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Digital activists are fighting to reclaim the web

Thu, 2018-10-04 22:09
Penney Kome

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web back in 1989, when he was working for CERN, "the European Organization for Nuclear Research [where] physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe." At his urging, CERN put the technology into the public domain, rather than trying to monetize it.

"On 30 April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. CERN made the next release available with an open licence, as a more sure way to maximize its dissemination. Through these actions (making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code) the web was allowed to flourish."

"I've always believed the web is for everyone," Berners-Lee wrote on his Inrupt blog. "That's why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we've managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we've achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas." Yes, he's talking about Facebook and Amazon, and also Adclick and Doubleclick and all the other advertising trackers that lift personal information and slow down the web.

Last summer, Berners-Lee took part in the Decentralized Web Summit, which drew 800 web builders and others to San Francisco to discuss ways to reclaim the People's Web. As The Guardian reported, "The proponents of the so-called decentralized web -- or DWeb -- want a new, better web where the entire planet's population can communicate without having to rely on big companies that amass our data for profit and make it easier for governments to conduct surveillance...."

Behind all the activity lie some driving concerns, says the article:

"With the current web, all that user data concentrated in the hands of a few creates risk that our data will be hacked. It also makes it easier for governments to conduct surveillance and impose censorship. And if any of these centralized entities shuts down, your data and connections are lost. Then there are privacy concerns stemming from the business models of many of the companies, which use the private information we provide freely to target us with ads...."

The "Brave" browser is another effort to reclaim privacy online -- a new browser with a built-in adblocker. Brave is built on Chrome's open source code and the updated version includes Tor. (There's also a Tor browser, based on Mozilla Firefox.) Brave is still experimenting with ways to compensate creators through either upvoting or distributing ad revenue.

For privacy, "Tor uses technology called onion routing," reports CNET, "that separates your computer from the website it's communicating with by sending network traffic through three intermediate servers. That keeps websites from logging anything about you, including your computer's internet address."

Berners-Lee's new platform, Solid, involves using a Universal Resource Identifier (URI), for person-to-person connections, similar to the Universal Resource Locator, or URL, he invented back in the day. Solid would be incorporated into an Internet Service Provider's or private web server's software, rather than the user's software.

Also, every user has a Solid POD. "PODs are like secure USB sticks for the web, that you can access from anywhere. When you give others access to parts of your POD, they can react to your photos and share their memories with you. You decide which things apps and people can see.

Whatever the remedy proves to be, Tim Berners-Lee says now is the time for digital activists to reclaim the web. "Today, I believe we've reached a critical tipping point," he said, "and that powerful change for the better is possible -- and necessary."

At the same time, he added, "I'm incredibly optimistic for this next era of the web. The future is still so much bigger than the past."

Award-winning author and journalist Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 - 2013.

Photo: Open Data Institute Knowledge for Everyone/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake's elevator confrontation shows the power of women

Thu, 2018-10-04 21:22
FeminismPolitical ActionUS Politics

As U.S. President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to be reaching a controversial conclusion last week, a remarkable encounter took place on live television. Two women confronted a senator and changed the course of history. Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake had just put out a statement that he intended to vote for Kavanaugh, who stands accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, who were in a Senate office building as part of a massive mobilization opposed to Kavanaugh's nomination, noticed Flake rushing to a "senators only" elevator. As he got in, they held the elevator door, challenging Flake, explaining that they were survivors of sexual assault. Shortly after, Flake cast his "yes" vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but conditioned his support, saying, "It would be proper to delay the floor vote for one week for an FBI investigation."

When the history of this moment is written, it cannot be about a single man changing his mind, but of the power of movements and of women finding their voices.

During the elevator encounter, Archila told Flake: "Last Monday … I told the story of my sexual assault. I told it because I recognized in Dr. Ford's story that she is telling the truth. What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable." Archila continued: "Senator Flake, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth? … You are allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions to sit in the highest court of the country."

Maria Gallagher, whom Archila had only met that morning, spoke next:

"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn't tell anyone, and you're telling all women that they don't matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them. That's what happened to me, and that's what you are telling all women in America."

Flake was polite but quiet, averting his eyes. Gallagher said:

"Look at me when I'm talking to you. You are telling me that my assault doesn't matter, that what happened to me doesn't matter, and that you're going to let people who do these things into power. That's what you're telling me when you vote for him. Don't look away from me."

Archila, the co-executive director of the social justice organization Center for Popular Democracy, speaking on the Democracy Now! news hour, explained why they rushed to confront Flake:

"I'm an organizer, and I know that we have to fight the fight up until the very last minute, that that's how we exercise power together. … We knew that we just had a few minutes, we used those minutes in the best way we could, asking him to be there in that moment and feel the pain and the rage that women and survivors across the country are feeling right now."

Even before the allegations of attempted rape, the movement to stop Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court was deep and intersectional. Hundreds of women were arrested while protesting his first hearing, concerned that he will be the swing vote on the Supreme Court, overturning Roe v. Wade.

Once the allegations against Kavanaugh surfaced, opposition grew dramatically. Over 1,200 alumnae from Christine Blasey Ford's all-girls high school, Holton-Arms, signed a letter, writing: "Dr. Blasey Ford's experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves." Over 3,000 women, current students and graduates of Yale, where Kavanaugh attended college and law school, have signed a letter in support of Deborah Ramirez. She is the second woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. She said during their freshman year at Yale, he thrust his penis in her face at a drunken dorm party.

Then the men stepped forward: Over 100 alumni from Kavanaugh's high school, Georgetown Prep, which he attended when he allegedly attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford, signed a petition urging anyone with knowledge of Kavanaugh's behaviour to come forward, "even if speaking out comes at some personal cost." The Jesuits, the Catholic order of priests that runs Georgetown Prep, also called for Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination to be withdrawn in their magazine America.

Kavanaugh's divisive Supreme Court nomination has shaken this country to the core, with the midterm elections just weeks away. As Ana Maria Archila said on Democracy Now!: "All of us share this idea that democracy is not a spectator sport -- we breathe life into it every time we engage. It belongs to us."

Amy 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 Truthdig.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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sexual assaultU.S. Supreme Courtwomen's rightstrump administrationAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanOctober 4, 2018Women are fighting for their lives in Trump's AmericaFrom women's control over their own reproductive rights, to sexual assault and abuse, we'll know we have made progress when women's bodies are no longer a battleground in the U.S.'I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore'Helen Reddy sang those words in 1972, providing an anthem to the women's movement. Forty-five years later, it could serve as the score to a movie documenting the abrupt demise of Harvey Weinstein.To understand sexual assault, we still need to listen to Donald TrumpSurvivors, primarily women, have been speaking out about Trump and other sexually aggressive men for decades. Why is it that we don't pay attention until these men speak themselves?
Categories: News for progressives

Is cap and trade in Ontario worth fighting for?

Thu, 2018-10-04 21:17
Brent Patterson

As evidence shows, Ontario Premier Doug Ford is no friend of the environment.

The Government of Ontario's website now states, "Effective July 3, 2018, we cancelled the cap-and-trade regulation and prohibited all trading of emission allowances. We have developed a plan to wind down the program."

That may prompt the question: should we rally to defend cap and trade?

The Toronto Star has explained, "Under a cap-and-trade system, a government sets a cap -- a limit -- on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions various industries can emit into the atmosphere. This limit is gradually reduced over time to decrease total pollution levels."

While that may sound OK on first read, climate justice activists and Indigenous allies have raised serious concerns with cap and trade.

Cap and trade is a market-based system.

The group Environmental Defence, which supports cap and trade, has explained, "Industry and businesses that want to pollute need a permit from the province, and the permits can be traded on the carbon market, like stocks are traded on the stock market. In cap and trade, the government sets the limit and the market sets the price."

As such, a heavily polluting corporation is able to purchase a credit from another corporation that does not need its full emissions allowance set by the government.

Food and Water Watch has commented, "Unfortunately, many in the environmental movement have adopted support for 'market-based' schemes like pollution trading (also known as 'cap and trade'), which essentially give companies [with enough money] a right to pollute, rather than hold them liable for reducing pollution."

It adds, "Cap-and-trade systems essentially make pollution a commodity through credits and offsets that allow for financial corporations to profit from polluting industries."

Given the predatory logic of capitalism and given that maximizing profit has taken us to the precipice of climate disaster, we should be skeptical that the market will save us from it.

Cap and trade also allows for offsets.

CBC notes, "Offset credits will be created by projects outside Ontario that reduce or remove one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, such as tree planting or capturing and destroying methane gas, and those credits can then be sold to Ontario cap-and-trade participants."

