Thursday, August 30, 2012

Conservatives and Canadian bishops convene

By Joe Gunn
Prairie Messenger
August 2012

In a move that has no precedent in recent memory, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has invited a federal cabinet minister to address their Plenary Assembly this autumn. Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney has accepted the invitation.

Minister Kenney will speak sometime during the Sept. 24 - 28 plenary, to be held in St. Adèle, Que. The CCCB has stated that the event will be “private and off-the-record.”

There is intrinsically nothing wrong with a minister of the Crown being invited to speak to the bishops. Questions may be legitimately asked of the CCCB, however, in terms of balance (were the other political parties’ views sought?) and political policy (whether this invitation represents a shift toward stances of the current federal government).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Raising Saskatchewan’s Minimum Wage

By Erin Weir
Progressive Economics Forum
August 29th, 2012

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich and I have the following joint op-ed in today’s Regina Leader-Post (page A10).

It’s been fourteen years since I first wrote into The Leader-Post advocating a minimum-wage increase.

Why higher wages make economic sense

Recent Saskatchewan government news releases trumpet record numbers for wholesale trade, building permits and exports. But as Labour Day approaches, we should consider that many Saskatchewan workers do not share in the prosperity they create.

The Long-view of the Nuclear Industry in Saskatchewan, Part 2

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
August 29, 2012

CCF, Liberal, NDP, Conservative and Sask Party governments all played a role in the nuclear industry getting a foothold in this province. Whether more left or right, all parties held to a post-war development view which could be called “pre-environmental technocracy”. All equated “nuclear” with industrial progress.

One of the first things done by the CCF’s Adult Education division in 1944 was to issue a pro-“atomic power” study guide. Nuclear power was going to be “too cheap to meter”, and, in those early years, there was complete amnesia about nuclear wastes. No wonder it’s been so hard to wean ourselves from the fantasy that nuclear energy is a vehicle of progress for working people. No wonder it’s been so hard for the non-nuclear view to get traction here.

Nevertheless, there’s been a steady evolution of solid opposition to the spread of the nuclear industry. In the late 1950s there was a strong “Ban the Bomb” peace movement here, but in retrospect, in that era of state secrecy, we still had our heads in the sand about Saskatchewan and Canada’s complicity in the nuclear arms race.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Green Bitumen?!"

Nuclear reactors in the tar sands

AUGUST 27, 2012
Proponents of nuclear energy are claiming small nuclear reactors in Saskatchewan will make the Alberta tar sands more environmentally friendly, all in an effort to revive the nuclear industry. PHOTO: ZINTA AVENS AUZINS

SASKATOON—What do you get when you cross a nuclear reactor with a hydraulic shovel-full of tar sands? The answer, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, is "Green Bitumen."

The brainchild of the nuclear industry, this novel concept of deploying small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to replace natural gas is being sold as a solution to the tar sands' reputation for producing the largest carbon footprint on the planet. Nuclear is being toutedas an environmentally friendly, "clean" energy source for the extraction process. But in order to make that claim, one must overlook the substantial carbon emissions in the nuclear "fuel cycle," from mining to ultimate disposal; the risks of weapons proliferation; the toxic radioactive footprint; and the legacy of highly radioactive waste left behind for many generations to come.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Canada Strengthens Ties with Saudi Arabia

By Yves Engler
Global Research
August 24, 2012

Stephan Harper’s Conservatives have strengthened military, business and diplomatic ties with one of the most misogynistic and repressive countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as Saudi Arabia’s constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in the country are banned from owning bibles or attending church.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of establishment political movements and by deploying 1500 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain. The Saudi monarchy may be the worst regime in the world. (The US, of course, is responsible for far more violence but it is relatively free domestically. North Korea is as repressive but its foreign policy is benign compared to Saudi Arabia’s.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Long-View of the Nuclear Industry in Saskatchewan Part 1

By Jim Harding
No Nukes
August 22, 2012

Earlier this summer, I was asked to speak on the nuclear industry at the National Farmer Union’s (NFU) Saskatchewan annual meeting. I have spoken on the pitfalls of nuclear energy so often that I worried I might be redundant. But what you say in a talk or article depends mostly on the questions you ask; this sets the direction of your research and analysis. So this was an opportunity for me to consider questions that I previously might have downplayed.

