Saturday, May 06, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe makes the case for much-needed regime change in British Columbia, while Nancy MacDonald notes that such a result is far from guaranteed despite the Christy Clark Libs' gross abuses of the public trust. And Christopher Pollon examines the close link between political donations and the distribution of Site C contracts, while Maximilian Kniewasser reminds us that Clark's LNG promises turned into nothing but an expensive failure.

- Azfar Ali Khan and Randall Bartlett discuss the complete lack of a business case for the federal Libs' planned infrastructure bank (that is, as long as one recognizes that enriching the financial sector isn't a justification worth accepting). Andy Blatchford reports that the Libs have received - and are apparently ignoring - the same advice from the public service about the dangers of privately-proposed infrastructure. And Bill Curry reports on the control capital has held over the process of developing the bank proposal.

- Meanwhile, the Canadian Press also points out that Ontario's Libs are the latest government to use Donald Trump as an excuse for yet more tax giveaways to the corporate sector.

- Bruce Livesey examines how Canadian spies have been used to undermine citizens raising questions about the fossil fuel industry. And Alex Boutilier and Tonda McCharles' report on the use of CSIS' powers of disruption under Bill C-51 reveals that new authority are not only being used (contrary to the unfortunate lede), but are being systematically used only in ways which avoid judicial oversight.

- Finally, Tom Parkin notes that the controversy over Harjit Sajjan's role in Afghanistan is particularly significant as a reminder of the questions which have never been answered about Canada's complicity in torture.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Musical interlude

Will Atkinson - Subconscious

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Clive Hamilton discusses the accelerating calamity of climate change which we're allowing to happen:
Our best scientists tell us insistently that a calamity is unfolding, that the life-support systems of the Earth are being damaged in ways that threaten our survival. Yet in the face of these facts we carry on as usual.

Most citizens ignore or downplay the warnings; many of our intellectuals indulge in wishful thinking; and some influential voices declare that nothing at all is happening, that the scientists are deceiving us. Yet the evidence tells us that so powerful have humans become that we have entered this new and dangerous geological epoch, which is defined by the fact that the human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system.
So today the greatest tragedy is the absence of a sense of the tragedy. The indifference of most to the Earth system’s disturbance may be attributed to a failure of reason or psychological weaknesses; but these seem inadequate to explain why we find ourselves on the edge of the abyss. 
Perhaps the intellectual surrender is so complete because the forces we hoped would make the world a more civilised place – personal freedoms, democracy, material advance, technological power – are in truth paving the way to its destruction. The powers we most trusted have betrayed us; that which we believed would save us now threatens to devour us.
- Meanwhile, Lizzie Flew writes about the UK's growing crisis of child poverty. But with the Con government more interested in creating even deeper divides between children given a fair chance in life and those relegated to second-class citizenship, Chris Horrie offers a reminder of what segregated education has done in the past.

- Dave Chokshi comments on the social factors which cause people to miss out on needed medical care. And in a prime example of how anti-social decision-making can exacerbate the isolation of people who can least afford it, Cathy Crowe discusses the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty's report showing that funding intended for people who most need housing supports is instead being diverted to other purposes.

- Jordan Press reports on Kevin Page's finding that there's no business case to support the Libs' plan for an infrastructure bank when the federal government can borrow money for capital projects more affordably on its own.

- And finally, Ed Broadbent makes the case for any new or revised trade agreements to protect human rights - and particularly labour rights.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

New column day

Here, on the growing list of similarities between Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party and Christy Clark's B.C. Libs - and why voters in both provinces should demand far more attention than their government is willing to offer.

For further reading...
- Gary Mason describes the background to British Columbia's #IAmLinda campaign theme. And PressProgress follows up on Clark's utter refusal to apologize or admit any wrongdoing, while Bill Tieleman views the incident as an example of Clark's mask slipping when it matters most.
- Meanwhile, Cindy Harnett tells Roderick MacIsaac's story as just one life lost to a Liberal government bent on demonizing innocent citizens.
- D.C. Fraser reports on the corporate vultures circling SaskTel due to their apparent sense that Saskatchewan's common wealth is about to be handed over to the private sector - including a Sask Party insider lobbying on behalf of Telus. And Stephanie Taylor reports on Wall's view that it should have been obvious SGI is also about to be sold off in pieces - no matter how many times he promised the opposite.
- The successful Save Saskatchewan Libraries campaign, the Students Mobilizing Against Cuts, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation have been among the many voices pointing out how citizens stand to suffer from Wall's corporate focus and austerity budget.
- And finally, I'll point again to Eric Olauson's attempt to dig up dirt on a citizen who dared to write critical comments as a prime example of how Saskatchewan's people are being treated like Lindas too.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- James Wilt argues that the labour movement should be putting its weight behind green housing which will produce both social and environmental benefits along with jobs:
Workers need affordable homes. Workers also need stable and properly compensated jobs, especially those transitioning from work in oil, gas and coal production. And those homes will have to be built in ways that reduce heat loss, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for dramatically increased weather-related damages from flooding, winds and hail.

