Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Nazaneei Ismail Ali discusses how public procurement can and should be a means of improving social and economic conditions, not merely a source of easy profits for well-connected corporate contractors. Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on an all-too-rare reprisal decision against a farm employer who tried to deport a worker for daring to raise COVID concerns. And Jason Foster examines the Kenney UCP's attacks on protections for workers in the midst of a pandemic.

- Laura Sciarpelletti reports on Nazeem Muhajarine's message that Saskatchewan needs a "circuit breaker" lockdown to protect people who depend on our social care systems. And Taylor Braat reports on the Alberta workers who are effectively being forced to work while sick, while noting that enforcement of public health rules doesn't help when people aren't given the necessary support to be able to comply with them. 

- Tahiat Mahboob reports on Saadia Sediqzadah's call for relationship-building and personal supports as a necessary foundation for mental health care.

- The Canadian Press reports on Jagmeet Singh's needed push for improved legislation and enforcement against hate groups. Steve Scherer discusses the significance of increased immigration as part of Canada's prospects for recovery and development. And Susan Delacourt points out the contrast drawn by far too many Canadian leaders between Charter freedoms they're prepared to defend for political purposes, and those they're ready to abandon.

- Finally, Joel Laforest warns against drawing the wrong lessons from a U.S. election in which Republicans nearly retained the presidency and capitalized on an uninspiring Democratic message down the ballot.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Musical interlude

 Snail Mail - Full Control

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ricky Leong writes that any meaningful effort to stop the coronavirus has to include enforcement to deal with the people who haven't responded to moral suasion. 

- Lauren Mascarenhas reports on the CDC's belated recognition that masks benefit both wearers and others in limiting the spread of COVID-19 And Olivia Goldhill points out that rural areas generally aren't equipped with ultra-cold freezers needed to store the Pfizer vaccine which has emerged as the most promising vaccine to date.

- Amanda Pfeffer reports on the Ontario PCs' choice to spend extra on investigators to claw back social supports in the midst of the pandemic, rather than doing anything to support people who need it. Andrea Woo highlights the appalling Ontario death toll from the opioid epidemic which is going unaddressed. And Farrah Merali examines the neglect of residents in the province's private long-term care homes - and the lack of any accountability against the corporations responsible. 

- Meanwhile, Noor Javed points out how Doug Ford is taking the opportunity to enrich developers at the expense of environmental protection.

- Finally, Umair Haque writes that the core task of Joe Biden's presidency shouldn't be merely to restore some pre-Trump status quo ante, but to rebuild a failing U.S. state. George Monbiot discusses the risk that Donald Trump's rise may simply presage the emergence of a more competent - and more dangerous - autocrat. And David Suzuki notes that the state of the U.S. highlights the importance of fighting injustice in all of its forms.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

On jurisdictional barriers

Scott Gilmore rightly points out the need for a far more clear national response to COVID-19. But I'd think we can expand on the point with reference to a couple of other familiar jurisdictional disputes - even as those also highlight which provincial governments need to be called out as obstructing effective federalism.

First, we can treat the pandemic as reflecting a Canada-wide version of the type of jurisdictional finger-pointing which finally gave rise to Jordan's principle

In the case of First Nations children, the federal government eventually (if far too late) recognized that the appropriate sequence of action was to ensure that necessary services weren't denied to children simply because provincial and federal governments disagreed as to who might be responsible to pay for them. And there shouldn't be any doubt that's the fairest way to approach individual requests for service.

But the need is all the more compelling when the dispute involves measures to control the spread of a highly contagious virus. In the case of COVID-19, the entire country stands to lose out from insufficient public protection. And as Gilmore notes, the proper response from the federal government should be to ensure standards are in place, not to step aside and let irresponsible premiers choose death for their provinces.

That said, I'd think there is room for a bit more flexibility than would be required in Gilmore's preference to simply impose national standards. And that's where we can draw an analogy to climate change policy - both in what can be done, and what we should avoid.

In principle, the federal government could establish national standards while allowing provinces to apply their own plans - as long as those are equally effective in controlling COVID-19, and compatible with the national system. In that respect, if there are legitimate differences between provinces as to the restrictions which are seen as appropriate or necessary, those can be considered and given effect through an evidence-based review process.

Of course, the problem is that the petroprovinces have spent years blustering against exactly that type of system when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions; they've shrieked endlessly about the federal carbon tax, while refusing to implement equivalent reductions through any other means when that option has always been available to avoid the application of the federal tax.

