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As CEO pay balloons, the National Post focuses on ‘woke’ conspiracies

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 13:50

On Tuesday, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reminded us that it takes the country’s 100 highest-paid corporate CEOs less than an hour to make $58,800 – the average Canadian worker’s pay for an entire year. 

Yesterday, for those of us brave enough to look at the execrable National Post on our tablets and smartphones, we got to see what the one of the Big Brains of the Canadian Conservative movement thinks Canadians ought to be worrying about, deep thoughts that are certainly quite in tune with the concerns of the corporate big-bucks boys (and, as the CCPA pointed out, they are almost all boys). 

As a thought experiment, let’s juxtapose these two stories. 

In the CCPA study, called Breakfast of Champions: CEO pay in 2021, the progressive think tank’s senior economist shows that with an average pay packet of $14.3 million in 2021, the Top 100 CEOs now make 243 times more than the average Canadian worker does in a year.

“If you measure this massive pay disparity in time, less than an hour after the first working day of the year begins, Canada’s highest-paid CEOs will have already made $58,800,” David Macdonald said. “That’s by 9:43 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2023, to be precise.”

And inflation, which is killing Canadian working families, is driving corporate pay packages and the corporate profits that are used to justify them, Macdonald noted. 

Meanwhile, over at the Post, former federal finance minister Joe Oliver had his eye on the ball that really matters to the Conservative Party of Canada, notwithstanding its not-very-persuasive insistence it’s the party of the working person. 

To wit: a sprawling woke “multifaceted project” bent on taking away your kitty cats and lowering everyone’s standard of living! 

OK, Oliver admitted in the Financial Post, as the Post pretentiously brands its business section, it’s not “a vast left-wing conspiracy,” quite, but it might as well be. 

“Proponents include Liberals, progressives, socialists, hard leftists and crypto-marxists who support climate alarmism, globalism, big government, stakeholder capitalism, critical race theory and wokeism,” he warned, edging closer to full-Q mode. “The transformation they seek is already well under way.”

Meanwhile, back at the CCPA, Mr. Macdonald describes something that’s actually happening, and that really is getting progressively worse. 

“We think of inflation as bad for everyone, but for CEOs it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” he said. “Historically high profits based on historically high inflation mean historically high bonuses for CEOs.”

Moreover, he noted, “when times are bad, like during the pandemic, CEO bonus formulas are altered to protect them; in good times, like 2021, the champagne never runs dry.” 

“In the context of rapid price inflation, we’re in one of two situations,” Macdonald’s report explains. “Companies are passing along higher prices to consumers, which would lead to questions about why CEOs enjoyed huge bonuses, or companies are using pricing power to drive inflation and CEO bonuses are a direct result of the inflation they create.” 

In other words, out-of-control corporate pay has outcomes that directly hurt Canadians who are struggling with inflation. 

Getting back to the Post, Oliver has worries that Canada’s corporate sector presumably shares as well. 

“Quasi-religious virtue-signalling dictates we reduce farmland, ban coal even in countries without affordable alternatives, rely predominantly on wind and solar in spite of their intermittency, stop eating meat, get rid of our pets, not fly (unless to international meetings on climate or social justice) and abstain from expressing ‘unacceptable’ opinions,” he rambled. “Yet our betters luxuriate in their own private jets, multiple homes and lavish consumables, all seemingly without a scintilla of embarrassment about their massive personal carbon footprint.”

Note that “our betters” in this phrase are not principally the Canadian corporate elites profiting from the current state of the world. You know, the ones who actually have corporate jets in which to fly hither and yon as they please.

Even worse, Oliver warned, there are obviously turncoats in the camp of the capitalists. You got it, the notorious WEF!  (The World Economic Forum, that is, the notorious Geneva-based business talking shop that has become the nexus of numerous conspiracy theories among the Q-adjacent.)

“Sustainable finance and stakeholder capitalism are two tools WEF activists want to use to transform society,” he grimly warned. “Under them, companies and investors embrace environmental, social and governance goals in addition to pursuing financial returns.” 

My God! What next? (Oliver understands: “That will inevitably undermine the free enterprise system.” Which, when you think about it, is an interesting observation about capitalism.)

Over at the CCPA, Macdonald suggests some remedies to the problem of corporate pay.

His report calls for limiting corporate deductibility of compensation over $1 million, closing the capital gains inclusion rate loophole that is used almost entirely by the rich, implementing higher top marginal tax brackets, and – quelle horreur! – introducing a wealth tax. 

Talk about crypto-marxism!

Next thing you know the CCPA is going to be coming after Kitty just because she enjoys dining on a songbird now and again! 

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Categories: F. Left News

Ten NDP priorities in 2023

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 11:09

It’s a new year, and while Jagmeet Singh and the New Democrats occupy just 25 of the country’s 338 seats in the House of Commons, the Supply and Confidence agreement with the Liberals has the self-proclaimed workers’ party with a lot of leverage in lawmaking.

On New Year’s Day, the NDP tweeted a list of ten priorities for 2023. We took a closer look at their goals, how tangible they are, and ultimately, whether they benefit Canadians.

We accomplished a lot together in 2022. And we’re not done fighting for you.

— NDP (@NDP) January 1, 2023

Permanent dental care program

Last fall, a Canada Dental Benefit was introduced to save up to $650 per year for children under the age of 12 in families without dental coverage that have annual incomes under $90,000.

The first phase of the Benefit came as part of the supply-and-confidence agreement between the federal Liberals and NDP.

It is expected that the full Canada Dental Benefit will be introduced sometime in 2023.

More health-care workers

The provinces are in charge of funding health care, as well as recruitment and retention efforts. 

The NDP is calling for more health-care workers at a time when premiers are asking the federal government to pay a larger share of the sector’s budget.

While Trudeau has voiced his agreement that his government can do more to help, the prime minister has also gone on the record to say he won’t give additional funds to provinces without guaranteeing outcomes and targets that hold provincial leaders accountable.

Fix EI

The New Democrats have spent years pushing Employment Insurance reform.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, less than half of unemployed workers across the country are eligible for Employment Insurance.

The 2017 data showed that just 28 per cent of workers who earned $15 or less per hour could get EI, leaving an already vulnerable population of workers — who pay into EI — in an even more precarious financial position.

Speaking at the B.C. Federation of Labour Convention in November, Singh indicated he would pressure the Liberals to overhaul and reform the EI system “with a low, universal qualifying-hours threshold, a minimum benefit amount and a higher income replacement rate.”

The new system would also include a benefit for self-employed Canadians.

Implement Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice

A December report from the Yellowhead Institute found that just two Calls to Action were completed in 2022, down from three in 2021. Overall, 13 of the 94 Calls to Action have been completed since their introduction by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015.

The report concluded that, at the current rate, it will take 42 years, or until 2065, to complete all of the Calls to Action.

While it’s unclear which specific calls the NDP will prioritize in 2023, the party has made it clear the federal government needs to do more to ensure the Calls to Action are met in a timely manner.

Canada Pharmacare Act

According to the federal government, one in five Canadians aren’t taking the medication they need because they simply can’t afford to pay for their prescriptions.

The federal government has committed to pass a Canada Pharmacare Act in 2023, while also introducing a bulk purchasing plan for essential medicines by 2025.

And while Canada is the only industrialized country that offers medicare that doesn’t include universal public coverage for prescriptions, the NDP says it’s past time to deliver on the two decades of empty promises by the Liberals.

Double the GST rebate (again)

After a successful push to double the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) last fall, Singh is calling for a second round of a doubled GSTC.

The move would put an extra $234 in the pockets of single Canadians without children, an average of $225 for seniors, and up to $467 for couples with two children.

Remove GST from home heating (doesn’t do much)

As fuel prices remain near record highs, the cost of home heating oil has also skyrocketed.

And as provinces introduce financial assistance to alleviate the impacts of inflation on the cost of living, the NDP believes Canadians shouldn’t have to pay a Goods and Sales Tax to keep their loved ones warm.

But while the party warns home heating costs have jumped between 50 and 100 per cent, removing a five per cent tax will do very little to help low-income earners heat their homes.

Increase GIS for seniors

The current threshold for single, widowed or divorced Canadians aged 65 and up to receive a Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is below $20,832. 

The maximum available GIS is available to earners making less than $49,920 annually, provided their spouse or common-law partner does not receive an Old Age Security pension.

Immigrants to Canada face further restrictions on accessing a GIS. 

The NDP is calling for a rise in the GIS for seniors, while also increasing the threshold for eligible applicants. 

Make ultra-rich CEOs pay what they owe (should the NDP define ultra-rich?)

At their 2021 party convention, NDP members voted in favour of a tax resolution that includes a marginal tax rate of 80 per cent for individuals with personal incomes over $1 million, as well as a one per cent tax on those with a net worth of over $20 million.

The push comes as the gap between earnings for workers and CEOs reach unprecedented levels, with CEOs making more than 225 times the average income of Canadian workers.

Meanwhile, the NDP says the ultra-wealthy are hiding more than $300 billion each year in tax havens, while also using loopholes to avoid paying taxes. By implementing an ultra-rich tax, billions of additional taxpayer dollars can be allocated to health care, housing, and more.

Invest in Indigenous housing

A 2021 report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) found that nearly 20 per cent of urban, rural and northern Indigenous households in Canada are either unaffordable or unsuitable.

Nearly 125,000 Indigenous households are living in substandard units, including 37,500 people who are unhoused. 

The PBO calculated the annual affordability gap for Indigenous households at $636 million, while less than one per cent of the funding in the National Housing Strategy’s ten-year plan is dedicated to Indigenous housing programs.

The NDP are calling for more adequate funding to lower the number of substandard Indigenous households.

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Categories: F. Left News

Nearly half of all Canadian women experience domestic violence

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 10:16

Its long been recognized that the same tactics used to torture prisoners of war are used by men who abuse their intimate partners. Psychologists have likened female domestic violence survivors in Family Court to prisoners of war, forced to negotiate their own safety without weapons or power.

Children exposed to domestic violence show the same brain pattern as soldiers in combat.

For domestic violence survivors the war is real. Every six days a girl or woman in Canada is murdered by an intimate partner. And thousands of children are witness to damaging and unnecessary violence.

Forty-four per cent of women reported experiencing some form of psychological, physical, or sexual violence by an intimate partner, in  2018. for Indigenous women that rate rises to over 60 per cent.

Dawn Walker, an Indigenous mother was recently found in the U.S. after fleeing Canada with her son. Dawn and her son are victims of domestic violence and a court system that revictimizes and traumatizes survivors and their children.

Former domestic violence trainer and consultant, Lundy Bancroft notes  “Protective mothers frequently encounter a system that is insensitive, ignorant about the dynamics of abuse, and biased against women…mothers sometimes find themselves being forbidden by the court from protecting their children from a violent, cruel, or sexually abusive father.”

Dawn’s many accomplishments– law-school graduate; author of four novels, her most recent short-listed for a national humour award; newspaper columnist; and Executive Operating Officer for First Nations in Saskatchewan—could not keep her and her son safe.

Her experiences with police and family courts made her feel that the only option to keep her son safe was to leave all her supports behind and run.

We need to ask what made this mother feel she had no way out but one? 

No way out but one is a 1994 documentary about Holly Ann Collins, a U.S. mother who, like Dawn, fled her home country to escape abuse after the Family Court refused to help. Holly was granted asylum in the Netherlands due to the abuse she and her children endured. Abuse dismissed by U.S. Family Court judges, police and child welfare agencies.

Domestic violence has been so ignored in Canada, that it took until 2021, for Canada to amend its Divorce Act, and for the first time acknowledge domestic violence as a possible issue at separation.

