Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan suggests that Rogers and Bell might be ripe for nationalization - though it's also worth pointing out that we don't have to guess what happens when a Crown delivers telecommunications services:
The British Labour Party has begun to make the case that market fundamentalism, or neoliberalism, is not necessarily the best way for society to operate. Specifically, it’s been trying to show that private enterprise is not always superior to public enterprise.

Beginning with Margaret Thatcher, British governments have denuded the UK of almost all public enterprises, from British Airways to the Royal Mail. The Labour Party Opposition wants to remind Brits that some entities actually make more sense under public auspices. Fortunately for them, I am in a position to offer my Labour comrades foolproof evidence for their gambit. Two words: Rogers and Bell.
Long ago, when I was co-chairing the federal task force on Canadian Broadcasting, a few creative Canadians advocated that the telecommunications oligopolies be put under public ownership. It made perfect sense and was even arguably the Canadian way, like the CBC. But it was a political non-starter. No government has been prepared to consider it. The Harper government has tried to make easy political points by calling for a another major national player to join the game, as if that would force the existing predators to shape up. It’s a bad joke on us poor suckers.

But maybe it’s not too late for a real solution. Hey, Tom Mulcair: bringing Bell and Rogers and Telus and Shaw under public ownership? Now that’s a cause worth marching for. You’d unite suffering Canadians in their tens of millions from coast to coast to coast, getting them out onto the streets at last. Occupy Rogers! Occupy Bell! Everyone’s mad as hell at these guys, so why do we still have to take it?
- The Vancouver Sun is right to highlight the importance of the labour movement in advance of the Labour Day weekend. Meanwhile, B.C.'s provincial government has repeatedly attacked workers with unconstitutional legislation before shifting to a strategy of trying to bankrupt teachers rather than funding a functional education system - which apparently doesn't rate a mention.

- Robyn Benson discusses how the Cons are further restriction workers' access to employment insurance, as well as what unions and workers can do to fight back:
Under restrictive new rules introduced by the Harper government, working people who have paid into the EI fund for years receive no assistance when they find themselves jobless. Sure, they can always appeal, and then wait more than a year for a hearing. There used to be 1,000+ part-time referees to hear their cases: that’s now down to fewer than 70 people, trying to handle a backlog of 10,000 appeals. And after a lengthy delay, more than 80% of claimants lose their appeals anyway. Small wonder, we might think: the new EI appeals tribunal members are Conservative appointees, and several have donated money to the Conservative party.

New EI policies, designed to hurt rather than help; new appeal mechanisms, rigged against claimants; and employee cuts everywhere, made without rhyme or reason across the public service, as the Parliamentary Budget Office has just reported. And those cuts are far from over.

This is obviously a recipe for disaster from an unemployed person’s point of view. But it’s no picnic for our front-line workers in charge of the EI programs, either. All too frequently they get blamed for the bad policies they are required to administer. Yet it is government-created backlogs and delays and tight new rules that are the problem here, even if that very government has pointed the finger at its own employees on occasion to cover up its poor decision-making, and gone after conscientious whistle-blowers who object to being ordered to treat EI claimants unfairly.
It’s pretty easy to see how common cause can be made here. This Labour Day, we should re-commit ourselves to forging these natural alliances between ourselves and the general public. We’re in for a challenging few months with the current round of collective bargaining—maybe the toughest period we’ve ever experienced as a union. But we’re not facing this government alone. Countless Canadians have their own reasons to want the Harper government gone, and can’t wait until the federal election next year. Time to join forces, folks. We’re going to need each other. 
- Andrew Duffy reports that in the absence of a functional census, Statistics Canada is now looking for alternatives which will involve amalgamating far more information about Canadians through a bevy of government databases in the hope of assembling the information which can no longer be collected directly.

- Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt wonders whether mandatory voting may be the best way to ensure broad public participation in the political decisions which affect us all.

- Finally, Jane Taber and Shawn McCarthy report on the agreement of Canada's premiers as to the outline (PDF) of a national energy strategy. But one point in particular stands out:
A Canadian Energy Strategy should:
  • Maintain the highest degree of environmental safeguards and protection, including by addressing climate change, climate resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally.
Which is to say that even Canada's oil-producing provinces are able to agree that a federal energy strategy should take into account the need for global emission reductions - leaving no justification at all for the Cons' habit of cheerleading for fossil fuels without accounting for the environmental damage done by their use elsewhere.

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