Posts from our progressive community

Staying the flawed course

accidentaldeliberations - 12 hours 25 min ago
John Ivison is right to note that the Cons' latest ad reflects the Harper braintrust sticking to what seems to have been a long-established plan. But it's worth highlighting how that plan has been overtaken by events - and how even the Libs may be able to use the message to their advantage if they're smart in the approach to this fall's federal election.

In principle, a "just not ready" message is tailor-made for a two-party race where a party's ability to attach a single personality flaw to the opposing leader can make all the difference between victory and defeat.

But for the Cons, it represents a couple of important concessions.

As I've written before, the Cons' previous election campaigns were based on portraying the Libs' leader as unfit to govern under any circumstances - or indeed (in Michael Ignatieff's words) as lacking standing to be heard during at all. But "not ready" implies an entirely different standard: that the question to be decided about Justin Trudeau is whether or not he's suited to govern only at a single point in time.

And the softened message from the Cons seems also to signal some recognition that their attacks on opposing parties lack credibility. One has to figure that Stephen Harper would prefer to present a stronger critique if he thought voters would consider it plausible. But after a decade of saturation bombing with Cons propaganda through government and party channels alike, voters have tuned out anything that doesn't sound like what they'd be inclined to say for themselves.

It makes sense in that context for the Cons to turn to focus groups to tell them what messages will work. But that also means there's an awfully limited range of options available.

As for the opposition parties, the NDP surely figures to be happy to see the Cons sticking to their false assumption that the election will be a two-party race. (And it wouldn't be the first time that a right-wing party's failure to take the NDP seriously might lead to major progressive change.)

If the public accepts the ad's message - and particularly if Trudeau reinforces it at all during the course of the campaign - then Tom Mulcair can easily become the rallying point for opposition simply by showing that he's ready to govern. And that doesn't figure to be a problem for a leader with his talent and experience.

Indeed, Mulcair might well fit neatly into a Goldilocks scenario between a tired Harper and a not-ready Trudeau.

But even for the Libs, the new ad represents only a challenge rather than a defeat. And it's one they've presumably understood for some time now.


Unlike the vague criticisms of Dion and Ignatieff, the "not ready" critique is one which can be tested by how the Libs run their campaign. If Trudeau holds his own on the campaign trail and particularly in the leaders' debates, then the Cons' last attempt to bargain for another term in power will fail. And the particular criticism might also yield some fruit in developing counterattacks - such a "Harper thinks he knows it all" theme based on his presuming to dictate when Trudeau is ready, with former PMs taking to the stage to highlight the value of comparative humility and a willingness to learn.

Even if Trudeau can't hold up or counterattack immediately, though, he can easily preserve his own position by treating the election result as a "not yet" rather than a "no". And if a public consensus emerges behind the "not ready" messsage, the resulting attraction of progressive votes to the NDP doesn't particularly help the Cons either.

The Cons then seem to be betting that Trudeau's performance will be subject to just enough interpretation to split the vote for change while ceding the right to Harper. (Or they might hang on if Trudeau and the Libs spend their entire campaign bashing the NDP rather than making a case for change so as to ensure that both alternatives are tarred by election day.)

We'll see whether either comes to pass. But that's an awfully narrow set of possibilities for a sitting majority government which has done little but to plot for its own political fortunes.

On minimal solutions

accidentaldeliberations - 13 hours 47 min ago
Shorter Corporatists to Fleece the Irrelevant Beggars trying to avoid a living wage for Alberta:
Has anybody pointed out that if we ensure that the hungry have food, some of them might gain weight? That's why we consider it more responsible to force-feed them diet pills.

