Tuesday, December 24, 2013

FDA Newsletter for December 2013

As discussed in the FDA December newsletter, the FDA's new associate organization, the Democratic Advancement Party of Canada's (DAPC) website will be live on January 2, 2014.


FDA Newsletter for December 2013



Friday, December 13, 2013

Example of Citizen Initiative and Government Accountability

In November 2010 upon the imminent demolition by Chinese authorities of his newly constructed studio in Shanghai, Ai Weiwei invited guests to feast on 10,000 river crabs in protest to the Chinese government's control of information. Due to house arrest, Ai Weiwei was unable to attend.

'He xie' means "river crab." In addition, he xie represents "harmonious," and it is used in the Chinese Party slogan: "the realization of the harmonious society." In terms of the internet, he xie refers to online censorship and removal anti-establishment views (Perez Museum, 2013).

The image below captures the Ai Weiwei protest, and acts as a symbol of the Chinese people's struggle for liberty and freedom of expression. By eating the river crabs, the protesters are symbolically eliminating the information control by Chinese authorities. Note, symbols are a central feature of Chinese society as illustrated by the use of symbols in the Chinese languages.

Representation and symbol of the Ai Weiwei's protest against Chinese censorship. Photo taken at the Perez Museum in Miami.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Example of Citizen Initiative and Government Accountability

Ai Weiwei Studio are holding the Chinese government accountable through an ongoing investigation of the loss of student life from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Weiwei uncovers that the loss of life stems from unsafe building practices and inspection of the construction of schoolhouses.

Below are photos of part of what the Ai Weiwei Studio uncovered:

Photo of the over 5,000 Chinese students killed in earthquake due to flawed building practices and government inspection. Photo taken at Perez Museum, Miami.


Some of the over 5,000 Chinese students killed in the earthquake.

How effective is Weiwei and associates accountability of the Chinese government?

What are you doing to hold your government accountable? Share your story with the FDA.


Example of Citizen Initiative and Government Accountability

Trevor Paglen researched and documented the U.S. government involvement in a covert torture operation, and despite denials by the GW Bush administration. The documents in the photos are an example of citizen initiative and government accountability.

If all citizens acted similar Trevor Paglen, what kind of world would we have? What have you done recently to hold a government accountable for its actions and/or non-actions?

These photos were taken at the Perez Museum, Miami.

This photo shows the seventeen documents compiled by Trevor Paglen. These documents are evidence that the GW Bush Administration was involved in covert detention and torture during the U.S. war on terror campaign. The Bush administration denied any involvement in capturing, interrogating, and torturing individuals.   
One of the seventeen documents showing the U.S. government's involvement in a campaign of covert interrogation and torture.

To what extent has Paglen held the U.S. government accountable? Was his method of accountability useful?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Canadian Veterans Speak Up

Canadian veteran speaks out at FDA Forum for Veterans on November 27, 2013. Through popular demand and the significance of the veteran issues, the FDA will be hosting more veteran forums in 2014. (In the foreground, Mr. Donald Leonardo, founder and president of Veterans of Canada; in the background, Mr. Sean Bruyea, former Canadian Forces captain and 14-year veterans advocate.)

Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement, presenting at the November 27, 2013 FDA Forum for Veterans.


Mr. Sean Bruyea, former Canadian Forces captain and veterans advocate, sharing his insights and knowledge at the FDA Forum for Veterans.




FDA Veterans Report and More

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sean Bruyea Interview on the Challenges Facing Canadian Veterans


Mr. Stephen Garvey, Executive Director of the Foundation for Democratic Advancement, interviews Mr. Sean Bruyea, former Canadian Forces Air Force captain and 14 year veteran advocate, on Canadian veterans and the challenges facing them. Sean discusses the short history of veteran advocacy in Canada. He makes clear that the major issues facing Canadian veterans are the arrogance of the Canadian federal bureaucracy, and political hypocrisy regarding veteran rights and issues. Sean says that veterans have sacrificed their lives and families for Canadian basic rights and freedoms, and therefore, Canadians have an obligation to stand up for veterans against the Canadian bureaucracy and politicians. Not only that, many veterans need the support of the Canadian public because many veterans are not university educated and/or in a position emotionally and physically to fight the federal government. These fights are troubling especially in consideration of Sean himself, who faced a major breach of privacy against him by the federal government in order to silence him and discredit his advocacy work for veterans. Sean and other veterans will be presenting at the FDA’s Forum 4 Veterans on November 27, 2013 at Mount Royal University. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