Food and Water Watch points out one problem with this by noting, "Verifying offsets is nearly impossible. As a result, many offsets may not represent an actual reduction in pollution loads, but are still used as a way for polluters to avoid cleaning up their own mess."

Furthermore, purchasing offsets does not assist a community -- often Indigenous, racialized or lower income -- from the scourge of a nearby polluting industry that rather than reducing its emissions buys credits on a market, thus allowing it to continue to pollute.

That's called environmental racism.

With cap and trade, the market sets the price of carbon. The price per tonne of carbon through this system in Ontario was expected to be about $20 to 25 a tonne by 2022.

The Trudeau government's carbon tax is a different mechanism, but the pricing is similar. Trudeau's carbon tax will start at $20 a tonne in January 2019 -- if he can push it through -- and his government has pledged to increase this tax to $50 a tonne in 2022.

But even to meet the Harper-Trudeau government's woefully inadequate target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, environmental economist Dave Sawyer has argued that a carbon levy of $180 per tonne in 15 years would be needed, along with regulations and the direct funding of climate policies.

Furthermore, CBC has reported, "Simon Fraser University economist Mark Jaccard said the price on carbon would have to rise to $200 per tonne by 2030 to meet [the federal government's target under the Paris agreement] if Canada relied on emissions pricing alone."

As such, both the provincial cap-and-trade price per tonne and the federal tax per tonne of carbon at this point -- and in the near future -- appear to be more symbolic than substantive. They are more spin than strategy.

The Indigenous Environmental Network concludes, "Carbon pricing, including carbon trading, carbon taxes and carbon offsets, are false solutions to climate change that do NOT keep fossil fuels in the ground."

The climate justice movement needs to fight for real solutions, not market-based schemes, as in Ontario, or modest taxes implemented by a neoliberal federal government that is deeply committed to spending billions of dollars on a tar sands pipeline.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Alicia Fagerving/ Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

B.C.'s thirsty LNG industry is a threat to water supplies

Thu, 2018-10-04 20:46
Emma Lui

On Monday, a consortium of big energy players made a final investment decision that approved LNG Canada, a $40-billion fracked gas project, paving the way for more fracking in B.C. This decision was made on the heels of water restrictions for fracking companies in the northeastern corner of the province due to drought.

CBC reports, "The LNG Canada project will see a pipeline carrying natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to a new processing plant on the coast in Kitimat. There, the gas would be liquefied for overseas export." The five primary investors include Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi Corp., Malaysian-owned Petronas, PetroChina Co., and Korean Gas Corp. 

LNG project approved despite droughts, wildfires and need to curb climate change

Monday night's decision gives the green light to a very thirsty industry that will abuse even more water at a time when water supplies are unpredictable. 

As more than 500 forest fires burned across B.C. this summer, drought warnings were also issued throughout the province and across Canada. 

In August, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) issued a directive for oil and gas companies to suspend water withdrawals used for fracking in the Peace River and Liard watersheds -- watersheds in the heart of B.C.'s fracking boom -- due to drought conditions. 

The BCOGC directive to suspend water takings for fracking was lifted only two weeks ago. 

The BCOGC  increased the amount of water permitted under water licences for fracking from 17,825,759 m3 in 2016 to 22,409,242 m3 in 2017.

The Wilderness Committee pointed out that subsidies to LNG Canada from the B.C. and federal government made this decision possible and prevent B.C. from reaching its climate goals. 

The Globe and Mail reported, "LNG Canada says it will create thousands of temporary jobs and hundreds of permanent ones in a region that has been an economic laggard." But Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver decried the announcement and said, "There may be as little as 100 permanent jobs at LNG Canada."

The creation of jobs is often falsely pitted against the protection of water and the environment. Read my blog on the five myths about the "fracking jobs versus environment" debate. 

Illegal fracking dams and Bill C-69 

The Narwhal points out, "The industry's growing need for fresh water has resulted in the construction of at least 90 unlicensed dams in northeast B.C." 

Last May, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported that:

"A subsidiary of Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned petro giant courted by the B.C. government, has built at least 16 unauthorized dams in northern B.C. to trap hundreds of millions of gallons of water used in its controversial fracking operations. The 16 dams are among 'dozens' that have been built by Petronas and other companies without proper authorizations, a senior dam safety official with the provincial government told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives."

These dams should also be regulated by the federal government but Harper's gutting of the former Navigable Waters Protection Act absolved the federal government from having to review projects like this.

The Trudeau government's new Bill C-69 -- now before the Senate -- was supposed to restore and strengthen protections on water and the environment that were lost under the Harper government. 

But the new Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA), one of the acts under Bill C-69, maintains the schedule of waterways that the former Harper government created and gives automatic protections to only 97 lakes, 64 rivers and three oceans. The CNWA also creates a confusing second category of "protected" waterways but most lakes, rivers and other waterways do not have the same protections as they did before 2012. 

The new CNWA would give the minister power to approve an activity after it has begun. This section combined with the creation of the confusing second category could give fracking companies a free pass to continue to build these illegal dams on unprotected waterways without requiring federal scrutiny.

Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs condemn decision 

The Narwhal reports, "The project is supported by elected councils of 25 First Nations communities along the pipeline route and the Haisla First Nation, on whose traditional territory the LNG facility will be built. Several Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs oppose the project, pointing to tactics they say have created division and strife."

The proposed route of the LNG pipeline runs through Unist'ot'en territory. As noted on their website, the Unist'ot'en Camp is "an Indigenous re-occupation of Wet'suwet'en land in northern 'B.C., Canada.'"

The Unist'ot'en Camp posted on Facebook, "The Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs condemn ongoing attempts by the governments of British Columbia and Canada to force unwanted industrial projects onto Wet'suwet'en traditional territories (Yin'tah) by ignoring the jurisdiction and title of the Wet'suwet'en people as represented by the Hereditary Chiefs (Dinï ze' and Ts'akë ze')."

What about B.C.'s review on fracking?

In March, the B.C. government announced it was launching an independent scientific review of hydraulic fracturing. The Scientific Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel has been mandated to examine the impacts hydraulic fracturing has on water quantity and quality and the role that fracking has earthquakes in northeast B.C. The panel's recommendations are due at the end of this year. 

Premier John Horgan's unabashed support for the approval of LNG Canada raises troubling questions about his government's willingness to implement the panel's recommendations, especially if they point to a need to stop or phase out fracking projects.

Last November, the Council of Canadians joined 16 public health groups, other non-governmental organizations and First Nations to call for a full public inquiry on fracking, which is essential to get at what public policy changes are needed to eliminate the health and environmental risks associated with fracking. 

Governments must take bold action and leadership to protect the human right to water by stopping all new fossil fuel projects -- like banning LNG and fracking -- and achieving the needed just transition to a 100 per cent sustainable economy and society by 2050. 

In the meantime, it is frontline communities like the Unist'ot'en Camp that provide the most hope for water and climate justice and a 100 per cent sustainable economy and society.

Emma Lui is a Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. This article was first posted on the Council of Canadians blog.

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Categories: News for progressives

Journalist Paula Simons named to Senate of Canada

Thu, 2018-10-04 12:22
David J. Climenhaga

I imagine most journos working nowadays for the moribund and increasingly far-right Postmedia newspaper chain daydream about making a miraculous escape from their travails -- perhaps a modest Lotto 6/49 win or a generous inheritance from a beloved auntie.

But you have to admit that Paula Simons, until now a city columnist for the Edmonton Journal who didn't have a topical beat so much as a deft ability to swiftly spin a literate and fervent crie de coeur from a current event, has just pulled off the slickest escape from the newspaper nightmare you've ever heard of.

Simons, 54, was named yesterday to the Senate of Canada, which it must be admitted is considerably better than most Canadian lottery prizes and, a case might be made, in some ways even superior to this Friday's $60-million Lotto Max, if slightly less remunerative.

After all, if you're a senator travelling in the United States, even a Canadian one who wasn't actually elected to anything, you can count on double-plus-first-class service from American hoteliers. (I have this on very good authority from, in fact, a member of the Red Chamber, which is so named for the upholstery therein, not the politics of the occupants.)

Moreover, as one of what she once called the "entitled toffs" in the Senate, Simons will have the opportunity to exert some sober second thought on the ill-considered legislation that frequently arrives from the House of Commons (official colour: green). In so doing, she can provide a valuable service to our country.

Even without Simons as a member, in reality the Canadian Senate has a pretty good historical record of doing just that, notwithstanding its well-known lack of democratic legitimacy.

