Saturday, October 31, 2020

On implausible impersonators

Other commentators have taken note of Erin O'Toole's attempt to co-opt the language of labour unions in an effort to portray himself as less hostile than his predecessors.

There's certainly reason to be concerned about this being yet another area where right-wing leaders pretend to be sympathetic on fundamental issues while planning to do as much damage as possible if given the chance. But in assessing how credible voters should find O'Toole's pitch, let's note that his attacks on unions aren't even limited to what would be expected from a garden-variety Con MP.

It's true, as others have noted, that O'Toole voted in favour of the Cons' attacks on labour rights in bills C-377 and C-525. But it's particularly worth noting that he did so gratuitously in at least the former case: while five Con MPs voting against intrusions into union operations in the third-reading vote which passed C-377, O'Toole wasn't one of them.

Moreover, one can tell what O'Toole really thinks about unions from what he's chosen to say beyond the limitations on a single-bill vote.

On that front, he's dismissed as "not sincere" advocacy and activism on behalf of veterans based solely on the fact that union support was involved. 

He went out of his way to fight the the legislation which ultimately repealed C-377 and C-525.

And in launching his leadership campaign, he's brought out the "union boss" trope (aimed at Unifor's Jerry Dias) as part of his fund-raising efforts.

So O'Toole's idea of an acceptable union is one with no leadership, no role in advocating for people in the community at large, and needless barriers in its way if it tries to get certified or represent its members. 

Needless to say, solidarity on those stunted terms would do nothing but further enrich the O'Toole class of elites and corporate owners. And there should be a teaching opportunity in contrasting O'Toole's impoverished idea of labour against what unions can actually accomplish.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Resource Movement offers a handy primer on wealth taxes (and the value of applying them).

- Jean-Benoit Legault reports on new research showing that pregnant Inuit women are exposed to significantly more contaminants than their counterparts elsewhere.

- David Climenhaga discusses how generations of conservatives have warped any discussion of energy issues in Western Canada by vilifying the National Energy Program and anybody even tangentially associated with it - even when that means blatantly lying to the public. But Simon Enoch notes that with the rest of the world moving past any acceptance of petropropaganda and austerity politics, this year's Saskatchewan election may have been the last one under the province's current conventional wisdom. 

- Meanwhile, David Sirota and Andrew Perez report on the oil industry's embarrassment at its own actions, as one company going bankrupt is setting a precedent by attempting to conceal its political donations from the bankruptcy process.

- Finally, Angus Reid finds overwhelming support among the Canadian public for a universal pharmacare program. And Saad Ahmed makes the case to build our drug manufacturing capacity in order to assure that supply limitations don't prevent people from getting the medicine they need.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Musical interlude

 Wide Mouth Mason - Some Kind of Requiem

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Andrea Doucet, Sophie Mathieu and Lindsey McKay make the case for a parental leave system which improves accessibility and wage replacement rates to encourage a more fair sharing of child-rearing responsibilities.

- Kelly Hughes and Benson Siebert report on a class action claim attempting to reverse wage theft by a major Australian retailer. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh exposes how in addition to endangering and misclassifying workers, Fiera Foods has also been exploiting the Canadian tax system for false deductions - though sadly it doesn't appear it will end up paying anything close to the full bill after a settlement.

- Marin Cogan discusses how Donald Trump further traumatized the victims of racially-motivated violence in Charlottesville by legitimizing the bigotry of white supremacists. And Randy Robinson and Erika Shaker write about the fight to prevent Haudenosaunee land from being used without consent for the benefit of a private developer.

- Finally, David Hughes highlights how any economic case for the Trans-Mountain pipeline based on the expectation of future oil booms is long since obsolete. And Tzeporah Berman makes the case for Canada to play a leading role in developing a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mariano Zafra and Javier Salas offer a handy visual aid as to how COVID-19 spreads indoors - showing that masking is a valuable partial solution, but that effective ventilation can significantly reduce community transmission. And Jessica Wong reports on the results of a teachers' survey showing how COVID-19 has dumped far more stress and responsibility on already-overworked educators. 

- Meanwhile, Apoorva Mandavilli discusses how some COVID-19 patients wind up with antibodies which attack their own bodies rather than the virus.

- George Monbiot exposes how the UK's move to privatize the coronavirus response resulted in untrained teenagers being handed the work of health professionals - with corporate cronies pocketing the difference even while failing to perform their duties. 

