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Plan to re-imagine Toronto’s waterfront: How much does public know about it?

Fri, 2018-12-07 22:24
December 7, 2018Plan to re-imagine Toronto’s waterfront: How much does public know about it?A plan to re-imagine a sweeping section of Toronto by Google’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto is progressing with a striking lack of transparency -- and growing alarm among observers.
Categories: News for progressives

Plan to re-imagine Toronto’s waterfront: How much does public know about the plan?

Thu, 2018-12-06 22:38
Rosemary Frei

An agreement that seeks to hand control of a large piece of Toronto’s waterfront and downtown core -- an area that includes the largest commercial development in Canada -- to a subsidiary of Alphabet, the giant tech company that owns Google, is raising growing alarm.

Sidewalk Labs is poised to receive the exclusive right, along with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto, to reshape the vast area, which includes Exhibition Place, Ontario Place, Fort York, Harbourfront, Rogers Centre, the CN Tower, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Union Station.

The agreement is part of a plan to create “a new, first-of-its-kind, innovative approach to city-building” and employ cutting-edge technology.

But very few details have been released about the project’s full objectives and financial benefits to Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto and Torontonians. In addition, public consultations have been very narrow in scope.

And on December 5, the Auditor General of Ontario issued a report on the project, stating it is being rushed forward without sufficient public disclosure. Auditor Bonnie Lysyk said Waterfront Toronto’s “new agreement with Sidewalk Labs raises concerns in areas such as consumer protection, data collection, security, privacy, governance, anti-trust and ownership of intellectual privacy.”

The province responded to the report by saying it will work with the municipal and federal governments to determine whether any new legislation, bylaws or policies are needed to protect the public interest before the deal is finalized.

The auditor’s report also noted: “We found internal Waterfront Toronto emails indicating that the (Waterfront Toronto) board felt it was being “urged – strongly --” by the federal and provincial governments to approve and authorize the framework agreement with Sidewalk Labs as soon as possible.”

In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto signed a framework agreement for the project. This agreement was not made public until July 2018, when it was released along with a plan development agreement. Neither document contains many details about the project.

Stated the auditor general: “The October 17, 2017, public announcement by the prime minister, the premier, the mayor, Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs about the signing of the framework agreement was arranged on October 12, the day before the (Waterfront Toronto) board received the final framework agreement for review and approval.”

Former Research in Motion co-CEO and chair Jim Balsillie, a vocal critic of the project, slammed the project in a Globe and Mail op-ed on Oct. 5: “The most insightful comments during the public announcement (of the Oct. 2017 agreement between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs) came when Eric Schmidt, Google’s former executive chair, said they had realized their long-running dream for ‘someone to give us a city and put us in charge.’”

The framework agreement will give way to a master plan for the project, which is expected to be finalized next year, at which point the deal between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs cannot be revoked.

In addition, in June 2017, the three levels of government agreed to share the cost of a $1.25-billion bill to renaturalize the mouth of the Don River and protect a large area in the floodplain that covers a large part of southwestern downtown, the northern half of the Port Lands, and other areas to the east and north that includes the site of the large commercial development.

There have been several public consultations on Sidewalk Labs’ plans over the last year, but they have focused exclusively on the small site called Quayside, immediately northwest of Villiers Island, with these discussions centred on the buildings and public spaces planned for Quayside, and on control of data to be gathered by thousands of sensors on the site.

But just who will get a say on the rest of the plan?

The development agreement between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto hedges that point by saying “the creation of such a plan does not itself signal any right to implement all or any part of it. To the contrary, the parties acknowledge that in many cases, the implementation of plans … will be subject to various contingencies, such as the receipt of certain governmental approvals and clearances, approvals of or agreements with landowners or other third-party consents.”

It also states that any proposed options shall be “supported by robust business planning and financial analysis.”

However, there does not have to be a vote by Toronto city council, the Ontario legislature or the federal government on whether to approve or reject the master development plan. Rather, there only will be votes on issues that required to implement the plan, such as changes to bylaws and procurement policies.

Not surprisingly, there has been some push-back.

For example, developer Julie Di Lorenzo resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board on July 30, because she and other  board members were only given four days to review the PDA before voting on whether to accept or reject it.

