What's Left: 2015-04-05 Volume 7

by Editors (What's Left) last modified 2015-04-06T18:29:11-04:00
The Toronto Community Housing Corporation has released a report showing the comprehensive social policy case for government-funded community housing. The TCHC is a public company that houses 60,000 families, many of whom are youth and/or live in poverty.

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The economic case for community housing and child care

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation has released a report showing the comprehensive social policy case for government-funded community housing. The TCHC is a public company that houses 60,000 families, many of whom are youth and/or live in poverty.

The interim head of the TCHC stated to a business community that unless $2.6 billion is invested in community housing over the next 10 years, 7,500 affordable homes will disappear over the next 8 years. In fact, the current availability of affordable community housing falls substantially short of what is needed, and even more money should be invested to properly meet the needs of the city's people.

TCHC makes the argument simple, $7.5 Billion ($4.9 billion of which is currently found through public and private sources) will yield a $18.5 billion increase in GDP, an extra 14,000 jobs per year, 220,000 fewer emergency room visits, a 15% reduction in crime, $4.5 billion in new tax revenue, and prevent an additional $3.8 billion in health-care costs. This, of course, is on top of our social obligation not to evict poor working people into the streets.

Along the same logic, this week saw the Parliamentary Budget Office release the “How Much Does the Federal Government Spend on Child Care and Who Benefits” report. It shows that more than half of the families that receive the current benefit do not actually have any child care expenses (because their kids are over 13 years old).

The analysis from this report is clear, it is far more effective, less expensive and less complicated for the federal government to provide a public child care system to everyone who needs it than to try to re-jig the tax system.

More: Interim CEO presents findings of Economic Impact Study to Toronto Region Board of Trade

More: Toronto Community Housing needs $7.5B in repairs over 30 years

More: Parliamentary Budget Officer's report exposes dramatic flaws in Harper child care policy

Iran nuclear deal a step forward, but traditional arms race on both sides still a threat

The population of Iran has welcomed the comprehensive agreement on its nuclear programme. Where opposition to the agreement exists, it is based on the misguided (but often promoted) belief that Iran has ambitions of attaining nuclear weapon capabilities. The reality is that Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 that bans the development of nuclear arms and has not yet to demonstrate any lack of commitment.

This new agreement makes Iran's intentions clear by turning the country's most advanced uranium enrichment facility, Fordow, into a demonstration and research site -- ceasing its current enrichment operations. Fordow's uranium enrichment used for power generation will be taken up by a less developed nuclear facility in Natanz.

Middle Eastern responses to the agreement have been predictable, with governmental and non-governmental allies welcoming the deal and Iran's foes, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, sounding various degrees of alarm. These US-allied states have begun preparing for more military operations in the region and it is certain that the conventional arms race will pick up steam.

While the Lausanne talks are a diplomatic triumph, the peace is tenuous. The agreement will only be sustained if there is an continued and equal commitment to diplomacy from Riyadh, Doha, and the other influential countries in the region.

More: A Promising Iran Agreement

CANADA

Canadian public health care system at risk

On March 31, workers and communities rallied against the collapse of Canada's public health-care system. The Conservatives will not be renewing the current health accord and, instead, are planning to cut $36 billion and allow for the introduction of private health-care providers at the provincial level.

In addition to this, the Tories continue in their mission to prevent the creation of safe-injection sites, even when communities support them. As Julie Devaney points out, the government is counting on “prejudice and fear-mongering trump[ing] evidence and compassion.”

More: Raise the Alarm on March 31: Day of Action for a new Health Accord

More: CUPE Holds Day of Action on the Health Accord

More: Julie Devaney: This is your prime minister on drugs

Migrant workers fight for fair treatment

In continued efforts to get fair treatment, migrant workers and fellow travelers across the country have been campaigning to stop the mass deportation of temporary foreign workers. These are the workers who have been on the receiving end of the worst labour protections legally allowed. Harper's Conservatives seem content to do nothing.

More: Campaign Against 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers

More: Resources for Workers

Take Action

Report: Still working on the edge

The Ontario government has launched a review of the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act, during which it will undertake “consultations on the changing nature of modern workplaces”. Members of the Toronto-based Workers' Action Centre have spent the past year identifying key problems workers face in the labour market and developing priorities for change. Their new report, Still Working on the Edge, brings workers' voices, experiences and recommendations to this conversation, contributing knowledge that will be essential to updating Ontario's labour legislation from the ground up.

For further inspiration, in New York City the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung has released a report outlining stories of new organizing techniques that address precarity and low wages.

