Trudeau

Trudeau ‘Unsure’ About Raising the Minimum Wage

What does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau think about raising the minimum wage?

During a series of interviews with ordinary Canadians aired on CBC Sunday night, Trudeau shared his reservations about provincial initiatives to raise the minimum wage, telling a struggling, low-wage worker he questions if that means “everything just gets more expensive or we have jobs leaving.”

Neil Piercey was one ‘ordinary Canadian’ who got an opportunity to grill Trudeau.

Piercey is a 58-year-old worker from London, Ontario who was laid off from a long-time, good paying manufacturing job, but now finds himself in a low-wage job and without a pension as he nears retirement.

In a clip that didn’t air during Sunday night’s broadcast, but was later uploaded to the web, Piercey asks the Prime Minister if he thinks it would be “a good idea to raise the minimum wage?”

Piercey was told the federal government only controls wages on certain industries that fall under federal jurisdiction (something Trudeau’s Liberals supported raising in 2014 before criticizing it during last year’s election campaign), but then Trudeau went a step further, sharing his thoughts about a few provincial initiatives to raise the minimum wage:

“A number of provinces are looking at raising the minimum wage across the board. There’s always a question of whether or not that has the impact that everyone would like to have. Maybe everything just gets more expensive or we have jobs leaving. We have to be very careful about that.”

Although Trudeau said there’s “no easy solutions” and added that “the possibility” of earning enough to live on is “something that Canada’s always done,” CBC’s Rosemary Barton noted after the broadcast that Trudeau’s message left the struggling manufacturing worker disappointed and “unsure about what will happen to him.”

He might also be disappointed in several problems with Trudeau’s questions about the effectiveness of raising the minimum wage:

1. Raising the minimum wage is highly unlikely to mean “jobs leaving”:
Trudeau wonders if raising the minimum wage could mean “jobs leaving” and relocating elsewhere?

The problem with that, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is most minimum wage jobs are concentrated in the service industry, so it doesn’t make sense to ship those kinds of jobs to places with lower wages:

“The problem with this argument lies in the kinds of jobs that pay at or near minimum wages. Some 70 percent of people employed at the minimum wage are in the retail, accommodation and food services industries. These kinds of businesses are, in the first place, not highly mobile. Moreover, an increase – even a substantial one – in the minimum wage would be paid by all businesses in these sectors, so that a capital flight would not be the result.”

2. There’s little evidence minimum wage has an impact on unemployment:
It’s also not clear that minimum wage increases means an increase unemployment. A literature review by the Canadian Labour Congress last year concludes there’s little evidence suggesting raising the minimum wage has an impact on unemployment:

“After examining the economic research available on the connection between unemployment and minimum wage increases, it is difficult to say with conviction how the two factors are related, if they are at all … According to The World Bank’s World Development Report 2013: Jobs, there is no known universal impact of the minimum wage on unemployment rates.”

Meanwhile, another CCPA study notes employment is driven more by “demand” than by the minimum wage, suggesting “fear of disemployment effects are overblown by those with a vested interest in keeping wages down.”

3. Raising the minimum wage has minimal impact on prices:

What about Trudeau’s concern that “maybe everything just gets more expensive”?

Numerous academic studies show raising the minimum wage has little impact on consumers, even if the full cost of paying workers were passed on to the customer. A 2011 University of California, Berkeley study estimated raising the minimum wage by approximately $5 would only lead to a 1.1% increase in the average Walmart shopper’s bill at the checkout line:

“Even if Walmart were to pass 100 percent of the wage increase on to consumers, the average impact on a Walmart shopper would be quite small: 1.1 percent of prices, well below Walmart’s estimated savings to consumers. This works out to $0.46 per shopping trip, or $12.49 per year, for the average consumer who spends approximately $1,187 per year at Walmart. This is the most extreme estimate, as portions of the raise could be absorbed through other mechanisms, including increased productivity or lower profit margins.”

Another study out of Purdue University estimated raising the minimum wage for McDonald’s workers by $8 would increase the price of a Big Mac by only 15 cents. And a recent study out of Cornell looking at the impact of minimum wage increases on the US restaurant industry over 20 years found it only translated into a 0.3% to 1.5% increase in costs for consumers.

Nearly half of Canadian minimum wage earners work at companies with 500+ employees. “Large corporations are also paying the bottom wage despite their profitability,” the CLC observes.

4. Older Canadians increasingly find themselves in low-paying jobs:
Piercey also told Trudeau it’s impossible for those earning a minimum wage to save for retirement, to which Trudeau responded by talking about investing in skills training so “people have a chance of getting beyond minimum wage jobs.”

But what good does that do for laid off workers approaching retirement?

Despite stereotypes of minimum wage workers as teenagers and students working part-time jobs, Statistics Canada data shows that in 2014, over one-third (35%) of workers in low-paying jobs were over 40 years in age:

15wage-age

5. Canada’s current minimum wages don’t equal a living wage:

How much money do you need to earn per hour just to make ends meet, anyway?

If you live in Toronto, you’ll need to earn $18.52 per hour to earn enough to live on. Across the country, the living wage varies between $20.68/hr in Vancouver, $18.15/hr in Calgary, $16.46/hr in Regina, $14.07/hr in Winnipeg, $14.15/hr in Windsor, or $20.10/hr in Halifax, to offer a few examples.

Compare that to hourly minimum wages across the country:

provincial-minimumwages

And it’s worth noting – after four decades, the minimum wage in Canada has increased by only one penny after inflation since 1975.

Source: http://www.pressprogress.ca/justin_trudeau_told_a_struggling_worker_he_not_sure_about_raising_the_minimum_wage

Trudeau Official Compared Student Protesters with Nazis

Canada’s new top civil servant will bring a unique understanding of Godwin’s Law to the Privy Council.

