Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Mark Leiren-Young shares Corky Evans' perceptive take on how the B.C. NDP has lost its way - and the message is one which we should apply elsewhere as well:
I remember when one of the Leaders I worked for asked some guys many of us know to purge our Party of the troublemakers (that was not the word he used.) They did a good job. We got Slates so the people we didn’t like couldn’t serve in Executive positions. We got Mike Muffins (members with nothing to say who stand in the line at the microphone) at Convention so they couldn’t speak. Candidates got a Message Box and were told not to say what they thought and to stick strictly to only what they were given to say. The “troublemakers” were sidelined and we became an effective, and boring, machine. Leaders and Leaders staff tell MLAs what they can and cannot say and punish independent thinking Or, worse, speaking their mind. We are now a modern political machine, and we sound like one.

We are rarely, anymore, embarrassed. There is no blood on the floor at Convention. We have become a successful Institution and a failed Movement.
I do not know how to fix this. I could not write a tract entitled ”What is to be done,” because I do not know. The thing I do know, though, is that discussion is medicine for screwed up situations. Self-criticism can heal. The message box, on the other hand, is not discourse. It is poison, like drinking the Kool-aid at Jonestown.

I’d like to see us cut everyone a little slack and see if we couldn’t be a bit of a movement again, a bit embarrassing at times but also interesting and current and vibrant and less controlled, less careful, less run by anybody in particular.
- Rosario Marchese points out how P3s are turning into thorough messes in Ontario, while David Sirota's example of privatized eduction turning into a source of corruption and inefficiency looks to apply to other sectors as well.

- Meanwhile, Brian Webb suggests that Regina's P3 referendum should be decided by citizens rather than a publicly-funded ad blitz.

- Pat Atkinson discusses the challenge of making sound long-term decisions in while basing public revenue on one-time resource royalties.

- Carol Goar notes that even Canada's already-uninspiring job numbers should be handled with caution, as they paper over the precarious and low-paying nature of the vast majority of the positions being created under a system intended to exploit resources and workers to the greatest extent possible.

- Finally, Navjeet Sidhu and Yvonne Kelly make the case for a higher minimum wage:
The minimum wage has been frozen since 2010, yet unemployment, especially youth unemployment, remains stubbornly high — contradicting the theory that corporations will invest and that jobs will only increase when wages are lower. The Canadian Labour Congress has reported that corporations are sitting atop nearly $500 billion in unused funds thanks to generous tax cuts (a.k.a. corporate subsidies), instead of investing in job creation.

Further, the price of gas, rent, groceries, hydro have all increased despite a minimum wage freeze.

Still hesitant about possibly paying an extra 30 cents on a cup of coffee? Consider how taxpayers currently subsidize low-wage paycheques. Low-income families are at greater risk of health problems, driving up health-care costs. Community organizations experience increased caseloads requiring additional public funding and food banks are inundated with individuals and families that they cannot begin to provide food for.

A recent study in the U.S. found that a single Walmart Supercentre in Wisconsin can cost taxpayers up to $900,000 in government health, housing and food programs. Meanwhile, Walmart is one of the richest corporations in North America. Profits are trickling upward resulting in a rate of growing inequality in Canada that supersedes the U.S. From 1980 to 2012 Ontario experienced the largest change in income inequality of any province — the richest 10 per cent of Ontario families earned 27 times that of the poorest 10 per cent in 1976 and by 2004 the gap extended to 75 times.

We don’t hear about high-or middle-income workers turning down raises from their employer in fear that it may cause lower productivity, unemployment or a rise in costs of products and services. As a society we would never “guilt” them for wanting to earn more, as we do with low-income workers. Why are we so intent on denying the poorest workers an adequate standard of living? 

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