Canada

An Open Letter to David Anderson, MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands

Dear David Anderson,

I am writing to express my disgust with your false and outright disgraceful polemic in the House of Commons recently about the death of Fidel Castro and the revolutionary government of Cuba.

I’d like to respond to some of your criticisms of Castro and of the Cuban “communist regime.”

Quoting an unnamed ‘Cuban friend’ of yours you claim that Cuban healthcare, far from being the ‘model of the world’ like that pesky organization called the United Nations says it is, is unable to provide the most basic services. According to this ‘friend’, Cuban hospitals don’t even have any aspirin!

Did it ever occur to you or this ‘friend’ that Cuba’s economic difficulties could be attributed to the U.S. embargo on this small island nation rather than being indicative of the failure of the Cuban social system? U.S. policy towards Cuba has always been to make life as unbearable as possible since the overthrow of Batista, the ‘good dictator’. Does Operation Northwoods or the Bay of Pigs Invasion sound familiar to you? Those operations certainly were in no way intended to benefit the masses of Cuban people. According to a 1997 report by the American Association for World Health, the 54-year-old U.S. embargo “has dramatically harmed the health and nutrition of large numbers of ordinary Cuban citizens,” causing “a significant rise in suffering-and even deaths-in Cuba.” The same reported applauded the Cuban government for averting a “humanitarian catastrophe” by maintaining “a high level of budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all of its citizens.” I have included the link here to that report for you to share to your ‘friend’ and for you to read for yourself.

Your ‘friend’ claims that Cuban hospitals lack the most basic medicines and medical supplies, and this you use as evidence of the failure of Cuba’s healthcare system. Yet, despite the Cuban healthcare system’s apparent inability to provide its people with such basic medicines like aspirin, Cuba has managed to achieve a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S, the richest country in the world! Quite an impressive achievement for a country lacking painkillers, wouldn’t you say? A case could be made that if Cuba’s healthcare system is as you and your ‘friend’ describe and it has nevertheless achieved a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S., then this is indicative of the failure of the U.S. healthcare system, which by the way your Party and its former leader Stephen Harper enthusiastically support, not the Cuban.

Your criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record and lack of Western-style democracy are about as laughable as yours criticisms of Cuba’s healthcare system. With all do respect, you are far from being qualified to lecture the Cuban government about democracy and human rights! Let me remind you of the democratic and human rights achievements of the former Harper government, which you so dutifully served in as the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Foreign Affairs:

  • First government in the whole Commonwealth to be found in contempt of Parliament.
  • Largest mass arrests in Canadian history.
  • Passed the most repressive security legislation. A Canadian citizen can now be arrested on the mere suspicion of future dangerousness!
  • Your government cozied up to apartheid Israel. Regardless of what you might think of Cuba’s human rights record, in no universe has Cuba committed a fraction of the heinous crimes the Israelis have committed against the whole Palestinian nation. Nobody, not even you with your flawed and distorted logic, can accuse the Cubans of genocide.
  • Your government systematically undermined Indigenous rights, medicare, environmental protection, democratic debate, and the right to collective bargaining.
  • Your government formed a majority government with 38% of the popular vote! On what planet is that a democracy? The Foreign Minister you served couldn’t even provide an answer to a Jordanian reporter that asked how a government could hold all the power with 38% of the popular vote?

With a record like this you are hardly in any position to be criticizing the Cuban political system.

As for Cuba’s human rights, are you aware that at no time under the rule of the man you called a “tyrant,” Fidel Castro, was Cuba’s incarceration rate as high as that in the U.S.? Neither has Cuba, unlike the U.S. and Canada, been bombing other countries back to the stone age and torturing people abroad in U.S.-run torture camps. There wasn’t a war in the world your government didn’t like, and your government aided and abetted the illegal incarceration and torture of one of its own citizens. Finally the United Nations slammed your government for “increasingly serious violations of civil and political rights in Canada.” Among these “violations of civil and political rights” were your government’s refusal to take action on the 1, 200 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, repressive security legislation, and the use CRA audits to shut down charities not in line with your government’s ideology among many other serious violations.

I hope that you do some research and fact-checking next time before you decide to fulminate in the House of Commons.

Best Regards,

T.J.

