Category Archives: Uncategorised

ICYMI: Stéphane Dion reveals Liberals’ real reason for allowing Saudi arms deal

Image description: A big-ass tank with like eight wheels and two armed soldiers sticking out the top in a sandy-looking locale. (Image credit: General Dynamics Land Systems Canada) NOTE: this may not be the actual model of Light Armoured Vehicle GDLS is selling to Saudi Arabia with Canadian governmental mediation and approval; details are sketchy, but the Globe and Mail reports that whatever they look like, they’re gonna be deadly.

Ever since early January, when dozens of shocking executions in Saudi Arabia reignited a long-simmering controversy over a major Canadian arms deal with the human-rights-abusing nation, the Liberal government has been extremely cautious in its public statements, while steadfastly maintaining the Harper regime’s policy on the issue.

And despite widespread condemnation from activists and incisive questioning from the press, the government has refused to withdraw its approval of the sale of $15 billion of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) or elaborate very much on its justification of the deal.

But on February 18, Foreign Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion appeared before the Senate for questioning on a variety of subjects, and Québec Senator Serge Joyal raised the issue. Invoking Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, Joyal demanded to know how Dion could square his department’s explicit rules on the issue – “The policy with respect to countries with serious human rights problems places the onus on proving `no reasonable risk’ squarely on the exporter” – with the government’s decision to allow the sale proceed.

Dion’s response was incredibly revealing, and demonstrated clearly what the Liberal Party’s priorities are. I quote his statement here in full: Continue Reading

Holiday hiatus

Hello dear readers!

The Alfalfafield will be on hiatus for the next week, as I’ll be travelling/spending time with family/chillaxing. Plus it’s typically pretty much the slowest news week of the year anyway, on account of the national press corps all wanting to travel/spend time with family/chillax, so hopefully I won’t be missing out on much.

Check back here next Monday, when I’ll be back on my (ir)regular schedule. Regardless of what you’re up to for the next week, I hope it’s joyous and peaceful!

Opposition to Line 9 heats up in the weeks since its reversal

Image: a man turns a valve to shut down a pipeline behind a chain link fence

A few weeks back, I wrote about the badass direct action in Ste-Justine-de-Newton, Quebec, which shut down Enbridge’s Line 9B for several hours, as an exemplary model of how pipeline resistance can move forward in the face of a disgustingly racist and industry-captive National Energy Board review process which all but guarantees that oil and pipeline companies will ultimately get their projects approved.

And it’s heartening to me to see just how much public outcry there has been in the wake of the NEB’s final approval of the line’s reversal, which runs contrary to all evidence, common sense, treaty rights, and democratic sensibility. Folks who are opposed to this pipeline for a vast multiplicity of reasons are continuing to make their voices heard, and are both engaging in the political process and working outside of it to build momentum towards a reversal of this foolishly wrong-headed decision.

First off, let’s take a look back at those heroic anarchists who manually shut the line down before chaining themselves to the valve back in early December.

Somebody closely involved in the action wrote a fantastic piece which was published over at Earth First! Newswire which is well worth a read. The key quote:

There is a general sense that this action has breathed new life into the anti-Line 9 campaign, which NGOs long ago abandoned as unwinnable. For the first time in a long while, activists are expressing optimism that Line 9 can be shut down before it spills. We’ve arrived at a critical juncture, and the time for bold direct action has come.

It’s hard to argue with this contention. There’s been an outburst of renewed interest in this particular pipeline project, which has been overlooked in recent months in favour of Energy East, TransMountain, and the U.S. pipeline Keystone XL, which was finally shot down by President Barack Obama after more than five years of dithering. By their bold and concrete resistance, these brave folks hope to not only encourage others to help take down Line 9, but also to directly challenge the noxious and odious law C-51, as their comrade expresses in his piece: Continue Reading

Prime Minister Trudeau’s absolutely incoherent statement on Canada’s fight with ISIS

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a town-hall-style interview organized by Maclean’s Magazine. It was the first extensive, wide-ranging interview Trudeau has given since the election campaign ended, and as such was an opportunity for the media and the public to press him on the specifics of his government’s many ongoing projects and proposals.