On Oct. 5, TechGirls Canada founder Saadia Muzaffar resigned from Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, stating Waterfront Toronto had not being forthright about its plans.

On Oct. 19, former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian quit her role as Sidewalk Labs’ data-privacy adviser to protest the lack of a guarantee that collected data will be de-identified at source.

But many other powerful people are backing the plan.

John Brodhead, one of the architects of the federal Liberals’ plans for revamping Canadian infrastructure, took a senior role with Sidewalk Labs in April. In addition, Keerthana Rang, formerly Keerthana Kamalavasan, who was the spokesperson for John Tory’s successful 2018 mayoral re-election campaign, now works in communications for Sidewalk Labs.

Former Toronto chief city planner Paul Bedford chairs Waterfront Toronto’s Design Review Panel and is another strong proponent of the plan. So is former federal privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier. Now a lawyer at Dentons and a counsel for Waterfront Toronto, she has publicly opined that Cavoukian’s resignation will not affect the plan.

Moreover, a lawyer working under Bernier at Dentons, Karl Schober, during a panel discussion at a large public-private conference in Toronto in November -- that included talk of how public transit could be taken over by the private sector via the use of autonomous vehicles -- said companies can make money from the huge amount of data from people using these vehicles. Another speaker at the conference showed how use of autonomous vehicles for transportation can be used to privatize roads and all other infrastructure associated with transportation. Sidewalk Labs’ plans for transportation on the Toronto waterfront focuses largely on autonomous vehicles.

Bianca Wylie, co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, is a vocal critic of the plans for dealing with data gathered in the project area. On Nov. 30, via Twitter, she asked prominent boosters of the plan to disclose whether they’re getting paid by Sidewalk Labs. “It takes a great amount of privilege to support these plans. It takes even more to provide that support without showing up to defend it,” Wylie wrote. “It’s time to make the stupid spreadsheet of who is getting paid by Sidewalk Labs.”

John Wilson, co-chair of the West Don Lands Committee and a board member of Waterfront For All, which supports the plan, rebuffed Wylie by tweeting: “Christ, what kind of crap is this - now everyone who has a rejoinder to your line must be on the payroll? If this is your implication, can you please get a grip. The last person who confronted me like this was DoFo (Ontario Premier Doug Ford). I'm sorry, I won't be self-disclosing for your pleasure.”

The final public consultation about the plan in 2018 takes place on Saturday, December 8, and will focus only on Quayside.

Rosemary Frei is an independent, full-time journalist, videographer and activist focusing on economic and social-justice issues.

Categories: News for progressives

Decades after Montreal massacre, gun control is still a hard sell

Thu, 2018-12-06 20:42
December 6, 2018Decades after Montreal massacre, gun control is still a hard sell Twenty-nine years after 14 women were killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal, advocates for gun control renew their call for the federal government to do more.
Categories: News for progressives

Decades after Montreal massacre, gun control is still a hard sell

Thu, 2018-12-06 20:36
Karl Nerenberg

It is 29 years since the Montreal massacre, when a shooter armed with a hunting rifle killed 14 women at the École Polytechnique, the engineering school of the Université de Montréal.

Each year at this time, gun control advocates call on the federal government to enact more effective measures to limit firearms. But those who manufacture, sell and own guns have considerable political clout, and they are pushing back hard.

The Trudeau Liberals arrived in office having made only small-bore promises on gun control. They did not, for instance, pledge to restore the long-gun registry, which the Chrétien government created in the aftermath of the Polytechnique massacre, and which the Harper Conservatives scrapped after they won a majority in 2011.

Trudeau promised modest measures like obliging manufacturers and importers to engrave all guns they put on the market with identifying markings. These would include the serial numbers, the name of the manufacturer, and the origin of the weapon, whether Canadian or foreign.

The Liberals promised to bring in this small measure with no delay, but instead have chosen to delay and delay and delay yet again. After a long wait, gun marking regulations were supposed to come into force on December 1 of this year, but at the last minute, the government deferred them for two more years, until 2020.

As we reported here a year ago experts such as criminologist Irvin Waller say gun markings would “make it a lot easier to trace the sort of guns that are being smuggled across borders, the sort of guns that get into the hands of the mafia and street gangs."

