One of the more obvious points of convergence in political thought over the past 70-80 years is the greater appreciation of systemic complexity – the recognition that different decisions by many types of actors may collide in unpredictable ways, with the results potentially far outweighing the perceived impact of any single action and reaching people who may have had no idea their interests were affected.
That recognition in turn gives rise to two broad public policy responses: to seek to have a government equipped to identify the risks posed by factors which no other party has the means or will to address, or to give up and leave ourselves at the mercy of forces which interact in ways which we don’t even try to anticipate.
Suffice it to say that Andrew Coyne’s response to the Lac-Mégantic rail explosion is staking out some rather extreme territory in the latter camp.
Here’s Coyne trying to isolate the specific circumstances of the explosion in order to treat the issue as one which doesn’t call for an immediate response:
Consider what a singular convergence of events was required to bring it about. A highly flammable cargo; an unattended train; parked on a hill; on the main track, not a siding; above a town; far enough from town to build up great speed; and, as a final piece, that fatal bend in the track as it entered town. If any one of those is not present, no disaster and no deaths. But even if all are, you still need two more: the failure (so it seems) of the air brakes; and the failure (so it is alleged) to lock the hand brakes.
Now, may be true that Coyne’s list of factors is indeed extremely unusual. But I’m fairly sure the right answer to “how many towns could see the same type of disaster?” is “we don’t know, and should probably find out” – not “one – and since it’s already been blown to smithereens, let’s not worry our pretty little heads about it.”
And indeed, a closer look at those same factors reveals some rather important decisions not to consider possible public safety issues:
Consider what a singular convergence of events was required to bring it about. A highly flammable cargo whose transportation has never been subject to a specific regulatory evaluation; an unattended train which is permitted by regulation; parked on a hill which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; on the main track, not a siding which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; above a town which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; far enough from town to build up great speed which should presumably be known to the rail operator and regulators alike; and, as a final piece, that fatal bend in the track as it entered town which had been pointed out by concerned residents. If any one of those is not present, no disaster and no deaths. But even if all are, you still need two more: the failure (so it seems) of the air brakes; and the failure (so it is alleged) to lock the hand brakes.
Again, this brings us back to the core question of how to deal with complexity. Should we simply ignore risks in the name of minimizing our own costs, presuming that somebody else (and in this case, a private operator devoted to shipping the most product for the least cost) will bother to identify what needs to be done in order to avoid public tragedies? Because the evidence from Lac-Mégantic (and an ongoing series of spills, derailments, explosions and other disasters) doesn’t exactly support the “let somebody else do it” argument.
Moreover, it seems equally obvious that other “convergences of events” might come about elsewhere. And that’s precisely why we need a regulatory structure equipped to evaluate the distinct threats facing all sorts of communities and ensure that they’re being avoided to the extent possible – rather than one based on allowing private operators to self-report on standardized checklists as the primary precondition for carrying out dangerous activities.
But sadly, we have a government more interested in slashing public services than making them work – which is an issue we should be discussing regardless of whether a particular regulatory tweak would have been necessary or sufficient on its own within the complex array of factors which might have stopped the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. And yes, the aftermath of a preventable disaster is probably the best possible time to highlight the fact that we should be making some effort to prevent disasters.
Speaking of which, I haven’t even reached the most galling part of Coyne’s take:
There are things we could do, without a doubt, that would preclude another Lac-Mégantic altogether. We could make the cars out of titanium, or reroute the lines around towns, or take out the bends. But are the costs, potentially high, worth the risk: vanishingly small? We could ban carrying oil by train, but other methods, as I’ve mentioned, have their own risks — and what of the vast number of other hazardous materials that also travel by rail?
Put in its most charitable light, one might read this passage as referring solely to probabilities – to the exclusion of any talk about the cost imposed on innocent parties should the possibility materialize. But surely any rational calculation of risk includes some consideration of both. (Paging Dan Gardner on this one.)
And I’m far from willing to consider this…
…to be a vanishingly small cost incurred in the fulfillment of the apparent highest possible good of ripping carbon from the ground and burning it.
I did this picture in May 2010. There has been change for the worse. Now that Harper has majority he has become full time salesman for oil companies, Tar Sands, Crude-oil pipeline etc.
