Posts from our progressive community

On Harper's True Loyalties

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:29
In response to yesterday's post about Stephen Harper's boycott of a major climate change summit hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York on September 23, Anon wrote the following, and offered this video which, I think you will agree, is a most appropriate choice:

Harper, early on, seemed to care about human rights and UN initiatives:

"'I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide, and we do that, but I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values,' Harper said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao won't meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Hanoi, which is being seen by some as a snub over Canada's criticism of China's human rights record. 'They don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar.'"

After that crazy talk, I think Harper's sponsors sat him down in a boardroom in Calgary and explained the facts of life to him. The fact that he always was, and always would be, an Imperial Oil mail room clerk. I imagine that meeting would have gone something like this:


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Clampetts clownshow distracts from FIPA

Creekside - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:04

Gosh, was it only five years ago that Alberta Energy spokesman Tim Markle said "Chinese takeover is good news for Alberta", even as Harper was blowing off the Kyoto Accord, supposedly due to China's crappy environmental record, and pledging to build a monument to victims of communism? 

Beginning Oct 1 for the next 31 years until 2045, under the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement Harper just ratified on Friday, Chinese corporations will be able to directly sue the Canadian government for any public interest measures that interfere with their ability to make a profit in Canada. 

Do you think China-owned Nexen, Sinopec, and PetroChina just might consider Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline to be somewhat integral to getting their $30B investment in the tarsands home to China for refining?  
Think Steve can count on Christy Clark to ensure no BC environmental protection laws might harm China's assets?
Think it's an accident Steve released this news on a Friday during the Ford brothers' Clampett Dynasty pitch?

Two years ago in Vladivostok, Harper announced his signing of the FIPA deal with China. MP Don Davies introduced a motion in the House to not ratify it. His motion failed. All the Libs and Cons voted against it, including 24 Con MPs from Alberta and 19 from BC.  
You can contact those quislings through this HoC page showing that vote.

NDP Petition : Stop FIPA Now               
LeadNow Petition : Stop the Secretive, Reckless & Binding Canada-China FIPA


Council of Canadians : Harper government sneaks through Canada-China FIPA despite ongoing court challenge

The Tyee : FIPA 'is the price China demanded to open its purse strings for investing in the resource sector in Canada.'

Montreal Simon : Stephen Harper and the Great Chinese Betrayal 

Rick Mercer : China Trade Agreement 
.

The Harper Regime and the Buying of the Next Election

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 03:40


We know how many millions the Cons have spent on their ghastly porky propaganda designed to brainwash into believing that Stephen Harper is a great leader.

And that they are a great government instead of the worst one in Canadian history.

We know how much of our money Harper has spent pursuing the ethnic vote, in Ukraine, Israel, and soon China.

Even if that means selling this country down the river.

But when you see how much money they spent trying to buy votes on this summer's BBQ circuit it's absolutely shocking. 
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The Scottish Referendum and the Attack of the NO Side Bullies

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 01:16


There couldn't have been an uglier sight. Thousands of members of the anti-Catholic Orange Lodge marching through Edinburgh to show their support for the NO side.

Or one more representative of the NO side's attempt to bully the YES side into submission.



For by now the combined forces of Big Business, the corporate media, and the Westminster political establishment have tried everything to crush this peaceful people's revolt.

The crudest threats, the most absurd predictions of doom like this latest one...



All designed to scare people into voting NO.

And the good news is that at this point at least it isn't working. 
Read more »

On redemocratization

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 16:57
Adrian Morrow reports on Andrea Horwath's speech to the Ontario NDP's provincial council. And there's certainly plenty of reason for relative optimism about a message which both reflects a clear argument for big-picture progressive thinking, and recognizes at least part of the importance of the NDP's base. That said, I'll note that there's still one area which leaves something to be desired in Horwath's message:
Party sources say the election campaign was too undemocratic, run by a handful of people close to Ms. Horwath who decreed there would be no big picture pledges. The campaign also focused too strongly on winning Southwest Ontario – a region hard-hit with the decline of the manufacturing sector – at the expense of Toronto and the GTA, the sources said. The populist approach, they contend, made it harder for some in the party to feel they were fighting for anything important and consequently led to a lack of motivation.

Ms. Horwath made a bid to correct both problems Saturday.

