Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne discusses the need to address inequality through our political system. But that will require significant pressure from exactly the citizens who have decided they're not well served by today's political options - and Trish Hennessy's look at Canadian voter turnout reminds us of the desperate need for improvement.

- Meanwhile, Tim Harford points out just how far we've gone in focusing on dollars over all other considerations - as even Scotland's referendum on independence is being spun mostly as a matter of dueling fiscal projections rather than community, culture or other policy questions.

- Tavia Grant's report on the deadly legacy - and continued danger - of asbestos is well worth a read, particularly for this reminder that the Cons' offical policy is to promote the material which serves as Canada's largest source of workplace deaths:
In asbestos policy, Canada is at odds with other developed countries, almost all of which have both banned asbestos and launched national campaigns to educate their citizens on its dangers.

Regarding exports and imports, Canada’s long-standing position is that “safe and controlled use” of the mineral poses little risk to human health.

Health Canada’s website maintains that chrysotile (the form of asbestos mined in Quebec) is safer than other types of asbestos, and that asbestos poses risks only when its fibres become airborne and “significant quantities” are inhaled. It plays down the causal relationship between asbestos and some forms of cancer. The website does not inform Canadians that asbestos is the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths. (In contrast, the U.S. Acting Surgeon General, Boris Lushniak, reminded the American public in April that there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.)

Between 2006 and 2011, Canada was the only developed nation to oppose bringing asbestos under the control of the Rotterdam Convention, a United Nations-sponsored treaty, signed in 1998, that requires the exporters of hazardous substances to disclose the risks.

Indeed, the Conservative government has been a stalwart friend of the industry. “Only the Conservative party will defend this industry here and everywhere in Canada,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Quebec on the campaign trail in 2011. While the Tories were fighting international efforts to restrict trade in asbestos, the government was simultaneously spending millions to remove asbestos from the Parliament buildings and the prime minister’s residence.
- In a similar vein, PressProgress finds that the Cons' cheerleading for the oil sector has reached the point where they're trying to paint the extraction and burning of dirty fossil fuels as a win for the environment. Mitchell Anderson discusses Canada's massive subsidies to big oil (as well as the Cons' pathetic attempts to pretend they don't exist), while Mike de Souza finds that the National Energy Board is spending twice as much moving its offices into a sinkhole as it could muster for new pipeline monitoring, and the CP finds that Alberta's new environmental policy for fracking is "do what you want". And Bruce Johnstone writes that the Cons can't be taken seriously on climate change.

- Finally, David Dayen discusses the astroturf effort to challenge Elizabeth Warren's work in making student loan payments more affordable.

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