Monthly Archives: November, 2015

Fallacy Friday: Bombardier, bailouts, and the importance of honest language

A Bombardier CSeries plane takes off in a demonstration flight in Toronto - but is the program doomed to fail before it can get fully off the ground? (Image credit: Bombardier

A Bombardier CSeries plane takes off in a demonstration flight in Toronto – but is the program doomed to fail before it can get fully off the ground? (Image credit: Bombardier)

As you may have heard, the government of Quebec a few weeks back announced that they were going to “invest” $1.3 billion into struggling aerospace and transportation company Bombardier in an attempt to rescue the company’s drastically over-budget and behind-schedule next-gen CSeries airplane.

The announcement came in the aftermath of an “earnings” report which was even more devastating for Bombardier than pessimistic financial analysts had projected.

At the time, Quebec’s government publicly called on the federal government to match their “investment”, openly stating that the fate of the CSeries program is in doubt without a further infusion of cash.

From the outside, Bombardier looks like a company in freefall, missing deadlines and running over-budget on even routine projects like Toronto’s long-delayed streetcar series. The delays and technical issues have been so numerous that the TTC’s CEO Andy Byford is now publicly musing about suing the company and permanently barring it from winning any future TTC contracts. (73 streetcars were originally projected to be in use by the end of 2015; currently the TTC has a mere 10 on the streets.)

The CSeries program that the Quebec government is desperately trying to save is producing a plane which is years behind schedule, and the company has only received firm orders for 243 units. One potential customer, Porter Airlines, looks less likely than ever to be a buyer after last night’s announcement by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau that the new Liberal government will not be granting the airline permission to fly jet planes out of Toronto’s island-based Billy Bishop Airport (and major kudos to NoJetsTO for a well-organized and victorious campaign!); Porter had previously put in an order for a dozen of the CSeries planes conditional on their Billy Bishop proposal’s approval.

Bombardier also announced that it was entirely cancelling its Learjet 85 program, a decision which contributed heavily to $4.9 billion USD loss posted in their third-quarter “earnings” report. And the fact that Quebec’s infusion of cash only covers about half the shortfall the CSeries program is projected to incur, Scotiabank is now projecting that Bombardier will need to go back to the government for more money within the next eighteen months.

All of which makes the Quebec government’s choice of the word “investment” smell kinda fishy. Continue Reading

TPP update – Liberal support looking more certain, despite dire warnings

For months now, I’ve been writing about the Trans-Pacific Partnership without knowing precisely what of provisions were contained within it.

Negotiated under intense secrecy, the TPP has for a long time been like an ominous raincloud on the horizon, looming and threatening in an indistinct and distant way. Occasionally a draft chapter would make its way into the hands of Wikileaks, and experts in the field would carefully parse through the dense legal language and pronounce the agreement dangerous and a threat to (sovereignty/democracy/the environment/ labour/creativity/etc.), but for all intents and purposes the TPP was a black box.

That in itself was reason to be suspicious. The high-level access to negotiations which was granted to over five hundred of the world’s largest corporations, and the complete and total lack of access granted to pretty much every other affected group, was a pretty strong tell as to whom this deal was going to favour.

As you’ve likely heard, the full text of the deal was finally made public last week. And now that we can actually read the damn thing, all the experts who thought they were alarmed before are having to redefine their definition of “alarmed” to accommodate their new levels of alarmedness.

Chris Hedges, for instance, says of the deal that it is “the most brazen corporate power grab in American history”, adding:

These three agreements [the TPP, TTIP, and TISA] solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

And before you go and call Hedges an alarmist, consider these facts: Continue Reading

Top secret war: What’s going on with Canada’s military misadventure in Iraq and Syria?

Flying Canadian death machines over Iraq (Image credit: Canadian Forces Combat Camera/DND)

Since last October, Canada’s air force has been involved in a coalition of Western and Gulf Arab nations bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and, later, in Syria. In addition, Canadian Special Forces have been deployed to Iraqi Kurdistan to train the Kurdish peshmerga, who are fighting IS on the ground.

Throughout the past year, media coverage of the conflict has been extremely sporadic and patchy. This is largely by necessity; the military has not exactly prioritized keeping the public informed, especially when it comes to scandalous and controversial events, like the lone Canadian death in the conflict, that of Andrew Dorion, who was killed in what has been described as a “friendly fire incident” this past March. Details of Dorion’s death have remained pretty fuzzy, and the Department of National Defence has so far refused to release a thorough report investigating the incident.

