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Jason Kenney promises massive corporate tax cuts to create jobs

Tue, 2019-03-05 14:00
David J. Climenhaga

Oh for crying out loud! The tax cut fairy has returned to Alberta! She's brought snake oil!

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, lately rebranded The Policy Guy™, has promised a massive cut in business taxes to create jobs.

In Calgary yesterday, Kenney vowed to slash the lowest business taxes in the country by a third, from 12 per cent to eight per cent. He claimed this will create 50,000 jobs.

Needless to say, his obedient UCP troops were in a rapturous state, as are the usual suspects in mainstream media. A total of 50 per cent of Alberta's academic economists who regularly hold forth on social media on such topics also supported the would-be premier's policy pronouncement as a good idea. The other one disagreed.

Well, I'm no economist, but I read some, and it can be pretty confidently predicted that no jobs will be created by such a policy, although there will certainly be some very happy corporate shareholders who are able to buy new and more elaborate condos in Palm Springs or wherever Alberta's wealthy classes winter nowadays.

It can also be predicted with equal confidence that if Kenney had plans to cut the crap out of your kids' education and your own health care, he's going to end up having to cut out even more after the dust settles from this.

Don't forget, Kenney has also promised to drop the Carbon Levy, so that's another $3 billion we'll still have to pay in taxes, except that now they'll be taxes to Ottawa instead of an account the Government of Alberta can access. Plus he's going to balance the budget. Right.

As economist Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent New York Times column about the claims made by the U.S. Republican Party about the supposed benefits of big tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy (which are the same as Kenney's ideas, presumably because that's where he gets them), they rest "on research by … well, nobody. There isn't any body of serious work supporting GOP tax ideas, because the evidence is overwhelmingly against those ideas."

Krugman asked: "Why do Republicans adhere to a tax theory that has no support from nonpartisan economists and is refuted by all available data?" He answered: "Well, ask who benefits from low taxes on the rich, and it's obvious."

It's no different on this side of the imaginary line between our two countries, obviously.

It's not just Krugman, of course. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) this morning quickly dug up some 75 articles that say the same thing -- which isn't surprising, of course, because as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics pointed out, it's the prevailing view among professional economists. I imagine by now the AFL has found 75 or 100 more.

Not only is it not working in the United States under Donald Trump, but at the state level it's failed in Kansas, in Oklahoma, in Arizona, and in Kentucky. Oh, and it failed in Saskatchewan -- although, at least there, then premier Brad Wall partly reversed course when he realized it was failing. Maybe that's why he was the "real leader of Western Canada," as someone used to say.

It flopped in Australia, too, just as it will fail disastrously in Alberta. Or not, depending on how you measure success. Because as this Guardian article about the Australia's massive tax cuts explains, it's not just a transfer of wealth to the rich from the rest of us, it's a scam to grease the skids for even bigger transfers.

"Australia isn't poor; it is rich beyond the imagining of anyone living in the 1970s or '80s," wrote author Richard Denniss in the Guardian. "But so much of that new wealth has been vacuumed up by a few, and so little of that new wealth has been paid in tax, that the public has been convinced that ours is a country struggling to pay its bills."

"Convincing Australians that our nation is poor and that our governments 'can't afford' to provide the level of services they provided in the past has not just helped to lower our expectations of our public services and infrastructure, it has helped to lower our expectations of democracy itself," Denniss continued.

This will sound very familiar to anyone who has lived in Alberta for a while. All you have to do is replace Australia with Alberta, and you have succinctly told the story of our province as long as many of us can remember, at least since Ralph Klein became premier in 1992.

It's a con. It's always a disaster. And it ended to a significant degree in 2015 with the election of Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP.

Kenney intends to send us right back to where we were, the richest place on earth, which we're perpetually told is the poorest place on earth. Only this time, there will be no plan for a future that's changing, quickly, beyond stomping our feet and blaming others for our troubles.

We're not going to stimulate the economy by firing nurses and teachers, which is the only way Kenney's "job creation" scheme will end. Face it, there can only be so many private hernia clinics and religious private schools teaching creation science to young citizens of a flat earth.

If we fall for this snake oil, we're going to have to swallow it.

Green Party calls for a sales tax

It's easy to be brave when your chances of being elected are minimal. Still, hats off to the Green Party of Alberta for speaking the unpalatable truth.

The Greens say they want a sales tax implemented "as a means of establishing predictability to budget planning in a time when the price of oil is in free-fall on the world market."

"The move would generate revenue needed to maintain essential social services in the face of irresponsible cuts suggested by the UCP," the party said in a news release Sunday.

"The other parties are terrified to mention a sales tax other than to denounce it, but the Green Party is not," said Carl Svoboda, the party's finance critic and its candidate in the Calgary-Edgemont riding. "It is time for Alberta to start acting like a normal province."

Never mind the rules, Stephen Mandel may run, a court decides

If you grew up firm in the belief "ignorance of the law is no excuse," you might want to reconsider that quaint notion in light of the court ruling Stephen Mandel may run for public office after all, despite having ignored Alberta's election financing legislation by not filing his paperwork on time.

After all, Madame Justice Gaylene Kendell's written decision yesterday concluded that the law shouldn't be applied to the Alberta Party leader, a former Conservative cabinet minister and mayor of Edmonton, because he was acting in good faith when he broke it.

Due to the unquestionably unreasonable severity of the penalty Mandel faced -- a two-election ban from running merely for having missed some paperwork -- the Court of Queen's Bench Justice's decision may in fact be just. But it says more about the value of good connections and access to the services of an imaginative barrister than about the rule of law, of which we hear so much nowadays.

Don't expect this principle to be applied by the courts in favour of other citizens who run afoul of harsh or unreasonable laws.

There is a good chance this ruling would be overturned if it were appealed, as it should be. An appeal, though, seems unlikely for reasons that have less to do with the law and more to do with politics. Pity.

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: Jason Kenney/Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

SNC-Lavalin affair exposes Canada as a plutocracy

Sat, 2019-03-02 05:41
March 1, 2019Sordid SNC-Lavalin affair exposes Canada as a plutocracy, not a democracySNC-Lavalin had every reason to expect a rescue from a political party whose election campaigns it had so generously funded, and with whom it had developed such a long and cozy relationship.
Categories: News for progressives

Environmental justice and the Green New Deal

Fri, 2019-03-01 23:36
Jennifer Scarlott

There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right -- left -- direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

The Green New Deal, like some sort of eco-superhero, has arrived at the eleventh hour. Naomi Klein writes hopefully of it as a plan to address global warming that at long last matches the scale of the crisis. Klein (co-author of the Green New Deal-esque "Leap Manifesto") has reason for optimism -- a Green New Deal is not a single policy intervention, but a systemic approach to transform our economy and energy system and build sustainable, democratically-empowered communities.

The point of the concept is in its name -- "green" and "New Deal." It marries the need for decarbonization to a reimagining of a just and fair society embodied in slogans like "climate justice" and "just transition." The Green New Deal concept has arisen from many quarters, including decades of work by environmental justice groups, the Green Party (which insists on defunding the military in order to fund life), and, more recently, the Sunrise Movement as well as rebellious politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who have brought visibility to the concept.

Both decarbonization and justice are crucial. Since climate change is engendered by a ruling class that exists via a class that is ruled, decarbonization won't happen without creation of a just and equitable economics and society.

While thanking Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey for beginning the process of changing the national climate crisis conversation, the Indigenous Environmental Network states, "as our communities who live on the frontline of the climate crisis have been saying for generations, the most impactful way to address the problem [of fossil fuels] is to leave them in the ground." The Indigenous Environmental Network is concerned that the Ocasio-Cortez-Markey resolution does not fully take on the fossil fuel industry nor the "fundamental need to challenge and transform the dominant political and economic systems driving social injustice and the climate crisis."

We are just at the beginning of the national conversation that Ocasio-Cortez and Markey have launched in Congress. As the debate over binding Green New Deal legislation moves forward, all "stakeholders" must look to the wisdom, experience, and leadership of frontline environmental justice organizations like the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Climate Justice Alliance, Cooperation Jackson, and many others.

If fossil capitalism is to lose the fight, it must be met by ecosocialism embodied in the strongest possible counterforce of environmental justice organizations and allies. The fight is on to implement words crafted by the environmental justice movement in the 1980s and still found, ironically, on the EPA website:

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

If people, organizations, and communities that have long suffered the effects of environmental racism lead the crafting of Green New Deal legislation -- partnered with allies who have not suffered on the frontlines but who actively support those who have -- there will be reason to hope.

Jennifer Scarlott is a founding member of Bronx Climate Justice North (BCJN) and North Bronx Racial Justice (NBxRJ). BCJN is a grassroots community organization working in solidarity with justice organizations throughout the Bronx. It is the Bronx affiliate of 350.org. BCJN and NBxRJ prioritize the justice intersectionalities of global warming and anti-racism. Jennifer is a member of System Change Not Climate Change.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Sordid SNC-Lavalin affair exposes Canada as a plutocracy, not a democracy

Fri, 2019-03-01 23:13
Ed Finn

With all the political commentators pontificating on the SNC-Lavalin affair and former attorney general Wilson-Raybould's explosive testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, I wouldn't dare venture to offer my own modest opinion on the imbroglio if I didn't think I had something original to say. 

