Thursday, December 03, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Max Fawcett writes that equivocal posturing about personal responsibility (from Jason Kenney among others) has offered no resistance to the spread of the coronavirus. And Rebecca Haines-Sah calls out Kenney's choice to treat lives as disposable in the face of COVID-19 as long as people have any additional health condition, while Haiqa Cheema addresses Kenney's racist scapegoating as another attempt to distract from his own glaring failures.

- Pete Evans discusses how the Libs' fiscal update does effectively nothing to address the disparate gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Rita Trichur is exasperated at the Trudeau government's continued delays in acting on child care (rather than continuing to offer rhetoric unsupported by real-world results). And Robert Hiltz points out that frontline workers - and particularly renters - are being left to weather a devastating second wave without government supports. 

- Luke Savage highlights how Canada's richest few are getting even richer over the course of a pandemic which has seen most people plunged into even more precarious circumstances. Shawn Langlois points out the same phenomenon at a global level as the sheer size of a capital pool leads to larger returns. Fred Hahn writes that Doug Ford has been deliberately reinforcing that trend by using COVID-19 as a distraction while pushing through favours to the already-privileged few. And Toby Sanger and Erika Beauchesne make the case (PDF) for progressive taxes to rein in extreme wealth inequality.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig reminds us that Canada has been a leader in pharmaceutical and vaccine research and production through a Crown corporation before - and can be again if we value public health over big pharma's profits.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020


The Saskatchewan Party government's public health expectations for the mid-pandemic jet set willing to shell out for private testing:

"It's been challenging to provide timely results for asymptomatic travelers, especially within the tight timelines required by airlines and international destinations," Howey said in part. 

"[Quantum Genetix] have the technology to provide PCR COVID-19 testing for anyone requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelling."

Their expectations for everybody else:

The price of negligence

In case there was any doubt that COVID testing serves as the ultimate microcosm of the Saskatchewan Party's mismanagement of health care, we've seen the endgame released today.

Remember that it was just a few months ago that Scott Moe was trumpeting a plan to massively increase public capacity, while saving for the fine print the fact that he was relying on federal money to achieve it. 

It didn't take long for word to leak out that nobody had bothered to do the work needed to meet them in time. And that hasn't been a matter of merely taking too long to ramp up, but of systemic failure to do what Moe promised.

Which leads us where we are now. Thanks to Moe's mismanagement, Saskatchewan's testing and tracing system is collapsing under the weight of gross negligence in managing the spread of a deadly disease. Which has led for-profit testing to allow the rich to cut to the front of the line (featuring provincial officials talking up the need to help those lucky and irresponsible enough to go travelling in the midst of the pandemic), and a do-it-yourself tracing system for everybody else.

To be clear, none of this should represent any surprise to anybody paying attention to the Sask Party's track record or campaign messages. But it does provide a vivid example for current action and future reference - and hopefully a lasting reminder that Moe and his party lack can only be counted on to enrich the well-connected few at the expense of the health and welfare of the many.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Steven Lewis writes about the Sask Party government's catastrophic refusal to act on the evidence that Saskatchewan needs to sharply curb the spread of COVID-19. Julia Peterson reports on the Saskatchewan doctors making it clear that we can't afford to let up over the holiday season. And Murray Mandryk notes that a throne speech focused on platform baubles and outdated talking points fell far short of meeting an increasingly dire current reality - though it should hardly come as a surprise that someone anointed by the media for re-election while campaigning on a theme of "no lockdowns!" has concluded he can get away with trading lives for corporate favour.

- Thiemo Fetzer and Thomas Graeber study (PDF) the damage done by a lack of contact tracing - even as any effort to test and trace falls apart across the prairie provinces. And Lucas Edmond discusses how Brian Pallister's austerity and corporatism in the midst of a pandemic is killing Manitobans. 

- Andre Picard rightly asks why we're seeing another wave of outbreaks in long-term care homes after having the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the spring. And Madeleine Ritts writes about the crisis of privatized, for-profit health care in Ontario.