- Gordon Asmundson writes about five of the most dangerous mental health effects of the COVIS-19 pandemic. And John Paul Tasker reports on the wide range of social ills documented in the latest annual report from the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

- Corey Ranger argues that the Kenney UCP's response to the opioid crisis amounts to nothing less than social murder. And Zak Vescera reports on Saskatchewan's overdose crisis - which continues to worsen as Scott Moe prefers to spend his time posturing against Ottawa rather than saving lives in his own province.

- Campbell Clark discusses how the Trudeau Libs are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on access to information. 

- Finally, Willy Blomme offers a reminder that it's never too late to change the world for the better. And Glen Pearson writes about the need for people to join together in order to accomplish the task.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

On local decisions

I haven't paid a lot of attention yet to Saskatchewan's municipal elections, due primarily to the reality that anything which happens at that level can be undone by a provincial governments which considers itself entitled to override the will of municipalities. (And sadly, there's little indication that respect for other levels of government is going to find its way into the Sask Party's plans anytime soon.)

But I'll start now by pointing out Paul Dechene's summary of the state of the races in Regina, as well as an exceptionally strong set of candidates endorsed by the Regina & District Labour Council. Because while our local officials may not be able to override the provincial government, it would certainly be nice to avoid having a mayor and council desperate to defund transit and housing in order to build a downtown Quidditch stadium.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Zeke Hausfather reports that 2020 is projected to be the warmest year in recorded history. And Johnathan Watts reports that one of the most dire possible events which could lead to complete climate breakdown - the release of frozen methane deposits from the Arctic - appears to be happening far sooner than projected.

- Christopher Abbott writes about the futility of trying to maintain conservative political movements on a foundation of funding from a dying oil sector. And Nitish Pahwa recognizes that workers aren't buying climate denialism as a strategy to keep them employed.

- Meanwhile, Brennan Strandberg-Salmon highlights how a strong recovery for Canada will need to include the creation of sustainable jobs for young people who are otherwise in danger of missing a viable entry point into the workforce. And Mickey Francis notes that the U.S. continues to break records for renewable energy generation despite a hostile federal government.

- CBC News reports on polling showing that a strong majority of Canadians recognize a problem with how police deal with people of BIPOC communities. And Tom Cardoso reports on a needed push to eliminate systemic racial bias in prison risk assessments.

- Finally, Anand Giridharadas talks to Masha Gessen about the U.S.' last chance to avoid autocratic rule - both by voting out Donald Trump and his enablers, and by ensuring the result of that vote is given effect.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

 Cushioned cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Randy Robinson writes that Doug Ford's gratuitous austerity will have severe costs in both jobs and lives. And James Downie comments on the desperate need for a Biden administration to make major investments in an equitable and sustainable U.S. economy.

- Justin McElroy discusses how the B.C. NDP was able to win a majority government. And Christo Aivalis points out the importance of making the most of the opportunity by setting new standards for progressive government in Canada.

- Matt Wade reports on new research showing how an affordable basic income could wipe out poverty in Australia.

- Naureen Malik, Brian Eckhouse, Dave Merrill and Jeremy C.F. Lin report that peak demand for natural gas in the U.S. is approaching in a hurry (if it isn't here already), leaving no excuse for wasting time and public resources on a "bridge" to cleaner and more efficient renewables.

- Finally, Ashleigh Mattern interviews Jan Gelech about the psychology behind anti-maskers in a pandemic. And Andre Picard writes about the need to focus on preventing COVID-19 superspreader events. 

On bigger pictures

There are still plenty of important results to be finalized in Saskatchewan's election campaign, and I'll have more to say about specific aspects of the campaign generally. But for starters following a disappointing election night, I'll offer a comparison to another election with a similar feel to it.

When a federal election was called in 2008, it seemed to present a golden opportunity for the NDP. The Cons had managed to trash Stephane Dion beyond repair, but couldn't make Stephen Harper seem remotely appealing (especially as he tried to minimize the pain of an ongoing recession). And both major national parties appeared to have given up on major gains in Quebec where opportunities seems to be opening up for the first time.

From there, the NDP's campaign had some successes in theory, including a clever play on the Cons' "strength" rhetoric, a memorable ad campaign, smart plans to highlight an attempted push into contention for government , and a stark contrast between in economic philosophy between itself and the government. And there was at least some polling which raised the prospect of massive breakthroughs.