Michael Wernick, appointed Clerk of the Privy Council by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week and tasked with leading the renewal of Canada’s public service, compared Carleton University students peacefully protesting a proposed tuition fee increase to “Brownshirts and Maoists” last year.

Wernick is a member of Carleton University’s Board of Governors.

According to a mass e-mail CC’d to 18 different people last April and subsequently published by Carleton’s Graduate Students Association, the Prime Minister’s #1 non-partisan advisor declared the protest had “no place in a lawful democratic society” and likened the students’ actions to “the tactics of Brownshirts and Maoists.”

Wernick called it “the antithesis of free speech and open debate” and requested “sanctions” be brought upon “the disruptors”.

Asked if he stands by his analogy, Wernick told The CharlatanCarleton’s student newspaper, “I have said everything I need to say in the email, which has been posted … My position’s quite clear.”

Eight students had interrupted a Board meeting last March in protest of proposed tuition fee increases. The Board would go on to approve tuition fee increases a month later.

Dr. Root Gorelick, a professor of Biology and elected Faculty representative on the Board, later bloggedthat the students had simply engaged in an act of “peaceful free speech and civil disobedience” and criticized Wernick’s over-the-top characterization of the students:

“The protesters certainly did not act like the paramilitary contingent of Hitler’s Nazi Party, as suggested by Michael Wernick’s brownshirt hyperbole. Michael Wernick and several of his supporters on the Board claim that they were concerned for their own physical safety, which is absurd. There were no threats of violence. As far as I can tell, there were no reports filed with Carleton’s safety office about threats to personal safety arising from the student protest.”

Last month, Gorelick (who says he blogs about Board of Governors proceedings as a way of communicating with professors and librarians who elected him to the board) faced demands he sign a confidentiality agreement, with the professor’s blog postings singled out as “problematic.”

Wernick publicly defended the Board’s move to silence dissent from the professor, telling the Ottawa Sun that “personal blogs that attack fellow Governors and university staff and dissent on matters the Board has decided are simply not consistent with the role of a Governor.”

The university’s “gag order” was condemned by faculty groups and the 68,000 member Canadian Association of University Teachers, who threatened to “censure” Carleton over its Board’s “lack of openness and transparency.”

“It’s the kind of confidential agreement that you’d expect a spy or the prime minister to sign,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “But for a board of a public body, it’s just absolutely absurd.”

The national voice for Canadian academic staff had already raised concerns a month earlier about the Board “holding meetings in secret.”

The Junction, a publication produced by Carleton journalism students, reports campus security has taken the unusual step of introducing “tightened screening for student journalists” at Board meetings, something that includes compiling photos of student journalists from their social media profiles.

Last June, Carleton’s Board of Governors tabled a motion seeking to remove student union representatives from the Board altogether, but later backed away from the move.

The Board’s Governance Committee, which is chaired by Wernick, argued student heads were in an irreconcilable “conflict of interest” as their duty to the Board was compromised by their duty to their constituents (students), according to Carleton’s Graduate Students Association.

Wernick did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Clerk of the Privy Council is responsible for providing professional, non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister on all policy and operational issues affecting the Government of Canada.

UPDATE: NDP leader Tom Mulcair asked Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday if he’ll “ask his new Clerk of the Privy Council to apologize for these totally unacceptable remarks?”

Trudeau responded, reiterating he’s “very pleased to have Michael Wernick as the new Clerk of the Privy Council” and added “we look forward to working with him to renew the professional and non-partisan public service.”

Source: http://www.pressprogress.ca/canada_new_head_of_the_public_service_compared_students_protesting_tuition_fees_to_nazis

Image Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/01/25/michael-wernick-privy-council-trudeau_n_9073094.html

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)

Trade Minister Says Renegotiation of TPP Not Possible

A renegotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is not possible even though serious concerns may be raised during public consultations, Canada’s trade minister said Thursday.

“The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it’s important to understand that it’s a decision of yes or no,” Chrystia Freeland told reporters Thursday after receiving varied feedback at a meeting at the University of Montreal.

Freeland said the treaty negotiated by the Harper government during the election campaign is very complicated, involving 12 countries along the Pacific Rim that make up 40 per cent of the global economy.

All countries have two years to ratify it, but the treaty comes into force if the United States, Japan and four other countries give their approval.

“It’s important for us to understand that we don’t have a veto,” she said.

The NDP said it is unacceptable that the minister would accept the content of the deal even as U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and some congressional Republicans have voiced concerns.

Trade critic Tracey Ramsey believes there is a way to reopen the deal that preserves jobs and avoids higher drug prices.

“It will involve some work but we know that a better deal is possible for Canada,” she said in an interview.

The minister said she’s heard both opposition and support in consultations so far. A Council of Canadians representative on Thursday described TPP as a deal of “plutocrats” in reference to a book of the same name about income inequality that was written by Freeland before she entered politics.

University of Montreal political science professor George Ross wondered about the point of the government’s commitment to consult if changes are impossible because they would risk unravelling what had been achieved.

Still, Freeland said the government is committed to hearing from Canadians before a ratification vote is held in Parliament.

No date has been set for hearings or a final vote. The Liberal government also hasn’t announced whether it will attend the formal signing Feb. 4 in Auckland, N.Z.

Freeland said the key date is ratification, not the formal signing. But her parliamentary secretary, David Lametti, said in order to ratify, you have to sign the deal.

“So we’ll go through each step one at a time.”

Meanwhile, Freeland said the complexity of the TPP hasn’t slowed the government’s work on ratifying a trade deal with the European Union known as CETA, describing it as a priority for the government.

“I think CETA will be really the gold standard of trade agreements. I’m working hard on it and I’m confident we will get a deal soon,” she said, refusing to say if approval will come before TPP.

Source

Image Source

The Class Struggle in Trudeau’s Canada

The decade long rule of the Harper regime has come to an end. The Trudeau Liberals have formed a majority government, sweeping through eastern Canada and making large advances in Quebec and Ontario. Many Canadians heaved a sigh of relief as the election results came in. The perception is that the days of Harper’s right-wing reactionary policies are at an end.

For the labour movement, the results were more contradictory. Some trade union leaders declared victory as many had jumped on the “anybody but Conservative” bandwagon during the election campaign. For New Democrats and the section of the trade union movement backing the NDP, the results were bitter to say the least.

The NDP suffered a crushing defeat, from leading in the polls at the beginning of the election campaign to losing 51 seats. This represents a retreat back to the NDP’s historic levels of support around 20%. Many NDP members and labour movement activists were left scratching their heads asking what happened to their opportunity to finally defeat the two capitalist parties.

The results of the federal election can seem confusing. At a time when workers and young people are becoming radicalized around the world from Spain to Greece, to Britain and even the United States, some might come to the conclusion that Canada is immune or stands separated from this global process.

This is a false conclusion, but the confusion is understandable if our observations are limited to looking at things on their surface. If we look deeper, however, we can see many contradictions in Canadian society.

The key questions that need to be asked are: why did the NDP do so poorly? Are the federal Liberals really “progressive” and what can we expect from them? After entering technical recession during the first half of this year, what are the expectations for the Canadian economy? Most importantly, where is the class struggle in Canada heading?

NDP Leadership Delivers Historic Defeat

This was the NDP’s election to win or to lose. The leadership of the NDP threw the historic opportunity away. Appeasing the bankers and bosses led to the melting away of popular support.

Initial enthusiasm for the NDP’s modest reform program, notably the one million childcare spaces, as well as opposition to Bill C-51, began to dissipate as the NDP program was elaborated and placed under scrutiny. The removal of left-wing candidates who supported the Palestinian struggle, while allowing candidates who made right-wing statements, disillusioned many party members and supporters. The commitment to balanced budgets in particular put the NDP in the camp of the status quo for many workers.

It became clear that on the basis of meagre corporate tax increases (that would remain below the average tax rate of the Harper years), no real improvements could be delivered. Even the prominent childcare program would not be rolled out in the first term of an NDP federal government, but rather would take eight years to implement!

The Liberals, who were down in the polls, saw the opportunity to maneuver left and seize the space vacated by the NDP. As is the tradition of the Liberal Party, they adopted some socially progressive measures. They began championing marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform and accepting Syrian refugees among other initiatives.

More importantly, the Liberal election campaign began to give rhetorical emphasis to wealth redistribution. They repeatedly highlighted wealth inequality and the need to tax the “1%”, adopting the phraseology of the Occupy movement. Trudeau declared he would strengthen the “middle-class” through increasing stimulus spending, and proposed deficit budgets to do so.

The Liberals began to rise in the polls as a result of this change in tack, garnering the support of many workers and young people. Trudeau began to present himself as the ‘real change’ candidate, and to criticize Mulcair’s program from the left for having adopted “Harper’s budget”. The only response of the NDP was to criticize these Liberal policies from the right!

Is Keynesianism left-wing?

Some in the NDP officialdom have defended their position in the federal election by explaining that Keynesian deficit spending is not necessarily left-wing. This is a correct point in itself and Marxists agree that there is nothing inherently left-wing about deficit financing.

We further explain that deficit financing cannot solve the problems of the working class and neither does it solve the contradictions within capitalism that lead to crisis. At best, these policies delay the inevitable capitalist austerity by making it worse at a later stage.

While Keynesianism is not necessarily left-wing, the NDP’s economic program was certainly right-wing. The NDP committed to preserving corporate profits by ensuring them a favourable tax rate. The only result could be that real improvements for the working class were off the table. In a context of economic slow-down, the NDP’s program could only mean austerity.

Mulcair’s economic program conforms to classical policies of capitalism. The recent finding of the Parliamentary Budget Office that they expect a $3-5 billion annual deficit for the next five years based on current spending displays the weakness in the Canadian economy. How could Mulcair balance the books in this economic context without spending cuts?

The Marxists have long-explained that the NDP cannot serve two masters; either it can organize and voice the interests of the working class, or it can appease and administer the needs and interests of the capitalists. This is unfortunately confirmed in the disastrous federal election results for the NDP. The workers abandoned the NDP as it became perceived to be more aligned with the status quo than the Liberals.

An Abacus Poll published at the end of September explained that 76 per cent of Canadians were looking for “change” in this election. Of those who wanted change, 58 per cent wanted it soon. The same poll found that more Canadians saw Trudeau as representing “ambitious change” and “change that would be felt soon” as compared to Mulcair. In an election where there was a mass anti-Harper mood for change, and where 30 per cent of the electorate was undecided between the NDP and Liberals, this perception was devastating for the NDP.

The policy of appeasing the bankers and bosses lead to the melting away of popular support. It must be said that the election defeat cannot be placed at the feet of Mulcair alone. The NDP’s turn to the right has been occurring for decades. In tandem with this process, we have seen a growing separation of the party tops from the rank-and-file.

The leadership of the NDP is largely filled with careerists and opportunists of all sorts. This has led to a disconnect and blindness to the mood of the masses. More than that, the leadership fears the workers. They see the party as a vehicle for the advancement of their political careers and personal ambitions. They fear that their careers would be jeopardized if the workers attempted to take back the party.

What is the Perspective for the NDP?

The top NDP officialdom was quick to close ranks around Mulcair following his defeat. Immediately after the federal election, an NDP spokesman explained that Mulcair “was in it for the long haul”. Threats were even made against those considering public opposition to Mulcair, such as the statement to the press by the former national director, Robin Sears, that critics of Mulcair “will be quite publicly slapped”.