Adblock is Adhoc Answer to the Ugly Ad Dilemma

Left Over - 14 hours 13 min ago
AdBlock Plus mobile browser could devastate publishers About 215 million people will use ad block services on their computers by June, company estimates

CBC News Posted: May 25, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 25, 2015 5:17 AM ET

Twenty-four hours after Ad Block Plus launched its Android browser with an ad blocker built in, it logged more than 200,000 downloads. (Bloomua/Shutterstock)

Online advertising is beyond obnoxious, but I do realize it is a necessary part of getting ‘free’ content…

Instead of my first inclination to think it is a right wing conspiracy to control  media content to the extent that Adblock might force certain progressive-minded  media off the  Web, thereby pleasing the corporate masters of right wing politicians no end, and depriving us of  information regarding what our dictatorial masters are up to, let’s look at the problem as rationally as one possibly can….

I quit  being involved in Huffington Post a couple of years ago, because of obnoxious ads and because they forced you to join Facebook to comment..that was the end of HuffPo for me..I never used Adblock until the ads got so overpowering that you couldn’t even read the content you were trying to get…I realized that news media relied on ads for revenue in the face of disappearing subscriptions, etc. but this is insane..I had one company following me around to every media source I clicked on, with stupid pulsating lights and interference with the copy I was trying to read…how can any company ever expect consumers to want to check out their products when their ads are so annoying? Everyone mutes TV ads because they have become so loud and obnoxious, so why would corps assume that online ads are any less annoying? Seems really self-destructive to me..

Personally, I make a list of advertisers that piss me off, and go out of my way to avoid supporting them..and that goes for any sort of  political or charitable types who  stalk you if you are foolish enough to  give them any donation or information…whatever their ‘public’ policy  might  be, they lie, they sell your info to others who then haunt you to the ends of the earth…

Do any of you corporate types out there get the message? It’s really simple…stop with the noisy nonsense, the flashing lights, the pulsating  headlines, the  interminable ads before you can watch a tiny bit of video (given up on that, too…) The fact that hundreds of thousands of cell phone zombies (surprised they even notice ads…) have quickly downloaded Adblock apps should tell you all you need to know..instead of being  more and more obnoxious, try being  cleverer…

I read the Guardian  every day, and have noticed that they have a bit of mischief on the bottom of every page  now that says …  “We noticed that you are blocking our ads, we need them for revenue to support the site, perhaps we could suggest another way to support us…” or something to that effect…now that is clever,  and it will probably get  some sort of donation out of me because the Guardian has great content (used to buy the  Guardian Weekly as a pricey newsprint tabloid full of good reading from around the world)

I don’t want to stop  reading the Guardian, I  just want the torture to stop…..and that extends to all media, pretty please……


Stephen Harper and the Great Con Debate Fiasco

Montreal Simon - 16 hours 48 min ago


Whatever Stephen Harper and his grotesque Con regime say about the way they have blown up the political leader debates. Or the stinking fish they are trying to sell us.

Nothing can change the fact that a fish is a fish.The process is now a fiasco. It is yet another assault on our electoral process.

And yet another attempt by Harper and his thuggish gang to bend or manipulate the rules. 
Read more »

An Empty Chair

Northern Reflections - 17 hours 9 min ago
                                           http://www.westernfreepress.com/

An empty chair can symbolize a lot of things. John F. Kennedy's empty rocking chair symbolized the loss a nation felt after the president's assassination. But, in Stephen Harper's case, an empty chair at the consortium's leaders debate would symbolize many things -- none of them good.

To begin with, an empty chair is an pregnant emblem for a leader whose most salient characteristic is arrogance. Michael Harris writes:

Canada’s national political conversation has been emptied out by a sitting prime minister who is contemptuous of anything he can’t control. He believes that he can pay his way to re-election through the black magic of marketing and the usual bribing of the electorate with taxpayers’ money. There is nothing left but Harper’s cynicism – and his personal conviction that Canadians don’t want to talk about government anymore.
And that arrogance has led him to conclude that he has no obligation to talk to anyone:

When you think about it, Harper has never really wanted to talk with anyone other than the country’s corporate elites, and then really only a few resource peddlers. He talks at the rest.

He doesn’t answer the Opposition in parliament. Harper has never convened a first minister’s meeting where the premiers as a group could talk with him about the state of the country. Instead he talks down to them, if he talks to them at all.

