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Proposed jail facility in Fredericton sparks backlash from locals

Rabble - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 08:09

The proposed Fredericton Correctional Centre has been recommended by the Department of Justice of Public Safety (JPS). The new jail would be built on the site of the Vanier Industrial Park.

A Planning Advisory Committee meeting in December saw an outpouring of opposition to the proposal in the form of dozens of letters by residents, calling the move “unjust” while also raising concerns about the devaluation of homes in the area and the safety of community members.

According to the meeting’s minutes, the JPS “studied the trends and the current situation facing adult correctional facilities” and ultimately favoured the construction and development of a new facility in the Fredericton region. 

The recommendation cited “increased crime trends” as well as the “increased response of law enforcement.”

The decision to respond to what officials claim to be a rise in crime has received backlash from residents who believe the city’s priorities are out of touch with the needs of constituents. 

The province states that the new facility will “help relieve capacity pressures” on other jails across New Brunswick — particularly at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

According to the report, submitted by Senior Planner for the City of Fredericton Tony Dakiv, jail facilities in the province are regularly seeing an average of 620 inmates per day.

Some clients, according to Dakiv, are “required to be double bunked” due to overcrowding, as well as more stressful and potentially dangerous environments because of it.

The proposed facility would include 100 beds in five housing units, with 100 personnel working in the jail. Not only would it lock up people sentenced to jail terms, it would also include those being held in custody who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

PAC rejects rezoning proposal. Will city council do the same?

In November, Fredericton city council narrowly voted six-to-four to sell land at the end of Blizzard Drive to the province for just over $1 million. But in order for the facility to become a reality, rezoning will need to take place. In the meantime, it goes against city zoning laws to build a jail on that piece of land. 

The opposition from Fredericton residents was made loud and clear. On December 14, the city’s Planning Advisory Council (PAC) voted four-to-three recommending city council reject the zoning request.

While officials say their priorities lie on better addressing “cultural identity, mental health and addictions,” Dr. Martha Paynter, author of Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada, isn’t convinced.

In an email to the PAC last month, Paynter outlined the variety of extreme health dangers that not only harm prisoners, but also the communities where they are located.

Paynter, who works directly with women involved in the criminal justice system, noted prisons are “rife with mental illness, chronic disease, infection, violence and injury.”

Paynter noted that between the physical harms of incarceration, from malnutrition, injury, infection, and loss of muscle mass, and the “enduring trauma of family separation, prison violence, and the stigma of criminalization,” harms in prison always find their way back to communities. 

A form letter submitted by many of those in opposition to the facility pointed out a major contradiction. While officials claim the facility is needed to combat rising drug crimes, the letter argues the notion “makes no sense,” due to the fact that “trafficking sentences would be served in the Federal system.”

“All signs indicate that the prison will be targeting the most vulnerable members of our communities: people with mental illness who live in poverty,” the letter to the PAC reads. “To allow a prison would directly support the criminalization of vulnerable populations who were not born with enough luck and privilege.”

An accompanying petition has been signed by more than 800 people, according to the clerk at the January 9 Fredericton city council meeting.

Those in opposition of the facility point out that the location is within a two kilometre radius of at least 700 current homes, with the closest being under one kilometre away. With planned and approved housing developments being built in the area, the nearest residence would eventually be under 500 metres away, and within the radius of over 1,000 homes.

Chris Collins, who appeared at the meeting on behalf of the petition group, noted most residents they spoke to had no idea a jail facility was being considered in the area. Others thought the PAC rejection vote meant the matter was over with.

Monday marked the first and second readings of the proposal by city council. A third reading and subsequent vote are scheduled for January 23, where a decision will be made whether to allow the jail to be built.

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Categories: F. Left News

We’ve seen this public service heist movie before

Rabble - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 07:48

A successful heist requires careful planning and timing. Privatizing healthcare has been planned for years by the Conservatives.

It was once unthinkable that our non-profit public power hydro system would be turned into a for-profit system. Now the theft of our beloved healthcare system is going on right before our eyes.

Ford is following the exact same script to privatize healthcare as Mike Harris did when Harris claimed public power was bankrupt. While endlessly promising “lower rates” and that “nothing will go wrong” Harris’s hydro deregulation changed every non -profit hydro commission in Ontario into a for -profit corporation. Every ratepayer knows how those promises worked out. Ford is again promising that his for-profit private surgery clinics won’t cost you anything out of pocket. This is completely false. With profit as the main concern, private owners will add in a long list of additional fees not covered by OHIP.

Just how are private owners going to staff their clinics with doctors and nurses? There is only one way, pay a premium to lure them away from the public system and then charge more so they can make a profit off of them.   Unfortunately, Ford will likely pay some doctor turncoats to do ads praising his plan.

First, as John Snobelen of the Harris government said, “you have to create a crisis.”  The Pandemic was tailor made for privatizing healthcare.

Taking advantage of or creating a crisis is only the first part of the plan. Then they will claim and exaggerate that the public system is broken while constantly repeating “the status quo isn’t working”.   we need “innovation” to fix it.   

The words “reform” and “innovation” have always been code words for privatization.

Health minister Sylvia Jones, has claimed “decades of inaction has caused the healthcare crisis”. The facts are that decades of underfunding and cuts to pay for revenue shortfalls, caused by Tory tax cuts, is the untold truth about the healthcare crisis.

 As well as endlessly using the word “innovation”, watch for the promise of “increased efficiencies”.  They will likely make a big deal out of the word “choice.” People can choose the fastest way to get their healthcare needs met.

“Cutting red tape” and “innovation” and “choice“ make for nice soundbites, but the reality is those Conservative policies make us all much poorer.

The Conservatives are largely to blame for this crisis that they created with under funding and funding cuts to pay for tax cuts. When you think about it, this should be illegal. It is important to note that the tax cuts and cuts to healthcare made by the Harris Conservatives in the 1990’s resulted in the loss of over 10,000 nurses. It was a loss the healthcare system never recovered from.

Now Ford is going to fix a crisis they created with privatization?  Worldwide the record of privatization is dismal. 

Since 1980, the wealthiest people and their corporations have successfully lobbied Governments for massive tax cuts in the multiple billions.

What we really need to do to fix our healthcare system is to reverse tax cuts. (Reversing tax cuts on the wealthy and their corporations is not raising taxes, it is restoring funding to build and pay for a civil society.) 

We have decades of proof that Public Universal healthcare works when properly funded and managed.

There’s a reason why we made rich people use our hospitals through universal public healthcare, that was so that healthcare would be good for everyone!

Ford is again making false claims. We’ve seen this movie before, it doesn’t end well!

If you love your healthcare and want to stop this robbery. Contact the Ontario Health Coalition to find out how.

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Categories: F. Left News

A provincial police force could cost Albertans thousands more in taxes

Rabble - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 07:24

St. ALBERT – A provincial plan to dump the RCMP and replace it with a provincial police force could mean a whopping property tax increase for residents of St. Albert and other smaller Alberta communities, Marie Renaud, the MLA representing most of the city warned in a statement Monday. 

Plenty of Albertans suspected that already, but Premier Danielle Smith’s government has been determined to press ahead with the scheme anyway because it’s a key part of its sovereignty-association agenda that seems to have been ginned up at least in part as a way to attack Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Government in Ottawa.

But by pointing out that that a plan launched in Surrey, B.C., in 2018 to replace the Mounties with a municipal force would have resulted in the need for property taxes in the Vancouver-area bedroom city to rise by 55 per cent, Renaud pulled the fire alarm on one of the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s signature policies. 

Officials in the B.C. city concluded that when fully implemented a municipal police force would have cost $37.2 million more each year than keeping the RCMP – an increase of 21.3 per cent that would have led to the 55-per-cent property tax increase. 

“In communities like St. Albert,” Renaud’s news release Tuesday noted, “a 55 per cent tax increase would mean an extra $2,784 per year for the average household.”

MLA Renaud, a New Democrat, certainly didn’t say this, but as a resident of St. Albert I can tell you this is a community where the prospect of a property tax increase of more than two or three per cent was enough to have city council seriously consider slashing the public library’s budget by a third. 

I reckon that the possibility of a 55-per-cent property tax increase for any reason in this suburban city of 70,000 northwest of Edmonton would result in something approaching mass hysteria, especially in light of the high anxiety already being experienced by many homeowners because of rising interest rates.

In fairness, the plan accepted by Surrey City Council in 2018 to replace the RCMP would have been a much more complicated transition than in St. Albert. With a population approaching 600,000, B.C.’s second-largest city is more than eight times as big as St. Albert. And the transition was already under way with some Surrey Police Service officers hired. 