The NDP officialdom is not unaware of the process of radicalization that they see around the world and view with trepidation. The victory of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership election in the UK has shaken the NDP leadership. Corbyn defines himself as a socialist and is committed to opposing austerity and imperialist wars.

The NDP leadership fears that a similar process could occur in Canada and is moving quickly to ensure that it doesn’t happen. They fear that if a crack were to open at the top, or if Mulcair were to be thrown out, it could open the floodgates and lead to an upsurge of the left. As a result, there has been a closing of the ranks around Tom Mulcair.

The bourgeois has similarly taken note of the loss of authority and prestige of the NDP leadership, and are worried that they could lose their hold on the party tops. The bosses do not fear the Mulcair clique, but they fear the masses in and around the party.

They fear that the working class and youth could try to transform the NDP into a vehicle of struggle as is occurring in Britain. It is for this reason that the mainstream press has been making supportive statements and publishing positive appraisals of Mulcair since the election.

We at Fightback believe that the NDP rank-and-file and the broader labour movement would do well to learn the opposite and positive lessons from the Corbyn movement in Britain. It would be an enormous step forward for the class struggle in Canada if a mass left-wing based upon anti-austerity, anti-imperialist and socialist policies were to defeat the right-wing leading clique of the NDP.

It should be noted that there are differences between the British and Canadian contexts. Class anger has developed more in Britain as the capitalist crisis and austerity policies has had greater impact on the working class than in Canada. As soon as the Tories defeated Labour in the 2015 general election, a spontaneous movement erupted on the streets of many cities and towns in Britain against the Tories.

It was this radicalized mood and movement that was channeled into the Labour Party leadership race behind Jeremy Corbyn. In Canada, the same feeling of disgust does not yet exist towards the Trudeau Liberals. On the contrary, there are many illusions in the Liberals.

Nevertheless, there is a backlash of the NDP rank-and-file. Many feel like they have had enough of the leadership. Party members have been fed the lie that to win power, that they would have to abandon their principles and accept a turn towards the right. In the past many NDP members grudgingly accepted this argument.

The election results have totally discredited this idea and the authority of the leadership who promoted it. Indeed, the manner in which the NDP lost to the Liberals, by being outmaneuvered to the left, further undermines the prestige of the NDP leadership. Furthermore, the right-wing bureaucracy of the NDP has also been significantly weakened as many have lost their jobs due to the defeat.

The rank-and-file mood in the NDP does have the potential to develop into a left wing. The major barrier standing in the way of the development of such a movement is the lack of a focal point. A cohesive left-wing movement inside the party would require a prominent force, organization or figure within the NDP to stand up to the leading clique and voice the rank-and-file sentiment.

The party brass is standing behind Mulcair and only a serious fight will dislodge these careerists. Without a pole around which to coalesce an effective challenge, the rank-and-file will voice their dissent but could find themselves shut down by the bureaucracy.

An alternative to the existing leadership could come from a sitting or unseated parliamentarian, or from the trade union movement or even somewhere unexpected. Nearly six weeks after the election an uneasy calm reigns within the NDP, with many looking to which way the wind will blow without sticking their heads up. This is a reflection of the weakness of the “lefts” in the NDP. Many of the lefts have abandoned the party or capitulated to the leadership.

The silence was finally broken when Cheri DiNovo, a provincial MPP in Toronto, gave an interview to the Toronto Star on December 1st, 2015. She made excellent points about the need to reclaim socialism, to oppose the NDP’s “austerity approach” and made reference to movements around Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Former Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan also made similar points. The question is whether those on the left of the party, such as Cheri DiNovo, will actually organize a movement leading into the Federal NDP Convention next spring.

If no focal point on the left arises for the mood of the rank-and-file to gravitate towards, there could be a repeat of the processes previously seen in the Ontario NDP. Andrea Horwath led the ONDP to defeat on an election program similar in substance to that of the federal party. Given no alternative to her leadership, Horwath was able to hold on. She made some gestures towards the left, sounded apologetic to the rank-and-file, made some concessions to rival sections of the bureaucracy and was able to keep her job with a 77 per cent vote in the provincial leadership review.

It is impossible to predict whether somebody or some force will step forward to galvanize and focus the energy of the ranks of the party. However, if the Mulcair leadership manages to hold on, things do not look good for the NDP in the near term. With no alternative policy, or even a policy of critiquing Trudeau from the right, support would bleed away to the Liberals. In the context of the Liberals gaining popularity by undoing unpopular Harper legislation, a Mulcair NDP could find itself polling under 10 per cent, or even 5 per cent like in the 1990s. After a while, an internal crisis like this might be the tipping point for regime change. As they say, nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging.

The historic defeat brought on by the right-wing clique at the top of the NDP opens up an opportunity to transform the party. Such a development within the party would be enthusiastically supported by Marxists.

On the other hand, if the status quo prevails within the NDP, it would be a recipe for further defeats. The growing radicalization in society would tend to be expressed through other avenues. The defeat in the federal election is a clear warning to the rank and file of the NDP and the broader labour movement.

How Long will Trudeau’s Honeymoon Last?

There is a wave of support and enthusiasm for the Trudeau Liberals. He has built expectations in his election campaign. Since forming government, the Liberals have rolled back unpopular measures of the Harper Conservatives, and have been championing socially progressive measures.

The sentiment in support of Trudeau will be enhanced as he passes socially liberal measures, though it should be noted that many of these are not particularly costly from a capitalist standpoint. Given the relief from having brought down the Harper Conservatives and as no serious left alternative is providing sharp criticism of the Liberals, it is not surprising that illusions have developed in Trudeau.

What must be stressed, however, is that the Liberal Party is a party of the bosses. Indeed, it is the historically preferred and natural governing party of Canadian capitalism and imperialism. It is the party that carried out the largest cuts to public spending in Canadian history under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. It is the party that began the War on Terror and the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Liberals are already showing their true colours. The appointment of Bill Morneau, the head of Canada’s largest HR firm and the former director of the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute think tank, as finance minister is a clear statement. The Liberals will serve Bay Street well, and they have picked one of its men to run the new federal government’s finances.