Simons' economical Twitter autobiography says: "Globalist Presstitute. Ball Earther. So buxom, blithe, and debonair." I'm not going to make a case for or against that self-description. However, I'm thinking she might want to recast it that now that she's a member of an august and dignified legislative body and no longer part of the grubby newspaper trade of which she is a veteran of three decades, 23 years at the Journal. However, her Twitter handle -- @paulatics -- is probably still OK in her new role.

Simons' writing is persuasive, passionate and entertaining. Because of that, the silencing of her voice in journalism will be a loss to the commonweal. She is, in my estimation, a genuine progressive -- although as we all do, she has landed on the wrong side of an issue now and then. So her departure will likely leave Postmedia with no progressive voices in Alberta. (This is contingent, of course, on whom they replace her with, but given the corporation's recent track record, it's hard to be optimistic.)

She was always loyal to her newspaper, and frequently complained about bloggers who were, she felt, too hard on it. Well, loyalty is a virtue, so she is forgiven even though mistaken. I promise to take it much easier on the Senate than some writers. This is so even though the original purpose of the body was to look out for the interests of property, as if those with power and wealth didn't have enough advantages already without a whole legislative chamber devoted to placing roadblocks before the popular will.

Simons' appointment yesterday as an Alberta senator -- and that of Dr. Patti Laboucane-Benson, a Metis activist and academic -- may offer some evidence that the role of Parliament's Upper House is changing. The third senator appointed yesterday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to represent Ontario was Peter Boehm, a former senior federal civil servant and diplomat, for whom it might be harder to make such a case on the basis of his resume.

Given recent experience, some might argue appointing another journalist to the Senate is a recipe for grief.

In fact, however, there have been many journalists in the Senate over the decades, and for the most part they have served Canadians well. I give you, to name some though not all, Laurier Lapierre, Pat Carney, Joan Fraser, Jim Munson, Michael Grattan O'Leary and Richard Doyle.

So, when it comes to assigning the source of ethical lapses, it might be wiser to point to the prime minister who appointed Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin than to the occupation they once practiced.

If there's a complaint to be made about journalists in the Senate, it's that too many of them were political aides first, not that they're ethically unsuitable for a position of trust. This is not the case with Simons. She applied for the job to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments set up by Trudeau and then left by him to do its work.

Anyway, to Paula Simons: The best of luck in your next endeavour. Never expense your holiday home to the Senate. Indeed, when in doubt, don't file an expense claim at all. And don't volunteer for a charity boxing match with the prime minister, no matter how worthy the cause.

Meanwhile, on the right, the usual stream of Trumpiness

The reaction of most Albertans to yesterday's Senate announcement was generous.

But over at United Conservative Party anti-social-media headquarters, Opposition Leader Jason Kenney continues to direct an unremitting stream of Trumpiness at Trudeau. Naturally, then, he started out with nothing good to say about the Senate appointments of Simons and Laboucane-Benson.

"Justin Trudeau has ignored the democratic choice of Albertans by appointing two unelected people to two Alberta Senate seats today," Kenney grumped, a reference to Alberta's periodic unconstitutional and wasteful "senator in waiting" elections.

As blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out in a tweeted response to Kenney's churlish complaint, more than 189,000 "senator in waiting" ballots were rejected, spoiled or declined by voters in the 2012 exercise by the provincial Progressive Conservatives led by Premier Alison Redford. Significantly, that compared to a mere 7,822 in the same day's real provincial election.

Why? Cournoyer argued huge numbers of voters considered it a meaningless sideshow. Many, however, may have concluded it was something worse: an expensive attempt to distract voters from the multitude of sins of the then-40-year-old Tory dynasty. Anyway, only third-rate conservative candidates ran even half-hearted campaigns.

As for the Alberta-dominated Conservative federal government in which Kenney played a major role for a decade, it did nothing to change the structure of the Senate, barely even mentioning the topic during its interminable tenure. The provincial legislation under which the Senate elections were held expired in 2016.

After an hour, during which his sour grumbling had an opportunity to curdle in public, the Opposition leader finally got around to half-heartedly congratulating the two "thoughtful" Alberta Senate appointees.

Too late. Damage done.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

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

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau to reopen consultations with First Nations on Trans Mountain pipeline

Thu, 2018-10-04 01:44
October 3, 2018Trudeau to reopen consultations with First Nations on Trans Mountain pipelineFederal government appoints former Supreme Court justice to lead the talks on how to accommodate concerns of the affected First Nations.
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau to reopen consultations with First Nations on Trans Mountain pipeline

Thu, 2018-10-04 01:17
Karl Nerenberg

When the Federal Court of Appeal put a halt to the Trans Mountain pipeline project in September, there was some talk in Ottawa and Edmonton about appealing the decision to the Supreme Court. The Trudeau government has now decided not to follow that course. It will, instead, try to satisfy the court’s requirements so the pipeline can go forward.

The court told the government it had failed to take into account the potentially devastating impact of the project on the coastal environment.

The appeals court judges were baffled that the National Energy Board (NEB) during the assessment process only considered the impact of the pipeline from its source in Alberta to its end at the Pacific coast in Burnaby, B.C. The NEB acted as though what happened after the bitumen was loaded onto tankers was of no consequence or concern.

In fact, the pipeline would mean a considerable increase in tanker traffic in an environmentally sensitive area. The Pacific waters off British Columbia’s lower mainland are – to cite only one worrisome example – home to an endangered population of orca whales.

Late in September, the Trudeau government addressed this issue. It ordered the NEB to extend its purview from land to sea and do a thorough assessment of the impact of increased tanker traffic. The NEB has a little more than five months to complete that job.

The court was also scathing in its appraisal of the way the government conducted the final phase of consultations with Indigenous groups. These were the where-the-rubber-hits-the-road consultations. They took place after the NEB had approved the project in principle.

The purpose of these consultations was to determine, collaboratively with the Indigenous communities, how to build the pipeline while accommodating the concerns of the affected First Nations.

The federal government assigned public servants to conduct the exercise.

According to the court, the bureaucrats misconstrued their brief, which was to come up with a robust action plan. Instead, they told the Indigenous groups that their role was limited to listening and taking notes. They could not, the bureaucrats claimed, commit to any action beyond what the NEB had already decided.

The Federal Court of Appeal said all of that was pure balderdash. The court ruled that the federal government is legally and constitutionally obliged to conduct good-faith negotiations with Indigenous communities. The purpose of those talks would be to determine tangible ways to mitigate the impact of the pipeline project on those communities.

The point of what were called the Phase 3 consultations was not merely to allow the Indigenous people to let off steam, and the role of the bureaucrats representing the federal government was not simply to act as note-takers.

A new process led by an eminent former judge

On Oct. 3, Trudeau’s recently appointed minister of natural resources, Amarjeet Sohi, announced that the government will re-do the Phase 3 consultations. This time, Trudeau’s cabinet will not entrust the entire exercise to federal bureaucrats. The government has asked former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to lead the talks with First Nations groups.

The Vancouver-born former justice has taken on a number of difficult and delicate tasks since his retirement from the court 14 years ago.

He did an inquiry into the absence of Indigenous people on Ontario juries, in which he ruled that such under-representation was a symptom of a crisis. He studied the cases of torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar and two others who were detained in Egypt and Syria. And he was involved in the selection of commissioners for the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Now, Iacobucci has the job of finding a way to satisfy both aggrieved and offended Indigenous communities and the federal and Alberta governments anxious to get this pipeline completed as quickly as possible. The federal government has an extra incentive to make this process work. It now owns the pipeline, which it purchased from Texas-based Kinder Morgan for $4 billion.

The fact that the government will re-do the consultations does not mean the First Nations involved have the power to veto the project, however. The purpose of these consultations is not to give a green or red light to the pipeline, but rather to tangibly address the communities’ concerns, assuming the project will go ahead.

The court did not say the government would have to absolutely accede to every single demand of every single Indigenous group.  It only said the government would have to engage in a real consultative process.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: Christina Marshall/Leadnow Canada/Flickr

Categories: News for progressives

What is Ford Nation's connection to white nationalists and pro-Israel groups?

Wed, 2018-10-03 21:59
Yves Engler

Pro-Israel politics makes for strange bedfellows.

B'nai Brith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) must be concerned about the furor over Doug Ford's ties to fringe Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy. Last month the prominent white nationalist participated in a B'nai Brith support rally and the two pro-Israel groups smeared Dimitri Lascaris when he called on them to denounce a racist video made by B'nai Brith supporters and to publicly reject Goldy. And in a twist highlighting the anti-Palestinianism in mainstream Canadian politics, Bernie Farber, a vocal critic of Ford's ties to Goldy, expressed support for the smears on Lascaris.

