Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Sadly (if perhaps unsurprisingly), the Trudeau Libs' vote with the Harper Cons against civil rights has received relatively little notice compared to the two parties' attack ad posturing. But there's still plenty worth reading on the subject - including another post from pogge, a discussion led by David Ball, and Michael Harris' assessment as to the likely targets of Con-fueled hysteria in the years to come:
(W)ith S-7 the law of the land, some dark possibilities present themselves in this country.

The federal government already has established five Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams across Canada, most recently in Alberta. Those teams, made up of officers from the RCMP, CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency, have identified Greenpeace as a group that might attack critical infrastructure.

Harper cabinet ministers have described environmentalists as radical extremists controlled by foreign elements. Add into the mix the fact that former First Nations chiefs like Terry Nelson and Dennis Pashe have appeared on Iranian television in a bid for closer relations with that country and a chance to describe their plight and ask yourself — what would happen if either group disrupted Canadian commerce in a peaceful protest?
When a prime minister’s favourite part of the justice system is the police, it is a proclivity that bears watching.
- But it should be obvious that anybody genuinely concerned about amoral actors interfering with a functional society should be focused elsewhere. For example, Matt Taibbi finds yet another example of jaw-dropping amounts of money being manipulated by bank insiders for their own personal advantage. Jason Fekete notes that the Cons’ perpetual cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency have allowed tax cheats to avoid paying tens of billions of dollars - while the "good news" in the story consists in part of debts being written off rather than collected. Terry Milewski exposes the latest effort by the Cons to turn the RCMP into a partisan political body, reporting to and protecting the governing party rather than the public. And Jason Markusoff reports on the Manning Centre’s attempts to strong-arm municipal representatives into serving as puppets for the developers who funded Manning in the first place.

- Meanwhile, Sheila Block proposes a public service budget (in contrast to the corporatist tomes we tend to see instead). And Tzeporah Berman and Steven Guilbeault point the way toward what we should be looking to develop as an alternative to market worship, noting that there’s plenty of room for agreement between the environmental and labour movements:
What we’ve realized is pretty simple – no one wins a race to the bottom, not workers, not wild species, and not communities. So cutting down every last tree, shipping out every last barrel of bitumen, catching every last fish in the ocean may fatten some offshore bank account, but it isn’t going to leave us with good jobs for our kids, healthy communities, or a productive environment.

Looking back, it may have all started in the woods, with a few furtive glances and a chance encounter or two, but unionists and environmentalists eventually came to understand that “environment” includes people too. So we sat down and broke bread (and a few other things) together and figured out a way forward in places like the Great Bear Rain Forest, northeast B.C. and the whole vast green boreal forest stretching across Canada. Despite our differences, we knew that the end result of successfully balancing ecosystem protection and economic development would be much more mutually satisfying than another photo op in a clearcut. 

Then another light went on. We looked at the colossal collective challenges facing our world -- like climate change -- and saw that this big black cloud could have a silver lining – if we were smart. Good jobs could be built out of new ways to make energy, new ways to conserve it, new ways to move people, and new ways to meet their need – in fact, all species’ need -- for clean air and clean water. Studies and real-world experience have shown that this approach has much stronger jobs potential than simply putting all our eggs in the export-raw-resources basket – in fact, as many as seven times more jobs for every dollar invested in things like developing renewable energy or improving energy efficiency instead of simply digging more sticky tar out of Alberta.

Together, we’ve been strategizing on how to put Canada out in front in developing and deploying these clean, green solutions. Some unions are investing directly in green solutions, such as through Cycle Capital Management, a venture capital firm supported in part by union dollars that is investing in cutting-edge products and services that help our environment. More broadly, we’re advancing a “jobs of the future are green” agenda through the Blue Green Alliance, which has become a powerful voice trumpeting the connection between action on a healthy environment and action on jobs. 

Now, to some folks in Ottawa, this may actually be seen as something of an unholy alliance. These folks haven’t quite got the message about where the world is heading when it comes to getting serious about sustainability. They hail more from the old “pillage and plunder” school and see anything that gets in the way of all-out exploitation of raw resources – and workers -- as weak-kneed. “You have to be tough,” they bark from the windows of their limos, “What’s a few caribou when jobs are at stake?” Except they don’t mean good pay-the-bills-and-buy-a-home-in-your-community jobs – they mean jobs at oil refineries in China and in bank executive suites in Toronto.

We’re on to them, though. We’ve seen how working wages – and working conditions -- fall where union membership declines. And we’ve seen how one environmental protection law after another is stripped away when governments decide that only the “invisible hand” of the market should pull the strings, leaving whole communities – human and natural – dangling by a thread. 
- And finally, Murray Mandryk writes that the profits flowing from Saskatchewan’s successful Crowns have forced even the Saskatchewan Party to acknowledge the useful contribution made by the public sector (even as try to sell off anything that isn’t tied down). But it would be all the better if Mandryk and others would recognize the obvious corollary of that reality: if our current Crowns are in fact serving the province well, then shouldn’t we be open to considering whether new ones might also serve a valuable purpose, rather than sneering at the mere mention of new proposals?

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