Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Sarah O'Connor examines how the future of work may echo past practices - including a misleading picture of wages for gig work which is assumed to be more stable than is actually the case. And Astra Taylor discusses how socialism is growing in popular appeal in response to the inequality which has festered under neoliberal capitalism:
(T)he growing popularity of socialism may spring at least in part from the longer-term failures of this negative-branding campaign: Tell enough people struggling to make ends meet that socialism will allow them to consult a doctor without fear of bankruptcy, and perhaps to enjoy a restorative paid vacation now and then, and some are bound to think it sounds like a pretty good idea. That was definitely the gist of a well-traveled social media meme this winter that featured a Fox News segment on Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and the other left-aligned lawmakers sworn in to the 116th Congress; it counterposed sweetly smiling headshots of the alleged socialist insurgents alongside bullet-pointed policy goals, such as free college and Medicare for All, that actually poll quite well in American opinion surveys. The graphic made socialism seem not only appealing, but also au courant, thus inadvertently chipping away at decades of carefully crafted propaganda.

(R)esearch shows that many Americans who receive direct federal benefits, including Medicare and Social Security, wrongly report that they have never received government aid—perhaps because these are services they feel they have paid for, like any other product. The challenge for socialists, then, involves bringing what the political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called the “submerged state” above ground and into the light in order to identify and expand its benefits and beneficiaries, democratize its mechanisms, and decommodify more and more areas of life.

Decommodification is a key element of this process—“There should be no profit motive connected to things that human beings cannot survive without,” as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor put it when we spoke—and not as radical a move as it may seem. Placing things beyond the market purview is hardly an untested or utopian concept. Public schools, for example, are based on the conviction that education is something everyone is entitled to, regardless of their ability to pay. Countries with universal health care have come to a similar determination about medicine, deciding potentially lifesaving medical treatments should not be limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford them. Every minute of every day, we use infrastructure and access information, from public roads to weather forecasts, that are universal and free. This is why democratic socialists are right to focus, for the time being, on proposals like Medicare for All and free college.

But the question at the center of socialism, Taylor continued, is not what services the state should provide—such as whether or not public housing should be more widely available, or whether there should be a jobs guarantee or a basic income or both—but rather who owns the state. “For me, socialism is about the collective control of society by the majority of people,” she says. “Right now, the majority of people, the people who create society’s wealth, never get asked questions about how society should be run.”
- And if we needed any further reminders as to how power is being used primarily to entrench inequality, Jen St. Denis reports on the federal government's lack of action in response to money laundering in Canada. Alex Hemingway rightly questions the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority's eagerness to introduce corporate control into the health care system. And Sharon Riley exposes how Alberta may soon be automating the licensing process for oil and gas wells, ensuring that no human being evaluates the safety and environmental concerns raised by their use.

- Meanwhile, Don Pittis offers a reminder that clean energy already offers more opportunity for workers than dirty fossil fuels - and this before any level of government has planned out a meaningful transition from the latter to the former.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that we should neither put up with Justin Trudeau's contempt for social and environmental justice, nor buy for a second the view that Andrew Scheer is an acceptable (or the only) alternative.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Star's editorial board rightly criticizes Doug Ford for his propensity to announce massive cuts first, then begrudgingly acknowledge their unconscionable consequences later. Linda White, Elizabeth Dhuey, Michal Perlman and Petr Varmuza note that Ford's cuts to child care will be particularly harmful for low-income families with parents working or studying full-time. And Madeleine Ritts calls out the PCs for blaming individuals for systemic poverty (and denying them the essentials of life as punishment).

- Meanwhile, Robert Booth reports on the connection being drawn between the UK Cons' similar attack on the poor, and the historical blight of workhouses. And Chris Vallance discusses the medicalization of the symptoms of poverty, including the overprescription of drugs in response to the inevitable stresses of precarity.

- Ronald Labonte, Courtney McNamara, Deborah Gleeson and Eric Crosbie point out how the new NAFTA can be expected to harm public health by preventing governments from regulating in the public interest. And Ed Finn discusses how the corporate push toward processed foods and a focus on convenience over nutrition is making us all less healthy.

- Mitch Potter highlights how the Libs are echoing the Cons' anti-refugee rhetoric and policy as this fall's federal election approaches.

- Finally, Jonathan Michie points out that employee-owned businesses perform significantly better than their corporate counterparts, but are limited in their development by government and financial policies which stifle them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

On defining images

I've previously linked to Doug Cuthand's column on the climate obstructionists who are endangering our future. But I'd think it's worth putting his most powerful conclusion in a form which better connects the perpetrators to the problem.

And so...

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Jerry Taylor writes that any reasonable evaluation of the risks associated with a climate breakdown demands that we transition away from carbon pollution as quickly as possible. Aria Bendix points out that multiple major U.S. cities stand to become uninhabitable over the next few decades due to the consequences of climate change. Moira Welsh notes that Toronto is unprepared for the frequency and intensity of floods which are hitting it on a regular basis. And Sarah Rieger writes that Calgary's drinking water is at risk of contamination from wildfires upstream. 

- Atiya Jaffar discusses the growing movement for a Green New Deal in Canada, while Yanis Varoufakis is hopeful that a similar plan can united Europe's progressive forces. And Andrew Nikiforuk sets out a few of the most damaging myths about pipelines which have distorted any discussion of climate policy and fossil fuels in Alberta (and beyond).

- Eric Doherty points out how a transformation of transportation infrastructure needs to be part of any viable climate plan, while Cat Hobbs notes that common ownership will be a crucial feature of a transit system that better serves users while reducing carbon emissions. And Matthew Taylor points out how a reduction in work hours may play an important role in answering the climate crisis.

