Poverty

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

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

The Austerity Agenda in Sheep’s Clothing

As we go into the New Year with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in place, it’s worth noting that the struggle against poverty in Toronto now unfolds with a complete set of federal, provincial and municipal regimes all seeking to position themselves politically as moderate if not progressive. This has particular implications and poses particular challenges in terms of effectively resisting austerity, poverty and social abandonment.

There is, of course, an implication in the last sentence I just used. At none of the levels of government we face can we seriously imagine that we are dealing with anything other than continuation and deepening of the agenda of austerity. That agenda is an escalating, internationally determined fact of political life that we can’t seriously expect Trudeau, Wynne or Tory to break ranks with. Still, the fact that we are not dealing with hard right regimes is of considerable significance. The positive side of dealing with the more moderate austerity forces is that they don’t wish to take things as far and they are more likely to tactically retreat in the face of serious opposition. The other side of the matter, however, is that such regimes are harder to confront. They impose austerity more stealthily and have developed considerable skills when it comes to diverting potential resistance into a process of fruitless dialogue.

Because of the newness of the Trudeau regime and, because it replaces such a hated bastion of reaction as the Harper Tories, it is likely that illusions in its false progressive credentials will linger for a while. However, we begin the New Year with global markets reacting to fears that a world economy that has produced only dubious post 2008 recovery is nearing the next downturn phase. With the collapse in oil prices and an economy being kept precariously afloat by unsustainable household debt, it is likely that Canada will feel the full weight of any such development. In this situation, it’s pretty clear that Trudeau has not been put in Ottawa to broker any major concessions. He presides over a system of federal social provision that has been seriously undermined. The Employment Insurance system has been gutted, healthcare weakened, social housing all but eliminated and transfer payments toward social assistance scaled back. A movement that demanded and fought for the reversal of this enormous damage to the social infrastructure could create a major problem for the Liberals and force more from them than token gestures.

Meanwhile, In Ontario…

For the Ontario Government, while they have hardly faced anything comparable to the Days of Action that were directed against the Harris Tories, the ‘social justice’ mantle they have put on has already lost a great deal of its credibility. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has become well used to the Wynne Government’s ongoing game of ‘poverty reduction’ under which a never ending process of consultations is used to deflect political challenge as the Liberals deepen poverty and allow the spending power of social assistance to decline against inflation. The challenges that the Liberals have faced from public sector workers, the campaign for an increased minimum wage and the Raise the Rates campaign that OCAP has been part of demonstrate that the capacity of the Liberals to stave off social resistance to their austerity agenda in sheep’s clothing is not unlimited. Greater levels of mobilization against the Liberals’ poverty measures are perfectly possible and likely.

With the lack of openly declared party politics at the municipal level, the implementation of ‘kinder, gentler’ austerity in Toronto is a little more complex. After Rob Ford’s dysfunctional attempt at right wing populism, a sigh of relief greeted the election of John Tory as Mayor. The conservatives, centrists and soft left members of City Council have all been folded into a regime that likes to give everyone a place at the table and prides itself on an ‘inclusiveness’ that can take various forms, as long as they don’t seriously impede the twin agendas of austerity and upscale urban redevelopment.

Where Rob Ford would have insisted there was plenty of shelter space for the homeless and tried to block any measures to address the crisis on the streets, Tory plays a more skillful game. Under pressure, he opens some warming centres and drop-ins and adopts other minor measures of alleviation. He clearly places a premium on trying to reduce the risk of actual street freezing deaths, which spell political problems for him. Meanwhile, the City policy of keeping shelter occupancy at a maximum of 90 per cent continues to be disregarded and the bureaucracy works to ensure that shelter facilities are moved out from the centre of the city in the interests of redevelopment. The plight of the homeless actually becomes worse but under a regime that has the political intelligence to protect its legitimacy at the cost of some concessions.

