- Susan Delacourt comments on the role of robocalls in turning citizens away from politics - though it's worth pointing out that the Cons may well see that as a desirable result to capitalize on a modest base of support:
What may need more testing, however, is how robocalls work as a tool to suppress votes. Sure, they don’t make people any more likely to turn out at the polls, or vote for a particular party.- Meanwhile, Nanos' latest polling shows both the NDP and the Libs with a significantly greater pool of potential voters than the Cons in Quebec and elsewhere. And while most of the related commentary has focused on the fact that potential support is somewhat dispersed among various first choices, I'd have to think any party would prefer a larger universe of potential supporters rather than a smaller one.
But they may just be annoying enough to turn people off politics or voting — and, from all accounts, that seemed to be the motive behind the rash of robocalls in the 2011 campaign. Robocalls are the political equivalent of telemarketers; the scourge of Canadian households, especially around dinnertime.
If you were trying to find a way to make people mad or cynical about politics, it would be hard to find a better medium than the irksome telephone.
On that front, the fact that the Cons haven't expanded their pool of possible support in the slightest since winning a majority looks to signal that their hold on power is in fact fairly precarious. But then, they're far from the party with the greatest contraction in possible support - as Nanos shows the Bloc's potential support in Quebec lower than the actual support held in the party's 2011 wipeout.
- The Guardian discusses how needless austerity has been tested in the UK - and has failed miserably. Better Way Alberta notes that an obsession with eliminating tax and royalty revenue has led to Alberta being stuck in the red even as its resources are exploited. Paul Krugman catches anti-equality spinmeisters trying to pass off increased wealth disparity as evidence that there's any benefit to the middle class in further divergence. And Andrew Jackson makes the case for taxes on accumulated wealth as a means of fostering both greater equality and increased economic development.
- Finally, David McNally writes about the role of the labour movement in addressing inequality:
When Chicago teachers waged their highly successful strike in September, many commentators rightly noted the enormous significance of the wide public support they garnered. But few appreciated that this support was a result of years of community-based organizing by the Coalition of Rank and File Educators (CORE), a progressive caucus in the teachers union, to prevent school closures in poor, racialized neighbourhoods. In 2010, activists from CORE won the executive elections in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). So, when the union struck in the fall of 2012, it could credibly claim it was striking as much for the needs of students as for the jobs and wages of teachers. Throughout the walkout, the CTU continued to foreground its commitments to challenging racism and poverty. The result was an outpouring of community support for the union, including solidarity rallies at schools throughout working class neighbourhoods. So shaken by this groundswell were city officials, that the CTU won important victories – for students and poor communities as much as the teachers themselves.
Closer to home, the last couple of years have seen the emergence of a vigourous alliance between the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the feisty, Toronto-based Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). Together, CUPE and OCAP have spearheaded an energetic “Raise the Rates” campaign devoted to increasing social assistance rates in Ontario – something absolutely indispensable to alleviating poverty. Combining education and grassroots activism, the Raise the Rates campaign has been a genuine example of a community-labour alliance that transcends conventional collective bargaining. By creating an authentic and activist solidarity between poor people and trade unionists it offers a refreshing alternative to business style unionism.
There are reasons to believe, therefore, that a reinvigorated trade unionism is possible – one committed to gender, racial and generational justice. And such a trade unionism, mobilizing communities in a way labour has not done for generations, could become a powerful force in reversing the rampant social inequality promoted by neoliberalism.