Dr. Linda Nielsen, a former lawyer, professor and domestic violence training expert for the legal community notes, Countless reports recommend that courts encourage lawyers, court staff, child protection professionals, mediators and evaluators to conduct routine assessments for domestic violence, using screening tools or interview protocols designed by domestic violence experts.”

Were these assessments used in Dawn’s case?

Dr. Neilson tells us, “Violence against women is now viewed internationally as a leading breach of women’s fundamental human rights. Canada is currently facing criticism by the United Nations for its failure to fulfill its legal human rights obligations to women and children, and particularly aboriginal women, to offer adequate protection from domestic and family violence.”

Dawn and her son’s case is about human rights. Instead of protecting children, Family Courts are forcing children into highly unsafe conditions.

Before judging Dawn’s actions, imagine, watching your child be terrorized. What would you do if the systems in place to help, failed to stop it?

Myth: leaving stops the violence

The most dangerous time for a survivor is after they leave or attempt to leave.
Seventy-seven per cent of domestic homicides happen around leaving and 75 per cent of the time women leave, the violence increases and continues for at least two years.

So a woman leaves, abuse escalates, then what? 

Myth: family courts are biased towards mothers

Family Courts are presented as a process for justice, yet they dismiss domestic violence as irrelevant to child custody, exacerbating the risk to women and children. Imposing “co-parenting” plans on survivors, legally shackles them to abusive men and forces them to negotiate with someone who wants them to suffer.

Retired Judge Heino Lilles, echos what many survivors have been saying,“A retrospective review of the impact of the justice system on the levels of domestic violence generally and in [A]boriginal communities specifically clearly indicates that business as usual is no longer acceptable.” 

Yet business as usual is the only option provided to domestic violence survivors. 

What happens when a bully realizes their behaviour will never be called to account? The violence escalates. Family Courts are a bully’s dream. 

Myth: women lie about domestic violence

The majority of Canadian men and women believe that women who disclose domestic violence are either lying, exaggerating or deserving of the violence they endure.Lawyers and judges are not immune to these biases. 

According to Dr. Neilson,“One of the most common and dangerous fallacies in the legal system is…the erroneous assumption that claims of domestic violence are often false or exaggerated in order to obtain the upper hand in family law cases. Instead the…reality is that women and children frequently fail to disclose abuse and family violence.” 

In fact, fathers are far more likely than mothers to make intentionally false accusations (21 per cent compared to 1.3 per cent). 

Myth: if the police don’t press charges it means there was no abuse

There are many reasons police may not press charges in domestic violence situations.

Throughout Canada, Indigenous women and girls are substantially more vulnerable to violence than non-Indigenous women/girls and more likely to have police fail to respond to that violence.

Dr. Linda C. Neilson warns,”[i]f family lawyers, mediators, service providers and courts ignore or discount patterns and incidents of domestic violence that do not result in a criminal charge, the vast majority of the criminal acts of domestic violence will not be considered in family and child protection litigation.”

Myth: violence against the mother is irrelevant to children

Most people believe children are immune to domestic violence yet the science is clear, even if the child is not the target, exposure to abusive and controlling behaviours, changes children’s brains and nervous systems. Over time this can cause a range of chronic diseases and psychological damage.

Lawyers and judges carry erroneous assumptions about the safety and well-being of children in domestic violence situations.

Dawn’s case highlights the atrocious failings in the Family Court system.

“Every time service providers, lawyers and courts fail…fundamental human rights principles by failing to offer protection, or fail to offer services to support family health, or fail to prioritize child best interests, including children’s needs for safety and stability, an opportunity is lost to reduce or even reverse…personal, social, legal, institutional and economic harm in Canada,” Dr. Neilson concludes.
We need to do better. Canada needs to create an alternative process that is trauma and domestic violence informed to help families who separate. A process that truly centers children, recognizing developmental and attachment science.

Family separation is recognized as one of life’s most stressful experiences, yet the only option available to parents is inherently adversarial, drawn out and grossly expensive.

Indigenous cultures have long recognized the importance of child centered families, even after parents separate.

An Indigenous inspired, survivor led family separation process would go a long way to easing the harm being done by the Family Court system and would be a great step in the journey of truth and reconciliation.

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Categories: F. Left News

Grassy Narrows in the context of reconciliation

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 09:01

The up-to-date news about the end of the logging blockade in Asubpeeschoseewagong community also known as Grassy Narrows is very encouraging. It is a step forward in the right direction to eliminate differences and help all grow together. Grassy Narrows is a First Nation band government who inhabit northern Kenora, in Ontario. It has a registered population of 1,595 as of October 2019.

Grassy Narrows started longest First Nation logging blockade in December 2002, which ended recently, when the former Chief Randy Fobister finally received the word of the head of Weyerhaeuser company, David M. Graham, which owns a lumber mill there, that no trees from their land would be touched without their permission.

The community declared “this is a major landmark in our long fight to protect our Territory from industry”

The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Indigenous peoples: Indians or First Nations, Inuit, and Metis. In 2016, 2.1 million people or 6.2 per cent of the total Canadian population, reported Indigenous ancestry with First Nations comprising 65,025 of that number. 

In Grassy Narrows, the protest started in December of 2002, when a group of local people put a blockade in front of a logging truck, bringing wood from Whiskey Jack Forest. Fifty young men stood in front of the logging trucks and blocked their way with a pledge not to let them move forward. They were determined not to give up on protecting their land and resources. The logging was completely stopped in 2008 from more than one million hectares of land. The matter went to the court in 2017, the province declared a five-year ban on logging from more than three quarters of the forest, which was extended to 2024 early this year.

The important aspect of the protest was consistency and determination of the community to fight for their rights. It’s not only a matter of a single community but the whole world needs to protect forests to control climate change and keep the planet green and healthy

There are still some other issues remain to be resolved.

Grassy Narrows leaders demand the province must withdraw the indigenous community from mining activity to protect the First Nation from the risk of new industrial pollution that could impact future generations’ health and climate. Members of the community are accusing the government of breaking the law in granting nine permits for mineral exploration in traditional territory without consulting them – a requirement under the Canadian constitution and Ontario Mining Act. Abiding by the law is extremely important for reconciliation and is essential to renewing and building relationships with Indigenous people.

Canada started admitting her past mistakes about Indigenous populations in the beginning of this century and founded The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2008 to improve relations with the Indigenous communities. Now, we are passing through the stage of reconciliation, and we are on the way to compromise for mutual coexistence with dignity, justice, and respect for all.

Always the first step in reconciliation is acknowledgement of mistakes and taking responsibility for the past excesses and atrocities committed. Former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, issued a public apology on June 11, 2008 on behalf of the Canadian government to address the government’s role in the history of the Indigenous residential schools, where Indigenous children were kept. The Prime Minister announced in March this year that Ottawa would provide $2.9 million in additional funding for First Nations in B.C. to support healing of communities whose children were sent to residential schools.

The Government of Canada is working with Residential schools’ survivors, Indigenous leaders, and communities to address historical wrongs. Earlier in 2021, Grassy Narrows signed a $90 million agreement with the federal government to build a long-term care home for the residents living with mercury poisoning.

We should be optimistic about the future of resource development in Ontario, and other provinces. The Ministry of Natural Resources believes it is their duty to consult and consider the views of Indigenous communities in decisions regarding forestry and natural resource management.

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Categories: F. Left News

Silly songs for our leaders

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 08:12

In some parts of Canada schools are still out until next week, so some of us are staying in relaxed holiday mode for a few more days.

In that spirit, we share these New Year’s offerings for our leaders (or at least a handful of them) – some tasteless and sophomoric song parodies. 

Get out your ukuleles, banjos, guitars and pianos and sing along.

Lament of the Unions That Supported Doug Ford

(to the tune of “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, by Hank Williams)

We voted you in, now you make us weep
We won’t forget the pledges, you did not keep!

You seemed honest and sincere, all through and through
But your false promises showed the real you!


If not-with-standing 

Is your real game,
You haven’t the right

And call our name!

You wanted our votes, so you said one thing 

But back-to-work is what you now sing.

Your sneaky heart will pine someday,
And crave the support you threw away!

Chrystia on Trudeau’s Mind 

(to the tune of “Georgia on My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael)

Chrystia, Chrystia
The whole day through
An old, bitter song
Keeps Chrystia on my mind 

I said Chrystia, Chrystia
A song of you
Comes as loud and clear
As headlights through the blinds!


Other rivals challenge me,
Others plot so carefully,
Still in troubled dreams I see
The road leads back to you

I said Chrystia, Chrystia, 

No peace I find,
Just a bitter song
Keeps Chrystia on my mind!

Just a bitter song

Keeps Chrystia on my mind! 

The Conservatives’ Ode to Their Leader 

(to the tune of “Blue Moon”, by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)

Oh Pierre … 

You saw us standing a-lone
Without a hope in our heart
With no winner of our own!

Oh Pierre…

You knew what we were waiting for,
You heard us say a pray’r for
A nasty fighter we could die for!


And then there suddenly appeared before us,
The only one our arms could ever hold
We heard somebody shout: “Please adore me!”
And when we looked, we were completely sold!

Oh Pierre! Now we are no longer alone,
With only longing in our hearts
And no true right winger of our own!

Quand Legault dit bonjour aux Québécois 

(to the tune of ‘Quand le Soleil dit Bonjour aux Montagnes’ by Lévis Bouliane)

Quand le Chef 

Dit bonjour à son peuple,
Le peuple obéira pour toujours

Si le Chef 

Dit “aucun hijab aux écoles”
Le peuple l’applaudira avec ferveur.


Écoutez étrangers!
Vous n’êtes guère bienvenue ici,
Chez nous, on veut que tout le monde conforme!

Quand Legault

Dit bonjour aux Québécois
Les Québécois doivent entièrement l’obéir.

Jagmeet Singh Serenades Justin Trudeau 

(to the tune of “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King)

When you’re down and troubled

And you need some love and care
And your minority is not going right … 

Close your eyes and think of Jagmeet…
And soon I will be there …To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out New Democrat … 

And you know wherever we are
We’ll come running, to support you again!
Con-fi-dence and sup-ply-aye … All you have to do is ca-all
And we’ll be there … You’ve got NDP’s votes!

If the skies above you grow dark and full of clouds 

And mean Pierre Polliver begins to blow
Keep your head together … And call out Jagmeet loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door.

You just call out N-D-P
And you know wherever we are
We’ll come running, running, yeah, yeah, to support you again
Con-fi-dence and sup-ply-aye
Go ahead and call that vote … We’ll be there, yes, we will!

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When those voters can be oh so cold?
They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them, oh, but don’t you let them.

You just call out New Democrat, And you know wherever we are
We’ll come running, running, yeah, yeah, to keep propping you up
Con-fi-dence and sup-ply-aye … All you have to do is call
And we’ll be there, yes, we will
You’ve got a friend … You’ve got a friend

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Categories: F. Left News

Does hypocrisy matter in foreign policy?

Fri, 01/06/2023 - 07:37

Early in Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine, there was much talk about the need to humiliate Russia. “Humiliation is the only way to end the Russo-Ukrainian War and give Russia a chance of returning to civilization,” wrote an academic. I was fretting over this to a friend, who said, “Don’t you want Russia to be humiliated?” To my surprise, I heard myself say, “I want all aggressors to be humiliated. Russia, the U.S., China …”

I’d expected I’d say something about humiliation making it harder to end the war, or that it’d only advance U.S. goals. Instead, I blurted a pox on them all.

I felt comparably perplexed listening to UN ambassador Bob Rae’s year-end interviews. One expects a bit more than boilerplate from Rae and he tries to deliver, if not always successfully.

Globe reporter Shannon Proudfoot called Rae an adult among toddlers at the UN because he claims Canada’s role is “just to tell the truth.” So, on Iran, he says: “You’re killing people, you’re throwing people in jail and torturing them.”

