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What's the relationship between democracy and populism? It's complicated.

Tue, 2018-03-13 20:39
ElectionsPolitics in CanadaWorld

Is "democracy" dying? I put democracy in "scare quotes" -- literally here -- since it implies that democracy has one, unambiguous meaning: a system in which "the people" vote every few years, then recede, leaving their interests in the control of elected representatives and parties.

The prime suspect in this death by murder is populism. Panic among the respectable classes hit a new high after last Sunday's Italian election, when populist parties routed the traditional ones on the left and right. The New York Times called the vote "a tidal turn of anti-immigrant, anti-European Union and anti-democratic fervour." I don't quite see why anti-democratic gets included in the list, since no party advocated eliminating elections.

Academic Yascha Mounk's new book is called The People vs. Democracy. He calls "the very survival of liberal democracy in doubt … From Great Britain to the U.S. and from Germany to Hungary," at the hands of populism.

What I fail to see is any inherent opposition between democracy and populism. Populism isn't the enemy of democracy; it springs from it and yearns for it. The "people" don't have to be bullied into "democracy" by bright journalists and academics. They're the ones who demanded and fought for it. Populism is democratic, that's why they call it populism.

In fact it's a kind of slander on the people to accuse them this way. They put up with an unconscionable amount of crap from our liberal forms of democracy. Take Greece, a good example of a battered populous.

For years it choked economically on measures imposed by unelected Eurocrats in Brussels. Then the people tossed out the old parties and elected a brand new one, Syriza. It had a tinge of populism. The EU got more vindictive.

So Syriza held a referendum asking the people, in effect: Are you serious? To everyone's surprise, they said they were -- but Syriza backed down anyway. So if you're the people, who you gonna turn to? There's despair there, disillusion, demoralizing emigration -- but, at least so far, no anti-democratic momentum.

Take Honduras, where the last election was blatantly stolen (with U.S. and Canadian approval). Or Mexico, where Manuel Lopez Obrador is running a third time, having had victory swiped last time and likely to happen again, despite a huge lead. He's a "fiery populist."

What stands out in these cases, isn't that the people occasionally grow weary with the frustrations of elections, but that they stick with them doggedly despite all the bad experience. Why? They know the alternatives may be even worse. They don't require lectures, thank you

The U.S. of Trump may be the best example of anti-democratic populism. He has disdain for elections and alternatives. ("I alone can fix it.") But it wasn't their fault -- or at least those in the rust belt states that gave him his victory -- that he was the only candidate who voiced their hard-won insight that "free trade" deals were vast deceptions destroying lives and communities. Many, probably most, would've voted for Bernie Sanders, had he been on offer.

Some populist leaders are anti-democratic; some followers are racists and haters. But at populism's core is the common human need to speak out and be heard. Populism is more like the symptom of a disease in the heart of democracy, attempting to heal itself, with potentially lethal side effects.

OK, but what if the worst happens and liberal democracy as we know it does succumb? It would be mourned, but would it mean the end of democracy?

That depends on whether you take a Eurocentric view of democracy or a broader, anthropological one. Most of us grew up learning that democracy was "invented" or "discovered" in Greece -- a sort of political eureka moment. It stirred again with Magna Carta and the British parliamentary tradition; then was refined by the U.S. founding fathers. Hmm, that does sound a tad Eurocentric.

The late British anthropologist Jack Goody had a different view. Based on his field work, he felt democracy was a universal human impulse that expressed itself in various forms in different eras and locales. Where others saw "Asiatic despotism," he perceived alternate versions of democracy, as in Confucius', "Anyone who loses the people loses the state." That's almost populist.

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: The Prophet/flickr

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canadian democracyElectionspopulismliberal democracyRick SalutinMarch 13, 2018Neoliberalism is a spent force in electoral politicsThe alternative to socialism is no longer neoliberalism; it's Trumpian racist populism, which is probably a nonstarter in Ontario.Post-politics is alive in France, thanks to the marriage of social democracy and neoliberal economicsOn the economic issues of how wealth is produced and distributed, the social democratic left in the U.K., France and Germany have bought into the "globalization is good" agenda promoted by the right.We have to understand capitalism before we can challenge itA prolonged cessation of growth, without government bailouts, would eventually morph into capitalism's demise.
Categories: News for progressives

Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney find common ground, sort of … on dubious pipeline posturing

Tue, 2018-03-13 10:43
David J. Climenhaga

I guess we can understand why Jason Kenney acts like Alberta has all the powers of a sovereign nation.

After all, the leader of the Opposition United Conservative Party was one of former prime minister Stephen Harper's chief henchmen in the Conservative government that ran the federation through the long decade the Alberta tail wagged the Canadian dog.

But what's Rachel Notley's excuse?

The New Democratic Party Premier of Alberta is a lawyer, and a smart one. She understands Canadian provinces don't have jurisdiction over interprovincial operations of "Canals, Telegraphs and other Works and Undertakings connecting the Province with any other …" Even if she didn't, the Alberta government's lawyers would tell her.

Any court would rule interprovincial pipelines in general and the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline in particular fall into this constitutional catchall for obvious reasons. That question was settled in London in 1867, before Alberta was even a province.

So it seems clear Alberta would be far outside its constitutional envelope if it tried to interfere with the operation of a pipeline to prevent shipment of gasoline to British Columbia to punish that province's government for … ummmm … operating outside its constitutional jurisdiction in exactly the same way.

But Notley and Kenney seem to be in complete accord on this one point at least: If British Columbia unconstitutionally and illegally dares to try to interfere with what goes through a pipeline that passes through its territory, then Alberta can constitutionally and legally interfere with what goes through the same pipeline when it passes through its territory.

Specifically, they both suggest they could cut off supplies of gasoline that flow through the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver if B.C. tries to restrict the volume of diluted bitumen that can go through it, or slow down the current controversial Kinder Morgan Inc. line expansion mega-project that was approved by the National Energy Board last year.

What's wrong with this picture? Constitutionally, that is.

Well, it's far enough off base that, were this not the Age of Trump, we'd just laugh it off. But the American Caligula seems to think he can just make up the law as he goes along, and that idea appears to be contagious.

Andrew Leach, the University of Alberta economics and business professor, was wonkishly tweeting about this on Friday. His commentary, while technical, is illuminating.

His bottom line: "… there isn't a space for AB gov intervention, provincial shipping permits on TM are not a thing which exists and so cannot be revoked, etc."

I believe Dr. Leach is right about this, notwithstanding all the sound and fury his Tweets generated.

Furthermore, Leach said, the bottom line of the bottom line is this:

"Finally, and this is important: if you believe that @RachelNotley or @jkenney can restrict flows on the pipeline, so can @jjhorgan. And @PremierScottMoe. It's open season on NEB pipelines and Alberta loses." This is obviously true.

By the way, when premier Peter Lougheed restricted exports of natural gas from Alberta during his fight with prime minister Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program in the 1980s, he did it by reducing total gas exports, within Alberta's jurisdiction, not by somehow cutting off certain products in an existing pipeline under Ottawa's jurisdiction.

Then there is the matter of trade agreements, domestic and international, that govern trading relationships among jurisdictions.

I have always held the cynical view such deals are essentially "corporate rights agreements," designed to privilege the rights of corporate persons over us natural humans.

But speaking of U.S. President Donald Trump, who seems determined to upset the trade agreement applecart, New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman articulated an alternative interpretation of their purpose Thursday that is directly applicable to the threats emanating from Alberta these days.

"There's a reason we have international trade agreements, and it's not to protect us from unfair practices by other countries," wrote Krugman, who once won the Nobel Prize for Economics. "The real goal, instead, is to protect us from ourselves."

That is, he argued, they don't only make us play by the rules, they restrict the ability of special interests with access to political decision-makers to influence policy to the detriment of other job-creators. In other words, "to limit the special-interest politics and outright corruption that used to reign in trade policy."

Either way, it is not an inconsequential matter that what is proposed by Alberta, and what has been done in the case of the notorious two-week B.C. wine embargo, clearly violates internal trade agreements, and possibly international ones as well.

We can count on it, moreover, that corporations that use pipelines to ship their products will assert their rights under such agreements if provinces violate them to fight intramural trade wars. As a commenter in this space observed recently, how do you think corporations will react if government tries to tell them to whom they can sell their products? This is something both Notley and Kenney also understand, and a state of affairs Kenney has worked tirelessly to encourage, moreover.