When the Trudeau government announced the most recent delay this past November, its excuse was that it needed to find a way to mandate markings that did not impose “undue constraints or costs on firearms owners and businesses.”

Bill C-71 includes measures gun control advocates welcome

Organizations like the Coalition for Gun Control are not happy with the markings delay, but they are willing to cut the government some slack because it has introduced another series of firearm regulations in Bill C-71.

Bill C-71 has passed the House of Commons and is now before the Senate. It provides for a better screening process before anyone can purchase a firearm, obliges gun dealers to keep records of all weapons they sell, and provides for the transfer of the Quebec data in the defunct long-gun registry to the government of Quebec.

The 2012 Harper government legislation that scrapped the long-gun registry also stipulated that all the data it contained should be destroyed. At the time, the Quebec government was setting up its own registry and it went to court to force the federal government to preserve the data. Early in 2015, the Supreme Court, in a split decision, ruled Quebec had no right to the data, but the Harper government did not then go ahead and immediately destroy it. Now, finally, if and when the Senate passes C-71, the federal government will hand over the now somewhat outdated gun records to Quebec.

As for the measure in C-71 requiring gun vendors to keep records of all sales: those had been in force since 1971, but were abandoned as no longer necessary when the Chrétien Liberals created the centralized long gun registry.

In 2012, during debate and committee hearings on the Conservative bill to abolish the long-gun registry, the Harper government and gun lobby spokespeople assured Canadians that once the registry was gone, the old record-keeping system would be revived and maintained, so that authorities would still have information on all guns sold in Canada.

The minute the registry disappeared, however, the governing Conservatives -- encouraged by their friends in the gun lobby -- went to great pains to assure that gun merchants kept no records whatsoever of their sales. Harper’s Public Security Minister Vic Toews even went so far as to forbid provincial authorities from requiring such records.

The gun lobby is now characterizing C-71’s restoration of the 1977 record-keeping system as a back-door reinvention of the gun registry, which it definitely is not. C-71 merely makes mandatory what is already a standard retail sector practice.

The Coalition for Gun Control worries, however, that gun lovers and makers have loud voices and political influence that far exceeds their numbers. Even at this late date, the gun lobby could place obstacles in the way of C-71, as it makes its way through the Senate.

The anniversary of the Montreal massacre is an occasion for the advocates of gun control, whose views align with those of a large majority of Canadians, to make their voices heard.

Photo: By Bobanny/Wikimedia.org 

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

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Categories: News for progressives

Canadian author Tony Clarke charts path to zero carbon emissions

Wed, 2018-12-05 22:05
December 5, 2018Canadian author Tony Clarke charts path to zero carbon emissionsRespected activist Tony Clarke has a new book mapping out how Canada can get to net carbon emissions of zero by 2040.CA
Categories: News for progressives

To head off climate catastrophe, a World War II-type effort needed, Canadian activists say

Tue, 2018-12-04 21:43
December 4, 2018To head off climate catastrophe, a World War II-type effort needed, Canadian activists sayA group of Canadian activists are calling on Canada and the world to do more to slow the advancement of global warming, including allocating billions of dollars to the effort.
Categories: News for progressives

To head off climate catastrophe, a World War II-type effort needed, Canadian activists say

Tue, 2018-12-04 19:50
Karl Nerenberg

On Monday, December 3, Canadian environmental activists convened by the Group of 78 (G-78), a progressive foreign policy institute, demanded that the world – and especially Canada – do more to help the victims of a warming planet.

Those who suffer most from climate change are in the poor countries of the global south, the activists point out, yet they are the least responsible for it.

To help mitigate the devastating impacts of global warming, the G-78 proposes that the Government of Canada allocate $3 billion to $4 billion a year toward international climate finance, in the form of grants.

In addition, the group wants the Government of Canada to lead an initiative to reform global trade institutions so that they “enforce climate change mitigation measures” and oblige the richer nations that have, for the most part, caused climate change, to share environmental technology with the world’s poor.

Later that day, as though in response to these demands, the World Bank, whose leaders are attending the UN climate change meeting in Poland, pledged US $200 billion to the fight. The government of Canada has yet to make a commensurate pledge.

