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

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?

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

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

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

Pushing equity forward within the labour movement

Fri, 01/20/2023 - 05:34

Over the last few years, diversity and equity in labour movement leadership has been growing. And while these historic elections have been a great step forward, equity and diversity work needs to grow beyond just ticking boxes. 

Susanne Skidmore, the first openly queer woman to be elected president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said that unions are still celebrating ‘firsts’ when it comes to diversity in labour leadership. 

“The work has been happening on the ground to get people to the place where they see themselves moving up in leadership positions,” Skidmore said, “but there’s still more work to do.” 

After her election in 2022, Skidmore said it was important that people talk about how she is the first openly queer woman to be elected to her position. 

“There are still glass ceilings that exist in many parts of the world, whether it’s private industry, the labour movement or government,” Skidmore said. “It’s still very important that you know, that we talk about equity and that we talk about who we are so that folks who come up after us can see themselves in these positions as well.” 

This era of ‘firsts’ has still left many marginalized labour leaders vulnerable. 

JP Hornick is the first queer president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They said that their queerness has always informed their organizing. 

“Our existence is inherently politicized,” Hornick said, “and it means that you have almost no choice but to engage with that. You can either engage with that passively or actively. You can either experience the conditions that restrict your life or you can push back against those social forces that would tell you to shut up.” 

Hornick said the reason she feels it’s important to have her queerness inform her activism is because it helps her to address worker needs outside employment as well. 

“What motivates us is not just our social position as workers,” Hornick said, “but how that fits into the larger social milieu. You cannot in any way separate out worker justice from climate justice, from environmental racism, from racism and xenophobia.The labour movement has to be rooted in social justice, or we have abdicated our responsibility for building worker power.”

Another historic election that occurred in 2022 was the election of Lana Payne as National President of Unifor. Payne is the first woman to have this position and she said that she hopes this will encourage other women to become or stay involved with the union.

READ MORE: Lana Payne elected as new National President of Unifor

“I hope that it really does show that leadership positions are for everybody.” Payne said. “I think it’s important that we’re at a place where this can happen.” 

While she recognized her election was important, Payne said she doesn’t want people to fixate too much on individual power. Instead, a more equitable labour movement will focus on collective power. 

“You can’t really create worker solidarity if you’re not including everybody in that process,” Payne said. 

The recent historic elections and growing diversity in the labour movement indicate progress, but Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), said people must remember that work cannot end there. Simpson is the first Black woman to lead a national union. 

Since her election in 2019, Simpson said she still sees that there are too few racialized people in positions of leadership. 

“I am one racialized person on a board of 15 people,” Simpson said, “therefore the microaggressions I face daily are invisible to those who do not look like me.”

Simpson said that the labour movement must work through white fragility and white defensiveness to be able to continue progress forward. 

“Racial capitalism was built on the foundation of the white supremacy of mostly well-connected old men which is a faulty and false notion that continues the systemic evils of racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism,” Simpson said. “Sadly, the union is not immune, and as it has embraced racial capitalism, it replicates the systems that keep these injustices in place. Unions and union leaders must re-commit to uncomfortable, difficult conversations about how we work together with equity seeking groups to begin to dismantle their policies, procedures and practices within their union and the House of Labour that perpetuate and uphold the legacies of racism, patriarchy and more.”

One pioneer in the internal reflection needed for the labour movement to live the values it projects is Yolanda McClean, the first Black woman to be elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario. 

McClean is reviewing the CUPE Ontario policy manuals to ensure that an anti-racism lens has been taken to union policy. As well, McClean is leading the Anti-Racism Organizational Action Plan Committee which has launched training programs that empower women to become more involved in the union. 

“That’s how we change things,” McClean said. “When we really do something that’s proactive. And just paper is not going to work. You actually physically have to make changes.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Lies, damn lies and climate change

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 13:01

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is getting carried away. Literally. She joined thousands in the village of Lützerath, Germany, to oppose the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine, one of the dirtiest forms of coal. Police in riot gear hauled her away as the mass arrests progressed.

