We have decided that “GroupThink ReSpun” will be the name of the process whereby various of the Politics, Re-Spun crew collaborate on editorializing about a current event. Enjoy the poetry of the term!
So apparently, the RCMP wants to ease into allowing US agents to operate freely in Canada:
1. Do you want to be American? Discuss.
Amputating one of my limbs with a nail clipper and then sewing it to my forehead sounds more appealing, really. I don’t make a very good American. Clinging to my sacred socialist cows and such. – Tia
First of all, this question makes me want to sing “I am not American” by the Arrogant Worms. I, too, wonder how two entire continents can lose their identity to one constituent. Secondly, no. I do not want to be an American. I find it distressing that being Canadian increasingly means being saddled with failed American political policies, ten years out of date. – Anna
Despite parts of my idealistic self liking their historical rhetoric about democracy, freedom and such, their inability to implement it and all that current and historical imperialism demonstrate that actually joining that club is not a good thing. – Stephen
2. The FTA and NAFTA were the beginnings of an economic love-in with the USA. Is developing closer ties to the USA handcuffing ourselves to a drowning man or a good move for Canadians?
Albatross. Neck. Millstone. Neck. – Tia
Let’s be honest. American hegemony essentially died with the Iraq war (v2.0) and the American economy isn’t exactly winning all the monies, either. I’d like to see Canada develop greater distance from the U.S., but since Harper seems hell-bent of carrying out his creepy, Buffalo Bill-style inhabitation of Bush’s political skin, I don’t see that happening. Come on. You know he has a Bush costume he puts on when he wants to feel pretty. – Anna
I’ve always felt free trade was always a great policy to pursue when your nation already is strong, so you would get an unfair advantage over weaker nations who are trying protectionism to improve their standard of living, you your nation had done. The global economic system is founded upon exacerbating inequality. Solutions lie in post-neoliberal trade, like fair trade and ecologically sustainable economic activity. So the FTA and NAFTA are not good in that sense. Plus America is in monstrous economic decline and has been for a generation, so increasing ties with them is a problem. – Stephen
3. Most Canadians don’t like NAFTA [http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15196], so would this kind of security cooperation be welcome to Canadians?
I would like to believe that most Canadians inherently enjoy being citizens of a sovereign nation with its own boundaries & with rules and legislation more or less untainted by the interests of an outside nation. The idea of the US government being able to operate autonomously with any sort of gravity within our borders is frightening at best. – Tia
Honestly, this is like trying to get your kid over his dislike of baths by sticking him in the washing machine. – Anna
Security cooperation, even for a weekend, is a crisis in sovereignty. Why don’t we develop security cooperation agreements with Russia or some place? Simple, we don’t want to develop critical dependence with a country like that. Sure, the USA is physically close [and imperialistic, and threatening, and has lots of guns and a desire for resources under our part of the melting Arctic], but is that any reason to give them a house key? – Stephen
4. Should Canadians be worried about our sovereignty, privacy and civil liberties with American policing agencies operating here freely?
In a word? YES. – Tia
Of course we should. We’ve seen the sterling work American agencies have done of respecting their own citizens’ liberties. – Anna
Yes, easily. However, I will add that even if we were to stop or reverse any security harmonization with anyone, federal and provincial governments in Canada are already doing a great job of undermining our privacy and civil liberties: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/24/opinion/our-not-so-friendly-northern-neighbor.html. – Stephen
5. Why won’t Stephen Harper defend our sovereignty instead of engaging in more perimeter/continental security schemes?
Puppet. Strings. Dennis Lee said it best in a poem that appeared in his book “The Difficulty of Living on Other Planets.”
“When I went up to Ottawa,
I met man who sang tra la.
What did you do with the country today?
I gave it away, to the USA!” – Tia
Because he’s not interested in Canada, he’s interested in power. And money. Which is another way of saying “power”. – Anna
His economic agenda for a very long time was for more economic integration with the USA. This kind of integration leads to more strangleholds on neoliberal policies, like in the EU, which makes it harder for us to domestically fight for progressive economics. The same works for security and rights. The Conservative government has open contempt for democracy, so partnering with the USA on security and punitive policing accomplishes the same goal as his economic agenda. – Stephen
6. How contemptuous or condescending is it for the RCMP to want to ease Canadians into the notion of accepting American police forces operating here?
It was kind of them to buy some Vaseline before they decided to ram an unwanted, crooked foreign object up our asses without permission. – Tia
My knee jerk reaction is to say “very”. But upon reflection, the contemptuous thing is allowing American forces to operate in Canada at all. Metaphorically taking the country out to dinner and using lube before attempting to violate us is just common sense. Otherwise, there would be violent uprising in the street, or at least a sternly worded online petition. – Anna
In the old days, authorities wouldn’t come right out and say that we’re stupid and need to be managed. But now the level of contempt that our governments and security organizations have for civil rights is so blatant that they’re fine just saying nonsense like that. We should all be banging pots and pans in the streets. – Stephen
7. We have been harmonizing our regulatory and border security systems with the USA at a faster pace since 911. We generally go with their weaker standards. How will this initiative weaken Canada’s identity?
