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The Con Regime and the Whale Songs of Resistance

Montreal Simon - mer, 04/23/2014 - 02:44


When I was a boy I sometimes used to dream about running away to sea. 

So the sight of that old sugar boat today, made me dream for a moment of sailing to some place far from Harperland.

Because this tortured country is getting crazier by the day.

And so is the monster who would destroy it.
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Whale of a tale

Cathie from Canada - mar, 04/22/2014 - 22:51
Now, it could be that the Harper government's move to take humpback whales off the endangered species list  is just a routine change which echoes similar downgrades by environmental organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

And it could be that it is merely a happy coincidence such a downgrade means no protection of critical whale habitat will be required anymore if the Northern Gateway pipeline and Trans Mountain pipeline expansion just happen to be approved someday soon.

But this is a government that sends out press releases about the number of visitors Canada gets from the Philippines and how it has improved the internet in Ottawa Valley South, to name just two of the 21 press releases it sent out today.

And the whale news was just posted quietly on Easter Saturday in the Canada Gazette?  So who can possibly believe that they didn't intend to sneak this one past us all.

Luckily, the Harper Cons are about as sneaky as humpback whales themselves, so now everybody knows about it:

...if Ottawa approves the pipeline, it must still persuade Canadians that the highest environmental standards have been met. On that count, the Harper government’s recent decision to downgrade the protection of humpback whales off the B.C. coast ranks as an epic fail.


Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s recommendation to reclassify the humpbacks from “threatened” to a “species of special concern” removes a major hurdle for Gateway’s approval, just a couple of months before a decision is expected on the pipeline. Which is precisely why it should raise all sorts of red flags.

Happy Earth Day

Politics and its Discontents - mar, 04/22/2014 - 11:12
I truly wish there was something to celebrate. Take a look at my previous post and the commentary from the Mound of Sound that accompanies it; then watch this short video.

Their commonality? A rapacious industry and an economic system that disdains impediments to their profits, and a federal government (a.k.a. the Harper regime) at their compete disposal.



Recommend this Post

Words Fail Me Here

Politics and its Discontents - mar, 04/22/2014 - 08:21


Unequivocally evil is the only phrase I can think of to describe this ecological and environmental outrage. Read the story and draw your own conclusions:

Ottawa removing North Pacific humpback whales from list of ‘threatened’ speciesRecommend this Post

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - mar, 04/22/2014 - 07:17
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Duncan Cameron writes that Canada needs a new political direction rather than just a new government - and offers some worthwhile suggestions as to what that might include:
The inter-generational bargain needs to be renewed. Today's workers pay for their past studies and future retirement. Investing in youth and providing for retirement has social benefits and requires collective support. Much can done through a serious progressive income tax, but notable additional sources of revenue for student grants and other social spending exist. A financial transaction tax for instance could raise an estimated $4 billion, and has wide support in public polling.

The biggest transfer of wealth in history is about to take place as the baby boomers pass on inherited wealth to their children. Inheritance needs to be taxed in Canada either as an ongoing wealth tax or through re-introducing succession duties.

Corporations are sitting on piles of wealth -- dead money, former Bank of Canada head Mark Carney called it. Erin Weir estimates that corporate cash on hand at the end of 2013 of $626 billion exceeds the federal debt of $611 billion. Tax idle capital and invest in public education, health, transport, culture and amateur sport.

Knowledgeable research shows that investing in early childhood education, reducing family poverty, improving social housing, ensuring gender equity, enhancing child-care facilities, adopting "living wage" policies, sane nutrition and agricultural practices, and promoting overall equality, reduces the cost of health care and improves the quality of life for everyone. Whether it be pioneering work by Dennis Raphael or the authoritative study by the World Health Organization, the benefits of enhanced equality for health are clear, and attainable when the social determinants of health are addressed successfully.- Meanwhile, Naomi Klein writes that the crisis of climate change is challenging humanity's ability to act collectively at a point when that capacity is in serious doubt:
Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.

This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

...We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

And little wonder: just when we needed to gather, our public sphere was disintegrating; just when we needed to consume less, consumerism took over virtually every aspect of our lives; just when we needed to slow down and notice, we sped up; and just when we needed longer time horizons, we were able to see only the immediate present.- Inga Ting discusses how Australia's two-tier health system has done nothing but make wait times longer for those who can't afford to jump a queue. And Andrew MacLeod reports on the attempt of Brian Day and other medical profiteers to force a similar system on the Canadian public - even as the Canadian Medical Association (having moved on from Day's profit-over-patient mentality) points out how poverty already serves as a serious barrier to health.