Prime Minister Harper and other members of his government — and even the PM’s wife, Laureen — are doing a fair bit of grandstanding against the backdrop of the cruel and devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines.
Almost daily, they are announcing various forms of Canadian aid: from cash to airplanes to teams of disaster relief specialists.
Anything Canada can do is desperately needed, of course. The people of the Philippines will welcome whatever assistance actually gets to those in need.
We must remember, though, that the officials and others making these announcements are not heroes. They are simply doing their jobs.
The money Harper’s Ministers are very publicly pledging is not their own; it is all Canadians’ money.
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
- In keeping with the theme of this week’s column, the Star-Phoenix questions the Wall government’s choice to neglect existing school infrastructure. And Lana Payne’s message about how leaders react in a crisis also looks to be closely intertwined with the need to plan ahead before a crisis actually starts.
- But then, governments do have to choose their priorities. And once again, the Cons’ choice is to spend tens of millions of public dollars on public relations for a tar-sands sector which could easily afford to pitch its own products, while standing (Read more…)
Luiza Ch. Savage on a letter from Canadian ambassador Gary Doer
I’ve written before about the Cons’ blatant strategy of saying just enough about regulating greenhouse gas emissions from the oil industry to confuse voters about the issue while blocking the way toward any action. And so the real news in their offer to let the U.S. write the regulations they’ve been promising “next year” for seven years and counting is the prospect that it might actually result in some policy coming into effect.
That is, assuming one thinks the same prime minister who’s gleefully played Lucy-with-the-football with the Canadian public on this exact issue will voluntarily follow through after (Read more…)
Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.
- Bill Gardner discusses the effect of inequality and poverty starting at birth: There are three important facts packed into this slide. First, the lines stack up in order of increasing age, meaning that older people reported worse health than younger people. Second, all the lines slope downward, meaning that the poorer you were, the more likely you had poor health.
These facts are unsurprising, until you notice how powerful the income effect is. The leftmost point of the youngest (turquoise) line is above the rightmost point of the oldest (purple) line. This means that (Read more…)
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Assorted content for your weekend reading.
- Andrew Coyne highlights the ultimate issue in the Cons’ Senate patronage, scandals and cover-ups:
(I)f the prime minister sets the standard, then we are entitled to ask: Why has this standard been so inconsistent? On essentially the same set of facts, the senators in question have been held to three entirely distinct standards: total indulgence, in the first stages of their tenure, when they were viewed as assets to the party; total ostracism, since the scandal broke, when they had become political liabilities; and in between that strange interlude, at least with regard to Duffy, when he was both being punished — pay back your expenses! — and indulged: play along, keep quiet and Nigel will pay.
So if the prime minister seeks to be congratulated for cracking the whip now, he must also accept responsibility for doing nothing before, when the same senators were touring the country attending Tory fundraisers and speaking at campaign events on the public dime. Can he pretend this was a secret? Indeed, he must earnestly hope the auditor general, in the course of his investigations, does not find others of the senators at his command have done the same — as of course must they. For then the hypocrisy would be total.
This is why the Watergate question — what did the prime minster know when — while important, is not the issue. Whether he specifically approved the decision to bail out Duffy, he was the author of the climate of expediency in which it was made. He is responsible, because he is the standard.
- Meanwhile, Thomas Walkom wonders whether an undue focus on the interests of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau might help Harper to avoid accountability himself. But Susan Delacourt recognizes the real conflict between the entire Con cabal – still including Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau in their belief that they’re above the rules which apply to everybody else – and the Canadian public:
(T)his is a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword world — it has the ring of truth.
Over the past eight years, Harper and his PMO have repeatedly gambled that Canadians — not just the Conservative base — can be made to believe in spin over the truth.
Leave aside what all this week’s drama says about the state of Parliament and politics in general for now. Look for a moment at how the Canadian voters are being portrayed by their politicians.
It is not a flattering picture that’s being painted of the Canadian public throughout this Senate scandal — an apathetic lot, gullible to spin, villagers with torches when they get whipped up about perceived elites misusing their taxpayer dollars.
A little more than a decade ago, I was talking to Harper on the phone, around about the time that he was considering a return to politics after swearing off it a few years before.