- David Hagmann, Emily Ho and George Loewenstein study the harmful effects of small "nudges" which lead people toward greater opposition against carbon taxes. But Neil Macdonald (for all the issues elsewhere in his reasoning) argues that a similar effect applies to carbon taxes themselves in distracting from, and undermining public support for, any more thorough transition to a clean society. 

- Finally, Lisa Xing discusses OpenMedia's push for a right to repair linked to electronics sold and used in Canada.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Friendly cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- CBC interviews David Wallace-Wells and others about the need for collective action as the only viable response to a climate crisis and the despair it would otherwise produce:
"Individual action simply can't get us to zero [carbon] emissions," [Wallace-Wells] told Tapestry host Mary Hynes. "Ultimately, those efforts are marginal compared to what can be achieved through policy and through politics, and that for me is why we need to focus on those levers."
"So for an individual to step out of that and really try to make sense of this very large threat to our societies and our ways of life  — especially if you have been raised to believe that this is a good thing or this is just life as you know it — is very difficult." 
But the University of Oregon associate professor [Kari Norgaard] says channeling energy into structural changes can help ease some of that anxiety.

"Climate change is very big, it's very scary. It's not something we can work on alone. As more people in each community begin to [mobilize], it not only makes it more pleasant and meaningful along the way, but it brings momentum to the whole."
- Perla Hernandez writes about the missed opportunity to address climate change in Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial election - though the resulting minority legislature will hopefully result in some needed ability to prod the government to action. Sarath Peiris points out that the bleating about an environmental assessment bill by Canada's Dirty Half-Dozen denialist right-wing leaders has no basis in fact. And Heriberto Aruojo writes about the threat Jair Bolsonaro's government poses to the Amazon rain forest with global implications.

- Robert Booth reports on Human Rights Watch's observations as to how the UK Cons' austerity caused large amounts of child hunger. And Mark Rice-Oxley and Patrick Butler write about the wider precarity facing workers in the EU.

- Trevor Hancock wonders why governments don't pay more attention to public health which would both produce improved social outcomes, and save public money. And a group of Ontario resident physicians highlights how Doug Ford's attacks on public health will harm their patients.

- Finally, Libby Davies offers a reminder that a strong progressive message is necessary for the NDP to succeed both in winning votes and seeing its values implemented.

Monday, May 20, 2019

On buried dangers

There have been a few recent reports dealing with issues surrounding the Northern Village of Pinehouse - including a systematic refusal to answer access to information requests to which continued at last notice, the disappearance of the village's website and public records, an inspection recommending the removal of Pinehouse's mayor and a councillor which has turned into a formal inquiry and audit, and the recusal of Finance Minister Donna Harpauer from all discussions due to a close personal connection to the councillor in question.

But most of the media discussion of the village's current circumstances avoids a crucial piece of background information - even as the mayor who has also been recommended for removal identifies the significance of the issue, without recognizing that it provides no excuse for thumbing his nose at legal obligations.

The relationship between Pinehouse and the nuclear industry has long been the source of justified concern. The same leadership now dismissing any obligations of transparent governance include the same people behind a sketchy deal which included millions of dollars in payments from Areva and Cameco in exchange for a cover-up of the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

And the village's leadership tried to volunteer Pinehouse for a nuclear waste disposal site through communications - which were exposed through what was then at least a marginally functional access to information system under the current administrtion. The attempt to become a dumping ground for radioactive waste was ultimately ruled out due to a lack of support in the community.

So let's turn the spin around.

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be uniquely unable to meet its access to information obligations - both compared to its own history and compared to other Northern and rural communities - even as it receives substantial funding from the uranium industry to cover what would normally be municipal expenses?

Does it make sense that Pinehouse would be unable to meet basic access to information requirements, but have enough spare resources lying around to provide free accommodations to cabinet ministers whenever they see fit to stop by? And wouldn't cabinet ministers themselves be expected to notice the problem with accepting that type of gift before somebody else identifies it?

Ultimately, Pinehouse looks only to be a particularly vivid example of the Saskatchewan Party's governing mindset in both its service of industry over people, and its contempt for accountability. And everybody rightly looking at Pinehouse and asking how its administration can be left in place should be asking the same about the province.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Susan Bradley reports on Dave Phillips' observations as to how Atlantic Canada is already facing the effects of a climate breakdown. Cameron Brick discusses the importance of seeing ourselves as more than consumers in developing a response to our climate crisis. And David Roberts highlights how Jay Inslee has provided the details of a plan to meet the goals of a Green New Deal for the U.S. (which should in turn be adaptable for use elsewhere).

- Kate Bratskeir points out the large amount of plastic being burned in the U.S. (and the resulting harms to health and the environment). But Lisa Friedman reports that the Trump administration's response to deaths caused by air pollution is to make up numbers to cover up the problem. And Jeff Lewis reports that the Libs are teaming up with Jason Kenney to facilitate the dumping of toxic water from tar sands tailings ponds into sources of drinking water.

- Christine Berry and Joe Guinan offer a look at what a Corbyn Labour government could mean for UK politics and society.

- Bobby Hristova reports on levels of drunkenness as one of the areas in which Canada stands out dubiously among our peers - and this before the plans of right-wing governments to substitute increased alcohol consumption for responsible governance are fully implemented.

- Finally, Eliza Mackintosh reports on Finland's success in educating children to recognize and respond to propaganda.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ian Austen discusses how Justin Trudeau plans to offer nothing but more of the same broken promises and favoritism for the Libs' corporate benefactors. And Mike Smyth examines what's set to be unearthed in British Columbia's money laundering inquiry - which of course never would have existed if the Libs' provincial cousins had clung to power.