But the hope for historic improvements gave way to a mixed bag of results The NDP managed slight increases in seats and vote share, while winning important beachheads. But the failings weren't limited to falling short of expectations: in the context of a disengaged electorate, it actually saw a drop in total votes at a time when that had direct financial implications for a party.

And so there was plenty of commentary to the effect that the NDP would never achieve that campaign's ambitions - or that at the very least, it should roll the dice on a new leader to try to shake things up. 

Needless to say, the party was best served rejecting the advice of the doomsayers.

The Saskatchewan campaign just concluded likewise saw a painful disconnect between a well-thought-out campaign which seemed to have been generating momentum, and the final results (recognizing those aren't yet in). 

And it's especially frustrating that election-day turnout was both low, and unusually tilted toward an incumbent party. But at the same time, it makes some sense that the public health risks associated with the election, combined with the Sask Party's flood of demotivational advertising, may have kept voters from making the effort to cast a ballot for change.

To be sure, there will be a need to reassess what worked and what didn't. But let the 2008 federal result offer a reminder that one-time disappointment can lay the groundwork for progress to come.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday Afternoon #skvotes Links

The latest from Saskatchewan's provincial election campaign as election day approaches tomorrow.

- A new poll shows the race tightening significantly, including with the NDP holding a significant lead in Regina. But in case anybody thought the coverage of polling would be equal depending on what's being found, this one is being reported accompanied by the Sask Party's spin - while the first public poll which was relatively close to its findings has apparently been disappeared entirely. 

- Meanwhile, Morgan Modjeski reports on the voters who are losing the ability to participate due to a lack of preparation for the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board offers its take on the election, with a notable perspective as to the relatively small differences in promises between the two main parties (though the assumptions and values behind the platforms still represent major differences).

- Jen Quesnel, Winter Fedyk and Tammy Robert offer their latest take on the campaign. And Robert also discusses the failings of both Scott Moe and the media to deal with the aftermath of his fatal vehicle collision, particularly as the family affected searches for answers.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand rightly argues that we need our political leaders to deal with the continued blight of racism in Saskatchewan.

Update: Another poll shows the race tightening. PressProgress points out the corporate elites and lobbyists funding the Sask Party. And Jason Hammond offers ten of the many reasons why the Sask Party shouldn't be kept in power.

Sunday #skvotes Links

News and notes on election eve in Saskatchewan.

- Julia Peterson reports on a record number of new COVID-19 cases in the province yesterday, while CKOM reports that Saskatoon's Lighthouse shelter has joined the lengthening list of outbreak sites. But Stephanie Taylor reports that Scott Moe's closing message includes the horrifically irresponsible declaration that he's not going to consider another lockdown no matter how devastating the outbreak gets.

- Finally, while plenty of people have already voted (and good news that some polls which had been slated for closure will be operating after all), there's once again reason for concern that people who act more responsibly than Moe in the face of the pandemic will lose their votes as a result

- Arthur White-Crummey reported on the NDP's Regina rally as a high-turnout, high-energy push for a change for the better.

- Murray Mandryk's closing analysis somehow manages to bothsides any attempt by the victims of Scott Moe's fatal car crash to ask for answers as being just the same thing as violence and vandalism directed at an NDP candidate. 

- Finally, CUPE examines how the Saskatchewan Party's austerity and privatization end up being counterproductive even as a matter of counting pennies - to say nothing of their devastating impact on people's lives.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Umair Haque warns that we may be approaching the point where the cost of fighting man-made threats to our environment exceeds the resources we have available for the task.

- Andrew Jackson highlights how the people most eager to whinge about deficits are the same ones who will refuse to fund necessary services through readily-available sources of revenue.

- Kim Siever writes that an effective economic strategy should be investing in workers rather than handing out freebies to the corporate sector. But Jordan Press notes that our tax system is instead designed to extract the most marginal revenue from workers with modest incomes.

- Finally, Penny Collenette wonders why so many partisans are trying to attack Jagmeet Singh for having the maturity to avoid plunging the country into an avoidable election. But Karl Nerenberg's report confirms that fair-minded observers - in contrast to the juvenile parties throwing a fit in response to their game of chicken being interrupted - are giving credit where due.