Category Archives: Canada

Canada Supports Israeli Murder Of Palestinians

21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare

By Ralph Nader

Dear America:

November 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House  – Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!

Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.

Love, Canada

Number 21:
In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth – everybody in, nobody out.

In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.

Number 20:
In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.

In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.

Number 19:
In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income – rich and poor are in the same system, the best guaranty of quality.

In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income, and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.

Number 18:
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.

Number 17:
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”

In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking – thus restricting freedom of choice – and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.

Number 16:
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.

In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die – if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

Number 15:
In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.

In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.

Number 14:
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.

In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.

Number 13:
In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health care costs.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.

Number 12:
In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.

In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.

Number 11:
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”

In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”

Number 10:
In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.

In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.

Number 9:
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.

Number 8:
In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.

Number 7:
In Canada, the health care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.

In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.

Number 6:
In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.

Number 5:
In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.

In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.

Number 4:
In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health care system, which costs half as much, per person, as in the United States. And in Canada, everyone is covered.

In the United States, a majority – many for different reasons – oppose Obamacare.

Number 3:
In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health care system are progressive – the lowest 20 percent pays 6 percent of income into the system while the highest 20 percent pays 8 percent.

In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.

Number 2:
In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health care card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.

In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian Medicare Bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Number 1:
In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health care system.

In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians, and nurses prefer the Canadian type system – single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital , everybody in, nobody out.

For more information see Single Payer Action.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36940.htm

Canada: Safety Board issues tepid call for more oversight in wake of rail disaster

By Carl Bronski

24 July 2013

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is urging Transport Canada—the federal department responsible for setting railway regulations—to make “urgent” regulatory changes to improve railway safety in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic train disaster. 47 people were killed and the downtown core of Lac-Mégantic was incinerated, when an unmanned Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) runaway train comprised of scores of oil tankers careened into the small Quebec town, derailed, and exploded in the early morning hours of July 6.

Considering the extensive and well-documented history of recent railway accidents in Canada and the lengthy paper trail of warnings regarding the dangers associated with a deregulated system that allows for railway companies to largely devise and police their own safety provisions, last week’s advisory from the TSB was quite tame.

Beginning with the patently obvious, the TSB wrote, “As this accident has demonstrated, accidents involving trains carrying dangerous goods can have tragic consequences.” The advisory then continued, “Given the importance to the safe movement of dangerous goods and the vulnerability of unattended equipment, Transport Canada may wish to consider reviewing all railway operating procedures to ensure that trains carrying (dangerous goods) are not left unattended on the main track.”

In the Lac-Mégantic disaster, a lone engineer, after a grueling shift, single-handedly parked his 72-car train on the main line with the locomotive engine still in operation, set locomotive air brakes and, according to his statement, also set eleven railcar hand brakes. He then retired to a local hotel for the night. All of his actions—including the parking of the train on a steep grade, which made it much more difficult to secure, but much cheaper to restart at the beginning of the next engineer’s shift—would appear to have been in accordance with MMA’s standard operating practices.

When a small fire subsequently broke out in the unattended locomotive engine, a local fire crew extinguished the blaze, but also reportedly disabled the running engine which would have reduced locomotive air-brake pressure and placed more stress on the on the individual cars.

Due to the deregulation of rail industry operating procedures, Transport Canada does not approve the standard practices of railway companies nor does it issue specific guidelines on parking a train on a main line, leaving a train unmanned or on the number of to be applied. A Transport Canada spokesperson told Canada’s national broadcaster the CBC last week that it “does not validate the specific instructions of a railway company. It is the responsibility of a railway company to establish their special instructions and to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules.”

Those rules do not specify the number of hand brakes that should be applied, nor provide any guidelines as to how that number should be determined. They simply affirm that “sufficient” hand-braking must be applied to secure a train. Acknowledging that the current regulation is without substance, TSB manager Ed Belkaloul told a press conference last Friday, “The rule currently states that a sufficient number of brakes needs to be set; that’s the problem with the rule.”

In its two letters of last week to Transport Canada, the TSB said it has determined that the number of hand brakes set on the MMA train were “insufficient” to prevent it careening down a hill into Lac-Megantic. But it has yet to determine if this was because not enough hand brakes were applied or because the brakes were in some way faulty.

MMA, for its part, has been desperately trying to shift blame and legal liability for the accident onto others. Without providing any evidence, it has publicly accused the train’s engineer of failing to set the number of hand brakes stipulated by company policy.

While full details of the specific and immediate causes for the Lac-Mégantic tragedy have yet to be determined by investigators, what is clear is that a decades-long process of railway de-regulation and corporate cost-cutting has placed the lives of rail crew members and the general public increasingly in danger.

Railroad safety in Canada has been deregulated under successive Liberal and Conservative governments since the 1990s. Today railway companies largely carry out their own inspections of processes, equipment and infrastructure. This so-called self-regulation is simply a carte blanche for corporations to continue to cut safety corners to burnish their bottom lines.

In an interview with CBC shortly after the Lac-Mégantic disaster, MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt explained why MMA trains are left unattended. The two percent additional cost to hire security to guard unattended trains would force the company to raise its freight rates by two percent, thereby possibly losing customers and reducing company profits.

Burkhardt is no stranger to bottom-line calculations. He has pioneered, with the support of the Harper government, the switch to the one-person train operation for MMA lines and has been the “poster boy” for privatization, one-person “crews” and other cost-cutting measures in Europe and New Zealand.

In the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, he issued layoff notices to 79 of MMA’s 179 employees in Quebec and Maine, including many of those who work to ensure track safety and maintenance. Burkhardt had already suspended without pay, Tom Harding, the driver of the train, and stated he probably would never get his job back. Harding, who rushed to the scene of the explosion to pull unpunctured oil tankers from the inferno, has been termed a hero by several eyewitnesses.

It is no coincidence that the week following the Quebec disaster, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a cabinet reshuffle, appointed Lisa Raitt as the new Transportation Minister. As Labour Minister, Raitt spearheaded the attack on striking Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) railway workers in 2012, authoring back-to-work legislation. The railway workers had rejected company contract concessions that sought to drastically reduce pensions and further enshrine speed-up work rules that they insisted would further compromise safety.

With the strike defeated, CP—Canada’s second largest railway—has proceeded to lay off 3,000 of its 19,500 personnel, and CEO Hunter Harrison has said the layoffs might ultimately rise to 6,000, or 30 percent of the workforce. CP workers now have longer hours at more irregular times, and their pensions have been cut. CP has combined trains to run them longer and save on crews, closed down railroad yards, and avoided significant investment towards upgrading its tracks.

The Harper government has been active on many fronts to aid and abet the rail companies. It has granted MMA and another regional carrier the right to operate with a one-person “crew.” And despite the dramatic increase in the shipment of hazardous materials, funding to Transport Canada for spot inspections has been continually slashed. The overall budget allocated by the Harper Conservatives to the Transportation Department has been reduced by 30 percent in the last year alone. In 2011 an auditor-general’s report concluded, “Transport Canada has not designed and implemented the management practices needed to effectively monitor regulatory compliance” of dangerous goods transport.

Recommendations by Safety Boards to rail companies to update rail safety technologies are not implemented. Technological advances, for instance, allow for the installation of automatic switching devices that would allow for the redirection of unauthorized trains—like the runaway Lac-Mégantic train—to safe-port sidings.

Replacement of the prone-to-puncture DOT-111 tanker car—the most heavily used vehicle type in the industry (and that used by MMA on its ill-fated Lac Mégantic train)—has proceeded at a snail’s pace. With companies complaining of the expense involved in eliminating the DOT-111s, the government has stipulated that they only need be replaced with safer, thicker-walled tanker cars when they are retired from service.

The Lac-Mégantic tragedy was not an aberration—a freak accident—as the government and many of the country’s editorialists would have the population believe. The dismantling of regulatory oversight, decaying railway infrastructure and speed-up and otherwise oppressive working conditions are the outcome of decades of government deregulation and privatization and the unfettered pursuit of profit by the rail bosses.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/07/24/queb-j24.html

Canada’s newspapers whitewash government culpability in Lac-Mégantic tragedy

By Carl Bronski 

17 July 2013

Over the past week the editorial boards at Canada’s mainstream newspapers have climbed over one another in their attempt to misdirect their readers as to the causes of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

Ruled out of bounds by the media is any serious examination of the corporate and government drive to deregulate industry, cut infrastructure maintenance costs, and reduce staffing levels while increasing the pace of work and ceding responsibility for all day-to-day safety monitoring to management through so-called “self-regulation.” Instead, the media has propounded about a reputed “once-in-a-lifetime” sequence of unfortunate events, the purported culpability of the train driver, and the “inevitability” of disasters in the modern world.

Shortly after midnight on July 6 a runaway Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) freight train comprising 72 mostly aging tanker cars filled with crude oil crashed and exploded in the small Quebec town of Lac- Megantic, killing 50 people, incinerating the downtown core, and driving 2,000 people from their homes.

The train, operated by a single crewman, had been left unattended on a relatively steep grade (in accordance with de-regulated, standard company practice) awaiting the arrival of a relief engineer to take the train further eastwards to its St. John, New Brunswick destination. The train had been parked, not on a siding, but on the main rail line, again in accordance with standard practice. The crewman reported that he had set 11 hand-brakes on various tanker cars along the length of the train prior to retiring to his hotel after a grueling 12-hour shift. Hand-brakes, if properly maintained by the company, are ostensibly designed to hold cars in place even without locomotive air-brakes.

The driver, in any case, had also set the air-brakes on the locomotives at the front of the train—although some of these forward brakes may have lost pressure after a local firefighting crew attended a small blaze in one of the train’s engines and shut down one of the five locomotives shortly after the driver had gone to his hotel. Following the extinguishing of the fire, the train was reportedly checked by an attending MMA railroad employee. Everyone then left. Shortly thereafter, the train began its deadly descent into Lac- Mégantic.

The horrific devastation that followed captured the attention, sympathy and outrage of much of the Canadian population. In the ensuing days local townspeople accused Edward Burkhardt, the cost-cutting chairman of MMA, of outright murder and excoriated the government for its policy of deregulation of the train industry. The response from one shell-shocked citizen of Lac-Mégantic was typical. When asked to explain the causes of the tragedy, she turned and screamed at the banks of television cameras that had descended upon the town–“Money! Money! Money!”

The well-heeled denizens of the country’s newspaper editorial boards have promoted a very different and self-serving interpretation.

“Accidents happen,” opined the deep thinkers at the Toronto Sun, Sun Media’s flagship publication. People should “spare their senseless outrage against the oil industry and its carriers…Unless we are prepared to move Canada’s entire population to Northern Alberta, then we have to somehow come to grips with the 0.1 percent chance of something going wrong during the delivery process of a very vital commodity that lacks any real or affordable alternative.” And then the coup de grace from a daily that has been amongst the most enthusiastic boosters of Big Oil in Canada: “If anything, the tragedy that has befallen Lac-Mégantic should show all concerned that pipelines are safer means of transporting crude than railways.”

The Globe and Mail, the country’s leading mouth-piece for the Bay Street bankers, likewise pounced on the Lac- Mégantic tragedy to promote pipeline expansion. Declared the Globe, “The probability of accidents involving trains carrying crude oil has been greatly increased by the shortage of pipeline capacity in North America…Pipelines are clearly safer. It is greatly hoped that the government of the United States will soon approve the building of the Keystone XL pipeline.”

In pushing the mercenary agenda of corporate Canada, the Globe thought it politic to keep from its readers the fact that the oil that ignited at Lac-Mégantic came from North Dakota’s Bakken field—deposits that will never be serviced by any pipeline. Nor did it consider it appropriate to raise the not inconsequential fact that countless other highly dangerous chemicals are transported daily across the country by train.

The National Post weighed in to the discussion to run interference for the government, cautioning against any “ill-timed contention that somehow Ottawa is to blame.” The piece, in its wisdom, felt it circumspect not to mention that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have overseen a shift to the “self-regulation” of railroad safety by transport companies over the past 15 years, that federal safety experts had warned that 80 percent of the country’s oil tanker stock was patently unsafe, or that the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper not only recently approved one-person train operation for MMA but has cut the safety budget for railroads, even as shipments of crude oil by train have increased by a whopping 28,000 percent since 2009.

In this, the editorialists were clearly following the lead of Canada’s Prime Minister. Harper, on the occasion of his visit to the disaster site, had sought to direct attention away from questions of regulatory failure. “It’s hard to imagine that we could have such an accident,” said the Prime Minister. “We have regulations to prevent these kinds of things.”

Indeed, when New Democrat Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition in parliament, had the temerity to suggest in a television interview that the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic could be related to government cutbacks in “the wrong area,” the combined might of the nation’s media excoriated him for “politicizing” a horrific tragedy. Mulcair quickly backtracked from his mild reproach of government policy, denying that he had ever made the recorded comment.

André Pratte, the editor-in-chief of La Presse, the largest and most influential French-language daily in Quebec, has written a series of editorials defending the government and the big business program of deregulation: “At present, there is no indication that gaps in regulation or inspection of the rail system are involved in this case. The railway companies are subject to a ton of regulations of all kinds, including on the configuration and inspection of braking systems.”

Pratte’s pontifications fly in the face of information offered by train operators familiar with the MMA line and by national safety bodies. In 2007, the Canada Safety Council wrote that deregulation “removes the federal government’s ability to protect Canadians and their environment and allows the industry to hide critical safety information from the public.” In 2011, an auditor-general’s report concluded that “Transport Canada has not designed and implemented the management practices needed to effectively monitor regulatory compliance.”

James Goodrich, a former locomotive engineer and yardman who had previously worked on the line passing through Lac-Mégantic, wrote to the Montreal Gazettelast week to “speak out” against the growing whitewash by the country’s editorialists. “In my view,” he wrote, “what happened in Lac-Mégantic is linked to the continent-wide, 30 year erosion of work rules, procedures, equipment and infrastructure in the rail industry, and a culture of corporate acquisition by non-railroad interests that has led to deferred maintenance and deep cost-cutting.”

Goodrich pointed out that the tracks around Lac-Mégantic are in such poor condition that in some place trains have been limited to speeds of 5 miles (8 kilometers) per hour. “I have only seen order speeds of 5 mph twice,” added Goodrich, “after flash floods in Colorado, and in nearly abandoned Boston yards where no rail maintenance was being done at all.” The former railway man said that he does not see the trade unions as any bulwark against the government-backed corporate assault on workers’ rights and public safety. The railroad unions “have been gutted” in the last thirty years, have lost their voice, and face “irrelevance.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/07/17/queb-j17.html

Ontario teachers’ union president “fights” Liberals, then becomes their candidate

By Carl Bronski 
6 July 2013
Ken Coran, the just retired president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), was nominated Tuesday night as the Liberal Party candidate for an upcoming provincial by-election in London, Ontario.
His uncontested nomination came only weeks after the winding down of a year-long dispute between teachers’ unions and the big business Ontario Liberal government. Coran’s name had originally been floated last November by the Liberals as a possible future candidate, but, as explained by Liberal official Scott Courtice, “the timing wasn’t right.”
Indeed, last fall and winter over 100,000 teachers in elementary and high schools across the province mobilized to reject the Liberals’ anti-democratic Bill 115 which suspended collective bargaining rights, froze wages, imposed sweeping concessions on sick-day provisions and outlawed the right-to-strike.
During the dispute both Coran (and Elementary teachers’ union head Sam Hammond) worked might and main to contain teachers’ outrage against the government’s attacks. In his role as OSSTF president, Coran occasionally found it necessary to denounce the government of then Premier Dalton McGuinty so as to assuage his seething membership and better position himself to scuttle the opposition to the Liberals and their austerity demands.
To burnish his “anti-government” credentials, the OSSTF president mobilized his members to campaign to defeat the Liberals in a crucial by-election in Kitchener last September and signed on to a court challenge against McGuinty’s legislated suspension of the collective bargaining process.
But Coran, a longtime member of the Liberal provincial riding association in London, had been a fervent supporter of the McGuinty government since the former premier was first elected ten years ago. From very early on in negotiations for new teachers’ contracts last summer and fall, Coran (and Hammond) agreed with the Liberal demands for a wage freeze and other concessions, but insisted that their role as well-paid interlocutors between their members and the local school boards must not be overridden by government fiat.
Both men worked to contain the genuine anger of rank-and-file teachers by first proposing mild (and often voluntary) work-to-rule campaigns. Then in late November they sent three contracts accepting Liberal concession demands to local memberships—two of which were soundly rejected. Localized and token one-day strikes by elementary school teachers just prior to the Christmas break were not extended as both Hammond and Coran bowed to a January Ontario Labour Board ruling declaring that any further job action was illegal.
No sooner was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty replaced by his long-time ally Kathleen Wynne in late January than the teachers’ unions began negotiations with the government to “regularize” the contracts imposed by legislative fiat under Bill 115. At the same time, they empowered their pension fund representatives to quietly negotiate pension give-backs in a separate side-arrangement that was never put to the membership for a vote. In April, the OSSTF pushed through a “negotiated” concessionary contract virtually identical to that imposed under Bill 115. A deal with Hammond’s elementary school union followed shortly thereafter.
The nomination of Coran by the Liberals has caused a certain degree of consternation amongst the social-democratic politicians of the New Democratic Party (NDP). With strong backing from the unions, the provincial NDP has propped up the Liberal minority government in consecutive confidence motions on their austerity budgets.
In the spring of 2012, the NDP ensured the adoption of a Liberal budget that made sweeping social spending cuts—cuts larger than those the hated Conservative government of Mike Harris imposed in the 1990s as part of its “Common Sense Revolution.” The centerpiece of the Liberal budget was a two-year public-sector wage freeze. When the Liberals subsequently imposed contracts on the teachers, the NDP, like Coran and Hammond, feigned opposition. However, no sooner did the Liberals replace McGuinty with Wynne, one of his longtime cabinet ministers who had herself voted for Bill 115, than the NDP and unions signaled that they were eager to resume their close collaboration with the Liberals and sustain them in office.
In May, the NDP, backed by the unions, voted to support a Liberal budget that extended and deepened the government’s austerity measures, by pledging to limit the total increase in government spending to 1 percent annually through 2017 and to provide no additional money for public sector wage increases until the budget is balanced four years hence. Fittingly the legislative session ended with Wynne and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath embracing on the floor of the provincial parliament.
NDP officials have denounced Coran as a turncoat, claiming he was a supporter of the provincial NDP’s London West by-election candidate as late as last month, and also a member of the federal NDP at least eighteen months ago. It seems, however, that Coran also held a membership with the local London Liberal association. When asked when he last carried a membership card for the NDP, Coran answered, “I’m going to have to get back to you on that. I couldn’t give you a defined date.”
What most concerns the NDP in this whole sordid affair is the ever-more trenchant exposure of their political perspective as virtually indistinguishable from that of the big business Liberal Party. Coran, a former union president, can simultaneously carry the banner of both parties without compunction because the NDP and the Liberals are two sides of the same austerity coin.
Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan—a prominent NDP member and strong advocate of the party sustaining the minority Liberal government in office—refused, for his part, to attack Coran. Rather he opined that his nomination further “complicates” the labour bureaucracy’s choice of which candidate to support in the August 1 London West by-election.
While Ryan, the quintessential Ontario union bureaucrat-in-chief, is “befuddled”—and most certainly embarrassed in the bargain—by Coran’s Liberal nomination, rank-and-file teachers have hastened to record their outrage.
A letter signed by teachers at Nepean High School near Ottawa and sent to their union expressed “outrage”, “anger” and “utter betrayal.” The letter went on to note, “It now appears that while OSSTF members were attending rallies far and wide, withdrawing their voluntary services, and even engaging in limited strike action to fight for our collective bargaining rights, Ken Coran was more concerned with delivering his own members to the Liberal government in order to ensure he had a position in the party when his term with OSSTF was over.”
Reader comments in the London Free Press and other provincial newspapers held similar sentiments. One teacher wrote, “There hasn’t been a bigger traitor since Judas Iscariot.” Another stated, “Perfect timing Mr. Coran. The last day of school is a great time to announce your candidacy for a party that utterly betrayed the public school teachers. As a high school teacher who lost substantially due to the imposition of Bill 115, I have to ask how committed you really were to our cause.”
Another blogger struck close to the heart of the matter. “Now there will be some who argue that Coran will be better in a position to influence policy from the inside. Most though will see Coran as a traitor to the cause. Me? No, I don’t see him as a traitor. A traitor is someone who betrays you. Who was your friend and joins the other side. Nah, Ken Coran was never a friend of the teachers, and neither are the unions. They are the cop in the workplace. There to enforce the rule. Oh, sure. They squawk a little about certain things, but fundamentally they are no different. Opportunist? Sure. A hypocrite in light of his rhetoric? Absolutely. A traitor? Not for a long time.”
The author also recommends:
Ontario teachers to face pension cuts under union-promoted deal
[15 May 2013]

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Canada: New police state measure targets foreign workers

By Dylan Lubao 
1 July 2013
Taking advantage of the anti-immigrant chauvinism being fomented by the trade union bureaucracy and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada’s ruling Conservative Party has granted itself sweeping powers to surveil temporary foreign workers, setting the stage for a further expansion of police-state measures against workers nationwide.
Earlier this month, the Conservative government announced that through regulatory changes it is giving government inspectors the power to carry out warrantless searches of workplaces that employ workers under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TWFP). The Conservatives claim that this new power will help inspectors protect workers from employer abuses.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The warrantless searches will be used to conduct a witch-hunt against so-called “illegal” immigrants and further intimidate those legally in the country under the TWFP.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, like its Liberal predecessors, has been expanding the coercive powers of the state. Earlier this year, the Conservatives rammed “anti-terrorist” legislation through parliament that tramples on fundamental democratic principles, expanding the time police can hold a terrorist suspect without charge and giving the state, in violation of the right of silence, the power to compel persons to give evidence. Under secret government directives, the Canadian equivalent and partner of the U.S. National Security Agency—the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—has been spying on Canadians’ telephone and computer communications since 2005 it was revealed last month.
The Conservatives’ claims to be concerned about employer abuse of foreign workers are also belied by their record of attacks on immigrants and refugees and the very terms of the TFWP.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has severely curtailed provisions that allow immigrants to reunite with their families. Adult children over the age of 18 are no longer eligible for sponsorship; waiting times to sponsor a parent or grandparent are in excess of seven years; and due to increased income requirements, sponsoring a family member has become too expensive for low-income immigrants. In speeches and talk-show appearances, Kenney has painted elderly immigrant dependents as a burden on Canada’s welfare and health systems and “an abuse of Canada’s generosity.” Last year, he eliminated health-care funding for refugee claimants.
Under the TWFP, workers from outside Canada are hired under short-term contracts of no more than two years to staff what are largely low-wage, back-breaking positions. TWFP workers are tied to a single employer under a work-permit regime reminiscent of the ancient Master and Servant laws. They are not allowed to change their employer, can be told where to live, are deprived of residency rights, and are subject to immediate expulsion if they lose their jobs.
Employers often use the threat of deportation to keep workers from reporting abuses. Only one stream of the TFWP, the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), contains provisions whereby participants can eventually apply for citizenship, and even then, reports of employer abuse are rampant. All other TFWP workers, including thousands of seasonal agricultural and construction workers, are forced to return to their countries of origin at the end of their work-term prior to being even allowed to apply to immigrate to Canada.
The Conservatives have repeatedly illegalized strikes and recently granted themselves the power to directly intervene in the contract negotiations of Crown Corporations such as Canada Post, so as to slash pensions and other benefits. In last year’s federal budget, they reduced jobless benefits for repeat users of Employment Insurance, who can now be forced to take low-wage positions, and raised the retirement age from 65 to 67.
The Conservatives have been able to press forward with this class war assault only because the unions and the social democrats of the NDP have systematically suppressed the class struggle for more than a quarter century. Whilst the unions have imposed concessions and job cuts, the NDP has imposed capitalist austerity whenever it has held office. With the full support of the unions, the NDP is currently sustaining in office a Liberal minority government in Ontario that has cut billions from social spending and used anti-worker legislation, Bill 115, to enforce a two-year public sector wage freeze and impose concessionary contracts on the province’s teachers.
These pro-capitalist organizations have frequently invoked the chauvinistic slogan “Canadian jobs for Canadians,” laying the blame for job and wage cuts on workers in other countries. This serves a double-reactionary purpose: by fomenting nationalism, the unions and NDP seek to mask their own complicity in imposing concessions and plant closures and to block a united struggle of workers in Canada with their class brothers and sisters in the U.S., Mexico and around the world against the transnational corporations, which site production wherever labor and tax regimes are the most “competitive.”
The Canadian Auto Workers, for example, has for decades competed with the U.S.-based UAW as to which union could offer the Detroit Three the most favorable contracts, resulting in the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs and a never-ending race to the bottom.
In recent months, the unions’ and NDP’s “Canadian jobs for Canadians” campaign has taken the form of a rightwing, chauvinist opposition to the TWFP. The Conservatives have now taken advantage of the chauvinist backlash against foreign workers that the unions and NDP have promoted to expand the coercive powers of the state and lay the groundwork for increased harassment and victimization of immigrant workers.
Significantly, neither has made an issue of opposing the new powers given Immigration inspectors to conduct warrantless searches.
Last December, the British Columbia Federation of Labour and many of its affiliates demanded that Chinese workers who had come to Canada under the TWFP to work at a mine owned by H.D. Mining International be sent home. (See: Canadian unions’ chauvinist campaign against “temporary foreign worker” expansion .) The unions’ campaign against the program went into high gear this past April after a CBC exposure of how a Royal Bank of Canada subcontractor used the TWFP program to bring in workers from India who were to be trained to manage a back-office operation that was ultimately to be outsourced to India.
Responding to May’s unemployment figures, Ken Georgetti, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the country’s largest labour organization fulminated against foreign workers, claiming that they were taking jobs from Canadians. Georgetti said the CLC had “crunched” the numbers and found that “Roughly 75 percent of the new jobs created in Canada in 2010 and 2011 were filled by temporary foreign workers despite the fact that 1.4 million Canadian residents were unemployed.”
This spurious claim, which the CLC passes off as “research,” was based on comparing the number of new jobs and the total number of participants in the TWFP, a program which expanded rapidly in the years preceding the 2008 global financial crisis.
In reality, the dismal employment figures in Canada, as in the U.S, Europe, and Japan, are a product of the greatest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression.
The unions’ and NDP’s scapegoating of immigrants is—as the extraordinary new police powers the Conservatives’ have given Immigration inspectors underscores—aiding reaction. It is at one with their advocacy of protectionist measures, the logic of which is trade war and ultimately military conflict.
In recent months, the NDP and its union allies have raised a hue and a cry about Chinese investment in Canada, denouncing the “Communist” regime in China in crude Cold War terms. This maneuver has been aimed at demonstrating to Canadian big business that an NDP government would more vigorously defend their interests than the current Conservative one and at signaling to Washington that the NDP supports the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”, that is its preparations for war with Beijing.
The anti-immigrant nationalism peddled by the trade unions and the NDP must be vigorously opposed by Canadian workers. These marginalized workers are not the source of the crisis but its most tragic expression, as governments all over the world impose wave after wave of austerity to satiate the appetites of global finance capital.
The answer to mounting unemployment and falling living standards is not to restrict, ban, or discriminate against “foreign” workers, but rather the mobilization of the international working class against big business and the capitalist profit system, which are exploiting and oppressing workers the world over. As a crucial element in the fight to unite the working class against capitalism, workers must fight for full citizenship rights for people wherever they choose to live and oppose all restrictions on the free movement of people across the globe.