- Vik Adhopia reports on the Libs' participation in a "national pharmacare program" forum which in fact consisted solely of corporate lobbying against universal prescription drug coverage. And Robert Jago points out what's missing - and misleading - in the Greens' outdated Indigenous policies.

- The UN points out how a climate breakdown will threaten food production around the globe, while Gaia Vince writes about the need for immediate and drastic steps to limit the damage from our climate crisis. Thomas Walkom discusses Jagmeet Singh's strong stance advancing a just transition toward a clean energy economy in Canada. And Kevin Griffin points out the immediate benefits of converting to electric vehicles, while CBC News reports on the development of zero-emission transport trucks in Alberta as a result of the Notley NDP's climate policy.

- Finally, CBC News also reports that like his predecessor, Scott Moe is insistent on energy sources which involve digging up hazardous substances with no regard for the lack of a safe disposal system - even if that means converting fossil fuel power production to nuclear (and in the process ignoring the public backlash against the Saskatchewan Party's previous attempt to pitch nuclear power).

[Edit: fixed formatting.]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

On cult leadership

Andrew Scheer's scheming with oil lobbyists in advance of this fall's federal election has received at least some attention. But it's worth pointing out just how drastic a step Scheer has taken in aligning himself with a shadowy group trying to push dirty energy sources as "miracles" rather than commercial substances.

By way of background, I'll suggest that for the most part, the public face of oil industry lobbying has involved appeals (even if often inaccurate ones) to what might at least be considered rational instincts.

To be clear, it's long been tiring to hear the constant drumbeat equating Exxon's profits with jobs and economic development - particularly when any reference to real-world evidence has found a tenuous connection between the two in the short term and divergence in interests in the long term. But at least that type of message recognizes that any attempt to justify government action facilitating the development of the oil sector depends on the acknowledgment of other, higher-ranking values - and implicitly allows for the possibility that those values may be better advanced through other means.

And even the most prominent attempt to introduce a values debate to discussion of Canada's oil sector was one which (however falsely) tried to distinguish oil production by location, not to sanctify the concept of fossil fuel production itself.

But now, an increasing proportion of the electorate recognizes the need to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels which all parties including the federal Conservatives once accepted. And it's also becoming obvious that there's no business case for fossil fuel development without accepting the utter destruction of our living environment.

In other words, the conflict between human interests and fossil fuel profits is one which can no longer be hand-waved away. 

And so we're now seeing the emergence of rhetoric turning the worship of dirty energy into a new religion - with Scheer joining Jason Kenney and Scott Moe as the highest-ranking and most prominent messengers in the effort to convert the public to the cause of valuing oil production above any human interest.

The obvious results of the campaign even in its infancy include the eager adoption of the religious language by right-wing commentators - in some cases coupled with an attempt to set up false sectarian wars.

They include Kenney's plan for a "war room" intended to ensure that any mere people who try to speak up for our planet get shouted down by publicly-funded propagandists.

And they've also included attempts to brand as heretics and public enemies well-respected journalists, scientists and public servants.

Of course, as noted toward the end of Liam Denning's report here, the fossil fuel industry itself has used the wording of religious doctrine to distinguish between in-groups and out-groups for decades.

But it's a new development for mainstream politicians to be openly using their positions of power to serve as missionaries for a death cult. And we should use any politician's willing association with the attempt to build a religion around oil - whether in collaborating directly, mirroring messages, or uncritically accepting policy goals - as a litmus test indicating a gross lack of fitness for office.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Stewart Elgie and Nathalie Chalifour write about the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal's recognition of the importance of action on our climate crisis. Alexis Wright comments on the need for global action to address the common global problem of impending climate breakdown. Brian Eckhouse points out how China is making a massive investment in electric buses. Rob Nikolewski reports on a first federal push toward zero-emission vehicles in the U.S., while Liam Denning points out the important effect of more ambitious state-level initiatives (particularly in California) on the viability of dirty fuel producers. And Zoya Teirstein points out the carbon emissions spewed out by the plastics industry.

- Percy Downe discusses Canada's absolute failure to crack down on offshore tax evasion, both in terms of recovering money and in charging individual scofflaws. And Public Interest Alberta highlights how Jason Kenney plans to collect even less than that province's already-insufficient amount of revenue from wealthy corporations and individuals.

- Christina Howorun reports on the $16 billion maintenance backlog facing Ontario schools who are seeing their funding attacked further in the name of corporate tax handouts. And Creeden Martell reports on Saskatchewan's emergency room wait times - which are only getting worse contrary to the Saskatchewan Party's long-lost promise to address them.

- Finally, CBC News notes that British Columbia's property speculation tax has worked out exactly as planned, recovering substantial revenue from non-residents who can easily afford it while avoiding any effect on 99 per cent of residents beyond the need to file a form.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress digs into Statistics Canada's findings about precarious work in Canada, highlighting the connection between temporary work and subpar pay and working conditions:
According to a report by Statistics Canada, published Tuesday, the percentage of Canadian workers hired on temporary contracts increased from 11.8% in 1998 to 13% in 2018 — faster than the growth of permanent jobs over the last 20 years.

Those temporary jobs typically offer lower wages, fewer benefits and lower rates of unionization. Last year, the report notes, temporary employees earned on average $21.80 per hour, while permanent employees earned $27.71 per hour.
Data by Statistics Canada indicate that since the federal Liberals took office in 2015, the percentage of temporary workers remained between 13.3% and 13.7%. 

But this national trend hasn’t irked the federal government. Back in 2016, Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau said Canadian workers “have to accept” short-term and precarious employment.

However, as McQuarrie wrote in the Globe and Mail: “It’s a mistake to treat this as a norm we have to accept.”
- Karl Nerenberg points out how billions of dollars dumped into the criminal justice system would be far better spent improving the social conditions which actually cause crime. And Richard Florida discusses new research showing how children are far less healthy if they face lengthy commutes to school.

