What's Left 2015-05-11 Volume 11

Federal Liberals are clearly aiming for Conservative-lite instead of left-of-centre when it comes to the economy and social issues. In addition to this week's shameful support for Bill C-51, Trudeau and has announced his party's support for more privatization of infrastructure and social services, more money for the police state and security services, tax cuts instead of investments to fund child care, and support for oil pipelines.

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Liberal announcements miss the mark

Federal Liberals are clearly aiming for Conservative-lite instead of left-of-centre when it comes to the economy and social issues. In addition to this week’s shameful support for Bill C-51, Trudeau and has announced his party’s support for more privatization of infrastructure and social services, more money for the police state and security services, tax cuts instead of investments to fund child care, and support for oil pipelines. They have given up on addressing climate change at the federal level by delegating responsibility to the provinces.

The Liberals would like people to believe that they support social services, but, in reality, even their child care program is about undermining universally accessible public services. By replacing some of the Conservative’s favourite tax brakes (like the increase to the Tax-Free Savings Account) with their own tax breaks (like increasing the child benefit to help pay for child care), the Liberals will increase for-profit and unregulated child care services by “letting the market decide” which child care centres get money and if there are enough spaces.

Everyone should have to access to the highest quality of public services, and the government’s role should be more than simply redistributing taxes through rebates. But this universality is something the Liberals have rejected time and again. For some reason, they cannot comprehend that, in addition to the the unemployed and very poor, even people making ends meet should have access to these services (which they help pay for through taxes).

More: A Liberal tax plan starts to take shape

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=5f92227bf5&e=8484a6ba75][Universal and Public: A union’s role is to fight for expanded public services, not to replace them.]]


Canada’s food security at risk thanks to trade deal

The Conservatives hate supply management systems which they think stink too much of socialism. Of course, in Canada, successful supply management has been a hallmark of our grain, eggs, milk and poultry system. Now, with the destruction on the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservatives have successfully driven a wedge between large commercial farming operations and small-to-medium sized farms. This wedge continues to be used to undermine more progressive voices, like those of the National Farmers Union.

Supply management in Canada is part of Canada’s food security system, protecting Canadian farmers from international trade shifts and providing a predictable and sustainable income for farmers by balancing production to meet demand. The current Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations have allowed the US to target Canada’s supply management system so international dairy and poultry companies can easily access and exploit Canada’s market. If the Conservatives have their way, one of Canada’s most important systems for supporting sustainable farming infrastructure will be eliminated.

More: NFU presentation on supply management and the right to food

More: Trans-Pacific Partnership: 7 questions and answers

Alberta NDP rolls to majority with strong, progressive mandate

The election of the NDP in Alberta represents a significant moment in Canadian politics and its impacts could be felt across the country. The NDP had a strong showing as Albertans on the right split their vote between the increasingly stodgy and corrupt Progressive Conservatives and the often irrational Wildrose Party. With voters making it clear they will not be taken for granted, giving the NDP a solid majority so they don’t have to form a coalition, the party now has both the opportunity and strong mandate to re-focus the government’s spending. The platform with which the party won so convincingly? Tax increases for the rich, a two-percent increase in corporate income taxes, and a review of the energy royalties the province demands from resource extraction companies.

The royalties issue is not something to be taken lightly, given the state of their budget and a recent report showing \$13 billion of royalties over the last five year was not collected. It seems the Conservatives might have even known about the accounting lapse and ignored it to help justify further austerity.

What’s clear is that progressive parties don’t need to rush to the middle to win votes. Sometimes all it takes is a solid platform and a strong leader who can actually inspire people to vote for what they want, giving the party a mandate to make it happen.

More: Royalty Miscalculation Cost Alberta Billions, Expert Says

Privatization of road services means more accidents

It’s true, privatization can kill you. Another report from the Ontario Auditor General has found that the privatization of road/highway services in the province has meant an increase in accidents and loss of life. Next time someone tries to tell you that privatization is cheaper, ask them how many lives that cent and a half off their taxes is worth.

