can't simply shut down our democratic
institutions just because he doesn't like what they're asking or doing.
Here are some facts:
- This is the second time in 12 months that he has prorogued Parliament
- This is the fourth time in 3 years he has abruptly ended a session of
- He consistently fails to comply with the Access to Information Act
- He is ignoring an order by Parliament to provide access to all
documents relating to the Afghan torture issue.
Canadians also expect their MPs to work together and find solutions for
the challenges facing our country. There is a pension's crisis in
Canada. Many individuals are struggling to find work and need help to
recover from the economic recession. Yet, Stephen Harper chose to lock
the doors of Parliament rather than letting MPs work on these concerns.
Prime Minister Harper has adopted a blatant "run from accountability"
approach to governing. While he promised increased accountability, he
has done everything in his power to avoid the tough questions. At the
same time he is blocking elected MPs from Parliament, he is making plans
to stack the Senate with unelected Conservative Senators-something he
promised he would never do.
For more information on our position on this matter, please visit:
For our part, the New Democratic Caucus will be going ahead with our
scheduled January 18 strategy meeting and will discuss our plans for the
next few months. We will continue to advance our policies on issues such
as pension reform, jobs, the environment and health care while working
hard in our individual ridings.
Again, I appreciate having the benefit of your comments. Feel free to
pass along my message to anyone who may be interested. All the best.
Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada's New Democrats
Dear Mr Layton,
What a disappointing response. I already know what Harper has done and I have a good sense of what we are in for if he is not stopped. What you call a “unilateral decision to prorogue Parliament”, I call an assault on democracy. Going ahead with an already planned caucus meeting is hardly an adequate response to Harper’s calculated assault. People will rally on the 23rd, and out of that, hopefully, will come a commitment to continue to work for the overhaul of the electoral system in this country – a country now without a functioning democracy.
The past NDP strategy of attacking liberals in an attempt to claim their political turf is an abject failure and has only emboldened Mr Harper (see Tom Flanagan’s article in the Tuesday G&M). Your party must change direction and come out swinging at the Harper regime, and many are ready to help. I would think that the NDP would want to be a voice for democratic renewal instead of standing by with hat in hand waiting for Mr Harper to come back on stage. Thousands of Canadians are mobilizing and thousands more would too with effective leadership from you and the talented MPs in your caucus. Please, forget the retreat and get out to the planning meetings for the 23rd – speak out on the travesty Mr Harper is laying out for us. I cannot stand by and watch Harper make fools of us as citizens, and neither should you.
I emailed this letter to as many newspapers across Canada as I could find:
January 1, 2010
RE: Proroguing parliament
Much has already been commented on in the major papers about Prime Minister Harper’s move to prorogue parliament until March. This move should outrage all who value the democratic process regardless of how battered that process may be.
The time has come where the parliamentary process is completely stalemated with the prime minister deciding he does not have to answer to the opposition. If he has so little respect for his peers in parliament, imagine how much less he has for the citizenry. He seems to regard us as mere numbers to plug into his political calculations. He seems confident that we will be so easily distracted by the Olympics, that he can boost his ratings by pasting himself and his party on the Olympic brand, thereby positioning himself in majority territory once again. A spring election is likely the next course of action.
I submit to your readers a plan of action that I believe is more necessary now than at any other time in our history. If parliamentarians cannot get to work on January 25th then neither should the rest of the country. All citizens who care about democracy should take the day off and make phone calls to the Prime Minister’s office demanding that parliament be resumed at once. The opposition parties, social justice groups and union leaders should be front and center in helping to organize this effort. It may seem a done deal since the Governor-General has already agreed to prorogue parliament (over the phone no less); however, the will of the people through parliament should override a non-elected figurehead. As well, this effort is not intended to simply support the status quo, rather this could and should be the beginning of a new political paradigm leading to electoral reform and ending the growing power and influence of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
All Canadians should carefully consider how easily this country can slip into authoritarianism; we seem to be well along the way.
This first appeared in the December issue of The Scoop, Windsor, Ontario’s alternative monthly:
By Paul Chislett
Congratulations Canada, we are officially a tin pot dictatorship compete with an unelected governor general in military garb as head of state. In a picture in the Globe and Mail she stood saluting on Remembrance Day and it seems that once Michaelle Jean prorogued parliament she succumbed to the Harper regime and its militaristic stance in domestic and international affairs. The Harper government has cowed the opposition parties into silence or irrelevance and is now intensively re-branding this country so that it reflects neo-conservative values: authoritarianism, militaristic, and racist. The Harper regime has stooped to even using Remembrance Day as a prop for more war and the celebration of a so-called warrior culture. Rick Hillier, former head of the Canadian Forces, has a new book out in what surely is his own branding effort to propel him into Parliament as Canada’s first warrior prime minister. Yet many Canadians are raising the alarm that we cannot continue to fiddle while the Harper regime funnels billions of dollars into military spending while workers, students, and pensioners struggle to live and stay healthy.
In a recent Globe and Mail article, Michael Valpy insists “…that Canadians now have re-imagined themselves as a military nation”. According to Valpy, Frank Graves, president of EKOS, a research firm says baby boomers are more insecure and conservative and that “…boomer attitudes have lifted defence spending up from the bottom of priorities…”. There is certainly truth to this, but all boomers are not the same. One must count which boomers are wealthy enough to influence policymakers and the media messages that are used to promote the increased militarization of Canada’s social milieu. We are a military nation in the eyes of a minority, but Canada’s national newspaper can amplify the message drowning out dissent. Valpy notes the recent black tie elite-fest in Toronto dubbed True Patriot Love. With tickets at $750 per person, over $1 million for Hillier’s Military Families Fund was raised. No one seemed to ask why Canadian soldiers needed charity after being maimed in the occupation of Afghanistan – an occupation which is arguably illegal. The point here is that with the increased hype and glorification of the military, how else might frightened boomers view the world? The corporate media does everything but salute with the governor general in their lopsided and dangerous collusion with the Harper regime. The world is certainly what we make it, however, average Canadians are being sidelined by the media. If one only watches, reads, or listens to the corporate media there is only ONE message: salute or shut up. There is not even a pretence of balance in the corporate media today. We must become much louder.
Since that charity dinner took place, Hamid Karzai has been installed as president of Afghanistan – a mockery of justice and democracy. As well, the testimony of Richard Colvin, after months of delay, has again brought to light credible testimony that Canadian soldiers handed captured Afghans over to Afghan prisons knowing those ‘prisoners’ would likely be tortured. There was no due process, nor charges brought against these civilians. This is what the militarization of a culture will produce – lies on top of lies which are sold as truth. It has already happened in the United States and worse will befall this country if we fail to ensure: NEVER AGAIN.
From the Windsor waterfront, one can see a stream of cars leaving the Joe Louis arena after a Red Wing game. It is a comforting scene, yet Detroit provides a brutal lesson on how to struggle to a new economy. Sudbury and Windsor may seem distant from each other, yet shared experiences of working people in both places should provide support and lessons in hard times. Windsor could never afford to ignore the world because it sits on the edge of the American empire with Detroit as an example of how wrong things can go.
Photo: Paul Chislett
The predicted and devastating job losses in Sudbury have awakened Sudburians to the realties of global free market capitalism. Sudbury’s insistence that the area was immune to the unfolding global calamity was equivalent to whistling in the dark, knowing something is about to knock us off our feet. The fact that the ore bodies are foreign owned is really secondary to the challenges Sudbury workers face. If the political will was present, a government could nationalize the mines; however, local workers would still be in dire straits. It is not the collapse of an economic system that is devastating workers lives as much as it is a collapse of values. In Canada we had debates about values beginning with the Free Trade Agreement of 1988, through to the North American Free Trade Agreement and on into the sell off of Ontario’s manufacturing base. Additionally, the Mike Harris regime in Ontario, and the 16 year old national liberal/conservative coalition, made matters worse, implementing tax cuts which destroyed the progressive tax system we had; a system dependent on a wage economy that redistributed wealth into public services such as health care, housing, education, and the like.
It is not that jobs being lost, especially in the auto industry, may never come back (they won’t in the numbers we knew); it is that we are facing the end of the wage economy and the benefits that went with it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but to avoid catastrophe a historic shift in values is required. So far the working people of Canada are failing to rise to the challenge. In Windsor, Professor Jeff Noonan, a former Sudburian now at the University of Windsor, has organized a discussion group entitled, Philosophy for Workers: Where we are, How we got here, and Where can we go? The discussion group will grapple with the problems facing workers in Windsor and Essex County by investigating “…the system of values that rules political choices and … how those in power reason about the choices they make and impose on everyone else”.
This is an activity that workers in Sudbury urgently need to do. In fact, what should be occurring across Canada are a series of general strikes so that workers can convene such discussion groups out of which could be born a new sense of empowerment not seen since the struggles for unions and women’s rights. The stunning lack of coverage, by the Canadian corporate media, of recent worker movements demanding more from their governments, most notably in France, indicates that corporate elites are not so fearful of the economic meltdown as they are of workers mobilizing to determine new values, modes of production, and in fact, a new economy, thus undermining the positions of power and prestige that the elites undeservingly hold.
The ruling global oligarchy is running out of answers. The reasoning behind their decisions and their value system of commodifying everything on the planet, including human labour, is now laid bare for the self-serving lie that it was. We must carve out our space in an economy that doesn’t work for us so we can ask the questions which should lead us to discover our own system of values. Such a value system could lead to a mix of co-operative worker owned enterprises, state owned, worker run factories producing major goods for human requirements, sustainable energy production and transportation policies, and especially, sustainable farm operations growing healthy food close to where people live.
The challenge for Northern Ontario will be recognizing, as some do, that as consumption levels fall – as they must if we are to preserve the planet – there can only be scaled down commodity extraction activity. The future of the north lies in the preservation of the land and waters while building a mixed economy which includes mining and forestry, but more importantly, local manufacturing, fishing, farming, and the like; offset perhaps, with a guaranteed annual income. A national manufacturing policy can share work around the country and this will be required on a global scale as well. Workers have a stark choice, we either value cooperation and sharing of resources, or we live under the yoke of others’ choices in a world of violence and competition. As beings of inherent worth and dignity we have no right to allow a minority; a cabal of clever schemers, to determine our future. In fact, we have a historic opportunity to remake national and global economies so they work for people. From urban to rural, from Sudbury and Windsor to Shanghai and the slums of the world, we must grab hold of our destinies or accept being passive victims in someone else’s game.
This article appeared in the March 11th issue of Northern Life
“The United States has decided to boycott an upcoming UN conference on racism unless its final document is changed to drop all references to Israel.” More on the Al Jazeera English site: