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Democracy manipulated

To a manipulative, cynical federal government process that allows the suspension of Parliament to be justified as an act of reason.


To a manipulative, cynical federal government process that allows the suspension of Parliament to be justified as an act of reason.

This week, Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins told Lacombe County council that the Conservative government of which he is a member was forced to prorogue Parliament because vital legislation was being stalled in the Senate. The alternative — to allow any vote to potentially reject a piece of legislation and force a federal election — was unpalatable to Canadians, he said.

But Canadians are sick of this kind of manipulative government behaviour. A new poll this week shows declining support for the ruling Conservatives and growing support for the Liberals in the wake of the decision to suspend Parliament until March.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s greatest complaint at the moment would seem to be an unco-operative Liberal-dominated Senate. His solution? Apparently to fill current vacancies with Conservatives and tip the balance of power.

Yet Harper has long espoused the necessity of reforming the Senate, and long been a critic of the kind of patronage that created the circumstances his minority government now faces. In the fall of 2006, Harper took the unprecedented step of appealing directly to the Senate. He told senators that while reform is a common subject during elections, elected leaders inevitably abandon the initiative. “This has got to stop,” he declared. “We are seeking action. . . . Years of delay on Senate reform must come to an end.”

More than four years after that declaration, the only apparent action is a renewed commitment to cynicism in government.

— John Stewart


To the 69 counters who flocked together this year for the annual Central Alberta Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 20.

One of the organizers, Judy Boyd, the Bird Watch columnist for the Advocate’s Central Alberta LIFE publication, said 5,809 birds were recorded by the participants, who canvassed an area between Lacombe and Olds and Alix and Rocky Mountain House.

Annual Yule bird counts conducted across the province play a vital role in determining bird health and populations.

The results are compiled and serve as an indicator to biologists, and others in charge of bird management, of the state of the environment.

The annual bird counts are a fun outing and of great value — the scientific community depends on these volunteers.

Birds are particularly sensitive to abrupt changes in their habitat and many species do not have the ability to adjust.

“Bird numbers are indicative to what’s happening in our environment,” said Boyd.

In a documentary a few years ago on CBC’s The Nature of Things, environment watchdog and scientist David Suzuki talked of the pending demise of song birds.

The populations are falling as fast as their nesting grounds in the boreal forests in Northern Alberta, victims of economic progress, Suzuki said.

Human encroachment and energy-related developments are toppling the trees and gouging out sensitive ground-level habitat that will never recover — nor will the songbirds.

For those interested in keeping their eyes on the birds, Boyd can be reached through the Medicine River Wildlife Centre at 403-728-3467. She is a respected educator guaranteed to twig your interest.

— Rick Zemanek