Tag Archives: Unions

ICYMI – general strike looms in Quebec as public service, students fight back against austerity

A massive protest against Quebec by public sector workers. (Image credit: Graham Hughes/CP)

Every Monday, I like to take a look at important stories which got gobbled up by the vicious ever-moving news cycle. Typically, these are one-off events, official announcements which get overlooked or trends which don’t get reported on.

But today, I’d like to look at a major, ongoing, and extremely newsworthy event which is barely making an impact in the national consciousness.

I follow Canadian politics and activism pretty darn closely, if I do say so myself. So I was shocked to discover a few days ago that there have been massive union-organized demonstrations and widespread strike actions against austerity in Quebec since mid-October without my hearing a single word about it.

It’s a story that’s been barely reported outside of Quebec, and yet it holds out promise and potential to the anti-austerity movement everywhere in Canada and across the globe.

Today, teachers across Montreal and Laval, along with other public sector workers, struck against government contract proposals that would cut pay for teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers while simultaneously raising the age of retirement and increasing the workload (by, for instance, increasing the number of students per classroom or nurses per patient), thus guaranteeing a decreased quality of service for every member of the public who accesses these services.

Today’s strike actions were the third such round of rotating strikes, which have affected multiple cities across the province.

The culmination of this agitation, failing an eleventh-hour agreement with an intransigent provincial government, will be a three-day general strike by nearly half a million workers on the first three days of December. Continue Reading

Whistleblowers under attack – RCMP launches investigation into Dept. of Citizenship leaks

In the past few weeks, there have been a handful of high-profile scandals based on leaks from within the Department of Citizenship and Immigration which have reflected poorly upon the Conservative Party. Yesterday, we found out that the RCMP has launched a criminal investigation into the leaks.

Before I dig into how profoundly frightening that is, let’s take a look at the leaks in question.

Although it’s unclear which stories precisely the investigation is focussing on, two major investigative reports are likely candidates.

The first is a CBC story from September 23 which revealed that a new passport design system had led to at least 1,500 flawed passports being issued, and that political pressure led to that system’s implementation ahead of schedule:

Internal records from Citizenship and Immigration Canada reveal the processing program was rushed into operation on May 9, 2015, despite dire warnings from senior officials that it was not ready and could present new security risks.

One government source told CBC/Radio-Canada there are concerns that passports produced under the new system could wind up in the wrong hands.

The report was a major downer for the Conservatives, who have made making Canadians more safe a centrepiece of their campaign. They spent the day in damage-control mode. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, still reeling from his early-September embarrassment at the hands of Rosie Barton on Power and Politics, hid behind his spokesperson, who issued a vaguely worded statement insistently saying nothing much in particular. (‘”The Canadian passport is, and will remain, one of the most secure travel documents in the world,” said Nancy Caron in an emailed response. “CIC has been moving towards an increasingly integrated, modernized and centralized working environment across many of its business lines, including the passport program.”‘) Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson was also deployed to make reassuring noises without specifically commenting on the allegations. After weeks of being relentlessly attacked over their handling of the refugee crisis, the Conservative Party was no doubt frustrated to have to respond to yet another scandal on the immigration file.

Their frustration must have been compounded earlier this week when the refugee issue returned to the forefront of campaign coverage on the strength of a Globe and Mail article detailing interference by the Prime Minister’s Office into the refugee application process: Continue Reading

The Great Leap Forward – it sounds great on paper, but how do we get there from here?

If you haven’t heard about the Leap Manifesto yet, and you’re concerned about the future of humanity in the face of myriad challenges, challenges which are corporate, environmental, and white-cis-het-patriarcho-supremacist, then perhaps you could go take a look at it.

(I tried to pick a section to highlight and quote here, but it was all too reasonable and on point. So I’ll wait here while you read it.)

OK. So. A concrete plan for a transformation of the Canadian economy and political system and energy infrastructure and racial relations and worker/capitalist relations, all in the name of making Earth more habitable and life more enjoyable in both the short and long term.

Sounds great, right?

So why in the hell haven’t we been hearing more about this kind of thing from, I don’t know, ANY MAJOR POLITICIAN?

Funny you should ask…

Here’s the thing. We’ve never had any shortage of great ideas in terms of how we should radically transform the world to make it more inclusive, equitable, environmentally sustainable, racially just. Plans to conclusively end poverty once and for all have been kicking around for a century or more. And I’m not saying that these ideas and plans and schemes and manifestos have been ill-informed or poorly designed or unworkable in practice.

It’s just that, well… Continue Reading

This week in Electionland – Through the Looking Glass edition

For some mood music, jump to the end of the article. CW: misogyny, violent lyrics, profanity. But also some damn good mashing up.

This was the week when I gave up on the election.

I’ll admit that even going in I was extremely skeptical. (See for instance my seven-part series on why voting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and probably isn’t even a worthwhile exercise most of the time.) And granted, my patience was essentially gone by the end of last week. But keeping track of the literally absurd squabble over deficits that ate up several news cycles this week pushed me past my limits.

I tuned right out.

Which perhaps was the intention of most of the parties involved. Because while “the economy” may be a top priority for many voters, those same voters quite likely don’t want to spend more time than is strictly speaking necessary thinking about the specifics of the federal government’s budget. They just want to have secure jobs and decent incomes.

And besides, partisans are going to stand by their parties no matter what position they take. As the brilliantly-named “O-bots” have shown over the past seven years, loyal party members are happy to denounce a policy when in opposition and then whole-heartedly embrace that same policy when in power, and never mind how contorted the mental gymnastics involved are.

