Monday, July 22, 2019


Some parties and leaders recognize the stakes in determining how to manage a minority Parliament:
I asked Mr. Duceppe what he thought would happen if the prime minister refused to accept such an ultimatum. He replied that a government defeat so soon after a general election meant the Governor General would have to turn "to one of us" to form a government. We both knew that meant Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. I asked Mr. Duceppe if he could accept such an eventuality. He was not only clear that he could, but he would.
Realizing immediately the full magnitude of what was at stake, I knew I had to walk away. I was not about to participate in any scheme cooked up by the Bloc and the Conservatives that would put the country in the hands of Stephen Harper.
And some, well...
With three months until Canadians vote in the next federal election, Green party leader Elizabeth May says her big hope for the final result is a minority government over which she can exert some influence.

In fact, May thinks that influence could even get the Conservatives to drop their dyed-in-the-wool opposition to carbon taxes if it means the difference for them between governing or spending more time in opposition.

"People change their minds when they see the dynamic of a way a Parliament is assembled and maybe think, 'Killing carbon taxes isn't such a good idea if the only way I get to be prime minister is by keeping them,' " May says.
Federally, May says she could support a minority government of any party but only if that party is serious about acting to stop climate change.

"We will negotiate with anyone, we will talk to everyone, but we won't compromise on climate action," she says.
Meanwhile, let's keep in mind that it's a single vote of confidence following the 2008 election that gave Stephen Harper the ability to stay in office rather than facing the consequences of pushing to exacerbate an economic meltdown with cuts and political attacks.

May might well be able to get the Cons to say they'll change their position on climate policy for the purpose of taking power. She'd have far less leverage in getting them to follow through when they have the option of running away from Parliament.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Aditya Chakrabortty writes about the dangers of accepting gross inequality based on the hope that billionaires will make up in charity what they fail to contribute in tax revenue:
For the super-rich, giving is really taking. Taking power, that is, from the rest of society. The billionaires will get exclusive access to the “vision” for the reconstruction of a national landmark and they can veto those plans, because if they don’t like them they can withhold their cash. Money is always the most powerful casting vote, and they have it. Never mind that much of this cash actually comes from the public, as French law grants a whopping 66% tax relief on any donation – the power is entirely private. The annual cap on such contributions doubtless constitutes a prudent reason for the big donors to stagger their generosity.

Whether in France or Britain or the US, the rich give money to the grand institutions at the heart of our cultures to secure their social status in plaques and photo opportunities. In much the same way, they fund our political parties, then enjoy the kickbacks when they form a government. As Julia Cagé, an economist at Paris’s SciencesPo, points out, some of the same people pledging donations to Notre Dame were also among those who funded Macron’s rise to the presidency. In her recent award-winning book, to be published in English next year as The Price of Democracy, Cagé calculates that 600 wealthy people in France gave between €3m and €4.5m to Macron’s election campaign. In other words, 2% of all donors made up between 40 % and 60% of all En Marche funding. Within a few months, the new president cut taxes on the wealthy, giving his richest donors “a return of nearly 60,000% on their investment”. Just as with Notre Dame – a tiny deposit, a lot of influence and one hell of a payout.
- And Stephanie Bailey's observations as to how wealthier people can play a large part in mitigating our climate crisis are noteworthy primarily for the lack of any apparent action.

- In turn, the consequences of the failure to rein in greenhouse gas emissions caused primarily by the wealthiest have included record temperatures around the globe, along with unprecedented heat and wildfires in the Arctic region. 

- Rick Paulas makes the case to stop directing public resources toward restricting access to transit, and instead ensure that basic transit is freely available.

- And finally, Emily Guendelsberger discusses how an increasing number of jobs are calculated to cause "chronic mild stress" which inevitably results in employee burnout (but avoids the possibility that workers will have access to any social supports).

Sunday, July 21, 2019

On denialism

Others have already pointed out the substantive recklessness of Brian Pallister's refusal to accept federal funding for climate projects in the education system. But Pallister's choice of wording - that of a "hoax" - may be even more significant than the money involved.

After all, the "hoax" terminology is entirely familiar within discourse about climate change. From Donald Trump to Ezra Levant, Breitbart to the Friends of Science, merchants of doubt about settled climate science have regularly used the word to attack the reality of climate change.

And in case one wanted to pretend there's some difference in context, the word is no more accurate when advanced by Pallister than in the regular spewing of outright climate denialism.

The federal government is in fact collecting revenue; it is in fact making money available for education systems; Pallister is in fact rejecting it. There's no hoax here by any rational definition of the term - raising the question as to why Pallister is choosing to use such a loaded word in the context of his government's position on the climate crisis.

While there are a few possible explanations for Pallister's choice to echo the preferred wording of the climate death cult, it's hard to see how any would be anything but a gross condemnation of his leadership.

Is he deliberately targeting his message toward the prejudices and misinformation of climate change denialists? Or is the information he's currently choosing to hear on climate issues so grossly slanted that he can't begin to discuss climate policy without turning into Anthony Watts on stilts?

Either way, Pallister looks to be going further than ever before in rejecting even his own government's recognition of facts to reinforce the message of Canada's gang of climate vandals. And Manitoba voters should take note of his extremism before allowing him to keep turning away funding for community priorities in the name of climate destruction.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Erika Beauchesne discusses the benefits of a wealth tax as both a means of reducing inequality, and a source of revenue for public priorities:
Canada’s NDP has proposed a one per cent tax on wealth over $20 million as part of its election platform. The party doesn’t include much detail yet but estimates it could generate several billion dollars a year.

