Pushing Weight

After Ethical Oil is done with its proxy Zombie Joe McCarthy crusade against the David Suzuki Foundation (what, are Ezra & co. gonna put out a hit on Raffi next?), perhaps it might consider lobbying the feds to take a look at another clear example of untoward abuse of our noble charitable sector — and an obvious case of insidious foreign interference to boot (eeek!)

The Vancouver Observer:

As the Conservative assault continues against Canadian environmental charities, the Vancouver Observer has learned that since 2007, foreign oil billionaires the Koch brothers have donated over half a million dollars to the “charitable” right-wing Fraser Institute.

According to U.S. tax documents, the Fraser Institute received $150,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in 2008, $175,500 in 2009, and another $150,000 in 2010. The grants were purportedly for “research support” and “educational programs”.

[…]

Grants to the Fraser Institute are also among the highest amounts listed in the Koch Foundation’s tax records; apart from a few substantial grants to American universities, most of the other donations were under $10,000.

Gosh.

Sounds like Fraser is swimming in enough dirty Koch money to make Tony Montana’s *other* little friend go OFF.

Related: To merely call Fraser’s ongoing registered charity status ‘dubious’ is to be *ahem* highly charitable; the OTHER 1% doctrine: 99% of registered Canadian charities are apolitical re: spending (just don’t call it an anti-enviro vendetta…)

(Image: 401K, Flickr)

Deja Vu All Over Again (And Again, And Again, And…)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Canuckistan:

Stephen Harper is leaving the door open once again to extending Canada’s military participation in the costly Afghanistan war.

When the Official Opposition NDP pressed the Prime Minister on Wednesday about reports the United States has asked Canada to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Mr. Harper said the government would “examine all options.”

[…]

If the Prime Minister extended Canada’s military deployment beyond 2014, it would be the fourth time he has prolonged the soldiering commitment to Afghanistan – including 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr. Harper denied reports the United States has asked Canada to keep special forces soldiers in Afghanistan past 2014, his latest promised date for withdrawal.

As our new Leader of the Official Opposition aptly noted during Question Period yesterday, Canadians “want this mission to end. It was supposed to end in 2006. It was supposed to end in 2009. It was supposed to end in 2011. It is supposed to end in 2014. When will it finally end?””

Oh, and that last excerpted bit I highlighted, where the PM denies reports that Uncle Sam is trying to keep Canada in the Great Game for another Friedman or three? Methinks Mr. Harper is being a little coy. Mealsothinks that it’s a damn good thing Afghanistan is (for now, anyway) almost completely under the Campaign 2012 Village radar.

Because, considering the collective combat exhaustion of the USian polity, the last thing the Obama team needs are ill-timed reports that it’s secretly planning to continue America’s excellent (and highly unpopular) imperial Central Asian misadventure past it’s latest expiration date.

(Originally posted at Agonist.org)

Happy 30th Anniversary, Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms

According to Louise Arbour, Canada’s internationally renowned & universally lauded Charter of Rights & Freedoms (HBD, eh?) “has transformed a country obsessed with the federal-provincial division of powers and enabled it to address its diversity in a substantive, principled way.”

Gee.

No wonder Harpercon insurrectionists can’t stand the fucking thing.

On That Zombie Suzuki Resignation Story

The Globe:

Canada’s most famous environmentalist, David Suzuki, says he left the board of his charitable foundation to avoid being a lightning rod for criticism and government attacks that would undermine its work.

Still, Peter Robinson, who is the head of the David Suzuki Foundation, said the group is facing a “chill” that is leading it to pull back from important environmental debates lest it be accused by the federal government of exceeding its charitable mandate.

Is Suzuki a new, very high-profile casualty in the asymmetrical Harpercon war on non-profit environmental advocacy orgs?

Not so fast:

In fact, Suzuki’s departure from the foundation that bears his name had nothing to do with the federal government’s latest attack on charities opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.  How do I know this?  It happened during the summer of 2011.

Oops. Not so fresh a scoop, izzit?

Look, I’m sure there will be many more prominent resignations from charitable green outfits to come in the near future; reanimating out of context zombie #elxn41 controversies is stupid.

Dueling Ledes (Compare & Contrast), Redux

AP video, Feb 15, 2011:

A recent [US] government report states the terrorist threat from Canada is greater than from Mexico, and that only 50 kilometres of the border is adequately patrolled.

CBC News, today:

Major job cuts at the Canada Border Services Agency could undermine national security and public safety, according to a security expert and public-sector union officials.

First food safety, now border security? The wanton Harpercon Budget 2012 slash ‘n’ burn austerity spree has so far made Canada a little TOO open for business. And it’s only just begun.

NDP Agriculture critic Malcolm Allen, commenting on cuts to CFIA, sums up what is shaping up to be the primary takeaway from the aftermath (thus far):

“These cuts put Canadians’ lives at risk.”