None of this is good for the country, it goes without saying. If provinces can interfere with essential supplies to another region because of trade disputes and Ottawa sits on its hands, the argument for being maîtres chez nous will grow stronger.

This is not just true in British Columbia, but in Quebec as well, where a new generation of separatists is no doubt watching with intense interest.

While B.C. seems to have a weak constitutional case for blocking shipments of bitumen from Alberta by using its partial jurisdiction over environmental matters, it seems quite possible Alberta has an even weaker one for embargoing gasoline to B.C. through a pipeline over which it has no jurisdiction at all. This is true whether the threat is made by the NDP or the UCP.

This fight can be resolved by recourse to the courts, or by the federal government. It won't be resolved by belligerent threats by Alberta politicians.

As for the pipeline posturing by all parties in the Alberta Legislature, I'm no constitutional lawyer, so I might be mistaken. But I was an agriculture reporter for many years, so I do recognize the smell of manure.

I'll bet B.C. Premier John Horgan does too.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Ontario PC insiders must be sickened by the choice of Doug Ford as new leader

Mon, 2018-03-12 14:08
March 12, 2018Politics in CanadaOntario PC choice of Doug Ford as leader shows need for principled conservative divisionEven from a progressive perspective, Canadian political discourse needs a conservative alternative. It doesn't need a dangerous clown like Doug Ford.Doug FordProgressive Conservative Party of OntarioOntario election 2018
Categories: News for progressives

Open letter in support of mediation not sanctions in Venezuela

Sat, 2018-03-10 00:35
Raul Burbano

We urge the United States and Canadian governments to immediately remove their illegal* sanctions against Venezuela and to support efforts at mediation between the government of Venezuela and the nonviolent segments of the political opposition.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals in the U.S. and Canada, support hemispheric relations based on respect for the sovereignty of all peoples of the Americas. We are deeply concerned by the use of illegal sanctions, whose effect falls most heavily on the poorest and most marginal sectors of society, to coerce political and economic change in a sister democracy.

Polls in Venezuela show that the large majority of Venezuelans oppose sanctions, regardless of their opinion of the Maduro government. Sanctions merely complicate efforts by the Vatican, Dominican Republic, and other international actors to mediate a resolution to the deep polarization in Venezuela. Moreover, sanctions undermine efforts of the democratically elected government and Constituent Assembly to address critical economic issues and determine their own political destiny.

Despite the high-minded rhetoric of officials in Washington and Ottawa, it is not a genuine concern for democracy, human rights, and social justice that drives the belligerent interventionist posture towards Caracas. From former U.S. president Obama’s admittedly untrue presidential decree that Venezuela represents a national security threat to the United States, to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s declaration that Venezuela is "an increasingly violent narco-state" that threatens the world, the use of hyperbole in diplomatic situations seldom contributes to peaceful solutions on the world stage.

It is no secret that Venezuela, unlike Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, is targeted for regime change by the U.S. precisely because of Venezuela’s leadership in resisting U.S. hegemony and the imposition of the neoliberal model in Latin America. And of course, Venezuela holds the largest oil reserves in the world, attracting more unwanted attention from Washington.

The U.S. and Canada tried and failed to use the Organization of American States (OAS) to build a bloc to hypocritically evoke the Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Recently, Luis Almagro, the rogue Secretary General of the OAS, went so far as to publicly support the swearing in of a parallel Supreme Court unconstitutionally appointed by opposition legislators and allowed them to use the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. for their ceremony -- without the approval of any OAS member state. Almagro has thereby delegitimized the OAS, emboldened the most extreme and violent elements of the Venezuelan opposition, and side-lined efforts at mediation.

The U.S.-Canadian sanctions represent a cynical use of coercive economic power to attack a nation that is already dealing with hyperinflation and shortages of basic commodities. While said to be in the name of advancing democracy and freedom, the sanctions violate the Venezuelan peoples' basic human right to sovereignty, as outlined in the UN and OAS Charters.

We call on the political leaders of the United States and Canada to reject overheated rhetoric and to contribute to the search for real solutions to Venezuela’s political and economic problems. We urge the U.S. and Canadian governments to rescind their sanctions and support the mediation efforts pursued by the Chancellor of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas, the President of Dominican Republic Danilo Medina, former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Vatican, and supported by a growing number of Latin American nations.

* Chapter 4 Article 19 of the OAS Charter states:

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.


United States

Noam Chomsky

Danny Glover, Citizen-Artist

Estela Vazquez, Executive Vice President, 1199 SEIU

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit

Jill Stein, Green Party

Peter Knowlton, General President, United Electrical Workers

Dr. Frederick B. Mills, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Dr. Alfred de Zayas, former Chief, Petitions Dept, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Medea Benjamin, co-founder, Code Pink 

Dan Kovalik, Counsel, United Steelworkers Union

Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local10 (retired)

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, President, National Lawyers Guild

Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice

James Early, Articulation of Afro Descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean

Gloria La Riva, coordinator, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee

Karen Bernal, Chair, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party

Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, co-directors, Popular Resistance

Chris Bender, Administrator, SEIU 1000, retired

Mary Hanson Harrison, President Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section

Alfred L. Marder, President, US Peace Council

Tamie Dramer, Executive Boardmember, California Democratic Party

Greg Wilpert, journalist

School of Americas Watch (SOAW) Coordinating Collective

Gerry Condon, President, Board of Directors, Veterans for Peace

Tiana Ocasio, President, Connecticut Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Leah Bolger, Coordinator, World Beyond War

Alexander Main, Senior Assoc for Intl Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Dr. Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Berthony Dupont, Director, Haiti Liberté Newspaper

Marsha Rummel, Adlerperson, City of Madison Common Council, District 6

Monica Moorehead, Workers World Party

Kim Ives, Journalist, Haiti Liberté

Cindy Sheehan, Cindy's Soapbox

Claudia Lucero, Executive Director, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

William Camacaro, Venezuela activist

Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace

David W. Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer, USW Local 675   (Carson, CA)

Alice Bush, retired Northwest Indiana Division Director SEIU Local 73

Teresa Gutierrez, Co-Director International Action Center

Claire Deroche, NY Interfaith Campaign Against Torture

Eva Golinger, journalist and writer

The Cross Border Network (Kansas City)

Antonia Domingo, Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War

Matt Meyer, National Co-chair, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Daniel Dale, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), CLRN Board of Directors

Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute

Kathleen Desautels, SP (8th Day Center for Justice*)

Michael Eisenscher, National Coord. Emeritus, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Dr. Paul Dordal, Director, Christian Network for Liberation and Equality

Dr. Douglas Friedman, Director International Studies, College of Charleston

Fr. Charles Dahm, Archdiocesan Director of Domestic Violence Outreach

Blase Bonpane,  Director,  Office of the Americas

Larry Birns, Director, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Task Force on the Americas

Dr. Sharat G. Lin, former president, San Jose Peace and Justice Center

Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity

Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

National Network on Cuba

Diana Bohn, Co-coordinator, Nicaragua Center for Community Action

Joe Jamison, Queens NY Peace Council

Jerry Harris, National Secretary, Global Studies Association of North America

MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles

Charlie Hardy, author, Cowboy in Caracas

Dan Shea, National Board, Veterans For Peace

Houston Peace and Justice Center

Dr. Christy Thornton, Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

Code Pink Houston

Workers Solidarity Action Network.org

Rochester Committee on Latin America

Patricio Zamorano, Academic and International Affairs Analyst

Cliff Smith, business manager, Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, Local 36

Michael Bass, Convener, School of the Americas Watch-Oakland/East Bay

Joe Lombardo, Marilyn Levin, Co-Coordinators of United National Antiwar Committee

Dr. Jeb Sprague-Silgado, University of California Santa Barbara

Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)

Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer Chair in Indigenous Governance Ryerson University

Lee Gloster, Steward IBT 364, Trustee, N. Central IN Labor Chapter, N. IN Area Labor Federation

Celeste Howard, Secretary, WILPF, Portland Branch (Oregon)

Mario Galván, Sacramento Action for Latin America

Hector Gerardo, Executive Director, 1 Freedom for All

Jorge Marin, Venezuela Solidarity Committee

Ricardo Vaz, writer and editor of Investig'Action

Dr. T.M. Scruggs, University of Iowa, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Mike Davis, Dept. of Creative Writing, Univ. of CA, Riverside; editor of the New Left Review

Dr. Lee Artz, Dept of Media Studies; Director, Center for Global Studies, Purdue University Northwest

Dr. Arturo Escobar, Dept. of Anthropology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Cheri Honkala, Director, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign

Suren Moodliar, Coordinator, Encuentro5 (Boston)

Dr. Jack Rasmus, Economics Dept., St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California

Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Rich Whitney, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Action Committee

David Bacon, independent photojournalist

Dr. Kim Scipes, Department of Sociology, Purdue University Northwest

Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, Socialist Action

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)

Henry Lowendorf,  Co-chair, Greater New Haven Peace Council

Judith Bello, Ed Kinane (founders), Upstate Drone Action

Dr. Daniel Whitesell, Lecturer in the Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese, UCLA

Dr. William I. Robinson, Sociology and Global and International Studies, UC-Santa Barbara

Emmanuel Rozental, Vilma Almendra, Pueblos en Camino, Abya Yala

Ben Manski, President, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

Frank Pratka, Baltimore-Matanzas Association/Maryland-Cuba Friendship Coalition

Dr. Hilbourne Watson, Emeritus, Department of International Relations, Bucknell University

Dr. Minqi Li, Economics Department, University of Utah

Christina Schiavoni, PhD researcher, Boston

Dr. Robert E. Birt, Department of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Topanga Peace Alliance

Judy Somberg, Susan Scott, Esq., Co-chairs, National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas

Audrey Bomse, Esq., Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee

Daniel Chavez, Transnational Institute

Barby Ulmer, Board President, Our Developing World

Barbara Larcom, Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay; President, Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance

Nick Egnatz, Veterans for Peace

Dr. Marc Becker, Latin American Studies, Truman State University

Dr. John H. Sinnigen, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Dr. Dale Johnson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Rutgers University

Sulutasen Amador, Co-coordinator, Chukson Water Protectors

Mara Cohen, Communications Hub, Trade Justice Alliance

Dorotea Manuela, Co-Chair Rosa Parks Human Right Committee

Efia Nwangaza, Malcom X Center - WMXP Community Radio

Dr. Chris Chase-Dunn, Sociology, University of California-Riverside

Dr. Nick Nesbitt, Comparative Literature, Princeton

Timeka Drew, coordinator, Global Climate Convergence

Jack Gilroy, Friends of Franz & Ben www.bensalmon.org

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Social Justice Committee

Victor Wallis, Professor, Liberal Arts, Berkeley College of Music


Jerry Dias, President, UNIFOR

Mike Palecek, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

Mark Hancock National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees

Robyn Benson, National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Stephanie Smith, President of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union

Dr. Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer Chair in Indigenous Governance Ryerson University

Linda McQuaig, journalist and author, Toronto

Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers

Miguel Figueroa, President, Canadian Peace Congress

Rights Action (U.S. and Canada)

Joe Emersberger, writer, UNIFOR member

Heide Trampus, Coordinator, Worker to Worker, Canada-Cuba Labour Solidarity Network

Nino Pagliccia, Jorge Arancibia, Marta Palominos, Frente para la Defensa de los Pueblos Hugo Chavez

Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign – Vancouver

The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War

Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)

Maude Barlow, Chairperson, Council of Canadians

Canadian Network on Cuba

Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) – Vancouver

Dr. William Carroll, University of Victoria, Canada

Andrew Dekany, LL.M, Lawyer

Dr. Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University, Toronto

Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)

Alma Weinstein,  Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel Toronto

Maria Elena Mesa, Coord, Sunday Poetry and Festival Internacional de Poesia Patria Grande, Toronto

Dr. Radhika Desai, University of Manitoba


Sergio Romero Cuevas, former Mexican Ambassador to Haiti

Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos, Oaxaca, Mexico

Photo: OEA - OAS/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Our society's double standards in the application of due process

Fri, 2018-03-09 21:45
Anti-RacismCivil Liberties WatchPolitics in Canada

We live in a strange era. An era of deep polarization of views. An era of flagrant contradictions. An era of erosion of principles of justice.

My husband, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born and raised in Syria, faced a public trial in 2002 while he was the victim of extraordinary rendition initiated by U.S. authorities with the complicity of Canadian law enforcement as well as Jordanian and Syrian authorities, official and de facto allies of the U.S. war on terror.

When my husband was given a paper in his U.S. cell stating that he had been arrested because of his alleged association with Al-Qaeda, he didn't get a lawyer or day in court. He was transported in the middle of the night to an airport where a private jet, known as a ghost plane, flew him to Amman, Jordan. But many people in Canada believed that the U.S. couldn't be mistaken, people who included politicians, journalists and regular Canadian citizens.

When former U.S. president George W. Bush infamously said in 2001, "you are either with us or with the terrorists," he knew that many people would fall into the new fault line he created. Indeed, despite many disagreeing with Bush, many also listened to him. He created a clash of civilizations, and in a way he succeeded.

If Twitter and Facebook existed at that time, I have no doubt there would have been campaigns calling my husband a terrorist and demands to keep him in Syria to "rot with the terrorists." Actually, even without social media, those "calls" were relayed by politicians, and journalists and media.

Amidst all this confusion and cacophony, one thing saved my husband: the principle of due process. Not that it was offered to him -- I fought with supporters to bring it back to him.

I kept telling people around me that if my husband was guilty of any wrongdoing, he should be brought back to Canada and face justice. Deporting him to a Syrian prison and keeping him there wouldn't serve any justice.

The notion of due process allowed the most skeptical to listen. Applying the argument of due process to a "suspected terrorist" helped my husband escape a possible death and a very likely life of torture and misery in a Syrian gulag.

There are two direct and serious implications of the 9/11 attacks. The first is the justification of torture as a tool for extracting information from Muslim suspects, with the normalization and "branding" of the ticking bomb scenario by the likes of Alan Dershowitz. The second is the entrenchment of the "war on terror" narrative in public discourse, leading to the disappearance of the principle of due process for Muslim suspects.

From the moment the suspect is arrested until the time he faces the justice system, he has already been tried in the public arena by politicians, journalists and pseudo experts, who most of the time make speculations that are presented as absolute truth. When the time comes for a trial, public opinion has already chosen its side: usually incrimination of the terrorist suspect.

When Hassan Diab, a Canadian citizen suspected of participating in the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris, was arrested in 2006, the notion of due process was not held up for him.

For many, he was already considered guilty. His descent as a Muslim Arab from Lebanon made him a culprit before getting a fair and open trial. Even when a Canadian judge in Ottawa examined the extradition demand from Canada to France, and admitted that the evidence were shaky and flimsy, he still ruled for his extradition. Many blamed it on our extradition laws. They claimed that the judge had his hands tied by the low threshold for extradition in Canada. I concede that point. But not totally. I would argue that the whole anti-Muslim, anti-Arab climate paved the way for such a decision. Why do we gamble with the innocence of someone who has everything working against him, for whom public opinion is shaped by the narrative of terrorism and being "either with us or the terrorists," and judge him guilty or just ignore his plight?

Today, even the #MeToo movement seems affected by this terrorism fault line.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent, Swiss-born theologian and scholar of Islam, was accused by two French women of rape. Despite going on his own volition to the police and being cooperative with the investigation, he was immediately arrested and put in prison without even visits from his family. Clearly, due process wasn't deemed necessary in this case. In my opinion, his ethnic background and religion stripped him of this legal principle. His legal and media treatment today is very similar to what Muslim terrorist suspects would receive. Even his incarceration in solitary confinement in Fleury-Mérogis prison is highly symbolic since this is a prison where many Muslims suspected of terrorism have been held, including Hassan Diab.

Yeas ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and poised at the time to be a strong candidate for the French presidency, was accused by a Manhattan hotel worker of sexual assault. Many of his social and political connections stood by him, defended him publicly and claimed that his sexual misconduct (and other later discovered crimes) were a sign of his virility and sex appeal. Later he was acquitted of all accusations of pimping, rape and sexual assault, and now some even speculate about his political comeback.

In 2012, Glen Greenwald, wrote a book entitled With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. In the book, Greenwald focuses on cases of financial fraud, domestic spying and torture in the U.S. and how some corporations and individuals are evading justice and accountability because of their power and money. Today, the same can be seen not only in the U.S. but also around the world when it comes to terrorism or sexual accusations. Your ethnicity, religion and social status will determine whether the same legal principles are applied to you.

Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog www.moniamazigh.com

Photo: Michael Coghlan/flickr

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due processhuman rightssocial justicejustice systemwar on terrorislamophobiaMonia MazighMarch 9, 2018After years of injustice, Canada should bring Hassan Diab homeThis week, a French judge ordered the release of Hassan Diab from jail while an investigation into his case continues. Canada should follow suit and give Diab due process.Kafka's Canada at 15: The secret trials of Mohamed HarkatThe Ottawa resident has never been subjected to examination either in an open court or a closed session. He was back in court in mid-November seeking relaxed conditions and now waits for a verdict.Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men If the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."
Categories: News for progressives

We will get universal pharmacare only if Canadians mobilize for it as they did for medicare

Fri, 2018-03-09 20:58
Dennis Gruending

The Liberals promised in the recent federal budget to look into pharmacare and they lured Ontario's health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins away from provincial politics to lead consultations on how to proceed. This may be mostly a ploy to thwart the NDP which, along with the labour movement, has been trying to build support for a universal, publicly financed pharmacare program.

The Liberals under Jean Chretien promised in 1997 to expand medicare to cover prescription drugs. Chretien blithely ignored that promise after being elected. Now Eric Hoskins will consult and then report in the spring of 2019, just in time for the Liberals to make another promise going into the October election.

'Plan' or 'strategy?'

But let's leave politics and talk rather about design. When I heard Finance Minister Bill Morneau's speech, I assumed that he was talking about a national, universal and tax-financed program. But less than 24 hours later, he undercut that idea. Speaking to the Economic Club of Canada, he said that he was looking for a national pharmacare "strategy" but not a national pharmacare "plan." He said that his preferred arrangement would "fill the gaps" left by the existing patchwork of private and public plans.

What Morneau likely has in mind, even before Hoskins consults Canadians, is to have the government subsidize private insurers to arrange drug coverage for those without it, rather than devising a universal plan akin to medicare.

The medicare analogy

The medicare analogy is one relevant to pharmacare. The architects of medicare in Canada include Tommy Douglas, whose CCF created a universal, tax-financed plan for health insurance in Saskatchewan in 1962, and Judge Emmett Hall whose royal commission report on health care in 1964 recommended Saskatchewan-style medicare for all of Canada. Douglas said a public plan for doctor and hospital visits was a good start but that public health insurance should eventually include much more. Hall, in his royal commission report, actually proposed universal pharmacare, vision and dental care.

It is instructive to follow Hall's reasoning. By the 1960s, medical insurance plans, many of them owned by physicians' groups, were providing private health insurance to millions of people, but only to those who could afford it. Hall found, however, that 40 per cent of Canadians either had no health insurance or had plans whose coverage he deemed inadequate.

When he sifted through the evidence, Hall decided it would be far better to have the federal government subsidize provincial health plans for single-payer, universal insurance than it would be to pay for a patchwork of private plans to include people without coverage. Both Hall and Douglas were also opposed to subjecting people to a belittling means test to decide who can and cannot afford to buy insurance.

Savings with pharmacare

In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) found that there were about 26 million Canadians covered by various drug plans, largely through their employers. About 700,000 people had no drug coverage at all, and another 3.6 million had inadequate coverage. A central question is how best to provide for these 4.3 million people. There are numerous private insurers who will want the government to pay them to do it, and they will therefore oppose a universal, single-payer plan.

Prescription drugs represent the most rapidly rising cost in the health-care system. The PBO reports that Canadians spent $28.5 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2015. The PBO also says that on average Canadians pay 22 per cent more for patented drugs than do people in other countries belonging to the OECD. A universal, publicly financed drug plan would allow for bulk purchasing by federal and provincial health plans, and the PBO estimates that could save between $4 and $11 billion a year. But it would also mean shifting much of the expenditure from individuals and employer plans to the public sector in Ottawa and the provinces.

Mobilize for it

There are billions of dollars at stake in profits for the pharmaceutical companies, and we can expect that they are lobbying aggressively against any a single-payer and universal plan. One of the threats they often make is to move their production elsewhere if they don't get their way.

We will get universal publicly financed pharmacare only if Canadians mobilize for it as they did for medicare and more recently for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

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Photo: International Monetary Fund/flickr

Categories: News for progressives

Alberta's NDP borrowed more than export-cut threats from Peter Lougheed for throne speech

Fri, 2018-03-09 14:58
David J. Climenhaga

Understandably given the nature of the daily news cycle, reporters covering yesterday's throne speech focused on the threats by Alberta's NDP government to punish British Columbia if that province's NDP government actually tries to block expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Premier Rachel Notley's New Democrats, as journalists on the scene remarked in their stories last night, borrowed a strategy from Premier Peter Lougheed when she said she would cut oil exports to the province next door if Premier John Horgan won't behave.

Indeed, the throne speech made that point explicitly: "In the past, when workers in our energy industry were attacked and when the resources we own were threatened, Premier Peter Lougheed took bold action," Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell read aloud. (Emphasis added, of course.)

"Your government has been clear," the speech went on, presumably deliberately not mentioning Lougheed's political affiliation, "every option is on the table."

In 1980, the Lougheed government resisted the National Energy Program of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau by restricting the natural gas that could be shipped out of Alberta and ceasing to issue natural gas export permits.

"We will not hesitate to invoke similar legislation if it becomes necessary owing to the extreme and illegal actions on the part of the B.C. government to stop the pipeline," the Lieutenant Governor read, channelling the premier, as vice-regal personages are supposed to do on these occasions when a government's legislative agenda is publicly set out.

Of course, how extreme the B.C. government's actions to date have been is a matter of perspective. And how illegal they are is a matter of opinion until settled by a court. But no one can accuse Notley's government, as the Conservative Opposition was wont to do in the past, of not standing up for the interests of Alberta's principal resource industry.

That much said, if you look closely at the throne speech, you'll see the threat directed at B.C. wasn't the only idea borrowed from the strategies associated with Lougheed, whose Progressive Conservative government was elected in 1971 and stayed that way under a string of premiers until Notley toppled the dynasty on May 5, 2015.

Times have changed since 1971, of course. Lougheed, who died in 2012 at the age of 84, might not have made gender parity in cabinet a goal -- as the NDP did, and then surpassed with more women than men, as was noted with justified pride in this International Women's Day speech from the throne.

Nor, I expect, would a concept like LGBTQ2S have rolled off Lougheed's tongue any more easily than it did off Mitchell's in the Legislature yesterday.

But in addition to the strategy for asserting Alberta's trading rights, he certainly would have recognized his legacy in the NDP government's Keynesian approach to dealing with an economic downturn, its government-led effort to diversify the economy in general and the energy sector in particular, its (too cautious) efforts to smooth out the province's typical boom and bust economic cycles, its strategy to bring the most harmful features of energy deregulation under control, and its generally upbeat tone.

Conservatives and New Democrats alike will probably take issue with me on this, but this was, in philosophy and concept, a good, traditional progressive conservative throne speech.

It sets out the roadmap, therefore, for the good, traditional, post-recession progressive conservative budget that I expect Finance Minister Joe Ceci will deliver on March 22.

It is probably not all that different, truth be told, than the throne speech that would have been written for Jim Prentice's government about now -- had Alberta's last PC premier not foolishly called an election a year earlier than he needed to, to the obvious displeasure of a great many Albertans.

This is true right down to the speech's rural crime strategy and its repeated invocation of the name of the Deity in its closing lines.

It is a mark of how radicalized Canada's conservative movement became during the decade Stephen Harper ruled in Ottawa and Jason Kenney was his minion that such modestly progressive conservative policies as Notley's can be assailed as extremist, ideological and even communistic by the United Conservative Party Opposition that Kenney, after taking his seat yesterday, can now lead from inside the Legislature.

Were it not for the name of the party in power, it is said here, the Notley government's re-election in Alberta on a program like the one set out yesterday would be uncontroversial.

So we can expect Lougheed's name to be invoked more than once again in the lead-up to the general election expected in the spring of 2019.

One could argue the anticipated tone was set yesterday afternoon, after the vice-regal party had left the building and this throne speech was already receding into history.

As Margaret McQuaig-Boyd, minister of energy, observed as she introduced the government's Bill 1, the Energy Diversification Act, to the Chamber: "We are acting, Mr. Speaker, in the proud tradition of Peter Lougheed, who believed that government can, and government should, help foster the next generation of technology in our energy sector."