If you keep siphoning off booze from your father’s stash, and replacing it with water, eventually you’ll have nothing but water. So goes our identity. The more you dilute our legal system and security with that of the USA, we become more and more diluted and less Canadian. – Tia
It galls me that we’re constantly sold this narrative that our standards are weak, and that Canada is practically a nursery school for terrorists, and that our Polite Canadian Standards will DOOM US ALL. I would like to make the radical proposition that instead of assimilating, we try cooperating. Like, actually cooperating, for realsies. It’s an idea so crazy it just might work. – Anna
When a large company “merges” with a smaller one, it’s not an equal deal. There are two different parties with a unique, often deeply tilted balance of power. However much anyone talks about equality in the new relationship, the larger body will define more of it. So harmonizing with the USA on pesticide issues [we raced to the bottom and adopted their weak standards] or on trade or on security means our larger neighbour will dictate more than there are equal discussions. And given the Conservative government’s contempt for democracy, embracing the Americans in the security arena means adopting their more fascist elements. – Stephen
This time Mexico isn’t invited, but on February 4, 2011, Stephen Harper and Barack Obama announced a new era of the SPP. Today, the Government of Canada announced [see the press release below] a 5-week consultation process “with all levels of government and with communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as with our citizens.”
How is this any different from the SPP, beyond Mexico’s absence? I emailed the international trade minister’s press secretary and received no answer by posting time this morning.
Regardless, this consultation sounds fantastic except for a few things.
There is a strong chance of a federal election being called in the next 1-2 weeks. This makes such a consultation process unlikely. In fact, the cynical may infer from this announcement that the notoriously unconsultative Harper will call an election in the next couple weeks to avoid such a process, as well as to beat a non-confidence motion on an anti-social, pro-corporate budget; or more likely, why not announce a consultation process that we know won’t happen because of the election campaign.
And if this consultation round were to actually take place, I have a hard time believing it will be an open, transparent, nation-wide, unbiased, robust consultation taking all opinions into account. The Senate’s appointed Conservative majority, as opposed to the elected MPs, will hold about a dozen meetings to review the soon to expire Canada Health Accord, but all of the meetings will be in Ottawa.
Paul Martin started the SPP and participated in a number of anti-democratic discussions, including the officially-admitted use of agents provocateurs at Montebello in 2007. The de facto coalition of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties demonstrates their common economic and security goals. I would be surprised if the current government would be any less anti-democratic than the previous government.
Another concern about this initiative is the renewed interest in harmonizing and reducing regulations; these are two hallmarks of the neoliberal agenda now embodied in the new “Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) that will make regulations in a range of sectors more compatible and less burdensome in both countries.” You may remember that before the SPP brand was retired a few years ago, they tried to harmonize pesticide variations out of existence in a deregulatory race to the bottom.
The last version of security and prosperity talks also included a brilliantly anti-democratic North American corporate legislature called the North American Competitiveness Council comprised of around a dozen of the largest corporations from each of the North American countries.
It’s important to be vigilant. They’ll repackage the same ugly neoliberal, shock doctrine recipe whenever we let our guard down.
Ultimately, I’m lucky to not have removed SPP from my Categories topics to the left.
(No. 99 – March 13, 2011 – 11:30 a.m. ET) The Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of International Trade, and the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), acting on behalf of the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced the launch of a public consultation on the shared vision for Canada-U.S. perimeter security and economic competitiveness enunciated February 4, 2011, in a joint declaration by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.
“The Government of Canada is focusing on creating jobs and expanding economic growth through free, open and secure trade with the United States,” said Minister Van Loan, speaking at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “We are seeking Canadians’ input on ways both countries can move forward to a safer, more secure and prosperous future. I invite all interested parties to make their views known.”
“We are committed to consulting with Canadians on the implementation of the shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness,” said Minister of State Lebel, speaking at the Port of Montreal. “Our shared vision for perimeter security will protect citizens in both countries while ensuring that our common border remains open to the legitimate movement of people, goods and services.”
As stated in the Declaration, the Government of Canada will engage with all levels of government and with communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as with our citizens, on innovative approaches to security and competitiveness. This consultation will inform the development of a joint Canada-United States action plan that will set out a range of initiatives in four key areas of cooperation to promote security and support trade and economic growth.
In addition to the Declaration, the two leaders also announced the creation of the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) that will make regulations in a range of sectors more compatible and less burdensome in both countries. As the work of the RCC gets under way, more information will be made available to Canadians.
For more information on the public consultation or to submit comments, consult www.borderactionplan.gc.ca. The public consultation period is scheduled to run from March 13 to April 21, 2011. A report summarizing the findings of the consultation will be published later in the year.
For the complete text of Prime Minister Harper and President Obama’s statement, please visit Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.
– 30 –
A backgrounder follows.
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Office of the Honourable Peter Van Loan
Minister of International Trade
Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
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On February 4, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. president Barack Obama issued a declaration entitled Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, establishing a new, long-term partnership that will accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods between the two countries.
Canada and the United States will develop a joint action plan that will set out a range of initiatives in four key areas of cooperation to promote security and support trade and economic growth. The Beyond the Border Working Group, composed of representatives of both governments, will develop and oversee the implementation of the action plan. The group will look at ways to preserve and extend the benefits of the close Canada-U.S. relationship to create and sustain the millions of jobs that depend on this vital economic partnership.