COVID-19 might then serve as a immediate and vivid example of the problems with the denialist argument against the carbon tax. The melodramatic pushback against even minimal climate action with a readily-available opt-out provision may well have shaped the federal government's choices in response to what seems to be incontrovertibly considered an emergency beyond the scope of a single jurisdiction. 

But if that's the case, we should be looking to the federal government to push back even harder when the risk of inaction is so immediate, not to accept the argument as applied to a fast-moving calamity. And if the federal government can succeed in controlling the spread of COVID-19 where Jason Kenney, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister and Doug Ford are obviously failing, that should lay the groundwork for more effective national action elsewhere as well.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- The Economist examines how much of Europe has been put into a renewed lockdown due to the second wave of COVID-19. But PressProgress points out how Brian Pallister's rush to reopen has resulted in Manitoba seeing soaring infection rates rather than a limited fall wave. Michael Laxer examines how Doug Ford has similarly prioritized short-term business income over long-term economic and public health, while Jennifer Yang and Kate Allen expose how Ontario ignored the recommendations of public health experts, allowing for cases to balloon four times as much before setting a target for countermeasures. And a large and growing group of Saskatchewan doctors is calling for far stronger steps to control the coronavirus, while Laura Sciarpelletti reports on the precarious state of Saskatchewan care homes.  

- Katelyn Wilson and Roberta Bell report that at least one of Scott Moe's clawbacks of federal income supports - this one for a student with a disability - has been found to be invalid by the Social Services Appeal Board. 

- Ben Phillips discusses the need for popular organizing to push back against the inequality exacerbated by the pandemic. And Ethan Winter examines the widespread public support in the U.S. both for a $15 minimum wage, and for public investments in the communities and people who need the support most.

- Bob Weber reports on new research showing that current estimates of oilpatch methane emissions - which are used as the basis for emission targets - represent barely half of what's actually being spewed into the atmosphere.

- Finally, David Hughes fires back against the misleading attack launched against him by Jason Kenney's fossil fuel war room. And Max Fawcett points out that much of the anti-Canadian sentiment stoked in the name of Western Canadian oil relies on false claims about the effects of the National Energy Program - and particularly blaming it for low oil prices when it would in fact have relieved against their effects.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dimitri Lascaris argues that while Donald Trump has lost the presidential election, the unfair society which allowed him to take power in the first place remains. And Susan Delacourt offers her take on the spread of Trumpism to Canada.

- The Star's editorial board writes that the future of work can't be limited to finding loopholes to continually increase corporate exploitation of workers. Michelle Bellefontaine reports on the Kenney UCP's moves to limit compensation for injured workers in Alberta. And Eric Blanc highlights the need for the labour movement to work on striking and winning in order to win concessions out of employers and governments alike.

- Linda Silas offers a warning about the dangers of relying on private funding and delivery of health care. Kenyon Wallace reports on how the theoretical regulation of private care homes rarely gives rise to enforcement, meaning that vulnerable people are left at the mercy of even the greediest and most negligent of private interests. And Janice Johnston reports on the COVID-19 outbreak at an Edmonton long-term care facility which serves as just the latest example of how the pandemic is taking advantage of poor protection for residents.

- Fair Vote Canada highlights Jagmeet Singh's effort to get the Libs to allow citizens a voice in how we're governed.

- Finally, CBC News reports on the failure of Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan to bother sending government representatives to a human rights meeting dealing with systemic racism.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Top cats.


Burning question

Just where could Scott Moe have picked up the idea that a glaring lack of judgment, flagrant disregard for the law and reckless endangerment of the public are somehow acceptable characteristics in a cabinet minister?

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board is rightly aghast at Doug Ford's choice to facilitate the spread of the coronavirus as a devastating fall wave hits, while Bruce Arthur writes that there may be no choice but to impose a lockdown as the cost of doing nothing becomes more glaring. And Andrew Leach rightly calls out Jason Kenney's attempt to declare a spike in infection to be a matter of personal responsibility, while taking no responsibility whatsoever for his government's failings. 

- Meanwhile, Stephanie Taylor reports on new Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman's worrisome takes on COVID-19 - including that anti-mask protesting is just fine, and that the availability of field hospitals (which are better described as warehouses) means we shouldn't worry about the effect of the pandemic on our health care system. And Colin D'Mello reports on warnings about Ontario's health care system, which may soon see surgeries and other necessary care cancelled again in order to prioritize COVID-19 treatment. 

- Brady Lang reports on the alarming increase in Saskatchewan drug overdose deaths to over one a day so far in 2020. And Kathrin Glosel offers a reminder that a full Housing First strategy not only saves lives, but also saves money compared to the cost of jails and medical treatment. 