Sometimes we don’t want to ask new questions about old topics for fear of what we might find. This is true at a personal as well as at a political level. This year we enthusiastically ask questions about Medicare as part of celebrating its 50th anniversary. But we still don’t ask the hard questions about Saskatchewan’s longer nuclear heritage; this might be too revealing and impossible to celebrate.

I decided to prepare my NFU talk by asking two overlooked, interrelated questions: first, what role have the different provincial parties played in developing the nuclear industry here?; and second, how has the opposition to the nuclear industry unfolded over the different political regimes? I will address #1 here and leave #2 for next week’s column.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

John A. Macdonald wanted an ‘Aryan’ Canada

AUGUST 21, 2012

In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state.

He did this not just in any piece of legislation, but in the Electoral Franchise Act, an act that defined the federal polity of adult male property holders and that he called “my greatest achievement.”

Macdonald’s comments came as he justified an amendment taking the vote away from anyone “of Mongolian or Chinese race.” He warned that, if the Chinese (who had been in British Columbia as long as Europeans) were allowed to vote, “they might control the vote of that whole Province” and their “Chinese representatives” would foist “Asiatic principles,” “immoralities,” and “eccentricities” on the House “which are abhorrent to the Aryan race and Aryan principles.” He further claimed that “the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans or the Asiatics” and that “the cross of those races, like the cross of the dog and the fox, is not successful; it cannot be, and never will be.” For Macdonald, Canada was to be the country that restored a pure Aryan race to its past glory, and the Chinese threatened this purity.

Since the Mexican debt crisis, 30 years of neoliberalism

By Jerome Roos 
August 22, 2012

Mexico’s collapse of 1982, and the radical policy response of the US and IMF, marked the birth of an elite consensus that continues to haunt Europe today.
As Nick Dearden, Director of the Jubilee Campaign for debt cancellation justwrote for the New Statesman, this week marks the “anniversary of an event of great resonance”. For this week it is exactly 30 years ago that Mexico temporarily suspended its debt payments to foreign creditors, thereby marking the beginning of what would eventually escalate into the first international debt crisis of the neoliberal era. Things would never be the same again.

What ensued was not only a tragic collapse of living standards throughout the developing world and a lost decade for Mexicans and millions of poor people in the Global South – most notably in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa — but also a historic shift in power relations between debtors and creditors in the emerging global political economy. Indeed, 1982 marked the global ascendance of Wall Street. As the famous geographer David Harvey put it:

What the Mexico case demonstrated was one key difference between liberalism and neo-liberalism: under the former lenders take the losses that arise from bad investment decisions while under the latter the borrowers are forced by state and international powers to take on board the cost of debt repayment no matter what the consequences for the livelihood and well-being of the local population.

Regional park sale raises questions

AUGUST 21, 2012 

Concerns are being raised about the unprecedented sale of a Saskatchewan regional park. LeRoy Leisureland Regional Park, an 80-acre park opened in the late 1960s, and offers a nine-hole golf course, camping, a swimming pool and other amenities.
Photograph by: Postmedia News , file photo
Concerns are being raised about the unprecedented sale of a Saskatchewan regional park.

A group of Vancouver investors has been lined up by the local park board to buy LeRoy Leisureland Regional Park, located a few kilometres from BHP Billiton's proposed Jansen potash mine project.

"This stinks," park manager Maggie Hamilton said. "A lot of this has been a secret, but the public should have known about this."

A public meeting on the subject takes place Wednesday evening in LeRoy, located about 130 kilometres east of Saskatoon. Hamilton and others plan to attend and ask the park's eight-member board to reconsider.

"We're hoping there'll be enough people there making enough of a stink that they'll have to take another look at this," Hamilton said.

Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" in Manga!

By Richard Metzger
Dangerous Minds
August 17, 2012

You would think that it would be difficult to take a daunting 19th century masterpiece of economics, philosophy and history like Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and turn that imposing intellectual colossus (which is well over 1000 pages in length) into a simple, straightforward and easy to follow comic book, but you would be dead wrong.

