Saturday, September 28, 2019

On private determinations

Paul Willcocks has previously pointed out why there's reason for skepticism about Andrew Scheer's attempt to play both sides as to whether or not the Cons will try to limit access to abortion. But it's worth looking at a case study as to how the Harper Cons flouted any distinction between private member's bills and government bills when it suited their purposes.

Bill C-377, designed to impose reporting requirements on unions which don't apply to any other organization, was never included in any Con election platform. It was introduced as a private member's bill by Russ Heibert to make use of an advantageous draw in the order of priority, while avoiding the scrutiny that applies to government bills.

But the Senate returned it to the House of Commons with amendments. And at that point, the Cons made clear that it was Stephen Harper, not any MP acting on behalf of any constituents, who was dictating what to do with the legislation - and moreover that reintroducing it as a government bill was on the table:
Despite this being a private member’s bill, the Prime Minister’s Office has been moved to issue a statement.
We continue to support union transparency and the principles of the bill, which will be returned to the House as part of the normal process.
As per Parliamentary convention, we expect that the Senate will respect the will of the House of Commons should the Bill be returned to the Senate.
A Conservative source tells the Canadian Press that the bill will now be reintroduced as a government bill.
That didn't happen in the House of Commons. But it did eventually happen in the Senate, as Harper's Cons broke the Senate's rules to retroactively reclassify C-377 as a "government bill" to allow it to be rammed through in the final session before the 2015 election:
The government has powerful tools to push forward on "government business" — important legislation such as budgets. But C-377 falls under "other business" because it is a private member's bill from a Conservative backbench MP.

Carignan wanted to have C-377 declared a government bill so that he could force it to a vote. The problem is that it clearly isn't government business. The government itself introduced it as "other business."

A government motion would have retroactively redefined C-377 as a government bill. This was the motion Speaker Housakos declared was against the rules and undermined the traditions of the Senate.

By overruling Housakos, government senators can now use tools intended for government bills to push forward a private member's bill that many have warned is unconstitutional.
In light of that background, what does Scheer have to say about anti-choice legislation?
Scheer’s efforts to clarify his views on abortion just made things murkier. “I will not re-open this debate and I will oppose any plan to re-open this debate,” he told reporters.

But he also said Conservative MPs would be allowed to introduce legislation limiting access to abortion. And to vote for restricting access, if that was their personal view. And while he would expect cabinet ministers to vote against limiting access, he wouldn’t demand they do.
So Scheer's supposed acceptance of the continued availability of abortion is limited to personally opposing a move to "re-open" debate. But that can be done by any MP introducing a private member's bill. And Scheer has signalled his willingness to permit that step within a party which exercises strict control over those bills in the first place - meaning that he'll be providing tacit approval even if he feigns public dismay.

And once that step has been taken? Scheer won't demand that any of his MPs vote to preserve the right to abortion access. And based on his own words, any step after the first one has been left open.

There's thus every reason for concern that Scheer will follow his predecessor's playbook. And any promise to leave the Cons' dirty work to private member's bills should only be taken as a reminder that they've used that mechanism to grease the skids for controversial legislation before.

Update: And Scheer's declaration that he'll use the Senate as a tool to exercise strict partisan control certainly doesn't help matters.

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Keith Gerein writes that Alberta's petro-state can't mask the fact that climate denialism is leading to governance failing its own province's children. Murray Mandryk notes that Scott Moe and company are far more childish than the teens leading the climate justice movement. And Stephen Maher challenges the claim that it's a viable plan to leave a worsened climate breakdown - exacerbated by a push to expand fossil fuel production - for future generations to fix:

It ought to be easier for Canada to cut emissions, since we pollute so much more per person. Canada’s emissions per person are among the highest in the world at 16 tonnes. China’s are just seven. You don’t have to think about it very hard to realize that it ought to be easier for us to cut than it is for them.

And if we don’t cut emissions in both countries, soon and steeply, the world is in big trouble, worse trouble than most people realize. The ice caps will melt. The coral reefs will all die. Coastal cities will be washed away. Some of the world’s biggest cities will become uninhabitable. There will be pressure to cool the earth by forcing particulate matter into the stratosphere, a terrifying prospect, turning the Earth into a science experiment.

The horrible truth, the message that Thunberg will deliver in Montreal today, is that we have no choice but to pay. We can pay now or leave it for her generation to pay later, when the price will be much steeper, tragically steeper.

