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Sexual assault survivors deserve free legal counsel

Rabble - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 11:03

Content warning: The following story contains mentions of sexual assault. Please proceed with caution and care. If you require support, there are resources available.

The number of decisions a survivor must make in the wake of a sexual assault is dizzying.

Whether to go to the hospital; whether to agree to a forensic examination; whether to report the assault to police and start a criminal investigation, or launch a civil action against the assailant. 

Survivors must make these decisions within a limited amount of time. DNA evidence, for example, can generally only be collected within 72 hours of an assault. While the specialized medical and psychological support offered by a group like Calgary’s Sexual Assault Response Team is only available for a week.

And too often, survivors must make these decisions on their own. All while coming to terms with the violence they’ve endured.

That’s an injustice. 

The criminal justice system isn’t built for survivors

It’s an injustice that the criminal justice system only magnifies. 

Canadian society rewards the perpetrators of sexual assault by all-but indemnifying them. Fewer than 1% of the sexual assaults that occur each year result in legal consequences for their perpetrators.

Meanwhile, those survivors who choose to report their victimization face a criminal justice process that the Supreme Court itself has recognized “can be invasive, humiliating, and degrading for victims of sexual offences”. Complainants are too often subject to brutal cross-examinations that emphasize “whacking” the complainant; or encounter discriminatory myths and stereotypes about sexual assault survivors, like that a victim’s previous sexual activities make her less worthy of belief. 

Is it any wonder that, in the words of Dalhousie law professor Elaine Craig, “numerous studies have concluded that, despite progressive law reforms aimed at protecting witnesses in sexual assault cases, for many the impact of testifying as a sexual assault complainant remains traumatizing and harmful.”

What’s more, survivors must navigate the criminal justice system without the benefit of legal counsel. 

Crown prosecutors represent the public, not complainants. Any charges the Crown lays are the state’s; this means a survivor cannot choose to withdraw them if she has a change of heart. 

Meanwhile, defense lawyers represent the accused, working in opposition to complainants and their evidence. 

The bottom line: Those few, brave sexual assault survivors who report their victimization have to navigate an often-hostile process by themselves. And too often this leads to their revictimization at the hands of the criminal justice system. 

All of this is reflected in the low participation rate of sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system. Only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police, making it the most underreported crime in Canada. 

Indeed, it’s a wonder any survivors report their victimization at all.

The ways lawyers can help

One solution is to make legal aid lawyers available to sexual assault survivors, regardless of whether those survivors choose to report their victimization to law enforcement.  

In my home province of Alberta, this would look like providing certificates that survivors can redeem at participating law offices for legal services and advice, irrespective of survivors’ income.

There are lots of ways such a program would make the criminal justice system fairer and more humane for survivors.

From the get-go, legal aid lawyers could provide survivors with expert information and advice about whether to report their victimization at all. Information about, among other things, what participation in the criminal justice system looks like; what the potential harms are, and whether those harms outweigh any possible benefit; even what the likelihood of conviction is in a given case.

If a survivor does decide to make a report, a legal aid lawyer could liaise between the survivor and the police or Crown prosecutor’s office; removing the burden from complainants to keep abreast of developments in their case, and explaining any developments that come their way.

If the matter goes to trial, a legal aid lawyer could prep the survivor for the process of giving evidence in court. 

Now to be sure, Crown prosecutors have a professional obligation to prep their witnesses for trial, which includes prepping survivors for the sorts of questions they are likely to be asked in cross-examination. But remember, the Crown doesn’t represent survivors. A lawyer acting for the complainant could prep them for questioning by both the Crown and the defense in a way that is sensitive to the complainant’s fears and interests. For example, the lawyer could start prepping their client far in advance of the trial in order to desensitize them to the trauma of having to relive the violence they suffered, something the Crown prosecutor is unlikely to have the time to do.

Finally, if an abuser is convicted, a legal aid lawyer can provide the survivor with assistance in drafting a victim impact statement and a statement on restitution. There are rules about what can and cannot be included in both; as well, each document needs to be drafted in such a way that it helps the judge make an informed sentencing decision. A lawyer would have the expertise to ensure a complainant drafts these documents in valid and effective ways. 

Removing the burden from survivor organizations

To be sure, some of these services are already provided by survivor support organizations. Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, for example, provides survivors with information about their reporting options, assistance with writing a victim impact statement, and accompaniment to court.

But there are limits to what organizations primarily staffed by social workers can provide victims navigating the legal system. 

For one thing, they can’t provide legal advice. They lack the expertise in the nuances of the law and the legal system that come from formal legal training and practice experience. 

For another, they don’t owe clients the same duty of fearless and zealous advocacy that lawyers do at law. 

Complainants deserve someone who will do more than simply support them. They deserve someone who will fight for them and their interests if it comes to it.

Making state-funded legal counsel available to survivors would remove the burden from survivor support organizations to provide quasi-legal services and allow them to specialize in what they do best: providing emotional and social support to victims of sexual abuse.

A modest proposal

Nothing about what I’m proposing is radical.

Canada already recognizes survivors’ right to legal counsel in a select few circumstances.

Take the records-screening regime, which applies to documents related to, among other things, medical treatments or counselling services a survivor has received. 

Under section 278.3 of the Criminal Code, an accused in possession of such documents must seek permission from the judge trying their case before introducing those documents into evidence at trial. There are plenty of reasons why such documents might not be admissible, and complainants have a right under the Criminal Code to make submissions about the documents’ admissibility with the aid of legal counsel. 

More broadly, some provinces have already established programs to provide free, independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors. In Ontario, for example, survivors are entitled to up to four hours of free legal advice by phone or video at any point after the assault has occurred; importantly, however, this program does not provide for legal representation. A similar initiative exists in Nova Scotia, which entitles survivors to up to two hours of legal advice. 

These rights and programs are important, but insufficient.

Survivors in every province deserve legal advice and representation at all stages, including before a matter is reported to the police. And they deserve as much legal support as is necessary to help them navigate the criminal justice system, not an arbitrarily limited number of hours of advice.

A national program to provide free legal counsel to sexual assault survivors is necessary. 

In the end, it’s a matter of justice in the face of extreme physical and psychological trauma.

