Saturday, October 27, 2012

Resistance to deportations growing

By Trish Elliott 
22 October 2012

A campaign to save two University of Regina students from deportation is gathering steam across Canada.

Today some 250 faculty and students attended a teach-in at the U of R, where organizers launched a Twitter campaign directed at citizen and immigration minister Jason Kenney and minister of safety Vic Toews.

By the end of the hour-long teach-in, the campaign’s Twitter account was already overloaded.

Victoria Sharon Ordu and Ihuoma Favour Peace Amadi are two Nigerian students who have taken sanctuary in a Regina church to avoid deportation. The pair worked at a WalMart for two weeks in the summer of 2011, violating a clause in their student visas that states international students may be employed on campus only.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Saskatchewan government contemplates sale of Information Services Corporation

Wall government considers privatizing despite the fact that ISC has posted nearly $100 million in net income most of which returned to the people of Saskatchewan.

October 19, 2012

The Save Our Saskatchewan (SOS) Crowns Campaign is expressing concern for the future of Information Services Corporation (ISC) as the Sask Party government examines whether or not they will set the stage for privatization later this fall.

Recently the government announced that a ISC is being evaluated by RBC to determine whether or not they will introduce legislation in the fall to begin the process of privatizing the Crown Corporation.

Since 2007 ISC has posted nearly $100-million in net income, much of which is returned to the people of the province through dividends to Crown Investment Corporation (CIC), lowering the tax burden for all Saskatchewan residents.

The government cites difficulty in expanding business as the reasoning behind the suggested privatization. However, it would seem obvious that once privatized, an expanded ISC will not be returning any profits to taxpayers.

In 2008, former minister responsible for Crowns, Ken Cheveldayoff wrote in ISC’s Annual Report, that his priority was “to ensure that Saskatchewan’s Crown Corporations remain publicly owned...This is a promise our Government made to the people of Saskatchewan, and it is a promise we will keep.”

Concerns have already been surfacing around the government’s commitment to the privacy and security of Saskatchewan residents and businesses with their recent partnership announcement with Chinese-based Huawei.

SOS calls on the government to abandon their plan to determine the feasibility of privatizing ISC and re-evaluate their restrictive Sask First Policy that handcuffs the investment opportunities for all Crown Corporations in Saskatchewan.

Save Our Saskatchewan (SOS) Crowns Campaign is a broad based Coalition aimed at reaffirming to the people of Saskatchewan the importance of preserving and growing the Crowns, by ensuring all aspects of the Crowns remain in the hands of the public.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stopping Nuclear Waste in its Tracks

Communities, Indigenous organizations pass resolutions against transportation and storage of nuclear waste in Saskatchewan

October 2012

Growing numbers of communities in Saskatchewan are vowing to block nuclear waste from being transported through their territory. 

BEAUVAL, SK—Three places in northern Saskatchewan may be on the map in Canada's search for a high-level radioactive waste dump site, but the spent nuclear fuel bundles may be stopped in their tracks. Communities and Indigenous organizations along potential transport routes and beyond have been passing resolutions against nuclear waste.

The Northern Village of Pinehouse, English River First Nation and the town of Creighton are all currently in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) site selection process to find a "willing host community" for a deep geological repository to house the waste piling up at nuclear reactors in Quebec, New Brunswick and especially Ontario.

Canada’s Spy Groups Divulge Secret Intelligence to Energy Companies

Documents raise fears that info on environmentalists, Indigenous groups and more shared with industry at biannual, secret-level, briefings.

October 10, 2012

Since 2005, the Canadian government has been organizing secret-level meetings between federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies and energy corporations to share intelligence on environmentalists' activities. 

The Canadian government has been orchestrating briefings that provide energy companies with classified intelligence from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP and other agencies, raising concerns that federal officials are spying on environmentalists and First Nations in order to provide information to the businesses they criticize.

The secret-level briefings have taken place twice a year since 2005, and are detailed in documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, and in publicly-available government files.

The draft agenda for one of the briefings, acquired by The Dominion, shows that the RCMP and CSIS assisted the department of Natural Resources in organizing a daylong event on November 25, 2010, at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, and a networking reception the previous night at the Chateau Laurier.