As cross-border travel and trade figures indicate, Canada and the United States are deeply interconnected—a testament to the close relationship between the two countries:
Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness is based on principles that recognize and respect the two countries’ separate constitutional and legal frameworks as these pertain to the protection of privacy, civil liberties and human rights. The declaration also recognizes the sovereign right of each country to act independently in its own interests and in accordance with its laws.
The declaration focuses on four key areas of cooperation. Some excerpts follow.
“Collaborating to address threats before they reach our shores, we expect to develop a common understanding of the threat environment through improved intelligence and information sharing, as well as joint threat assessments to support informed risk-management decisions…”
“We intend to pursue creative and effective solutions to manage the flow of traffic between Canada and the United States. We will focus investment in modern infrastructure and technology at our busiest land ports of entry, which are essential to our economic well-being…”
“We intend to build on existing bilateral law-enforcement programs to develop the next generation of integrated cross-border law-enforcement operations that leverage cross-designated officers and resources to jointly identify, assess and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime…”
“We intend to work together to prevent, respond to, and recover from physical and cyber disruptions of critical infrastructure and to implement a comprehensive cross-border approach to strengthen the resilience of our critical and cyber-infrastructure with strong cross-border engagement…”
The goal of the shared vision is not to replace or eliminate the border, but rather to improve border management, streamline programs and develop a plan to ensure the ongoing modernization of border infrastructure. Both countries have a shared responsibility for their mutual safety, security and resilience in an increasingly integrated and globalized world.
Canada and the United States have two of the most integrated economies in the world. This commercial relationship, which supports millions of jobs on both sides of the border, is essential to the prosperity of both countries.
In addition to the Declaration, the two leaders also announced the creation of a Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) that will make regulations in a range of sectors more compatible and less burdensome in both countries, which is especially important for small businesses.
The two leaders believe that the citizens of both countries deserve smarter, more effective approaches to regulation that enhance economic competitiveness, while maintaining high standards of public heath and safety, and protecting the environment.
The establishment of the Regulatory Cooperation Council in no way diminishes the sovereignty of Canada or the U.S., with each government continuing to carry out its regulatory functions according to its domestic legal and policy requirements.
As the work of the RCC gets under way, more information will be made available to Canadians. For more information on the RCC, please consult Backgrounder – Regulatory Cooperation Council Statement on Regulatory Cooperation.
The Government of Canada, through the Beyond the Border Working Group, is committed to consulting with Canadians on the declaration on a shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness. Priorities identified through public consultations will help shape the action plan, which will contain initiatives aimed at securing the two countries’ common border while developing job-producing and prosperity-enhancing trade between them.
Submissions and comments on ways to strengthen collaboration in the four key areas of cooperation can be made online at www.borderactionplan.gc.ca. The public consultation period is scheduled to run between March 13 and April 21, 2011.
The most exciting statistic I have ever seen in BC politics, particularly in regard to the health of our democracy, is that 25% of us self-identify as activists. Anyone who cares about social change at all absolutely must read Evi Mustel’s piece in The Province from Wednesday. This statistic means the entire structure of political, economic and social systems in BC is undergoing a paradigm shift. Here’s why.
Well, it turns out that one in four of us in B.C. actually considers him or herself an “activist.” And activists can cause a lot of distress for politicians — and anyone else who tries to tell them what to do.
Mustel correctly concludes that opposition to the process of introducing the HST is strong. It actually rivals opposition to the tax itself and spans the political spectrum.
She also notes how the blowback about Vision Vancouver’s Hornby bike lane is linked to the party’s relatively miniscule consultation process compared to the Burrard bike lane project. Despite the opposition to process, the network of bike lanes is really the only great triumph of Vision Vancouver, and future usage statistics will bear that out, but Mustel’s point is still sound.
So what do we have now in BC:
And what do we see across Canada:
All this spells populism.
Not pandering populism, though there is definitely an element of that, but an authentic populist movement of people caring about an issue and seeing avenues to express their policy choices.
Mustel addresses this in her piece by exploring the nature of representative democracy compared to direct democracy:
Concerns about the costs of public consultation has led some to ask: “What happened to the idea of electing leaders to make informed decisions on our behalf?”
Others will argue such consultation keeps public officials in check more than they’ve ever been, and so is worth paying for.
The notion that we elect leaders in a representative democracy to rule until we give them the next mandate is horribly obsolete, particularly when parties lie when leading into an election and opposition parties in majority parliaments have virtually no ability to affect policy. This is part of what is helping Canadians become more enamored with minority parliaments.
Moving out of a strict tradition of representative democracy, people are drifting towards direct democracy: an environment where people have more input and actual authority in between formal elections. This is why the initiative and recall functions are in play right now, with recall campaigns against BC MLAs beginning as early as this month.
People are more engaged politically. They identify themselves as activists. Political, economic and social organizational structures that do not acknowledge and respect that will suffer. Again, the low voter turnout in BC in May 2009 is a testament to that.
[Judy Kirk, a communications veteran who specializes in consultation with the public] correlates increased involvement with higher education rates. “People believe they have a right to be involved in decision making and expect that government will listen,” she says. “People have always had a desire to voice their opinions, but they are now more literate about the ways to be involved,” Kirk says. More than ever, it’s clear, politicians have to listen — or face losing their jobs
Gordon Campbell is now the poster child for what it takes to lose one’s job for not listening. Granted, it’s taken a decade of abusing British Columbians, but in the last month not a cabinet shuffle, TV address, nor a gratuitous tax cut could buy him out of a record-setting 91% disapproval rating.
