Saturday, September 12, 2020


Particularly as parents face difficult decisions in determining how to handle a return to unsafe schools in the midst of a pandemic, it's no surprise that the Moe government's secrecy about the infrastructure deficit it's accumulated in the education sector is raising some outrage. But it's particularly jarring to see how the choice to withhold that information affects the province's impending election campaign.

In the Information and Privacy Commissioner's report (PDF) recommending the release of that information, the government used these excuses to claim it was entitled to keep Saskatchewan in the dark about the investment needed to ensure a safe education for our province's children:
- that the numbers should be considered "recommendations" as to needed investment which could affect educational budgeting: para. 15;
- that the numbers could form the basis for budgeting decisions, both overall and between school divisions: para. 23; and
- that the numbers could harm the government's interests by revealing that funding being provided for deferred maintenance actually isn't being used for that purpose: para. 31.

While all of those submissions were rejected, it's worth highlighting how appalling it is that they were made at all.

After all, Saskatchewan's voters will have to decide this fall whether the government is living up to public expectations in managing government institutions (as well as local authorities under its jurisdiction). And it would seem obvious that in order to make any informed decision, we'll need to be able to make comparisons between what investment is needed to make schools safe, what's been allocated, and what's actually been put to its intended purposes.

Instead, the Saskatchewan Party government's explicit position is that the public has no business knowing the scope of the problems it will be shouting about having addressed. And even more tellingly, it's willing to go on the record saying that the government's interests will be damaged if people learn how the funding earmarked for school maintenance is actually being spent.

Needless to say, that should set off massive alarm bells whether or not the numbers are released in advance of the election - particularly as we see the real-life effects of the Saskatchewan Party's underinvestment. And we should be eager to take the opportunity to vote out a premier who thinks that what the province needs and how funding is actually being spent are matters which should be concealed from the public.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Patrick Greenfield reports on a new study from the Zoological Society of London showing how wildlife populations are plummeting in the face of environmental destruction. Charlie Warzel makes the seemingly modest request that people care about the large swaths of the western U.S. on fire as a result of climate change. And Martin Dunphy reports on new research showing the nearly immediate damage to human health caused by wildfire smoke.

- Seth Klein offers seven lessons from Canada's World War II mobilization effort which we'd be applying if we were approaching the threat of a climate breakdown with anything close to the seriousness it deserves. Charlie Smith reviews Klein's A Good War - including in its emphasis on being able to point to a better future as a reward for pursuing a difficult struggle. And Sara Hastings-Simon warns us not to accept delay in climate action (generally presented through distant and implausible substitutes for immediate means of transitioning to a cleaner economy) which produces the same substantive effect as outright denial.

- Meanwhile, in case there was any doubt that mere people are ill-served by a status quo which puts fossil fuel development ahead of human interests and environmental stability, Kim Siever debunks the claim that oil and gas is the economic foundation even of Alberta alone - let alone Canada as a whole. And James Wilt highlights how the public oil resources taken from Alberta for private profit result in pitifully little provincial revenue. 

- Jim Stanford writes about the resiliency of Canada's labour movement in the face of decades of neoliberal attacks. But Jeff Labine reports on Jason Kenney's latest attempt to undermine the effectiveness of collective action by treating uninterrupted business as sacrosanct.

- Finally, Michael Smart writes that it's less than vital to obsess about reducing Canada's national debt when there are urgent needs to be addressed immediately. And Bruce Campbell notes that a wealth tax would both help to rein in Canada's existing inequality, and held to fund the society we want to build.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Musical interlude

Deftones - Ohms


Shorter Trudeau Liberals last month, trying to justify shutting down Parliament and setting up a game of Parliamentary chicken over a throne speech:
It's absolutely vital that we talk about VISION! And LONG-TERM PLANNING! And a FRESH MANDATE FOR CHANGE!!!
Shorter Trudeau Liberals now:
On second thought, this is no time for vision and planning.

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Lance Taylor summarizes his new book documenting how and why U.S. inequality has ballooned over the past few decades. And Heather Scoffield writes about Tiff Macklem's attention to inequality and the plight of marginalized people - as well as how it represents a (necessary) departure from the basis for Canada's previous monetary policy.

- Patricia Cohen highlights how debates over the effect of social programs tend to involve evidence that benefits for people out of work tend to help everybody, weighed against rhetoric from employers who assume they'll be better off if workers are desperate for lack of any alternatives to low-paying work. Alex MacPherson and Zak Vescera follow up on Scott Moe's choice to turn federal benefits into a provincial cash cow rather than allowing any expanded programs to benefit recipients. And Joseph Hall notes that wage subsidies may likewise have served mostly to goose profits rather than to help workers.

 - Crawford Kilian observes that the aftereffects of the coronavirus will last for decades whether or not people have experienced severe medical symptoms in the short term. And Kyle Benning reports on Kyle Anderson's warnings about the growing number of untraceable COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan. 

- Jemima McEvoy discusses the multiple U.S. teachers who have already died of COVID-19 in only a month since their classes resumed. And PressProgress takes note of the attempt to substitute "arm's-length" measurements and an attempt to have students face the same direction for adequate physical distancing in Regina public schools.

- Andre Picard discusses how people living with dementia have been hit harder than anybody else by the coronavirus pandemic.

- Finally, Monetta Bailey writes about the important role of protest in expanding the range of choices available to people who have been structurally denied the opportunities others take for granted.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Diane Peters discusses how everybody has a stake in the safe reopening of schools this fall. And Masks4Canada is tracking cases of school infection across Canada while Support our Students does the same for Alberta in particular - though Don Braid rightly questions why we need crowdsourcing to provide that information for want of open and effective public reporting.