Pundits have been quick to pounce on a wealth tax as too extreme, difficult or costly. A National Post column last month asked: “What is the problem to which creating a wealth tax is a solution?”

Growing inequality is the problem.

The richest families in Canada are now more than 4,400 times wealthier than the average family, according to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

This widening gap has gone hand-in-hand with declining social and economic mobility. The CCPA found that family dynasties are more likely to keep their money in the family than they were two decades ago thanks to light taxes and loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy, while Statistics Canada recently reported that family income mobility has declined since the 1980s.
There’s debate among economists about the pros and cons of annual wealth taxes, and whether inheritance taxes and other taxes on capital and wealth would work better. Canadians for Tax Fairness, an organization that advocates for fair and progressive taxation, has called for restoring an inheritance tax on high-wealth estates to narrow Canada’s widening wealth gap, make our tax system fairer and generate funds to pay for public services. Democratic leadership contender and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a similar plan to expand the estate tax for inheritances over US$3.5 million.

The question and debate should no longer be whether we have increased taxes on wealth and capital, but what form they should take. We should thank the NDP for getting this debate going in Canada, and look forward to seeing what other federal political parties propose.
- And Douglas Todd notes that a failure to adequately tax wealth as opposed to income has left British Columbia in the position of subsidizing foreign ownership of desperately scarce housing.

- Melanie Green offers some important background information as a British Columbia inquiry begins analyzing the cause of soaring gas prices being used by right-wing politicians to attach carbon pricing. Paul Cowley reports on another estimate showing that Alberta faces tens of billions of dollars in well reclamation liabilities left unfunded by the corporations who have extracted oil and gas. And Andrea Palframan reports on the work of the Heiltsuk Nation in documenting the lack of any effective oil spill response along B.C.'s coastline.

- Paul Wells writes that Andrew Scheer's anti-Canada Food Guide bombast can only be the product of a politician taking voters for idiots. And the Star's editorial board argues that we shouldn't allow anybody to play political with health and nutrition.

- Finally, Rick Salutin points out the sheer folly of Doug Ford's insistence that Ontario students earn online credits rather than receiving a full education at school.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne points out the options to make life genuinely affordable for Canadians - while noting that the Cons' usual tax baubles don't make the list. And PressProgress both reveals Doug Ford's plans to slash Ontario's already-insufficient housing supports, and lists Brian Pallister's steps to take money away from Manitoba workers.

- Carl Meyer reports on Imperial Oil's use of a gala at which it funded every participant's attendance as an opportunity to lobby Andrew Scheer. But David Climenhaga offers a reminder (based on Jim Stanford's observations) that no amount of lobbying or denial can avoid the reality that dirty fossil fuels are a dying industry.

- Andy Blatchford reports that even the businesses which supposedly stand to benefit from corporate trade deals like the CETA neither know nor care about their terms - signalling just how few conglomerates are actually benefiting from trade rules biased toward the corporate sector.

- Richard McAlexander notes that the only connection between immigration and terrorism arises from the violence of domestic right-wing terrorists. Brennan MacDonald and Vassy Kapelos report on Justin Trudeau's appalling willingness to accept Donald Trump's abusive concentration camps (and general contempt for the concept of immigration and refugee status in any form) as "safe" for the purposes of asylum claims. And Emerald Bensadoun offers a wake-up call as to the long-term detention of immigrants in Canada.

- Finally, Laura Dale writes that decriminalization represents a proven means of reducing the harm and social cost caused by drug use and addiction.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Musical interlude

PVRIS - Walk Alone

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford calls out corporate apologists for blaming workers for deteriorating working conditions and stagnant wages which have resulted from deliberate policy choices:
Unemployed workers on the dole for months at a time? Clearly they aren’t looking hard enough for work. Low-wage workers stuck in dead-end jobs? Clearly they didn’t invest in their own “human capital.” Young workers facing a never-ending series of gigs? Clearly they don’t have the discipline to stick with a real job.

A new high water mark in this lamentable practice was surely set this week with a research paper from the Commonwealth Treasury. The report examined historically weak growth in Australian wages over the last several years. It proposed a novel but far-fetched explanation: workers are failing to leave their existing jobs to seek out better-paying opportunities elsewhere.
The formal paper contained all sorts of statistical cautions and academic nuances. But that was lost on the legion of gleeful pundits who seized on its findings, pointing their accusing fingers at complacent, “stubborn” workers for their own low wages. Never mind obvious actions that could directly boost wages: things like raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining (which has all but disappeared from private sector workplaces), or abolishing the Commonwealth government’s own strict two percent  limit on wage increases for its own employees.

No, it’s far easier to ascribe record-low wage growth to some perverse characteristic of the workers themselves. After all, the forces of supply and demand are always working their magic: allocating resources efficiently and ensuring everyone gets paid according to their “productivity.” If that payment isn’t enough to live on -- well, that must be your fault, not the market’s.
(T)he insecurity and powerlessness felt by workers is no accident. It’s the deliberate outcome of a generation of labour and social policies predicated precisely on instilling fear and discipline among workers -- assuming that will lead to greater obedience and productivity. Newstart has been frozen for a generation; protections against dismissal have been dismantled; steady jobs have been casualised or converted into gigs.