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Canada enacts law threatening masked protesters with ten-year jail terms

By Keith Jones 
24 June 2013
Legislation that gives the Canadian state draconian and arbitrary powers to suppress protests became law last week after approval from the Conservative Party-dominated federal parliament.
Bill C-309—the Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identities during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act—makes it a crime punishable by a ten-year prison term to incite a riot while wearing a mask or any face covering, including face paint.
Someone who merely participates in a riot or in an “unlawful” assembly with their face covered can, under the new law, be deemed to have committed an indictable criminal offense and jailed for up to five years.
These new offenses are in addition to the existing Criminal Code offenses of participating in a riot and participating in an unlawful assembly. Persons convicted of the former can be jailed for a maximum of two years, while the latter is considered to be among the lowest tier of criminal offenses known as “summary offenses,” which carry a maximum six-month jail term.
Under Canadian law, police and other authorities have very broad powers to illegalize protests by declaring them “unlawful assemblies.” The Criminal Code describes an “unlawful assembly” as a gathering that causes people “to fear on reasonable grounds” that it “will disturb the peace tumultuously” or provoke others to do so.
During last year’s six month-long Quebec student strike, police declared numerous protests “unlawful assemblies,” then violently set about dispersing the crowd with tear gas, baton-charges and mass arrests. In response to the tear gas, many demonstrators covered their faces with handkerchiefs. Had the new law been in force, they could potentially have been charged with concealing their identities and targeted for punitive jail terms of up to five years.
Critics of the new law have rightly condemned it as a flagrant attack on the right to free speech. Masks and face paint have been used for centuries to make political points, and there are many reasons, including fear of victimization by employers, that can cause protesters to choose to conceal their faces. Police, it need be added, have subjected political protests to blanket surveillance for years, systematically photographing and videotaping demonstrators.
Moreover, there is a long history of police instigating violence at demonstrations—through provocative crowd-control tactics and the use of agent provocateurs—so as to justify their suppression. In 2007, undercover Quebec Provincial Police officers were caught trying to incite people protesting at a trilateral US-Canada-Mexico heads of government meeting in Montebello, Quebec to attack the police. (See: “Canada: Police agent-provocateurs unmasked at Montebello summit protests”)
Bill C-309 began as a private member’s bill. Only rarely do such bills become law, but the Conservative government chose to make it a legislative priority. As the result of an amendment proposed by Robert Goguen, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and passed by the Conservative-dominated Justice Committee, the maximum penalty for the crime of inciting a riot while wearing some form of face-covering was increased from five to ten years.
In arguing for the legislation, the Conservatives said they wanted to give police an “additional tool” to deal with rioters.
In fact the most serious violence at political protests, to say nothing of the gravest attacks on democratic riots, have been committed by Canadian authorities. During the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto—in a wholesale suppression of democratic rights that was abetted and supported by all three levels of government—police kicked, bludgeoned, tear-gassed, and shot rubber bullets at protesters, as well as numerous passersby. Journalists covering these unprecedented events were themselves arrested and assaulted.
In what the Ontario Ombudsman called the “most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” 1,100 people were arrested. Those apprehended in this dragnet were hauled into primitive detention cages, strip-searched and denied legal counsel. Subsequently, charges were dropped against the vast majority, with only a small fraction ever convicted of anything.
In Canada, as around the world, a ruling elite whose wealth and incomes have soared as a result of the a class war offensive on job, wages, and public services, has responded to growing opposition by moving to criminalize dissent.
In the past two years, the Conservative government has repeatedly illegalized strikes and impending strikes by Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail workers. Now Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government is threatening to criminalize a week-old strike of 175,000 construction workers.
In May 2012, the then Quebec Liberal government adopted an emergency law that effectively outlawed the Quebec student strike and placed sweeping restrictions on the right to strike over any issue in the province. On taking office the following September, the PQ made a show of repealing Bill 78, but it has endorsed repressive bylaws adopted during the student strike by Montreal, Quebec City, and many other Quebec municipalities. These bylaws make it illegal to demonstrate without the police’s express authorization of the protest route. In many cases, they also make it illegal to wear a mask, face covering or face paint at a protest even if the protest is legal. Police have already used the presence of masked demonstrators at protests to declare them “unlawful assemblies,” making all those participating liable to arrest and fines.
As a result of the new federal law, Montreal Police could potentially invoke the municipal bylaw against face-covered protestors so as to declare a protest illegal, then charge those who are face-covered with participating in an unlawful assembly while concealing their identities, making them liable to punitive jail terms
The criminalization of dissent goes hand in hand with the build-up of a secret state-within-the state. Under a series of ministerial directives, whose existence let alone content has been kept unknown to Canadians, Liberal and Conservative governments have authorized the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—a close partner of the U.S. National Security Agency—to mine the metadata of Canadians’ telephone, computer, and other electronic communications since at least 2005.
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[15 June 2013]

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Canada Being Assimilated Into a U.S. Dominated North American Security Perimeter

By Dana Gabriel
June 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House – Canada’s prime minister recently addressed the CFR, a globalist think tank who have been a driving force behind the push towards deeper North American integration. The U.S. and Canada are now further advancing this agenda through the Beyond the Border agreement. Both countries are increasing bilateral border transportation and infrastructure coordination. This includes a common approach to border management, security and control. They are also integrating an information sharing system that would be used to track everyone crossing the U.S.-Canada border and entering or leaving the continent. Without much fanfare and seemingly little resistance, Canada is being assimilated into a U.S. dominated North American security perimeter.
In May, the Conservative government highlighted the benefits of the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan which was announced back in 2011. The deal, “focuses on addressing security threats at the earliest point possible and facilitating the lawful movement of people, goods, and services into Canada and the United States, and creates a long-term partnership to improve the management of our shared border.” The goal is to further increase, “security, economic competitiveness and prosperity through numerous measures, including reducing border wait times and improving infrastructure at key crossings to speed up legitimate trade and travel.” The Beyond the Border Executive Steering Committee recently met to discuss the objectives that have already been achieved and the work that still needs to be done. Another important facet of the economic and security perimeter agreement is the Regulatory Cooperation Councilaction plan. A stakeholder dialogue session is planned for June 20, which will review its implementation progress and will seek further input regarding the next stage of U.S.-Canada regulatory integration. 
Last month, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a joint report on the findings of Phase I of the Entry/Exit Information System. The program included collecting and exchanging biographic information at four selected land border ports of entry. In a news release, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski stated that, “The results of Phase I demonstrate the capacity of the United States and Canada to increase information sharing capabilities.” He added, “This kind of cooperation epitomizes the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” The next phase of the entry/exit initiative is set to begin at the end of this month. It will involve exchanging the biographic data collected from third-country nationals and permanent residents of Canada and the U. S. at all common ports of entry. Both countries are further merging databases and are expanding surveillance and intelligence gathering operations. In 2014, they will also start sharing biometric information at the border. This will further advance the creation of a North America security perimeter where all travellers will be tracked and traced in real time. 
As part of the commitment made under the Beyond the Border deal, both countries have announced the Border Infrastructure Investment Plan which was, “developed to establish a mutual understanding of recent, ongoing and potential border infrastructure investments. It outlines the approach that Canada and the United States will take to coordinate plans for physical infrastructure upgrades.” In June 2012, Canada reached an agreement with the State of Michigan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. This was followed by a presidential permit issued in April of this year that officially paved the way for construction of the project. A U.S. State Department press release explained that, “Consistent with the bilateral Beyond the Border Initiative, this permit contributes to ensuring that our border infrastructure supports increased competitiveness, job creation, and broad-based prosperity in the United States and Canada.” It went on to say that the new bridge, “will help to meet future capacity requirements in a critical travel corridor, promote cross-border trade and commerce, and advance our vital bilateral relationship with Canada.”
In March, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews signed a memorandum of understanding which established a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project. The joint undertaking is another component of the Beyond the Border agreement and would shift inspections and clearances away from the actual border crossing. The first phase, “will test the concept of conducting U.S. CBP primary cargo inspection in Canada, and will be implemented at the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington.” The second phase, “will further test how pre-inspection could enhance border efficiency and reduce wait times to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and will be implemented at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.” The perimeter security deal is laying the foundation for a future U.S.-Canada binational organization that would jointly manage and control the border. 
The CBSA is also testing additional technology at the Morses Line, Quebec and Piney, Manitoba ports of entry. Under the remote traveller pilot project, people entering either location after regular hours of service, “will be processed by a border services officer located at a remote processing centre through a two-way audio and one-way video kiosk. Cameras will be installed to provide the officer with the ability to see the traveller and the vehicle.” The program which could later be expanded to other areas , “is part of theSmall and Remote Ports of Entry Initiative, one of the deliverables under the Beyond the Border Action Plan.” NAUNEWZ pointed out that, “Although a lot of this technology is already installed and being utilized in limited ways at most of the main Canada-U.S. border crossing points, these smaller border crossings are ideal testing grounds for their ‘no borders’/NAU agenda.”
On May 16, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper participated in question and answer session before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The conversation centered around economic growth, foreign investment and the role of the G20 with regards to global governance. Other issues focused on Canada-U.S. relations. Harper lobbied for approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas gulf coast. He dismissed environmental issues associated with the project and argued that it would be a step towards North American energy independence. The Obama administration is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline sometime this year. Harper also acknowledged the Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council action plans. He blamed sovereignty concerns and the continued negativity surrounding NAFTA as the main obstacles to even deeper continental integration. Prime Minister Harper used his audition in front of the CFR as an opportunity to demonstrate to the U.S. political and corporate elite that he is committed to defending the interests of big business and further pushing plans for a North American Union (NAU).
The Beyond the Border action plan is the most significant step forward in U.S.-Canada cooperation since NAFTA. It provides the framework for future North American integration. When fully implemented, the agreement can be expanded and updated. So far, the agenda has quietly slipped under the radar. By incrementally incorporating various pilot projects and excluding Mexico from the process, it has managed to avoid the controversy of past initiatives. The perimeter security deal is being sold as vital to improving the flow of trade and travel across the border. In order to appease U.S. fears, Canada has made numerous concessions with no guarantees that it will lessen border restrictions. As part of a North American security perimeter, Canada will always be at the mercy of any new U.S. security measures, regardless of the dangers they may pose to privacy and civil liberties.
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues.
This article was originally published at beyourownleader.blogspot.ca

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Toronto elite ostracizes right-wing mayor who served as their hatchet man

By Dylan Lubao 
8 June 2013
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford—a right-wing populist, “law and order” advocate, and champion of the police—continues to be dogged by a drug scandal and politically shaken by defections from his administration.
The city’s big business elite, which promoted Ford as their hatchet man in slashing public services and attacking city workers, has signaled that they now view him as a political liability, whose hotheadedness and multiple scandals have become an impediment to prosecuting their class war agenda.
Expressing the prevailing mood among the ruling elite, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne said last week that she was “worried about the situation” and vowed to monitor it “very carefully” and intervene “as appropriate.” Dwight Duncan, the recently retired Ontario Liberal finance minister-turned-businessman, called for the mayor’s resignation in no uncertain terms, citing the potentially harmful effect of the scandal on the Toronto economy.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and provincial Tory leader Tim Hudak, both prominent Ford allies, have maintained an embarrassed silence. Tory House Leader Jim Wilson distanced the party from the mayor’s older brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, who was recently “outed” in an exhaustiveGlobe and Mail exposé as an alleged drug dealer in his youth. Responding to the elder Ford’s much-discussed intention to run under the Tory banner for a seat in the provincial legislature, Wilson declared, “He is not our candidate.”
Underscoring the kinship between the Ford administration and the Harper government, Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, another Ford ally and family friend, reportedly met the mayor in private last weekend to counsel him on “personal” matters. Flaherty and the late family patriarch Doug Ford Sr. served together as Tory members of the provincial parliament in the late 1990s under arch right-winger Premier Mike Harris.
Ford—who was accused last month of having been recorded smoking crack cocaine while spouting racist and homophobic epithets in an video peddled by “Somali gangsters” to local and online media outlets—has witnessed his political support at city hall shrivel. Councilors Doug Holyday and Gary Crawford, who serve on Ford’s executive committee, have publicly said that they believe the video exists. Holyday previously led half of the executive in demanding that Ford respond “openly and transparently” to the allegations against him.
In the last two weeks, about a third of Mayor Ford’s staff have resigned or been dismissed. Ford fired his chief of staff Mark Towhey, reportedly because he had suggested the mayor go into rehab. Five other staffers have resigned. Ford has brought in replacements, including Eric Provost, Towhey’s former second-in-command, who has been elevated to chief of staff. Provost, a Liberal campaign specialist, has worked for former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, a fact that speaks to the essentially porous border between rival camps of the Canadian political elite.
The Globe, the traditional mouthpiece of Canada’s banks and investment dealers stepped up its attacks on the mayor, in an editorial this week that labeled Ford a “toxic political liability” and called for a less polarizing, “fiscally conservative” candidate to run for mayor in the 2014 civic elections. Giving voice to the ruling elite’s hopes to use the scandal enveloping Ford to fashion a more effective right-wing administration, Globe columnist Konrad Yakabuski admonished the mayor for failing to implement the full gamut of social spending cuts expected of him, including steeper cuts in city workers’ wages.
In the face of dwindling big business and Conservative support and much public outrage, Ford remains defiant, “absolutely” vowing to weather the scandal and run for reelection in 2014. Reports indicating that the infamous video has now “disappeared” seem to have emboldened the mayor, who has claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign by media “maggots.”
The right-wing Toronto Sun tabloid, a devoted Ford enthusiast, has remained largely silent since imploring him to step aside if the allegations of drug use were true.
The conservative National Post, which backed Ford in 2010 and initially expressed dismay at Ford’s failure to provide a “serious explanation” for the accusations, now seems guardedly ambivalent about his clinging to office, despite reports from a right-wing insider that “Bay Street has abandoned him (Ford)” and are “looking for a new conservative candidate…to put their money behind.”
Several names have been advanced within ruling class circles as a suitable successor to Ford, with both “right” and ”left” candidates being groomed to take on the job of imposing austerity on working people, while pushing through the transportation infrastructure upgrades needed to make the city’s economy a reliable producer of profit for big business. The potential candidates include the aptly named former Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, who assisted her late husband, Jack Layton, in presiding over the NDP’s further lurch right.
Notorious for flouting city rules, shirking official responsibilities, and insulting immigrants, gays, the homeless and city workers, Ford has survived two earlier charges of wrongdoing. In January, a conflict of interest conviction that resulted in his being ordered to step down as mayor was overturned on a technicality. The next month, he received a slap on the wrist for overspending on his election campaign.
The consensus among the ruling elite, indicated by copious testimony in the corporate press, is that Rob Ford, the multimillionaire who fashioned a political persona as a spokesman of “working Joes,” has long passed his best-before date.
While the specifics of Ford’s unraveling are surprising, Toronto’s elite has long been aware of Ford’s ignorant and reactionary views and of his cavalier and petulant behaviour—behaviour that had alienated him from much of the right-wing faction at city hall during his ten years as a city councilor. But determined to push politics sharply to the right, the elite promoted Ford, seeking to use him to build a popular constituency for a socially regressive agenda aimed at redistributing wealth to the most privileged sections of Toronto’s population through tax and social spending cuts.
Ford and the austerity agenda that he has championed have faced mass working-class opposition throughout his tenure as mayor. But the official left in Toronto, the unions and the social-democratic NDP, and their liberal allies are utterly opposed to any mobilization of the social and independent political power of the working class. Their opposition to Ford has centered on scandalizing the public with exposures of his petty abuses of power and critiques of his buffoonish behaviour. To call attention to Ford’s class war policies, would call attention to their own complicity in carrying out the agenda of big business.
Rob Ford’s predecessor, the NDP and trade union-backed David Miller, presided over a dramatic infusion of wealth to the city’s financial elite through a series of generous property tax breaks, grants, subsidies and grossly undervalued business land assessments handed over to big commercial developers. In 2009, Miller forced a concessions-laden contract on 30,000 striking city workers. None of the city’s nominally progressive councilors raised a voice to defend the workers, whom the press vilified as “selfish” for fighting to safeguard their modest salaries. Campaigning in the 2010 election, Ford harnessed widespread popular anger against declining living standards by promising to lower taxes, while shamelessly lying that any cuts would only affect the “gravy train” on which city employees reputedly gorged. He was elected by only a quarter of total eligible voters.
When Ford moved to impose sweeping budget cuts and gut city worker contracts, the unions and “left” mounted only token opposition. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) deliberately separated the city workers’ struggle against the destruction of job security—a critical step toward the privatizing of public services—from the fight against the budget cuts. Then, with Ford threatening to hire strikebreakers to break any strike against the city’s concession demands, CUPE signed a concessions-laden agreement and told city workers that they would be “isolated” if they dared vote it down.
Having at every step facilitated Ford’s “victories,” the unions and NDP have invoked the right-wing threat represented by Ford and his provincial ally, Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak, to intimidate the working class. In particular, they have invoked the Ford-Hudak tandem to justify their propping up a minority Ontario Liberal government that is slashing billions from social spending and has imposed sweeping concessions on the province’s teachers through legislative fiat.

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Canada: Growing evidence Conservatives illegally suppressed vote in 2011 federal election

By Carl Bronski 
6 June 2013
Lawyers representing a group of voters and the liberal-nationalist Council of Canadians have announced that they will not appeal a May 23 Federal Court judgment that upheld the 2011 federal election results in six ridings (electoral districts), even while finding significant evidence of electoral fraud.
The plaintiffs had asked the court to nullify closely-contested Conservative Party victories in the six ridings after it was discovered that a nationwide voter suppression campaign had been initiated from the Conservative Party’s central computer database. Judge Richard Mosley found that illegal electoral activity had clearly taken place, but said that it had not been conclusively proven that local Conservative Party candidates or agents were involved or that the voter suppression campaign functioned successfully enough to change the elections’ outcomes.
Known as the “robo-call scandal”, it was alleged—and ultimately proven—that thousands of calls had been placed to voters who had earlier professed support for candidates opposing the Conservatives. The calls, both recorded and in person-messages, were fraudulently represented as coming from an official body overseeing elections logistics. Voters were erroneously redirected to polling stations where they were not registered or to locations that had no polling stations at all. Mosley found that the source of the information used to place the calls was the Contact Information Management System (CIMS) database, which was controlled and maintained by the federal Conservative Party.
Evidence was produced at trial showing that voters in 247 of the 308 federal ridings received these fraudulent calls. In one electoral district alone—Guelph, Ontario—at least 7,600 misleading robo-calls were made. An Ekos-Reid poll conducted after the election concluded that their statistical results strongly suggested that “significant voter suppression activities took place that were directed at non-Conservative voters” and, contrary to Judge Mosley’s findings, could have affected the final result in a number of ridings.
The person (or persons) who set up the robo-call account with Conservative Party designated call-centres did their best to conceal their identity. Pre-paid credit cards and cell-phones were used and the account was registered under a false (and anti-Quebecois) moniker: “Pierre Poutine of Separatist Street, Joliette, Quebec.”
The IP address that was activated to initiate the calls at one call-centre was used moments later by a Conservative Party official to initiate other, legal campaign communications, raising suspicion that the instigator was one and the same person. That IP address was traced to a computer in the campaign office of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke. The computer had previously downloaded information from the CIMS database the very same day the fake Pierre Poutine account had been created.
Further, it was reported that a Conservative staffer in the Guelph office, Michael Sona, had told others of a planned and extensive campaign about to be launched to send anti-Conservative voters to erroneous polling stations. As the scandal grew, Burke’s campaign manager, Ken Morgan, who had been sought for questioning by Elections Canada abruptly moved to Kuwait, refusing to speak with investigators.
Sona, Burke’s 22-year-old campaign communications staffer during the 2011 election, is the only individual currently charged in the scandal. He is accused of preventing or trying to prevent an elector from voting in the election. Sona has maintained that he never had access to the Conservative’s database and is being scapegoated by the party to deflect culpability away from more senior officials. His trial is expected to be scheduled for some time next year.
At the just concluded robo-call trial, Bob Penner, CEO of Strategic Communications and an expert witness brought by the Council of Canadians, told the court that the extensive voter suppression campaign could only have been orchestrated by “someone at the senior level in a central political campaign who could authorize the strategy and provide the funds to carry it out.”
The polling-station misdirection campaign that formed the centerpiece of the case is not the only example of vote suppression and other illegal tactics initiated to favour Conservative candidates in the 2011 election. Voters filed complaints of rude and racist phone calls purporting to be (but in fact not) from Liberal Party representatives. Jewish voters were called on the Jewish Sabbath and other voters received incessant early morning or late night calls supposedly from the Liberals.
In two Toronto ridings, hundreds of voters not resident in the constituencies cast ballots in hotly contested races. In the Eglinton-Lawrence riding, at least 2,700 applications for late registration did not provide addresses or gave false names or residential addresses. In Etobicoke-Centre, where the Conservatives won by only 26 votes, 51 registration certificates were missing during a subsequent court audit, 34 people voted while residing outside the constituency, and five people voted twice. A lower court judge eventually set aside 79 ballots and declared the election result invalid. However, in a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Conservative election victory, with the majority ruling that most of the votes should be restored because errors were made by election officials.
Both before and during the Federal Court hearing, Conservative Party spokesmen and Members of Parliament sought to stonewall every aspect of the investigation into the alleged violations of the country’s electoral law. Even while dismissing the plaintiffs’ case, Judge Mosley noted this in his judgment: “Despite obvious public interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations, the CPC [Conservative Party of Canada] made little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset despite early requests….While it was begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was ‘absolutely outrageous,’ the record indicates that the stance taken by the respondent Members of Parliament from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means.”
In the wake of the verdict, Conservative Party spokesman Fred Delorey reveled in Mosley’s not-guilty verdict, despite the court’s findings of a concerted and deliberate attempt at vote suppression that was aimed at benefitting the ruling Conservatives. “We are pleased that this baseless case by the activist Council of Canadians was dismissed by the court,” tweeted Delorey.
For their part, spokespeople for the Council of Canadians, who bankrolled the plaintiffs’ legal case, demanded that Stephen Harper and his Conservative government immediately bring in legislation to prevent similar tactics in future elections and convene a public inquiry to further investigate illegal activity surrounding the 2011 election. Should the government, as expected, refuse such an inquiry, the Council has threatened to renew action in the very courts that have just struck down their case.
Any potential tweaking of election law by the Canada’s Conservative-dominated parliament will come under conditions where the Harper government has already slashed the budget for Elections Canada by 8 percent for the current fiscal year even as over 500 separate and serious irregularities were reported in the last election.
There is an ever shrinking constituency in Canadian ruling circles for the defense of even the most basic of democratic rights. The rejection of the plaintiffs’ case despite compelling evidence against the government’s electoral machine and the lack of any outcry from the corporate media over the evidence of a concerted campaign to illegally suppress anti-Conservative votes in the last election are only the latest examples of this development.
Governments across the country have moved to criminalize workers’ struggles and popular dissent. Since the May 2011 federal election, the Conservative government has used strikebreaking legislation to support employer demands for concessions at Air Canada, Canada Post, and CP Rail.
The Harper government alongside the McGuinty Ontario Liberal government oversaw a police-state blitz against the citizens of Toronto during the June 2010 G-20 summit that saw the largest mass arrests in the history of Canada—more than during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike or the suspension of civil liberties in Quebec under the War Measures Act during the 1970 FLQ crisis.
Last year, Quebec’s Liberal government resorted to police repression and a draconian anti-strike law (Bill 78) that placed sweeping restrictions on the right to demonstrate over any issue anywhere in the province in an attempt to break a militant province-wide student strike. In Ontario earlier this year, the NDP-supported minority Liberal government imposed concession-laden contracts on more than a hundred thousand teachers and illegalized any job action under its Bill 115.
Twice in the past five years, the federal Conservatives government has prorogued (shut-down) the national parliament to escape from political crises. In December 2008, it carried out a veritable constitutional coup, using the arbitrary powers of the unelected Governor-General to shut down parliament so as to prevent the opposition parties from exercising their constitutional right to bring down the government. A year later, it invoked prorogation again to avoid further exposure of its role in the torture of Afghan detainees.
As in the 1930s, the bourgeoisie’s response to the global breakdown of capitalism is to turn toward authoritarian methods of rule, even as it invokes “democracy” and “human rights” to justify imperialist wars and interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, and Mali. The defence of basic democratic rights is inseparable from the fight for the independent political mobilization of the working class on a socialist program in opposition to austerity and imperialist war.