A national carbon budget and a transition away from fossil fuels

The G-78’s annual conference, which it held in September in Ottawa, was devoted to the global challenge of climate change, with a focus on Canada’s role and responsibilities. The conference’s damning conclusion was that Canada is “losing the fight against climate catastrophe.”

G-78 executive members Roy Culpeper and Susan Tanner were blunt in their appraisal: “We have insufficient resolve to reduce the supply and consumption of fossil fuels; we need better incentives to promote the development of and shift to renewable energy; and national and provincial plans to prepare for catastrophic weather extremes are absent.”

The G-78 came out with the full report from the conference on Monday, which it unveiled at a news conference on Parliament Hill. The report has a number of practical and tangible suggestions for ramping up the climate-change fight.

For starters, the Group of 78 proposes that the federal government, and all other levels of government, commit to what it calls a “national carbon budget,” which would beinformed by Canada’s equitable share of the global carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level in order to reduce greenhouse pollution.”

The group believes the federal government’s carbon-pricing scheme is a good idea, but argues that it does not go nearly far enough. The report recommends that the federal government “substantially increase carbon pricing to align with mitigation scenarios that limit warming to 1.5°C above the pre- industrial level.” Currently the target for Canada’s climate plan is quite a bit higher. It is the Paris target of 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.

In addition, the activists make the radical, but eminently reasonable, suggestion that the “Government of Canada and its provincial counterparts facilitate the managed decline of fossil fuel production that includes the elimination of all fossil fuel subsidies.”

Rather than continuing to subsidize the oil and gas industries, through such measures as tax write-offs for exploration, the G-78 proposes that Canada “accelerate renewable energy production and infrastructure.” This entire enterprise, the report adds, “should be achieved within a just transition framework to support workers and communities adversely impacted.”

Finally, the Group proposes that all levels of government work toward a “transformation of our food system away from industrial agriculture towards small scale ecological farming with the aim of carbon neutrality in both distribution and production.”

None of this is on any government’s agenda in Canada. In fact, despite the evidence that Canada is not doing nearly enough to head off the global catastrophe of a 4-degree rise in temperature by the end of the century, there is neither political will nor momentum to adopt any new and more robust anti-climate-change measures.

All the pushback is from the who-cares-about-the-climate side

What the G-78 proposes would be a mobilization on the scale of World War II – a far more radical approach than the Trudeau government’s mild, moderate and revenue-neutral carbon-pricing scheme. Instead of pressure to do more, however, we have increased and vocal pushback against any climate-change fighting measures from Ontario, from New Brunswick, from Saskatchewan and from Conservatives throughout the country.

Populist and right-of-centre politicians have sensed the advantage in making a simplistic and demagogic appeal to the hundreds of thousands of car commuters of this country’s burgeoning suburbs. We’ll give you cheaper gas at the pump, they say, adding, with neither fact nor convincing arguments, that carbon taxes “kill jobs.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford even tried to claim that carbon taxes were somehow responsible for General Motors’ abandoning its Oshawa workers. That is the opposite of the truth. GM wants, in fact, to produce more environmentally-friendly vehicles and is closing plants in both the U.S. and Canada as part of that new direction. It’s a nasty decision, but nothing to do with carbon pricing.  

The federal Liberal government, and those few provincial governments that still care about the climate crisis, are fighting a rear-guard action now. All the noise they hear and all the heat they feel is from the other side. They will hardly be in a frame of mind to consider the more vigorous measures activists, such as those convened by the G-78, advocate.

Nor will they likely be motivated toward stronger action by the dire warnings of the   UN’s international panel of climate scientists.  That panel argued, not too long ago, that the Paris Accord’s targets – which we are not yet meeting – are, in truth, way too weak. If we want to even begin slowing down the rate of planetary warming, we will all have do much more that we agreed to do in Paris three years ago.

Perhaps what we need, in Canada and elsewhere, is some serious and concerted pressure from the pro-environment side, from those who can see beyond the price of filling their gas tanks and who care about the perilous fate of the planet we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren.

 

Photo: Representing the Group of 78 at a news conference in Ottawa on Monday: Susan Tanner (left to right), Anthony Garoufalis-Auger and Roy Culpeper. (Karl Nerenberg, rabble) 

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Categories: News for progressives

In cutting Alberta oil production, Notley gives brilliant performance - but will it play in Ponoka?

