Category Archives: Justice

The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Mulgrew: Costly Transit police force takes taxpayers for a rideBy
Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only armed transit police in Canada)?

These transit thugs in bullet proof vests just love detaining non-white Lower Mainlanders, corroborating with Border Patrol, and imprisoning suspected immigrants. Heaven forbid one try to save some grocery money by risking the month without a bus pass. A lost profit of $2.75 for Translink can result in a $173 fine for the already struggling rider. Heaven forbid you speak English with an accent, for your fate could be much worse. (Read about Lucia Vega Jimenez).

In all this talk of “transit” improvements, where is the case for free transit? Instead, fellow “leftists” on our Twitter feeds are regurgitating Mayor’s Council propaganda to achieve an ongoing increase of our provincial sales tax. I’m not sure about every “leftist”, but I myself am not one to support Gregor Robertson and developer funded city council. Why would I trust the gash-grab excuses of the same folks who are destroying the DTES, China Town, and Grandview-Woodlands for unaffordable condo development?

Why would I trust that the Provincial Government, run by Christy Clark and made up of conservative “Liberals”, will funnel their new citizen-approved revenue stream into the promised area? I have heard more than my fair share of broken election promises. What makes the transit tax different? After all, there are no legal stipulations that this additional government income must indeed be invested in transit.

The “Yes” campaign rhetoric assures me that this cash will improve Skytrain infrastructure and increase bus service. Are we honestly expected to believe that the money Translink rakes in equals a benefit to transit riders? What about the $200+ million wasted on fare gates and Compass cards, an infrastructure that was already proven a failure in Chicago?

What about the salaries of transit cops? The minimum annual salary for a Transit Police officer is $75,000, with more than one third making over $100,000. What about the mere existence of transit cops? What about the salaries of Translink Officials? Translink CEO Ian Jarvis raked in $468,015 in 2013. Sure, this salary may be on par with other multimillion dollar corporation CEO’s, but should PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION really be rendered into a for-profit company?

I am confused as to why we are being asked to pay more money for transit. We already pay 12% provincial and general sales tax. What is this covering, if not basic infrastructure like transit, roads, and bikeways? I know some of it must go to other essentials like health care and education, but then why is our health system resorting to corporate sponsorship (#BellLetsTalk) or emotionally manipulative attempts at securing private donations (those tear jerker bus ads for Children’s Hospital), and why are schools being consistently underfunded, with ever increasing class sizes, less support for children with special needs, and teachers being bled dry when they try to stand up for their collective rights? If our tax money isn’t going to healthcare, education and infrastructure, where is it going? Perhaps it’s not more money our governments need, but better priorities.

And if it really is more money that our local and provincial governments need, why not lay off on all those corporate tax cuts (HootSuite, property developers) and we can get a little more money out of the multimillion dollar companies benefiting from the same infrastructural improvements that we residents will be. Doesn’t Telus need their employees to get to work? Doesn’t HootSuite want better bike lanes, to move employees and to enhance their green hipster branding? Won’t property developers be thrilled when new Skytrain stations pop up in Surrey, Guildford, Newton and Langley, providing perfect sites for new clusters of expensive glass high rises?

Our big corporate neighbours are all too keen on showing their sense of “community” and scoring the big tax breaks on their public philanthropy. What better way to show your dedication to the community than pay more taxes? Sadly, corporations don’t want to put their cash towards anything they can’t put their name on. Would Vancouver World of Science sound anywhere as good as Telus World of Science?

And what about income tax? There are residents of the lower mainland bringing in huge skrilla each year. Why can’t these folks contribute a little more towards the infrastructure that helps them get rich? A 0.5% increase of flat taxes hurts those earning $8,000/year a lot more than those earning upwards of $500,000. This is an old argument. It strikes me as incredibly odd that this criticism isn’t popping up more. Is Tax the Rich such an absurd slogan that no self-respecting politician will even mention it? What about any self-respecting “leftist”?

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Stay tuned for her upcoming book, Disney Dream Machine.

You Deserve Better Wages and Benefits

Canadas_Pay_Gap

Right wingers want to pay no tax. It’s hard to bleat about that in public without sounding like the greedy, selfish people they are.