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Harper Helping the Rich Get Richer Around the World

By Yves Engler
May 29, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – If the Harper government were honest about its policies, it would proclaim for all to hear: “Our goal is to make the rich richer.”
Many Canadians would agree that has been the effect of Conservative domestic policies, but may be surprised to learn it is also true in international affairs.
“Austerity should not be abandoned, says Canada’s finance minister,” blared a headline in London’s Financial Times earlier this month. Before recent G7 meetings Jim Flaherty told the international business paper he was worried that some officials were “pulling back” from slashing public spending and pursuing deficit targets.
“What I worry about is those that suggest that austerity should be abandoned,” noted Canada’s long-serving finance minister. “I think that’s the road to ruin quite frankly.”
Flaherty’s comment was a response to growing challenges to austerity, notably the European Commission’s move to give France and Spain more time to meet EU-mandated deficit targets. It was also a reminder of the Conservatives’ banker-friendly response to the worst economic crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
Even with youth unemployment rates in a number of countries at 25 to 50 per cent or higher, Ottawa has repeatedly supported the German-led push for European governments to cut social spending.
The Conservatives have backed this thinly veiled ruling-class effort to weaken labour’s bargaining position and roll back the European welfare state.
During a June 2011 visit to Athens Harper forcefully backed austerity measures bitterly resisted by much of the Greek population.
“I certainly admire the determination of Prime Minister Papandreou, and the very difficult actions he’s had to undertake in response to problems his government did not create. So we are very much all on his side.”
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ottawa in August of last year Harper reiterated his support for austerity measures. “There are additional things that have to be done” by European governments to end the continent’s economic troubles, he said.
“One of the things I appreciate about Chancellor Merkel’s leadership is the willingness, including at times of urgency and stress, to not just find any solution but to find correct and good solutions,” Harper added.
While supporting austerity measures, the Conservatives have publicly opposed efforts to tax and regulate the banks largely responsible for the economic collapse.
The Conservatives denounced efforts to better regulate speculation in international financial markets. In November 2009 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed a tiny (ranging from .005 per cent to one per cent) tax on international financial transactions. Worried about the plight of investment bankers, Flaherty immediately dismissed the idea of a global ‘Tobin Tax’.
“That’s not something that we would want to do. We’re not in the business of raising taxes,” said Flaherty.
For his part, Harper admitted to blocking the G20′s bid for an international banking tax.
“Whether it’s taking strong and clear positions, for instance, at the G20 on something like a global financial regulation and a banking tax, we don’t just say, ‘Well, a consensus is developing for that. We’ll go along with it.’ It was not in our interest. It actually happens to be bad policy as well,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in the July 2011 issue of Maclean’s.
The Conservatives also spoke out against Washington’s late 2011 move to restrict some of the high-risk/high-return banking activities that led to the 2008 economic collapse (the so-called “Volcker rule”). Flaherty and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney both sent letters to U.S. decision-makers criticizing the reforms.
“I am writing to express my concerns regarding the proposed Volcker rule, which could have material adverse effects on Canadian financial institutions and markets,” wrote Flaherty in February 2012.
Flaherty and Carney intervened following a bid by U.S. bankers to spark international opposition to the reforms. That combined with Canadian banks owning major assets in the United States helps explain the Conservatives’ position.
The Harper government has consistently supported Canada’s banks and the global-investor class. In fact, their entire foreign policy is largely designed around the question: How can we make the world’s richest 0.1 per cent even richer?
This article first appeared on The Tyee
Former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union, Yves Engler is an Ottawa and Montréal based activist and author. He has published seven books.
Yves was born in Vancouver, where he grew up playing hockey. He was a peewee teammate of NHL star Mike Ribeiro at Huron Hochelaga in Montréal before playing in the B.C. Junior League. After being suspended from Concordia University, he turned to research and writing, but he’s still a fan of the great Canadian sport. To contact Yves email Yvesengler(at)hotmail.com – yvesengler.com

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Toronto elite seeking to jettison right-wing populist mayor

By Dylan Lubao 
28 May 2013
Toronto’s big business elite has turned on Rob Ford—the city’s rightwing populist mayor and their designated hatchet man in imposing social spending cuts and concessionary contracts on city workers— and now appears intent on forcing him from office.
On Saturday, the Globe and Mail, the traditional mouthpiece of Canada’s financial elite, devoted five broadsheet-newspaper pages to chronicling allegations of drug use and trafficking involving Ford and his siblings. Most damning was the claim that Doug Ford, the mayor’s old brother, chief advisor and a fellow Toronto City Council member, regularly sold drugs for a period of five or more years stretching into his early adulthood.
The Globe exposé came in the midst of a media furor over claims that a drug-dealer has been shopping around a cellphone video that shows Mayor Ford smoking from a crack cocaine pipe in the company of two “Somali gangsters” and making racist and homophobic comments. The US-based “Gawker” web site first brought the reputed existence of such a video to public attention; the very next day, May 16, the Toronto Star announced that two of its reporters have seen the video and believe it to be genuine. The Star accompanied its report with a photo, supplied by the drug-dealer said to be in possession of the video, showing Ford in the company of two men. One of them is a drug-dealer murdered earlier this year.
The Star further reported that it had declined an offer to buy the video for $200,000. The Gawker web site is now seeking to raise the money needed to buy it and as of May 26 claimed to have collected over $175,000.
Ford, a strident advocate of rightwing “law and order” politics, quickly dismissed the Star report as “ridiculous,” then fell silent. Clearly he hoped to brazen out this sandal as he has numerous previous controversies, including a string of instances when he has been shown to have flouted city rules so as to advance his personal and political interests.
However, as Ford’s silence stretched into the end of last week, he came under increasing media criticism and it became apparent that a consensus was forming within Toronto’s financial and political elite that Ford had become a political liability.
The Toronto Sun, a rightwing tabloid that has unabashedly championed Ford and his crude attacks on city workers, the poor, immigrants and gays, urged him to step aside if he could not categorically state that the video is a fabrication. Various columnists at the neo-conservative National Post, for their part, expressed dismay at Ford’s failure to provide a “serious explanation.”
On Friday, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, one of Ford’s staunchest allies and his point-man in imposing concessionary contracts on city workers, led a mutiny of half of the members of Ford’s own Executive Council, issuing a letter that demanded Ford “openly and transparently” respond to the allegations against him.
Other Ford allies, such as Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, have maintained an embarrassed silence.
On Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother used their weekly radio show to attempt to mount a counteroffensive. Ford lashed out at the press, calling them a “bunch of maggots,” denied any video existed, and vowed to stand for re-election as mayor. Doug Ford denied the allegations in the Globe exposé, while adding that they pertain to things said to have happened a quarter-century or more ago.
Short of a criminal conviction, there is no quick mechanism to remove an elected Toronto mayor. Ford’s administration, however, is unraveling. Last Thursday, Ford dismissed his chief of staff, Mark Towhey, for “insubordination” and had him escorted from the building by security guards. Yesterday his press secretary and his assistant resigned.
A multi-millionaire who was born to privilege, Ford is an ignorant rightwing bully, whose claims to speak for the little man have always been a sham. He has served as a willing instrument for the Toronto elite, which itself comprises a good portion of the Canadian ruling class, in slashing public services and goring city workers.
That said, Ford’s apparent political demise is not the product of an independent movement of the working class. Rather it is being orchestrated by an elite that has decided he has become a liability to the prosecution of their class war agenda.
As the World Socialist Web Site explained late last year when a court case mounted by the well-known “left” lawyer Clayton Ruby found Ford guilty of a minor abuse of his authority—a verdict reversed on appeal—and ordered him removed as mayor, Ford’s ouster would merely provide the ruling elite with the opportunity to fashion a more effective big business administration.
Ford’s political victories—his winning of the 2010 mayoral election, his imposition of sweeping budget cuts, and his goring of the city workers in the 2012 contract negotiations—were entirely bound up with and due to the rightwing politics of the official “left,” the unions and the social-democratic NDP, and their liberal friends.
Ford’s predecessor, the trade union and NDP—supported David Miller, lavished generous property tax breaks, grants, and subsidies to large developers. These policies robbed city coffers of millions and led to cuts in snow clearance, parks and recreation, and day care. In 2009, Miller forced city workers out on strike, but after he failed to extract concessions of the size and scale demanded by the financial elite, it turned on him and served notice it would oppose his re-election. Miller responded by quickly announcing that he would step down at the end of his term.
In the 2010 election, Ford, was able to exploit widespread popular anger over declining living standards by promising to lower taxes, while shamelessly lying that any cuts would only effect the “gravy train” on which city employees reputedly gorged.
When Ford moved to impose sweeping budget cuts and gut city worker contracts, the unions and “left” mounted only token opposition. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) deliberately separated the city workers’ struggle against the destruction of job security—a critical step toward the privatizing of public services—from the fight against the budget cuts. Then, with Ford threatening to hire strikebreakers to break a strike against the city’s concession demands, CUPE went before city workers and told them they would be “isolated” if they resisted.
CUPE thus forced through concession-laden contracts, allowing Ford to impose a demonstrable defeat on city workers and setting a precedent for employers, public and private sector alike, across the county.
Having at every step facilitated Ford’s “victories,” the unions and NDP have invoked the rightwing threat represented by Ford and his provincial ally, Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak, to justify their propping up a minority Ontario Liberal government that has implemented anti-worker measures far greater in scope and scale than Ford.
In the spring of 2012, the NDP facilitated the passage of an Ontario budget that cut $14 billion from public spending over the next three years. And last week the NDP, to applause from the trade unions, reaffirmed its support for the Liberals. In the name of opposing the “right,” the social democrats are continuing to sustain in office a Liberal government that last winter used anti-worker legislation to impose sweeping contract concession on teachers and that in their spring 2013 budget expanded their austerity agenda, promising to freeze public sector workers’ pay and hold annual social spending increases to 1 percent through 2017.

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Canada: NDP suffers debacle in British Columbia election

By Dylan Lubao 
22 May 2013
Opinion polls and media pundits notwithstanding, the trade union-backed New Democratic Party (NDP) suffered a debacle in the May 14 British Columbia election, failing to unseat an unpopular twelve year-old Liberal government.
The Liberals, who have held office in Canada’s third-most populous province since 2001, will use their fourth successive majority government to intensify big business’ assault on the working class. Already Premier Christy Clark has said that she will renew her drive to impose a concessionary ten-year contract on the province’s teachers.
For several years opinion polls had shown the NDP poised to return to power in B.C. for the first time since 2001. This trend continued right through until May 14th, although pre-election polls did indicate that the Liberals had narrowed what at the launch of the campaign had been a 20 percentage-point NDP lead.
When the votes were counted, the NDP emerged with just a 39.5 percent share of the popular vote—a 2.65 percentage point drop from the 2009 election—and with only 33 seats, three less than when the election campaign began. With 44.4 percent of the votes cast, the Liberals won 50 of the provincial legislature’s 85 seats. The Green Party entered into the provincial parliament for the first time, winning a seat in an affluent south Vancouver constituency, and one seat was taken by an independent.
The most striking feature of the election results was the low voter turnout. Only 51 percent of eligible voters participated, with the total number of votes decreasing by 10,000 from 2009, when the turnout was also close to a record low. Until recently, it was common in B.C. elections for more than 70 percent of the electorate to vote.
The mass abstention in B.C.’s May 14 vote is an expression of popular disaffection with the entire political establishment, including the social-democratic NDP and the trade unions—a disaffection born of the recognition that the establishment parties are impervious to the needs of working people and when in office pursue essentially the same big business agenda. Significantly, young people were the least likely to vote, with an estimated election participation rate of just 27 percent.
While the corporate media has trumpeted the Liberals’ victory as “sweeping,” they in fact polled the votes of just 23 percent of registered voters, or less than one in every four. The NDP’s share was 20 percent and that of the Greens 4 percent.
The B.C. election results are a major blow to the NDP, which has responded to its surprise emergence as Canada’s Official Opposition in the 2011 federal election by stepping up its efforts to convince the ruling class that it can supplant the Liberals as its “left” party of government. Toward this end, the NDP has moved still further right, championing Canada’s participation in the NATO war on Libya, opposing the Quebec student strike, and sustaining in office an Ontario Liberal government that has cut billions from social spending and used anti-worker laws to impose wage cuts and other concessions on teachers.
Thomas Mulcair, the ex-Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who now heads the federal NDP, and the NDP leadership as a whole, viewed an NDP victory in the May 14 B.C. election as a vital first step for the party’s 2015 national election campaign. The NDP wanted to use B.C. to showcase to the ruling class that it could provide “effective”, “fiscally responsible” government—i.e. enforce austerity on the working class and swell business profits—in one of the country’s major provinces.
The NDP’s B.C. campaign was organized by three former top aides of the late NDP leader Jack Layton—Anne McGrath, Brian Topp, and Brad Lavigne. All three had been front in center in Layton’s drive to reposition the NDP as a “moderate, progressive” party akin to Obama’s Democrats and the campaign mounted by B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix followed this prescription to the letter.
Last week’s election debacle initially left the party leadership flummoxed. But as the dust settled around the wreckage of the NDP campaign, party heads were quick to declare their agreement with the corporate media’s claim that the social democrats need to be even more pliant before big business. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Mulcair, who had joined Dix’s campaign tour for several days, lamented that Dix’s deference to big-business was insufficient in the case of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion, a development proposal that Dix rejected. “There’s a difference,” said Mulcair, “between not saying yes in advance, and saying no.”
The highlight of the NDP campaign was a set of anemic “reform” proposals. These included raising the corporate tax rate by a paltry 2 percent and a meager tax increase for the highest income bracket—which in both cases would have left the tax rates far lower than they were when the NDP last held office. By vowing not to repeat his NDP predecessors’ purported mistakes of “trying to do too much”, Dix emphasized that he would make only a handful of largely cosmetic changes to the socially destructive big business policies implemented by the Liberal governments of Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark.
Although B.C. has Canada’s highest poverty rate, the NDP proposed only minimal increases in income support programs, such as the inflation-indexing of social assistance (welfare) benefits. It proposed no reduction whatsoever in university tuition fees, which have more than doubled in the past decade.
Dix promised generous subsidies to the film industry and despite phony pretenses, he made it clear that his party would support the liquefied natural gas industry’s environmental destructive “fracking” operations.
Sections of the business elite responded favourably to these overtures. The Business Council of British Columbia proclaimed a “solid” relationship with “key figures” within the NDP, while former NDP Premier Glen Clark, now president of the multi-billion dollar Jim Pattison Group, worked the corporate corridors to emphasize that the social democrats were eager to partner with big business.
During the election campaign, the Liberals resorted to the traditional rhetoric of the political right in B.C., trying to paint the NDP as “radical,” if not “socialist,” and pointing to Dix’s decision to reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline as proof that the NDP is “anti-business.” Liberal Minister of Forests Mike de Jong, referring to a 2010 NDP report that proposed to nationalize power production, compared the NDP to the regime of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. This prompted a protest from Dix, who repudiated the party’s support for the power proposal, which in any case had never figured in the party’s platform.
In the aftermath of the elections, Clark publicly mused about renaming her party so as to better accommodate its constituent elements—Harper Conservatives, federal Liberals, and one-time supporters of the right-wing populist Social Credit Party. Clark has indicated that she plans to aggressively develop the liquefied natural gas industry and the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline. She has also made clear that she will be calling on the trade unions to work more closely with her government, i.e. to assist it in slashing jobs and wages. Union leaders were quick to reciprocate. B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Susan Lambert expressed the hope that the invigorated Liberals will “allow a mature relationship to develop—one that’s mutually respectful.”
The B.C. elections were a debacle for the trade union bureaucracy, which was hoping under an NDP government to strengthen its corporatist relations with big business.
Over the past twelve years workers in B.C. have repeatedly come forward to challenge the provincial Liberal government only to have their struggles isolated and suppressed by the unions and NDP. In recent years, in the face of mounting public sector worker anger over the Liberals “zero net mandate”—under which any wage increases are paid for through speed-up and job cuts—the unions have baldly opposed any job action, claiming that things would be better when the NDP was returned to office in May 2012.
Pseudo-left organizations such as the International Socialists (IS), the Canadian organization aligned with the British SWP and the U.S. International Socialist Organization, have worked assiduously to uphold the dwindling authority of the unions and the NDP. The IS hyped the right-wing NDP campaign, publishing an editorial late last month titled “BC NDP platform: really good, but not as good as it could be.” The editorial said not a word about the NDP’s role in enforcing austerity and wage cuts and supporting imperialist war. It concluded by urging working people to support this big business party because “we can force an NDP government to do the right thing.”

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Canada’s NDP denounces China, signals support for Obama’s “Asia Pivot”

By Graham Beverley 
18 May 2013
Canada’s Official Opposition, the trade union-backed New Democratic Party (NDP), brought forward a motion last month to scuttle the recently negotiated Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).
Though their motion was doomed to be overwhelmingly defeated and quickly forgotten, the social democrats used the occasion to repeatedly denounce the “Communist” regime in China. And in heated nationalist terms, they charged that the adoption of FIPA would “do serious damage to Canada” and “be dangerous for the future of our country.”
In a circular sent to party members after the failure of the NDP motion, Guy Caron, the Deputy Critic for International Trade, wrote, “This week, [Conservative Prime Minister] Stephen Harper came one step closer to selling out Canada’s resources to China… Under FIPA, China’s state-controlled companies will have the same rights as [private] Canadian companies.
“In other words…the Chinese government will have access to Canada’s natural resources—for the next 31 years. The Conservatives negotiated this deal behind closed doors for a reason. They know that Canadians would never stand for the selling out of our resources.”
Based on poisonous Canadian nationalism, the NDP’s opposition to FIPA—like its opposition to last fall’s $15 billion takeover of the Calgary-based oil giant Nexen by a state-owned Chinese oil company—was aimed at convincing Canadian big business that the NDP is a more aggressive defender of its profit and geostrategic interests than the Conservatives.
But this was not all. The NDP has mounted its campaign against growing Chinese investment in Canada, especially in the country’s oil and natural gas sector, with a view to convincing the Obama administration and U.S. big business that they will find in Canada’s social democrats a reliable ally.
Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair visited New York and Washington in March to speak with numerous representatives of the US political and economic elite. In an interview he gave to Bloomberg News Service, Mulcair argued that “together, FIPA and CNOOC’s takeover of Nexen, effectively limit the ability of Canadian governments to independently control our own natural resource policy, while ceding enormous control over our resources to a foreign power.”
By adopting such aggressive anti-Chinese rhetoric, the NDP is signaling that should it form Canada’s government it can be counted upon to provide staunch support to the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” under which Washington is building up its military power and strengthening its strategic alliances in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. U.S. imperialism is pressuring its allies throughout the region, including the NDP’s social democratic “brethren” in Australia’s Labour government, to join it in isolating and preparing for war against China.
Mulcair—continuing the policies of his predecessor, the late Jack Layton—has lavished praise upon President Obama and the Democratic Party. He has repeatedly declared that Canada and the U.S. have “shared values” that must be defended in the face of “an increasingly complex set of challenges,” while employing Cold War rhetoric to characterize China.
Decades ago the NDP postured as an opponent of Washington’s predatory foreign policy. But since the beginning of the 1990s, the NDP has supported Canada’s participation in a series of U.S.-led wars in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya, justifying these crimes as “humanitarian interventions.” At Layton’s insistence, the NDP in 2004 dropped its nominal opposition to Canada’s participation in NATO.
The NDP critic for International Trade, Don Davies, led the NDP’s anti-China charge in parliament last month, lacing his speech introducing the anti-FIPA motion with chauvinistic, anticommunist rhetoric. He began by describing the judicial system in China as “weak” and “unreliable”, something that “Canadian companies cannot trust…”
Addressing a Conservative member of the International Trade Committee, he continued: “Yet, my honorable colleague then says that the Chinese will treat Canadian companies just like it treats its own. I have some news for my honorable colleague. China is a communist command economy.”
A second NDP MP, Marc-Andre Morin, chimed in: “Every Chinese Canadian I know loves their adopted country and their homeland… Those people fled a corrupt totalitarian communist regime whose economy is controlled to the nth degree… Now they see that China could end up exerting the same type of control over our Canadian economy.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who voted for the NDP motion, echoed its rightwing nationalist claims, describing FIPA as “an attack on our sovereignty.”
Explicit anticommunism and Canadian chauvinism are nothing new for the NDP or its allies in the trade union bureaucracy. However, that the NDP chooses to use such harsh and inflammatory language to denounce China at a time when Washington has clearly identified Beijing as its most important global rival is a clear message to the Obama administration: an NDP government would be a loyal U.S. ally in any confrontation or outright clash with China.
Such a clash, which would bring with it the threat of a nuclear conflagration, could—it must be emphasized—emerge very rapidly. Over the past year, the US has been encouraging its Asian allies, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, to more aggressively pursue their territorial disputes with China.
A key NDP ally—the Australian Labor Party [ALP]—is already playing a major role in supporting the U.S. “pivot to Asia.”
Australian Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who seized the party leadership with the blessing of Washington, has wholeheartedly welcomed the U.S.’s strategic shift. In 2011, her government agreed to establish bases for U.S. marines, ships and aircraft in the north and west of Australia, from where they can threaten to block Chinese access to vital sea-lanes between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and cut off China’s essential supplies of energy and other raw materials.
The NDP has close relations with the ALP. ALP Labour Minister Bill Shorten gave a lengthy keynote address to the NDP Convention held in Montreal last month.
The massive slide to the right on the part of the NDP is part of an international phenomenon: parties like the ALP, the French Socialist Party, the German SPD and the British Labour Party have openly repudiated any program of “social reform,” brutally implementing austerity programs and aggressively pursuing imperialist interventions around the world.
The NDP, though it has never held office in Ottawa, has enthusiastically offered its services to the Canadian ruling class and is now “preparing for government” by seeking to gain the trust of Washington and Wall Street.
The NDP’s criticisms of the Harper government’s China policy are made with this dual audience in mind.
Before the Canadian ruling elite, the NDP argues that the FIPA does not offer enough benefit to Canadian capital. NDP MP Guy Caron, speaking in the language of a corporate executive, appealed to big business: “In 2011, we had only about $5 billion worth of investments in China, whereas China had over $22 billion worth of investments in Canada in 2012. From the outset, the agreement is not providing equal protection. This demonstrates a lack of reciprocity and is a blatant problem with the agreement before us today.”
At the same time, and with a view to catching the attention of the U.S. ruling elite, the NDP is voicing alarm over the rapid growth of Chinese investment in Canada—most of it in the pivotal oil and natural gas sector. This has included denouncing both the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation’s acquisition of Nexen and decrying as woefully inadequate the subsequent restrictions the Conservative government has placed on takeovers in the oil and natural gas sector by state-owned companies.
Mulcair and other NDP spokesmen have repeatedly quoted—including before U.S. audiences—a study that estimates that “by 2020 China will be Canada’s second largest investor, largely in oil and gas.”
Mulcair is clearly trying to win U.S. favour by indicating that an NDP government would limit, if not outright block, Chinese investment in Canada.
The fate of Canada’s resources is no small matter for Washington and Wall Street. Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. and its share of U.S. oil imports is expected to grow sharply in the coming decades due to the development of the Alberta tar sands.
Chinese competition and investment could drive up the price of Canadian oil, divert energy supplies from the U.S. and weaken U.S. capital’s strong presence in Canada’s oil and natural gas sector.
The Harper government, though it welcomes Chinese investment and the massive profits it generates for Canadian big business, is also lining up with the U.S. drive to war in Asia.
Canada’s military has begun to take on a greater role in the Pacific and a recent National Post article suggest that there are discussions now underway in government circles about redeploying Canadian naval resources from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coasts.
Last summer the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force took an unprecedented role in a giant U.S.-led maritime warfare exercise—the biannual RIMPAC or Pacific war games off Honolulu. A Canadian Air Force general has recently been posted to the U.S.’s Pacific Command in Hawaii and in January a Canadian warship made a rare port call in the Philippines.
With U.S. support, Canada and Mexico recently gained entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a proposed free trade agreement among U.S. Pacific allies meant as a counterweight to China’s economic rise.
Like the Harper Conservatives, the NDP recognizes that Canada’s economic and military alliance with the American capital is of paramount importance to the entire Canadian ruling elite.
By opposing Chinese investment, the NDP is seeking to rally ruling class support, presenting itself as a “government in waiting” that can champion the “national interests” of the Canadian bourgeoisie and partner effectively with US imperialism.

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Ontario teachers to face pension cuts under union-promoted deal

By Carl Bronski 
15 May 2013
A recent deal between the Ontario Liberal government and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) to freeze pension-plan contributions is causing much unease among the province’s public school teachers. All the more so, since earlier this spring the unions that comprise the OTF—the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and two smaller unions representing teachers at publicly-funded Catholic and French-language schools—endorsed a two-year wage freeze and major cuts to benefits.
Although the OTF-government deal has huge negative implications for teachers’ future retirement income, they are not being allowed to vote on it.
The OTF-government deal freezes both government and teacher contributions to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan at current levels for at least five years. Invariably this will increase the plan’s deficit, paving the way for further cuts to benefits.
Similar deals that the government signed with three major public sector unions last Fall stipulate that before the government is asked to make up any pension-plan shortfall pensions be reduced by 20 percent.
The freeze in contributions to the teachers’ pension plan comes on top of earlier agreements between the government and the OTF to reduce retirees’ cost-of-living protections against inflation. In 2009, inflation indexing was reduced to 50 percent. In 2011, it was cut to 40 percent. Now, pension benefits will receive no automatic protection against inflation whatsoever and will only be nominally buffered if the pension plan’s funding status eventually improves—a dubious prospect given the contributions freeze, low interest rates, and the ongoing volatility of the bond and stock markets.
Although the recent period has seen a massive speculative rise in stock market indexes, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund reported a $5.1 billion deficit last month. In January 2012, the teachers’ pension plan had a $9.6 billion deficit. Projections for the next two years point to the continuation of a funding shortfall, but these projections do not take into account the prospect that the current rise in equities on North American stock markets is yet another bubble that will, sooner or later, burst.
Teachers currently contribute a whopping 13 percent of their annual salary into their pension plan. There are currently 114,000 retired teachers in the province receiving pensions and 175,000 teaching staff currently working in the schools. With pension earnings largely “grandfathered” for current pensioners and veteran teachers, it is feared that the new OTF deal will create a deep rift between older and younger teachers.
Over the past month the World Socialist Web Site has received several communications from teachers and retirees reporting opposition to the OTF’s pension concessions. One reader recounted membership discontent at a recent meeting of a large south-western Ontario local union of elementary teachers and a reticence to take union leaders’ “assurances” at face value: “A member spoke to express fears that the government will eventually expect teachers to further increase their own contributions. Another member argued that while teachers were polled on the March concessions contract, they were not consulted by the union on the pension concessions. Another teacher put forth that while the unions seek a court ruling against the government’s imposition of concessions last fall, there is no similar challenge to the government’s pension contribution freeze.”
Such discontent is not an isolated occurrence amongst provincial teachers. Last November, OSSTF negotiators reached contracts with several local school boards that were subsequently approved by the Liberal Education Minister as conforming to the government’s austerity template. However, when put to a vote, rank-and-file teachers in York Region and Niagara, two of the province’s largest school districts, rejected the proposed contracts.
For their own part, union officials have not only defended their acceptance of measures aimed at making teachers pay for the capitalist crisis, they are bragging about it. Said OTF President Terry Hamilton of the recent pensions deal: “It is difficult; teachers did take a reduction in benefits, but I think that ensures the sustainability of the pension plan and weathers the storm created by low interest rates and changing demographics. The times didn’t help the situation but it shows how we continue to work effectively with the government.”
This is the stock-in-trade of the trade unions today—collaboration with big business and its political hirelings in imposing austerity at the expense of workers’ jobs, wages and rights and public services. Over the past year, the big business Liberal government has begun to implement—with the support of the trade union-backed New Democrats—budgetary plans to slash $15 billion in social spending over five years. This has so far included wage freezes on over a million public sector workers, further benefit cuts, layoffs and a wrecking ball directed at what remains of the province’s public and social services.
As far as the teachers themselves are concerned, over a hundred thousand mobilized to reject the Liberals’ anti-democratic Bill 115 which suspended free collective bargaining, imposed sweeping concessions and outlawed the right-to-strike. But the unions opposed any genuine struggle against the concessions, limiting teachers to one-day rotating walkouts; then used the labour board’s January ruling that even a one-day protest walkout against Bill 115 was “illegal” to suppress all job action.
No sooner was Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty replaced by Kathleen Wynne than the teachers’ unions begun negotiations with the government to “regularize” the contracts imposed by legislative fiat under Bill 115, while quietly and separately negotiating the pension give-backs.
In April, the OSSTF pushed through a “negotiated” concessionary contract virtually identical to that imposed under Bill 115. And the EFTO is now finalizing a similar deal.
This is what Hamilton means when he brags how “effectively” the unions work with the government.
Indeed, such is the temerity of the teachers’ union leaders that the OSSTF held up the concessions contract it imposed on teachers last month as a “victory.” In fact the paltry change to the government’s litany of concessions—banked sick days for younger teachers bought back by the government for 25 cents on the dollar as opposed to 10 cents—was conditional on savings being wrung from the education budget in other areas. Already, district school boards across the province have delayed school repairs, further reduced art and music programs and planned more layoffs.
The self-satisfaction of the union officialdom was barely diminished when, last month, the Ontario Labour Board ruled that the withdrawal of voluntary extra-curricular activities by elementary teachers over the course of the winter to protest the government’s Bill 115 constituted “illegal strike action.” This decision effectively changes teachers’ conditions of employment, as it makes their participation in voluntary activities mandatory, yet EFTO union head Sam Hammond released a terse statement affirming his union would abide by the decision.
The union officialdom’s pride in “working with the government” has known few bounds. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario have for many years been enthusiastic supporters of the big business Ontario Liberals, hailing former leader Dalton McGuinty as “the education premier” and stumping for the Liberals in the past four elections. The largest OSSTF local—even in the midst of their so-called fight with the government—generously donated last winter to the Liberal leadership campaign war chests of candidates who had supported Bill 115, including the ultimate victor, Wynne.
The attack on working people’s pensions is a global phenomenon. Governments have slashed pension benefits throughout Europe. In its 2012 budget the Harper Conservative government effectively raised the retirement age to 67 and U.S. big business has been braying for years for cuts to Social Security, that is pensions. For many young people entering the labour force, and for workers generally in low-wage industries, there is no prospect for any kind of company pension. In the established industries of the private sector, defined-contribution plans that place pensioners at the mercy of the vicissitudes of the stock market have largely replaced the defined-benefits plans won by workers over decades of struggle. The renewed attack on public sector pension schemes in Ontario is the latest assault on working people’s living standards as the ruling elite continues to enrich itself at the expense of the vast majority of the population.