Peacekeeping: Fiction vs. Reality

(Image: Protest in Haiti against UN sexual crimes against women. Source)

The word peacekeeping is like the word terrorism: it is meaningless on its own and able to be molded to serve the interests of a political clique. Like Alex P. Schmidt’s description of terrorism in The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research, peacekeeping “is usually an instrument for the attempted realization of a political…project that perpetrators lacking mass support are seeking”[1].

Peacekeepers have never kept the peace in any conflict. On the contrary, peacekeepers themselves have been linked to an increase in violence and human rights abuses, particularly of a sexual nature. In Bosnia, Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, peacekeepers have been “associated with criminal misconduct, including sexual violence. Crimes against women and children have followed UN peacekeeping operations in several locations, and the UN reported that the entrance of peacekeeping troops into a conflict situation has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution”[2]. Allegations of sexual violence against peacekeepers dates back to the 1990s. During the 1995-2002 UN mission in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, a human rights investigator, found that young “girls from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European countries [were] being brought in to service the UN and military bases as sex-slaves. The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, government contractors, and local organized criminals”[3]. Bolkovac was subsequently fired for her investigation. As of 2015 more than 200 women and girls have been sexually exploited by UN peacekeepers in Haiti in exchange for food, clothing, medicine, and other basic necessities [4]. In the Central African Republic, French peacekeepers have forced young girls to have sex with dogs [5], starving and homeless boys as young as nine have been sodomized by peacekeepers [6], and an entire UN contingent was expelled from the country due to sex crimes [7].

Extrajudicial murder, torture, and mass murder – all war crimes under international law – have also been committed by peacekeepers. A 14-year-old Somali boy was beaten, tortured, and murdered by Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia; the peacekeepers having posed in photos with the boy’s bloody corpse. Not to be outdone, Belgian peacekeepers were photographed roasting a Somali over a fire. (more…)

War is Peace: The Foreign Policy of Justin Trudeau

Since July of this year, rumours have been circulating of a major Canadian Forces deployment in Africa. Those rumours have now been confirmed. As of late August, the Trudeau Liberals have pledged up to 600 troops in support of United Nations missions on the continent. This comes on the heels of an earlier commitment, made in late-June, to deploy 450 troops to Latvia in support of NATO missions in eastern Europe, as well as the addition in February of over 100 special forces to Canada’s mission in Iraq. In total, the Liberals have pledged to deploy more than 1000 soldiers across the globe in the short span of just seven months. This is a far cry from what was supposed to be a departure from the Harper era. In many ways, it is far worse.

In no other department have the Liberals veered farther from their expectations than in foreign policy. Trudeau went to great lengths to distance himself from his predecessor during the campaign. Among other things, he promised he would end the combat mission in Iraq. Upon being elected, he said he would restore Canada’s “compassionate and constructive voice in the world.” Many were led to believe that Harper’s divisive foreign policy had come to an end. But it is unlikely that this was ever Trudeau’s intention.

(more…)

The Liberals are Masters of Misdirection

Last Tuesday, the Liberals shut down an NDP effort to review Canada’s role in the arms trade. On Wednesday, they invoked closure to ram through a bill moving Air Canada workers’ jobs offshore. On Thursday we learned they dropped a court case to require the Catholic Church to fulfill obligations to First Nations Canadians under the residential schools settlement.

In just three days, Canadians who’ve paid attention have seen the ultra-progressive, super-feminist, pro-worker and pro-reconciliation Justin Trudeau revealed – as a sham.

But many Canadians have been distracted. Trudeau amazed with quantum computers. He smouldered at a boxing photo op. And he wears wonderful coloured socks and GQ-style vested suits.

Magicians call it “misdirection” – a deception that focuses the audience’s attention on one hand to distract attention from the other. With one hand, Trudeau bedazzles. With the other, Liberals maintain the Conservative status quo.

They’ve kept the status quo on weaponized vehicles for the Saudis. Now our super-feminist, super-pacifist Prime Minister is selling arms to one of the most anti-woman, anti-democratic regimes in the world.

They maintain the status quo on Bill C-51, which takes away our Canadian freedoms. No amendments have been tabled. No public consultations hosted.

It’s the status quo on the Trans Pacific Partnership – which Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz calls the “worst trade deal ever.” The Liberals signed the deal and are downplaying it, working to lower the temperature and ratify it through without commotion.

The Liberals have kept the status quo on health care cuts. Harper unilaterally cut health transfers to the provinces. Trudeau’s budget actually cut health care transfers even more deeply.