Harper didn’t want to talk with Chief Theresa Spence about tangible ways to improve the lives of First Nations people some time before there is a human colony on Mars. He doesn’t talk with organized Labour about anything. He has more interaction with cats and chinchillas than journalists.
But, more than anything else, an empty chair at the consortium debate would symbolize Harper's cowardice:

Harper might be able to spin the 2015 election process into a vast electronic cattle-drive. That, after all, is what he has done with governance in Canada. But avoiding the huge audiences of the TV debates being staged by Canada’s major broadcasters can also be viewed as chickening out on the rumble.

At least Patrick Brazeau climbed into the ring with Justin Trudeau. Perhaps Harper has figured out what Brazeau never did – that underestimating your opponent can make you look weak. At the same time, hiding away from the electorate is no place to be for a man who keeps telling everyone he’s a leader. Then again, Harper is no stranger to hiding from things.
When historians write the saga of the last ten years, Stephen Harper may go down as the prime minister who hid in the closet. That's why his chair was empty.


Your Monday Morning Smile

Politics and its Discontents - 17 hours 10 min ago
I believe this is the cartoon Pamela was referring to in her comment yesterday:

Recommend this Post

Laureen Harper and the Batty Leader of Parliament Hill

Montreal Simon - 20 hours 34 min ago


When I saw all those bats flapping around over Parliament Hill the other night, I wondered  where they were coming from.

And because of the ghastly things they were squeaking, and the foul smell of their droppings, I naturally assumed they must be coming from the Harper PMO.

But now the horrifying truth has been revealed.

They're coming from 24 Sussex Drive !!!! 
Read more »

Turned Away in PEI

Dammit Janet - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 09:44
This is so fucked up, it's hard to know where to begin.

One rendition: A person waits 5 hours for treatment at a Canadian emergency department then is turned away with the words "we are not comfortable dealing with this situation."

Or: A person is turned away from a hospital emergency department and told to go to a clinic in ANOTHER PROVINCE.

Or: The Minister of Health looks into the situation and is satisfied that all protocols were followed.

Here's the story as reported in the media.

Here's the story as told by the woman herself, Courtney Cudmore, to As It Happens (at 9:50 mark), or from her Facebook page.

In Prince Edward Island, while it is part of Canada where abortion is legal, abortion is simply not done.

A PEI woman was unwillingly pregnant, found a doctor to prescribe LEGAL abortion drugs, listened carefully to the instructions, and took the drugs. The instructions included what to do if the drugs did not seem to be performing as expected: Go to a hospital.

The drugs did not perform as expected, and so the woman took herself to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital emergency department.

Well, they didn't seem to know quite what to do with her. A nurse got her to give a urine sample and that was it for about 5 hours.

Finally 7:00 pm.. I get called in... The nurse gives me a johnnyshirt to put on, Obviously Im getting examined. 45 minutes later Dr. Lantz comes in. With my chart ... Looks at my chart then looks at me and says... What would you like me to do.. Ohh I don't know check me out?! I told him why I came in. "Well I will go talk to the gynecologist and see what they say" 10 minutes later... "Well we are not comfortable dealing with this situation" What really... not comfortable... What the hell is going on inside of me... I'm thinking this in my head.... and staring at him. I ask ok what did my urine sample tell you?? Are my levels dropping?? "I don't know.. all I can tell you is you are still pregnant" ok so in that breath right there his job was to do a full examination on me. If I didn't pass everything which I'm sure I didn't .. Tha'ts going to cause bigger issues for me. But he did let me know I could go to a clinic in Halifax, They would have no issue helping me. After totally getting he wasn't going to help or find me help I asked him to leave so I could put my clothes back on. But I did thank him for wasting my time.
There just was an election held on the Island, where abortion was an issue.
P.E.I.’s four male political leaders provided their party’s policy on abortion services Tuesday during a forum on women’s issues where the last remaining variable was finally clarified. Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan said P.E.I. would continue to provide abortion services but only at a Halifax hospital. It’s the same policy followed by Premier Robert Ghiz so there is no change to the status quo.
When this story broke on social media on Thursday, the media got on it and the Health Minister was asked for a comment.