Sure, existing homes and buildings can easily be retrofitted with improved insulation, windows, furnaces, appliances and hot-water heaters; most jurisdictions have programs in place to provide subsidies or rebates for such upgrades. 

There are lots of good jobs in that field too: the One Million Climate Jobs — a collaboration between the CLC, Green Economy Network and Climate Action Network — estimates it could account for the creation of over 400,000 “person job years.”

But unions can and should be far more ambitious than this. After all, Canada is in the midst of a massive affordable housing crisis, a crisis that will only be resolved by the construction of thousands of new homes that the aforementioned retrofit programs won’t apply to. 
Millions of Canadian workers are in desperate need of truly affordable housing that is sustainable and prepared for the looming dangers of climate change. Many resource and construction workers are in need of jobs as well, which such a push could help facilitate.
To leave such conversations to the federal government, an entity which is clearly uninterested in the needs of the working class, would be deeply counterproductive and a huge missed opportunity for unions looking to attract new members and build militancy.
- Tanara Yelland reports on a call by anti-poverty groups for a maximum wage in Ontario. And Rupert Neale points out how extreme high-end wealth leads even people within the top 1% of the income distribution to face relative disadvantages.

- Ben Parfitt discusses how Christy Clark's B.C. Libs have allowed fossil fuel giants to skip any environmental assessment process before building substantial dams.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the Parliamentary Budget Officer's less-than-glowing review of the effect of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe. And in what's surely unrelated news, Andy Blatchford reports on the Trudeau Libs' efforts to limit the PBO's ability to report on anything without government approval.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert highlights how Justin Trudeau's ways are now anything but sunny. And John Ivison writes about the return of cash-for-access fund-raising at the federal level following the briefest of interruptions.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dan Levin writes that Christy Clark and her B.C. Libs have turned British Columbia into a haven for capital to run wild without any social responsibility or public benefit:
Like many places, British Columbia set up a system of tax incentives to lure businesses to the far western Canadian province in the hopes of creating jobs and transforming Vancouver into a global financial center.

But if the program has been good for business, it’s been less beneficial for British Columbia.

Participating companies have created few jobs, according to government figures, while more than 140 million Canadian dollars ($106 million) have been doled out in tax refunds since 2008, when the initiative was expanded.

The incentives operate under a cloak of secrecy that is unusual for similar efforts in Canada and the United States, critics say. The province will not name the companies that get the breaks. The only information available about them is on the website of a nonprofit that promotes the program.

“This is essentially a temporary foreign-worker program for the rich, with secret government subsidies for multinational corporations,” said Dermod Travis, the executive director of IntegrityBC, a nonpartisan political watchdog group based in Victoria, the provincial capital. “The government is selling B.C. as a tax haven for the global elite to park investment here, but not have to contribute.”
- Meanwhile, Jeremy Nuttall exposes just a few of the more blatant lies which Clark is substituting for any reasonable defence of her record or plans.

- Branko Milanovic examines just a few of the reasons why we need to be concerned about inequality - as well as some of the areas where there's room for far more study as to its effects. 
- Andre Picard highlights how Canada's current patchwork of prescription drug coverage is contrary to the principles of universal health care. And Steve Morgan makes the case for universal pharmacare, while Martin Regg Cohn emphasizes the importance of making such a program available to everybody.

- Finally, Alan Broadbent criticizes the City of Toronto for leaving needed city-owned social housing to rot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Colourful cats.

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Trade Justice reports on Justin Trudeau's role in pushing for an international corporate giveaway through a new Trans-Pacific Partnership - even as the country whose capital class largely shaped it before has no interest in participating. And James Munson reports that Justin Trudeau is officially more secretive than Chinese billionaires, having demanded that the press be kept out of what would otherwise have been a public meeting.

- Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias notes that like most make-the-rich-richer tax schemes, Donald Trump's tax plan is being sold based on nothing but brazen lies.