I joked that one of the job requirements is liking people. He had an excellent comeback: “Oh, I like people. I just don’t like the people you like.”
That witty rejoinder has kept coming back to me this week. How do you like a public you see as an apathetic, “don’t care” kind of crowd, more persuaded by the ring of truth than truth itself?
This past week has made many politicians look bad. But it hasn’t been a great week for the public either. That “mob” they’ve all been talking about is the Canadian electorate — you, in other words.
- And Kathleen Blanchard helps to explain where that attitude of contempt for mere citizens comes from, writing about yet more research showing that a sense of power tends to suppress empathy.
- Amy MacPherson neatly details Kellie Leitch’s dubious combination of conflicting interests and selective disclosure which resulted in her sitting in cabinet for five months while also holding a paid director position with a real estate income trust which leases multiple properties to the federal government.
- The CP confirms that the Cons are ending any environmental assessment of the in situ tar sand production which figures to be used to access 80% of all tar sands crude. And Jessica McDiarmid notes that while applying to have its Line 9 pipeline reversed and turned into a conduit for diluted bitumen, Enbridge is refusing even basic testing to ensure a four-decade-old pipeline designed for another type of product can operate safely.
- Finally, pogge weighs in on the routine overcollection of Canadians’ personal financial information by FINTRAC, and wonders what role it might play in the wider surveillance state.
Stephen Harper is trying hard to convince other nations not to shun Tar Sands bitumen (Adrian Wyld/CP)
by Bruce Cheadle
OTTAWA – The Conservative government is spending $40 million this year to advertise Canada’s natural resource sector — principally oil and gas — at home and abroad.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver revealed the figure Wednesday as his department seeks another $12.9 million to augment an international campaign designed to portray Canada as a stable and environmentally responsible source of energy.
That will bring NRCan’s 2013-14 ad budget to about $40 million — $24 million for advertising abroad and (Read more…)
Friday, January 17, 2014
Canadians may soon know more about the chemicals being used to extract bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law and our colleagues at Environmental Defence and the Association Québécoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA). But, unless the federal government can be persuaded to drop it’s narrow interpretation of pollution disclosure rules, Environment Canada won’t be requiring oil and gas companies to provide information about what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This means that most Canadians will have little to no knowledge of the potentially harmful and toxic (Read more…)
The chap from Blast Furnace Canada has a carefully reasoned take on what’s at issue with the “Line 9 Reversal”–the plan to bring diluted bitumen from Alta/Sask’s tar-sands to refineries in Eastern Canada. Mind you, I disagree with his conclusion: a reluctant acceptance of the line for “energy security” reasons. My understanding (and I haven’t followed this project nearly as closely as Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain, or Keystone XL) is that this too is intended largely as an export pipe-line. The oil in it will be sold to China and other locales, and if anything it will drive Canadian (Read more…)
Support for the Swamp Line 9 campaign continues to grow as more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of aging pipelines and the transportation of tar sands bitumen under Ontario — and specifically through high density areas of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
The epicentre of toxicity
The epicentre of the damage is the First Nations community of Aamjiwnaang near Sarnia, Ontario, with 850 community members. Often referred to as “Chemical Valley,” the area is considered one of the most toxic in North America due to the community’s proximity to tar sands refining plants and other chemical refining infrastructure.
The tar sands gang does more than muzzle scientists. It also muzzles environmentalists. This came out loud and clear in a recent case before Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Last year, the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition (OSEC), a group consisting of the Pembina Institute, the Alberta Wilderness Association and the Fort McMurray Environmental Association, filed a Statement of Concern with
Sweet tit-humping Christ I’m tired. Tired of the chronic lack of accountability in Ottawa. Of a parliamentary press corps that been for far too long too prissy and timid to rightly ferret and call out endless examples Conservative corruption with tenacious vigour (see also: libel chill). Tired of national apathy and cynicism understandably bred by […]
This and that for your Thursday reading.
- Ed Broadbent comments on Parliament’s review of inequality in Canada: In a more encouraging vein, the majority report cautiously endorses some positive proposals. Given stated support from both of the opposition parties, these could, and should, move to the top of the government agenda as we approach the 2014 federal Budget and the 2015 federal election.