Well, "conservatives" nowadays advocate radical market fundamentalism, and social democrats implement policies that are as conservative as they are progressive. It's a funny old world!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Salt needs to be taken more seriously

Fri, 2018-03-09 14:58
March 9, 2018Food & HealthHealth Canada takes on sodium, but are Canadians hooked on salt?Voluntary guidelines for reduced sodium in food have been a failure. The government is now working on better labelling. The real problem may be that we have become hooked on salt.healthSALT
Categories: News for progressives

Andrea Horwath will be Ontario's next premier -- remember where you heard it first, Albertans

Fri, 2018-03-09 02:23
David J. Climenhaga

Andrea Horwath's New Democrats are going to win the Ontario provincial election on June 7.

I know this because I'm from Alberta and we've been through this perfect storm already.

In the early spring of 2015, Alberta's provincial election was looming. Polling suggested Alberta voters were growing tired of the Progressive Conservative Dynasty -- then led by banker and former Conservative MP Jim Prentice.

But since we'd all learned from our mamas that Alberta was "the most conservative province in Canada," and since the PCs had been in power for close to 44 years, change was hard to imagine.

In mid-March, Prentice, his caucus expanded by 10 Wildrose MLAs who had recently defected to his side, was projected to win a 64-seat majority.

Pundits, praying for a horserace, started to predict the even-further-to-the-right Wildrose Party holdouts might make a breakthrough, and, for a spell, Alberta voters seemed to go along with that notion.

Twenty-six days before the election, polling analyst Eric Grenier's usually reliable poll aggregation site cautiously predicted a Wildrose victory with as many as 48 seats. "That makes them the only party in the projection with a likely range surpassing the 44-seat mark needed for a majority government," he wrote.

The New Democrats might form the Opposition, Grenier suggested, with the PCs coming third.

Prentice seemed unfazed, though, serenely campaigning under the slogan "Choose Alberta's Future."

Well, we all know what happened on May 5. Alberta's New Democrats, led by the charismatic and obviously capable Rachel Notley, were picked by voters to lead Alberta into a future no one quite expected.

Voters apparently concluded they'd not only had enough of the Progressive Conservatives, they'd had enough of conservatives altogether.

Why did this happen? Well, nobody really knows, but it seems likely the Alberta electorate, more sophisticated than they were ever given credit for by all the usual suspects, were righteously sick of the Tories but uninterested in an even more extreme version of the same thing.

Notley was a familiar face in a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive -- as were a great many Albertans, it turned out, just like voters in Ontario.

Some voters may have soon experienced buyer's regret, but they gave Notley a 54-seat majority and history was made, especially since the NDP Caucus had only four members on the day Prentice dropped the writ.

Now it is the spring of 2018 and Ontario is about nine weeks away from its next provincial election. The situation is not exactly the same as it was in Alberta in the spring of 2015, but the similarities are striking.

The government of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has grown long in the tooth, touched by scandal and voter fatigue. She has been in power since 2013. The Ontario Liberal Party has run the province without a break since 2003.

The prevailing narrative of pundits leading into the previous Ontario election, in 2014, was that voters were sick of the Liberals and would pick the PCs.

But Tim Hudak, who had become leader of the PC Opposition in 2009, came out as an anti-union obsessive, determined to turn the province into a Republican right-to-work state. This and other things apparently caused sufficient disquiet among Ontario voters for Wynne to hang on for another term in 2014.

Hudak then quit. After a spell under an interim leader, party members elected Patrick Brown, a federal conservative MP from Barrie, in May 2015.

In the past few weeks, things have gotten very interesting.

For those in Western Canada who haven't been paying attention to Ontario political developments with their jaw hanging open, in just the past two weeks, Brown has been accused by two women of sexually inappropriate behaviour, forced to resign his position as leader after rebellions by his staff and caucus, sued CTV for defamation over their coverage of the accusations, declared himself to have been cleared of the accusations, been permitted to run to replace himself as leader, is being investigated by the provincial Integrity Commissioner for not declaring all sources of income, is being investigated by the police for alleged forgery and fraud, and has dropped out of the race he just dropped into.

Now the media says Doug Ford, the similarly bombastic brother of Rob Ford, the never to be forgotten mayor of Toronto who died on March 22 last year.

It is, in other words, an absolute gong show, hard to keep up with, and, probably, everything will change again tomorrow!

The province's voters are doubtless still sick of Wynne's Liberals, but the PC Opposition is leaderless, in a state of open rebellion, and quite obviously incapable of safely operating a hot dog stand, let alone Canada's most populous province.

Oh, and Caroline Mulroney, the daughter of old Basso Profundo himself, is also running for the party's leadership.

For the moment, it is not clear what Ontario voters are going to do.

Political commentator Warren Kinsella, a Liberal, gloomily reported on his blog that the Ontario PCs are still competitive. Mind you, that conclusion was based on polls taken before the latest parade of clown cars headed up Toronto's University Avenue toward the Ontario Legislature, honking their horns as men in fright wigs on tiny motorcycles buzzed around them.

Kinsella certainly knows the Ontario political scene better that I do. He lives there, after all, and I haven't for 30 years.

I have lived in Alberta, though, so here's what I think is going to happen:

Andrea Horwath, the MPP (as Ontario pretentiously calls its MLAs) for Hamilton Centre who has run the NDP caucus at Queen's Park (as Ontario pretentiously calls its Legislature) for nearly a decade without messing up dramatically enough for it to be noticed out here on the Prairies, will canter into power, just as Notley did.

She's a single mom, a responsible job if ever there was one. She's a former Hamilton city councillor. She's been an MPP since 2004. She's run literacy programs for unions. She's made a cause of social housing and injured workers' rights. She was honoured with the Woman of the Year in Public Affairs in 1999 the Hamilton Status of Women Committee. She knows how to act like a grownup.

You get the picture.

Horwath is going to look to a lot of voters like she's got what it takes to be premier. She's by definition not a right-wing loon who's going to act like an ideological bull and smash all the china. (Ontario's been there under Conservative golfer and premier Mike Harris. Nobody wants the T-shirt.)

Horwath is untainted by the scandals associated with the Wynne government. But she ticks most of the other boxes for stuff Ontarians liked about Wynne.

Like Notley, she's a familiar face seeking a new role, obviously capable, and genuinely progressive.

So why not vote for her?

Of course, people closer to the scene are going to have a thousand and one reasons why I'm wrong.

The polls Kinsella noted, for example, show the Liberals and the NDP in a statistical tie, each with lower support than the PCs. But that will change as election day nears and progressive votes shift toward the party most likely to keep dangerous clowns out of power.

We Albertans have already seen this movie and, no matter what the Opposition claims, the ending's still pretty good.

So Andrea Horwath is going to win on June 7, just like Rachel Notley did on May 5, 2015. Remember where you heard it first, Alberta!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Ontario NDP/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Build Canada's progressive future at the municipal level

Fri, 2018-03-09 00:51
March 8, 2018Politics in CanadaMunicipal victories: Rebuilding Canada's progressive futureFrom the Press Progress Summit 2017, an exploration of how to build Canada’s progressive future at the most local of political levels – our cities and towns.municipal governmentElectionscampaigns
Categories: News for progressives

Spectacular flame-out of Derek Fildebrandt continues to pick up speed

Thu, 2018-03-08 14:22
David J. Climenhaga

It's all about Derek!

The spectacular flame-out of Derek Fildebrandt, a politician once touted (at least by himself) as potential leader of the united right in Alberta, continues to pick up speed, generating light and eerie noises in the night skies over Alberta.

It's mildly unnerving to watch the political career of the Independent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks and self-described "Liberty Conservative" trailing smoke and sparks as it plummets toward the surface of the planet.

Not long ago, the 32-year-old Mr. Fildebrandt was the fair-haired boy of the libertarian fringe of the Canadian conservative movement. The former stunt producer for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation had made good. He was an actual elected official with at least a long-shot chance of someday leading a sizeable number of the country's conservatives.

Then, in short order, came the Airbnb bust, the meal chits fiasco, the traffic fine for playing unauthorized bumper cars in an Edmonton parking lot, and the illegal shooting of a deer in a farmer's field near Sundre. Well, there's small comfort at least in the merciful fact it wasn't a farmer's prize quarter horse he blasted! Fines and such things followed.

Then came the final humiliation, the Ottawa native's permanent banishment to the Siberia of Canadian politics -- the Independent benches.

The unkindest cut of all was that he was sent into exile by Jason Kenney himself, leader of the United Conservative Party and, like Mr. Fildebrandt, a former CTF operative. It happened just as Mr. Fildebrandt thought he was about to be welcomed back to the embrace of the Opposition, although never again as finance critic.

