Category Archives: Conservatism

Deconstructing the Wildrose Effect

So what happened in Alberta’s election yesterday, other than people telling pollsters that they want change, then chickening out when it came time to mark an X.

The Politics, Re-spun crew deconstructs the Wildrose effect here:

Continue reading

Breaking Spin-Watch: Rat(s) Off A Ship? John van Dongen Crosses The Floor

In a somewhat surprising move, Abbotsford-South MLA John van Dongen rose in the Legislature in BC today and delivered a blistering critique of Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government, and then announced that he would cross the floor to join the fledgling BC Conservative Part..

van Dongen’s speech included an indictment of the government’s write-off of six million dollars to pay the Basi-Virk BC Rail Trial legal fees, and the disastrous handling of the Telus naming rights.

Spinners were already in action, with Shachi Kurl saying “who didn’t see that coming?”

Keep your eyes open for more – van Dongen says more is coming, and blogger Alex Tsakumis, who while I’m not the biggest fan, has said more MLAs are thinking of crossing.

This is particularly interesting given two byelections in full force; what effect will a wounded BC Liberal Party have in Chilliwack-Hope, already expected to be a battle between the BC Conservatives and the NDP, despite being a steady BC Liberal riding for some time?

Update:  Continue reading

News of the World, Kai Nagata & the Omnibus Crime Bill

No, this isn’t a game of “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others”, ‘though I’m sure to suffer from the catchy tune playing in a loop in my head for the next several hours.  Trust me, it’s more like a game of Tri Bond. 

If you have been off planet, embedded in an Amish community or otherwise incommunicado over the past several days [weeks, ed.], UK’s 168 year old News of the World is kaput, thanks to a phone hacking scandal of breathtaking proportions – thousands of people, from Royalty to families of soldiers killed in action to a young murder victim, were targeted – and the taint has spread to The Sun.

Fortunately, Rupert Murdoch’s huge, international media empire – News Corporation – is being examined with Continue reading

SFPIRG: We stand in solidarity with CUPE 3338 and oppose the “reprehensible” recommendation to evict SFPIRG

The following is a quote from SFPIRG’s announcement to students, members, and supporters, posted on its website at  It is republished on in solidarity and to spread the word.

SFPIRG stands in solidarity with and extends our full support to SFSS staff, members of CUPE 3338, who have been locked out of their workplaces by the SFSS Board of Directors. These staff keep vital services (e.g. the Women’s Centre, Out on Campus, clubs’ events, etc.) running for 20,000+ SFU students, including members of the SFSS board themselves. Follow the latest updates on!/cupesfu.

SFPIRG also finds reprehensible the SFSS Student Space Oversight Committee’s recommendation to the SFSS Board of Directors that we be served 3 months’ notice to vacate offices we have occupied for approximately two decades. This was done without consulting us in good faith or considering the needs of students accessing our space and services every day. The Committee also failed to adequately publicize the meeting where this recommendation was deliberated and passed.

SFPIRG is a student-based and student-directed non-profit organization that offers not only community-based research opportunities for students, but also student communal spaces (e.g. lounge, meeting room), a bike tool co-op, training and materials for student organizing, printing/photocopying, outreach/postering support, a wide range of critical academic and grassroots resources, infrastructural support (funding, training, storage) for student groups, and most importantly, a diverse and vibrant student community passionate about social and environmental justice.

Follow our latest updates here:!/SFPIRG, and check out our Programming and Education Coordinator, Setareh Mohammadi, and SFPIRG Board Member Isaac Louie, giving the low-down via CJSF today:

 On their website, SFPIRG describe themselves as: “The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) is a student funded and directed resource centre at SFU. We support environmental and social change through research, education and action.”

SFSS CUPE 3338 Lockout “either ignorance or malicious denigration of their vital work”: SFU student

The following open letter to the SFU community was written by SFU student Emma Noonan, originally titled “In Support of a Livable World” and originally published here. It is republished on PoliticsRespun with permission.

On Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 2:13pm, the SFSS Board of Directors issued notice that they were locking out the staff members belonging to CUPE local 3338, bargaining unit 5. This included the office staff of the SFSS General Office, the Copy Centre, the SFU Surrey Office staff, Out On Campus and the Women’s Centre, a total of 15 permanent and 5 term employees. They took this action after almost two years of negotiations over the expired collective agreement. Without going too far into the specifics, the Board of Directors has stated that this is primarily because the SFSS currently pays unreasonably high wages to CUPE employees, who have been unwilling to negotiate wage cuts.

I would like to examine, for a minute, the idea that the SFSS pays too much in wages to its employees. On the SFSS’s lockout website, they state that they were contractually obligated to pay $748 911 in wages and benefits for 12 permanent employees. I am slightly confused by this number because it is the number they use to state how much they pay in wages, for any number of employees, in their budget infographic. Given that this particular CUPE bargaining unit consists of more than 12 people, I must conclude that either the SFSS in fact pays more than that in total wages, or that that number is divided among more people than they imply. However, I will assume that that is money is divided only among the 12 employees mentioned. That means that on average, assuming all possible benefits such as medical and dental were claimed for every employee, these employees had a before-tax income of $62 409.25 for the year.

I know that $30/hr sounds like a lot of money to be paying someone. I understand that $62 409 per year per employee sounds a bit scary, especially as a student who can make maybe a third or a quarter of that and is barely scraping by. It’s frustrating to think that you’re paying someone that much more than you make yourself. But would you really rather we were paying SFSS staff $10/hr? In Vancouver, for people who have families and homes, this is not a realistic living wage. You live here. You know that. With mortgages and groceries and school fees and all the other costs of just getting through the world, is $62 409 really so much to be paying dedicated and experienced professionals?

And it’s not as though your student fees are being shoveled out the door on a daily basis as hand outs or as money wasted, as the SFSS Directors “money saved” tweets would have you believe. The General Office and the Surrey Office staff does the work of actually providing a great many of the SFSS’s services such as coordinating room bookings, making sure allocated funds get where they need to go and serving as a stable frame around which a new Board of Directors can form from year to year. I would even argue that many of the activities and events proposed by the SFSS Directors on Twitter over the course of the lockout would be much more difficult and time-consuming to organize without this staff. Outside of the General Office are the Out on Campus and Women’s Center staff, who provide invaluable services to SFU students. Not only are they available to answer questions and help deal with crisis situations, but on a day-to-day basis they run libraries, organize events, participate in and are responsive to their respective collective bodies, advocate for students both specifically and generally, give guest lectures in classes, organize with the Health Center as well as with off-campus groups to provide free condoms and lubricant to anyone who needs them, organize the volunteers of their respective spaces and liaise with the SFSS board Continue reading

We are “refusing to cross picket lines”: Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Student Union and the SFSS CUPE Lockout

This open letter was originally written by Chelsea Mackay and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Student Student, published originally here and republished on with permission.

Dear SFSS Board Members and President Jeff McCann,

The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Student Union (GSWSSU) has been blindsided by the recent lockout of CUPE 3338 workers at the SFSS General Office, Out On Campus, and the SFU Women’s Centre.

Firstly, we are shocked that you have justified this lockout on our behalf. We were not consulted on this issue, and we absolutely do not find a lockout to be an appropriate solution to the financial issues of the SFSS.

The GSWSSU received $100 in Core funding this semester, and have not requested any grant money so far. While we understand that other Student Unions and clubs use more money than we do, we still do not find the cuts you suggested for CUPE 3338 Unit 5 workers to be acceptable, nor justifiable. Full time staff, according to your website, get paid $30.48/hour, and you argue that they should take a decrease in pay to $26.66/hour. According to our calculations, if staff were to work 30 hours/week, and 48 weeks/year, they would be going from $43,891.20 per year before taxes to $38,390.40 per year before taxes. This is a pay decrease of over $5,500 per year. As a collective, the GSWSSU agreed that this is an unacceptable pay decrease, and that the refusal of this wage is absolutely justifiable. We are offended that the SFSS would suggest such a large wage cut for workers who we greatly respect, and we are especially offended that this has supposedly been done on our behalf.

