— Jef Keighley photos
Day-of-Action participants at John Weston’s office in Sechelt
It used to be in Canada that if you had a black mark against your name, it meant that you were on the do-not-admit list. Not anymore. Now it means that you can run the country — and ignore core democratic principles like freedom of speech.
On this day of information blackouts by progressive media to protest Harper’s unscrupulous Bill C-38, I feel compelled to speak out. As we know by now, our prime minister is trying to ram through, at the highest level of this nation, a host of new regulations in his Blackmark Budget, with limited debate and discussion, that will fulfill his too-obvious agenda: to get the Northern Gateway pipeline built as quickly and easily as possible, and to silence the groups and individuals who disagree with this plan.
Bill Forst, past president of the Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association, speaks to those in Sechelt gathered to protest Bill C-38
High-profile folk like activist David Suzuki, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and Liberal leader Bob Rae have villified this 450-page omnibus budget Bill that takes aim at anyone who doesn’t fit the Conservative party agenda of economy and profit above all else.
The Bill is designed to weaken environmental protection and fisheries laws, make it easier to launch major natural resources projects, and eliminate the watchdog that monitors the activities of Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It is also geared to zero in on, and stop, the political activities of non-profits (read environmental groups) that speak out against the Northern Gateway project and other earth-destructive projects. Basically, if you love the planet and this province, you’re Harper’s enemy.
Thankfully, Canadians have collectively spoken out against this outrageous abuse of their democratic freedoms. Two days ago (June 2), they gathered in a Day of Action at 75 locations across the country at Conservative MPs’ offices, in conjunction with Leadnow.ca.
Here on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, about 200 people, including the region’s NDP MLA Nicholas Simons and Sechelt councillor Alice Lutes, rallied against Bill C-38 at the Sechelt constituency office of Conservative MP John Weston.
Local NDP MLA Nicholas Simons addresses the crowd
“Bill C-38 changes and/or eliminates some 70 pieces of federal legislation, the majority of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the budget,” says Jef Keighley, chair of the Sunshine Coast Senior Citizens and lead organizer of the Sunshine Coast protest.
This nation-wide stand against Bill C-38 had three purposes, says Keighley:
- to make sure that Canadians are aware that the Bill contains a sweeping agenda to remake Canadian society that goes against most citizens’ interests and values;
- to rally Canadians to stand against the Bill before it puts a black mark on our democracy
- and to find 13 Conservative MPs who will represent their constituents and stop the Bill.
“It will take 13 Conservative MPs to make it impossible to pass the Bill without changes,” says Keighley. He and others are calling on a baker’s dozen of Tory MPs to divide the Bill into reasonable components and start over. That way, prior to the Bill’s third reading, the appropriate parliamentary committees can share reasoned discussion and debate, inviting Canadians to help them make laws that work better for all of us. That’s what democracy’s all about, right?
Roberts Creek activist Caitlin Hicks reaffirms the need to defend democracy in Canada
Our freedom of speech is on the line. As a Canadian citizen, you can help to ensure that our fundamental democratic laws, practices, and principles do not disappear under Stephen Harper’s efforts to squelch dissent. You can stop Bill C-38 and Harper’s “culture of bullying and intimidation,” to use Bob Rae’s words.
If you’re on the Sunshine Coast, write a letter (not an email) to John Weston and ask him to vote to divide up Bill C-38 so that our elected officials can debate and discuss its components separately. (Weston’s constituency office is 207 – 5760 Teredo Street, Trail Bay Centre, Sechelt, BC, V0N 3A0.) We deserve this kind of democratic representation – not Harper’s form of autocratic power.
Here’s a sample letter, written by Jef Keighley:
Please Vote to Divide Bill C-38
I am writing you as a concerned Canadian who values and respects the traditions of our representative democracy and the processes of debate and decision of Canada’s Parliament.
Bill C38, the 450 page omnibus budget bill that is seeks to amend and/or eliminate some 70 pieces of federal legislation, the majority of which has precious little to do with budgetary matters, is the most sweeping set of changes in Canadian parliamentary history. Many of us take issue with the content of the proposed changes, but we also take issue with the hurried process and limited debate. It seems designed to ensure that the vast majority of MPs and Canadians will not know or understand the impact of those changes until after they are made law after the imposition of closure.
In 2005 Stephen Harper, then Opposition Leader, in response to the 120 page budget bill under Prime Minister Paul Martin said “How can members represent their constituents on those various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?’ Harper was right to voice those sentiments then and the call of all of the opposition parties to divide C-38 into its component parts for debate by the appropriate parliamentary committees prior to third reading is the right and fair thing to do now.
As a constituent I am not asking you to express opposition to the content of Bill C-38, but I am asking that you respect our parliamentary traditions and vote to divide Bill C-38 so that MPs and Canadians can know the content and intention of the proposed changes prior to third reading. Otherwise, MPs will be voting blind and Canadians will be kept in the dark, and that will truly make Bill C-38 a blackmark budget.
I look forward to your positive response.
For those on the Sunshine Coast, a gathering is planned on June 14 at 7 p.m. at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt, led by Lead now representative Jamie Biggar.
If you live elsewhere in Canada, speak out, stay informed, and write your local Conservative MP. Demand a change and return to participatory democracy. Check out the Lead now website.
June 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm Comments (3)