The Broadbent Institute and other witnesses highlighted the need to increase the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) which supplements the incomes of working poor families, thus raising earned income from low wage jobs and helping offset (Read more…)
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A recently released State Department report claims the environmental impact of the Keystone pipeline would be “minimal.” So… I guess we have no choice, but to build the tarsands pipeline. No need to address the environmental impact of tarsands extraction, we can ignore that Harper is moving ahead – and faster – on this while muzzling scientists who raise concerns about climate change. Harper’s Tarsands Minister Joe Oliver was jumping up and down with this report, eager to use it to justify building (Read more…)
Assorted content to end your week.
- There was never much doubt that the Cons’ demolition of Canada’s long-form census was intended to ensure that we lack data needed to develop evidence-based policies – and that the effects would be most significant among the most marginalized (or exclusive) groups. And Toby Sanger, pogge and the Globe and Mail editorial board all lament the result, while Sara Mayo observes the suspicion that the data trashed by the National Household Survey includes information about the ultra-wealthy.
- Meanwhile, Frances Russell highlights how the Cons are creating an expectation of falling standards (Read more…)
The Council of Canadians announces a national campaign to stop TransCanada’s proposed $12 billion Energy East pipeline, which would ship Alberta‘s dirty tar sands oil to Canada’s East Coast.
The post TransCanada’s Energy East oil pipeline will face fierce opposition: Council of Canadians appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.
Amid rumors that the Obama administration might try to cut an emissions deal with Canada in order to justify approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, leaders from 25 U.S. environmental groups — backed by millions of members and at least 75,000 individuals willing to engage incivil disobedience — warned the president on Tuesday that such a deal would be considered nothing less than a bitter betrayal.
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.
- Frances Russell finds that authoritarianism and bozo eruptions are two of the defining characteristics of right-wing politics in Canada:
Put simply, the double standard states “ I can do it but you can’t because…” followed by a lengthy list of inequalities: because I’m better than you; because I’m older than you; because I’m smarter than you; because I’m richer than you; because I have more power than you; because I’m a man and you’re a woman;…because, because, because.
The double standard holds different people more, less, or not at all accountable for their actions according to different – and unequal – standards. The list of those standards is a roadmap to most of humanity’s ugliest traits, from discrimination against and persecution of those who are different or have the temerity to disagree with the power elite to outright social, gender-based, religious or ethnic discrimination to a desire to “stamp out the rot.”
When it comes to lawbreakers, it’s not surprising authoritarians want to impose long prison sentences, especially if the criminal is “unsavoury” and, obviously, lacking connections in high places.
High RWAs generally believe crimes are more serious than non-authoritarians. They also believe more strongly in the efficacy of punishment. They tend to see criminals as repulsive and disgusting and admit to feeling satisfaction and pleasure at being able to punish wrongdoers.
Significantly, Altemeyer also found that high RWAs can, however, be very selective if the criminal or wrongdoer in question is an authority figure. Hence, the rock-solid and perhaps even growing support still being granted to Ford even as his troubles with the law and close connections to criminals and criminal behaviour grow.
- Meanwhile, Mark Ballard finds another prime example of the double standard at work from the UK’s Conservatives, who are furiously scrubbing all references to their past statements and promises (from mirror and archive sites as well as their own website) after promising to govern openly and accountably.
- Robyn Allan discusses the blatant falsehoods behind Joe Oliver’s Keystone XL spin.
- And finally, PressProgress neatly summarizes the effects of the Cons’ income-splitting scheme:
The largest share of the benefit would go to high-income families where one partner is in the top tax bracket and the other has no earned income (think Leave it to Beaver). The Conservative approach to income splitting would provide no benefit at all to single-parent families – even though more than a quarter (28%) of all children live in single-parent families. The same holds true for families where both partners work and have incomes below $43,561.
In other words, income-splitting provides zero relief to families with children who are most in need, including those who live in poverty. Rather, what it does is transfer more of the tax burden onto single-parent families and lower- and middle-income families. It promises to exacerbate – not reduce – existing income and gender inequality.
Maybe that’s the point.
This and that to end your weekend.
- Paul Luke comments on the general stratification of workers into three groups: professionals facing extended hours and stress at a single job, service-sector workers juggling multiple jobs at more than full-time hours, and people struggling to find work at all. But it’s well worth asking whether it’s inevitable that we’ll keep moving in a direction which seems to offer few benefits for anybody but the employers who extract more work for less pay – and asking what public policy choices we could make to ensure manageable workloads for more of the would-be (Read more…)
Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s Horizon oilsands upgrader
By John Cotter in Edmonton
FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is facing 11 environmental charges over the release of a potentially deadly gas near an aboriginal community in northern Alberta.
The Alberta government said the charges stem from the release of hydrogen sulphide gas on August 2012 from the CNRL Horizon oilsands upgrader facility north of Fort McMurray.
The province said it learned of the leaks after getting complaints from the Fort McKay First Nation and reports from air monitoring stations.
“These are definitely serious charges,” Nikki Booth, a spokeswoman (Read more…)
This and that for your Labour Day reading.
- Jared Bernstein writes about the fight for fair wages in the U.S. fast food and retail industries. And Karen McVeigh notes that political decision-makers are starting to try to get in front of the parade of workers seeking a reasonable standard of living: Organisers said the strikes, scheduled a day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and a few days before Labor Day, were being held in 60 cities and had spread to the south – including Tampa and Raleigh – and the west, with workers in (Read more…)
Assorted content for your weekend reading.
- Marc Lee takes a high-level look at the absurdity of our destructive economic choices:
Exhibit one: the North Pole at the moment is a one-foot-deep aquamarine lake. After reaching record low ice cover and thickness at the end of summer 2012, an ice-free arctic in the summer is coming sooner rather than later. All of that blue water absorbing solar radiation instead of ice reflecting it back to space will compound global warming. And as it melts it releases the greenhouse gas, methane, which will further increase warming in one of those bad feedback loops scientists have been warming about for decades. A new study puts the cost of this methane leakage at $60 trillion, a number hard to fathom but close to the world’s GDP in a single year.
Exhibit two: extreme weather is doing some major damage. It’s going to take a while for final numbers to come in, but damages from the Calgary and region floods are estimated in the $3-5 billion range. In Toronto, total damages of $1 billion or more seem plausible. It is important to note that some damages are covered by private insurance, but there are the uninsured too, and even for those with insurance, there are deductibles, caps and fine print. Private insurance notably does not cover replacement of public infrastructure, either. Insurance coverage can be less than 20% of total damages from a natural disaster. In central Europe, flooding caused about $16 billion in total damages back in May, amid a very wet spring. Flooding is a big theme this year, but extreme heat is also a problem: the “heat dome” recently burning up eastern North America, and drought conditions across the plains. All of a sudden, air conditioning is a human right.
Exhibit three: extreme energy development is making a mess. The train derailment, explosion and spill at Lac Megantic is obviously top of mind. Pipeline spills have also been much in the news (even as pipeline companies aspire for new capacity via Keystone XL, Northern Gateway (through northern BC) and Trans Mountain (to Vancouver)). But breaking news includes spills as a result of new extreme tar sands processing, with “unstoppable” leaks from in situ extraction that injects steam below the surface to heat and pump out the bitumen.
(O)ne has to think that all of this damage, from climate change and business-as-usual for the fossil fuel industry, portends political change. Perhaps not this year, but our collective denial of the costs of our fossil fuel addiction has to come crashing down at some point. Or not. Such is our choice right now: is humanity a plankton bloom, here for a good time not a long time, or can we stitch it together to become something more long-lasting on this planet. Life on planet earth will go on, but what will become of the great human drama that has unfolded over the past hundred thousand years? It’s our collective choice to make, so time to roll up our sleeves and build a social movement that will push our political class to action.
- And it’s well worth adding Halliburton’s coverup of its role to the list of appalling actions which should cause a major rethink of our assumptions about how much we can trust our corporate overlords – rather than giving rise to a paltry fine.
- But as Democracy Watch notes, Canada’s premiers apparently can’t hold a meeting without turning it into a corporate-branded event.