Several years of news coverage about the project, moreover, makes it pretty clear the B.C. city has long been divided about the best way to ensure effective police services. with strikingly different narratives told by each side.

The plan was championed by a previous mayor. The current mayor campaigned against it and won in the October 15, 2022, B.C. municipal election. Surrey’s new city council voted in November to scuttle the plan and stick with the Mounties

Meanwhile, in quiet little St. Albert, the only person I’ve ever personally heard advocate dumping the RCMP was an Edmonton Police Service officer who lived here, along with quite a few of his colleagues, who had some spicy observations about the Mounties that may not have been entirely fair. 

Be that as it may, his most substantive argument ran along the same lines as those of the advocates of a Surrey force: RCMP services may cost less, but you don’t get quite as many cops. 

Of course, unlike Surrey, vandalism to a bus shelter is a major crime in St. Albert.

“The UCP likes to point to Surrey as an example for scrapping the RCMP,” Renaud said. “But we can see from this real-world example that it will cost Albertans more at a time when they’re already struggling to make ends meet.”

She noted that “Albertans are already paying more for utilities, car insurance, tuition, and student debt under the UCP.”

An Alberta Government report in 2021 found transitioning to an Alberta provincial police force alone would cost $366 million. Plus, Alberta would be on the hook for another $170 million a year in annual funding Ottawa provides for the RCMP. 

The Alberta report also made the claim – which Renaud dismisses as “dubious” – that it would cost $7 million a year less to administer a provincial service.

However, said Renaud’s news release, “if the example of Surrey is applied to Alberta, a 21 per cent increase to the cost of operating a provincial police force means Albertans would have to pay an extra $157 million per year for the police force, along with the transition costs and loss of federal funding.”

Renaud also noted that in 2020 Red Deer officials concluded that replacing the RCMP with a municipal force would cost that Central Alberta city of about 100,000 an additional $13.5 million a year, excluding start-up costs. Red Deer City Council rejected the plan because of its potential impact on property taxes.

It will be interesting to see what Dale Nally, the UCP MLA for Morinville-St. Albert, has to say about this, if anything. 

Given the sensitivity about tax increases in this place, he might be wise to steer clear of the topic entirely.

The NDP, led by Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley, has vowed to drop the provincial police scheme if elected. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Is there a final answer to Canada’s healthcare crisis?

Rabble - Wed, 01/18/2023 - 08:21

January is the month for predictions. Thus far, there have been two major subjects for forecasts in the healthcare field. One is COVID and the other is the state of the Canadian healthcare system overall. Of course, the two are interlinked.

First, COVID. To be honest, this writer has lost track of which wave we are in, if we are in a wave at all. Perhaps epidemiologists and surfers are more familiar with the terminology of waves. Given that Canadians are currently dealing not just with COVID, but also with seasonal flu and other respiratory ailments, we are surely at least in a swell, if not a tidal wave.

Experts in virology and emergency medicine are not unanimous in predicting when another variant or variants might develop. They are of one mind, however, that one or more will come this year. The two unknowns are when and how serious the variants will be. Will they overtake Omicron, as is suggested with XBB.1.5? Will current vaccines and boosters and immunities from previous COVID infections fight off the new variants? There is no way to accurately predict answers.

The only thing that is certain at the start of 2023 is that COVID is not over. It is still everywhere and everyone is still susceptible, regardless of vaccine status. Yet again, the only thing that can protect Canadians is to be fully vaccinated, including boosters. Unfortunately, however, the rate of vaccine and booster uptake has decreased. Canadians remain at just over 80 per cent level of at least one shot. It’s not enough.

While it is true that even those fully vaccinated and boosted can catch COVID, this should not deter people from getting all the shots possible. Evidence shows that previously vaccinated people who contract COVID experience a milder version of the virus. Evidence also shows that they require fewer hospitalizations and that far fewer die of the disease.

Even if not familiar with the wave lexicon, this writer  is exceedingly familiar with the line “get vaccinated.” Since vaccines first became available to Canadians in 2020, getting each vaccine as it becomes available has always been the single greatest protection against the virus. Nothing has changed in that regard and that’s my final answer.

Which brings us to the second subject of predictions. The overall state of healthcare in Canada and what can be done about it. We are currently at a stand-still, as the provinces and territories insist on more federal money to fix the system and the federal government insists that more money be tied to measurement of outcomes.

There has been a shift in the commentary on this debate. While everyone believes that more money will help, many voices now insist that the system itself must change. The consensus is that spending more money to fix the current system is not the way to go.

The provinces and territories still want funds for new fixes to the old system. Others, including professional groups and healthcare policymakers, now urge a revamp of the healthcare system as a whole. And that revamp has to include measurement of outcomes.

To be fair, some positive changes have been made. Individual hospitals and healthcare providers have made helpful strides.

For example, Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in Toronto has developed the capacity for many surgeries and procedures to be performed without requiring patients to stay overnight. The hospital, a pioneer in Canada as a hospital without beds, uses non-invasive procedures to send patients home without extended stays, even for procedures like hip and knee replacements.

WCH should be congratulated for such innovation. The challenge is for hospitals across the country to follow suit. How can such changes be scaled up? Canada does not have a mechanism to make doing so simpler.

Another example is the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ontario. Beginning in 2023, they will be able to diagnose and prescribe medications for thirteen of the most common ailments. No longer will people with such problems as pink eye, UTIs, hemorrhoids, among others, require a doctor’s visit.

Ontario pharmacists will also be able to prescribe Paxlovid to high-risk patients who contract COVID.

Will this be the start of a welcome expanded scope of practice for pharmacists? Even if it is, it is not without its own issues. Not all pharmacies can accommodate this extra responsibility and not everyone can access pharmacies that do.

What about other healthcare professionals? Many professional groups continue to operate under mandates established in the previous century. Not all healthcare professionals currently practicing can take on expanded responsibilities without further training. Examining the scope of practice of all healthcare professionals cannot be done in silos, nor can it be done overnight. Coordination and timing are major factors.

What are the overriding concerns to address the problems in Canada’s healthcare system? Everyone seems to agree that there are problems, but no one seems to be able to find a starting point to fix the issues.

One organization out of the UK has been bold enough to predict the next big response to what ails us. And what ails them is very similar to what ails us. Pharmaphorum states that it “combines industry leading publications, strategic consulting and a content-driven stakeholder engagement agency.”

Their prediction for the new year is blunt. “As the full fallout from the pandemic hits health systems in the form of squeezed budgets, patient backlogs and serious resource shortages, we should expect to see concerted efforts aimed at a leap in digital maturity. In 2022, digital transformation may offer the only way for stressed health systems to move towards a sustainable, post-pandemic future.”

If only digital transformation were that simple. Certainly, the state of integrated digital records and of digital healthcare service delivery in Canada needs massive investments in development and implementation.

Ontario readers may recall an earlier plan to coordinate healthcare records. eHealth was engulfed in a spending scandal that the province’s former auditor general said cost taxpayers $1 billion. It was not Ontario’s finest hour. Improvements have been made, but province-wide integration is years away.

Is there a final answer to the crisis in healthcare that Canada is facing? No. Is that my final answer? Yes

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Categories: F. Left News

Fossil gas is not healthy for children and other living things

Rabble - Wed, 01/18/2023 - 07:55

Cooking with gas has some advantages over cooking on conventional electric stoves, as gas stoves heat and cool instantly. But it’s not difficult to prepare amazing meals on an electric range, and efficient induction ranges offer even more versatility than gas — without the problems.

Those problems are significant, from household pollution to global heating. Gas stoves release dangerous pollutants into homes, buildings and the atmosphere, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and particulate matter.

A recent analysis of 27 studies on the effects of gas appliances on children concluded 12.7 per cent of current childhood asthma in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use — ranging from three per cent in Florida to 21.1 per cent in Illinois. (The percentage of homes with gas stoves is much higher in Illinois than in Florida.) About 40 million U.S. households, 38 per cent, have gas stoves.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found nitrogen dioxide concentrations are 50 to 400 per cent higher in homes with gas stoves than homes with electric appliances.

Nitrogen dioxide can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems and exacerbate illnesses like flu and COVID-19. As a Vox article notes, “Outside, the EPA would consider the level of NO2 produced by the stove illegal. Inside, though, there is no regulation.”

Gas furnaces and water heaters cause less indoor air pollution because many jurisdictions require them to be vented outside — contributing to outdoor air pollution and climate change. (Research shows buildings in California emit more nitrogen oxides than power plants, and almost as much as cars.)