Yet he mentions nothing about the U.S. having green-lighted coups and trained torturers throughout Latin America. He told another Globe reporter that Ukraine “affected me on a deep, emotional level.” But he’s selectively affected; he talks this way about Russian atrocities, not how the U.S. erased Fallujah; bombed Libya, creating chaos; or blockaded Iraq so 500,000 kids likely died.

The biggest distortions on our side are always about the United States. Russia has an ugly record of aggression and China a smaller one but the U.S. is unique, at least postwar, for invasions and their kin, coups. Guatemala, Iran, Lebanon, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Panama, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya — the U.S. cited noble motives for each, but so does every aggressor. You can tell the U.S. is lying — as Rae said referring exclusively to Russia — because their lips move.

I know it sounds like I’m whining about hypocrisy, but that’s not it. Honestly. Hypocrisy drives people nuts, but you can live with it, if it remains mere bluster. It’s the real world consequences that smart. So Saudi aggression against Yemen, unlike Russia’s against Ukraine, goes uncriticized by our side, though it’s now the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Israel is allowed a nuclear arsenal but Iran isn’t, so the Mideast remains the world’s worst nuclear tinderbox. Cuba’s too close to the U.S. to be left in peace but China isn’t allowed similar claims over Taiwan, another offshore island. Two-faced foreign policy B.S. doesn’t create these travesties, but it surely helps them thrive.

People suffer and die, resources are diverted from areas like health, and cooperation among major powers on climate is undermined. Resentment builds and convulsions eventually occur, like 9-11, or the rise of ISIS after U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So is it hopeless? No. In Ukraine’s case, there have been interesting reactions. Former colonies like India or Indonesia, and even Saudi Arabia — a shocker — haven’t followed the U.S. on isolating Russia, though they all reject the invasion. They recognize B.S. and propaganda and don’t just dive in, as we tend to.

I acknowledge there’s no easy route for Canada on this. We aren’t India or Indonesia and we can’t afford to become Cuba. But we, and ambassador Bob, could at least give some sign of struggling with the issues and not just autonomically saluting the U.S. position. In the Vietnam era, PM Lester Pearson tried clumsily to straddle both sides of the raging conflict over that U.S. invasion and actually got himself throttled by president Lyndon Johnson on the White House porch for it. Yet, I think people elsewhere at least recognized his effort.

There’s a nice moment in the latest episode of 1923, the Yellowstone spinoff. Rancher Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford) explains that all human history is about letting others take what’s yours, or destroying them. For those of us who aren’t rancher barons or nuclear superpowers, there ought to be another way.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Stop sprawl groups amalgamate to fight Ford’s Greenbelt grab

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 12:39

“The people have spoken. We won’t touch the Greenbelt,” Doug Ford (2018).

Ford may have heard the people, but it only took until November 2022 to renege on that promise. Late on a Friday, while the public was distracted by the educational assistants crisis, Ford announced his plan to remove 7,400 acres of land from the Greenbelt.

By December 14 the deed was done and these lands were officially removed from the protection of the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine legislation.

Ford does plan to swap in land from other places but that destabilizes the efficacy of Greenbelt designation and implies that any land can replace environmentally sensitive land that gives life to species at risk.

Not surprisingly, the Greenbelt grab helps facilitate Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act – also passed in November 2022. This bill effectively strips the conservation authority of its powers and allows the sale of conservation lands.

And, the bill does nothing to build affordable homes or increase densification within existing urban boundaries where infrastructure and public transit already exist.

Perhaps most egregiously, Bill 23 overrides decisions made by municipal and regional councils to limit urban boundary expansion in order to build 1.5 million homes in ten years.

Unifying to stop the sprawl

In response to these imposed changes, Stop Sprawl Halton (SSH) and Stop Sprawl Hamilton Ontario (SSHamOnt) have been holding rallies across the region.

The December 4 rally held outside Hamilton City Hall attracted over 1,000 people and had a long list of speakers including Burlington Mayor, Marianne Meed Ward; Halton Hills Councillor Fogel; eight Hamilton councillors; NDP MP Mathew Green; NDP MPP candidate for Hamilton Centre, Sarah Jama; and Mike Balkwill, Campaign Director with Water Watchers.

READ MORE: Ford uses bait and switch to sprawl onto farmland and Greenbelt

By maintaining the existing urban boundary, Halton Region saved 5,000 acres of farmland from development. With one swish of his pen, Ford added 8,300 acres for developers to sprawl over.

“The fact that he’s trying to do this under the guise of affordable housing is actually an insult to most intelligent Ontario residents,” said Kim Bradshaw in an interview with

A SSH member, Bradshaw says that the group is looking to the federal government for some intervention because there’s no way Canada will make its carbon reduction commitments based on the amount of growth Ford is predicting.

Bradshaw points out that Ford’s initiative will also directly affect people’s health while endangering at risk species.

She believes the federal government should attack Ford’s legislation from those vantage points.

Land cannot be ‘replaced’

Ford mistakenly thinks he can swap pieces of the current Greenbelt for land in other parts of the province. But the Duffins Rouge Agricultural Preserve, located between Scarborough and Pickering, is actually a feeder into the Rouge National Urban Park. This national reserve is home to several species at risk including Blanding’s turtles, red-headed woodpeckers and monarch butterflies.

“You can’t put a fence on it. You can’t stop animals. It must be continuous and uninterrupted to work. This land cannot be ‘replaced’ with other land in the Greenbelt,” observed Bradshaw.

Over 1,965 acres of Hamilton land will no longer have Greenbelt designation. Add to that, 5,435 acres of farmland the provincial government is opening up for development and Hamilton is losing 7,400 acres of irreplaceable land.

“We need to dispel the myth that there is not enough land to build the homes we need,” commented Hamilton Ward 12 councillor, Craig Cassar via email.

He went on to say, “From this perspective, Bill 23 is entirely redundant. The City of Hamilton has granted enough permits for housing construction for the next decade and already had plans to accommodate projected growth through 2051 – all within the existing urban boundary.”

Cassar indicated that Bill 23 is harmful to residents on many levels from destroying farmland and natural heritage to perpetuating urban sprawl and car dependency rather than walkable cities that are healthier, cheaper to live in and include a more diverse mix of housing.

He highlighted the fact that, “Bill 23 also robs municipalities of revenue from development charges and forces the construction of more costly urban infrastructure, so residents will be burdened with high property taxes for generations to come.”

SSHamOnt was instrumental in convincing city council to maintain a firm urban boundary. Now, they have undertaken a province-wide campaign to help educate and mobilize people.

SSHamOnt spokesperson, Lilly Noble, told that means focusing on PC MPPs  Donna Skelly and Neil Lumsden because as Nobel sees it, “These are the two people who let Ford do what he wanted and didn’t disagree.”

Noble maintains Ford has not been following democratic norms for some time. His policies have been harming people and the environment and eventually, it’s going to cost Hamilton both financially and through environmental degradation.

SSHamOnt is looking for volunteers to do lit drops – deliver post cards and flyers — in the MPPs ridings of Flamborough-Glanbrook and Hamilton East.

They are also asking constituents to phone Skelly and Lumsden to share their concerns for Bill 23 and to ask them why they overruled city council’s decision to establish a firm urban boundary.

In addition, SSHamOnt is supporting Environmental Defence (ED) and Democracy Watch (DW) as they call on the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to investigate insider information leaks to sprawl developers in advance of Greenbelt land removals.

In the fall of 2021, Hamilton city council voted 13 to 3 to maintain the urban boundary and saved over 3,300 acres of farmland from development. Ford not only wants to usurp that essential farmland, but he has bumped it up to 5,436 acres.

That has left SSHamOnt wondering what they can do to combat a provincial government that is using its unprecedented power to rewrite laws.

The present city council seems amenable to maintaining the current urban boundary but Noble observes, “If they try to ignore builders’ demands to build in these new areas, we’re afraid they’ll just go to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and they’ll say, ‘fine, do it,’ because Ford wants it to happen.”

Hamilton currently has designated land within its urban boundary that the municipal government wants to use for development before sprawling out. That’s because this land is close to existing municipal services.

According to Noble, “There’s no need to leap frog into farmland.” She went on to say, “It’s a slippery slope with him [Ford]. The farmland thing is one little favour to his buddies. And, of course, the Bradford Bypass and the 413. But the rest of it is just an erosion of democracy.”

New stop the sprawl movements forming

Tapping into the existing momentum of stop sprawl groups across the province, new organizations are emerging to ensure information gets out to a broader audience.

Waterloo based 50by30WR is a grassroots, community-led campaign advocating for Waterloo Region to commit to a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.

The group wants to ensure that Waterloo creates a green recovery from the COVID pandemic centered on human well-being and innovation while building a socially just, sustainable and climate-smart region.

50by30WR member, Barbara Schumacher, told via email, “With Bill 23 and subsequent regulations for carveouts to the Greenbelt, we organized awareness raising zoom meetings and opened registration across the province. We have joined the Ontario Climate Emergency Campaign and are working with a diverse groups of climate activists across our region and the province to demand that our government keep its Greenbelt Promise, stop urban sprawl, restore the powers of the Conservation Authorities and end destruction of our natural heritage and prime farmland.”

The Greenbelt Guardian initiative — an offshoot of sorts from 50by30WR — is the result of grassroots anger and sense of betrayal. The collective responded by creating the space for people right across Ontario who feel betrayed and enraged to gather.  

“What is happening is very much a rising up of people who normally would not think of going to a rally, or striking, but this government’s action is propelling them to a higher level of resistance and action,” said Schumacher.

In that space, people identified regional teams and committed to organizing themselves to monitor and survey what is happening on the ground.  Their intent is to post signs of destruction on social media and to hold pop-up rallies that draw media attention while continuing to show the government the extent of public opposition to Bill 23, forced urban sprawl and Greenbelt cutouts.

Bradshaw shared, “We know there’s one spot on the Hamilton Whitebelt that has a drill on it. This was being done under the cover of the holidays when folks were too busy to get things going.”

“The key is to make sure we break out of our echo chamber. We have a lot of people who are upset about his, but you can still find lots of people who haven’t clued in to the fact that there’s this [land] grab going on and that Ford is attacking democracy through Bill 23,” added Bradshaw.

Municipalities have to announce when they’re going to discuss development requests at council. So, Bradshaw encourages people to keep an eye on municipal alerts. It’s a way to see all of the requests coming in from developers and to find out which lands they are trying to develop.

She also suggests speaking with municipal councillors to ensure council understands the importance of preserving these lands.

Bradshaw acknowledges these land issues intersect with climate change, food security, sustainability and livability as well as health and education and hopes these folks join the movement.

SSH has also been collaborating with Indigenous groups because they recognize this movement is part of Truth and Reconciliation.

Bradshaw would like to see a liveable Ontario that holds governments accountable for their actions to ensure they act in the best interests of the people — not their own party’s interest.

“It’s really frightening to imagine what Ontario will become if Ford is successful. All of these commons issues should be beyond one party’s reach. Our government should be treating them that way and they’re not,” said Bradshaw.

To sign the ED/DW OPP investigation petition click here.

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Categories: F. Left News

Brazil’s new president offers renewed chance to save the Amazon

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 11:53

The Amazon rainforest is often called the lungs of the planet, covering more than three million square miles across nine South American countries. It is an immense carbon sink, drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, storing it as biomass and releasing oxygen. Other tropical rainforests do the same, from the Congo Basin to New Guinea and Indonesian-occupied West Papua and Malaysia. But the Amazon is on a scale of its own, and, with human activity driving catastrophic global heating, protecting the climate-healing power of the Amazon is vital.

Which is why the victory in Brazil’s recent presidential race by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva may be one of the most momentous events in modern world history. Known as Lula, voters returned him for a third term after he left office more than a decade ago. He has pledged to protect the Amazon and the Indigenous communities that have long stewarded the forest.