The Liberals are maintaining the status quo on climate action. The deal signed Friday commits Canada to nothing more than Harper’s old climate change plan.

Fortunately, Albertans wisely elected a new Premier. Through work with First Nations, environment groups and business, Premier Notley adopted a climate change plan to save our country’s reputation. Trudeau rides Alberta’s coat-tails, nothing more.

It’s status quo on childcare. Trudeau (with self-described progressive Premier Wynne sniping from the sidelines) repeatedly attacked an NDP plan to create 100,000 new childcare spaces this year alone. What kind of feminist does that?

Again, it’s status quo on pharmacare. Questioned about it 10 days ago, Minister Philpott said the status quo is fine because “there are public drug plans… for people who can’t afford medication.” So, expect nothing.

It’s status quo on stock option tax deductions. Trudeau broke his promise to end Harper’s law that allows corporate executives to pay tax on only half their stock option income.

It’s more status quo tax cuts — the ones they told you would help the middle class. But the Parliamentary Budget Office and Finance Canada now say the biggest benefit from Trudeau’s tax cut goes to a person earning $200,000. If you earn $45,000 or less, you get nothing. And our social programs lose $4 billion a year.

The status quo isn’t working for jobs, climate, incomes or social services. It’s especially tough on working class Canadians from manufacturing towns, expensive big cities and resource economies – people struggling to make ends meet each month. Even middle class people feel the insecurity.

Canadians wanted a new deal. They aren’t going to get it.

What we are getting is a change in style. Harper’s brooding is gone – replaced by Trudeau’s sunny ways that misdirect us from what Liberals do in the shadows.

Source: http://www.torontosun.com/2016/04/22/the-liberals-are-masters-of-misdirection?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=recommend-button&utm_campaign=The+Liberals+are+masters+of+misdirection

Ontario gets $0.75 for every $1 million in Diamonds mined by De Beers

We found out yesterday that De Beers paid only $226 in royalties to the Ontario government for the company’s diamond mining operation in the province, thanks to an investigation by CBC’s Rita Celli.

The reason that Celli had to do an investigation to find that number is because the royalties collected from Ontario’s only diamond mine has been a closely guarded secret, by the government and the company.

But just how much did De Beers make from the Victor Mine?

The mining company annually extracts 714,000 carats of diamonds at $419 per carat, according to De Beers Operating and Financial Review for 2008, a figure that is confirmed by the Ontario Geological Survey.

As the average price of diamonds has remained mostly stable between 2006 and now, we can estimate that De Beers Canada extracts $300 million worth of diamonds every year.

In other words, De Beers is paying the province royalties at the rate of 75 cents per million dollars of diamonds extracted.

What is happening in Ontario is not unique to that province.

In British Columbia, Premier Clark’s government is selling water to Nestle at $2.25 per million litres. Nestle’s bottled water retails for around $1.50 per 500ml.

In Alberta, a royalty miscalculation by the Progressive Conservatives robbed Albertans of $13.5 billion in oil and gas revenues, according to a study by University of Alberta.

“According to Natural Resources Canada, mining companies generated over $93.3 billion in gross revenue in Ontario over the last 10 years,” the advocacy group MiningWatch Canada wrote in a letter to the Auditor General for Ontario. “During the same period, a meagre 1.5% was generated in mining royalties – 10 times less than a tip at a restaurant!”

In the case of diamonds, the government of Ontario seems to be collecting an infinitesimal fraction of one percent.

“Low mining royalties are unacceptable, particularly considering that companies are digging up collectively owned non-renewable resources, which will no longer be available for future generations,” the group pointed out.

Source: https://thinkpol.ca/2015/05/14/ontarians-get-only-75c-for-every-million-dollars-de-beers-makes-mining-diamonds-in-ontario/

Image Source: Same as source

The Manitoba Election

I’m running as the Communist Party candidate in the Burrows riding in Winnipeg, MB this election.

_____

A Political Message from Manitoba’s Communist Party

The notable lack of enthusiasm for the main parties in the Manitoba election is best explained by looking at the federal scene, where the federal Tory vote held firm (eg, in rural Manitoba) and where the mood for change boosted the anti-Tory vote, notably in Winnipeg which went Liberal.

The federal election is a study of contrasts.

In the Manitoba election there is the spark of energy in the Communist Party’s campaign, yet most people are still voting for the devil they know or for the less evil devil, the only choice capitalist parties can offer, and that includes the NDP.