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British Columbia NDP courts big business in run-up to provincial vote

By Dylan Lubao 
13 May 2013
In the run-up to British Columbia’s May 14 provincial election, the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is signaling to big business that if it unseats the discredited Liberals, the transfer of power will be a seamless one. Under Adrian Dix, provincial party leader since 2011, the trade union-backed NDP has fashioned itself the “practical” choice for “incremental change,” while preparing to continue the austerity policies of Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals.
Recent polls show the NDP in the lead with 45 percent support, compared to the Liberals’ 36 percent. This has nothing to do with popular enthusiasm for the NDP, but rather the deep hostility of the working class and broad sections of the population for the socially destructive 12-year reign of the Liberals—a coalition of Harper Conservatives, federal Liberals, and one-time supporters of the rightwing populist Social Credit Party. The NDP was itself reduced to just two seats in the 2001 provincial election, after a decade in power under Premiers Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, and Ujjal Dosanjh, during which it imposed budget and public-sector wage austerity, used legislation to break strikes, imposed new restrictions on teachers’ right to strike, and embraced workfare and the “law and order” rhetoric of the right.
Clark, and her predecessor Gordon Campbell, patterned their slash-and-burn social policies on those implemented by Mike Harris and his Conservative Party in Ontario during their “Common Sense Revolution” of the late 1990s. The Campbell and Clark governments have overseen an era of rampant profiteering in the private sector, coupled with soaring social inequality and increasing poverty, homelessness, and economic insecurity.
Dix has emphasized the NDP’s support for the huge deterioration in the social position of the working class over the past three decades, by stressing that he will not make the purported mistake of previous NDP governments of “trying to do too much.” With the full support of the trade unions, Dix has been avidly courting big business, pledging that an NDP government will be “business-friendly” and will use its ties to the union bureaucracy to develop a rightwing “consensus.”
Dix has green-lit a perfunctory environmental review of the liquified natural gas industry’s process of “fracking,” to better package the contentious extractive practice for the public palate. He has also offered the film industry generous tax breaks and subsidies, and pledged to exacerbate the depletion of the province’s forests by expanding logging.
Three months prior to the election he took the unprecedented step of naming the person who will serve as the head of his transition team and the B.C. civil service, awarding these tasks to Don Wright, a former forest company executive and, reports the Globe and Mail, “a senior member of the Business Council of B.C.” Dix has also been relying on his one-time boss, former NDP Premier Glen Clark, to open doors for him. Clark is currently the president of billionaire Jim Pattison’s sprawling business empire.
Dix used a recent interview with the Globe as an opportunity to emphasize his readiness to work with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who heads Canada’s most reactionary federal government since the Great Depression. “I am not running to be leader of the opposition in Ottawa,” said Dix. “I’ll work closely with the Prime Minister and other premiers to make this a better country.”
Big business has made clear that it recognizes the NDP will do its bidding. According to the neo-conservative National Post, the CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia touted his “solid” relationship with “key figures” within the NDP. At the same time, sections of business and the corporate media have encouraged Clark in making wild attacks on the NDP, claiming that they will recklessly increase social spending and are hostile to business, so as to push the social democrats still further right.
The NDP has focused its campaign on the call for more government support for job training, so as to provide skilled workers for the province’s lucrative resource industries. Despite a mounting social crisis caused by years of cuts, the NDP is calling for only minor increases in spending on education, child poverty-reduction, and elderly- and disability-care.
For years, British Columbia has had the highest poverty rate in the country, 12 percent or a whopping 510,000 people. The province also has the second highest child-poverty rate, with 119,000 children, representing 14 percent of all B.C. children, living in poverty.
A significant factor driving up poverty rates is the lack of social housing. Vancouver has become the second most expensive housing market in the world.
Charging that the Liberals’ claim to have balanced the budget is not credible, the NDP plans to couple overall spending restraint with small tax increases for business and the most affluent. While the Liberals announced in their pre-election budget that they were increasing the corporate tax rate by 1 percentage point to 11 percent, the NDP says it will bump it up to 12 percent—still far lower than the 16.5 percent rate in place before the Liberals took office in 2001. Similarly, the NDP is proposing a somewhat larger increase than their Liberal rivals in the highest taxation bracket, after years in which the federal and provincial governments have lavished tax cuts on the rich and super rich.
Eager to disassociate the NDP from calls for social reform, Dix has repeatedly said that he favors not programs to “redistribute wealth” but to “pre-distribute” wealth by helping people get skills and education.
During the past decade, workers in B.C. have repeatedly come forward to challenge the Liberal government, only to have the unions and NDP leaders isolate strikes and impose concession-laden agreements on the rank-and-file. Especially noteworthy were the December 2003 ferry workers’ and May 2004 hospital workers’ strikes. In both cases, workers struck in defiance of anti-union laws and their militant action threatened to become the catalyst for a province-wide general strike, since large numbers of workers rightly saw them as challenging the hated Liberal regime. In 2012, when the Liberals passed legislation to break a teachers’ walkout, Bill 22, the NDP offered a mealy-mouthed filibuster and colluded with their union backers to force a quick end to the strike.
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, the working class will quickly come into conflict with B.C.’s next government as it seeks to make working people pay for the global capitalist crisis.

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Ontario: NDP preparing to support another Liberal austerity budget

By Keith Jones 
11 May 2013
With strong backing from the trade unions, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is again preparing to enable Ontario’s minority Liberal government to impose a big business austerity budget.
In the spring of 2012, the NDP ensured the adoption of a Liberal budget that made sweeping social spending cuts—cuts larger than those the hated Conservative government of Mike Harris imposed in the 1990s as part of its “Common Sense Revolution.” The centerpiece of the Liberal budget was a two-year public-sector wage freeze. When the Liberals subsequently imposed contracts by legislative fiat on the province’s public school teachers that froze pay, eliminated bankable sick days, and other concessions, the NDP feigned opposition.
However, no sooner did the Liberals replace Premier Dalton McGuinty with Kathleen Wynne, one of his longtime cabinet ministers, than the NDP and unions signaled that they were eager to resume their close collaboration with the Liberals and would keep sustaining them in office in exchange for a handful of modest new spending initiatives in the next budget.
To provide the unions and social democrats with some political cover, Wynne sanctioned some minor modifications to the concessions contracts imposed on the teachers. Meanwhile, in parallel negotiations, the teachers’ unions agreed to hike their members’ pension contributions and release the government from its liabilities for future pension-plan shortfalls. Instead, these will now be made up through cuts to teachers’ pensions.
At the beginning of this month, the Liberals delivered a budget that reaffirms and broadens the austerity drive they launched in their last budget. Eliminating the budget deficit, declared Finance Minister Charles Sousa, is the “single most important” government objective. The 2013-14 budget limits public spending growth to just 1 percent, which, when population growth and inflation are taken into account, means a substantial cut in real spending. Moreover the Liberals have pledged to cap spending growth at 1 percent per annum until the budget is balanced, that is for at least the next three years.
While the budget imposes 4 percent spending cuts on most departments (Health and Education are exceptions), it contains no significant revenue raising measures. Under conditions where the government claims it confronts a crisis requiring structural changes, it has not even touched the massive cuts in personal income, capital gains, and corporate taxation rates lavished on the rich during the past two decades. Indeed, the budget touts the fact that the Liberals have reduced corporate taxes by $8.5 billion per year since 2009.
While the government is coddling the rich and big business, it is attacking the most vulnerable. The budget keeps the minimum wage frozen at its 2010 level—a miserly $10.25 per hour. Most social assistance (welfare) recipients will receive a meager 1 percent increase, thus ensuring they continue to live in stark poverty. In fact, after a decade of what much of the labour bureaucracy openly praises as “progressive” Liberal rule, both major categories of social assistance recipients (those on disability and those deemed able to work) receive less in real terms than they did under Harris’ Conservative government, which instituted punitive welfare cuts and openly sought to bait the poor.
Needless to say, big business was gratified by the first budget of the Wynne Liberal government. But they were not alone. The unions and NDP quickly signaled their support, lauding the Liberals’ inclusion of a handful of NDP “demands.” These included an Obama-style subsidy for employers who hire young people, a lowering of the taxation rate on welfare recipients’ earned income, and a directive to the auto insurance companies, whose profits have soared due to recent legislation limiting claims, to lower their rates by 15 percent.
After Sousa delivered the Liberal budget, NDP leader Andrea Horvath declared, “Our proposals are reflected in the budget. Today we’re not asking for more.” Not wanting to appear too close to an unpopular, scandal-plagued government, she subsequently announced she would consult with Ontarians about their opinion of the budget.
Top union officials were even more effusive in their praise of the budget and are pressing Horwath not to delay declaring that the NDP will ensure its passage. A joint press release from the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers) and the CEP (Communications Energy and Paperworkers) said the “Ontario budget represents and important shift in emphasis by the provincial government and will make a positive difference in the lives of many Ontarians … [CAW President Ken Lewenza and CEP President Dave Coles] encourage legislators at Queen’s Park to approve the budget.”
For his part, Ontario Federation of Labour Sid Ryan urged Horwath to back the Liberals austerity budget. “She got most of what she was asking for,” said Ryan, adding that “an election right now would be a massive mistake.”
Ryan and the union officialdom are seeking to intimidate workers by pointing to the threat of a Conservative government. Under Tim Hudak, a former member of Harris’ government, the Conservatives have issued a raft of rightwing policy papers, urging privatization of public services, further cuts to welfare and the adoption of US-style right-to-work laws.
According to Lewenza and Coles, workers must sustain in office a Liberal government that is dismantling social and public services and attacking, as under Bill 115, workers’ basic rights, so as “not [to] give Tim Hudak, the chance he is looking for.”
The reality is the three-party system is a ruling class mechanism for defining and asserting its interests, while containing and suppressing the opposition of the working class. The NDP, Liberals and Conservatives all insist that workers’ jobs, wages and rights must be subordinated to investors’ profits and that the working class must pay for the capitalist crisis through austerity measures aimed at dismantling public and social services.
As for the unions, they have incorporated themselves into management and function to police the working class on behalf of big business. Their response to Hudak’s reactionary plans to try to criminalize workers’ resistance has been to argue that the unions play a crucial ruling in managing labor relations, that is in suppressing the class struggle and preventing the emergence of any political challenge to the unfettered domination of big business.
Only through a political and organizational break with these pro-capitalist organizations will the working class be able to mount a counter-offensive against big business—against the common austerity drive being mounted by the federal Conservative government, Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government and Ontario’s NDP-backed Liberal government.

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Harper’s Conservatives Promote Military Ties to Israel

By Yves Engler 
May 10, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – While the Harper Conservative government has loudly proclaimed its close ties to Israel, most Canadians would be surprised to learn the Tories have decided to make the two countries blood brothers. In the international affairs equivalent of a Mafia initiation ceremony Canada has sworn undying loyalty and to be a faithful soldier in Israel’s cause.
Think that’s an exaggeration? Consider the following:
• Since Stephen Harper took office the two nations defence ministers and top generals have repeatedly visited each other’s country. These visits have resulted in various accords and “the [two] countries have agreed to exchange secret defense information,” according to a June 2012 CBC summary of government briefing notes.
• The week before last the head of Canadian Forces visited Israel to deepen “cooperation between the two militaries.” Reportedly, Thomas Lawson met his Israeli counterpart, the Defense Minister and various other senior military officers. According to a Jerusalem Post summary, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon called for Canada and Israel to “further increase their cooperation in the fight against terror in light of the upheaval in the Middle East and Iran’s role in fueling the region’s conflicts.”
• In 2008 Canada and Israel signed a wide-ranging public security agreement and for the first time in its history in 2011 Israel named a defense attaché to Ottawa. Until at least the end of 2010 the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv served as Israel’s Contact Point Embassy to NATO, the military alliance of Western nations. The embassy served as the liaison between Israel and NATO, assisting with visits of NATO officials to Israel. According to internal government documents examined by The Dominion, Ottawa worked to strengthen Israel’s partnership with the military alliance, helping its “pursuit of a Status of Forces Agreement, getting access to the NATO Maintenance Supply Agency, [redacted].”
• In February 2010 deputy foreign minister Peter Kent implied that Canada already considered Israel a member of NATO, which operates according to the principle that an attack on any member is considered an attack against all members. Reflecting the alliance’s purported principle, Kent said “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada” and in July 2011 defence minister Peter MacKay reiterated this position privately. According to briefing notes uncovered by CBC he told Israel’s top military commander, Gabi Ashkenazi that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”
• At the same time as official military relations have intensified there has been an increase in weapons sharing and relations between Israeli and Canadian arms manufacturers. At a November 2011 press conference with his Israeli counterpart defense minister MacKay described the two countries’ “growing relations in the defense sector.” Among the more significant examples, the Canadian military bought the Israeli-made Heron drone for use in Afghanistan and Israel’s Elisra Electronics Systems is working on upgrading a dozen Halifax-class warships.
• Despite the Israeli Defense Force’s many human rights violations, many Canadian companies sell weapons directly to Israel. According to a 2009 Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade report, more than 140 Canadian weapons makers export products to Israel. Last year British Columbia-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates won a $90+ million contract to supply Israel Aerospace Industries with satellite technology. The December 2011 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs detailed some Canadian military exports to Israel. “Ottawa’s Allen Vanguard Corporation provides ‘counterterrorist’ equipment and training. iMPath Networks of Ottawa and Halifax design solutions for real-time video surveillance and intrusion detection technology. Mecachrome Technologies, based in Montréal and Toronto, provides components for military aircraft. And MPB Technologies of Pointe Claire, Edmonton, Airdrie and Calgary manufacturers, among other things, communications equipment and robotics for [Israeli] military use. … British Columbia-based 360 Surveillance sells technology for Israel’s apartheid wall and checkpoints.”
• Taxpayers often underwrite ties between Canadian and Israeli military companies. The multimillion dollar Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation funds research projects (including many in the “security” field) between the two countries’ corporations. (For details see Kole Kilibarda’s Canadian and Israeli Defense -Industrial and Homeland Security Ties: An Analysis).
To the extent that the dominant media questions the Harper government’s pro-Israel policies they focus on public pronouncements, UN votes and other diplomatic moves such as foreign minister John Baird’s recent meeting with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in occupied East Jerusalem (a rare occurrence designed to further legitimize Israel’s illegal control over that part of the city). But, deepening Canadian security ties with Israel may be more significant than the Conservatives anti-Palestinian public statements and UN votes.
For instance, what role do growing ties between the two countries’ military leadership play in the Conservatives extremely hostile position towards Iran? Or, is there a connection between the Canada Israel public security agreement and the RCMP’s highly suspect recent claim that two operatives with “direction and guidance” from “al-Qaeda elements in Iran” planned to blow up a major Canadian bridge? Finally, what role do growing military ties play in spurring the Conservatives’ anti-Palestinian diplomatic moves?
Though little discussed, the military is an important element of the Conservatives ‘Israel no matter what’ policy. In addition to the Jewish establishment, Christian Zionism and the role Israel plays as a Western outpost in the Middle East, the Conservatives militaristic tendencies lead them to support that country. Harper’s government, for instance, is close to the Canadian military companies that sell to Israel and do business with that country’s top-flight weapons industry. Additionally, Canadian military leaders appreciate the tactical information and expertise Israel’s well-practiced military shares.
Like a wanna-be gangster looking up to a Mafia boss, the Harperites are impressed by the large role Israel’s military plays in the country’s affairs.
Ordinary Canadians should be concerned. Very concerned.
Former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union, Yves Engler is an Ottawa and Montréal based activist and author.yvesengler.com

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Canada quick to try to cash in on its leading role in war on Libya

By Laurent Lafrance 
26 April 2013
Recently published documents reveal that Canada was plotting an all-out commercial offensive in Libya even before the end of the 2011 war, hoping to cash in on its prominent role in the U.S.-led aggression against the oil-rich North African country.
This revelation underscores the cynical and hypocritical character of the Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in the war, which was supported and dressed up as a “humanitarian” intervention by the Conservative government and all the parties in Canada’s parliament including the social-democratic NDP, the pro-Quebec independence Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Party.
According to documents obtained by Postmedia News, a plan to support Canadian companies interested in doing business in Libya was approved by cabinet on Sept. 7, 2011. By that time— thanks to a bombing campaign, covert operations, and arms and logistical support from the U.S., France, Britain, Canada and other NATO powers—the imperialist-sponsored National Transitional Council of Libya had taken control of the capital of Tripoli. Nevertheless, forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi still controlled much of the country.
The documents, which were prepared for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird before a trip to Libya in Oct. 2011, state that, “Canadians will want to see a return on our engagement and investment.” The documents argue “aggressive international competition” makes “early engagement with the new Libyan leadership on commercial matters…of interest to both countries,” while adding that, “a new Libya presents numerous business opportunities for new investments in different sectors of the economy.”
This information confirms the analysis made by the World Socialist Web Siteat the beginning of the Libyan war. “Canada’s participation in the military attack on Libya, alongside US imperialism and the region’s old dominant colonial powers, France and Great Britain, has nothing to do with aiding the Libyan people,” declared the WSWS in an article published March 22, 2013. “Rather it is aimed at securing control over the country’s oil resources and reasserting the hegemony of the US and its allies over a region that has been convulsed by popular uprisings against a reactionary and autocratic US-imposed social and political order.” (See: “Canada joins imperialist assault on Libya”)
Baird was told that his visit to Tripoli would “cement Canada’s role as a key player in Libya going forward based on our role over the past seven months.”
“It would reinforce our position among a small group of NATO allies and regional actors that led the Operation Unified Protector,” add the Conservative cabinet briefing notes.
“A ministerial visit would reinforce in the minds of the Libyans that Canada is among this elite group of New Libya supporters and sets the foundation for the active promotion of Canadian interests going forward.”
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) did indeed play a significant role in the assault on Libya. By the end of May 2011, the seven CF-18 fighter jets that Canada had deployed to the Libyan theatre had flown 324 attack missions and dropped 240 laser-guided bombs. Only the US, French, and British militaries mounted more air sorties over, and bombing raids on, Libya.
Several weeks before parliament unanimously declared its support for the CAF’s deployment to Libya, the Conservatives had dispatched a naval frigate to patrol off of Tripoli and Canadian Special Operations Forces had been deployed inside Libya. When NATO took charge of the air war against Libya, a Canadian general, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, was given responsibility for directing the campaign to overthrow the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and replace it with one even more subservient to western interests.
While the cabinet documents show that the Conservative government was eager to seek out new opportunities for Canadian business in the “new Libya,” they also reveal that it was intent on getting the new Libyan authorities to honour existing contracts between the government and Canadian firms. They also wanted to ensure that the dozen or so Canadian companies active in Libya when the war erupted were paid for any work they had done. These companies included Montreal-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin, Petro-Techna, Canadian Petroleum Processing Equipment, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Pure Technologies, Air Richelieu and Calgary-based energy giant Suncor.
Like its Liberal predecessor, the Harper Conservative was more than willing to do business with Gaddafi once his regime had renounced its anti-imperialist pretensions, reopened the country’s oil industry to foreign investment, and agreed to cooperate with the CIA.
But after US-backed authoritarian regimes were toppled by revolutions in Libya’s eastern and north-eastern neighbours, respectively Egypt and Libya, the western powers, including Canada, rediscovered that Gaddafi was an oppressive dictator, so as to provide a smokescreen for the installation of an even more subservient government in Tripoli. Of course this did not stop them from continuing to sustain in power a string of autocratic regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, while supporting Israel in its dispossession and repression of the Palestinian people.
Canada’s participation in the imperialist attack on Libya was the outcome of a major shift in the Canadian elite’s foreign and geo-political posture that began in the 1990s and has accelerated in this century, involving the CAF’s repeated deployment in imperialist interventions and a massive rearmament campaign. In 2011, Canada was fighting wars in Libya and Afghanistan and in real, inflation-adjusted, dollars spending more on its military than any time since the Cold War. Under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has participated in numerous US-led wars and imperialist interventions over the past two decades including the first Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, and the 2004 ousting of Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Today, more than eleven years after Canadian troops were first deployed to Afghanistan, a thousand-strong CAF force remains in the country providing training to the army of the corrupt, US-installed regime of Hamid Karzai.
And in the name of the “war on terror,” the CAF is now participating in the French imperialist intervention in Mali, an intervention that Paris and Ottawa justify on the grounds that they need to suppress Islamacist forces—forces that they previously armed and supported as part of their efforts to overthrow the Gaddafi regimes.
Much of the Canadian population is opposed to the country’s participation in imperialist war. If the Canadian bourgeoisie is able to continue sending its army to pillage semi-colonial countries overseas while implementing savage austerity policies measures at home, it is because the trade unions and the NDP work to defuse, dissipate and smother the resistance of the working class.
While the NDP postures on occasion as an anti-war party, it is has lent support to all of the Canada’s military interventions over the past two decades. (See: “Canada: How the NDP facilitates imperialist war”) In June 2011, in one of its first acts upon becoming the Official Opposition, the NDP voted in favor of a government motion extending and expanding Canada’s leading role in the NATO war on Libya. In an act of duplicity that raised eyebrows even among the press corps, the NDP justified this vote by claiming that it had secured “concessions” from the Harper government that reaffirmed that the CAF was deployed in a “humanitarian” mission, not a war for regime change.
The supposedly left, pro-Quebec independence Québec Solidaire played a similar role. In March 2011, its then lone member of the Quebec National Assembly and co-party leader, Amir Khadir, publicly supported Canada’s participation in the war on Libya. Khadir, who in the past had denounced the US invasion of Iraq, said that, “if the West truly wants to help, that will require some risks.” He then went on to give his support to the National Transitional Council of Libya, an imperialist-created body comprised of defectors from the Gaddfai regime, Islamacists, and CIA “assets,” and justified his support for the war the western powers were waging on Libya on the grounds it had the Council’s support.

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Ontario Liberals to keep raising post-secondary tuition fees

By Dylan Lubao 
19 April 2013
Ontario’s young people face mounting barriers to higher education as the province’s Liberal government sanctions further hikes in university and college tuition fees.
Last month Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, announced that college and university undergraduate tuition fees will be allowed to rise by 3 percent per year for the next four years. Graduate university and professional programs will be allowed to raise their tuition fees by 5 percent per annum.
Duguid tried to dress up these latest increases as a matter of “fairness,” since an earlier government tuition-fee framework had called for college and undergraduate students to pay as much as 5 percent more per year and those enrolled in graduate and professional programs 8 percent.
At the same time, Duguid sought to reassure big business of the Liberals’ rightwing intentions, by emphasizing that under the new plan tuition fees will continue to rise more than inflation.
Most Ontario students would consider Duguid’s “fairness” claim dubious to say the least. They are already paying the highest tuition fees in the country, and must contend with mounting debt, growing youth unemployment and stagnant wages.
The average Ontario undergraduate student pays $7,100 in annual tuition fees, graduating with an average debt of $27,000. Graduate students pay $8,000 on average. These figures do not take into account additional compulsory fees, which run into the hundreds of dollars per year.
Under the government’s new tuition-fee framework, annual tuition in 2016 will cost $8,000 and $9,000 for undergraduate and graduate programs, respectively.
The hikes are deeply unpopular. A recent poll conducted by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance shows that 71 percent of Ontarians believe post-secondary tuition fees should not rise faster than inflation. Some 60 percent support a freeze in tuition fees and an increase in government funding to colleges and universities.
In a cynical show of concern about accessibility to education, the Liberals last year introduced a 30 percent tuition rebate for students with a household income of less than $160,000. Because of various restrictions, it is estimated that less than half of all undergraduate students and one third of college students receive this aid. Graduate students and those who waited more than four years before entering a post-secondary institution are ineligible. These restrictions disproportionately affect single parents and aboriginal youth, who generally enter school much later.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives are proposing to rescind the rebate as part of a raft of retrograde changes. These, including tying student aid to academic performance and “assessments of future employability, hiring teaching-only professors, discouraging university enrollment in favour of college, and raising tuition fees even higher for vaguely-defined “elite” programs. All of these measures would negatively affect the quality of post-secondary education, with the burden falling largely on working class youth.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath praised last month’s Liberal post-secondary fee hike announcement, calling it a “good first step.” The trade union-backed NDP has propped up the minority Liberal government for the past year-and-a-half as it has implemented an austerity budget that cut billions from social spending and imposed concessions contracts on teachers by legislative fiat.
The Liberals have demanded that the already cash-starved universities and colleges cut $40 million in spending from their budgets this year, and an additional $80 million next year.
The public share of university funding has declined precipitously over the past two decades as the result of cuts instituted by successive NDP, Conservative, and Liberal provincial governments. Students now shoulder 44 percent of university operating costs, up from 15 percent in 1980, when the average cost of tuition was $830.
To compensate for years of chronic underfunding, post-secondary institutions have increasingly courted the private sector for donations. Big-business influence on university campuses across the province is ubiquitous. Many buildings and even individual classrooms bear the names of corporate brands or wealthy donors. In philanthropy, as in business, the ruling class demands a profitable return on investment, and achieves this by pressing for research and academic programs to be ever-more closely tailored to its needs.
A study published late last year by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) states that “since 1990, with few exceptions, the tuition fee burden across the country has been increasing relative to income, at a time when many families have less money to spend and are more deeply in debt.” The debt-to-income ratio for Canadian families now exceeds 150 percent, up 60 percent since 1990.
Working class families have been hit hardest. Figures from Statistics Canada show that 50 percent of youth from families in the top income quartile attend university by age 19, compared to just 31 percent of youth from the bottom quartile. Nearly 30 percent of 18-24 year olds forego a college or university education because they cannot afford it.
At a point in their lives when their productive and imaginative potentials are at their peak, young people find a crisis-ridden capitalist system raising barriers to education and denying them meaningful employment even when they graduate. The youth unemployment rate is currently 14.1 percent and rising. Almost a quarter of university graduates with a bachelor’s degree are employed in full-time jobs that do not require one. One in ten with a graduate degree are in the same position.
The Canadian Federation of Students, the country’s largest student organization and a close ally of the NDP and the unions, acts to channel the anger of students into politically harmless protests aimed at pressuring the establishment. Across the province, its regular “Drop Fees” campaign brings students out for a “Day of Action” that largely dissipates before it reaches its intended destination at Toronto’s Queen’s Park, the seat of the provincial parliament.
Reflecting the rightward shift of its social-democratic and union patrons, the CFS recently decided to scrap its 2013 Day of Action.
The CFS, which dominates student union organizations in many universities, widely promotes identity politics. In so doing, it obscures the class nature of the cuts to higher education, which are part of big business’ drive to place the burden of the capitalist crisis on working people, and seeks to turn students away from the working class—the only social force with the power to break the subordination of all socio-economic life to the profits of big business.
Students in Ontario and across Canada need to draw the lesson of last year’s Quebec student strike. Although the students showed great militancy and determination, their six-month struggle ended in defeat. The opposition to the provincial Liberal government’s tuition hikes and broader austerity agenda was channeled behind the election of a big business Parti Quebecois government, which has now imposed social spending cuts even greater than its Liberal predecessor, including $250 million in cuts to university budgets, and has hiked university tuition fees by 3 percent per year for the next five years.
The NDP and unions bear the principal responsibility for this. The former refused to give even nominal support for the strike. The unions professed support, while systematically isolating the striking students, and they and the student associations with which they were the most closely allied, FECQ and FEUQ, openly stumped for the PQ.
But the strike’s defeat was also a product of the politics of CLASSE, the student group which initiated the strike movement and which sections of the CFS now promote as a model for students elsewhere in Canada. CLASSE constrained the students’ struggle to a single issue protest limited to pressuring the Quebec establishment. It opposed making the strike the spearhead of a movement of the working class against the austerity program of big business as a whole and refused to challenge the authority of the unions, even when they made clear they would leave students to fight alone against the police and the Liberals’ draconian anti-strike law, Bill 78.