Trudeau’s economic policies can be described as mild Keynesian stimulus spending and deficit spending. He has committed to an additional $60 billion in spending, and at first involved $10 billion annual deficits for the first three years until 2018. This has since been revised to higher projected deficits as the Parliamentary Budget Office released new revenue figures. There was also a prominent commitment to tax the “1%”.

These policies can delay cuts for a period and would reinforce illusions in Trudeau. The commitment to stimulus spending will have some popularity among workers. They may initially take a softer approach regarding the labour movement and federal public service negotiations. The Liberals are wary of provoking class struggle.

What is clear, however, is that these economic policies will at best only delay the inevitable. It is notable that they have already backtracked on a commitment to restore door-to-door mail delivery, and have only halted the process of installing new community mailboxes. Cuts will be necessary in a period of prolonged capitalist crisis. The Liberal program commits to balancing the budget by 2019. This will be a painful process that will expose the Liberals for what they are: a party of austerity.

Whether the Liberals will be successful in delaying the class struggle is still an open question. The slow-down in Canada’s economy this year has already resulted in the downgrading of budget prospects as well as expectations for economic growth in the future. Canada’s economy has for long been presented as ‘healthy’, but such optimism has given way to alarm, fear and gloom among mainstream commentators.

It is clear that at a certain point, the honeymoon with the Liberals will come to an end. When it does, the backlash among the workers and youth will be all the more visceral because of the ‘progressive’ façade upon which the Liberals won the federal election.

Many youth are too young to remember the legacy of the Chretien-Martin Liberals. This explains some of the illusions and enthusiasm to vote Liberal as a means to defeat Harper. The youth in particular will be in for a very rude awakening.

When the Liberals will provoke class struggle, or how long they can delay it, is conditional on factors in the Canadian and the global economy. A definite timeline cannot be given to many of these processes. However, the deep contradictions in the world and Canadian economy will express themselves inevitably, and perhaps sooner than many expect.

Canada’s Economic Slow-Down

Many bourgeois commentators have praised Canada’s economic health since the 2008 financial collapse. Stephen Harper was particularly fond of lauding his credentials as a steward of the economy.

Working class people could tell from experience that this wasn’t the case. There was a massive shift towards precarious employment as better paying jobs were replaced with part-time and contract work. The United Way published a 2015 report which demonstrated that in Toronto and Hamilton, 52 per cent of all workers were temporary, contract or part-time.

Wages have been repressed through attacks on the public and private sector. For example, in Ontario one third of all workers are considered low-wage, defined as making within $4 of the minimum wage. Young workers in particular were badly hit with a combination of high debts, two-tiered wage scales and contract or low-wage employment.

However, there was an element of truth to the fact that Canada fared better than other advanced capitalist countries. This was largely on the basis of the oil boom, the expansion of credit and the bloated housing bubble. Austerity wasn’t as deep as in many advanced capitalist countries, unemployment did not skyrocket, and the resource sector provided an outlet for those who couldn’t find jobs.

Canada’s economy has indeed slowed since the 2008 crisis. The average annual GDP growth from 1998 to 2008 was 3.2 per cent. Since 2008, the average growth has slowed to 2.5 per cent annually. The drop, however, wasn’t as drastic as in many other OECD countries.

Events over the past year – particularly the oil crisis – have shaken illusions that Canada is immune from the process of stagnation and slump that afflicts the world economy. The Canadian economy began contracting earlier this year.

The economy shrunk modestly in the first two quarters of 2015 making it a ‘technical’ recession. This was largely due to the collapse in oil prices, which led to a significant drop in capital investment as well as layoffs in the oil patch.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimated 35,000 jobs were lost in the oil sector in 2015. The Globe and Mail estimated that 63,500 jobs were lost in Alberta during the first 8 months of 2015. Unemployment in the province has increased from 4.4 per cent to 7.0 per cent from September 2014 to November 2015.

This is the first time since 1994 that Alberta’s unemployment rate has surpassed that of Ontario. Companies continue to post losses and at present there is no end in sight to layoffs and cancellations of oil projects.

Some commentators suggested that the resulting drop in the Canadian dollar combined with growth in the US would result in a rebound in Canadian manufacturing. A rebound has not occurred, and at best there is a delaying of the gradual decline in manufacturing in the Canadian heartland.

Bourgeois commentators have begun to clue into the significant weaknesses at the foundations of the Canadian economy. The GDP growth estimates for 2015 are estimated to be around 1 per cent. The IMF predicts that growth will be 1.7 per cent in 2016. This is not the rosy picture that Harper was presenting over the past year.

It has also become apparent how sensitive the Canadian economy is to volatility of the world market. There is increasing concern about record consumer debt, overvalued housing prices, the impact of the global crisis on export markets and a prolonged glut in oil and mining commodity prices.

The Economist published an article titled “Late to the Party” which ran with the byline “an economy renowned for sobriety has binged on debt”. It warns that:

“Now the economy is shaky, which makes inflated debt and housing values more dangerous. The 50% fall in oil prices since 2014 battered the energy sector. Overall, the economy contracted slightly in the first half of 2015; the downturn was worst in oil-producing Alberta. The economy is now growing again and forecasts are relatively cheery.”

“But household debt casts an ominous shadow. At present, borrowers can pay; interest costs have fallen in relation to disposable income. But that could quickly change. Any shock in the form of inflation, which could force interest rates up quickly, or a recession in emerging markets or the United States, would be magnified by Canada’s overblown debt.

….An economic downturn might not spell catastrophe. But the debt binge ensures it would be very unpleasant.”