To put it bluntly, I'm convinced that the eruption of this political scandal occurred because we live in a plutocracy rather than a democracy.   

The Oxford dictionary defines plutocracy as "government by a wealthy elite."

U.S. president Abraham Lincoln once defined democracy as "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." But, since women and people of colour were denied voting rights at that time, he was careful not to say "government of, by, and for all the people."

Indeed, more than 80 years were to pass before women and people of colour were grudgingly permitted to cast their ballots -- a long delay that lasted in Canada as well as the U.S. 

The freedom to vote, however, even when ostensibly extended to all citizens of a country, does not automatically make that country a democracy. If the governments thus elected still give priority to policies and laws that favour the upper-class elite, while neglecting the needs of middle- and lower-class citizens, the latter's right to vote is effectively nullified.

This is what happens when large corporations amass so much political as well as economic power that they are able to subvert "democratically" elected governments. In effect, they transform them into servile vassals of the owners, executives, investors, and major shareholders of the big corporations. 

Such as SNC-Lavalin.

Study exposes U.S. plutocracy

If you think I exaggerate, consider the findings of a prolonged study of the political system in the U.S. conducted a few years ago by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern universities.

They concluded that the U.S. can no longer be called a democracy. They described its current political form -- even before Donald Trump became president -- as "an oligarchy ruled by a small, powerful group of people with an entrenched commitment to serving their special interests."

In short, a plutocracy.

Commenting on this study, consumer activist Ralph Nader noted that half the families of four or more in the U.S. "have incomes too low to lift them out of poverty. We have the highest child poverty rate in the developed world, and the lowest average wage. Electorally [as this study finds], the U.S. is a money-driven two-party tyranny -- yet we're still lecturing other countries on democracy!"

Former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges claims that the conversion of democracy to plutocracy has given corporate oligarchs most of the wealth, power and privilege, "while the rest of us struggle as part of a vast underclass, increasingly impoverished and ruthlessly repressed. There is one set of laws and regulations for us, another set for a corporate power elite that functions as a global mafia."

That Canada has also become a plutocracy is clear. David Moscrop, political scientist at the University of British Columbia, referring to the U.S. study, pointed out that "oligarchic forces" have also undermined democracy in Canada. "Policy outcomes skewed to favour an elite are unlikely to benefit most Canadians," he says.

He points to the inherent unfairness of our first-past-the-post electoral system, which remains in effect after Prime Minister Trudeau cynically broke his promise to replace it with some form of democratic proportional representation.

"Only twice over the past two decades," Moscrop points out, "has a winning party received more than a 40 per cent minority of the vote. Giving these and other serious shortcomings, we can't claim to be living in a democracy. A plutocracy would indeed be a more accurate description."

Plutocracy spawns poverty, inequality

The inequitable society that has been created by the plutocrats' dominant economic system -- laissez-faire capitalism -- has enriched and empowered an affluent minority in Canada, as it has in the U.S. and elsewhere. The plutocratic one per cent wallow in luxury while millions of Canadian families are destitute and millions of underpaid workers scrabble precariously from paycheque to paycheque.

We live in a country in which -- despite a recent decline in national poverty rates -- more than 750,000 children still remain impoverished while just two of our richest business tycoons -- media magnate David Thomson and Holt Renfrew owner Galen Weston -- hold a combined wealth of more than $33 billion. And the collective wealth of the next six richest Canadians amounts to another hefty $30 billion.

Is this not also the Oxford dictionary's definition of a plutocracy?

Only in a plutocracy could this sort of inhumane disparity persist. Only in a plutocracy could the big corporations exercise such overwhelming political influence. Only in a plutocracy do governments meekly coddle, protect, and subsidize large corporations, and supinely bow to their wishes.

Canada also subsidizes big business

The most striking example of this political subservience to the big business barons occurred during the crippling recession in 2007-08. That momentous economic crash was precipitated by the big unregulated American banks and other large financial firms. Their greed, reckless low-cost mortgages, short-selling, insider trading, money-laundering, and other infamous schemes inevitably triggered the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression.  

If the U.S. at the time had been a democracy, the blame and punishment for the meltdown would rightly have been imposed on the culprits -- the owners and managers of the financial institutions. But all but a few of them not only escaped prosecution and jail terms, but were saved from collapse by enormous government bailouts.

Only in a plutocracy could such a monstrous injustice be inflicted and rationalized. And the same plutocratic perversity prevails in Canada, if not quite to the same drastic extent.

For example, although our federal government boasted that Canadian banks didn't need any bailouts during the 2007-08 economic crisis, a CCPA study found that they actually received a combined $114 billion in cash and loan support from the Canadian and U.S governments.

Our federal government also bailed out General Motors and Chrysler with $13.7 billion in public money. Although it was all claimed to be in the form of loans, the auto companies failed to repay nearly $4 billion of that amount, so the Trudeau government last year gave up and wrote it all off as a free gift.

Such huge bestowals of public funds on big corporations is standard practice in a plutocracy. A recent study by the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy found that the federal government and the four largest provinces spend $29 billion every year subsidizing business firms.

Of that huge largesse, $14 billion comes from the federal government and $14.6 billion from the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. The most extravagant and harmful subsidy, by far, is the $3.3 billion a year that our federal and provincial governments lavish on the large oil and gas companies. This is a gargantuan annual gift to the worst polluters of the environment. In effect, it helps them keep increasing the toxic carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Among other prominent corporate recipients of massive government gravy, in addition to SNC-Lavalin, is aerospace company Bombardier, which is also based in Quebec. It also has a history of malfeasance and currently faces bid-rigging and corruption charges in the courts of Sweden and Brazil. A few years ago, when suffering serious financial setbacks, Bombardier was bailed out by a $3.7-billion government subsidy. It was allegedly intended to enable the company to avoid layoffs, but, shortly afterward, the company still sacked thousands of employees while company executives raised their own salaries.

Financial Post columnist Andrew Coyne's acerbic reaction was to quip that "Bombardier is not in the transportation industry; it's in the government subsidies industry."

Commenting on this and other huge government handouts of public cash to the corporations, the Huffington Post's Mike Milne made this cynical observation:

"In the land of government plenty -- that vast landscape  populated with the tax dollars of Canadians -- there is no shortage of politicians willing to hand out and defend subsidies to big business, and no dearth of corporations willing to take the cash."

Companies subsidized, social programs cut

While Ottawa and the provinces continue to maintain and even increase the amounts of their tax revenue they expend in business subsidies, they have proportionately reduced their spending on social services.

The OECD's latest report on the social expenditures of its 34 member countries ranked Canada 24th for the relatively low 17.2 per cent of GDP it spent on social services. Most of the 23 countries that surpassed Canada had social spending rates of 23 per cent of GDP or more. Some, including Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Belgium, Italy and Ireland, had rates higher than 28 per cent.

The decision of Canadian governments to convert so much of the tax revenue they derive from workers into mammoth handouts to corporations could only be maintained in a plutocracy. This depletion of tax revenue through profligate business bounties gives political leaders the contrived excuse that they simply can't afford to improve the social services they had deliberately stripped of adequate funding.

Inexcusable and sustained pressure

Now let's apply these stark realities to the intense and long-sustained political pressure exerted on Wilson-Raybould by Justin Trudeau and his staff to intervene in the trial of SNC-Lavalin -- specifically, to save the Montreal-based firm from a conviction for its charges of corruption.

The company had every reason to expect such a "get-out-of-jail-free" rescue from a political party whose election campaigns it had so generously funded, and with whom it had developed such a long and cozy relationship. And the Liberals had every reason to expect they could provide the company with that deliverance, which in a plutocracy is almost taken for granted.

For a plutocracy to function as intended, however, all of a government's cabinet members have to be "team players." They have to share the same perverted priorities -- and the same willingness, if necessary, to put expedience ahead of principle in the service of corporate overlords. 

However, when Trudeau appointed Wilson-Raybould attorney general, he rashly placed a non-conformist and incorruptible wolf in his flock of compliant cabinet sheep. She was never going to put the interests of a criminally depraved corporation ahead of the public interest.

Her valiant adherence to that moral and ethical principle triggered the colossal political uproar that followed. It also inadvertently exposed the existence of plutocracy as the real type of government that prevails in Canada.

That fundamental aspect of the SNC-Lavalin affair would not have been so widely publicized without Wilson-Raybould's revelations, but it has still been studiously ignored by the mass media pundits. As usual.

Ed Finn grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice, reporter, columnist, and editor of that city’s daily newspaper, the Western Star. His career as a journalist included 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star. He was part of the world of politics between 1959 and 1962, serving as the first provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.

Photo: Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

Alleged UCP electoral shenanigans begin to attract a wider audience than just Alberta

Fri, 2019-03-01 14:32
David J. Climenhaga

Thanks to Opposition Leader Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party leadership race he won last year, not to mention the way he won it, electoral politics in Alberta are starting to get international attention.

I kid you not! I had a long phone conversation on Wednesday with a journalist from San Francisco who specializes in reporting on election administration and voting technology. He's been reading about the allegations of a "mass vote rigging scheme" in the 2017 UCP leadership race and he wants to know what the heck's going on up here.

Just to be clear, the words in quotation marks came from a startling Press Progress report on Monday, not the American journalist, whom I shall leave nameless for the time being so he can do his work in peace and quiet -- after all, what he discovers might turn out to be interesting.

Typical American, though, the guy's more interested in what might happen in the upcoming U.S. presidential primaries that what did happen in what presumably appears from the perspective of the bright lights to the south to be a bush-league Canadian political party's leadership election.

Still, I guess we Albertans can be proud that even if the Americans are enjoying a terrible discount for our bitumen, we're doing something up here that's starting to be noteworthy.

The Press Progress story in question spent a lot of time explaining how the alleged electoral fraud scheme was supposed to have worked, with the collection of names of real Albertans, creation of fake email addresses based on those names, voting PINs then sent to political operatives who created the fake accounts, and fake votes cast at a Kenney Kiosk.

Confused? So am I. Read the story for yourself. However, let me add the traditional journalistic caveat: nothing has been proved in a court of law.

I can tell you I know for a fact there are a couple of Gmail addresses out there in my name that I had figured were just created by disgruntled readers. It scares me, though, that I might have voted for Jason Kenney without even knowing it!

In mid-February, Press Progress picked up on MLA Prab Gill's letter to the RCMP, in which the former UCP caucus member alleged "that Kenney's leadership team cast 'thousands' of fake votes using party memberships registered with 'fraudulent e-mail addresses' that were hosted on a server located 'somewhere offshore.'"

For his part, Kenney dismissed the allegations, calling them "completely ridiculous conspiracy theories" and asking in a sarcastic reference to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, "am I going to be asked tomorrow if I was really on the grassy knoll?"

Kenney is safe from that one. He wasn't born until 1968. As for whether or not UCP long-shot leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was actually on a "Kamikaze mission" for Kenney, that conspiracy theory remains unsettled, although as noted here earlier it was taken as assumed back in the fall of 2017 and nobody seemed to reach for a sardonically dismissive reference to U.S. political history.

Speaking of which, Kennedy famously observed that "where there is smoke, there is usually a smoke-making machine."

There's enough smoke in this case though, that you really have to wonder if there's an actual fire.

I have always wanted to write about Kenney and Kennedy in the same blog post, not merely because spell-check has the bad habit of turning the former into the latter, but because Kenney when he was younger reminded me of Richard M. Nixon, Kennedy's unsuccessful rival in the 1960 U.S. presidential election.

I am referring, of course, only to their physical resemblance, real or imagined.

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: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

New fine levied in Callaway Kamikaze Campaign Case for illegal pass-through donation

Fri, 2019-03-01 14:21
David J. Climenhaga

Another fine has been levied in the Callaway Kamikaze Campaign Case -- as Jeff Callaway's 2017 campaign to lead the United Conservative Party has been characterized -- this time for an illegal pass-through donation.

Karen Brown was handed the $3,500 administrative penalty yesterday by the Office of Alberta's Election Commissioner. She has been identified as a former United Conservative Party financial officer.

In a characteristically terse notification, the Office of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson said only that Brown contributed $3,500 to Jeff Callaway's campaign to lead the UCP in 2017 "with funds given or furnished by another person."

Under Alberta's Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, a person may only donate their own money to a party leadership campaign. Under the same law, the Election Commissioner is severely restricted in what can be said when reporting penalties.

Brown had little to say beyond that she had no comment when contacted by the Toronto Star's Alberta news staff, but the newspaper identified her as the former chief financial officer of the Calgary-Falconridge UCP Board.

She is known in Conservative circles to have been associated with the campaign of Hardyal "Happy" Mann, a candidate for the UCP nomination in that riding until he was rejected by the party after allegations he was involved in an incident in which a local reporter was assaulted.

Mann's name, in turn, also comes up in other recent stories about former Callaway's alleged "Kamikaze Mission" to sink former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean and ensure Jason Kenney became the leader of the UCP, as he did.

In December, the Star's Calgary edition reported that Mann claimed to have met Kenney at a secret get-together at Callaway's home in the summer of 2017 at which the Kamikaze campaign was discussed. In the story, Mann described himself as a "middle man" in that operation.

And when Press Progress crunched some of the donor information filed by the Callaway campaign with Elections Alberta and reported that "66 per cent of the $86,000 Callaway's campaign raised from big donors ($250 or more) can be traced to members of just nine families," the publication said three members of Mann's family were involved.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced that a former co-manager of Callaway's campaign had been slapped with a whopping $15,000 in fines for "obstruction of an investigation."

Cameron Davies, lo and behold, is director of political action for the Wilberforce Project, the misnamed anti-abortion group that has been busy nominating supporters as UCP candidates in significant if not precisely quantified numbers. In that role, he recently embarrassed the party by bragging on the former Pro-Life Alberta's website that the group had nominated so many candidates "we will have the most pro-life legislature in decades, and maybe ever."

"We now need to keep the candidates who won their nominations accountable and on track to enacting pro-life policy should they win in the general election," he wrote in his February 2019 report to the anti-reproductive-rights group's supporters.

After the hefty penalty was announced, Davies had his lawyer tell media he "specifically denies the allegations brought against him and will vigorously defend this matter going forward."

The Office of the Election Commissioner is known to have been investigating the allegations about Callaway's campaign since last year, and has hired two former police officers specializing in white-collar crime to conduct its inquiries.

Immediately after the penalties were announced, Davies was fired by the UCP, for which he had been working since mid-November drafting policy briefing notes -- an interesting factoid given his role with the Wilberforce Project.

The investigation continues.

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: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

It is time to axe the internet tax

Fri, 2019-03-01 05:31
Media MattersPolitics in CanadaTechnology

The laws that affect all of Canada's communications systems are up for review right now, and the stakes are high. The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts review is riling up lobbyists from all sides, as this is a unique opportunity to sneak in their wish lists into the acts that will shape the future of Canada's internet for years to come. The relentless attempts by corporate and public lobbying bodies to introduce an internet tax indicate that this proposal is high on their wish lists.

Sadly, this time the internet tax is being proposed by the CBC and the CRTC themselves. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- our national public broadcaster -- and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission -- Canada's telecom regulatory body -- are introducing the new tax proposal as part of their submissions to the Broadcasting and Telecom Acts review. Their intention: subsidizing content industries.

An internet tax would require internet service providers (ISPs) to pay into content funding, like conventional broadcasters do. This completely disregards the fact that the internet is used for much more than just streaming content -- think of all the emails, messaging, shopping, educational uses, video conferencing and all the other uses that have little to do with the consumption of streamed content. Moreover, this corporate subsidy would be paid for by passing the bill on to internet users in Canada, who already pay some of the highest prices for telecom services in the industrialized world for sub par service. Higher internet prices will unequivocally make these technologies even less accessible, exacerbating Canada's digital divide.

The idea is that the new tax will help fund Canadian creators, but this argument has long been debunked. Pretty much in the style of the "trickle-down" myth, these subsidies usually get stuck in the hands of established content corporations and rarely make it into the hands of those who need it the most: smaller independent content creators. Taxing the open internet to subsidize a struggling Big Media content industry is not the way to go.

Fortunately, we have another shot at preventing this new internet tax proposal from coming into effect. OpenMedia has set up a tool that allows constituents to write directly to members of Parliament to let them know, with informed arguments, why an internet tax would be bad for people in Canada and urge them to reject the proposal before it's too late.

We encourage you to take action now, before the election season kicks off, so no matter who wins the election the message is loud and clear: people in Canada reject the internet tax and would rather see more effective solutions to support content creators in Canada. For example, a good start would be to ensure all online services pay a federal sales tax (HST) in Canada and to direct part of this money from the general budget back to funding and promotion of Canadian content.

To learn more and take action, check out our action at https://act.openmedia.org/axeTheInternetTax/ and share it with your friends to get the message out.

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

Image: OpenMedia

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Digital Freedom UpdateinternetCRTCcanadian contentMarianela Ramos CapeloDigital Freedom UpdateMarch 1, 2019Why is CRTC chair repeating Big Telecom's talking points against net neutrality?If Canada is to remain at the forefront of innovation and freedom, we need a robust net neutrality framework that doesn't benefit those with deep pockets and vested interests.Digital issues at the top of MPs' agenda as Parliament resumesDigital rights and the government's proposed reforms to Bill C-51 are top of mind for many Canadians as the House of Commons resumes for its fall session.Why won't Minister Joly and Minister Bains take the Internet tax off the table?Cynthia Khoo briefly analyzes how federal ministers Mélanie Joly and Navdeep Bains are responding to rumours of the "Internet tax" -- a tabled idea that has taken the digital rights world by storm.
Categories: News for progressives

New green illusion? Or gateway to survival?

Fri, 2019-03-01 05:08
Carol Dansereau

There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right -- left -- direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

This is it. Either we demand what we actually need and build an in-the-streets movement to win that, or we kiss our future goodbye. The Green New Deal will be either our final illusion or a gateway to survival.

What we actually need.

Certain things need to happen asap.

1. Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Nothing else matters if we don't turn the spigot off.

2. We must implement a comprehensive plan including:

  • Vast deployment of renewables
  • Huge reductions in military activities
  • A radical revamp of agriculture
  • Ending the production of unneeded products and our reliance on the growth of these as a measure of economic health

And much more. For these things to happen, we need public ownership of major industries, under democratic control. Fossil fuel corporations aren't going to put themselves out of business. And how can we possibly implement a huge and complicated plan to transform society without being in the driver's seat?

We also need guaranteed economic security for every person, including good jobs, good incomes, free health care, and more. To support and shape planet-saving initiatives people can't be beholden to corporate employers.

What we might get instead.

A Green New Deal law based on the current U.S. resolution will likely fall well short of what's needed:

  • Fossil fuel extraction may continue. (The resolution doesn't mention fossil fuels. Historically they've skyrocketed even as renewables were promoted, including under Democrats.)
  • Certain green projects will advance but we won't see the truly comprehensive plan we need.
  • Unneeded products will still be massively produced. Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from these and from "green capitalism" could rise. The resolution promotes "massive growth in clean manufacturing," only limiting emissions to what is "technologically feasible."
  • Military activity will remain a major source of GHGs.

Some say that even a highly flawed GND deserves support, because it moves us forward. But gains could be cancelled by losses from manufacturing, wars, fossil fuel extraction, etc. More importantly some progress is not enough. We need enormous progress to avoid catastrophe. Perfect is not the enemy of the good here. The good is the enemy of survival.

Gateway to survival.

We should declare enthusiastic support for the Green New Deal concept, while noting that the current language is entirely inadequate and must be strengthened. The Green New Deal must incorporate what we actually need.

We must prioritize building a working-class movement capable of mass strikes and other militant actions.

Lobbying and electoral strategies are ineffective in the absence of such a movement. Ultimately, this organizing will also birth the political party we need. We should regularly expose Democratic Party betrayals to facilitate that.

Building a working-class movement is the only way forward. We must connect with unions, other workers, Indigenous peoples, disproportionately affected communities, students, and groups focused on issues like poverty and health care. We must commit to economic security for all as a non-negotiable element of any Green New Deal we support. And we must work with our allies to flesh out what a Green New Deal looks like in our localities and beyond.

Carol Dansereau is an environmental attorney/organizer based in Seattle. Her years as a nonprofit staff person include a decade helping farm workers fight pesticides, another decade at the Washington Toxics Coalition, and stints with environmental organizations in D.C. and Michigan. Dansereau now organizes free from the censorship associated with nonprofit employment. She joined System Change Not Climate Change to connect with others who understand that we can’t create a just and sustainable world without first getting beyond capitalism. Dansereau is the author of What It Will Take: Rejecting Dead-ends and False Friends in the Fight for the Earth.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Politics of SNC-Lavalin affair cut many ways

Fri, 2019-03-01 00:32
February 28, 2019Trudeau is on the ropes, but can NDP provide a viable, progressive alternative?The Trudeau government betrayed its promise of openness in SNC-Lavalin affair. Conservatives were worse when in power, but are profiting. What about the NDP?
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau is on the ropes, but can NDP provide a viable, progressive alternative?

Fri, 2019-03-01 00:25
Karl Nerenberg

The politics of the SNC-Lavalin affair cut many ways.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to have betrayed his promise of open and transparent government, but is unwavering in defending his government's support for jobs, especially in Quebec.

Conservatives and their leader Andrew Scheer hypocritically decry the Trudeau government's willingness to conflate the interests of the Liberal party with those of the country. They did exactly the same, and worse, when in power.

New Democrats and their newly elected leader Jagmeet Singh say all the right things, but show little sensitivity to concerns of their erstwhile voters in Quebec, and have not yet put any serious policy meat on the bones of their outraged rhetoric.

More on all that later.

What is fascinating about the SNC-Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould affair is that nobody directly involved disputes any of the facts now on the record.

On Wednesday, February 27, the former justice minister and attorney general told the Commons justice committee how, over a period of months, a number of cabinet colleagues and senior officials applied intense pressure on her to overrule the director of public prosecutions' decision not to offer a deferred prosecution agreement to the Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, in a case of bribery of a foreign government.

Those who applied the pressure include the senior federal civil servant, Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick; Minister of Finance Bill Morneau; the prime minister's senior political official, Principal Secretary Gerald Butts; and Prime Minister Trudeau himself.

Wilson-Raybould said she believes all of those interveners frequently and flagrantly crossed the line from legitimate advocacy and concern for jobs to inappropriate interference.

The former minister cited: the clerk's arguments that she had to be mindful of the imminent Quebec election and the possibility of SNC-Lavalin moving its head office out of Canada; the prime minister reminding her that he was the MP for a Montreal riding; Butts telling her to ignore provisions of the 2006 law that created the public prosecutor's office because he did not like the law (to which she replied, "it's the only law we have"); and Butts' colleague Katie Telford, the prime minister's chief of staff, assuring Wilson-Raybould she did not have to worry about taking a legally dubious course of action because the government would give her cover by planting supportive op-ed articles in major newspapers.

Liberal leadership says it was all a misunderstanding

Wilson-Raybould made a powerful and devastating case, supported by her detailed and precise recollections.

The prime minister did not contradict a single thing she said. He only argued that she had interpreted her interactions with him and other senior officials wrongly.

After Wilson-Raybould spoke for more than three hours, Justin Trudeau, who happened to be at an event in Montreal, told reporters his overriding concern in this entire affair was for the thousands of jobs at stake, and the potential economic impact if those jobs were jeopardized.  His government, he assured Canadians, upheld the principle of the rule of law and the independence of those officials tasked with implementing it. But it also cared deeply about Canadians' prosperity and economic well-being. As with the environment and the economy, there need not, apparently, be a contradiction between the two.

The message from the prime minister and other senior Liberals is that it is all a misunderstanding. Wilson-Raybould simply misconstrued a legitimate concern for the economic consequences of a course of action for inappropriate pressure or interference in a federal prosecution.

Wilson-Raybould believes she wore two hats. As justice minister, her role was political; she was responsible for shepherding legislation through Parliament. As attorney general, however, she had to enforce and uphold the law in a non-partisan way, not allowing political considerations to interfere.  

The prime minister, his staff and fellow ministers considered Wilson-Raybould to be, in essence, another elected politician, a cabinet minister like all the others. And virtually everything that comes before cabinet and its ministers has a political dimension.

In Quebec, the fate of SNC-Lavalin is at least potentially a big political issue. The company is a vitally important economic player. It is one of the few major international corporations headquartered in Quebec, and it is good at what it does. The city of Ottawa just selected SNC-Lavalin to build a big section of its light rail -- despite the company's record of corrupt dealings. In short, SNC-Lavalin is a source of pride to most Quebeckers.

The way this story plays out in Quebec is a key political preoccupation for the Trudeau government. That story is fraught with peril for the Liberals who hold the majority of seats in Quebec and aspire to win more in the coming election.

To get better insight into those political hazards just consider the reaction of the Bloc Québécois to Wilson-Raybould's testimony.

After the former minister testified, the Bloc came out with a statement. It did not, like the other opposition parties, condemn the Liberal government for interfering with a judicial process. Instead the Bloc complained bitterly that Wilson-Raybould point blank refused to explain why she would not offer a legal break to SNC-Lavalin, in the form of a remediation agreement rather than a criminal prosecution.

Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet said Wilson-Raybould knew her choice not to offer the deal could mean the company would move its head office from Montreal to London, resulting in big job losses in Quebec, but nonetheless decided to do nothing. Blanchet and his fellow Bloquistes reiterated their view that SNC-Lavalin's Montreal head office and the jobs associated with it should not "disappear because of the actions of a few individuals who are no longer with the company."

Like other opposition politicians, Bloc members and their leader deplore the fact that the Liberal government mishandled the affair and turned it into a conflict between the prime minister and his attorney general. But their overriding concern is with SNC-Lavalin's 3,600 employees in Quebec, and with the many more jobs associated with the company's sub-contractors and suppliers. Quebec workers are the main victims of this sorry affair, Bloquistes say.

Nobody else on the opposition side is making a similar case.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called on the prime minister to resign, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated his call for a full-blown inquiry.

The Conservatives deplore the prime minister's coziness with a Liberal-friendly company and his notional disrespect for an independent prosecutorial process.

New Democrats say that while everyday Canadians are suffering, the prime minister is all too ready to cut deals with his influential corporate friends. They do not shed a tear for the many everyday Canadians who might be innocent victims of a criminal conviction for SNC-Lavalin.

Governing in the old-fashioned way backfired on Trudeau

The Liberal government had hoped to sort out the affair in a typical backroom, non-transparent way. The current chair of SNC-Lavalin, Kevin Lynch, is the former clerk of the Privy Council. He and his associates did what comes naturally to members of Canada's corporate, bureaucratic and political elite. When trouble loomed on the horizon, they lobbied their friends in Ottawa, relentlessly and behind close doors.

Trudeau had promised to run a different kind of government, one in which cabinet ministers would be in charge of their dossiers and where decisions would be taken in the open. But when push came to shove, the prime minister resorted to the tried-and-true playbook.

His behaviour on this matter was similar to his handling of electoral reform. His firm and unequivocal commitment that the next election would not be fought under first-past-the-post dissolved when the cynical and notionally realistic old guard Liberals convinced him he would never win another majority under a reformed voting system.

Unfortunately for the prime minister, on SNC-Lavalin he ran into an immutable barrier in Wilson-Raybould.

The former minister not only strictly interpreted her duty under the law, she was already frustrated with the government's slow and halting progress on pressing Indigenous matters that are dear to her heart.   

For the voters who put Trudeau in office -- and even those who voted NDP or Green, but much preferred the hopeful and at least progressive-sounding Liberals to the Conservatives -- the whole affair presents a depressing dilemma.

