What's Left 2015-06-21 Volume 17

A new study by the Parkland Institute details the devastation to Alberta's social services sector following decades of experimentation by the provincial Tories. The main goal of many of these initiatives was to cut government spending on social welfare and offload provision to anyone willing to take them on – for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.

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New approach is possible and needed for social policy in Alberta

A new study by the Parkland Institute details the devastation to Alberta’s social services sector following decades of experimentation by the provincial Tories. The main goal of many of these initiatives was to cut government spending on social welfare and offload provision to anyone willing to take them on – for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.

The report suggests that the Ministry of Alberta Human Services should move away from these policies and, instead, embrace policies focused on the social welfare of those who need it most. In addition to funding, developing an appropriate relationship with Alberta’s vast not-for-profit sector will lead to increased efficiency in the delivery of services.

While there is a role for the not-for-profit sector in this new framework, it should only be to compliment that invaluable and irreplaceable work of a well-paid, well-trained, reliable and professional public sector.

Unfortunately, Alberta is not alone in promoting the offloading and privatization of public services. The Federal and Manitoba Conservatives along with the Ontario and BC Liberals have sought to financialize social services delivery with so called Social Enterprise and Social Impact Investing schemes. These privatization programs insert layers of banks and consultants between government ministries, service providers, and the public while driving-up costs and undermining public oversight and control.

These “social finance” initiatives encourage profiting from the most vulnerable and funding programmes with debt-financing instead of statutory tax-funding.

A special contribution by Barret Weber of the Parkland Institute.

Infographic: Public Services vs Social Impact Bonds

More: Neoliberalism and the Non-Profit Social Services Sector in Alberta

More: Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance: Is Alberta Cursed?

More: The Rise and Fall of Alberta’s Welfare State

More: Ralph Klein’s Legacy

Charleston shooting devastates

The Director of the FBI has stated that the Charleston shooting is not terrorism because it was not trying “to influence a public body or citizenry”, quoting from the agency’s definition of terrorism. It should be obvious that this is, at best, public relations nonsense. It was a racist, violent, hateful, and political expression of hate aimed at denying rights and freedoms from black Americans. The inhumanity of these murders is only exacerbated by the acquiescence to racism by authorities, the media, and much of society. categories: [“What’s Left”]

Racism remains prevalent – within government, within law enforcement, within business, within the school system. Violent mass acts of racism are, and will always be, political statements that “influences public bodies and citizenry”. To say anything different amounts to tacit endorsement of the racist status quo.

While actions such as these should result in deep introspection on issues of race and class (for the two are deeply intertwined), a lack of gun regulation in the US is another major piece of this that needs to be seriously confronted. Astute comparisons have been drawn between the security state’s over-reaction to things such as the shoe bomb that resulted in everyone having to remove their shoes at the airport, and the state’s non-reaction to individual and politically motivated mass shootings. The political economy of state reaction to violence must be brought into the debate.

More: 9 killed in South Carolina church shooting

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=089515b7a0&e=8484a6ba75][‘He was my hero’: Charleston mother hails 26-year-old killed shielding victims]]

Follow: #BlackLivesMatter

Commentary: Ashleigh Shackelford


Students win big with Alberta NDP’s education push

It’s safe to say that the Rachel Notley government is off to a great start. This week, the premier canceled a tuition fee increase, froze tuition fees for two years, and increased funding to the province’s post-secondary institutions. Students had not previously been a priority for the Progressive Conservatives or Wildrose Party – both of whom have opposed freezing tuition fees for undergraduate students. The average Alberta undergraduate currently has to pay about \$7,000 a year for school.

With students facing a dismal summer job market this year, especially in Alberta, these changes will be a welcome relief. Hopefully the government will consider reversing legislation preventing student-workers from unionizing.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=b099e80d0d&e=8484a6ba75][Alberta NDP to freeze tuition, roll back market modifiers, boost post-sec funding]]

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=367f81a8ed&e=8484a6ba75][Canadian Federation of Students says students facing dismal summer job market]]

TransPacific Partnership still unknown to most

A poll shows two-thirds of Canadians have never heard of the massive Trans Pacific Partnership.