Democratize Crown Corporations, not privatize them

Green Party of Saskatchewan 
October 15, 2012

The Green Party of Saskatchewan (GPS) is encouraging the Saskatchewan Party Government not to privatize the Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan (ISC). GPS Leader Victor Lau thinks this would be a huge mistake, “The voters of Saskatchewan have demonstrated time and again that they are not in favour of privatizing Crown Corporations. Yet the Saskatchewan Party Government insists on defying the wishes of the Saskatchewan electorate.”

Lau says privatization is not the way to make the Crowns more accountable. Instead, Lau says these agencies should be democratized by transforming them into Crown Co-operatives. As a Crown Co-operative, ISC would still be owned by the taxpayers of the province through the Government of Saskatchewan, but these agencies would operate like cooperatives. The key features of Crown Co-operatives would include:
  • The election of the Board of Directors,
  • A public annual general meeting,
  • The paying of dividends to taxpayers (when it is feasible to do so), and
  • The publishing of quarterly financial reports.
“Saskatchewan Crown Corporations need to be democratized, not privatized,” says Lau. “This means the balance of power within each Crown Co-op would lie with the taxpayers of Saskatchewan.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Left Turn in Canada? The NDP Breakthrough and the Future of Canadian Politics

By Murray Cooke and Dennis Pilon
Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

INTRODUCTION: Canada’s NDP: A left force to be reckoned with?

In the last Canadian federal election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) won more than 30 per cent of the popular vote. For the first time in the party’s fifty-year existence, it now forms the Official Opposition in the national Parliament in Ottawa. Because of this remarkable showing, the question of
whether this election represents a historic national breakthrough for the Canadian left has been put on the agenda.

Conventionally, the NDP is considered a social democratic party in the Anglo-American mold, rather than the European socialist tradition. The party emerged much later than comparable labour parties in Europe, the UK and Australia. And unlike other comparable socialist and labour parties, it did not displace the traditional reformist Liberal Party. Arguably the key barrier to the Canadian left has been the continued viability of the Canadian Liberal Party, long after comparable liberal parties have waned in Europe and Australia. Therefore, the sudden increase in seats and shift into second place in the national party system, largely due to a breakthrough in the French-speaking province of Québec, was both unprecedented and unexpected.

The NDP’s success particularly surprised those pundits who had argued that Canadians have simply not been interested in its mild social democratic policy mix, or that American influences have tempered Canadian political collectivism. However, these “explanations” have failed to take into account that the party has gained office in five of the country’s ten provinces, demonstrating its broad popularity, while a great many of its national policies have been introduced by other parties.

So what were the factors contributing to the NDP’s success? And what kind of politics does the NDP stand for? Is it a party of the left or rather a mildly center-left force favouring the implementation of neo-liberal austerity policies, just as the other Canadian parties do?

Murray Cooke and Dennis Pilon from the Department of Political Science at York University, Toronto, both of whom have published extensively on issues relating to Canadian party politics, analyse the NDP’s outlook. They explore what kind of party the NDP is and has been, its historic position in the national party system, and the role of regional, linguistic and class factors in shaping its federal presence. Cooke and Pilon also discuss the more recent changes taking place since Jack Layton became the NDP’s leader in 2004, and the impact of his untimely death only months after his greatest political victory.

Stefanie Ehmsen and Albert Scharenberg
Co-Directors of New York Office, RLF, October 2012

Read the full document HERE.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Regina Municipal Election: A flood of candidates is one sign that citizens are fed up

By John W. Warnock 
Act Up in Sask.
Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Regina municipal election will take place on October 24. In contrast to the election three years ago, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of candidates running for seats on City Council. Furthermore, there are nine candidates running for the position of Mayor. We may see a much higher turnout of voters this time and perhaps a different city administration.

Regina used to be a solid NDP town. But in the last municipal election the turnout of voters fell to 25%, which always benefits those with higher incomes. As a result, the political right re-elected Mayor Pat Fiacco, a known supporter of Stephen Harper and Brad Wall. Judging by their voting record on key issues, it quickly became apparent that the political right also swept City Council. However, a revolt against the incumbents began in 2011 when the Mayor and his business friends produced a plan to build a new football stadium.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Huge Chavez confronts (neo) liberal democracy

By Murray Dobbin
October 11, 2012

There has been much written about the erosion of democracy in Canada under the Liberals but even more egregiously under the Harper Conservatives (and PLEASE don’t call these libertarians “Tories”). There is a very long list of grievances from the abuse of prorogation, to deliberate sabotaging of Parliamentary Committees, to election robo-calls, to the gagging of public employees.