- Meanwhile, Lisa Adkins and Martijn Konings note that the gap between the cost of housing and the wages available from work has grown to the point where middle-class workers are having to rely on inheritances to buy a first home.

- Paola Rose-Aquino writes about the spread of the right-to-repair movement across borders and party lines.

- David Pugliese exposes the plans of Canada's military to set up a propaganda unit to influence public opinion and behaviour. And Jim Bronskill reports on the RCMP's continued stonewalling of a Civilian Review and Complaints Commission report into its covert surveillance of environmental activists.

- Finally, Brent Patterson discusses how we could put public resources to far better use funding a Green New Deal rather than gratuitous military purchasing. And Darrin Qualman examines how climate change stands to harm agriculture in Saskatchewan.

On first steps

Hey look, some positive election results! Congratulations to everybody who ran in Regina's municipal elections (and in those around the province) - and particularly the progressive electees who will have the chance to shape policy for the next four year.

But while it's a relief to have representatives in place who can be trusted to make the right decisions on the matters placed before them, I hope they'll take the opportunity to go beyond that and instead work on developing more participatory processes for budgeting and policy-making.

That's so for a couple of reasons.

First, municipal governments and school boards are creatures of provincial legislation. And the Sask Party - like its cousin governments elsewhere - has never been shy about stripping away any power which might be used to support local decision-making which isn't fully in line with its plans.

There's no away around the theoretical risk of the province meddling. But it will be possible to impose a much higher price for any interference if more people are invested in what's at issue.

Second, a large number of Regina's races were won with small pluralities or narrow majorities. In the former case, there's an obvious need to build support just to be able to withstand a reduced number of candidates in 2024; in both cases, it's worth reinforcing the trust constituents have offered, lest any failure to engage be seen as reason for them to vote differently next time out.

In sum, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what this term will hold for Regina. But ideally, we'll look back at last night as only the first step in a long-lasting change toward people-centred governance.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Kelly Grant and Andrea Woo write that soaring infection numbers show how Canada's response to COVID-19 has fallen far short of the mark. Andre Picard makes the point - which seems obvious to everybody other than right-wing premiers - that loosening restrictions on social activity will do nothing but exacerbate the spread of the virus. Bartley Kives traces Manitoba's descent from being a model for other Canadian provinces, to being a hot zone due to reckless reopening, while David Climenhaga is rightly frustrated by Jason Kenney's refusal to do anything but complain about the failure of voluntary measures. And the Washington Post highlights how Australia has been able to get control of the coronavirus through a massive investment in public health and a willingness to regulate dangerous behaviour.

- Jeremy Klaszus discusses the myth of right-wing fiscal responsibility (with particular reference to the UCP's combination of tax giveaways to the corporate sector and slashing of services for people). And Paul Haber reports on the Alberta municipalities which look to be saddled with environmental liabilities as the oil sector skips town without paying its bills.

- Joel Dryden speculates that Joe Biden's presidential victory may find an echo in Alberta politics in 2023. But Thomas Frank warns that nobody can afford to get complacent about the continued threat of fascism - particularly if most people don't see their nominally more progressive option as creating positive change.

- Finally, Sara Birrell offers a reminder of the benefits of Crown corporations - including the ability to ensure that economic development serves ends such as service expansion and environmental progress, rather than being limited to focusing on shareholder profits.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman offer another look (PDF) at the growth of income and wealth inequality in the U.S. Andrew Jackson and Toby Sanger examine (PDF) the case for an annual net wealth tax to reduce its severity in Canada. And Carl Meyer reports on the appetite among most Canadians to finally make meaningful progress against inequality, racism and climate change. 

- But Bruce Livesey offers a reminder that a capitalist society is antithetical to democratic governance - particularly as inequality becomes more extreme. 

- Jordan Leichniz notes that we've seen our own version of the white supremacist movement which has taken so much power in the U.S. Umair Haque comments on the alarming desire among so many Americans to bring about a failed state, rather than a functioning one which includes minorities as proportional partners. And Gwynne Dyer notes that the rest of the world will have reason to be wary of the U.S. based on the likelihood of Trumpism evolving into new forms.

- Daniel Tencer highlights how soaring housing prices reflect a disconnect between theoretical asset values and the real economy. And Roberta Bell reports on the Saskatchewan shelters which have been forced to reduce capacity even as the COVID-19 pandemic creates a far greater need for their services.

- Finally, Graham Thomson writes about Jason Kenney's choice to prioritize politics over science in neglecting the spread of COVID-19. And Bruce Arthur points out the alarmed response of Ontario's medical community to the Ford government's decision to facilitate the further spread of the coronavirus.