Saturday, July 02, 2011

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Janice Kennedy highlights the consequences of turning back the clock 80 years when it comes to collective bargaining rights:
In the world of Stephen Harper and Co., big business rules. Period. The concept of workers' rights, especially unionized workers' rights, is a nuisance to be swatted away.

The proposition is elementary. Either you believe in collective bargaining and, therefore, in the right of workers to strike. Or you don't.

Clearly the new Conservative government does not.

So they're turning back the clock to an earlier time, a time when labour rights were minimal and unions were great collective personae non gratae. And life here is getting a whole lot simpler.

Not better, though. We are now moving into an era where issues are defined without nuance or subtlety in strict black and white. These days, there are only bad guys and good, and, in labour relations, the battle lines are clear: the ones with the power - whether corporate bosses or government decisionmakers - are the good guys.

Everyone else? Not so much. Especially unionized workers. Especially unionized striking workers. And if you can portray these workers as overpaid, underqualified slackers who exploit contract provisions to greedy personal advantage, working just a fraction as hard as hard-working non-unionized Canadians - why, so much the better. Then the picket line becomes the turf of the out-and-out baddies.
To point to the bad apples and extrapolate is irrational and simplistic. Equally simplistic is the conviction that waving a big stick will make troubles disappear, that justifying the use of legislative force on the flimsiest of grounds is the way to labour harmony and greater productivity.

And yet, here we are. This is the new Canadian landscape. We'd better get used to it.
- But then, as Thomas Walkom notes, the Cons have already done plenty to prove they're neither willing nor able to govern competently, with the AECL selloff looming as just the most recent example:
(T)axpayers aren’t guaranteed any money from this sale. In fact, when the back and forth is totalled (Lavalin gives Ottawa $15 million; Ottawa gives Lavalin $75 million), we end up paying $60 million for the privilege of no longer owning that chunk of AECL.

Lavalin gets the lion’s share of the nuclear technology company’s $1.1 billion worth of assets — including land, buildings and tools.

The public, on the other hand, is stuck with all of all of AECL’s $4.5 billion worth of liabilities.

That means, says Lavalin vice-president Leslie Quinton, that the public is still responsible for decommission existing AECL atomic reactors and disposing of their waste.

Canadian taxpayers are also on the hook for any cost overruns from past and current AECL projects, including an estimated $1 billion that New Brunswick says it is owed for its Point Lepreau nuclear power station.

Oh yes. And Lavalin is expected to lay off at least 40 per cent of AECL’s 2,000-person commercial reactor division. Most are scientists and engineers.

In short, we pay Lavalin to take the good stuff and slash high-tech jobs. We’re left with the debts — plus the promise of unspecified royalties in the future.

Which is a pretty good deal for the Montreal-based firm. If I’d known what patsies Harper’s Conservatives are, I’d have tried to “buy” AECL.
As the only bidder, Lavalin was in the driver’s seat. It took full advantage of its position. Who can blame it?

Blame instead the government. Conservatives insist that government has no business being in business. The hapless AECL saga suggests rather that Conservatives have no business being in government.
- Fortunately, Brian Topp points out that voters and leaders around the world are starting to wake up to the dangers of doctrinaire right-wing government:
It is Papandreou's conclusions about the future that merit thinking about next. “Are we too weak to deal with the financial and banking system?” he asked. “Are we too weak to deal the need for transparency in the financial markets? Are we too weak to deal with the ratings agencies? Are we too weak to fight tax havens?” He noted that bond rating agencies could destroy Greece's financial plan with a single additional downgrade. They have more power over the future of Greece than its people or its Parliament, “and that is totally unacceptable.”

Precisely so – which is why responsible social democrats in all jurisdictions are, and should be, allergic to excessive reliance on debt to finance government.

This is in stark contrast to conservatives in their modern form, eager as they are to finance tax cuts for their friends and other reckless spending through public debt. Doing so provides a perfect pool shot from their perspective. The rich get richer, and government is destroyed. Perfect!

But what we are seeing on our television screens from Athens is the inevitable consequence.
The immediate financial crisis – so similar in its essentials all around the world, triggered by neo-con recklessness and misrule, and the limitless greed of financiers and speculators – needs to be addressed.

Countries around the world need to be put back on their feet -- to survive, and to win, as Papandreou says.

And the root causes of all of this madness needs to be addressed in the style Prime Minister Papandreou is using to address the crisis here in Greece, against overwhelming odds – calmly, thoughtfully, and with determination.
- Finally, Sixth Estate catches the Fraser Institute citing out-of-date disclosure guidelines in an attempt to pretend it's being transparent about research funding.


  1. Purple Library Guy5:14 p.m.

    Brian Topp's article doesn't impress me much.  Papandreou isn't a positive figure, he's a gutless one.  And Topp finishes off with how the marvellous "The British Labour Party; the German SDP; the French Socialists; Australian Labor" are, and how they have the solutions.  What a fucking joke.  All those parties would do exactly what Papandreou is doing, which in turn is exactly what the British Conservatives or Berlusconi do.  They'd just do it with a sanctimonious regret that "there is no alternative" rather than a vicious glee.  Buncha Thatcherites wearing tragedy masks.  But there is an alternative.  Topp mentions Iceland, but without mentioning that tiny Iceland had the guts Papandreou doesn't and repudiated the banksters--and economically, they're now doing better than, say, Ireland or Greece.

  2. jurist9:12 p.m.

    A fair criticism to be sure. But part of the problem is that Papandreou hasn't particularly lived up to what seems to me to be a reasonable implication of Topp's post (even if I'm not sure he'd personally agree with it).

    It's well and good to say that one important way to be free of undue dependence on bankers is the Douglas model of declining to run deficits. But another is to recognize that social and democratic priorities shouldn't always take a back seat to the interests of bondholders - particularly after a right-wing government has made its usual mess of things in order to force somebody else to slash and burn.