In a speech that bordered on liturgy, she rhymed off example after example of progressive values – from universal health care to fighting poverty to better pensions to public transit – that she would embrace over the next four years. And she tugged at NDP heartstrings, at one point referencing the party’s revered late federal leader, Jack Layton.

“Love is better than anger, as a good friend reminded us a few years ago. We are the party of hope. We are the party of optimism,” she said. “In a time when the very, very few continue to amass so much for themselves while everyone else is falling behind, we have never been more relevant.” She also promised to make the party more internally democratic.

“Every single New Democrat should be able to see themselves in our campaigns,” Ms. Horwath said. “We must reach out as broadly as possible, both within our party and to our allies in our movement, when crafting both our commitments and our campaigns.”So what's wrong with that past passage in particular?

It's surely a must for any leader to be willing to speak to the values favoured by party supporters, and to design policy consistent with those values. But Horwath still appears to be taking the position that the crucial actor is "we" in the sense of the party leader and her (or his) closest advisers - reflecting a commitment to an increased baseline for consultation, but not necessarily an interest in true democratic decision-making at the party level.

Put another way, while we should be able to expect at least future campaigns and policy proposals (and hopefully general decision-making) from the Ontario NDP to better reflect members' values with Horwath as leader, her intention is still to decide personally where that commitment begins and ends.

That view of the relationship between a commanding leader and a subservient party is of course entirely consistent with the practices of the NDP's competitors. But unlike the Libs (who will generally follow their leader anywhere for lack of any coherent value structure) and the PCs/Cons (who count deference to authority as a key component of their actual value structure), the NDP actually has something to lose in settling for a top-down model.

In effect, the concession that politics must be practiced along the lines preferred by the other parties only helps the Libs and Cons to argue that the NDP doesn't live up to its own values, and thus doesn't offer an improvement on what we're stuck with now. And to avoid validating that line of attack, we should expect the NDP at all levels to advocate for - and offer - decision-making mechanisms which allow for grassroots debates and decision-making, rather than treating party members as just one more focus group to be taken into account by a leader who exercises sole control.

In making that observation about the need for the NDP's leadership to value something more than their own power, however, I'll also note that far too many political activists have been willing to reinforce the same dichotomy from the opposite side.

I've yet to hear anybody offer a reasonable explanation as to how frustration with a single leader justifies abandoning exactly the party system which should provide an alternate and more democratic source of policy ideas and strategic direction. In fact, a trigger-happy view of one's own membership based on dissatisfaction with a leader both diminishes the stability of a party's general value system, and further entrenches the view that the leader is solely responsible for defining the party.

And that's especially counterproductive within a party whose extensive (and growing) progressive network still offers by far the strongest opportunity for activists to shape both electoral results and governing priorities.

In sum, while Horwath has taken some important steps in speaking to core New Democratic values, there's still plenty of work to be done in better putting them into effect. And we'll only see the best possible results at all levels if both the leaders who have centralized power and the critics who have responded by turning their back on party involvement are willing to work toward that end.

No Surprise Here

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 11:34
Rather typical, wouldn't you say?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a major climate summit in New York on September 23, “to mobilize political will” towards reducing global emissions.

U.S. President Barack Obama will be attending, as will U.K. Prime Minster David Cameron.

In fact, 125 heads of state will be there.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, will not.

And please remember:


This message not brought to you by the Committee to Re-elect Stephen Harper.

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A Welcome Visit from God

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 10:22

God exists.  I know this because He's on Twitter.

From the "Tweet of God":

I'm restoring the world to factory settings.

Life is sexually transmitted.

The great thing about sarcasm is, no one ever misunderstands it.

The answer to the question "can people really be that stupid?" is always yes.

Thank you for praying.  All available angels are currently assisting other prayers. Stay on your knees. We will be with you vaguely.

Because of Rob Ford and Justin Bieber I am officially revoking Ontario's provincial licence.  From now on it will be known as East Manitoba.

I am God.  I had a son.  He was also Me.  He was a man, though.  I had him killed.  He came back. I did it to save you from how I made you.

Always remember that, in times of trouble, I am right there at your side, throwing the trouble at you.

11.  Thou shalt not take nude pics.

I apologize to some of you for the rest of you.

"World's largest ice sheets melting at fastest rate ever recorded."  You like ice challenges?  There you go.

I created the entire universe on behalf of one group of one species on one planet in one solar system in one galaxy.