FDA RSS Feed

FDA Podcasts on Itunes

FDA Veterans Report and November 27, 2013 Forum 4 Veterans


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brian Bradley a Canadian Hero

Brian Bradley is one of potentially thousands of Canadian veterans who have been injured while serving this country, and who are denied a disability pension/award from the federal government. He has fought the federal government for seventeen years, and continues fight this war.

Excerpt from the FDA's Brian Bradley Case Study and Process Review of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)

"Brian's struggle is unique, as illustrated by the fact that only an average of 0.42 percent of veterans from 2009 to 2013 who received an unfavourable VRAB appeal decision takes the decision to the Federal Court for judicial review. Brian’s perseverance for what he perceives as his rightful disability pension according to the legislation has helped a number of veterans by establishing legal precedence in the Federal Court for how to interpret the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act, Pension Act, and other Acts. In addition, Brian’s determination has helped to expose the VRAB's partisanship and inadequacies, and the hypocrisy of federal politicians who declare an obligation to injured and/or disabled veterans but do not fulfill that declaration in practice.

The FDA believes Brian is a Canadian hero in the sense that during a time of personal struggle lasting seventeen years and at significant financial and personal sacrifice, he has helped to advance the interests of veterans and Canadians by exposing the inadequacy and disregard of the VRAB and the federal government regarding thousands of injured and/or disabled veterans. Brian continues to serve this country.

Equally important, Brian has helped to expose severe deficiencies in the federal government itself. These deficiencies are comprised of the self-interest approach of elected officials including the Prime Minister as characterized by the system of patronage appointments and gross mismanagement of federal government departments and institutions such as the VRAB. The FDA believes the government’s system of patronage appointments is doing a disservice to veterans and Canadians as a whole because potentially, the most qualified and experienced persons are not getting into the government public service positions. Additionally, the independence of government institutions like the VRAB and Veterans Ombudsman Office are compromised by partisan appointments. For example, the former Veterans Ombudsman, Colonial Pat Stogran, had his reappointment not renewed by the Prime Minister. Colonial Stogran was outspoken about the shortcomings of the VRAB and Veterans Affairs Canada towards injured and/or disabled veterans (Sullivan, 2012).

Further, using its expertise in international and Canadian democracy and government, the FDA believes Brian has helped expose underlying issues that are threatening Canadian democracy. The FDA has been exposed to democratic decline in various countries in which elected officials usurp the sovereign political authority of the people, while at the same time rhetorically promote democracy. For example, the United States is dominated by two federal political parties which combat each other, but at the same time work together for their bipartisan benefit, and at the expense of other federal parties and ultimately the American people. The 2012 FDA report on the American Federal Electoral System shows a system significantly biased to the two major political parties. Canada has very similar democratic issues in which Canadian federal politicians through a political establishment of three major parties have a biased and unfair grip on federal politics. Although these parties are combative, they all represent the political status quo. This status quo or lock on Canadian federal political power is undermining Canadian democracy. The 2013 FDA Report on the Canadian Federal Electoral System shows a system characterized by a series of legislative bias to these major parties.

The electoral system is critical, because it is the principle means for political power, barring undemocratic systems of government. If the electoral system is deficient and unfair, like in Canada and the United States, then it will produce election outcomes that are inconsistent with the voice of the people. This reality in-of-itself undermines democracy. As evidenced by the VRAB and its context in the federal government, Canadian federal elected officials through their patronage system, mismanagement and other issues are acting contrary to the broad public good. This raises the question as to how these people are getting into power in the first place. Unfortunately, in Canada at the federal level of government, the elected officials with control of the Parliament determine the election laws. So Canadians face significant obstacles to reclaim their democracy.