Image: conner395, Flickr. Used under CC license.

Dueling Ledes (Compare & Contrast)

TorStar, March 20th:

Schools, hospitals and popular burger restaurants such as Hero’s and Lick’s are part of a suddenly massive beef recall over fears of E. coli contamination.

The G&M, today:

Veterinarians and other inspectors responsible for food recalls and ensuring the safety of Canadian meat are among the hundreds of federal public servants who will be told this week their jobs are at risk.

Apparently the Harpercons figure it will be measurably easier to tighten our belts if our bellies have all imploded from E. coli poisoning.

Image: Vanessa Pike-Russell, Flickr. Used under CC license.

The New 1% Doctrine in Action (Electro-Motive Diesel Edition)

While many the US were celebrating seemingly positive job numbers yesterday, for London, Ontario residents such news was caustic, rock salt poured into a gaping wound.

WSWS:

Caterpillar subsidiary Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) has announced that it is transforming the lockout at its London, Ontario diesel-locomotive manufacturing facility into a plant closure.

Six weeks ago, Caterpillar locked out the 465 production workers at its London plant after they overwhelmingly rejected the company’s demands for a 55 percent wage cut, the elimination of their pension plan, and other sweeping concessions.

EMD announced the closure Friday morning in a terse press release that blamed uncompetitive labor costs and worker intransigence for its decision. “The cost structure of the operation was not sustainable,” said the release, “and efforts to negotiate a new, competitive collective agreement were not successful.”

Just last week Caterpillar boasted that the 2011 fiscal year was the most profitable in its history, with profits rising by 83 percent to US $4.9 billion.

Take a moment to absorb the jarring ironic contrast between those last two paragraphs, then listen to London Mayor Joe Fontana give Caterpillar the business for letting naked greed determine the bottom line — at the expense of local workers whose lives have now been callously thrown into total flux.

And wither the Harpercons? Alas, Canada’s market fundamentalist government always respects the sanctity of the Invisible Hand (except when it doesn’t).

AM980 News:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper used Electro-Motive as a backdrop in 2008 to promote big tax breaks for industrial capital investments, but the federal government declined to get involved in the labour dispute.

“This matter falls under provincial jurisdiction, and we are also disappointed that the Ontario Government was unable to mediate a solution to the dispute between the company and its employees,” read a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement also promised that the federal government will continue to work on a plan that will generate new jobs and opportunities for those affected by the closure.

Shorter:

Thanks for providing a great campaign backdrop, but, um, we have our majority now, and besides, we can’t help it if the crummy Ontario Liberal Government is teh suck. So, uh, anyway,  don’t call us — we’ll call you.


Of course, the matter of government responsibility — yes, at all levels — goes beyond mere inaction.

James Ede:

It is not so much its inaction that looks bad on the Harper government, but that the lockout undermines its argument that corporate tax cuts produce jobs. Electro-Motive Canada, under a previous owner, was given $5 million in tax cuts by Harper personally. The Harper government recently lowered Canada’s corporate tax rate by an additional 1.5%, voluntarily cutting almost $3 billion from government revenue. This at a time when it is planning massive budget cuts to reduce its deficit.

The lockout is equally damning to the Conservative claim that free trade will attract job-creating foreign investment. The federal Conservatives are finishing up a new free-trade deal with Europe and have plans for a deal with India next. Given the fact that the government will not discuss the details of these free-trade negotiations, there is no way of knowing whether they would leave Canada more vulnerable to actions like those of Caterpillar’s.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has largely escaped the anger directed toward Harper. That may be in part because Harper is seen as more of a poster boy for the free-market policies.

But McGuinty is equally committed to corporate tax cuts and free trade. He is planning to cut another $2 billion in corporate taxes in the 2012 budget, and is an enthusiastic supporter of free trade, even if a deal with Europe risks overturning local content rules in the Green Energy Act, his chief response to Ontario’s manufacturing losses.

Given Harper’s preference for an Alberta-style resource economy, his indifference to Ontario’s manufacturing losses can be understood. For McGuinty, the Caterpillar lockout hits closer to home.

Partisan/jurisdictional slap-fighting aside, 465 workers have been pink-slipped and now find themselves stuck in financial limbo as severance negotiations delay the already-tedious Employment Insurance application process.

Glen Pearson:

Federal MPs stressed that the workers couldn’t get EI because they hadn’t officially lost their jobs. Well now they have – sacked in fact – and that’s a game changer. Terminated by their employer, they now qualify for EI. The problem is that they are fighting for severance at the same time and EI can’t kick in until that is solved. So here’s something you can finally do without any jurisdictional excuses. Seek to streamline the access to EI in this unique situation. Given Caterpillar’s modus operandi, the severance issue might not be settled for months. Get these workers EI now and help them to survive. The maximum a veteran worker gets is two-thirds of their salary for 42 weeks. They’re about to lose their homes, so maybe a little intervention would be nice – it’s now in your jurisdiction. If severance is an issue, then arrange it so that it can be clawed back out of EI once the negotiations are concluded. But please, do something. This isn’t about your party’s detached position but about human justice, ostensibly offered to every worker who has paid into the system.