Instead, they say that public sector workers are paid too much, and that we should privatize everything. THAT way, governments get to starve themselves to the point where they collect virtually no taxes.

Instead of letting rapacious corporations dictate what market wages should be, we should explore living wages, then dream up a world not so different from ours when private sector workers make the stable wages and benefits of public sector workers.

Dream with me, what would that look like? Read on, and if it sounds good, click the link for the rest of the analysis!

If private sector compensation looked more like public sector compensation, the gender wage gap would narrow, discrimination against Aboriginal and visible minority workers would diminish, and CEOs would take a pay cut. Older workers would be less likely to retire into poverty. Fewer working parents would have to choose between a day’s wage and taking time off to look after a sick kid. Unemployment rolls would not double overnight in response to global market shifts.

via Who gets paid more? | CCPA Policy Note.

Yet Another Logistical Solution to Homelessness

So, Utah has been eradicating homelessness by giving people homes. The bonus is that it’s easier and cheaper to provide social services to people when their housing needs are met.

From Amsterdam, we see yet another logistical solution for emergency housing while we have a national dialogue on a national housing plan.

A rich country like Canada should have no difficulty developing a national housing strategy that solves homelessness and unaffordable housing.

The houses will rent for 700 euros a month, or about $900. It’s a little less than someone might pay for a cramped single room in the city, and it comes with a full second-story loft bedroom, a private yard, and soaring windows.

via 18 | Can’t Make Rent? This Beautiful Squatter’s Home Can Be Built On A Vacant Lot In A Day | Co.Exist | ideas + impact.

Who Cares About Fixing Poverty in BC?

https://i1.wp.com/bcpovertyreduction.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/prc-slider_BC-last-place-745x210.jpg?resize=396%2C112Well, it’s the Poverty Reduction Coalition!

One of their many activities is to send recommendations to the government when the government deigns to ask people for their ideas. The Finance Committee is an all-party committee of the legislature, so the government usually ignores their recommendations.

As citizens, we need to make the government respond to our demands, particularly when legislative committees provide pretty good recommendations!

Here’s what’s going on this year, from the Poverty Reduction Coalition.

  1. Read it, below
  2. Then email, phone [250.387.1715], tweet or Facebook the premier and tell her to listen to the Finance Committee this year
  3. Then read the Coalition’s latest op-ed: Trish Garner: B.C. is now last province without a plan to tackle poverty
  4. Then visit the Coalition’s webpage and get more involved in making BC a less shameful place!

From the Coalition:

After our submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, they have now released their report, which again recommends to the Legislative Assembly that the provincial government “introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction plan” but this time it also includes stronger features to “review income assistance rates, the minimum wage, and clawback of child support payments.” Also, last year’s “Look at ways to provide more affordable and accessible quality child care” is now “Provide funding and support for the development and implementation of a child care plan.” See the full report here.

Why the Police Don’t Know Why People Don’t Trust Them

Laval Police Happy Holidays
Laval police delete controversial photo from social media | Montreal Gazette.

This is why the police don’t know why people don’t trust them. That, and killing First Nations youth, people of colour, immigrants and the mentally ill.

Laval police delete controversial photo from social media | Montreal Gazette.

Now, contrast that with this fellow, Pittsburgh’s police chief, who is getting vilified for suggesting that there is racism within his force:

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay

And let’s end with this. Is this picture from 1962 or today?

Capitalists Working on Climate Change?

https://i1.wp.com/climaterealityproject.org/sites/climaterealityproject.org/themes/climate/images/climate-share-image.jpg?resize=301%2C158As you know, I’m not one to tout the marvels of capitalism, however there is this. Out of the 6 of the most hopeful climate stories of this year at the Climate Reality Project, is this one about businesses doing [if only slightly] more than greenwashing or PR sexied up as climate action.

My hashtag obsession for 2015 is #ClimateHope!

Business Trends Favor Climate Action

The US-China climate deal is also a giant boost for clean-energy markets. Having the world’s two largest economies competing to accelerate the adoption of no-carbon and low-carbon technologies will send one of the most powerful market signals we’ve ever seen.

