Category Archives: Deep Integration

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 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.

MexAmeriCanada, Version 2013

Welcome to the United States of MexAmeriCanada. Represent!
Welcome to the United States of MexAmeriCanada. Represent!

I was just thinking a few days ago how I haven’t used the MexAmeriCanada tag for a while. Did I cause this to happen, in some cosmic kind of way?

In the old days it was Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin negotiating the post-911 deep integration of Fortress North America with President George W. Bush.

Now we have “opposite” governing bodies in the two nations, though they’re barely different. North America is still strolling towards a 1984/Brave New World/V For Vendetta kind of soft fascist near-future of corporate “human” rights inside a surveillance society that we’re increasingly complacent about.

  1. Will we wake up?
  2. Do we care who our overlords are?
  3. Does it matter that we are different countries?
  4. Are we even different countries?
  5. Would it make any difference if we merged?
  6. If the Chinese stop propping up the US dollar and the North American economy becomes a branch plant of Beijing, would it matter if Canada were a sovereign nation?
  7. Is anyone writing dystopic futurist novels about a new world order with the Yuan controlling everything, like a 21st century Man in the High Castle?
  8. If a tree falls in a forest and the majority of citizens either don’t vote or put much thought into voting, does the lack of actual democracy make a sound?
  9. Does anyone really notice the problem that the political parties run elections in the USA,  and in Canada, the Conservative Party can commit electoral fraud and have no legal or electoral consequences?
  10. Will we be one step closer to a de facto Homeland North America, or one step closer to authentic democracy in both nations?

That’s all for now.

You may put your answers in the comments below. If there’s nothing but crickets, beware!

GroupThink ReSpun: On US Police Forces Operating in Canada

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 [], 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: – 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

Tory, PC, Harper, Conservative, Alliance, or Reform Majority?

I know what’s in a name. Soon, everyone will.

We’ll have a long time with this new Harper Government. Bets are now on in terms of what he’ll name the Government of Canada this time. He’s tried “Canada’s New Government” and “The Harper Government” already.

But when I read analysis of the election results, it is clear that there is no consensus on who won the majority:

Now that the federal Conservatives have regained a majority government, it seems inconceivable that they had but two seats not quite one generation ago.

Give the Tories credit for climbing back to majority status after being reduced to a party of two in the 1993 post-Mulroney collapse.

via North Island Gazette – Questions for the majority.

The government is now run by the Conservative Party of Canada. It is really the Harper Party, but what is that? It is not the Progressive Conservative Party made up of Red Tories and neoliberals from 20 years ago.

The two seats from a generation ago were from that Progressive Conservative Party.

The Tories, as a group, go back centuries and seemed to be carried through the PCs through the 20th century, but the current Consevative Party is really the PCs taken over by the the Reform Party, or the Alliance Party.

Who’s on first?


The Ugly Return of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)

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.

To view this document on the department website, please click on the following link:

International Trade Minister Van Loan and Minister of State Lebel Launch Public Consultation on Shared Vision for Canada-U.S. Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness

(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 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:

Monika Bujalska
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Peter Van Loan
Minister of International Trade

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Lynn Meahan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
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Backgrounder – Public Consultation on Shared Vision for Canada-U.S. Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness

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:

  • Every day, some 200,000 people cross the border for business, pleasure or to visit family or friends.
  • Canada-U.S. two-way merchandise trade was $501.4 billion in 2010, up from $456.9 billion the previous year.
  • More than $1 million in goods and services cross the Canada-U.S. border every minute.
  • Direct investment by each country in the other stands at more than $250 billion.
  • Canada is the largest and most secure and stable supplier of energy to the U.S. market.
  • Canada is the United States’ largest export market and the single largest export market for 34 U.S. states.
  • Canadian exports to the United States support one in seven jobs in Canada.

Key areas of the declaration

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.

1. Addressing threats early

“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…”

2. Trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs

“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…”

3. Integrated cross-border law enforcement

“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…”

4. Critical infrastructure and cyber-security

“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…”

Goal of shared vision

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.

Regulatory Cooperation Council

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.

Public consultation process

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 The public consultation period is scheduled to run between March 13 and April 21, 2011.

Earn $50 by Threatening to Cancel your Credit Card: Not a Joke

Here is a follow-up, of sorts, to an earlier post about the arbitrary and substantial power that random customer service agents have to appease complaining customers.

It goes like this.

Call your credit card company to cancel your card and watch them dance. I did that tonight, calling CIBC to cancel a card I don’t use anymore. Buddy asked why. I said I don’t want to do business with banks anymore. Maybe he thought I prefered under my mattress, but I’m such a credit union guy, but I didn’t elaborate. As if he actually cared.

He asked if I would reconsider. I said no. He offered me a $50 credit, on the spot. So I said yes, I’ll keep the card. Which I never use. And that has no annual fee. And that never had a balance carry over.

After I spend the $50, I’ll call to cancel the card again. I wonder how many times I can do this before they just say fine, go.

I remember a few months ago word going around that if you phone up your friendly neighbourhood [ok, global corporation] credit card usurer and ask to have your interest rate dropped from 19% or 24% or whatever to 11% that they’d almost certainly do it, or almost meet the rate you ask for.

Maybe it’s the global recession, but I’ve NEVER been offered free money to not cancel a credit card.

So that was the easiest $1500/hour I’ve ever earned. Give it a try.

Wendy Yuan’s Policy Emptiness is Bad for Vancouver-Kingsway

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:

  • the tragic optics of the apartment she rented last fall in Collingwood to go along with her house in Richmond
  • her probably good work with SUCCESS, the Richmond Economic Advisory Committee and SFU in Surrey [as opposed to any real work in Vancouver-Kingsway]
  • whether she was involved in nomination meeting voter shenanigans, racially-divisive advertising, or supporting or failing to oppose China’s practice of murdering Falong Gong members for lucrative organs,

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:

  • She lacks irony as she proudly claims to being the first democratically elected candidate, presumably in this round of elections, while for 2004 she stepped aside to help her colleague Paul Martin parachute the toxic David Emerson into this riding as the Liberal candidate. Whoops. But then we don’t really expect business people to demonstrate much facility with political, moral or social philosophy…and I should know, having been a business major when I first went to university.
  • She totally dodged, but not even as “deftly” as Sarah Palin [whoops], a question on the SPP, claiming that among his criticisms, Don Davies’ facts may be wrong and that she would have to research them, so she wouldn’t comment on them. One of the facts was that Paul Martin was one of the original 3 Amigos who signed the deal: hard for her not to be aware of earlier this decade as she was appointed as Leader’s Representative to the Liberal Party of Canada (BC) by then Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004.”
  • She continually talks about how she understands the issues of constituents, but living in Richmond, that is hard to believe, and given an opportunity to explain what the constituents care about, she shows little knowledge of anything beyond what immigrants and small business owners want [she is both]…oh yes, that and a desire to serve. But the problem is that she evidently wants to serve her party [remember the David Emerson connection] more than the largely poor and working class community of a riding she doesn’t live in.

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:

  1. Harper, being a US-Republican American Idol, cannot be re-elected to anything if Obama wins the presidential election. A shift to the populist “left” in the USA will remove his cover of having a more radical soft fascist in the White House. Even though the Democrats are Republicans-Lite, an Obama election is a rejection of the fear-mongering conservatism that has ruled North America this decade. Bad for Wendy Yuan is that Paul Martin’s co-creation of the SPP and the North American Union puts that stink on her, and would have even if she weren’t close to him personally. So Harper has shot for re-election before the US election and the Liberals are no more ready to govern than they have been for the last 30 months.
  2. The global economic meltdown hurts everyone with conservative fiscal policies. Even the director of the anti-human International Monetary Fund has characterized this “event” as dire. So who pays for this? Harper’s Reform/Conservative party and the Liberals, whose fiscal platform is so identical to the Harper gang that after David Emerson crossed the floor he justified himself grandly by telling the truth that the parties were essentially the same to him. And Paul Martin spent years making Canada the envy of the world [as Wendy Yuan was eager to keep repeating at the all-candidates meeting] because of the balanced budgets and surpluses created by gutting Canada’s social programs. So Saloman Rayek was wise to skip the all-candidates meeting, but Wendy Yuan didn’t figure that out: the Liberals’ de-regulated fiscal free trade policies are just as much responsible for the economic disaster we’re in now as the Harper government.

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.

The Venezuelan-Russia-USA Dance

We should all be noting a few things about escalating dance between the USA and Venezuela.

A few months ago, after 58 years of being a part of the larger US Second Fleet, the USA reconstituted its Fourth Fleet to enhance its presence in its traditional sphere of influence: Latin America, perhaps the most successful political opposition to the USA’s imperial positions of late, with an electoral machine opposing US hegemony virtually consistently.

And as much as Venezuela is increasing its trade relations with China, the next economic superpower after the USA economically implodes, Chavez has been talking with Russia about getting technology to become the third South American country to develop nuclear energy capacity, while working on joint naval operations with Russia.

Hawks in the USA spins this as reminiscent of one to three generations ago of the Russian Bear infiltrating the USA’s sphere of influence, the sphere itself being an inherently arrogant and imperialist assertion. The Soviet Union’s involvement in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America freaked out the USA during the Cold War. Russian-Venezuelan cooperation on the military and nuclear energy has the potential to either provoke an increasingly desperate and declining empire to rash actions, or more hopefully, to let the increasingly more introspective and protectionist USA know that just because they are part of the Americas doesn’t mean they’re in charge.

And unlike the first 9/11 in Chile in 1973 where the Americans coordinated a coup of the democratically elected government and installed Pinochet, the hemisphere won’t go quietly.

Merging Canada’s and USA’s Military

Just call this another left-wing internet site promoting the news that DND and DFAIT hasn’t yet bothered to mention.

Its surreal being in the same camp as the [often] radical, protectionist right-wing in the USA denouncing MexAmeriCanada-creep.

By the way, David Pugliese is an example of how despite its undermining of a free press, CanWest is not wholly a scourge.