Human justice.

In an age when austerity rules, justice for workers is a rare commodity — especially in London, Ontario, where the willfully indifferent, cruelly banal machinations of the 1% have become all too apparent as a community reels in shock from the latest top-down missive of an ongoing, all-too-asymmetrical class war.

Related:  Indiana goes ‘Right to Work’ just as Caterpillar appears to be moving EMD production to Indiana.

Entirely coincidental, I’m sure.

Montreal Massacre: “Remember, then organize.”

by matttbastard

Record snowfall may have forced the cancellation of local commemorative events, but the memories of December 6th, 1989 remain fresh, regardless of where we wrestle with them. Though we take time today to reflect on the untimely murders of 18 women (for the heinous crime of being women), all-too-immediate events demand that we not simply remember the past, but also resolve to continue the fight for justice in the struggle for women’s equality. Eileen Morrow, coordinator, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, notes in a Toronto Star op-ed how economic strife is intrinsically linked with violence against women, and how renewed calls for austerity measures in the wake of mounting debt could have even more of a negative impact:

During a recession, the fear is that violence against women will rise while meaningful action on the issue will fall. That worry is well-placed.

The media have already reported increasing calls by women to crisis lines and police. Catholic Family Services in Durham region reported a 24 per cent increase in referrals for domestic violence in the last three months of 2008. The Canadian Mental Health Association in London reported a rise in domestic violence in the spring of 2009. Brockville reported a 100 per cent increase in domestic violence calls to police during that period.

In the spring of 2009, stories about a stunning increase in calls to shelters in Calgary, where the recession hit hard, were reported in newspapers across Canada — a 200 per cent increase in one year; a 300 per cent increase in the month before the stories ran.

A spot survey just conducted by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses bears out the continuing trend toward increasing calls for help, despite predictions that the economic outlook is positive and recovery has started.

A comparison of service delivery in the years 2007 and 2010 in 15 women’s shelters across the province shows that requests for support have increased, albeit not as dramatically has those of Alberta.

Crisis calls increased by almost 15 per cent between the two years; admissions of women and children increased by 20 per cent. Shelters had to “turn away” 44 per cent more women and children in 2010 than in 2007 because they were full. In smaller towns with fewer services, the shelters faced double the demand of larger cities.

Each year, the women’s shelter association gathers the names of women and children murdered in situations where an intimate partner is either charged or commits suicide. In 2008 and 2009, the total was 16 for each year. In 2010 (up to the present) it is 21.

Admittedly, the numbers are not scientific and cannot be decisively linked to the recession, but they are troubling. Still more troubling, however, is the possibility that governments will overlook the need to increase support for women rather than to freeze or lower to meet the demands of austerity.

Recent history only compounds concern about government overlooking the needs of women:

In the Mike Harris era of the mid-90s, cuts to women’s services and broad social programs such as social assistance and housing, forced many women to stay in abusive relationships. Murders of women increased in Canada, primarily in Ontario. Services in Ontario are still struggling to recover.

The mid-90s was a time of growing government restraint both federally and provincially, somewhat like today but far less acute. The global economy had not yet failed.

Nationally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that national priorities are fixed on cost-cutting and reducing the $45.4 billion federal deficit. The Province of Ontario also has an $18.7 billion dollar deficit to address.

Both federally and provincially, all political parties are in election campaign mode. The timing of the federal election is a guessing game; some are guessing spring of next year. The Ontario election is fixed for Oct. 6, 2011.

As a result, no one knows which political party will be responsible for ultimately guiding the country and the province back to economic stability. What is clear, however, is that right now is the time to raise issues of women’s human and equity rights, not when an election is finally called.

Judy Rebick notes that with programs dedicated to women’s issues once again in the sights of budget-cutters, the only way to truly stand up to the forces of austerity and push a truly progressive agenda of social and economic justice for women is to challenge the casual disregard of technocratic indifference. If we are to make a measurable impact, supporters of women’s liberation must once again mobilize:

Today the women’s movement in English Canada is a shadow of its former self and the women’s movement in Quebec is weaker too. I do not believe this has anything to do with the horror at Polytechnique but rather in part because of our success and the feeling of a younger generation that equality had been achieved and in part because of the impact of neo-liberalism and the individualism and consumerism that it promotes.

But while there is a societal consensus against male violence against women today, that violence goes on unabated particularly against marginalized women like those disappeared on the downtown east side or the hundreds of aboriginal women who are disappeared and murdered without much attention from police, or the virtual slavery of desperate women trafficked into prostitution on a global scale.

