Category Archives: Politics

People Want BC Corporations to Pay More Tax

…or do they?

Every year the BC government consults with citizens on what should go into their budget.

Last year over 25% of the online survey respondents said new revenue should come from increased corporate taxes, triple the rate of people who thought personal income taxes should go up.

But there are problems with that; see below:

Programs and services are largely funded by tax revenues, and government works to balance where the money comes from. How would you generate one new dollar of tax revenue from among the sources below?

– from Report on the 2014 Budget Consultations

Problems:

  1. There are 4.6 million British Columbians.
  2. Only 262 people filled out the online survey. That’s a bad response rate of only 1/17,557 people.
  3. The government does a poor job actually soliciting people to fill out their online survey of fiscal preferences.
  4. The government doesn’t really care what we think.
  5. So do you think the 2014 budget had massive/any corporate tax increases? The regressive MSP increased. Again. The general corporate tax rate remained unchanged at 11%

Solutions:

  1. Get thousands more people to fill out the online budget survey, somehow?
  2. Publicize the survey widely so people know it’s there, and have people login with their SIN to fill out the survey, making it like a referendum, which would increase people’s expectation of follow-through of their ideas?
  3. Try to convince people that the government actually cares about what we think to the point that more than 262 bother to share their opinions?

Today is the deadline for submissions for the 2015 budget, though in the past they often extended the deadline. Did YOU even hear about it and the survey you could fill out? Will more than 262 fill it out this year? Will the government care about its civil society consultation, or are they far too cynical to actually care?

Apathy and ignorance favour totalitarianism. But when the government cultivates apathy and ignorance and cynicism, they manufacture a state of governance without oversight, a hallmark of the rising totalitarianism.

Harper, Militarism and the New Toonie

Harper continues to ignore, demean and disrespect soldiers while once again sending them into one of his neo-conservative “wars,” which is good for a PM heading into an election, needing to solidifying his base that loves him to kill the evildoers.

But his long-term plan to militarize Canadian culture [Winnipeg Jets logo,  honouring military at professional sports, etc.] has stepped up to another level with this WWII photo on the newest toonie.

Fascism glorifies war. Soft fascism makes it look like it’s perfectly natural.

Think critically about the steady creep of militarism and what it does to our culture.

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via ‘Wait for Me, Daddy’ photo has dual meaning: Bernard | Globalnews.ca.

Perma-War is Soft Fascism; Reject It!

When the government terrorizes the citizens, they are the enemy.

Not all allies have decided that international cachet means flying combat jets. Many are contributing humanitarian aid, an option often derided by Harper’s Conservatives as sending over some blankets.

Germany’s Angela Merkel is one who has chosen blankets over bombs and no one is suggesting that Germany’s global voice will be diminished.

Go to war or be a free rider? “That is small thinking, facile, divisive and unworthy,’’ said Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray.

When called upon to act, said Justice Minister Peter MacKay, we respond.

But surely, when called upon, we decide what to do based on our needs and capabilities. We don’t just respond and that response need not be — and has not been — military in nature.

Tory plan is patriotism, fear and six CF-18s: Tim Harper | Toronto Star.

Stop Persecuting The Rich, You Stinkers!

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.

 

The Toll-Booth Economy | George Monbiot.

While Canada’s Free Press Gets Beheaded…

When one corporation owns most of the English language newspapers in Canada, the free press is essentially dead, not that it’s been much of anything but comatose for a while.

Switch to non-corporate media:

Worried that the PostMedia buy out of Sun News means you won’t have any options for news? Here’s a handy (imperfect, incomplete) list of websites to check out. (If you have any independent news sources I missed – I’m sure I did – message me and I’ll update…)
Alright, third and last version for now (unless I decide to do something else with it…). Thanks for all the feedback everyone (and apologies to anyone I missed). Want to give more suggestions for an eventual “something else”? email me at tm.freelancing@gmail.com.

Troisième, et dernière version (pour l’instant). Merci pour tout vos commentaires – et désolé si je vous ai oublié. Si jamais vous avez d’autres commentaires ou d’autres ajouts à suggérer, vous pouvez me contacter à tm.freelancing@gmail.com.

Thanks for all the shares! Merci pour tout les partages!

via Tim McSorley – Timeline Photos.

A Year Without Politics

From October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, I will be abstaining from politics.

 

Those who know me are probably wondering if they should be dragging me to the nearest emergency room and demanding expensive brain scans. Those who don’t are probably just confused as to why I would bother in the first place.

 

I don’t have a great answer, except to say that I am curious as to how a lack of personal awareness shapes our lives. We all know people who live in a political void. They don’t vote, they don’t discuss politics, they don’t understand how the political process works. I find it fascinating, and I want to understand how people live, think, and act, when the vast political system is something they don’t feel they have any interaction with.

 

For the next year, I will be abstaining from municipal, provincial, federal, and international political news (and discussions thereof), voting, protesting, petition signing, letter writing, speaking to my city councillor, MPP, and MP, and all those other little things that make up a vibrant, politically active life. In areas where some politics are unavoidable (you really can’t be an active public school volunteer without some politics being brought up), I intend to divert my efforts to concrete actions, such as volunteering with the school’s nutrition program, bake sales, and so forth. I will post monthly updates chronicling my adventures in apolitical living.

Well, that’s the goal.

In the last two days, I’ve accidentally discussed politics twice (once regarding school board politics, once regarding the upcoming municipal election), volunteered to research school board and city policy regarding improvements to our school grounds, and received a phone call reminding that I had previously committed to volunteering next week for my municipal ward representative of choice’s campaign. It has invariably taken me hours to realize I have broken the terms of my own challenge, which leaves me a little uneasy about the long-term success of this project.

 

Lesson of the first two days? I just don’t know how to shut up.

 

Against Collective Forgetting

Workers must do our part to Stop Harper!

Happy Labour Day! 🙂

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.

Class Warfare CAUSED Income Inequality, Not the Opposite

Horatio Alger mythology is designed to make us leave the 1% alone and shut the fuck up.

If you haven’t yet seen John Oliver’s amazing rant about the perils of inequality and how the rich shame us out of talking about it by suggesting we’re trying to invoke class warfare, you can see it below.

The truth is, income inequality doesn’t just happen one day, then the classes fight each other. Class warfare is what creates the conditions for income inequality.

But as long as the 1% can keep us from talking about class issues, we can say income inequality 84,000 times each day and nothing will ever change.

The rich want to keep us poor and powerless.

But we all knew that anyway. It’s time we did something about that, don’t you think?

Because the more we continue to believe in this American Dream nonsense, the longer the 1% continues to pull our strings.

We need to demand higher taxes on the rich and corporations. We need to protect working people. And the environment. And people who aren’t old white men, so basically those without entitlements.

And if this isn’t yet clear enough for you, you may now watch John Oliver sock it to ya!

Continue reading Class Warfare CAUSED Income Inequality, Not the Opposite

BC’s Deep Deep Racism, Shhhh!

Shhh, this is uncomfortable. It might make you ashamed.

Hopefully it will anger you to action?

First Nations burial grounds in BC have less protection than settler cemeteries.

Along with desecration at a Musqueam burial site, someone is building their home on top of another burial ground on Grace Islet off Saltspring Island. On stilts [see the horrible details below]. And the person building this home was once fined $150,000 for putting fake safety labels on retail products. Sigh. Morality much? Ever?

The minister responsible said in the legislature that Grace Islet’s “owner” “and the archaeology branch had done everything they needed to do to proceed” with the home construction. Except live moral lives, that is.

What kind of universe are we living in?

What kind of sick racist society allows people to build a home on someone’s burial ground?

Ours.

If this makes you ashamed as a British Columbian, you have a good soul. Here’s what you can do to force our elected “honourable” leaders to stop this blatant racism.

Educate yourself on this shameful situation. This is a good start. And you can follow developments in the Twitter.

Sign this petition. Then…

Email/phone the following people and tell them the following things:

  1. BC’s laws are racist and inadequate. You won’t tolerate this.
  2. Tell them to pass Private Members’ Bill M 208 to help First Nations protect their burial sites.
  3. Tell them that dignity matters to you and it should to them.

Here’s who you contact:

  1. The minister responsible: Minister of Forests Steve Thompson: FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-6240
  2. The premier: Premier@gov.bc.ca, 250-387-1715
  3. The opposition leader: john.horgan.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  4. M 208’s MLA, Maurine Karagianis: maurine.karagianis.mla@leg.bc.ca, 250-387-3655
  5. Your MLA: see the listings here.

Then share this article with the 3 people in your life who appreciate human dignity the most. You have good taste in friends. They will support you in this campaign because they’ve got your back.

Finally…

Here’s some of the disturbing background about this stilt house on a burial ground.

Provincial archeologists in the 1970s marked Grace Islet as part of an ancient First Nations village. It later became privately owned and subdivided into a residential lot. The 0.75-hectare piece of land was bought in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky, who is now building a luxury home on the site.

The development has been intermittently stalled by a series of archeological assessments and permit requirements since the remains were found.

The owner has fulfilled all legal requirements and adjusted his plans. He is building the house on stilts so as not to disturb any burial spots, and has begun to clear the land.

Jacks said Slawsky has not responded to requests to sell the property or meet with First Nations. Some band leaders even enlisted a local rabbi to appeal to Slawsky on a religious values level.

“Can you imagine if us chiefs went to Ross Bay Cemetery (where several historical figures are buried) and said we’re going to build a longhouse over it?” Jacks asked.

The Tseycum chief is among a growing group of people — including several First Nations, politicians, archeologists and residents — opposed to building over the burial grounds. They want the land to be protected, but the province has said it has no plans to purchase the land.

In British Columbia, burial sites dated before 1846 fall under the Heritage Conservation Act and any alterations are managed by the archeology branch. Burial sites established after that time, including Ross Bay Cemetery (1873) and Pioneer Square (1856) in Victoria, fall under stricter cemetery legislation.

– from First Nations chief says province’s burial ground policies are racist.

 

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.