Consumer debt has reached 165 per cent of income, which is the same level it was in the United States prior to the foreclosure crisis. Canadians are already priced out of the housing market or barely able to pay their mortgages.

Among young people, the situation is even more desperate. The CBC reported that since 1999 debt among people in their thirties had doubled, reaching a debt-to-income ratio of 400 per cent. A decline in real estate prices would leave many homeowners in their 20s and 30s with debts greater than their net worth.

The Bank of Canada has reduced interest rates twice to soften the impact of the slow-down earlier this year. This hasn’t had the effect of stimulating investment and is contributing to the housing bubble. Rather than investing, corporate Canada has amassed a money hoard of about $700-billion. This situation cannot last forever, especially as the US Federal Reserve is set to increase rates this month. The question now is not whether there will be a housing collapse, but how bad will it be?

The Bank of Canada estimates a 10-30 per cent correction, while the Deutsche Bank estimates a correction of over 60 per cent. Toronto and Vancouver are widely seen as highly inflated, and Moody’s economist Paul Matsiras claimed that they are among the most overinflated housing markets on the globe.

Matsiras also raised the alarm that increases in mortgage rates would have debt-strapped Canadians unable to make their payments and that the Federal Government was exposed to a housing collapse through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation insuring of home loans.

The danger of the world economy entering another slump looms heavily over Canada. Lawrence Summers, the former Secretary of the Treasury of the US who also authored Justin Trudeau’s economic plan, recently warned that “the dangers of the global economy are more severe than at any time since the bankruptcy of Lehman brothers in 2008”.

The IMF has revised global growth to its lowest pace since 2008. There is growing concern of slow-down across the emerging economy, and especially in China. These economies were an important driver of growth as huge capital investments were being made in the past period. Since 2008, huge debts have accrued on the basis of low interest rates. This has all come to its limits.

A global slump is developing, and it would have a profound impact on a Canadian economy already on the edge of a cliff. When this occurs – whether in the next six months or in several years – it would have a huge impact on the class struggle in Canada. Among other things, it would spell the end of any lingering honeymoon with the Trudeau Liberals.

The Provincial Dynamic to the Class Struggle

Until the deep contradictions in the Canadian economy begin expressing themselves, and the federal Liberals turn to austerity, we can expect the main focal point of the class struggle will be provincially based.

The struggle of the workers and youth in Quebec continues to stand at the head of the movement. The contract negotiations between the Common Front, which brings together 400,000 workers from all the trade union centrals in the province, and the Quebec Liberals has been moving towards direct confrontation. The student unions have also mobilized in support of the Common Front.

The trade union leaders called off the movement for a “new Quebecois Spring” earlier this year, saying that it was not the right time for struggle. In the current contract negotiations there is a burning desire by the workers to fight the Liberal government.

The Liberals have threatened back-to-work legislation and imposed contracts. This has only enraged the workers. In contrast, the trade union leaders have retreated from their calls for a public sector general strike from December 1st to 3rd. The question at present is will the trade union leadership be able to hold back the struggle once again, or whether the workers will push the struggle forward despite the leadership. December 9th 2015 saw the largest public sector strike in Quebec since the revolutionary general strike of 1972.

The movement in Quebec gives a taste of the kind of backlash that can occur at a later stage against the Trudeau Liberals. The Quebec Liberals did not win the provincial election on the basis of austerity, but instead won on the basis of their opposition to the PQ’s divisionary “Charter of Values”. The anger of the workers is even greater as they feel like this is not what they voted for, and feel like the government doesn’t have a mandate for such austerity cuts.

In Ontario, the ‘progressive’ character of the Kathleen Wynne Liberals has shown itself to be a program of austerity, privatization and net-zero negotiations in the public sector. The sell-off of Hydro One in particular has garnered significant criticism. There is a developing anger against the Wynne Liberals.

The reason that we have not seen a serious fight back in Ontario is because the labour movement is terribly disoriented. Many trade union leaders supported Kathleen Wynne in the 2014 provincial election, and many trade unions gave financial support directly and indirectly to the Ontario Liberals as well. Now these same groups of workers are under attack.

On the other hand, the Ontario NDP has not provided an alternative to austerity. During the provincial election the party campaigned towards the right and openly courted Bay Street. The party has shifted slightly to the left since the defeat but is far from providing a fighting alternative to austerity.

The recent coup in the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) against Sid Ryan by the right- wing of the labour leadership is a further blow to the struggle. Despite his weaknesses, Sid had brought a more bold and social movement orientation to the OFL.

In the private sector, union leaders in Ontario have pushed round after round of concessions onto their membership despite record strike votes in many sectors. This can only go on for so long until one section or another of the working class decides to draw a line in the sand. This could cause a domino effect by inspiring other workers facing the same attacks.

Despite the utter paralysis of the trade union and NDP leadership, a fighting mood is developing in the province.

Earlier this year in Alberta, we saw an example of how rapidly consciousness can shift. The Albertan working class, which has been historically viewed as conservative and backward, defeated the 44-year long Progressive Conservative dynasty in the province and elected an NDP majority.

There was enormous anger towards the attempt of the Conservatives to place the burden of the oil crisis on the backs of the working class. Rachel Notley’s NDP won the election on a program of halting austerity through deficit financing and by taxing the rich. This represented a significant step forward for the class struggle in Alberta.

The plunge in oil prices, which is likely to be prolonged, is showing the limits of the Alberta NDP’s reformism. There is a significant drop in capital investment in the energy sector and associated industries, as profits have dropped by 55 per cent in the energy sector. Unemployment is increasing as mass layoffs are announced every month in the oil patch.

The Alberta government is set to take on significant debt as to avoid austerity. The largest deficit in Alberta’s history is being tabled for 2015. A surplus of $1 billion has transformed into $6.1 billion deficit. Non-renewable resource revenue has dropped from $9 billion to $3 billion.