Also, while we have heard from your office that the cuts were meant to be 12% across all workers from all areas, we have heard differently from CUPE workers. Specifically, we have heard that student part-time workers are facing cuts of 40%, and even 50% for recently hired employees. We have also heard that the staff of the Women’s Centre and Out on Campus on facing higher wage cuts than the staff from the General Office. Please correct us if we have heard wrong, but the GSWSSU does not support these unequal cuts.

Every interaction Continue reading

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose”; or, how to ideologically re-structure your student society: a beginner’s guide: the SFSS CUPE Lockout

By Joel Blok, originally published here

This summer five years ago, the Board of Directors of the SFSS suspended its office staff, barring them from entering their offices and sending them home.  This past Thursday, a different board issued a lockout notice to its office staff, preventing them from work.

In 2006, the rhetorical justification was fiduciary responsibility to the society.  This summer, it’s financial responsibility to the student members.

The arguments will be different, and the current board will undoubtedly do its utmost to disassociate itself from 2006.  The outcome has yet to be seen.  But the goal, invariably, is the same.  The board of directors of the SFSS have unilaterally decided to re-structure the student society, and will exhaustively work to rhetorically cloak their own ideological efforts as being in your best interests.

Here’s the structural reality: the SFSS cannot exist without its staff.  None of the many services it offers could be accomplished, none of the important campaigns it mounts could be undertaken, none of the advocacy that it does could occur without the honest and sincere labour of the staff of the student society.  So how do you radically alter the direction and orientation of your society, with no transparency, accountability or consultation?  You replace your staff.

The important lesson that this board apparently learned from 2006 is to undertake this project under a more “legitimate” (though no less antagonistic) means.  As there is no contract in force between the SFSS and its employees, the board can, legally under the labour code, lock its workers out.  The last time draconian staff re-structuring was afoot, the board was much less sophisticated, and much clumsier, in its approach.  This time, you will hear arguments about how student unions and clubs will not be funded, how the membership is being taken advantage of by the “shamefully” high cost of providing fair employment to SFSS staff.  You will of course be told of the “intransigence” and “unreasonableness” of the union, who, as of course you all know, are simply unrealistically greedy individuals exploiting the system, and through it, you.  You will be told that, in spite of the board’s best intentions, this is the only way the society can fulfill its “constitutional” duties to its membership, and that the “fiscal reality” of the situation is that either you will lose resources and service, or staff will have to be cut.

All of which carefully distracts from the real imperative of the board in a clever sleight of hand.  The question really has nothing to do with the fallacious and reductive “staff vs. students” antagonism that is being presented, but rather with the ability of the board to exercise unchecked executive power over the society. Again, there’s a clear manipulation of the market discourse. While employing the staff causes “financial problems”, the real “market value” of their labour is never honestly discussed or disclosed when the management goes after the union.

Anyone who has worked in, for, or with the student society knows categorically the importance of the staff to the organization.  Not only does their labour ensure its continued functions, but their expertise and experience, their institutional memory, guarantees that it continues to exist beyond the whims of a one-year-term board.  The staff at the SFSS not only actually provides the services that this board will argue they are threatening, but ensures that those services exist in a meaningful way, that students can depend upon them as they undertake their studies, from year to year.  Without the SFSS staff none of the services their continued employment is purportedly threatening would exist in the first place.  Without the serious responsibility and care they feel towards the students they work for, there’d be no student society to speak of.

The ultimate goal here is not to ensure the “financial viability” of the SFSS; there were plenty of options open to the board both on and off the table before they decided to lockout their employees.  The goal is to remove staff from the equation as much as possible so that decisions of the board are increasingly unchecked, to consolidate executive power, and to allow the unfettered re-construction, or more ominously de-construction, of the society as a whole.  Like those directors of 2006, this current board is undertaking a project of “staff-restructuring” to re-organize the society as they themselves see fit, without membership input.  But don’t worry, this is in your best interest, just trust us.