- Finally, David Wastell reports on a push by economists to stop the media from reporting on the economy in terms of false analogies to household finances and credit card debts. And Alex Himelfarb highlights how spending during a pandemic and recovery period is absolutely necessary to build for what comes next:

For several months, as Canada’s governments were first taking on the pandemic and the economic shocks emanating from it, we witnessed something of a fiscal truce. Gone were the calls for restrained spending, small government, balanced budgets. Across the political spectrum governments were spending borrowed money. And across the political spectrum, observers of government—including many who had been lambasting the federal government for its pre-pandemic deficits and its lack of plan to get to balance—were for this brief moment welcoming or at least tolerating active government, deficit spending and increases to the public debt. 


Predictably, the deficit hawks have started to hover. Most headlines following the fiscal snapshot asked just how worried we should be about deficits and debt—and many pundits concluded plenty worried. “No way to put a shine on this,” said one; “Dire” said others; “Time to start winding down” said a few. And, following the age-old principles of “Misery loves company” and “What’s better than a race to the bottom?” some are calling for cuts to the public service and public service wages. Let the market do its thing as soon as possible, they’re saying, and start scaling government back down again. 


Disagreements about deficits and debt reflect more than differences among economists (of which there are aplenty); they highlight deeper ideological disagreements about what kind of country we want and the role of government in getting there. It’s important, then, to sort through the politics of deficits and debt. We need to explode the myths that have for decades stunted our political imagination, making us doubt whether we can afford what needs doing and convincing us that austerity, cutting spending and reining in government, is our only option. Austerity means squeezing essential services such as healthcare, education and welfare and foregoing or delaying public investment when all the evidence tells us that this is exactly the wrong way to go. 


We can expect—in fact we ought to have—serious debates about the shape of the post-pandemic recovery, about the future we want, about the role of government in building that future. We have an opportunity to learn from this pandemic, to address the inequities and cracks it revealed, to better prepare for the next crises. Important proposals for a feminist response, a “green new deal” and renewal consistent with reconciliation and Indigenous rights and racial justice show us what our future could be. We cannot afford to have those debates short-circuited by paranoia over deficits and debt. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

 Leveled cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David MacDonald, Lindsay McLaren, Katherine Scott and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood each examine the Libs' fiscal update and find that headlines about progressive priorities mask the lack of much that's specific or new.

- Shamshad Ahktar, Kevin Gallagher and Ulrich Volz discuss the G20's modest moratorium on debt servicing charges, while highlighting the need for far deeper and wider debt relief.

- Andre Picard points out the need for planning to turn the promise of effective vaccines into an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. And Ronald Labonte and Mira Johri point out how intellectual property barriers will make it difficult to get vaccines and medications to the people who need them - or allow big pharma to extract exorbitant prices in exchange for a necessary public health measures. 

- PressProgress reports that rather than being held responsible for causing some of Canada's worst COVID outbreaks, private long-term care home operators are seizing the opportunity to lobby Doug Ford to provide even less protection for residents and workers. And Jessica Smith Cross highlights how Ford's government is stonewalling the commission which is supposed to be investigating the tragic spread of COVID-19 in care homes.

- Finally, Sharon Polsky examines the Kenney UCP's plans to sacrifice individual privacy in order to help private auto insurers extract more money.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Daniela Gabor writes that there's no reason to treat the spending needed to allow people to survive a pandemic-induced recession as an excuse for avoidable austerity.

- Seth Klein comments on the need to treat climate change as an emergency rather than a remote possibility. And Fiona Koza, Naolo Charles, Jennifer Beeman, Ingrid Waldron, Dayna Scott, Kristian Ferreira and Peter Wood discuss the opportunity for Canada to finally overcome a history of environmental racism. But Don Pittis points out how our climate breakdown has been pushed out of the centre of our current policy discussions - even as an inclusive Green New Deal represents the most sensible COVID-19 recovery plan. And Emily Atkin writes about the dangers of expecting solutions from the same systems and individuals who have failed to deal with the climate crisis before.

- Aaron Wherry examines the more glaring holes in the Cons' attempt to turn "great reset" into a sinister plot rather than the Libs' latest attempt at spin over substance, while the Star's editorial board highlights how it represents an attempt to normalize far-right conspiracy theories. And Tom Parkin notes that the Cons' failure to offer anything of value to voters looking for empathy and action is being reflected in their standing in the polls.