Lula defeated the racist, far-right-wing incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro, an autocrat who made unrestrained Amazon deforestation and the elimination of protected Indigenous zones a central pillar of his single term in office. Before Lula’s January 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro fled to Orlando, Florida, reportedly to the vacation home of Brazilian Jose Aldo, a champion mixed martial arts fighter.

“This is the first time that a Brazilian president, since the end of the dictatorship in Brazil, was not there to pass the presidential sash to the incoming president,” independent journalist Michael Fox said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “It was actually this diverse group of Brazilian people — a Black trash collector, a cook, a handicap activist — who passed that sash on to Lula, and it showed the Brazilian people coming together. So it was huge.”

Lula was a metalworker and union organizer during Brazil’s military dictatorship. A co-founder of the Workers Party, he was first elected president in 2002. During his two successive terms, policies he championed like the “Zero Hunger” program lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty and food insecurity. His successor, Dilma Rousseff, a Workers Party member and former guerilla, was impeached in a legislative coup in 2016. Lula himself was imprisoned in 2018 for 580 days on trumped up corruption charges. He was released when a court ruled the judge in his case was biased against him.

Bolsonaro has been called the “Tropical Trump,” and, like Donald Trump, refused to concede his election loss, claiming that “only God” could remove him from office. Concerns of potential violence from Bolsonaro supporters during Lula’s inauguration prompted the Brazilian Supreme Court to ban legal firearms from the capital city of Brasilia until after the event.

“The last few years, we undoubtedly lived in one of the worst periods in our history, an era of shadows, doubt and a lot of suffering,” Lula said in his inauguration speech. “But this nightmare came to an end with the sovereign vote in the most important election since the country’s return to democracy, an election that has shown the Brazilian people’s commitment to democracy and its institutions.”

Lula’s government is a radical departure from Bolsonaro’s authoritarianism. Key ministerial appointments include Goldman Prize winner Marina Silva, a defender of the Amazon rainforest, as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change; Black activist, journalist and educator Anielle Franco as Minister of Racial Equality – in 2018, Anielle’s sister Marielle Franco, a human rights activist and member of Rio de Janeiro’s city council, was assassinated; and Sônia Guajajara as Brazil’s first-ever Minister for Indigenous Peoples.

In September, 2019, Sônia Guajajara was in New York City, marching in the youth-led climate strike.

“The Amazon is burning,” she told Democracy Now! “Lots of territories are on fire. We attribute the increase in the fires to the rhetoric of the government of Jair Bolsonaro, that incites attacks, that incites invasions and incites deforestation. The practices of the Bolsonaro government are consolidating this government as the biggest enemy of Indigenous people and the environment.”

She continued, “We’re in a time of awakening…to the urgent need to fight for the environment. For that, it’s necessary for people to have political and ecological consciousness, to call out and pressure the governments in their countries in order to adopt sustainable policies.”

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the 12th-largest economy in the world. Lula’s presidency with its historically diverse cabinet opens the door to progressive change, to challenge the rising global tide of authoritarianism and fascism. Saving the Amazon rainforest is one of Lula’s principal goals, but the task is too large and too urgent for one nation or one administration alone. The Amazon is at a tipping point, and we all must tackle this existential threat, together.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Alberta NDP sees high level of fundraising off of unpopular UCP

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 10:25

It is remarkable by any measure that the Alberta New Democratic Party raised $7.1 million in 2022, not to mention that $3.2 million of that sum was donated during the fourth quarter, and more than a quarter million dollars on the last night of the year.

The NDP’s fund-raising success speaks to deep unhappiness in Alberta – which a lazy New York Times piece about Premier Danielle Smith’s so-called Sovereignty Act described misleadingly as “heavily conservative” – with the United Conservative Party (UCP) under both former premier Jason Kenney and Smith. 

That’s not to say the next Alberta general election, whenever it takes place, will be a cake walk for the NDP. But there’s no way it will be a slam dunk for the UCP either, especially with Smith at the helm and the radical Take Back Alberta group tightening its hold on the party and its constituency associations. 

Yes, there are important caveats about the opacity of UCP fundraising, whose constituency associations don’t have to report their fund-raising results until the end of the year thanks to the previous UCP government’s changes to Alberta election financing laws. (The NDP raises all of its money centrally and reports it each quarter.)

This was undoubtedly done to give the UCP some kind of strategic advantage in fundraising, although the effect, presumably unintended, seems to have been to establish a narrative that the NDP is raising far more money than the government party and has more momentum as a result.

Still, the UCP probably has more cash on hand that the quarterly reports make it appear. 

The UCP will also have effective access to funds from corporate financed, U.S.-style political action committees that, despite the province’s election financing law, obviously co-ordinate their campaigns with the governing party. The upcoming election campaign will make this fact clearer than ever. 

Further, the electoral map in Alberta is undoubtedly weighted in favour of conservative parties and politicians, no matter how unpopular they make themselves in large urban areas. 

Still, the fact remains the NDP was able to raise more than $7 million, 80 per cent above the UCP’s official reported fundraising take for all of 2021. Official party fundraising fourth-quarter 2022 figures for all parties are scheduled to be published by Elections Alberta next month.

Remember, this was in a year when it was still illegal for unions or corporations to make donations to political parties. So this fundraising success by the NDP can certainly be taken as a powerful indicator of just how strong the desire is among Albertans for a return to former NDP premier Rachel Notley’s more thoughtful approach to governing this supposedly heavily conservative province.

That the NDP could raise $265,000 in a single day, on New Year’s Eve before the drinks really started to flow no less, truly says both that the party has figured out how to do political fundraising, and the anger, fear and disgust the UCP’s demonstrated incompetence under Kenney during the pandemic and its bizarre sovereignty-association campaign under Smith have aroused among many Albertans.

The NDP’s success was driven by small donors. Contributions came from more than 30,000 Albertans, including 3,500 first-time donors.

Opposition Leader Notley’s pitch is tuned to this reality: “Alberta’s NDP will end the chaos in health care, we will take real and long-term measures to address the cost-of-living crisis and we will deliver on an economic strategy that creates good-paying jobs and drives billions in new investment opportunities,” she said in the party’s news release.

Expect to hear more like that during the campaign. 

“We have seen a noticeable surge of support since Danielle Smith took office,” noted NDP Provincial Secretary Brandon Stevens in the news release. “It’s clear Albertans are taking a stand against her chaotic and destructive policies.”

Premier Smith was sworn in on October 11 after she was chosen in a party leadership race in which about three per cent of Alberta’s electorate voted. Unexpectedly, she has never pivoted away from the radical sovereignty-association and anti-vaccine platform she advocated to the UCP’s far right base when she was seeking the leadership. 

Beyond popular disdain for the government’s response to the pandemic and the chaos in the health care system, University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young argued in a Substack column yesterday that while in Opposition the NDP has engaged in “a disciplined campaign to build the party machine since the 2019 election.”

“Fundraising has improved each year,” she wrote. “Candidates have been nominated well in advance of the election. This will give the party a presence ‘on the ground’ that it lacked in previous elections.”

Not only that, but the NDP has nominated serious candidates with sound credentials of a sort that were much more difficult to recruit during the party’s many years in the wilderness before Notley’s unexpected majority victory in May 2015. 

Once the election campaign gets officially under way during the 28-day election campaign period expected to begin on May 1, parties will be limited to spending about $3 million, and candidates to about $53,000 each, Young noted. 

“But spending is unlimited before May 1, so residents of Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer and a few other places should expect to be bombarded with election advertising for the next four months,” she said. 

Voters can also count on the UCP to pull out all the stops to hang onto government, regardless of the inadequacies of their leader. So expect a harshly negative campaign from the government. 

All of this, of course, assumes the next Alberta election will take place as scheduled next May 29. As has been said here before, this is not a sure thing if the UCP continues to poll poorly, as changing the province’s fixed-election-date law would require only a majority vote of the Legislature, easy for a majority government. 

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Categories: F. Left News

With climate targets on the horizon, urgency reaches new heights

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 08:32

With 2022 in the rearview mirror, time is running out to combat the climate crisis.

In November, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report showing the past eight years are on track to be the warmest eight on record.

The WMO attributes the record-breaking temperatures to the continued rise of greenhouse gas concentrations and accumulated heat from years of above average conditions.

The State of the Global Climate in 2022 report found the climate crisis affected millions and cost billions over the course of the year, with extreme heat waves, widespread drought, and severe flooding displacing people from their homes, communities and even countries.

According to the WMO, the rate to which sea levels are rising has doubled since 1993. It rose by nearly 10 millimeters since January 2020, marking a new record high.

“The past two and a half years alone account for 10 percent of the overall rise in sea level since satellite measurements started nearly 30 years ago,” the report reads.

Among the worst effects of the climate crisis in 2022 were on glaciers in the European Alps, which saw an unprecedented melting rate, while the Greenland ice sheet lost mass for the 26th straight year. 

Even more concerning is that the region saw rainfall for the first time in September.

While the report suggests 2022 will likely “only” be the fifth or sixth warmest on record, the long-term trends show the next warmest year on record isn’t far off. 

In the report, WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas warns that it’s already too late to stop much of the glacial melting across the globe, resulting in major implications for water security.

“The rate of sea level rise has doubled in the past 30 years,” Taalas wrote in the report. “Although we still measure this in terms of millimetres per year, it adds up to half to one meter per century and that is a long-term and major threat to many millions of coastal dwellers and low-lying states.”

Taalas noted that regions least responsible for causing the climate crisis are the same regions that will suffer most, pointing to the widespread flooding in Pakistan and deadly drought in the Horn of Africa.

“Increasingly extreme weather makes it more important than ever to ensure that everyone on Earth has access to life-saving early warnings,” Taalas added.

Nova Scotia could warm by nearly five degrees by 2100: report

2022 marked the first time Nova Scotia published climate projections since 2011 and the conclusions are damning.

The report, conducted by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, warned that Nova Scotia could warm by nearly five degrees by 2100 “in a scenario with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.”

While that projection remains more than 75 years away, the ramifications of the climate crisis are already ramping up.

By the 2030s, widespread flooding is expected to be the top concern, before warmer temperatures make wildfires the biggest threat in the 2050s.

READ MORE: Climate scientists take climate activism into their own hands

As the average temperature soars into the 2080s, essential aspects of life are expected to be jeopardized, from food production and infrastructure to human health and ecosystems. 

While the projections look specifically at Nova Scotia, a peninsula of one million people, they offer a glimpse at what regions around the world will have to adapt to in order to both survive and reverse the climate crisis.

The report also looked at who is most impacted by ramifications of the climate crisis and the result is concerning.

“People already facing disadvantages will be at greater risk,” the report reads.

Those communities include African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq, immigrants, women, older Nova Scotians, low-income earners, and individuals living with disabilities. 

Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy

In November, the federal government announced Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, a comprehensive plan to address the primary systems at stake in the climate crisis, including health and well-being, infrastructure, nature and biodiversity, economy and workers, and disaster resilience.
“The fight against climate change has reached our doorstep,” Guilbeault said in a November 24 press conference, adding “adaptation is a cost-effective and positive investment in the present and future.”

The strategy will see an additional $1.6 billion committed by the federal government to protect communities across Canada. Funds are set to help adapt public infrastructures like roads and bridges to withstand extreme weather events like flooding.

“Climate change is the single biggest threat to human health,” said Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos in a news release. “Adapting to and mitigating the inevitable effects of a changing climate is crucial to improving public health.”

Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson also laid bare the dizzying costs of impacts related to the effects of climate change.

Wilkinson noted that Canadian taxpayers are projected to $25 billion by 2025, before reaching an annual cost of approximately $100 billion by 2050.