The Trade Justice Network – a network of social justice organizations, student unions and labour unions fighting for fair trade – has released a new report to help bring attention to these secret negotiations.

According to the CCPA, the TPP is only marginally about trade. A far greater part of the text – thousands of pages in more than 30 chapters – has to do with harmonizing regulations (financial, health and safety standards, etc.), reinforcing intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights), opening up new sectors to privatization and foreign investment (health insurance and education), and putting strict limits on how governments choose to protect the environment and create jobs. In almost every case, participant countries will be required to adopt the preferences of powerful U.S. corporate lobbies.

More: Fact-sheet on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=ac58bdeb92&e=8484a6ba75][75% of Canadians have never heard of major “TPP” trade deal being negotiated in secret]]

Banks to profit from Hydro One sale (no one else)

It should not be a shock to learn that the two biggest profit-makers from Hydro One’s initial public offering (IPO) will be two banks: The Royal Bank of Canada (whose board includes the newly appointed chair of Hydro One, David Denison) and Scotia Bank (whose ex-CEO Allen Hibben had been tasked to find buyers for the largest privatization in Canadian history). The bank charge for destroying the public company has been set at “only” 3% for retail buyers and 1% for institutional investors. This means that the province is paying hundreds of millions of dollars so that it can lose tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue, and so that consumers can pay more for electricity (yes, you read that right). In sum, this Hydro One project is a bad deal for anyone who is not a bank.

More: Scotiabank and RBC to Lead Hydro One’s \$1.8 Billion IPO


IMF voice finally gets with the program, but only in theory

It seems the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had a brief moment of clarity this past week. The main international driver of the destruction of public services finally realized that their policies drive inequality and limit growth. The main conclusion of their report is that their neo-liberal policies have enriched the already wealthy and the benefits have not trickled down to the rest of the population.

This is just one of a myriad of reports released over the last century that show the broadly negative impacts of such policies. But, somehow, the IMF has decided not to review its policies. The fact that none of these reports affect the direction of IMF shows that the project has always been political, imperialist and all about supporting capitalist measures even at the expense of economic growth.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=258a0f4b2e&e=8484a6ba75][‘The Benefits Do Not Trickle Down’: Reaganomics Bad For The Economy, IMF Argues]]

Walmart takes, takes, takes and gives nothing

Walmart has been caught hiding huge amounts of their profits oversees to avoid paying taxes. A report by Americans for Tax Fairness, commissioned by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), shows that Walmart has avoided taxes by not disclosing profits from its subsidiaries outside of the United States – subsidiaries based in Luxembourg where they have no stores and pay next to nothing in taxes. Obscenely, earlier this year Walmart balanced pay for its workers with tax-funded social assistance to “help them” reach minimum levels of subsistence.

More: New UFCW Report Sheds Light on Walmart’s Overseas Tax Havens

Bad news for Uber, good news for workers

As the status of Uber evolves around the world, there has been some surprising and encouraging news in a U.S. court decision. In California, a judge ruled that Uber drivers should be treated as employees under California labour law. This opens up interesting options for Uber drivers, including unionization. It also means that Uber drivers will be afforded the same basic rights and regulations under the law as other workers. Uber will be challenging the ruling, since they know this will undermine their \$50-billion valuation. If they are to have costs similar to regular taxi companies, it will make it harder for them to compete. It’s important to remember that Uber’s business model is based on exploiting both drivers and passengers. This story will continue to develop with more challenges in other states and countries expected, and the possibility of legal decisions that impact contract workers in other industries.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=c09fea43b7&e=8484a6ba75][California Labor Ruling Deals A Blow To Uber’s Strategy For Denying Drivers Benefits]]