Illusory Solutions

The advantages to be gained from the ‘poverty reduction’ circus have not been lost on John Tory and his team. The approach that the Liberals put in place at the Provincial level is now being replicated municipally. The main political capital provided by this approach is that it creates the illusion that the ‘complex problem’ of poverty is being duly considered, solutions sought and the ‘stakeholders’ consulted. Through this procedure, community anger can be safely channeled, expectations put on hold and ‘solutions’ presented that don’t conflict with and even facilitate the prevailing agenda. We will wait in vain for the City to give a lead in challenging precarious work and low wages. The library system in Toronto, has cut its workforce and employs a scandalous number of part time workers. We can be sure that there will be no great desire to ensure that the City run welfare offices adopt a less restrictive approach to the provision of benefits. Any housing initiatives that emerge will be focused on facilitating upscale development, with token ‘affordable housing’ measures included and an emphasis on furthering the privatization of public housing.

At each of the levels of government, then, the above mentioned political contradiction manifests itself. They are all regimes that are relatively less able to withstand serious challenge and social mobilization and this makes it easier to win concessions from them and force them into retreats. However, their very method of operating, based on ‘inclusiveness’ and co-option, makes it all the harder to create the critical mass of resistance that makes such victories possible. In 2016, the possibility opens up that the pace and scale of austerity will make the balancing act that such regimes rely on impossible to sustain. In such a situation, we could break the grip of the fake consensus, increase the scale of the fight against austerity and poverty and win some significant victories.

Source: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-austerity-agenda-in-sheeps-clothing

Image Source: (Same as above)

Hundreds of Temporary Foreign Workers Sue Mac’s Stores

Hundreds of temporary foreign workers have launched a class action lawsuit against Mac’s Convenience Stores, claiming they paid more than $8,000 to get jobs in Canada that did not exist.

The notice of claim, filed with the B.C. Supreme Court, alleges that from December 2009 onwards the workers were recruited in Dubai to work at Mac’s stores in B.C., Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

But, the claim says, when the workers arrived in Canada, they found the more than 425 jobs they had been contracted to perform — the only jobs they were allowed to perform under their TFW permits — were non-existent.

“It’s outrageous, it’s totally outrageous. It’s exploitative and it shouldn’t happen in a country like ours. It shouldn’t happen,” said one of the lawyers representing the group, Carmela Allevato.

“It’s very sad; their stories are heart-wrenching and hopefully there’ll be justice for them at some point.”

Surrey firms also sued

The migrant workers are also suing three immigration firms — Overseas Immigration Services, Overseas Career and Consulting Services and Trident Immigration Services — all based in Surrey, B.C.

The firms allegedly charged the workers an illegal $8,000 recruitment fee and made them pay their own transportation to Canada.

“Everybody played a role in it,” said Allevato. “Overseas was the agency that was used, and Mac’s is the employer that didn’t deliver.”

Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, migrant workers are issued a permit strictly linked to the employment contract offered by their new employer.

If the worker’s job role, location, or employer changes, their work permit becomes invalid.

“As a result, the Plaintiffs and Class Members were left without any legal source of income in Canada,” states the notice of claim. “They suffered mental and physical distress, humiliation and loss of self esteem.”

No response from Mac’s

Mac’s Convenience Stores Ltd., which began as Mac’s Milk in 1962, now has about 800 stores across Canada, employing approximately 8,000 people.

The CBC contacted Mac’s, but at the time of writing, the firm had declined to comment. News of the lawsuit came the same day that two Mac’s employees were killed in separate armed robberies in Edmonton.

Meanwhile, attempts to contact Overseas Immigration Services and Overseas Career and Consulting Services were unsuccessful, a receptionist telling the CBC that director Kuldeep Kumar Bansal was not available for an interview.

At the time of writing, calls to Trident Immigration Services have not been returned.

‘Very tragic situation’

Allevato described the temporary foreign workers’ situation as intolerable.

“They were at the mercy of the agent,” she said. “They couldn’t work anywhere else and they were trapped in that.”

In one instance, she said, one of the workers was sent to Alberta to work, but was brought to a homeless shelter by border agents because that violated the conditions of his work permit and he had nowhere to go.

“Some of them are still here… They’ve been homeless, because they can’t work….Some of them have gone back to Dubai, some have gone back to the Philippines, others are in Alberta.

“It’s a very tragic situation. Very, very tragic.”

Allevato says the workers just want to be treated fairly.

“They’re entitled to compensation for what they’ve gone through, as well as for repayment of the money that they put out, which isn’t allowed under our law … We’re looking for some justice for these folks.”​

TFW an ‘abusive’ program

Allevato said she also believes there are thousands of other workers in the same circumstances, due to the way the Temporary Foreign Worker program is structured.