According to the strategy, every dollar spent on adaptation measures saves taxpayers between $13 and $15. New flooding and wildfire guidelines alone could save the country nearly $5 billion per year, or $12 per every $1 invested.

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Categories: F. Left News

Airlines continue to lack accountability during extreme weather events

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 07:27

Leading up to the holidays, severe winter storms and arctic outflows across B.C. left Vancouver International Airport (airport code YVR) in a state of chaos. Airlines delayed and cancelled flights which affected thousands of passengers—some were stranded and forced to sleep in the airport for days. 

While others were stuck on inbound aircrafts for hours, with some passengers waiting nearly 12 hours to disembark the aircraft. Throughout the week, lack of communication and organization from YVR airport and major airlines left passengers in a state of disarray.

Adam and Renee Souter, who were travelling with their three children for their annual ski trip, flew into Vancouver International Airport from Auckland, Australia on Saturday, December 17. They were booked on a connecting WestJet flight to Kelowna scheduled to depart on December 18. After multiple delays, their WestJet flight was canceled.

“They rebooked us back for Tuesday (December 20), which was a bit late. So, then we booked another flight on Lynx [Air] for the Monday (December 19). Then they did the same thing—they delayed, delayed, delayed, and finally canceled at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning,” said Renee.

After their flight was cancelled, Adam and Renee went to retrieve their checked-in luggage which was supposed to be dispatched onto the baggage carousels. Past 2 a.m., Lynx Air did not provide any further baggage updates or communication. By the time they realized that they weren’t going to get their bags back, it was too late for the Souters to secure a hotel room. In the end, they spent the night at the airport until their rebooked flight at 5 p.m. the same day.

“It’s a budget airline and we understand that. It was the only airline available and you kind of get what you get—but the minimum you should get as a human is communication,” Adam said.

Nathan Drew and Jordan Hegwood, a couple who flew in from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, found themselves in a similar situation. Drew and Hegwood were also travelling to Kelowna, B.C. via Lynx Air. While the couple was lucky enough to find a hotel room, they said that it was nearly impossible to leave the airport. With the SkyTrain out of service due to the cold weather, they’re only options were Uber or cab. The minimum wait time for a cab was an hour and a half, leaving Drew and Hegwood along with other delayed passengers to wait out in the cold.

“The day before that we had to pay $100 just to get an Uber—that was for a 12-minute drive. It was ridiculous money just to get where we had to get to,” added Hegwood.

Just like the Souters, Drew and Hegwood were unable to retrieve their bags.

Then there were passengers who were trapped in aircrafts for hours. In the case of Cheuknam Ho, he was travelling on an Air Canada flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver, a long-haul flight that is about 11 hours and 30 minutes long. Upon landing, there were no gates available for the aircraft.

“I landed in Vancouver and stayed in the plane for more than five hours—just to wait to get to the gate,” said Ho.

While stuck on the aircraft, Ho said he tried to ask the Air Canada flight crew for more information, but they couldn’t provide any.

Along with the lack of communication, passengers questioned whether or not Vancouver International Airport was properly prepared for heavy snowfall conditions. Adam and Renee expressed that YVR airport should have better contingency plans in place.

“At least for me, just being better prepared for weather phenomena in the area. At least from what I’ve been hearing from people here is that Vancouver’s not prepared at all for any sort of snow—and they’re in Canada. I know it doesn’t happen often here, but you need something in place,” said Drew.

Adam also questioned how the flight cancellations and heavy snowfall was handled by both airlines and YVR airport authority.

“It’s unusual because of the snow, but then it’s how it’s managed and I don’t think it was managed very well. It sounds like there’s increasing amounts of big snow here and it doesn’t wash away as quickly as it used to. Maybe they need to just resource it better or have better contingencies for it,” said Adam.

An email statement from Air Canada noted that they are continuing to monitor the weather situations across Canada and even pre-cancelled flights on Friday, December 23 in response to extreme weather warnings in eastern Canada. WestJet has also taken precautionary measures and pre-cancelled flights.

“The decision to stand down more flights was extremely difficult, but it was necessary, so that we could be best prepared to safely fly as many guests, with as little disruption as possible this weekend,” said WestJet’s chief operations officer, Diederik Pen in a media statement.

Understanding air passenger rights

Gábor Lukács, president and founder of Air Passenger Rights, was closely watching the events unfold, observing a lack of accountability—especially from the major airlines like West Jet and Air Canada.

“Obviously airlines don’t control the weather. That’s not their fault. Even as a bloodthirsty air passenger advocate like myself would not hold them accountable for that. That’s not reasonable—how they react to the weather is a different matter,” said Lukács.

Two major issues that Lukács noticed concerned flight rebookings and tarmac delays. According to the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), when a flight cancellation or delay occurs and is outside of an airline’s control (such as weather conditions), delayed passengers must be booked on the next available flight operated by the airline itself or any of its commercial partners. The flight must fall within 48 hours of the passenger’s original departure time. If an airline is unable to book a flight within that time frame, they must get the passenger to their destination at all costs even if it means booking a ticket with a competing airline.

READ MORE: Climate Change, Christmas and Capitalism: The Great Southwest Airlines Meltdown

“That was not happening. WestJet was just telling people to take a flying leap—telling them, ‘well sorry, we’re not able to rebook you. Goodbye,’” said Lukács.

Furthermore, for flight cancellations and delays caused by weather conditions, the APPR does not require airlines to provide compensation—this means that the airlines are not obligated to provide food vouchers or overnight accommodations to affected passengers.

Then there were the numerous and lengthy tarmac delays. The APPR states that once a tarmac delay reaches three hours, the airline must allow passengers to disembark the aircraft. Airlines are allotted an extra 45 minutes if it is likely that the flight will take-off. At YVR Airport, tarmac delays lasted nearly 12 hours. 

“I have seen a lot of fingers pointed to the Vancouver Airport. Airlines love to blame the airports because that means, ‘oh, it wasn’t us, it’s them,” Lukács said.

“The decision to board passengers, to leave the gate without having a backup plan of what happens if it’s not possible to take off—for whatever legitimate reasons, that’s the airline’s decision. The airline decided to keep passengers on the tarmac for that long. I don’t see any evidence that they have been going out of their way to try to get stairs to the aircraft that they failed to provide food and water to passengers on board.”

With multiple tarmac delays, ongoing investigations by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) are currently underway. At this time, the CTA is unable to confirm when the investigations will be complete.

With little repercussions for airlines, Lukács said it’s important for passengers to understand their rights and to take action when those rights are violated. 

“The most important advice is don’t be a pushover. Stand up for your rights and fight for your rights. Take airlines to small claims court. Don’t let them get away with this,” said Lukács.

YVR International Airport extending care for passengers, too late for some

On Friday December 23, YVR International Airport announced that their staff will be extending care and comfort services for delayed passengers. Passengers affected by overnight delays were offered up to four nights free-of-charge at local hotels and restaurant gift cards. These hotel accommodations and meal vouchers were offered until December 27.

“Our primary focus is to safely get passengers on their journey. When extreme weather disrupts those plans for extended periods of time, we understand that passengers face immense challenges–especially if they don’t call Vancouver home,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancouver International Airport. 

For delayed passengers who remain at the airport, YVR airport set up a designated resting area on Level 3 departures. It was set up with cots, blankets, hygiene kits and other basic supplies. Additionally, YVR staff and volunteers were distributing food, water, hand-warmers and other items throughout the airport.

As for passengers who were travelling before these measures were put in place, this offer of goodwill comes way too late as many have already moved on.

After five nights in Vancouver, the Souter family opted to take a shuttle bus to Kelowna, rather than taking their chances flying again. For future trips, Adam and Renee plan to avoid YVR International Airport altogether.

Drew and Hegwood were rebooked on a recovery flight by Lynx Air and finally arrived in Kelowna, B.C. early afternoon on Wednesday, December 22. Although the couple is relieved that they made it to their final destination, they are left without their checked-in luggage and personal belongings. Tracked by an Apple Tag, Drew and Hegwood’s luggage remained in Vancouver Airport.

According to YVR International Airport’s latest operational update on December 30, the airport was back on track with about 97 per cent of scheduled flights operational. As the weather continued to improve, YVR airport said they were sending passengers on their way. In the meantime, YVR’s designated comfort area was been extended and was available to delayed passengers until January 3.
Lynx Air did not reply to rabble’s request for an interview by the time of publication.

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Categories: F. Left News

There’s still time for Singh and Trudeau to reform the electoral system

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 12:21

Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his governing partner, New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh: Revive the idea of electoral reform for Canada.

Replacing Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system was a signature promise for Trudeau when he first got elected, with a majority, in 2015.

For a while during his first term Trudeau acted as though he meant to fulfill the promise. Then, after a fairly protracted preparatory process, he pulled the plug. 

Trudeau’s explanation, at the time, was that there was no consensus as to what kind of reform Canadians wanted.

Liberals favoured a ranked ballot; New Democrats, a system with a good measure of proportionality; and Conservatives wanted a country-wide referendum on any change. 

The only realistic option, Trudeau argued, was to put the whole matter to rest and focus on other priorities. Among those were legalization of cannabis. 

READ MORE: Liberals’ online survey is a tactic to derail electoral reform

Now would be a good time to bring the ghost of electoral reform down from the attic and breathe some life into it.

Current electoral system is unsuited to Canada

The drawbacks of Canada’s current first-past-the-post system, which Trudeau quite accurately perceived in 2015, still persist. 

The two principal flaws of our winner-takes-all voting system are: it exaggerates regional political differences, and makes it possible for political parties to narrowcast to a minority of the population yet still win a majority of seats.

To get an understanding of how first-past-the-post unfairly creates the sense that regions of the country are more uniform in their political preferences than they really are look at federal elections over the past six decades.

During that period, we frequently had results where the Conservatives and New Democrats were almost or completely shut out in Quebec, despite each winning well over 10 per cent of the votes. That meant a quarter or more of Quebec’s voters had minimal or no representation.

Similarly, in some western provinces, Conservatives have routinely won all or almost all the seats with not much more than half the votes, sometimes less than half. That meant fully half of the electorate in those provinces had virtually no voice in Parliament.

Arguably, first-past-the-post contributes to national disunity. 

It makes us seem as though we are more different from each other, province to province, region to region, than we are.

Our electoral system rewards parties that focus narrowly on one or more region, not the whole country.

The most extreme case is the Bloc Québécois. 

In the last election, the Bloc ran candidates only in the 78 Quebec ridings. It won less than eight per cent of the national popular vote, far less than half the New Democrats’ 17.8 per cent. But the Bloc’s geographically concentrated vote gave it 32 seats as opposed to the NDP’s 25. 

On the whole, first-past-the-post too often motivates federal politicians to focus excessively on their own regions, especially the grievances of their own regions, to the detriment of the national interest.  

That flaw should be sufficient condemnation of our current system, but the other flaw of first-past-the-post is even more dangerous.

Unlike the United States, Canada is a not a two-party country. 

We are a multi-party democracy, and have been so for more than a century, since the rise of the now-defunct Progressive party following World War I. 

The first-past-the-post system, in a multi-party context, can quite easily deliver a majority of seats to a party that wins fewer than four votes out of ten. That has happened quite often in Canada, especially in recent elections. (See under: Harper and Chrétien majorities.)

Such results might not seem too awful when they benefit a centrist party which seeks to govern in a consensual manner. But they can be scary when they disproportionately reward a party which has more than a passing familiarity with extremism. 

That latter outcome is a real possibility the country faces in the next election.

But it is not too late to make it much harder for a narrow-casting, divisive, extremist group to ever win a majority of seats with only a bare plurality of votes. 

It is not too late to fire up the electoral reform process once again and come up with a better voting system – a new system most of us could live with, even if it were not our favoured option.

