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Analysis: Toronto election campaign highlights flaws in system

Thu, 2018-10-11 22:11
Phillip Dwight Morgan

Yesterday marked the first day of early voting in Toronto and, once again, Torontonians are being forced to consider the viability of strategic voting. Our flawed electoral system leads progressives to face this decision regularly at all levels of government. Vote for your preferred candidate and risk splitting the vote. However, if you shift your vote and lose, you’ve now removed your support and the symbolic value it carries from a progressive candidate whose ideas could help the city move forward. It’s a difficult calculation.

In a recent Toronto Star op-ed under the headline “Toronto deserves better than timid, lukewarm Tory,” Royson James observes that strategic voting brought Toronto Mayor John Tory to power four years ago: “Many voters abandoned their preferred candidate in Olivia Chow because of the credible fear that votes split between Chow and Tory would dilute the opposition to madcap Ford.”

The result, as James writes, has been “mediocrity, at best.”

Four years later, many Torontonians find themselves in a similar position, debating whether to vote, not for whom they want to see in power, but against the person they do not want to see in power. This is a terrible predicament that should have been resolved long ago as it limits the possibility for change in the city.

In response, several advocacy groups in Toronto have created pledges with the hopes of creating a benchmark against which candidates can be measured. The TO Housing Pledge, for example, calls for prospective mayoral and city council candidates to “take five practical steps towards making Toronto a fairer and more equitable city for all.” These five steps included ending homeless deaths in Toronto (of which there have been 201 since 2014), ensuring more inclusive residential development creating financial stability for Toronto Community Housing, making affordable housing truly affordable, ensuring new developments are more inclusive and affordable, and using the city’s resources to build more affordable housing.

Similarly, TTCriders, a transit advocacy group in Toronto, has created a Respect for Riders list of demands that calls for fair TTC funding, lower TTC fares, better TTC service, keeping transit public, and the creation of a publicly-owned rapid transit network.

Each of these pledges speak to rampant socioeconomic inequality in Toronto. They represent an effort, in light of the limitations of the electoral system, to ensure commitments from politicians on key issues like housing and transit. It is an unfortunate reality that progressive candidates directly and meaningfully engaging with issues of inequality and oppression rarely receive coverage. They are trapped between the competing problems of low voter turnout and meager media coverage.

In 2014, researchers Myer Siemiatycki and Sean Marshall found that voter turnout in Toronto municipal elections is low across all areas and communities. Voter turnout over the last three municipal elections averaged 42.7 per cent compared with 61.6 per cent federally. Siemiatycki and Marshall found that an area’s proportion of immigrants has a strong inverse correlation to voter turnout and an area’s proportion of visible minorities has a medium inverse correlation to turnout.

They also observed that competitive election races for positions of mayor or councillor increase voter turnout. In their recommendations for improving voter turnout, Siemiatycki and Marshall proposed initiatives by municipalities, candidates, community organizations and individuals.

For municipalities, for example, they recommend a greater public education campaign, small tax rebates for voting, and multilingual voting. Initiatives by candidates include community-based canvassing, using multilingual campaign messaging and materials, and reaching out to local media.

While some of these initiatives have been undertaken, Bill 5, which aims to cut Toronto city council to 25 seats from, and the chaos that it created have undermined some of the many efforts in place to increase voter turnout. Further, despite their best efforts, many of the lesser-known candidates have had difficulty breaking into the media. The result is an election that has been fraught and discouraging, and inches closer toward the questions of who this city does not want to see elected.

The Final Stretch

Earlier this week, at the Globe and Mail-Board of Trade debate, the moderator questioned Tory about his ongoing refusal to debate Jennifer Keesmaat head-to-head. His response was disrupted by a demonstrator who stood up and yelled “This is a rigged election!” before championing for Faith Goldy, a known white supremacist running for mayor of Toronto, to be included in the debate.

As the candidates stood quietly on stage and the audience jeered, security escorted the demonstrator out of the venue. After she had been removed, Tory returned to his response, stating he favours including a wide range of candidates in debate.

“My only rule is that I will not debate a known white supremacist, of which there are two running in this election” said Tory.

Tory also noted that he was initially polling at two or three per cent in Toronto’s 2003 election and, by today’s measure, he would not have been included in the debate — something he considered clearly “unfair.”

As the moderator prepared to move on to the next question, candidate Saron Gebresellassi interjected:

“The people of the City of Toronto are done with a John-Jennifer race. This city is one of the most diverse in the country and the world, and the press need to know, frankly, this is not a two-way race. The city is tired of it.

 “Two status-quo politicians cannot relate to the everyday struggles of working-class people in the City of Toronto and, for that reason, people need to hear all of their options and understand that there are better options than what’s being presented in the media.”

Gebresellassi’s words were the closing remarks on a moment that perfectly encapsulates this election: even as Tory stands on stage with three highly skilled and qualified candidates, he is asked to address only one.

As disruptions caused by supporters of a white supremacist, lead Tory to respond by disavowing himself from such individuals, the staggering inequality in Toronto and the exclusion of candidates of colour from key platforms is lost in the distractions. It is against this backdrop that the simple act of refusing to debate a white supremacist now seems progressive.

Phillip Dwight Morgan is a Toronto-based journalist and writer. He is the inaugural rabble.ca Jack Layton Journalism Fellow.

This is article is part of rabble's series on the 2018 Toronto electionFollow the series here.

Photo source: City of Toronto Flickr

Categories: News for progressives

Is there life after NAFTA?

Thu, 2018-10-11 03:01
Mel Watkins

Like all sensible folk, I was opposed to the original NAFTA deal at the outset, convinced that it did more for corporations than for the rest of us. I'm still of that view.

Is it possible that the biggest change in the new deal is in the name itself, USMCA, so that Trump can boast that he delivered on his promise to get rid of NAFTA? A number of commentators on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border have written -- in the words of John Ibbitson in The Globe and Mail -- that the USMCA is "essentially the old NAFTA tilted more in America's favour." Is that all there is?

Firstly, it's quite a tilt -- like the U.S. keeping a special tariff on aluminum and steel from Canada, on the grounds, believe it or not, of national security. Talk about absurdly fake facts.