In that context, there’s little hope of successfully demanding a raise from your boss: more likely, they’ll brand you a troublemaker and not renew your contract. And with strong restrictions on union activity and collective bargaining, there is little institutional possibility for workers to wield collective bargaining power.
But never mind. The high priests of economic policy would still come up with other reason to blame the victims for their own plight -- not the system. Perhaps their choice of music. Or their insistence on eating smashed avocado for Sunday brunch. Or their bad planning in being born into families without inherited wealth.
- And in a prime example of the systemic gap between what workers get paid and what they need to survive, David Macdonald studies how the minimum wage falls far short of allowing workers to pay for housing all across Canada.

- Sam Arie writes about the reality that due to decades of corporate control and conservative denialism, it's probably too late to entirely avoid dangerous global warming. But Ashli Akins discusses the need to let the prospect of changing our current course for the better needs to overcome any sense of outright despair - even if we also can't blithely assume everything will work out for the best without substantial work.

- CBC News reports that Donald Trump has wasted no time imposing new restrictions on Canadian imports after the Libs claimed success in negotiating a new and worse version of NAFTA.

- Finally, Andrew Mitrovica discusses the disastrous results of Ontario's election of a right-wing populist government.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Geoff Dembicki interviews Leah Gazan about the need to put people over corporate profits in our political system.

- Dale Eisler writes about the need for our conversation around climate change to focus on an honest appraisal as to how we can rein in carbon emissions. But Jason Markusoff points out how petro-jingoism is drowning out any willingness to consider the massive costs of continued fossil fuel extraction. And Paul Willcocks highlights the glaring partisan divide which has seen conservative parties tamp down any interest in acting to avert a climate crisis.

- Meanwhile, Andrew Leach observes that the right-wing strategy of opposing consumer-level pricing and incentives only figures to ensure that more of the cost of any action will be incurred by the extraction industry and other major emitters.

- Ian Austen looks back at the causes of the Lac-Mégantic explosion - and the minimal regulatory response so far.

- Finally, Ricardo Tranjan calls out the Ford government's stinginess in slashing funding for a seniors' transit tax credit. And Leyland Cecco discusses Innisfil's disastrous experiment replacing public transit with ride-sharing which has increased both costs and pollution.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Slumbering cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Alastair Campbell discusses how the latest group of right-wing demagogues has progressed from being post-truth to being post-shame.

- IMFBlog examines how the perpetual slashing of corporate tax rates has eliminated needed public revenue - particularly in lower-income countries - without producing any desirable outcomes.

- Tim Ross writes about the need for a renewed commitment to co-op housing to ensure stable and safe homes are available for everybody.

- Jim Bronskill reports on Nathalie Provost's resignation from the Libs' federal firearms advisory committee which had proven to be just for show. Nora Loreto points out that we can readily afford to eliminate student debt if we care to do so, rather than seeking to burden young people with long-term liabilities to further enrich the wealthy. And Max FineDay points out that the genuine hope for reconciliation among young people in Canada needs to be supported by the political will to ensure Indigenous people are no longer facing systemic disadvantages.

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board warns that we can expect the Libs to approach this year's election season with scare tactics to try to paper over their failings in government.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Cédric Durand and Razmig Keucheyan highlight the return of economic planning as a widely-recognized public policy option - while pointing out the need for our democratic systems to allow for public direction of the planning process. And Lauren Townsend writes about the importance of ensuring that workers play a lead role in shaping a Green New Deal.

- Jamie Margolin discusses the multiple systems of oppression behind our climate crisis - and the need for an activist movement able to counter all of them. Michael Savage reports on Jeremy Corbyn's recognition that developed countries don't help the global cause of mitigating climate damage by claiming reductions on paper while pushing carbon emissions offshore. And Peter Newell and Andrew Simms make the case for a non-proliferation treaty to wean all countries off of dirty energy sources.

- Meanwhile, David Suzuki notes that fracking isn't viable either as a climate transition measure, or as a base of economic development. And Keith Gerein writes that the Kenney UCP's gleeful gutting of any environmental plans will only make it even more unsympathetic in complaining about climate activists.

- Ben Oquist examines the Australian Capital Territory as an example of progressive policy earning support over a period of multiple election cycles - though the significance of a stable coalition government carries important lessons for our choices about our electoral system.

- Finally, the Star-Phoenix and Leader-Post editorial boards call for the Saskatchewan Party to finally provide adequate funding to local school divisions, rather than demanding that an already-stretched education system continually try to do more with less. And Dan Jones reports on Ryan Meili's push to end a birth alert process which serves largely to tear Indigenous families apart.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- PressProgress reports on federal government focus groups indicating the twin problems of precarious employment and high costs of living:
According to recently published public opinion research commissioned by the Privy Council Office (PCO) newly reviewed by PressProgress, the Trudeau government’s own internal research shows Canadians are most worried about rising living costs, stagnant wages and job insecurity.

Three cycles of focus groups, one for each of January, February, and March 2019, were polled by the market research firm Corporate Research Associates Inc., on behalf of the PCO — the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Among young Canadians, the researchers found youth consistently pointed to a lack of “suitable, full-time employment,”

“There was a clear perception that youth face many challenges that did not exist in the past,” the report notes, adding that in addition to precarious job market, young Canadians are worried about “the high cost (and resulting debt) of education” and a “perceived inability to ever own their own home.”

However, the report notes young Canadians believe government action can help address affordability issues: “When considering how government could help young adults, the greatest emphasis was placed on actions that would help make life more affordable.”

