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Chipping away at thousand-year-old government reform occurs

Ron Walter looks at the slow but subtle changes that take away our freedoms from all levels of government, including our own city council.
MJT_RonWalter_TradingThoughts
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

The foundation for the freedoms and democracy we enjoy today was laid just over 1,000 years ago when King John of England was confronted by his barons with demands for reform.

The result was signing the Magna Carta — a document that made everyone, the king included, subject to the law, a document that required no taxation without consulting the barons and church, a document that required law enforcement to have reason to enter your home.

That foundation has shifted over the centuries with laws like habeas corpus requiring that police not hold anyone too long without reason. It eventually led to the vote for all — landowners, then the merchant class and finally the working class.

In Canada in 1960 Indigenous people got the right to vote.

Baby we’ve come a long way.

Slow but subtle changes keep chipping away the foundations of our freedoms, changes that come from all levels of government in Canada.

At the federal level many people see the way this so-called Freedom Convoy was ended as unfair and unwarranted.

At the provincial level the creation of a new security force accountable only to the minister of policing and corrections is considered unfair and unwarranted.

Voters have never been given the straight goods on why the new security force is needed rather than letting the existing sergeant-at-arms provide security in the Legislature.

If there is need for another security force that agency should be accountable to the Legislature, not an elected minister.

Being accountable to the minister opens the door for any tyrannical leader and party to use their own private police force to harass opposition.

At the local city council level, a recent development should concern voters.

The existence of a secret committee to find a new naming partner for Mosaic Place was disclosed at a council meeting. The city manager defended his secrecy to Coun. Dawn Luhning on the grounds he had informed council about the committee at an in-camera meeting.

Coun. Luhning was angry about too many closed door sessions. Her anger would have more credibility if she had walked out of some of those in-camera meetings to protest.

What’s also of concern is council’s new meeting time at 4 p.m.

The hour long wait between committee meetings and council’s meeting was considered inefficient. “A waste of time,” said Coun. Jamey Logan.

Democracy is not an efficient process. It requires time and should offer all voters an opportunity to participate — not just at election time but at meetings.

By moving meetings into the afternoon council has axed the opportunity for most voters to attend meetings or appear in delegations, or even to watch live sessions on the Internet.

People are excluded from meetings simply because most have to work to earn a living.

Attending a meeting or even running for council thus becomes the preserve of the rich and retired — a step backwards for democracy and self-government.

A few years ago council raised the mayor’s salary by over one-third to $100,000 supposedly to allow working people to run for the job and not suffer financially.

Now council makes even attending its meetings difficult for most voters. Go figure.

Councillors obsessed with waiting time should heed former U.S. President Harry Truman who said “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”

 

Ron Walter can be reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.