The best way to remember these 14 women is recommit ourselves, women and men, to the fight for women’s liberation and an end to violence against women. On Sunday there will once against be vigils across the country. Remember them and then organize.

“Remember them and then organize.”

We truly honour their legacy by refusing to give up the fight, even in the face of intimidation, be it from the barrel of a long gun or an autocratic prime minister’s far-right legislative agenda.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Bruyea, Veterans Affairs, and Canadian Democracy: Time to Go “Batsh!t Crazy”

by matttbastard

Tuesday’s  revelation that Sean Bruyea, a vocal critic of Veterans Affairs had his private medical records deliberately compromised by bureacrats in a brazen attempt to discredit his legitimate, extensive complaints about systemic deficiencies within the department has struck a nerve among Canadians across the nation. Rick Mercer’s tweet from yesterday morning succinctly sums up the outrage:

“Bat-shit crazy”? Canadians should be spitting mad — and appropriately chastened by the sobering realization that what happened to Bruyea could happen to any one of us. Add the steamrolling of civil liberties that occurred during the G20 summit in Toronto, and you have a Canadian government that, for all intents and purposes, is acting as if the citizenry represent a hostile entity, simply for the crime of expressing dissent.

In short, once again it seems all too apparent our elected representatives no longer believe that they should answer to the people.

In this specific instance, the naked disregard for personal privacy is unconscionable. The Privacy Commissioner should immediately investigate, and heads must roll, no matter how high up the food chain. But, in broader context, we see yet another example of the contemptuous culture of impunity among the political class that currently reigns supreme in Ottawa, perfectly encapsulated by the arbitrary way the PMO keeps the civil service under heel, and the disrespectful manner in which our Members of Parliament conduct themselves during Question Period.

Hard to defend the virtues of Canadian parliamentary democracy when our leaders act as if they are completely entitled to run roughshod over the people they deign to serve.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

(Long) Guns and Butter, Meet Fox News North

by matttbastard

Over at his humble pad, Progressive Bloggers head honcho Scott Tribe warns NDP leader Jack Layton that his party may face electoral consequences if his maddeningly milquetoast stance on Canada’s Long Gun Registry leads to its repeal:

Rather then whining in the papers that the voters who support keeping the long-gun registry should not be blaming the NDP if the registry gets killed, Jack should stop being naive and realize the Harper government is playing the NDP for suckers. The NDP has always claimed it is the party that stands up the most against the Harper agenda in the House of Commons; well, here’s it’s chance to really walk the walk – a chance to make a difference, rather then a symbolic vote or putting forth a symbolic motion/amendment against.

As for electoral considerations, and if those are also what’s in play here over principles, the NDP should remember that for every rural riding the NDP fears it may lose because of that member voting to keep the gun registry, it’s going to be pummelled in its urban ridings and in its lone Quebec riding as failing to keep the registry. Rest assured that the Liberals will be reinforcing that message in every NDP held riding in Urban Canada and in Outremont, if the NDP fail to stop Bill C-391 from passing.

With respect to Tribe and others, I just don’t see this as much of a game-changing, hot-button issue outside of Quebec and rural Canada. In Ontario (and, it should be noted Quebec), the economy is going to loom large in any future Federal campaign, as the rapid Northern expansion of the rust belt continues to drastically affect employment and living standards across the region.

Focusing on Harper and the general public’s fear of what he may do with a majority parliament is still a winning campaign strategy for the Liberal Party of Canada. No matter what, urban (and Eastern) Canadians really, really doesn’t trust that sonofabitch. And rightfully so.

With all that said, one wonders how the Foxification of Sun Meida [sic] will affect campaign coverage —  who will drive the narrative of any upcoming campaign? Will Harper hold off on dropping the writ until the CRTC acquiesces to PMO pressure and allows the Sun TV licence to go forward?

Progressives should be very much concerned about the possible effect of what is, essentially, a defacto arm of the PMO having such a deep stake in the Canadian media landscape. Anyone within the Canadian progressosphere who gives even an inch to David Akin (to say nothing of Brian ‘Kneepads’ Lilley) should, IMO, hand in their VLWC cards post haste. That dubious pair now works for the Devil himself , having eagerly sold their journalistic credibility for 30 quarters and a pound of moose flesh cooked Blue rare in the kitchen of 24 Sussex.

Bottom line: don’t tell me that issues of real importance like gun safety (or, for that matter, the economy) will be on the table come election time. Instead, be prepared for Ezra Levant to try and beat the left into bemused submission with an endless barrage of hyperventilating wingnut minutia.

And don’t be surprised to see the so-called “mainstream” (or, as Kory Teneycke, channelling the Thrilla from Wasilla, would call it, “lamestream”) press follow his lead.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers