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.
And so you know, the BC Ministry of Education has an information FAQ for parents and a brochure. Neither tells parents that/how they can exempt their students from this silly test. No surprise. While the government “says” it doesn’t support the use of test results for school ranking, the BC Liberal Party is a huge fan of privatizing public services, so they’re quite content to let it happen.
And if they wanted to help parents understand that the Fraser Institute school rankings are an inappropriate use of the FSA test results, they are doing an crushingly poor job of that. Which fits their ideology.
But based on this years instructions for administrators, you still can simply exempt your kids without having to go to court or anything draconian. “Principals may excuse a student in the event of a family emergency, a lengthy illness or other extenuating circumstances.” That means that you need to inform your student’s principal of the fact that there are extenuating circumstances. Do it in a letter. And frankly, it’s none of anyone’s business what your extenuating circumstances are.
And if you would like a handy letter, here’s one, from the Vancouver School Board’s website. Just copy it into a Word document, print it, fill it out and bring it to school.
Or you could use one prepared for you by the BCTF, in Chinese, English, French and Punjabi.
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.
Read it, below
Then email, phone [250.387.1715], tweet or Facebook the premier and tell her to listen to the Finance Committee this year
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.
Imperial Metals [fanciful producers of the Mount Polley Mine disaster]?
Other companies that treat workers badly like IKEA or Rocky Mountain Railtours?
Capitalism is all about worshiping Frankencorporations that are immortal, legally a human being, limit the liability of owners if the company screws up, taxed much lower than real humans, and are designed to maximize shareholder wealth while minimizing risk to capitalists and maximizing consequences for others. Raping and pillaging is just an added bonus.
But what if a company, in its cancerous zeal for wealth, has a tailing pond disaster, or a pipeline leak, or an oil tanker sinking, or abuses workers or is generally a blight on humanity and the planet?
It turns out, that in BC the provincial government cabinet can simply decree that a corporation ceases to exist:
423 The Lieutenant Governor in Council may cancel the incorporation of a company and declare it to be dissolved.
I have never heard of a provincial government cabinet dissolve a corporation for bad behaviour or justice issues or in pursuit of societal equity. I have also never heard of some person going to court to have it dissolve a company.
Sure, I can sue a company if it violates my rights somehow. Or violates a contract, or some law. But as long as companies operate within the law [I know, I’m rolling my eyes about this too] they somehow deserve to exist.
But what if corporations, in their cancerous zeal to maximize shareholder wealth, end up being ultimately destructive to society or our symbiotic relationship with our world?
What would it take to present an argument in court that would win, or to the government?
Just what does a company have to do that is so heinous that a court or government would simply euthanize it?
And why aren’t we having this debate?
Read about the North River Sugar Refining Corporation and Unocal:
“The people mistakenly assume that we have to try to control these giant corporate repeat offenders one toxic spill at a time, one layoff at a time, one human rights violation at a time. But the law has always allowed the attorney general to go to court to simply dissolve a corporation for wrongdoing and sell its assets to others who will operate in the public interest.”
So it’s time to think creatively. Think about whether as a society, we should be adding criteria to ensure that corporations deserve to exist. We should make sure that criteria is sound and well-understood and widely proclaimed. So that when we go after the first corporate charters, the low hanging fruit, then we can ensure corporations actually contribute to the public good.
And if that last phrase makes your chuckle, THAT’s how far we’ve let the corporate plutocracy rule us.
It’s our society. WE are the humans. Let’s take it back!
Politics, Re-Spun hereby bestows honourary Canadian and Politics, Re-Spun citizenship upon Russell Brand for his precise and effective re-spinning of Steve Harper and his soft fascist, neo-conservative manipulation of most of last week.
And we all need to think more carefully about “convenient murders.”
Rich folks, corporations and capitalists are feeling persecuted AGAIN!
George Monbiot explains that we [citizens in pseudo-democracies] are attacking them and their right to a free market as well as their right to be free from disloyal politicians pursuing policy goals that serve voting human people instead of businesses.
Here is an excerpt; click the link at the bottom for the rest of it:
The more power you possess, the more insecure you feel. The paranoia of power drives people towards absolutism. But far from curing them of the conviction that they are threatened and beleaguered, it becomes only stronger.
On Friday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, claimed that business is under political attack on a scale it has not faced since the fall of the Berlin wall(1). He was speaking at the Institute of Directors, where he was introduced with the claim that “we are in a generational struggle to defend the principles of the free market against people who want to undermine it or strip it away.”(2) A few days before, while introducing Osborne at the Conservative party conference, Digby Jones, formerly the head of the Confederation of British Industry, warned that companies are at risk of being killed by “regulation from Big Government” and of drowning “in the mire of anti-business mood music encouraged by vote-seekers.”(3) Where is that government and who are these vote-seekers? They are a figment of his imagination.