I became a teacher 17 years ago because I wanted to inspire people to engage in society more effectively. I left to fight back politically when the Liberals’ neoliberal sledgehammer began destroying the education system. Years later, I am starting to see how various elements of society have led to more people declaring their activist identities.
Smart people will begin engaging more with the people right now. Very smart people have been doing so for some time now. But those who continue to ignore the will, power and intent of the people will pay the price because the people have the power and are starting to find more effective ways of wielding it.
In the end, I’m hoping that we can see a flowering of democracy, accountability, transparency and member engagement in political and social organizations. And I’m still working to see the BC NDP become the electoral wing of a progressive social movement in the province.
And with almost a million self-identified activists in BC, it is definitely time for us to organize for a better BC.
Agents provocateurs were outed at the FTAA protest in Montebello in August 2007. I expect they’re at it again in BC on the first day of the Olympic torch relay, this time with marbles.
The huge contingent of police officers watched as the group blocked traffic in several major intersections and even threw marbles at the feet of horses used by the Vancouver police mounted squad.
Victoria police spokesman Sgt. Grant Hamilton said “restraint was the order of the day” Friday night, explaining that officers did what they could to keep the peace. There were no torch-related arrests in Victoria Friday, Hamilton said.
Let’s start with initial media reports of protesters throwing marbles on the ground in front of or at the feet of police horses.
Then we hear of reports from the protesters and observers that no protesters threw marbles.
Then as of 4pm yesterday, CanWest stories of protesters accusing police of throwing the marbles, on at least the Ottawa Citizen and Victoria Times-Colonist websites, are “not available.” Maybe they’ll return again.
At this stage, it’s unclear who threw marbles, or if they were thrown at all. Civil liberties observers saw no marbles at all.
At this stage, we have ambiguity.
Those who like to believe the police and the $1b VANOC security force are good people who would never lie or entrap or discredit protest can shake their heads at the mean protesters who want to kill horses.
But anyone who paid attention to the FTAA meetings in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007 knows that protesters caught on film 3 police officers dressed as protesters, with faces covered and rocks in hand prepared to incite violence.
If you weren’t one of the almost half a million people to watch the footage, you can see it here.
Within days the Quebec government admitted the masked men were police officers.
And from VANOC’s perspective, that was probably a critical error in their game plan. Don’t admit anything, then the ambiguity allows people who lean your way anyway to believe the dastardly deed was actually committed by the protesters.
So we start with marbles and as the quote above indicates, stoking public sympathy by talking about police retaining order and restraint, keeping the peace and making no arrests.
You can be sure that if the marbles came from the Olympic security forces, the next action from agents provocateurs will take advantage of this goodwill they’re building in the public to step up their interventions.
On Monday, May 4, 2009, Politics, Re-Spun met Coop Radio on “The Rational”, a Monday evening issues program. This is the second visit, with the next scheduled for Monday, May 11th, the night before the BC provincial election.
Imtiaz Popat and I talked about the leaders debate last night, how horribly condescending and unprofessional Gordon Campbell was, how the parties are polling, why STV is so important, all parties’ environmental plans that generally need to be far more expansive and robust, how the BC Conservatives’ leader, Wilf Hanni, will beat BC Liberal Bill Bennett [not that Socred guy] in Kootenay East, the carbon tax, the Port Mann bridge, the Gateway project, who will win the election, how much corruption in candidates the BC Liberals tolerate, why Mel Lehan will likely defeat Gordon Campbell in Point Grey, John van Dongen’s teflon political career, and the importance of voting on Wednesday to Saturday in the advance polls to set the trend of a higher voter turnout which will signal a change in government…so vote early! But we didn’t get to how Campbell cancelled his upcoming CBC radio debate with Carole James because of how poorly he did last night, and we again missed a chance to debrief the Billy Bob Thornton mayhem.
The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video.
You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software: http://www.miroguide.com/feeds/8832
You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://dgivista.org/pod/Vista_Podcasts.xml
The podcast file is at http://dgivista.org/pod/Coop.Radio.5.4.09.mov
A vote for the NDP and Don Davies is a vote for progress, humanity and real political representation in Vancouver-Kingsway.
A vote for the Liberals and Wendy Yuan is a vote for the federal Liberal party “brand”, elitist and pro-corporate policies and the Paul Martin-David Emerson gang.
Worst of all, NOT voting is a vote for Wendy Yuan. Here’s why:
As far as I can tell, Wendy Yuan seems like a nice person: earnest, believing in the importance of a prosperous future for Canada [she owns a small business so you do the math] and somewhat down to earth.
But in the context of who we want representing us in parliament, she’s an empty vessel and fully uninspiring on the issues.
Don Davies has actually lived and volunteered in the riding for years, works for human rights and social and economic justice, and is interested in his fellow citizens in the riding and our concerns as opposed to pro-corporate issues or concerns of people who own big homes in Richmond like Wendy Yuan.
And without going into Wendy Yuan’s foibles which you can read about elsewhere:
on what she actually brings to the table, she is a disastrous pick for MP.
