Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Linda McQuaig writes that Canada's federal government should look at buying the soon-to-be-vacated GM plant in Oshawa to begin production of electric vehicles. But Nav Persaud notes that even when the Trudeau Libs make promises about using government power and resources for the public good, they ultimately end up going along with the wishes of the corporate sector.

- E. Tammy Kim writes that instead of relying on corporations to address housing shortages, cities should ensure the actors who cause and profit from rising rents are taxed to cover the cost.

- Ivana Kottasova reports on a new study showing how the global environment can't handle the damage caused by the U.S.' increase in fossil fuel production and consumption. And Fatima Syed reports on Doug Ford's extension of anti-government dogma to the treatment of endangered species in Ontario.

- Meanwhile, Erika Shaker examines the predictable effects of Ford's plan to undermine student newspapers and organizations as part of a more general attack on post-secondary education, while Nora Loreto points out that it particularly stands to weaken students' voices in the general public. And Martin Regg Cohn views the false promise of tuition cuts as following in the PCs' buck-a-beer tradition of counterproductive, faux-populist policies.

- Claire Clancy reports on recent findings of Alberta's Elections Commissioner concluding that Rebel Media and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have broken election laws. And Elizabeth Thompson reports that a single guilty plea and small fine looks like it may close the door on any public knowledge of SNC Lavalin's system of illegal federal political donations to the Libs and Cons.

- Finally, Trish Hennessy discusses some trends to watch for - and positive change to pursue - in the year ahead.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Simon Ducatel discusses how wealth inequality is at the root of continued poverty and deprivation, while Charles Plante notes that anti-poverty strategies in Canada currently serve mostly to capture credit for existing policies rather than to guide the development of new ones.

- Grace Blakely points out the role that capital controls should play in ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share toward social development and increased equality. And Duncan Cameron writes about Olivier Blanchard's recognition that public debt is entirely acceptable as long as it results from worthwhile investments.

- Cindy Blackstock highlights how the continued lack of progress on Indigenous child welfare is entirely the result of governments failing to act on policies which they know to be effective.

- Andrew Longhurst makes the case for a move away from fee-for-service payment of physicians.

- Finally, Rick Smith challenges Macleans' attempt to equate the left and right in their contributions to Canada's political scene:

On all of the major questions facing humanity today—climate change, inequality, defending and deepening pluralism in an age of globalization —the left is working to find answers. True, in some areas we are still coming up short. For all the achievements of left movements in the 20th century, from the welfare state to universal healthcare to progressive labour legislation, inequality remains a deep and abiding fact of Canadian life. Despite successfully making the environment a major issue of public concern, there is still much work to be done if we are to avert the coming climate crisis. Racism and the discriminatory treatment of racialized Canadians are still tragic realities, human rights and equity laws notwithstanding.

Challenges like these and the moral necessity of tackling them is precisely what animates today’s left in Canada and abroad. Yes, their urgency may inspire impassioned, even angry critiques of the political status quo and what can sometimes be difficult, needlessly fractious debates within our own ranks. Some believe this makes the left and right fellow travelers amid the ongoing crisis of liberal democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While prominent left-wing figures like Bernie Sanders or Jagmeet Singh indeed give expression to anger, its targets are corporations who exploit their workers or extremely wealthy people who don’t pay their fair share of taxes. The ultimate goal of this anger is to overcome visible injustices and make material gains for working people, young and old, across all sections of society. The same can be said for groups like Black Lives Matter or #MeToo, which are giving constructive expression to justified anger at discrimination and bigotry on both sides of the border.

The right is not, to put it kindly, either doing the same or searching for answers to the major challenges facing our societies today. In conservative parties across the country, climate change denialism (or its close cousin foot-dragging-ism) runs rampant—as evidenced by the recent actions of the Ford government in Ontario and the persistent hostility of the conservative movement to common-sense environmental policies such as cleaning up electricity production, or electric vehicle mandates or carbon pricing.

With the stakes being as high as they are in politics today, debates will inevitably prove divisive and difficult. But in their attempts to grapple with our anxious political moment, pundits and commentators alike should be careful not to conflate individuals and movements fighting injustice with those pursuing it as their animating principle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Damian Carrington reports on new research showing that it's possible to stop climate change in its tracks - but only by beginning to phase out fossil fuel infrastructure immediately. And Ryan Cooper comments on the problems in responding to an immediate crisis with mushy centrism rather than a determination to act:
America can't afford another eight years of a moderate party fiddling while the climate burns, or even making things worse, which is exactly what happened during the Obama years. Democrats in those days failed to pass a climate bill that wasn't even that great, and it took the administration five years after that to put out an executive order that was just as inadequate. In the meantime, the Obama administration ushered in a massive expansion of American oil and gas drilling that has made the U.S. the biggest producer of both oil and natural gas in the world. Part of the motivation was that natural gas is cleaner fuel than coal climate-wise, but methane (the main component of natural gas) itself is much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and it turns out leaks more than cancel out the relative climate benefit. Whoops!

If they are to take the moral responsibilities of governing the United States seriously, moderates can't just hide behind "better than Trump." The scientists say we have about a decade to cut our emissions by 45 percent. If lefty ideas like a Green New Deal are too radical for moderates, then by God they better come up with something that achieves the same objective.
- George Lakoff discusses the need to counter the language of hate which underlies Donald Trump's demand for a wall (along with so much other right-wing political strategy internationally).

- Meanwhile, Tanya Talaga notes that Justin Trudeau's cabinet shuffle is an ominous sign for Indigenous peoples. And Susan Delacourt points out that it will also likely serve as an excuse to delay any national pharmacare program.

- Finally, Natalie Mehra warns Doug Ford against following through on his apparent plans to privatize Ontario health care.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Erlend Sandoy and Saskia Kerkvliet offer a graphic explainer of the causes and costs of high-end tax avoidance. And Eric Rankin reports on the scope of money laundering through casinos in British Columbia (which was ten times larger than official estimates), while ProPublica exposes the IRS' propensity for auditing the working poor rather than upper-income individuals.

- Meanwhile, George Tyler writes about a growing push toward co-determination which can help to make sure that corporate structures aren't dedicated solely toward enriching shareholders and executives at the expense of everybody else. 

- Melissa Jeltsen reports on the U.S. domestic violence centres which are cutting services and supports as a result of Donald Trump's government shutdown. While there's good news to be taken from the YWCA's announcement of a new Regina shelter, the number of women and children being turned away in the meantime indicates that Saskatchewan falls short of providing basic services even in the absence of a political crisis. And Jino Distasio weighs in on the need to fight structural poverty and deprivation, rather than focusing only on symptoms such as dangerous donation bins.

- Doug Cuthand rightly argues that it's impossible to build a sustainable future on fossil fuel dependence.

- Finally, Chris Glover asks who will stop Doug Ford's autocracy in Ontario, while pointing out how a proportional electoral system would significantly reduce the risk of one-man minority rule.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Talia Lavin writes about the value of shifting the Overton window to enable serious discussion of higher tax rates on the people who have far more money than they could possibly need:
I think about how we view the rich, so often born into the aeries of luxury, as inherently deserving of their station. They’re coddled by their birth and by our tax code. They’re buoyed by our admiration: They’re “makers” and “doers” and winners of philanthropy awards, because they have enough money ― parked in ways such that it swells and effloresces into yet more money ― that they can throw their pocket change at the rest of us and be feted for it. We clap and call them “job creators,” even when the only jobs involved are for lawyers and the kind of accountants who know the differential tax-sheltering benefits between the Cayman Islands and Cyprus.
I think of the old, cracked windows on public trains that swelter in summer and freeze in winter and are beset with ever-longer delays. The ruts in our roads, the poison in our water, the fires in our forests, the plastic in our seas. I think of the things all that hoarded cash could heal and build and fix.
That’s when I’m grateful for even the smallest breath of air in our political discourse, a way to sweep away some of the poisonous rhetoric that blames the poor for their poverty and lauds the wealthy for circumstances most of them had no hand in creating.
I am sick of it, I am so sick of it I could scream an unending scream that might shatter even the reinforced imported Italian glass of a hedge-fund manager’s midcentury modern gut-renovated Manhattan penthouse that once belonged to an old woman whose rent control died when she did. With my own stubby hands, I want to break open the myth that those who outearn us are our betters. I want to break open the coffers of the wealthy and let us use it to save ourselves.
I’m so angry I want to smash the Overton Window that some courageous politicians are shoving at with their shoulders. Outside it the air is cool, and heavy with promise.
- Andrea Flynn and Susan Holmberg comment on the need to finally live up to FDR's rights-based vision in ensuring that people's basic material needs are met. Lori Culbert reports on Vancouver's attempts to wrestle with child poverty, while Hadlen Freeman observes that the longstanding problem of homelessness affects people doing precarious work in the new economy. And Kelly Crowe discusses how the revamping of Canada's food guide does nothing to help people who are unable to afford to follow it.

- Leyland Cecco highlights how pipeline protests are calling needed attention to the rights still held over unceded territory.

- Meanwhile, Charlie Taylor notes that Ireland's Strategic Investment Fund has joined the ranks of major public investors who have decided they can do better than to fund fossil fuel development.

- Finally, Dr. A.J. discusses how deliberate and avoidable austerity has left Nova Scotia with a crumbling health care system - while opening the door for profit-based health services which will only exacerbate the problem.