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NDP “prepares for government” by emphasizing its kinship with Obama

By Keith Jones 
17 April 2013
Canada’s official opposition, the trade union-supported New Democratic Party (NDP), touted last weekend’s party policy convention as a showcase of its “readiness to govern” and toward that end adopted “pragmatic” policies, “modernized” its rhetoric, and emphasized its kinship with other “progressive” parties like Barack Obama’s Democrats and the Australian Labor Party
In other words, Canada’s social democrats used the convention as a fresh opportunity to demonstrate to the ruling class that they are a suitable replacement for the Liberals as its “left party” of government—a party that uses empty rhetoric about social justice and equality of opportunity as a smokescreen for implementing capitalist austerity and waging imperialist war.
The convention gave a resounding show of support for federal party leader Thomas Mulcair, voting 92.3 percent against a review of his leadership. A Quebec Liberal cabinet minister from 2003 to 2006, Mulcair toyed with a job offer from Stephen Harper’s Conservative government before agreeing in 2007 to serve as the Quebec lieutenant of the then NDP leader, the late Jack Layton.
In his address to the convention, Mulcair made anodyne criticisms of mounting social inequality and the Conservative government’s cuts to jobless benefits and attacks on workers’ rights. Needless to say, he made no mention of his own votes in favor of Quebec Liberal legislation facilitating the contracting out of work and imposing seven-year wage cutting contracts on a half-million public sector workers.
As proof of the NDP’s readiness to govern responsibly, he pointed to the record of provincial NDP governments, saying they have set the standard “for good public administration.” In reality, the NDP provincial governments of the past two decades have presided over deepening social inequality and economic insecurity. They have rationed public services, hiked user fees, imposed wage-cutting public sector “restraint” programs, and lavished tax cuts and other concessions on big business.
For his part, Mulcair has vowed that a federal NDP government will not increase personal income or capital gains taxes for the rich and will match the Conservatives’ pledge to eliminate the annual federal budget deficit by fiscal 2015-16.
Mulcair boasted that the NDP’s unexpected sweep of 59 of Quebec’s 75 federal parliamentary seats in the 2011 election has strengthened federalist forces, emphasizing thereby that the NDP stands with the predominant faction of the Canadian ruling class in its reactionary power struggle with that faction of the Quebec elite that favors an independent capitalist République du Québec. Of course all sections of Quebec and Canadian big business are united in seeking to place the burden of the greatest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression on the working class. In his address Mulcair implicitly rejected calls from within his party and from its trade union allies for an electoral alliance with the Liberals, vowing that the NDP will stand candidates in all 338 federal constituencies in the 2015 election. But when asked about the possibility of an alliance with the Liberals on the convention’s sidelines, Mulcair noted that because the NDP “had made it our priority to replace Stephen Harper” it had pressed in 2008 for a coalition with the Liberals—a coalition under which the NDP was to have served as the junior partner in a government committed to fiscal responsibility, implementing the $50 billion Liberal-Conservative corporate tax-cut plan, and waging war in Afghanistan.
In Ontario, the NDP is already in an alliance with the Liberals, propping up a minority Liberal government that has slashed billions from social spending and imposed concession-contracts on the province’s teachers by government fiat.
Under Layton and now Mulcair, the NDP has emphasized its close affinity with the US Democratic Party. The NDP leadership has gushing praise for the Democratic Party administration of Barak Obama—an administration that bailed out the financial aristocracy, has slashed trillions from social spending, waged predatory wars in Central Asia and the Middle East, and expanded the Bush administration’s assault on democratic rights, including asserting the right to summarily kill U.S. citizens with drone strikes.
The NDP has also developed close organizational ties with the Democrats. “Obama for America” national field director Jeremy Byrd was a convention keynote speaker. So too, were the former Clinton advisor and economist Joseph Stiglitz, entrepreneur Ruma Bose, and a prominent member of Australia’s Labor Party (ALP) government, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.
The ALP has spearhead repeated rounds of capitalist restructuring that have seen wide swathes of the health care system privatized, wages slashed, and a huge growth in contract labor. Recently it adopted legislation that criminalizes almost all worker job action. The ALP government is also playing a major role in the Obama’s administration preparations for war with China, recently agreeing to the stationing of U.S. troops in the country.
The old constitution preamble had never impeded the NDP, working with its trade unions allies to systematically suppress the class struggle, including invoking strikebreaking laws, or slashing social spending, or supporting Canada’s participation in imperialist wars, most recently in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali.
Nevertheless, the party leadership was determined to jettison the old preamble as demonstrable evidence of its shift still further right. In a pre-convention editorial, the Globe and Mail, the traditional mouthpiece of Canada’s financial elite, had urged just that, declaring, “The NDP’s roots, as defined by its current constitution, lie in poisoned ground, and should be abandoned at all costs.”
The corporate media gave considerable coverage to the purported fight to defend the “socialist” character of the NDP that was mounted by pseudo-socialist groups like the Socialist Caucus and Fightback. These groups are tolerated by the NDP leadership because they work tirelessly to keep the working class under their political control and that of the pro-capitalist trade unions, propping up thereby the enforcers of capitalist austerity and policemen of the working class. Following their defeat, the pseudo-lefts quickly reconciled themselves, announcing that they would support the NDP and Mulcair at the next election. Declared Socialist Caucus head Barry Weisleder, “It would be insane to abandon this party to those who want to embrace capitalism in crisis.” In other words, Weisleder and company want to continue to provide the big business NDP with a desperately needed political cover and thereby smother the mounting resistance of the working class.

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Canada’s government suppresses scientific reporting

By Carl Bronski 
4 April 2013
Amidst charges that the Conservative government has instituted measures to restrict federal government scientists from sharing their findings and opinions with journalists and, hence, the general public, Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, advised this week that her office will investigate.
In February, Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Law Clinic lodged a complaint with Legault alleging that the government has breached the Access to Information Act by instituting a “policy forcing scientists to jump through hoops before speaking with the media.”
The complainants allege that the government systematically manipulates and suppresses the release of scientific information by not allowing federally-employed scientists to speak freely to the media, selecting which media requests can be answered, and crafting scripted responses from the government’s communications representatives to be mouthed by scientists during any permitted interviews or presentations. Moreover, on those few occasions when federal scientists are allowed to speak at media events, the government seeks to intimidate them by having them accompanied by communications “watch-dogs” and requiring civil servants to record any public statements that they may make.
Democracy Watch and the University of Victoria Law Clinic provided Legault with a series of alarming examples to buttress their case against the government. Many of the cases cited involved scientists investigating environmental issues associated with global warming, fishery depletion, and radiation proliferation, around which there was increased public concern after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan. Scientists were ordered to refrain from speaking to the media and requests by the media for access to scientific experts were routinely refused until long after journalists’ deadlines had passed.
The gag order on the country’s scientific community coincides with an increasing government assault on science as a whole.
In its 2012-13 and 2013-14 budgets, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government outlined a massive program of social spending cuts that will see federal discretionary spending reduced by $9 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal year and by almost $60 billion over the next five years. While virtually all programs are impacted, the government has made scientific and environmental research programs a special target.
As a result of the government’s new “streamlined” environmental review process, 3,000 scheduled environmental assessments have been cancelled. Research stations in Canada’s national parks are closing or have had their funding reduced. Sixty Environment Canada scientists are losing their jobs and one hundred scientists at the Canada Research Council (CRC) are being axed. The cuts at the CRC are part of a government-ordered refocusing of its mandate. Basic research projects are being discouraged and de-funded in favor of commercially applicable research.
World renowned programs, such as the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Ontario are slated to close. Located in the Ontario wilderness, the ELA, which consists of 58 lakes and a laboratory, provides a unique environment for testing the impact of chemicals in a natural environment. It has provided critical data for the study of acid rain and the impact of chemical fertilizers on marine life.
Reduced regulatory oversight provisions in Harper’s budgets are also taking their toll. A team of Environment Canada technicians—the only group in the country capable of monitoring cancer causing smokestack emissions—has been disbanded. In addition, a leading-edge ozone depletion station in the Yukon will soon be closed and a project to monitor and study the impact of oil spills has been cancelled.
Since taking office in 2006, the Harper government, as part of its overall agenda of promoting big business and business profits at the expense of working people, has consistently sought to weaken environmental protection and oversight. Already in 2008 it abolished the post of National Science Advisor.
As part of its push to make Canada an “energy super-power” through rapid expansion of oil production from the Alberta tar sands, Harper and his government have sought to downplay, if not outright dismiss, concerns about climate change.
Canada was the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. More recently, it has curtailed the public inquiry into the Gateway Pipeline project to move tar sands bitumen to the Pacific coast, smeared environmental groups opposed to the development of the tar sands as “radical” and “un-Canadian,” and threatened them with the loss of their charitable tax status.
Last week, Harper’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, announced that Canada was withdrawing from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification—a body that seeks to ameliorate the drought conditions associated with the phenomenon of global warming.
Echoing the rhetoric of the American right, Harper long dismissed the research on global warming as “tentative and contradictory” and branded the (failed) attempt to curtail greenhouse gasses under the Kyoto Protocol a “socialist scheme”.
The Harper government’s aversion to scientific reporting extends far beyond opposition to environmental regulation . In 2010 Harper cancelled the long-form reporting requirement during the decennial national census. Information gleaned from the long-form census had long served as a scientific tool for those pressing for the maintenance and expansion of public services.
There is another aspect to the Conservative’s method. The attack on objective science and the free movement of scientific thought in general is part of a wider promotion of ignorance and social reaction.
Harper, an evangelical Christian, and his Conservatives have not dared to mount a frontal attack on women’s right to abortion, because they know it would be electoral suicide. But they are seeking to promote a socially conservative and religious obscurantist agenda by other means. The Harper government’s assault on science is a centerpiece of that project and dove-tails with changes in funding policies for all manner of government and non-governmental agencies.
Monies provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to religious non-profit organizations increased by 42 percent between 2005 and 2010. Over the same time period, secular NGOs received only a 5 percent increase. And to guarantee a more direct link in future between the government’s predatory foreign policy and CIDA, that organization will soon be subsumed under the Department of Foreign Affairs. Christian universities and colleges have enjoyed a massive influx of government funds over the past several years.
Recently, the Harper government—even as it curtails the democratic rights of striking workers via back-to-work laws, organizes state violence against social and environmental activists (G20), and covers up vote suppression tactics—announced with much fanfare, the creation of a new Office of Religious Freedom with generous funding.
The attack on science, in lock-step with the state promotion of religious obscurantism receives a significant amount of support from within the political and media establishment because the promotion of these ideologies is a principal means by which the ruling elite is seeking to build a base of support for its antidemocratic, militarist and right-wing economic and geo-political agenda. Conversely, the defense of reason and science must be a foundational principle of the working class-led socialist struggle for human liberation.

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Canada’s Conservatives slash social spending, promise further tax cuts for the rich

By Keith Jones 
29 March 2013
Canada’s Conservative government has tabled another austerity budget—a budget that in the name of eliminating the annual deficit intensifies big business’s drive to make working people pay for the capitalist crisis .
The budget extends and expands the program of spending cuts the Conservatives launched in 2010. According to the government, these cuts will reduce government spending by almost C$9.1 billion in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and by close to C$58 billion over the next five years.
Federal discretionary spending in the coming year will be C$4 billion less than in the fiscal year ending March 31, a cut of 5 percent, and effectively flat-lined in the following four years. In nominal dollars—that is before accounting for inflation—Ottawa’s discretionary spending in 2017-2018 will by almost C$2.5 billion less than in 2012-2013.
At C$252.9 billion, total federal program spending will increase by just 0.75 percent in the coming year. Due to inflation and population growth, this constitutes a substantial cut in real per capita spending.
Thousands of federal workers have already lost their jobs as the government slashes environmental oversight, meat inspection, help in accessing government programs, Parks Canada, and numerous other services. As of the middle of last month, 19,800 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, or more than 10 percent of the total membership of the principal union representing federal government workers, had received notices from management that their jobs could be terminated.
In presenting the budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty trumpeted the reactionary fiscal framework that has been created by the corporate, capital gains, and personal income tax cuts implemented by Liberal and Conservative federal governments alike since the turn of the century. “The federal tax burden,” declared Flaherty, “is now the lowest it has been in 50 years.” The lion’s share of the tax savings, as the growth in real incomes, has been pocketed by the richest 10 percent and especially the top 1 percent.
Although government revenues have fallen significantly short of projections due to anemic economic growth during the past year, Flaherty reasserted the government’s intention to balance the budget by the 2015-2016 fiscal year and do so without raising taxes.
So severe has been the fall-off in projected revenues, Flaherty suggested last fall that the Conservatives might push back their deficit-elimination target by a year. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper quickly intervened, declaring that his government would not waver from its commitment to balance the budget prior to the next election in May 2015. The Conservatives have repeatedly declared that no sooner is the budget balanced than they will introduce a raft of tax-cutting measures. The aim of these tax cuts will be to transfer an even larger share of the national wealth to the most privileged sections of society and to deprive the federal state of the revenues needed to sustain existing programs, so as to provide the pretext for further budget cuts.
While slashing public services and preparing a new round of tax cuts, the government is pressing forward with a massive military procurement program, including the purchase of new fighter aircraft and battleships. These procurements are viewed by the government and the Canadian elite as a whole as critical to maintaining their ability to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces in U.S.-led imperialist wars, as in Afghanistan and Libya, and advancing thereby their predatory economic and geo-political interests. The Conservatives also intend to use the procurements to boost Canada’s armaments industry, which they hope to develop into one of the country’s major exporters.
Sections of the corporate media have dismissed last week’s budget as a “stand-pat” or even “do-nothing” budget. To be sure, the 2013 budget does not contain sweeping changes akin to those introduced in last year’s, the Conservatives’ first full budget since they secured a parliamentary majority. The 2012 budget raised the retirement age; reduced unemployment eligibility and benefits and introduced new measures to compel the jobless to accept low-wage work; enshrined a health care funding formula that will see the federal government’s contribution to Medicare fall sharply over the next decade; and gutted environmental regulations and the regulatory review process for resource extraction and pipeline projects.
Nevertheless, last week’s budget is chock-full of right-wing measures. Moreover, it need be noted the government continues to use duplicitous and fundamentally undemocratic means to push through its spending cuts and sweeping changes in government policy. Last year’s two omnibus budget bills contained many measures, such as the changes to environmental oversight, that were only briefly and vaguely mentioned in the budget and that had little to do with the financial and economic matters that have traditionally been the purview of budget bills. The opposition parties, the outgoing parliamentary budget officer, and the unions representing federal workers have repeatedly protested over the government’s refusal to provide parliament with detailed information about where spending has been cut and what jobs and services have been eliminated.
Last week’s budget was entirely in keeping with this practice. The government has hidden its spending cuts, although their scale is suggested by its pledge to “introduce legislation as needed to consolidate operations and eliminate redundant organizations.”
Regressive measures announced in the 2013-2014 budget include:
* A C$1 billion cut in the money Ottawa will provide municipalities in the coming fiscal year for infrastructure projects. The Conservative are touting their budget’s announcement of a 10-year, C$50 billion-plus federal infrastructure program, but this is largely smoke and mirrors, based on the repackaging of existing funding and postdated promises of new money. In the coming year, infrastructure spending is being slashed, and most of the promised spending will only take place in 2020 or after—and this at a time when numerous studies have documented the need for massive investment in water and sewage systems, bridges, roads, public transit and other basic infrastructure.
* A new drive to promote PPPs (public-private partnerships) under which private corporations are able to lock in government-guaranteed profits, while shouldering little if any risk. The government has extended a dedicated fund for PPP infrastructure projects and, even more significantly, imposed a new obligation to give priority to using the PPP model in all infrastructure projects over C$100 million that are partially financed by its Building Canada Fund.
* A workfare program for aboriginal young people. The government is establishing a so-called First Nations Job Fund to finance job training on reservations. But only band councils that force all young people receiving social assistance to participate in government-supervised job training will be eligible to draw from the fund.
The budget provides no additional funding for education for native youth living on reservations, although the funding that Ottawa provides for reservation schools is far less per capita than what the provincial governments provide their elementary and secondary schools. (Under Canada’s constitution, education is a provincial responsibility, with the exception of the education of on-reserve native youth, for which Ottawa is responsible.)
* A sweeping attack on federal workers’ benefits and pensions. The budget announces that the government will “propose changes” to federal employees’ “compensation and pensioner benefits” and “disability and sick leave.” From a government that has repeatedly complained that it is “unfair” that federal workers—after years of concessions contracts in industry—have “richer entitlements” than their counterparts in the private sector, these are code words for sweeping rollbacks, including increasing workers’ pension contributions and replacing defined pension benefits with a defined contribution scheme in which workers bear much if not all of the risk.
The attack on federal workers’ benefits is aimed not just at cutting government spending at workers’ expense; it is meant to bolster the drive of big business to gut what remains of the benefits workers won through the establishment of the industrial unions in the 1930s and 1940s and the convulsive strike struggles of the 1960s and 1970s.
In a pre-budget statement, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president John Gordon vowed to resist the government’s attack, saying the union won’t “trade,” “swap,” “sell,” or “give away” public sector workers sick leave benefits.
The reality is that the unions, public and private, have systematically suppressed the class struggle over the past three decades and accepted massive contract concessions. Moreover, the government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is ready to run roughshod over collective bargaining rights, so as to break strikes and assist employers, including Air Canada, Canada Posts and CP Rail, impose concessions, including cuts to pensions. And in every case, the unions have meekly submitted.
* The tying of Canada’s foreign development aid even more completely to the Canadian elite’s profit drive and geo-political ambitions.
The 45 year-old Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and its almost C$4 billion budget are to absorbed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry. The CIDA was always an arm of Canada’s imperialist foreign policy and its aid tied to purchases of Canadian products. But in recent years the Conservatives have tied the CIDA’s operations even more tightly with big business, coordinating its aid with Canadian mining companies’ investments in Africa and Latin America, and stipulating that part of the CIDA’s core mission is to work with governments to “build free markets”—i.e., push for privatization and the removal of all barriers to Canadian investment.
* Tariff increases that will raise the prices working people have to pay for electronics, clothes and numerous other products. The budget raises tariffs on goods from 72 countries—including India, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand—by eliminating their entitlement to the 3 percent lower tariff Canada accords exports from “developing countries.”
The Globe and Mail, the traditional voice of Canada’s financial elite, hailed the Conservative budget. In an editorial titled “Stephen Harper in full flight,” it lavished praise on the government for “challenging the old ways of thinking and doing things” and “without an infusion of money.” The neoconservativeNational Post said the budget should have gone further in slashing public services: “All we can say to our fellow deficit hawks is that it could be worse—and has been before.”
The opposition parties issued ritualistic condemnations of the budget. They noted for example that while the Conservatives claimed to be focused on providing young people with the skills they need to find work, the budget provided only tiny increases in funding for job training and did nothing to help students deal with rising university and college tuition fees.
The political sparring is a fraud aimed at containing the mounting popular anger. The entire political elite is united in insisting that working people bear the burden of the greatest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression.
The trade union-supported NDP is propping up a Liberal government in Ontario that has cut billions from social spending and imposed by legislative fiat contracts on more than 100,000 teachers that slash their real wages and sick-leave benefits. In a trip to Washington and New York earlier this month, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair reassured U.S. business and political leaders that the Canada’s social democrats are anxious to work with them, are as committed as the Conservatives to balancing the budget by 2015, and will not raise personal income taxes should they form the next government (see “Head of Canada’s NDP auditions before US elite“).
Quebec’s Parti Quebecois (PQ) government has imposed its own program of steep social spending cuts, delivering an emergency austerity budget last November that was warmly praised by big business. Having been able, thanks to the assistance of the unions and Quebec Solidaire, to politically suppress last year’s militant student strike, the PQ announced last month that university tuition fees will henceforth increase annually.
To oppose the big business offensive on jobs, wages, and public services, workers must break free of the political and organizational stranglehold of the pro-capitalist unions and NDP and combine militant industrial action, including strikes and plant occupations, with the development of an independent political movement of the working class aimed at bringing to power workers’ governments. Then economic life could be radically reorganized to make social needs, not the profits of a tiny elite, its animating principle.

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Head of Canada’s NDP auditions before US elite

By Graham Beverley 
19 March 2013
Party leader Thomas Mulcair and several other leading New Democrats travelled to Washington, D.C. and New York City last week for a series of closed-door talks with Obama administration officials, Democratic Party politicians, business leaders and other representatives of American and international capital. Mulcair used the opportunity to demonstrate to the U.S. ruling elite that the New Democratic Party (NDP) is dedicated to defending the interests of big business and a dependable ally of U.S. imperialism.
Canada’s social democrats, who vaulted to the position of Official Opposition in the last federal election, have explained their political success as a result of their “moving to the centre.” This slide to the right, accelerated by the late Jack Layton, has only deepened under his successor—a former minister in the widely-hated Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.
“It’s the first time that the NDP is in a position to form a government and we’re planning to do just that in 2015,” Mulcair said before leaving. “Part of our work in the run-up to that is to get to know the Americans and have them learn who the NDP are and what our history is and what our positions are.”
In a statement sent to party members after the NDP delegation returned to Canada, Paul Dewar, the party’s Foreign Affairs critic, gushed that “the goal of this trip was to introduce the NDP to key American decision-makers. And I’m happy to tell you that we found a very receptive audience.”
Dewar claimed that the NDP is “building a fairer, greener and more prosperous country for all—and bringing that vision to the world stage.” In reality, the NDP, like the British Labour Party, France’s Socialist Party, Greece’s PASOK and social-democratic parties the world over, is a party of capitalist austerity and imperialist war and this was well-illustrated by those Mulcair chose to meet and the statements he made while on his 3-day U.S. visit.
Among others, the federal NDP leader met with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in House of Representatives, former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, and officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He also addressed leaders of the Canadian-American Business Council.
Speaking directly to the US political and business elite, Mulcair sought to counter the rhetoric of Canada’s Conservative government, which has launched Republican-type broadsides against the NDP, accusing of it being “dangerously radical” and “leftist.”
Mulcair repeatedly assured his U.S. audiences and interlocutors that the NDP is as committed as the Harper-led Conservatives and the Liberals to eliminating the federal deficit and upholding “fiscal responsibility”. The NDP leader pledged that if his party formed Canada’s next government it would not raise personal income taxes on the wealthy, although these have been slashed by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
Mulcair said that to help eliminate the deficit an NDP government would roll back some of the corporate tax cuts that the Conservatives have lavished on big business, raising the corporate tax rate from the current 15 percent to around the 2010 level of 18 percent. In 2000, the federal corporate tax rate was 28 percent.
Mulcair has refused comment on what was discussed in the many private meetings he held with U.S. leaders. But it is clear that one issue that figured prominently was the growing oil extraction operations in the Alberta tar sands.
Canada’s corporate media, echoing the Harper Conservatives, have seized upon a statement Pelosi made after her meeting with Mulcair to accused the NDP leader of “trash-talking Canada” before foreigners and interfering with the massive investment being undertaken to transport bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in the southern US. When asked about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Pelosi had said that “Canadians don’t want [it] in their own country.”
In the face of the Conservative-corporate media furor over Pelosi’s remarks, an anonymous aide to Mulcair rushed to inform the Globe and Mail that “those were Nancy Pelosi’s words, not Mulcair’s.” The NDP leader did say on several occasions that he believed the first priority should be building a west-east pipeline within Canada, so as to strengthen the Canadian nation-state and assure more of the profits from the tar sands remain in Canada.
Later in an interview with Bloomberg News Service, Mulcair argued that oil companies looking to invest in Canada would do better under an NDP government than under the Conservatives, because the social democrats would be better able to placate public concerns over unbridled tar sands development. In their 2012 budget the Conservative government made steep cuts to the Environment Ministry and gutted the environmental review process so as to push for rapid development of the oil sands and other resource extraction projects.
According to Mulcair, an NDP government would do “a better job gaining public acceptance for infrastructure projects like pipelines because it would enforce a more credible environmental review process. … You want to get people onside if you want to move product to market.”
Speaking through Bloomberg directly to US big business, Mulcair sought to stoke US fears over state-owned Chinese oil companies becoming major consumers of Canadian oil exports, thereby driving up prices, and becoming major investors in the tar sands, enabling them to reshape oil flows and potentially limit US access. In his anti-Chinese rhetoric and denunciations of “Communism,” Mulcair was making an explicit appeal to US imperialism and signaling that the NDP is supportive of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” Through the redeployment of US military power and the encouragement of China’s neighbours in pressing their territorial claims, Washington is seeking to isolate Beijing and thwart China’s rise.
Mulcair attacked the Harper Conservative government for being too welcoming of Chinese investment. He pointed to its recent approval of a $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen, a Calgary-based oil company, by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), and the recently concluded Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). By 2020, said Mulcair, “China will be Canada’s second largest investor, largely in oil and gas.”
“Taken together,” concluded Mulcair, “FIPA and CNOOC’s takeover of Nexen effectively limit the ability of Canadian governments to independently control our own natural resource policy, while ceding enormous control over our resources to a foreign power.” Invoking concerns about “energy security,” Mulcair argued that the NDP would be a better partner for the US oil giants and US imperialism than the Harper government.
In a lengthy speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Relations, Mulcair celebrated the longstanding strategic partnership between Canada and the US and repeated the claims that Washington and Ottawa stand for democratic and humanitarian values—fraudulent claims that have and continue to be invoked to justify imperialist intervention and war.
Said Mulcair, “We both enjoy modern, dynamic economies. We both respect fundamental labour, environmental and human rights. … In the last century, our two countries served as a model of partnership and progress for a waiting world. We built that partnership on the strength of these values. In the 21st century, as we prepare ourselves for an increasingly complex set of challenges, let’s re-commit to those same values, and to those who share them.”
While the NDP once postured as an opponent of NATO and NORAD, it has emerged during the past two decades as a strong supporter of Canada’s participation in a series of imperialist wars, including Canada’s leading role in the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia and the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Its first major act as Official Opposition was to vote unanimously in favour of Canada’s participation in the US-led war against Libya. In recent weeks Dewar and Mulcair have urged the Harper government to “do more” to support the French-led invasion of Mali.
In recent years, the NDP has made it a priority to forge closer political and organizational links with the Democratic Party, Wall Street’s “left” party of government. Indeed, to make this association even more explicit, some NDP leaders have toyed with the idea of dropping the word “New” from the party’s name, meaning Canada’s social democrats would henceforth be known as the Democratic Party.
After meeting with the Democratic House Leader, Mulcair was effusive in his praise, tweeting that it “was an honour to meet with Nancy Pelosi—a strong leader and the first woman to become Speaker of the House.” Later, he told reporters that “there’s a lot of connectedness between a senior Democrat like Madam Pelosi and the New Democratic Party.”
While in Washington, the NDP leader spoke before a leading Democratic think-tank, the Center for American Progress. An attendee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “People took him very seriously. Even those in the United States who can’t figure out why the left in Canada, the Liberals and the NDP, can’t seem to get along, wanted to hear him out… Mulcair was viewed credibly and people were impressed.”
In fact, the NDP, while resisting calls for the two parties to merge, has repeatedly partnered with the Liberals, long the Canadian bourgeoisie’s preferred party of government. In 2008, the NDP agreed to be the junior partner in a Liberal-led coalition government committed to “fiscal responsibility,” implementing $50 billion in corporate tax cuts, and waging war in Afghanistan. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the NDP is currently propping up a minority Liberal government that is cutting billions from social spending and has imposed sweeping contract concessions on teachers by legislative fiat.