The report says that “it was felt that these issues could be addressed by government through housing assistance programs, rent control policies, increasing minimum wage and supporting the diversification of the economy.”
- Veena Dubal offers a warning as to how vulnerable workers and citizens will be corporate giants become their landlords as well as their employers and service providers. And Jim Rankin reports on the debt bondage used to control migrant workers in Canada.

- Ethan Earle, Manuel Pérez-Rocha and Scott Sinclair discuss what a progressive trade agenda should include - particularly a focus on human rights rather than corporate profits.

- Anne Kingston discusses the connection between the purging of any women premiers from Canada's political scene and the Trudeau Libs' choice to break its promise of electoral reform with messages about the need for one-man government.

- Finally, Gary Younge looks to Syriza as a cautionary tale as to how progressive parties need to plan to build movements to push for social change, not merely hope that electoral success will be sufficient to bring about that result.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Owen Jones offers a needed reminder that no matter how often it gets trotted out as a basis to ignore the ideological underpinnings of parties oriented toward the concentration of wealth and power, the concept of compassionate conservatism is nothing more than a self-serving myth.

- Donna Borak reports that the Trump tax giveaway to the wealthy has predictably led to a massive increase in the U.S.' deficit (which is of course now being used as an excuse to call to slash social supports). And Scott Kohn notes that almost immediately after reversing course from its own exercise in trickle-down fundamentalism, Kansas is seeing its economy and budget start to recover.

- David Hughes points out that the partisan politics behind the purchase and approval of the Trans Mountain have nothing to do with the public interest. Fiona Harvey reports on the lack of reporting and planning from the planet's worst corporate polluters. And Don Thompson reports on a new California spill in which hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil were dumped into a canyon.

- Bronwen Tucker reports that a year after Greyhound shut down its intercity bus service (even after the Saskatchewan Party dismantled STC based on belief in magical free-market replacements), nobody has stepped in to fill the void on any substantial scale.  And the Canadian Press reports on Jagmeet Singh's call for a national cycling strategy as part of the transition toward cleaner and more community-friendly transportation.

- Finally, Michelle Ghoussoub reports on research showing a direct connection between residential school attendance in one generation and the taking of Indigenous children into state care in the next.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Musical interlude

Delerium feat. Mimi Page - Blue Fires

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mike Pearl discusses the climate despair of people understandably having difficulty working toward a longer term which is utterly neglected in our most important social decisions. But Macleans' feature on climate change includes both Alanna Mitchell's take on what a zero-emission future might look like, and an editorial calling for far more action to get there than either the Libs or Cons is willing to even suggest (let alone deliver).

- Meanwhile, Gregory Meyer offers a reminder as to how methane leaks make natural gas a non-starter when it comes to maintaining a liveable climate. And Nerilie Abram, Matthew England and Matt King point out the dangers of instability in giant Antarctic ice sheets.

- But John McMurtry discusses how the Koch Brothers and other plutocrats are trying to buy public ignorance to ensure that environmentally destructive plans are permitted. And David Climenhaga writes that Jason Kenney is looking to distract from any issue worthy of public discussion by funding conspiracy theorists to write fiction about environmental activists, while Graham Thomson also calls out the lack of any rational basis for Kenney's McCarthyite project.

- David Macdonald offers a primer on tax fairness for Canadians examining their options in this fall's federal election. And the Canadian Press analyzes how British Columbia's anti-speculation tax has collected $115 million for a fund dedicated to affordable housing.

- Finally, Jolson Lim reports on the decision of human rights advocates and labour representatives to resign from a Trudeau-appointed advisory body which was falling short of offering anything remotely resembling corporate responsibility.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

 This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Robert Reich points out that the most significant political divide is the one between the wealthiest few and the rest of the population:
In reality, the biggest divide in America today runs between oligarchy and democracy. When oligarchs fill the coffers of political candidates, they neuter democracy.
The oligarchs know politicians won’t bite the hands that feed them. So as long as they control the money, they can be confident there will be no meaningful response to stagnant pay, climate change, military bloat or the soaring costs of health insurance, pharmaceuticals, college and housing.

There will be no substantial tax increases on the wealthy. There will be no antitrust enforcement to puncture the power of giant corporations. There will be no meaningful regulation of Wall Street’s addiction to gambling with other peoples’ money. There will be no end to corporate subsides. CEO pay will continue to skyrocket. Wall Street hedge fund and private equity managers will continue to make off like bandits.

So long as the oligarchy divides Americans – split off people of color from working-class whites, stoke racial resentments, describe human beings as illegal aliens, launch wars on crime and immigrants, stoke fears of communists and socialists – it doesn’t have to worry that a majority will stop them from looting the nation.
Divide-and-conquer allows the oligarchy free rein. It makes the rest of us puppets, fighting each other on a made-up stage.
- Paul Krugman writes about the Trump administration's dangerous coupling of additional incarceration and corporate corruption. And Bidesh Sarma and Jessica Brand rightly challenge the criminalization of poverty and homelessness.

- Josh Rubin interviews Jim Stanford about the reality that precarious work and stagnant wages are the result of policy choices. And David Madland offers some suggestions to move toward sectoral bargaining and broader labour power in the U.S.

- Finally, Gregory Shill laments the imposition of car culture as a matter of government decision-making. And Jonathan Cote and Peter Ladner write that a shift toward modernized transit to reduce the harms of excessive traffic should be a key election issue.

New column day

Here, on the bleatings from far too many corners that there's no right time to discuss meaningful policy choices - and the federal NDP's push to prove otherwise.

For further reading...
- The NDP's set of campaign commitments is here (PDF). And I'll be looking at some of the specific proposals in more detail over the summer.
- The Cons' sad excuse for a climate plan is receiving duly scathing reviews - even from some of the party's most reliable cheerleaders.
- Finally, one of the few other commentators to note the significance of the NDP's platform is Karl Nerenberg, while Jim Warren was the one to make the stunning claim that the party shouldn't have released anything at all. And the few voices questioning the NDP's policies in substance are ones whose opposition should be welcomed.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cats amid wreckage.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Joanne Light and Cathy Orlando point out that we don't have any more time to waste in reining in a climate breakdown in progress. And Justin Ling writes that we should be far more concerned about Canada's massive and increasing deficit in action to avert a climate crisis than small amounts of ink on the federal balance sheet:
Even if Canada only contributes a fraction of the world’s emissions, we stand to shoulder a disproportionate share of the costs. Rising sea levels promise to displace populations along the coasts, increased rainfalls will require ever-larger bailouts for flooded communities in the East, and worsening wildfire seasons have wreaked havoc through the West.

To not prepare more actively to prevent and mitigate that – and to campaign, instead, on the few-hundred bucks in short-term savings that would come from doing nothing – takes the taxpayers for chumps.

Climate change is already costing us billions. If we don’t turn our entire government toward reducing and eliminating further emissions, and preparing and mitigating incoming effects, we’re only compounding the costs we’ll incur down the line.
- Meanwhile, Melanie Green points out that the ill effects of a climate breakdown extend to avoidable mental health difficulties for the people forced to confront it. And Andrew Van Dam reports on new research showing how living wages can ameliorate numerous social and health symptoms.

- Oliver Wainwright discusses the rise of the new form of corporate-designed company town. And Shawn Micallef argues that we shouldn't allow tech giants to demand the power to shape living spaces and monitor individual activity without accepting the accountability which should apply to any de facto government.

- But based on the examples reported by Ainslie Cruickshank and Jim Bronskill, we shouldn't pretend that public resources aren't also misused to monitor people for the benefit of the wealthy few (including the fossil fuel industry). And Sharon Riley exposes CAPP's lobbying efforts to ensure that nobody other than oil barons has any say in the decisions made around dirty energy projects.

- Finally, a new Upstream study examines the continued shame of appallingly high child poverty rates among status First Nations children. And Andrew MacLeod writes about the role racism plays in Canadian politics.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Nick Falvo writes that Alberta would be far better served implementing a tax system more in line with the rest of Canada's provinces to increase revenue, rather than slashing social supports in the name of illusory budget balance. And the Globe and Mail's editorial board notes that multiple multi-million-dollar attacks on perceived political enemies make for a particularly appalling use of public money.

- Tracey Lindeman reports on new research showing that a massive chunk of Toronto's real estate market is being used for investment purposes rather than owner occupancy. And Cathy Crowe discusses the dangers of inadequate housing and other basic necessities when extreme heat strikes.

- CBC Radio talks to Sean Holman about the need for journalists to take climate change seriously. Fiona Harvey reports on the U.N.'s warning that disasters arising out of our climate breakdown are already happening at a rate of one per week.

- Meanwhile, Adam Morton rightly rebuts any attempt to paint natural gas as part of the solution to the climate crisis rather than a dangerous expansion of the problem.

- Finally, David Atkins discusses how establishment Democrats (like their counterparts in Canada and elsewhere) are misreading the risks of the status quo:
When (typically older) establishment Democrats tell (typically younger) progressives that they can’t try to make big structural changes to make government operate more efficiently—by, say, breaking the logjam of the Senate filibuster—they are told to be patient because the risk of giving that much power to Republicans is too great. But in actuality, it isn’t. On climate change alone, it’s not hyperbole to suggest that if the next Democratic administration–assuming Trump is defeated in 2020—does not pass something akin to a Green New Deal within its time, the policy failure could hurtle humanity into a dark age. Healthcare, housing, and education crises don’t have the same apocalyptic consequences, but their unsustiainable trajectories demand no less immediate solutions. The Democratic administration that comes after Trump, whether it’s run by Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris, will realistically have to deal with these problems with fewer than 60 Democratic Senators and almost no hope of Republican crossover votes. Sure, if Republicans regain unitary control of government without the backstop of a filibuster, they could do some very bad things. But none of those things would be as bad as letting another 10 years of climate inaction and ballooning healthcare, education, and housing costs go unaddressed. It’s a matter of theories of power and fundamental risk assessment.
Meanwhile, all the above-mentioned environmental and economic crises will combine to create serious instability when the next recession comes, as it inevitably will. Americans are hard-pressed right now even with all the traditional indicators roaring. What happens in the next downturn? Typically, people respond to downturns by voting for change, and they expect politicians to deliver on it. The greatest risk is, when that day comes, conservatives are the only ones promising credible systemic changes––albeit, of course, wrong and immoral ones.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

On fanaticism

I've previously pointed out the connection between Andrew Scheer and an explicit effort to elevate the burning of fossil fuels to goal surpassing any interest in human well-being. But it's worth noting how much more extreme the same forces are becoming in order to serve the cause of extracting oil and gas - regardless of both the immediate and long-term human costs.

Kelly Weill reported here on the stunning machinations around emissions legislation in Oregon. There, voters elected Democrats to control all three branches of government, resulting in the introduction of a garden-variety, business-friendly cap-and-trade bill.

Republican state Senators responded by fleeing the capitol to deny quorum which would allow the legislation to pass. And that isn’t unprecedented.