She hopes the case shines a light on the problem.

“What the stories of these folks illustrate is how abusive the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is,” she said.

Really, it’s time for the government to remove it,” she said.

“If people are good enough to come here to work, they’re good enough to live here — and have the full protection of all the laws we have here in Canada.”

Source: CBC

Real Existing Capitalism and the Challenge for an Alternative

From People’s Voice

There are times and certain processes in the production of human needs that have become the catalyst for change in society, a change in which the old order of doing things – whether it is ruling, governing, trading, building, creating, destroying, or a myriad of different complexities that steer human development – are incapable of satisfying, or can no longer satisfy, the new social and productive forces in society.

Over time, what once was the exception to the rule becomes the rule, and those that once dominated and steered the functions of society have, because of the development of society, been overtaken by new and more advanced forms of social and economic relations.

Primitive communal societies, slave societies, feudal societies, capitalist societies and socialist societies, and the transition from one type of society to another, have been the constant and turbulent advancement of mankind. Masterful inventions and ingenuities, such as the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and internal combustion engine, the harnessing of electricity, natural resources and the elements, exploration in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and computing, all of which and many more have to one degree or another been developed to satisfy our basic human needs, are based upon the stage of development within a given society.

It is very easy to settle into the notion that what is shall for ever be, and that what has gone before must remain as it was, a relic of its time irrelevant to today’s world. But humankind is not a victim of its own self-importance: there has been and continues to be a dynamic relationship between ourselves and the world into which we are born. The time and the age in which one lives is just a chance, a lottery of sporadic consciousness, untamed and uncontrollable.

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Canada loses 19,700 jobs in April, unemployment still at 6.8 per cent

From Canadian Labour Reporter

OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada’s economy shed 19,700 jobs in April as losses in part-time work offset gains in full-time positions, while the unemployment rate remained at 6.8 per cent, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Analysts had expected a net job loss of 5,000 positions. The data highlighted that Canada is still struggling to boost employment some six years after the end of the Great Recession.

Part-time employment dropped by 66,500 jobs, the biggest fall since the loss of 77,500 posts in March 2011. Full-time employment rose by 46,900 jobs.

The 12-month gain came to 139,100 jobs, an advance of 0.8 per cent, while the six-month average for employment growth was just 2,600 jobs, down from 16,300 in March.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz, who has long expressed concern over the sluggish job market, last week forecast the economy would return to full employment by 2016.

The labour participation rate, which is of particular interest to the central bank, fell to 65.8 per cent from 65.9 per cent in March. In December 2014 and January 2015 it had hit 65.7 per cent, the lowest since the 65.6 per cent recorded in July 2000.

Federal Budget Rewards the Rich but Fails everyday Canadians

From the Canadian Union of Public Employees

The Conservatives’ 2015 federal budget may balance the books, but it is highly unbalanced in its impact on Canadians.  It puts millions of seniors at risk of poverty, abandons families in need of affordable child care and quality public health care, and doesn’t help Canadians workers who need better jobs, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The Conservatives have chosen irresponsible economic policies that slash revenues to benefit a few corporations and the wealthy,” says Paul Moist, national president of CUPE, Canada’s largest union. “This budget does far more harm than good in addressing the gap between workers and the richest Canadians. With this budget, that gap will only continue to grow.”

Maintaining unreasonably low corporate taxes, income splitting, tax credits for wealthy families like the expanded TFSA’s provide no help for everyday Canadians.  These measures recklessly slash federal revenues that will mean more cuts to public services that Canadians depend on.

“Expanding TFSA does almost nothing to help the over 11 million Canadians without a work place pension. Instead of expanding the Canada Pension Plan – widely seen as the most effective, efficient and affordable way to keep seniors out of poverty – the Conservatives only offer another tax shelter for the rich,” says Moist. “The lost revenues from expanding TFSA’s – at least $1 billion over the next five years – will only mean more pressure on OAS/GIS. This budget is an unqualified failure for the vast majority of Canadian seniors.”

Canadian families struggling to find affordable child care are also left without any help.