I wish I'd had room to outlaw rape in the Ten Commandments but obviously working on Saturday and neighbourhood donkey-coveting had priority.

When a sentence begins "The unarmed black man was" and ends "at least six times"  the verb in the middle is usually not "hugged." 

No matter how difficult it looks, no matter how impossible the challenge seems, if you believe you have God on your side, that's nice.

Most of you are why the rest of you have no faith in any or all of you.

Remember good news?  Man, that takes Me back!

I giveth and I taketh away and it sucketh.

If it's any consolation, the nine quintillion other universes I oversee are all going to shit too.

Texas Republicans are arguing that marriage equality could lead to incest.  You know what DEFINITELY leads to incest?  Creating Adam and Eve.

Food and clean water are so awesome I somethings think everybody should have them.

Science is true whether or not you believe it, but religion is true whether or not it's true.

Why can't you all just get along?  Oh yeah, Me.

Religions Ranked by Truth.  1.  Yours,  2.  All Others.

When Jesus said "Love Thy Neighbour," the "when it's politically convenient and they look like you" was implied.

Have a great weekend!

Naomi Klein's Confession - Is It Yours, Too?

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 09:47
In the run-up to the release of her new book, "This Changes Everything," Naomi Klein has come clean.  For far too long she was in what she describes as a "soft denial" about climate change.  Does this sound familiar?

"A great many of us engage in this kind of denial.  We look for a split second and then we look away.  Or maybe we really do look, but then we forget.  We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons.  We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything.

"And we are right.  If we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, major cities will drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas; our children will spend much of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts.  Yet we continue all the same.

"What is wrong with us?  I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe - and benefit the vast majority - are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media." 

Ms. Klein may be late coming to the party but she's right.  We - you and I - are today deciding our children's fate or we're more likely abrogating our responsibility to our children and theirs, handing it over to people with names like Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair.  Of the lot, Harper is obviously the worst but the other two barely manage to hold the distinction of being "less worse."

While I'll wait until next week when my copy of Klein's books is to arrive before passing judgment, I'm curious about her focus on cutting GHG emissions.  That is plainly necessary, abjectly critical, but is it too narrow a focus?  How does it answer our other pressing existential challenges such as over-population, over-consumption; the loss of biodiversity, particularly the collapse of global fisheries; resource depletion including the global, freshwater crisis; food insecurity and all the ills that spawns from the spread of failed states to terrorism and resource wars?

I'm convinced by the considered arguments of Jared Diamond and others that global warming is but one part of a greater problem and that, if we're going to "fix" any of these challenges we'll have to solve them all.   "Winning" has to be something better than mere survival, eking out an existence, and it has to be for everybody not just the advantaged.

Obama Doesn't Have a Clue

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 09:09

Barack Obama has a mess on his hands in Iraq and has no idea what to do to clean it up.  And so he falls back on neo-America's default option - bomb it.

Retired US Army commander turned academic, Andrew Bacevich, offers some insights that reveal how hapless - and hopeless - American policy toward the Middle East has become.  American policy is in a rut reminiscent of the movie, "Groundhog Day."

Even if Obama cobbles together a plan to destroy the Islamic State, the problems bedeviling the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East more broadly won’t be going away anytime soon.

Destroying what Obama calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant won’t create an effective and legitimate Iraqi state. It won’t restore the possibility of a democratic Egypt. It won’t dissuade Saudi Arabia from funding jihadists. It won’t pull Libya back from the brink of anarchy. It won’t end the Syrian civil war.  It won’t bring peace and harmony to Somalia and Yemen. It won’t persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms in Afghanistan. It won’t end the perpetual crisis of Pakistan. It certainly won’t resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
All the military power in the world won’t solve those problems. Obama knows that. Yet he is allowing himself to be drawn back into the very war that he once correctly denounced as stupid and unnecessary — mostly because he and his advisers don’t know what else to do. Bombing has become his administration’s default option.
Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues to drift, guns blazing.
America has fallen captive to its very own game of "Whack-a-Mole".  Bacevich seems to suggest that America and her posse (that's us) need to accept the fact that we can't play wet nurse to every double-dealing Sheikh and Crown Prince and general across the Muslim world.  We're beating our heads against a wall and emptying our treasuries while they're sitting back on their fat arses unwilling to do any heavy lifting.
Whether the president will make good his promise to “degrade and ultimately defeat” Islamic State militants will depend less on the accuracy of U.S. bombs and missiles than on the effectiveness and motivation of surrogate forces fighting on the ground. Identifying willing and able proxies is like to pose a challenge.
The Iraqi security forces, created by the United States at such great cost, have shown neither fight nor skill. Though the Kurdish peshmerga have a better reputation, their primary mission is to defend Kurdistan, not to purge Iraq as a whole of invaders. The Syrian army is otherwise occupied and politically toxic.
The countries that ought to care more than the United States simply because they are more immediately threatened by Islamic State fighters — Iran, Turkey, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia — have not demonstrated a commensurate willingness to act.
There was a brief moment when the Obama administration let slip that the key to defeating ISIS was the formation of a multinational force from the region's Sunni Muslim countries.  A Sunni army to take down a Sunni insurgency.  Makes perfect sense especially as those Sunni countries are drowning in modern military hardware we supplied to them.  But all that hardware sits secure from the harsh desert sun in hangars and arsenals put to use mainly to crush democratic protest movements in countries like Bahrain or on the streets of Cairo.