The NDP could accept Trudeau’s favoured option

The New Democrats could make electoral reform finally happen if they decided to put water in their wine and opt for the system Trudeau has long favoured, the ranked ballot, or instant run-off.

Currently, we vote for one candidate and the one with the greatest number of votes wins, even if that number is way below 50 per cent. 

In a ranked system, we would indicate our first choice, but also our second, third, fourth, etc., choices as well. When a candidate fails to win 50 per cent plus one of the first choices, the electoral officials count second choices, and, if necessary, even third or fourth choices. 

In this system, a candidate cannot win without gaining more than half the total votes.

Such a system would force parties to play nice with each other, to some extent at any rate, because they want the second choices of other parties’ supporters. 

It would also make it difficult for candidates whose extreme positions attract an enthusiastic hardcore but repel the majority to win.

New Democrats and many electoral reform advocates oppose the ranked ballot option because they say it would excessively favour a centrist all-things-to-all-people party, like the Liberals. 

In some elections that might be the case, but not in all, and likely not in the one that’s coming in 2025. 

In a situation where the party of the centre has been in power for a while and has earned more than its share of battle scars, the ranked ballot system might, in fact, work to the advantage of another party which is ideologically close to the centre, but unscathed by the scandals and missteps of the governing party. 

And then there’s this fact, which New Democrats should consider.

Aside from its two principal flaws, first-past-the-post also encourages the unfortunate practice known as tactical or strategic voting. 

Many Canadians have in recent times held their noses and voted for the less-than-perfect Liberals rather than their first choices, to prevent the party they truly feared from winning.

The ranked ballot would take away the need for such aberrant voting behaviour. 

It would allow, say, Green and New Democratic supporters to select their favoured option, then guard against the party they truly loath and fear by selecting the big-tent-party-of-the-middle as their second choice.

If Jagmeet Singh were to champion a switch from our current system to the ranked ballot now it would be a visionary act of true leadership. 

Adopting the governing party’s favoured option would break the logjam on electoral reform. It would result in change to the way we vote for the first time in our history, but not radical change. 

We would still have the same number of MPs, and we would still have one MP per riding. So, a ranked ballot wouldn’t be something difficult for Canadians to adjust to. 

As an administrative matter it would take some time to fully implement any change to our electoral system. 

But the 2025 election is more than two and a half years away. 

There is still time to make this reform happen, if the two government partners put their heads together and get started on reform as soon as parliament resumes at the end of January.

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Categories: F. Left News

The Sacred Balance: Learning from Indigenous Peoples

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 08:39

The following is adapted from the prologue to the 25th anniversary edition of The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature (Greystone Books), released in December.

As host of the long-running television series The Nature of Things, I learned of the battle over clearcut logging on Haida Gwaii, off the coast of British Columbia, in the 1970s. For thousands of years, the islands have been home to the Haida. Forest companies had been denuding much of the islands by clearcut logging, which had generated growing opposition.

In the early 1980s, I flew to Haida Gwaii to interview loggers, forestry officials, government bureaucrats, environmentalists and Indigenous people. One of the people I interviewed was a young Haida artist named Guujaaw who had led the opposition to logging for years.

Unemployment was high in Haida communities, and logging generated desperately needed jobs. So I asked Guujaaw why he opposed the logging. He answered, “Our people have determined that Windy Bay and other areas must be left in their natural condition so that we can keep our identity and pass it on to following generations. The forests, those oceans, are what keep us as Haida people today.”

When I asked him what would happen if the logging continued and the trees were cleared, he answered simply, “If they’re logged off, we’ll probably end up the same as everyone else, I guess.”

It was a simple statement whose implications escaped me at the time. But on reflection, I realized that he had given me a glimpse into a profoundly different way of seeing the world. Guujaaw’s statement suggested that for his people, the trees, the birds, the fish, the water and wind are all parts of Haida identity.

Ever since that interview, I have been a student learning from encounters with Indigenous Peoples in many parts of the world. From Japan to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, the Kalahari, the Amazon and the Arctic, Indigenous people have expressed to me that vital need to be connected to the land. They refer to Earth as their Mother, who they say gives birth to us. Moreover, skin enfolds our bodies but does not define our limits because water, gases and heat dissipating from our bodies radiate outward, joining us to the world around us. What I have learned is a perspective that we are an inseparable part of a community of organisms that are our kin.

With this realization, I also saw that environmentalists like me had been framing the issue improperly. There is no environment “out there” that is separate from us. We can’t manage our impact on the environment if we are our surroundings. Indigenous people are absolutely correct: we are born of the Earth and constructed from the four sacred elements of earth, air, fire and water. (Hindus add a fifth element, space.)

Once I had finally understood the truth of these ancient wisdoms, I also realized that we are intimately fused to our surroundings and the notion of separateness or isolation is an illusion. Through reading I came to understand that science reaffirms the profundity of these ancient truths over and over again.

We are no more removed from nature than any other creature, even in the midst of a large city. Our animal nature dictates our essential needs: clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy. This led me to another insight, that these four “sacred elements” are created, cleansed and renewed by the web of life itself. If there is to be a fifth sacred element, it is biodiversity itself. And whatever we do to these elements, we do directly to ourselves.

At the most basic level, we require the five sacred elements to live rich, full lives. But when those basic necessities are met, a new set of needs arises. We are social animals, and the most profound force shaping our humanity is love. And when that vital social requirement is fulfilled, then a new level of spiritual needs arises as an urgent priority. This is how I made the fundamental re-examination of our relationship with Earth that led to The Sacred Balance.

The challenge of this millennium is to recognize what we need to live rich, rewarding lives without undermining the very elements that ensure them.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Learn more at

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Categories: F. Left News

Social conservative activist John Carpay charged with obstruction of justice

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 07:28

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms President John Carpay has been charged with obstruction of justice by Winnipeg Police and was arrested after turning himself in to Calgary Police Friday, the social conservative legal advocacy organization said in a statement. 

According to the New Year’s Day statement published on the JCCF website, the charges “apparently” stem from a 2021 incident in which Carpay, a lawyer and social conservative activist, admitted hiring a private detective to snoop on the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench.

The JCCF founder and president admitted on July 12, 2021, that his organization hired the private investigator to spy on the judge, who was presiding over a case conducted by the JCCF on behalf of seven rural Manitoba churches that objected to public health orders made early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Calgary-based lawyer, who for many years was a friend and political ally of former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, made the admission after Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal revealed during a hearing into the JCCF’s case that he had been followed by a private detective.

Carpay later said the decision to have the gumshoe follow the judge was his alone.

Yesterday’s statement by the JCCF seemed to imply Mr. Carpay was at least partly inspired to hire the private detective by the actions of Kenney and other senior members of his cabinet when they were caught in June 2021 by a still-unidentified photographer as they violated Alberta COVID-19 restrictions at a dinner meeting on the patio of the notorious “Sky Palace” atop an Alberta government office building in Edmonton. 

“Mr. Carpay’s decision to conduct surveillance of Manitoba government officials followed a number of high-profile instances where those who imposed and enforced lockdown restrictions were themselves found violating their own rules, partying on rooftops, ignoring rules about face masks and social distancing, and jetting off to exotic holiday locations to countries without COVID restrictions,” the JCCF statement said. (Emphasis added.)

According to the statement, the JCCF learned of the Winnipeg warrant on Friday and that Mr. Carpay thereafter “immediately turned himself into (sic) Calgary Police Services.”

“This charge is unexpected and without explanation,” the statement complained. “The events at issue took place over 18 months ago, and police have not previously contacted Mr. Carpay nor the Justice Centre. 

“Mr. Carpay has been cooperating with the investigation of this matter by the Law Society of Manitoba,” the statement continued. “At the time of the events, the Justice Centre Board of Directors also took appropriate steps to strengthen governance and oversight of the organization while Mr. Carpay took a seven-week leave of absence.”

“The Justice Centre is deeply disappointed by the decision of Winnipeg Police to lay a criminal charge for events that took place more than 18 months ago and that are already being dealt with appropriately,” the statement said. “It is doubly disappointing that it was decided that these actions should take place during the holiday season when Mr. Carpay is spending time with his family.”

A similarly worded fund-raising email sent yesterday to JCCF donors, headed “Urgent News for Our Justice Centre Supporters,” included the claim Carpay “was held in jail for 23 hours in an isolated cell without a cot, mattress, blanket, or even a pillow!”

This turn of events does not seem as shocking as it apparently was to the JCCF. There was plenty of discussion about possible repercussions in media and legal circles at the time Carpay’s actions came to light, including the view such activities could be perceived as obstruction of justice. 

At the time of Chief Justice Joyal’s revelation, the University of Alberta’s vice-dean of law described the situation as “obviously a tremendous, tremendous lapse of judgment by the legal team involved, it seems to me, and one really that’s without precedent as far as I’m concerned.”

“It takes your breath away, the mindset that an individual would engage in to take that course of action,” Eric Adams, a noted constitutional scholar, told the CBC. “I mean, for what purpose would that information be gathered except for an improper one? It’s hard to imagine.”

In an editorial the morning after Justice Joyal’s courtroom revelation, the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper argued that “hiring a PI to follow a judge – not just any judge, but the judge handling the case that you are currently arguing in court – suggests very few possible motivations other than an effort to intimidate the judge in order to affect the outcome of the case.”

Manitoba’s justice minister at the time, Cameron Friesen, said in a press release that “as Attorney General, I have written to the Law Society of Manitoba to request that it initiate an investigation into the conduct of lawyers associated with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.”

“This is an obvious invasion of privacy and it is difficult to believe that these actions were not intended to influence the outcome of the court case,” Friesen stated in the terse release. “The lawyers involved must be held accountable for their actions, in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice, to protect the integrity of our independent judiciary and uphold the rule of law in Canada.”

As noted in yesterday’s JCCF statement, Carpay took what was described at the time as an indefinite leave from his job as JCCF president after the story broke and the organization’s board published a statement condemning the action, stating it was not informed, apologizing to the judge, and promising “all such activity has ceased and will not reoccur in future.” 

That statement is no longer found at its original link on the JCCF website. 

However, the interim president appointed by the JCCF board served only seven weeks before Carpay returned at the end of August 2021. 

In an August 30, 2021, story, the Toronto Star quoted a former JCCF board member saying: “When a compromised president leaves and then the board seemingly, suddenly, anyway, to those of us looking from the outside, nearly vaporizes and the offending president returns, that tells me that there was kind of a putsch.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Resignations leave two Calgary ridings without an MP nor an MLA

Tue, 01/03/2023 - 12:36

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2023! Oh, and say goodbye to Calgary Heritage Member of Parliament Bob Benzen, who announced last fall he’d be resigning his seat in Parliament on the final day of 2022 to return to private life.

In his mostly undistinguished Parliamentary career, Benzen was probably best known for being one of the Conservative MPs who started the ball rolling to skid former federal Opposition leader Erin O’Toole last January.

While he’d initially supported O’Toole, Benzen later complained the Conservative leader had supported “a de facto carbon tax,” flip-flopped on opposing gun control during the federal election campaign, and failed to “stand up for the Charter rights of Canadians during a pandemic” – by which he obviously meant the right to be a vaccine refusenik, which is not actually protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

He also voted against the federal ban on conversion therapy, which, since we don’t have a Conservative government in Ottawa, passed anyway.

Reasonably enough, I suppose, in his farewell tweet Benzen didn’t mention any of that controversial stuff, but merely thanked his constituents for electing him in the 2017 by-election after former PM and Calgary Heritage MP Stephen Harper quit, and in the general elections of 2019 and 2021.

But enough about Mr. Benzen! His resignation, though, has resulted in a small oddity worth keeping in mind by those of us who pay attention Alberta politics.

The resignation, naturally, leaves residents of the southwest Calgary federal riding without representation in Ottawa until either a by-election or a federal election takes place. 