So-called “natural” gas is almost entirely methane, a greenhouse gas pollutant about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the short term. All along the supply chain, from extraction and production to transportation and use, considerable amounts of it escape into the atmosphere.

Health issues around gas appliances have been known since the 1980s. But as with other problems fossil fuels cause, industry has put considerable resources into downplaying or denying the dangers, and into promoting gas appliances.

Those efforts are heating up as many jurisdictions consider banning gas stoves for new homes and buildings. The tactics are wide-ranging: massive ad and “influencer” campaigns, fake grassroots groups and supporters (known as “astroturfing”) to support gas over electric, lobbying politicians and, sometimes, outright threats. Even the term “natural gas” was coined back in the 1930s as a way to portray it as a clean, affordable fuel. As a Mother Jones article points out, industry also adopted the slogan “cooking with gas” in the 1930s.

Industry argues proper ventilation will resolve indoor pollution issues. Putting aside the fact that this just moves pollution outdoors, most jurisdictions don’t require venting that would keep indoor air pure. Many people can’t afford to install adequate range hoods and fans, and renters often have no say.

The advantages of cooking with gas over conventional electric are mostly about convenience, and newer induction stoves, which use magnetics to heat, are more efficient, safer and better for indoor and outdoor environments. They’re also not subject to the volatility of fossil fuel markets.

However, shifting to electricity in all areas of our lives also means using cleaner sources, such as wind and solar. The main disadvantage of induction stoves is that they don’t work with all types of cookware — including copper and aluminum — but even that can be overcome by placing those pots and pans on a suitable metal heat plate.

Not everyone can immediately replace their polluting gas appliance, but incentives, regulations and building codes can ensure gas becomes a thing of the past. Of course, if you continue to use a gas stove, you should vent to the outside, or at least keep windows open while using it.

As with fossil fuels wastefully burned in cars, gas for cooking was never really about efficiency or affordability. The goal was to get people to buy and burn more to enrich the most profitable industry in history. Instead of recognizing the true value of these limited stores of concentrated solar energy that took millennia to create, our growth-driven economic system has long relied on burning them up as quickly as possible.

Its’ time to change that, for the health of our children, ourselves and the planet.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at

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Categories: F. Left News

Second group follows C&BP in filing FEC complaint against Santos

The Checks and Balances Project - Thu, 01/12/2023 - 06:49

A second watchdog group has followed the Checks & Balances Project (C&BP) in filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., and his campaign treasurer connected to potentially false statements in his campaign accounts.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed its complaint Jan. 9, claiming that Santos hid did the true source of campaign and illegal spent money donated to his campaign.

The CLC complaint followed C&BP’s December 29 complaint, which cited the $705,000 allegedly lent by Santos to his 2002 campaign – as well as other financial disclosure reports that showed that Santos had only a fraction of that mount in assets.

Starting on Dec. 19, The New York Times and other news organizations have published multiple reports about the variety of lies Santos told about his education, business relationships and family relationships during his 2022 campaign. On Wednesday, the Times published an article about the lies Santos told Long Island Republican leaders in 2020 and included a copy of the fake resume he gave them.

Santos has acknowledged many of those lied, but he has not commented on many of the alleged financial misstatements. Some reports have shown the Santos campaign has filed hundreds of finance statements that showed $199.99 in payments, the maximum statements allowed without receipts.

Meanwhile, two Democratic House members from New York, Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, filed official complaints with the House Ethics Committee against Santos, and a series of local Republican officials, including a fellow House member, have called on Santos to resign.


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Categories: F. Left News

Votes at UN reveal Canada as continuing supporter of US Empire

Rabble - Tue, 01/10/2023 - 12:38

The Canadian government refuses to support United Nations votes to make the world more just and less dangerous. 

Three weeks ago Canada was one of six countries to vote against a General Assembly resolution affirming the rights of Palestinian refugees to their properties expropriated by Israel while 152 nations voted for it. Isolating Canada from world opinion, Ottawa voted against almost all the UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights presented during the General Assembly’s latest session. 

The Liberals claim they vote against upholding international law for a people dispossessed by a UN imposed partition plan on the grounds they don’t want to “single Israel out.” Nor do they want to single out neo-Nazism, global inequity or nuclear weapons. 

Earlier last month, the Liberals voted against a resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” It passed 120-to-50

Since 2012, Ottawa has opposed or abstained on a similar Russian-sponsored resolution each year. 

On December 14, the Trudeau government also voted against “Towards a New International Economic Order.” The resolution criticizing negative capital flows and indebtedness in the Global South passed 123-to-50

Canada has long voted against efforts to democratize the global economy. 

The Liberals have also voted against a slew of resolutions seeking to ban nuclear weapons. Three weeks ago, Canada voted against a resolution supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It passed 115 to 43. At the same time Ottawa joined the United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau in voting against a resolution calling on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons and sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) while 149 countries voted in favour. 

Since voting against an August 1948 call to ban nuclear arms Canada has opposed many resolutions targeting these dastardly weapons. In Just Dummies — Cruise Missile Testing in Canada, John Clearwater writes, “the record clearly shows that Canada refuses to support any resolution that specifies immediate action on a comprehensive approach to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.” 

Over the years Canada has repeatedly been on the wrong side of history with General Assembly votes. As independence struggles grew, Ottawa opposed many anticolonial resolutions at the UN. 

Canada voted against a 1948 resolution calling for the withdrawal of Dutch troops from Indonesia. In 1952, notes Robin Gendron in a book on Canada’s relations with French Africa Ottawa, Canada “voted against all the resolutions introduced by African and Asian states that urged France to recognize the independence of Tunisia and Morocco.” 

In 1957, Canada opposed a resolution calling for African independence “at an early date.” It passed 38 to 13 with 11 abstentions. Canada also opposed a November 1965 resolution on white-dominated Rhodesia that was adopted 82 to 9 (with 18 abstentions and Britain staying away). In 1973, Canada opposed a resolution that challenged Portugal’s claim to represent Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau at the UN. The vote passed 94 to 14 with 21 abstentions. 

Canada’s voting record in the General Assembly reflects this country’s position vis-à-vis the US empire, white supremacy and global capitalism. Rather than supporting the sort of rules-based international order it claims to uphold, the Trudeau government’s record at the United Nations reveals Canada’s long standing and current support for a world dominated by a wealthy minority. 

Ottawa’s failure to support even largely symbolic social justice-oriented resolutions highlights the deeply regressive nature of Canadian foreign policy.

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Categories: F. Left News

Alberta’s UCP says ‘just transition’ is a divisive, polarizing term

Rabble - Tue, 01/10/2023 - 08:03

Sonya Savage is an intelligent woman with an impressive resume in government, the legal profession, and the energy industry.

So presumably Alberta’s environment minister understands just how bonkers it makes her sound to be heard saying publicly that “just transition” is a polarizing and divisive term that Ottawa must stop using this instant.

But this is Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta, and you have to make certain sacrifices if you want to stay in her cabinet, and sounding as if you’re halfway bonkers is presumably just part of the job description. 

In case you doubt me, here are Savage’s own words, as transcribed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “The problem with the just transition, it’s a polarizing term. And they’ve been using it.” 

“They,” of course, are those Liberal villains in Ottawa, whose nefarious leader, the “drama teacher” known as Justin Trudeau, bought Alberta a pipeline to the West Coast and is, as we speak, spending almost $13 billion to make it bigger. 

Smith’s United Conservative Party (UCP) is running against Trudeau’s Liberals for re-election because that’s safer and easier than running against the actual Opposition here in jealously sovereign Alberta, the Alberta New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley.

Notley has had no problem resisting saying really dumb stuff like this, so that’s a challenge for the UCP.

In other words, this entire controversy is being ginned up by the folks who brought us the “Sovereignty within a united Canada Act” as part of its performative phoney war with Ottawa.

According to the logic of sovereignty within a united Canada, Ms. Savage, who used to be the energy minister when Jason Kenney was premier, could fairly be described as the “environment within a captured petrostate” minister.

As an aside, in a rapidly heating world governed by sensible people, being moved from the energy ministry to the “environment and protected areas” portfolio should be considered a promotion. Of course, in Alberta, especially Smith’s Alberta, it was the opposite. 

I mention this only because it seems to have been a slow weekend for news, so the use or misuse of “just transition” to describe how to manage the move away from an economy heavily dependent on energy derived from fossil fuel to something more sustainable has become Canada’s manufactured controversy du jour.

As the CBC explained: “‘Just transition’ is a concept that emerged from the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change. The goal is to reduce the harm to workers caused by economies moving from high-carbon activities into the green economy. Some, including Alberta’s environment minister, believe it also signals the sunset of the oil and gas sector.” (Emphasis added.)