Let's go back to the beginning in the late 1980s. The U.S. and Canada had just signed the Free Trade Agreement, or FTA, when, with the ink hardly dry, the U.S. insisted on adding Mexico. We thought we'd made a one-on-one deal, a special arrangement that got us inside what our government thought, wrongly as it turned out, was a rising tide of American protectionism -- which has now happened a quarter of a century later and we waited almost a year to join this new round of negotiations. This initial lack of enthusiasm has not stopped us from peddling the praises of NAFTA and fighting hard to keep it.

If we didn't know it before, we now do: trade agreements go way beyond trade in their breadth of corporate rights, making it hard to judge which side of ordinary people gets the net advantage. And we're also learning, at least in the case of Brexit, that abrogation, untangling it all, is hard, to say the least.

Should Canada at some point -- and not simply as a negotiating position -- have left the table, never to return? To come down to earth, recall that Trump said that without an agreement, he would impose a 25-per-cent tariff on cars made in Canada entering the U.S. The consequences would have been simply devastating for southern Ontario, for Canada's industrial base. Significantly, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, thinks the deal is good enough. It will push up car prices, but that will lessen carbon emissions.

Ibbitson goes on to write that the message from all this is "the mother of all wake-up calls for Canada to diversify." We've got too many eggs in the American basket and have to diversity our trade beyond the American market. That may strike you as a no-brainer. But what is being said is that, one trade agreement having failed us, we should sign on to more. Which is what we are already doing.

Methinks that is the wrong lesson. The whole vast apparatus that passes under the name of globalization has gone too far. We need less reliance on trade, not more. We need to strengthen our domestic economy so it plays a bigger role in generating jobs and incomes.

Lest that sounds like whistling in the dark, it isn't. Most economists admit that globalization has increased inequality within economies. In this regard, less globalization is of itself a good thing. What is likewise in order is active policies, like real rather than fake American-style tax reform, to increase equality within Canada and thereby the demand for goods and services.

One more point. Too much trade means too many goods being transported too far, which means too much carbon emitted, which means too much climate change that threatens to get us all. I'm too old to do the arithmetic, but diversifying Canadian trade reliance away from the U.S. next door could be a mistake.

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

Photo: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

New UN climate report warns of climate catastrophe, but many politicians stick to who-cares-about-climate message

Thu, 2018-10-11 00:32
October 10, 2018New UN report warns of climate catastrophe while Ford, Kenney spout rhetoricAs some politicians continue to hammer at their who-cares-about-climate-change message while making headlines, the complex news of failing to curb carbon emissions receives a lot less coverage.
Categories: News for progressives

New UN report warns of climate catastrophe while Ford, Kenney spout rhetoric

Wed, 2018-10-10 23:27
Karl Nerenberg

While some Canadian politicians are continuing to hammer home their message that attempting to impose measures to slow climate change – like taxing polluters – only costs harried consumers, the United Nations' latest report on global warming highlights that the cost of inaction now will be huge later – for everyone.

But the politicians' simple who-cares-about-climate-change message gets much more coverage than the more complex news that is included in the latest UN report issued earlier this week.

For example, Ontario Premier Doug Ford took his message about climate out west last week when he joined Alberta opposition leader Jason Kenney. And it was widely reported.

Kenney described efforts to put a price on carbon as “economic masochism.” He, and his less articulate ally from Ontario, got big applause for that sort of emotionally charged, but fact-free, rhetoric at a rally in Calgary.

Environmental scientists have a much more difficult and complex message. It is not met with applause, and receives much less media attention.

Scientists cannot appeal to short-term and narrow self-interest; they must convince us to consider future threats, sometimes decades away, based on complex data from many sources and equally complex models and projections.  

The most recent scientific report on global warming – the report issued Oct. 8 by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is a case in point. Its warnings are unambiguous and grave, but its language is nuanced and qualified.

The fact that only a few media outlets, including the CBC and the New York Times, covered the report’s dire warnings extensively is perhaps a reflection of the complexity. 

The Globe and Mail did not publish on Monday, Thanksgiving Day in Canada. On Tuesday, it devoted a scant six paragraphs to the report, buried in a Politics Briefing newsletter. Similarly, the National Post had one small story on Tuesday, focusing exclusively on the report’s warnings about climate change’s harm to agriculture. It was tucked away on an inside page of the business section.

Harm to prosperity, food security and water

The UN gave the panel, which consists of 91 scientists from 40 countries including Canada, the task of comparing the impact on the planet of an increase in temperature of 1.5°C as opposed to 2°C. The Paris Agreement of 2015 set an agreed-to target of “below 2°C” for global temperature increase this century, and an aspirational target of no more than 1.5°C. The report concludes that it would be well worth it to pursue the lower target. Indeed, it says, the planet and hundreds of millions of people will suffer grave harm if we do not.

The report details the vast scope of destruction that will be wrought by global warming. It will have a deadly impact on everything from our economic prosperity to the availability of food and water. In the words of the report:

 “Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C, and increase further with 2°C.”

The UN scientists then go on to tell us who will suffer the most severe effects as a result of a planet that grows warmer because of human activity:

“Populations at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of global warming of 1.5°C and beyond include disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, some indigenous peoples, and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods. Regions at disproportionately higher risk include Arctic ecosystems, dryland regions, small-island developing states, and least developed countries. Poverty and disadvantages are expected to increase in some populations as global warming increases.”

There is no drama in that plain, scientific language. But there will be horror and drama for most of humanity and thousands of threatened animal and plant species if stronger and effective collective action is not taken to radically reduce the rate of global warming.

The scientists are not all doom and gloom, mind you.

They do point out that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050.…”

Emphasis should be brought to the number cited: "several hundred million."

Canada is a signatory to the Paris accord, but the country is not on track to reach the targeted emission reductions. Federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand made that fact crystal clear in her report of a year ago. 

Canada is almost certain, Gelfand said, to miss its short-term 2020 target of 620 megatonnes of total emissions. At the rate the country is going, she concluded, we will be emitting 731 megatonnes by 2020, more than 100 megatonnes above target.

For the medium-term 2030 target, the jury’s still out. To achieve that target, Canada will have to significantly pick up its emissions-reduction game, Gelfand said last year. A year on, the changed political climate has made that task a lot harder.

To start with: Stop subsidizing oil and gas

Dale Marshall, of the Canadian organization Environmental Defence, is one of many who point to what is most unfair about global warming. Speaking at a recent conference on climate change organized by the Group of 78, a Canadian foreign policy institute, Marshall said: “The sad irony of climate change is that those impacted first and worst are those least responsible for the problem …”

To help mitigate climate change impacts on the developing world, Marshall says industrialized countries “must mobilize $100 billion per year to address impacts, undertake low-carbon development, and mitigate loss and damage.”

Canada’s share of that effort would be $4 billion, which, as it happens, is what the Trudeau government spent to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Texas-based Kinder Morgan.

Marshall has other suggestions for the Canadian government. For one, it should stop subsidizing the oil and gas industry. As a Bloomberg News editorial put it: “Oil and gas subsidies are the world’s dumbest policy.”

“Federally,” Marshall said, “the largest subsidies are tax exemptions for oil and gas exploration and development.”

Canada could also ban new exploration and expansion of pipeline and offshore drilling and, Marshall proposes, the country should “develop a framework and public dialogue on fossil fuel phase-out and just transition.”

None of these major steps is on the Trudeau government’s radar. Nor is it on any provincial government’s radar. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now has to face the growing power and influence of Canada’s boisterous and belligerent climate-change-who-cares coalition. That gang includes at least four provincial governments and the official opposition in Ottawa.

One of the who-cares gang’s biggest arguments is that Canada produces less than two per cent of the world’s emissions, so nothing we do will make much of a difference.

But despite our relatively small population – 37 million compared with more than 300 million Americans and more than 1 billion Chinese – Canada ranks ninth on the list of countries when total emissions produced are measured, well ahead of France, Italy and Great Britain, each of which has close to double Canada's population.

And the story of Canada’s emissions per person is even more damning. Only three countries – Saudi Arabia, the United States and Australia – produce more emissions per capita than we do. Canada produces 15.32 metric tonnes of emissions per person per year. Britain, France and Italy produce far less than half of that. In fact, France, at 4.37 metric tonnes per person, produces less than a third of Canada’s per-capita emissions. When you consider those numbers, the only justification for Canada to do nothing to reduce its outsized emissions would be to deny climate science altogether.

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

Photo source: UN Climate Change Flickr


Categories: News for progressives

Holding corporations to account for climate change fatalities

Wed, 2018-10-10 18:26
Brent Patterson

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, Friedrich Engels used the term "social murder" to describe the deaths of people who passed away prematurely because of their living and working conditions.

Now, as the planet warms dangerously above pre-Industrial Revolution levels, social murder may be an appropriate term to describe the deaths of those who die prematurely due to climate change.

A DARA International study has calculated that 400,000 deaths worldwide each year can be linked to climate change.

While some may see climate change as something that happens in the future, this number tells us it's something that's already here -- and that it's deadly.

This brings to mind the Utah Phillips' quote: "The Earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses."

So who is killing the Earth and so many people along with it?

The Carbon Majors Report published by environmental non-profit CDP found that 100 companies have been the source of more than 70 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. More than half of global industrial emissions are produced by just 25 corporate and state-owned entities, according to the report.

The Guardian published the list of top 100 producers and their cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1988-2015.

Topping the list is China, with coal, at 14.32 per cent. ExxonMobil Corp is also there at 1.98 per cent, as is BP PLC at 1.53 per cent, Suncor Energy Inc  at 0.22 per cent, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd at 0.17 per cent, and Teck Resources Ltd with 0.09 per cent.

If one equates the 400,000 climate change fatalities each year to the 100th entity on that list, Southwestern Energy Co at 0.04 per cent, that's 160 people whose social murder could be arguably attributed to those emissions.

Campaigns are already calling on the world's largest oil companies to pay their share of billions of dollars in climate change-related costs.

"It estimated that cumulative costs from 2010 to 2080 could range from $25 billion under a low-climate change and slow-growth scenario to $176 billion under a high-climate change, rapid-growth scenario," the Vancouver Sun reports.

This leaves the question: if corporations can be held financially responsible for climate change-related costs, shouldn't we also be able to hold them criminally responsible for social murder?

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Alisdare Hickson/ Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

United Conservative Party tries to change channel on 'Soldiers of Odin' embarrassment

Wed, 2018-10-10 13:17
David J. Climenhaga

After a difficult weekend doing damage control about how members of an anti-immigration group with white supremacist links were welcomed to a United Conservative Party beer-and-selfies night last Friday by an Edmonton constituency association, expect the right-wing Opposition party to dip into its strategic playbook to try to change the channel.

UCP Channel-Changing Strategy No. 1, of course, is: Attack Tzeporah Berman.

Strategy No. 2: Defame unions.

Strategy No. 3: Disparage teachers.

Expect the UCP to do all three.

After all, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), union for the province's 43,000 public, Catholic and francophone schoolteachers and administrators, has invited the prominent B.C. environmentalist known for her opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline to a meeting near Edmonton on Saturday. So we can count on the UCP to be even more vocal than usual in its denunciations of Berman, teachers, and by association with both, the NDP.

Expect the full-meal deal -- red meat, not vegan or even gluten free -- as UCP Leader Jason Kenney tries desperately to get Albertans to forget about how all three of his party's candidates in the Edmonton-Henday West Riding invited members of the Soldiers of Odin vigilante group to their Friday night festivities and hung around for selfies with them.

And, yes, the "Soldiers" were invited, Kenney's tweeted denials notwithstanding.

It may have been a mistake, a misunderstanding or a miscommunication, but now that the smoke is starting to clear, it's been proved beyond a reasonable doubt the group's members received invitations from the UCP event's organizers, and that they responded with an RSVP.

So there is really no excuse for Kenney and the three nomination candidates -- Nicole Williams, Lance Coulter and Leila Houle -- to claim the Soldiers of Odin members "crashed" the party, although presumably it's still possible event organizers didn't know who or what the Soldiers of Odin were when they accepted their RSVP and posed with them.