The Manitoba NDP can’t escape the fact that its federal counterpart bombed in the federal election. The federal NDP bombed because it bows down to the same corporate establishment who were behind the Harper Tories.

This is not lost on working people in Manitoba who are struggling to keep a roof over their head and grapple with which party will help them the most.

Compared to the ‘sunny way’ Liberals, the federal NDP was closer to Harper on fiscal policy (balanced budgets, meaning more cuts), the $200 billion F-35 warplane purchase, the Saudi arms deal, bombing Syria, hiring 5,000 new RCMP officers and so on.

These were and are the priorities of the federal NDP.

As Marxists, the Communist Party understands perfectly well that the federal NDP and Liberals both are in the pockets of Canada’s big business establishment on matters like free trade agreements (except recently the TPP), tar sands development, propping up Ukraine’s fascist regime, sending troops to confront Russia, etc.

The Communist Party understands that the federal Liberal campaign was a giant deception from start to finish, and Aboriginal peoples, women, youth and especially workers can expect nothing but grief for the next four years from Ottawa.

Unless they unite and fight, they will lose and fall behind even more.

* * * *

In Manitoba, the NDP has merely imposed a different set of neo-liberal capitalist policies, like:

  • a two year wage freeze in the public sector (attacking the public sector ideologically, softening it up for privatization),
  • balancing budgets in most years (ignoring the fact it is not the size of government, but which class government supports that matters),
  • raising the sales tax (a policy birthed and advanced by Manitoba’s big business establishment), and
  • supporting a Winnipeg mayoral campaign in 2014 based on the idea that workers wanted to pay higher property taxes.

There are more reasons why seventeen years of NDP governance has led to acute and dangerous levels of impoverishment and a general worsening of the condition of all sections of the working class, which is on the edge of a precipice waiting for the next earthquake in the capitalist system.

This has much to do with the inability of any capitalist government to alter the system’s general laws of development, reflected in problems like enormous personal and home debt burdens.

In fact, the 2008 recession which hit Manitoba very hard is only the tremor before the earthquake.

* * * *

But it must be said, a pro-peoples’ government in Manitoba could have built a far bigger life raft, it could have reduced poverty, created fair taxes, built more access to education, fought racism, addressed the child apprehension crisis with resources for families, and mobilized against war, rather than put a sign ‘support the troops’ on the front of the Legislature.

Never has a reduction in the work week hurt capitalism, never has a big hike in the minimum wage hurt the economy and home market.

The Communist Party is not campaigning to save capitalism, but we are campaigning for the working class, with policies that will improve their conditions and soften the blows of the catastrophes that lie ahead.

All the big parties are campaigning on policy planks that will take Manitoba over a very high cliff.

All the main parties in this election are campaigning to annoint themselves with more neoliberal oil.

A day after the election was called in Manitoba, former NDP premier Gary Doer was appointed to the boards of two of western Canada’s largest financial groups, based in Winnipeg: Great West Life and Investor’s Group, after explaining he had a cozy relationship with them when he was premier.

There is nothing but silence from the NDP about this picture.

* * * *

When the inevitable large economic crash comes (and it is coming!), we will need strong forces to fight for working people and the oppressed.

It is time to build and vote for a working class party with the goal of socialism, a party that has never betrayed its class and has developed ideas and struggles that have led to major achievements for the working class: the Communist Party of Canada.

It is time to strengthen and brace the diverse peoples’ movements in their entirety, especially trade unions and Aboriginal rights movements who each contribute or can aid the overall struggle like no other.

They are strategic and essential.

It is time to head off the impending corporate destruction of Manitoba.

In this election, help or send a contribution to the Communist Party of Canada – Manitoba.

In this election, vote Communist.

Darrell Rankin, Leader, Communist Party of Canada – Manitoba.

PS Send a contribution today; we need to pay for our leaflet and we need bus tickets to campaign! Any amount will help.

Authorized by the CFO, CPC-MB

Source: http://communist-party.ca/manitoba-sunny-ways

Ontario Budget: Liberals Hide Austerity behind “Free Education”

On February 25, the Ontario Liberals unveiled their budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The centrepiece of the 346-page document was a pledge to make post-secondary education free for families earning under $50,000 a year. The working poor have cause to celebrate: Premier Kathleen Wynne’s “activist” government seems to be finally living up to its name – but is it really? Or is this budget just another example of “talking left and governing right”?