Health Minister Doug Currie says he was initially highly concerned when he received messages on social media, but after following up with officials at the hospital, says he feels all proper protocols were followed.

“I was reassured that no one was denied or turned away from the emergency room (Thursday) night,” Currie said.

“I was reassured that the standard quality of care was followed and I continue to be even more motivated to work with stakeholders to continue to remove current barriers that are facing Island women that are looking to access this service.”No one denied or turned away? Is he calling Ms Cudmore a liar?

Standard quality of care followed? Being told "we are are not comfortable" and "go to Halifax" is "standard quality of care"?

Do PEI physicians not know how to treat miscarriage? Would a woman miscarrying "normally" also be refused treatment and sent to a clinic in Nova Scotia?

Is this not dangerous, patronizing, and, well, simply OUTRAGEOUS?

Not to mention a human rights violation and a pretty prima facie case of malpractice?

The reaction was swift. PEI Abortion Rights Network wrote an open letter.

A petition was begun to have Health Minister Doug Currie removed from his position.

Ms Cudmore plans to contact a lawyer.

What else can we do?

How about alerting potential PEI patients about the patronizing asshole doctor? Ms Cudmore names a "Dr. Lantz". It seems pretty clear that this is Chris Lantz, member of a "prominent" PEI family, and -- hey, look at this -- brother of the leader of the PC party, Rob Lantz.

And how does Rob Lantz feel about abortion?

PC Leader Rob Lantz did meet the group and assured them he will maintain the status quo. … Abortion is not on the PC radar, not in the platform and there are no plans to re-open the debate.
And we'd like to know the name of the gynecologist supposedly consulted by Dr. Lantz.

Here's Ms Cudmore from her Facebook page again:
I have gone to the media as most of you already know and I will be contacting a lawyer to take legal action against the hospital. I urge ALL women who have come across difficulty in support/access to proper health care regarding abortions to take a stand now!! Don't be silent anymore.. We have a right we have a choice. All we see and hear are people slamming abortion if we stand now just maybe we might get the access and rights we deserve. This is legal and as women living on PEI we have a right to choose what we do with our bodies. ‪#‎statusquonomore‬
In other momentous news from the Gentle Island, there is a bit of panic going on over metal objects found in potatoes.

Precious PEI potatoes VIOLATED!!!!!

Last word to unexpectedly prochoice Stats Can (which is a parody account just to forestall any idiotic screeching):

PEI treats potatoes with more respect and dignity than 99% of women seeking abortions

— Stats Canada (@stats_canada) May 22, 2015



Image from @ProChoicePEI.

An Empty Podium

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 07:43


Given the firm rejection by Mr. Harper to join in the leaders' debates being arranged by a consortium of broadcasters, it would seem only fitting to have an empty podium onstage with his name attached, in case he changes his mind at the last minute, and to serve as a useful reminder of the prime minister's disdain (fear?) of honest and unbiasd formats.

With their usual perspicacity, Star readers offer their insights about this sad decision. All are excellent, but I am reproducing only a few below:

Confused about leaders debates? It's Harperology 101, May 16
I’m surprised Stephen Harper isn’t insisting the election debates be hosted by 24 Seven, his self-promoting video-streaming website. His heavy-handed refusal to participate in any debates hosted by a media consortium of CBC, CTV, ICI Radio-Canada and Global reeks of the fear he may not be able to exercise adequate control over the form and, perhaps, the moderator of those debates.

In assessing Harper’s decision, it’s worth recalling the under-reported episode this January when the PMO tried to stipulate that reporters submit their questions before interviews and press conferences. According to veteran reporter Robert Fife, both CTV and CBC unequivocally refused to comply.

Following fast on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the government backed away from its stipulation — perhaps realizing that it was the wrong time to curtail freedom of the press.

If Harper wants to accept invitations to debate at events hosted by others, that’s up to him — though the decision of who is to moderate and the rules over any such debates should be carefully scrutinized by every single leader before going along with this scheme.