Greta wrote on Twitter, “Yesterday I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine…We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening. Climate protection is not a crime.”

As Greta was being detained, thousands of the global elite were arriving in Davos, Switzerland for the 53rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The WEF is touted as a place for leaders to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue to address the world’s most pressing problems. Hundreds arrive by private jet, which, on a per-passenger basis, is the most heavily polluting mode of transport.

This gathering of high carbon emitters heard from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We are flirting with climate disaster. Every week brings a new climate horror story,” he said.

“The consequences will be devastating. Several parts of our planet will be uninhabitable. For many, this is a death sentence, but it is not a surprise. The science has been clear for decades…We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet.”

Guterres was referencing a study published in Science further proving that fossil fuel companies long knew greenhouse gasses intensified human-induced climate change. This study followed a December report issued by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee documenting decades of greenwashing and climate change disinformation by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Exxon, Chevron and other big oil companies knew that when they were burning fossil fuels in the 1970s, it was causing climate change and that this was going to be a major problem for humanity,” Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who helped lead the investigation, said on the Democracy Now! news hour.

“They had the best scientists. And yet their CEOs, their executives went out for decades and lied to the American public, did not disclose their own science. As a result, we never started the transition, and we are in the world of pain that we are in today.”

The “world of pain” he referenced has descended on Khanna’s home state of California, battered over the past two weeks by climate-fuelled rain and snow storms, landslides and mudslides, driven by what climate scientist David Swain described on Democracy Now! as “atmospheric rivers…corridors of highly concentrated atmospheric water vapor moving quickly through the atmosphere.” In addition to billions of dollars in damages, these unprecedented storms have claimed 22 lives to date.

Congressman Khanna blames the massively profitable fossil fuel companies. “They should be held accountable like Big Tobacco was held accountable.”

While Davos is buzzing with World Economic Forum activities “to drive tangible, system-positive change for the long term” and spur “proactive, vision-driven policies and business strategies,” the Alps, in which the resort town is nestled, are suffering a climate crisis of their own. An unseasonably warm winter has left much of the huge mountain range barren of snow, with the multi-billion-dollar ski and winter snow sports industry in a crisis.

In 2019, Greta Thunberg, then 16 years old, told the World Economic Forum, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act…as if the house is on fire. Because it is.”

Three years later, she is back in Davos, fresh from the coal protests in Lützerath, with other youth climate leaders including Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, and Luisa Neubauer from Germany. They have issued a letter to the CEOs of fossil fuel corporations, that reads in part:

“This Cease and Desist Notice is to demand that you immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need…If you fail to act immediately, be advised that citizens around the world will consider taking any and all legal action to hold you accountable. And we will keep protesting in the streets in huge numbers.”

The World Economic Forum has been discussing world problems for just about as long as ExxonMobil has been lying about climate change. Scientists revealed this week that Greenland just had its hottest decade in 1,000 years and that its massive ice sheet is rapidly melting, causing more sea level rise. Catastrophic climate disruption is here, and disruptors like Greta Thunberg are clearly not the ones who should be arrested.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Addressing Canada’s food price inflation

Thu, 01/19/2023 - 11:46

Recently, a student approached me about food price inflation, its impact on the student body, and the strategy generally adopted by the Bank of Canada to combat inflation. We were reviewing media articles in class on the prices frozen by Loblaws on their no name brand goods in conjunction with the billions that were added to the wealth of its CEO, Galen Weston Jr., especially during the pandemic. The course, which I recently introduced at MacEwan University, is titled Humanistic Economics, where I eschew fancy mathematics and lead students through critiques of standard textbook theory and introduce them to alternative perspectives on topical issues including inequality, minimum wage, and free trade. Thus, when asked about food inflation, I did not scurry to extract data on the Consumer Price Index for food prices or the average weekly earnings, both of which are easily available from Statistics Canada. Other economists have already presented such extensive information in their online articles.