- Bill McKibben notes that we've wasted any time we had to spare in averting a climate breakdown, and need to start electing leaders committed to immediately dealing with the carbon crisis. Devon Rowcliffe writes about the need for Jagmeet Singh to become the top choice for voters looking for a just transition to a clean energy economy - including by challenging fossil fuel subsidies at the provincial level. And Eliza Barclay and Jag Bhalla offer responses to just a dozen of the most common (and painful) excuses to delay climate action.

- Meanwhile, Jason Warick reports on a study showing the Saskatchewan Party's pitiful record on environmental conservation. John Paul Tasker notes that Andrew Scheer's idea of energy policy is to force through pipelines that even the oil industry doesn't want. And Clare Hennig reports on a Senate committee's decision to ignore the votes of elected officials to try to push oil shipments along the B.C. coast.

- Finally, Adaner Usmani discusses how class struggle is necessary for the preservation of democracy. And Ezra Klein points out the increasing recognition among U.S. Democrats that counterweights to corporate power are essential to both political success and good governance.

Musical interlude

Jeremy Vancaulart feat. Danyka Nadeau - Hurt

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Guardian offers a few expert perspectives on how to fix the U.S.' broken economic system. And Hassan Yussuff writes that the centennial of the Winnipeg General Strike should remind us of the importance and power of mass political action.

- Randy Robinson challenges Doug Ford's multiple forms of austerity by pointing out Ontario's fiscal picture already involves a small public sector funded by insufficient revenues. And Martin Regg Cohn's revelations about plans for even more devastating cuts highlight how Ford's inclination is to do even more damage than he's inflicted already.

- Meanwhile, Cillian O'Brien reports on Oxfam's renewed push for a universal child care system which would lead to massive returns on public investments.

- Chris Hall writes that Canadians are recognizing the value of properly taxing the online services that have turned tech giants into some of the world's most powerful corporations.

- Finally, Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the Libs' failure to fund the Auditor General's office to allow it to carry out planned reviews. And Murray Mandryk rightly criticizes the Sask Party's decision to set aside any interest in facts as opposed to talking points.

New column day

Here, following up on these posts as to how the federal NDP is leading the way in setting policy in line with the realities of an impending climate breakdown.

For further reading...
- Mia Rabson reported on the NDP's push to halve Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade, including by ending the subsidies which would otherwise lock us into continued pollution. 
- Geoff Dembicki discusses how the Libs' climate policies would leave us on pace for a climate disaster as some worthwhile ideas are more than outweighed by the failure to account for major sources of carbon pollution. - Cameron Brick comments on the significance of inertia in our personal habits which affect our own contributions to climate change. But Alex Boutilier reports on polling showing that even Conservative voters don't buy their party's obstructionism, recognizing the importance of carbon pricing and other policies to avert climate disaster.
- Finally, Alexander Kaufman examines Jay Inslee's detailed climate plan - which should serve as an example for others to emulate. And Peter Walker reports on UK Labour's plan for a massive investment in solar panels on millions of homes as part of a green industrial revolution.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Karl Nerenberg writes that the ultimate test of the public's willingness to facilitate a climate breakdown is fast approaching - but that the parties pushing delay and denial may be surprised with the outcome. Brett Chandler challenges the argument that we're somehow entitled to act only once everybody else - including China and other developing countries - has slashed carbon emissions first. And Doug Cuthand rightly calls out the environmental vandals using their power today to leave a damaged world for future generations.

- Meanwhile, Sandra Laville reports on new research demonstrating the climate harms of single-use plastics.

- Josephine Moulds writes about the millions of UK workers trapped in poverty due to insufficient wages and employment standards. And Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani reports on Statistics Canada's latest data on the sharply increasing number of temporary jobs.

- PressProgress highlights how Jason Kenney's corporate tax giveaways project to cost billions of dollars and result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. And Arthur White-Crummey's report on Saskatchewan's alarming emergency room waiting times offers a reminder as to what happens when a government is more devoted to slashing public services than ensuring their availability.

- Finally, Eleanor Ainge Roy reports on New Zealand's move toward budgeting based on well-being, including addressing poverty and mental health as core principles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.

On transitions

I'll offer a reply to Cam's knee-jerk response to the federal NDP's long-overdue push for the basic necessities of responsible economic and environmental policy - including real carbon emission reductions and an actual transition away from fossil fuel dependence.

Simply put, there's no reason to read every word of the announcement with the type of misleading spin we'd expect from our political rivals. And on a fair reading, the NDP's stance on averting a climate crisis is exactly what we should be hoping for.

To be clear, I'll agree that the NDP's focus should be on a just transition. But the essence of a transition is moving from point A (dependence on dirty energy for both domestic use and export) to point B (converting to a clean and sustainable economy on all fronts) - not looking for excuses to stay in place.

Contrary to what Cam claims, a just transition is entirely consistent with cleaning up the mess from the status quo, which should fully assuage any concern about dealing with abandoned well sites. And it's also consistent with ensuring income security and new opportunities for workers who have come to depend on the system which needs to be replaced.

But the concept of a just transition is entirely incompatible with using our limited resources to sustain and expand the broken system which we know needs to be wound down. And so a bright line of no subsidies for fossil fuel expansion and operation (as distinct from the transition away from them) makes eminent sense.

Indeed, the Libs have already let down both their 2015 supporters and a younger generation of new voters by not only breaking their promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, but instead pouring billions into expanding the dirty energy sector. And so there's a massive opportunity for the NDP to offer a genuine alternative.