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Categories: F. Left News

The Plague Of Social Isolation

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 11:00

There is very little to recommend my old gym, other than the low monthly fee, where I worked out nearly every day from 2007 until the pandemic shut it down. The locker rooms were grimy with moldering carpets. There were brown rings around the basins and a thin blackish layer of slime, composed, I suspect, of dead skin, urine, hair, dust, dirt and assorted bacteria on the floor of the shower stalls. To step into the slime without flip flops was to take home athlete’s foot and toenail fungus, at the very least. The sauna in the locker room was reportedly listed on a gay pick-up app and attracted pairs of men looking for anonymous sexual encounters in clouds of steam. The gym management first tried to combat these liaisons by posting a sign on the door that read: “IT IS FORBIDDEN TO HAVE SEX IN THE SAUNA.”

The post The Plague Of Social Isolation appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Emmanuel Macron’s Pension Reform Is A Health Hazard

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:32

Demonstrations and strikes began in France on Thursday, January 19, as President Macron pursues his bill to raise the legal retirement age to 64 years. Trade unionists estimate that by noon local time, approximately one million people across the country had taken to the street to oppose the bill. By the end of the day, almost two million people participated in protests in different cities, with 400,000 marching in Paris alone, according to approximations from the General Confederation of Labour (CGT).

Macron’s proposal is part of an attempt to adapt the Social Security Finance Bill, a discussion that the French Parliament will tackle from January 29 until March 26. In case the government does not back down from its plan, mobilizations are certain to expand and continue throughout the duration of the parliamentary debate. The next strike has already been announced for January 31.

The post Emmanuel Macron’s Pension Reform Is A Health Hazard appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

AARP And The AFL CIO Are Pushing Medicare Disadvantage

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:30

Medicare Disadvantage insurance plans induce seniors by offering advantages that traditional Medicare doesn’t offer – like vision and dental coverage. That’s the upside. The downside is that when you actually get seriously ill, the disadvantage is that when you get sick, you might not get the coverage you were promised.

Now, about half of all seniors in the United States are in Medicare Disadvantage. The unions should be fighting against the move to privatize Medicare.

Instead of fighting, they are joining with the insurance companies to corporatize Medicare.

The big daddy of unions, the AFL-CIO, is itself now partnering with the giant insurance company Anthem to push Medicare Disadvantage plans on its retired union members.

The first ad for the campaign read: “Introducing AFL-CIO Medicare Advantage group plans, provided by Anthem. Comprehensive coverage available exclusively to retired union members.”

The post AARP And The AFL CIO Are Pushing Medicare Disadvantage appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

US Funds ‘Independent Journalists’ In Cuba To Spread Propaganda

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:29

A former top CIA spy has admitted that the United States funds anti-government propagandists in Cuba who portray themselves as “independent journalists”.

Major British newspaper The Guardian spoke with CIA veteran Fulton Armstrong, whom it described as “the US intelligence community’s most senior analyst for Latin America from 2000 to 2004”.

Armstrong stated that, in Cuba, “a lot of the so-called independent journalists are indirectly funded by the US”.

The ex CIA analyst pointed out that, today, the Joe Biden administration bankrolls anti-government opposition forces in Cuba with at least $20 million in annual support for supposed “democracy promotion” activities.

The Guardian acknowledged that the CIA has a history of spreading disinformation inside Cuba, as part of a US information war aimed at destabilizing the revolutionary government.

The post US Funds ‘Independent Journalists’ In Cuba To Spread Propaganda appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Brazil And Argentina To Advance South American Currency

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:27

Alberto Fernandez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are preparing to relaunch the strategic alliance between Argentina and Brazil this week in Buenos Aires.

The two will meet for the first presidential meeting between Brazil and Argentina in more than three years.

Immediately after, the VII Summit of CELAC will take place in the same city. The forum that brings together the 33 countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region and which, since last year, has been under the presidency of Argentina. The event will mark the return of Brazil to this mechanism of dialogue and regional consultation.

According to a statement published by the two presidents, there are multiple areas in which the two countries will work together to improve the quality of life of their citizens; “such as the fight against hunger and poverty, health, education, sustainable development, climate change and the reduction of all forms of inequalities.”

The post Brazil And Argentina To Advance South American Currency appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

After Rogue Experiment, Mexico Plans To Ban Solar Geoengineering

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:22

The Mexican government said it will develop a strategy to ban future experimentation with solar geoengineering, which will also include an information campaign and scientific reports. However, the government did not announce more specific actions.

“Mexico reiterates its unavoidable commitment to the protection and well-being of the population from practices that generate risks to human and environmental security,” said the government in a statement.

Geoengineering refers to the act of deliberately changing the Earth’s systems to control its climate.

One theoretical proposal has been to spray sulphur particles to cool the planet —which has been documented to briefly happen after volcanic eruptions.

A recent United Nations report found that this practice, known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), “has the potential to reduce global mean temperatures”.

The post After Rogue Experiment, Mexico Plans To Ban Solar Geoengineering appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

94% Of Forest-Based Carbon Offsets Certified By Leading Global Provider Are ‘Phantom Credits’

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:20

Are carbon offsets a useful tool on the road to net zero or simply another form of greenwashing?

A new investigation from The Guardian, Die Zeit and SourceMaterial leads heavily toward the latter conclusion. The report, published Wednesday, found that more than 90 percent of the rainforest offset credits offered by top carbon standard Verra are actually what The Guardian called “phantom credits” that don’t actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The implications of this analysis are huge,” Barbara Haya, who leads the Carbon Trading Project at the University of California, Berkeley, told SourceMaterial. “Companies are making false claims and then they’re convincing customers that they can fly guilt-free or buy carbon-neutral products when they aren’t in any way carbon-neutral.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Jumping Fences

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:18

We are very excited about a new collaboration with Ecological Land Cooperative and the Landworkers Alliance. The purpose of the project is to identify the barriers that BPOC face when considering a land based livelihood in Britain, to map existing and prospective BPOC led land-based businesses and organisations and to discover what challenges they face and how they seek to overcome them. Building off the initial research we completed for Rootz Into Food Growing, but expanding to the wider country to collect stories from across Britain.

The research findings will be discussed with a wide range of organisations in the agroecology sector to identify ways to support BPOC new entrants to farming. The final intention of the collective effort is to strengthen LION’s capacity to become a community land trust, so that we can provide practical solutions for BPOC land stewards including access to land.

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Categories: F. Left News

Free Summit Explores The Latest In Seed Sharing, Libraries And More

Popular Resistance - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 10:15

Are you new to seeding and interested in establishing a seed bank in your neighborhood? Immersed in the seeding world and looking to connect with other folks and deepen your networks? Perhaps you’re an agriculturist interested in the intersection of seed lending and food sovereignty. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you won’t want to miss Seeding the Future: The 11th Annual Seed Library Summit. If you’re new to seeding, you’re in luck! Seeding the Future will host a variety of sessions to get you acquainted with the basics. Our “How to Start a Seed Library” session is a great introductory conversation that will map out the time, resources, and people-power needed to start your own seed library. “Ask a Seed Librarian” is an expert-hosted panel that can act as a great follow-up.

If you’re more acquainted with seeding, other sessions that might pique your interest include “Seed Saving Basics”, “School Seed Libraries”, and “Seed Exchanges”.

The post Free Summit Explores The Latest In Seed Sharing, Libraries And More appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Pierre Poilievre offers his anger, but no solutions

Rabble - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 08:56

Populist leaders who inspire their angry followers to storm the national capitol seem to be in vogue these days. But if Canada is in search of such a strongman, it’s not clear that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre — or PP (as he’s affectionately called) — really fits the bill, as some are now suggesting.

Donald Trump earned his strongman stripes building a crooked real estate empire in rough-and-tumble New York City, while Jair Bolsonaro developed his tough-guy habits as a captain in the Brazilian military (where he learned to express his manhood by declaring he’d rather find his son dead than dating someone with a moustache).

PP, on the other hand, acquired his street-fighting ways in the dark and savage jungle known as … Canada’s Parliament.

But while Poilievre’s handlers may be trying to fine-tune his bio to increase his street cred, it might not matter to those angry men who are, after all, not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Indeed, perhaps the one thing that could be said about them is that they are, well, confused.

An insightful article in The Walrus, co-written by prominent pollster Frank Graves, describes how Poilievre is making gains among disaffected Canadian men — particularly young men — who “complain they have not seen the kind of progress their parents and grandparents did. Pensions and secure retirement are a mirage.”

These men are correct, and their anger at being left behind as the world economy zooms ahead is understandable, even poignant.

Where they get off course and start lapsing into loopy thinking is in their inability to grasp who’s to blame for their predicament. And this is where a populist strongman can make hay. A strongman purports to be on their side, grasping their grievances and feeling their pain.

Typically, the strongman urges them to vent their rage by storming the seat of government or, in the Canadian version supported by Poilievre, parking in front of Parliament and clogging the surrounding streets with enormous trucks, hot tubs and bouncy castles.

Strongmen offer up a clear villain: government, or in Poilievre’s words “this big beast called government.” Government’s evil is apparently perpetrated by all those who exercise its authority, notably public health officials trying to curb a pandemic.

Blaming government is a clever bait-and-switch, since the root grievance of the angry men is their economic insecurity.

And it wasn’t government officials (or pointy-headed public health authorities) who made them economically insecure. The corporate world did that!

If pensions and secure retirement are a mirage today (which they are), it’s because the cutthroat corporate world of recent decades stopped providing pensions to its employees.

The corporate world also pushed governments to adopt a whole range of pro-business policies that destroyed the earlier economic order based on the New Deal, under which economic rewards were distributed much more equitably.

Indeed, that New Deal order had treated the economic security of workers as vital — the very glue that made democracy work; if working people could achieve economic gains and financial security, they would value highly the democracy that delivered all that.

This has been stripped away over the past four decades as the corporate elite has managed to impose the new pro-business order, redirecting income and wealth to the top, slashing social supports and undermining the ability of the common people to achieve economic gains through unionizing.

This leaves today’s uneducated workers with little hope of retiring comfortably or buying a house, as their uneducated parents and grandparents did.

No longer tethered to a democratic system that doesn’t deliver as it used to, they become a volatile, malleable mass, susceptible to the snake oil of a wily strongman.

Poilievre is hoping working people won’t notice that he’s not, in fact, offering them a return to economic security.

But, what the hell, he’s just as angry as they are! And he’s delighted to champion them as they lash out at public health officials, blast the horns of their oversized trucks and frolic in steamy hot tubs in the public square.

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Categories: F. Left News

Ottawa gets away with more foreign policy ‘fact-free blather’

Rabble - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 08:51

We need to make sure that the solutions are driven by the people of Haiti themselves,” noted Justin Trudeau after meeting US president Joe Biden in Mexico City last week. In December Canada’s prime minister was quoted in a release saying Canada was working to “support a Haitian-led solution” to the country’s crisis while in October foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly declared, “we need to support a Haitian-led solution” and later said, “the solution to this crisis must be Haitian-led.” 

As Canadian officials have traveled the hemisphere discussing Haiti in recent months, they’ve repeatedly talked about “Haitian-led” solutions to the country’s problems. The cognitive dissonance is stunning. 

They can do so because the commentariat don’t challenge their statements. Imagine Trudeau getting together with the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan to announce a British Columbia-led solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis. It would be ridiculed. But, observed Rick Salutin, “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.” 

The Toronto Star columnist vividly captured an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Haiti? 

So, it was disappointing to see one of the only left voices given space in the dominant media engage in “fact-free blather” in “Does hypocrisy matter in foreign policy? Yes and no — take Bob Rae”. Contrasting Trudeau’s support for US imperialism with Lester Pearson’s supposed independent streak, Salutin writes, “In the Vietnam era, PM Lester Pearson tried clumsily to straddle both sides of the raging conflict over that U.S. invasion and actually got himself throttled by President Lyndon Johnson on the White House porch for it. Yet, I think people elsewhere at least recognized his effort.” 

Sadly, Salutin’s “White House porch” incident is itself fact-free blather at worst or nationalist folklore at best. According to the mythology, the day after Pearson spoke out against the war in Vietnam at Temple university in Philadelphia the US president accosted him. But here’s part of Pearson’s 1965 speech: “the government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam.” As I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, which I gave Salutin during one of a number of our conversations on Canadian foreign policy, all that Pearson called for at Temple was a pause in the US bombing campaign of North Vietnam. When Pearson met Johnson the next day the president was mad because senior US foreign-policy planners were debating a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam (which would take place months later and when Washington restarted their bombing campaign Pearson publicly justified it). By speaking out Pearson effectively sided with Johnson’s opponents in the US administration after he enabled the bombing campaign. As Noam Chomsky argues in the foreword to my book, Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. 