The US added more solar capacity in the past two years than in the previous 30 years combined. A host of companies and even whole industries are providing the goods and services that deliver cleaner, more efficient power to consumers.

In Nevada, Tesla is building the world’s largest advanced automotive-battery factory. In New York, Solar City is building a massive solar-photovoltaic factory.

Meanwhile, market leaders such as Google and Walmart are making huge investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Amazon recently announced its plan to shift to 100 percent renewable energy for its cloud computing and other divisions. The clean energy future is now – making it easier for nations to commit to real emissions reduction.

Our Year in Climate Action | Climate Reality.

Shhh, The Bold Revolution Has Started

We live in tumultuous times:

  • Ferguson and other non-indictments of white police who murdered people of colour
  • ISIL and other extremism
  • Stephen Harper’s continued assault on democracy and embrace of soft fascism [has he had CRA audit YOUR favourite progressive group yet?]
  • Accusations against Jian Ghomeshi
  • Accusations against Bill Cosby
  • The epidemic of campus rape, and necessary reflection about why it has taken this long to take this seriously
  • Victoria’s Times-Colonist newspaper’s racist editorial cartoons, and necessary reflection about why it has taken this long to take this seriously
  • Pipelines, fracking, dirty energy, tankers
  • The destructive Site-C dam in BC going ahead instead of spending that $8 billion on greener, more responsible energy infrastructure like solar and wind power
  • Radio hosts joking about asking whether Justin Trudeau would fuck, kill or marry Rona Ambrose, the prime minister’s wife and a former governor general

But 2014 has been a time of boldness:

There is a bold civil revolution happening so far this decade.

There is a convergence of issues that revolve around equality and justice. Social movements come when many different demands coalesce. This has been a decade of coalescence.

Our job, everyone’s job, is to make 2015 the year when enough of these roads join together to rebuild a world that respect dignity, peace, equality and justice.

We have #ClimateHope, #BlackLivesMatter, #NoPipelines, #IdleNoMore, #StopHarper, #VAW, #MMIW and every other movement.

Our job is to help each other on every different road, to realize how all our roads are the same roads.

That’s what solidarity looks like. And together we build society. Separate, the 1% tears it down, rapes it and plunders the wealth of the commons.

Enough.

Roll up your sleeves. But, don’t forget to dance!

Fire Your Boss?!

If you are interested in:

  1. social and economic justice
  2. equality and less income inequality
  3. workplace democracy and autonomy
  4. work-life balance
  5. improving the world because you are young and you have the most to lose with a rapidly decaying planet,

Then, read this paragraph. It comes from a document you should ponder endorsing.

If the paragraph is intriguing to you, click the link, read the rest and consider endorsing it!

Then, join or help form a co-op!

COOPERATE TO TRANSFORM SOCIETY

We, young cooperative leaders and members, believe in the co-operative principles and cooperative values. We believe that the co-operative movement must be at the centre of creating a more sustainable and equal economy. This economy should be built around principles of democracy, social justice and solidarity.

via Coopérer pour transformer la société // Cooperate to Transform Society.

The 1% Has More Solidarity Than We Do

In Davos, the 1% rule the world. Literally. They also have the guns.

The 1% are claiming we have it out for them; that if we don’t tone down the rhetoric and stop calling them names like “the contemptuous rich,” we might end up starting a class war. But they already know there’s a class war, and it’s been going on for generations. Today, the rich are winning because they have more solidarity than we do. The year 2014 is a battleground and the currency is solidarity. If we don’t start organizing together, quickly, and far more effectively, the contemptuous rich will continue to come out on top.

For centuries, the 1% were the nobility, the aristocrats, the old money, the patriarchy. Then Adam Smith pitched capitalism in his 1776 book Wealth of Nations, and liberated the entrepreneurs to join the blue bloods. Today, every January, corporate and government leaders from around the world – the people who literally rule the world – meet in the winter-wonderland of Davos, Switzerland, to launch the annual World Economic Forum. There, they plan the global agenda. This year’s sexy new idea was advancing “social entrepreneurialism.” That sounds so kumbaya, just like public-private partnerships, but it’s just spin for privatizing social services.

The World Economic Forum is just one of the most recent venues where the global elite show their solidarity with each other, and plan how to maximize shareholder wealth and minimize global social, economic and political equality. Beyond Davos, our rulers have also created a roadmap for undermining the democracy of nations through secret trade agreements like NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and CETA (the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). These agreements are designed to give right-wing governments the excuse to deregulate industries, privatize public services, and elevate shareholders’ and investors’ “right” to profit above the needs of society.

How does this translate in Harper’s vision of Canada? April Fool’s Day this year marked the end of the 10-year Canada Health Accord and the beginning of a 12-year fiscal plan to cut $36 billion from federal Medicare funding. This manufactured disaster is textbook Shock Doctrine, designed to impair the public health care system in order to drive more demand for private alternatives.

THE RISE OF THE 99%

The Occupy Movement helped us understand the 1% and the 99%. One of the movement’s critical failures, however, was its inability to frame its core message in the face of a hostile corporate media, and a well-coordinated network of police and intelligence service agencies working together to discredit, mock, beat, arrest, and terrorize the Occupiers. The Occupy Movement’s message was, and is, merely equality: a demand for political, social and economic equality, plus, a healthy environment. This simple message manifested itself in dozens of demands, but whose message won? The 1%. After all, they own the guns and the corporate media. But, there is hope for the 99%.

On March 19, for instance, 650 people gathered in the Maritime Labour Centre to formally kickstart the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a solidarity catalyst if there ever was one. Its birth was inspired by the Industrial Areas Foundation community organizing model, active in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia and the UK. The MVA is a coalition of labour, community and faith-based organizations who share common progressive goals.

On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the Occupy Movement rebooted itself in a worldwide “Wave of Action.” Its goal is a three-month rolling wave of activism at former Occupy sites, designed to reinvigorate the solidarity started in 2011. And there are other solidarity catalysts in Canada, including the Greater Edmonton Alliance.

These coalitions are fantastic, but they risk irrelevance if they can’t evolve to the next level of solidarity. These alliances need to grow more intense, both inwardly and outwardly.

The member groups of progressive coalitions need to find ways of connecting their individual members to better support each other. And the coalitions themselves need to support each other. I believe such an effort at deepening and broadening solidarity has, so far, been lacking. Meanwhile, the 1% are deeply well-connected, from community chambers of commerce right up to the World Trade Organization. They’re all spouting the same spin and rhetoric on their members’ behalf, while we, the 99%, can often not get past “letterhead coalitions,” a term introduced to me by Amanda Tattersall, one of the founders of the Sydney Alliance in Australia. What good is it to have a coalition when the extent of union, or faith, or community organization activity is merely a letter of support?

We need to seed more alliances in Canada. And we need to help union members themselves understand why unions matter. Labour campaigns like these can only help: the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) campaign, Together FAIRNESS WORKS; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) campaign, Unite for Fairness; and the National Union of Public And General Employees (NUPGE) campaign, All Together Now.

We need to then connect union members with social change coalitions, like Occupy Version 2 and the upcoming Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa (August 21 to 24). Our window is opening again. It’s time to leap through and convene the big gatherings.

This piece originally appeared in Our Times magazine.

A Little Bit of Civil Terrorism…

friskA little bit of civil terrorism keeps the population docile, afraid of irrational and unjust behaviour from law enforcement [sic] but hey, it helps us all live more peacefully because if you’re not a terrorist, you have nothing to fear from police terrorism via unconstitutional and racially discriminatory persecution. Right?

Nope:

“We’re going to go out there and violate some rights.” Hear the secret police recordings that will take your breath away. In a bad way.

via Meet The 17-Year-Old Who Blew The Lid Off Racial Profiling With His iPod.

And if you’re in NYC, check out the NY Civil Liberties Union’s Stop and Frisk Watch app for iPhone and Android.

And in Vancouver, the police assaulted a minor at a May Day march:

So let’s remember to remind the police about their duties to US: