This is the Life: Who are these people we elected?

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Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

Let’s start with a show of hands. Who among you thought that the Supreme Court would tell the federal government it could go ahead and break the constitution by arbitrarily reforming the Canadian Senate? Ahhh… Just you, Stephen. Just as I thought.

How do you feel about a prime minister who doesn’t appear to understand that the Constitution enshrined the Senate as a way to protect provinces from being overwhelmed by a federal government’s agenda? The fact that under his direction enormous amounts of money and energy were devoted to asking the Supreme Court to consider the issue should be offensive to any Canadian, regardless of political affiliation. Harper’s response, that the issue is dead and that he won’t even consider entering into a discussion with the provinces, is schoolyard pettiness at its worst. “If I can’t get everything I want I don’t want anything!” Spare me. In another era he would have been sent to stand in a corner while wearing a dunce cap.

Not that the constitutional reform issue is the only cause for concern about the Harper government’s behaviour. Consider two other bills, one dealing with electoral reform and the other with restricting farmers’ ability to save and exchange seed.

First, the electoral reform. Bill C-23 is an ideological piece of legislation designed to allow the government to restrict the ease of voting by ramping up voter requirements. There appears to be no evidence that abuse is a problem, but hey, evidence and ideology don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, do they? The bill also restricts Elections Canada in taking actions designed to encourage voting. I suppose that’s because it might encourage the wrong people from voting. Wrong being anyone who doesn’t vote Conservative. The Conservatives have caved on some aspects of C-23, but it remains a lousy piece of legislation.

Bill C-18 appears to be one of those bills that get quietly and mysteriously written by industry, then slyly passed on to a minister to be introduced in the House of Commons. Opponents say it will further corporatize Canada’s food system, as if that might be a benefit to anyone except maybe shareholders of Monsanto, Syngenta and Richardson International, who are members of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, which supports C-18.

From the Edmonton Journal:

“Farmers will lose the right to save seeds and use that seed for next years crop, without having to pay a royalty to the plant breeder’s rights holder,” said Jan Slomp, a Rimbey, Alta., dairy farmer and president of the National Farmer’s Union…

He said farmers already pay royalties when they buy certified seed and should be free to do what they wish with it thereafter. Changing the system will reduce the quality of breeding, leading to less disease resistance and produce fewer of the qualities that people — as opposed to corporations — need from food crops. Costs for farmers will inevitably go up, Slomp said.

“Why should people care about that? Either the farmer will go broke, or the food will get more expensive for people who eat,” he said.

This is yet another step in allowing a small handful of global corporations to control the world’s food supply.

More and more, what we are seeing from “the Government of Canada” as Harper insists on calling it, is legislation designed to benefit his own party and corporate Canada, with precious little interest in things that improve the lot of the country’s citizens.

Now, to change gears, a follow-up to last week’s column about School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) and its handling of Creston’s Homelinks program. As I prepared to leave the videoconference of a meeting that was held in Nelson April 22, I said to Homelinks founder John Solly, whom I had been sitting next to, “This wasn’t just a train wreck of a meeting, it was a Lac-Mégantic train wreck of a meeting.”

Earlier, Solly (who wrote an essay on the subject here) chastised the board of trustees for alienating a large group of parents who are incredibly passionate about their children’s education.

During the debate about whether to move the kindergarten-Grade 9 portion of Homelinks out of Creston Education Centre and into Canyon Lister Elementary, and Grades 10-12 into a Prince Charles Secondary School facility, our crowded room witnessed one of the most incompetent and inept public meetings I have ever witnessed.

The discussion was confused and ill-informed, information was lacking or non-existent and I am willing to bet that some trustees voted against their own wishes, so confusing was the debate. If ever a meeting could have used a parliamentarian, this was it. Somewhere, Robert, who penned the Rules of Order, is spinning in his grave.

Last week I wrote that I was watching the handling of the Homelinks issue as an indicator of whether school boards serve any valid purpose. One meeting is too small a sample to draw a final conclusion, but I do know I wouldn’t vote for anyone sitting around the board table on that afternoon. The level of discussion was appalling.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.