So, yesterday, there was Mr. Fildebrandt at a one-man "news conference" in the Legislature Building in Edmonton, holding forth on how he would introduce a private member's bill saying Alberta MLAs should give up 5 per cent of their salaries until the provincial budget is balanced. Never mind that it's a silly idea, a typical CTF stunt, the government must be tempted to endorse it just to get up Mr. Kenney's nose.

The thing is, it's always all about Derek! No one in the Legislature is less self-aware than Mr. Fildebrandt.

It is quite likely he missed entirely that the media reporters who showed up yesterday did so to see an entertaining diversion from the more serious business of this afternoon's Speech from the Throne, in which the NDP Government of Premier Rachel Notley will introduce its legislative program for the crucial final year before the 2019 general election.

Becoming maudlin, Mr. Fildebrandt bitterly declared: "Politics is full of bullshit."

He was so heartbroken by the astounding news Mr. Kenney might prefer a prefer a capable and politically presentable woman like UCP Deputy Leader Leela Aheer for the nomination in what was left of his old riding that "I pretty much locked myself in my apartment with scotch for a few weeks." He went on for the benefit of the wondering press: "I didn't even pay a parking ticket I had." (Now there's a surprise!)

He accused the impartial Electoral Boundaries Commission of scheming against him. He said he'd been approached to join the Alberta Party. The Alberta Party swiftly fired off a tweet of denial.

Readers will get the picture. You just can't make this stuff up. Mr. Fildebrandt thinks he's starring in a movie. He doesn't seem to realize it's a comedy, a dark one that's going direct to video.

To put this in cosmic context, Mr. Fildebrandt is like a large hunk of interstellar ice hurtling toward the Earth. When he hits the atmosphere, sparks will fly … but there will be no impact.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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Categories: News for progressives

We're hiring! rabble.ca seeks Editor in Chief

Thu, 2018-03-08 03:01
rabble staff

Are you a Canadian news junkie who knows the keyboard is more powerful than the sword? Do you understand the power of media in making political and social change, and working towards decolonization and anti-racism -- and do you want to do something about the need for powerful alternative progressive media voices in Canada? If this sounds like you, read on.

rabble.ca, one of Canada's leading alternative progressive media sources, seeks a dynamic Editor in Chief to direct and edit day-to-day news and feature operations, and integrate multimedia and social media functions into the work of rabble on a daily basis, while managing an energetic and engaged staff and writer team.

The Job

The Editor in Chief (EIC) is the senior editorial role at rabble.ca, and at 28 to 35 hours per week (negotiable), is the position most regularly on the website during weekday hours.

The EIC is a strong communicator, excellent print editor, with senior digital news media, editing and management experience.

The EIC is a Canadian news buff, who thrives on keeping up with and engaging in discussion of mainstream media, in addition to the alternative press, while developing an understanding of rabble's positioning in the media landscape. The EIC is the primary editorial voice of rabble, and leads this 17-year-old progressive non-profit media site. The EIC has a passion for media democracy, and understands the power and possibilities of independent media in the face of the changing landscape of news production and dissemination.

Broadly, the EIC deploys rabble.ca's editorial vision and strategies, manages the news features, opinion sections, and works with beat editors, section editors, guest editors, as well as regular staff writers, interns, bloggers, podcasters and freelancers.

The major editorial responsibilities for the EIC are the "news & features" section of rabble -- which includes news reports, feature stories, interviews, and series. The EIC also selects commentaries and opinion pieces to be published in "The Views Expressed" opinion section.

Daily, the EIC updates rabble's editorial calendar -- juggling the planned editorial schedule with emerging coverage priorities. The EIC selects, edits if necessary, and posts a daily front-page photo feature. The EIC ensures social media promotion for content is highly shareable and up to date, following rabble's social media posting guidelines, and ensures a daily auto-generated email newsletter is sent.

The editor will be part of a virtual office environment, and may work from a rabble office space in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa -- however, for the right candidate, this position can be based anywhere in Canada.


- Candidates should have strong organizational and management skills, extensive editing experience in a news media environment, a demonstrated ability to multi-task and to meet deadlines, a collaborative approach to teamwork, comfort with web editing in Drupal, an affinity for social media and for learning new technology and software, and a creative approach to working with limited financial resources;

- At least three years' experience in a senior editor role in a news media organization;

- A journalism degree or equivalent experience;

- Knowledge of and demonstrated interest in progressive politics, social movements, and current national affairs, including Indigenous movements, environmental justice, and migrant justice issues;

- A passion for all the digital tools available to journalists and experience in putting them to use.


Familiarity with Basecamp, Chartbeat, Slack, and photo-editing software. rabble's content management system is Drupal-based. 

To Apply:

Please send cover letter, resume, references and a short writing sample outlining your vision for the future of rabble.ca (one-page maximum) to:

Managing Editor Michelle Gregus c/o jobs[at]rabble.ca noting "Editor application" in the subject line.

In the spirit of the virtual office, only electronic applications will be accepted.

Please note: we thank all who apply, but only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. Interviews for this position will take place on a rolling basis, so don't delay sending in your application.  

rabble.ca is committed to equity iand anti-racism n its policies and practices, supports diversity in its journalistic and work environments, and ensures that applications for members of underrepresented groups are seriously considered under employment equity. All qualified individuals who would contribute to the further diversification of the rabble.ca community are encouraged to apply.

Image: Ryan Wiegert/flickr

Categories: News for progressives

Remember the fun with Harper hashtags? We can do that again

Wed, 2018-03-07 23:01
March 7, 2018Politics in CanadaA reminder that good words can make good political responses -- and lead to better political possibilitiesCanadian politics
Categories: News for progressives

Five things to know about the 2018 federal budget and housing

Wed, 2018-03-07 00:02
Nick Falvo

The 2018 federal budget, while not as transformative as last year's, had important new initiatives related to housing and homelessness.

Here are five things to know:

1. New housing investments were announced for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Specifically, the budget announced $600 million over three years for on-reserve housing; $400 million over 10 years for housing in the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit; and $500 million over 10 years for housing for Métis people. In each case, this targeting funding is intended to accompany the respective federal housing strategies for each group, none of which have been released. From an urban perspective -- it's important to remember that, while Indigenous peoples make up just three per cent of Calgary's general population, they make up 20 per cent of Calgary's homeless population. Several other funding announcements were made for Indigenous peoples, valued at $5 billion over five years. This includes funding for child welfare services, employment and skills training, nursing services in designated First Nations communities, addictions treatment and prevention in First Nations communities, and funding to build administrative and fiscal capacity in First Nations communities.

2. This budget announced the further expansion and rebranding of the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB).

This is a wage supplement for workers who have a fragile toehold in the labour force. Some readers will recall that the federal government provided a $250-million enhancement to the program in 2016 (to take effect in 2019) in an effort to offset CPP expansion. In the 2017 Fall Economic Statement, the Trudeau government further announced the enhancement of WITB by an additional $500 million annually. Today's budget announced that, beginning in 2019, this benefit will be known as the Canada Workers Benefit; it will also be more generous. For some workers, this will mean up to an additional $500 annually.

3. The budget announced an increase in loans provided via the Rental Constructive Financing Initiative.

Over the new three years, the amount of loans available will increase from $2.5 billion to $3.75 billion. According to the budget: "This new funding is intended to support projects that address the needs of modest- and middle-income households struggling in expensive housing markets" (p. 40). The impact of this initiative on homelessness will be indirect at best.

4. Canada's official unemployment rate is now the lowest it's been in decades.

Since November 2015, it's gone from 7.1 per cent to 5.9 per cent. This strong labour market performance is good for the respective bottom lines of federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments -- not only does it mean more tax revenue each year, it also means some social programs (e.g., social assistance) can be drawn on less.

5. Canada's federal debt-to-GDP ratio remains (by far) the lowest of all G7 countries.

While our federal government is projecting annual federal deficits in the $10-$20 billion range for at least the next five years, our federal debt-to-GDP ratio remains by far the lowest of all G7 countries. What's more, our federal government is projecting a further reduction in our federal debt-to-GDP from 30.4 per cent (2017-18) to 28.4 per cent by 2022-23. This favourable macroeconomic context makes it easier for the federal government to invest in important social programs.

In Sum. From the vantage point of Canada's affordable housing and homelessness sectors, the good news in this budget is its important new funding announcements for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. This investment was announced in a context of low unemployment and an improving macroeconomic context overall. Going forward, I look forward to seeing further details pertaining to the many important initiatives announced in last fall's National Housing Strategy.

