Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne calls out Stephen Harper's hypocrisy in paying lip service to the problems with the use of disposable temporary foreign labour while expanding exactly that policy throughout his stay in power:
The program was supposed to be a last resort for employers dealing with skills shortages and used in a truly temporary fashion to fill high skill gaps until Canadians could be trained for those jobs.

That has not been the case under the current federal Conservative government. Not only has the program been used as a source of cheap labour, it has been riddled with abuses and has undermined the need for real immigration.

The result has been what is fast becoming a permanent underclass of workers who have little to no rights, who are especially vulnerable as their conditions of employment and entry into the country are completely tied to their boss and who are quite hesitant to complain about any problems out of fear of losing their employment and being sent back to their home country. They are ripe for exploitation.
At this point, it appears as if the prime minister is trying to play both sides off against the middle. While he may sound surprised, the fact remains that actions speak louder than words. And his government’s actions have been to allow the very real problems with the program to continue while knowing their merely cosmetic changes would have little impact.

The prime minister went on to say that companies have used the TFWP in ways that were not in the interest of Canadians. “That kind of abuse cannot go on,” he said.

Well, Mr. Harper, in case you need a reminder: you are the prime minister. It is certainly within your power to make sure the conditions for the abuses to occur are eliminated. Better yet, eliminate the program and start from scratch.
- Stuart Trew wonders why the TPP - like so many trade agreements - would be sealed behind closed doors with no public input or knowledge of its contents if it were intended to serve the interests of anybody but the privileged few in the room:
In Canada, we have a permanent ‘fast track’ situation in which MPs only ever get to vote yes or no to trade deals. There’s no option to say ‘yes’ to the tariff package and ‘no’ to longer drug patents or copyright terms. Harper won’t even release a cost-benefit assessment of the TPP to trade committee MPs — the people who are supposed to be studying the deal. The only information we have about Canada’s negotiating positions comes from leaks, which Canadian negotiators refuse to talk about.

Pipeline opponents have every right to demand to see environmental assessments of proposed routes and a voice on approval hearings. This is permanent energy infrastructure with often greater risks to the environment than the economic rewards can cover. Modern trade deals like the TPP, which are about much more than tariffs, create a legal infrastructure with permanent and potentially harmful effects on our economy and communities. The process for approving them should be no less transparent.
- Boris discusses the inevitable result of putting the state's secret surveillance mechanisms in the hands of the oil sector. PressProgress highlights the connections between the Con-approved CNOOC and shady offshore tax evasion. And having been publicly confronted with the conflict between the interests of Enbridge and those of the public, Chuck Strahl has made his choice.

- Meanwhile, just another (TransCanada) pipeline explosion. Nothing to see here.

- Finally, Murray Mandryk rightly notes that the continued structural disadvantages facing First Nations Canadians should be our greatest shame as a country.

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