The story about Johnson challenging Pearson at Camp David – not the White House – the day after his supposed antiwar speech only came to light a decade later, once US actions in Vietnam were widely discredited. In 1974 former Canadian ambassador in Washington Charles Ritchie wrote: “The President strode up to him and seized him by the lapel of his coat, at the same time as raising his other arm to the heavens.” Ritchie reported Johnson saying, “you don’t come here and piss on my rug.” 

READ MORE: Time for Trudeau to follow his own advice on Haiti

While the ambassador’s description is almost certainly an exaggeration, subsequent commentators have further embellished Richie’s account. 

Six decades later one of the only left-wing voices allowed in the corporate media promotes liberal nationalist mythology. It’s an element of the intellectual climate that allows politicians to “blather freely” on international affairs. If we assume Canadian politicians’ aim is to assist the world’s poor, we are less likely to investigate their claims seriously. ‘Benevolent Canada’ mythology enables government officials to utter obviously untrue statements such as Canada seeks a “Haiti-led solution” (not to mention claims that Canada promotes the “international rules-based order,” Russia’s murderous war was “unprovoked”, Canada promotes a “feminist foreign policy”, etc.). 

A cursory look at recent Canadian history shows the absurdity of Trudeau and Joly’s claims. Eighteen months ago the US and Canada-led Core Group selected current leader Ariel Henry through a tweet while a decade earlier those two countries intervened to make Michel Martelly president, which set-in motion ongoing criminal PHTK rule. In maybe the starkest example of Canada undermining Haitian solutions, Canadian officials brought together high-level US, French and Organization of American States officials to discuss the country’s future in 2003. No officials from the elected Haitian government were invited to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting, which discussed ousting then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and placing the country under UN control. 

Canadian officials’ declarations about “Haitian-led” solutions are designed to paper over this history and grant some legitimacy to Ottawa’s imperial actions. The media laps it up partly because Canadians generally believe this country is a benevolent force internationally, reality be damned. Only once journalists do their self-proclaimed job of telling the truth is this likely to change.

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Categories: F. Left News

Manning COVID panel survey asks only one question! 

Rabble - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 08:39

Other than geriatric former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, 80, Premier Danielle Smith’s “Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel” hasn’t even been appointed, or if it has the public hasn’t been informed. 

And even this assumes Manning is not in fact the entire “expert panel” – which, as we shall see, is a possibility. 

The panel’s ostensible purpose is “to review the legislation and governance practices used by the Government of Alberta during the management of the COVID-19 public health emergency and to recommend changes necessary to improve government response to future health emergencies.”

To assist it in this work, the panel has published an online form on the government’s website asking Albertans to “share your ideas with the panel.” 

However, the survey, if that’s the word, has only one question.

And that question is pretty silly, considering. 

It asks: “What, if any, amendments to legislation should be made to better equip the province to cope with future public health emergencies?”

Remember, most of the Albertans who respond will have only a rudimentary understanding of the province’s public health legislation, if they have any understanding at all. 

Many from among the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s base will have the notion that any kind of organized public health regulatory framework is bad. Because freedom! 

Still, you’d think that Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right, would at least try to make it appear as if he’s doing something to earn the $253,000 he’s being paid by Alberta taxpayers to stage-manage this charade. Apparently not. 

It sure looks as if the single question – maybe there will be more later when the panel gets its act together, or maybe not – is intended to elicit the responses the government wants to hear from the already tuned-up anti-vaxx rage machine that engineered Smith’s entrée to the Premier’s Office.

The NDP Opposition suggested the objective of Manning’s appointment was simply, in Opposition Health Critic David Shepherd’s words, “a desperate call for help from Danielle Smith for Preston Manning to help cement her support on the far right.”

“Over a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of Albertans’ money to hire someone to chair a committee that has obviously been struck for political gain,” Shepherd said in a statement sent to media.

This is credible, but it’s likely not the whole story. 

Certainly Manning, the man who by most accounts talked Smith and her Wildrose MLAs into crossing the floor of the Legislature to join the Progressive Conservatives back in December 2014, is not looking for answers like the one suggested by conservationist Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP’s candidate in the Livingstone-Macleod riding where Ms. Smith lives. 

“What a weird survey,” Van Tighem tweeted last night. “I answered: make the Chief Medical Officer more independent, have her/him report directly to the Legislature not to a Minister or to the Cabinet, and increase penalties for violations of public health orders.”

The one-question survey also shows signs of having been thrown together in extreme haste – no doubt the result of the need to distract from the latest revelations about efforts by staff in the Premier’s Office to interfere with the administration of justice in the aftermath of the Coutts blockade. 

The fact of the single question is strong evidence of unseemly haste. 

Would-be respondents can link directly to the survey page through the panel overview page, type their response into the form and submit it without registering. The system responds: “Thank you for participating. Your comments will be shared with the panel.” 

That is all. It doesn’t ask for a name, an email address, or anything else. It’s not clear if system even records if you’re from Alberta? (Readers outside Alberta should give it a try and see what happens.) 

If you want to say the same thing again without even having to use another browser, feel free. The ‘Manning inquiry’ will accept multiple responses too.

Is anybody even going to be reading these by-design anonymous comments? 

Meanwhile, would-be respondents entering through the “online engagement portal” at are urged to “stay connected by registering an account. You will be able to participate in and be notified of engagement opportunities on topics that matter to you.”

Very well, but if you register, there is still only one question, no effort is made to determine if your registration email address is legitimate, or that you are who you say you are.

So, really, it seems likely all you are doing is signing up for more spam. 

The best that can be said about all this is that it’s negligent. The site architecture is incomprehensible.

So how is this a legitimate way to develop policy? 

A one-question survey with zero respondent demographics lends the thinnest veneer imaginable to a claim a public consultation led to whatever Smith and Manning cook up for this preposterous exercise.

In its hurry to be seen doing something, this government barely trying to make this look like a legitimate consultation!

Even Jason Kenney’s ridiculous “Fair Deal” Panel, of which Manning was also a member, had more apparent legitimacy than this nonsense.