- Rick Goldman challenges Andrew Coyne’s attempt to redefine poverty out of existence. Laurel Rothman and Bill Moore-Kilgannon make the case for a national strategy to combat poverty (while recognizing that nothing of the sort is coming from the Harper Cons),
- Instead, the Cons have of course focused on boutique tax baubles which serve little purpose but to drain the federal treasury to ensure nothing useful is done with public money. And Carol Goar points out that even the C.D. Howe Institute recognizes the futility of that choice.
- Finally, Alison links together the Cons’ inner circle to highlight the implausibility that payoffs to Mike Duffy wouldn’t have been familiar to Stephen Harper and his office. And Lana Payne discusses the need to rebuild social trust in the wake of Harper’s “binders full of enemies” attitude toward the majority of Canada:
The list of “enemy stakeholders” (which encompasses pretty much anyone who disagrees with or has disagreed with the Harper government) did serve to highlight once again this government’s colossal insecurity and bullying personality.
But for most political watchers the fact that the Prime Minister’s Office would keep a running list of enemies merely confirmed what they already knew.
This is a government that has taken divisive politics to new and dizzying heights. This is a government that lacks the will and, perhaps, the ability to seek compromise and consensus.
Instead, it prefers to create enemies and then abuse its power in an effort to punish those so-called enemies.
And the list is long. Long enough to fill binders.
Feminists. Environmentalists. Doctors who care about refugees. Academics and scientists for giving a darn about things like evidence and data and real research. Unions. Civil society organizations. Self-identified progressives. The Parliamentary budget officer, or specifically, Kevin Page. The premiers. Senators who don’t toe the line and rubber stamp bad laws. Federal civil servants who blow the whistle when their government lies about government policy, as was the case with an EI fraud investigator recently. Bureaucrats with an informed opinion trying to offer good policy advice, rather than us-vs-them warnings.
As we know, every government runs it course. They get old and tired. The Harper government is looking like that now, despite the attempt to put a new face on cabinet.
Capitalizing on the unpopularity of the federal Conservatives without acting to rebuild both social and political trust with Canadians might result in short-term political success for those who displace them, but what will it really mean for the country?
As Himelfarb points out, social trust is quite different from political trust. Both are needed, but it is the loss of the first that is the bigger concern.
by: Sierra Club Canada | Press Release:
Corporate Climate Campaign led by Sierra Club and ForestEthics Gains Momentum
San Francisco, CA, June 2, 2013 – Fifty-eight organizations, led by the Sierra Club and ForestEthics, released an open letter today demanding that companies take climate action. The letter calls on U.S. corporations with trucking fleets join 19 leading companies in avoiding fuel from refineries that take Canadian tar sands. According to U.S. EPA, tar sands release as much as 37% more carbon pollution than oil from conventional crude.
“U.S. corporations have a critical role to play in (Read more…)
Miscellaneous material to start your week.
- Marc Lee writes that British Columbia has learned nothing about the dangers of staple economics. But Christy Clark has certainly learned something from her predecessor’s playbook: one term after Gordon Campbell’s promise not to impose an HST fell by the wayside immediately after he’d secured another four years in office, Clark is abandoning her supposed concern for the environment in order to facilitate wholesale shipment of oil products by pipeline, rail and tanker.
- Meanwhile, Dallas MacQuarrie discusses the heavy-handed RCMP response to peaceful protestors challenging fracking on First Nations land in Rexton, New Brunswick.
-Bea Vongdouangchanh reports on the Cons’ continued delays in presenting election legislation. But while Craig Scott is concerned about the possibility the Cons won’t present anything that can be implemented in time for 2015, I’d be even more worried about the risk they’ll offer up yet another agenda of three parts voter suppression and one part Senate posturing (with precisely zero extra authority or resources for Elections Canada) – then ram it through without debate or amendments by claiming it’s too late for thoughtful discussion.
- Scott Sinclair asks and answers ten key questions about the CETA.
- Finally, Marina Adshade observes that a lack of child care combined with a need for two breadwinners per family results in limited choice for actual and potential parents – and that in the absence of that choice, more and more middle-class women are rationally deciding to have fewer and fewer children:
The relationship between family size and the cost of child care is now starting to show up in the data in another, surprising way.
In recent history, family size was negatively correlated with income. The lowest-earning households had the most children and the highest-earning household had the fewest.