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Thousands of native children died in Canada’s residential schools

By Vic Neufeld 
8 March 2013
Recent media reports have noted research showing that at least 3,000 children are now known to have died while attending Canada’s aboriginal residential schools. The findings were released last month by Alex Maas, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission researcher managing the Commission’s Missing Children Project. Maas claims that the results are part of the first systematic search of government, school and other records, and provide primary documentation identifying deaths, when they occurred, and the circumstances.
For over a century, a system of residential schools operated in Canada under financial and administrative arrangements between the Government of Canada and the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and United churches. In all, over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children passed through more than 130 residential schools in virtually every part of Canada. An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 former students of residential schools are alive today.
The Canadian government established this system in the 19th century, with the first schools opening in the late 1870s. Funded by the Department of Indian Affairs, and run by the churches, these schools were integral in the government’s strategy for opening up Canada’s vast northwestern territories to European settlement. Under this strategy, Canada’s native peoples were herded onto “reserve land”, while their children were taken away and placed in residential schools under the so-called “civilizing” influence of the churches and other state agents. The last of these schools closed in 1996.
The schools were based on models taken from youth reformatories and jails. Children were collected from their parents, sometimes at gunpoint by police, and cut off from their families. Once delivered to the schools, they were subjected to a controlled and disciplined environment that combined religious instruction with basic skills training. Living conditions were harsh, with many children physically beaten and sexually abused. Thousands contracted tuberculosis and died while in school custody.
The nature of what happened in these schools has become a bitter contest between native activists and residential school survivors on the one side, and church and state officials on the other. Activists allege murder and genocide, and have made angry demands for investigation, prosecution and compensation. The state for its part has spent tens of millions on a “truth and reconciliation” process in an attempt to avoid liability and bolster its political allies.
Battle lines between these camps first hardened in the 1990s, when activists organized an independent Tribunal into Canadian Indian residential schools, convened under the auspices of the UN-affiliated International Human Rights Association of American Minorities. The tribunal’s June 1998 Vancouver hearings documented that every act defined as genocide by the UN Convention of 1948 occurred in Canadian residential schools. The tribunal concluded that Indian residential schools were conceived and operated for more than a century as an enormous system of terror aimed at children, as part of a larger program of ethnic annihilation and land theft.
The testimony supporting these claims was at times shocking. Elder Irene Favel told a 1998 town hall forum: “I went to residential school in Muscowequan from 1944 to 1949, and I had a rough life. I was mistreated in every way. There was a young girl, and she was pregnant from a priest there. And what they did, she had her baby, and they took the baby, and wrapped it up in a nice pink outfit, and they took it downstairs where I was cooking dinner with the nun. And they took the baby into the furnace room, and they threw that little baby in there and burned it alive. All you could hear was this little cry, like ‘Uuh!’ and that was it. You could smell that flesh cooking.”
The year 1998 was also when Colin Tatz’s published his discussion paperGenocide in Australia. The paper examined the genocidal practices perpetrated against Australian Aborigines, and would be followed by court cases related to the “stolen generations.” (See “Genocide in Australia – Report details crimes against Aborigines”) These events occurred within the context of Australia’s “history wars” over the government’s treatment of its Aboriginal peoples. (See “What is at stake in Australia’s “History Wars”?”)
By the year 2000, Canadian churches faced more than 10,000 lawsuits from survivors. Claiming that these suits would bankrupt their institutions, the churches successfully lobbied the government to enact legislation limiting the scope of lawsuits and assuming primary liability for residential school damages. Courts in Alberta and the Maritimes subsequently denied survivors the right to sue the churches for violation of their civil rights and for genocide. Later on, judicial decisions across Canada restricted the claims of survivors and prevented them from suing the churches for any issues beyond tort offenses of “physical and sexual abuse”.
It was in this context that the largest class action lawsuit in Canada to date, brought on behalf of tens of thousands of survivors across Canada, culminated in 2007 with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The Agreement established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “to contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation.” The commission, whose mandate expires in 2014, was granted $60 million in funding.
On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered to Parliament a statement of apology on behalf of the Government of Canada to survivors of residential schools. In the apology, the prime minister stated that the entire “policy of assimilation” implemented by the system of residential schools “was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.” While the prime minister spoke of this policy as one of “killing the Indian in the child”, the allegations of actual child murder and genocide were neither acknowledged nor addressed.
Both the opposition Liberals and the NDP toed the official line. Opposition Leader Stephane Dion acknowledged the government’s shared responsibility and complicity in the abuse of thousands of aboriginal children, but said not a word on the more serious allegations. The Bloc Quebecois’ Gilles Duceppe and the NDP’s Jack Layton both offered similarly limited apologies.
In short, the Parliamentary apology capped earlier legislative and judicial proceedings and signalled that allegations of murder or genocide were not to form any part of the official history.
Since then, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the media have promoted this official line. The commission, chaired by aboriginal judge Murray Sinclair, produced a report entitled “They Came for the Children.” Both the commission and its report have taken fire for refusing to deal with the more serious allegations. However the commission, in a struggle to maintain its credibility, has in turn blamed the federal government for withholding documents vital to its core mandate. In December 2012, the commission filed an application with Ontario Superior Court asking the court to clarify the government’s obligations in this regard.
The commission also agreed to support the “Missing Children Research Project.” The project originated with the Commission’s Working Group on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, which noted: “Questions into incidents of death and disappearance in the residential schools were raised publically in early 2007, although survivors and their supporters have been concerned with these issues for many years.”
Project manager Alex Maas’ preliminary findings on the deaths of 3,000 children were reported in February. They were quickly disputed by native organizations, however. For instance, Maas’ report claimed 222 children died in the entire Northwest Territories. However, at just one territorial residential school location at Fort Providence, there are 300 children buried in a single common grave.
Maas’ research attributed many of the residential school deaths to tuberculosis. Media reports have claimed that the deaths were often due to institutional ignorance of the disease’s prevention and treatment. A February 18 CBC report, for example, noted: “For decades starting in about 1910, tuberculosis was a consistent killer—in part because of widespread ignorance over how diseases were spread.” The statement, however, is incorrect: people at that time knew quite well how tuberculosis was spread.
For instance, according to the Lung Association, the “Sanatorium Age” in Canada began in 1896. The sanatorium was designed to treat the disease by the “demonstrated value of rest, fresh air, good nutrition and isolation to prevent the spread of infection.” This was the exact opposite of how residential schools operated, in which sick children were routinely mixed with the healthy in atrocious living conditions. The fatal results were both foreseeable and preventable.
These practices were so obviously contrary to TB treatment as to attract contemporary concern. In 1907 Dr. Peter Bryce, chief medical officer for the federal Department of Indian Affairs, wrote to Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell: “I believe the conditions are being deliberately created in our Indian boarding schools to spread infectious diseases. The death rate often exceeds 50 percent. This is a national crime.”
Bryce went on to write a book published in 1922 titled The Story of A National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians of Canada from 1904 to 1921. In this book Bryce cited evidence that in every school he inspected staff regularly and deliberately housed healthy children with those sick and dying of tuberculosis, then denied treatment and care to all of them. Bryce also claimed that school staff and their church employers regularly concealed or distorted the enormous death rate and the cause of death of so many children.
The commission and the mainstream media continue to evade issues of knowledge and intent, which inevitably lead to questions of state and church policy, and finally to genocide. Tellingly, and perhaps chillingly, the article brushes up against all of these questions with Maas’ quote that “student deaths were so much part of the system, architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries that were laid out in advance of the building.”
Tuberculosis continues to infect and kill Canada’s native peoples at an alarming rate. According to Health Canada, the country’s aboriginal populations are disproportionately affected by TB, a disease fuelled by social factors like overcrowding and poverty—conditions rife on many native reserves.

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Toronto homeless advocates protest budget cuts

By Dylan Lubao 
27 February 2013
Anti-poverty advocates and homeless people held a demonstration outside Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s office February 15. Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty erected a makeshift homeless shelter using mattresses and blankets to protest budget cuts that will eliminate approximately 115 beds from homeless shelters as well as the Personal Needs Allowance, a subsidy for daily necessities, given to those in shelters. Demonstrators strung up banners reading “Cuts Kill the Poor” and “Cuts Hurt People.”
The mock shelter was torn down by city police, who later removed protestors who had occupied the mayor’s office. Mayor Ford, a right-wing populist regularly lampooned for his lack of political acumen, was absent from the scene. Approached for comment while he attended the Canadian International Auto Show, Ford brusquely replied that there are “plenty of beds.”
The mayor’s assessment is belied by the city’s homeless death toll and shelter occupancy rates. During the first six weeks of 2013, 8 homeless individuals have died on Toronto streets. Since 1985, over 650 homeless deaths have been recorded. The number is expected to exceed 700 by the end of this year. Homeless shelters routinely experience a shortage of beds. A recent figure puts the average occupancy rate at 96 percent. During cold winter months, the beleaguered shelters must often turn away those seeking refuge.
The attacks on Toronto’s homeless and working poor reflect a concerted effort between the municipal and provincial governments to force the most marginalized sections of society to shoulder the costs of the continuing economic crisis. In January, the provincial Liberal government cut a massive $21 million, or 16 percent, from homelessness-prevention funding. Chief among the cuts was a $12.8 million reduction in the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit, which helps low-income families access and maintain affordable housing. Also scrapped was $3.7 million in medical benefits for Toronto’s poorest residents.
City Hall has meted out its share of eviction notices and has moved to sell-off some public housing stock. Spearheaded by the mayor, the freezing of property and vehicle ownership taxes in 2011 has eroded city revenues. The reactionary layer of city councilors grouped around Mayor Ford and his brother, Councilor Doug Ford, are now invoking the city’s fiscal crisis as political cover to savage necessary social programs.
Analysis conducted by the Wellesley Institute, a Toronto-based research centre, notes that gross operating expenditures for the city increased by just 0.2 percent between 2011 and 2012. This rate has failed to keep up with inflation and population growth. Addressing City Hall, the report reads: “There are some Toronto City Councilors who consider this reduction in real, per-capita spending a victory. This lopsided view is like a family celebrating lower grocery bills without noticing that their children are hungry.”
The sentiment is likely lost on the Fords, who are heirs to a multi-million dollar printing empire. They most recently presided over the passing of the 2013 budget, which includes further subsidies to the city’s business elite in the form of a paltry 0.6 percent increase in commercial property taxes. Even this measure was conceded unwillingly. The mayor is desperately seeking to rehabilitate his public image, which has been tarnished by a series of personal spending and abuse of power scandals.
The drive to enrich Toronto’s most affluent at the expense of its most vulnerable is a bipartisan one. “Progressive” former mayor David Miller came to power in 2003 promising to clean up corrupt backroom dealings. He left office in 2010 with a record of generous commercial property tax breaks, grants, and subsidies. His term was marked by a series of grossly undervalued commercial land assessments, allowing big developers to purchase swathes of the city for a pittance and reap unprecedented profits. These favourable business conditions saw condo developers descend upon Toronto en masse. The city is home to the most active condo industry in North America, selling 22,654 units at its height in 2007.
In this regard, the temporary closure in January of a McDonald’s location in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville neighbourhood is particularly instructive. After it was revealed in 2008 that the restaurant was paying a meager $1,250 per month for rent to the city, municipal administrators attempted to raise the rent to $195,000 per year. McDonald’s declined and instead offered to purchase the location. The obliging city council sold it to the company for $3.38 million, well below market evaluations of $7 to $9 million. It was well-known at the time that condominium developers could have constructed and sold units in that location for $2 million each.
McDonald’s then sold the property for the same price to Bazis International Incorporated, a subsidiary of Bazis-A Corporation, the leading construction company in Kazakhstan. The deal that the City had made with McDonald’s stipulated that any profit on a subsequent sale of the Yorkville property be given to the city, so McDonald’s simply flipped the land to a corporation associated with Bazis for no profit. That corporation then sold the land to Bazis itself for $9.3 million. This “healthy” windfall profit was effectively a subsidy for a large commercial developer, as city council knew that McDonald’s could easily avoid any payments to the city by organizing such a multi-flip maneuver. McDonald’s, not to miss any opportunity, then arranged with Bazis for a free retail spot in the new development.
Bazis is infamous for a failed development project in the heart of the city. Its One Bloor East condo project, touted as an 80-storey oasis of “effortless sensuality” at the “epicenter of Canada”, had potential buyers lined up around the block to make initial deposits. The developer purchased the lot for $63 million. Financed in part by American banking giant Lehman Brothers and French bank Société Générale, the project was thrust into disarray following the financial crash of 2008. As a result of their massive losses, both financiers were forced to pull their funding, causing Bazis to fall into arrears on payments related to the condo project . It sold the property to prominent developer Great Gulf Homes in 2009 and has since plunged back into the Toronto condo market with four new luxury properties.
All of this takes place over the heads of Toronto’s working families, many of whom live on the brink of homelessness. As of December 2012, the waiting list for public housing had reached a staggering 87,486 households, a 69 percent increase since the start of the recession in 2008. City Council responded to these alarming numbers by cutting the funding for new affordable housing by 50 percent, from $49 million to $24 million. In November of last year, it approved the sale of 55 of the 619 single-family homes owned by Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the city’s largest social housing provider.
Toronto has the country’s second-highest average rental cost, $1,149 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, as compared with $1,210 in Vancouver and $708 in Montréal. Average household income for those on lengthy public and or subsidized housing waiting lists is $16,155, barely enough to cover the rent. In contrast, the top 20 percent of households earn $171,900. It is these layers of the affluent upper middle-class that condominium developers are courting.
The city’s homeless are simply cut out of the picture. The same day that the McDonald’s-Bazis deal made the front pages in the local press, figures were released showing Toronto’s 2012 homeless death toll of 37 was the highest since 2007.

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Ontario NDP and unions support Liberal austerity policies

By Carl Bronski 
23 February 2013
Ontario’s minority government, now headed by Premier Kathleen Wynne, presented its Throne Speech this past Tuesday outlining the governing Liberals’ general policy directions for the new legislative session. The speech marked the first time the legislature had been convened since former Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued (suspended) the body nearly four months ago in the wake of a series of scandals and the passage of Bill 115—legislation that gave the government the power to impose concessionary contracts on teachers and other public school board employees.
With public support for his government plummeting, McGuinty coupled his prorogation announcement with his resignation as premier, effective once a new Liberal leader was in place. Wynne, a core member of McGuinty’s cabinet for the last seven years, was elected by a January party convention to take over the reins of power.
While making empty promises of more open government and “respect” for teachers and school support staff, Wynne’s Throne Speech not only solidarized itself with McGuinty’s previous austerity policies. It pledged to extend and deepen them.
Wynne promised to continue McGuinty’s drive to slash public spending so as to balance the provincial budget by the 2017-18 fiscal year. But she one-upped her former leader by pledging that thereafter spending increases will be limited to 1 percent below GDP growth until the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio falls to the level it was prior to the Great Recession of 2008.
The speech also committed the government to continuing to implement the “Drummond Report”— that is the recommendations of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services—to privatize and marketize public services. And the speech announced that the government will bring forward legislation to change the arbitration system for public sector employees, like firemen, who are legally denied the right to strike, so as to force arbitrators to base their settlements on government-dictated financial parameters.
Already, the first of the Liberal austerity budgets—passed with the acquiescence of the social democrats of the NDP last spring—makes $14 billion in cuts to provincial expenditures over the next three years. It is predicted that 105,000 workers will lose their jobs as a result. Health care will be starved of funds, escalating the pace of the disintegration of quality public health care. Up to 8,000 more hospital beds will be cut. Seniors will be means tested for pharmaceutical prescription charges. Schools will be closed and other services, including child welfare, early learning, and mental health programs, slashed.
The centerpiece of the April 2012 budget was the imposition of a two-year wage freeze on 1.2 million provincial public sector workers, including civil servants, teachers, nurses, hospital workers and municipal employees. Over the ensuing months, officials from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and two small teachers’ federations accepted concessions contracts based on the government’s wage freeze requirements. The two largest teachers’ unions also announced they had no quarrel with the wage freeze, but bristled at the government bypassing their role in bargaining to impose contracts via Bill 115.
Wynne’s insistence that her government will continue to follow the path blazed by her predecessor did not draw any fire from New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath or the Ontario Federation of Labour. On the contrary, it drew nothing but praise. The speech was “promising” opined Horwath, while OFL President Sid Ryan said it “struck the right notes.”
Both Sam Hammond, leader of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (EFTO), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) President Ken Coran lauded Wynne’s “new tone.” Wynne has repeatedly declared that the two-year concessionary contracts imposed under Bill115 are inviolable. But Hammond and Coran have nonetheless indicated that they are anxious to “turn the page” and put an end to even the token campaign the teachers’ unions have mounted against Bill115.
Indeed on Friday, the OSSTF leadership voted to end a months-long teacher boycott of extracurricular activities and certain administrative tasks and Hammond announced the EFTO will hold a similar vote next Wednesday.
Horwath, whose NDP has repeatedly voted to keep the Liberals in office since they fell to minority status in the October 2011 election, has announced that the social-democrats will once again ensure the government’s survival. She told reporters at a post-Throne Speech press conference, “We’re prepared to pass it.”
However, just as she did in the run-up to last spring’s budget, Horwath refused to commit her party in advance to supporting the coming Liberal budget.
According to press reports, this stance has caused frictions between the NDP politicians and their union backers. The former do not want to appear too close to the Liberals, because they fear it could hurt their election prospects. In many constituencies, the Liberals are the NDP’s main opponent. The union bureaucrats, for their part, fear that NDP posturing could cause relations to sour with the Liberals and inadvertently result in the government’s fall.
In an article titled, “Labour leaders fear NDP-Liberal rivalry may spell Tory triumph,” the Toronto Star ’s Queen’s Park columnist reported that there was much “bitterness” among union officials after a meeting of NDP provincial council last month “ruled out a formal coalition with the Liberals or even a quiet ‘non-compete’ arrangement.”
Horvath, it should be noted, herself fed rumours of a possible coalition between the NDP and a Wynne-headed Liberal Party. When reporters asked her about such a possibility in mid-January, she indicated she was open to such an alliance. Then several days later she explicitly ruled out a coalition, while making clear that she is eager to work with the Liberals and sustain them in office.
Neither the social democrats nor the union bureaucrats have any quarrel with the austerity agenda of the big business Liberal government. Both were gushing over several “progressive” promises in Wynne’s throne speech. These included: closing tax loopholes that allow companies to write off dinner drinks and sports tickets; a $50 million venture capital fund for small and medium business; a program to provide employers who hire young peoples with government subsidies; and changing welfare and tax policies so as to allow welfare recipients to earn slightly more in poverty wages, before the government begins to claw back their stipends.
Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak, who only last month vowed that a Conservative government would slash welfare benefits for longtime recipients, also applauded the government’s venture capital fund and welfare promises. But he condemned the government for not slashing spending more rapidly and for not legislating an immediate across-the-board wage freeze for all provincial public sector workers.
The unions and NDP attempt to justify their role in implementing the Liberals’ austerity agenda by arguing that to do otherwise would open the door to Tim Hudak and his right-wing Conservative hordes. The reality is that the Canadian ruling class is united in its determination to carry through a social counterrevolution—to destroy what remains of the social benefits and rights the working class won through the convulsive social struggles of the last century. Decent pensions, Medicare and other public services, protection from unemployment, and collective bargaining rights are all under systematic attack.
The three-party system at Queen’s Park, and in Canadian national politics generally, are mechanisms through which the ruling class regulates class tensions so as to divert and diffuse social discontent and politically suppress the working class. The NDP and the unions have responded to the deepest crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression of the 1930s by shifting still further to the right. They have imposed $20 per hour per worker concessions on workers at the Detroit Three, surrendered before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s contracting out demands, facilitated the Ontario Liberals’ imposition of spending cuts and wage freezes, and, at the national level, baldly spelled out their support for austerity and imperialist war in a bid to convince the Canadian ruling class that the NDP should be allowed to supplant the Liberals as their “left” party of government.

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Harper government using “humanitarian” aid to boost Canada’s global mining companies

By Louis Girard 
11 February 2013
At the behest of Canada’s Conservative government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is working with Canada’s mining companies to silence widespread opposition from people working at, or living near, many of their Latin American and African operations.
The people affected by these projects accuse major Canadian mining corporations of depleting their rivers and contaminating their water; causing health problems (skin disease, cancer, respiratory problems); offering miserable working conditions; and paying miniscule royalty amounts to local governments despite huge profits. This opposition threatens investors’ returns as sometimes it compels Canadian miners to delay or cancel projects. Frequently, it is violently repressed by police or company-hired goons.
In South Africa, two striking miners died last fall during violent clashes near a processing plant owned by Toronto-based Forbes & Manhattan Coal. The strike was part of a broad er miner protest that erupted following the massacre of dozens of workers at the Marikana mine who had rebelled against low wages and poor working conditions.
In a speech before the blue-chip Economic Club of Canada late last year, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino, championed a new CIDA initiative that “partners” Canadian mining companies with aid NGOs as part of a broader push to have CIDA do more to “help business ventures abroad .” Hailing the capitalist profit system, Fantino said that CIDA views private-sector growth as the key to development and prosperity. Under a new “Economic Growth Strategy,” it is using aid monies to help “developing countries create the right conditions to make capital available for companies.”
“CIDA,” continued Minister Fantino, “can help develop” poorer countries’ “capacity to negotiate…[and] implement international commercial agreements with Canada and other trading partners, and help firms benefit from these agreements. We will be doing more of this in the future.”
When Fantino speaks of creating the “right conditions” or “build[ing] the necessary legislative and regulatory frameworks ” for Canadian corporate investment, he is saying that CIDA will focus on promoting privatization and deregulation, and on dissuading foreign governments from increasing state ownership, especially in those areas of greatest interest to Canadian capital—mining, energy, and finance.
In his Economic Club of Canada speech, Fantino also announced that CIDA will urge the NGOs it funds to enter into partnerships with Canadian companies abroad.
“While we have a long history of working with the private sector as executing agencies, the fact is we need to engage more,” affirmed Fantino. He added that the partnerships that already exist between CIDA-funded NGOs and Canadian mining companies should be “models” for future development projects.
Canada occupies an important place in the international mining industry. It is one of the leading producers of several minerals, such as potassium , iron ore, nickel, copper, uranium, gold, diamonds and coal. It is also a key player in the global mining industry, serving as the home base for many global exploration companies and many mining giants, including Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer. Canadian mining companies are the largest non-African investor in that continent’s mining industry and Canadian miners have even larger investments in Latin America. Canada is also a key player in the financing of the global mining industry, particularly in the raising of venture capital for exploration and development.
From 2006 to 2011, Canadian mining companies’ overseas investments almost doubled, from $23.8 to $45.3 billion, and now account for almost a fifth (18.8 percent) of all Canadian foreign direct investment.
These investments have brought huge profits to the Canadian bourgeoisie. Goldcorp, a major Canadian gold mining company , reported a profit of $498 million for the third quarter of 2012. Barrick Gold reported a profit of $618 million for the same quarter, despite a 55 percent decline in earnings . The former CEO of Barrick, Aaron Regent, was paid $9.2 million in 2011. According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 19 of Canada’s 100 highest-paid CEOs work in the mining sector.
CIDA’s open collaboration with Canadian-based mining transnationals has sparked growing opposition. Stephen Brown, a professor in international development at the University of Ottawa, has said that development projects involving mining companies amount to a disguised subsidy to these companies. “This is money that’s being used to obtain and maintain the consent of communities for the mining companies to operate,” said Brown. “This should be part of [the companies’] bottom-line calculation…it should not come from CIDA’s budget.”
The Minister’s latest announcements of $319 million in cuts over the next three years leaves even less room for CIDA-funded NGOs to avoid Canadian corporate partnerships.
Responding to strong reactions to his speech outlining the changes to CIDA, Fantino retorted, “We’re not talking about pillaging and extorting.” Really?
According to the Mining Conflicts in Latin America (MICLA) research group based at McGill University, there are approximately 200 Canadian-owned mines active in Latin America at any one time. Since the late 1990s, the group identified 85 mine sites where a dispute arose between the local population and the mining company.
A typical example is the San Martin gold mine in Honduras, where Goldcorp and Honduran authorities first ignored villagers’ complaints about industrial pollution, then sought to suppress and discredit a study that found local residents had medically dangerous levels of lead and arsenic in their blood.
The former Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Honduras who operates a clinic near the now-abandoned San Martin mine has reported that the proportion of his patients with skin diseases has increased from 10 percent to 70 percent in recent years. “The people,” says Dr. Juan Alemendez, “also report hair loss, itching, irritation to the eyes. And that is because they drank and washed with this water contaminated by the mine.”
Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada, welcomed Minister Fantino’s announcement. Conceding that mining companies have made “mistakes” in the area of “corporate social responsibility,” Gratton said that the changes made by the CIDA will enable NGOs to better help companies fulfill their social responsibilities.
A December 17 article in the Montreal Gazette sheds light on how Canadian mining giants are using NGOs to deflect popular opposition. Speaking of Barrick Gold’s “partnership” with a Chilean NGO, the Gazette reports, “Farmers no longer able to cultivate grapes or mangoes in their villages [because the mining operation has led to a dramatic decline in the water table] flock to the city in search of mining jobs, putting pressure on housing resources and creating shantytowns. But now that the NGO has partnered with Barrick [to provide housing], it might make them less critical of the company, and mining in general.”
In an earlier initiative aimed at burnishing the public image of Canada’s mining companies, the Harper government established an “Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counselor” in 2009. With an annual budget of $650,000, this organization assists Canadian mining companies operating abroad in implementing their “social responsibility” programs and offers a place where people can register complaints about corporate misconduct. Of the three cases opened so far, two related to disputes involving Canadian mining companies in Latin America. Both cases had to be closed because the companies involved refused to cooperate.
Last fall, the Harper government announced the allocation of $25 million from CIDA’s budget for the creation of the Canadian Institute for International Extractive Industries and Development. The stated purpose of this institute is to help “ developing countries by enhancing their capacity to utilize and benefit from their extractive sectors (metals and minerals and oil and gas).” Canada is a second-rank imperialist power, but like its more powerful rivals, the Canadian bourgeoisie ruthlessly pursues its predatory interests on the world arena. The changes in CIDA are part of an increasingly aggressive foreign policy. Under Liberal and Conservative government alike and with the support of the NDP and the pro-Quebec independence Bloc Quebecois, Canada has joined a succession of imperialist wars. In 2011, when the Canadian Armed Forces were involved in wars in both Libya and Afghanistan, Canada’s military spending was in real dollar terms the highest it has been since the end of the Second World War.
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Common Causes: Progressive forces acting together to build a better society