According to the government’s uninformative press release about the panel, Manning will present a final report with recommendations to the government on November 15. 

The order signed by Smith establishing the panel says it will exist until November 30. It is not clear from the order when additional panel members will be named, or even if they will be. 

“The President of Executive Council may appoint additional members to the Panel from time to time by amendment to this Order. The Chair may recommend additional members to the President of Executive Council who may consider such names in further appointments under this Order,” the order states. (Emphasis added.)

Or may not, obviously. 

The premier is the president of the Executive Council. 

Everything else about this announcement and survey suggests the whole thing was cobbled together in about 10 minutes over coffee – or perhaps something stronger. 

As many have observed, the last time Ms. Smith took Manning’s advice, the result was that the NDP led by Rachel Notley was soon elected. 

The timing of this fatuous exercise, however, suggests its objectives also include providing justification for postponing the election scheduled for May 29. 

After all, how can Manning report if the election goes ahead on May 29, as the Election Act now says it must, and the UCP is not re-elected? 

Either the law will have to be amended to delay the election until after November, or Manning, who luckily for his retirement security is already able to collect a generous Parliamentary pension, risks not getting paid for his efforts.

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Categories: F. Left News

It’s hard to believe Smith didn’t know her staff was emailing prosecutors

Rabble - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 08:10

How many more clarifications will be required to explain the latest news report about Premier Danielle “Calamity” Smith’s interest in what Alberta’s Crown prosecutors have been working on?

Quite a few, by the sound of it. 

No sooner had the brouhaha over whether Smith had been trying to influence prosecutors to take it easy on COVID-related charges started to settle down than the CBC reported yesterday someone in her office fired off emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service last fall challenging decisions about cases resulting from the Coutts border blockade a year ago.

“I’ve never called a Crown prosecutor,” the premier had told listeners during her Corus Radio program last weekend. “You’re not allowed to do that as a politician. Everyone knows that.”

Postmedia’s reliably conservative columnists were certainly prepared to take Ms. Smith’s word for it. 

“I have no doubt the premier never talked to any Crown prosecutors about halting court proceedings against Albertans charged for refusing to wear masks or holding in-person church services during the pandemic,” columnist Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Sun declared yesterday, his column written not long before the CBC story appeared.

“In other words,” Gunter continued loyally, “I’m sure she never compromised the impartial administration of justice by pressuring prosecutors to stop prosecuting pandemic scofflaws.”

Think again!

Mind you, the CBC story makes it sound as if the Premier’s Office wasn’t as worried about the charges faced by some turbulent priest as much as it wanted to get the guys charged with plotting to murder those Mounties off the hook! 

Whatever was going on, it’s extremely hard to believe at this point Smith didn’t know exactly what the staff in her office was up on a file they all had to be talking about at the time. 

If she didn’t – as keeps happening with this premier – it shows her in almost as bad a light, unable, or perhaps unwilling, to ensure staff members obey the law. 

The Premier’s Office issued a statement insisting the premier knew nothing. 

“This is a serious allegation,” the statement said. “If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown Prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken.” 

So at the very least, someone is now going to have to be thrown under the bus to save Smith from the tide of panic said to be rising within the United Conservative Party (UCP) caucus. 

At this point, with the story still alive and lively as another weekend approaches, it’s hard to believe that the different factions in the UCP caucus aren’t meeting secretly, organizing hush-hush conference calls and confidential Zoom meetings to plot ways to remove or save their calamitous boss. 

This could become public soon.

Meanwhile, since the CBC story did not name the staffer alleged to have made the call, Albertans have the opportunity to play an entertaining game of Legislature Building Clue. Was it Ms. Scarlett? Rev. Green? Solicitor Peacock? A list of possible suspects can be found here

Preston Manning now has a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel to run!

Will Preston Manning drop his plans for a national partisan pandemic panel now that he’s been offered a chance to run a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel? 

Premier Danielle Smith told media Thursday the creaky godfather of the Canadian right, now 80, will have a budget of $2 million and be paid $253,000 to chair the “investigation” into how the Alberta government responded to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Only last fall, Manning was trying to drum up support for a “national citizen’s inquiry” to take an “independent” look into the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while observing “the highest evidentiary standards,” naturally.

In other words, to act as a sort of counterbalance to the national inquiry headed by a real judge at which participants in the Ottawa Occupation Convoy feted with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts by Conservative Party leaders last February managed to make themselves look pretty awful. 

But in a Postmedia column Thursday, the former Reform Party leader almost sounded as if his enthusiasm for the national inquiry is waning now that he’s found a paid gig. “I have been personally supportive of this initiative by participating in and providing advice to the support group organizing it,” he noted coolly. 

“Most encouragingly, on the provincial scene in my home province, the new premier, Danielle Smith, has expressed a strong desire to strengthen Alberta’s capacity to deal with future health crises,” Mr. Manning went on, sounding more cheerful. “In particular, she has identified a need to appoint a panel to review the statutory basis of Alberta’s response to the public health emergency created by COVID-19. She has asked me to organize and chair the panel, an invitation which I have accepted with enthusiasm.” (Emphasis added.)

“The purpose of this panel would NOT be to review or rehash the entire gamut of the Alberta government’s response to COVID,” Manning insisted. “Rather the specific task of the panel would be reviewing the Alberta statutes that informed and authorized the government’s response to COVID-19 and proposing amendments to such legislation that might better prepare the province to address future public health emergencies.”

Whether or not the panel, other members not yet named, tries to conduct a witch hunt against public health officials who did their jobs or to undermine the Trudeau Government in Ottawa, no good will come from any effort to “review the statutory basis” of Alberta’s public health laws.

Likewise, the presence of Manning as chair will do nothing for the credibility of the panel’s recommendations. 

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Categories: F. Left News

OPSEU levels allegations against former execs

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 13:27

The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) announced the result of an internal forensic audit on Monday, January 16. Due to the audit findings, the union filed a statement of claim with allegations against former union president Warren “Smokey” Thomas, former First President and Treasurer Eduardo Almeida, and former OPSEU accountant Maurice Gabay. OPSEU said these former executives had received compensation they were not entitled to.

These allegations have not yet been tested in court. According to a CBC article, co-counsel for Thomas said these allegations are false and that the statement of claim is “riddled with errors.” 

The union commenced legal action after moving forward with a forensic audit when the new OPSEU board was elected in April 2022. 