Canada-U.S. pact allows cross-border military activity

Deal allows either country to send troops across the other’s border to deal with an emergency

David Pugliese, Canwest News Service

Published: Saturday, February 23, 2008

Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other’s borders during an emergency, but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal.

Neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian Forces announced the new agreement, which was signed Feb. 14 in Texas.

The U.S. military’s Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan, which allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation in a civil emergency.

The new agreement has been greeted with suspicion by the left wing in Canada and the right wing in the U.S.

The left-leaning Council of Canadians, which is campaigning against what it calls the increasing integration of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, is raising concerns about the deal.

“It’s kind of a trend when it comes to issues of Canada-U.S. relations and contentious issues like military integration. We see that this government is reluctant to disclose information to Canadians that is readily available on American and Mexican websites,” said Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians.

Trew said there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.

“Are we going to see [U.S.] troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?” he asked.

Trew also noted the U.S. military does not allow its soldiers to operate under foreign command so there are questions about who controls American forces if they are requested for service in Canada. “We don’t know the answers because the government doesn’t want to even announce the plan,” he said.

But Canada Command spokesman Commander David Scanlon said it will be up to civilian authorities in both countries whether military assistance is requested or even used. He said the agreement is “benign” and simply sets the stage for military-to-military co-operation if the governments approve.

“But there’s no agreement to allow troops to come in,” he said. “It facilitates planning and co-ordination between the two militaries. The ‘allow’ piece is entirely up to the two governments.”

If U.S. forces were to come into Canada they would be under tactical control of the Canadian Forces but still under the command of the U.S. military, Scanlon added.

News of the deal, and the allegation it was kept secret in Canada, is already making the rounds on left-wing blogs and Internet sites as an example of the dangers of the growing integration between the two militaries.

On right-wing blogs in the U.S. it is being used as evidence of a plan for a “North American union” where foreign troops, not bound by U.S. laws, could be used by the American federal government to override local authorities.

“Co-operative militaries on Home Soil!” notes one website. “The next time your town has a ‘national emergency,’ don’t be surprised if Canadian soldiers respond.”

Scanlon said there was no intent to keep the agreement secret on the Canadian side of the border. He noted it will be reported on in the Canadian Forces newspaper next week and that publication will be put on the Internet.

Scanlon said the actual agreement hasn’t been released to the public as that requires approval from both nations.

MexAmeriCanada: The SPP and Our Class War

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:

Peter Julian: Evaporating Canada Behind A 50,000 Person Security Force

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:

  • the wealthiest quintile had a 20% increase in income; they now earn half of all income in Canada—clearly they love NAFTA
  • the upper middle class has stagnated
  • the middle class has lost the equivalent of one week of income from every year they work
  • the lower middle class has lost 2 weeks of income per year
  • the poorest income earners, under $20k have lost 1.5 months of income per year

Ten reasons why the NDP is opposed to the SPP:

  1. It’s anti-democratic by nature as politicians feel that the public isn’t ready for this discussion because we’ve rejected integration since the 1980s [see the Maclean’s quote above]
  2. It’s shrouded in profound secrecy, including massively redacted released documents
  3. It’s about much more than Steve’s jelly beans
  4. It’s about quality of life issues: eroding regulations to protect our safety [pesticide harmonization]
  5. It includes the erosion of civil rights evident in the USA [MCA]
  6. It integrates social policy with American standards: military harmonization, guest workers without rights and protections of citizens
  7. We’re losing our sovereignty water stewardship
  8. Energy is already bound to American priorities; this will get worse
  9. The softwood sellout is the template for exporting our decision making
  10. Abandoning decision making means giving away our sovereignty

And from this snapshot we have a solid grounding on the threat of the SPP.

Murray Dobbin: Let’s Just Call It the Class War It Really Is

“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.

Don Davies: Workers as SPP Chattel

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.

Douglas Ross: Political and Military Insecurity Cannot Be Ignored

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:

  • In the media, the SPP is mostly about only how we will be modestly inconvenienced.
  • The top 1/5th of 1% of American wealth has exploded, worse than in the 1920s.
  • We must get rid of NAFTA. Integration is only on American terms. Pipelines and the electrical grid are not impeded at borders, but labour certainly is.
  • “Our foreign policy is completely designed to make the US happy.”
  • Putin admitted last week that we are in a new arms race because the USA has stated its goal to be the supreme military power in the world. Fear and the military industrial complex has defeated the Cold War peace dividend. Russia is re-building their early warning capability and has been dabbling in a Doomsday system, along with planning to smuggle nuclear weapons into the USA for a second strike attack.
  • Highly authoritarian governments are accumulating massive petrodollars. They will spend this money in ways that threatens everyone’s security, not that others aren’t spending money in anti-social ways.
  • NORAD is now a treaty, not an executive agreement any more. Russian bombers carrying rather stealthy cruise missiles are already flying around the arctic. A few days ago Putin promised to target Ukraine with nuclear weapons if they joined NATO.
  • Recommendations:
    • We need to re-nationalize our political and economic approach to the world, including getting out of NATO unless it changes sufficiently, including moving away from its current exploration into the value of a nuclear first strike.
    • We need a council on national issues involving everyone, not just business.

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.