But there is a more sinister anti-democratic undercurrent at play here and reading the media coverage of the Venezuelan presidential elections brought it home in spades. That coverage – in which reporters and pundits could barely bring themselves to recognize Chavez’s historic victory and his trouncing of the opposition – oozed contempt for Chavez and the 55% of Venezuelans who voted for socialism. They couldn't stand it: beside themselves with outrage over the result even though the voting process was impeccable and beyond criticism – indeed far more tamper proof than the American farce that passes for democracy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bill Gilbey: Civil rights activist, trade union organizer and humanist

By  Barrie  Anderson
(This article was intended for The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan and is posthumously published here for the first time - NYC)   
The book was a 1903 edition of Capital, Karl Marx’s monumental analysis of the capitalist order and its future. Leafing through the yellowed brittle pages one could see that the book had not just been read but had been poured over and studied.  The many notations in the margins of the book had been made in a firm hand as if they were to remain an integral part of the manuscript, something to be referred back to many times in the future. Some of the notations indicate agreement with the text, some questioned the validity of a particular argument, while still others reduced and summarized complex and abstract ideas into simple point form.

One could be forgiven for concluding that the note maker was an educated scholar determined to comprehend the complexity of Marxian philosophy. Such a conclusion would be erroneous however. The scribbles in the margin were made by a man with very limited formal education determined to come to grips with the great events of history that affect us all. The man was Bill Gilbey, civil rights activist, trade union organizer and humanist who devoted his life to improving the lives of others.

Privatization of Consciousness

By Jerry Mander
Monthly Review

October 2012

Jerry Mander is founder and distinguished fellow of the International Forum on Globalization, and was called “patriarch of the anti-globalization movement” by the New York Times. His early career was as president of a commercial ad agency, and then later, non-profit political advertising with Public Media Center, which concentrated on environmental and anti-war work. 

His previous books include Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978) , In the Absence of the Sacred (1991), The Case Against the Global Economy (1996) , and Alternatives to Economic Globalization (2002). This article is reprinted from Chapter 10 of his new book, The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (Copyright © 2012 by Jerry Mander. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint).

Is advertising legal? Most people agree that it is an uninvited intrusion into our lives and our minds, an invasion of privacy. But the fact that we can be aware of this without being furious, and that we do little to change the situation, is a good measure of our level of submission. There is a power relationship in advertising that is rarely, if ever, looked at, and yet it is a profoundly corrupt one. Some speak; others listen.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Unhealthy meat from an unhealthy industry

Trevor Herriot's GrassNotes
October 3, 2012

So what do E. coli outbreaks, Saskatchewan's plans to sell off the former PFRA pastures, and the recent letters to the editor of the federal minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, all have in common? No, it's not that they will all make you sick in the stomach.

We all have reason to worry
These three things are all signs that the Big Lies of our centralized and industrial approach to meat production are starting to wear thin. The lies? Here are some: 1. That the beef industry is serving the interests of small, local cattle producers who are doing so darn well they can afford all kinds of things, including a market price for the former community pastures. 2. That the current system, under which virtually all of Canada's cattle are slaughtered in massive facilities owned by an duopoly of the Nillson Bros. (they own XL Foods, producers of the recent E. coli) and Cargill, is working for both producers and consumers. 3. That it is possible to produce healthy beef products by taking animals fed for half a year in massive feedlots and then processing them in plants that handle as many as 4,500 head per day.

XL Foods and the Nillson Bros. have packing plants in the United States as well as feedlots, auction markets and cattle on feed. They are all about getting control of the entire supply chain from pasture to plate. No one should be surprised if we learn some day that they are the hidden backers behind an offer to purchase one or more of the pastures.

Ag Minister Ritz ponders his next assault on the truth

Meanwhile, Federal Minister Gerry Ritz, one of the main purveyors of official fiction about big agriculture in Canada, has nothing better to do than criticize Saskatchewan newspaper columnists who have the audacity to question agricultural policy. In his letter in today's Leader-Post, Ritz says that "because farmers expect us to work smarter with their tax dollars, we are winding down programs like community pastures and shelterbelts that have met their goals." Yep, I imagine he gets letters every day from farmers thanking him for cutting those programs.