Since despite the federal Conservative Party’s profound wish for an election before even more Canadians grow to dislike their new leader, Pierre Poilievre, a by-election seems more likely assuming the confidence and supply agreement between the federal Liberals and New Democrats holds. 

The oddity is that Benzen’s resignation has left a couple of corners of the riding without either federal or provincial representation.

Most egregiously, a small block of Calgary’s North Glenmore neighbourhood is also the southernmost part of the provincial Calgary-Elbow electoral district, which once upon a time was represented by Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein. 

That provincial riding has been without a Member of the Legislative Assembly since United Conservative Party MLA and cabinet minister Doug Schweitzer resigned effective August 31, 2022. 

As readers will recall, residents of the provincial riding were outraged when Alberta’s new UCP premier, Danielle Smith, refused to call a by-election to replace Schweitzer on the fatuous grounds it would cost too much – even though she immediately called a by-election in the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding for November 8 to ensure she had a seat in the Legislature.

Former Books-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Frey had quit to give Smith a safe seat in which to run. Schweitzer, a former UCP leadership candidate, gave no explanation for why he was quitting – although it was pretty obvious he wanted nothing to do with any government run by Smith. 

“There has been a convention that when a leader is chosen who does not have a seat there’s an expectation that she will seek a seat at an early opportunity, so I think the exception can be made for this by-election, but there is also a convention as well that if you’re within a year of having a general election that you don’t need to call by-elections,” Smith glibly told reporters at the time. 

The real reason, everyone understood, was that Smith knew the NDP had a good chance of winning a by-election in Calgary-Elbow, which in turn would have entrenched the narrative that an NDP victory in the next general election was inevitable.

Notwithstanding Smith’s chatter about Parliamentary conventions, there is also a law in Alberta that a by-election to fill a vacancy like the one left by Schweitzer must take place within six months of the member’s resignation

Presumably, the Smith Government could eventually be in violation of that law, or have to hastily change it, if the premier decides she daren’t risk the scheduled May 29, 2023, election.

In the meantime, though, it’ll be interesting to compare how the residents of the 250 or so homes in the little square of Calgary-Elbow, illogically located on the south side Glenmore Trail, have to wait to be represented again in Parliament and to be represented in the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton.

An even bigger hunk of the Calgary-Lougheed electoral district is also now in the same state, although only since former Alberta premier Jason Kenney resigned his seat at the end of November. 

Don’t count on Smith calling a by-election there either, although it would probably be a somewhat safer bet for her. 

By-election results can often be interesting, as former Globe and Mail managing editor Geoffrey Stevens pointed out in a recent column, but the one in Calgary Heritage isn’t likely to be. Calgary-Elbow has more potential in that department, and even Calgary-Lougheed might have the potential for a surprise.

Regardless, my money’s on the folks in both provincial ridings having another MP long before they get an MLA from whatever party.

While they wait, I suppose, they can take some comfort that their City of Calgary councillors remain in office.

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Categories: F. Left News

The Alberta politics story of 2022 was the decline & fall of Jason Kenney

Tue, 01/03/2023 - 08:45

Looking back over the Alberta political stories of 2022, one theme dominates all others: the fall of Jason Kenney.

Kenney, the former federal cabinet minister who had united Alberta’s fractious right and seemingly restored the Tory Dynasty to power in 2019, may have entered the year with serious political problems caused principally by his own mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his tendency to pick fights with everyone, but his cause was far from lost.

Indeed, notwithstanding the rumblings from the anti-vaccine crusaders in the United Conservative Party’s rural base and the then mostly marginalized rural MLAs who supported them, it was hard to believe in January 2022 that Kenney wouldn’t still be leader and premier a year later with a better-than-decent shot at winning the election scheduled for the following spring. 

Now nobody even knows where he is, let alone cares. Danielle Smith is the premier and the real crazies, by and large, seem to be in charge. 

Yet it remains your bloggers’ opinion that had Kenney stayed on as premier after the underwhelming 51.4-per-cent support he received in the party’s leadership review last May, he could not only have beaten the NDP Opposition, but might well have done so handily. 

At the time, the prevailing opinion in the UCP’s legislative Caucus was thought to be that Mr. Kenney had a real chance of losing to the NDP’s Rachel Notley in the provincial election scheduled for May 29, 2023.

But while cause for concern among UCP MLAs was justified, last spring’s conventional wisdom did not account for the fact that a virtual palace coup of the party by the Q-adjacent Take Back Alberta anti-vaccine political action committee was under way, as it continues to be at the riding-association level. 

With benefit of hindsight, the UCP would have been better off if Kenney had stuck to his guns and insisted that a vote of 50 per cent plus one was good enough for him to remain on the job. Instead, he threw up his hands and immediately announced he would resign. 

TBA then successfully engineered the second stage of its coup and imposed Smith, long a vaccine skeptic and enthusiastic conspiracy theorist during her career as a right-wing talk show host, as its most ideologically acceptable choice to run the UCP. 

Any of cabinet minister Travis Toews (Kenney’s obvious first choice), minister Rebecca Schulz, or party rebel Brian Jean, who won a by-election in March by campaigning to dump Kenney and like Smith was a former Wildrose Party leader, would have done better against Notley and the NDP than Smith is likely to do. 

The decline of Kenney’s control of his caucus and party can be tracked through the months. 

In January, he all but gave up trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 – too late to weaken the rabid anti-vaccine faction in caucus. 

In February, anti-vaxxers, emboldened by the stumbles by then federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and the occupation of Ottawa and border blockades by the so-called Freedom Convoy, set their sights on unseating the premier. 

In March, Jean won his by-election, campaigning to replace Kenney; Smith announced she’d run to lead the UCP if Kenney was rejected by party members in the leadership vote; and Kenney, in an accurate but unfortunate Basket of Deplorables Moment, dismissed the UCP’s anti-vaxx fringe as “lunatics.”

In April, in a sign of weakness and fear of the anti-vaxxers, Kenney sacked Alberta Health Services’ capable president and CEO, Dr. Verna Yiu. That same month, in the year’s funniest Alberta political moment, Kenney, a former Ottawa bigshot, was caught on video not knowing how to gas up the Big Blue Dodge Pickup he drove around in to demonstrate his Albertan credentials. 

In May, setting himself up for the 60-plus per cent leadership review victory he is said to have expected, Kenney went to Washington, hobnobbed with Democrat-in-Name-Only Senator Joe Manchin (now also irrelevant, as predicted in this space), and returned to that 51.4-per cent vote. He announced he would quit, sealing his own fate. Smith announced her intention to run for the UCP leadership. 

In June, while the government was obviously transitioning to something, the belligerent communications style Kenney brought to Alberta politics continued. UCP social media “issues managers,” and press secretaries – always inappropriately aggressive in their responses to anyone who dared to criticize the government for any reason, ordinary citizens and political partisans alike – seemed to get worse. True to form, ignoring his new lame duck status, Kenney took personal credit for the sudden surge in world petroleum prices. 

In July, with the premier having clearly established his own irrelevance, Smith took the UCP leadership campaign down a dark Trumpian road – from which, really, the party has never returned. She promoted conspiracy theories about AHS management conspiring against the government. Other candidates shamelessly jumped on her vaccine denial bandwagon. 

In August, Smith’s ridiculous Sovereignty Act idea was picked by on the provincial political radar. Kenney dismissed the idea as “nuts” – but few paid attention to him. By the end of the month he was rambling on about subjects that really mattered to him – John A. Macdonald’s and Winston Churchill’s historical legacies. 

In September, in what had to be the year’s weirdest political moment, Kenney went to London and lined up to pay obeisance at Queen Elizabeth’s coffin, live tweeting all the while. If it hadn’t been so strange, no one would have paid attention. He also went to Toronto, stood in a subway station, and touted Alberta as a great place for yuppies to move, a pitch greeted by passers-by with yawns.

In October, with Smith sworn in as premier, Kenney became a garden variety MLA again. Premier Smith appointed every candidate who ran against her for the leadership but one to her massive cabinet. Kenney fell silent.  

In November, he resigned his seat in Calgary-Lougheed. 

In December, about all we’ve heard from him is crickets. It is not known if anyone has filed a missing-person report or sent out a search party. 

But fear not, Alberta, he’s bound to resurface one of these days, if only in an unsatisfying role as the member of a corporate board or two, or the author of a pious op-ed. 

But for a man who once stood astride Alberta in triumph, Jason Kenney has become utterly irrelevant, and all but invisible.

Who saw that coming? 

Happy New Year, everyone! 

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Categories: F. Left News

‘Schemes for profiting’: Privatizers lick their chops as medicare totters

Tue, 01/03/2023 - 07:46

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is hoping you’ll see his health-care fight with Ottawa as just more federal-provincial mud wrestling, rather than as a battle for the country’s heart and soul.

That may sound lofty, but if anything could be said to represent this country’s heart and soul, it’s our public health-care system.

In 2004, when the CBC ran a six-week TV series to determine who could be crowned “the Greatest Canadian” in history, more than 1.2 million votes were cast. In the end, Canadians passed over prime ministers, wartime generals and inspirational figures like Terry Fox, to select Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare.

Canadians appear to have a special fondness for a system that, quite simply, enshrines access to health care as based on need, not money.

In an age dominated by billionaires and their extravagance (and idiocy), this unadorned, egalitarian principle of medicare shines like the brightest star in a dark and deranged firmament.

But, beloved as it is, medicare has always been endangered, threatened by those who prefer that the vast health-care field be open for private profit.

Back in 1960 when Douglas, then premier of Saskatchewan, introduced the first public medical insurance system in North America, local doctors staged a bitter, three-week strike. They had backing from business, the Canadian Medical Association, and strong financial support from the American Medical Association, which was determined to prevent public medicine from establishing a beachhead in North America.

Remarkably, Douglas prevailed and, in 1966, Parliament voted for a Canada-wide medical insurance system by a stunning margin of 177-2.

But the privatizing forces have never given up. Over the years, they’ve launched pricey court challenges to medicare and enlisted support from politicians — both Conservative and Liberal — who’ve helped by underfunding the public system.

Now, with hospitals overwhelmed by the pandemic and years of underfunding, Ford and other premiers see a splendid opportunity to shift the blame for today’s serious health-care crisis to Ottawa, and advance their privatization agendas in the process.

The premiers argue, correctly, that the federal contribution to health care has dropped significantly over the years. The Trudeau government accepts that Ottawa must increase its contribution. The real battle is over whether there will be strings attached. The premiers don’t like strings.

But without strings, the floodgates will open to privatization. This is particularly true in Ontario and Alberta, where staunchly pro-business premiers appear to have learned nothing from the disastrous privatization results in areas like long-term care, which is now dominated by corporate nursing home chains. Care is often so inadequate that, at the height of the pandemic, the Canadian military was brought in to manage some of the worst private facilities.

Privatizers basically subscribe to a theory sometimes called “the tragedy of the commons” — the notion that humans are, by nature, purely self-interested, so society should be organized around private property and the marketplace, with everyone looking out for themselves.

But the anthropologist Karl Polanyi (as well as the ancient philosopher Aristotle) came to a different conclusion: while it’s true that humans are self-interested, we are social animals first and foremost, reliant on society for our survival, sustenance and well-being. Yes, we fight — but mostly we co-operate.

At our best, we devise collective solutions which benefit us all — like public health care and education — to ensure we all have a chance to live healthy, educated lives and that each of us has a shot at developing to our fullest potential.

Rather than tragedy, our public health-care system represents the triumph of the commons.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Most advanced nations, Canada included, have developed successful public health-care systems. Imagine how much more successful these systems would be if they weren’t constantly undermined and sabotaged by privatizers and their political allies.