- Sean Frankling responds somewhat with evidence refuting an ugly attempt to use the need to work from home as an excuse to treat workers as dishonest. And the Economist goes further by charting how people are in fact working more hours during the pandemic.

- Finally, Jill Croteau reports on the glaring lack of action to apply the Westray Bill to hold employers responsible for causing the deaths of their workers.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- In the absence of leaders at any level of government willing to act on the scale needed to stop the coronavirus pandemic in much of Canada, Amir Attaran helpfully provides some minimum standards which could be applied across the country. And Nathaniel Dove and Anna McMillan report on a call from health sector workers for targeted shutdowns to meaningfully bend the curve in Saskatchewan, while Stephanie Taylor reports on the prospect that we could be facing massive increases in our case load by the first week of December.

- Andrew MacLean discusses the need for medical health officers to be able to speak openly and honestly to the citizens they serve, rather than having their messages and recommendations distorted by political considerations. And Gary Mason highlights what the recordings of Alberta meetings showed about the glaring gap between public health recommendations and the UCP's choices and orders.

- Meanwhile, the Progress Report exposes how Jason Kenney's government slipped $4 million to the NHL in a secret, sole-source contract while skimping on relief for Albertans.

- Natalie Kalata reports on the burnout being faced by frontline workers dealing with COVID-19, while Rosa Saba traces the difficulties in part to a lack of basic employment and labour protections. And Gabriela Panda-Beltrani notes that Saskatchewan's contact tracers are facing both understaffing in their workplaces, and deliberate abuse from the people they're trying to contact.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk warns us against assuming that a vaccine will immediately put an end to the work that needs to be done in protecting against the continued spread of COVID-19.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Michael Smithson examines data from 45 countries confirming that any attempt to play off COVID-19 suppression against economic activity is based on a false assumption, as the former is a must to allow the latter.

- Leyland Cecco reports on the surge in COVID-19 cases on the Prairies - showing that the fecklessness of the conservative governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is remarkable enough to win notice internationally. Duane Bratt and Lisa Young discuss the politics behind Jason Kenney's failures - though it's worth highlighting how Kenney and his party have legitimized and boosted exactly the extreme-right positions which are now being presented as an excuse for poor government. And Zak Vescera reports on Saskatchewan's doctors who are bracing for the worst.

- Davide Mastracci takes the time to Fisk the anti-CERB propaganda put out by Postmedia last week, while Lindsay Tedds details exactly what it gets wrong.

- The Associated Press reports on Purdue's guilty pleas arising out of the manipulative marketing of opioids. And Walt Mogdanich and Michael Forsythe dig into the appalling thinking behind the opioid epidemic - including McKinsey's plan to pay pharmacies for causing overdoses. 

- Finally, Brendan Kennedy reports on the Centre for Future Work's research confirming that universal child care would far more than pay for itself.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Musical interlude

 Remi Wolf - Hello Hello Hello (Polo & Pan Remix)

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Michael Fraiman discusses how far too many leaders have failed or refused to live up to the title when their authority was needed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. And Canada News Central reports on the findings of Ontario's Auditor-General about Doug Ford's failure to fund or listen to public health experts.

- Joe Dangor writes about new research from the Mayo Clinic confirming the role of masks in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

- Sara DiNatale tells the story of Gerardo Gutierrez, a worker who died of COVID-19 after being ordered by his employer not to wear a mask. And Arthur White-Crummey reports on an outbreak at Thunder Creek Pork whose details have been kept under wraps by both the corporate owner, and the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

- Lauren Kaori Gurley reports on Amazon's surveillance of labour and environmental groups (along with its own workers) in order to avoid any challenges to its control. 

- Finally, George Monbiot highlights how the UK's Brexit mess is the result of a war between competing capital factions - with the public interest as the main casualty. And Bernie Sanders comments on the need to win back the support of working class voters - both at the polls and through regular engagement in the political process - in order to counter the trend toward authoritarianism as the perceived alternative to neoliberal corporatism.