Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Sunday reading.

- Frances Russell notes that the corporate sector is laughing all the way to the bank (and often an offshore one at that) after fifteen years of constant tax slashing, while Canadian citizens haven't benefited at all from the trickle-down theory. And Jordan Weissmann points out that a recent survey on CEO pay is just the latest example of Americans both severely underestimating the level of inequality in their country, and still preferring a far more equal distribution of wealth.

- Elisabeth Babcock writes that in addition to providing a reasonable standard of living, any effort to ameliorate poverty needs to include a concerted effort to overcome the individual stresses created by precarious life. And Chuk Plante reminds us how poverty and exclusion are intertwined with health and economic outcomes.

- Mitchell Anderson highlights how the FIPPA and other business-biased trade deals serve to undermine not only any hope of people-oriented policy, but also the personal and social protections enshrined in Canada's constitution:
Perhaps most importantly, the deal fails to protect aboriginal rights under the Constitution. The implications of this omission are profound. While our federal government has a duty to consult First Nations, Chinese state-owned companies can sue Canada through a secret international arbitration panel for any such accommodation that affects their economic interests.

This would essentially fetter the Crown, which could be successfully sued by either Chinese interests or First Nations depending on whether they respect aboriginal title or not. Put another way, while the FIPA does not specifically override First Nations Charter protections, it could make providing those protections prohibitively expensive. The Hupacasath First Nation on Vancouver Island challenged the FIPA in court based on exactly these concerns and their decision at the Federal Court of Appeal is expected any day.
 With the prospect of a change in government in 2015, many Canadians are hoping for a period of rebuilding public institutions. The FIPA, however, could lock in Harper’s draconian cuts to federal environmental laws for almost eight electoral cycles — effectively an eternity by political standards.

Future governments could revisit the legislative changes by the Harper government, but if they affect Chinese interests in comparison to what is on the books now, we have to pay. How much? According to the terms just agreed to by Ottawa, the sky’s the limit.

Harper famously proclaimed, “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m through with it.” He has made surprising progress on that dubious goal, and like most politicians I’m sure would like to keep it that way long after he has left office.

This trade deal will persist for as long as we’ve had the Charter. But unlike the Charter, which was the result of months of good-faith negotiations between opposing political parties, the FIPA seems instead an undemocratic and underhanded endgame to lock in our prime minister’s ideological legacy.
- Meanwhile, Mike De Souza reports that the Cons are once again encouraging the oil industry to flout what few environmental laws are left on the books - this time issuing a drilling permit while studiously ignoring scientific evidence about the danger the drilling would pose to endangered beluga whales. Which means that it's more than understandable that affected communities like North Bay are raising concerns about the Energy East pipeline even as it avoids some of the risks and costs of its even more controversial counterparts.

- Finally, as part of Right to Know Week, Sean Holman unveils a new movement - and hashtag - intended to expose government secrecy in Canada.

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