Saturday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 09:02
This and that for your weekend reading.

- James Meek observes that decades of privatization in the UK have eliminated public control over housing and other essential services - and that privatization takes far more forms than we're accustomed to taking into consideration. And Rick Salutin offers his take on the latter point:
Economist Mariana Mazzucato's new book, The Entrepreneurial State, takes a bold step in "debunking" this fake construct. (Steve Paikin interviewed her on TVO this week.) She doesn't just argue that public spending (on defence) was crucial in basic advances like computers and the Internet. That's well-known. She also shows how U.S. public money funded product innovation way down the line, including some of the smallest details of the iPhone! She says the necessity of venture capital is highly exaggerated. Private investors are now far too focused on short-term profit to take real risks. It's governments that do it. The private sector then steps in when results are assured, to take the credit and the profits.

You could read her book as a blow on behalf of the public sector in the debate. But it works even better as a rejection of the debate's terms. There's no neat private-public division, that's just spin. There's actually society, a complex hybrid. Take the process of fixing potholes. Is that public or private? Or busing students to public schools. Even at those levels, it's all entwined. You cannot unscramble this omelet or neatly separate its ingredients back out. - Meanwhile, Robert Benzie examines the Ontario Libs' plan to hand over the province's public resources based on marching orders from Bay Street, while Rob Ferguson reports on Andrea Horwath's anti-privatization push.

- Daniel Tencer examines expert reactions to the Cons' latest plan to suppress jobs and wages, and finds precisely nobody other than the CFIB with anything positive to say about it.

- Sharon Murphy writes that directing our attention toward poverty and other social determinants of health is both more humane then funding merely reactive systems, and more likely to result in an improved return on our public investments. And Andre Picard discusses the health consequences of insufficient access to dental care (particularly among Canadians with low incomes).

- Dene Moore reports on the obscene amount of political intervention the Cons are imposing in scientific discussions, finding that 16 separate communications operatives interfered in a single request to interview a single scientist about his work. And the Star calls for Health Canada to stop suppressing its findings about defective and dangerous prescription drugs.

- Finally, Jeremy Nuttall notes that the Cons' backroom dealings on the FIPA trade and investment agreement with China resulted in their completely caving when it came to Canadian interests, while the NDP is leading the charge to stop the sell-out. And Katie Valentine reports that while Stephen Harper can't rush through giveaways to Chinese business fast enough, he also can't be bothered to show up for the U.N.'s climate summit.

The March Of Folly Continues

Northern Reflections - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 07:00

                                                               http://rabble.ca/

On Friday, the Harper government announced that it had ratified the Foreign Investment and Protection Agreement with China. It has taken awhile. Apparently, several Conservatives were wary of the agreement. But, with the prime minister heading to China, they decided (or were told to) sign on to one for the Gipper.

Jeremy Nuttall writes in today's Tyee that Gus Van Harten  -- who specializes in foreign treaties at Osgoode Hall -- believes that Canada will  lose big with this agreement:

Van Harten said FIPA is practically a one-way deal in favour of China, and Ottawa needs to acknowledge the non-reciprocal aspects of the deal and explain why they would ratify it two years after it was first signed.

"It seems to me the federal government has conceded to China under pressure to give them this treaty," said Van Harten. "My guess is this is the price China has demanded to open its purse strings for investing in the resource sector in Canada."