If so, however, that's hardly reassuring. First of all, the Soldiers of Odin showed up in biker-style regalia. You'd think that would have been a hint, since lots has been written and reported about the group. All three candidates posed for selfies with them anyway. Apparently no one even asked what S.O.O. stood for!

As Jim Storrie of Progress Alberta, the group that spotted the photos online and broke the story over the weekend, observed yesterday: It's "pretty hard to believe that not a single person in that group noticed who these folks were -- it's literally written on their hats and jackets."

Storrie continued: "The statement's assertion that Soldiers of Odin were unwelcome and surprised the candidates by showing up -- that's a plain lie, and we've got the receipts." He is referring to a screenshot of the RSVP by Soldiers of Odin members on the constituency association's Facebook page.

Indeed, Tyson Hunt, the president of the vigilante group's Alberta Chapter told the CBC that members advised the UCP a week in advance they'd be at the pub night. "So they knew we were there," he said. "We weren't hiding. We never snuck in."

Said Storrie: "Soldiers of Odin didn't crash this event -- they RSVP'd to it. And not in some stealthy way, either. These men literally have Soldiers of Odin written on their profile pictures." He noted that within two hours of Progress Alberta's revelation, the UCP had deleted the evidence.

In fairness, Kenney did denounce the Soldiers of Odin after the brouhaha began. But that still doesn't answer the question why such characters are attracted to the UCP, and seemingly only to the UCP, among Alberta's major political parties.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley advised the UCP during a news conference yesterday to do something about the unsavoury people who keep showing up at its events. She observed: "If you use dog-whistle politics often enough, eventually, soon enough, people are going to respond to the whistle."

It would be easier to excuse the UCP, Notley observed, if the same sorts of things hadn't already happened eight times.

This made Kenney so angry he accused the premier of "gutter politics."

Funnily enough, though, even Kenney's greatest friends seem to have come to much the same conclusion. Lorne Gunter, one of Postmedia's most enthusiastic UCP cheerleaders, said almost the same thing as the premier, advising his favourite political party that the time had come "to clean up its act."

Well, good luck with that.

There seems to be a sort of hierarchy in the minds of the UCP's leaders about the controversial far-right groups that make up a significant part of their party's base.

Soldiers of Odin are no longer welcome, which represents progress.

Neither are nomination candidates who make anti-Muslim comments, which is also a positive sign.

Funding a Nazi meme website is frowned upon, but apparently still permitted by candidates, though.

Ditto homophobic slurs by candidates.

Climate change denial is standard operating procedure, tolerated without comment, perhaps even encouraged.

Campaigning for Donald Trump is rewarded.

And attacking Tzeporah Berman and the ATA, of course, are standard UCP operating procedure.

This is especially so when the UCP finds itself in a tight corner, as it does right now.

So expect lots of little videos very soon from Kenney about Berman, who once served as the co-chair of the NDP government's Oil Sands Advisory Group at the request of senior oil industry officials.

Berman will address the ATA social studies teachers' group on Saturday morning. She will be rebutted after 45 minutes by Premier Notley, which won't stop the UCP, of course, from pretending that the two are in league. Oil industry executive Chris Slubicki will also be there to back up the premier.

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: michael_swan/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

After U.S. shuts down Canadian trade talks with China, it now aims to do the same with EU, Japan

Tue, 2018-10-09 21:57
October 9, 2018EconomyUS PoliticsAfter U.S. shuts down Canadian trade talks with China, it now aims to do the same with EU, JapanIn ongoing talks with Japan and the EU, the U.S. plans to use the concession it got from Canada and Mexico in the USMCA to advance the American goal of punishing China for its trade practices.
Categories: News for progressives

U.S. shuts down Canadian trade talks with China, sets sights on EU and Japan

Tue, 2018-10-09 02:13
EconomyUS PoliticsWorld

After the United States signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) with Canada and Mexico, senior Trump administration officials fanned out to sell the deal as part of a new American geopolitical strategy.

In ongoing talks with Japan and the European Union (EU), the U.S. plans to use the precedent created by a concession granted in the USMCA to advance the American goal of isolating and punishing China for its trade practices.

Having extracted from Canada and Mexico -- in Article 32:10 of USMCA -- a promise that they would not sit down to negotiate a trade agreement with a non-market country -- like China -- without getting approval from the U.S., the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer plans to get Japan and the EU to accept the same constraint.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa reacted vigorously to the non-market clause, calling it "dishonest behaviour" and objecting to the exercise of U.S. dominance.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross described the non-market clause as a poison pill to ensure that neither Canada nor Mexico tries to negotiate with China. Indeed the USMCA clause allows the U.S. to terminate the trilateral deal should either of its partners try and do a deal with China.

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro is the author of a book with the not-so-subtle title of Death by China, a dubious narrative that plays to U.S. paranoia about China, and advances the Trump agenda of Making America Great Again.

Lighthizer has been waging an anti-China campaign for years. His past aggressive testimony before the U.S. Congress attracted the attention of the America First Trump team.

His demonstrated willingness to use U.S. power against trade competitors goes back to the Reagan era when Lighthizer as trade negotiator forced Japan to adopt "voluntary" export quotas for autos, a preview of similar auto quotas in the USMCA. 

To get what the U.S. trade representative wanted from Canada, the big stick was the threat of 25 per cent tariffs on Canadian auto exports. Though Canada has condemned these Section 232 National Security tariffs as illegal, U.S. negotiators calculated that Team Trudeau was not going to risk imperilling Canada's major manufacturing sector to fight them.

A USMCA side letter on autos provides Canada with an export quota -- comfortably above current auto export levels -- in the event the U.S. brings in Section 232 tariffs against foreign auto imports. In effect, Canada tacitly recognized the legitimacy of the National Security tariffs, while suing to have the same Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium withdrawn.

As they negotiate with the U.S., Japan and the EU are facing U.S. threats to invoke Section 232 and apply 25 per cent auto tariffs on exports.

In return for foregoing the auto tariffs, Japan and the EU are supposed to join the anti-China coalition the Trump administration expect to put together.