You can review it for yourselves in a few places. Her YouTube site has a few vignettes of true policy emptiness that reflect her party’s abject refusal to address issues of real people. Its three features are so free of issues that we hear our anthem, see some pictures of her showing up at public events and trust-based service pledges. Empty otherwise.
She also seemed quite useless at the all-candidates meeting on October 7, 2008. While these videos may have neglected her best moments, what we do see is cringe-inducing.
Here are a few of the highlights:
In short, she is a master of cliche and substance-free “apparent” responses and comments in the all-candidates meeting and her own video vignettes. And she is quite a poor public speaker, with real difficulty framing ideas of any real substance beyond cliches and empty platitudes.
So how will this riding go tomorrow?
Reform/Conservative candidate [in name only] Salomon Rayek will not win. He didn’t even bother to show up at the all-candidates meeting. This was smart and the best option compared to actually being there and suffering the focus of how much everyone hates David Emerson. Showing up would actually end up costing the party votes and tax funding. And judging from the emptiness that Wendy Yuan showed in actual content breadth at the meeting, she should have thought about skipping the meeting too.
Rayek also will not win because his job is just to get out the Reform/Conservative vote. His flyer in the mail the other day also highlights his commitment to his party–instead of our constituents–and its boogeyman crime and punishment initiatives and tax cuts, he’s a blood donor[!], his children once attended schools in the riding and the best part: he’s the “president of a local Electoral District Association for the Conservative Party” which happens to be Delta-Richmond East. So he actually may live as far away from our riding as Wendy Yuan.
Since the Reform/Conservative party will not win Vancouver-Kingsway strategic voting to keep Harper out is irrelevant. A vote for Don Davies does just as much to reduce the Reform/Conservative representation as a vote for the policy-vacant Wendy Yuan.
Green party Doug Warkentin also won’t win. He’s a late entry candidate who admitted to not fully knowing his party’s platform at the all-candidates meeting and showed a distinct lack of breadth of knowledge of federal issues, but he sure sounded like an earnest, caring man. Just like Wendy Yuan. So she earned no more support than he did based on her performance.
No one from the small parties will get much of a vote either.
So that leaves NDP candidate Don Davies as the candidate that should win. During the all-candidates meeting he showed a fantastic breadth of knowledge of issues, with far more policy knowledge than Wendy Yuan. He was articulate, thoughtful and spoke of real people’s concerns, fears and hopes.
But winning means getting the vote out. Democracy in Canada is largely sub-contracted. People haven’t typically been directly engaged or even committed as members of parties. They vote sporadically and let professional political parties, lobbyists and activists do their business, however corrupt and deceitful it can be at times. This is why Wendy Yuan’s little YouTube ads don’t really say anything of substance. It’s all about the party brand, not about mobilized human beings.
And the Liberal Party is no more populist than it was with the sponsorship scandal kneecapped them.
So when we look for how the Obama bump affects Canada we see that individual voter disenchantment with big party politics that has become a social movement after initially crystalizing around Obama in the USA, has moved into Canada raising bazillions of dollars for the NDP, increasing their poll standing and reflecting the reality that the NDP has been the official opposition for two and a half years while over 40 times the federal Liberals abstained on votes in the last parliament, giving the Harper Reform/Conservatives a de facto majority. Why did they abstain? They weren’t confident of being able to win at least a minority government if they opposed the government on a confidence motion.
And why are we voting tomorrow? Because Harper himself crashed his own parliament since the Liberals wouldn’t. If I were Wendy Yuan, I’d be afraid of that too.
And while Harper called this election for many reasons, two of them underscore why Don Davies should win tomorrow:
So it’s time to vote tomorrow and it’s time to tell everyone you know in Vancouver-Kingsway to get out and vote for Don Davies, unless they are committed to solid, corporate-friendly, 20th century politics that ignores real people and real issues. And if that’s the case, they’re part of the problem.
Shining a light on cockroaches is always fascinating to watch as they scurry around with the “Who, Me?” look on their face. Too many people found out about the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in the late 1990s. Secretly implementing a corporate bill of rights was not terribly appealing for real human beings who found that the corporate “people” should not have more rights than us.
Try this on for size, though, from Luiza Savage’s “Meet NAFTA 2.0” in Maclean’s of all things on September 11, 2006:
This is how the future of North America now promises to be written: not in a sweeping trade agreement on which elections will turn, but by the accretion of hundreds of incremental changes implemented by executive agencies, bureaucracies and regulators. “We’ve decided not to recommend any things that would require legislative changes,” says [Ron] Covais [Lockheed Martin representative on the NACC]. “Because we won’t get anywhere.”
The North American Competitiveness Council is the corporate legislature of the North American Union. It is made up of 10 CEOs from each NAFTA country. They guide the deliberations of the three SPP amigos.
If you smell the makings of a class war, you haven’t been paying enough attention. It’s been waged for decades and has now gone underground. Whenever you see tens of thousands of police military and security forces protecting political meetings, you have spotted the New World Order at work.
And tonight, a community forum turned on that flashlight!