- Finally, Kathleen Geier takes her own look at the power of wealth in influencing public policy. Dave Gilson examines the preferential tax treatment for people who already have more than they need - a point which is equally applicable in Canada when one compares the CCCE's own numbers as to how small a percentage of income businesses pay in taxes to the rates applied to individuals. And Trish Hennessy warns against throwing taxes under the bus as an option to fund our social priorities.

How's He Doing?

Northern Reflections - mar, 04/22/2014 - 05:39


This week marks the first anniversary of Justin Trudeau's ascension. Lawrence Martin writes that the Harperites are filling the air with polls. They have tried to make hay in the aftermath of Jim Flaherty's death, pushing the meme that he  -- and they --  have been superb economic managers. However,

Mr. Trudeau’s accomplishment has been to bring back the Liberal support base. That base is traditionally larger than the Conservative one. This has been evident in polls that have shown the Grits around 35 per cent and the Tories at around 30. That picture has held not only for the past year, but dating all the way back to September of 2012, when Mr. Trudeau announced his intention to seek the leadership. With his name on the ticket, hypothetical polls immediately showed the big change.

Tories hope that the corner is now being turned, that they’ll draw even with the Grits or close to it. If there is little or no movement, they might as well go back to the drawing board. It will be a clearer signal than ever that the economy cannot save them. It will be a signal that after many years in power, fatigue has set in and the public wants change, pure and simple.

This was the case in the latter years of the St. Laurent Liberals, the Pierre Trudeau Liberals, the Brian Mulroney Tories and others. If it wasn’t the policies that turned people off, it was the governing culture.
It seems increasingly clear that Mr. Harper and his acolytes have overstayed their welcome. Despite their economic hype, it's their style and their shift to the past which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Canadians:

The culture of the Harper operation grates. A country is supposed to be governed by consent, not by coercion. With this man, there has been too much of the latter.

There’s that and there is the progressives’ argument that this is a country moving backward in time. Backward on criminal justice policies, backward on the environment, backward on labour rights, on democracy and backward, with the unremitting focus on resource exploitation, on economic vision.
By the end of the month Stephen Harper should have a good idea of how he's doing -- and whether or not it's time to head for the exit.



The Rise and Fall of the Porky Action Plan

Montreal Simon - mar, 04/22/2014 - 03:18


Uh oh. Hold the bacon. It looks as if the Cons have finally realized that their Porky Action Plan ads are NOT as popular as they had hoped.

And although they have spent gazillions of OUR tax dollars to promote THEMSELVES.

Now they don't even dare ask Canadians what they think of them. 
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Jason Kenney and the Shameful Foreign Workers Scam

Montreal Simon - lun, 04/21/2014 - 23:33


I've watched with growing anger how the Con regime has flooded this country with foreign workers, even though so many Canadians are unemployed.

I've watched them use the Temporary Foreign Worker's program to drive down wages and try to bust unions.

I've looked on helplessly as some of my own friends have been humiliated and turned into slaves, with no money, no hours, no job security, no benefits, no nothing.

But this is the limit, and enough is ENOUGH.
Read more »

ElectRight & Prime Contact Group - from a former candidate

Creekside - lun, 04/21/2014 - 18:07
An election candidate who paid $22,000 to a voter contact/robocall firm in 2010 for a "Mayoral Victory Package" has a warning to similar aspirants for 2014 :  Ontario Candidate Watchdog. It's an interesting read.

According to James Jones' account, following the election he lost to his municipal rival, he and his rival shared notes about their respective voter contact firms - Jones used Prime Contact Group and his rival used ElectRight -  and found they'd both been sold the exact same polling information and, Jones contends, both were serviced by the same rep.
"What surprised me at the time was that his numbers were almost exactly the same as the poll numbers I had received from Prime Contact in August 2010. I went back to review my files that night and realized they weren't just close, they were exactly the same, down to the tenth of a percentage point for all candidates.  The next day, I asked him if he had received a similar house by house report from his ITR as I had received and if he would mind sharing it with me. The response numbers were exactly the same, every single response was exactly the same. These two ITR polls that had supposedly been conducted two weeks apart got responses from the same exact phone numbers and the same exact responses for all the candidates and undecided voters. I realized right away that we had both been sold the same poll results. My only consolation was that my friend had paid significantly more for his than I had for mine. Over the next few weeks we also compared our live call results and realized they matched exactly, except for the signs that had been requested for each of us. I also found out that my old friend Derek [his Prime Contact Group contact] had also been the client rep for Electright and had communicated with the other campaign as he had done for me."
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his account as he has no contact info on his blog which was just set up last Thursday. And he does admit all this is legal.