But the Republicans also allied themselves with terrorist militias, openly threatening police officers if any effort was made to secure their return. Needless to say, that represented an unprecedented level of disregard for law and life (beyond the health costs of fossil fuels themselves), and all in the service of nothing more than untrammelled fossil fuel production.

We haven't yet seen the same explicit and immediate threats to life in the name of the oil sector. But we've absolutely seen the deliberate cultivation of both petrofanaticism and violent rhetoric - from Conservative-connected astroturf groups threatening civil war and attempting to silence anybody who dares to deviate from the oil industry's hymnbook, to a UCP government wasting public resources to demand fealty to oil barons (while conspicuously ignoring the much larger foreign influence on the pro-oil side).

And we should be calling out both the extreme voices and their powerful enablers at any turn - because the last thing we should be willing to accept is avoidable human cost in the name of the new worship of dirty energy.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Susie Neilson discusses the growing health gap between the rich and the rest of the population in the U.S. And Ricardo Tranjan writes about the unfairness of an Employment Insurance system in which people with the most precarious work pay a higher proportion of their income while receiving less access to benefits.

- Ian McGugan comments on the sad reality that far too many voters are supporting clowns and charlatans in the absence of any perception that governments can genuinely change their lives for the better.

- Clive Doucet laments the fact that due to Justin Trudeau's self-serving calculation that he'd rather have the opportunity to win false majorities than implement a proportional electoral system, far too many Canadian voters may end up voting based on fear rather than values once again. And Marie-Danielle Smith notes that the Libs have abandoned any pretense that their corporate-friendly trade schemes can be described as progressive.

- Lois Ross' discussion of what farmers lost due to the Cons' trashing of the Canadian Wheat Board offers a reminder of what we stand to lose by failing to recognize the importance of public institutions. And Murray Mandryk recognizes that Saskatchewan is far better off for the failure of the Devine PCs' attempt to sell off SaskEnergy.

- Finally, Rebecca Traister points out the need for political commentary to reflect the changing face of the political system. And Alex Ballingall discusses the increasing recognition of the importance of the environment among Canadian voters, even as the two largest parties in Parliament go out of their way to offer as little as possible.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne writes about the perilous future we're leaving to future generations - as well as the hope we should draw from young activists demanding better.

- Sven Biggs debunks a few of Justin Trudeau's excuses for using public money to buy and build a pipeline. Erica Ifill points out the gross lack of environmental justice when toxic substances are consistently inflicted on the people least able to respond, while Christopher Ragan and Courtney Howard write about the health impacts of a climate breakdown. And Sarah Cox discusses the B.C. government's thoroughly underwhelming response to a report on the dangers of fracking.

- Meanwhile, Vanessa Ratjen asks why Canada is neglecting obvious opportunities to develop geothermal energy. But the Corporate Mapping Project's database of fossil fuel puppetmasters largely answers the question as to why healthier alternatives have been suppressed while oil and gas subsidies have only been ramped up.

- Finally, Evan Siddall discusses the need to ensure that housing policy focuses on making a home available to everybody, not merely serving the cause of turning ownership into a seemingly risk-free investment.

Musical interlude

Jai Wolf feat. Chelsea Jade - Lost

Friday, July 05, 2019

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- PressProgress examines Statistics Canada's latest research on the tens of billions of dollars in taxes being dodged by multinational corporations. And George Monbiot offers an inside look into the crushing power of billionaires once they sense a threat to their sources of wealth and power.

- Sheila Matthen analyzes how inequality is only getting worse among millennial workers as compared to previous cohorts. And Ricardo Tranjan points out how employment insurance has eroded to the point where it withholds any income supports from the workers who need assistance the most.

- Andy Beckett writes about the sorely-needed alternatives to neoliberalism developing among a new generation of economists. And Anne Kingston writes that kindness and compassion are the only viable alternative to broken systems built around self-interest-based incentives.

- Larry Kusch takes note of the declining nursing care in Manitoba under the Pallister PCs, while PressProgress points out that Pallister's idea of health care "efficiencies" is shutting down emergency rooms.

- Finally, Jon Milton exposes the Libs' construction of a migrant detention centre in Laval.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mark Rice-Oxley points out the observations of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Health as to the stress and mental illness caused by austerity. Robert Booth reports on the recognition that yet another round of giveaways to the rich and clawbacks from everybody else would represent a needless tragedy for the UK. And Frances Ryan discusses the inhumanity involved in a cap on benefits intended to control family sizes for people receiving social benefits.

- Tom Metcalf reports on a call for a wealth tax from multiple American billionaires who recognize that everybody ends up worse off when a wealthy elite isolates itself from the population at large. And Damian Carrington reports on the imminent risk of "climate apartheid" as concentrated wealth is used to shield the main contributors to a climate breakdown from its most severe effects.

- Jeff Berardelli points out the connection between climate change and the increased frequency and severity of heat waves. And Sarah Wesseler discusses how the increased use of air conditioning in response to higher temperatures only stands to exacerbate our climate crisis.

- Lisa Friedman reports on the latest revelations from the longstanding Taylor Energy oil leak, which include the underreporting of the scale of the leak by a factor of a thousand. And George Monbiot reminds us that we shouldn't buy the attempts of Shell and other oil giants to present themselves as planetary saviours when they've been knowingly destroying both our planet and our ability to act collectively to preserve it.