“Families are spending more on child care than on housing – up to $2000 a month. This means the tax credit being offered up by Conservatives will barely cover one month. And that will be for only handful of families; most won’t get a dime,” says Moist.

The Conservatives lack of leadership on child care is even more pronounced in health care. Despite long waiting lists, five million Canadians without a family doctor, and skyrocketing prescription drug prices, the 2015 federal budget confirms Conservatives are cutting more than $36 billion from health care.

“We need strong federal leadership to strengthen our public health care system,” says Moist. “Our public health care is coming apart at the seams, and Conservatives simply shrug their shoulders hoping someone else will take care of it.”

CUPE is urging the Official Opposition to move budget amendments that will help create quality jobs, make urgent investments in public health care and child care, expand the CPP, and introduce measures that protect valued public services.

“This budget is clearly taking our country in the wrong direction. It fails workers, families, seniors, students, Indigenous peoples and the environment,” says Moist. “The only bright side is that with our pending federal election, this will be the Conservatives last budget. Next budget, we’ll be able to start repairing the damage done. It’s time for a change.”

CUPE’s complete analysis of the 2015 federal budget will be available on cupe.ca.

Ritz Locks Farmers Out, Hands CWB keys to Bunge and Saudi King’s Fund

From the National Farmer’s Union

“Today Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced that G3, a joint venture owned by two foreign corporations, Bunge and the Saudi investment company SALIC, is the beneficiary of CWB privatization. With this, the Conservative government has accomplished the biggest transfer of wealth away from farmers in the history of Canada,” said Jan Slomp, National Farmers Union (NFU) President. “The CWB’s physical assets, its commercial relationships, and its good name have all been given away. The “buyers” of the CWB actually get to keep the $250 million pittance they are “paying” for it. Bunge’s 2014 sales totalled $58 billion and multi-billion dollar SALIC is a subsidiary of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, PIF.”

“Where is the financial report or accountability? This is our money and taxpayer dollars,” said Ian Robson, NFU Board member from Manitoba. “The whole deal has been brokered in complete secrecy.”

The federal government has refused to release the CWB’s complete financial statements after dismantling the single desk, and has tabled only the non-financial portion of its annual report. It commissioned an audit of the CWB’s assets in the lead-up to privatization, and has refused to release the results. The new G3 entity is private and thus will not publish financial statements.

“Until August 1, 2012 farmers had full disclosure of the CWB’s financial position,” Robson continued. “The so-called marketing freedom and choice being offered today is a black box.”

Touted as an opportunity for farmers to own equity in the new company, a “Farmers Trust” will be set up to own 49.9% of the company. Individual farmers will be allocated $5 in equity per tonne of grain delivered. After seven years or when the reaches $250 million, G3 can buy it out. In effect, this is a sunset clause to terminate the farmers’ equity. The Trust will be managed by three appointed trustees, with one of them getting a Board seat. The farmers’ equity will not be shares in the company, but merely “units” in the trust fund. Farmers who participate will have zero control over this equity stake, nor will they have any say in how the company operates. The decision to terminate the Trust is entirely in G3’s hands.

“This $250 million “Farmer Trust” 49.9 percent equity gimmick is an insult,” said Doug Scott, NFU Board member from Alberta. “Since they destroyed the single desk, farmers have lost more than $7 billion dollars in less than 3 years. We had an elected Board of Directors at the CWB that managed the business in our interests and earned premium prices in the world market for all western grain farmers, year after year. Now, the Bunge-Saudi partnership plans to bribe us with our money just to get us to do business with them.”

“At least $170 million of public money was transferred to the CWB to promote its privatization, and Ritz claims – but will not provide evidence — that the total taxpayer investment was around $300 million,” noted Slomp. “The federal government has turned over all of this value, on top of the tangible and intangible assets of the single-desk CWB, to the complete control of Bunge, an American multinational grain dealer and SALIC, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, while farmers and the Canadian public have been locked out of all decision-making. This is not responsible, accountable, or transparent. This is not acceptable in a democracy.”