In 2008, Tokyo-based publishing company East Press published a manga version ofDas Kapital by Variety Artworks that flew off the shelves, selling 6000 copies in the first few days and getting discussed in the media the world over. The manga market is huge in Japan, generating billions of dollars, even so, Das Kapital: Manga de Dokuha (“Reading ‘Das Kapital’ through Manga”) was one of the publishing events of that year. Now it’s being published in a new English translation as Capital In Manga! by radical publishing house Red Quill Books.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Capitalist Theology on the CBC

By Dr. Joseph Tohill
August 9, 2012

There’s nothing like a bit of neoconservative propaganda gussied up as a hip, edgy CBC radio program to get your blood boiling on a hot summer’s day. The Invisible Hand, a mid-week staple of Radio One’s summer schedule hosted by Vancouver broadcaster Matthew Lazin-Ryder, bills itself as “a defiantly non-dismal take on the ‘dismal science’ of economics.” Revelling in its role as cheeky iconoclast, the show seeks to upend the conventional wisdom about greedy price gougers, rapacious capitalists, and exploitative sweatshop owners.

Behind The Invisible Hand’s irreverence, however, runs a deep-seated conservative ideology that the show seeks to pass off as hipster wisdom or indisputable truth. From beginning to end, each episode of the show is a resounding affirmation of the basic tenet of capitalist theology, that nothing promotes the public good more than the grasping, amoral pursuit of individual self-interest. Greed is good; government is bad; and any well-meaning attempt to interfere with the invisible hand inevitably causes more harm than good.

Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety [Book Trailer]

Between the Lines
Purchase book HERE.

Radical Left Melenchon calls for mutiny against Hollande

AUGUST 20, 2012

French radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for a mutiny by Socialist Party ministers disenchanted with the policies of President Francois Hollande.

Melenchon, a former Socialist minister who left the party and stood against Hollande as a candidate of the radical Left Front in the presidential elections this year, said ministers who opposed Hollande’s policies should come out of the closet.

‘You exist by being independent, not by being carried along by someone else,’ he said. ‘We need you to come and help us in our battle.

MEP Melenchon garnered just over 11% of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections in April and his supporters helped Hollande defeat outgoing right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round.

Saskaboom changing its tune?

By Paul Sullivan
Metro Regina
August 19, 2012

The news that Brazilian miner Vale is putting its multibillion-dollar potash mine on hold has sent a little ripple of concern across the brows of various Saskatchewan boosters.

It also reminds me of the ongoing dialogue between Captain Nemo and his hostage Pierre Arronax in Jules Verne’s classic novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Nemo’s futuristic submarine Nautilus encounters everything from giant squids to sub-surface volcanoes, which the captain coolly dismisses as mere “incidents,” not the more severe “accidents.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Vale on the Plains?

By Erin Weir 

I had the following comments in yesterday’s front-page story on Vale’s decision to postpone its proposed $3-billion potash mine at Kronau, Saskatchewan:

Regina economist Erin Weir, who is widely expected to run for the leadership of the provincial NDP, said in a statement Friday that the Vale announcement “represents a failure of the Saskatchewan government’s approach of almost giving away the resource to encourage companies to dig it out of the ground as quickly as possible.”

“The silver lining is that Vale will not increase potash supply as quickly as expected. A tighter potash market likely means higher potash prices and even larger profits for existing producers,” he said.

What did not make it into print was my further argument that the provincial government should collect a better royalty return from those existing companies by ending the potash production tax concessions that proved ineffective in spurring Vale’s investment.

Another important issue is that Vale has been a rather poor employer in Canada’s mining sector. In 2009, it provoked a strike that lasted more than a year at its nickel mines in Ontario and Labrador.

In response, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador established an Industrial Inquiry Commission, which made recommendations about how a small province could more effectively deal with large multinational employers.

The Government of Saskatchewan should use the time provided by the Kronau delay to consider these issues, so that our province does not have a similar experience with Vale if the mine is built

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tariq Ali: ‘We must not lose Venezuela’

By Tariq Ali 
Green Left Weekly
Saturday, August 18, 2012 
The article below was abridged from Correo Del Orinoco International

Internationally-acclaimed author, activist, and intellectual Tariq Ali highlighted the importance of Venezuela´s Bolivarian Revolution and socialist President Hugo Chavez at a conference at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela in Caracas over July 27-28.

Speaking at celebrations for the seventh anniversary of Telesur, the Caracas-based Latin American news media, the respected British Pakistani historian told those gathered that “Venezuela must not be lost” as the October 7 presidential election approaches.

Discussing the leadering role played by Latin America in promoting alternative means of communication, Ali spoke at an event titled, “The Western Media: A Pillar of the State”, highlighting Venezuela´s struggle to democratise the media.

Ali said the world is suffering through “a prolonged war, implemented by the United States, which is aimed at dominating the world and maintaining US hegemony”.

The Allies Second Front in World War II: Why Were Canadian Troops Sacrificed at Dieppe?

By Jacques R. Pauwels 
Global Research
August 18, 2012

German picture of the beach at Dieppe after the raid 
The tide of World War II turned in early December 1941, when a counter-offensive of the Red Army in front of Moscow signalled the failure of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg strategy. That setback doomed Nazi Germany to lose a war it had to fight without the benefit of Caucasian oil and other resources it had hoped to gain through a speedy victory over the Soviet Union. The war was far from over, however, and for the time being the Red Army continued to do battle with its back to the wall, so to speak. Material help from the United States and Great Britain was forthcoming, but what the Soviets really needed from their allies was effective military assistance. And so Stalin asked Churchill and Roosevelt to open a second front in Western Europe. An Anglo-American landing in France, Belgium, or Holland would have forced the Germans to withdraw troops from the Eastern Front, and would therefore have afforded the Soviets much-needed relief.

In Great Britain and in the USA, which had entered the war only recently, in December 1941, political and military leaders were divided with respect to the possibilities and the merits of a second front. A number of British and American army commanders – including the American chief of staff, George Marshall, as well as General Eisenhower – wanted to land troops in France as soon as possible. They enjoyed the support of President Roosevelt, at least initially. He had promised Churchill that the United States would give priority to the war against Germany, and would settle accounts with Japan later; this decision became known as the “Germany First” principle. Consequently, Roosevelt was eager to deal with Germany right away, and this task required opening a second front. In May 1942 Roosevelt promised the Soviet minister of foreign affairs, Molotov, that the Americans would open a second front before the end of the year.

Capitalism in our Time: Crisis, Austerity and What Spaces for Change?

Matilde Adduci 
2012: 401-410

The present crisis scenario —which came into being with the 2007/8 financial meltdown triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and which, by 2009,  had turned into an economic contraction of worldwide proportions— is ever more pervaded by insistent calls for austerity politics. In some countries, such as Greece and Italy, these politics are being implemented by so-called technical governments, as if such a label could ratify the supposed ineluctability, as well as the neutrality, of austerity measures. As a matter of fact, while the spaces for politics may appear to be all the more shrunken in the face of the austerity dogma what with the vast majority of the political spectrum in many different countries sadly echoing Margaret Thatcher’s famous slogan, «there is no alternative» —austerity politics are fundamentally affecting the labour arena. The increasing normalization of the process of labour precarization, together with the rise in unemployment levels, is in fact accompanied in the core capitalist countries by a new wave of cutbacks casting a gloomy shadow over the social entitlements of the labouring classes. With a severe shrinking of social welfare and pension systems, this politics looks like a bitter farewell to the welfare institutions that came into being during the «golden age» of capitalism and constitutes a major setback in the struggle for social rights.

In the face of this scenario, the two most recent volumes of the Socialist Register —Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time 1 and Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left 2— provide the reader with important analytical tools to fathom the social, economic and political depths of the current crisis. Starting from the centrality of the materialist conception of social development, the various essays in the two volumes interrogate economic processes in the light of the historically underlying class dynamics and power relationships, bringing a plurality of arguments into the debate. In so doing, they provide a multifaceted
and nuanced analysis of the current capitalist crisis and its social implications, which takes into account both general trends and specific regional contexts. The present review is pursued with the aim of accounting for some crucial and wideranging issues which cut across both volumes and which, taken together, can be used to draw up a sort of conceptual map which contributes importantly to a critical understanding of our times.