Free Education?

Under the new Ontario Student Grant (OSG), students from families earning under $50,000 a year will have their tuition made free. In addition, “middle-income” students will also have their tuition costs reduced. The logical question then follows: how is it that a government committed to erasing the deficit has found so much new money for poor students? The answer: they haven’t. The new system of funding will replace the mishmash of tax credits and grants that existed before it. The Wynne government claims the new costs will be “roughly the same” as the $1.3 billion in aid that is being replaced.

In other words, only already existing money will be committed to help with tuition costs. Fanfare aside, all the Liberals have really done is shift money around, label it “free education” and pat themselves on the back repeatedly for it.

If, however, the cost of implementing the OSG ends up exceeding the cost of the old grant/tax credit system, working families should be advised to hold their breath. While headlines may give the impression that money is being showered on post-secondary education, the opposite is in fact true. In reality, the rate of funding for post-secondary education is set to decrease.

On budget day, The Globe & Mail was quick to note that the Liberals were “keeping a tight lid on spending”. It then went on to explain how they propose to do that:

“[For the next three years] the province’s three largest spending areas – health care, education and postsecondary education – will be held to average annual increases of 1.8 per cent, 1.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively.”

With inflation anticipated to be higher than 2 per cent, the result will be a net decrease in funding for each of these three areas. Of these, postsecondary education is slated to be the worst hit. This should sow suspicion in the Liberal’s newfound love for students. It is also important to note that even if there was dramatic increase in funding to the OSG, this could only come at the expense of deeper cuts to other areas.

This, however, is not the only caveat with the OSG. From what the government has said thus far, the OSG will not be linked to tuition levels. It is important to remember that what universities and colleges charge in tuition fees is separate from what the government provides in grants. One may dramatically increase, while the other remains flat. That means the value of the OSG in 2017 would remain the same even if tuition levels were to triple in the future (which they have in Ontario since 1993).

In fact, the 3 per cent cap on tuition increases that currently exists is set to expire in 2017. As of now, it is unclear whether the Liberals are going to impose a new cap, if any, on tuition increases. On this, as with everything else, the Liberals leave more questions than answers. While a programme of free education for low-income families is undoubtedly progressive, it remains that the Liberal proposal is both vague and filled with holes.

What’s not uncertain, however, is the wave of enthusiasm around the idea of “free education”. This is something that only yesterday was said to be unrealistic or impractical by even labour and student leaders. In the past election, for example, the Ontario NDP would only commit to a tuition freeze and zero-interest student loans. Perhaps even more scandalous is that for the past decade the leaders of the left-leaning Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) have refused to publicly raise or mobilize around the demand for universal free education. This demand must now be enthusiastically taken up as a means of holding the Liberals to account, and exposing them if they backtrack.

Moreover, tuition freezes and zero-interest loans will not fundamentally solve the problems that students and young workers face. Tuition is already unaffordable and loans an incredible burden. Raising and mobilizing around the demand for universal free education would be a significant step forward for the student movement itself and would be a powerful beacon to all students facing the reality of austerity with rising tuition costs, deteriorating living and working conditions, the skyrocketing cost of housing, poor job prospects, etc. The demand for free education is directly connected to other questions such as jobs and housing and cannot be made on its own. The demand for universal free education must be taken up as an immediate step to improve the lives of students and the education system and must therefore be linked with broader demans for decent jobs, affordable housing, access to quality social services, etc.

Cap-and-Trade

Another centrepiece of this budget has been the introduction of a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. This system sets a “cap” on emissions through the issue of permits, which are then purchased and sold by industry in the open market. Beginning in 2017, Ontario will enter a carbon-trading market made up of itself, Quebec and California to this effect. While this may fit into the “activist” narrative of the current government, the hole in their plan is so big as to make the ozone layer jealous.

As with any scheme to penalize industrial polluters, the system is only as effective as those who enforce it. How much can be expected of the Ontario Liberals, who are connected to those same polluters by a million and one strings? As their own budget makes plainly clear – almost nothing.

Just as soon as the scheme was unveiled, it was discovered that some of the largest industrial polluters (102 of them, to be exact) would be given temporary free permits to help ease their fears with cap-and-trade. But this “temporary” measure will be in place for a full four years, after which the Liberals can only promise a “review” of the practice!