He said China had ratified the deal right away and seemed to be getting antsy Canada had taken so long, even speculating the recent detentions of two Canadian coffee-shop owners in the country on accusations of spying may have been part of Beijing's pressure.
The government claims that Canadian and Chinese investors will operate under the same rules:

But Van Harten doesn't buy that line.

"One aspect of the treaty is it has an exclusion of all existing discriminatory measures in Canada or China," he said. "China, it's safe to say, has far more existing discriminatory measures than Canada does."

Local government rules or different tax rates will now be locked in under the agreement, giving Chinese officials a tool to punish any Canadian investors it wishes to, he said.
Nuttall prefaces his report with the story of Mark Kitto a British publish, who -- until recently -- operated in China:

In 2005 his business was taken from him by a partner who was Chinese, at the time a legal necessity for foreigners, in cahoots with the Chinese government in what has become one of the most fabled stories of expat anguish in China and the subject of Kitto's upcoming book That's China.

During his day in court during the dispute, Kitto managed to prove the conspiracy against him by producing a letter from the public relations arm of the communist party to his business partner instructing him to fabricate evidence for the case.

"In the letter that went from the state council of information office to the person they were asking to fabricate evidence included the line 'We need to teach this foreigner a lesson,'" Kitto said on the phone from England, where he now lives.

The judge sided with Kitto, but after taking a phone call came back and reversed the decision. 
Apparently, Mr. Harper believes Canadians will not suffer the same fate. The March of Folly continues.


Israelis Of Conscience

Politics and its Discontents - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 05:41


I reproduce the following story without comment, except to state the obvious. It is a testament to the courage and integrity of those described therein, who will likely face all manner of vitriol at home for their principled decision:

Forty-three reservists from Israel's elite army intelligence unit have announced their refusal to serve, accusing the military of "abuses" against Palestinians, in a letter published on Friday.

The letter, circulated to Hebrew-language media and addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to the army's intelligence work in the occupied Palestinian territories, including targeted assassinations and intrusive surveillance of civilians.

The soldiers and officers from the elite unit, known as 8200, which works closely with Israel's security services, declared they no longer wanted to "continue to serve in this system, which harms the rights of millions of people" and refuse "to be tools to deepen the military regime in the occupied territories," according to daily Yediot Aharonot.

Soldiers in 8200, the army's largest unit, are responsible for collecting and intercepting telephone calls, texts, e-mails and faxes among various populations, the daily reported.

"We call all soldiers serving in the unit or who are going to serve, and all Israeli citizens to make their voices heard against these abuses and work to put a stop to it," the paper quoted the letter as saying.

In their letter, the reservists said that information their unit gathered was used against innocent Palestinians and created division within Palestinian society, including aiding in the recruitment of collaborators.

"Contrary to Israeli citizens or citizens of other countries," continued the letter, "there's no oversight on methods of intelligence or tracking and the use of intelligence information against the Palestinians, regardless if they are connected to violence or not."

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Stephen Harper and the Great Chinese Betrayal

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 05:16


He waited until late Friday afternoon to announce that the Cons had ratified their controversial trade deal with China. 

Hoping that most people wouldn't notice. 

Ottawa confirms it has ratified a foreign investment treaty with China, more than two years after the controversial agreement was signed, as CBC News first reported Friday. The controversial Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) will come into force on Oct. 1, said International Trade Minister Ed Fast in a news release Friday afternoon.

He couldn't even wait to see if the courts would rule it unconstitutional.

And with good reason. For it is one of the greatest sellouts this country has ever seen.
Read more »

Stephen Harper: The Political Predator and the E.I. Scam

Montreal Simon - Sat, 09/13/2014 - 03:42


It was the PMO's Picture of the Week. Stephen Harper receiving a report on the situation in Ukraine from the brutish former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris.

In his never-ending pursuit of the ethnic vote.

Even though, sadly for him, the only ones who covered the event were his PMO flunkies.

Because even the dullards in the MSM could guess what was in that report...



But then Harper is desperate, and as The Economist reminds us, he is a political predator.
Read more »

Musical interlude

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 19:45
Bissen - Exhale (Sean Tyas Remix)

So I’m officially not running for anything…

Trashy's World - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 12:23
… this time around. I was, however, very tempted to run down to City Hall around noon to register as a school Board Trustee candidate in my zone; where there was no one contesting the lone candidate who filed his papers. But whammo! someone named Talis-Ilmars Brauns has filed and will provide some opposition to […]

Smear Job of Indictment? The Rise and Collapse of Boeing's Corporate Culture

The Disaffected Lib - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 08:45
Al Jazeera pulls the wings off Boeing's 787 to reveal the "new Boeing" where profit comes first, even at the expense of quality. 