Mon, 2018-12-03 19:51
December 3, 2018In cutting Alberta oil production, Notley gives brilliant performance - but will it play in Ponoka?Alberta will impose an 8.7-per-cent oil production cut to shrink gaping price differential, steely NDP premier says.
Categories: News for progressives

In cutting Alberta oil production, Notley gives brilliant performance - but will it play in Ponoka?

Mon, 2018-12-03 10:56
David J. Climenhaga

As expected, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Sunday that her government will order an 8.7-per-cent cut in the province's oil production -- 325,000 barrels a day -- to squeeze some of the air out of the bitumen price differential that has bedevilled Alberta for several years.

The short-term production cuts, permitted under the province's legislation, will take effect on New Year’s Day, the premier said. They will remain in place, dropping over time, until a backlog of about 35 million barrels of already processed oil has been shipped to market, which the government expects to take three months.

Production controls will impact both bitumen and conventional oil producers, although some of the smallest companies will be exempt.

It barely took Notley 10 minutes of her live-streamed news conference, which began at 6 p.m., to prove that even in this neoliberal era governments can act, and do so decisively. 

As political theatre, it was brilliant.

Notley looked positively prime ministerial. She was steely-eyed and -- dare I say it -- at some moments evocative of Margaret Thatcher on the eve of that war at the south end of our then-still-chilly planet. She even offered an acknowledgment to the neoliberal zeitgeist of our era: "One never wants to begin by reaching into the market and telling people they have to produce less …"

But so she did.

In addition to her government's plan to manage the supply of Alberta oil to narrow the yawning gap between oilsands bitumen and the sweeter crude found closer to the U.S. Gulf Coast, she promised more rail cars would be coming on line next year and that there will be no end to the province's push for more pipeline capacity.

As political strategy, Notley's newser wasn’t bad either. Whatever its other impacts may be, taking immediate action to raise the price of Alberta crude by limiting supply is likely to see some results because it acknowledges the most basic law of economics.

But Notley certainly did this with the knowledge that prices will rise relatively soon anyway as U.S. refineries now partly closed for maintenance come back on stream. When Enbridge's Line 3 starts pumping at the end of next year, that, too, will increase demand and raise prices -- although too late for the NDP’s electoral strategy.

Notley made sure in her brief remarks that the principal opposition parties -- the United Conservative Party and Alberta Party -- were implicated in her plan. Indeed, it soon became clear to anyone listening thanks to a reporter's question that the Opposition UCP had demanded even deeper production cuts. This will be useful for voters to know in the event jobs are lost in some places as a result of the limitations in supply ordered by the government.

And the premier showed enough steel to demonstrate she has no problem pushing around the few billion-dollar oil companies that made it clear they don't want supply management of their output, seeing as they're making out like bandits already with things the way they are.

While praising her main opponents in the Alberta legislature, Notley put the blame for the current state of affairs right where most Albertans seem to think it belongs: On the federal government for not approving the pipelines Albertans have now persuaded themselves will solve all their economic problems.

She also made sure the blame was shared between the current federal Liberal government and the past Conservative one -- in which provincial opposition leader Jason Kenney was an influential minister.

So, Notley’s short news conference Sunday evening was a bravura performance.

However, whether this will play in Peoria -- or, rather, Ponoka, Alta., -- remains to be seen. This is especially true if companies with their own U.S. refining capacity, like Husky Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc., decide to squeeze their own workers till the pips squeak to punish the government for reducing their profit expectations for the greater good.

Similarly, while oilsands giants like Cenovus Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. will likely be happier, it's far from clear whether this will translate into anything that helps the NDP’s political circumstances.

And there is no sign whatsoever that any method developed to ship Alberta oil -- whether in the form of rail cars, new pipelines or rehabilitated old ones -- will not eventually be used to its fullest capacity, with predictable impact on global climate change.

When it comes to market failures -- which Notley spoke of Sunday and Kenney did recently, too, to justify interfering in the market -- the problem is that the biggest market failure of all is climate change.

Photo: Rachel Notley/Flickr

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

Categories: News for progressives

If Notley caps Alberta oil production Sunday, how quickly will Kenney change his tune?