Read more HERE.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Saskatchewan Labour and Politics: A short history

By Lorne Brown
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

George Jones, president of the Independent Labor Party, speaking; Regina1930

For the first few decades of the 20th century, workers had not yet become a majority in Canada and only a small percentage of mainly skilled tradesmen were organized into trade unions. Nevertheless, organized labour was growing as an interest group which exerted some influence over the political complexion of the broader society. They had achieved legal recognition and made some progress in struggles to abolish child labour and improve hours of work and working conditions. Unions had also played a role in achieving free public education and political reforms such as the secret ballot and a broadened franchise.

If unions were not yet a large part of the body politic in Canada, this was doubly true of Saskatchewan, which remained an overwhelmingly agrarian province for the first half century of its existence. But while trade unionists were not a significant percentage of the population, political and social ideas associated with labour exerted an indirect influence within agrarian and political organizations. Most immigrants to the province became farmers, but many were from urban working class backgrounds. Several of the leaders of the early farm organizations had previous experience in trade unions and labour and socialist parties. Indeed the Farmer’s Union of Canada, a forerunner of the United Farmers of Canada, was founded in 1921 by former members of the One Big Union, a radical industrial union founded in 1919.

Manitoba's NDP: time to return to its social democratic roots

By Errol Black, Jim Silver
Manitoba Office, CCPA
August 15, 2012

In June, 1969, Manitoba elected Canada’s first NDP government and Manitoba’s first social democratic government. The NDP has since become the dominant political party in Manitoba, winning 8 of the last 12 elections and governing for almost two years in every three since June, 1969. The NDP’s latest run as government began in 1999.

The Schreyer Years

The first NDP government, led by Ed Schreyer, consisted of a diverse group from different backgrounds, bound together by a belief that government can and should act to improve conditions in society. Schreyer and others characterized themselves as democratic socialists or social democrats. They implemented public auto insurance, eliminated Medicare premiums, and amalgamated the City of Winnipeg and surrounding municipalities. They adopted measures to reduce poverty, improved labour standards and industrial relations legislation, and built public housing for seniors and families.

The NDP’s philosophical emphasis was on reducing income inequalities, enhancing the lot of those in low and modest income groups via the provision of goods and services through the public sector, and increasing equality between men and women. Some of the ideas that emerged from debates within the party were quite radical. For example, regarding equality, Schreyer stated that an objective of his government was “to reduce differentiation…bring about greater equality…and reward the dignity of work,” and he proposed that the ratio of incomes for those at the top of the income scale, to the incomes of rank-and-file workers, be no more than 2.5 to 1.0. This is a far cry from today’s scandalous gap between the rich and the rest of us.

Saskatchewan Government Announces Plan to sell 720,000 hectares of Crown Grasslands to “private patron groups”

Trevor Herriot's Grassnotes
 August 17, 2012

This lovely image is courtesy of my generous friend, naturalist and photographer, Hamilton Greenwood 

Anyone following this space will have read about the federal government divesting itself of any responsibility for what we used to call PFRA pastures--which contain some of the most endangered ecosystems and species in Canada.

Today the Saskatchewan Government released its plan for how it hopes to manage the transition, applying the news release strategy every PR bureaucrat learns on his first week on the job: if it is news you don’t really want covered in the media, release it on a Friday, and if it is summer, all the better.

Anyway, here is a link to the news release. And here in a nutshell is what it says:

1. Federal Staff will only continue to manage the pastures for one more grazing season after this one.

2. The Sask government made its decision on how to deal with the matter of what will now happen to these grasslands by setting up an advisory committee composed of “industry leaders and cattle producers.”

3. The plan in general is to sell the grasslands, all 720,340 hectares, to “patron-controlled ownership and operation.”

4. If there is good news in this announcement, it is that they are saying that each pasture will be maintained as a block and,

5. “Any sale of native prairie land will be subject to no-break and no-drain conservation easements.”

Social Democracy After the Cold War

Social Democracy After the Cold War
Edited by Bryan Evans and Ingo Schmidt
June 2012
Purchase HERE.