Nick Falvo is Director of Research and Data at the Calgary Homeless Foundation. This blog was first posted on the Calgary Homelessness Foundation.

Photo: KMR Photography/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Survivors of Parkland shooting are leading the movement for gun control

Tue, 2018-03-06 22:11
Political ActionUS Politics

The National Rifle Association didn't see it coming. It could have predicted yet another school shooting, like so many that have happened before in the United States. But what the NRA couldn't predict was the immediate and unrelenting response of the student survivors. They channelled their rage and sorrow over the killing of 17 of their classmates and teachers against the gun lobby and the politicians in their pocket. Pushed by this new momentum for change, President Donald Trump held a bipartisan meeting of congressional lawmakers Wednesday afternoon. The senators and representatives took turns laying out their policy prescriptions while heaping praise on Trump, who took credit in advance for what he said would be a "beautiful" bill that would pass the Senate with so many votes over the required 60 that it would be "unbelievable."

Whether any of the proposed policies make it into a comprehensive gun control bill remains to be seen. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical, including the $54 million the NRA spent on presidential and congressional races during the 2016 election cycle. Democratic Congressmember Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut offered one undeniable truth at the bipartisan meeting, saying, "We're at a tipping point, because of the students." The student survivors of the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are the heart of the movement for gun control. They are embracing one of the strongest currents in United States history: the tradition of youth activism.

By now, many of the Parkland, Florida., survivors are nationally recognized: Emma Gonzalez, whose fiery speech days after the shooting ignited the movement; David Hogg, director of the school's student-run TV station, whose impactful media appearances contributed to a disgraceful right-wing conspiracy theory that he and others were actually trained "crisis actors"; and Sam Zeif, who at the White House "listening session" told the president: "These are not weapons of defence; these are weapons of war. … I still can't fathom that I, myself, am able to purchase one."

Others helped organize a trip of over 100 survivors from Parkland to Tallahassee, Florida, to push the state legislature for an assault-weapons ban. While the effort failed, the students emerged more determined than ever.

Youth activism goes back a long way in the U.S. In 1903, Mary Harris Jones, the legendary Irish labor organizer known popularly as "Mother Jones," led a march of hundreds of striking child labourers and their parents from Philadelphia to New York City. They were fighting against the scourge of child labour.

The civil-rights movement was propelled by youth activists. Claudette Colvin was just 15 when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama -- nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing. Colvin told us on the Democracy Now! news hour: "I could not move, because history had me glued to the seat. … Because it felt like Sojourner Truth's hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman's hands were pushing me down on another shoulder … and I yelled out, 'It's my constitutional rights!'"

One of the principal architects of the nonviolent strategy used by Martin Luther King Jr. was James Lawson, who received his ministry license in high school in 1947. He in turn trained countless activists, including John Lewis. Lewis was a leader of the Nashville Movement to desegregate lunch counters in the South, and was one of the original Freedom Riders, who braved beatings, arrests, angry mobs and death threats as they rode buses to force the desegregation of the interstate bus system.

John Lewis was just 23 when he addressed the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In deference to suggestions made by King and fellow march organizer A. Philip Randolph, Lewis edited his speech. He took out the lines: "To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' we must say that 'patience' is a dirty and nasty word. We cannot be patient. We do not want to be free gradually. We want our freedom, and we want it now."

The Parkland students have called for a national March for Our Lives on March 24, in Washington, D.C., with sister marches around the country. They have raised over $3 million to support the organizing effort. Emma Gonzalez wrote in Harper's Bazaar: "March with us on March 24. Register to vote. Actually show up to the polls. Because we need to relieve the NRA of its talking points, once and for all." There are concurrent calls for nationwide high school student walkouts to demand gun control on March 14, as well as April 20 -- the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

TAmy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Democracy Now!

Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr

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mass shootingsgun controlNational Rifle Associationyouth activismU.S. politicsAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanMarch 6, 2018After Parkland shooting, students march for their livesThe Pentagon is in our public schools, recruiting students to the military. At its side is the NRA, putting guns into the hands of children.High school students demand action on gun control following Parkland shootingAfter the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this week, students are demanding change from legislators, but many Republicans remain indebted to the NRA.Myth of American exceptionalism prevents policy change on gun controlWhy don't Americans ever learn from these things? It's a price they pay for their "exceptionalism"-- they have nothing to learn from others.
Categories: News for progressives

Hydro One privatization is the reason voters distrust Kathleen Wynne

Tue, 2018-03-06 21:36
ElectionsPolitics in Canada

Liberalism in all forms, including left-liberalism, seems exhausted. It ceded to neoliberalism long ago: inequality, free market worship, anti-government, etc.

What else explains the right's ability keep trotting out empty ideas and phrases -- and win elections! Wednesday's Ontario PC leadership debate was remarkable for the lack of anything fresh or even … cogitative.

You had candidates who believed the clichés -- Ford and Tanya Granic Allen. And those who -- I'd bet my house -- don't: Elliott and Mulroney. But they all know the only way to win their party is by channelling Mike Harris via Trump, then run on those bromides and probably succeed, since polls say anyone can beat Kathleen Wynne. Argggh.

Who killed liberalism? The Clintons, Blair, Martin and Chrétien, above all Obama. They talked liberalism and delivered neoliberalism. Raise hopes, then dash them. Then, when your term's over, having not done all the things you promised, take the money, run, and sunbathe on David Geffen's yacht in Tahiti.

Kathleen Wynne fits awkwardly. She sounded sincere. She said she'd be the social justice premier. She's different, I'd say, in one, commendable sense. She came through well on many fronts: pensions, tuition, minimum wage, equal pay, pharmacare.

She blew it severely on just one: she sold Hydro (Hydro One actually, but everyone says Hydro). She stumbled blatantly only there. Yet it leaves a bitter taste people seem unable to shake. How does this compute?

On a cold night in Montreal recently (bear with me) I shared an Uber back from dinner with a millennial I know. He had an account. I don't. I have a generational reluctance because Uber undermines hard-won union rights. But I can recognize a great technology. (They come in minutes, no money changes hands.) I mentioned my qualms about Uber to the millennial. "That's why I think it should be nationalized," he said. "Along with Airbnb, Spotify and Netflix."

His is a generation so disillusioned with the garbage rhetoric of politicians left and right that they talk freely about socialism. (You must go that far back to escape the stains of liberalism -- as Sanders and Corbyn have.)

They know they'll never live at the level of their parents. Their dream isn't homeowning. At most, they hope to rent reasonably. They don't expect to ever have much private property so they don't fetishize it. They're open to public ownership. Neoliberalism failed them. And they distrust Wynne too. Why? She sold Hydro.

The sell-off of public goods is the quintessence of neoliberalism. Where did the computer and internet come from? Mostly from U.S. military research, funded by taxes. All key elements of the iPhone, Mariana Mazzucato has shown, came from that research. So why not nationalize payoffs like Uber, instead of exploiting those whose taxes made it all possible? Nationalizing Uber isn't theft, it's rectifying theft. It's taking back for the people, what came from them.

Hydro stands in the same relation. Water is the soul of all life. (Hydro means water.) It's our bloodstream. It's a social necessity. Ontario Hydro was a public undertaking funded by the public that returned benefits to all. You can't sell it, you can only swipe it and hand it over, as Wynne did.

The buyers won't do anything to improve it; they'll just squeeze it to extract profits. Classical economists of the 1700s and 1800s would've called them rentseekers -- the ugliest players in capitalism. Worse, she did this in the name of acquiring money for another public good: transit. It's robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's a scam.

(There was one stunning moment in that PC leadership debate. Host Althia Raj asked if anyone would renationalize Hydro, followed by TV's rarest event: prolonged silence. No candidate had the guts to say either yes or no.)

I think people sense a deep betrayal of principle in Wynne's Hydro sell-off. Something's very wrong and if Wynne was capable of it then she's not to be trusted either, no matter what else seems to prove her worth. She belongs to them, not us. To me the great mystery of this fascinating political season in Ontario is the loathing of Wynne. This is my attempt to understand it.

I think it's a harsh judgment on her, too harsh. But we live in an age of hideous betrayals and emotions far beneath the rational level are churning.