Brian Bradley has provided a way forward for Canadians: resiliency and perseverance against systems of government and conduct of politicians he did not sacrifice his life for. If all Canadians follow Brian’s heroic example of standing up for this country from internal decline, then the future of this country would be in good stead."

FDA's Veterans Report

FDA Public Forum For Injured/Disabled Veterans

2013 FDA Report on the Canadian Federal Electoral System 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

FDA's Brian Bradley Case Study and Process Review of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board



Executive Summary

Building off Veterans Ombudsman reports and other reports which support systematic change to the federal government process involving injured and/or disabled veterans, the Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) examines closely the federal government veteran processes. Through that examination, the FDA uncovers serve deficiencies which compromise the federal government’s service to injured and/or disabled veterans and ultimately its obligation to Canadians in the Canadian Forces and Royal Mounted Police who put their lives at risk to protect this country. In particular, the FDA documents a system of patronage appointments, mismanagement of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB), and a veterans review and appeal process defined significantly by unreasonable interpretation and application of relevant Acts of Parliament. Using its expertise in democracy and government, the FDA believes that these deficiencies stem from a failure of Canadian democracy and shortcomings in the Canadian federal electoral system. The FDA uncovers evidence that elected officials including the Prime Minister are putting their self-interests above the interests of injured and/or disabled veterans and Canadians as a whole. The Brian Bradley case study, an ongoing egregious seventeen-year legal struggle in which Brian battles for just care for his spinal cord injury, shows that the deficiencies with the VRAB and failings of the federal government have gone on far too long. The FDA recommends a number of reforms, including the elimination of the VRAB and delegation of its responsibilities and duties to the Federal Court, implementation of a non-partisan federal government appointment system, and correction of biases and unfairness in the federal electoral system to help ensure that representatives who represent the broad public good are elected.

"If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost." - Aristotle



Friday, November 8, 2013

FDA Public Forum on Injured and/or Disabled CDN Veterans. Get Informed and Share.



At the forum, the FDA will have guest speaker Mr. Sean Bruyea, former Canadian Forces captain and 10-year veterans advocate. In addition, among other things, there will be injured and/or disabled veterans who will share their stories, and an excerpt from the Canadian documentary "Broken Soldiers" will be shown. The forum is an opportunity to learn about issues that affect all Canadians and share openly your thoughts and feelings about the issues facing Canadian veterans and Canada's democracy.

Forum sponsored by the Foundation for Democratic Advancement and Mount Royal University, Faculty of Communication Studies

Tweeter hashtag: #forum4vets

For more information on the November 27, 2013, please email info @ democracychange.org

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

FDA PUBLIC FORUM on Injured Canadian Veterans and the Veterans Review and Appeal Board

Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) PUBLIC FORUM on Injured Veterans’ Struggle to Receive Disability Pensions/Awards.
Forum on what is happening and why; hear the stories of veterans.

The Forum is an opportunity to learn about issues that affect us and express our views openly.

Chaired by Mr. Stephen Garvey, FDA Executive Director

  • DATE: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 
  • TIME: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • PLACE: Moot Court Room, Mount Royal University. (East A Building (EA) 1031). 
Forum sponsored by Foundation for Democratic Advancement and Mount Royal University, Faculty of Communication Studies.
 




FDA Injured Veterans Report Information

Monday, October 14, 2013

FDA Electoral Finance Report on the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election: Separating Fact from Fiction

Foundation for Democratic Advancement image by lvdesign.ca

Executive Summary

This FDA electoral finance study focuses on the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election. The main purpose of the research is to tabulate the amount of contributions for all candidates. As the research progressed, further inquiry was made into the reporting system used by the City of Calgary, within provincial legislation. (2013 election finance data is not publicly disclosed until after Election Day on October 21, 2013; only voluntary and incomplete financial data is available now.)

Our results indicate that the top three candidates accounted for two-thirds of total campaign financing or 67 percent. The FDA also observed a wide variation between candidates with respect to the proportion of financing originating from different types of contributors. This includes distinctions based on contribution amount (under $100 versus over $100), and contribution source (individuals versus business versus unions). For example, 95.9 percent of gross contributions to all mayoral candidates were over $100, while 4.1 percent of gross contributions to all mayoral candidates were under $100. Also, 51.1 percent of total contributions to mayoral candidates were from corporations.

The FDA concludes that electoral finance process in the 2010 City of Calgary mayoral election had a number of shortcomings, which in turn likely impacted the electoral fairness of the election, and the correlation between the voice of Calgarians and the election results.

The FDA acknowledges that the root issue stems from Alberta's Local Authorities Election Act, which the Alberta Provincial Government has jurisdiction over. However, the FDA believes that the City of Calgary still has the ability to improve the electoral finance process. For example, for modest costs, the City Calgary can upgrade and standardize the way campaign finances are reported to the City by candidates, and subsequently reported by the City to the general public.

Questions

Do you know the electoral finance history of the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election?

Do you know that three mayoral candidates had 67% of the electoral finances of all mayoral candidates (ten three mayoral candidates in total)?

Do you that contributions by corporations accounted for 51.5% of the total contributions to mayoral candidates, without considering any individuals who may have contributed for corporations?

Do you know that there were 99 incidents of individuals and corporations contributing to more than one candidate and totaling $595,333. (Note, we are not making an ethical judgment, and there are no municipal laws against contributing to more than one candidate. Our goals are to gauge the frequency and financial scope of this phenomenon.)

Do you know that 95.5% of gross contributions to all mayoral candidates were over $100, while 4.1% of gross contributions to all mayoral candidates were under $100?


Relevant Links

FDA Electoral Finance Report on the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election

Stakeholder Advisory


 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Calgary Mayoral Election--Where is the Money Coming From?



Most Calgarians likely can't help from noticing the ubiquitous and frequent amount of fliers and other publicity materials being used in the 2013 Calgary Municipal Elections. In addition, Calgarians likely notice numerous billboard like signs. All these promotional materials cost money. Where is the money coming from? What strings are attached to the candidates, especially those candidates who receive the largest amount of contributions?

In the third week of October, 2013, the Foundation for Democratic Advancement will release its electoral finance analysis from the 2010 Calgary Mayoral Election, and the most recent 2013 Calgary municipal election. This information will give you objective and informed information on how much each candidate received in contributions and from who. Please note, that due to the weak municipal election laws, there is no required audit on municipal candidates' financial disclosures, and the campaign contribution limit is set high at $5,000 per individual/corporation per year. In addition, an electoral finance audit is only as good as the sources of revenue and expenses that the candidate discloses.

Below are primary sources of finance in Calgary. It should be noted that the construction sector of the Calgary economy only represents 8.1% as percentage of GDP for 2013 (or $8,7771 million). The largest sector in Calgary economy is the primary and utilities (or oil and gas sector). This sector represents 32.1% of the Calgary GDP for 2013. 

GDP by industry - Calgary CMA, 2013 (Calgary Economic Development, 2013).

                                                                    20132013
Industry2007 $ Millions(as % of GDP)






Goods-producing industries51,34547.2%
   Manufacturing7,6767.1%
   Construction8,7718.1%
   Primary and utilities34,89832.1%



Services-producing industries57,36952.8%
   Transportation and warehousing4,6184.2%
   Information and cultural industries3,3503.1%
   Wholesale and retail trade9,0218.3%
   Finance, insurance and real estate and leasing15,33114.1%
   Business services9,8829.1%
   Personal services4,3724.0%
   Non-commercial services7,7227.1%
   Public administration and defence3,0722.8%
All industries108,714100.0%








Stephen Garvey, Executive Director, Foundation for Democratic Advancement








Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Canadian Federal Election Laws and the Registration of Parties