Membership requires that those who want bilateral trade deals with the U.S. make a choice: you can deal with the U.S. or you can have a deal with China, but not both.

As an incentive to bring the EU, Japan and other potential anti-China coalition partners to the table, the U.S. has a strategy of weakening the World Trade Organization (WTO) and leaving countries without recourse against American protectionist attacks.

By refusing to approve the nominations of new judges for WTO dispute panels, the U.S. has member states concerned that the WTO will simply fail to function as a court of trade law as early as late next year, when the current roster of judges will be too depleted to operate.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom sees the Fortress North America approach championed by Washington as seconded by Canada's acceptance of the legitimacy of Section 232 National Security Tariffs in the USMCA.

By establishing bilateral deals as the new alternative to the universal multilateral WTO, formally an American-sponsored institution, the U.S. is proposing to reset commercial relationships in the world economy.

In effect the U.S. is taking its successful "hub and spoke" trade negotiating strategy used to first bully Mexico then Canada into signing a fault-filled agreement, and applying it to talks with Japan and the EU.

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

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

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NAFTAUSMCAtrade dealsTrudeau governmentDonald TrumpChinaDuncan CameronOctober 9, 2018Canada capitulates to Trump on trade with renegotiated NAFTAPierre Trudeau called the original trade deal with the U.S. "a monstrous swindle." The new deal is that, plus a set of unnecessary capitulations to shut up Donald Trump on trade. It won't.NAFTA 2.0 is no cause for celebrationTrudeau says it's "a good day for Canada," but is that really the case? While the full text of the USMCA needs to be thoroughly analyzed, a preliminary review raises numerous concerns.A renegotiated NAFTA that satisfies Trump would benefit the U.S., but never CanadaInstead of being troubled by Donald Trump's threat to withdraw from NAFTA, Chrystia Freeland should be preparing to withdraw Canada.
Categories: News for progressives

Trudeau's Big Oil-friendly decisions mean climate chaos

Mon, 2018-10-08 23:40
Brent Patterson

A United Nations report released on Monday states that the world will warm 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030 unless dramatic action is taken.

The report calls for "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented change in all aspects of society" to avoid the planet warming to this degree.

Failing to do so would mean a further increase in sea levels, more extreme weather events, water shortages, food scarcity, and increased numbers of climate refugees.

Several years ago, a DARA International report projected that 600,000 people would die worldwide each year by 2030 due to climate change.

Having seen the UN panel report before it was released, Canada's environment minister Catherine McKenna told the Canadian Press, "We acknowledge this and we all know we need to do more."

Those words ring hollow when we look at the Trudeau government's climate record.

Since coming to power in October 2015, it has approved the Woodfibre LNG terminal and the TransCanada NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. fracked gas pipeline.

It is now also welcoming the Royal Dutch Shell investment decision to proceed with the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat and its associated fracked gas pipeline.

And while Petronas decided against proceeding with the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal, the Trudeau government had approved that project too.

Furthermore, it has approved the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline (going a step farther by actually buying the latter pipeline to ensure that it is built).

It also did not rule out proceeding with the TransCanada Energy East pipeline, has publicly supported U.S. President Donald Trump's approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, and is actively considering the Teck Resources Frontier tar sands mine.

And it approved BP drilling for oil and gas offshore of Nova Scotia, would allow oil and gas exploration in the Laurentian Channel of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and is spending billions to assert Canadian sovereignty over Arctic Ocean territorial waters (and the billions of barrels of oil that lie under its seabed).

The Trudeau government has not phased out fossil fuel subsidies as it had promised during the last election, and its $20-a-tonne carbon tax, scheduled to start in January 2019, is woefully short of the $180 to 200 per tonne that experts say is needed to meet Canada's climate agreement pledge in Paris.

In March 2017, Environment Canada acknowledged Canada's annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 are expected to be between 697 and 790 megatonnes.

That's significantly above Canada's pledge in the Paris climate agreement to reduce annual carbon emissions to 517 megatonnes a year by 2030.

Despite this, McKenna told the Canadian Press in March of this year, "We're absolutely committed to meeting our target."

That is simply no longer a credible statement.

Environmental writer and activist George Monbiot recently told Novara Media, "The political system is completely out of phase with the environmental crisis... [Governments] don't actually want to deal with climate breakdown ... because it messes up their nice cozy relationships with corporations [and questions] all the premises on which all our politics and economics has been created."

That's useful context when science says 85 per cent of the tar sands cannot be burned in order to limit warming to two degrees Celsius while Trudeau assures Big Oil, "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there."

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Environment and Climate Change Canada/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

UCP candidates' reaction to storm over photos with 'Soldiers of Odin': We had no idea!

Mon, 2018-10-08 12:03
David J. Climenhaga

They crashed the party, did they?

But I wonder why they picked a United Conservative Party affair to crash?

I speak, of course, of the "Soldiers of Odin," the unsavoury anti-immigrant group founded by a Finnish white supremacist whose Edmonton chapter's members dress like bikers and have been making a nuisance of themselves by posing as the Edmonton Police Service's little helpers.

On Friday, several members of the group showed up in full regalia at a pub night for UCP nomination candidates in the Edmonton-West Henday Riding and were welcomed with big smiles all round.

Before long, photos of the "Soldiers" with beaming UCP candidates Nicole Williams, Lance Coulter and Leila Houle were all over the internet.

They appeared first on the Edmonton group's own Facebook page. Soon thereafter screenshots were posted on social media by Progress Alberta, progressive activists who among other things have been tracking the activities of the Soldiers of Odin in Edmonton.

All the candidates were smiling in the pictures from the Edmonton-West Henday pub night. "Edmonton Chapter had a great night at the UCP pub event," said the Soldiers of Odin's accompanying post. "Thank you to those who came out and to the UCP candidates for their support." The pictures and commentary alike have since disappeared from the Soldiers of Odin page.

Once published by Progress Alberta, though, the snapshots went viral in minutes. A lot of voters wondered just what it is about the UCP that makes people like the Soldiers of Odin feel comfortable at their get-togethers, and why for pity's sake the party of Jason Kenney doesn't give such characters the bum's rush the instant they show up?