- Meanwhile, Zak Vescera reports on the Moe government's appalling stinginess with essential care workers in Saskatchewan who received less than half of the money trumpeted as a wage supplement.

- Andrew MacLeod reports on both the corporate push into British Columbia's primary health care system, and the shift toward private health care generally with the goal of diverting comparatively easy work from an increasingly strained public system. And Jason Warick reports on the audit showing over 200 separate problems with the Sask Party's P3 hospital in North Battleford - even as the Moe government continues to insist there's nothing wrong with a brand-new facility being unsafe and unsanitary.

- Michelle McQuigge reports on UNICEF's rankings showing Canada ranking toward the bottom of the world's wealthier countries in caring for children.

- Amy Harder writes about the climate feedback loops which make it all the more urgent to stop adding to our ongoing carbon pollution. And Keith Stewart points out the positive developments in investors electing not to fund further climate damage. But Mia Rabson reports that the Libs are once again breaking a promise to reduce Canada's methane emissions.

- Finally, Matthew Rosza looks at the latest research showing the connection between wealth and an inability to empathize with others.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Keener cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Linda Silas writes about the need to invest in improved care and better jobs in order to build a health society. And Linda McQuaig reviews Seth Klein's A Good War as outlining how to turn a pandemic response into an opportunity to make desperately-needed changes to an unsustainable society.

- Paul Karp reports on new research confirming that tax giveaways to the rich do nothing to improve matters for the rest of us.

- Andre Picard warns that Canada's COVID-19 curve is on the rise even before the return to school this fall, while Dominic Rushe and Amanda Holpuch discuss how the U.S. is still far away from meaningfully containing the threat as the winter approaches. And Eric Reguly wonders why governments aren't doing more to ensure the use of masks and rapid testing which have represented the most effective means of allowing some additional activity while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

- Astrid Helene Kendrick observes that we can't expect to ensure students' well-being by imposing pandemic-related rules which aren't backed with investment in their health and welfare, while Aaron Saad writes that many of the avoidable risks being faced by students, staff and their families are the result of decades of underfunding of public education. The Langley Advance Times highlights the contrast between months of discussion of the importance of physical distancing, and a direction that schools be reopened without any meaningful effort to make that possible. Susan Wright examines Alberta's pitiful excuse for a back-to-school plan. Nigel Bariffe writes about the need to make child care seamless with school access. Melissa Corrente points out the importance of addressing teachers' mental health. And Madi Cyr questions the lack of consideration for students with developmental disorders.

- Finally, Michael Prince makes the case for a national income program for people with disabilities. But lest we think the federal government can accomplish much without provinces acting in good faith, Zak Vescera and Alex MacPherson report that Saskatchewan is among the provinces which has clawed back every nickel it could from federal CERB benefits, while Roberta Bell focuses on the similar clawback from people with disability income - each turning federal emergency relief for people into a provincial windfall which does nothing for its nominal recipients.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Labour Day reading.

- Gregory Beatty discusses the class struggle as it's playing out in the time of COVID. Jim Stanford offers a reminder as to how collective action is more important than ever, while Jerry Dias discusses how the labour movement is exercising its strength. Megan Brenan writes about the combination of high approval for unions on a historical scale, combined with a low number of workers actually putting the desire for unionization into effect. The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board comments on the realities of a Labour Day in which millions are out of work due to the poorly-managed coronavirus pandemic. And Gil McGowan writes about the fight to ensure Alberta doesn't fall into full-blown Trumpist authoritarianism and kleptocracy.

- Meanwhile Hadeel Abdel-Nabi discusses the removal of Sandeep Lalli as president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce for the crime of insufficient fealty to Jason Kenney and climate change denial. And Derek Craddock reports on the Kenney UCP's choice not to bother passing a federally-funded top-up along to essential health care workers.

- Pairs Marx reminds us that there's nothing inevitable or inescapable about a capitalist economy. And Yanis Varoufakis proposes true economic democracy as an alternative to a capitalist system which has manifestly failed to sustainably meet people's needs.

- Kim Siever writes that it's top-end tax cuts - not taxes themselves - that we should treat as a theft from our common wealth.

- Finally, Meara Conway and Dan LeBlanc write about the Saskatchewan Party's use of the power of the state to silence Tristen Durocher and other Indigenous voices, while Jeremy Simes reports on a petition to ensure space in Wascana Park is available for Indigenous ceremonies. Murray Mandryk writes about the Cons' embarrassing attempt to demonstrate in favour of genocide. And Angel Moore reports on the continued and flagrant racism in private RCMP social media groups.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Don Pittis discusses how the spread of modern monetary theory is challenging some stale assumptions about government budgeting. And Sarath Peiris highlights how the Saskatchewan Party's plans for severe austerity are utterly unworkable without the federal government riding to the rescue of people who would otherwise be left without needed supports. 

- Ian Waddell points out that Justin Trudeau can easily avoid an unnecessary election by finding some much-needed tolerance for working with willing partners in the public interest. And while he accepts more of the Libs' spin on the relationship between the two parties than he should, Aaron Wherry takes note of the opportunities to work toward what the Libs constantly profess to be common goals. 

- PressProgress examines five of the biggest problems with Scott Moe's underfunded and poorly-thought-out orders for sending students back to school. And Alexandra Mae Jones discusses the importance of ventilation in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

- Meanwhile, Nykole King comments on the gendered impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

- David Thurton reports on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation's study showing that tar sands tailing ponds are contaminating Alberta water supplies. And CBC News reports on a diluent pipeline spill near Fort McMurray.

- Finally, Tim Alberta writes about the fallout from a U.S. Republican party which has fully abandoned values and principles in favour of becoming an elite-funded personality cult. And Adnan Khan offers his take on the U.S.' ongoing implosion.