- Guy Standing discusses the political and social importance of Canada's growing precariat, as well as the broader definition of inequality needed to address its needs:
- Cliff writes that while the Cons' terror bill might have made for classic shock doctrine politics, it was doomed to become a liability as people gained knowledge and perspective. And Lana Payne writes that the NDP's principled response to C-51 has helped to position it as the progressive alternative to the Harper Cons.The assets most unequally distributed are fourfold.First, socio-economic security is more unequally distributed than income. If in the precariat, you have none. How will politicians ensure that everybody has enough security to give them reasonable control over their lives?Second, there is inequality of control of time. If in the precariat, you have no control, and must do this and that all the time, under stress, being ready to take low-paid jobs, retraining, networking, multitasking and so on. We need a politics of time.Third, access to quality space is growing more unequal. The elite salariat have second homes, spacious gardens and holidays in exotic places. The precariat is squeezed into compressed and polluted space, deprived of the commons. We need to reverse the shrinking commons, the public amenities and spaces. The precariat is intuitively green.Fourth, the precariat has no access to income generated by capital. Real wages for the precariat will continue their long stagnation. New mechanisms are needed to reduce inequality. Canada has debated a basic income. Without moving in that direction, the nascent anger over insecurity and income inequality will become explosive. The precariat will lead that anger. Politicians, trade unions and others must reinvent themselves, or be swept aside.
- Murray Dobbin points out that we have reason to worry about the future of Canada's universal public health care system due to plenty of vultures waiting for it to die:
The big five vultures anticipating the joys of feeding off Medicare's carcass include a B.C. medical privateer's legal challenge, a major trade deal, the public-private partnerships fleecing health budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars in excess costs in virtually every province, a new domestic services treaty, and lastly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new, imposed health "accord" that will decrease federal contributions to the provinces by $36 billion over 10 years.- Taylor Bendig studies the lack of accountability and effectiveness in Saskatchewan's privatized highway construction.
Dr. Brian Day's challenge, based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is perhaps the most frightening, because if he wins it will effectively constitutionalize the right of health care corporations to compete with Medicare. Researcher Colleen Fuller's CCPA study, "The Legal Assault on Universal Health Care," details how "Day wants the B.C. Supreme Court to legalize extra-billing, user fees and private insurance, creating an American-style health care system here in Canada." In the U.S., in 2004, "health care regulation cost up to $340 billion out of a total health expenditure of $1.7 trillion. In spite of such high expenditures, fraud costs the U.S. health system $75 billion annually."
The flurry of corporate rights agreements being pursued by the Harper government are also a threat to the viability of Medicare. The Canada-EU deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, will immediately add at least $2 billion to drug costs in this country. The international Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) now being negotiated in secret threatens to apply the deregulatory imperative of investment agreements explicitly to services, including health care. As Public Services International has pointed out, TiSA "would restrict governments' ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations."
But by far the most dangerous threat to Medicare is our prime minister, who loathes Medicare more than any other aspect of Canadian governance and democracy. Harper actually quit politics in the late 1990s to become the head of the viciously right-wing National Citizens Coalition -- an organization founded in the early 1970s explicitly to fight Medicare.
Harper has abandoned all federal oversight or guardianship. There are no strings attached to the money. And the equalization aspect of the former accord is also gone, meaning increasingly unequal health care across the country and an erosion of the principle of universality. Lastly, the current funding formula not only brings the funding contribution of Ottawa to a record low 19 per cent, but it is not legally binding. If Harper wins the election, he could unilaterally chop billions from Medicare any time he chooses.
- Finally, Karl Nerenberg looks at the menu of unappealing options we face in dealing with the Senate. But if we needed another indication of how ridiculously out of touch the Senate is with the reality of most Canadians, Jordan Press reports that its incumbents seem prepared to stick the public with a $24.5 million bill for their refusal to walk an additional block to temporary office space.