So, for instance, witness supporters of the NDP straining to reconcile themselves to Thomas Mulcair’s words of praise of Margaret Thatcher: Continue Reading

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses is doing Harper’s dirty work

[Bullshit] comes in three flavours. One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic, all-natural. Because factory-made sugar oatmeal balls doesn’t sell. Patriot Act. Because “Are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records” Act doesn’t sell. So whenever something’s been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit…

Jon Stewart

Today I want to look at a sneaky way that ideology gets passed off as informed opinion in news coverage: by hiding behind a front of bullshit. Specifically, I’m going to look at the impartial way one business group gets presented in coverage of the new Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), and the extremely partisan and political reality behind their pseudo-reasonable front.

I’m not going to talk too much about the ORPP itself – I’m not even going to take a position for or against. Instead, I just want to use it as a case study of how right-wing advocacy organizations get their talking points taken seriously and presented as informed opinion or even fact.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) is a business lobbying organization that says they like to stick up for the little guy:

With the strength of over 109,000 small business owners from coast-to-coast – entrepreneurs just like you – the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the big voice for small businesses. For over 40 years, we have represented the interests of the small business community to all three levels of government in their fight for tax fairness, reasonable labour laws and reduction of regulatory paper burden.

Before we dive into demolishing the shit out of them, let’s just take a moment to admire how well-crafted this advertising copy is. They’re fighting for fairness, their cause is reasonable, and they want to reduce your burdens. What’s not to like?

They make a lot of the fact that they don’t accept outside donations and are strictly non-partisan. And as for the idea that they have a right-wing agenda, well, let’s just let their President, Dan Kelly, shake his head and laugh that notion away (caution: the link is to a HuffPo advertorial, so click at your own discretion): Continue Reading

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

It’s been called the sleeper issue of this fall’s federal election campaign, but my riding’s Liberal candidate sure seemed surprised that I brought it up when he came knocking on my door earlier this week.

I got home from work just in time to catch Arif Virani in the hallway of my building. I gotta admit, I was pretty impressed to see him out canvassing on a weekday afternoon three months before the election – and I was excited to give him a piece of my mind.

I saw a certain look of resignation in his eyes when I mentioned Bill C-51 – and indeed, he had a well-thought-out reply to the oft-made criticisms of that bill. (It was an argument that I didn’t particularly buy into, but it was a thorough and well-prepared one, and one I imagine he’d had to make pretty frequently.)

But he had quite clearly not heard about the Trans Pacific Partnership from nearly as many people in his door-knocking.

I made it clear to him that the TPP is for me one of the biggest issues of this year’s election, and that any party that can endorse that sovereignty-destroying nightmare of a “trade” agreement won’t get my vote. (I didn’t mention that I’m not entirely certain I’m going to vote anyway – didn’t want to undercut my argument!)

To his credit, he didn’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but instead frankly acknowledged that he didn’t know much about the issue, beyond the squabbling over supply management which has dominated recent coverage of the mysterious deal: Continue Reading

Trans-Pacific Partnership – the scariest trade deal you’ve probably never heard of

A few weeks back, a poll by Environics Research Group for Trade Justice Network, “an umbrella group dedicated to challenging the secretive process by which international trade deals are generally negotiated”, released a poll showing that three out of four Canadians have never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Assuming my readership is roughly representative, that means that for 75% of people reading this, this is your first introduction to the horrorshow of a trainwreck of a landmine which is the TPP. So, fair warning – there’s not much good news in this post, not many glimmers of optimism, no clear path forward. This is a story about a disaster in progress, a disaster which has been carefully concealed from the public.

There’s something darkly ironic about the CBC reporting on ERGTJN’s poll results, because they’re very much part of the problem. They haven’t exactly covered the story in great depth – a Google search reveals that the term received a mere ten mentions on their site all year up until their article about the poll, with half of these being passing references and the other half being related to the squabbles in the US Congress and among US Presidential candidates over the super-secretive trade deal. If you’re wondering why Donald Trump easily has four times the name recognition of the TPP while possessing way less than a quarter the relevance, look no farther than the mainstream media.

If you’re one of the 75% who don’t know what I’m talking about, I won’t leave you in suspense any longer. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is ostensibly a free-trade deal being conducted between twelve Pacific Rim nations, including Canada, which will vastly empower corporate interests while in large measure sacrificing the national sovereignty of all nations involved.

The full extent of the damage this treaty will do is unknowable, because we’re literally not allowed to know. The treaty will remain secret until four years after it is completed and signed and ratified and brought into force.

Does that sound absurd to you? Almost as though it couldn’t be true?

Because, unfortunately, it is.

Economist Robert Reich explains it succinctly in this (admittedly US-centric) video (h/t Lorne over at Politics and its Discontents): Continue Reading

#Omnibus2015: Harper tries to set up secret terrorist courts, stomp public sector unions on the DL

Last month, I went on at length about how godawful the federal budget was. I surprised myself with how upset I was able to get over the damn thing.

At that time, I couldn’t have predicted that the budget could get any worse. After all, it had all the credibility of a sheaf of hastily scribbled, semi-illegible, mostly incorrect and three weeks overdue math homework.

But never doubt the HarperCons’ ability to take bad and make it worse. They succeeded in this ignoble endeavour this time by stapling a bunch of completely unrelated laws and bills to the back of the budget and giving it a fancy Latin name to make it sound boring to the Average Voter.

Now, omnibus bills are nothing new in HarperLand, and to be fair, this one isn’t quite as bad as previous ones have been – mostly because they’re running out of ideas for awful/stupid/destructive laws to pass.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any awful/stupid/destructive new laws proposed in #Omnibus2015 (officially titled Bill C-59, which you can read here if you want a headache). They’re mostly pretty bad. Continue Reading

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