The debates hosted by the consortium Harper rejects out of hand have been free of biased moderating to date. I am unsure the same impartiality will govern in all other venues Harper favours.

Penny Gill, Dundas

In reference to the Stephen Harper Conservatives’ alternate plans on federal election debates, I urge the consortium to hold their debates as they planned and scheduled them and issue formal and public invitations to all the federal political parties. Whether the leaders attend or not is their problem, not the consortiums nor the voters.

An empty space at a federal election debate will give a very telling message on the interest, concerns and respect the absent leaders have for the people (voters) of this country. The control freak Conservatives must be shown that they are no better than anyone and they will be treated as equally as everyone else in the debates.

Canadians are getting very tired of their antics and this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if they continue on their path of arrogance and false sense of entitlement and superiority. I am of the considered opinion that the majority of voters would agree with and support my suggestion.

Gerald McIvor, Winnipeg

Funny how Harper loves to use the big networks to air his propaganda but fears participating in candidate debates hosted by the same group. This could however be a rare opportunity to salvage what’s left of our nation if Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May were to simply seize the opportunity and agree to participate in debates hosted by the CBC/CTV/Global consortium without Harper.

Each could explain why their party is the best choice to put an end to Harper’s destruction of our nation’s environment, democracy, economy, integrity, honesty and reputation while sparing us from having to listen to all Harper’s spin crap. If he chooses not to play – well so be it.

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

......CBC, CTV and Global should go ahead with their plans to conduct debates. If Harper chooses not to participate, they should set up an empty chair so voters can see what he thinks of them.

Mr. Harper refuses to meet the press in regular news conferences, unlike most PMs and U.S. presidents. He doesn’t trust the media. If he refuses to debate on the “national” television networks, the feeling of mistrust may become mutual.

Joe Spence, KanataRecommend this Post

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 07:06
Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Heather Boushey writes about the Great Gatsby Curve showing a direct correlation between equality and social mobility - and conversely, that high inequality severely limits opportunity for large numbers of people. And Vikas Bajaj discusses how high inequality also harms overall economic development.

- But of course, we'll never get policies to address those problems without a government willing to highlight the need for change and acknowledge that there are no non-controversial answers - as Sadiq Khan points out in discussing the U.K. Labour Party:
(I)nsecurity reaches right up the income scale, which is why our commitment to fair rents and secure tenancies spoke to many middle-class professionals in London. Even Tory candidates attacked the Tory’s lack of policies on housing as a factor in why they struggled in the capital.

It’s got to be a deal though: economic growth, and lower inequality will only create a better life for all if we are straight that this will require shared effort and sacrifice. We promised things to ease the pain now for the “squeezed middle” without outlining what the economy might be like if we were in charge. And we suggested these would somehow be “pain-free” – paid for by someone else. The British public just didn’t buy it.

So it allowed our opponents to use the crash as a symbol of our economic mismanagement. But this is far from the truth. Let us be clear: the deficit in 2007 did not cause the crash, and the Tories were fully signed up to our spending plans. We should not cede this ground.

There were, however, bigger issues about our economic approach. We failed to regulate the banks and financial sector. We subsidised employers who paid low wages, placing a burden on the taxpayer, rather than encouraging them to pay a living wage. We tackled the effects rather than the causes, and that made it harder for us to tackle inequality. Since 2010 we began to address that and we must not go back on that now. But we have to paint a picture of what it means for people beyond the very low-paid, and how they’ll benefit personally if we tackle this.- Suha Diab discusses the Cons' general antipathy toward all but the wealthiest of immigrants, while the Ottawa Citizen editorial board is particularly (and rightly) critical of their attempt to dehumanize people trying to escape Burma by boat.

- Finally, Mitchell Anderson writes that just as Alberta's citizens finally built up immunity to right-wing rhetoric (if only over a period of decades), Canada's voters may be building the same strength just in time for this fall's election. And Michael Harris suggests that Stephen Harper's vanity may be his party's undoing, while Chantal Hebert argues that the Cons may be utterly oblivious to the public's demand for change.