About the Book

Despite the market triumphalism that greeted the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed initially to herald new possibilities for social democracy. In the 1990s, with a new era of peace and economic prosperity apparently imminent, people discontented with the realities of global capitalism swept social democrats into power in many Western countries. The resurgence was, however, brief. Neither the recurring economic crises of the 2000s nor the ongoing War on Terror was conducive to social democracy, which soon gave way to a prolonged decline in countries where social democrats had once held power. Arguing that neither globalization nor demographic change was key to the failure of social democracy, the contributors to this volume analyze the rise and decline of Third Way social democracy and seek to lay the groundwork for the reformulation of progressive class politics.

Offering a comparative look at social democratic experience since the Cold War, the volume examines countries where social democracy has long been an influential political force—Sweden, Germany, Britain, and Australia—while also considering the history of Canada's NDP, the social democratic tradition in the United States, and the emergence of New Left parties in Germany and the province of Québec. The case studies point to a social democracy that has confirmed its rupture with the postwar order and its role as the primary political representative of workingclass interests. Once marked by redistributive and egalitarian policy perspectives, social democracy has, the book argues, assumed a new role—that of a modernizing force advancing the neoliberal cause.

About the Editors

Bryan Evans is an associate professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. Prior to joining Ryerson in 2003, he held senior policy advisory and management positions in the Ontario Legislature and Government.

Ingo Schmidt is an economist and the coordinator of the Labour Studies Program at Athabasca University. He has taught in Germany as well as Canada and was formerly staff economist with the metalworkers union, IG Metall, in Germany.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

After capitalism

By Saul Landau
Progreso Weekly
Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Reading Jerry Mander’s The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (Counterpoint: Berkeley, 2012), I recalled lessons from my first Marxism class at the university. Capitalism has no morality, but must constantly grow. It creates inequality, exploits labor and nature and fights wars. Mander sees no way for all these negative qualities to lead the world to happiness, or even survival. Some keen observers noted these qualities of capitalism more than 150 years ago. But only good can come from reiterating basic truths and Mander has written a readable and snappy critique of the economic and political system that governs our lives and he offers good reasons to get rid of it and find a healthier – non-utopian – way to live together under a different economic and political system.

Capitalism has produced a world of things, but in doing do so it has destroyed hunks of the environment, and made a mess of human relations. Karl Marx saw this in the 19th Century; Mander in the 21st.

To dramatize the lessons he wants to teach Mander offers funny stories from his former life as an advertising executive and promoter of capitalism. After that he headed the Public Media Center, a public service ad agency.

The book takes readers on an insightful tour of the system’s ills. By the fourth chapter I asked how anyone in his right mind would not revolt against the nightmare conditions of our system.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Canada: “Big Players in NATO”

By Yves Engler 
Dissident Voice
August 15th, 2012

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen meets with Stephen Harper

Harper’s Conservatives are enamored with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Canada played a central role in last year’s NATO-led bombing of Libya and nearly 1000 Canadian military “trainers” continue to participate in a war the organization is waging in Afghanistan. Last year Defense Minister Peter MacKay justified a plan to establish 7 Canadian military bases around the world, partly on the grounds that “we are big players in NATO.”
The Conservatives’ position is a throwback of sorts. For the first two decades of the organization NATO was at the heart of this country’s foreign policy. Only exaggerating slightly, Pierre Trudeau claimed that in the years prior to him becoming Prime Minister in 1968 “we had no defence policy, so to speak, except that of NATO. And our defence policy had determined all of our foreign-policy. And we had no foreign policy of any importance except that which flowed from NATO.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Building Solidarity - the SFL Youth Camp

The forgotten history of Workers' Olympics

By Terry Bell
August 2012

In this week of Women's Day, the 30th summer Olympiad is coming to an end. Over the past week and more, women and men from all backgrounds have displayed their sporting abilities, watched on television by more than 1 billion people around the world. But it was not always like that — and not only in terms of television viewing or even the number of participants or spectators. These "modern Olympics" started out as an elitist and exclusively male preserve.