The problem is that we do not want to hear her message, not just because of the PR campaign telling us that we’re foolish to be alarmed—which is a lie—but because it’s easier to do nothing and let Thunberg’s generation deal with it.

It’s no wonder she is angry.
- But PressProgress notes that the Cons are eagerly promoting candidates who promotes not only climate change denial, but opposition to evolution. And Michael Fraiman points out that beyond the climate crisis itself, the Cons are also wilfully ignorant of the effects of their policies intended to address it - including through Andrew Scheer's stunning declaration that wider roads would somehow reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

- Meanwhile, Chris Selley rightly tears into the Libs' campaign promise of camping trips for people in dire need of housing and income supports.

- Finally, Avnish Nanda writes about the importance of joining together to fight anti-immigrant messages and other attempts to stoke hatred for political gain.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Musical interlude

CHVRCHES - Never Say Die

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Manfred Bienefeld writes about the gap between the urgent problems we face, and the sad excuses for policies on offer from the Libs and Cons as Canadians go to the polls. And Andrew Jackson discusses how little point there is to the tax tinkering at the centre of both of their platforms - particularly compared to the NDP's plans to expand and strengthen Canada's social safety net.

- Meanwhile, PressProgress points out the most counterproductive proposal yet, as Andrew Scheer is looking to reopen tax loopholes previously exploited by private corporations.

- Diarmaid McDonald discusses how UK Labour's plans to make prescription medication more affordable - including by producing drugs through a public manufacturer - would save lives.

- Bob Weber reports on the IPCC's latest study showing the devastating effect a climate breakdown will have on water supplies. And Kelly Crowe writes that the climate conversations we need to have are still being interrupted by manufactured doubt and self-serving denialism.

- Finally, Jacob Knutson discusses how inequality continues to grow in the U.S.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- George Monbiot argues that it's time to cap the amount of wealth any person can accumulate, while highlighting the importance of accepting that there's a point where we have enough.

- Donovan Vincent writes about the rental housing crisis in Toronto, while David Common reports on the stresses facing people in desperate need of affordable rental housing. But Aaron Hutchins points out that the Cons and Libs are instead focusing on non-rental housing with schemes that would drive prices even higher.

- Andrew MacLeod compares the prescription drug promises on offer from the NDP, Libs and Greens. And Thomas Walkom writes that we shouldn't confuse Justin Trudeau's back-of-a-napkin sketch of insufficient funding for an actual pharmacare plan.

- Finally, Aaron Wherry discusses how Andrew Scheer is offering nothing more than stale reruns from the Harper era. Bill Henderson writes that Justin Trudeau's duplicity and poor judgment were well established long before the blackface scandal emerged, while Chris Selley notes that young voters in particular have every reason to demand better than Trudeau's empty promises. Andrew Coyne contrasts the Cons' bad policy against the Libs' lack of any meaningful plans at all. And Karl Nerenberg comments on Jagmeet Singh's strong start to the election campaign.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Sarmishta Subramanian writes that messages of exclusion and division tend to be amplified for political purposes rather than because they actually reflect broad public opinion. And Christopher Cheung discusses how the PPC in particular has chosen to use the language of selective inclusion to stoke xenophobia.

- Sheila Block makes the case for a wealth tax in Canada. And the Canadian Press reports on new data showing how the wealthiest few are not only increasing their income levels, but paying less tax on what they take in.

- Meanwhile, Dawn Foster writes about the much-needed ambition to improve the lives of workers embodied in UK Labour's plan for a four-day work week.

- Chris Hedges comments on the need to overcome corporate power in order to achieve a just transition to a sustainable society, while Brent Patterson writes that the growing climate strikes are only the beginning of the effort.

- Finally, Paul Adams points out the difficulty in adequately covering the a global climate crisis in the course of an election where it doesn't give rise to simple conflict narratives. And Derrick O'Keefe calls out Justin Trudeau's particularly galling choice to make a loud but content-free climate announcement in the shadow of the pipeline he bought to increase the burning of fossil fuels.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tailed cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Peter Gowan and Thomas Hanna write about the urgent need to free people from the market forces which currently trap them in precarity and debt:
A flourishing and prosperous society that works for all, not just a privileged few, requires a foundation of universally accessible goods and services. For generations, this concept appeared to be gaining traction in the UK and around the world. Popular demand and tireless organising led to the introduction of education, healthcare, and other universal services, as well as infrastructure and facilities that were publicly owned and accessible to all.