Follow The Money

Northern Reflections - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 05:04
                                                    http://www.10tv.com

Recently, Linda McQuaig asked a question which, so far, has stayed under the radar. Who, she asked, owns Stephen Harper? Mr. Harper has done his best to keep the answer to that question secret:

In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership race, Harper disclosed some of his donors but kept secret 10 of the major ones. A list of donors to Harper's Conservative party leadership race two years later was at one point posted on the party's website but has since been removed.

At the time of those races, it was legal for leadership contenders to receive unlimited donations from corporations, including foreign-owned businesses operating in Canada.
Which led McQuaig to wonder if  the Koch Brothers are somehow connected to Harper:

In the recent U.S. congressional elections, the Koch brothers helped secure the victory of an unlikely band of far-right extremists who control both the House and Senate.

Among some 3 million political ads for both parties, there wasn't a single mention of the issue of income inequality -- either for it or against it, says Sam Pizzigati, editor of a newsletter on inequality at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.
We do know that the Koch Brothers support the work of the Fraser Institute, one of Harper's most vehement enablers. But, even if the Kochs have not contributed to Harper's rise, we should know who did. It's instructive to remember that Karl Heinz Schreiber gave Brian Mulroney the money to fund his first campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Schreiber did not give Mulroney money out of the goodness of his heart. We now know what he wanted in return.

Deep Throat's advice to Woodward and Bernstein is as relevant today as it was forty years ago. You find out all kinds of things when you follow the money. If Harper has not made it easy to do that, it's probably because he knows what happened to Richard Nixon after Woodward and Bernstein took Mark Felt's advice.

Stephen Harper Gets Three Slaps in the Face From his Own Supporters

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 04:46


As you know I've started portraying Stephen Harper not only as a cowardly puppet, and the most monstrous leader this country has ever known.

As well as a hopeless incompetent, and the turkey king of Canada.

But also as a leader so long past due, the flesh is falling off him and his rotting government.

And as more evidence of that, I have three examples that demonstrate that even some of his own natural born supporters think he's so far gone.


That they are giving him one slap in the face after the other.
Read more »

Your Ward News Being Investigated

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 01:11
When you publish articles on a blog such as this and cover the content that we do, you walk a fine line. You try to expose violent racist and make the public aware of the potential dangers of organized racist groups. You have a little fun pointing out how ridiculous the individuals are who exist in this subculture, and we've been pretty good at ridicule. However, you try not to give them more publicity than they warrant since many of them thrive on the attention.

If truth be told, we've often failed to be as conscientious as we probably should have been and knowing our tendency, we'll likely continue to fall short.

That being noted, we had been following "Your Ward News" out of Toronto ever since Michelle Erstikaitis began her involvement with the publication. Prior to Erstikaitis, "Your Ward News" seems to have been primarily a vehicle for attacking Toronto City Council members as well as being a big supporter of Rob Ford. It was, and still is, distributed freely to homes in the Beaches area of Toronto and claims a circulation of 50,000.

Things started to change somewhat with the arrival of Erstikaitis who continues to write for the publication despite her current involuntary stay in one of Canada's finer federal women's institutions. During the last municipal election, Erstikaitis and "Your Ward News" endorsed the following candidates in both Toronto and Mississauga:
  1. Paul Fromm. Not a surprise as she has a weird relationship going back with him a number of years now that even boneheads don't seem to get.
  2. Christopher Brosky. Convicted murderer who spent close to two decades in a Texas prison and who was later deported to Canada. Erstikaitis once suggested she and Brosky had dated.
  3. James Sears

The last name was one were not familiar with, though it seems that "Dimitri the Lover" was a fringe personality of minor notoriety in Toronto.



Yeah, creepy. And if you believe this guy, he actually had at least one "student" though we can't imagine "Pavel" was any more successful than "Dimitri" would have been.

Since the municipal election, Sears has decided to go full fascist and antisemitic. He's created an unregistered political party (the New Constitution Party) which consists mainly of himself and perhaps a few of other misanthropes.

Read more »

The Irish Referendum and the Lessons for Canadian Progressives

Montreal Simon - Sun, 05/24/2015 - 01:08


Now that the referendum in Ireland is over, and the great battle won, I want to tell you about something I learned from that campaign, that I believe can help progressives win the next election.

And that is the way the Yes side motivated and mobilized young voters.

And how they used social media to maximum effect to get their message out.
Read more »

Saturday Evening Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 17:53
This and that for your Saturday reading.

- Keith Banting and John Myles note that income inequality should be a major theme in Canada's federal election. And Karl Nerenberg points out that voters will have every reason to vote for their values, rather than having any reason to buy failed strategic voting arguments.

- PressProgress charts the devastating effect of precarious employment in Canada. And Wayne Lewchuk writes about the precarity penalty, and the need for public policy to catch up to the reality facing workers:
Uncertain future employment prospects can increase anxiety at home.  Lack of benefits can make even small unexpected medical costs a crisis.  Unpredictable work schedules can make finding suitable childcare very difficult.  The short-term nature of the employment relationship can limit a worker’s access to the training needed to get ahead. Together, the added challenges associated with insecure employment represent The Precarity Penalty.

In short, precarious employment not only creates significant stress on individuals and families today, it also creates conditions that can trap those who are in precarious employment from opportunities to get ahead.

Given that insecure employment is the fastest growing form of employment, we should all be concerned about what this means for our families, our children and our communities.

A new body of research (see references below), much of it focused on the troubles in the U.S. economy, suggests that public policy has fallen short, and at times exacerbated the challenges facing precarious workers. These policies have exposed workers to more economic uncertainty, reduced supports that help build healthy families and made it more difficult than in the past for workers to negotiate improved working conditions. There is evidence that Canada’s own public policy environment has not fared much better in terms of protecting vulnerable workers.

What policy has enabled, policy can change.  It is not inevitable that a growing number of Canadian workers find themselves in relationships that make it difficult to get ahead. The mechanisms we use to regulate labour markets, including how contracts are negotiated, how we set and enforce employment standards, how we support workers between jobs, how quality training is provided, and how workers can finance unexpected health costs and old age were all formed when permanent full-time employment was the norm.- Meanwhile, Elise Gould offers a reminder that a job - even with full-time hours - is no guarantee of escaping poverty. Craig Lambert discusses how citizens are being directed toward unpaid work - which can both take jobs away from people who need them, and serve as a threat to anybody seeking improved pay and working conditions for jobs which might be turn into shadow work. And Jim Dwyer reports on the wide-scale wage fraud being perpetrated against workers.

- Catherine Porter writes about Dr. Gary Bloch's prescription to combat poverty as a means of improving health generally.

- Erin Anderssen discusses the glaring need to improve access to mental health services as part of our health care system. And Steve Morgan highlights how a lack of a national pharmacare program makes health care less effective for everybody.

- Finally, Jesse McLaren argues that we shouldn't be surprised by the Libs' weakness on Bill C-51 in light of their historic willingness to trample civil rights in the name of political convenience. But Shannon Reardon nonetheless points out that anybody hoping for better from Justin Trudeau than support for the Cons' terror tactics has reason to be disappointed.

It's a Great Day to be Irish

Montreal Simon - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 14:11


It's a great day to be Irish. A great day for human equality, a day when love defeated  hate. 

Ireland became the first country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage by popular vote as 62 per cent of the electorate backed a referendum, official results showed on Saturday.

Somewhere the spirit of its gentle poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, who was broken by bigotry, must be smiling.

As are so many gay people...
Read more »

Just Stopped By to Say "Hi"

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 09:46

I haven't posted anything lately and it's been a welcome respite one that may continue save for the occasional interruption.  I'd like to explain what this is about.

Not much has changed, save for the suspension of these posts.  I still devour the online newspapers, my favourite magazines, think tank web sites and so on.  I'm still churning through online courses - war studies, global food security, over-consumption and population challenges, foreign policy, environmental decline, stuff like that.

I just don't know what there is to say about a world coming apart at the seams; societies and governments increasingly detached from reality.