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/flickr

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Ontario electionKathleen WynneOntario Politicsneoliberalismhydro oneONRick SalutinMarch 6, 2018Neoliberalism is a spent force in electoral politicsThe alternative to socialism is no longer neoliberalism; it's Trumpian racist populism, which is probably a nonstarter in Ontario.The three key moments in Canada's neoliberal transformationThe last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching neoliberal transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture that has been dramatic, thorough and socially destructive.Neoliberalism and the ongoing economic assault on ordinary Canadians Since the mid-1980s, the guiding principle of neo-liberalism seems to have been, "Ask not what your economy can do for you, ask what you can do for your economy."
Categories: News for progressives

Brian Jean, former Opposition leader and unsuccessful UCP leadership contender, quits Alberta politics

Tue, 2018-03-06 13:36
David J. Climenhaga

Brian Jean -- once the leader of the Opposition and arguably the man who saved the conservative movement in Alberta from self-immolation in 2014 and 2015 -- quit politics for good yesterday.

This is the second time in his political career Jean has quit politics forever, so don't necessarily write the guy off completely.

Perhaps Jean will rise a third time as mayor of Fort McMurray just in time to reinvent it as a spaceport or a planetary centre of excellence for solar energy. I'm not entirely joking about this, even if I'm not entirely serious.

Jean had some of the essential qualities that make a successful political leader, among them personal charm and a vision of where he wanted to take his party and his own political career.

Alas, after being chosen 11th hour leader of the Wildrose Party with 55 per cent of the vote in March 2015, he proved he didn't have them all. He lacked both the ruthlessness and what we used to call stick-to-itiveness essential to being a winner in the game of politics, which he must have known is played with the elbows up.

Jason Kenney, who lacks neither of those qualities, schooled his former Harper government caucus mate in the hard realities of politics during the race to lead the United Conservative Party last year.

Jean also lacked the force of personality required to keep caucus rebels like Derek Fildebrandt under control, especially when the Wildrose Party's nutty libertarian fringe screamed at him for trying to make the rebel MLA behave. Kenney proved he could handle that challenge too last month when Fildebrandt got in trouble with the law of the land and the law of politics one too many times.

Likewise, it was Kenney, not Jean, who enjoyed the support of their boss in their Ottawa days, the still-influential former Conservative prime minster Stephen Harper.

When the UCP leadership race was over, it didn't matter that the former member of Parliament for the Athabasca and Fort McMurray-Athabasca ridings brought the Wildrose Party back from the brink in 2014, after former leader Danielle Smith had tried to lead it lemming-like into Jim Prentice's Progressive Conservative government caucus, or that he'd prevented the party from being crushed utterly in the provincial election of 2015, which could have happened.

Indeed, it lived to fight again as the UCP thanks in large part to Jean's energetic campaigning -- which was marred principally by Albertans' infatuation with Rachel Notley and her New Democrats and by his own wooden television performance, a potentially fatal flaw in this digital era.

Still, the result of the May 2015 Alberta election was none too shabby for the Wildrosers when you consider the party was on the eve of destruction when Jean reconsidered his rather mysterious decision in January 2014 to quit his once-promising federal political career and get back into politics.

Had the planets lined up a little more favourably for the scion of one of Fort McMurray's most successful families, he could easily have been premier of Alberta, later, if not sooner.

But the ruthless, focused and well-connected Kenney put paid to that dream. It was obvious from the get-go Jean stood no chance against the Kenney juggernaut. And his departure from provincial politics was pretty much a certainty from the moment he lost the UCP leadership to Kenney on Oct. 28 last year.

Jean's defeat was literally tearful, all the more stinging in that he appeared to have really persuaded himself not only that he could win, but that he was going to.

Once he had lost, the writing was on the wall. Jean was the only United Conservative MLA to decline a shadow cabinet position in Kenney's caucus -- assuming, that is, that Kenney offered him one. Kenney quickly purged Jean's supporters from the new party's staff. There was a strong sense, after the dust from the leadership race had settled, there was no love lost between the two men.

Notwithstanding that, Jean gracefully wished Kenney well in a social media post last night.

When the shadow cabinet posts were handed out, Jean said he already had an important job: serving the people of his Fort McMurray-Conklin riding. Now he has given that up too.

The reason he gave yesterday was the same as the one he gave in January 2014, when he stepped down as MP for Fort McMurray Athabasca: to spend more time with his family. He married his former Parliamentary special assistant, Kimberley Michelutti, in August 2016.

He has faced personal challenges since entering provincial politics. His 24-year-old son died of lymphoma shortly before he was chosen Wildrose leader. His family home was destroyed in the devastating Fort Mac Fire in May 2016. He recently told a local newspaper in his hometown that three family members have been diagnosed with cancer.

Premier Notley thanked Jean for his service to the province yesterday. "As former Leader of the Official Opposition, Brian Jean took over his party at a difficult time and led it ably and conducted himself in a manner that demonstrated it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable."

This seems fair, and it certainly can't be said of his successor as Opposition leader.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Dive into World Water Day with two films on the precious resource

Mon, 2018-03-05 21:13
Doreen Nicoll

March 22 is World Water Day, a time to celebrate and reflect on our treatment of this life-giving resource. It's also a great time to learn something new about the way this limited resource is taken for granted and mistreated right here at home.

To that end, here's two movies that will shock, inspire and remind all of us why water is always an important election issue.

Water Warriors (2017) is a modern-day David and Goliath story set in Mi'kma'ki, the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq people living in New Brunswick. Water Warriors follows the epic three-year journey of diverse communities united by the need to protect their water from corporate greed.

In 2010, the New Brunswick government awarded Houston-based Southwestern Energy (SWN) a license to explore for natural gas. Undeniable environmental damage results from hydraulic fracturing and that motivated residents to halt the exploratory process before it reached that point.

That's when Elsipogtog First Nations people, French-speaking Acadian settlers and English-speaking white settlers came together to defend their water and land as well as the animals and plants living there.

Water Warriors is the amazing story of unexpected comrades whose resistance not only stopped exploratory fracking, but led to a complete change of the provincial party in power which eventually placed an indefinite moratorium on fracking in New Brunswick.

Storyline Media pride themselves on creating collaborative productions led by the people affected by the issues in question. To date the documentary has been screened at over 40 film festivals in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Enhancing the entire Water Warriors experience is a unique scalable installation. Augmented by photographs, video projections, and an audio soundscape, the exhibition deepens community engagement while fostering meaningful public discussions.

Michael Premo, executive director with U.S.-based Storyline, has a definitively Canadian connection -- he was an impact producer for Naomi Klein's documentary This Changes Everything.

During a phone interview with Anvil, Premo said, "We're always looking for narratives that will help communities tell their stories, find solutions, and change their community for the better."

For more information about Water Warriors and other Storyline documentary installations click here.

To book Water Warriors and the accompanying installation, visit this page.

Crap Shoot: The Gamble with Our Wastes reminds us just how easy it is to keep things we'd rather not deal with out of sight and out of mind. That pretty much sums up most people's perspective on what we flush down the toilet and into the sewer system. Where exactly does all that sewage go? But, more importantly, what precisely does it contain?

Follow the history of our modern-day sewer system from its beginnings in Rome to Canada where billions of litres of water are mixed with unknown chemicals, solvents, heavy metals, human waste and food.

It's a case of risk-benefit analysis versus the precautionary principle. Unfortunately, for the most part in Canada, the "perceived benefit" of releasing untreated sewage into our most important water sources or using poisonous sewage sludge on agricultural land far outweighs the heavy price we are paying by the onset of preventable diseases and the permanent contamination of our prime farmland.

See how municipalities in St. John's, Winnipeg, Uxbridge, Edmonton and Bear Pike deal with this toxic mess. Learn why Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium have banned the use of sewage sludge on agricultural lands. And, be introduced to an in-house fragrance-free composting toilet that could make every home self-sufficient when it comes to creating great top soil.

The disposal of our sewage waste in Canada is a gigantic problem that needs radical change, but that's only going to happen with massive social resistance that brings us face to face with what we flush.

The National Film Board of Canada production can be viewed for free here.

For those who want to do more, please check out the Wellington Water Watchers Water for Life Not Profit campaign. 

A version of this article originally appeared in the March edition of the Anvil newspaper published in the GTHA.

Image: Screenshot from Water Warriors trailer

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Categories: News for progressives

National day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia recommended, ignored

Mon, 2018-03-05 15:03
March 5, 2018Anti-RacismIn case you missed it, Parliament issued its M-103 Islamophobia reportDespite the hype a year ago, the M-103 Islamophobia report was met with indifference last month. But apathy is the last thing that we need in the face of growing Islamophobia in Canada.anti-IslamophobiaJustin TrudeauBill M-103
Categories: News for progressives



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