“From Behind Closed Doors, Into The Public Eye: Public Forum on the Security and Prosperity Partnership”
The forum is designed to inform citizens about the nature and implications of this secretive project for North American “deep integration”. Co-sponsored by Libby Davies MP and the Vancouver Kingsway Federal NDP, the forum will feature the following panel of speakers:
Peter Julian MP (NDP International Trade Critic)
Don Davies (Director, Legal Resources, Teamsters Canada)
Murray Dobbin (Political commentator and author)
Dr. Douglas Ross (Professor, Dept. of Political Science, SFU)
If you missed it, you can watch it here: http://media.workingtv.com/website_archived.aspx?c=1
Peter Julian’s talk concerned the Canadian trade experience over the last 20 years as it entered into the SPP. He set the groundwork for what everyone tonight was talking about by examining what the SPP is and why it is destroying what most of us considered to be “us.” The following speakers expanded on the SPP’s implications.
When he attends trade functions, corporate CEOs spew the filth that “NAFTA has brought unprecedented prosperity to Canada.” Average income is certainly up, but average income is an unreliable statistic of domestic economic justice because it shuffles all economic experiences together, masking the bifurcation of wealth that is spreading like a virus through the industrialized and economically developing world.
StatsCanada refused to release their studies of the trade realities of Canada since 1989. Sounds like a political policy decision to me. The NDP spent a year trying to have that information released. Here’s what they found:
Ten reasons why the NDP is opposed to the SPP:
And from this snapshot we have a solid grounding on the threat of the SPP.
“The power of our adversaries is our isolation from each other.”
When Margaret Thatcher screwed up and publicly admitted [well, bragged] that neoliberals reject society in lieu of individualism, those of us keeping track have noticed the constant and increasing assault on our social contract. They want us isolated as atomized individuals living as consumers in a market, not citizens in a society.
“Our ruling elite—economic and political—have betrayed us…willingly and enthusiastically.”
Peter Julian’s statistics above fully demonstrate that.
“Those who exercise power today are no longer interested in nation building”
The global market is the goal. Trade agreements are a means of de-compiling society through binding our sovereignty to international agreements. Now, agreeing to follow the Geneva Conventions or the Kyoto Protocol is a worthwhile means of restricting our potential choices because of the greater good they could bring to the world, though our American neighbours have rejected both of those agreements.
Neoliberal trade agreements, however, have a market good, a good for the elites in mind—not so much a goal for all of society largely because they reject the social contract’s legitimacy to constrain their greed.
Dobbin notes a sadly humourous point about the largest Canadian business lobbying group, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. It used to be called the Business Council on National Interests. Since there are no national issues any more when your goal is embracing the American political and economic machine, the last thing the CCCE wants to do is give anyone the impression that national interests matter more than American interests.
Canadians’ expectations of our society over the last two decades have not changed. Our ability to keep and improve the society we want is what is becoming restricted. I could call it class war, but that might sound reactionary. The reality, though, is that is simply is a class war—and we are losing.
As a Teamsters lawyer, he and all of labour are critically concerned with trade agreements. Canadian labour sees the SPP as part of a whole package of agreements including the FTA, NAFTA, and TILMA.
Labour in Canada is interested in a strong economy but when Canadian businesses make money, workers should have a share, along with rights, fair trade and domestic sovereignty. Corporate interests cannot be at the expense of citizens, as the NACC is comprised of 30 CEOs, with no representation from labour or the rest of civil society.
The SPP lacks input from a broad spectrum of our society. I believe this is intentional since society as a whole opposes the intentional erosion of our sovereignty, us being society and all.
Worker rights are also being undermined. Within extensive examples of this trend, in the interests of continental security, transportation workers but not managers, are required to provide extensive personal information to the American government so they can cross the border with the 80% of Canadian exports that go to America.
Finally, guest workers are becoming a new labour underclass that drive down everyone else’s worker rights, while they suffer from horribly restricted protections themselves.
Ultimately, the question facing Canada is one we must answer as a whole: Can we encourage trade and investment while ensuring workers and communities share equitably in the benefits, and while preserving our sovereignty and democratic control; does the SPP fail these tests? Absolutely.
North American and global security concerns are significantly responsible for our integration trends.
Some highlights of his massively informative presentation indicate the tone of the global security scene that we need to recognize:
As we fill our evenings with TV game shows and 4 second sound bites from US presidential candidates, we need to remember that the depth of real politics is lurking well past all that. We ignore it at our peril.
What Kind of Future Will We Craft?
I say craft because we really are a work in progress. We aren’t stuck with someone else’s vision of the future: sovereign nations or MexAmeriCanada. If we do nothing to take part in creating our future, we give up that right and responsibility to those who show up. If we don’t show up, we get what others plan for us.
One of the most telling features of anti-New World Order forums like tonight’s in Vancouver is the proportion of people over 50 to people under 50: usually it’s around 4:1. Tonight it was perhaps 3:1, slightly better. The real challenge will be to expand the role so that the youngest two generations are more informed and involved. Maybe they’re getting this knowledge on the internet and aren’t into community forums to become informed. If so, they may be missing a crucial element in social progressive movements: community, and not just the online, virtual communities so many know, but the face-to-face realities of seeing people from other social milieux in the same room. Rebuilding community means re-engaging in society with others of all walks of life.
Becoming informed is critical. Being physically a part of solutions means engaging with others in solutions. Murray Dobbin is right when he talks about our mutual isolation helping the neoliberal agenda remove our sovereignty.