Details haven’t been Trudeau’s strong suit, either on the campaign trail or since he took power. This is obviously more true of some subjects than others, but on a wide range of issues, from the “fixing” of C-51 to the timing and specifics of marijuana legalization to the government’s thoughts on and plans for electoral reform, what the public has been told so far essentially adds up to “Just wait and see”.

And on no topic has this vagueness been more pervasive than the issue of Canada’s fight with ISIS.

Trudeau and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephane Dion, insist that the Liberals’ campaign promise to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the conflict still stands, but two months after election day, those same fighter jets are still dropping bombs on Iraq and Syria, and no date has been provided for their mission’s conclusion. Meanwhile, aside from vague statements from the Prime Minister that Canada would bolster its contingent of military trainers, we haven’t heard any concrete details about what the shape of Canada’s military mission will be, what its objective are, how long it will last, where it will operate, or how it hopes to accomplish its goals.

Nor have we heard from Trudeau, during the election or afterwards, a coherent statement as to why he feels that Canada ought to end its bombing mission while strengthening its training mission. No doubt there is a case to be made for this particular course of action, but it’s not a case that Justin Trudeau or his ministers have ever made publicly.

So it was only a matter of time before the subject came up during Trudeau’s town hall. Up to that point, I thought that Trudeau had done a fine job of answering questions in detail – which isn’t to say that I agreed with his positions, merely that he was getting into the nitty-gritty of policy in a way I hadn’t seen him do during the campaign or since he took power. But as soon as the subject pivoted away from domestic policy into foreign affairs, he suddenly seemed like a first-year poli-sci student who skipped the readings and is trying to bullshit his way through a question from the prof that he doesn’t have a damn clue how to answer properly.

I’ve quoted the entire exchange in full here, although Maclean’s edited the plethora of “uh”s and “um”s out of Trudeau’s statements; if you’d like to watch the exchange, it begins at roughly 19:00 here. Continue Reading

ICYMI – badass direct action shuts down Line 9B

Although Enbridge must have known that they would face protest when they first proposed reversing their Line 9B to pump diluted bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal, there’s no way they could have anticipated the ferocity of the opposition that’s resulted.

A massive and widespread citizen campaign to stop the project sprung up across southern Ontario and Quebec, including many First Nations communities. Line 9B’s reversal has been subject to multiple disruptive direct actions interfering with the infrastructure of the line as well as the process of approval by the industry-captured National Energy Board (NEB). The project has also been subject to a massive court case brought by the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations over Enbridge’s lack of proper consultation, a case which is now making its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

For those readers unfamiliar with the catastrophe-in-waiting that is Line 9B, here’s a summary from an older post of mine on the issue:

Line 9 is an already-existing pipeline which runs from Montreal to Sarnia, and for the past forty years or so it’s been transporting refined light crude oil westward. Enbridge, which owns the pipeline, applied to the National Energy Board for permission to reverse the pipeline’s direction, increase the volume it was allowed to transport, and switch over to transporting unrefined tar sands bitumen.

There’s a lot of issues with this plan. Bitumen has to be transported at a considerably higher pressure and temperature than light crude, and there are serious concerns about the integrity of the forty-year-old pipeline. A similar Enbridge pipeline of similar age burst near Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2010, spilling over three million litres of bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The fact that bitumen, unlike crude oil, sinks in fresh water made the disaster significantly worse, necessitating a complicated multi-year cleanup and causing massive damage to wildlife and the health of local residents.

That the oil spilled in a river is significant, because Line 9 crosses 36 different tributaries of Lake Ontario. A major spill of bitumen could be catastrophic for the world’s fourteenth-largest lake, which is the source of drinking water to over 9 million people in Canada and the United States.

And on top of all that, tar sands extraction is quite literally one of the most short-sided and ecocidal policies the human race could be pursuing right now. Making it easier for Enbridge to bring tar sands bitumen to international markets would be a terrible idea even if the structural integrity of Line 9 was guaranteed.