And, once again, as these Games come to an end, they are shrouded in some very modern myths that ignore the real origins of the Olympics — and fail to give credit where credit is due. Much of the credit for the fact that women now compete and that men and women from every background are generally included on the basis of ability alone, goes to the labour movement, mainly in Europe, but also in the United States. It is a history that has largely been hidden and has no place in the grand commercial circus that is now the Olympics, and has been so since the end of World War II. But, courtesy of historians such as Robert Wheeler of the United States we have access to this history.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape

A bestselling author embarks on a profound and dramatic journey through the eloquent landscape of southwestern Saskatchewan.

Candace Savage 
Greystone Books
Fall 2012

When Candace Savage and her partner buy a house in the romantic little town of Eastend, she has no idea what awaits her. At first she enjoys exploring the area around their new home, including the boyhood haunts of the celebrated American writer Wallace Stegner, the backroads of the Cypress Hills, the dinosaur skeletons at the T.Rex Discovery Centre, the fossils to be found in the dust-dry hills. She also revels in her encounters with the wild inhabitants of this mysterious land—two coyotes in a ditch at night, their eyes glinting in the dark; a deer at the window; a cougar pussy-footing it through a gully a few minutes’ walk from town.

But as Savage explores further, she uncovers a darker reality—a story of cruelty and survival set in the still-recent past—and finds that she must reassess the story she grew up with as the daughter, granddaughter, and
great-granddaughter of prairie homesteaders.

Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and imbued with Savage’s passion for this place, A Geography of Blood offers both a shocking new version of plains history and an unforgettable portrait of the windswept,
shining country of the Cypress Hills, a holy place that helps us remember.

Candace Savage is the author of more than two dozen books, including Prairie: A Natural History, which was named Book of the Year at the Saskatchewan Book Awards. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record … Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him

The 2012 election will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.and Carl Davidson
August 9, 2012

Let’s cut to the chase. The November 2012 elections will be unlike anything that any of us can remember. It is not just that this will be a close election. It is also not just that the direction of Congress hangs in the balance. Rather, this will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.

Unfortunately what too few leftists and progressives have been prepared to accept is that the polarization is to a great extent centered on a revenge-seeking white supremacy; on race and the racial implications of the moves to the right in the US political system. It is also focused on a re-subjugation of women, harsh burdens on youth and the elderly, increased war dangers, and reaction all along the line for labor and the working class. No one on the left with any good sense should remain indifferent or stand idly by in the critical need to defeat Republicans this year.

Read more HERE.

Harper’s act of clemency hits at CWB

By Laura Rance 
Winnipeg Free Press

As the new marketing era dawned Aug. 1, Canada’s prime minister took his revisionist view of history and his ideological vendetta against the Canadian Wheat Board to a new level.

He retroactively pardoned farmers convicted of running the border with their grain trucks in the early 1990s as a protest, and who defied customs officers by stealing their compounded vehicles back. Some were later convicted of contempt of court.

Stephen Harper turned to the rarely used Royal Prerogative of Mercy to issue these pardons, saying these self-declared freedom fighters were courageous for standing up to an unjust law.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Canada Continues to Support Right-wing Coups

By Yves Engler
August 11th, 2012

Six weeks ago the left-leaning president of Paraguay Fernando Lugo was ousted in what some called an “institutional coup”. Upset with Lugo for disrupting 61-years of one party rule, Paraguay’s traditional ruling elite claimed he was responsible for a murky incident that left 17 peasants and police dead and the senate voted to impeach the president.

The vast majority of countries in the hemisphere refused to recognize the new government. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) suspended Paraguay’s membership after Lugo’s ouster, as did the MERCOSUR trading bloc. Last week the Council on Hemispheric Affairs reported: “Not a single Latin American government has recognized [Federico] Franco’s presidency.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mike Alewitz to address SFL convention


Renowned U.S. muralist Mike Alewitz is scheduled to address the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour October 31 - November 3, 2012.

Mike is Associate Professor and Artistic Director – Labor Art & Mural Project at Central Connecticut State University.