Scheer and his well-prepared and articulate front benchers such as Lisa Raitt seem to be gaining the most political traction from this snowballing scandal.

The Conservatives have conveniently put aside the fact that they were as cozy with corporate lobbyists as are the Liberals when they were in power. They allowed the oil and gas industry to virtually write their weak and ineffectual rules on greenhouse gases, for instance.

Conservatives also governed in a behind-closed-doors, non-transparent way, conflating the interests of their party with those of the country -- exactly what they accuse Trudeau of doing now. And they used parliamentary subterfuge, via massive omnibus budget implementation bills, to ram through huge and consequential pieces of legislation. The Liberals' resort to that tactic to pass the deferred prosecution measure is child's play compared to the Conservative record.

Despite all that, Scheer manages to look severe, sincere and confident as he calls for Trudeau to step down, and patriotically evokes the interests of the country at this crucial juncture.

By contrast, NDP Leader Singh looks callow and unprepared. He utters predictable clichés, but offers no specific policy options and displays little understanding of the complexity of the issue at hand, with its multiple economic, legal and political implications.

NDP must step up -- and offer progressive voters a real choice

What is most important about the current disarray of the Liberals is not that it offers a partisan political opportunity to opposition parties, including the NDP. Rather, the current crisis calls upon those in the progressive opposition to step up and offer a credible alternative to a Liberal government that has not kept faith with its electors.

For the NDP, the imperative of the current crisis is more an issue of responsibility than crass political opportunity.

Canadians deserve a viable alternative to the wounded Trudeau government other than the not-very-comforting Harper Conservatives, led by Scheer.

To position themselves as that progressive alternative, NDPers have to do more than call for an independent inquiry. They have to formulate clear, muscular, well-formulated -- and perhaps outside-the-box -- policy proposals.

For instance, what should the federal government do if SNC-Lavalin were to become a target for foreign takeover, perhaps piece by piece. Is there any course of action that would save jobs and expertise, and protect shareholders, other than in effect condoning corporate criminality by letting the company off the hook for serious crimes committed overseas?

What about some form of public, cooperative or community ownership? The Quebec government's public pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement, already owns a significant chunk of SNC-Lavalin's publicly traded shares. Would it now be a good idea for the federal government to enter into talks with the Quebec government about a possible joint federal-provincial effort to transform SNC-Lavalin into some sort of entirely publicly owned entity? That is the sort of bold and creative thinking a focused and serious progressive party should be doing right now.

Singh and his colleagues now have to lift up their game. They have to get beyond slogans and start proposing solutions. They must do so in the interests not so much of their party as of their country.

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

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

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Categories: News for progressives

Cohen describes Trump's profound racism before Congress

Thu, 2019-02-28 23:36
Anti-RacismUS Politics

Many dared hope, after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, that the United States could someday enter a "post-racial" era. The election eight years later of Donald Trump to the same office demonstrated, sadly, that the scourge of racism is alive and well in America. Trump's profound racism was described by his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, when he testified before Congress Wednesday. Any attempt to heal the deep wounds of racism that scar this country must include a direct challenge to Donald Trump.

"I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat," Michael Cohen said early in his statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He elaborated: "The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries 's***holes.' In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a Black person that wasn't a 's***hole.' This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States."

Cohen continued: "While we were once driving through a struggling neighbourhood in Chicago, he commented that only Black people could live that way. And, he told me that Black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid."

Cohen's summary is damning enough, but Trump's record of racism is much longer. "Trump's presidency and entire career has been an affront to civil rights so nothing in Michael Cohen's testimony is surprising for a person that has historically racialized and stigmatized those around him," said NAACP President Derrick Johnson in a statement Wednesday. "From his racist housing practices, to his villainization of the Central Park Five, to his birther accusations against President Obama, to creating safe havens for white supremacists -- all of this maps out the actions and personality of a liar and a racist."

The housing discrimination Johnson mentioned refers to a 1973 federal lawsuit against Donald Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for discriminating against African-Americans seeking apartments. Beginning in the 1990s, Trump attacked Native Americans, questioning their heritage in his attempts to block tribal casinos that would compete with his failing ventures in Atlantic City. He aggressively urged restoration of the death penalty in New York after five youth of colour were accused of raping a white woman in the Central Park Five case. All five were imprisoned for years, and later had their sentences vacated when the real perpetrator was identified. New York City awarded them over $40 million in damages. Trump, to this day, still insists they are guilty.

Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 by calling Mexicans murderers and rapists, and has made the vilification and persecution of Central Americans fleeing violence a pillar of his xenophobic immigration policies, which include building a wall along the southern border. He quickly attempted to implement his Muslim ban and was eventually allowed to enforce a watered-down version of it after the Supreme Court ruled in his favour.

A Trump ally on the Oversight committee, Republican Mark Meadows, had African-American HUD official Lynne Patton, who formerly worked as a party planner for the Trump Organization, stand silently behind him as a living testament that Trump could not be a racist. Two women of colour on the committee, Democrats Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, both called out Meadows' maneuver. "The fact someone would actually use a prop, a Black woman in this chamber, in this committee is alone racist in itself," Tlaib said.

February is Black History Month, and this year, 2019, marks 400 years since the first Africans kidnapped from their homelands were forcibly brought to North American shores and a life of slavery. Legendary escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born in February 1818. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered on February 26, 2012. Our shortest month is devoted to this incredibly long and painful history.

This month, we visited the Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, with its indoor museum and outdoor lynching memorial. These two sites convey the enormity and sweep of crimes against Africans brought here against their will, and the crimes perpetrated against their African-American descendants. From slavery, to Jim Crow and lynching, to mass incarceration, this history is portrayed in its stark brutality. But resistance to racism has also been a constant throughout U.S. history. It must be a part of our daily work, wherever we find it, whether in our communities, in Congress or in the Oval Office.

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 Democracy Now.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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Donald TrumpAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanFebruary 28, 2019Racism can't be scrubbed awayThe legacy of slavery in the United States lives on in countless, often deadly, ways. Racism, like the shoe polish Virginia's Governor Northam used on his face, can't simply be scrubbed away.Canadians need a reality check about who exactly experiences hate crimesContrary to what groups like B'nai Brith Canada would have us believe, the main targets of violence in Canada are not Jews, but people of colour. U.S. remembers Dr. King while a new Jim Crow ravages livesIn 1968 when an assassin killed Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader was becoming more radical. Today, prisons are at the heart of a new Jim Crow.
Categories: News for progressives

Want a Green New Deal? Organize labour!

Thu, 2019-02-28 22:16
Ted Franklin

There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right -- left -- direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

Labour's skepticism is the elephant in the room confronting organizers fighting for a Green New Deal ambitious enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Washington Post reports that the entire coal industry employs about the same number as the ski industry, yet some labour leaders continue to treat the necessity of terminating this industry as a problem that has no solution other than carbon-capture technology that may never exist.

The Markey-Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal resolution in the U.S. is only a broad sketch of goals for a stream of legislation that needs to be enacted beginning in 2021. Nothing like it can be passed without a militant working-class movement demanding rapid transformation of society to address the existential threat of climate change. That movement cannot possibly be built without earning the confidence of working people that rapid decarbonization of our economy will be accompanied by programs that safeguard their well-being.

The resolution includes numerous provisions aimed at improving life for the working class:

  • creation of high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hire local workers, offer training and advancement opportunities, and guarantee wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition;
  • a guaranteed job with family-sustaining wages for anyone who wants one; and
  • strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment.

Despite the commitment to these demands in the Green New Deal, some national union leaders have adopted an openly hostile stance. Terry O'Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), tweeted that the Green New Deal "threatens to destroy workers' livelihoods, increase divisions and inequality, and undermine the very goals it seeks to reach" and called for a climate program that would promote nuclear energy and natural gas as bridge-fuels.

Green New Deal proponents ignore LIUNA's antagonism at our peril. Organized labour has a way of sticking together when unions claims that jobs are threatened. Thus, as LIUNA goes, so go the Building Trades Unions and, without formidable agitation from below, so goes the still politically potent American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). We celebrate some unions representing nurses, transit workers, and government employees for supporting dramatic climate action. But members of these unions have no fear of losing jobs and are not the target of manipulative campaigns that pit climate action against economic security.

Lobbying the U.S. Congress to enact a Green New Deal will accomplish little if we cannot organize the working class to join the fight. Ironically, despite their hostility, the building trades unions have some of the greatest opportunities for growth in a radical Green New Deal. But even if the building trades close ranks against the Green New Deal, there are tens of millions of workers to organize -- at the workplace and in community struggles for social and economic justice. Organizations like Labor Network for Sustainability and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy are reaching out to rank-and-file labour activists as well as progressive union leaders to promote labour's key role in the climate movement. If climate activists join their efforts, we may find that labour's tipping point is within reach.

Ted Franklin is an activist in Oakland, California. After joining Liberation News Service as a radical journalist for a four-year stint 50 years ago, he became a press operator, got fired for union organizing, co-founded Inkworks Press (a union printing and publishing collective), and worked as a union lawyer for 22 years. In recent years, he has organized with System Change Not Climate Change, Democratic Socialists of America’s Ecosocialist Working Group, and No Coal in Oakland, a grassroots group that has fought construction of a coal export terminal in Oakland for the past four years.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Supreme Court's Jarvis decision re-examines privacy in public places

Thu, 2019-02-28 21:49
Feminism

In R v Jarvis, an Ontario high school teacher was charged with voyeurism after secretly taking videos of his female students' chests with a camera pen. Intuitively, Jarvis' actions seem wrong. But the trial court and Court of Appeal acquitted him. The Supreme Court overturned those decisions and convicted Jarvis, updating the analysis of "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the process.