Despite this tenacious and active opposition and the weight of the arguments against the project, Enbridge was granted final approval to reverse the line a few weeks ago, and the company began pumping bitumen eastwards on December 3.

But even after the NEB’s approval and the line’s full reversal, the opposition to Enbridge’s project continues. Continue Reading

Billionaire media barons endorse Stephen Harper for Prime Minister

Most of the time, there’s a polite fiction in mass media that the obscenely wealthy billionaires and hedge funds which control 90% of the newspapers and TV stations don’t dictate what positions their properties take on major issues. Not everybody believes it, but it’s also an easy thing to just kinda forget about.

Every once in a while, though, the mask comes off, and the heavy hand of ownership makes itself felt.

That was the case these past few days, as across the country, newspaper after newspaper issued torturously worded, illogical, ill-informed, half-baked endorsements of Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party.

For those of you who aren’t up on the intensity of media concentration in Canada, here’s a post I did on it a few months back, or, here’s media ownership summed up in a single simple diagram:

For the record: a private holding company called The Woodbridge Company now wholly owns the Globe, while the Star is technically owned by TorStar, which at one point had a minority stake in the Globe, as did Bell. (It’s cozy at the top.) Continue Reading

Strategic voting and how it helps the capitalists win

Hello friends and patient readers!

I’m still away on vacation today – I’m setting this post up on Sunday evening – so this is another rerun of a post from several months ago on the subject of strategic voting, which I feel is important to reiterate as we get closer to Election Day.

I’ll be back to my regular schedule later on this week, and if this week has been like every other week of this interminable election campaign, I’ll have a lot to catch up on.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy! Continue Reading

Getting “left behind” on the TPP is fine by me – we shouldn’t buy into this race to the bottom

Hello friends and patient readers!

I’m on vacation with my partner for the next few days. Much as I’d love to be reacting to the latest news on the TPP, you (and I) are gonna have to wait until later in the week.

In the meanwhile, I thought I’d re-run this post from July which explores the deal in broad outlines – feel free to share it widely on social media as a primer for folks who are new to this issue!

In terms of more up-to-date commentary on this Frankenstein deal, I’m gonna pass the mic to Joseph Stiglitz, who’s been a vocal critic of the new trade regime, analyzing just how the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism could wind up biting TPP member nations in the ass:

International corporate interests tout ISDS as necessary to protect property rights where the rule of law and credible courts are lacking. But that argument is nonsense. The US is seeking the same mechanism in a similar mega-deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, even though there is little question about the quality of Europe’s legal and judicial systems.

To be sure, investors – wherever they call home – deserve protection from expropriation or discriminatory regulations. But ISDS goes much further: The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are nondiscriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm.

Philip Morris International is currently prosecuting such cases against Australia and Uruguay (not a TPP partner) for requiring cigarettes to carry warning labels. Canada, under threat of a similar suit, backed down from introducing a similarly effective warning label a few years back.

Given the veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, it is not clear whether tobacco will be excluded from some aspects of ISDS. Either way, the broader issue remains: Such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions – protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

Imagine what would have happened if these provisions had been in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered. Rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens. Taxpayers would have been hit twice – first to pay for the health damage caused by asbestos, and then to compensate manufacturers for their lost profits when the government stepped in to regulate a dangerous product.

Here’s the main post; thanks for reading and check back later this week for more up-to-date reactions! Continue Reading

Jacob Kearey-Moreland on food justice, party politics, and strategic voting

Regular readers of The Alfalfafield will know that I’ve been pretty disenchanted with the level of discourse spouted by most candidates in the ongoing federal election.

There’s an artificiality to the talking points and carefully calibrated messages rolled out by each of the major parties which is positively grating, regardless of how much I may agree or disagree with the policies that are being advocated.

And far too often, I’m left wondering why we’re spending so much time talking about such narrow issues that matter to so few people.

Which is why I’ve taken so much enjoyment in keeping tabs on the campaign of Jacob Kearey-Moreland, an unlikely Independent candidate in Simcoe North.