“Through that process, numerous concerns came to light that required further third-party scrutiny,” OPSEU president JP Hornick wrote in a document circulated to OPSEU members. “We wanted and needed to get this right. With the support of the Board, we engaged a forensic auditor—a well-respected third party who would give us a full picture of exactly what happened, who might have been involved and the full impact to our finances.” 

Hornick said in this document, which is now available on the OPSEU website, that the union is still strong and its finances are still stable. Still, in the wake of this news, members of OPSEU have expressed a sense of hurt and betrayal. 

On Facebook, user Lynn Yule Hopper commented, “It’s like a kick in the teeth from people we trusted.” 

In a reply to another comment, Hopper expressed concern about the lack of procedures in place to maintain transparency and accountability within the union. 

“I am now retired, but when working, our local had 2 non executive members do a check of the books every year,” Hopper wrote. “It’s unbelievable that an audit was not performed every year at the highest level with the most money.” 

Hopper did not respond to rabble’s request for an interview before the publication of this story. 

This marks the second time in the span of about a year where a Canadian union alleged misconduct against former executives. In March 2022, former Unifor National President Jerry Dias was charged with breaching the Unifor Constitution by accepting money from COVID-19 rapid test suppliers that he introduced to employers of the union’s members. 

There may be troubling attitudes brewing among union executives. As Hornick said in the OPSEU document, unions are made to build worker power and push justice forward. But these alleged acts by previous OPSEU executives would constitute an erosion of union member power. 

On Twitter, user Ashlyn O’Mara responded to the story with a tweet saying, “This is what happens when the majority of union members sit idly by and just assume the union is acting in their best interest and is competent. I’ve lived it.” 

O’Mara did not respond to a message requesting further comment but this reply illustrates a sentiment that in order to keep union power in the hands of workers, executives must commit to transparency and be held accountable. 

Hornick wrote that she is committed to rebuilding trust. 

She wrote, “I recognize the privilege it is to lead OPSEU/SEFPO and assure you that I will ceaselessly honour that commitment.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Music, Film and Political Deadlock in Cuba

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 08:07

On a recent Saturday in Havana, I was thrilled to learn that Interactivo was performing an outdoor concert. A jazz fusion band which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, Interactivo had a regular weekly gig in the basement bar at Brecht theatre in Vedado for years, a venue they recently lost. Another concert scheduled for the huge Chaplin theatre in October was also cancelled. Which was why I was so happy to learn of this outdoor concert, to take place in a park across the street from their usual Brecht location, during the opening weekend of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, an annual event which often brings me to the country.   

But it was not to be. A couple hours before the concert, bandleader Roberto Carcasses announced on social media that this too was cancelled. “Bad weather” was the reason given by the authorities. There was indeed some wind but no rain. I could not help but wonder if this spate of cancellations Interactivo has run into have something to do with Roberto Carcasses’ outspoken defence of freedom of expression and against the severe prison sentences handed out to those convicted of various forms of “sedition” in the protests of July 2021 throughout the island.   Interactivo is known for its musicianship and high-octane performances. Their lyrics do not, typically, generate controversy. Yet Carcasses himself takes risks. He is known to sing (and speak) tributes to open heartedness over ideology. A recent song, written on the occasion of the 2021 protests by artists outside the Ministry of Culture, proclaims his love for his “Trumpista” uncle in Miami as much as his “Fidelista” aunt in Havana.  

So instead of seeing my beloved Interactivo, I made my way to Chaplin theatre to see the premiere of Fernando Pérez’ new film El Mundo de Nelsito (Nelson’s World). This was hardly a bad second choice. Like Carcasses, Perez is also a popular figure in Cuban culture. His films depict the city of Havana, as a curator might in the world’s best gallery, and the city loves him back. 

El Mundo de Nelsito continues his tradition of profoundly human filmmaking and was clearly loved at its premiere; the first and only full theatre I saw during the festival(films are almost always sold out at this event). But I think the audience was captured as much by Pérez’ introduction as the film itself. Visiting his family outside the country, he spoke by video. He warned the audience the film was a jigsaw puzzle and asked us to give it time to come together  (he was correct, and we did, and it was worth it). But he also addressed Cuba’s current moment directly. 

“I dream of a country where films are not censored,” he said, referring perhaps to Carlos Lechuga’s 2022 release Vicenta B, a mediation on migration and family separation featuring Afro Cuban protagonists, which was famously and scandalously excluded from this festival.  

“I dream of a country where protest is not criminalized,” he added, a reference, perhaps, to a state that, in the name of revolution, jails teenage protestors.

Pérez was not the only one to speak up at this Festival. At the Festival’s opening ceremonies, actress Andrea Doimeadios took the stage. Referring to herself as “the only young actress who wants to be in Cuba right now” she proceeded to poke fun at some of the assembled functionaries. Addressing the head of the Department “Ideologico del Partido de PCC”, she said “I’ve always wondered what you all talk about in that department.” She comes by her sarcasm honestly, she’s the daughter of a celebrated humourist. A couple days later the head of the major film school on the island denounced the country’s filmmakers for being “anti-communist.” In return, a letter of thanks to the Festival was circulated by a number of filmmakers, actors and other participants.  

This is a country which, in addition to the plethora of long-time sanctions applied by the US (continued by Biden), has still not recovered from a devastating hurricane which took out the entire electrical supply in September. Some areas outside Havana are still experiencing blackouts of 8-10 hours daily. The economy continues in freefall and inflation is crippling access to basic foods (as well as much else).  Food prices have tripled, at least, in the past year. The example repeated to me by several friends:  A dozen eggs cost over 1,000 Cuban pesos (beyond the five eggs per person monthly quota provided by the state). The average wage is around 4,000 per month, pensioners receive 2,000 monthly. Roughly translated, in terms of an average Canadian salary, an “extra” dozen eggs would cost almost $500. Problems this severe often lead to one solution: getting out. The country continues to experience huge rates of emigration, approximately 250,000 this year, more than the number of migrants in other well-known crisis periods in the past decades.  

With problems like this, who cares what artists say? Actually plenty of people, given the importance of the arts and culture in Cuban history. Artistic education and access to the arts has been one of the hallmarks of Cuban state policy for decades. When popular jazz singer Daymé Arocena (who lived at the time in Canada) recorded a song and video in support of the July 2021 protests, none other than the Minister of Culture himself went after her, trashing the work as “insignificant” artistically. When political leaders go after insignificant musicians (with a huge domestic and international following), the place of music in this climate of political tensions is clear.  

The film festival was just one example of the political polarization and mistrust that characterizes Cuba today, in the cultural world, on social media, in the continued economic crises and inequalities that helped to create the climate of unprecedented public protests. There are Cubans abroad who advocate the cessation of remittances to family on the island, in order to increase pressures for regime change. This strategy of “starve your grandma to bring down the government” is yet another indication of the high-stakes fault lines. As one friend said to me, (herself an Afro Cuban woman in the cultural world, located well outside the privileges of state power), the ugliness of this climate is even sadder when set next to the spirit of neighbourly cooperation which characterized the pandemic and quarantine period in Cuba. Not to mention the success in developing a vaccine independently and distributing it throughout the island.  
Which is why the increasingly restricted space (literally and metaphorically) for films and music is profoundly connected to current economic and political crises. Musicians and other artists of course find themselves among the current wave of migrants. Oliver Valdes, a popular drummer, now performs occasionally with a group of musicians he calls “Los que se Quedaron” – those who stayed,” satirical Cuban humour at its best. I would have had more opportunities to hear some of my favourite Cuban musicians in Miami than I did in Havana. And one hardly even needs to leave Canada to hear first-class Cuban musicians. A new generation of Cuban migrants are making a name for themselves here: Elizabeth Rodríguez and Magdelys Savigne of the Juno winning OKAN, jazz saxophonist Luis Deniz, taking their place alongside celebrated musicians who have been in Canada for decades: Alex Cuba, Alexis Baro, Hilario Duran, just to mention a few examples. But more to the point, unless the open minded and open-hearted embrace of a multiplicity of perspectives advocated by the many artists like Carcasses and Pérez prevails, this climate of polarization will continue, to everyone’s detriment.

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Categories: F. Left News

There’s a sedition super-highway – Canada needs to take the off-ramp!

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 07:08

In Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel Goldfinger, James Bond’s adversary Auric Goldfinger observes: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

With the Bolsonaristas storming Brazil’s capitol buildings last week, we have moved past coincidence when it comes to shambolic plots to overthrow democratically elected centre-left politicians.

Although every news organization on earth seems to have talked about the parallels between the Bud Light Putsch of January 6, 2021 and the Bolsonarista Blitz on January 8 this year, there seems to be less attention paid to the fact that Canada’s convoy protest was working from the same playbook.

Now, to be clear, unlike the other two insurrections, the Convoy of Crazy Canucks never stormed our Parliament building. But it was whipped up through the same social media channels, shared the same shambolic decentralized organizational structure, and its supporters were egged on by the same media outlets, professed similar aims to force a centre-left politician to be replaced, and were feeding from the same troughs

Often, the best way to predict the next five years of Canadian politics is to look at whatever risible nonsense right-wingers in the United States are doing right now, and imagine it being done more stupidly and with less basic competence. This basic incompetence of Canadian conservatives and the construction hoarding around the Parliament Building are probably all that spared Canadians the sight of a defaced Confederation Hall.

Since the convoy protestors were largely unable to apply their violent methods to their intended political targets, organizers are now trying to rewrite the past to claim they organized a peaceful protest. But ignoring the terrorist nature of the convoy protest only makes us more vulnerable to the next attempted insurrection.

In the year after a horde of incensed suburbanites ransacked the U.S. Capitol, more than 900 of the 2,000 participants were prosecuted – and of those least 400 have either pleaded or been found guilty. 

In the two weeks since a mob descended on Three Towers Plaza in Brasilia, more than 1,000 people were taken into custody and warrants were issued for additional organizers.

In both countries, the institutions of government are taking steps to show that this type of conduct has no place in a civilized society.

In Canada? There was a mealymouthed statutory inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act, which often seemed more concerned with determining if the government overreacted, rather than issuing a firm condemnation of the actions of the terrorist mob. 

There’s a stark difference to be seen in how the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack tackled the root causes of the violence in Washington, and how the Emergencies Act Inquiry focused on institutional failures by police. The former was an exercise in accountability, the latter is about being able to move on.

Consequently, Canadians are quietly watching as charges are withdrawn, a concerted effort is made to forget the Convoy ever happened, and media continues to minimize the risk to democracy. The risk is ever present, and basic incompetence by Convoy organizers is the only reason that Ottawa residents aren’t currently being assaulted by a disorganized army of disgruntled riffraff.

I can guarantee you that the American-based propaganda machine and the financial backers of Canadian insurrectionists are taking note of our government’s weak-sauce response. We will come to regret it.

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Categories: F. Left News

Are these the last days of the UCP, or just another self-inflicted speed bump?

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 06:51

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” So says the Gospel of Matthew

I speak metaphorically, of course, of the final days of the United Conservative Party (UCP). 

Alas, despite what we’re hearing – mostly rumours at this point – the end is not yet. 

Indeed, there are powerful arguments for the disunited United Conservatives to stick together no matter how unhappy it makes them in the hope they can make it together through one more election.

Premier Danielle Smith – as incompetent and unpopular as she is turning out, once again, to be – only got the job last October and the next Alberta general election is scheduled to be held at the end of May. 

By that schedule it’s far too late, as the venerable Western political metaphor advises, to switch horses in mid-stream. Indeed, it was probably too late last fall when the UCP foolishly decided to switch out Jason Kenney for Smith.

It may even be too late if the UCP moves to put off the May 29 election, which would require a change in Alberta legislation but would be unlikely to face a constitutional hurdle. 

Still, there’s a whiff of smoke in the air, as if a cow has kicked over a lantern in a stable somewhere, and flames are just starting to spread. 

On Saturday, the Breakdown, an Alberta political podcast, tweeted: “Heard from multiple reliable sources today that the UCP caucus is a hairs breadth away from boiling over and prospective leaders to replace Smith are actively being discussed.”

The Breakdown’s thread continued: “Apparently caucus is split along rather predictable lines, and there are increasing concerns within the larger faction that Smith is more focused on the ‘Danielle Smith Show’ than she is actual governance or winning the next election.