Similarly, DND has remained tight-lipped about ongoing rumours and reports of civilian casualties as a result of Canadian airstrikes. This past week, an investigation by CBC’s the fifth estate revealed that Canada and its coalition partners have been implicated in the deaths of up to six hundred civilians, including at least two airstrikes in which Canadian bombers were specifically involved.

The military brass had little to say on the incident, except that the mission’s commander was not even aware of an internal Pentagon investigation into one of the incidents. Canada continues to insist that our bombers have killed absolutely no civilians with the nearly five hundred bombs they’ve dropped on Syria and Iraq to date.

Given the military’s intransigence and the horrific on-the-ground conditions, it’s difficult for the press to dig much deeper into these allegations, or indeed to report concretely on the state of the conflict.

Of course, we know broadly speaking that Islamic State is still right where it was a year ago, and that airstrikes seem to have been largely ineffective. There’s been some speculation that the coalition of bombing nations isn’t actually all that enthusiastic about defeating IS, and is not bombing them as often or as vigorously as it would be if it were serious about this. (I looked at one specific example of that in my article “The ISIS racket“.) Continue Reading

After Keystone XL: taking stock of pipeline resistance in Canada

There’s no question about it: yesterday’s decision by President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada’s application to build the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline is a big deal.

There were a multitude of factors that led to Obama’s decision, but chief among them was the fact that an army of activists and agitators have successfully associated the pipeline with the dirty tar sands carbon bomb at its source. In fact, Obama specifically invoked climate change in explaining the rationale behind his rejection, saying that approving the pipeline would be inconsistent with tackling global warming.

This is a massive win for activists. As Neil Macdonald points out, the oil companies have considered Keystone to be a done deal for half a decade or more, and at least one oil lobbyist who spoke to him credits the turnaround almost entirely to environmentalist activism.

And yes, while Keystone has been delayed, the amount of raw bitumen shipped (by train and by more roundabout pipeline routes) from the tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico has tripled in the last seven years, and yes, TransCanada could very well resubmit a slightly altered proposal with a totally different name to the next American administration, and yes, the Trudeau government is an eager advocate for the tar sands and could use their masterful command of symbolic gesture and tone control to try to change international perceptions of Canada’s “dirty oil”. All of this is undeniably true. There’s a lot of work still to be done.

But to know that a project this major which is so enthusiastically backed by so many powerful players can still be brought down by persistent and determined activism (with a healthy dash of direct action mixed in) is incredibly encouraging. It’s heartening to see the environmental movement get such a big win, and it could very well be the harbinger of a shift in public thought about fossil fuels in general and/or the tar sands in particular.

With that in mind, I thought I’d check back in with the resistance to pipelines here in Canada. At present, there are at least three major sites of contention, and in each case there are reasons to be optimistic that resistance will ultimately be successful.

Some major proposed pipelines in Canada (image credit: CBC)

Continue Reading

Bursting the Trudeaumania bubble

Look, I don’t wanna be a party-pooper. I don’t wanna piss on anyone’s parade. It’s really wonderful to see so many people being so enthusiastic about federal politics, so inspired by the notion of real meaningful change, and I wish that I could join in on the enthusiasm and excitement.

But I can’t, because as earnestly felt as the swell of goodwill towards the new Trudeau government is, it’s misplaced.

Now first of all, to be clear: it’s obviously fantastic that Trudeau appointed the most ethnically diverse cabinet in Canadian history, as well as the first to feature an equal number of female and male ministers. And I don’t have any patience for those crypto-racist/patriarchal arguments about how cabinet positions ought to be doled out on the basis of merit and not arbitrary quotas. “Merit” is such a fuzzy term, easily defined to mean just about whatever the user wants it to mean, and in a white-cis-hetero-patriarchal-colonizer society, merit has traditionally been almost exclusively an attribute of white cis heterosexual men. (Surprise, surprise.) There’s definitely a place for quotas in an inherently unequal society, because a lot of people who are entirely capable of doing big and important jobs aren’t ever able to try because of systemic oppression.

In fact, good on Justin Trudeau for setting a strong precedent by appointing a gender-balanced cabinet. It will now be incredibly difficult, politically speaking, for any of his successors to go back to male-dominated cabinets of the past.

But representation by members of diverse communities does not inherently mean that the concerns of those communities will be addressed. A lot has been made about the appointment of rookie MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous lawyer and regional chief, as Minister of Justice. And don’t get me wrong – it’s awesome than an Indigenous woman is in a position to do so much to address the injustices that have been heaped upon Indigenous communities by Canadian governments since before this nation was founded, and I sincerely hope that she is able to do just that.