Haitian Workers not Sharing in Economic Growth

From Solidarity Centre

Up to 70 percent of the Haitian workforce lacks formal jobs—but the notion that “any job is better than no job” is not a goal that should be embraced, says Lauren Stewart, Solidarity Center program officer for Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“I visited a factory park in Port-au-Prince, and one of the workers showed me his pay stub, which had deductions for lunch that he had to buy on credit from his employer since he couldn’t afford to eat,” Stewart says. “By the time he received his paycheck, almost half of it went toward paying back lunch.

“This is the current state of garment workers, who some consider to be the lucky few because they have formal jobs. But in reality, these workers are only earning enough to fend off starvation by the day,” she added.

Stewart spoke Friday at the panel discussion, “Economic Growth: Jobs or Sustainable Livelihoods?” part of a two-day event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), the discussions highlighted the ongoing need for aid accountability and equitable development in post-earthquake Haiti.

The panel also included Nixon Boumba, the in-country consultant to American Jewish World Service, and Kysseline Chérestal, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA.

All three co-panelists pointed out how despite investment in the country’s garment sector, working Haitians are not sharing in the economic prosperity.

Chérestal highlighted a January ActionAid report that found more than $170 million of U.S. emergency aid money to Haiti went to finance the Caracol Industrial Park, which was built on prime agricultural land in northern Haiti, far outside the disaster zone. More than 366 families and 720 agricultural workers lost their land to Caracol. Of the 65,000 jobs promised, only 5,000 have been created.

The garment industry, Haiti’s largest source of formal jobs, employs some 35,000 workers who are paid a minimum wage of between $5 and $7 per day. A Solidarity Center report last year found that the cost of living is three to four times higher than the minimum wage, and workers spend more than a third of their wages on transportation and lunch to sustain their labor throughout the day. The remaining wages are not sufficient to adequately feed their families, let alone cover basic costs like housing, healthcare, education for their children and clothing.

In addition to low wages, the garment industry is rife with labor rights abuses, including forced overtime work, health and safety abuses, sexual harassment, and retaliation from employers for union organizing.

For workers to benefit, “they must have safe and dignified jobs, in which they can freely exercise their rights and earn enough to support themselves and their families,” says Stewart.

The Solidarity Center is a member of HAWG, a working group of international development, faith-based, human rights and social justice organizations advocating on issues related to U.S.-Haiti policy.

Bangladesh Cement Factory Collapse Traps about 100 Workers

From CBC News

At least five people were killed and another about 100 feared trapped after a cement factory collapsed in Bangladesh on Thursday, police said.

Soldiers and sailors in the port town of Mongla helped emergency services search through the rubble and pull out more than 40 survivors, officials told Reuters

“Most of the people inside the building were the construction workers including the people who recovered alive … The recovery efforts are going on very carefully to avoid further risk,” Khulna district police chief Nizamul Haque Mollah said.

Fire official Mizanur Rahman told The Associated Press many of the survivors were injured and had been taken to hospital. The cause of the collapse is being investigated.

Bangladesh has a poor record for building safety.

A complex of shops and small factories collapsed in 2013 killing more than 1,130 people, most of them garment workers.

The collapse of Rana Plaza, built on swampy ground outside the capital, Dhaka, ranked among the world’s worst industrial accidents and prompted a global outcry for improved safety in the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments.

Bangladeshi Tribals Evicted For Tea Plantation Expansion

From CorpWatch

Syed Tea and Land, a Bangladeshi company, has been accused of using armed men to evict ethnic minority communities in order to expand a tea plantation in Sreemangal in northeastern Bangladesh. The expansion will impact Kandas, Khasis and Tantis who have lived in the area for a century.

“For four generations, we have lived on this land but never before faced such a threat to survival,” Atit Kanda, a local tribal farmer, told Union of Catholic Asian (UCA) News earlier this month. “The armed mobs have destroyed about 4,000 to 5,000 of my pineapples worth 90,000 taka (US$1,150). I don’t know if I will be able to overcome this loss.”

Some 160 tea plantations dot northeastern Bangladesh. The companies that own them mostly market their products to the domestic market and are not as well known as their counterparts in India and Sri Lanka who export to every corner of the world. But the estates in all three countries depend on poorly paid workers who have lived inside the plantations for generations under conditions that date from colonial times when the British first introduced the beverage. (See “World Bank Agrees to Investigate Labor Conditions at Indian Tea Company” about conditions in the neigboring state of Assam.)

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