However, in recent decades these gains have been under attack. The neoliberal experiment holds universalism and public ownership in contempt. It envisions a world in which the market is embedded in every aspect of people’s lives and everything is a commodity to be bought and sold. As part of this experiment, some public services have been dismantled and sold off to the private sector. Others have seen steep rises in user fees and means testing for access. The results have been both predictable and devastating. Rising economic and social inequality, entrenched poverty, deteriorating infrastructure, and environmental devastation to name but a few.
(T)he bedrock of Universal Basic Services also provides protection for the unemployed by ensuring that, even when someone falls through the cracks, they have access to the same basic services as everybody else. Its message is: we must decommodify the things people need to survive.

The vision of Universal Basic Services necessarily involves an increase in the size of the democratically planned and publicly owned economy. A truly socialist policy cannot allow the rich to pay for better services than anybody else – which is why the Labour Party is now also committed to ending the educational privileges of the obscenely wealthy through nationalising and integrating private schools.
- And the BBC focuses in on Labour's plan for free personal care for people over 65 as an important element of the basic services which everybody should be able to expect.

- Meanwhile, Leslie Young reports on a new poll showing 9 out of 10 Canadians support a national pharmacare program. But Gamechangers warns voters not to settle for the Libs' pale imitation of full pharmacare.

- Jane McElevey discusses the need for climate justice to be built on an alliance between the environmental and labour movements to ensure workers share in the benefits of a just transition. And Sharon Riley reports on the challenges facing communities which have been built around fossil fuel production.

- Finally, Ronald Wright comments on environmental excesses as just the latest in a series of progress traps - and warns of the consequences of relying entirely on unsustainable systems.

Monday, September 23, 2019

New column day

Here (via PressReader), on how the Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that Canadian voters can choose substantial social and environmental progress that's well within our means - even if the two main parties are determined to offer far less.

For further reading...
- Jeffrey Brooke wrote here about the origins of the PBO.
- The PBO's most recent Fiscal Sustainability Report (showing tens of billions of dollars in annual federal fiscal capacity) is here. And PressProgress reports on the analysis showing that we could raise $70 billion over a decade with the NDP's modest wealth tax.
- Andy Blatchford has pointed out the lack of much deficit panic from any side in the campaign. And Kevin Milligan wrote about why there's good reason not to be worried.
- Mia Rabson reports on the Cons' latest set of tax trinkets in lieu of meaningful plans to address any problem. And Michal Rozworski discusses how they're calculated to eliminate the fiscal room for more important action.
- And finally, David Thurton summarized what the NDP has on offer based on the federal government's resources. 

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Dennis Gruending discusses the significance of the climate crisis in Canada's federal election. And Sarah Jones interviews Ann Pettifor about the importance of a Green New Deal - and the barriers corporatists have placed in the way of every previous effort to develop a clean and sustainable economy.

- Meanwhile, Maureen Tkacik connects the financialization of Boeing's business model to deaths caused by its faulty 737 Max jets.

- Stephanie Taylor reports on the FSIN's call for Saskatchewan to follow British Columbia's leadership in ending "birth alerts". And Jorge Barrera reports on Justin Trudeau's refusal to commit even to following the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal when it comes to funding services and compensating for past discrimination.

- Finally, Vinay Menan calls out Trudeau's empty words after his proclivity for blackface and brownface was made public.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Franklin Foer writes that young climate activists are right to be anxious about the future that's being imposed on them - and that it's long past time for earlier generations to stop being comfortable with leaving wreckage in our wake.

- Bill McKibben rightly points out that an energy system powered by solar energy would eliminate the need for conflict over fossil fuels. But Emily Pasuik reports on the Saskatchewan Party's decision to shut down SaskPower's net metering program even as - and indeed because - it was succeeding in generating public enthusiasm for renewable energy.

- Larry Elliott discusses the popularity of UK Labour's plans for a financial transaction tax. And Andy Beckett writes that even the UK's financial sector is beginning to prefer a well-thought-out plan for increased redistribution to the chaos of right-wing populism. 

- Eric Levitz highlights how organized labour is vital to a functioning democracy - both by modeling how people can be empowered to exercise democratic control over their lives, and by counterbalancing the authority of the wealthy and powerful few.

- Finally, David Baxter reports on the Canadian Rental Housing Index' research into housing costs, including the reality that nearly half of Saskatchewan renters face unaffordable prices compared to their level of income.