Nonetheless, the Ontario Liberals have shown less compassion for working people than they have for industrial polluters. As a result of cap-and-trade, average Ontarians will be forced to pay a levy of 4.3 cents for every litre of gasoline at the pump, and up to $6 a month for heating in the average home. Unlike big industry, there will be no “reprieve” or “review” of this indirect gas tax.

Even then, this will likely do little to abate climate change – which is the intended purpose of the system. As noted by Edward Keenan, an advocate of carbon taxes, in The Toronto Star:

How many car owners are going to rearrange their lifestyles — move closer to work, or switch to public transit, or take up cycling — to avoid a 4.3-cent a litre tax? How many people are going to renovate their homes to avoid a $5-a-month increase in heating costs? I expect the answer to both questions is ‘not many’.”

Premier Wynne has repeatedly warned of the “cost of doing nothing” in regards to climate change, but no one figured that cost would be 4.3 cents extra at the pump!

More Austerity to Come

We should make no mistake in calling this budget what it is – an austerity budget. As mentioned earlier, decreases in funding are slotted for all three major spending areas – including post-secondary education. Even some of the more harmless proposals, such as making prescription drugs free for seniors earning under $19,300, harbour tax increases that target some of Ontario’s most vulnerable. The Liberal-friendly Toronto Star editorial board itself was forced to comment:

Seniors earning more than that modest level [of $19,300] will see their annual deductible almost double to $170 and their co-pay go up by a dollar per prescription […] for thousands close to the line it’s a slap in the face. Surely Ontario is wealthy enough not to demand more from old people getting by on poverty level-incomes.”

But this is hardly the end of the Wynne-era austerity. The deficit is projected to be at $4.3 billion in the 2016-17 fiscal year to zero in 2017-18. Barring a surprise uptick in the economy, these billions in cuts will ultimately fall on those they have since Wynne was elected – the working class. And whether you call it an “activist budget,” or whether you call it French toast, a spade remains a spade. At the end of the day, this budget sets no departure from the agenda of school closings, layoffs and privatization. In fact, it intensifies it.

These factors have led to a steep decline in approval for Wynne’s performance, which now stands at an abysmal 29 per cent. Disapproval, on the other hand, stands at 60 per cent. As support continues to decline, the Ontario Liberals will be forced to be ever more inventive in diverting attention from their attacks on workers. “Free education” and cap-and-trade are just the latest half-hearted “progressive” initiatives to this effect. But just like someone with a gun pointed to their head, the Ontario Liberals will promise anything if it means staying alive.

But even the few reforms Wynne has eked out are based on incredibly shaky fiscal projections. As noted by Andrew Coyne in The National Post:

That revenues are nonetheless projected to soar represents one part wishful thinking, one part federal transfers — Ontario now depends on Ottawa for nearly $25 billion annually, twice what it received a decade ago — and one part dodgy accounting. In the current fiscal year, for example, the government will book $1.1 billion from its “Asset Optimization Strategy,” otherwise known as the partial sale of Hydro One: a one-time gain that does nothing for the government’s fiscal position in the longer term.”

What can also be added to this is an unexpected $504-million in revenue from HST on housing purchases, as well as historically low interest rates, which have lowered the cost of servicing Ontario’s debt load (which at $308 billion is the largest sub-sovereign debt load in the world). Finance Minister Charles Sousa himself admitted that “uncertain economic winds are currently blowing in the right direction for Ontario.” But what will happen when those winds begin to blow in the opposite direction? A collapse in the global economy, an uptick in interest rates, a reversal in transfer payments, a burst in the housing bubble – any one of these variables could easily upset the fiscal projections of the government. Simultaneously they could imply austerity on a level that has been seen across Europe.

Unlike the federal government, the Ontario Liberals have far less room to “borrow and spend” their way out of a crisis. The provincial government already spends an incredible $11.8 billion to service the debt every year. To put this into perspective, interest payments make up the third largest expenditure after education in the province. The credit rating agencies already downgraded Ontario’s rating in July of last year. They will not hesitate to do so again if the government wavers from its commitments to balance the budget. In other words, there is no room for the government to manoeuvre. They have no choice but to take the road of austerity.

What Comes Next?