In Stephen Harper’s Canada, we keep enumerating the things we’re losing: meaningful legislative debate, evidence-based policy, public science, a free and open society, among other things. But what happens if we go too long with a slow erosion of the features that make our society vibrant? What happens if we let the right wing continue to teach us that we shouldn’t expect anything meaningful from government?
What happens if young Canadians grow up without a sense of what used to be the Canadian birthright: Medicare, the CPP, and a free and robust education system, for instance?
Many Americans suffer from this syndrome of unknown unknowns. They may have heard about Canada’s amazing healthcare system, but they don’t really know what they’re missing.
Many Americans have been convinced that some faceless Orwellian bureaucrats from Health Canada constantly interfere with my doctor’s ability to decide if I need liquid nitrogen on my warts, some kind of invasive prostate exam, or cancer treatment.
Ironically, it’s Americans who suffer from faceless Orwellian bureaucrats who work for for-profit health insurance companies, companies that actually do interfere with those decisions. Canadian clinicians make decisions based on health considerations. Period.
But many Americans have been misinformed, which is part of the reason why Michael Moore’s 2007 movie, Sicko, was such a revelation for so many. People simply didn’t know what they didn’t know: healthcare is a human right and can be provided sustainably, without profit-mongering.
But let’s not be so self-righteous as to think that we’ve got it all together. In BC for example, 13 years of Liberal governments have decimated funding for public education, inspiring wealthy parents to seek private school options. That’s stealth privatization.
Now we have a whole generation of students who, compared to previous generations and to most of the rest of Canada, have been educated in a public system starved of investment. They don’t know that it used to be so much better. They have what urban theorist Jane Jacobs called mass amnesia.
LABOUR’S UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS
I continually write about how unions need to more effectively and meaningfully embrace a mindset of social unionism. But one of labour’s unknown unknowns is that too many of our millions of members, and many of our staff, don’t understand our own history: they don’t know that for eight generations unions have played a central role in creating a society with more justice for all. So it is incumbent on us to provide education about why paying union dues is an investment in a better society, not a deduction to be resented.
That need to provide education goes along with labour’s need to more effectively engage our members and help mobilize them to protect union rights in Canada.
HOW THE BROADBENT INSTITUTE HELPS US FILL THE GAP
We’ve also been unaware that we’re missing a particular kind of organization that can support all this work: The emergence of the Broadbent Institute makes that clear.
Despite its namesake, the institute is a non-partisan organization that seeks progressive change because “a majority of Canadians favour progressive policies — and they are looking for new tools to build the Canada we want.”
One of the Broadbent Institute’s key functions is to provide space and convene people so they can develop more effective progressive action — an activity that happens too little in our busy labour organizations, and another necessity we often don’t know we need.
I’ve watched the institute since its inception in 2011, when it first opened its doors in Ottawa. In June of 2014, it launched an event in BC.
The Vancouver inaugural event brought together close to 300 people from progressive groups, unions, political parties and more to connect with each other and to hear from Ana Maria Archila, an inspiring, Colombian-born New York leader of the Center for Popular Democracy, who used community organizing to mobilize immigrant voters in New York.
Archila spoke about how to de-silo our issues and engage with other progressive groups to build movements. I took away three core lessons:
1. We need to meet people where they live, play and gather. We cannot expect them to come to where we are. They don’t. That’s why they haven’t come to us in the past. The key to effective organizing is listening to people’s stories and truths and building from a place of empathy and understanding.
2. Coalition-building means working with people and groups we haven’t worked with in the past, which demands that we get out of our comfort zone.
3. Organizations like unions, with staffing, resources and money, need to better support progressive organizations that are too grassroots to possess these capacities. This is one way we can share and build power.
In talking to people at the Vancouver event, I saw how varied their perspectives are about the roles that the Broadbent Institute can play: It produces research to advance progressive solutions. It has a powerful news and analysis portal, PressProgress.ca, to challenge conservative ideas. And while providing space and convening people, it provides training and focus so we can improve our activist processes and our ability to be intentional in our work.
Ultimately, we didn’t know we needed the Broadbent Institute until it showed up to fill a gap in our work.
This piece first appeared in the Labour Day issue of Our Times labour magazine.
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.
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De-Spinning the Political and Re-Spinning it for Social, Economic and Political Justice