In 2007 Marc Mayrand was appointed Chief Electoral Officer by the House of Commons. He serves until retirement at age 65 or his resignation. Mayrand is the sixth Chief Electoral Office in Canadian history. Only registered parties with a seat(s) in the Parliament have a say on the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. In addition, the only formal job requirement for the Chief Electoral Officer position is that that the person speaks and understands clearly English and French. 
For most Canadians, registering a federal party likely has minimal barriers to entry. A political group only needs 250 members, a leader, three officers, auditor, chief party officer, logo, and party name (Elections Act, 2000, Articles 366, 368; Registration Forms for Political Parties, 2013). However, the process of registering a party has subtle barriers to entry:
  1. None of the party registration materials including name and logo are protected until the party is registered.
  2. The Chief Electoral Officer makes the final decision as to whether or not a party is registered. If the political group's application is rejected for any reason, the political group must start the registration process over again, and Elections Canada keeps all the materials submitted.
  3. The political group's name (in both French and English, and in abbreviation) and logo cannot be confused with any existing political party. The Chief Electoral Officer makes the final decision, with no disclosure of how this Officer makes the decision (Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions, 2013). 
  4. Every three years, political parties must re-submit at least 250 signed member forms or lose their registration status (Elections Act, 2000, Article 366).
So in the end, registering a Canadian federal political party is not as easy as it may seem.

Questions

Do you think it is reasonable that political groups must start an application over if for any reason their registration applications are rejected?

Should the Chief Electoral Officer have final say on party registration and with minimal accountability, barring a private law suit against Elections Canada?

Who appoints the Chief Electoral Officer? The Chief Electoral Officer is appointed based on a resolution of the House of Commons. The resolution may be agreed upon by all parties represented in the Parliament, or determined by the majority Government in power, like Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Biggar from 1920 to 1927 (House of Commons and Its Members, 2013).

The only formal job requirement on the Chief Electoral Officer is that he or she speaks English and French? (Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, 2013). Do you think this is reasonable criteria for selecting this Officer?

Should all registered parties, whether with a seat in Parliament or not, be consulted on the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer and have substantive say on the appointment? Wouldn't this make the appointment fairer and more inclusive? Why favour the large, established parties?

References

Appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=abo&dir=ceo/app&document=index&lang=e

Chief Electoral Officers Since 1920. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=abo&dir=ceo/ceh&document=index&lang=e

Elections Act. (2000, May 31). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/fel/cea&document=part00&lang=e

Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions. (2013). Elections Canada Responses to FDA Questions via Email on September 26, 2013. Responses by Huguette Belisle, Chief, Registration Unit and Financial Officer for Elections Canada.

FDA Electoral Fairness Report on Canada. (2013). Foundation for Democratic Advancement. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/FDAdvancement/2013-can-fed-audit

House of Commons and Its Members. (2013). Parliament of Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.parl.gc.ca/marleaumontpetit/DocumentViewer.aspx?Sec=Ch04&Seq=4&Language=E

Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. (2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.appointments-nominations.gc.ca/prflOrg.asp?OrgID=CEO&lang=eng

Registration Forms for Political Parties. (2013). Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=pol&dir=pol/formsreg&document=index&lang=e







Stephen Garvey, Executive Director Foundation for Democratic Advancement
 



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FDA Discourse Series--Perspectives on Democracy

Arab Spring provided a movement for the betterment of people from the Middle East. Yet, as Egypt continues to show, democracy advancement is a painful and challenging process as the forces of status quo confront the forces of progression.
To further its goals of, 
  1. ensuring that people become more knowledgeable about the outcomes of government processes so that they can then make better-informed decisions;
  2. getting people involved in monitoring government processes at all levels of government, as well as in providing sound, practical, and effective suggestions for making these processes more democratic
the Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) shares different perspectives on democracy. The perspectives derive from persons interested in volunteering at the FDA. These persons may have different nationalities, and/or different ethnic and culture backgrounds.

How do you feel about democracy advancement?
  1. "According to Stanford University, democracy can be defined as a system of government in which a country’s political leaders are chosen by the people in regular, free, and fair elections. I feel that democratic advancement is absolutely vital to the future success of a country as well as their institutions and federal policies. To paraphrase Barack Obama, “democracy depends not only on elections but they also depend on strong and accountable institutions.” Therefore, democratic advancement is manifested through more than simply an unbiased and fair elections, but also institutional checks and balances. I feel that democratic advancement is an extremely complex and delicate subject, especially as it pertains to those nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transition."


