What's Left 2015-05-18 Volume 12

| May 20, 2015


Keeping climate change on the agenda between heat waves, droughts and ice storms might seem difficult as other current economic-system related tragedies take centre stage. However, we should not leave out climate change and its connection to capitalism when talking about privatizations of infrastructure and the undermining of democratic oversight and control of utilities.


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“FEATURE”

Stopping privatization is fighting climate change

Keeping climate change on the agenda between heat waves, droughts and ice storms might seem difficult as other current economic-system related tragedies take centre stage. However, we should not leave out climate change and its connection to capitalism when talking about privatizations of infrastructure and the undermining of democratic oversight and control of utilities.

Sure, capitalism and rich people investing in carbon-intensive companies are annoying, but more importantly it is the private ownership of energy production that is the real barrier to dealing with climate change.

Positive examples of what can be done through public ownership of energy are popping up all over the world. China just reduced its yearly emissions as much as all the UK emissions simply by deciding to switch its mix of generation sources. It still has a long way to go, but China was able to do this simply because state regulation and control in the sector is still dominant. Unfortunately, as electricity reform in China continues, the increase in private ownership will make the shift to greener generation more difficult.

Alternatively, looking at the expansion of public ownership of electricity utilities in South America and remunicpalization in Europe are examples for anti-privatization campaigners to emulate. For example, the end of contracts in Ontario’s few private local distribution companies are coming up in 2018. Perhaps it is time to go on the offensive and call for remunicipalization of these utilities and reform the failing electricity market in Alberta and Ontario.

More: Remunicipalization Tracker

“CANADA”

Learning more about Alberta: Analysis from Canadaland and Melanee Thomas

So, what did happen in Alberta? For your listening pleasure, analysis from the new Canadaland podcast with resident political science professor Melanee Thomas and Newfoundland expat Drew Brown on all things Alberta, and particularly on the recent NDP victory.

More: What Happened in Alberta?

Public watchdogs bark up government’s tree on Hydro One sale

In an unprecedented move this week, Ontario’s independent government integrity and oversight officers lambasted the government for removing public oversight from Hydro One—the province’s public transmission company. Their basic analysis: it is not in the public interest to remove Hydro One from independent public scrutiny and oversight.

With the vast majority of Ontarians opposed to the sale and an expanding public campaign to demand consultations on the policy, which the Liberals did not campaign on, one has to wonder why the Liberal MPs would tie their boat to this Titanic failure of public policy.

If ever there is a list of people you do not want to be on the wrong side of when in government, here it is: information and privacy commissioner Brian Beamish, financial accountability officer Stephen LeClair, integrity commissioner Lynn Morrison, retiring environmental commissioner Gord Miller, French language services commissioner François Boileau and provincial advocate for children and youth Irwin Ellman.

It is otherwise known as a list of the most trusted people overseeing government.

More: Ontario watchdogs slam Wynne’s Hydro One sale

Action: Keep Hydro Public Poster

Action: Keep Hydro Public Flyer

Diamonds are forever…lining the profits of mining companies

At a time when the public discourse and government agendas are painfully unable to move beyond austerity, it is a surprise that some stories don’t have more legs. In an article this week it was exposed that the diamond industry appears to be shamelessly fleecing Ontarians through paying near-zero royalties for their northern mining operations. How much of a left policy agenda including an investment in public services could easily be paid for if the mining companies were actually paying a fair share?

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=f048c03c06&e=8484a6ba75][Ontarians get only 75c for every million dollars De Beers makes mining diamonds in Ontario]]

Public voice denied on anti-union Bill C-377

This week saw Conservative Senators deny hundreds of public requests to appear before the committee and speak to why the anti-union Bill C-377 should be voted down (again?). If ever there was an indication that the very existence of the Senate in its current form is an affront to democracy, look no farther.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=8137f3a481&e=8484a6ba75][Conservative Senators deny hundreds of public requests to speak on anti-union bill]]

“ELSEWHERE”

On loss of life and public infrastructure: the Amtrak disaster

After the deadly crash of the (publicly owned and managed) Amtrak train in the US, it was raised that it likely could have been avoided if the signaling system had not been so old. Questions about aging infrastructure and why it is not being upgraded have surfaced.

The reality is that western capitalist countries were modernized through massive pubic works programs after both world wars and then again in the 1970s before massive neoliberal privatizations and tax cuts. Unfortunately, the resulting privatized and shrunken government financing capacity meant that the state lost its ability to pay for upgrades as that money went into private profit.

The question is how many people are going to have to die from public infrastructure underfunding and privatization until we demand and end to the rip-off? Only the public sector has the ability to mobilize enough to fix the issue and this can only be done through recouping the revenue lost to the private sector.

More: In Washington, Amtrak’s funding has long been under threat

Glen Greenwald and the right to free speech

Glen Greenwald, the journalist that made the Snowden leaks possible, has responded to the election of the anti-free speech Conservatives in the UK with a call for action. A new bill dubbed the Snooper’s Charter that mimics legislation being passed across the west and Australia has him and other journalists worried.

While external threats like terrorism are always used by under-performing governments to expand state powers of surveillance and detention, these new laws are untenable. According to recent analysis of this legislation, written content considered by the state as “extremist” would be banned from being aired, and include a “requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print.” That does not really sound like free speech.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=946b04c2e4&e=8484a6ba75][Greatest Threat to Free Speech Comes Not From Terrorism, But From Those Claiming to Fight It]]

Strikes are brewing in newly Conservative UK

In a lesson for capitalists that think a Conservative majority in the UK is good for business, unions are going to remind them that it actually means more industrial action.

This month will see what could be the largest strike in recent UK history. The RMT union has an overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action against Network Rail. Its 16,000 members who run most of Britain’s railway infrastructure will engage in a full day walk-out starting end-of-day on May 25. The walk-out is over pay, work conditions and the much needed investment in rail infrastructure to ensure tragedies like this week’s Amtrak derailment are avoided. As always, the best way to support the workers is to call for renationalization of rail.

More: Network Rail Strike Action Updates

Today’s struggles build strength from the past

With the constant talk of a future with a loosened US blockade and more open trade with Cuba and the world, Fidel Castro has written an article remembering the sacrifice of millions of communist soldiers during the second world war for the right to believe that a better future is possible. He writes:

“/Physical and mental health, and the spirit of solidarity are norms which must prevail, or the future of humankind, as we know it, will be lost forever. The 27 million Soviets who died in the Great Patriotic War also did so for humanity and the right to think and be socialists, to be Marxist-Leninists, communists, and leave the dark ages behind./”

More: Our Right to Be Marxist-Leninists | Fidel Castro Ruz

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