Mon, 2018-12-03 01:23
December 2, 2018If Notley caps Alberta oil production Sunday, how quickly will Kenney change his tune? Fasten your seat belts. Alberta's premier will make history if she sets out a plan to deflate the Bitumen Bubble.
Categories: News for progressives

If Notley caps Alberta oil production Sunday, how quickly will Kenney change his tune?

Sun, 2018-12-02 13:14
David J. Climenhaga

If Alberta Premier Rachel Notley uses her government's power to put a cap on oil production Sunday, as she hinted she would do in a newspaper op-ed Friday, how long will it take Opposition leader Jason Kenney to change his tune?

Not long, one imagines.

Of course, if Kenney does turn on the proverbial dime and say the opposite of what he was saying before, it will be a reversion to form. But the logical pretzel he will have to twist himself into either way -- whether he changes back to his old course or sticks with a new one -- promises some light entertainment in what otherwise is likely to be a grim spectacle.

Kenney has lately been trying to out-Notley Notley by demanding more and deeper production cuts sooner than later. He justifies this change from the uncritical market-fundamentalist boosterism by claiming there has been a "market failure" in Alberta's oilpatch, as if there was anything unusual about such a phenomenon.

For her part, a case could be made that Notley, a lifelong social democrat, has been trying to out-Kenney Kenney in the way she lectures Ottawa about how the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion must swiftly be completed.

Still, at least when it comes to using state power to impose production cuts, if that is indeed what has been decided, Notley will be acting consistently with her long-held social democratic beliefs, to wit, that there is an important role for government in directing the economy.

In addition, Notley will be in accord with well-understood economic laws, specifically, the famous one that says when the supply of a commodity declines, its price rises, and when supplies fall, the opposite happens. 

As an aside, if only from the perspective of pure propaganda, it seems to me both Notley's NDP government and Kenney's United Conservative Party opposition would benefit from ceasing and desisting all talk about how we need to increase the supply of Alberta heavy oil via a pipeline to tidewater so that we can see higher prices, a nonsensical proposition in economic terms. Instead, they would get farther arguing the market is already there and the problem is merely the bottleneck.

In other words, the solution to the Bitumen Bubble, as former Alberta premier Alison Redford called it once upon a time, is to end the Bitumen Bottleneck, a term that Notley has my permission to use Sunday as her own.

Regardless, while the premier is bound to face some criticism for her decision, whatever it turns out with her statement Sunday, at least she won't have to twist herself into a pretzel to justify it.

For Kenney, this will be harder. He will be required, as the leader of a rather-far-right opposition party, to insist that the market is always right. Except, of course, when it isn't.

From his perspective in this case, that appears to mean when it isn't acting in the interests of giant oil companies. Alas for Kenney and his UCP, this situation is complicated in more ways than that because not only are some giant oil companies demanding production cuts immediately to save them from the cruel logic of the almighty market they normally laud, but others are demanding there be no cuts, because they're making out like bandits the way things are.

The dividing line between these two groups of oil companies is whether or not they have their own in-house refining capacity. If they do, the current situation works for them, because they can buy feedstock cheap, upgrade it and sell it dear. If they don't, the current situation doesn't work for them, because their only options are to sell low and pray prices rise soon, or shut down their operations immediately.

In a way, this puts Kenney in a more difficult position than Notley -- although, granted, without much responsibility.

There is a sense Kenney may find himself hoisted with his own petard, since it seems likely he demanded a production cut reasonably confident in the belief Notley would not have the intestinal fortitude to actually do it.

If there is one thing to know about Notley, it's that she's bold, and actually willing to make a decision, even if that means rolling the dice, metaphorically speaking, on her political future.

People sense this about her, and her toughness as well, which is undoubtedly among the reasons she outpolls Kenney on personal qualities, even as the two politicians' parties are in the opposite position relative to one another in popularity. In other words, Kenney projects bluster; Notley projects the real thing.

I expect Kenney knows this, which is why I think that if things unfold Sunday as expected, he'll retreat pretty quickly to his comfort zone, whence he'll excoriate Notley's NDP for daring to "pick winners and losers" in the oilpatch and tout the magical benefits of the market.