There was a time when "Boeing" meant the essence of quality.  From the B-17 to the B-52, and the magnificent history of the "7" series - 707, 737, 747, 757 and 767.  And then something changed and it began in Boeing's corporate culture. 

The company built on its quality, Washington state workforce, turned on its workers, beat up their union and the State government.  Boeing decided to outsource assembly work to the Third World, a.k.a. Charleston, South Carolina. 

Ordinarily I wouldn't post a documentary this long but, on watching it, the reality sank in that this is the face of today's corporate culture and we all need to be aware of that.   As for me, I've pretty much given up commercial flying but if I do have to travel, it sure as hell won't be on a Boeing 787.


Friday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:01
Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Smith discusses the growing public appetite to fight back against burgeoning inequality - along with the need to make inequality a basic test for the fairness of any policy:
(I)t is significant that a finance minister of our decidedly right-wing government showed the political courage to criticize a policy that will clearly make inequality worse. This test — whether a policy choice will exacerbate inequality — should be the test for any government in making political choices.
...
[The Broadbent Institute's wealth inequality] data, though disheartening, can help focus the minds of Canadians and our elected officials to understand the urgency of taking action to combat inequality.

Because in the end this situation is the result of political choices, not some inevitability. As Ed Broadbent, a long-time champion of combating economic inequality, has explained, “Democratic politics, at its best, is about choosing what kind of society we want to live in.”

And deep and persistent inequality shouldn’t be a characteristic of Canadian society. - Meanwhile, Rebecca Vallas and Joe Valenti criticize one policy choice which does little other than entrench wealth inequality, as asset limits which prohibit people from accessing social assistance if they own even a modest vehicle strip people of their assets and trap them in poverty without serving any useful purpose. And in a similar vein, Angelina Chapin laments Ontario's insufficient social supports which result in parents having to choose between food and school supplies for their children.

- Bryce Covert weighs in on how unpredictable hours in the retail sector cause nothing but stress and frustration for workers. And Peter Cappelli points out the futility of telling workers to seek more education when employers are more interested in employees who have received on-the-job training (which they don't want to provide themselves).

- Harsha Walia rightly argues that after thirteen years of sacrificing rights to a war against a vague concept, it's about time to replace unfocused fear with solidarity.

- Finally, Glen Thompson exposes the latest attempts by the oil industry to make sure nobody can be held responsible for the environmental risks it wants to impose on the Canadian public:
The new [Kinder Morgan] pipeline, it seems, is as complicated as the first mission to the moon, with a robust 15,000 page draft plan, guiding a small army of civil engineers, scientists and project leads. It took no less than nine expert presenters with technical analysts standing by, to present an hour and a half project overview to the FVRD Board. Sitting two rows deep, the project leads extolled advanced science and gleaned wisdom distilled from forensic analysis of past catastrophes. The presentation team successfully stick-handled their way through the Boards member's queries; air quality, the depth of the pipeline in deep rooted agricultural crops, financial compensation capacity and riparian protection.

The second event was a long afternoon of Kinder Morgan being slow cooked by fully qualified, and at times pointed, questions from a highly informed group of community leaders, advocates and government agency analysts. Kinder Morgan walked away roughed up, limping a bit, but uninjured. Every concern it seemed, had a graph, a published opinion or a mitigation plan and supposedly every bit of it, was reasonable, given the daunting task of moving extremely heavy oil, over mountains, in February.

At the FVRD meeting, a single phrase, made by the pipeline's head director, hung in the air like a high fly ball. I'll never forget the finality in his voice, "Once the oil leaves the dock, Kinder Morgan holds no obligation or responsibility, even 10 metres out -- that's the carrier's liability." Nobody caught the ball.

The oil cargo that was loaded into the Exxon Valdez traveled safely through the supply pipeline from Prudhoe Bay without incident. The Alaska coast disaster had nothing to do with the pipeline, and everything to do with the carrier. The Kinder Morgan director's sharp statement pulls the sheet off the question: Who will take Kinder Morgan's oil out of the Port of Vancouver?