But if true, it raises some interesting questions. Do ElectRight and Prime Contact work together and share outreach staff and information? Do they both use the same in-house resources or those of some other third party? Is there a parent clone company for both somewhere?



The Windsor Square interviewed Josh Justice, President of Prime Contact, in January 2012:
"A licensed provider of Canadian Data Services, Prime Contact offers such services as virtual town halls, live voter ID calling, automated surveys, market research, data services and polling.The company, with an office in Hamilton and headquarters in Tampa, Florida, started up 10 years ago consulting focusing on municipal elections. It has since grown to become Canada’s largest firm of its type “specifically on the municipal side,” according to Justice.Among the company’s successful clients include Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi."From a York Region interview in 2010 regarding a telephone townhall in Vaughan in October 2010:
"PrimeContact president Josh Justice said the company has done hundreds of these sessions across North America, mainly in the United States."I wonder if these US and Florida references about Prime Contact Group can be correct, given there's a little "Made in Canada" flag up there on their website?"PCG Research owns and operates a series integrated in-house research call centres in Ontario, Canada in which 100% of our domestic research is conducted.Global 
"Our successful international market research brings elements together to deliver research programs which enable our clients to address critical issues both locally and globally. PCG Research International is network flexible and we are not compelled to work with local subsidiaries or franchisees. We select local partners based on quality, track record, and compatibility. For qualitative work we will always send a team member to brief the local partner and engage in the local fieldwork process from beginning to end. Wherever possible, we try to meet local stakeholders and gain firsthand experience of local markets. " Ok then.


There have been a few glitches, as when they mistakenly mis-identified the NDP candidate as a Green Party candidate in a PCG National Research robocall poll in the London West election in July 2013 and no one could find out who had contracted the poll.   


 I don't know much about ElectRight, aside from the fact that Jim Ross, formerly of Front Porch Strategies,  apparently got a job there and a whole boatload of Con candidates used them in the 2011 federal election.

And Steve's then Parliamentary Secretary Dean Del Mastro used parliamentary resources to have them do a poll in support of a former staffer who was a provincial Con candidate in his riding -  
which must be what the Cons mean in their Fair Elections Act when they say they want to see politicians push the vote instead of Elections Canada.

So ... questions about robocall/voter contact company collusion from an ex-candidate.

I do have some reservations about Ontario Candidate Watchdog's  conclusions though :
"With potentially dozens of resellers all using Prime Contact's call centres and databases, including Electright, is it possible that this is the solution to the robocall mystery? Is the Derek that called me back in 2010 the real Pierre Poutine behind the voter suppression that confused tens of thousands of voters across Canada? Was it just a mistake, did Prime Contact call Liberal supporters by mistake with a suppression message, or did they just give the data to Electright?"Mixed up the Lib and Con lists by mistake? No. Because of what possible benefit would a list of wrong polling place addresses and phone numbers to make offensive phone calls be to anyone but the Cons for misleading their opponents'  supporters - the ones who got those calls. Ditto for impersonating Elections Canada. So no - no mistake.

But some damn good campaign advice there about making sure you get a signed contract in an election campaign nonetheless.
.

It’s Spring. Sharpen Your Pitchforks.

Sister Sages Musings - lun, 04/21/2014 - 17:45

This is it folks. Now is the time. We cannot afford to wait for some future theoretical Election to happen, where the outcome will do nothing to change the trajectory of turning Canada into a kleptocracy.

Let’s face some facts here. Even if the country, at least the 70% of the country . . . → Read More: It’s Spring. Sharpen Your Pitchforks.

The Temporary Foreign Workers Program: Yet More Abuse And Heartbreak

Politics and its Discontents - lun, 04/21/2014 - 08:00


Although the Temporary Foreign Workers Program predates the ascension to power of the Harper regime, there is mounting evidence that the abuses occurring under the program, none of which I am aware predate 2006, have been nurtured by the current cabal that consistently elevates the interests of business over the well being of citizens.

