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.