By Maude Barlow 
January 28, 2013 “Rabble” — Common Causes is an assembly of social movements dedicated to defending democracy, social justice, the environment and human rights in the face of an all-out assault by the Harper government. On September 13, 2012, 47 diverse regional and national organizations came together to share concerns about the country’s direction under the Harper government, and to create strategies to counter a federal government agenda that we believe is at odds with the values of the significant majority of people who live in Canada, Québec and on Indigenous lands.
Common Causes is made up of groups and organizations that represent workers, the poor, students, First Nations, women, environmentalists, farmers, educators, human rights and social justice advocates, immigrants and refugees, writers and artists, scientists, aid and development workers, front-line health care workers, and many others. We are deeply troubled by the Harper government’s agenda that is changing society in such critical areas as the economy, the environment, labour rights, health care, food safety, education, social programs, science, culture, foreign policy, civil liberties, peace and poverty. Our mission is to unite people and communities to work in solidarity for change, and our goal is the just, equitable world and country that we know is possible.
What’s at stake
We are very concerned about targeted attacks by the Harper government on democracy, environmental protections, public services, workers’ rights, indigenous communities, charitable organizations, independent scientists, civil liberties, and migrant, immigrant and refugee rights.
The list is long and growing. These attacks, together with a radical right-wing policy agenda, are fundamentally changing the nature of Canada.
We are also very concerned about the use of anti-democratic tactics to push forward this agenda. Accusations of electoral fraud are now before the courts. Faith in our democracy has been shaken by prorogations, contempt of Parliament citations, omnibus legislation rammed through Parliament, trade and foreign investment agreements not opened to debate, and violations of financing regulations.
We do not accept that having a majority, won with a mere 39.6 per cent of the vote, gives the Harper government the right to undo decades of social, environmental and human rights policies. Very little in the platform of the Conservative Party before the last election prepared us for changes so profound they undermine people’s most basic human rights and democratic freedoms.
What we hope to achieve
Over the last two years, we have witnessed amazing organizing and mobilizing in Canada — from student movements in Québec, to the “Defend Our Coast” struggle against tar sands pipelines in British Columbia, to scientists speaking out against the “Death of Evidence,” to the environmental community standing together through the “Black Out Speak Out” campaign. Courageous doctors have stepped forward to challenge the attacks on refugee benefits, and librarians and archivists have marched to save our collective history. Workers are fighting for their rights. First Nations have taken direct action through the “Idle No More” movement, and Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation launched a hunger strike to protest unjust omnibus bills.
The time has come for Canada-wide coordinated action against the Harper government’s agenda, which is fundamentally changing our society and our country. Common Causes will work to support the many mobilizations and campaigns that already exist, but also to create a strategic, coordinated plan to ensure that the Harper agenda is stopped at the next election and replaced with a progressive alternative. Common Causes will work cross-sectorally, locally, provincially and nationally to create an extended network for solidarity, resistance, action and change. Through this coordination, we will shape priorities for common action and maximum impact.
Our concerns
Although by no means an exhaustive list, our concerns can be broken into five major policy areas.
Social Justice
Stephen Harper is dismantling the social security net.
– New corporate tax cuts will cost Canadians $6 billion annually, resulting in 19,000 job cuts affecting every area of public service.
– Public sector cuts hurt women most, especially the Harper government’s decision to eliminate childcare funding, reject a national childcare program and cut projects to improve Aboriginal women’s health.
– Our public health care system will suffer from a dramatic reduction in federal funding.
– Workers have been targeted through eroding Employment Insurance, raising the age of retirement, and ramming through back-to-work legislation against striking or locked out workers.
– Arts and culture have been on the chopping block since 2008, with the decades-old Canadian Conference of the Arts being the latest victim.
The environment 
Stephen Harper is wiping out decades of environmental protections to promote unbridled resource extraction.
– Under the Harper government, Canada became the only country in the world to have ratified and then abandoned the Kyoto Protocol, and has failed dismally to address climate change.
– Far fewer projects must undergo a federal environmental assessment, while tar sands subsidies cost us $1.38 billion.
– Ninety-nine per cent of lakes and rivers are no longer protected as navigable waters, and cuts to freshwater research and monitoring endanger them further.
– The Harper government has shut down dozens of research projects, facilities and institutes conducting basic scientific research and eliminated the grants programs.
Human rights
Canada’s traditional reputation as a human rights leader has eroded precipitously under Stephen Harper, undoing decades of human rights leadership.
– Omnibus budget bills and the abandonment of the Kelowna Accord have undermined the safety, sovereignty and security of First Nations.
– We now have a two-tier system of refugee protection that is vulnerable to political whims.
– Oversight bodies, including the CSIS Inspector General and the Military Police Complaints Commission, are being dismantled, while Canadian mining companies continue to escape scrutiny for human rights abuses abroad.
– The government has failed to ratify international human rights treaties dealing with political disappearances, torture prevention, and disabled children, and has opposed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the General Assembly Resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.
Foreign policy 
Stephen Harper has moved Canada’s foreign policy sharply to the right, embracing a more militaristic role for our armed services, putting trade before human rights and using aid to promote the interests of Canada’s infamous mining industry abroad.
– As starkly set out in a leaked 2012 confidential government document, trade and economic opportunities for corporations have become the driving forces behind Stephen Harper’s foreign policy.
– Stephen Harper’s aggressive trade agenda extends not only to countries with poor human rights histories such as China, Colombia and Peru, but also restricts our economic and environmental policies by giving foreign-based transnational corporations new powers.
– Foreign aid has been frozen since 2010, with money tied to mining companies.
– The Harper government has abandoned Canada’s traditional role as a global peacekeeper and is changing our armed forces to become more aggressive and militaristic.
– Defiant international diplomacy has left Canada’s reputation for bridge building and evenhandedness in tatters.
Democracy
No government in Canadian history has so abused the rules of Parliament, or so threatened dissenting civil society voices.
– Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament twice—to avoid defeat and to stave off scrutiny over allegations that Canada wilfully looked the other way when Afghan detainees were transferred despite a risk of torture.
-Harper’s office compulsively monitors all government communication, and scientists, civil servants and embassy staff are regularly muzzled.
-Harper silences dissent, targeting those who advocate for equality and social justice, the environment, human rights or peace.
Conclusion
We believe the Harper government is undemocratically and profoundly changing the role and structure of government in this country in a way that threatens our core values. Far too much power is now in the hands of the private sector, unaccountable to democratic oversight.
Democracy is being savaged. The future of our country and our society is at stake. We will unite our Common Causes to defeat this agenda and work for a just and sustainable future.
Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is also an executive member of the San Francisco–based International Forum on Globalization and a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Maude is the recipient of 11 honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (known as the “Alternative Nobel”), the Citation of Lifetime Achievement at the 2008 Canadian Environment Award, and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award.
© 2012 Rabble.ca

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Ontario unions stage protest as cover for facilitating Liberals’ austerity agenda

By Carl Bronski 
28 January 2013
Over 15,000 workers attended a rally in Toronto Saturday called by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) to protest the austerity measures and attacks on democratic rights implemented by the Ontario Liberal government. The rally was timed to coincide with the climax of the provincial Liberal leadership convention, which was being held at a downtown Toronto venue.
The biggest contingents at Saturday’s rally and on the subsequent march to the Liberal convention were comprised of teachers. Earlier this month, the Liberals, who were reduced to a minority government in the 2011 election, imposed concessions contracts on more than 100,000 public elementary and high school teachers under a recently adopted anti-worker law, Bill 115.
Plagued by a series of scandals and facing mounting worker opposition to his government’s two-year public-sector wage freeze and other austerity measures, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued (temporarily suspended) the legislature last October and announced that he would step down once his party chose a replacement.
From the platform of Saturday’s rally, the leaders of various public- and private-sector unions fulminated against the Liberals, just as they did at a similar rally last April that served as political cover for the OFL-supported New Democratic Party (NDP) negotiating a deal to ensure passage of the Liberals’ austerity budget.
On the part of the unions, this weekend’s protest was a no less cynical maneuver. In recent weeks they have abjectly surrendered before the government’s wage freeze. Moreover, they and the social-democratic NDP have made it clear that they are eager to strike a new deal to prop up the Liberal government at Queen’s Park—a deal they will seek to justify by claiming that it is needed to prevent the coming to power of an even more rightwing Conservative government.
In his address at Saturday’s rally, Sid Ryan, a perennially failed NDP candidate and the current OFL president, roundly denounced the Liberals for their imposition of a two-year wage freeze on more than a million teachers and other provincial public service workers. Not surprisingly he felt it politic not to mention that when the NDP last formed Ontario’s government in the early 1990s it unilaterally abrogated public-sector contracts not just to freeze but to cut workers’ wages. Nor did he make any mention of how the NDP, at the OFL’s urging, enabled the Liberals to pass a provincial budget that contains cuts that are almost four times larger than those implemented by the hated Conservative government of former Premier Mike Harris and whose centerpiece was the very wage freeze Ryan claims to oppose.
The bureaucrats addressing Saturday’s rally clearly hoped the workers in attendance had been afflicted by some variety of collective amnesia.
Thus, Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, railed against the Liberal government whilst omitting the fact that his union has backed Liberal candidates both provincially and federally for over a decade. Also going without mention was the regular praise the CAW has heaped on McGuinty for channeling billions to the auto bosses, funds that in the case of the bailout of GM and Chrysler the government expressly tied to the imposition of massive wage and benefit cuts.
For their part, leaders of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees who just a couple of weeks ago negotiated contracts implementing the wage freeze nodded their heads in agreement as their fellow bureaucrats decried Liberal policies.
Elementary teachers’ union head Sam Hammond and secondary school teachers’ union president Ken Coran continued their own prevarications. Both unions have been fervent supporters of the big-business McGuinty government since the premier was first elected nine years ago. From very early on in negotiations for new teachers’ contracts last summer and fall, both Hammond and Coran agreed with the Liberal demands for a wage freeze and other concessions but insisted that their role as well-paid interlocutors between their members and the local school boards must not be overridden by government fiat.
They worked to contain the genuine anger of rank-and-file teachers by first proposing mild (and sometimes voluntary) work-to-rule campaigns. Then in late November they sent three contracts accepting Liberal concession demands to local memberships—two of which were soundly rejected. Localized and token one-day strikes by elementary school teachers just prior to the Christmas break were not extended as Hammond and Coran bowed to a January labour board ruling declaring that any further job action was illegal.
At Saturday’s rally, both Hammond and Coran told reporters that they recognize the government’s fiscal concerns and will accept the wage freeze, asking in return that they be more “respected” in future negotiations. They have pleaded for an early meeting with the new Liberal premier.
As the rally participants marched to the Toronto convention centre, Liberals were busy electing Kathleen Wynne as their new leader. Wynne has been a longtime cabinet minister and member of McGuinty’s “core team,” serving at one time as Minister of Education.
Unlike second-place finisher Sandra Pupatello, Wynne emphasized during the leadership race that her preference is to avoid an early election and to find “common ground” with the opposition parties. It is an open secret that the NDP looks favorably on Wynne.
Rumours of an NDP linkup with a Wynne-headed Liberal Party led reporters earlier this month to ask Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horvath if she would be prepared to join a Liberal-led coalition. Horvath at first refused to rule it out. When she did declare, several days later, that she has no interest in joining the government, Horvath made it clear that the NDP is intent on working with the Liberals in implementing their austerity agenda no matter who is their leader. To emphasize her and the union bureaucracy’s eagerness to keep the Liberals in office, Horvath claimed that the last thing Ontarians want is another election and that her job is to “make parliament work.”
A WSWS reporting team circulated hundreds of copies of the Socialist Equality Party (Canada) statement OFL and NDP complicit in Liberal attacks, Workers need a new perspective and new organizations to mount class political struggle and spoke with a number of rally attendees, some of whom had already read the statement online.
Several teachers told interviewers that they had previously supported the Liberals but were extremely disappointed by their current attacks. Nancy, a middle-aged elementary school teacher from Toronto said she had “knocked on doors” for the Liberals, including Kathleen Wynne for three elections in a row. “But that’s the last time I’m doing that,” she said. “Next time I’m voting NDP.” Asked what she thought of the NDP’s role in facilitating the adoption of the Liberals’ austerity budget, she said: “Well that’s a good question. It just gets so frustrating. I guess sometimes you just have to hold your nose and vote. But you know, I worry about what it’s all going to mean for my students. They’re the ones who are really going to pay for all these cuts.”
Eileen Schmidt, a young fast-food worker from Kitchener, said she came to the rally to show the government that “people can’t just be pushed around.” Eileen’s father had worked at a series of auto parts jobs over the years but had been laid off on two separate occasions. “The union didn’t do anything either time,” she said. “He got a little bit of severance and the second time we had to sell our house. Now he works part-time at a car dealership. Where I work there isn’t any union. We just get minimum wage. But from what I see happening, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a union or not. You still get screwed.”
Cam Kilgour, a member of a rank-and-file teachers group in Toronto, voiced his frustration with union leadership. “The thrust of our movement if you will, within the standard union, is to push our leadership, whether it be the district level in Toronto or the provincial level to try different strategies. Among some teachers there is a tremendous sense of frustration and dissatisfaction with the strategies that have been used heretofore. The group represents a certain segment of classroom teachers. For example there was a petition that was distributed online to stop Bill 115 and it had some language that the union orthodoxy considered inflammatory so it was a challenge. And yet, there were 500 members who signed it, which is not an insignificant number of people who are willing to stand up in the sense of signing the petition.”
As the protestors marched several blocks to the site of the Liberal leadership convention, an elderly woman from a nearby homeless shelter approached a WSWS reporter to ask what all the commotion was about. When it was explained that it was a labour protest at the Liberal convention, she responded simply, “They won’t listen. Don’t they know all those parties are just for the rich?”
The author also recommends:
[26 January 2013]

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Idle No More

Video

“We are not going to be silenced, no more!”

“Idle No More” is a worldwide indigenous movement started by the First Nation Tribes of Canada as a way to help protect the Constitutional Treaty Rights of the Indian Act. These rights are being threatened by the proposed C-45 Bill. The Bill will significantly decrease tribal leader and community control over decisions related to the land and water use on Indian Reserve lands, the tribal peoples of Canada will have little to no control over how corporations make use of untapped natural resources, specifically on indigenous territory protected under Sovereignty treaties.

Attawapiska Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike on Dec. 11, 2012. She is asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to attend a discussion regarding the Bill and treaty rights. Harper has yet to respond. Spence is willing to die for her people’s rights.

This film documents one of the many events worldwide in support of the Idle No More movement. This event was held in Seattle Washington De. 29, 2012.

The film was Directed by Dave Wilson (Brother Ali, Frank Ocean, Atmosphere, Yelawolf, Evidence), Produced by Tulalip tribal member and independent recording artist Brodie Stevens “Redskin” with footage by cameraman Ben Hampton. The film is narrated by author Gyasi Ross and elder Ramona Bennett. The gathering was organized by Lawerence Miguel and James Ole Coyote Sacred Water. Additional music by “Redskin.”

contact: northwestcoastal@gmail.com

Posted December 07, 2013

See also – Must watch video – Propaganda : North Korean Documentary Exposes Western Propaganda

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Congratulations to Carlos Latuff and Jakob Augstein A "hit list" of the most "anti-Semites" in the world.

By Ludwig Watza

The “Simon Wiesenthal Center” (SWC) in Los Angeles was once famous for tracking down former Nazi criminals. This was long ago. The institution still derives its reputation from its former purpose. Today the SWC annually publishes a “hit list” of the most “anti-Semites” in the world.

Third place in their “Anti-Semitism” list was awarded to the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who using his caricatures depicting the crimes of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people is always correct in his evaluations of the issue.

Among the ‘winners’ is once again, a German, Jakob Augstein, publisher of the weekly “Friday”. As always, Augstein always responds polititely to this “honor”: “The SWC is an important, internationally recognized institution.For its work in addressing and fighting anti-semitism, the SWC all my respect. It is all the more distressing when this struggle is weakened. This is necessarily the case when critical journalism is defamed as a racist or anti-Semitic.”

Augstein’s violation of the dogmas, which the “Israel Lobby” has used to protect Israel from criticism of its brutal occupation regime, the permanent violations of Palestinian human rights and the violations and disregard for international law. Those, like Augstein, Latuff and many others, who still dare to point at these violations are slandered as “anti-Semites”.

Such absurd “honors” should only be noted with a shrug. An enlightened public can only indignantly turn away from such institutions, who clearly live in a different universe. These “awards” show clearly that these lobbyists raise no factual arguments, otherwise they would not have to slander and defame critically thinking journalists.

In 2011 this type of critical approach brought Hermann Dierkes similar “honours”. A witchhunt was organized against him in Germany to finish him off politically. This succeeded in part, because many media outlets put their service at the disposal of those in support of the SWC. They did so instead of keeping a critical and objective distance while reporting. Instead they subscribed to a type of campaign journalism approach.

Criticism of Israeli government policy is more than necessary because the Netanyahu government violates democratic and other Western values by colonizing another people for the past 45 years, by depriving them of their liberty, discriminated against their citizens and treating them as second-and third-class citizens. They robbed them of their land and their freedom of movement, walled them in, besieged them and from time to time the Israeli military machine attacks as took place in 2008/09 and 2012 in Gaza. If criticizing this is “anti-Semitism”, then there is something wrong in the West.

Originally posted by Between the Lines – Ludwig Watzal
Dr. Norman Finkelstein at the University of Waterloo
See also: American Radical: Video – The trials of Jewish-American political scientist Norman Finkelstein.
 

Clip is from American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.

Copyright Baraka Productions / Typecast Releasing

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33483.htm

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Justice at Stake: Chief Theresa Spence Passes Day 15 of Hunger Strike

By Am Johal
December 27, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Launched in the shadows of Parliament Hill two weeks ago, the hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence goes on. There is little to be heard from the federal government or Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but a cowardly silence.
Chief Spence said she is willing to die in an attempt to get the federal government and aboriginal leaders to discuss the treaty process and make fundamental changes.
Spence’s protest was ignited by the recent passage of the government’s second omnibus budget bill and has the support of “Idle No More.” Through flash mobs and round dances in shopping centres around the country, they have shown their ability to disrupt, to make noise, celebrate and engage thousands of people across the country.
According to French philosopher Alain Badiou, only from outside the traditional political frame, outside the logic of the state, can a true political sequence begin. Only through the opening of such an event can we begin to see a new possibility that was not there before. This rupture that has been opened up has the profoundest of implications precisely because of its affirmative demands. A true negation of the present political order needs to begin with an affirmative logic if it is to bypass the crisis of negativity that regularly befalls social movements. That is why the political sequence that has been initiated by Chief Spence and Idle No More is threatening to the Stephen Harper government and could fundamentally reshape the political landscape in a meaningful way.
By this point in the hunger strike, it becomes difficult to concentrate. Muscle mass is weakened and emaciation starts to set in. A critical accumulation of toxic components from the metabolism process build up and can lead to death from liver and kidney damage and brain toxins if the strike continues for a few more weeks. Unlike Occupy, Idle No More and Chief Spence have demands. She has become a national symbol and has bravely highlighted the gross public policy extremes of the Harper government and has deservedly shamed them nationally and internationally.
If Occupy meant anything at all, people from that movement should be supporting the indigenous community. While there has been some support from the labour movement, environmental movement and the student movement, it has not yet been loud enough. There is so much at stake here, that the non-indigenous community must speak louder and support the demands of Chief Spence and Idle No More.
This movement, like Occupy, is decentralized, is multi-site and has the commitment for duration that is necessary to make a political opening real and substantive. Furthermore, If there’s going to be an environmental justice movement in this country that’s going to mean anything at all and have any kind of legitimate moral position, it needs to be led by the original inhabitants of this land, the people most closely connected to the land. Aboriginal people have been largely tokenized in the environmental movement and that needs to change. What has just been unleashed is not just about a political moment, but is in fact a message that has over 500 years of indigenous resistance to colonialism at its core. At its heart is a universal claim for justice and a radically open message for support and solidarity from non-indigenous Canadians and from supporters around the world. This movement, more than many that have come before it, has the opportunity to radically shift the relationship between First Nations and government — it also has the opportunity to re-educate a complacent and passive Canadian public that has all too frequently closed its eyes to the injustices faced by the aboriginal communities around them and have too often sought the false safety of a polite, made-in-Canada, armchair amnesia.
It could become a generational moment that authentically opens up a new political space. But what’s holding this movement back is that the non-indigenous Canadian public is not engaged in the way that they should be, given what’s at stake. Aboriginals have the country’s lowest life expectancy, the highest child mortality, and highest proportion of children not graduating from grade eight or high school. Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth. Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
Back in 2006, when the Harper government opposed the ratification of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chief Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said in an interview, “The [Stephen] Harper government has eroded the relationship between First Nations and the federal government. This government is opposed to doing anything associated with collective rights and has favoured individual rights. There has been no consultation with Canada’s aboriginal community.”
At the time of the United Nations vote in November 2006, the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus released a statement which read in part, “It is clear that these actions are a politicisation of human rights that show complete disregard for the ongoing human rights abuses suffered by Indigenous Peoples. This betrayal and injustice severely impacts 370 million Indigenous Peoples in all regions of the world, who are among the most marginalised and vulnerable…” According to the Assembly of First Nations, there is a backlog of 800-1,000 unresolved claims within Canada’s own federal specific claims process. Estimates of the total value of these unresolved claims range from $2.6 billion dollars to $6 billion. It takes an average of 13 years to settle a claim under the current system.
Tony Penikett, the author of a book on British Columbia land claims and a former premier of the Yukon, said in 2006:
“One of the problems for Canada in the past was trying to say with a straight face that they supported aboriginal advancement and were standard bearers for other countries. It is more accurate to say that Canada was bad, but was better than others.”
“The Harper government has passed a human rights bill based on individual rights as opposed to collective rights. In Canada, we have individual rights, but also collective rights for the francophone minority and aboriginal people.”
“The idea of self-government is through one’s own tribal government. By moving in the direction of individual rights, the government is inherently chipping away at that. Their refusal is part of that pattern, and I am surprised that no one has effectively made this a political issue at the national level.”
‘Harper’s advisers are interested in privatizing reserve land and attempting to deal with rights on an individual level … they are essentially promoting an idea that was abandoned in Canada in the early seventies.”
The Harper government’s approach to aboriginal issues is largely shaped by the ideas of Stephen Harper’s mentor, University of Calgary political science professor, Tom Flanagan. 
Once again, a fundamental tenet of this government has been to catch its opposition off-guard and come in with an overly ideological policy blitz, full of shock and awe, without consultation of those communities who will be directly affected by policy change. It is the Harper playbook par excellence. Legislation, time and time again, has been brought in under omnibus bills and passed with ruthless efficiency.
Enjoying a fundraising advantage against the other political parties, the Conservatives have launched American-style attack ad campaigns that have effectively decimated their rivals. Once the real effects of these policies are put in to practice, the real anger will begin. The recently passed Navigable Waters Protection Act allows the government the right to approve projects on more than 160 lakes without consulting First Nations. It has effectively gutted the environmental review process.
What Harper has failed to recognize as a politician is that when one wins a majority, one also ought to have the wisdom to govern for all the people rather than just his own, narrow base of supporters. Stephen Harper is playing a dangerous and divisive game that has severe long-term repercussions for the political culture of the country. The lack of civility displayed by this government has no modern precedent in Canada. As such, there will be a loud and long-term response to ring in the New Year.
The genie’s out of the bottle. This movement isn’t going away. The Harper government’s downfall will be remembered as one of its own making. 
Chief Spence, we thank you for your brave and important hunger strike. There is justice at stake here and that affects everyone. Our thoughts are with you and we will be with you every step of the way.
This article was originally posted at Rabble

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Loons and toons of Canadian dollar

 
Loons and toons of Canadian dollar. 48647.jpeg
Canada, an amazing, multiethnic, multicultural, and the world’s second largest country is located in the north of the American continent. Founded by Frenchman Jacques Cartier in 1534, Canada experienced French and English colonizations. Today, it is an independent country with a diversified economy and its own currency called the Canadian dollar.
The national currency was introduced in Canada in 1858. Previously, the residents of the territories that presently belong to the government in Canada, used to have Spanish dollars or reais that were in circulation in the Spanish colonies. The real predecessor of the Canadian currency was the money that was also known as ‘dollar’ – it appeared in the British province of Canada in 1841.
The cost of those dollars was equal to the cost of the gold dollar from the U.S. One dollar of the Canadian province consisted of five shillings. Interestingly, the French-speaking part of Canada still calls dollars piasters, and cents – sou, thus paying tribute to traditional names of the currencies in French colonies.
First dollar banknotes appeared in Canada in the early 19th century. The paper money was issued by the British Army between 1813 and 1815 . Afterwards, the emission of Canadian dollar notes was started by chartered banks, from the 1830 – by the colonial administration, and from the 1970s – by the Confederation of Canada.
The National Bank of Canada was established is 1935. Since that moment, the issuance of local money was entrusted to a new institution, which changed the familiar design of banknotes at once. The notes were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 dollars. After almost ten years, all chartered banks were deprived of the right to issue their own money. Nowadays, the Canadian dollar is printed by the Royal Bank of Canada and by the Bank of Montreal.
Among all other currencies of the world, the Canadian dollar stands out for its high degree of protection, which the currency had from the very beginning of production. Local notes had various shape and colors in different times, but in comparison with the money of other countries, Canadian dollars always had a rich format to display identification elements.
The banknotes and coins of Canadian dollars have a landscape on one side: snow-capped mountains, plains, high fur trees, and various animals, such as bears, beavers, some species of birds and so on. It is worthy of note that the Canadian dollar coins are known as ‘loonie’ – from the word ‘loon,’ which stands for the North American name of a waterfowl. The loon, just like the maple leaf, are widely known as symbols of Canada.
The loon, immortalized in Canadian money, looks like a duck. The bird inhabits the north of Canada, Alaska and Eurasia, the lakes of tundra, forest tundra and northern taiga. These birds feed exclusively on small fish; the scaring sounds that they produce at night resemble human laughter. The loon is also the official bird of the capital of Canada – Ontario. Noteworthy, the two-dollar coin, made of two alloys, is known as the ‘toonie’.
In addition to wildlife and local symbols, Canadian dollars depict the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that can often be found on the notes and coins of the British Commonwealth. In addition to the famous monarch, the local money glorifies politicians and scientists of Canada, who went down in history in different times: Wilfrid Laurier, John McDonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Robert Borden.
Five years ago, the Canadian dollar was ranked seventh among the world’s most traded currencies. However, the rate of the Canadian dollar fluctuates on news from the United States, as the US of A acts as the most important sales market for Canada. From 2005 to 2007, as a result of negative trends in the U.S. economy, the Canadian dollar began to decline in value. Today, when the crisis tortures the largest economies in the world, Canada also experiences hard times and trade deficit. Nevertheless, the role of the Canadian dollar on the world market remains one of the principal ones. As before, the currency of the technologically advanced and industrialized country remains the most geographically widespread and expensive currency in the world.