Sunset? “It means phasing out fossil fuels immediately, keeping it in the ground,” Savage clarified.

It means no such thing, of course. It means, for the lack of better words, a “just transition” for oil and gas workers when the inevitable transition comes. 

It doesn’t mean waiting for the “market transition,” which is what happened to Alberta’s still-plentiful supply of beaver pelts some years ago, rendering that resource almost worthless to anyone but beavers. 

“Even more than that,” Savage went on, “it means restructuring societies and economies and redistributing wealth.”

Now wouldn’t that be awful! Alas, it doesn’t mean that either, as Savage, I am certain, knows perfectly well. 

Sometimes in journalism it is necessary to make people who are saying things that are completely ridiculous sound as if they are being sensible, usually owing to the official position that they occupy. The CBC story quoted above is a textbook example. 

Regardless, just to show that any phrase can be made to seem controversial by the nattering nabobs of right-wing political correctness (when they are not complaining vociferously about the scourge of alleged political correctness by people who think we ought to speak in ways that are considerate of one another), Savage also admitted in the same interview with the national broadcaster that the federal government has stopped using the phrase.

Just to be perfectly clear about this, then, Savage is demanding that Ottawa stop using a phrase that Ottawa has already stopped using because, according to her, it is “a non-starter” here in Alberta.

It is, however, still on a Government of Canada web page, so that’s good enough to wind everyone up on a slow post-holiday weekend. 

As a result of the brouhaha, federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says he’d rather call it “sustainable jobs.”

Well, I’ve got news for Wilkinson: This is Alberta, and we’re the Canadian equivalent of Mikey.” We hate everything!

So we’re going to hate sustainable jobs, too, because that suggests that the fossil fuel industry isn’t sustainable, and that means that we ought to be thinking about a just transition.

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Categories: F. Left News

Emergency shelters. Is this as good as it gets?

Rabble - Tue, 01/10/2023 - 06:52

In the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s antisocial character Melvin Udall, who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder, asks a group of psychiatric (sic) patients “What if this is as good as it gets?”

I remember anti-poverty activist Norm Feltes telling me how much he hated that question. I didn’t understand why at the time.

Today I do.

The question is in part a plea, but mostly it’s a despairing resignation to accept less.

For emergency shelter, one of the most life-sustaining, Maslow inspired components of human need, I ask: “Do we think this is as good as it gets?”

Crowded, congregate shelters, where people may be sleeping on cots or mats, not even real beds. People including seniors, people with disabilities, families – stuck there for years.

Canada has stalled, in fact rear ended any momentum it had to reinstate a national housing program that would build sufficient social housing.

Instead, home ownership has dominated the housing policy landscape and we’re supposed to be happy with a smattering of 300 square feet modular housing units constructed for ‘the homeless.’ Governments and Housing First proponents want us to believe ‘this is as good as it gets.’

Dumbing policy down even further, cities treat the provision of emergency shelter in extreme weather as ‘this is as good as it gets.’

Provinces are mostly missing in action.

The results are like a post-apocalyptic scene.

Dr. Raghu Venugopal, an ER physician recently commented: “My patient is homeless for years. They stay in the subway or come to the ER. This is a policy choice. We could house everyone, but we choose not to. My patient doesn’t need me. I’m not the solution.”

Warming centres a “no-brainer”

In the midst of December’s weather bomb in Ontario, multiple cities had roller coaster openings and closings of warming centres if any at all.

People say to me all the time: “This is Canada. We know winter’s coming. Warming centres are a no-brainer. Right?”

Wrong. Cities have inadequate winter plans. As Rafi Aaron, spokesperson for the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness in Toronto said: “This is the only city in the world where the Office of Emergency Management endangers people’s lives.” Here he refers to the city’s evictions of people in encampments during harsh weather, the confiscation of tents and survival gear amidst a shelter crisis with warming centres not opened.

Toronto is not alone in its negligence of protecting human life.

Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health cancelled a cold alert Christmas Eve that closed warming centres. In response to the outcry, officials later scrambled to blame the decision on a funding glitch. The centres will now stay open until the end of March.

Problem could have been fixed decades ago

Let me backtrack because the impact of severe weather on the unhoused should have been fixed 25 years ago.

One of the most notable markers of Canada’s evolving homelessness crisis was the cluster of freezing deaths in Toronto in 1996. Three men – Eugene Upper, Irwin Anderson, and Mirsalah-Aldin Kompani froze to death on the streets in January and February. People across the country reeled in shock when this happened.

The circumstances were horrible. Upper died in a bus shelter on Spadina Ave. Anderson died in a door well in Toronto’s east end Chinatown. Kompani, an engineer, died below a ramp to the Gardiner Expressway, his hands frozen to his face and his notebooks, filled with handwritten mathematical formulas, by his side. It took days for his hands to thaw from his face to allow the autopsy.

An advocacy group I was part of obtained legal test case funding and hired lawyer Peter Rosenthal. We called for and obtained standing at an inquest into the deaths. For the five-week inquest, the courtroom was full and community agencies took turns providing a daily lunch outside on the sidewalk with media availability and rallies.

There was enormous resistance from day one to ensuring a full and fair inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths.

We had to fight for the right for homeless people to be expert witnesses. We had to fight to submit evidence on homelessness, harm reduction, and housing. Of note, the coroner literally refused to allow the word ‘housing’ to be used.

Knowing that something was missing from the evidence in Mr. Kompani’s case, Rosenthal kept insisting there had been notebooks found with the body and that he wanted to examine them. They remained missing until Rosenthal complained to Dr. James Young, the province’s chief coroner. Shortly after his complaint, a police officer under cross-examination suddenly disclosed that the books had been found. They were on Mr. Kompani’s body in the morgue.

Rosenthal was taken to the morgue, given a pair of gloves and he removed the briefcase from the body bag. Inside were the notebooks. Rosenthal (also a University of Toronto math professor) poignantly described the math notes as “beautiful, creative, and very coherently thought out”. Many in the room were in tears. This evidence greatly humanized the victim and the process, challenging stereotypes and judgment about the men who had died.

I describe this effort to show advocates did not accept “This is as good as it gets.” The jury agreed. Their verdict led to numerous recommendations to improve the shelter system including the first managed alcohol program in Canada at Seaton House.

Also a result, Toronto began its system of Extreme Cold Weather Alerts which would trigger the opening of warming centres. Other cities eventually followed suit.

Warming centres run worse than jails

However, Toronto never took kindly to the notion of running these centres and that has been evident in their sloppy operation.

Over the years, advocates exposed the fact that the warming (and eventually) cooling centres were operated worse than jails. No cots, mats, blankets, or privacy barriers. No meals, no activities such as cards or a newspaper or a TV to pass the time. No healthcare on site.

In the summer of 2016, amidst repeated heat waves, Toronto was forced by advocates to open cooling centres on day one of a heat wave instead of their usual day three. Yet they were opened in a miserly fashion with no staff, water, or food.

In the winter of 2016-17, Toronto operated one of its warming centres without any public advertising of its location and with doors that remained locked all night.

In the summer of 2018, only one cooling centre operated twenty-four hours a day.

Numerous reports have documented these atrocities. From Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s Shelter Inspection Report (2003) to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s Out in the Cold: The Crisis in Toronto’s Shelter System Report (2016) to Health Providers Against Poverty’s An Evaluation of Toronto’s Warming Centres and Winter Response to Homelessness (2018). They have delineated human rights violations that range from the absence of showers, cots, pillows, blankets, and meals to an inadequate number of toilets, to overcrowding and safety issues.

Is this as good as it gets?

Toronto got away with not opening warming centres for about ten years until a homeless man named Richard Kenyon died in front of the old Maple Leaf Gardens during an ice storm in 2013. Yet the city had opened emergency warming shelters for the housed population who had lost power in the same ice storm.

It shouldn’t be a fight to get these emergency sites open, but it always Toronto city managers routinely refuse to introduce an ounce of flexibility in the formula used to trigger the opening of warming or cooling centres, squabbling with health workers over the -15C degree temperature requirement or how to gauge the effect of wind chill, an ice storm or torrential rains and floods.

As Dr. Andrew Boozary, has noted: “The current policy of opening warming centres when it is -15 C is not aligned with the evidence. The majority of cold related injuries that come to our emergency departments are when it is warmer than -15 C. We should not need “extreme weather” to show humanity.”

Whether it’s the state of our health care system, public parks, transit, or shelter: This is not as good as it gets.