Last week Goldy was photographed with Ontario's new premier at his Ford Festbarbecue. For three days after the photo emerged Ford refused to distance himself from Goldy. In a bizarre bid to deflect criticism, Ford responded to questions about his support for Goldy by telling the Ontario legislature that an NDP MPP supported the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Goldy is a problem for B'nai Brith and CIJA. They likely would prefer not to criticize someone who is supportive of Israel and popular with their most aggressive Israeli nationalist supporters. But Goldy is toxic to the media and most B'nai Brith and CIJA supporters would probably consider her views distasteful. In April, for instance, Goldy promoted a 1937 book by Romanian fascist leader Corneliu Codreanu titled For My Legionaries, which repeatedly attacks Jews and called for eliminating the "Jewish threat."

More immediately, the attention focused on Goldy should embarrass CIJA and B'nai Brith because the smear campaign against pro-Palestinian lawyer Dimitri Lascaris was motivated in part by his criticism of their refusal to denounce Goldy's attendance at a B'nai Brith support rally. On August 29 the white supremacist mayoral candidate was photographed with individuals counter-protesting a rally opposed to B'nai Brith smearing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). In the wake of that protest, B'nai Brith, CIJA, Liberal MP Michael Levitt and others condemned those rallying in support of CUPW. In response, Lascaris repeatedly called on them to distance themselves from two B'nai Brith supporters who produced a post-rally video praising Goldy and calling for the death penalty for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and several Muslim MPs. In one tweet Lascaris wrote: 

"Mary Forrest, one of the B'nai Brith supporters who called for the death penalty to be imposed on Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Muslim MPs, poses outside B'nai Brith's office with Faith Goldy, who promoted a fascist book calling for elimination of the 'Jewish menace.'" 

In another he stated: 

"White supremacist Faith Goldy promoted fascist propaganda calling for eliminating 'the Jewish menace.' Goldy was warmly received by B'nai Brith supporters last week. And B'nai Brith expects us to believe it speaks for Canadian Jewry?"

B'nai Brith, CIJA and Levitt refused to disassociate themselves from Goldy or the two B'nai Brith supporters who made death threats against politicians. As I detail here and here, CIJA and B'nai Brith responded to Lascaris's highlighting their dalliance with racist extremists by distorting an innocuous tweet about two anti-Palestinian Liberal MPs and then called on politicians to denounce his "anti-Semitism."

In a double standard, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress Bernie Farber, who has been widely quoted criticizing Ford's association with Goldy, jumped full throttle into the smear campaign against Lascaris. Farber re-tweeted statements tarring Lascaris by Liberal MP Marco Mendicino and JSpaceCanada, for which he is a spokesperson. Chair of the newly formed Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Farber added a personalized tweet condemning Lascaris' "antisemitism pure and simple."

Lascaris's rationale for pressing B'nai Brith, CIJA and Levitt to disassociate from Goldy was that they aligned with her supporters by attacking those rallying in defence of CUPW. Lascaris should have added Farber to his list of targets. The longtime pro-Israel lobbyist criticized those who rallied in support of CUPW, but remained silent about the racist Goldy-supporting counter-protest.

After the display of solidarity with CUPW, Farber re-tweeted Levitt's criticism of the protest at B'nai Brith's office. He wrote, "I agree with Michael Levitt. I know a number of elderly Holocaust survivors in this neighbourhood who were taken aback perhaps even traumatized by this protest. It saddens me deeply that dialogue is replaced by perceived intimidation." The next day he followed up his those-levelling-smears-are-the-victims tweet with a declaration on the "unsettling demonstration in front of B'nai Brith Canada." In the 400-word statement he ignores the racist, Goldy-aligned Israeli nationalists and repeatedly describes CUPW supporters as "intimidating."

But in reality, it was the counter-rally of B'nai Brith supporters that was threatening. And a self-proclaimed "anti-racist" like Farber should have been "unsettled" by the barrage of Islamophobic comments made by B'nai Brith supporters, not to mention their embrace of Goldy.

For two decades Farber was a leader in the anti-Palestinian movement. Since the Canadian Jewish Congress disbanded in 2011 Farber has worked to redress Islamophobia, but he continues to take his cues from anti-Palestinian groups.

For their part, B'nai Brith and CIJA failed to criticize Ford's ties to Goldy. Only after the premier finally distanced himself from the white nationalist did they tweet about the furor. B'nai Brith and CIJA are wary of challenging Ford partly because many of their supporters are linked to him (a Canadian Jewish News headline noted, "Ontario Tories win big in ridings with large Jewish populations"). Additionally, they support Ford's anti-Palestinian positions. In one of his first moves after being elected, Ford announced that he would seek to ban the annual Al Quds Palestinian solidarity event.

The Ford-Goldy-B'nai Brith-CIJA dalliance highlights the growing links between racist white nationalist, right-wing politics and Israeli nationalist campaigners. It's a relationship that anti-racist Palestinian solidarity activists should expose whenever possible.

Dubbed "Canada's version of Noam Chomsky" (Georgia Straight), “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), "in the mould of I. F. Stone" (Globe and Mail), "ever-insightful" (rabble.ca) and a "Leftist gadfly" (Ottawa Citizen), Yves Engler has published nine books.

Photo: Montecruz Foto/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

BP offshore drilling threatens Nova Scotia coastal waters

Wed, 2018-10-03 21:14
Brent Patterson

There is a deposit of an estimated eight billion barrels of oil and 120 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ocean floor off Nova Scotia’s coast that should stay where it is.

This past February, defying climate science in favour of corporate profit, the Trudeau government granted BP Canada Energy Group permission to drill up to seven exploratory wells over a three-year period.

In April, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board then, not surprisingly, approved the drilling of the first exploration well, Aspy D-11.

BP began drilling that well on April 22, Earth Day.

Work on the well was briefly halted on June 22 when the West Aquarius rig spilled about 136,000 litres of synthetic drilling mud about 330 kilometres offshore of Halifax. The petroleum board, again not surprisingly, gave permission to BP to resume drilling on July 22.

BP's plan to extract oil and gas off the coast of Nova Scotia should be considered a climate crime given it would release millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.

Numerous other concerns have been raised, including:

  • BP is responsible for the largest marine oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, that saw about 4.9 billion barrels of oil spill into the ocean.
  • The waters where BP is drilling (almost three kilometres deep) are twice as deep as where the Gulf of Mexico disaster took place, with more severe tides and weather conditions (waves can reach 10 metres in height during a storm).
  • University of California expert Dr. Robert Bea has concluded that BP failed to properly assess, document and validate the risk of its drilling off the shore of Nova Scotia.
  • The Trudeau government approved BP to drill offshore with a plan to ship a capping stack from Norway that would take 12 to 19 days to arrive when a spill occurs, while it could take 13 to 25 days or longer to cap the well with the device.
  • An oil spill off the coast of Nova Scotia would put at risk the fisheries industry, a sector that employs about 17,538 people, and a spill from a major blowout could reach the fishing grounds of Emerald Bank in just six days.
  • An oil spill would also put at risk Sable Island National Park Reserve, about 48 kilometres away from the drilling site, and the Gully Marine Protected Area, 71 kilometres away, and further put at risk the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
  • BP has indicated that in the event of an oil spill it would use Corexit 9500a, a chemical dispersant, that would cause the oil to sink and that critics say could pose human health risks and be toxic to marine life.
  • The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is a captured regulatory body, with some of its members coming from the oil industry. One of the federal appointees to the Board, Corrina Bryson, worked for both Shell and Nexen.
  • There were no federal public hearings on the drilling and only minimal "invite-only" provincial consultations.
  • Grassroots treaty rights holders have stated that they were not consulted and that free, prior and informed consent has not been granted as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For detailed information and important updates, please see the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) Facebook page and website.

Photo by Robin Tress

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

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Categories: News for progressives

The new language of resource exploitation

Wed, 2018-10-03 20:56
Mel Watkins

"Staples dependency" we know from Innis onwards. It can mean reliant upon or dependent on the export of staples, and permits a staple theory of linkages as economic theory. It can also mean a resource margin of a more developed imperium. Economic theory is infused with the power relations inherent in "dependency" and is transformed into political economy. In the shifting fashions of scholarship, over time "dependency" came not to be permitted as appropriate political economy. This in turn meant the purging of "nationalism" as a tolerable response at the risk of losing a political edge. But the idea of a "staples trap" implicit in Innis could not be wished away.

Take the phrase "extraction empire." "Empire" takes on a new meaning. On the one hand, it is the terrible colonization within Canada of Indigenous people. Canada as a settler society is exploiter rather than exploited. On the other hand, it is the transformation of resource exploitation at home into resource exploitation abroad. Comparative advantage in trade becomes over time comparative advantage in outward direct investment, notably in mining. Canada becomes an imperium in its own right, though note, this by no means requires it to shed its "dependency" within a larger imperium, such as the United States.