I first met Jacob at Occupy Toronto in 2011. (I can’t bring myself to follow the journalistic convention and refer to Jacob by his last name – he’s very much a first-name kind of guy. Even his election lawn signs say “Vote Jacob”!) I remember hearing him strumming his ukulele and singing a song about gardens, and going on to talk about his plans to create an organization called Occupy Gardens, which would take public gardens and use them to grow free food for their communities, and I remember being skeptical.

But sure enough, Occupy Gardens was a big success in the growing season of 2012. In 2013, I sat on the organizing committee for Toronto’s May Day rally, and so did Jacob, on behalf of Occupy Gardens. They were planning their most ambitious planting to date: a People’s Garden on the north lawn of Queen’s Park, just outside of the Ontario legislative building. It was, for me at least, the high point of that year’s May Day festivities. The planting was a rousing success; a large section of the lawn was dug up and several kinds of seeds were sowed. Jacob led everybody in a song with his then-omnipresent ukulele.

(For those curious about the fate of the project: The organization carefully tended the garden over the summer and fall. Then, just days before a long-planned and well-publicized harvest party, Parliamentary officers destroyed the garden and threw away the entire crop. It was hard to see their actions as anything but deliberately spiteful.)

Since I first met Jacob, he’s become a regular columnist for the Orillia Packet and Times, his hometown newspaper, on issues related to food justice and activism. Though our paths don’t often cross, I’ve found his online commentary on issues to be insightful and on-point.

I caught up with Jacob over the phone earlier this week to talk about his candidacy, and he did a lot to reinforce my positive perceptions of his candidacy when he started out our conversations by saying, “There’s a number of issues that aren’t really being talked about because these issues affect people who are unlikely to vote.” Continue Reading

This Week in Electionland: The press smells blood

If you read the political news recently, even a little bit, you’ll know that Stephen Harper had a bad week.

rabble went so far as to call it a “very bad, very ugly week“. Michael Harris at iPolitics dubbed it “the week that Stephen Harper lost the benefit of the doubt”. Maclean’s said it was the worst of the campaign for Harper and that the PM is now “seeking shelter” from the barrage of bad news. I’ll let Maclean’s sum up the damage:

The news of the week included a candidate who urinated in a stranger’s coffee mug, a candidate who impersonated a mentally disabled individual as part of a prank call, recent suggestions of turmoil within the leadership of the Conservative campaign and one anonymous Conservative’s subsequent assertion that someone was “obviously trying to f— us”, and, of course, the Syrian refugee crisis, a matter that, beyond serious questions of principle and policy, has had cabinet ministers complaining about media coverage (first, Chris Alexander’s unfortunate attempt to accuse the CBC of ignoring the issue, then, Jason Kenney’s admonition that the media was ignoring the government’s good work), campaign staff shielding another cabinet minister from reporters’ questions and a Conservative candidate’s spouse heckling a reporter’s attempt to enquire further of the Prime Minister. And before this week there had already been the trial of Mike Duffy—with its myriad of revelations and questions raised—and the official declaration of a recession.

Indeed, it really was one piece of bad news after another for the Conservative campaign this week – and the sharks in the press smelled blood.

It’s long been evident that the media elites in this country have it in for this Prime Minister. Hell, even the Sun called for his resignation at the height of the Duffy scandal in 2013. So it’s no surprise that they’re pouncing with all their might now, when they feel Harper is most vulnerable.

When I use the phrase “media elites” I feel a little bit like an Alex Jones-er, one of the Illuminati-obsessors, or even just a regular old Canadian Conservative supporter. It gives me a bit of an icky feeling.

But let’s be real here – our mainstream media in this country is dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy people who aren’t just in it for the chuckles. When, across the board, you see reporters and editorialists joining the pile-on and saying that Harper’s time has come, that he’s really fucked up this time, that the Conservative campaign is on a fast train to Nowheresville, then you gotta know that the big boys at the top are done with Steve-O.

Let’s take a look, shall we? Continue Reading

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