Peter Julian closed with the idea of taking a 20-something to lunch! They need to be up to speed and motivated. When 25% of the youngest block of voters bothered to vote, we need to figure out why and fix it. Electoral reform is a good start, but it will take far more than that to ensure that we even have a society worth protecting into the future.
Activists need some inspiration. Salutin’s piece in the Globe today [see below] is key to reminding us of the necessity of a fight, not just a polite march through some streets to a park for a peaceful rally. That’s important. However, the injustices seeping into the fabric of our rapidly decaying democracy need to be challenged radically, in part to wake up a complacent public distracted by Canadian Idol, iPhones and the fall TV line up.
Neglect of social, political and economic for First Nations, the creeping SPP and our recent success in outing the agent provocateurs at Montebello [though we still need an inquiry and a government to topple because of it] all should remind us of what is at stake.
Indeed, the success with the rock-carrying masked cops in Quebec should let us know that the anti-democratic elites running our country are desperate to undermine dissent.
Their desperation is our vindication of the importance of what they are doing and what we need to do to stop them.
Mild social change can be polite. But when elites are transforming our democracies into soft fascism, the stakes are incredibly higher. Perhaps the biggest indication of this is in the USA where habeas corpus has now been declared optional and the population is largely unaware of it and certainly too complacent to do anything about it.
George w.Caesar is not Jack Bauer. In the backs of too many people’s minds, I think he is seen that way. This kind of complacency will be our undoing.
Salutin’s piece is a welcome tonic.
A Canadian labour moment: Don’t apologize, never placate
The Globe And Mail
Friday, August 31, 2007
Labour Day weekend, 2007.
Canadian labour had a good moment two weeks ago at the Montebello protest. Union leader Dave Coles denounced three undercover cops posing as anarchists and cradling rocks to give the protest a bad name. They retreated behind police lines, not a normal anarchist tactic. But he went a step too far for my taste, in shouting, “This is a peaceful demonstration.” He sounded perhaps overeager to placate TV viewers or police or maybe the people who write editorials in places such as The Globe and Mail. To be sure, it was a peaceful protest, but radical movements such as labour have been most effective when they had a touch of menace.
Uh-oh, I’m having a Dave Coles moment. I don’t mean they should be violent or threaten violence. But they need a sense of implacable determination that takes them beyond any desire to seem respectable. The best example is the movement for Indian independence led by Gandhi. He more or less invented non- violence as a political tactic. Yet, he didn’t shun violence when it arose and, in cases, courted it. He wouldn’t instigate or retaliate, but lots of bloodshed was involved. Here’s 90-year-old Baji Mohammed, “one of India’s last living freedom fighters,” interviewed recently: “On August 25, 1942, we were all arrested and held. Nineteen people died on the spot in police firing … Many died thereafter … Over 300 were injured. More than a thousand were jailed … Several were shot or executed. There were over a hundred shaheed (martyrs) … ” Others, such as Nelson Mandela, went to jail for causes that did involve armed resistance. But I’m saying the key is not violence, it’s relentless determination.
A sense of commitment at any cost draws the attention of others, and sometimes their respect, especially if every normal recourse has failed, sometimes for centuries. I’m thinking of the case of Shawn Brant, the Mohawk leader who spoke eloquently for native protests that recently closed Highway 401 and the CN rail line. He was jailed and has twice been denied bail. In an eloquent plea of her own, his wife, Sue Collis, compared his situation to labour protests against Mike Harris in Ontario 11 years ago. Then, she says, “economic repercussions … far surpassed” those of the recent one, “yet no labour leader was ever jailed, let alone charged.” So why is Shawn Brant in jail? I’d say there was an implacability in his expression; he cut his opponents no moral slack. He didn’t threaten, but he didn’t try to mollify, either.
In its heyday, the labour movement had this kind of single-minded, almost stoic conviction. Its main weapon, the strike, was non-violent but aroused feelings comparable to those during war, toward scabs or bosses. In that frame of mind, there is no need felt to placate the other side and none at all for respectability. What would you want it for?
I think a society benefits from this kind of challenge. It clarifies choices and discourages endless avoidance. Sue Collis writes that, after the Mohawk blockades in June, polls showed “71 per cent of Canadians wanting actions on land claims and 41 per cent of Ontarians prepared to acknowledge rail blockades as justified.” There’s also a social loss when fierceness and passion vanish almost entirely from movements such as labour or the environment. I sympathize with the dismay of green veterans at the rise as a green icon of Al Gore – who couldn’t even beat George Bush in his home state in 2000 or fight the battle of the Florida recount with bloody-mindedness, despite its dire implications.
Sue Collis writes that, after the second bail hearing, she found herself “contemplating the best way to tell my children that they would have to wait an unknown period of time before seeing their dad, and wondering how to explain … why.” From a very minimally comparable experience, I’d recommend playing them a Peter, Paul and Mary song: “Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand …”
We are witnessing the dismantling of the Magna Carta with the North American Union, The Security and Prosperity Partnership [SPP] and the North American Competitiveness Council.
Almost 800 years ago we somehow wrestled the elites of the British monarchy to issue the Magna Carta, a bill of rights for humanity, optimistically anyway.