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Categories: F. Left News

Next up on Off the Hill: Canadian politics, climate and economy

Rabble - Tue, 01/10/2023 - 05:00

We’re kicking off the first live political panel of the year with a powerhouse group of guests. Join us on January 26, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. ET for “Off the Hill: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy.” 

This month, join guests MP Leah Gazan, Jim Stanford, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Karl Nerenberg with co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies.

Canadian parliament returns on January 30. The spotlight is on the economy and the impact on Canadians. Our panel will unpack the critical issues related to the economic outlook and the climate emergency. 

Register for this free event to interact and share your questions with our panelists.

And mark your calendar for Off the Hill on January 26, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Off the Hill is a fast-paced live series which focuses on current issues of national significance. It features guests and a discussion you won’t find anywhere else, centred on the impact politics and policy have on people. Our series focuses on how to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill.

Meet our Off the Hill panelists

Robin Browne is Off the Hill’s co-host. Robin is a communications professional and founder of the 613-819 Black Hub, living in Ottawa. His blog is The “True” North.

Libby Davies is Off the Hill’s co-host and author of Outside In: a Political Memoir. She served as the MP for Vancouver East from 1997-2015, and is former NDP Deputy Leader and House Leader.

Leah Gazan is Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. She is currently the NDP critic for Children, Families, and Social Development, as well as the deputy critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. Leah is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory. 

Jim Stanford is an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, a labour economics research institute with operations in Canada and Australia. He previously served as economist and director of policy with Unifor.

Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6-based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba. He is an Indigenous activist, campaigner and public speaker who serves on the board of multiple environmental organizations including the Bioneers, Black Mesa Water Coalition and the Wildfire Project. He is also the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water.

Karl Nerenberg is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and filmmaker, working in both English and French languages. He is rabble’s parliamentary correspondent and a regular panelist on Off the Hill.

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Categories: F. Left News

Time to act: an interview with Sonali Bhattacharyya

Red Pepper - Tue, 01/10/2023 - 00:00
Photo by Helen Murray

I became involved in anti-racist campaigns in my teens but it took Blair’s aggressive imperialism to propel me into organising, especially with Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity campaigning at a local level. I was active in my local Momentum group for years before standing for the national coordinating group in 2020. On the NCG, I mainly focus on working with local groups in London and our work around racial justice.

I always wanted to write scripts for film and TV but quickly learned how hard it is to break into the industry without wealth and contacts. I took a punt on submitting a screenplay to the Birmingham Rep for a playwright’s residency scheme, and was paired up with an amazing writer, Carl Miller, who mentored and encouraged me. I fell in love with the combination of intimacy and expansiveness of ideas writing for the stage offers.

My writing has always been political, but the urgency of system collapse has made me bring my activism and writing closer together. I see the communal experience of theatre as the perfect setting to start a conversation about how we can save ourselves.

I get to collaborate with incredible actors and creatives. I feel so lucky to have worked with Nimmo Ismail and Milli Bhatia this year, and the teams we’ve put together have been overwhelmingly black and brown creatives and women and non-binary artists. I’m as proud of these teams as of our work – the process has been indivisible from the productions.

I am tired of narrow representation of South Asian stories. I want to write stories for us, about us, and that means engaging with the impact of both Indian and British politics within the diaspora. It’s with that specificity that you find the universality in stories.

My most recent play, Chasing Hares, is set between 2000s Kolkata – where many of my extended family are – and present-day Leicester. The play is about precarity, the corrosive impact of capitalism on our relationships and the role of storytelling in allowing us to imagine a better world. It’s about the legacy and sacrifice of migrant parents with radical politics, something I haven’t seen depicted onstage before.

The British left should pay more attention to Indian politics – we should have a better understanding of Modi and Britain’s relationship with his regime. We have so much to learn from the awesome organising strategy and resistance of Indian comrades. For example, there is a long tradition in Bengali culture of using storytelling to galvanise and engage people in struggle. The British left often don’t value this power of stories (unlike the right). Stories are about remembering – how have people stood up before, what has worked? – providing inspiration and a model for how we translate our ideals into action and build a better world. For instance, it was really important to me to dramatise a character broaching the question of pay with her co-workers in Chasing Hares.

Political theatre isn’t about grandstanding or speechifying. For me, it’s about recognising small, quiet, brave moments of collectivity – the crucial steps towards social justice.

Sonali Bhattacharyya was speaking to Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

Sonali’s play, Two Billion Beats, returns to the Orange Tree Theatre from 20 January – 4 February 2023. You can find out more about her work on her website.

This article first appeared in Issue 237, Autumn 2022, ‘Power in Unions’, in our column The Spark, in which interviewees discuss their experiences of becoming involved with radical movements. Subscribe today to read more articles and support independent media.

Categories: F. Left News

KingSett Capital must not be allowed to mine the sky in Downtown Toronto

Rabble - Mon, 01/09/2023 - 13:39

New urban mining companies, ready to invest millions of dollars, are targeting Toronto’s poor neighbourhoods. Large condo developments now dominate the Dundas Street East corridor in the Downtown East threatening an infrastructure that has taken more than a century to establish.

For more than a hundred fifty years, the poor and unemployed have made their way down the Dundas Street East corridor seeking refuge and employment.  

Anchored at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne is All Saints Church. In the late 1880s, this church had strong links with Toronto’s poor house, the House of Industry. Today, this Anglican church functions as a community centre and is home to two daytime shelters. 

Across the street sits William Dineen House, an old historic Victorian mansion, that had functioned as a rooming house as far back as 1911. Boarded up in 2008, along with two other rooming houses, Dineen House was saved from the fate of its two sister buildings, which were demolished shortly afterwards, because of its designation as a heritage home.   

For more than a decade, local activists and social agencies have been calling on the city to expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne for the purpose of building social housing on the land.  

Last March, after a long battle and huge community pressure, the city agreed to bid on the properties after they came up for sale. The city lost its bid to KingSett Capital. 

KingSett Capital is one of Canada’s largest private equity real estate investment firms. They are part of a new set of urban mining companies staking out their claims along the Dundas St. E corridor hoping to strike gold. 

The gold they are looking for, however, is not in the ground but up in the sky, way up above – 47 stories of condominiums to be exact. Newly built condo towers stand like mining shafts rising high above overcrowded shelters, symbols of wealth and prosperity. 

KingSett’s arrival in the Downtown East will only further contribute to a growing housing crisis, lead to the displacement of poor people, and threaten a fragile infrastructure that has sustained the working poor, unemployed and homeless who have been coming here since the mid 19th century. 

A brief history of Toronto’s Downtown East

The Downtown East was seen as a depressed area for decades. 

The industries that had established themselves in the south of Downtown East in the 1850s had all but disappeared by the 1960’s as a result of de-industrialization. When wealthy residents started to leave the area after the First World War and throughout the great depression, many of the old Victorian houses began operating as rooming and flop houses.  

By the 1970s there were 2000 hostel beds located in the area and a social infrastructure which included drop-ins, community health centres and legal agencies offering services to the poor and homeless population. Seaton House, which relocated on George St. in the late 1950s, sheltered up to 600 men nightly at its peak.  Regent Park, the country’s largest social housing project, built after the end of the Second World War, was home to 5000 people when construction was completed in the late 1950s.

The gentrification of the Downtown East started in the mid 1960’s as young affluent professionals began to buy up the old rooming houses and flophouses for their growing families. In the 1990s, however, gentrification took on a new form. Large investment companies were now investing millions of dollars and speculating that a vein running along the depressed Dundas St. E. corridor was full of gold and worth a fortune.

Federal and provincial governments abandon social housing programs 

In 1993, the Liberal federal government cancelled its National Housing Program, a program that had been around since the 1940s, and which was responsible for the construction of hundreds of thousands of housing units across Canada. 

Two years later, after being elected premier of Ontario, 1995 Mike Harris’ Conservative government stopped the construction of 17,000 social housing units and downloaded the responsibility of building social housing to the cities. 

With federal and provincial governments out of the way, and no longer interested in building social housing, developers now had an open road to speculate and buy up properties along the Dundas St. E. corridor.

The Federal Liberals sold three important properties in the Downtown East during this period; the CBC Radio land just north of Dundas St. E. on Jarvis, was sold to a condo developer; the old employment building on the north-east corner of Dundas St. E. and Jarvis, originally sold to a hotel chain, was subsequently demolished to make way for a large condominium tower; the old RCMP building south of Dundas St. E on Jarvis, was sold and operated as a high end hotel for several decades but has recently been demolished to make way for another condo tower. 