- Finally, Andrew Coyne notes that unelected Senators are again preventing our elected representatives from doing their jobs in passing legislation in the public interest - and this time merely through filibustering rather than any consideration of bills on their merits.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

This and that for your mid-week reading.

- Rick Salutin discusses the needed rise of left-wing populism in the U.S.' presidential campaign (and elsewhere).

- Ed Finn highlights how policies designed around austerity and competition are designed to prevent people from cooperating toward the common good. And Erlend Kvitrud points out how direct public control over corporations serves as a crucial aspect of Scandinavia's economic and social successes.

- Tracey Lindeman notes that the airline industry represents just another example of how corporate consolidation is producing windfall profits and higher prices. And Katie Nicholson reports on Boeing's falsification of safety records.

- Rebecca Willis writes that more democracy is a crucial aspect of a successful effort to combat our climate crisis, while Avi Lewis and David Suzuki are hopeful that Canada is on the right track. Bloomberg News calls out the fossil fuel industry's continued sabotage of any attempt to develop workable plans to avert a climate breakdown, while Alastair Jamieson reports on Saudi Arabia's interference in UN discussions. Ben Jervey notes that the Koch brothers are among the oil barons trying to prevent the emergence of the electric vehicle industry. And James Temple discusses the need to reduce out anticipated fossil fuel use rather than trying to justify continued expansion in the name of "transition", while David Roberts writes about Jay Inslee's detailed plans to actually phase out our dependence on carbon pollution. 

- Finally, Tom Koch writes that a national pharmacare system would both benefit from, and contribute to, the principle that big pharma shouldn't be able to capture public research dollars as a source of private profits.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Companion cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Roberts writes about the developing recognition that we all bear responsibility for consumption emissions - though even better would be a focus on limiting emissions produced, consumed and exported alike. Daniel Masoliver examines some of the steps we can take as individuals to rein in our own emissions - though those pale in comparison to the scale of the problem originating with large polluters. And Benjamin Neimark, Oliver Belcher and Patrick Bigger point out the massive emissions emanating from the U.S.' military.

- Marc Lee discusses the absurdity of trying to claim massive LNG developments as a credit rather than a cost in trying to avert a climate breakdown. And Paul Willcocks calls out Andrew Scheer's combination of magic asterisks, corporate giveaways and attempts to game emission credit systems masquerading as a climate plan.

- Katie Bach, Sarah Kalloch and Zeynep Ton point out how employers themselves benefit by treating workers with respect rather than contempt. And Michelle Cohen makes the case for employers to at least foot the bill for mandatory sick notes - though the more important question is the frequency with which they're required in the first place.

- CBC News reports on Hamilton's failure to take violent right-wing extremism seriously - as evidenced by the fact that police have been used to protect bigoted groups from peaceful activists. Martha Gill comments on the need for skepticism about supposed defences of free speech which amount to nothing more than attempts to ensure that ignorance and bigotry are allowed to be emitted unopposed. And Michael Coren offers a warning about Andrew Scheer's hatred and intolerance (however it's concealed while he seeks power).

- Finally, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman respond (PDF) to dubious questions about the effectiveness of wealth taxes in both increasing revenue and ensuring greater equality. And Byrd Pinkerton and Dylan Matthews question why deceased plutocrats are able to impose their will on the world from beyond the grave.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Light blogging ahead

Expect this space to go quiet for the next week-plus. For those not following on Twitter, I'll still be somewhat active at @juristblog.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lana Payne discusses the need for outrage about the lack of enforcement even of corporate tax obligations which have been slashed for decades. And Hassan Yussuff writes about the obvious merits of a universal pharmacare system, along with the wealthy few determined to stop anything of the sort since it might cut into their windfall profits:
(Y)ou can bet there are plenty of wealthy corporate shareholders who are very satisfied with the status quo and who will always put those inflated profits ahead of people’s health care needs.

In fact, a report by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions earlier this year uncovered a 600% increase in lobbying by at least one major industry group between 2017 to 2018.

“The pharmaceutical industry sees the implementation of pharmacare as worthy of the deployment of unprecedented lobbying resources,” concludes the report.

Our governments, though, serve the public good, not private interests. That’s why the independent advisory council has provided the clearest blueprint yet for this major investment in the people of Canada.

Will our elected officials support this national vision? Or will they toe the industry line and support half-measures that will continue to line industry pockets while putting people’s health at risk?
- J. David Hughes and Laura Cameron each discuss how an ongoing climate crisis demands that we transition to clean energy rather than subsidizing and forcing the further extraction of fossil fuels. Holly Lake exposes the shoddy and biased "research" used to secure the approval of dangerous industrial projects. And Tristan Hughes calls out Justin Trudeau's attempt to triangulate in the face of a threat to our living environment as a particularly dangerous form of denialism.

- Rhiannon Moore points out that climate change and plastic pollution are both symptoms of the same problem of consumerism. And Sandra Laville discusses the costs to people and to the planet of a culture of cheap and disposable clothing.

- Finally, Scott Smith writes that the right to repair should be extended to include farm machinery to ensure farmers aren't at the mercy of large equipment monopolists.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Musical interlude

Phantogram - Fall In Love

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Lawrence Mishel points out that Donald Trump's giveaways to the rich actually resulted in a sharp decline in bonuses paid to workers.

- Robert Plummer reports on the precarity facing lower-income workers in the UK. And John Clapp writes from experience about the catch-22s standing between people and desperately-needed housing in Toronto.