The latest example, as reported by CBC, comes from Saskatchewan where, in March, Sandy Nelson, who worked at Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza [previously called El Rancho] in Weyburn, Sask., for 28 years, along with her her co-workers, received the following letter:

"Due to changes in operations we are currently discharging all of our staff".

Some of them were subsequently hired back, including two waitresses who are temporary foreign workers.

But Nelson was permanently dismissed.


And Nelson was not the only victim of a program gone awry. Shaunna Jennison-Yung worked for the restaurant for 14 years before meeting the same fate:

The jobs they have aren't jobs that nobody wanted. We wanted them," Jennison-Yung explained.

She said to make matters worse, as a supervisor, she was unwittingly training her replacements.

"It's hurtful to be put aside and have people that you trained to do your job now doing your job. It's heartbreaking is what it is."


Predictably, the owners of Brothers Classic Grill and Pizza uttered the standard evasions and platitudes in response to CBC inquiries:

"All obligations to any employee are taken seriously. This includes the protection of personal information."

Additionally, they offered that "employees are a valuable asset to any business."

So valuable, apparently, that they are fungible commodities to be disposed of as the owners' agenda sees fit.

Recommend this Post

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - lun, 04/21/2014 - 07:20
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Michael Harris writes that the Cons' primary purpose while in power has been to hand further power and wealth to those who already have more than they know what to do with:
These corporations and their political mouthpiece, the Republican Party, are Stephen Harper’s heroes. He has spent his entire political career marching Canada down the same corporate road that leads to oligarchy. He is less the prime minister of a country, than a super-salesman of corporate interests. That’s why his policies often look so wacky but aren’t. They do exactly what they are intended to do.They are not designed for the country’s benefit, but for corporate interests. That’s what Nexen and Northern Gateway are about. That’s what Harper’s revenue-losing corporate tax cuts are all about. The [corporations] get break after break, and the public loses its mail service, veterans lose their service centres, and public servants get their pink slips.
...
We haven’t got far to go [to become an oligarchy]; 86 families in this country, representing .002 percent of the population, have accumulated more wealth than the poorest 11.4 million Canadians.

If it can be said that Stephen Harper has a vision at all, it is to keep it that way.- Paul Krugman responds to the observation that the U.S.' political class mostly addresses the preferences of the wealthy by pointing out that there's a meaningful difference between the major political parties in their respective handling of equality issues. But I'd go a step further and question whether the current influence of the wealthy means electoral politics are "irrelevant" or insufficiently relevant - and that if the answer is the latter, then there's all the more reason to pursue change through the political system.

- Meanwhile, Les Whittington reports that grassroots action is having a real effect on the Cons' attempts to place the oil industry ahead of all other interests. But Dean Beeby notes that the Cons' reaction has been to stop gathering the evidence which shows that the public has no interest in their spin - this time by refusing to test public reaction to publicly-funded political advertising (even as they continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into the ads themselves).

- Matthew Yglesias makes the case for taxes on extreme incomes for the purpose of addressing inequality - and notes that there's reason to pursue that end even if the result isn't an increase in revenue:
(T)he tax code structures even the "pre tax" incomes of very high earning people. Very high taxation of inheritances would mean fewer big inheritances, not more tax revenue. Very high taxation of labor income would mean fewer huge compensation packages, not more revenue. Precisely as Laffer pointed out decades ago, imposing a 90 percent tax rate on something is not really a way to tax it at all — it's a way to make sure it doesn't happen.

If you believe systematically lower CEO compensation packages would mean a mass withdrawal of talent from the business world and a collapse of American industry, then those smaller pay packages could be an economic disaster. But the more plausible theory is that systematically lower CEO compensation packages would mean systematically higher compensation spending elsewhere in the corporate structure. Either more frontline workers or better-paid ones. The new tax code would redistribute value inside the corporate structure without anyone actually paying the new sky-high taxes.- Finally, Ian Welsh suggests that we may need some significant regulation of online rent-seekers in order to ensure that the ability to exchange information in an instant actually leads to real opportunities for content creators.

Looking After Tom And Daisy's Interests

Northern Reflections - lun, 04/21/2014 - 05:53


Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page have concluded in a recent study that democracy has been successfully subverted in the United States. That country, they write, is now an oligarchy.