Meanwhile, increasing taxes on the rich and instituting environmental regulations will only further push away capital investment. The energy sector is estimated to account for approximately 40 per cent of the provincial economy. The problems of unemployment, access to good quality services and preventing environmental destruction can only be solved if the Alberta NDP breaks from the profit motive.

Until the energy, banking and other strategic sectors are nationalized, the Alberta economy will be volatile and at the whims of world market, and the NDP will not be able to prevent declining living standards in the province. Over the coming years, the limits of reformism will become evident as the Alberta NDP faces rising debts, climbing unemployment, drops in capital investment and the hostility of the bosses.

Radical Mood Developing in Society

The class struggle is developing in an extremely contradictory way, precisely because of the lack of an outlet. The NDP’s capitulation to corporate interests has led to defeats and confusion especially in English Canada.

Even if the mass organizations fail to give a lead, this will not stop the class contradictions in society from developing. Spontaneous struggles will be on the order of the day. Movements, especially of students and young workers, similar to those we have already seen around inequality, police brutality, indigenous oppression, tuition fees and precarious work should be expected.

Canada is not immune to the problems that have engulfed societies in Europe, the Middle East, or Latin America. At a certain point, the working class will enter the struggle. This will change the situation overnight.

Consciousness can shift rapidly as the impact of the crisis of capitalism is felt. Sharp turns in the political situation and leaps in class-consciousness are to be expected in the coming period. This is a process that is occurring across the globe.

Among the youth in particular a radical mood is developing. This provides an extremely ripe terrain of work for the revolutionary movement. The youth are badly impacted by the economic crisis. The prospects for the future of an entire generation are being dashed away by the capitalist system.

The youth are also more sensitive to the sickness of capitalist society. The barbarity of a western imperialism, the refugee crisis, the destruction of the environment, the poison of racism and sexism, and even the crisis of morality are radicalizing the youth.

The revolutionary movement must organize itself in anticipation of the coming struggles. The Marxists in Canada have a certain advantage over our comrades in other countries. We are able to observe and study the generalized process of radicalization and of heightening class struggle around the world while having the luxury of time to prepare our forces. The youth have not been this open to revolutionary ideas since the 1970s.

But we do not have infinite time. The pressing task is the preparatory work of organizing and educating the most advanced, critical and combative workers and young people for the major struggles to come. Eventually the working class will move en-masse, the question is only when. Now is the time to prepare and build for this inevitable confrontation.

Source: Marxist.ca

Image Source: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2626906/images/o-JUSTIN-TRUDEAU-facebook.jpg

Unions Push Liberals to Repeal Bill C-51

Labour groups continue to urge the federal government to take action on Bill C-51, which was passed in June and remains in place. The law vastly expands government surveillance, provides new powers to the police and CSIS and may criminalize ordinary political activity.

The Liberals initially supported the legislation, but have promised to repeal unspecified “problematic elements” and undertake public consultations. However, any mention of Bill C-51 was notably absent from the Justin Trudeau’s Throne Speech on Dec. 4.

Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, expressed grave concern about the bill in March, particularly its information sharing provisions.

“The scale of information sharing being proposed is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient,” he said in a submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

On Thursday Dec. 10, Therrien expressed hope that the new Liberal government would follow-through on its commitments and engage in an open debate.

On the same day, Paul Finch, the treasurer of BCGEU, reiterated his opposition to the legislation to rabble and described past elements of the campaign against it.

“We launched a National Day of Action, we were able to organize over 70 demonstrations in conjunction with Leadnow. …The reason we did it is because we felt that this is the most important issue for labour right now in terms of civil rights and civil liberties.”

Finch also called for a Royal Commission and criticized the manner in which the legislation was introduced.

“I actually think there needs to be a Royal Commission on it. [It] needs to drive and specifically deal with issues of intelligence oversight. …If you look at Bill C-51 right now, it was something that was put forward without any kind of broad consultation, without a Royal Commission being conducted,” he said, comparing it to the process of introduction that saw the creation of CSIS in 1984.

“The modern intelligence framework [was] based on the work of two prior Royal Commissions — the most recent was the McDonald Commission, which laid out why there needed to be a separation of powers between a policing agency and an intelligence agency. Before that, it was the RCMP that had an intelligence division that was basically rampantly violating civil liberties on a very political basis. And a lot of that was aimed at labour unions, so that’s kind of where our interest came from.”

Claims of surveillance

In their statement opposing Bill C-51, the CUPW cited a “lengthy history of CUPW being spied upon by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP.” Union activist Evert Hoogers, in a volume edited by historians and sociologists affiliated with Laurentian University, has examined what he found to be labour’s history of being “spied upon, infiltrated and harassed by national security agencies[.]”

In 1994, the agency denied allegations that it was spying on CUPW and also denied spying on the CBC and political parties.

More recently, claims of spying on postal union activists were made in 2000 by ex-agent John Farrell. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the oversight body for CSIS, subsequently launched a probe over Farrell’s investigations. Reports on Farrell’s claims were made by Andrew Mitrovica, who would write a book centred on Farrell, who alleged that he was ordered to search through CUPW leaders’ garbage.

In April, before C-51 was passed, Mitrovica warned the public to “remember [Farrell’s story] when the Bill C-51 apologists in the media and academia… insist that since CSIS always plays by the rules, we don’t have to be alarmed by all those new powers they’re getting in Bill C-51 — powers that effectively make legal what under current law is very illegal.”

Hayden B. Peake, curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection, in a review of Mitrovica’s work said that “[he and Farrell’s] allegations remain in doubt because there is no documentation” except irrelevant contract copies.

Looking ahead

Paul Finch told rabble that the BCGEU’s campaign going forward, launched with a broad privacy coalition, is going to call on the government to repeal key parts of the law.