- Gerald Kutney comments on the utter lack of content in the Cons' saw excuse for a climate change plan. Jasper Jolly discusses the role a shift toward electric airplanes will need to play as part of a transition to a sustainable economy. And Nicole Mortarillo writes about Canada's certain role as a haven for refugees driven from newly-uninhabitable areas as our climate crisis worsens.

- Jim Stanford points out a new report from the Conference Board of Canada showing how investment in education pays off many times over - even as right-wing governments across the country slash from students to give to the rich.

- Finally, Cam Holmstrom duly criticizes the Cons' unelected Senators who took it upon themselves to block legislation to implement UNDRIP. And Graham Thomson discusses what Jason Kenney's decision to hand earplugs to his trained seals to avoid even hearing the opposition in Alberta's legislature says about his attitude toward democracy.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood offers an electoral primer for voters who want to avert a climate breakdown in this fall's federal election. And Paul Wells takes a look at the Cons' undercooked nothingburger of a climate plan, while Hilary Beaumont notes that it's actually designed to coordinate with fossil fuel barons' plans to increase emissions.

- While Jason Kenney explicitly launches a war against anybody who questions the most extreme elements of the oil sector, Mark Schapiro points out that environmental reporting has long been an area in which anybody pursuing the truth has been at risk of being silenced by force. And Marion Guégan and Cécile Schilis-Gallego highlight the specific threats against reporters who dared to expose human rights abuses and corruption in Tanzania.

- Meanwhile, Duncan Cameron examines the NDP's election platform - including its broad view as to how the federal government can improve the well-being of Canadians. And as a reminder of what happens when governments operate under the opposite set of assumptions, CUPE examines the social costs of pseudo-"balanced" budgets which slash needed public services in order to fund tax cuts for the rich.

- Finally, Ed Finn points out the contrived complaints about the cost of pharmacare when governments regularly hand over billions of dollars to the corporate sector.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellanous material for your mid-week reading.

- David Dayen interviews Elizabeth Warren about the role of government in ensuring that the needs of people take precedence over the power of corporations. And Press Progress duly challenges the claim that corporate directors are overworked in putting in five to seven hours a week to carry out their duties, while Marco Chown Oved and Robert Cribb report on the tens of billions of dollars in taxes left unpaid by Canada's largest businesses.

- Michael Kwet examines how retailers track customers' movement without permission or accountability, while David Beer discusses the importance of regulating who's able to analyze personal information online.

- PressProgress examines a few of the realities Brian Pallister is hoping to sweep under the rug with a snap election call - including his slashing of rental assistance programs. Arthur White-Crummey reports on the Saskatchewan Party's elimination of support for utility costs in favour of blather about self-sufficiency. Jinny Sims calls out the B.C. Libs' billion dollars in land sales which papered over the cost of tax cuts at the expense of sorely-needed common property. And the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report (PDF) on the Trudeau Libs' housing policy finds that it's served only to shuffle around even lower amounts of money than were available under the unabashedly-austerian Harper Cons.

- Julia Knope reports on a Toronto rally seeking full labour rights and fair immigration opportunities for migrant workers. And David Climenhaga discusses how Alberta's Kenney Conservatives are seeking to set workers up for further exploitation while avoiding answering for their plans until after the federal election.

- Finally, Alex Ballingall reports that the United National Human Rights Office has joined the voices demanding more serious evaluation of the genocide against Indigenous people identified in the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tuesday Evening Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Farhana Yamin discusses the need to answer the imminent threat of climate breakdown with direct action to force politicians to develop an adequate response (which, to be clear, does not include new pipelines or other subsidies for fossil fuels). Peter Armstrong reports on how a deteriorating climate is making homes uninsurable. And the Sprawl writes that Alberta can't afford continued climate denial.

- Meanwhile, Marc Lee points out the absurdity of pretending that the increased extraction and burning of natural gas will do anything but exacerbate our climate crisis. And Simon Lewis and Charlotte Wheeler note that monocultural plantations are no substitute for natural forest ecosystems in mitigating carbon pollution.

- The Guardian reports on the worldwide consequences of the U.S.' generation and disposal of plastic waste.

- Dave Meslin writes about the undue corporate influence on Canadian politics. And Amanda Follett Hosgood questions why the same RCMP which pays short shrift to disappeared Indigenous women can find the capacity to serve as a private army for pipeline construction.

- Finally, Michael Salmato discusses how corporations and wealthy individuals pocketed the Trump tax giveaway while ensuring no benefits would trickle down to U.S. workers.

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Packaged cats.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Ed Miliband writes that there's no contradiction between a climate change plan and an effective economic strategy - and to the contrary, they can and should be entirely aligned. And the Guardian's editorial board recognizes the need to get to net zero emissions sooner rather than later - even if the UK Cons are still working on the latter timeline.

- Meanwhile, Matthew Todd argues that the Extinction Rebellion has helped to turn the tide of public opinion toward greater acknowledgment of the need for urgent climate action. And John Geddes notes that severe weather events have also played a part in forcing people to consider the climate crisis - including in deciding who to support politically. 

- Camille Bains reports on new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showing that alcohol remains the substance most responsible for hospitalizations and deaths in Canada. And the Stoney Creek News points out the absurdity of actively promoting the increased sale and distribution of alcohol under those circumstances - though it's well worth noting that Doug Ford has company in recklessly encouraging the increased use of alcohol and its resulting harms. 

- Finally, Mel Watkins discusses how the Waffle movement offers a blueprint - if a dated one - for what progressive nationalism might look like in Canada.