These are good questions. According to a tweet on Oct. 7 by Kenney, he was "disturbed to learn that a UCP pub night in Edmonton was crashed by supporters of the fringe 'Alberta Independence Party,' including members of hate groups."

Never mind that, as Progress Alberta soon revealed in a tweet, with an image of the evidence, that the Soldiers of Odin had RSVP'd the invite on Facebook. Hey! Who actually reads their social media acknowledgments?

"Groups like the Soldiers of Odin are nevertheless not welcome at UCP events, period," the Conservative Opposition leader said in another tweet.

Williams and Houle posted a joint statement Oct. 7 expressing similar sentiments. "We were unfortunately not aware of what the abbreviation 'S.O.O.' stood for when these individuals entered the public venue in which the Constituency Association was holding an event, nor were we aware of this group's disgusting views," it said in part.

Williams added to that with a statement of her own, saying, "I was completely unaware of what 'S.O.O.' and Soldiers of Odin stood for. … Had I known their views I would have requested that they leave as their hate is not welcome in our party."

I'm sure as far as the UCP is concerned, this ought to be enough, thank you very much, and could we all please forget about this by Tuesday morning?

Still, this is odd, don't you think? Just for starters, wouldn't you expect someone at a major political party's event to have thought to ask one of the visitors in vests with biker-style colours and hats emblazoned "S.O.O." just whom they represented?

The photos aren't clear, but the "Soldiers'" jackets appear to have patches on them with additional slogans. Did no one think to read them?

Regardless, we can reach two conclusions with confidence:

  1. No one from the Soldiers of Odin would have shown up in regalia at a meeting of any other Alberta political party running candidates in Edmonton -- not the NDP, not the Alberta Party, not the Alberta Liberals, not the Greens.
  2. If they had been inclined to turn up anyway at a beer night organized by any of those other parties, they would have been immediately recognized for whom they were and shown the door.

Alberta voters are within their rights to wonder why the UCP keeps attracting far-right fringe groups, some of them quite unsavoury.

Whatever the answer is, it doesn't show the UCP in a very good light.

I suppose we can be thankful Kenney himself doesn't knowingly pose for photos with white supremacists as his bromantic partner Doug Ford sometimes does.

But while Kenney says the Soldiers of Odin are not welcome at UCP events, he has no problem speaking to a creationist fringe group and forgetting to mention it in his schedule or tolerating a campaign by anti-abortion organizations to assist candidates to win UCP nominations.

Meanwhile, this list of UCP nomination candidate bozo eruptions keeps growing: A Nazi meme scheme here, climate change denial there, a homophobic slur here, an anti-Muslim comment there. Why does the UCP attract these people?

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: Facebook

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Categories: News for progressives

Free public transit could challenge reliance on cars

Sat, 2018-10-06 02:14
Yves Engler

Free public transit could combat both economic inequality and climate disturbances. And, if paid for by fees on automobility, fare-less transit could be part of a serious challenge to private, car-centred transit and urban planning.

At Toronto's first mayoral debate Saron Gebresellassi called for fare-free transit. By detailing a bold proposal the left-wing mayoral candidate steered the other candidates to bemoan ballooning fare costs and suggest eliminating some of them.

Gebresellassi's plan also garnered significant media attention. In an article titled "Making Toronto  transit free isn't realistic now. But it's a terrific idea," Toronto Star columnist Edward Keenan offered an informative rundown of the argument. But, as is wont in the dominant media, Keenan implicitly downplays the climate crisis and the importance of ditching the private automobile. Rather than being a long-term objective, free public transit should be viewed as a short- to medium-term tool for shifting away from our dependence on ecologically, socially and health-damaging cars. Of instant benefit to those with the least resources, free transit would drive price-conscious individuals towards less environmentally and socially damaging buses and trains.

While Keenan downplays the need for urgent, bold action on countering the automotive and climate crisis, he correctly states that making the Toronto subway (and some streetcars) free would exacerbate the rush hour crush. Making it free outside rush hour, however, would spread the ridership crunch out until new subway and streetcar lines are built. For their part, buses can be added quickly and eliminating fares will speed them up. Expanding ridership should also grow support for giving buses the right of way.

Eliminating transit fares is not radical. During times of high pollution Paris and other large European cities have removed fares. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, recently expressed interest in making transit free permanently and launched a study into its feasibility. The book Free Public Transit: And Why We Don't Pay to Ride Elevators details dozens of cities that have expanded transit ridership by eliminating fares.

While not radical, fare-less transit is not free. It would be an enormous failure if it only cost what the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) currently raises from fares -- $1.2 billion minus the not insignificant cost of gathering and enforcing fare payment. As the TTC expands to displace ever-greater numbers of private cars, free transit would certainly cost magnitudes more.

But there are many ways to finance it.Greenpeace Germany has suggested placing a levy on car manufacturers to pay for eliminating transit fares. In France employers with 11 or more employees pay a small tax devoted to transit.

Some of the billions of dollars currently spent on roadways -- $3.6 billion, for example, on rebuilding a Gardiner Expressway that should be torn down and the land used for co-op/social/rental housing -- could be directed towards free transit. Toronto could also repurpose some of the 27.4 per cent of the city presently devoted to free roadway to moneymaking ventures (another 13 per cent of Toronto is parks and open spaces -- a share of which goes largely unused because of the unpleasantness of adjacent traffic-filled roadway). A more straightforward way to incentivize public transit while deterring private car travel is to earmark congestion fees to the TTC.

A more novel option would be to replace requirements for businesses, public institutions and developers to offer parking with an equivalent contribution to a free transit fund. Toronto currently prescribes a specific number of parking spaces for every new residence as well as for a "bowling alley," "bus station," "adult entertainment," site, etc. The cost of complying with these bylaws could fund significant mass transit.

Unlike education, health care, housing, etc., transit shouldn't be promoted as a social right, at least broadly defined. While less damaging than a private automobile ride, a 30-kilometre oil-powered bus journey emits substantial greenhouse gases and there are various social downsides to long commutes and urban sprawl. Making Go Transit free, for instance, would encourage exurban dispersal and even daily commutes to Hamilton or Kitchener. For environmental, health, safety, noise and cost reasons, walking and cycling should be prioritized wherever possible.