Joel Blok is a PhD Candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, the Chief Steward of the Teaching Support Staff Union, and was a graduate student representative on the Board of the Simon Fraser Student Society once upon a time.

Online activists can join a solidarity group on Facebook, supporting SFSS staff here, or can tweet using #SFUlockout as a hashtag.

Harper, Hypocrisy, Syria, and Degrees of Freedom

Yesterday I lifted my head from some work to watch the Ottawa journalists in Twitter filling us all in on John Baird’s first press conference as the majority Conservative government’s Foreign Affairs minister. They noted he read from the speech: very odd.

It was a signal of a new degree of hypocritical oddity now besetting Canada. Last summer, the Harper government suspended Canada’s constitution and rounded up around 1,000 activists, peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders in and around G20 venues, and even in a “free speech zone.” Variously, those hundreds were then persecuted, beaten, deprived of medicine, humiliated in cages, suffered the suspension of their constitutional and legal rights and unceremoniously dumped in the streets.

They, in essence, suffered violations of their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression and assembly. And those innocent bystanders were violated by having their right to merely stand on a sidewalk in public violated by the state.

Yesterday the new benchmark of gall bounced around in Ottawa as the government rightly sanctioned Syria for killing its citizens as they tried to peacefully assemble and express themselves.

One conclusion I can draw from this hypocrisy is that as long as a government does not actually murder its citizens, then the suspension of expression and assembly rights is tolerable.

This is not tolerable.

PM announces sanctions on Syria

24 May 2011

Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that targeted sanctions would be imposed against members of the current Syrian regime.  This action is in response to the on-going and violent crackdown by the military and security forces against Syrian civilians who are peacefully protesting for democracy and the respect of human rights.

“Canada is gravely concerned at the excessive use of force by the Syrian regime against its own people, which has reportedly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the detention of thousands more,” said Prime Minister Harper. “The sanctions being announced today are a repudiation of Syria’s blatant violation of its international human rights obligations that threaten the security of the entire Middle East.”

Canada is also concerned about the humanitarian situation in cities and towns that remain under military lockdown, and by reports that hundreds of Syrians are fleeing the country.

Our Government will be implementing the following sanctions against Syria which are aimed at pushing for democratic reform:

A travel ban to Canada imposed on designated people associated with the current Syrian regime;

An asset freeze against people associated with the current Syrian regime and entities involved in security and military operations against the Syrian people;

A ban under the Export and Import Permits Act on the export from Canada to Syria of goods and technology that are subject to export controls; and,

A suspension of all bilateral cooperation agreements and initiatives with Syria.

The measures announced today directly target members of the current Syrian regime and individuals and entities involved in the crackdown. They are not intended to cause harm to the Syrian people.

Canada stands with the Syrian people’s call for democratic reform and calls on the current regime to immediately cease the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators.

“The best way to ensure peace and stability in Syria is through democratic reform and respect for human rights, not violent repression,” Prime Minister Harper added.

via PM announces sanctions on Syria – Prime Minister of Canada.

All’s Not Right: Splitting The Conservative Vote

People who are willing to listen to me rant and foam at the mouth about politics (not as large a population as you might think) have heard two consistent messages from me over the last few elections. One: Canada needs more than one right-wing party. The Conservatives are currently the only game running for right-leaning Canadians, while the vote on the left is split between a number of parties. Two: Canada needs another Trudeau-esque Prime Minister. We need another rabble-rouser who is less concerned with placating the United States and maintaining the status quo than actually doing what is best for Canada.

On November 25, 2010, I thought Danny Williams was going to be the answer to my profanity-laced wishes. As he announced he was retiring as Newfoundland’s Premiere, I started to fantasize about what his future in politics might look like.

As the days passed and no hint of scandal attached itself to ol’ Danny Boy, I grew more and more excited. My dream is a simple enough one and Danny Williams has the potential to be the man of my dreams. (Words I honestly never thought I would say, but there you have it.)