"Extraction" is a potent word that conjures up the wrenching, the wounding of the planet, the violation of nature as technology deeply alters environment. It gives a whole new perception to the staples trap which, in the contemporary case of bitumen, becomes a deadly carbon trap. Governments, national and regional, are sucked into a black hole.

Our old friend "dependency" takes on a stark new dimension. Economics alone exposes economic rents, or surplus, which can be captured by the state and in what would seem like the best of all worlds, can be used to help the poor, creating safety nets and building a welfare state. But the society then becomes massively dependent on the surplus from the revenue resulting from resource exploitation, and dangerously exposed to social breakdown in the event of a plunge in the price of the staple -- as we are presently seeing with respect to oil and Venezuela.

What triggers these ruminations on staples one more time is the appearance of a monumental 800-page book, titled Extraction Empire, published by MIT Press and edited by Pierre Belanger, a landscape architect at Harvard. Full disclosure: the opening essay in the book titled "Unsettling the Mining Frontier" is mine, billed as a foreward. It takes off from Innis's neglected classic Settlement and the Mining Frontier but shows Innis's limitations as a white male with respect to the consequences of staples exploitation for Indigenous people, for women, and for the environment, a.k.a nature.

The book has the revealing subtitle "Undermining the Systems, States and Scales of Canada's Global Resource Empire 2017 to 1217." Counting back 800 years to the Magna Carta, which reified property and distinguished between property rights, to the surfaces of lands and subsurface rights. This was critical to the appropriation of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the so-called New World, who not only failed to make settled use of the surface resources  and certainly had no claim through use to subsurface rights.

Mel Watkins is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is Editor Emeritus of This Magazine and a frequent contributor to Peace magazine. This blog was first posted in the Progressive Economcs Forum.

Photo: Anita Gould/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

How much would it cost Trudeau to implement the right to water?

Wed, 2018-10-03 19:37
Emma Lui

The 2019 Alternative Federal Budget released last week outlines how much funding the Trudeau government needs to allocate in the 2019 budget -- leading up to the federal election -- to protect drinking water and watersheds.

The water chapter of the Alternative Federal Budget notes:

"Canada must take action to recognize water as a human right, a shared commons and a public trust. The United Nations has declared human rights to water and sanitation in several resolutions as well as in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now that Canada has passed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), it must obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples on all laws, projects and policies affecting water."

It calls for adequate funding to:

  • End drinking water advisories in First Nations.
  • Reinstate federal funding for water programs at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada. 
  • Implement a comprehensive action plan to protect the Great Lakes Basin. 
  • Complete watershed mapping and ensure groundwater protection.
  • Create a federal water minister position to co-ordinate the more than 20 departments that set federal policies affecting water.

To learn more about how much funding is needed to implement the human rights to water and sanitation, read the water chapter of the Alternative Federal Budget here.

To read about other topics like the environment and climate change, First Nations, infrastructure and more, click here.

Emma Lui is the Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. This article was first posted on the Council of Canadians blog.

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Categories: News for progressives

Quebec's new premier is not a typical right-winger

Wed, 2018-10-03 02:47
October 2, 2018Quebec's new premier is not a typical right-wingerCoalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault swept to power Monday with a convincing majority, leaving the two traditional provincial parties – the PQ and Liberals – shattered.
Categories: News for progressives

Did we really defeat Chapter 11 in NAFTA?

Wed, 2018-10-03 01:10
Brent Patterson

In the recently announced United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have reportedly agreed to "phase out" the controversial Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement provision.

But Brock University political science professor Blayne Haggart suggests that "six-year mandatory review" provision in the USMCA has ominous implications in this regard.

Article 34.7 ( covering review and term extension) of the USMCA states, "No later than the sixth anniversary of the entry into force of this Agreement, the Commission shall meet to conduct a 'joint review' of the operation of the Agreement, review any recommendations for action submitted by a Party, and decide on any appropriate actions."

Haggart argues, "The spectre of this review would likely make Canadian policy-makers hesitant about implementing policies that may upset the United States and thus threaten the entire economic relationship."

He adds, "This effect would be similar to the 'regulatory chill' associated with NAFTA's Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement mechanism -- it fuelled governments' reluctance to regulate in some areas due to the fear that a foreign company would sue them for doing so."

There is merit to this argument.

First of all, it's clear that the Trudeau government found the originally proposed five-year "sunset clause" unacceptable because of its impact on investment decisions.

In September 2017, David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., commented, "One of reasons you do (a trade agreement) is to create an environment within which business can make investments. (In) many of those investments people will look to 20 years', 25 years' payback. If you have to do it every five years, the pricing of political risk is very high."

MacNaughton's quote implicitly recognizes the threat (intimidation factor) a "six-year mandatory review" would pose to both business and governmental decision-making.

It's also significant that the Trump administration didn't oppose Chapter 11 for the same reasons we did. We are concerned about transnational corporations being able to sue national governments in secretive tribunals for lost future profits relating to public policy, most commonly environmental protection legislation.

Instead, the Trump administration used sovereignty as a key reason to explain their opposition. In June 2017, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the Senate, "I'm always troubled by the fact that nonelected non-Americans can make the final decision that the United States law is invalid. This is a matter of principle I find offensive."

As such, a mechanism -- like the threat of Article 34.7 -- that could achieve the same end (dominance, corporate-friendly decision-making by governments) without "non-Americans" being involved, would likely suit the purposes of the Trump administration and U.S.-based transnational capital.

Furthermore, let's not forget, if we are to maintain an internationalist perspective, that Chapter 11 still exists as an obstacle for our Mexican allies (and us).

The Washington Post notes, "In the end, Chapter 11 is mostly gone, except for a few key industries, such as oil, that lobbied hard to be able to challenge the Mexican government if it changes the rules and tries to nationalize its energy sector again."

In December 2013, Bloomberg reported that ending Mexico's state ownership of its energy sector could attract $15 billion in foreign investment and increase oil production to as much as four million barrels per day (from the current 2.5 million barrels) and natural gas production to 10.4 cubic billion feet per day (from the current 5.7 billion cubic feet).

To think these carbon emissions won't impact the lives of all of us, and that somehow we've escaped the impacts of Chapter 11, would be detrimental to the kind of trade justice and solidarity movement we need to build on a global scale to challenge transnational capital and their neoliberal governments in Ottawa, Washington, Mexico City and elsewhere.

In the absence of Chapter 11 in NAFTA, Canadian capital, of course, can also utilize the investor-state provision in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) should public interest legislation in Mexico infringe on its profit-making there.

Certainly the case could be made too that transnational corporations were threatening governments with capital flight, exerting influence through intensive lobbying, and promising lucrative post-political career positions long before Chapter 11 came into force.

Chapter 11 has been a handy tool for transnational capital via NAFTA, but it's not the only instrument at its disposal.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead/ Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

The good, the bad and the ugly in NAFTA 2.0

Tue, 2018-10-02 20:04
Sujata Dey

At midnight on Sunday, Canada and the U.S. agreed on a new NAFTA deal, one which would now be called the USMCA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Here is the good, the bad and the ugly within the agreement.

Good news first
  • No Chapter 11 between the U.S. and Canada

For many years, the Council of Canadians and others have been advocating to get rid of Chapter 11, the investor-state dispute-settlement (ISDS) process. These are the provisions that allow corporations to sue countries over decisions, even if they are made in the public interest. For years, Canada has faced corporate lawsuits that made provinces renounce public auto insurance, accept toxins and pay for refusing dangerous quarries.

Now, at the request of the U.S., there will be no ISDS process between U.S. and Canada. This is a paradigm shift for Canada, which has been actively promoting the mechanism in deals such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe (CETA) and the new Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP),and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Canada is the most sued country under ISDS, with 37 cases, mostly by U.S. companies. The U.S. has only faced 21 cases and has never lost one. So the elimination of Chapter 11 will be beneficial to Canada's public interest.

  • No energy proportionality

Energy proportionality, which obliges Canada to export a set amount of energy to the United States, is not in the agreement. However, the agreement does not allow limiting exports or imports. Council of Canadians members are responsible for this victory.

The iffy
  • Culture

Canada said that it has kept its cultural exemption from the original NAFTA despite pressure from the United States to abandon it. This means that Canada can keep cultural protection policies that shield culture from the marketplace and the U.S. mega cultural industries.

While this is true, it has the flaws of the original agreement. Namely, it defines cultural industries in the way that they were defined in the 1990s before Netflix, video games and the online world.