Business elites in government and the corporate world are now taking over, completely unapologetically, in an almost Taoist spin. The SPP, against which there was vigorous protest today across the country, is a secretly negotiated international agreement/treaty designed to harmonize and integrate the NAFTA countries. It is not being ratified by the “democratically” elected legislatures in the three countries, nor are citizens able to provide input into its design. There is no national election or referendum on our embrace of it.
This is the height of arrogance, and people are mostly in the dark, thanks to highly concentrated corporate media that fails to exercise its free press responsibilities by ignoring much criticism and playing down its threats to democracy and sovereignty.
With rallies across the country, at times up to 250 people marched and rallied in Vancouver in a coordinated effort to educate the largely oblivious pedestrians surrounding them about the SPP and its threat to democracy.
The North American Union, or Security and Prosperity Partnership, moved one step closer to its anti-democratic formation today as Prime Sinister Stephen Harper decided to not receive an anti-SPP petition with over 10,000 signatures:
The Council of Canadians is demanding that the Harper government cease all SPP talks until the agreement is brought before parliament and the public.
“If they are unwilling to accept paper petitions, how credible is the claim that leaders will view or hear, through video feed, the message of protesters outside the summit?”
I have no faith that the “Three Amigos” will respect democracy. In fact, Mexico’s Fox wasn’t an original amigo as he preceded the newly “elected” Calderon and Paul Martin was Canada’s first friendly representative to this cabal. This is a strong indication of how similar the Liberals and Conservatives are in selling out democracy.
Even the moniker “Three Amigos” has the happy benefit of painting the trio as a group of benign beer buddies shooting pool, having some good clean fun. Maybe watching some NASCAR, perhaps.
So as the Amigos of MexAmeriCanada meet to rubber stamp what their ministers have been hacking together for months now, all in secret with no legislative oversight or sanctioning, we get the odd happy, grinning, hand-shaking announcements from the goodfellas now and then.
Meanwhile, the toxic, parasitical plague virus that is capitalism is Borg-ifying North America with the massive North American SuperCorridor, a quarter-mile wide stretch of movement from Mexico to Canada containing car, truck, rail, data, oil and water transportation. Resistance is futile. You will become one with the Borg. It will be a secure zone like behind the metal detectors at airports and it will convert the pathetic 20th-century attempts at efficient transportation into a highly assimilated movement system. Click to see the images in their full glory!
The top point of the highway is Winnipeg, which will extend north to Churchill and West to Vancouver. And oh, do they have plans from the Winnipeg node. Note the flourish of movement out west and to the Asia-Pacific. This is special because the recent treaty signed between BC and the Tsawwassen First Nation allows land to be sucked out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for parking intermodal containers at DeltaPort.
And Churchill allows us to go polar to trade with Asia.
The Face of Vancouver Protest
The almost 200 marchers flowed through downtown Vancouver late this afternoon from Canada Place to the Robson Street steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, stopping and blocking key intersections for up to 15 minutes for speeches and chants. The occasional burst of horns lasted only 20-30 seconds at most.
Speeches in intersections reflected how much the SPP is becoming a focal point for broad social protest. First Nations activists, anti-imperialists, Marxists, socialists, civil society advocacy groups, nationalist groups and scores of individuals came together to reject various elements that the SPP is entrenching in our new North American Union.
They stopped at the Canadian Forces Recruitment Centre to protest our military partnership with US imperialism, smearing red paint on the sidewalk, walls and windows, laying symbolic corpses, and posting large stickers. When protesters and police came too close to each other at times, dueling video cameras from members of each side appeared to document each other.
Some semblance of democracy still exists in Canada, albeit over 2,000 kilometres away from Montebello as Vancouver city policy on bikes and in cars blocked traffic while the protest occupied streets. They also blocked the entrance to the CF Recruitment Centre and other targets of protest, all the while filming elements of the protest and taking notes like the mostly non-corporate media present.
The march ended at the Art Gallery with the Raging Grannies, the Carnival Band, representatives from MAWO, StopWar.ca, and the Council of Canadians supporting a garish effigy of George w.Caesar dangling a Stephen Harper puppet behind a security barricade.
Signs reflected the general mood of the rally: “SPP is Treason”, “Stop the North American Union, We’d Rather Be Canadian, Eh!”, “Harper=Sellout”.
While corporate, government and media elites in North America continue to smooth over the neoliberal globalizing western imperialism introducing us to a well-marketed Soft Fascism, the hundreds of millions of North Americans need to get aware, educated and mobilized.
The Canada-US Free Trade Agreement ended up being the subject of the 1998 federal election. The federal Liberals seized power in 1993 on a promise to not sign NAFTA. They did anyway. MAI died in the late 1990s because citizen groups objected to corporate rights trumping democracies. The lesson? Democracy is bad for business.
After the MAI, though, the corporate neo-feudalists just got craftier by negotiating these agreements in secret, often under the cover of post-9/11 hysteria, ignored legislative ratification and began to alter our whole social, economic and political landscape regardless of citizens’ thoughts.
Democracy is something to fight for, something wrestle away from the grasp of the government, media and corporate elites whose 21st century neoliberal, neo-feudal imperial agenda is now marching almost effortlessly over the dying corpse of our democratic institutions. If we don’t fight for our democracy, perhaps we deserve to have it euthanized while we’re watching American Idol and checking out the best price on plasma TVs at Future Shop.