The offence

Jarvis was charged with voyeurism under s. 162(1)(c) of the Criminal Code. Voyeurism was introduced to the Code in 2005 to address people being observed or recorded without their knowledge -- a growing issue as technology advances. Voyeurism was intended to prevent sexual exploitation and protect the privacy of individuals. R v Jarvis is the first time the offence has come before the Supreme Court.

The decisions to acquit

Under 162(1)(c), the Crown had to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was an observation or recording that was made:

  • surreptitiously
  • in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and
  • for a sexual purpose.

At trial, the judge found that the recordings were made surreptitiously, and that the students had a reasonable expectation of privacy but, curiously, found it had not been proven that the recordings were made for a sexual purpose.

The Court of Appeal found that the recordings were made surreptitiously and for a sexual purpose, but the students did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Because the students were in school, they could be observed by anyone and even recorded by school surveillance cameras, so this element of the offence was not satisfied. The acquittal was upheld.

The conviction

The Supreme Court decided to convict Jarvis. By this time, the only element at issue was whether the recordings took place in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Court unanimously rejected the Court of Appeal's location-based approach to the reasonable expectation of privacy, but was split on which test to apply instead.

Contextual analysis of the majority

The majority took a contextual approach to reasonable expectations of privacy, introducing a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider which may include: the location, the manner in which the recording or observation was done, the subject matter, the purpose, the relationship between the parties, and the personal attributes of the person who was recorded. These are only some of the nine factors considered by the majority and this is not a closed list of factors for future cases.

Among other factors, the majority considered the fact that the recordings focused on private body parts, the trust relationship between teacher and students, the age of the students, and that the recordings also breached school policies. The majority was left in "no doubt" that the students had a reasonable expectation of privacy in these circumstances.

Sexual integrity analysis of the minority

The minority rejected the majority's approach and said those factors should instead be considered with other elements of the offence or in sentencing.

Instead, the minority looked at the purpose of the voyeurism offence and its place within the Code under "Sexual Offences." The purpose of sexual offences is "to protect the personal autonomy and sexual integrity of the individual" and it is here where the analysis of reasonable expectations of privacy ought to focus.

The minority introduced a two-part test: did the observation or recording (a) diminish the subject's ability to maintain control over their image, and (b) infringe on the sexual integrity of the subject? The control part of the test refers to personal information that the individual chooses to display, and how and to whom that information is presented. The sexual integrity part should be considered similarly to other sexual offences, such as sexual assault, on an objective basis considering all of the circumstances.

Here, the students lost control over the proximity and angles that their bodies were observed by Jarvis' use of the pen camera, and their sexual integrity was infringed due to the focus on intimate body parts and sexual purpose of the recordings.

Too far or not far enough?

The Supreme Court decision came as a welcome departure from the Court of Appeal's narrow reading of the "reasonable expectation of privacy" and its implications for privacy rights in public or semi-public spaces.

The majority's contextual approach provides flexibility to address what will surely be a multitude of situations to which the voyeurism offence may apply, considering the evolving technologies that may be used for surreptitious observations or recordings. Encouraging an exploration of all of the factors and the context that may give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy helps maintain the offence's value within the Criminal Code.

That being said, the open-ended list of factors set out by the majority does not offer much clarity for judges applying the test in the future. Starting with an analysis of the nine factors and then adding other factors seems onerous, but leaving out a consideration of one of the factors suggested by Jarvis may open the decision up to appeal. In this case, the just outcome may seem obvious, but one could imagine a case with more moral ambiguity where a decision‑maker would appreciate more clarity and guiding principles for analysis.

The minority presents a more straightforward test for the reasonable expectations of privacy. It brings the focus back to the purpose of creating the offence and situates it within the Criminal Code. Most importantly, it keeps the focus of the test on the sexual integrity of the person who is the subject of the observation or recording.

Interveners at the Supreme Court in this case presented the gendered dimension of the voyeurism offence and its disproportionate effects on girls and women. The Consultation Paper from the government echoes this by acknowledging that, with these crimes, "women and children are almost always the victim." Some have criticized Jarvis for falling short of declaring voyeurism a form of gendered violence.

It is true that the minority's reasons also fail to address the gendered aspect of voyeurism, but concentrating on the sexual integrity of the subject of the observation or recording keeps the focus of the analysis on that person's experiences and the impacts of the offence. This frames the issue in a way that more readily invites a gendered analysis as the case law develops, focussing on the harm that is perpetuated by voyeurism and other sexual offences in our society.

Iler Campbell LLP is a law firm serving co-ops, not-for-profits, charities and socially-minded small business and individuals in Ontario.

Pro Bono provides legal information designed to educate and entertain readers. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. While efforts are made to ensure the legal information provided through these columns is useful, we strongly recommend you consult a lawyer for assistance with your particular situation to obtain accurate advice.

Submit requests for future Pro Bono topics to probono@rabble.ca. Read past Pro Bono columns here.

Photo: michel banabila/Flickr

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pro bonoprivacycanadian lawSupreme CourtvoyeurismBrynn LegerPro BonoFebruary 28, 2019Ontario rollback to sex-ed curriculum prompts legal challengesThe Ford government's decision to revert back to the 1998 curriculum has produced considerable backlash from educators, parents, and students -- and has also triggered four separate legal challenges.Police technology vs. civil liberties -- science fiction or current reality?Until the institutional bias that exists in society is addressed, the use of technology will not help eliminate bias in police work. Freeze on overdose prevention sites engages Charter rightsIf denying access to supervised injection sites was found to be an infringement of the Charter by the Supreme Court, the same may be said of Ontario's decision to halt new overdose prevention sites.
Categories: News for progressives

Why I support a Green New Deal, though it's just the start of what's needed

Thu, 2019-02-28 03:30
Sandra Lindberg

There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right -- left -- direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

Donald Trump likes to use threats. He told Texans the Green New Deal means "they're coming for your money, and they're coming for your freedom." Fox News, too, warns the Green New Deal will "move the United States closer than ever to socialism," a system Trump equates with "corruption, exploitation and decay." Trump wants people afraid, just like teachers who use threats to motivate student compliance.

Green New Deal critics threaten because they are worried. Americans, especially those under 30, aren't afraid of the word "socialism" any longer. Too many in the U.S. have suffered, thanks to 21st-century capitalism. Green New Deal critics fear it because it can bring down CO2 emissions, convert fossil fuel use to renewable energy strategies, and focus on people of colour and low-income folks hit hardest by the economic disasters of 2008. The Green New Deal links improved socio-economic conditions for Americans with reduction of CO2 levels currently threatening us with an extra crispy future.

Trump hopes fear will keep people clinging to capitalist myths. The Green New Deal offers strategies that trade fear for actions that unite us and return to us a sense that what we do matters. But there's a hitch: the Green New Deal must remain robust and pass quickly. Jacobin Magazine writes, "Actual legislation taking the kinds of action outlined in this resolution [Green New Deal] isn't going to pass anytime soon. But that's okay -- it's not meant to, … it sets the bar high." But if the Green New Deal takes decades to implement, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's vision will not get the job done for this or any other generation. Climate scientists give us ten to a dozen years to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. Without profound change to societies around the planet, temperatures will soar, and extreme developments we cannot foresee will rip human systems apart.

What Jacobin does get right, as do many on the left, is the Green New Deal's ability to inspire people to demand radical change. The indefatigable girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, realized this a year ago: "Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money." This year Greta will be joined by striking students in 150 cities who understand that business as usual must stop. Workers are starting to demand the same.

No upticks on a computer ledger are worth more than a viable planet. Business leaders who deny climate change are out of step with a growing number of analysts in the U.S. who understand the threat of climate change and hope to protect their profits with capitalist solutions.

Ecosocialists have an important role to play with regard to the Green New Deal. Ocasio-Cortez is forcing the national conversation to look hard at climate change, current socio-economic problems, and the way that capitalism has created this mess. Her Green New Deal is waking people up. Ecosocialists can provide specifics about current problems and how an ecosocialist approach to solutions will play out. Ocasio-Cortez needs our support. We must help her go further than even she has imagined.

Sandra Lindberg is a writer/activist in Decatur IL. Her ecosocialist views grew from conversations with her Swedish father about socialism, and the troubling environmental stories people told her when she travelled the U.S. as a theatre performer and teacher. While Associate Professor of Theatre at Illinois Wesleyan University, she founded No New Nukes to block plans for a second nuclear reactor in Central Illinois -- an effort that succeeded. A local socialist reading group helped deepen her understanding of communism, socialism, and ecosocialism. These friends also introduced her to SCNCC, where she has been a contributor for several years. Her writing can be found at System Change Not Climate Change and Solidarity’s Against the Current.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Stand Up for Land Defenders action protests United We Roll convoy

Wed, 2019-02-27 22:07
February 27, 2019Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists challenge United We Roll convoyIndigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists came together in a solidarity action that challenged the alt-right and the violence of the fossil fuel economy.
Categories: News for progressives

A call to critically support the Green New Deal

Wed, 2019-02-27 21:58
Brad Hornick

There was a saying in the Green Party: "Two Greens, three opinions." Ecosocialists, perhaps, tend to be slightly more in agreement with a few basic principles, or "Points of Unity." There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right -- left -- direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. This was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up.

For many decades, scientists have warned that the window for the kind of widespread economic, political, and policy reforms required to avert ecological catastrophe is rapidly closing. Warnings from the scientific community concerning the threat of ecological collapse are universally built around the concepts of "thresholds" and "tipping points" which explicitly refer to threats to the physical preconditions that permit life in the entire biosphere.

These warnings posit a window of opportunity that if not responded to in a dramatic and urgent manner, will be surpassed. The stakes mark a divide between the remaining potential for the exercise of purposeful human action versus the extinguishment of that potential, after which an adequate collective response to ecological crisis becomes perfectly irrelevant as more extreme changes to the climate system become self-generating, locked-in, and irreversible.

So far, authoritative scientific evidence has done nothing to move the world away from a "business-as-usual" socio-economic model that is inherently destructive. "Faster-than-expected" impacts from global warming such as extreme heat and cold, drought, floods, fire, etc. have been met with promises of technological innovation and narrow policy instruments disciplined by neoliberal capitalism -- rather than more profound political engagement and proactive emergency planning.

Today's political and moral calculus could not be more clear. We can either "give in" to the ruling class that guarantees a world firmly on course for imminent, intractable and catastrophic ecological and social crisis, or we can begin to recognize our predicament, mobilize, constructively critique, support, and protect the vision for an unprecedented collective response commensurable to the threat.

The challenge is an immense one. Emergency response to a crisis means there is no longer any time for gradual, incremental or "non-disruptive" reductions in emissions. Meeting the obligations that many scientists now say are critical, getting to "net zero carbon" virtually instantaneously, requires more than an immediate shut down of the planet's fossil fuel industries.

It also implies a radical retrenchment or collapse of the dominant industries and infrastructure based upon fossil fuel production, including automobiles, aircraft, shipping, petrochemical, synthetic fabrics, construction, agribusiness, industrial agriculture, packaging, plastic production (disposables economy), and the war industries.

Such massive structural changes in our industrial base will only be productively managed if society develops the resiliency and flexibility to withstand the challenges of social transformation. Most importantly, this requires an active participation of organized labour and environmentalists to ensure all people continue to have work, food, shelter and other basic needs met.

Political organizing around the Green New Deal represents a potential breakthrough for many -- a recognition of the magnitude and urgency of the social and political changes that are required for civilizational survival. Inevitably, this call to action will require popular mobilization to compensate for the power of intransigent vested corporate and political interests.

The GND stakes new ground and proposes new battle lines for the climate justice movement to authentically challenge the priorities of capitalism over people and the planet. It will be denounced as "radical," "idealistic," and even "socialist" by those intent on ratcheting up the ideological battle. Supporters and constructive critics of the GND should prepare themselves to unapologetically lead the charge.

Brad Hornick is a writer, activist and student completing a PhD in Sociology at Simon Fraser University with interests in the political economy of ecological crisis. Brad’s writing has appeared in rabble.ca, socialistproject.ca, and ricochet.media, and several other publications in addition to Resilience. He has worked as staff at the David Suzuki Foundation and run a communications and design business with more than sixty different organizations, primarily environmental NGOs. He was the webmaster and editor for the System Change Not Climate Change ecosocialist network, a founder of Climate Convergence and the Vancouver's Global Warming Cafes.

This article was first published on Resilience.org.

Photo: Becker1999/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists challenge United We Roll convoy

Wed, 2019-02-27 21:19
EnvironmentIndigenous RightsPolitical Action

Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa and Ottawa Against Fascism organized a highly successful "Stand Up for Land Defenders!" direct action to challenge the "United We Roll" truck convoy when it arrived in Ottawa on February 19.

The convoy was pro-tar sands (expressing support for the building of pipelines), anti-Bill C-48 (the Oil Tanker Moratorium that restricts oil tankers on the north coast of British Columbia), anti-Bill C-69 (an act primarily on the approval process for pipelines), and anti-carbon tax (that would tax carbon pollution at C$20 a tonne).

The convoy also brought messages from Yellow Vests Canada (not to be confused with the more progressive gilets jaunes in France), opposing "illegal" immigration (targeting the non-binding United Nations Global Migration Pact), and the UN more generally, including its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that reflects the right to water and sanitation.

Messages of hate

A truck that arrived with the convoy had a huge sign on it that read "no" to "open borders" and "yes" to "photo ID and Canadian citizenship to vote."

As much as convoy spokespeople repeated the message that the convoy was respectful and not about hate, about workers hurting and fearful for their jobs, and focused on uniting Canadians across the country, the reality of their protest was very different.

APTN reporter Justin Brake tweeted, "Members of the convoy and supporters are expressing white nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Indigenous sentiments."

The comments repeatedly screamed by convoy participants at the protest were classist, intended to be demeaning, sexist, anti-Semitic, and insulted Indigenous peoples.

APTN posted a video clip of Crystal Semaganis, a Cree woman who lives in Ottawa, saying, "I see this kind of racial ugliness unfolding before my eyes. I see the Proud Boys screaming about Jews and Muslims and it's just… I have no words."

iPolitics added, "If anyone wanted to get to what this was really about, it's worth looking at who spoke. Presumably white nationalist Faith Goldy was speaking as an expert on the oil and gas industry?"

In 2017 Goldy recited on an alt-right podcast the white-supremacist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for our white children." She went on to say, "I don't see that as controversial… We want to survive."

Linking violence and resource extraction

Activist John Bell has commented, "We need to expose the convoy for its explicit racism, but the implicit racism of pipeline construction for Indigenous communities and of climate chaos for the global south is just as real."

The statement on "man camps" by the Secwepemcul'ecw Assembly, which opposes the Trans Mountain pipeline on Secwepemc territory, notes that the "impacts on women include higher levels of sexual assault and harassment, and family and domestic violence."

In November 2016, Amnesty International produced a major report that tied violence to resource extraction and highlighted consequences "that disproportionately impact the lives of the Indigenous peoples who live there, particularly Indigenous women and girls."

The Globe and Mail reported that the study described problems such as "women's shelters that are in a state of 'constant crisis' due to a lack of resources" and "men preying on Indigenous women because they perceive them to be an 'easy lay.'"

Climate breakdown is a key factor that drives displacement and the forced migration of people towards already militarized borders that some convoy participants want to "secure."

Counter-protest pushes back

The "Stand Up for Land Defenders!" counter-protest brought banners that read "Water is Life," "No One Is Illegal" and "Good Work, Indigenous Rights, and a Livable Climate," as well as "No Pipelines, No Fascists on Indigenous Land!"

The counter-protest of 150 to 200 people occupied the intersection of Wellington and Metcalfe Streets near Parliament Hill where the United We Roll convoy reportedly wanted to have their rally -- they had a hydraulic lift set up there for their speakers.

The counter-protest held that space for hours among the parked big rigs and half-tonne trucks with smudging, a water ceremony, drumming, singing, sign waving and shouting.

It also deplatformed Goldy who attempted to speak from the hydraulic lift.

As iPolitics reported, "She didn't get far […] before being drowned out. Always a nice touch when you tell Indigenous protesters that if they don't like this country, they can leave it. Uhm, who wants to tell Faith who was here first?"

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who has tweeted against "extreme multiculturalism" and promised "to take Canada out of the Paris accord," approached the hydraulic lift to speak, but then turned back to Parliament Hill.

The counter-protest unequivocally rejected racism and misogyny. It did not let economic anxiety be used to justify dispossession and the continuation of violations against the rights of Indigenous peoples and violence against the land and water.

It rejected the assertion that "we should unite to defeat Trudeau" given there can be no unity between those who "love Canadian oil and gas" and those who heed science and embrace a renewable energy future (not to mention the convoy's rally on Parliament Hill featured their preferred replacement for Trudeau -- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer).

The Leap Manifesto stated, "We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy." Courage calls for a Green New Deal in which "all workers in high-polluting sectors would have not only opportunities but long-term job security after the transition."

The Green New Deal's populist messages have not been widely embraced by tar sands workers and pipeline proponents (let alone the NDP), but a sustainable democratic economy that respects both people and the planet must remain an essential part of our vision.

On February 19, Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists collaboratively created a temporary space in front of Parliament Hill that challenged the alt-right and the violence of the fossil fuel economy. In doing so, it notably engaged in the real prefigurative politics of bringing grassroots movements together.

It was a good example of what we must continue to build.

For short video clips from APTN News of the protest, please click here.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

Photo still: Red Power Media/Facebook

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Climate Changepipelinescarbon taxAnti-Facismanti-hateBrent PattersonFebruary 27, 2019Some questions for the truck convoy headed to OttawaThose in the United We Roll truck convoy want pipelines now and hate a carbon tax. Here are some questions for them.Extinction Rebellion for climate justice is organizing in Canada, tooSix thousand Extinction Rebellion activists recently occupied five bridges in London and the rebellion is set to go global in March 2019.Whose truck is Andrew Scheer riding in?Andrew Scheer's tweeted observation about Louis Riel, while unique, was paradoxically not unusual.
Categories: News for progressives

Tools to dig into the underbelly of Yellow Vests Canada

Wed, 2019-02-27 15:46
Maya Bhullar

In December 2018, as "Yellow Vests Canada" organized their first spate of protests, rabble.ca's Brent Patterson wrote a great analysis of the Yellow Vests Canada movement, focusing on how it differs from its French counterpart. The Canadian yellow vests continue to use right-wing media and are gaining support of Conservative Party politicians despite the hate and bigotry that they spread.

With elections coming up, Karl Nerenberg nailed it when he asked "Will 2019 be the year of white backlash in Canada?" We know the danger that organizing using hate poses. It quickly gets out of control and people can get hurt. We need to organize against it. Here are some groups, both new coalitions and old hats, who are currently active in the fight against racism.

Anti-Racist Canada (The ARC Collective) has been around since 2007 as a group of diverse but like-minded individuals. The members of ARC have come together in their common desire to fight hatred, bigotry, intolerance and violence because of the harm these anti-social behaviours cause to our society. Currently their website has great posts digging into who is behind the yellow vest movement and exposing the internal stories and rifts. Yellow Vests Canada Exposed is another great resource which digs into the underbelly of the yellow vest movement.

In 2017, organizers who have been standing up against hate came together to form SAFE, Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere. They are a great resource to find out about actions against the yellow vest organizing. Also rely on your local antifa organizations. 

And finally you are integral. All the bombast on social media makes so many of us shy away from issues which seem controversial. You need to stand for the planet and for progressive ideals. Get out and make it clear that you think the Global Compact on Migration and carbon tax don't go far enough and should be stronger to make a real impact. Make it clear that you stand against the yellow vest fury and let's win against hate. 

Maya Bhullar is rabble's Activist Toolkit Coordinator. The Activist Toolkit Blog is the place to catch up on what's new with the Toolkit. With roundups of newly added tools, highlights of featured tools and extra multimedia content, you'll get up to date info on grassroots organizing.

Photo: sylvar/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Campaign manager for former UCP leadership hopeful is fined, fired, vows fight

Wed, 2019-02-27 14:36
David J. Climenhaga

The manager of Jeff Callaway's 2017 campaign to lead the United Conservative Party was slapped with $15,000 in fines yesterday by Alberta's Election Commissioner for "obstruction of an investigation."

Talk about fear and loathing on the campaign trail! This strange yarn has more twists than a fairground pretzel!

From the UCP's perspective, the party would probably be just as happy if this confusing tale hadn't broken just now, right before an election campaign in which it hopes to defeat the NDP government led by Premier Rachel Notley.

The campaign managed by Cameron Davies in 2017 has been widely characterized as a put-up job by UCP Leader Jason Kenney's campaign to knock off his rival Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party. It was described as a "Kamikaze mission" in an audio recording of a UCP organizer discussing Callaway's campaign that was leaked to media last December.

The idea was supposedly that Callaway would say the nasty stuff about Jean while Kenney kept a smile on his face and clean hands.

The Office of the Election Commissioner is known to have been investigating allegations the Callaway campaign was illegally funded.

Davies had his lawyer tell news media yesterday that he doesn't know what investigation he's supposed to have interfered in. He "specifically denies the allegations brought against him and will vigorously defend this matter going forward," said the emailed statement by Dale Fedorchuk.

Davies will be appealing the administrative penalties to the Court of Queen's Bench, the lawyer also said. "It is important that the public not make any conclusions or draw any inferences from the commissioner's decision until this matter has been heard by the court."

No sooner were the hefty fines announced than Davies was cashiered by the UCP -- for which he's apparently been working since mid-November drafting policy briefing notes. Thrown under the bus, some would say.

A statement from the party yesterday said Davies was terminated when the UCP learned from the Election Commissioner of the fines. The party statement implied that Davies had failed to inform the UCP of the investigation of his activities.

The UCP statement added piously that Davies had been asked about the investigation "proactively" because "we felt that it was important for individuals employed by or contracted to the Caucus to uphold the highest legal and ethical standards."

Showing signs of having been drafted in a hurry, the UCP statement also said that "at no time has the Elections Commissioner contacted the UCP, the UCP Caucus, the Leader's Office, nor the Leader's previous Leadership Campaign."

As for Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, he said the legislation governing the activities of his office doesn't permit him to say much. "There are some pretty strict confidentially requirements, non-disclosure requirements in the (legislation) that I have to respect," he told the Edmonton Journal.

Back in 2017 when Callaway dropped out of the leadership race, despite denials from some of the principals, everyone seemed to accept the Kamikaze Campaign explanation as pretty much a given -- even though the term was not yet in use.

In an October 4, 2017, story by Global News, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt explained Callaway's role as that of a "stalking horse" for Kenney. "Originally, Derek Fildebrandt was supposed to be the attack dog for Kenney vs. Brian Jean," Bratt confidently said.

But when Fildebrandt was sent packing by Kenney for various political sins with an explanation similar to the one given for Davies' departure yesterday, Bratt continued, Callaway appeared to have been recruited at the last moment as Fildebrandt's understudy.

The Global story also recounts a bizarre message sent to supporters by Callaway shortly before he dropped out of the race, accusing another party official of bullying and intimidating him, as well as conflicting comments by Callaway and Kenney about the reasons for his decision to quit. You can read the full message here.

Callaway said he decided not to continue when he realized he and Kenney had the same message. Kenney said Callaway told him "he has to make another major deposit to continue as a candidate, and financially, the support wasn't adequate."

"No," said Callaway, "I had the money."

Both Callaway and Kenney and his party officials deny the Kamikaze Campaign allegations.

Meanwhile, Jean appears to be plotting some sort of a comeback.

Whatever can it all mean?

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: United Conservative Party

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Categories: News for progressives

Capitalism, revisited: Gillette and Canada Goose find new markets in social justice

Wed, 2019-02-27 06:01
Raluca Bejan

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society." (Marx and Engels, 1848).

When Pepsi released an advertising campaign in 2017 featuring Kendall Jenner as she offered a pick-me-up soda to a riot police officer, the loosely defined social justice online community was appalled by the commercial. Pepsi was ridiculed for co-opting protest imagery, for tapping into social justice currency, and overall, for finding a new market to profitably dispose of its products. The company was publicly forced to pull its ad.

Fast forward two years later and a similar commodifying logic is publicly commended. In January 2019, the razor company Gillette successfully capitalized on the MeToo movement to launch an advertising campaign intended to symbolically tackle the idea of toxic masculinity. Yet, instead of eliciting public anger -- after all, the profitable American company, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble is amongst the 32 most valuable global brands due to an annual revenue of $6.6. billion and a trademark value of $17.2 billion -- Gillette has been widely praised for dipping its corporate tentacles into a new market.

To put it differently, it is no longer enough that Gillette sells its shavers to over 750 million men on this planet. Gillette discovered a new way to market its products not only to those simply in need of a razor but to those willing to purchase a Gillette shaver because the company embarked on the courageous campaign of addressing the taboo subject of toxic masculinity. Gillette has become, de facto, a socially responsible, justice-orientated brand. Yet overtly praising a multimillion-dollar company's ability to take advantage of social justice rhetoric shows capitalism's chameleonic skill of successfully incorporating heterodox societal thinking into its functioning. This is exactly what Marx and Engels wrote about, more than 100 years ago, when they discussed capitalism's natural capability to revolutionize its socio-political instruments of production. Thinking that corporate brands need to step up to the plate on issues of public accountability misplaces social responsibility from the state and its citizens to the corporate realm. If a corporate brand practices social responsibility, we, as consumers, keep buying that brand.

A few days after Gillette's advertising campaign, Canada Goose pitched a similar story to the market. Its Atigi project, which incorporates traditional Inuit designs to craft a limited edition of winter parkas, shows us that Indigeneity, like toxic masculinity, sells. Canada Goose is capitalizing on Indigeneity not only through selling its overpriced jackets (i.e., the Atigi parkas are to be sold between $5,000 and $7,500) but also through deriving a symbolic, marketable benefit from the principled choice of incorporating Indigenous design. Let alone that selling Canada Goose parkas will change nothing in the material conditions that continue to oppress Indigenous communities in Canada. Profits from the Atigi project are set to go to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a rights-based, Inuit advocacy organization. Yet, the market exposure for Canada Goose and the substantial tax expenditure that will be cashed in by the company through this benevolent community effort, is, by far, priceless.

Corporations have always found ways to capitalize on the political climate. One can easily think of the United Colors of Benetton's campaign in 1990s, which broadcast a clothing advertisement showing a blood-soaked Croatian military uniform on the Zagreb-Ljubljana highway. In the '90s, a company tapping into such political discourse would expect to be dragged to court for its advertising stratagem, as it was the case with Benetton after all. Nowadays, a company gets commended for its ingenuity in developing these very same campaigns. What a sad state of affairs -- to publicly applaud the corporate industry for finding new markets.

Raluca Bejan is an Assistant Professor at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, where she teaches courses in social policy and social movements. She has a PhD and a MSW from University of Toronto, and a BA in Political Sciences from the Lucian Blaga University, Faculty of Law, Sibiu, Romania. Raluca was a former Visiting Academic at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford, U.K., in 2016 and 2018.

Photo: Terry Donaghe/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

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