But today, specifically among women in the cohort now in their early 40s, those living in households with income above $150,000 had an average of 2.1 children. That’s more children than women in any other income group, and significantly more than women in middle-income households, who raised an average of 1.8 children.
To me, this is the long-run implication of not having access to affordable daycare. In this economic environment, having large families is a luxury to be afforded only by high-income households, which either can afford childcare or don’t require two parents in the workforce, and low-income households, which are more likely to include family members who aren’t working.
The European Union (EU) fuel quality directive requires a 6 per cent reduction in the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of fuels used in vehicles by 2020. To help meet this target, the EU has calculated average GHG releases from biofuels, conventional crude, tar sands, and oil shale using a “life-cycle” approach, including emissions from extraction, processing and distribution.
The unholy trinity of the Alberta tarsands industry, the Conservative Party and the right-wing media has gone all-out in its attacks on Neil Young for his stance against their destructive policies and actions. One thing that these corporate wolves and subservient sheep overlook is that, of course, Neil Young is right.
The main arguments by the Conservative tarsands mob are that:
1) Young hasn’t lived in Canada for a long time, so he has no right to talk about anything that happens in Canada.
2) He’s a rich rock star, so he has no right to talk (Read more…)
Historian and author Jeremy Brecher argues that activists who engage in acts of civil disobedience and risk arrest are upholding the law, not violating it. The post Civil disobedience as law enforcement appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.
If built, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline would force Americans to pay as much as 40 cents more per gallon for gasoline in some parts of the country, according to a new report by the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog.
The post Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Raises American Gas Prices: Report appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.
TransCanada held their ‘open house’ for the Energy East project in Stittsville last week. And what a show it was. Around 40 employees, mostly PR professionals (not high-ranking TransCanada execs or engineers) packed a room at a local area. …
…on the tar-sands, from Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths. Kooky boy thinks this will get the minister in trouble. I don’t pretend to know the politics out there well enough to say. But stay tuned for pos…
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Criticism of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline focuses, understandably, on the threat it poses to the environment, both in its construction and in its enabling more production from the tar sands. Too often overlooked is the political mischief that approval will contribute to.
According to an article in the CCPA Monitor, “Petroleum Coke from Oil Refineries Polluting the Atmosphere,” the pipeline
Canada’s Harper-ment is getting increasingly desperate. The quest to double production out of the Alberta tar sands needs new pipelines (or rail). In recent months, we have seen new proposals for pipelines to the west and to the east, amid furth…
Miscellaneous material for your holiday reading.
- Paul Buchhelt discusses eight areas where privatization has proven to be a disaster in the U.S. – with one holding particular interest for Regina residents:
A 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services. A more recent study confirms that privatization will generally “increase the long-term costs borne by the public.” Privatization is “shortsighted, irresponsible and costly.”
Numerous examples of water privatization abuses or failures have been documented in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island — just about anywhere it’s been tried. Meanwhile, corporations have been making outrageous profits on a commodity that should be almost free. Nestle buys water for about 1/100 of a penny per gallon, and sells it back for ten dollars. Their bottled water is not much different from tap water.
Worse yet, corporations profit from the very water they pollute. Dioxin-dumping Dow Chemicals is investing in water purification. Monsanto has been accused of privatizing its own pollution sites in order to sell filtered water back to the public.
- Robert Reich responds to three lies used to push for corporate tax giveaways. Bernie Sanders discusses how anti-worker employers have built their obscene wealth on effective subsidies from the public. And Chris Hedges comments on the U.S.’ prison-industrial complex.
- Meanwhile, Bob Weber reports on an attempt to label a closed assembly of oil-backed governments and tar sands lobby groups as a “Pan-Canadian” discussion of pipelines. And Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart offers the appropriate response:
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said it’s telling that no environmental or aboriginal groups have been invited to help determine the group’s goals and objectives.
“Industry says, ‘Oh yes, of course we’ll engage people — after we’ve set everything up.’ The people who have been expressing concerns aren’t getting any say on setting terms of reference, the types of things that are going to be looked at, how it’s going to operate.”
Noting Alberta has yet to release a long-awaited report on pipeline safety, Stewart suspects the collaborative may be aimed more at public opinion than anything else.