Maria Snytkova

Bigness

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Ontario high school teachers union accepts concessions

By Carl Bronski 
24 November 2012
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has reached agreement with seven provincial school boards on a series of contract concessions demanded by the Ontario government of Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty.
Two of the deals—for the Guelph area and York Region north of Toronto—have already been approved by Minister of Education Lauren Broten, whilst the other five—and potentially more in the coming weeks—will also be approved if, as expected, they follow the concessions template set out by the government this past summer.
The major concessions include a two-year wage freeze, a cut in annual sick time from 20 to 10 days, the abolition of the right to bank sick days and receive a payout upon retirement and a delay in the application of seniority-grid pay increases for new teachers.
The contract terms almost entirely mirror the takeaway agreements negotiated by the English Catholic Elementary Teachers union and the Francophone teachers’ union struck with the Ontario government earlier this summer. In order for the union to maintain even a fig leaf of credibility with its membership, the two new deals did not include the imposition of three unpaid workdays stipulated in the summer contracts.
McGuinty has insisted that the terms agreed to in those deals had to “substantially” form the basis for any contracts negotiated by provincial high school and public elementary school teachers’ unions. In September, his government passed the misnamed Putting Students First Act (Bill 115) that instructed school boards to negotiate based on those contracts. The Act outlawed the right to strike for teachers not yet under contract and set a December 31 deadline for their local unions to come to negotiated settlements or have the deals signed last summer imposed upon them.
The attack on teachers’ wages and conditions is part and parcel of an assault by big business governments on the living standards of the working class. The Ontario government’s April austerity budget, passed with the support of the New Democratic Party, starves the public health care system of funds, means tests senior citizens for pharmaceutical prescription coverage, closes schools and slashes hundreds of millions from social welfare programs. But the bulk of the budget’s proposed savings hang on the imposition of a two-year wage freeze on 1.2 million provincial public sector workers, including civil servants, teachers, nurses, hospital workers and municipal employees.
Refusing to defy the undemocratic Bill 115 with any meaningful strike action, both the OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) have attempted to placate angry memberships with an appeal to the courts and with ineffectual instructions to teachers to boycott meetings with principals, reduce the verbiage on written report cards and, in some cases, reduce after-school activities.
As the abolition of the teachers’ right to strike and the unilateral imposition of contracts threatened to weaken the government’s case in the upcoming judicial review of Bill 115, McGuinty was at pains to show that the collective bargaining process was “allowed to work”.
The OSSTF, which has already filed its case with the courts (along with other teachers’ unions), is now—with the signing of these new deals—abetting the government in this pursuit. It is expected that with the OSSTF now brought to heel, the elementary school teachers will be next in line for intensified concessions contract negotiations.
Both the OSSTF and the ETFO have been enthusiastic supporters of the big business Ontario Liberal Party for many years. The union officialdom have stumped for McGuinty in three elections and hailed him as “the education premier”. The OSSTF climb-down comes as a boon for the Liberals at a point where McGuinty’s government is racked by crisis.
McGuinty announced last month that he would resign as premier in January and then promptly prorogued (disbanded) the provincial legislature at a time when his government was under heavy scrutiny for its failure to deal with the teachers’ dispute, as well as its handling of a series of political scandals.
ETFO leader Sam Hammond, who poses as somewhat of a “firebrand”, has characterized McGuinty’s threats as “the most concentrated attack on collective agreements and public sector workers” in his members’ lifetimes. Despite this, Hammond has not ruled out continuing to support the Liberals.
Opposed to any struggle against the Liberals’ austerity program, the teachers’ unions will now make an even bigger to-do about their move to oppose McGuinty’s pay freeze through the courts. Citing a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the British Columbia Liberal government’s attempt to void an existing collective agreement and impose a new austerity contract on health workers, the unions have postulated that the Liberals’ wage freeze scheme will be struck down by the courts as a violation of workers’ constitutional right of free association in collective bargaining.
In reality, the courts have played a major role in the offensive against workers, upholding one reactionary law after another. Only last year, Canada’s highest court ruled that the workers’ “right to freedom of association” did not necessarily imply any collective bargaining rights; it merely entailed that workers had the “right” to have an organization that from time to time brought their grievances to the attention of their employers.
In the 2007 case, the court reprimanded the government for needlessly bypassing the union apparatus when it imposed concessions by fiat without first entering into negotiations to see if its cost-cutting objectives could be achieved voluntarily. In other words, it was cautioning governments not to undercut the legitimacy of the trade unions, which have played and continue to play a fundamental role in maintaining the existing social order.
At the same time, in its 2007 judgment the Supreme Court reaffirmed the prerogative of federal and provincial governments to engage in “hard-bargaining,” impose collective agreements through legislation in “exceptional circumstances” and strip workers of the right to strike. The acceptance of the government’s templated agreement structure by the OSSTF will only provide the courts with more ammunition to further contain the democratic rights of working people.

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Canadian government proposing draconian criminal sanctions for masked protesters

By Ed Patrick 
19 November 2012
Canada’s House of Commons has approved a proposed law that would make it a crime subject to a lengthy prison term to wear a mask or to otherwise disguise one’s identity while participating in “a riot or an unlawful assembly”.
Under C-309, anyone caught wearing a mask in an “unlawful assembly” would be liable to five years in prison and those deemed to have done so during a riot could be jailed for up to 10 years.
The private member’s bill was introduced by Blake Richards, a Conservative Member of Parliament and former police chief, and adopted with the full support of the ruling Conservative government. It is rare for private members’ bills to become law. But given the support the draconian “anti-mask” bill has received from Prime Minster Stephen Harper and his Conservatives and the Conservative control of the Senate, the upper house of Canada’s parliament, Bill C-309 is all but certain to become law.
As C-309 itself acknowledges, it is already illegal to conceal one’s identity while committing an indictable offence. The real intent of the proposed law change is to facilitate preventive arrests and threaten protesters with severe criminal penalties. Police forces would be able to arrest and seek to incarcerate for years persons who had committed no crime other than to wear a mask at a gathering proclaimed by the police to be an unlawful assembly or riot.
In arguing for this major increase in the arbitrary powers of the police, MP Richards declared, “We know that one key tool is missing from [the police’s] toolkit; a tool that would help police prevent, de-escalate and control riots”.
In fact, as many thousands of Canadian young people and workers have already discovered, the designation of this or that assembly as peaceful and lawful is entirely up to police and city officials, groups that are thoroughly contemptuous of the democratic rights and aspirations of the working class.
Under Canada’s Criminal Code an assembly of merely three persons can be considered unlawful if authorities deem them to be causing “fear”. Moreover, and this was certainly the case during this year’s militant half-year-long student strike in Quebec, police frequently provoke violent confrontations with demonstrators by harassing and abusing them or through the use of agents provocateurs, then use the ensuing melee to justify their declaring the gathering “illegal.”
Bill C-309 would give the police even greater latitude in rounding up individuals attending protests deemed unacceptable by the authorities.
While the bill allows exceptions from the blanket ban on masks for religious or medical reasons, its supporters did not suggest there would be any exceptions for those covering their faces to avoid the harmful effects of pepper spray and tear gas, a major reason that protestors don masks.
The opposition Liberal and New Democratic Parties (NDP) voted against the new law, citing fairly benign concerns about C-309’s redundancy or its likelihood to tie up the courts with cases that would be difficult politically and possibly constitutionally to win.
Since the trade union-backed NDP is currently mounting an all-out effort to demonstrate to the ruling class that it can be trusted to form a pro-big business austerity government, all of its MPs’ complaints were marked by a tone of obsequious supplication before the police.
NDP justice critic Françoise Boivin complained, “There’s people who would be let go who would probably sue the cities and the policeman for wrongful arrest. It’s just going to create more cases in front of the courts.”
Revealing his own abiding support for the repressive powers of the state, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair called the bill unnecessary for the reason that “The police already have all the tools that they need.” In a pointed reference to the student strike, he then added, “We saw that in Quebec.” The NDP, it should be noted, failed to condemn the police violence meted out against students and their supporters during the strike. Nor did it condemn the Charest Liberal government’s Bill 78 (Law 12), legislation that effectively criminalized the strike and placed sweeping restrictions on the right to demonstrate in Quebec over any issue.
Bill C-309 has been promoted by various business organizations as well as the chiefs of police in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. All of those cities have in recent years witnessed violent police brutality towards citizens engaged in peaceful protest, most notably during the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto and the Quebec student strike. Many cities have also seen an increase in street demonstrations, such as during the nationwide Occupy protests in fall 2011, which erupted in opposition to the growth of social inequality and poverty.
These same forces of reaction anticipate even greater mass opposition, especially from the working class. Already provincial and federal governments have increased their use of legislation to illegalize strikes, squelch collective bargaining rights, and impose wage and pension cuts through government fiat. And over the past decade there has been a vast increase in the size and powers of the repressive apparatus of the state, justified, as in the US, in the name of “the war on terror”
In online blogs, workers and youth opposed to Bill C-309 noted that while the government is restricting the ability of protesters to conceal their identity, the police routinely hide their badge numbers and mask their own faces with riot gear. It took more than two years and a sustained public outcry for the hundreds of officers who covered their badge numbers and removed nametags during the G20 protests to be disciplined. Most received no more than the loss of a single day’s pay for this flagrant violation of the police’s own rules of conduct.

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The True Cost of Oil/Tar Sands

By Garth Lenz @ TEDxVictoria 

What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat.

For almost twenty years, Garth’s photography of threatened wilderness regions, devastation, and the impacts on indigenous peoples, has appeared in the world’s leading publications. His recent images from the boreal region of Canada have helped lead to significant victories and large new protected areas in the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Ontario. Garth’s major touring exhibit on the Tar Sands premiered on Los Angeles in 2011 and recently appeared in New York. Garth is a Fellow of the International League Of Conservation Photographers

Posted March 06, 2012

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30736.htm

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Canada closes Iranian embassy, suspends diplomatic ties

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VOLTAIRE NETWORK | 7 SEPTEMBER 2012

The entrance of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, Canada.
(Photo: Courtesy Iranian Embassy)

Closing ranks with the US and Israel, Canada has denounced Iran as the biggest threat to global security and said it will expel all of the Islamic Republic’s diplomats from its territory by September 12th.
“Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement.
“Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Iran … Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended,” he added.
The Foreign Minister also blasted Iran for its support of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, as well as Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. The fact that the Canadian government is a staunch ally of Israel has also played a part in the decision to cut ties with Iran.
“The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide,” Baird’s statement claimed.
This statement by the Canadian FM was made during the APEC Summit currently underway in Vladivostok. And political analyst and the director of the Center for Research on Globalization Michel Chossudovsky told RT that it’s no coinicidence such a platform was chosen for announcing the move – which, Chossudovsky believes, wasn’t really made by Canada at all.
“This decision wasn’t taken in Ottawa, it was taken in Washington,” Chossudovsky told RT.
He added that this form of diplomatic pressure may be just the first step of many more to come.
“All acts of mediations and diplomacy and peace-building are being scrapped in favor of a possible military strike on Iran”.
Relations with Iran have been strained since former Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor, helped rescue six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis in 1980. Ties between the two states took and even bigger hit in 2003, after a freelance photographer with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship died in custody after being arrested while taking photographs outside a Tehran prison. Following that incident Iran recalled its ambassador. The Islamic Republic also ordered Canada’s ambassador to leave the country after trying unsuccessfully to come to an agreement on an exchange of ambassadors for some time.
Canada is certainly not the first country to cut ties with Tehran. The United States hasn’t had an embassy in Iran since the 1980 hostage crisis. Britain also recalled its entire diplomatic staff in 2011, following a major attack on its embassy which it claims was sanctioned by the country’s ruling elite. After the attack, Britain expelled Iranian diplomats from the UK.

Canadian Labour Congress pleas for bosses to recognize unions’ role in suppressing worker unrest

By Carl Bronski 
14 August 2012
In response to Ontario Conservative party leader Tim Hudak’s proposals to rewrite the province’s labour laws, Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Ken Georgetti has penned an op-ed piece extolling the value of unions in increasing corporate profitability, controlling wage demands and policing the workforce.
In June, Hudak, who is attempting to outflank Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty on the political right, issued a party white paper entitled “Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets.” The white paper is the Conservative Party response to McGuinty’s moves to abrogate collective bargaining rights and freeze wages across-the-board for more than 1 million Ontario public sector workers. It calls for changes to labour laws patterned after US “right-to-work” legislation. In particular it would make it more difficult to win union recognition and abolish the Rand formula, which provides for the “automatic check-off” of dues from all workers covered by a collective agreement irrespective of whether they belong to the union.
Based on the arbitration ruling issued by Judge Ivan Rand to end a historic 99-day strike at Ford Motor Company’s Windsor, Ontario facilities in 1945, the Rand formula was subsequently incorporated in the Canada Labour Code and the labour laws of most provinces.
It was designed to diffuse a militant strike wave in the immediate post-war period; institutionalized union organization and a state-managed collective bargaining system; established the conditions for the unfettered expansion of union bureaucracy and helped usher in an era of relative class compromise in Canadian industry that was underpinned by the post Second World War boom. No longer would the vast majority of major industrial conglomerates block union recognition. In exchange, any challenge by leftward moving workers to corporate property rights and the company’s “right to manage” would be aggressively combated by the union leaderships through the isolation and ultimate purging of militants from the labour movement.
The unions and the union-supported NDP have long pointed to the right-wing policy prescriptions of Hudak and his Conservatives to justify their close collaboration with the Liberals. Last spring, the NDP facilitated passage of a Liberal austerity budget, whose centerpiece was a two-year public sector wage freeze and that also calls for more than $15 billion in spending cuts over the next four years.
The Canadian Labour Congress’ response to Hudak’s white paper further illustrates the extent to which the trade unions have become junior partners in the corporate drive to reduce the living standards of the working class.
In July, Georgetti penned an op-ed piece entitled “Hey Hudak: You’ve Got Unions All Wrong.” Published on the Huffington Post web site and reproduced on the CLC’s own site, Georgetti’s article is a plea to big business to recognize the role unions’ play in suppressing worker discontent.
“If workers are left with no outlet to seek fair compensation and working conditions,” warns Georgetti, “they will find other means of collective expression. Their frustration could result in spontaneous work disruptions, with a profound effect on productivity. The government [with their attacks on union rights] is setting the stage for an explosion of wage demands in the future, when unemployment falls and labour markets tighten. After years of frustration and stagnant wages, workers will insist on catching up. Heavy-handed government intervention, as we’ve seen at Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail (with back-to-work legislation), invites lingering resentment and will take all those outstanding issues to subsequent bargaining.”
In this era of rare and invariably union-isolated strikes and massive concession contracts rammed through by the union officialdom, the CLC feels it necessary to warn the ruling elite that it should not underestimate the services that they render to them.
If the union apparatus is undermined, argues Georgetti, you will be faced with a workforce un-harnessed from its shop-floor policemen. There will be wildcat strikes, sick-outs, absenteeism–maybe even sabotage. Productivity will be damaged. Profits will suffer.
Hudak’s white paper is part of an international ruling class assault on worker rights. But if it has so excited the union leadership—much more than has McGuinty’s wage freeze although the latter is actually being implemented—it is because an attack on the automatic dues check-off system would threaten the fat salaries and expense accounts of the well-heeled union bureaucrats. And would do so under conditions where they are keenly aware of the widespread resentment rank-and-file workers feel toward them for collecting hefty monthly union dues while doing nothing and frequently worse than nothing to defend their interests.
The timing of Georgetti’s warning about wildcat strikes is not accidental. Over the last few months, workers have fought to break-out of the straightjacket of official trade unionism. Last February, hospital workers in Edmonton walked off the job in wildcat strike action. In March, Air Canada pilots staged a coordinated sick-out that disrupted scores of flights. A week later, Air Canada ground crews staged a nationwide one-day wildcat in protest against the federal government’s anti-strike legislation and in April Quebec neonatal nurses struck against untenable working conditions.
In July thousands of construction workers took wildcat strike action in Newfoundland, bringing a mega-construction project for Vale Inc. to a standstill for five days and defying a court injunction. The workers were protesting the abrogation of contract provisions in the no-strike contract and the piling up of over 160 grievances. Union officials worked to end the strike, arguing to the media that there were no grounds for their members’ complaints and threatening to assist the company by recruiting replacement workers through their hiring halls.
At the time, the utter contempt for the strikers was put on full display by Gus Doyle, the leader of the construction unions. Speaking with all the arrogance of a colonial viceroy addressing a native population, he mused over the growing membership resistance to his officials’ back-to-work diktats. “I’ll just use my own kids as an example,” he said. “I mean, a child will ask you something and they have an answer in mind, and if you don’t give it to them, then you’re wrong and that’s the case here today.”
The resurgence of wildcat strikes and other non-union sanctioned rank-and-file workplace action is a nascent rebellion against the deepening onslaught of big business and its political representatives on worker living standards and rights and against the impotence and complicity of the state-recognized and -supported union apparatuses. But such actions cannot in themselves resolve the crisis facing workers today.
In two recent rulings by government appointed labour arbitrators, concession laden contracts were handed down that accepted all the demands put forward by Air Canada management after a series of protracted contract disputes. The rulings came in the wake of the wildcat and sick-outs staged earlier by pilots and baggage handlers who had rejected concessions contracts foisted on them by their union leaderships, and then subsequently protested against government back-to-work orders and other grievances.
For Air Canada ground crews the ruling will impose wage rises lower than the rate of inflation and a two-tier pension system. The arbitrator also provided the company with extended relief on its previous obligations to pay into the pension scheme. In the case of the pilots, the arbitrator, in a ruling last week, cleared the way for management to introduce a new, low-cost airline that will result in the loss of up to 1,100 jobs, lower wage rates and extend required monthly flight hours, thereby endangering flight safety.
In striving to break out of the trade-union strait jacket, workers must seek to develop new rank-and-file organizations, led by their most trusted militant colleagues, so as to mount their struggles independently of, and in opposition to, the pro-capitalist unions.
While essential in promoting a working-class counteroffensive in defence of jobs and worker rights, such action will only bring enduring gains if it is conceived of as a political struggle against the parties, governments and entire state machinery that upholds capitalist exploitation and social inequality. To defeat big business, workers need their own socialist political party which has as its aim the establishment of a workers’ government to nationalize corporations such as Air Canada and turn them into public utilities democratically controlled by working people and run in the interests of society as a whole.

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Northern Light: Why Canada’s ‘Casserole’ Movement is All of Ours

By Chris Hedges 
June 04, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — I gave a talk last week at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Many in the audience had pinned small red squares of felt to their clothing. The carre rouge, or red square, has become the Canadian symbol of revolt. It comes from the French phrase carrement dans le rouge, or “squarely in the red,” referring to those crushed by debt.
The streets of Montreal are clogged nightly with as many as 100,000 protesters banging pots and pans and demanding that the old systems of power be replaced. The mass student strike in Quebec, the longest and largest student protest in Canadian history, began over the announcement of tuition hikes and has metamorphosed into what must swiftly build in the United States—a broad popular uprising. The debt obligation of Canadian university students, even with Quebec’s proposed 82 percent tuition hike over several years, is dwarfed by the huge university fees and the $1 trillion of debt faced by U.S. college students. The Canadian students have gathered widespread support because they linked their tuition protests to Quebec’s call for higher fees for health care, the firing of public sector employees, the closure of factories, the corporate exploitation of natural resources, new restrictions on union organizing, and an announced increase in the retirement age. Crowds in Montreal, now counting 110 days of protests, chant “On ne lâche pas”—“We’re not backing down.”
The Quebec government, which like the United States’ security and surveillance state is deaf to the pleas for justice and fearful of widespread unrest, has reacted by trying to stamp out the rebellion. It has arrested hundreds of protesters. The government passed Law 78, which makes demonstrations inside or near a college or university campus illegal and outlaws spontaneous demonstrations in the province. It forces those who protest to seek permission from the police and imposes fines of up to $125,000 for organizations that defy the new regulations. This, as with the international Occupy movement, has become a test of wills between a disaffected citizenry and the corporate state. The fight in Quebec is our fight. Their enemy is our enemy. And their victory is our victory.
This sustained resistance is far more effective than a May Day strike. If Canadians can continue to boycott university classrooms, continue to get crowds into the streets and continue to keep the mainstream behind the movement, the government will become weak and isolated. It is worth attempting in the United States. College graduates in Canada, the U.S., Spain, Greece, Ireland and Egypt, among other countries, cannot find jobs commensurate with their education. They are crippled by debt. Solidarity means joining forces with all those who are fighting to destroy global, corporate capitalism. It is the same struggle. A blow outside our borders weakens the corporate foe at home. And a boycott of our own would empower the boycott across the border.
The din of citizens beating pots and pans reverberates nightly in cities in Quebec. The protesters are part of what has been nicknamed the army of the cacerolazo, or the casseroles. I heard the same clanging of pots and pans when I covered the protests against Manuel Noriega in Panama and the street protests against Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who despite Law 78 has been unable to thwart the street demonstrations, is the latest victim. I hope the next is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney; they, and Charest, are puppets manipulated by corporate power.
The importance of the Occupy movement, and the reason I suspect its encampments were so brutally dismantled by the Obama administration, is that the corporate state understood and feared its potential to spark a popular rebellion. I do not think the state has won. All the injustices and grievances that drove people into the Occupy encampments and onto the streets have been ignored by the state and are getting worse. And we will see eruptions of discontent in the weeks and months ahead.
If these mass protests fail, opposition will inevitably take a frightening turn. The longer we endure political paralysis, the longer the formal mechanisms of power fail to respond, the more the extremists on the left and the right—those who venerate violence and are intolerant of ideological deviations—will be empowered. Under the steady breakdown of globalization, the political environment has become a mound of tinder waiting for a light.
The Golden Dawn party in Greece uses the Nazi salute, has as its symbol a variation of the Nazi swastika and has proposed setting up internment camps for foreigners who refuse to leave the country. It took 21 seats, or 7 percent of the vote, in the May parliamentary elections. France’s far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, pulled 18 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election. The right-wing Freedom Party in the Netherlands is the third largest in the parliament and brought down the minority government. The Freedom Party in Austria is now the second most popular in the country and holds 34 seats in the 183-seat lower house of the parliament. The Progress Party in Norway is the largest element of the opposition. The Danish People’s Party is Denmark’s third largest. And the Hungarian fascist party Jobbik, or the Movement for a Better Hungary, captured 17 percent of the vote in the last election. Jobbik is allied with uniformed thugs known as the Hungarian Guard, which has set up patrols in the impoverished countryside to “protect” Hungarians from Gypsies. And that intolerance is almost matched by Israel’s ruling Kadima party, which spews ethnic chauvinism and racism toward Arabs and has mounted a campaign against dissenters within the Jewish state.
The left in times of turmoil always coughs up its own version of the goons on the far right. Black Bloc anarchists within the Occupy movement in the United States, although they remain marginal, replicate the hyper-masculinity, lust for violence and quest for ideological purity of the right while using the language of the left. And they, or a similar configuration, will grow if the center disintegrates.
These radical groups, right and left, give to their followers a sense of comradeship and empowerment that alleviates the insecurity, helplessness and alienation that plague the disenfranchised. Adherents surrender the anxiety of moral choice for the euphoria of collective emotions. The individual’s conscience, a word that evolved from the Latin con (with) and scientia (knowledge), is nullified by personal sublimation into the collective of the crowd. Knowledge is banished for emotion. I saw this in Yugoslavia. And this is what happened in Germany during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis, who knew whom they could trust, forbade recruitment from the Social Democrats. They understood that the bourgeoisie liberals of that political stripe lacked the desired ideological rigidity. But the Nazis embraced recruits who defected from the Communist Party. Communists easily grasped the simplistic, binary view of the world that split human relations into us and them, the good and the evil, the friend and the enemy. They made good comrades.
“Comradeship always sets the cultural tone at the lowest possible level, accessible to everyone,” Sebastian Haffner wrote in his book “Defying Hitler,” which more and more looks like a primer on the disintegration of the early 21st century. “It cannot tolerate discussion; in the chemical solution of comradeship, discussion immediately takes on the color of whining and grumbling. It becomes a mortal sin. Comradeship admits no thoughts, just mass feelings of the most primitive sort—these, on the other hand, are inescapable; to try and evade them is to put oneself beyond the pale.”
William Butler Yeats, although he saw his salvation in fascism, understood the deadly process of disintegration:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Those of us who care about a civil society, and who abhor violence, should begin to replicate what is happening in Quebec. There is not much time left. The volcano is about to erupt. I know what it looks and feels like. Yet there is a maddening futility in naming what is happening. The noise and cant of the crowd, the seduction of ideologies of hate and violence, the blindness of those who foolishly continue to place their faith in a dead political process, the sea of propaganda that confuses and entertains, the apathy of the good and the industry and dedication of the bad, conspire to drown out reason and civility. Instinct replaces thought. Toughness replaces empathy. “Authenticity” replaces rationality. And the dictates of individual conscience are surrendered to the herd.
There still is time to act. There still are mass movements to join. If the street protests in Quebec, the most important resistance movement in the industrialized world, spread to all of Canada and reach the United States, there remains the possibility of hope.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years
This this article was first published at Truth Dig
© 2012 TruthDig

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Strange Animal Found in Canada

Strange Animal Found in Canada (6 pics)
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