However, the digital trade section of NAFTA disallows restrictions on digital commerce, preventing Canada from enacting future policies that would protect culture in the digital world.

  • Environmental and labour chapters

It is no surprise that "climate change" is not mentioned within U.S. President Donald Trump's new agreement. While there is an environmental chapter, nothing refers to the Paris agreement, so the chapter is relatively weak. The agreement makes some reference to pollution, marine traffic, endangered animals, ozone, etc, but not to global warming.

The labour chapter and the environment chapter both suffer from weak enforcement. While the government will say that it is binding, it is only enforceable in the event that existing laws actually affect investment. There are, though, some interesting demands that Mexico reinforces collective bargaining and increase auto wages. While the labour chapter is lacking, it does reflect the concerted effort of organized labour in the three countries and would be an improvement over the original NAFTA.

  • Water

The Council of Canadians has argued that water should be protected. In the original NAFTA, there was an annex that defined water as a good, which meant if they started, Canada could not limit water exports to the U.S. Moreover, Canada would be bound by proportionality provisions to continue exporting water. In this agreement, there is a side letter on water, but it is very unclear how enforceable that is. And it only applies to natural water, not to bottled water, or any other water that has been made a commodity.

The bad
  • Farmers and BGH milk

The U.S. access will gain 3.59-per-cent access to our supply management system, even more than what we are giving in the CPTPP. This means that combined with the access given in the CPTPP, and CETA, we will have fewer farms. Farmers will have to compete with U.S. milk, which is subsidized and uses bovine growth hormones (BGH) to increase production. BGH is not allowed to be used in Canada due to its health effects.

  • Gender and Indigenous chapters

They aren't there. Goodbye progressive trade! 

  • Drugs and patent prices

Canada and Mexico caved on this. Our patents on biologic drugs will go up to 10 years. Right now, it is eight years. Remember: these are the most expensive drugs on the market and they are vital for arthritis, Crohn's and ulcerative colitis sufferers, among others. It will also make the prices impossible for a public drug system – pharmacare – to bear. Already, increasing biologic patents from five to eight years were estimated to come at a price of $800 million a year. According to the U.S.-based group Public Citizen, for access to medicines, this is the U.S.'s worst free-trade deal. It will also facilitate evergreening, the process of extending patents for new uses of drugs.

  • Regulatory cooperation

The agreement is filled with language about how rules – safety, environmental, food labelling and others – are to be handled, with the idea of "cooperation." It also talks about "risk-based" handling of regulations, which means the onus is on individuals and not on industry to prove harm. Regulatory cooperation allows companies to bypass parliamentary processes and come up with its own rules. It also has administration rules that will facilitate "simpler" rules around things such as building pipelines, and ensuring that public interest rules are harder to maintain and need to be justified.

  • ISDS still exists between the U.S. and Mexico

It is not, however, out of the cards between Mexico and the U.S., but it has been reduced in scope, limiting what kinds of lawsuits qualify, making sure investors really are from the country they say they are, and making sure they go through domestic courts first. Big U.S. Oil, though, made a special push to keep ISDS on state contracts. Mexico has been eagerly reforming its energy contracts and wishes to review them. Government contracts in energy, telecommunications and infrastructure will be subject to ISDS provisions.

Other information

There is a dispute settlement mechanism similar to Chapter 19 and a sunset clause for renewal of the agreement every 16 years. There are also side letters agreeing on the process of getting rid of 232 tariffs on autos. Steel and aluminum tarrifs are not in the agreement.

This is a preliminary analysis. With our allies, we will continue to update you with more information. It is a comprehensive agreement, so it will take some time to understand the larger ramifications.

Sujata Dey is a Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. This article was first posted on the Council of Canadians blog.

Photo: Fee Plumley/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Conservatives would have fought harder to protect Canadian dairy farmers? Don't believe it!

Tue, 2018-10-02 12:42
David J. Climenhaga

A lot of Canada's Conservatives were wearing long faces yesterday about the impact of the freshly inked United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on this country's dairy industry.

As political sins go, this small hypocrisy is a minor one. Why not let the sitting government take the rap for a treaty with our big, bullying neighbour that is certain to be unpopular with a small but vocal and well-financed group of voters inclined to support Conservatives anyway?

What's more, the current leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada can hardly fail to be mindful of the fact Andrew Scheer became leader last year in large part because he took the side of the dairy lobby against the ideological market-fundamentalism of his rival Maxime Bernier, who for much of the leadership race appeared to be the frontrunner.

Just the same, you shouldn't believe them.

Movement conservatives have been salivating at the prospect of dismantling supply management in dairy, poultry and eggs for decades. Why do you think Bernier came so close to winning the Tory leadership last year? If the USMCA is a step in that direction, they'll struggle to hide their satisfaction that Americans are doing their work for them.

If the worst that happens to Canadian supply-managed agricultural industries is a ban on grated cheese from Canada, they got off very lightly, although it will be galling for them to hear U.S. President Donald Trump boasting that he Made America Grate Again!

Puns aside, even a 3.6-per-cent opening in the market to large-scale American producers has the potential to dramatically impact smaller Canadian dairies, driving down prices paid to producers and pushing some out of business.

This will not be the end of it, either. Canadian market fundamentalists, many still in CPC ranks, will continue beavering away at dismantling supply management. If they can use the USMCA as an excuse, they'll be delighted to do so. If they can also blame the Liberals while shedding crocodile tears for the poor farmers, so much the better.

In the meantime, Cap-C Conservatives led by Scheer will continue to claim that, had they been in power, they would have negotiated a better deal with Trump than the Canadians led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

How? By kissing Trump's posterior sooner and more passionately? By promising to campaign for him in 2020? (Devin Dreeshen, c'mon down!) By letting their affinity for Trump's policies and prejudices persuade them to roll over on everything, as they advocated pretty much right up until the moment there was a deal?

Under the circumstances, this is probably the best deal that could have been achieved, and it is at least possible that Trudeau's negotiating team -- which included at the advisory level former Opposition leader Rona Ambrose and other Tory heavy hitters -- did better because they stuck to their message than they would have if they'd hurried to sign, as the Opposition demanded.

Mexican auto workers will even be getting a raise to $16 an hour -- above the $15 top Canadian minimum wage that came into effect in Alberta yesterday to the noisy consternation of the local fast-food industry. In the long run, this will be good for Canadian and U.S. autoworkers and their Mexican counterparts alike.

Regardless, it's always easy to say you could have steered a better course when you don't have your hand on the tiller. Canadian Conservatives are masters at this charade.

If you think I'm wrong, remember that it was Conservatives who gave away the Canadian store in the first place with the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1987.

That was when we handed over control of our economy to another country, despite warnings by patriotic Canadians that it would be all but impossible to take it back. And that was what gave an anomalously bad U.S. president such a strong hand when it came to "re-negotiating" CUSFTA's successor agreement, NAFTA.

But as Britain's looming Brexit catastrophe shows, these so-called trade agreements are easier to get into than to get out of.

Even hard-core opponents of globalizing trade treaties would likely have, upon reflection, realized that under the circumstances of 2018 there was not much to be done but negotiate the least awful deal possible.

By that measure, Trudeau and Freeland appear to have succeeded, if only because what we ended up with isn't a catastrophe, a disaster, or even much of a change.

It may be, of course, as many commentators have observed, that all that was really required was a new name that Trump -- in deep trouble with literally half the United States electorate thanks to his latest pick for the U.S. Supreme Court -- could take to voters before next month's mid-term U.S. Congressional elections.

More likely, though, some horse-trading was inevitable because professional negotiators had been given a mandate.

Meanwhile, giving NAFTA 2.0 a new name makes it explicit that Trump has enjoyed a limited success on trade -- which he will, of course, claim to be the greatest trade victory in American history.

As for USMCA, it's not such a bad name for a so-called free trade agreement with the United States, for two reasons:

1. It drops the word "trade," which NAFTA had very little to do with anyway. It will remain a corporate rights deal designed to limit the rights of workers and voters in all North American countries.

2. It implicitly references the threat that lurks behind almost all globalizing trade deals: The United States Marine Corps, commonly known as the USMC.

If it's mildly insulting because it puts Canada behind Mexico in Trump's affections, so be it. Like our dairy farmers, we got off lightly. The day may come soon when it's not so good to be publicly identified as a friend of President Trump.

Canadians would be wise, of course, to try seriously to diversify our trading relationships with the rest of the world.

But with this speed bump on the road to total American domination out of the way, I imagine not much more than lip service will be paid to that worthy goal.

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

Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

New NAFTA is a further betrayal of Canada

Tue, 2018-10-02 00:40
October 1, 2018Canada capitulates to Trump on trade with renegotiated NAFTAPierre Trudeau called the original trade deal with the U.S. "a monstrous swindle." The new deal is that, plus a set of unnecessary capitulations to shut up Donald Trump on trade. It won't.
Categories: News for progressives

Canada capitulates to Trump on trade with renegotiated NAFTA

Tue, 2018-10-02 00:33
EconomyPolitics in Canada

The trade deal signed by Canada with the U.S. on Sunday night is called the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

If approved by the U.S. Congress, it will replace NAFTA.

The late Mel Hurtig, a foremost publisher, authored his first book about the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the trade deal that NAFTA replaced. The Betrayal of Canada was a number 1 bestseller.

The USMCA deal awaits a sequel: The Further Betrayal of Canada.

The outrageous 25 per cent U.S. steel and 10 per cent U.S. aluminium tariffs remain in place, choking Canadian industry. Maybe that is why there is no pretext this time of pretending that a continental economic integration project cooked up in Washington for its benefit should be called a "free trade" agreement.

The U.S. tariffs were applied to protect national security. Canada is a NORAD security partner with the U.S. in joint continental defence and a NATO security partner of the U.S. as well. Despite being inside the joint security perimeter, Canada did not get exempted from the application of these Section 232 national security tariffs. Worse, whenever the U.S. decides to play the national security card, it can do it again. Why sign a trade deal with a country that makes up bogus excuses to move jobs from your country to their country?

On automotive trade Canada was promised a reasonable quota for future exports. Good. But that still leaves other sectors open to U.S. bullying.

In Article 32.10 Canada agreed not to negotiate commercial agreements with non-market countries. That would be China. Should Canada decide to sign a trade agreement with China, the non-market country, it would be booted out of USMCA. For trade expert Peter Clark this amounts to Canada being treated as a vassal state by the U.S.

In the original FTA talks, chief U.S. negotiator Peter Murphy had a handwritten list of issues he wanted discussed that got into the hands of the media. The list included scrutinizing currency rates. Canada resisted.

In the new deal, Chapter 33 is entitled "Macroeconomic Policies and Exchange Rate Matters." From now on Canada gets to sit down with the U.S. whenever they think our dollar is too low and admit to currency manipulation. So much for central bank independence. Macroeconomic policy -- that would be government spending and taxation -- is something Canada now has to co-ordinate with the U.S. as well.

The key instruments of Canadian economic development have been federal Crown corporations. Under this deal in Chapter 22 they become State-Owned Enterprises and their activities are restricted to non-competition with private sector companies. So forget creating a public sector company to build transit vehicles and employ autoworkers. The USMCA text spells out the penalties to be paid for non-compliance -- in other words, for pursuing the public interest as defined by the federal Parliament.

Remember the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and the multi-trillion-dollar bailouts of U.S. banks … but not of clients with mortgages?

Under Chapter 17, the USMCA allows U.S. financial institutions to set up in Canada without receiving "lender of last resort" support from Canada. Who then is going to do the bailouts when the unsupervised U.S. banks go bust again? Under the Basel Accords on banking practices, the U.S. Federal Reserve has to step up in the event of solvency crises, but the host country, Canada, would look after a liquidity crisis.

The false claim of "Canadian cultural exemption" is back. That would be the provision where Canada asserts its right to make investments in cultural industries … and where the U.S. gets to retaliate in kind against any sector it chooses to single out (Article 32.6: 4) if Canada does provide cultural subsidies! Little wonder the federal government has been so reluctant to make any investments in culture.

Canada granted further concessions to U.S. demands on intellectual property rights, which are monopoly rights. Goodbye, Trudeau-promised pharmacare.

In a startling surrender to the extraterritorial application of U.S. law, under Annex 3-B the Liberals will allow Americans to interfere in milk pricing. Trudeau waited until the day before the Quebec election to admit the dairy sector was going to be subject to U.S. demands. The federal government will have to deal with the fallout once the next Quebec government finds out what a Liberal promise to protect dairy farmers amounted to.

Team Trudeau needed a deal because the Business Council of Canada wanted a deal. President John Manley had earlier confided to the Financial Post that anyone who thought Canada was not going to get a worse deal from Trump that it had under NAFTA was delusional. He was previewing what he would accept.

To pre-empt an attack from Conservatives, prominent former ministers James Moore and Rona Ambrose were advisers on the deal. In an attempt to mute the NDP, former party president Brian Topp was invited to take part as well.

The USMCA is being spun in Canada as a tweak to NAFTA. By the time the U.S. implementing legislation gets written up, even the trade policy specialists usually onside are going to be critical of much that is new.

So far not one new positive element has been identified in the USMCA as a benefit for Canada.

Pierre Trudeau called the original FTA with the U.S. "a monstrous swindle." The new deal is that, plus a set of unnecessary capitulations to shut up Donald Trump on trade. It won't.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: @WhiteHouse on Twitter/Wikimedia Commons

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NAFTAUSMCAtrade dealsTrudeau governmentDonald TrumpDuncan CameronOctober 1, 2018Our record of Liberal-Conservative governments in CanadaWhether Liberal or Conservative in name, once in government, both parties have regularly adopted each other's main policies.NAFTA 2.0 is no cause for celebrationTrudeau says it's "a good day for Canada," but is that really the case? While the full text of the USMCA needs to be thoroughly analyzed, a preliminary review raises numerous concerns.A renegotiated NAFTA that satisfies Trump would benefit the U.S., but never CanadaInstead of being troubled by Donald Trump's threat to withdraw from NAFTA, Chrystia Freeland should be preparing to withdraw Canada
Categories: News for progressives

If you want to dress up as Thor for Halloween, is making your own costume a copyright violation?

Mon, 2018-10-01 23:14
Civil Liberties WatchPolitics in CanadaTechnology

Halloween is almost upon us and, like every year, people from all ages are gearing up to dress up as their favourite thing or character. While there are some classics -- ghosts, vampires, witches, and punny ones like "cereal" killers -- a lot of us draw directly from popular culture, and that means drawing directly from copyrighted characters. Just as a curiosity: do you think you'd be slapped with a copyright violation notice if you were to reproduce one of these characters' likeness?

It might sound far-fetched, but in the U.S. in 2011 a Halloween costume manufacturer by the name of Underdog Endeavors Inc. was sued by SCG Power Rangers, LLC for the production of Power Ranger costumes. Eventually, the two parties settled, with the costume manufacturer giving up profits obtained from the costume sales. This case has, by far, not been the only one.

In Canada, costume designs are considered to be under copyright. So, mass-producing a costume of Marvel's Thor, for example, without clearing the rights to use the character might not be the best idea. The Copyright Act does contain copyright exceptions for articles that have a "utilitarian function," like clothing -- but there are elements in a costume that might go beyond the clothing function, like Thor's hammer.

The key part here is that, if you are making the costume for your own personal use, you should be OK, as you would likely fall under the "reproduction for private purposes" exception of the Copyright Act. The cases mentioned above infringed copyright laws likely due to the fact that these companies were manufacturing costumes to sell to others without having the rights to reproduce the likeness of the characters -- which is a different case from the DIY Halloween garbs we are talking about here.

So, again, crafting your own costume -- even if it is emulating a copyrighted character -- is protected by the Copyright Act. And this might sound obvious, but it is one of those provisions we take for granted, and the law can change at any time. In fact, right now the government of Canada is running a consultation to decide on the future of copyright -- and lobbyists are all too eager to tip the rules in their favour. Let's not take the exceptions that allow us to create and craft away for granted. Canada has some of the strongest and more progressive copyright laws in the world, so let's make sure we keep them that way. You can have your say at: LetsTalkCopyright.ca And in the meantime, craft away!

A special thank you to the folks at CIPPIC for reviewing this article and providing their expertise on the accuracy of the legal side of copyright trivia.

Marianela Ramos Capelo is a Design Specialist in the communications team for OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Digital Freedom UpdatecopyrightHalloween costumesintellectual propertyMarianela Ramos CapeloDigital Freedom UpdateOctober 1, 2018Who owns your tattoos? Copyright issues are all around us.Have you ever thought about how nearly every logo, piece of design (yes, including your tattoos), song, and movie has been or is currently under someone else's copyright?Copyright in the new TPP: A milestone or a PR move?In a win for digital rights advocates, the Canadian government took a strong stance on the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter despite strong pressure from other nations to rush through with the deal.Over 55,000 voices are on their way to Minister Freeland’s officeThis week we delivered over 55,000 signatures calling for the protection of our digital rights in the new NAFTA to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland!
Categories: News for progressives

NAFTA 2.0 is no cause for celebration

Mon, 2018-10-01 21:33
Brent Patterson

While the full text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) needs to be thoroughly analyzed, a preliminary review raises numerous concerns.

Mainstream media coverage this morning has focused on the implications of the deal on the automotive and dairy markets and to some extent the Chapter 19 dispute settlement provision.

Plainly stated, this agreement will not bring back well-paying jobs for auto workers in Detroit, it will hurt Canadian farmers (given U.S. exports of dairy into this country will increase), and the Chapter 19 dispute settlement provision is still a weak protection against unfairly imposed tariffs.

Furthermore, the key issues of climate change, Indigenous rights, and pharmacare are left unaddressed.

It's not surprising that the words "climate change" do not appear in the text, but that doesn't make that reality any less unacceptable. There is nothing in this agreement that constrains the power of Big Oil or that keeps carbon emissions from exceeding the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

Nor do the words "free, prior and informed consent" for Indigenous nations appear in the agreement. This fundamental right is ignored.

And the patents for transnational pharmaceutical corporations will be extended -- for biologics from eight years to 10 years. That means more profit for Big Pharma corporations and higher drug prices for people.

What about specific language?

USMCA's environment chapter states, "Each Party affirms its commitment to implement the multilateral environmental agreements to which it is a party." Given Trump has already announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, and the Trudeau government just bought a carbon-intensive pipeline, these words carry little meaning.

On Indigenous rights, the text states, "The Parties recognize that the environment plays an important role in the economic, social and cultural well-being of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and acknowledge the importance of engaging with such groups in the long-term conservation of our environment." There is no reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On pharmaceuticals with biologics, the text states, "a Party shall ... provide effective market protection ... for a period of at least 10 years from the date of first marketing approval of that product..." This two-year increase will serve only to profit Big Pharma and make pharmacare that much more expensive to implement.

On regulatory cooperation, the agreement says, "The Parties are committed to expanding their cooperative relationship on environmental matters, recognizing it will help them achieve their shared environmental goals and objectives, including the development and improvement of environmental protection, practices, and technologies." Given both Trudeau and Trump support the dangerous practice of offshore oil and gas drilling, this language is pure spin.

This is not the "progressive" trade agreement that the Trudeau government had promised (even if that was also largely spin on its part).

We can celebrate the phasing out of the Chapter 11 investor-state provision, a controversial provision previously defended by Trudeau, and the energy proportionality provision, though the deal reportedly does not allow limiting exports or imports, but these are disciplines that should never have existed in the first place.

And now after months of the Trudeau government stating that it would not negotiate in public, we are left with a finalized text that it has a parliamentary majority, secured with just 39.47 per cent of the popular vote, to pass the USMCA as is.

The people of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Quebec and Indigenous nations have every right to expect better.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Jim Winstead/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Rick Strankman out as UCP candidate, Nate Horner in, deep in Alberta's dinosaur country

Mon, 2018-10-01 11:45
David J. Climenhaga

Even if you're no fan of Rick Strankman, United Conservative Party MLA for Alberta's dinosaur country, you have to feel a little sympathy for the poor guy, skidded from his nomination by a candidate more appealing to party leader Jason Kenney.

Strankman, 65, may not have been the sharpest knife in the UCP's cutlery drawer, but as a Wildrose Party candidate elected to represent the Drumheller-Stettler Riding in 2012 and re-elected under the same party's banner in 2015, he should have been able to expect the nomination again without difficulty. This would normally have been true even after the 2017 double-reverse hostile takeover of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties that spawned the UCP.

On top of that, Strankman is an official market-fundamentalist hero of Canada's movement conservatives for having been willing to spend time in jail to defy the Canadian Wheat Board and sell his grain illegally in the United States. He was pardoned and praised by no less a conservative avatar than former prime minister Stephen Harper. Naturally, he became the UCP's agriculture critic.

Political sins like his "bring your wife's pie" fundraiser and his comparison of the NDP's carbon levy to genocide barely raised an eyebrow inside UCP circles, and his rural southern Alberta riding is as safe as territory can be for conservative politicians.

But Kenney seems never to have warmed to his MLA's charms and Strankman could match neither the appeal nor the membership-selling skills of Nate Horner, 37, the latest scion of the Horner political clan to spring up in Alberta.

The Canadian Press once described the Horners as "one of the first families of Canadian politics." Jack Horner -- Nate's grandfather -- was a successful Conservative MP from 1958 to 1977, whereupon he crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the Liberal Cabinet of Pierre Trudeau, where he remained until his voters kicked him out in 1979. (They don't talk much about that in rural Alberta anymore for fear of frightening the children.)

Nate Horner is also a relative for former Alberta deputy premiers Hugh Horner (appointed by Peter Lougheed) and Doug Horner (appointed by Alison Redford). Yet another Horner scion is running for the federal Conservatives in British Columbia. Readers will get the picture.

Unquestionably, Horner will present a more appealing face of "modern" Alberta conservatism than Strankman could have done.

The UCP news release announcing Horner's victory dealt summarily with Strankman in the final paragraph.

"I would also like to thank Rick Strankman for his immense contributions to the conservative movement, from going to jail to protest the unjustness of the Canadian Wheat Board to getting elected to the Alberta Legislature in 2012," Kenney was quoted as saying. "I am looking forward to working with Rick in the Legislature in the coming months and whatever else the future holds. I know I join all Albertans in thanking Rick for his service to our province." (Translation: Now get lost.)

Needless to say, this provides an interesting and ironic contrast to Kenney's views on pipeline opponents who engage in civil disobedience.

According to the incisive political analysts at the CBC, apparently still conditioned to the decades of one-party rule that preceded the election of the Alberta NDP in 2015, this means Strankman "will no longer be an MLA following next year's provincial election."

That may happen, but it actually means no such thing. Strankman still has the option of running as an independent, or he could be a natural fit for the fledgling Freedom Conservative Party led by Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

Fildebrandt hasn't got back to me yet about whether he'd encourage Strankman to take up the fight with the FCP. But why not? Drumheller-Stettler's not territory likely to be welcoming to the NDP.

Did Tzeporah Berman just spring a trap on Jason Kenney?

In his hasty response to environmentalist Tzeoporah Berman's broadside Saturday, Kenney seems to want us to believe he doesn't give a hang about what the people who run Alberta's powerful fossil fuel industry think.

This will sound improbable to anyone who has followed Kenney's career. Nevertheless, having gone on this long, he may be reluctant to stop treating Berman as an enemy of Alberta's oil sector just because some of the biggest big shots in the industry wanted her in the job he's been screeching about her having once occupied.

By reminding us all of this, Berman seems to have caught the Opposition leader in a bit of a rhetorical trap. Accordingly, he was soon demonstrating the characteristically clever and slippery tactics we have come to associate with him by claiming not to care what the titans of petroleum think.

Not having been involved in picking the members of the Oil Sands Advisory Group, Kenney wrote, "I can't speak to the alleged involvement of those CEOs. … At the same time, I work for the people of Alberta, not a few oil executives." (Emphasis added; chuckles permitted.)

Ergo, while Kenney backhandedly acknowledged the truth of Berman's statement, he's not about to start defending what he's spent months publicly obsessing about "regardless of whether or not some industry players thought it was a wise idea at the time." (Emphasis added again, of course.)

Other than the fact the language used sounds remarkably like that of a former Maoist -- "fellow travellers" indeed! -- there's not much else in his retort that's new. Still, it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when an oilpatch billionaire like N. Murray Edwards heard himself being described as just "some industry player."

Kenney is a clever old career politician. Still, to wriggle out of this well-sprung trap, he may have to chew off a limb.

How's that Brexit thing working out?

Many readers will recall the June 23, 2016, Brexit referendum night tweet by Mr. Kenney -- then still pondering a run to lead the federal Conservatives and needing to fire up his Old Stock Canadian base.

He tweeted: "Congratulations to the British people on choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!"

So, with six months left before Departure Day, how's that Brexit thing working out?

This just in from the New York Times: "It's looking very grisly."

How grisly?

  • Possible rolling blackouts and even collapse of the energy system in Northern Ireland (the British military may have to redeploy generators from Afghanistan to keep the lights on)
  • The Conservative government has appointed a minister to guarantee food supplies to manage post-Brexit shortages (food rationing?)
  • The government may have to fly planeloads of emergency medical supplies into the country (an insulin shortage is feared)
  • This assumes the planes can fly -- apparently Brexit may ground them, too!
  • Mass return of unemployed Britons who can no longer work in Europe

Brexit is scheduled to happen on March 29, 2019.

Perhaps after that Kenney can lead a campaign to get Canadians to donate food and medicine to post-Brexit Britain. Murray Edwards, nowadays a resident of London, could serve as Kenney's man on the ground.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

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