Meanwhile, as I've pointed out, we've also been offered a cautionary tale about the folly of trying to out-cheerlead corporate parties when it comes to further enriching the oil industry. While making progress on many other fronts, Rachel Notley tried desperately to limit Jason Kenney's ability to argue with any credibility that he and his party would be more friendly to oil barons. But ultimately, Notley succeeded largely in leaving Alberta voters with the impression that their ballot question should be who was in fact more subservient to the sector.

That's not an argument the NDP can expect to win. Nor is it one worth pursuing.

Instead, the NDP at all levels needs to offer the means to actually meet our responsibility to maintain a liveable planet while respecting the interests of workers and citizens generally - not follow down the Trudeau path of delaying and triangulating in the face of an existential crisis. And the key next step will be to make sure voters understand how we can all benefit from accomplishing that goal, rather than allowing the Cons and their oil industry backers to convince the electorate that it can't be done.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Eoin Higgins discusses a new report by Elizabeth Warren and Pramila Jayapal on a U.S. political system which is even more corporatist than ever under the Trump administration.

- Meanwhile, Sarah Petz reports on Boots Riley's recent talk in Winnipeg - including his emphasis on the need for direct activism alongside work within partisan politics. And Martin Regg Cohn offers a reminder to the Ford PCs that there's more to democracy than a government acting without accountability between elections.

- Tim Dickinson reports on new research showing that the U.S.' subsidies for fossil fuels exceed even its bloated defence budget. And the Canadian Press reports on Enbridge's multi-billion dollar quarterly profits, while Emma McIntosh takes note of the Alberta municipalities facing fiscal ruin due to deadbeat resource extractors.

- Morgan Lawrie highlights the need for wildlife corridors to give animals some hope of finding a suitable habitat as our climate breaks down.

- Michael Coteau makes the case for a right to repair as a means of both saving consumers money, and reducing avoidable waste and environmental destruction.

- Finally, Philippe Fournier points out how Canada's Parliament would look under current voting intentions if the Libs had followed through on their promise of electoral reform.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Daniel Drenzer reviews Joseph Stiglitz' People, Power and Profits, while noting the importance of pairing progressive policy ideas with a plan for implementation. And Laura Davison points out how Donald Trump's massive tax losses which kept him from contributing to the U.S.' public coffers involved some of the same loopholes now being exploited by the likes of Amazon.

- Melanie Marquis reports on the NDP's plans to ensure that tech giants pay their fair share. And the Canadian Press points out the reality that online monopolists are currently thumbing their noses at Canadian laws intended to protect privacy and election integrity.

- Robin Levinson-King weighs in on the use of Vancouver's real estate market for large-scale money-laundering, while Mike Smyth writes about the need for a public inquiry. And Mike Crawley reports that Doug Ford's war on facts includes concealing information about foreign buyers which would enable the public to know about similar issues in Ontario. 

- Meanwhile, Heather Boushey argues that we need to better measure income and wealth across a full population, rather than counting on top-heavy GDP and stock market indicators as a full answer to how an economy is performing.

- Finally, Lizzy Buchan reports that a strong majority of UK voters want to see sharp decreases in greenhouse gas emissions to reach zero net emissions by 2050. And Shawn McCarthy points out that two-thirds of Canadians are opposed to the right-wing provincial governments who are both refusing to implement any substantial climate policies in their provinces, and trying to prevent any action to pick up the slack at the federal level.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Tony Burman writes about the seismic change we can expect as the importance of our climate crisis - as well as the need to act on a global basis - starts to permeate our political decision-making. And KC Golden warns that the oil companies who have been the worst offenders in both causing and denying climate change are now trying to use the first steps toward a policy response to escape from any liability for their actions.

- Meanwhile, Jimmy Thomson writes about the challenge of developing cleaner fuel sources to replace outdated and environmentally-harmful diesel fuel generators in isolated communities across northern Canada. The Canadian Press reports on new research showing how climate breakdown is leading to the acidification of Arctic water. And Blake Shaffer notes that vehicle emissions are just one more area where Canada is the world's worst per-capita offender in contributing to the global climate crisis.

- Emily Holden reports on a new international agreement to stop the dumping of plastic waste on less wealthy countries. But Sandra Laville points out how plastics lobbyists are attempting to undermine any effort to limit the indiscriminate disposal of their products in the UK.

- Mitchell Anderson discusses how conventional economics have contributed to environmental disasters - including the impending extinction crisis - by neglecting to value a habitable planet as part of our economic system.

- Finally, Trevor Harrison highlights the bias in Jason Kenney's budget panel which is under orders not to look at revenues (or the cost of corporate tax giveaways). And Hulya Dagdeviren and Jiayi Balasuriya examine how the UK's austerity served largely to dump even more debt and financial stress onto lower-income households.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

On definitive statements

Following up on this post, I'll take a step back point out how Scott Moe's insistence on attacking any carbon price through the courts is only enshrining in Canadian jurisprudence - in both the majority and dissenting decisions - some of the points he's trying to soft-peddle for the climate denialists in his base.

Moe has just barely reached the point of being willing to acknowledge the existence of climate change in public in a sentence or two before trying to change the subject. But it's well worth pressing to see whether he'll admit facts were as uncontroverted in the Court of Appeal's decision (including though the best argument Moe could muster to claim climate change isn't a matter of national concern) as they are in the scientific community.

To start with, the basic facts of the global crisis were set out by the majority after being accepted by all parties - including Saskatchewan (italics in original, underlining added):
[15] The general character of the GHG phenomenon and the basic science of climate change are not contested by any of the participants in this Reference. In simplest terms, planet Earth absorbs energy from sunlight. When that energy is emitted, GHGs capture some of it. This slows the escape of such energy into space and, over time, heats the atmosphere and the surface of the earth. These higher temperatures disrupt global climate patterns.