When I joined Dark Mountain a while ago I was drawn to this collective of artists, writers and thinkers who have "stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself."  We feed ourselves nonsense and fairy tales because it's the only way we can keep this delusion of a civilization going.

I instinctively recoil from the word "manifesto" yet I encourage you to read the Dark Mountain Manifesto, which serves as the group's statement of purpose. While there is no end of research and literature and commentary about the myriad of challenges that will befall our civilization through this century, scant attention is paid to our resilience to meet them and almost none to our utter fragility.  Here are a few paragraphs from the opening of the Manifesto:

Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.

The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too carefully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natural disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.

What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.

Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.

‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’

...It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad’s Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.
As a species organized into a civilization of sorts beneath the surface we're chaotic and rudderless.  The failure of our leadership and our institutions allows this fragility to surface and become our reality.

Canadians can and should see the signs of this decline in the rise of our increasingly illiberal democracy.  If you put your faith in Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau, you've largely written the place off even if you can't grasp it.

I don't know what I can contribute to a group who appear to believe that simply electing a different flavour of neoliberal government can do any significant good for our people and our country in a moment of such great need and looming danger.  It's like we're reading from different and irreconcilable texts.

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The photograph is of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who set himself ablaze on a Saigon street in June, 1963 in protest of the persecution by the South Vietnamese government.  It was an act of futility that was followed by a dozen more self-immolations before the Diem government fell to a coup engineered in collaboration with Washington.  While this photograph shocked the world, we became inured to this sort of thing.  During the American war, 13-monks burned themselves to death and it went largely unnoticed.


Is it Critical Thinking Or Political Bias? - Part One

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 06:28


I have written about the virtues of critical thinking many times on this blog, and I have also frequently observed the difficulty of achieving it; without question, I regularly fall short of the ideal. One of the impediments to such thinking is the task of separating one's biases from the process, or at the very least recognizing those biases in assessing people and situations.

Take Stephen Harper, for example. Few would dispute that his propensity for exerting control and influence is massive. His contempt of Parliament, the judiciary, and all those who oppose his views and agenda requires no recounting here. With that context in mind, I offer the following as part of that pattern. Whether the conclusions I draw are a result of critical thinking or my disdain for the prime minister and almost everything he stands for, I leave for the reader to decide.

Exhibit Number One: Today's Star reports that the the renovated Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which I have visited) will not include a room devoted to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike:
The exhibit, which opened in 1999, was modelled after a meeting room in the Labour Temple on James St. in Winnipeg, where union members met to debate, organize and vote in the months leading up to, and during, the massive strike.

There have been past accusations that the government is trying to rewrite history in the renovated museum. And of course there is the Conservative anti-union agenda to consider.

In the matter of eliminating this important piece of labour history, the museum adamantly rejects any suggestion of political interference:
“Government is certainly not telling us what to put into the hall. Nor do they know what we are putting into the hall. We are not reporting to them and they are not telling us what to do. There is a very high level of cynicism and paranoia out there,” said David Morrison, the director of research and content for the Canadian History Hall project.Yet one could cogently argue that this decision is part of a much larger pattern, consistent with Mr. Harper's values and method of governance.

Exhibit Number Two: The elimination of home mail delivery is also part of a neoliberal agenda, which sees the fraying of government programs as an imperative. Despite the fact that Canada Post made a pre-tax profit of $194 million in 2014 and $24 million for the first quarter of 2015, it has no intention of reviewing its service cuts. Says Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post:
"What we are trying to do is avoid becoming a burden on taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars if we don't act responsibly now."

"We don't want to wait until the problem has become so severe that the initiatives we will be forced to take would be even more difficult." While the claim is that overall mail volume is down prompted the decision to end home delivery, no public consultations took place, nor were alternative plans, such as alternate day delivery, entertained.

Doesn't the autocratic nature of the move suggest the heavy hand of Harper was involved?

In Part Two, I will examine the curiously close relationship that seems to exist between the RCMP and the Harper cabal.Recommend this Post

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