Do you remember when we had a national Progressive Conservative Party? I do. And while I was no fan of Mulroney’s… well, the way the CPC have been running things, I’m finding I miss the guy. I miss a ham-fisted Prime Minister that counted our nation’s pennies like an old woman buying cat food at the grocery store. I miss having a PM that couldn’t grasp the finer points of Native relations, but at least understood that Canadians expect their government to provide certain things, like education and health care. And, well, I miss the Refooooooooooormers being a national joke.

If the latest election results have shown us anything, it’s that roughly twenty-five percent of the country’s population wanted a conservative government of some sort. But twenty-five percent of Canadians are not Reformers. They’re mostly progressive conservatives, craving fiscal conservation and liberal social policies.

This is where Danny Williams ought to be riding in on his white horse, leading a rebranded national PC Party (maybe even with a snazzy, royal purple colour scheme). He has a proven track record of fighting for what’s best for his province, no matter how unpopular it may have made him at times. He has a proven track record of turning his province’s finances around. He’s popular and populist, bull-headed and colourful. He could be exactly the sort of Prime Minister who would stiffen our national backbone, remind us once again what we have to be proud of and maybe even amusingly embarrass us on an international scale. He would be a fantastic antidote to the furtive dealings of a federal government run by The Man With The Homolka Eyes.

It’s true that Williams doesn’t have a fantastic environmental record, but with Stache Layton heading up the opposition again, the worst environmental excesses could easily be curtailed. Williams’ tendency toward freezing wages and neglecting the arts would be mitigated, too. We could once again have a Parliament to be proud of.

And maybe, just maybe, we’d see some fuddle-duddling progress around here.


2011 Class Warriors Include Anonymous and the Uncut Movement

Today’s note is simple.

It’s big picture context.

On one hand we have:

  1. 30 years of neoliberalism,
  2. with the Conservative-Liberal passive coalition in Ottawa,
  3. a Democrat or maybe Republican Lite in the White House after the Bush years,
  4. the Tea Party,
  5. anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin and Ohio,
  6. developed countries bailing out capitalist fraudsters to keep them out of jail while cutting social spending,
  7. and general right wing bliss-seeking.

On the other hand we have

  1. the democratizing capacity of texting, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,
  2. some widespread anti-corporate, counter-hegemonic media in sites like The Real News and Al Jazeera,
  3. a sentiment that the fifth estate is becoming the fourth,
  4. populist democratic uprisings or revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, maybe Algeria, hopefully Libya if they can hold on, and several other African and middle eastern nations,
  5. a worker and pro-public sector populist, activist uprising in Wisconsin,
  6. the Uncut Movement, designed to reverse neoliberal public sector spending cuts to offset tax cuts to corporations and the rich, which is not even 6 months old yet and has already spawned groups in many countries and a dozen Canadian locations,
  7. we have Wikileaks which is speaking truth to power by exposing powerful groups’ truths to the power of the people, and possibly contributing in part to the Tunisian revolution,
  8. and we have Anonymous, a collective that may end up contributing significant elements to democratization movements, or they just may stay goofy.
  9. [And now suddenly, we have serious black eyes on the oil and nuclear energy sectors leading to more arguments for post-carbon/radioactive energy development, which is itself a democratizing movement because it erodes power of global energy oligarchs.]

The pendulum is swinging.

Perhaps the Tea Party pushed it too far and triggered some counter-populism.

All I know is that 2011 started in tremendous flux. Democracy is on the table. People are moving towards it. Old power elites, totalitarians, neoliberals…all of them are at grave risk of increasing irrelevancy.

The trick in each of our local areas is to mobilize the irate and motivated. We need to build community-based social movements for progressive change. We need to ally ourselves with regional, national and global movements that exhibit creativity, commitment to ideals and strategic engagement to change the nature of political dialogue so we can reverse the scourge of decades of neoliberalism.

Complacency doesn’t fit in 2011.