[16] The broad contours of the impact of anthropogenic emissions of GHGs and of the nature of the climate change issue are summarized in Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers [Climate Change 2014]. It was prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], which was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. The IPCC, as described by John Moffet, Assistant Deputy Minister with Environment and Climate Change Canada, in his affidavit of October 25, 2018, is “the leading world body for assessing the most recent scientific, technical, and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to understanding climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options”. Climate Change 2014 concludes as follows:
(a) “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems” (at 2).
(b) “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen” (at 2).
(c) “Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (emphasis in original, at 4).
(d) “Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. Some of these changes have been linked to human influences, including a decrease in cold temperature extremes, an increase in warm temperature extremes, an increase in extreme high sea levels and an increase in the number of heavy precipitation events in a number of regions” (at 7).
(e) “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks” (at 8).
(f) “Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise” (emphasis in original, at 10).
(g) “Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development” (at 13).
(h) “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence). ...” (emphasis in original, at 17).
None of these conclusions were challenged or put in issue by the participants in this Reference.
And due to the position pushed by Moe, the majority decision also recognized the essential nature of both carbon pricing and multijurisdictional action in order to mount an effective response:
[147] What then of the idea of minimum national standards of price stringency for GHG emissions? Significantly, the factual record before the Court indicates that GHG pricing is not just part and parcel of an effective response to climate change. It indicates that GHG pricing is regarded as an essential aspect or element of the global effort to limit GHG emissions. The following unchallenged features of the record are noteworthy in this regard:
(a) “There is widespread international consensus that carbon pricing is a necessary measure, though not a sufficient measure, to achieve the global reductions in GHG emissions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement targets” (Moffet affidavit at para 46).
(b) “A well-designed carbon price is an indispensable part of a strategy for reducing emissions in an efficient way” (High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, Report of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017) at 1).
(c) “There is a widespread trend in favour of carbon pricing … Overall, 67 jurisdictions … are putting a price on carbon” (Moffet affidavit at para 49).
(d) “The existing literature is highly convergent in finding that carbon prices that have been implemented around the world have been successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions” (Nicholas Rivers affidavit affirmed October 5, 2018, at para 6(b)).
[156] All of this said, a good deal of the real significance of individual provincial failures to price GHG emissions to a minimum level plays out on a different plane. Climate change is a global problem and, accordingly, it calls for a global response. Such a response can only be effectively developed internationally by way of state-to-state negotiation and agreement. This, of course, is the story of the Framework Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Accord, and the Paris Agreement. In participating in these international processes, Canada is expected to make national commitments with respect to GHG reduction or mitigation targets. Those commitments are self-evidently difficult for Canada, as a country, to meet if not all provincial jurisdictions are prepared to implement GHG emissions pricing regimes – regimes that, on the basis of the record before the Court, are an essential aspect of successful GHG mitigation plans. This is not to suggest Parliament must somehow enjoy a comprehensive treaty implementation power in relation to the GHG issue. But, it is to say that the international nature of the climate change problem necessarily colours and informs an assessment of the effects of a provincial failure to deal with GHG pricing.
What's more, even the dissent which was supposed to have justified the waste of resources in challenging a backstop carbon price includes some of the definitive acknowledgment of the importance of climate change that's glaringly lacking in Moe's public statements and official actions:
[236] GHGs are gases that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation, the most prevalent of which is carbon dioxide [CO2]. GHGs are a significant contributor to climate change. For this reason, the parties and intervenors all agree that the governments of Canada and the Provinces must take steps to mitigate the anthropogenic emission of GHGs. Because none of the Attorneys General dispute the causative effect anthropogenic GHGs have on climate change or the attendant and existential necessity of mitigating anthropogenic GHG emissions, the proof or truth of these facts is not at issue. That is, they are proven and true.
[476] Before summarising our opinion, we would reiterate two points. First, we agree that all levels of government in Canada must take action to address climate change. The anthropogenic emission of GHGs is an issue of pressing concern to all Canadians and to the world. Second, Parliament has a number of constitutional powers, legislative means and administrative mechanisms at its disposal to achieve its objectives in this regard.
Needless to say, I'll be shocked if Moe is willing to publicly acknowledge the existential threat of climate change which he didn't even bother to dispute before the Court of Appeal. Instead, I'd fully expect him to keep pairing gross understatements of the threat of climate breakdown with disingenouous attempts to distract his audiences.

But if that's true, then Moe's loss in court has not only entrenched the federal carbon price, but enshrined in Canadian jurisprudence some of the truths about our climate crisis which he continues to deny. And Moe himself should only lose credibility for refusing to admit and act on the reality of climate change.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne discusses why we can't afford another Harper government - but also why we shouldn't merely accept the Libs as the only alternative no matter how dishonestly and angrily they try to limit our choices. And Tom Parkin highlights the need to empower social movements to shape our political system.

- The Economist discusses the range of new ideas developing among progressive thinkers in contrast to the pattern of stagnation and reactionary messaging on the right.

- Laurie Monsebraaten reports on the grim prospects of Ontarians with disabilities based on Doug Ford's imminent attacks on the province's social supports. And Alicia Bridges highlights similar uncertainty in Saskatchewan due to the Moe government's announcement of unspecified changes which they're not actually willing to present to the public.

- Meanwhile, Adam Hunter reports on the massive - and readily avoidable - travel bills being racked up by the Sask Party government which is inflicting cruel austerity on the province's citizens. And Anna Mikhailova and Charles Young point out how UK Conservative MPs are pointing to their adult children as an excuse to line their pockets with funding intended to defray child care expenses - even as they deny child care to parents who actually need it.

- Finally, William Snow writes from experience as to how the U.S.' elite universities serve as incubators for growing inequality of opportunity.

[Edit: added link.]

Friday, May 10, 2019

Musical interlude

Arcade Fire - Creature Comfort

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Astra Taylor points out that we should be far more concerned about a planetary carbon budget which actually involves inflexible limits, rather than delaying action in the name of avoiding spending on government balance sheets. J. David Hughes highlights how choices which subsidize and lock in fossil fuel production are incompatible with responsible climate policy. Mike Moffatt makes the case for an entrepreneurial mindset as a response to delay tactics. And Matt Gurney confirms that we shouldn't expect Andrew Scheer or any of his denialist cronies to start offering any viable plans to avert climate breakdown anytime soon.

- Don Pittis discusses how Canada has allowed itself to become a magnet for money laundering. And Richard Zussman reports on British Columbia's conclusion (based only on a partial assessment of the effect of foreign money) that its real estate market lone is being used to launder upwards of $5 billion per year.

- Steve Morgan argues that we shouldn't accept the spin of the pharmaceutical industry claiming that we have no choice but to pay inflated prices for essential medications.

- CBC News reports on the Canadian Paediatric Society's call for free birth control to be available to young Canadians. And Marie-Danielle Smith reports on the federal government's preliminary steps toward making menstrual products freely available in federally-regulated workplaces.

- Finally, David Macdonald writes that a basic income on its own won't fix the issues raised by precarious and poorly-regulated work.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Edward Keenan writes about the chaos being created by Doug Ford's reckless and thoughtless slashing of crucial public services.  CTV reports on one six-year-old cancer patient as just one of the many victims, while CBC News points out the global trend of increased alcohol use which Ford is going far out of his way to exacerbate. And Linda McQuaig offers a reminder that the destruction of social goods is no accident, but instead an intended consequence of Ford's choice to first sacrifice needed revenues to corporate idols.

- Larry Kusch reports on Brian Pallister's wasting of tens of millions of dollars on consultants while undermining Manitoba's public services. And David Climenhaga points out Jason Kenney's plan to spend his entire time in office trying to deflect blame to others, rather than making any attempt at delivering a functional government.

- Meanwhile, Rob Shaw reports on British Columbia's reductions in MRI wait times which show how investment in public health services - including by bringing private operators under the public system - results in the needs of citizens being met.

- Zaid Noorsumar examines how already-alarming official numbers of work-related injuries and deaths in Canada severely understate the problem.

- Finally, Bryan Carney reports on Facebook's longstanding awareness that its targeting advertising mechanism could be used to single out specific users without their knowledge or consent. And Chris Hughes makes the case to limit the monopoly power of Facebook and other tech giants which have assumed what amount to public utility roles.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Edward Kleinbard argues that citizens should be asking the question of whether markets actually serve society's best interests - while pointing out the compelling evidence to suggest they don't at the moment. And David Love writes about the increasing recognition among the exceedingly wealthy few that they can't expect the economic system to continue to be rigged in their favour.

- Meanwhile, Jake Johnson reports on the strike by Uber and Lyft drivers representing one of the largest and more important steps toward challenging worker exploitation in the gig economy. And Paul Willcocks argues that British Columbia's new protection for workers should be only the first of many steps in improving job quality.

- Peter Reuell writes about new research showing that inequality is growing both within and between geographic areas of the U.S., with structural inequality acting as a cause of increased geographic differences. And Pablo Uchoa points out how climate change has exacerbated economic inequalities.

- Kate Lyons reports on New Zealand's plan to reach a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while Peter Hannam notes that climate change is now the top issue in the minds of Australian voters. Jessy Bains discusses Mike Moffatt's research finding that tens of thousands of construction jobs which would be generated by even a small carbon pricing system, while Douglas Broom points out the plummeting costs of renewable energy. And Merran Smith and Trevor Melanson write about the importance of discussing climate policy in general rather than carbon taxes alone - though it's worth noting that even the full set of federal policies presented so far falls far short of the mark in averting a climate crisis.

-Finally, Richard Zussman reports on a new report showing that luxury cars have been used alongside real estate as part of massive money laundering in B.C.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Bagged cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Ball reports on the movement forming in support of a Canadian Green New Deal. Kyla Tienhaara discusses how it fits into the global push for a just transition away from dirty energy and carbon pollution. And Chris Packham points out the need to put well-developed environmental ideas into action.

- Kyle Bakx discusses how the fossil fuel sector is getting away with refusing to pay its bills. And Robyn Allan highlights how the Libs' Trans Mountain bailout is handing windfall profits to the oil sector at the public's expense, while Charis Kamphuis calls out Justin Trudeau for his general tendency to do the bidding of the corporate sector.

- Bruce MacLellan writes about the need to earn and build trust in Canadian institutions which are currently seen as credible on a partisan basis if at all.

- The Guardian's editorial board weighs in on the value of education in the humanities and the dangers of a government which seeks to undermine anything of the sort. And needless to say, Doug Ford is attempting to make Ontario into an anti-academic backwater by tying funding to profit motives and dubious metrics.

- Finally, Loenid Bershidsky points out how the Czech Republic's new system of digital taxes is ensuring that tech giants contribute to the society they mine for profits.

[Edit: fixed typo, wording.]

Monday, May 06, 2019

On sound rejections

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal's decision rejecting the Moe government's attacks on federal carbon pricing is worth a read in no small part for the general acceptance of a climate crisis by all parties when they were forced to rely on evidence rather than spin. But let's focus on how the majority judgment found the arguments asserted to challenge the federal backstop to be flawed from that starting point:
[51] Saskatchewan advances two main lines of argument in seeking to have the Act found unconstitutional. The first is that the principle of federalism prevents Parliament from enacting a statute applicable in only some provinces because of how those provinces have chosen to exercise their legislative authority. Saskatchewan’s second argument is that the Act imposes a tax and, because it allows the Governor in Council to decide where it applies, the Act offends the requirement in s. 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867 that bills imposing taxes must originate in the House of Commons. Saskatchewan goes on to deny that, as contended by Canada, the Act can be sustained under Parliament’s authority under the national concern branch of POGG.
[68] Saskatchewan has referred to no judicial authority which in any way directly supports the idea that the principle of federalism can or should independently render unconstitutional an otherwise valid law. Its argument on this front cannot succeed.
[111] In the end, Saskatchewan’s argument about the application of s. 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867 cannot succeed. The charges in issue here are not taxes in the constitutional sense of that term. However, if the charges are characterized as taxes, they do not violate s. 53.
And more fundamentally, on the need for climate policy to be subject to federal oversight rather than the whims of provinces acting in bad faith:
[156] All of this said, a good deal of the real significance of individual provincial failures to price GHG emissions to a minimum level plays out on a different plane. Climate change is a global problem and, accordingly, it calls for a global response. Such a response can only be effectively developed internationally by way of state-to-state negotiation and agreement. This, of course, is the story of the Framework Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Accord, and the Paris Agreement. In participating in these international processes, Canada is expected to make national commitments with respect to GHG reduction or mitigation targets. Those commitments are self-evidently difficult for Canada, as a country, to meet if not all provincial jurisdictions are prepared to implement GHG emissions pricing regimes – regimes that, on the basis of the record before the Court, are an essential aspect of successful GHG mitigation plans. This is not to suggest Parliament must somehow enjoy a comprehensive treaty implementation power in relation to the GHG issue. But, it is to say that the international nature of the climate change problem necessarily colours and informs an assessment of the effects of a provincial failure to deal with GHG pricing.

[157] It is true that the provinces, acting individually but cooperatively, could agree on a minimum national price for GHG emissions and thereby accomplish the same goal as the one sought by the Act. But this is not the point here. The point is that provinces could always withdraw from such arrangements and there is, accordingly, no assurance that coordinated provincial action would lead to a sustained approach to minimum GHG pricing.
Needless to say, though, no matter how soundly the Sask Party's political and legal positions have been rejected, it's always good news for Brad WallScott Moe.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Sigal Samuel reports on Gary Bloch's work in prescribing secure incomes to address health problems arising out of poverty. And Murtada Haizer and Stephen Moranis point out the massive social and economic returns on investments in community housing.

- D.C. Fraser reports on the disproportionate amount of money the Saskatchewan Party is spending on maintenance for brand-new P3 schools, leaving far less funding available for publicly-owned schools which actually need it.

- The Leader-Post and Star Phoenix editorial boards rightly argue that Saskatchewan needs to treat its youth mental health crisis as an emergency rather than a minor inconvenience.

- Celine McNicholas and Lynn Rhinehart point out the efforts by U.S. Democrats to give workers a somewhat more fair change to organize to change their workplaces for the better.

- Pete Evans reports on the reality that Canada's digital economy is already larger than most industries based on exploiting natural resources.

- And finally, Andrew Stevens highlights how immigration-bashing and prejudice against minority groups threaten Saskatchewan's future.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Mike Benusic points out that the success of public health programs is found in the absence of preventable illnesses and dangers - meaning that Doug Ford's slashing of Ontario's funding is likely to lead to far more health costs in the long run:
(P)ublic health isn’t in the business of patient care. Patients only become patients when they are sick. By preventing disease and promoting health, public health prevents people from becoming patients – by keeping the bridge sturdy so they never fall in the water. From the child who never had to go to the emergency room with measles because they were vaccinated, to the senior who was never hospitalized with food-poisoning because of restaurant inspections, public health works silently in the background.

The invisibility of the impact of public health is also its greatest weakness. When public health is working, nothing happens. So, often and now, funding is cut or diverted into more immediate needs – such as hospital beds. But by doing so, we undermine the system that prevents people from being in the hospital in the first place.

Thankfully, there is a wealth of evidence that makes the invisible impact of public health tangible. One analysis of the impact of local public health showed that for every dollar that’s spent, $4 is saved. Investing $10 per person per year in programs promoting physical activity, nutrition and reducing tobacco use can reduce diabetes and high blood pressure by  five per cent in one to two years, heart disease and stroke by five per cent in five years, and some forms of cancer and arthritis by 2.5 per cent in 10 to 20 years. These are some of the leading causes of hospitalization in Ontario. By preventing people from becoming sick in the first place, there would be no need for more hospital beds.

With massive cuts to local public health, it is clear that the government doesn’t feel that public health has a role in ending hallway medicine. Ironically, it may be the best solution.
- Muhannad Malas writes about Ford's elimination of Ontario's laws governing toxic pollution, while Kate Allen exposes the PCs' attack on protections for endangered species buried in a housing bill. Katie Nicholson and Joanne Levasseur report on the underfunding of Manitoba health inspectors under the Pallister PCs. And Mike De Souza reports that Jason Kenney's response to the abandonment of 4,700 wells by a defunct gas operator is to try to push for even more free handouts to the fossil fuel sector.

- MiningWatch studies how resource extractors are using trade deals to undermine environmental protections in developing countries. Barry Saxifrage points out that the Libs' current plans stand to fall centuries behind Canada's already-insufficient Paris emission targets. And Angela Carter laments Newfoundland and Labrador's decision to endanger its environment and economy in an attempt to chase oil revenues.

- Helen Briggs, Becky Dale and Nassos Stylianou chart the global environmental emergency (including but not limited to a climate crisis).

- Finally, Leo Gerard discusses the importance of a Green New Deal which protects both working conditions and the environment - while also pointing out the role the labour movement needs to play in helping to develop a transformative plan for our society.