But it is fun reading Ritz's letters to the editor, so here is another one worth a laugh or two. And a third where he takes a shot at Paul Hanley, Star-Phoenix columnist.

Federal appeal court imposes new deadline on Tommy Douglas spy dossier

The Canadian Press 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

OTTAWA - The Federal Court of Appeal has imposed a new deadline on Library and Archives Canada in the seven-year battle to lift the shroud of secrecy over the decades-old spy dossier on socialist icon Tommy Douglas.

The court gave the institution 90 days to determine whether it has identified all relevant documents sought by Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill, who originally requested the Douglas files in 2005 under the Access to Information Act.

The oral ruling from the bench came unexpectedly Wednesday after a panel of three judges heard three hours of legal arguments from lawyers from the federal government and The Canadian Press.

The court granted the appeal by the government of the ruling that The Canadian Press successfully obtained last year for fuller disclosure of the file.

The Federal Court of Appeal also tweaked some of the language of the ruling of Federal Court Justice Simon Noel.

Files released so far showed the RCMP's security branch spied on Douglas from the late 1930s to shortly before his death in 1986.

Erin Weir on the Nexon Takeover

October 3, 2012

Last week, Erin Weir emerged as the only progressive voice addressing the proposed Chinese takeover of Nexen from a Saskatchewan perspective.

Weir highlighted the deal’s implications for our province with the following letter to the editor in The Globe and Mail (page A10):

“Your editorial (Nexen Takeover Must Be Good For Canada – July 24) states that the resources “belong to the Crown in the right of Alberta.” In fact, the company has as many wells in Saskatchewan as Alberta.

NDP: from opposition to equivocation

By Jesse McLaren
October 3, 2012

When Jack Layton ran for NDP leader in 2003, a central plank in his campaign was opposition to the looming war in Iraq. During every media interview, Layton spoke out against the war, and promoted the historic February 15 protests that helped keep Canada out of Iraq. Today, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair recently backed Harper’s decision to cut ties with Iran, a move that could quickly lead to war.

Mulcair is a well-known supporter of Israel, but after becoming NDP leader, he seemed to temper his position, saying his priority was to “work hard for peace” and that Iran is “a very shaky regime, but the best way to make people coalesce and support a regime is to attack it.”

Canadian Auto Workers Ratify 10-Year Two-Tier

By Herman Rosenfeld
Labor Notes
October 1, 2012

As negotiations with the Detroit 3 automakers began, Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza said, "Workers deserve to share in the benefits of the auto sector recovery they helped achieve." Labor costs, CAW leaders argued, constituted only 5 percent of the cost of vehicle production, so there was no need for workers to concede more. All three companies are making a profit.

On the other hand, leaders also spoke just as clearly about their desire to “avoid adding fixed costs” to the companies and their concern about the fragility of the employers’ competitive situation. As time went on, it was clear which story they really meant.

At the GM ratification vote last week in Oshawa, Ontario, for CAW Local 222, the spokesperson for the national bargaining committee ended his presentation with a claim that “we resisted concessions.”

But looking at the four-year contracts, it is easy to see, through all the self-congratulation, that the CAW has negotiated its own “made-in-Canada” concessionary two-tier agreements.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Social Movements Making an Impact in Quebec

By Yves Engler
October 2nd, 2012

Usually it takes social movements years, even decades, to significantly affect public policy. The movement unleashed by Québec students last spring has had a much quicker impact.

Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois’ government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.

After rescinding the Charest government’s special bill that criminalized student demonstrations, they abolished the tuition increase that universities had already begun charging (many students have received a rebate). The Parti Québecois also eliminated a highly regressive two hundred dollar per person health tax and have moved to shut down a controversial nuclear power plant. In another decision prioritizing the environment and people’s health, they placed a long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracking and eliminated subsidies for asbestos mining, which prompted the federal Conservative government to announce it would no longer block the Rotterdam Convention from listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic product.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mark Twain and War

By Mark Twain
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League
From The Mysterious Stranger

“There has never been a just one, never an honorable one – on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful – as usual – will shout for the war. The pulpit will – warily and cautiously – object – at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’ Then the handful will shout louder.

"A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers – as earlier – but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation – pulpit and all – will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”