Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Linda McQuaig discusses Stephen Harper's class war:
Canadians don’t like Harper’s anti-worker agenda — when they notice it. That’s why there’s been such a public outcry since the temporary foreign worker program was exposed as a mechanism by which the Harper government has flooded the country with hundreds of thousands of cheap foreign workers, thereby suppressing Canadian wages in the interests of helping corporations.

Apart from this clumsy fiasco, the Harperites have been adroit at keeping their anti-worker bias under the radar. Instead, they’ve directed their attacks against unions, portraying them as undemocratic organizations run by “union bosses” who ignore the interests of ordinary workers.

It’s revealing that this harsh critique of unions largely comes from business think-tanks and conservative politicians — folks who aren’t generally known for championing workers’ rights but who apparently can’t sleep at night at the thought workers aren’t being well represented by the people they elect to run their unions.

Of course, the real reason Harper attacks unions is because they’ve been effective in promoting the interests of working people over the past century. By establishing norms for higher wages and benefits in the workplace, and by pushing governments to implement universal social programs, unions are largely the reason we have a middle class in this country.
- Meanwhile, Carol Goar laments that Ontario's Wynne Libs chose not to make a meaningful effort to cut down on poverty. And Dr. Dawg documents the federal Libs' latest attempt to be indistinguishable from the Harper Cons.

- In the latest in conservative transparency, Alison Redford is covering up her own government's pipeline safety report - presumably to avoid the possibility that its conclusions might get noticed in the review processes for new pipelines. Michael Harris discusses the Cons' strategy of blaming their own scandals on unnamed bureaucrats (who are of course prevented from defending themselves with the truth). And the Star finds that the federal government won't answer questions about $2.4 billion in consulting contracts - while contracts ranging up to nine figures seem to have bought the public little more than the contractor's silence:
(S)everal departments and agencies refused to say what services they bought as part of the roughly $700 million in taxpayer money they spent on management consulting.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), in charge of delivering social programs and services, has billed more than $420 million since 2004.

One of the department’s most recognizable divisions, Service Canada, has spent another $129 million for management consulting — more than 70 per cent of which was given to a single recruitment company, according to the government’s contract records.

What consulting work was done for all that money? A spokeswoman with HRSDC refused to say.

The company, Quantum Management Services, was just as tight-lipped.

“I’m not going to answer your questions,” said Anne Cote, a vice-president in the company’s Ottawa office. 
- Fortunately, at least some individuals are working to shed lights on the increasingly-hidden operations of our state and corporate sectors. And Dennis Gruending highlights a few of the examples noted by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

- Finally, Joe Bower discusses the effect of standardized testing in Alberta - which has enabled the Fraser Institute to take pot-shots at a school for student parents based on its failure to be sufficiently choosy in recruiting pupils.

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