  2.  "I think Winston Churchill's statement that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried" relates to an extent to my thoughts on democracy. Democracy certainly has its flaws. For instance, in a democracy, there may be a tyranny of the majority, voting by uneducated, ill-informed people, and/or inefficiencies and delayed resolutions of major issues. However, it is preferable to all other forms of government. When a government is accountable to its people, there is a smaller likelihood of corruption, the basic rights and freedoms of citizens are more likely to be ensured and democracies are less likely to go to war. A government should always hold the interests of its people at its core, and democracy is the best form of government to do so. Democratic advancement is therefore very important. However, I also think that democratic advancement will be a slow going process as institutions are sticky and are hard to change. Furthermore, in the developing world, regime changes towards democratic systems will produce instability, as we have seen in Arab countries following the Arab Spring. Still, I think it is possible for these nations to eventually obtain democratic political systems."

     
  3. "I believe in the rights of a people to vote their leaders, more than that, I believe democracy in itself as just being the first step and elected officials should develop a country by providing infrastructure to maintain the confidence of the people that elected them. It also institutes a process where the leaders are held accountable for what the people elected them to do unlike authoritarian/military rules etc. where the people do not have a voice and cannot cry for reform where it needs to happen.

    Democracy provides the means to remove elected officials, scrutinize policy makers and transparency in government.... I am a Canadian of Nigerian descent so democracy and the space for this type of government to not just be instituted but run the country properly, providing basic infrastructure and eliminating corruption in government is extremely important especially as my country has a democratic leader and the country is in political ruins because the elected officials are corrupt and are destroying the very fabric of the country.

    I think democracy if properly executed is an excellent idea which fosters development, general welfare and social justice in the community. Every member of the community has a say (voice) in how the community is to ensure their welfare is paramount.

    However that being said, in many countries in the world especially in the developing countries, democracy is not properly executed because the people who are supposed to represent their communities in the government often go there representing only themselves. In these situations the structures meant to act as checks and balances and ensure that democracy functions properly are non-existence due to greed, corruption and poverty.

    I will use my country of birth as an example; this is a similar situation in many other African countries. Nigeria gained independence from the British government almost 53 years ago (October 1, 1960). It has had about 21 years of democracy and 32 years of military rule. At the end of the last military regime in 1999, there was so much hope and expectation of a better life by the general populace as one of the ‘dividends’ of democracy. Unfortunately 14 years after, there is little to show due to lots of corruption by democratically elected leaders. The various military governments were oppressive and did not allow the people much freedom. The same has happened several times under democratically elected government. I have often wondered how democracy can work properly in a country like Nigeria as the level of greed and corruption is so much and oppression seems to be ingrained in the system. Almost everyone who wants to get into government is thinking about how they will get their share of the ‘national cake’ and not what they will go and do to make the lives of the fellow citizens and future generations better. Those who want to make a positive impact get frustrated by the way the system works. The many years of military dictatorship has not allowed many citizens understand the true meaning of democracy and what it is about. In my opinion, it is very important to focus on educating the youth in these countries on the real meaning of democracy and how it should work.

    In countries like Iraq and Egypt Islamic extremists have continued to prevent democracy from working because it is perceived as a ‘Western’ culture which allows everyone to have a voice and prevents what non-Muslims perceive as oppression." 


  4. "Being a post-secondary student living in the country that I do, I believe strongly in advancing democracy and improving it not only at home, but around the world where people welcome it. I believe that a country can only progress if the government serves its people, and not vice versa. For a governmental system to be successful, I believe that it must serve the interests of the people it represents as a whole and constantly seeking for ways to better and protect society. This can truly come about when the people of the society are the drivers of the governmental processes rather than a handful privileged of the elite few. With that comes transparency and accountability as citizens become more involved in their government and want to know why certain decisions are being made. When government officials know that they are being watched and therefore will be held accountable if they abuse their power, they will (or try to) put their best foot forward as much as possible or get ousted come next election. While the benefits of democracy are undeniable, there are still sadly a great many countries who do not practice democracy, or have democracy in the most superficial terms. What democracy advancement means to me is to give people as much information as possible so that they can begin to change their system to be as fair as possible, transparent to all, and accountable to the general population. On the surface, many elections may appear to be democratic as leaders are “elected”, but upon closer inspection, we can see that there are really other important elements of democracy." 


