Checks and balances matter

For days prior to the July riot that trashed the City’s legislature, more than two million peaceful protesters crowded the streets of Hong Kong protesting China’s extradition bill.

If passed, it would enable the Beijing Communist government to prosecute Hong Kong citizens under their laws. China, for 22 years, has been weakening Hong Kong’s constitutional framework which enshrines the concept of one country with two systems of government.

The protests were orderly, peaceful and so respectful that after the marches, members of the movement would return to the street to pick up any waste left behind.

When ten face-covered radicals vandalized the legislature, the question to be asked is who had the most to gain from this act of violence?

Certainly not the two million, but surely it was the exact images Beijing needed for broadcast on their state-controlled news channels.

The second question to ponder is why weren’t the thousands of police officers unable or unwilling to stop a few protestors reeling bats and smashing windows?

Surely it is not unreasonable to conclude Beijing, not Hong Kong protestors, had the most to gain.

Air Canada and 18 other applicants, including the International Air Transport Association that represents 290 airlines, have taken our government to court to have the new consumer protection rights overturned.

The regulations coming into effect on July 15 would require airlines to compensate passengers for cancelled flights, sitting on the tarmac for hours, overbooking flights, leaving ticketed passengers stranded and damaged/ lost baggage.

The airlines are arguing that we the passengers would be ‘confused’ with these new regulations because different jurisdictions would have different compensation packages!

They also argue that airfares would increase if these regulations protecting passengers weren’t overturned.

What a self-serving argument.

The only reason passengers have lower ticket prices of any kind is because we’ve ceded all creature comforts to get from point A to point B.

Passengers have funded every nickel of those cheap fares with discomfort, fuel surcharges, baggage charges, blanket/pillow charges, booking preference charges, charges for slightly better leg room and food purchases.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies have proposed draft legislation that would allow their parliament, the Knesset, to override decisions of the Supreme Court.

Although a democracy, the majority of Israelis voted to keep Netanyahu in power.

Life is good and the long-term consequences of the bill aren’t resonating, yet!

Jewish Israelis are wealthy and secure in their friendship with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United States and the Emirates, and the world has lost interest in the Palestinians.

Short-term, this bill is extremely important to Netanyahu who has serious legal problems and its passage would all but save him and his family from jail on corruption charges.

More consequential, however, is one man or a political party would no longer be subject to judicial oversight or the Constitution.

The Hong Kong unrest is a reminder to not just believe what we see or hear but always question who has the most to gain.

The Air Canada lawsuit highlights the importance of governments. Multinational corporations work for profits, governments work for their citizens and corporations balancing corporate investment and greed with job opportunities and consumer protection.

Finally, the Israeli example should make us mindful of the absolute importance of independent judicial oversight and the separation of powers.

For three decades, the far right has systematically, and often successfully, undermined our confidence in the free press judicial system, government institutions and critical thinking.

If not a communist or autocratic country, checks and balances matter and those who argue otherwise are the true enemies of the people.

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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