Issues like the ridiculously disproportionate incarceration rate for Indigenous folks, the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the establishment of meaningful nation-to-nation relations using the treaties as a framework, and of course a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women, would fall at least partially under Wilson-Raybould’s purview.

All of which is very exciting – but I can’t help feeling cynical. I’ve seen this movie before – a member of a marginalized and oppressed community achieves a position of power in which they can make some meaningful change, and then…they don’t.

The most direct parallel I can think of is Eric Holder, the first black Attorney-General of the United States. Continue Reading

Update on the ongoing Nuttall-Korody trial

Image description: A courtroom sketch of Amanda Korody and John Nuttall (Felicity Don/The Canadian Press)

As regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know, I’ve been closely following the ongoing trial of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, two now-convicted terrorists who contend that they were entrapped into a plot by their handlers in the RCMP.

The pair were poor ex-heroin addicts living on welfare who had recently converted to Islam when Nuttall encountered an undercover CSIS agent provocateur at his local mosque. Alarmed at the agent’s extreme behaviour, Nuttall reported him to the authorities – ironically, to CSIS itself. It’s unclear how this initial contact with law enforcement metastasized into a massive undercover RCMP operation, but Nuttall’s attorney, Marilyn Sandford insists that the two agencies cooperated, as they are empowered to do under the RCMP’s INSET program.

Unfortunately, no court can compel CSIS to turn over any documentation it may have on the matter, and Sandford suggests that CSIS may have deliberately avoided sharing anything in writing with the Mounties in order to avoid the court disclosure process.

Regardless, Nuttall and his partner soon found themselves entangled in an elaborate plot. Upon meeting somebody who presented himself as a jihadist, Nuttall boastfully claimed that he was plotting a terrorist attack. The only problem for the Mounties was that he was entirely incapable of formulating or executing any kind of feasible plan.

His early schemes involved building a missile and launching it at Seattle (which he mistakenly believed was a mere thirty kilometres away from Vancouver) and hijacking a nuclear submarine. As far as I’ve been able to figure from the media reporting on the trial, neither Nuttall nor Korody had invested any time or effort into pursuing any kind of plot prior to their being contacted by undercover RCMP officers.

Indeed, even after their handler (and an ever-growing web of extras) got them to agree to engage in a plot, he found it extremely difficult to even get them to put down the bong, turn off their video games, and leave their dingy basement apartment. Continue Reading

C-51 keeps getting worse the more we learn about it

This is the inaugural post in a new series: National Security Sundays. Each week, I’ll be doing a deep dive into issues related to Canada’s surveillance agencies, law enforcement, or armed forces. Today, we’re taking a look at a story that what hot this spring but which hasn’t gotten as much attention as it deserves lately, the 1984-esque surveillance law C-51.

With the benefit of hindsight, I think I’ve managed to pinpoint the lowest level to which the Conservative Party stooped in the recent election campaign in their desperate attempts to drum up enough fear and terror and anti-Muslim hatred to squeak back into office.

There were, I’ll concede, a lot of candidates for the Lowest Low, from their anti-niqab hysteria to their “barbaric practices hotline” to their cold bureaucratic indifference to the plight of refugees. But, for me at least, the Conservatives hit rock bottom on September 24, when they announced that they were laying charges under the recently-passed C-51 against a Canadian man, Farah Mohamed Shirdon, who left Canada in early 2014 to fight for the Islamic State.

Shirdon, charged in absentia, couldn’t have been prosecuted without the vital provisions of the government’s glorious Combating Terrorism Act, crowed a boastful Jason Kenney in a press release so self-congratulatory and hubristic it has to be read to be believed. One key quote:

The video of this individual burning and shooting his Canadian passport to express his violent hatred for Canada shocked many Canadians – and demonstrates how those who engage in terrorism betray the bond of loyalty and allegiance with Canada.

This one sentence has the whole Conservative Party reelection strategy, encapsulated perfectly. It uses loaded buzzwords designed to create indignation, fear, and hatred, says “Canada” and “Canadians” far too many times, conflates symbolic gestures with meaningful action, and baldly asserts the widespread prevalence of opinions which are in actuality much more marginal. It sets up a glowing ideal of Canadian patriotism and then demonizes and Others anybody who fails to live up to it, attempting to create a sense of solidarity among all “decent” folks. It’s truly a disgusting masterwork of divisive rhetoric.

But that’s not what’s most egregious about the charges laid against Shirdon. The truly outrageous aspect of all this is that Shirdon was almost certainly dead when the RCMP announced the charges. Continue Reading

Copyright © 2019. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.