But free transit should be promoted as an equality-based, short- to medium-term solution for mitigating the climate crisis. Kudos to Gebresellassi for pushing the issue to the forefront.

Yves Engler is co-author of Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay. His latest book is Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.

Photo: Evan Goldenberg/Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

New book looks at the 'Astonishing Rise of Canada’s 1%'

Fri, 2018-10-05 23:41
October 5, 2018Canada's incredible expanding wealth gapAuthor Lars Osberg takes a deep dive on the trend of the increasing concentration of wealth among the richest Canadians and how the rest have fared.booksCanadian wealth
Categories: News for progressives

Two angry men will meet with their supporters in Calgary tonight

Fri, 2018-10-05 12:45
David J. Climenhaga

Two well-heeled older men who never wanted for anything during their upbringings and now live comfortable, privileged lives will be getting together in Calgary this evening to talk about just how very, very angry they are.

The idea of a $15-per-hour minimum wage makes them very, very angry.

The idea that someone would remove a statue to a 19th-century colonial-era politician in belated acknowledgement of the cultural genocide that politician's government pursued makes them very, very angry.

The idea that LBGTQ children would be protected when they go to school makes them very, very angry.

The idea that women have a fundamental right to control their own persons makes them very, very angry.

The idea that elite private schools that charge tens of thousands of dollars in tuition should not get tax subsidies makes them very, very angry.

The idea of the rule of law -- at least when the law is not ruling in their favour, as they have become accustomed -- makes them very, very angry.

And the idea of a tax on energy use makes them very, very angry indeed.

These two men, both rather pale in complexion, will gather this evening with their supporters -- many of whom are similarly comfortable, well off, and privileged -- and together they will all be very, very, very angry about these and other things. Their event will likely draw a big crowd.

I give you Doug Ford, Progressive Conservative premier of Ontario, and Jason Kenney, the man who would be United Conservative Party premier of Alberta -- and may well be if he can get enough Albertans to be as angry as he is at these imagined slights to their privilege and, indeed, their elite position in society.

Ford, by the sound of it, has never really had to work a day in his life, having inherited significant wealth from his father's label-making company rather like his political and rhetorical model, the current president of the United States. He is not intellectually inquisitive. He is 53 years old.

Kenney appears to have had a somewhat more modest upbringing. He is the beneficiary of an expensive private education, nevertheless, and he is in line for a multi-million-dollar parliamentary pension (although the idea of pensions for other public employees apparently makes him very, very angry). He has been fortunate enough never to have had to hold what most of us would call a real job. He is 50.

In their shared anger, the two men are positively bromantic. "Doug and I had breakfast yesterday and I'll tell you we've got the beginning of a bit of bromance there," Kenney said recently according to a sympathetic newspaper columnist who apparently didn't find this even a little creepy. "We were finishing each other's sentences. I love it."

Yes, the future looks golden for both of them. Nevertheless, they are very, very angry.

So what's with this phenomenon, first observed in the United States and now spreading virally into our peaceable dominion?

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist who writes for The New York Times, commented on this Monday in a column about the Republicans in Washington entitled "The Angry White Male Caucus." It is worth reading, as is most of what Krugman has to say.

What last week's furious, sneering testimony by Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, illustrated, Krugman concluded, is "that white male rage isn't restricted to blue-collar guys in diners. It's also present among people who've done very well in life's lottery, whom you would normally consider very much part of the elite."

People, that is, very much like Ford and Kenney.

Here's Krugman's explanation: "It's perfectly possible for a man to lead a comfortable, indeed enviable life by any objective standard, yet be consumed with bitterness driven by status anxiety."

Krugman tells a funny story about professors with good positions who are angry because they're not at Yale or Harvard, and professors at Yale and Harvard who are angry because someone else won the Nobel Prize. I imagine he has specific individuals in mind and, moreover, that they know who they are.

He goes on: "This sort of high-end resentment, the anger of highly privileged people who nonetheless feel that they aren't privileged enough or that their privileges might be eroded by social change, suffuses the modern conservative movement."

"Nothing makes a man accustomed to privilege angrier than the prospect of losing some of that privilege, especially if it comes with the suggestion that people like him are subject to the same rules as the rest of us."

This is as true in Canada as in the United States. Indeed, the modern conservative movement, like the communist movement of yore, is nowadays an international ideological enterprise that acts the same way everywhere. In the United States, Krugman worries, the rage of white men, upper class as well as working class, "may destroy America as we know it."

There's something to this analysis.

And I suspect that tonight in Calgary we'll see it in action. Ford and Kenney will be trying to stoke that seething rage among their supporters. There may even be a chant of "Lock 'er up!"

Officially, the event has been scheduled to express anger at the federal carbon tax. Many other causes of anger will likely be mentioned as well. After all, these are very, very angry men, angry about a long list of things, almost too many to keep track of.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong about this. I'm pretty confident I won't be.

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: @FordNation/Twitter

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Categories: News for progressives

rabble is where I start my day!

Fri, 2018-10-05 06:33
Humberto DaSilva

Dear rabble reader,

We live in interesting times.

Climate changes, regime changes, class struggle, societal changes, fascism forward, democracy in decline, resistance on the rise.

Although the times are interesting, mainstream media coverage has become more timid when it's not painfully predictable. Big Media, whether private or public, is now more interested in "balance" than truth. But you and I know that not all viewpoints carry the same weight.

On social media, the game is fixed too. Big corporate analytics have turned our social media feeds into a pay-to-play battleground for the merchants of memes.

So, where do you go for the last word in progressive reporting?

rabble.ca is where I start my day!

Whether its global, national, or local politics, rabble.ca has the story that no other media will report. From Karl Nerenberg's incisive parliamentary reportage, to David Climenhaga's insights on the oilpatch, it's all there for your information. And at rabble, the labour movement is not just a reductionist "strike looms" or "picket line violence" lede followed by a biased story. The issues are analyzed for the discerning reader, not the lowest common denominator.

rabble brings you Naomi Klein, Pam Palmater, and sometimes, for comic relief, even me, in persona as Not Rex Murphy. Wow, I got me and Naomi Klein in the same sentence!