Stunning Inequality

Northern Reflections - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:17
                                                                      http://rabble.ca/

The Broadbent Institute has just released a study on the distribution of wealth in Canada. Rick Smith, the institute's director, writes:

While the growing income share of the richest 1 per cent often dominates the headlines, looking at the distribution of wealth as opposed to income provides a broader view of the economic resources available to an individual or family.

A family’s wealth can be thought of as the amount of money that would be left over if they sold all their assets and paid off all their debts. Assets might include such things as houses, vehicles, stocks, bonds and savings. Debts might include mortgages, student loans or consumer debt.

For example, the wealthiest 10 per cent of Canadians accounted for almost half (47.9 per cent) of all wealth in 2012, while the poorest 10 per cent held more debts than assets.

The share of wealth at the bottom is particularly disconcerting: 30 per cent of Canadians together owned less than 1 per cent of all wealth; and the bottom half of Canadians controlled less than 6 per cent of wealth combined.

It’s important to put the distribution into context. The median wealth of the richest 10 per cent — meaning half in this group own more, half own less — was more than $2 million in 2012. In contrast, the median wealth of the poorest 10 per cent was a debt of $5,100.

Moreover, when you exclude pensions, the richest 10 per cent of Canadians own an even larger share of financial assets, which include things such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, investment funds, income trusts and tax-free savings accounts. The richest 10 per cent controlled almost $6 of every $10 (59.6 per cent) of such assets in 2012, more than the bottom 90 per cent combined.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the population combined held less than 6 per cent of financial assets and the bottom 70 per cent of the population only 16 per cent — a clear shot across the bow of the various rosy reports trumpeting post-recession financial wealth recovery for Canadians.
When the prime minister bragged that we wouldn't recognize the country after he was through with it, he wasn't kidding. He may want to be remembered as the man who was in office when one of John Franklin's ships was discovered.

But his real legacy will be -- and is -- stunning inequality.

More On Health Canada's Depraved Indifference

Politics and its Discontents - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:15


I entitled yesterday's post "All Canadians Should Be Outraged." Now I somehow doubt that all Canadians will get the chance, outside of those who read The Star. To my knowledge, no other news organization nor political party has weighed in on the issue of the secrecy practiced by Health Canada, secrecy that could cost people their lives. Given the potential of the issue to affect all of us, I find that deeply disappointing.

Nonetheless, today's Star editorial continues with the paper's quest for accountability.

Entitled End secrecy around prescription drugs: Health Canada needs to clean up its shameful cult of institutional secrecy and make findings public as the American Food and Drug agency does, the piece sums up the dangers lurking in our midst in just a few short sentences:

It’s a prescription for disaster.

Some Canadian pharmaceutical companies have sold drugs they knew were defective — putting patients at possible risk.

Others have hidden, altered and in some cases destroyed test data that showed their products were tainted or potentially unsafe, or not reported side-effects suffered by consumers taking their drugs.

That’s scary enough.

But more worrisome is this: Star reporters David Bruser and Jesse McLean could not get this information from Health Canada. Instead, they had to rely on detailed notes from the American Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of Canadian companies.

That’s because in addition to conducting inspections of Canadian prescription drug manufacturing facilities around the world, the FDA also makes its findings available on its website for public scrutiny.


And it once more addresses what I found one of the most disturbing aspects uncovered in its investigation:

Health Canada also said it would take months to decide whether it would release information about 30 drug inspections the FDA had conducted on Canadian company manufacturing sites that had resulted in objectionable findings.

In some cases, it said, it would have to consult with the inspected Canadian drug companies before publicly disclosing the information.

Pardon?

Canadian taxpayers, who pay for Health Canada inspections, don’t have the right to know the results — without the approval of the self-interested pharmaceutical companies? Or even be reassured that the drugs they are taking are safely manufactured, as American consumers can easily confirm?

That attitude is shameful and dangerous.


I blame the Harper regime for setting the tone at Health Canada. The culture of secrecy embraced and promoted by this government, having permeated the bureaucracy, coupled with the elevation of business interests over those of citizens, means all Canadians are being needlessly put at risk.

Citizens are only as powerful as the information they have access to. If you didn't read yesterday's Star exposé, I urge you to do so, and send a link to as many people as you know.

None of us can afford to simply dismiss this as just another sad testament to the decline in care and service we have all been witness and victim to under the current regime.
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