While the Ontario Liberals may have refined their strategy of “talking left and governing right” with this budget, there are fixed limits to how long people can be duped. Unlike Trudeau, their post-election honeymoon has long since faded. The Wynne Liberals hope the Ontario Student Grant will prevent a Quebecois Spring from ever happening here. But rather than pacify students, it may well have the opposite effect of empowering them. Students who yesterday saw free education as a pipe dream will now feel that it is within reach. This can have an unintentionally radicalizing effect. Free post-secondary education would alleviate a massive burden for thousands of students, and the demand for universal education could be a powerful impetus in the mobilization of students for the struggle against poverty and austerity. As for the workers, the government is setting itself up for a showdown. The agenda of privatization, layoffs and wage cuts can only continue for so long before a breaking point is reached. Where and when that will happen is conditional on the tempo of the economic situation, as well as the leadership of the labour movement. But if one thing is certain, it is that the Ontario Liberals are walking an incredibly fine line.

Source: http://marxist.ca/canada/ontario/1086-ontario-budget-liberals-hide-austerity-behind-free-education.html

Image Source: http://www.cpcml.ca/OPF2014/OP0322.HTM

Trudeau’s shameful BDS stand gives carte blanche to Israel

Here’s a Middle East multiple choice question for you (warning: one of these will get you condemned by the government of Justin Trudeau).

Would you rather that the Palestinian people 1) once again take up armed struggle in order to end Israeli occupation of their land or 2) pursue a non-violent strategy of Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) until such time as Israel recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people?

Advocating a return to the use of violence against Israel may or may not get you condemned by the prime minister. But it is definitely not OK to advocate for the non-violent BDS campaign. This was made clear by the government’s support of a Conservative resolution opposing the campaign “which promotes the demonization and de-legitimization of the State of Israel,” and called upon the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

This is a sickening violation of Canadians’ basic rights enshrined by Justin’s father 35 years ago. As the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair (who once described himself as an “ardent supporter of Israel”) said, the resolution “makes it a thought crime to express an opinion.” The NDP and the Bloc, joined by three Liberals, voted against the resolution.

Lockstep with the Israel lobby

That the Liberal government is so in alignment with Israel lobby groups raises a number of questions: Just who actually makes Canadian policy towards Israel? Did Trudeau think this through at all – such as, is this in Canada’s interests? But perhaps more to the point, is it even in Israel’s interests? Does the Trudeau government have some brilliant ideas about how to get Israel to the bargaining table? Or does it believe the current situation doesn’t need resolving? It smacks of political cowardice. It’s as if Stephen Harper still rules the day on this critical foreign policy issue. Indeed the resolution reflects Harper’s declaration that criticism of Israel’s government is the “new anti-Semitism.”

We are left to wonder whether the Trudeau government can imagine any action by Israel that would cause it to “condemn” its government rather than its critics. And to wonder whether it seeks to further polarize the region or help cooler heads prevail. Giving carte blanche to the actions of Israel’s increasingly extremist government simply reinforces its determination to never negotiate and to keep pushing the envelope, whether it’s building new settlements or slaughtering civilians in Gaza. Against that prospect, how many parliamentarians have even the slightest clue what the Palestinians are seeking through the BDS campaign? Do they know its origins?

As stated by movement leaders, Israel must:

End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
This latter demand is hotly rejected by Israel even though Jews from literally anywhere in the world have, through the 1950 Law of Return (to Israel and now the occupied territories) the same right.

The roots of BDS

The BDS campaign (which boycotts only goods made in the occupied territory) was inspired by the successful boycott and sanctions campaign that finally brought an end to South African apartheid – a campaign, incidentally, given a major boost by none other than then prime minister Brian Mulroney. The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society groups representing virtually every sector of Palestinian society “including all political parties, unions, refugee networks, NGOs, and organizations representing Palestinians living under occupation, in Israel, and in exile.” The decision was rooted firmly in a commitment to non-violence and in international law regarding the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

Israel’s occupation is routinely compared to apartheid by Israelis – and not just critics of the government. Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, wrote:

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories …. We developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal in Israel. The other – cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

Other senior Israeli political figures agreed. Shulamit Aloni, education minister under Yitzhak Rabin, and former prime minister Ehud Barak both made the comparison. Ehud Olmert, another former PM, declared: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights…the State of Israel is finished.” With the two-state solution on life-support – and no pressure on Israel from the West to revive it – the situation so feared by Olmert is arguably already here.