  5. I feel democracy advancement plays a crucial role in people information to become aware of various situations, understand issues and provide their input through their thoughts. Democracy advancement provides expert opinion from various experts for people to review and understand the the impact of a decision and make a difference. The electoral fairness audit is a creative way to analyze the electoral campaign and to hope people can have better chance of choosing the right leader to represent them.  


What does a people-based democracy mean to you?
  1. "When I think of a people-based democracy, I think of the symbiotic relationship between the government and the citizen. I agree with Stanford University when they state that government authority comes from the citizen and is based on the citizen’s consent. The key role of the citizen in a democracy is participation, and participation can take many different forms. The primary function of participation involves voting in elections in a peaceful, non-coerced way, while being respectful of the different views of others (collectively and individually). To me, a people-based democracy means the peaceful actions, reactions and interactions between the government and the citizen."


  2.  "A people-based democracy is a political system that is powered by the will of the people, meaning that the people of a country participate in decision-making in their state either directly or indirectly through representatives. This indicates that free and fair elections are key. The state should always be accountable to its people, and there should be mechanisms to remove leaders from their positions when they abuse their power and act against the will of the people." 


  3. "I had never heard of a people-based democracy and checked online and did not find very much as a clear definition. From my understanding, a people-based democracy is democracy with people running the democracy; which follows my initial point as where people have a stake in electing their officials, this leads to a more successful democracy as with anything else in life, once people are committed, have a buy-in, are part of a process of instituting something, there is larger drive for it to succeed.There becomes a personal stake for its success as with a democracy with the people running the democracy."  


  4. "A people-based democracy means that government is comprised of individuals just like you and I. Our government is made up of common people who share our ideas, beliefs and goals. They can be our teachers, our brothers, our next door neighbours. In a democratic system, we want leaders who can speak for us and represent our interests and looks out for our well-being as a whole, so it does not matter where this individual comes from as long as we agree with his ideas and like the way he makes decisions. In people-based democracy, everybody is equal and this equality is crucial, for everyone gets a say in how they believe they should be governed." 


  5. I have grown up in India which is one of the largest democratic countries in the world. Democracy has brought a totally different set of beliefs, views, reforms in India since 1947. People have received the right to choose their leader in India, have received right to exercise their rights of beliefs, religion and many other rights. The ability to include people in conversation over an ongoing issue is what makes democracy different than other methods, and which is what appeals to me the most.


Question for Readers

Are there any common themes / ideas in these perspectives on democracy?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Open Letter to the FDA--Shortcomings of Some Canadian Media During Elections?


Don't Gamble With Our Community
Issues, Not Odds 

A recent article in the Calgary Herald introduced the Calgary community to six local residents intending to run for mayor of Calgary against incumbent Naheed Nenshi.(“Longshots line up to take on Nenshi in mayoral race” 30 August 2013). This Article brought good news to all of us who support democracy, for we know that an election with only one choice can never be true democracy.

Nevertheless, we were disappointed by the rhetorical choices made by the article’s author and editors. Referring to the six candidates as 'longshots' in the headline and 'crazy' in the article, and to Mayor Nenshi as a 'shoo-in' – all within the first five paragraphs – the article subtly but powerfully encourages readers to dismiss them as viable candidates.

The terms ‘longshot’ and ‘shoo-in’ refer to the chances of being elected – something of interest perhaps to bookies and gamblers looking to make money on election results. But these terms do not refer to the factors that are (or should be) relevant in supporting and voting for a candidate, factors such as the candidate's experience and his or her position on relevant issues. Admittedly, these factors are included in the article’s brief bios of five of the six candidates, but only after priming the reader to focus on the odds.

It might be argued that readers need to know the chances of a candidate winning so that they can make an informed choice come election day. But those odds largely reflect expectations around who the majority of voters will vote for; they say nothing about who is the best candidate for office. By directing attention to irrelevant information, reporting on the chance of a candidate’s winning actually encourages voters to make uninformed choices on election day: why learn about the issues when I already know who's going to win (or lose) anyway?

The Calgary Herald has already done the community a valuable service by introducing these six candidates to the public and letting us know that we can expect a choice this October; we hope that the Calgary Herald will continue to be inclusive in its coverage of this year's mayoral race.

But reporting on the odds of a candidate's success undermines our democracy by enabling and encouraging voters to appeal to (apparent or actual) popularity when casting their ballot. As such, we ask that the journalists and editors at the Calgary Herald help empower Calgarians to vote on the issues this election by focusing its reporting on relevant factors – e.g., the candidates' experience and their position on issues – and leaving discussion of their chances of winning for the bookies, gamblers, and others who treat our elections as an opportunity to make money on a bet.

Signed
Anonymous letter to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement
September 4, 2013


This letter and any other open letter do not necessarily represent the views of the FDA. The FDA supports broad and diverse speech.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FDA Discourse Series--Perspectives on Global Democracy

The Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) conducts interviews of volunteers twice a month. Prior to interviews, the FDA does initial screening. Below is a response from an interested volunteer to the FDA screening questions.
In its initial screening of new volunteers, the Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) asks for written responses to the following questions:
  1. How do you feel about democracy advancement? 
  2. What does a people-based democracy mean to you?
The responses to the questions allows the FDA executive to screen candidates who may have skills and/or education, but lack a passion for democracy and its advancement. Secondary, the FDA learns from the responses about democracy issues and how people think about them.

Due to the quality of the responses, the FDA has decided to make some of them public so that they can be part of the public discourse on democracy. In addition, you will get an idea of the type of people involved in the FDA. Below is an interesting and hopeful response from Kwame Owusu who has a MBA degree and who agreed to the publication of his response.

  • How you feel about democracy advancement?
Kwame Owusu:

History is littered with oppression and violence. From Adolf Hitler to Mao Zedong, Pol Pot to Saddam Hussein, the atrocities committed by these men could have been prevented and stopped had their constituents had a say in how they were governed. We are now in the 21st century and it seems little has changed. Entire populations—both in developed and developing countries—are still tormented by those who see nothing wrong with imposing their will, despite outcries against their actions. Yes, effective democracy has proven to be a solution to such societal parasites; unfortunately, the system remains a thing of myths in many parts of the world.

While it can be argued that democracy may not be the be-all and end-all system of government, I do believe that people must at least be aware of it and must be presented with the option to choose it if they deem it appropriate. All around the world you have incidences of political oppression, but this freedom to choose is a basic right that no institution should be able to tamper without reasons as deemed acceptable by the people.

I admit that while I value and reap the benefits of democracy on a daily basis, I have not done enough to promote it. I respect life and with the world seemingly becoming crazier by the day, it is about time I became more engaged in making it a better place to live.

It is abundantly clear that those in power do not always serve the best interests of their people, with some going as far as to deprive them of such basic rights as the freedom to choose how they are to live their basic lives. With history providing us with so much to learn from, this is not acceptable today, nor will it ever be. I live to the see the day when unjust oppression is nothing more than a distant memory, a day that I helped create.

  • What does a people-based democracy mean to you?
Kwame Owusu:

An important element of democracy is having each person play the deciding role in the governance of society. And in order to craft a well-functioning democratic society, there must be a sharing of mutual tasks for the orderliness and welfare of the collective, as well as for personal interdependence.

The legal construction we know as the corporation is not a person and doesn’t understand this key facet. It lacks conscience and empathy. With only one thing on its mind—money!—it has demonstrated time and time again a lack of respect for human dignity, often deceiving and destroying its way to more wealth. It then uses its billions to lobby [buy] the supposedly democratically-elected governments, insuring that its interests are first met and, thus, relegating the needs of citizens to the back burner. Under this system, how much say does each person have in the way they are governed? Not as much as we have been led to believe.

I believe that in a people-based democracy, the influence of corporations, or any other entity for that matter, on the government should not be so strong as to be detrimental to the well-being of society. So long as they are able to exercise their power in such a manner, true democracy is not possible. Nothing should ever get in the way of the collective demand of the people.

We would like to hear from you; share your perspective on Kwame's thoughts below via the 'ADD and SEE Comments' link.

Related:

FDA 'What do you think?' Series on Reform of the Canadian Federal Government