These three properties were sold by the federal government in the middle of a housing crisis.  Rather than offering the properties to the city to build much needed social housing in the Downtown East, the Federal government, by handing over this land to large developers, opened up the Dundas St. E. corridor for further speculation. 

Revitalization of Regent Park

In 2005 that the fate of the Dundas St. E corridor was sealed. That year the city announced its plans to revitalize Regent Park. Dundas St E. ran right through the middle of North Regent Park and South Regent Park, stretching several blocks east of Parliament Street to River Street. The plan was to level Regent Park, increase the density in the area by adding 3000 private market condos, and not replace all of the existing social housing units.  

Five hundred of the units would be removed from Regent Park and relocated further west in the Downtown East. This changed the character of Regent Park. Now the private market housing will dominate the area, with two thirds of the units being condominiums and one third social housing.  The three- story-low rise apartments buildings that dominated Regent Park will all be replaced with high rise towers to accommodate the developer’s need to make a profit. 

The redevelopment of Regent Park, which is now in its last phase, has caused chaos in the Downtown East and along the Dundas St. E. corridor. The price of properties in and around Regent Park, and along the corridor, has skyrocketed as developers and speculators circle the area in search of another gold mine. A growing number of massive condo developments in the southern part of the Downtown East, below Queen Street, are also contributing to the displacement of the poor and homeless from the area. 

Social infrastructure is threatened

Dundas and Sherbourne remains one of the last corners along the Dundas St. E. corridor to be redeveloped. A small rundown plaza sits across the street from All Saints Church destined to be mined.  On the north west corner is located another empty building, once the home of George’s Spaghetti House, which for more than three decades featured Canadian jazz greats such as Mo Koffmann.  

Last October, KingSett Capital announced that they were planning to erect a 47 stories condo tower at 214-230 Sherbourne. They are in the process of asking for an amendment from the city to allow them to construct this monstrous tower. Each additional floor is worth millions of dollars to this Bay Street company. 

Conventional mining companies in Canada have a long history of leaving communities devastated after taking the natural resources from the ground and leaving behind polluted land. 

Urban mining companies like KingSett are contributing to the devastation and displacement of the working poor and unemployed in the Downtown East. They offer no solution to the housing crisis now being experienced in this working-class neighbourhood. 

A community fights back

 As of today, we do not have any indication of how much KingSett paid for the land or how much money the city offered to the landlord for the properties. 

We do know that in April of 2021, the city paid KingSett close to $100 million for the property at 877 Yonge. We also know that six months later, KingSett and Greenwin were awarded a contract to develop a property owned by the city at 705 Warden Street to build ‘affordable housing’ and private market units. This relationship between the city and KingSett raises serious questions. 

Why would KingSett bid against the city knowing full well that the city wanted 214-230 Sherbourne to build social housing?  

A public community meeting organized by 230 Fightback is planned for January 16 at All Saints Church.  KingSett must turn over these properties to the city. If KingSett refuses to sell, then the city must begin the expropriation process. Urban mining companies like KingSett Capital have no business speculating in this working-class neighbourhood.

The contested land at 214-230 Sherbourne had housed the poor and unemployed for more than a century before being boarded up 14 years ago. It is time that it housed them again.  

If you’d like to learn more about 230 Fightback, please visit:

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Categories: F. Left News

Five ways to build on the labour movement’s momentum in 2023

Rabble - Mon, 01/09/2023 - 13:28

The labour movement saw landmark victories in 2022. From 10 paid sick days for federally regulated workers, to Ontario education workers standing up for bargaining rights, power and solidarity in the labour movement is growing. 

As the new years get into full swing, there is an opportunity to build on this momentum and defend the rights of the working class. Here are some improvements to labour rights that would radically change the lives of workers in 2023.

Cost of living wage adjustments

Workers had to navigate record levels of inflation in 2022. At its highest, the Consumer Price Index had increased 6.7 per cent on a year over year basis in both July and August, according to Statistics Canada. 

The burden was especially heavy at gas pumps and grocery stores. Canadians had to pay 13.7 per cent more on gas in November 2022 than in 2021, Statistics Canada reported. As well, fresh vegetables were listed as one of the main contributors to the rise in the Consumer Price Index between October 2022 and November. 

As affording basic necessities seems more and more unrealistic for a growing number of people, it has become clear that wages for workers need to keep pace.

Multiple bargaining units in British Columbia added cost of living adjustments into their negotiations last summer, and PSAC is also demanding wage adjustments that acknowledge inflation. 

As bargaining picks up again this year, cost of living wage adjustments may become a part of more collective agreements. 

Paid sick days

While the implementation of 10 paid sick days for federally regulated workers was a major step forward, many workers are still left at the mercy of their provincial governments. Right now, each province has a different policy for sick leave. Every province’s legislation falls short of the 10 paid sick days that labour organizations are demanding. 

For example, Manitoba says workers are entitled to a certain amount of money for sick leave, but this money only covers up to five days of sick leave

With new COVID-19 sub-variants making their way into Canada, and the virus continuing to tear through Canadians, 10 paid sick days have proven to be a necessity. Organizations such as the Workers’ Solidarity Network and Justice for Workers have ongoing campaigns for improved sick leave legislation; it remains to be seen whether provincial governments will hear these calls. 

Fixing Employment Insurance

In December, multiple organizations across the country mobilized to demand improved Employment Insurance coverage. Workers are demanding that requirements be reconsidered and that payments increase. 

At the moment, only about 40 per cent of unemployed workers have access to Employment Insurance (EI). Those who receive payments get a measly 55 per cent of their weekly income. 

The government has released a report outlining the problems with the current Employment Insurance system, but no reforms have been made yet. Is 2023 finally the year the Liberal government delivers a reformed EI system like they promised back in 2021? 

While unemployment rates were lower in 2022 than they have been in other years, there are still many workers entering into 2023 hoping to see changes to EI.

Rights for gig economy workers

According to the December 2022 Labour Force Survey, there are approximately 250,000 people who worked for ride or delivery service apps. According to the documentary The Gig is Up by Canadian filmmaker Shannon Walsh, these gig workers are particularly vulnerable. 

There is little job protection on these apps and a bad rating can lead to deactivation and loss of income. 

As well, the pay model, which is based on “engaged time only” means many hours worked are left uncompensated. 

Amidst rising inflation, many people may be looking for ways to earn extra income. However, gig work, despite its flexible hours, does not offer the working conditions that people deserve. 

The Organization Gig Workers United is demanding that people who work for these apps be given full employee status and collective bargaining rights. Until this is done, gig workers will continue to be treated as second-class workers. 

Status for all

In 2022, Canada’s reliance on migrant workers has become impossible to ignore. Statistics Canada has reported that migrant workers, specifically those employed through the temporary foreign work program, have helped address labour shortages.

Programs to support migrant workers have seen increases in funding. Millions of dollars have gone to the Migrant Workers Support Program. This program merely teaches migrants about their rights and does not make any changes to laws that leave them vulnerable.  

The Migrant Workers Support Program misses the mark of what migrant workers have long been demanding. This program is not a replacement for a regularization program, which would see huge improvements to protections for migrant workers. 

While there has been a strategy tabled by the federal government that expands pathways to permanent residency, this strategy will still leave some workers in situations of great precarity. 

Sarom Rho, from the Migrants Rights Network, has previously told that status for all and permanent residency are the only way to ensure migrant workers are protected. 
“Permanent Residency is fundamentally about rights,” Rho said to rabble in September. “It is the only existing mechanism in Canada for people to access rights such as basic employment rights. Speaking up against bad employers without reprisal or accessing health care can’t be done without permanent residency.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Shaping the inclusion, wellness, and motivation landscape In the workplace

Rabble - Mon, 01/09/2023 - 07:48

“We know through painful experience, that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”, wrote Dr. Martin Luther King in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This powerful sentiment by Dr. King strikes at the heart of the undeniable fact that we live in a world where structures, systems, and policies have been created by design for a homogenous group of people – including our workplaces. The rest of us must fight for the autonomy we seek from these people – including in our workplaces.