The American Supreme Court has had a hand in establishing that oligarchy. In the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the court concluded that those whose skin was black were not people. In the Citizens United decision of 2010, the court decided that corporations were people. The consequence, Michael Harris writes, has been that those with more money have more free speech:

As U.S. neo-conservative consultant Arthur Finkelstein has always said, money is important because it determines who gets heard. It was exactly what bothered Thomas Jefferson when he warned against the dangers to American democracy posed by “the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.”
Stephen Harper tried the same legal gambit back in 2004, when he headed the National Citizens Coalition:

Like his Republican brethren, Harper too went to court to lift spending limits in political campaigns. Like his Republican brethren, he too argued it was a free speech issue and wanted no spending limits on so-called third parties during elections. He went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he lost in 2004. The judges decided that setting limits on third-party political contributions during the writ period was not a free speech but a fair play issue.
Now Harper is trying to do legislatively -- through Bill C-23 -- what he could not do legally. The bill's objective is to entrench a Canadian oligarchy. Like his Republican brethren, Harper is looking after the interests of Tom and Daisy Buchanan  -- who got away with murder.

On the subject of great literature, I have one footnote. Over the weekend, Alistair MacLeod died. His novel, No Great Mischief is the finest rendering of Cape Breton and its people that we have.


Two Sentiments That Will Resonate With Many

Politics and its Discontents - lun, 04/21/2014 - 05:47


Today's Star brings two letters, one on despotic rule and the other on electoral reform, that many would find hard to argue against:

Harper’s on a lonely road to political isolation, April 15

Aristotle once remarked that all forms of government — democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, tyranny — are inherently unstable, all political regimes are inherently transitional and that the stability of all regimes is corrupted by the corrosive power of time.

To prolong the viability of democratic form of government, his advice had been constant turnover of leaderships to renew the political process.
After eight years in power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is clearly showing the signs of “the corrosive power of time,” as evident from the litany of problems outlined by Chantal Hebert.

He should, therefore, stand down, allowing a new leader to renew the political process. Time for change and renewal has arrived in Canada.


Mahmood Elahi, Ottawa


Why does anybody call Canada a democracy? It has taken nearly eight years for Stephen Harper’s stranglehold on his party and the country to start to loosen – and in all that time he has never enjoyed majority voter support.

We still can’t be sure Harper and Co. will be removed from office in 2015. It’s only a majority faint hope. Canadians will pay many millions to finance the federal election in 2015 — and then watch the pre-democratic voting system deliver, as usual, a House of Commons that bears no predictable relationship to what voters actually said and did. It could re-elect the Harper Conservatives with even less public support than they had last time.

The country needs new leaders who show real respect for citizens and taxpayers – by making a firm commitment to equal effective votes and proportional representation in the House of Commons. Representative democracy in Canada is 100 years overdue.


John Deverell, PickeringRecommend this Post

Edward Snowden and the Scary Secrets of Stephen Harper

Montreal Simon - dim, 04/20/2014 - 23:47


I'm glad that The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the out of control activities of the National Security Agency. 

And that Edward Snowden has been vindicated in his own country.

It has been nearly a year since a thin, pale computer whiz kid named Edward Snowden dramatically burst into our consciousness and became the most important whistleblower of modern times. As a result of his actions, we now live in a very different world and it is one — I would argue — that is better than before. At least now, we know.

Because thanks to him we do know so much more about the world we really live in. 

And so much more about the surveillance state that Stephen Harper is building...
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Happy Easter!

Cathie from Canada - dim, 04/20/2014 - 15:12
I'm not sure how the Hallelujah Chorus became a Christmas song -- it's a much more logical as ab Easter celebration.

Here is the Hallelujah Chorus by the 5th grade class in Quinhagak, Alaska:

and a psychic too?

Trapped In a Whirlpool - dim, 04/20/2014 - 13:59
We all know of Tommy Douglas' accomplishments but his psychic abilities? Here he is in 1978  predicting our fate today. We shoulda listened.
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On Laureen Harper, cats and #MMIW

Dawg's Blawg - dim, 04/20/2014 - 12:55
Given the current insistence upon the equality of women and men, it’s a sobering surprise to hear from so many feminists that women are, in the final analysis, merely the projections of their spouses. Or so it would appear, at... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

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