Whatever your progressive news needs, you need only reach for your smartphone, and your daily news needs are met, at rabble.ca.

So I am writing to beg for your support for rabble's ambitious 2018 fundraiser.

rabble reports for all Canadians on a yearly budget that would barely get you a secondhand Tesla.

Your donation will make a difference here because you will be supporting the work of non-profit independent journalism right here. You will be supporting media democracy itself, keeping rabble a no fee, no paywall, no barrier news site.

So dig deep, the truth you save may be your own.

Thank you,

Humberto da Silva

P.S. Already a supporter? Thank you! One more favour: please promote rabble.ca/donate on social media and with your friends and colleagues. It really does help.

P.P.S. After you make a donation, check out my latest Not Rex Murphy here!

Categories: News for progressives

CBC cancels Toronto municipal debate, refuses to include all candidates

Fri, 2018-10-05 01:26
October 4, 2018ElectionsCBC cancels Toronto municipal debate, refuses to include more candidatesThe CBC points to Tory's refusal to participate, but the move raises questions about how the media frames coverage and contributes to influencing outcomes
Categories: News for progressives

CBC cancels Toronto municipal debate, refuses to include more candidates

Fri, 2018-10-05 01:16
Phillip Dwight Morgan

The CBC has cancelled its Toronto mayoral debate scheduled for Oct. 16. An editor’s note posted on the national broadcaster’s Toronto website on Oct. 3 stated incumbent John Tory declined the invitation to the one-on-one debate with opponent Jennifer Keesmaat, saying that he would only participate in the debate if it included more candidates.

Marissa Nelson, senior managing director for CBC's Ontario region, claims the broadcaster uses specific criteria to determine which candidates “could actually win,” and that Tory’s demands for more candidates undermines the CBC’s “editorial independence.”

CBC’s announcement comes on the heels of a recent NOW magazine article by reporter Azeezah Kanji that states: “Reporting on the Toronto mayoral election as a two-horse race not only anticipates the election’s outcome, but fundamentally skews it.”

As the first piece in this series on mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi noted, even before Keesmaat announced that she was running, there was more media attention devoted to the possibility of her mayoral run than to the confirmed candidates. This skewed coverage continued after Keesmaat’s announcement, and has framed much of the lead up to the Oct. 22 vote.

“Instead of correcting for the deep social, economic and political disadvantages of racism and sexism, media compound them. When progressive women of colour win elections, it is in spite of the formidable array of forces stacked against them,” Kanji wrote, noting the many mainstream media outlets that have only covered Tory and Keesmaat.

So what is to be made of Tory’s decision to decline the invitation on the basis of representation and the CBC’s related decision to cancel the debate?

For starters, Tory’s decision is strategic. While calling for greater participation in the debate increases the visibility of other candidates, it also decreases the amount of time Tory must spend responding directly to Keesmaat on issues like transit, for which she clearly has the upper hand. It also opens up Keesmaat for critique on the weaker aspects of her platform, such as policing and safety, which proved highly unfavourable at the recent Black Community mayoral debate.

Regarding the CBC, few redeeming things can be said about a debate purporting to showcase only viable candidates when the coverage leading up to this debate has been nothing short of exclusionary. When candidates are only taken seriously based on their visibility, yet the media refuses to cover them, we end up in a situation where media bias is shaping the public interest.

Nelson acknowledges in her editorial note that “debates influence campaign results” but has not extended this analysis to all aspects of the CBC’s election coverage. Debates influence campaign results, as do polls, profiles, op-eds and reporting. Each plays a significant role in shaping the public discourse, for better or for worse. The fact that the CBC’s process for determining debate participants led it to propose such a grossly unrepresentative debate at such a critical juncture in Toronto politics is deeply concerning.

Democratic Deficit

The media has latched on to the fact that Tory and Keesmaat are well-connected, high-profile professionals with strong ties to wealthy Torontonians and institutions. These attributes, in addition to whiteness, are often treated as prerequisites for being taken seriously as a mayoral candidate. These attributes often also mean that the candidates most amplified in the media lack a strong analysis of oppression and possess weak ties, if any, to Toronto’s low-income and racialized communities.

Ultimately, the result of framing this election as a two-horse race is the narrowing of possibility in Toronto. This was apparent in the Black Community Mayoral Debate held earlier this week.

In that debate, Tory and Keesmaat received lukewarm support from an audience that was, instead, captivated by the possibilities and alternatives presented by candidates Saron Gebresellassi and Knia Singh. The debate was instructive for audience members as it illustrated the wide range of positions held by the candidates on issues like employment, culture, safer streets, public health and gentrification.

While Tory and Keesmaat affirmed the importance of community policing, Gebresellassi and Singh drew on the extensive organizing experience and noted the many pitfalls of policing in the city. Gebresellassi, for example, called from a portion of the police budget to be reallocated to Neighbourhood Improvement Areas in the city, while Singh noted, “we cannot police ourselves out of a situation that is based on poverty.”

In a statement released Oct. 4, Singh's campaign commended Tory for his stance, saying "Political pundits are saying Tory is refusing to debate Keesmaat one-on-one, but they are dismissing the fact he has asked for other candidates who have a contributed to the city’s affairs should be included in the debates."

The statement added, "Some journalists claim no one else has a chance besides Tory and Keesmaat, but that is because those journalists and news directors are preventing exposure to other candidates and, thereby, making that decision for the public.”

Phillip Dwight Morgan is a Toronto-based journalist and writer. He is the inaugural rabble.ca Jack Layton Journalism Fellow.

This is article is part of rabble's series on the 2018 Toronto electionFollow the series here.

Photo: John Tory/Facebook

Categories: News for progressives

Digital activists are fighting to reclaim the web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Open Data Institute Knowledge for Everyone/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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

Is cap and trade in Ontario worth fighting for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cap and trade is a market-based system.

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

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

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

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

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

Cap and trade also allows for offsets.

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

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

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

That's called environmental racism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Alicia Fagerving/ Wikimedia Commons

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Categories: News for progressives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal fracking dams and Bill C-69 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs condemn decision 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: News for progressives



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