Full disclosure, I wrote this column while being on my fourth cold since the summer. I tested negative for COVID but really who knows. To be safe, I isolated myself in a room and was pleasantly surprised by the movie, Dumplin’ for two reasons: one, I discovered Dolly Parton’s stance on being yourself and doing what you want and two, I was inspired by the teenage characters revolutionizing the pageant system in their town. As Dolly’s song, Nine-to-Five, played  I couldn’t help but be resolute in my stance, workplaces may not have been built for us, and employers may still be dictating what’s best for us, including where and how we work, but “never forget that a small group of thoughtful, committed [employees] can change the [future of work], it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

Gone may be the days of men being hunters and women being gatherers, and yes there have been strides made to make our workplaces better, but a lot more needs to be done with connecting human resource management decisions, like where and how we work, with employee inclusion, wellness, and motivation. And there is lots of work to be done so that organizations have created a good balance of employee needs, employee rights, employee wellness and operational requirements, goals, and purpose. The work of people like Lily Zheng (Diversity,  Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)), Kimberlé W. Crenshaw (Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality),  Marshall Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication and Human Needs), Guarding Minds at Work (Workplace Strategies for Mental Health), and Dr. Paul Ekman, Eve Ekman and the Dalai Lama (Atlas of Emotions) are helping to pave the way. Those tasked with making and executing human resources decisions definitely have their work cut-out for them and one of the latest topics is where and how we work – whether it be in-person, virtually, or hybrid.

As we continue to navigate through a ‘new normal’ including the variations of where and how we work – in-person, remote, or hybrid, I’m hoping the dreadful pandemic which forced all but essential service workers for a period of time to work from home, the insurgence of DEI commitments spurred by the murder of George Floyd, and a systems-thinking approach to human resources management will result in a future of where and how we work beyond prehistoric mindsets.

Where and how we work – doing it the wrong way

On December 21, 2022, one of the  largest employers in Canada, the Federal Government, proudly announced the adoption of “a common hybrid work model” espousing fairness, consistency, equity, building trust, and enhancing learning as the drivers to this approach. They also mandated employees report to work “on site at least two-to-three days each week, or 40–60 percent of their regular schedule.”

Why is this the wrong way? Well it’s not so much that hybrid workplaces are wrong for the federal government, in fact, like many organizations, had the pandemic not happened the vast majority of employees would still be commuting to offices on a full-time basis. As well, the information on the pros and cons of hybrid workplaces is overwhelming. So fine, the federal government is going hybrid. What’s wrong is the approach they have taken. Outside of the sales-type messaging,  important concepts such as equity and collaboration have been used to ‘defend’ their autocratic leadership decision. What’s also wrong is their linear-thinking, yielding of positional power, and leaving unions, middle-managers, Human Resources Practitioners and employees to fend for themselves.

I call this approach to human resource management decision-making “systemic stubbornness.” Unless I’m mistaken, why we work, who works, where we work, and how we work is iterative and constantly changing. The denial of these changes is a form of stubbornness impacting social systems, like workplaces, and more importantly employees. This systemic stubbornness is feeding antiquated workplace systems – including where and how we work.

Where and how we work – doing it the right way

Prior to George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, I had not heard the phrase “the system isn’t broken, it was built this way” (I’m still looking for the original source). As I continue to learn about racism and its impact on our workplaces, I came across another quote accredited to sociologist, historian and civil right activist W.E.B Debois, “A system cannot protect those it was never meant to protect.”  As a systems-thinker dedicated to humanizing workplaces I can’t help but to see linkages between anti-racism, inclusion, equity, mental health, motivation and HR topics like  “where and how we work” whether it be in-person, remote or hybrid. So it stands to reason that I get annoyed when I see siloed approaches and ways of thinking. The reality is the workplaces-of-old were built for a certain group of people and  workplaces now and in the future must transform.

So how can companies do the ‘where and how we work’ the right way? They might be inspired by Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify who isn’t shy about reimagining work – he tweeted two years ago “office centricity is over.” Perhaps organizations might be swayed to adopt the real-deal ’employee-centric’  mindset of Gloria Chen, Adobe’s Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President, Employee Experience who sees the impact of the pandemic as “an opportunity and need to reimagine the employee experience.” Organizations may also choose to research the myriad of articles, ideas, and statistics  being generated on in-person, virtual and hybrid workplaces or the future of work to see what might apply to them.. As of January 7, 2023, trending on Tiktok are the hashtags  hybridwork with 32.1M views and futureofwork 23.9M views. Regardless of the path you choose, I ask you consider the following:

  • Diversity is a fact and inclusion is a choice. Choose inclusion over ulterior motives.
  • Be honest and provide a balanced perspective in your messaging to employees. Diversity means ‘one-size’ does not fit all.
  • Employees should be treated with dignity and respect. Ask them to provide feedback on ‘where and how to work’ and actually take it seriously.
  • Connect employee, team, and organizational goals so everyone is on the same page and is accountable.
  • Employees want autonomy in determining their wellness needs. There are eight dimensions of wellness and work is just one of them.
  • Be flexible and okay with not having to ‘run the show’. Your organizational values and principles should guide decision-making.
  • Employees have different needs. Don’t assume to know what motivates them.

When we have empathy we can be compassionate. When we are real with ourselves and with others we have trust. Where we work is just as important as how we work, so let’s just be real about it all and get on with working with and on purpose.

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Categories: F. Left News

Energy Democracy – power to the people

Rabble - Mon, 01/09/2023 - 07:18

Five years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving three million people without power for months, Hurricane Fiona again destroyed Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure.

Fiona went on to be the costliest extreme weather event ever to hit Atlantic Canada.

In the wake of Fiona, Al Weinrub wrote a “haiku” with lessons for all of us. Al is an authority on energy democracy.  He has a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard, has been a Sierra Club energy-climate activist for 14 years, coordinator of the Local Clean Energy Alliance for 13 years, and coordinator of the California Alliance for Community Energy for six years.

Here’s a heavily edited version of “Fiona’s Wrath” (with apologies to Dr. Weinrub):

Puerto Rico. Caribbean island paradise. Sun drenched. Solar energy far and wide, source of life, growth, empowerment, prosperity.

Fiona… uprooting power poles, felling wires, exploding transformers, submerging substations. Leaving in her wake a disfigured landscape, a tangled sculpture of inoperable electrical conductivity.

… the mean-spirited oracles of human destitution, a malevolent energy establishment… Basta to their failed, Wall Street-driven, centralized, colonial energy model! Adelante to the people’s alternative energy model, Queremos Sol!

Time to re-imagine energy for our communities… To reject the precarious, corrupt, corporate-driven, centralized, build back worse-than-before energy model. Time to assert, instead, an enduring, just, community-driven, democratized energy future.

While that possibility still exists.

Restoring power to the people requires more than installing roof-top solar panels, of course. But it’s a good start. Living off-grid is entirely feasible.

In fact, roughly 200,000 Canadians are not connected to continent-wide electrical grids and natural gas distribution pipeline systems. But many live in northern communities powered by diesel generators and face difficult decisions about their energy future. Will it be just, community-driven, and democratic?

And what about those of us connected to electrical grids and gas pipelines — will we have a democratic and just transition to a sustainable energy future?

Not under “business as usual”. We should all have a democratic right to feed power into, and take power from, the grid.

The cheerleading by the Globe and Mail’s editorial board for a massive expansion of electrical generating capacity (including nuclear power) ignores energy conservation — the cheapest path to “net zero”. But they’re correct in saying that “When it comes to electricity, Canada has long operated like 10 different countries.”

Sierra Club national program director Gretchen Fitzgerald says “it’s time to have a mature conversation” about Atlantic Canada’s “four little electrical fiefdoms.”

Philip Duguay writes “Interprovincial planning, not “silver bullet” technologies such as small modular reactors, will create the power grid that Canadians deserve.” The Canadian Climate Institute calls this “Electric Federalism.” Jonathan Wilkinson’s mandate letter calls for a “Pan-Canadian Grid Council to promote infrastructure investments, smart grids, grid integration and electricity sector innovation.”

But while we wait for federal action, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company is withholding funding for the Atlantic Loop because the province imposed an electricity rate cap. New Brunswick Power is pursuing small reactor pipe-dreams. Doug Ford killed Ontario’s renewable energy projects and is cancelling its power-sharing agreement with Quebec.

Parliament could use its declaratory power under section 92(10) of the Constitution Act to make the inter-provincial electrical transmission grid work for “the general advantage of Canada.” Unilateral action has risks, however. Parliament’s most recent use of that power (section 71 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act) has perpetuated Canada’s addiction to nuclear reactors.

Despite the steady stream of negativity about Energiewende, Germany’s phase-out of coal and nuclear power and transformation to a renewable economy, a balanced assessment shows “big gains in electricity despite the gradual phasing out of nuclear power; major gains in industry, but not recently; and continuous improvements in buildings, but no gains in transportation.”

The transport sector is Canada’s biggest failure as well. Gasoline emissions are out of control. Greater freedom of movement for pedestrians and cyclists — not for motorists encased in their heavy metal machines and enslaved to Big Oil — is the priority.

Power of the people, by the people, and for the people – that’s energy democracy.