We must never let the privatizers rob us of what we can achieve collectively. We must never allow their limited view of human nature — and their schemes for profiting from it — confine us to the grim, every-woman-for-herself world of the private marketplace.

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Categories: F. Left News

Some thoughts on New Year’s parties, especially conservative ones

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 08:18

As befits New Year’s Eve, the topic of the last post of 2022 is New Year’s parties. 

Specifically, political parties that would like to gain official status in 2023. 

According to Elections Alberta, there are currently 16 parties for which someone has gone to the trouble of reserving their names in the hopes they can become real political parties in 2023. 

By the sound of it, most of them, possibly all of them, are conservative political parties, as the term “conservative” is defined nowadays in Alberta, to wit, far to the right. 

And as former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason has accurately said on many occasions, you just can’t have too many right-wing political parties in Alberta.

Leastways, there is no Wildrose Communist Party among the 16, although one supposes that, arguably, given the zeitgeist, the Workers United Party could nowadays be either one thing or the other. If this were 1958, I’d say it was definitely a party of the left. In 2023, that would be less certain.

Elections Alberta says there are only three ways to make the registration cut: 

–       Hold three seats in the Legislative Assembly.
–       Endorse candidates in at least half of the electoral divisions in the province (there are 87 at the moment).
–       Complete a petition containing the names and signatures of at least 8,473 eligible electors.

This is a fairly high bar to jump. Nevertheless, there seems to be no shortage of folks who would like to try. 

Here is the list of party names that have been approved by Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler and are now reserved while their founders work to meet Elections Alberta’s qualifications for registration:

–       Alberta 1st Party (A1P)
–       Alberta’s Best Choice (ABC)
–       Alberta Maverick Party (AMP)
–       Alberta National Party (ANP)
–       Alberta Peoples Statehood (APS)
–       Alberta Prosperity Party (APP)
–       Alberta Statehood Party (ABSP)
–       Conservative Democratic Union (CDU)
–       Independent Political Alliance of Alberta (IPAA)
–       Legalize Real Democracy Party (LRDP)
–       The Justice Party (JP)
–       Land and Labour Party of Alberta (LLPA)
–       True Alberta Party (TAP)
–       Wildrose Liberty Party (WLP)
–       Wildrose Loyalty Coalition (WLC)
–       Workers United Party (WUP)

Only two of the 16 political entities seem to have a presence on the Internet. 

According to the Alberta Statehood Party’s Facebook page, its founders aspire for Alberta to become part of the United States – a project that might turn out to be more complicated than its adherents innocently believe. Still, they have swag, including “Alberta, USA” hats, and they had a booth at the Red Deer Gun Show. 

Moving to the Legalize Democracy Party, it would appear from its website its founders think we should have referenda about everything, including all bills before the Legislature. One sees practical problems with this approach. If we’re all members of the Legislature, can anyone call quorum? And where will we all sit? Readers will get the idea. 

As for the rest, we can only guess. 

It is possible, one supposes, that the Alberta 1st Party is a spinoff of the now-defunct pro-separation Alberta First Party, and that the Alberta Maverick Party is a spinoff of the Maverick Party, the federal separatist party that seems to have given Canada Tamara Lich, which should be quite enough, thank you very much. 

As previously noted, whether the Workers United Party or the Land and Labour Party of Alberta are entities of the right or the left is not yet clear.

Likewise, what is the difference between the Alberta Statehood Party, referenced above, and the Alberta People’s Statehood Party? Is the Alberta Peoples Statehood Party the Democrat version of the, presumably Republican leaning, Alberta Statehood Party? 

And what’s with the True Alberta Party? Does this suggest that the hapless Alberta Party, which exists and is registered but has never really registered with Alberta voters, has an ideology with which the founders of the TAB disagree profoundly enough to form a new version of the same thing? Ditto all those Wildrose variants. 

Is the IPAA a beer?

And finally, why is there no Natural Law Party of Alberta, since there’s so clearly a desire by some to transcend the current politics of the place? 

Have a great New Year’s party, everyone! See y’all in 2023. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Ten things that won’t happen in Alberta politics in 2023

Fri, 12/30/2022 - 11:45

It is traditional at this time for year for prophets, prognosticators and political pundits to make predictions about what dramatic events the coming year will hold. 

This is a relatively safe activity. After all, there are new stories every day in what we used to innocently call “the news business,” that quaint notion that you could make a living writing about what had happened the day before.

After all, by the time it’s late December again, almost everyone will have forgotten what you predicted, and those who don’t are just negative nellies who are of no account anyway – so unless I got something right, there’s no need to remind me about it!

And while it may no longer be possible to make a decent living reporting the news, the tradition of oracular New Year’s journalism, charmingly, lives on – augmented by the entertaining idea of the Top Ten list, pioneered by late-night talk show hosts. 

Call me a nihilist, but I thought I’d turn that tradition on its head this year and predict the Top Ten things that are not going to happen in Alberta politics next year:

No. 10: Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party Government will not change human rights legislation to protect the unvaccinated. Actually, we already knew this. Premier Smith admitted in November it’s easier just to bully organizations with vaccine mandates into dropping them. Still, it’s always good to start a list like this with something you’re confident can’t be proved wrong. 

No. 9: United Conservative Party unity. Premier Smith says her UCP legislative caucus is working like a well-oiled machine with nothing but the 2023 provincial election in mind. While it’s undoubtedly true caucus members are doing little but trying to figure out how to win an election with Smith in command, the prospect of an election is about the only thing holding them together at this point. Most likely, that will not last.

No. 8: There will not be any train from Calgary to Banff, except for regular Canadian Pacific freights passing through on their way to Vancouver. This hardy perennial springs up almost every year, foolish investors part with their dollars, and in the autumn, the leaves fall and winter comes again. Chances are, there will never again be a passenger train from Calgary to Banff. 

No. 7: An Alberta Provincial Police Force will not replace the RCMP as Alberta’s provincial police force in 2023. It’s too complicated, too expensive, and too unpopular. Yes, Smith and the Take Back Alberta fools who run the UCP nowadays would love to have a tame police force, but actually moving ahead with this before the government is re-elected would cause a rebellion in caucus (see No. 9). 

No. 6: The UCP government will not drop out of the Canada Pension Plan and set up an Alberta Pension Plan. Nor will it hand all the dough over to the Alberta Investment Management Corp. to sink into cryptocurrency. Nope! If you thought dumping the RCMP would piss off elderly voters, wait till you see what fooling with their pensions would do. So this scheme has to wait for an election too. 

No. 5: The Smith government will not implement yearly health spending accounts, no matter how parsimonious, at least until after the election. First, it would cost a billion dollars or more. Second, because the whole point of the exercise is to introduce co-pays, user fees and delisting to public health care. That just might get Alberta cut off from federal health care funds – all very well when you’re a group of half a dozen right-wing college wankers spit-balling Big Ideas, but a whole different matter when you have to get reelected from time to time.

No. 4: The Smith government’s relationship with Treaty 6 First Nations will not be renewed, in 2023, or in all probability, for the life of this government. Smith burned that bridge to the ground when she introduced her Sovereignty Act without First Nations being consulted. Both the previous NDP Government and former UCP premier Jason Kenney worked hard to build trust with Treaty Nations. Smith destroyed that in two months. Cute stories and fake bonhomie will not repair that damage. 

No. 3: There will not be any kind of meaningful review of Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith’s promises to her Q-adjacent anti-vaccine supporters notwithstanding. A “task force,” maybe. But everybody understands a “task force” is just a fig leaf for the introduction of policies a government already plans. An inquiry under the Inquiries Act? Forget it. It couldn’t be done without breaking that law, and an inevitable defeat in the courts. 

No. 2: The Sovereignty Act will not be used in 2023. After all, unused, it’s a talking point to keep the UCP base on their side and be safely ignored by everyone else. Using it would split the caucus, already uncomfortable with the idea (for good reason), as this year’s leadership campaign showed, drive voters in Calgary to the NDP, and spell an early defeat for the government in court. 

And the No. 1 reason none of these things won’t happen in 2023, even the ones that could plausibly be done after an election, especially if more radical Take Back Alberta MLAs get in and fewer real Conservatives with connections to urban voters do? 

The No. 1 reason these things will not happen next year is … 

There will not be an Alberta election in 2023!

There! It’s an official prediction. There won’t be an Alberta election, at least, if the polls don’t say the UCP can win it. And I’m pretty sure that the longer Premier Smith is in power, the less likely a UCP victory is going to be. 

Of course, I will be delighted to be proved wrong about this and see the election called as promised. But don’t bet the farm, or even a modest Edmonton condo, on an election being held on May 29, 2023. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Rethinking the “Person of the Year”

Fri, 12/30/2022 - 09:45

Listening to the Christmas Day speech of King Charles, I wondered if he thinks he should’ve been Time’s Person of the Year, rather than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Charles did finally make it to the throne, after persevering, the sort of thing you get points for over there, and he seems to like to sulk anyway. Think of his beautiful snit about a leaky pen.

(There’s also Dominic West’s portrayal of Charles in this season’s “The Crown” as, pretty much, James Bond. Heady stuff for a lifelong wuss.)

I view Time’s Person of the Year, which was Man of the Year till 1999, not just as a one-item end-of-year list, but as the last stand of the Great Man theory of history. It had a decent run in the 19th century, sponsored by Thomas Carlyle — “The History of the world is but the Biography of great men” — but petered out, to be replaced by social or historical determinants of our fate, like class conflict and technology.

Marxism was a prime example of that approach to history. When I was in the U.K. just before Christmas (which may’ve got me obsessing about whatever Charles obsesses about), I talked with a veteran left-wing academic. He said Marxism is back after a period of retreat, but with a difference: it used to be suffused with optimism; now it’s riddled with despair.

It had the ring of truth, but really, who wants Marxist despair? The whole point of Marxism was to assure you that, despite the apparent dominance of wealth and inequality, History was on your side and justice would prevail.

And the Great Man/Person theory never quite vanished. It has a strong grip on us; its appeal is visceral. In the 20th century its avatar was Winston Churchill, almost universally acclaimed, even into the 2000s, when George W. Bush had a Churchill bust in his Oval Office and Barack Obama later took stick for removing it — despite the fact that Churchill was a lifelong racist and warmonger who only got one thing right in his long career. (Granted, that thing was fighting Hitler relentlessly.)

Overall though, neither approach seems helpful at the moment. TV and the internet have undermined the Great Person shtick; we know too much about these mighty individuals to think they have all the answers. And the failures of Marxism and socialism severely dented the authority of systemic or structural explanations and formulas as ways out of humanity’s calamities.

Have new approaches surfaced? I think so, at least as represented in pop culture. That would be the return of magical and supernatural thinking. If people can’t solve their own problems, maybe superhuman forces can. This may partly account for the appeal of superhero film franchises and “Harry Potter”-ish books. I may sound out of touch here. I have difficulty getting into this stuff, even in fiction. My socio-political imagination is still rooted in conflicts between human forces, with flawed leaders seeking a way to harness our better impulses.

I don’t think it’s hard to see how this magical-supernatural thinking refracts into religion-based politics in places like Iran, the U.S., Israel, etc. It’s not to my taste, but so what. Normally I’d say humanity can just futz around waiting for some new, better framework to show up as an explanatory path forward, except for one thing: for the first time ever, there’s a real time limit on survival for our species, due to climate change. So there’s a unique sense of urgency, if you want something else to resolve about this New Year’s.

A final thought. I’d like to nominate for “Not Person of the Year,” alongside Charles, Toronto Mayor John Tory, based on his addendum to his demand for funding from higher levels rather than raising property taxes: “I’m sorry to be asking for special treatment, but I don’t apologize for it.” Must remember that: I’m sorry but I don’t apologize. It’s brilliantly gutless, and deserving of recognition.

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Categories: F. Left News


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