In fact, the BDS campaign may be Israel’s best hope to avoid Ehud Olmert’s nightmare. Perhaps that is why Israel’s extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so determined to fight BDS. In a 2014 speech to the powerful pro-Israeli U.S. lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he referred to the BDS campaign 18 times, calling on American Zionists to “fight back” against BDS advocates.

Waning support for Israel

The BDS campaign might not worry Netanyahu so much if it weren’t for the fact that Israel now ranks near the bottom of the pile when it comes to world opinion. A BBC poll in 2013 interviewed more than 26,000 people in 25 countries and found only 21 per cent of participants had a positive view of Israel, while 52 per cent viewed the country unfavourably. Only Iran, Pakistan and North Korea fared worse. In just the last year, the percentage of Americans viewing Israel favourably dropped dramatically from 70 per cent to 59 per cent while positive attitudes towards Palestinians jumped from 17 per cent to 24 per cent.

Justin Trudeau and his government could not be more mistaken if they believe they are doing Israel a favour by supporting the repugnant Conservative thought crime resolution. Every time a Western government turns a blind eye to Israeli apartheid it reinforces that system by signalling to Netanyahu that he can do whatever he pleases.

By steadfastly denying the apartheid reality in Israel, successive Canadian governments in fact betray the long-term of interests of that country – not to mention, of course, those of millions of Palestinians.

Support BDS – Condemn Israeli Apartheid!

The Communist Party of Canada condemns the February 22 vote in Parliament, in which the Liberals and Conservatives joined forces to pass a shameful motion denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s apartheid policies. The motion also condemns anyone in Canada who supports or promotes BDS. The Communist Party reaffirms its longstanding and unwavering solidarity with the people of Palestine, its condemnation of Israeli apartheid, and its support for the BDS campaign in Canada and internationally.

The BDS campaign began in 2005, in response to a call from 171 Palestinian groups for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. A similar campaign emerged in the 1980s, as a way to isolate and pressure apartheid South Africa. Both campaigns cited violations of United Nations’ resolutions and international law as part of their legal and moral justification.

The objectives of the BDS campaign are straightforward, just and entirely based on international law:

• Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the separation Wall;
• Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
• Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Just as Parliament’s motion condemns BDS activists, people who acted in solidarity with opponents of the racist South African regime were denounced as “terrorist supporters” by right-wing politicians. Parliament’s vote is a disgraceful attempt to silence the growing BDS movement through slander and political intimidation. It is an act of desperation that will fail, just the racist attempts to derail the struggle against South African apartheid failed.

The fact that most Liberal MPs supported this Tory motion proves that the Trudeau government cannot be judged on the basis of its progressive campaign promises. The working class and people of Canada must hold the Liberals to account as they “govern from the right.”

This includes international issues such as the expanding war in Iraq and Syria, the sale of weaponized vehicles to Saudi Arabia, and support for regimes in Ukraine and Israel which trample on human rights. It is encouraging that the NDP and Bloc Quebecois caucuses voted against the motion, on the basis that it violates the rights to free speech and expression. However, it is shameful that NDP MPs also attacked the BDS movement during the Commons debate, revealing yet again that party’s racist opposition to criticism of apartheid Israel.

The Communist Party rejects the right-wing charge that the BDS campaign is a form of antisemitism. Opposition to Israeli apartheid is focused firmly and solely on the policies of the Israeli government, not on the ethnicity or nationality of those who perpetrate those policies. The Communist Party condemns antisemitism, racism, national chauvinism and all forms of oppression. It is our ongoing commitments to ending oppression and achieving national equality that guide our solidarity with Palestine and our support for the BDS campaign.

The strongest response is to build the BDS campaign across Canada. We congratulate the students at McGill University who also voted on February 22, to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel’s apartheid policies. The February 22 vote was preceded by heavy criticism and opposition from peace, human rights, labour and progressive activists across the country. These groups organized several campaigns that included petitions, letter writing, online actions, and joint statements. In Quebec, a coalition including BDS Quebec, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the FTQ (QFL) and CSN (CNTU) unions publicly called for the Liberal government to reject the Tory motion.

These and other acts of solidarity, in defiance of Parliament’s racist motion, are the basis for a more powerful BDS movement, capable of winning more victories in Canada and internationally.

Palestine will be free!

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada
March 1, 2016

Source: http://communist-party.ca/statement/2073#more-2073
Image Source: http://southsidepride.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/palestine_land_map.jpg