The fact three of the biggest oil companies in the Alberta oilsands -- Husky Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc. and Imperial Oil Ltd. -- want things to stay the way they are will doubtless speed his return to the neoliberal ideological mothership.

Embarrassing, but I don't think politicians like Kenney experience embarrassment the way ordinary people do.

Notley took note of Kenney's support for a production cap in her op-ed in the Calgary Herald on Friday, as she did of Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel's. She also acknowledged the lack of agreement in the oilpatch.

"While a consensus appears to be forming among some political leaders, no such consensus exists within industry," she wrote. "At this point, no industry consensus is expected. So, Alberta, it comes down to what is best for us, all 4.3 million of us, the owners of our oil resources. As owners, we have an obligation to get the most value possible."

Notley will set out her plan to journalists at 6 p.m. Fasten your seatbelts. She's braver than your average politician. She will make history.

Whatever the plan is, she told us Friday, "I promise you this: your jobs, your kids and your futures will remain our absolute focus. No matter what, I won’t stop fighting for you."

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

Categories: News for progressives

Yellow vest protests in France may be a warning to governments around the world

Sun, 2018-12-02 06:53
Brent Patterson

While there may be the impression that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement in France is simply a right-wing populist reaction to an increase in gas taxes, and, thus, a cautionary tale against measures intended to counter climate change, there is much more to it than that.

Reuters reports, "The popular rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17 and has been coordinated via social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots."

The New York Times further explains, "The catalyst for the protests was the government’s decision to increase gas taxes in 2019 to help pay for the transition to more sustainable energy."

But that article notably highlights, "It [also] reflects the bite of French payroll taxes, which are among the highest in Europe, and disposable income that is below that of several other western European countries."

The Local -- France adds, "While initially focused on fuel taxes, the 'yellow vest' movement has snowballed into wider protests against economic hardship in provincial France and perceived elitism on [French president Emmanuel] Macron's part."

Radio France Internationale notes, "The call for action has received a particularly big response in small towns and rural areas, whose inhabitants complain that public transport and other services are poor to non-existent and cars a necessity for daily life."

RFI also notes, "It has also given voice to wider concerns over the government's policies, perceived as favouring the wealthy and big-city dwellers, and against allegedly heavy taxation."

Al Jazeera adds, "Political foes [have also dismissed Macron] as the 'president of the rich' for ending a wealth tax, while his popularity has slumped at barely 20 per cent."

In October 2017, Macron, in effect, cut the country’s wealth tax by 70 per cent. It had been applied to households with personal assets of more than $2.2 million. The tax break for the wealthy came as Macron cut housing benefits by $8.50 a month for 800,000 students.

Benoit Coquard, an expert at the National Institute for Agronomic Research, has told The Washington Post: "It’s important to understand that this movement of 'yellow vests' is not at all an opposition to the environment."

Coquard says, "What is disputed is that drivers from the middle and lower classes are made to pay, but that in their eyes we don't ask enough of the big companies and the rich, who also pollute the most because they often take airplanes."

The yellow vests also have significant left-wing support.

La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Europe Ecology-The Greens, and the Socialist Party have all expressed support for the movement, as have the CGT and Confédération Paysanne (although the leadership of these unions -- in contrast to some in the rank and file -- have expressed concern that the movement has been infiltrated by the far-right).

The Macron government's imposition of neo-liberalism (a tax break for the rich, austerity for students, a fuel tax that disproportionality hits the poor and working-class in rural communities) has spawned a populist rebellion.

The 100 companies that have generated more than 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 have made huge profits from the extraction of fossil fuels.

The yellow vest movement in France may be a warning to liberal-democratic governments around the world that if the burden of solving the climate crisis falls on the working-class, they risk a populist rebellion.

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Categories: News for progressives

Six Nations youth leads protest against Nestlé water operation in Ontario

Sat, 2018-12-01 00:04
November 30, 2018EnvironmentIndigenous RightsSix Nations youth leads protest against Nestlé water operation in OntarioMakasa Looking Horse is a youth from Six Nations and a student at McMaster University. She led the organizing for the Putting a Stop to Nestlé events on November 24.nestlebottled waterON
Categories: News for progressives

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