His book Insurgent Images describes him as:

"The most prolific U.S. labor muralist since the 1940s. Alewitz follows the traditions of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros as well as the early painters of the Russian Revolution. With a demonstrated blend of artistic integrity and political commitment, Insurgent Images combines grand historical themes with enlivening detail, to illustrate the interplay between personality and event. 

 Alewitz brings to this tradition his own rich sense of irony, humor, and fantasy to illuminate the hidden spaces where connections between the workforce of the U.S. and its extended relatives across the planet are to be found. Insurgent Images contains murals for the Teamsters—their “Victory Mural” after the United Parcel Service (UPS) Strike of 1998—the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers, the Communications Workers, United Electrical Workers, the United Farmworkers, as well as the Highlander Folk School and other labor institutions."

Visit Mike' website HERE or his facebook page HERE.

Read more about about Mike and the muralist movement HERE.

Mike Alewitz is tentatively scheduled to speak on Thursday November 1 at 10:30 a.m. at the Queensbury Convention Centre, Evraz Place, Regina.

Syria divides the Arab left

The violence deepens and spreads. Yet unlike Egypt and Tunisia, the Syrian revolt has not had unanimous support from the Arab left. There is a split between those who sympathise with the protestors’ demands and those who fear foreign interference, both political and military.

By Nicolas Dot-Pouillard
Le Monde
August 2012

Last August the Lebanese leftwing nationalist daily, Al-Akhbar, went through its first crisis since its launch in the summer of 2006 (1). Managing editor Khaled Saghieh left the paper he had helped set up, because of its coverage of the Syrian crisis. Saghieh denounced the paper’s lack of support for the popular uprising that began in March 2011. Al-Akhbar has never denied its political sympathies with Hizbullah, one of Bashar al-Assad’s chief allies in the region, or hidden the fact that it prefers dialogue between the Damascus government and a section of the opposition to the fall of Assad’s regime. The paper has given a voice to certain members of the Syrian opposition, including Salameh Kaileh, a Syrian-Palestinian Marxist intellectual who was arrested this April by the security services.

In June an article by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb (2) provoked dissension within the paper’s English online version. The Lebanese commentator placed herself firmly behind the Damascus regime, and criticised supporters of a “third way” — those who denounce the regime while warning against western military intervention on the Libyan model. The same month another Al-Akhbar English journalist, Max Blumenthal, announced he was leaving in an article criticising “Assad apologists” within the editorial staff (3).

Co-operative pioneer, 95, pens best-selling book

By Jason Warick
The Star Phoenix
August 9, 2012

95-year-old author Harold Chapman in his Saskatoon home Thursday, August 09, 2012
Photograph by: Greg Pender, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Harold Chapman steps out onto the 12th floor balcony of his Lakewood-area apartment.

“You can see the horizon. It really is beautiful,” Chapman said Thursday.

At 95 years of age, the Saskatoon man is still looking outward.

In his living room, Chapman discussed his recent projects, which include a brief to a parliamentary committee and penning his bestselling book, Sharing My Life: Building the Co-operative Movement.

“I’m very happy with what I’ve been able to do. I’m fortunate my memory continues to function well,” Chapman said.

Defending the Land from Nuclear Waste

Indigenous community elders, activists gather in northern Saskatchewan against nuclear waste site

August 9, 2012

A grassroots gathering against a potential nuclear waste site in northern Saskatchewan was held August 3 to 6 in South Bay, on lake Ile-a-la-Crosse. PHOTO: JOHNNY MARCELAND

SOUTH BAY, SK—The storm clouds had moved on by the time people arrived at South Bay on lake Ile-a-la-Crosse last Friday for a grassroots gathering against a potential nuclear waste site in northern Saskatchewan. Dene, Cree and Métis elders from affected communities, grassroots activists from around Saskatchewan and others from as far as the west coast and Germany shared coffee, songs, experiences and a whole lot of moose meat from August 3 to 6 at the Survival Celebration Camp for Sustainable Earth.

"We have to protect the land," Jules Daigneault told those gathered in a sharing circle around the campfire. When the 70-year-old elder heard about the gathering happening in South Bay, he travelled across the lake to the camp from his home in Ile-a-la-Crosse in a boat he made himself. "Everything comes from the land. All our food comes from the land."