- Mia Rabson reports on the reality that the Libs are hundreds of millions of tonnes away from meeting the commitments they've already made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

- PressProgress lists just a few of the ways workers are being left behind in Canada's economy. And Emily Donaldson interviews Katrina Onstad about the importance of taking back our time outside of work.

- Finally, Jordon Cooper comments on the Saskatchewan Party's callous cuts to crucial chaplaincy services. And Andrew MacLeod reports on the Union of BC Indian Chiefs' efforts to call out Christy Clark's neglect and ensure a change in government.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Deep thought

Some people are concerned about the Senate's self-definition as a council of owls seeking to keep less-privileged citizens from governing in their own interests.

But have they considered this might be a perfectly fair description?

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Paul Campos compares the U.S.' hourly wages to its GDP over the past few decades to show how workers have been left out of any economic growth. And Arindrajit Dube examines the effect of an increased minimum wage, and finds a direct impact on both income enhancement and poverty reduction for workers.

- Meanwhile, Tripp Mickle charts Apple's obscene cash hoarding facilitated by offshoring revenues. And Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg write that Sam Brownback's disastrous Kansas experiment represents all the response anyone should need to trickle-down economics.

- Lana Payne points out that Donald Trump's challenge to free-trade orthodoxy offers an important opportunity to rethink international trade. And Andrew Jackson has some suggestions for the ground rules we should be putting in place:
The best way to confront unilateral protectionist measures is to take multilateral action to reduce chronic trade imbalances.  This was supposed to be at the heart of the G20 agenda after the 2007 financial crisis, but there has been only limited progress.

Other countries should also respond to President Trump's call for “fair trade” by taking measures to raise wages in developing countries and thus reduce competitive pressures on workers in advanced industrial countries. While low labour costs are a legitimate source of competitive advantage,  the suppression of trade unions and denial of basic labour rights as defined by the International Labour Organization has kept wage growth artificially low in many countries in relation to rising productivity.

Strong labour rights provisions within trade and investment agreements should be combined with recognition of the need and right for government to regulate in the public interest and to deliver public services so as to maintain social standards.
- Finally, D.C. Fraser reports on the Saskatchewan Party's decision to turn phone calls from Saskatchewan jails into a source of free money for a U.S. telecom.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tim Bousquet writes that the push toward "social entrepreneurship" ultimately serves to undermine the importance of the public good:
My real worry here is that the phrase “social enterprise” is the softer, feel-good end of the push for increased entrepreneurship, which is always promoted as good thing, no downside whatsoever. But there are lots of downsides. One is the risk: most new businesses fail, and very often their failure results in tremendous hardship for the owner. The bigger issue, though, is that entrepreneurship is being sold as the solution to declining living standards — don’t worry about there not being a job for you at graduation, or that if you do find a job it will be temporary contract labour at shit pay, you can start a business!

The push for increased entrepreneurship and in particular the aiming of that message at young people is specifically intended to derail the labour movement. It’s no accident that the union-busting McNeil government is also heavily promoting entrepreneurship. (See also, union-busting Chronicle Herald prez Mark Lever’s celebratory promotion of the Ivany report.) And there’s a direct line from the privatization of services and the P3s to the policies of austerity designed to take money out of the pockets of working people and to give it to plutocrats.

The goal here is to privatize expectations. In a socially just world, we would have collective responsibility for, well, everyone. We would collectively — through properly funded post-secondary education, labour regulation, government social programs, and redistributive tax policies — help young people succeed in life, help them become contributing citizens with worthwhile lives.

But the push for entrepreneurship upends this: it’s all on you, kid. You want a university education? Pay for it your own damn self. You want to promote good values and have a decent standard of living as well? Then start your own business and good luck, sucker. Whatever you want, don’t be expecting anything from the rest of us.
- Meanwhile, Sheila Block and Trish Hennessy point out that even an election-year Lib budget isn't shifting Ontario away from the limitations of austerity politics. And Jonathan Watts reports on the Brazilian public's revolt against the imposition of anti-social policies by a corrupt and unelected elite.

- Mario Canseco highlights how B.C. voters feel helpless due to the influence of corporate money on Christy Clark's governing Libs. And Mike Smyth talks to Linda Higgins about her experience dealing with Clark as a citizen without high-priced access.

- Pierre Fortin discusses the successes of Quebec's universal child care program - along with its room for improvement in equity and quality of care. And Joanna Smith and Jordan Press report on how the Harper Cons went out of their way to avoid recognizing how child care enables women to participate in the workforce.

- Finally, Lynne Fernandez comments on the need to ensure safety for workers - particularly in precarious work where the standards we take for granted elsewhere haven't yet been established or enforced.