“This all comes at a time where the same groups that elevated Smith are becoming more frustrated with her constant equivocation on her promises to them,” the folks at the Breakdown said. “One source told us today that there is a very real possibility of a new leader before the next election.”

On Sunday, former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk tweeted an intriguing fragment of a message from, he said, a member of Premier Smith’s cabinet. 

“It would be easy to leave,” the purported minister lamented, with a certain lack of clarity. “To stay. Not so easy when I see something that has been said that is unacceptable from my new leader. Honestly. Is she going to lead this party in the next election? I don’t know. Do you? Won’t be me but who? A good opposition is as important as a good government.” 

Lukaszuk commented that Smith “indeed has problems when her cabinet ministers exchange among themselves messages like this one.”

Most of us would want to respond to the mystery minister: So, resign already? Make a scene! 

Still, if this really was said by a member of Smith’s cabinet, it’s hard to disagree that it suggests the premier’s problems are growing. 

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt was speculating that the extremist Take Back Alberta group that targeted Jason Kenney and championed Ms. Smith in last year’s leadership review vote and the leadership election that followed it, is now moving to push out Jason Nixon, one of Kenney’s most influential lieutenants.

“Jason Nixon has lost control of his riding association.” Bratt tweeted. “Take Back Alberta is taking credit. Will they try, with support of new UCP Board (now 1/2 rep from TBA), and re-open UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre?”

Alert readers will recall that at this time last year, farmer Tim Hoven’s campaign to challenge Jason Nixon for the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre got off to a strong start – before the he was controversially disqualified for being “associated with extreme or hateful views,” in the words of then-Premier Kenney. 

Cancel culture, yelled his supporters. Now it does rather look as if Conservative cancel culture is coming Nixon’s way. 

In her Substack commentary yesterday, University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young also suggests “there are signs of trouble behind the scenes,” noting another social media report that Premier Smith has agreed to let the UCP Caucus vet choices for her planned COVID panel.

Surely this is another sign of disunity in the ranks – although the social media source Young cited doesn’t make it clear whether this oversight was demanded by what she called the party’s moderates or its anti-vaccine loonies. 

“Smith finds herself in the lonely position Jason Kenney occupied not so long ago,” Young wrote. “The Calgary/establishment wing of the party wants more consistency and good governance. The convoy/Take Back Alberta wing of the party wants to re-litigate COVID.”

So, Apocalypse Now? Or apocalypse later? I can’t answer that question. Yet.

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Categories: F. Left News

Profits put patients at risk

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 06:30

Doug Ford said the answer to the healthcare crisis must be “bold, innovative and creative.” So he innovated, created and gave us — capitalism? And not the buccaneering, high-risk, compete-till-you-triumph-or-die version. His is no-risk capitalism, paid for by the government’s stash of citizens’ taxes. When Ford says we’ll pay with our OHIP card, not our credit card, that’s the same way he’ll pay high-profit firms like the disastrous corporate long-term care facilities during COVID.

The status quo is not acceptable so you replace it with the status quo? Capitalism has been in place since at least the 1700s, after it fought a spirited battle against feudalism and won. Do you know what it took to finally get public health care here in the 1960s? Doctors went on strike in Saskatchewan against Tommy Douglas’ plan. The government flew in MDs and nurses from the U.K. By mid-decade, most docs realized they were doing rather well and cheerily caved.

Look, expanding clinics that do cataracts or MRIs — 98 per cent of which are private, for-profit, including those corporate gargantuans in long-term care — will do nothing for the true crisis, which is about staffing ERs and hospitals, not eye care. In fact, it will intensify and worsen that genuine crisis.

We’ll end up with a society in which some get their cataracts fixed — a good thing — but others go into crisis while in the waiting room and then die still being evaluated, as recently happened in Nova Scotia. They’re now adding care providers to waiting rooms there.

It’s the staffing, stupid, not the physical facilities. Which Ford worsens by capping wages so that staff will likely migrate to private clinics where wages aren’t capped and work conditions don’t include knowing that people may be dying while waiting for treatment.

We already have a highly mixed system. Family docs are private, running their businesses, or pharmacies. We aren’t Cuba or North Korea, despite Ford’s lusty witticism about that. They’re paid by the state but retain their autonomy, as patients retain the ability to choose. That’s why it’s called mixed, contra a Globe editorial’s ignorant claim about the “blind fear of private delivery” here.

To be honest, which columnists should be, I don’t really see the point of big profits in health care. I speak practically, not moralistically. Current business models like “just in time” delivery make no sense in medicine and are potentially criminal. It’s one thing to delay delivery of, say, decals, due to supply chain screw-ups and another to have patients die owing to staff or supply shortages.

For-profit health care also leads to more “upselling” and extra-billing. Have you ever had a funeral director contemptuously fling a brochure at you describing government-mandated low-cost caskets that he must offer, and then glide unctuously toward the deluxe coffins in his showroom? The pressure is on for that kind of thing whenever profits are involved.

Above all, if you must siphon resources to reward shareholders with profits, patients will suffer or die as a result — if not at those institutions, then among the public generally. I suppose I’m missing something subtle here but we did see lots of unnecessary carnage at highly profitable LTCs during COVID. The Star noted that, “of the 20 worst-hit homes in Ontario’s second wave, 17 are for-profit.” Then, as Bob Hepburn wrote here, Ford “gave out new 30-year licences to private operators that will result in 18,000 more beds” in LTCs. If not for those death rates, we’d have had a fairly decent record during COVID.

The profit motive has the ability to ruin almost anything it touches, though it doesn’t always matter much outside medical contexts. Take Will Trent, the new U.S. network show about a dyslexic, damaged cop in Georgia. Good premise, fine cast, sharp scripts. But, due to lavish time allotments for ads, episodes must be 40 minutes versus 60 or more and it feels shallow and rushed. Could have been a Luther or Perry Mason, but it isn’t. Happily, real lives weren’t at stake.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Cancelling the right to strike in the UK

Rabble - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 06:00

The British government has adopted legislation demanding minimum work levels during a strike.

Employees designated under the Strike – Minimum Service – Bill for striking. Plus: How the right wing in the US is attacking public education. And the LabourStart report about union events.

RadioLabour is the international labour movement’s radio service. It reports on labour union events around the world with a focus on unions in the developing world. It partners with rabble to provide coverage of news of interest to Canadian workers.

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Categories: F. Left News


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