“What’s happened is that the Liberals have made some vague promises about fixing the legislation but they haven’t specifically said what they’re going to fix. So it’s very unclear to everyone what they’re going to fix. …Our concern is that if we don’t have broad public pressure to repeal the worst parts of this bill, the changes will be cosmetic.”

While Finch pointed out that he would like to see the entire law repealed, he highlighted in particular its information-sharing provisions, alluding to the Edward Snowden revelations.

“Really, the linchpin of our concern is the provisions allowing, basically, normalized and legalized warrantless mass surveillance. That’s really the problem for us,” he said.

Finch also emphasized that the lack of response to the Snowden leaks is unwise, comparing its absence unfavourably to the McDonald Commission.

“In the wake of the Snowden revelations, [there] was no ensuing equivalent response or investigation that occurred. There was no Royal Commission struck, there was no equivalent response from government. In fact, the prior Conservative government basically said ‘business as usual.’ …The idea that people here should sacrifice their civil liberties to protect themselves from something that is statistically not a threat is absurd.”

Finch said that the next phases of their activism remain undetermined.

“There’s so many groups and individuals that have stepped forward and contributed to this campaign, that have led vast parts of it, that it’s hard to say what direction it’ll take. I assume there’ll be a multitude of different approaches taken, which I think is good. And the question will be, ‘what’s the most effective?'”

Source: Rabble

This Remembrance Day…

Lest we forget all the innocent men, women, and children who were killed in senseless wars of imperialist plunder, and the working men and women who struggled and lost their lives fighting for such elementary rights as union recognition, unemployment insurance, the 8-hour work day, a minimum wage, a safe working environment, and the right to vote, which not all age eligible Canadians had until 1960, over 90 years after Confederation. Don’t let this Remembrance Day be about glorifying state-sponsored terrorism overseas.

Beyond #ELXN42

Efforts to get people to vote, complete with ballot-box selfies, loomed large on social media, but when casting a ballot is treated as the noblest thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices.

While federal election #elxn42 featured many firsts, and it felt good to see Stephen Harper’s Conservatives trounced, one new electioneering element stood out in the social media age – the fetishization of voting.

Efforts to get people to vote showed themselves on countless Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and even in a campaign promoted by CBC personality Rick Mercer, turning the placement of an ‘x’ on a piece of paper into a moment of important self-regard, complete with ballot box selfies.

This hyper-celebration of voting reflects an age in which cheap and easy commitments – changing our Facebook status to read Je Suis Charlie, as was done following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, or holding up selfies reading Bring Back Our Girls for the kidnapped Boko Haram girls – do more to make us feel good about ourselves than address the challenges we face. Meanwhile, those who don’t vote are treated like the party poopers who are told they cannot complain if they don’t like the results.

Voting is the absolute minimum task one can perform in a democracy. But voting does not equal or encourage participation in decisions affecting our daily lives, which is why it is so easy for mainstream institutions to promote it as the noblest of political actions.

By elevating it to the level of heroism, we paper over serious questions about what, exactly, is achieved after 10 long weeks, tens of millions of dollars spent, and untold volunteer hours going to three mainstream parties who are not terribly different in their fundamental outlook.

How many people went to the polls on Monday and held their noses in a desperate Anybody-But-Conservative moment? What does it mean to “have your say” when most voters would be embarrassed pink to spout the somnambulant sound bytes of the parties’ leaders (“ready for change,” “real change,” and “protecting the economy”)?

One is reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s gradual radicalization, when he came to the conclusion that winning the right for blacks to share lunch counters with whites meant nothing as long as those enjoying this new freedom could not afford to buy lunch.

How can Canadians enjoy a truly democratic choice when the richest 86 people in this country have the same wealth as the poorest 11.4 million Canadians?

On a broader level, how can anyone place their future hopes in political parties that refuse to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s single biggest contributor to planetary peril, the Alberta tar sands? And what does it mean to vote without pausing to remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission conclusion that Canada is a nation built on what it deemed a “cultural genocide” waged against indigenous peoples?

When voting is treated as the most important thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices with only minor tinkering.

Privileging voting ignores the very grassroots efforts that create and sustain those best elements of democratic countries, from the community organizing that leads to the creation of women’s shelters, co-op housing and credit unions, to the organization of demonstrations, strikes, and direct action.

Indeed, it was the very outbreak of participatory politics in the 1960s and 70s that led the planet’s leading powerbrokers (including members of Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet) to form the Trilateral Commission, whose report, The Crisis of Democracy, shivered with the conclusion that the social movements forcing real changes in those tumultuous times resulted from an “excess of democracy” that had to be reigned in through economic and political austerity and lowering of expectations. The viewpoint of the political elites was that “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.”

When the NDP uprooted the “socialist” bogey-word out of the party’s constitution in 2013 in an effort to make itself more “electable” (supplanting the old with a new focus on balanced budgets), it was one final blow severing its ties to the 1933 Regina Manifesto when the party’s predecessor, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, proudly declared: “We aim to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated.”

But what if the NDP returned to its roots as a party that refused to make such accommodations to a cruel economy, as when it fought for universal healthcare?

Look south of the border to the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and a Pew research poll that finds 49 per cent of Americans under age 30 have a positive view of socialism, and overseas to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s Labour Party. Take note as well of the anti-austerity victories posted by Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, and one can see that condemning the current system as unfair is hardly an unpopular notion. Such positions reflect broad popular forces that have created a critical climate for systemic change.

That these parties have a long way to go is without question, but they have given strength to the notion that substantive change can be brought through an electoral politics that goes beyond passionless calls for balanced budgets, tax credits, and reduced ATM fees.

But does change have to wait another four years for a new party to come along, or can we get to the business of organizing ourselves into a social force that cannot be ignored? One answer, as African American poet June Jordan reminded us, is this: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

As the old bumper sticker goes, “If voting made a difference, it would be illegal.”

Source: Canadian Dimension