More: Ontario’s winter roads ’less safe’ since privatization: auditor

Teachers frustrated with Ontario government

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is increasing the pressure on government and school boards to take bargaining seriously. Teachers have been without a contract since 2014 and have not bargained since 2012, when the Ontario Liberal government took away many of their rights.

It seems there have been regular labour disruptions among educators during the Liberal’s twelve-year reign. This has been the result of the government refusing to show respect for unions at the bargaining table. The OSSTF is calling on the government to simply negotiate in good faith so they can reach a suitable agreement that will help resolve at least some of the issues plaguing Ontario’s education system.

More: Information on the current OSSTF labour action

BC teachers lose provincial appeal on right to strike

This week, the BC appeals court ruled that the anti-union law the provincial Liberal government enacted is constitutional. The law eliminated a cap on class sizes and significantly undermined the rights of teachers to strike. Variations of this kind of legislation have been passed by Liberal governments from coast to coast, most recently in Nova Scotia.

The teachers are likely to take their case to the Supreme Court since recent rulings at that level have tended to be pro-worker. While it is important to continue building constitutional protections for workers’ rights (to form unions, negotiate contracts, and strike), this must be accompanied by mass mobilization on the ground to show that teachers are ready and willing to exercise their rights, whether the government recognizes them or not.

More: What the Court Said, and What It Means for BC Schools


UK elections will mean five more years of austerity, massive cuts to National Health Service

With the Conservatives winning the UK elections and the Scottish National Party taking all but one of Labour’s seats across Scotland, the British Labour Party has some soul searching to do. Ed Milliband’s election-night resignation (one of many) will mean a fight for the leadership of the party.

Labour faced many challenges during the campaign, but the perception that Milliband was from the far-left of the party has given more organizing space for those in labour who supported Tony Blair and his pro-war, pseudo-right-wing politics. The coming months will see Blair-ite Chuka Umunna taking aim at Andy Burnham who has the support of Labour unions. Burnham is more interested in focusing on inequality and workers’ issues than propping-up capitalism.

There is nothing like a Conservative majority to put the fear into students and pubic sector workers – often the first to feel the cuts. Within thirty-six hours of the election results being reported, thousands took to the streets to demonstrate their displeasure.

More: A bleary day for Labour

Greece considers its options

Syriza’s two wings (left and really left) are fighting over whether to leave the EU or attempt to deal with increasingly hostile international creditors. After undoing most of the previous government’s austerity program and rehiring almost all the public service workers that had been laid off, the ever (too?) pragmatic Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will likely seek a mandate from the people by holding a plebiscite on the direction the government should take. The really left (hard-liners and Marxists) are leaning towards default as the answer, with many conceding that they underestimated how unreasonable international creditors (like the IMF and EU) would be. We’ll know more later this week when the decision is made about whether Greece will pay their next debt installment (of one billion dollars).

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=fbeb84a893&e=8484a6ba75][Greece’s plight at odds with public’s lack of concern as default deferred – for now]]

More: Cruising toward a happy end

Bernie Sanders for President!

Bernie Sanders, the independent and openly socialist senator from Vermont, has announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for President of the USA. Sanders has held almost every position in elected politics, from councillor to mayor to house representative and senator. He takes the refreshing position that you can run and win on an openly democratic socialist (old-style social democrat) platform.

Over 70 years old and a well-known socialist, Sanders has had a long history of supporting strong, progressive political positions before they became popular enough to be embraced by more traditional (centrist) Democrats. These included issues like same sex marriage, universal health care, government surveillance, environmental policies, income inequality, higher minimum wages, higher taxes on the wealthy, strong unions, and state welfare programs.

Sanders has made it clear that, after spending forty years in politics with the same steadfast socialist program, he intends to run for the top office on the same platform.

More: A political revolution is coming