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Categories: F. Left News

Generation prep and the rise of the private bunker industry

Red Pepper - Sun, 01/08/2023 - 00:00
Bunker B 207 at the X-Point bunker complex in South Dakota is one of 575 bunkers that once protected bombs they now shelter dozens of families bracing for future turmoil (Credit: Bradley Garrett)

In February 2009, Australia experienced one of its worst environmental disasters: ‘Black Saturday’. After an extended heat wave and a long, hot summer, more than 400 small bushfires outside Melbourne converged into a conflagration. Temperatures hit 46.4°C, the hottest ever recorded in the city. Inland, fires released energy equivalent to 1,500 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Dozens of people who tried to get out by road got stuck and were overtaken by the fast-moving flames. By the time the fire was brought under control, more than 450,000 hectares had been incinerated, 3,500 buildings had been destroyed, and 180 people were dead.

In the intervening decade, many Australians have buried ‘bushfire bunkers’ in their backyards: oxygen-filled cocoons where they can temporarily take shelter from flames. During the 2019-20 bushfire season, now known as the ‘Black Summer’, these bunkers saved hundreds of lives, including those of workers at a remote lodge on Kangaroo Island outside Adelaide.

No longer the preserve of anti-government right-wing fringe groups or nuclear-paranoid middle-class families, the global market for private bunkers is reaching levels not seen since the cold war. Sales include everything from steel bunkers assembled offsite and buried covertly in gardens to the kitting out of subterranean concrete citadels stretching 12 stories deep, where a 330 square metre penthouse can set the buyer back over £3.7 million. Having spent many years living with the ‘preppers’ and ‘survivalists’ buying into these facilities, I see value in them, even as I remain troubled by their renewed necessity.

Going Underground

Bunkers have existed for thousands of years. Human beings, from Cappadocia to Berlin to Beijing, have long sought underground space to protect people, stockpile supplies and to protect the material remains that are representative of our cultures and values. Mostly out of sight and mind, bunkers have long been sites of fascination to military historians, urban explorers and subterranean tour groups but of marginal interest to the wider public. Both monument and folly, they have been seen as sites of memory from the second world war or architectural novelties of a third world war that never arrived.

Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine, however, is complicating that narrative. Images of stalwart Ukrainian citizens huddled deep underground, sleeping, cooking, giving birth and trying to entertain each other to keep spirits up have caused many of us to reassess the necessity of fortified space. This trend, which began with the bushfires, was accelerated by the pandemic.

A chain of disasters brought about by war, disease, resource shortages and the climate crisis are transforming attitudes towards prepping

Prepping – the practice of preparing for future calamity – is now a global phenomenon. In 2020 roughly 45 per cent of Americans – or about 115.6 million people – said they spent money on survival materials. This number includes not just media-worthy bunkers but also bulk food, emergency kits, ‘off-grid’ energy and water delivery systems, and a host of other self-sufficiency provisions. The global freeze-dried food market saw a spike in sales as supply lines broke down during the pandemic. Already valued at $7.5 billion annually, the sector is projected to grow another $15 billion by 2032. Recent research has found that approximately 46 per cent of Canadians are in some way prepared for a catastrophe, with an estimated 13.8 million Canadian adults prepped for events such as civil unrest, failure of the government, natural disasters, pandemics and other emergencies.

In the UK, there has been a flood of cold war-era countryside bunkers appearing on real estate websites, which almost always sell within weeks. In other parts of Europe, state-level provision of safe harbour reduces the need for individual prepping. Sweden maintains space in nuclear, biological and chemical-filtered bunkers for 95 per cent of its residents, though they have never been used in war. In 2018, the Swedish government triggered minor hysteria when they sent pamphlets to every one of the 4.8 million households in the country reminding them where shelters were and telling them how to prepare for an enemy attack by running through a checklist for food, water, warmth and communications. With the war in Ukraine still raging, the government is speedily renovating these public bunkers.

In Switzerland, a 1963 law still in place dictates that every citizen has access to a nuclear fallout shelter. As of 2016 there was bunker space for 8.6 million individuals in a country of fewer than 8.4 million. There are 5,000 public shelters and more than 300,000 private bunkers across the country. One of the public shelters in Lucerne, inside a road tunnel that can be sealed by four 320-tonne gates, can house 20,000 people over seven floors.

Just in case

Overall, investment in disaster preparedness has been projected to top $250 billion by 2028. The fastest growing group investing in future security, according to a 2021 US survey, is millennials, 77 per cent of whom have emergency supplies on hand or said they had bought them in the past 12 months. It’s important to see this market in holistic terms, since as one prepper starkly remarked, a bunker without food, water and power is a tomb.

Building private bunkers at scale would not be possible without past state investment: almost every private bunker I have visited was being built on the bones of government facilities. And although there are at least 20,000 underground redoubts worldwide, many bunkers initially built to protect people in times of conflict have now been colonised by cloud data servers, underground farms, secure file storage facilities and quirky nightclubs, putting even more pressure on private citizens to dig their own, or to buy into one of the dozens of bunker communities around the world being built by the companies spearheading this industry. For many people, building a bunker – whether for bushfires or war – is an anxiety antidote.

Though the bunkers built today bear little resemblance to those built in the past, they will undoubtedly endure as artifacts from yet another unique period of human history: an age of dread, perhaps. A chain of disasters brought about by war, disease, resource shortages and the climate crisis are transforming attitudes towards prepping. Whether undertaken by governments or individuals, ‘doomsday prepping’ has now been largely supplanted by ‘practical prepping’. We have created a more interconnected, complicated and fragile world, a world that is now being threatened by a plethora of threats at a range of scales. Taking time to give ourselves an advantage over future risks is, I have come to realise, time well-spent.

Bradley Garrett is a social geographer at University College Dublin and the author of Bunker: What It takes to Survive the Apocalypse (Penguin, 2020)

This article first appeared in issue #237, Autumn 2022, Power in Unions. Subscribe today to get your magazine delivered hot off the press!

Categories: F. Left News

Polarizing And Isolating Americans Is Good Business For Media Monopolies

Popular Resistance - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 03:19

The consolidation of American media by a handful of monopolies has had wide-reaching effects on our politics and culture. A real decline in media literacy and political debate has occurred as separate audiences become increasingly polarized and isolated to the benefit of media corporations both old and new. How did things get so bad, and what can possibly be done to salvage our political culture? Nolan Higdon and Mickey Huff join The Chris Hedges Report to discuss their new book, Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy.

Nolan Higdon is a lecturer in media studies and history at California State University, East Bay.

The post Polarizing And Isolating Americans Is Good Business For Media Monopolies appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Why Is The West Lamenting The End Of ‘Liberal’ Israel?

Popular Resistance - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 03:14

Even before the new Israeli government was officially sworn in on December 29, angry reactions began emerging, not only among Palestinians and other Middle Eastern governments but also among Israel’s historic allies in the West.

As early as November 2, top US officials conveyed to Axios that the Joe Biden Administration is “unlikely to engage with Jewish supremacist politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir.”

In fact, the US government’s apprehensions surpassed Ben-Gvir, who was convicted by Israel’s own court in 2007 for supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism.

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reportedly “hinted” that the US government would also boycott “other right-wing extremists” in Netanyahu’s government.

The post Why Is The West Lamenting The End Of ‘Liberal’ Israel? appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Cuba Says Biden Applies Blockade More Aggressively Than His Predecessors

Popular Resistance - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 03:12

In his address at a conversation series on “Cuba in the Foreign Policy of the United States of America,” held on December 14 at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana, Fernández de Cossío took aim at the Biden administration’s enforcement of the blockade against Cuba, stating, “there can be no doubt that the economic blockade is the defining factor in the bilateral relations” between the United States and Cuba.

Biden pledged during his 2020 presidential campaign that he would “try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families.” In 2021, he claimed, “We stand with the Cuban people.”

The post Cuba Says Biden Applies Blockade More Aggressively Than His Predecessors appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Peru: General Strike Enters Day Three

Popular Resistance - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 03:11

The general strike against Peru’s coup regime has entered its third consecutive day. The strike is growing and social movements are now demanding the resignation of the unelected president, Dina Boluarte. Other demands include; the release of former President Pedro Castillo, the closure of Congress, early general elections, and a constituent assembly.

According to the government, as of today, protesters have blocked off highways at 46 points across the country. This is up from 37 yesterday, and 25 the day before. 

Mobilizations are stronger in the southern part of the country. Protests have taken place in the departments of Apurimac, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Puno, Cuzco, and Tacna, also in the Amazonian city of Pucallpa.

The post Peru: General Strike Enters Day Three appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News


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