“We’ve see this around the world, where companies who are under fire launch these types of initiatives to try and allay public concern and avoid new regulation,” he said. “They treat it as a public-relations problem rather than an operations problem.”
- Finally, Adam Radwanski identifies the NDP as the big winner in last week’s Ontario by-elections. And while Nora Loreto is rather less optimistic, she’s right in pointing out how that result should help the party influence the province’s wider political system:
Assuming that government holds long enough to even consider a budget, the pressure on the NDP to deliver a budget with the Liberals that reflects some progressive values will be their greatest test in nearly 20 years. The Liberals will need NDP support. The New Democrats cannot rely on weak, populist policies if they’re going to prove that they’re a viable alternative. They’ll have to demonstrate that they can play politics: make serious demands or force a general election.
If the NDP picks their big issues now (public childcare? lower tuition fees? new energy policies?), pulling a Liberal budget to the left won’t be politically difficult.
There are many, many months for the NDP to clean itself up internally and find the best political minds and organizers they can mine from the left. With an activist Ontario Federation of Labour, this shouldn’t be a hard task.
[Edit: fixed typo.]
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July 12, 2013
On July 5th and 6th, hundreds of people came togethe…
This and that for your Tuesday reading.
- Joseph Stiglitz reminds us that inequality isn’t an inevitability, but a choice favoured (and lobbied for) by the few who want to remove themselves from the general public:
(W)idening income and wealth inequality in America is part of a trend seen across the Western world. A 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that income inequality first started to rise in the late ’70s and early ’80s in America and Britain (and also in Israel). The trend became more widespread starting in the late ’80s. Within the last decade, income inequality grew even in traditionally egalitarian countries like Germany, Sweden and Denmark. With a few exceptions — France, Japan, Spain — the top 10 percent of earners in most advanced economies raced ahead, while the bottom 10 percent fell further behind.
But the trend was not universal, or inevitable. Over these same years, countries like Chile, Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Hungary managed to reduce (in some cases very high) income inequality significantly, suggesting that inequality is a product of political and not merely macroeconomic forces. It is not true that inequality is an inevitable byproduct of globalization, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services, and technological change that favors better-skilled and better-educated employees.
Excessive financialization — which helps explain Britain’s dubious status as the second-most-unequal country, after the United States, among the world’s most advanced economies — also helps explain the soaring inequality. In many countries, weak corporate governance and eroding social cohesion have led to increasing gaps between the pay of chief executives and that of ordinary workers — not yet approaching the 500-to-1 level for America’s biggest companies (as estimated by the International Labor Organization) but still greater than pre-recession levels. (Japan, which has curbed executive pay, is a notable exception.) American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.
I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok. In these divided societies, the rich will hunker in gated communities, almost completely separated from the poor, whose lives will be almost unfathomable to them, and vice versa. I’ve visited societies that seem to have chosen this path. They are not places in which most of us would want to live, whether in their cloistered enclaves or their desperate shantytowns.
- On the subject of appalling corporate governance, Janet McFarland reports on how even a modest amount of director responsibility is being treated as an outrage by a corporation responsible for polluting land. Apparently, the story goes, if directors are liable for the actions of the businesses they run, their businesses won’t feel free to ignore their environmental responsibilities and stick the public with the bill. (And apparently, the story goes, that’s somehow a bad thing.)
- Meanwhile, Alison takes a closer look at the Cons’ actions to make sure increased wealth doesn’t find its way to Canadian workers – as their feigned outrage over the use of temporary foreign workers has hit its expiration date.
- And speaking of transparently temporary fixes, Josh Wingrove takes a closer look at the much-ballyhooed oilsands monitoring program set up by tar sands lobbyists and the Alberta and federal governments. And the scheme touted as promising a “improved understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oil sands development” is set to expire no later than 2015.
- Finally, Althia Raj reports that the Cons’ latest prorogation has officially been exposed as nothing but a sad attempt to escape accountability – as the Cons are trying to pretend it never happened in reinstating all of their legislation to exactly where it stood when they declared the previous session to be over. And Ian Bron and Allan Cutler offer some suggestions for the new throne speech.