My objective is also not to highlight supply chain issues, which are highlighted as factors contributing to food price inflation. Rather, I am more interested in highlighting the perspective that economic issues are too important to be ceded to the “experts”, a point made by student activists Earle, Moran, and Ward-Perkins, who wrote The Econocracy (p. 4). After all, it is not the well compensated “experts” who bear the brunt of high food prices but the working-class people. Such people appropriately termed as the “precariat” have been increasingly marginalized by globalization, technological change, automation, insecure gig economy jobs, and the weakening of unions since the days of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. Thus, it is not the cold numbers or the prescriptions of “experts” that should be given precedence in explaining food price inflation and its alleviation. Rather, we should be highlighting the stories of the precariat who can tell you first-hand about the pangs of hunger and the desperate strategies they are undertaking to cope with the higher cost of living (or rather existing).

The reason for my radical approach is that I have become viscerally disillusioned by standard textbook theory that paralyzes any initiative towards the alleviation of the concerns of the poor. Take for instance, price ceilings on medicines, the push towards the $15 minimum wage, raising the top tax rates or imposing wealth taxes, all of which address inequality by influencing the existing distribution of resources. In each such instance, standard textbook theory teaches us that such policies would introduce deadweight loss (a measure of inefficiency), distort incentives to work, and would be counterproductive to our stated goal of ensuring an affordable living standard for the precariat. However, textbook theory is stuck in the days of 18th and 19th century thinkers like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, even as the world has moved on from the simple economies based on the baker, butcher, and the brewer and towards complex economies shaped by large multi-national corporations. Moreover, despite the challenge posed by cutting edge scholars like Thomas Piketty in France, Lars Osberg in Canada, or even Blanchard and Rodrik, who assembled a constellation of 29 voices in their 2021 book Combating Inequality, to push the idea that the time of “ifs and buts” has long passed, inertia has paralyzed standard textbook theory to inaction.

Returning to the questions posed by the student, I must emphasize the work of Canadian economist Lars Osberg who wrote The Age of Increasing Inequality. He is clear that increasing interest rates to target low inflation destroyed jobs in manufacturing industries, reduced the growth in real wages, led to the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, reduced overall growth, and instigated cuts in income transfer programs and government services including healthcare and education (p. 55-59). Thus, he explains that the wage stagnation of the middle-class arose due to the “price stability” policy of increasing interest rates. This background on the Bank of Canada policies from the 1980s and 1990s allows us to question its policies in the 2020s in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the COVID pandemic. After all, despite the increase in interest rates to combat inflation, food price inflation remains a pressing problem. No wonder, post-Keynesians are skeptical of monetary policy to achieve the twin goals of price stability and full employment and instead emphasize the predominant role for fiscal policy.

What this means is for the government of Canada to initiate drastic action to implement confiscatory taxes (ala Piketty) on the wealthy to redistribute resources to the poor (at least for those who have not completely bought Modern Monetary Theory). The initiative of the wealthy will not die out and they would rather be motivated to work more to retain their wealth ranking and maintain their level of conspicuous consumption. Moreover, instead of making arguments that the rich will vote with their feet, we should rather be asking what sort of people abandon their responsibility towards meeting the social contract. On the other hand, such redistribution would offer the precariat some respite as they starve in the cold Winter. Additionally, instead of suggesting the poor to adopt budgetary strategies like buying canned or frozen food, a lot which is replete with high levels of sugars and sodium, we should be questioning why must the citizens of one of the most advanced countries in the world have to put up with such penury.

To recapitulate, I would like my students to view economics through the lens of democratic participation in which the voices of the precariat are heeded and placed at the forefront instead of privileged “experts” that uphold the neoliberal world order and the inequitable status quo that rests on low corporate income taxes, low top tax rates, zero wealth and inheritance taxes, low minimum wage, and draconian budgetary cuts.

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Categories: F. Left News

Proposed jail facility in Fredericton sparks backlash from locals

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

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

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?

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

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

Votes at UN reveal Canada as continuing supporter of US Empire

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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