Follow: @WorkersAC

Follow: #time4decentwork

More: New Report Released: Still working on the edge

More: Raise the floor, overhaul Ontario's ESA

More: Roll Back Low Wages: Nine Stories of New Labor Organizing in the United States

Federal Budget set for April 21

After a long winter and plenty of delays in announcing the Federal Budget, Finance Minister Joe Oliver will present it on April 21. Regular and wild fluctuations in our capitalist economy aside, the Conservatives are blaming oil prices for making it difficult to get “accurate numbers” for their number crunching. Maybe if the Tories hadn't made such significant cuts to public data collection agencies like Statistics Canada, they might not have been left scrambling to figure out what should be done next. Of course, without educated statistical analysis, the government can make ideological decisions without having to worry about whether their decisions are supported by facts.

More: Why Canada's economy is headed off the cliff

Zombie anti-union bill rising from the grave

The word is out that the infamous anti-union Bill C-377 will be back before the Senate. Introduced by the Conservative Party's back bench, this bill forces unions to publicize detailed internal financial information while doing nothing to make employers more accountable or transparent. Although the Bill's main focus is unions, other progressive groups who benefit from labour's support, directly or indirectly, should be concerned about the impact this bill will have.

This federal initiative continues despite the fact that Alberta's courts have just struck down a provincial anti-union law. Conservatives at all levels seem content with the strategy of passing overreaching legislation and allowing it to do as much damage as possible before being overturned by the judiciary. Not only is this irresponsible and incredibly harmful to the Canadian social fabric, it forces those on the left to expend significant resources to get the laws overturned.

More: All you need to know about C-377

More: Alberta court strikes down labour laws that take away right to strike

Anti-austerity movement vibrant in Québec

Thousands took to the streets of Québec again this week in popular efforts to counter the Liberal government's austerity budget. The student component is going to assess its strike strategy this weekend, with members voting on a proposal to potentially putting the strike on hold until the fall. The end of the school year and the interest in building a broader movement -- including workers and their unions -- is likely to heavily inform the members' decision-making.

More: Fighting austerity in Quebec is tied to systems of colonialism

Students take to the streets in Ontario tuition fee battle

Meanwhile in Ontario, the Canadian Federation of Students--Ontario engaged in a series of street actions, protesting against a decade of tuition fee increases. While taking action in the streets, students are also taking action in the legislature. CFS--Ontario met with MPP Peggy Sattler, the NDP critic for Training, Colleges and Universities, stating their support for her bill that would prohibit universities from giving outrageous pay increases and pay-outs to senior administrators while cutting funding to important programs.

On a related note, Salon.com has written about the CIA's take-over of the US student movement during the Vietnam war. While a unified left-wing student movement is a powerful force that can push back against those who seek to do it harm from the outside, history shows that clandestine, state-backed division within the movement can also be equally effective at undermining these democratic grass-roots campaigns.

Gallery: 2015 Student Action against a decade of Tuition Fee Increases

Watch: Press conference

More: “I couldn't help but be surprised”: These Vietnam-era dirty tricks will shock you

Win for academic workers at York University

Congratulations are in order for the CUPE 3903 team who brought the latest strike to a close and achieved a collective agreement to be proud of. The fact that tuition fees of non-union members are also regulated by the collective agreement is historic. Now, it is time for the TAs at McGill University to pick up the mantle of negotiating an agreement that benefits all students.

More: York University strike ends as CUPE 3903 members ratify three-year collective agreement

More: AGSEM strike vote general assembly, April 7

The struggles of being Black at U of T

Activists at the University of Toronto have put together a podcast that highlights testimonies collected at an event called “Being Black at UofT”. The result is a powerful spoken collection of stories and experiences from the Black student community at U of T.

Listen: Boundless Whiteness Bounded Blackness

TD Bank puts profits ahead of public interest (as usual)

While the “progressives” at the recent Broadbent Institute Summit in Ottawa invited TD Bank economists to tell them what they already knew about income inequality, TD Economics continues its assault on the very public services that limit inequality. After the Ontario Auditor General wrote yet another devastating critique of privatization through “Public-Private Partnership” schemes, TD Economics released a cringe-worthy propaganda piece on the Auditor's credibility. Contrary to TDs assertions, the Auditor General is smart enough to understand the complexities of private sector fleecing the public through P3s. It's clear that TD has little interest in the welfare of the public, only in the welfare of its own profits.

More: Catherine Fife: Countering P3 propaganda

ELSEWHERE

Equality and corporate opportunism in US debate over rights

You may have heard of some pretty scary laws being passed in Arkansas and Indiana. The good news is that the broad coalition pushing back against these regressive and hateful laws have won a minor victory. Both republican state legislators have been forced to amend the laws which would have legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

In fact, resistance across the US was so strong that in left-leaning states, groups, primarily led by youth, were able to push their governors to actively oppose the legislation. Even corporate executives from monopoly US corporations like Apple and Walmart came out against the legislation as being bad for business.

While the liberal corporate media heaped praise on corporate heads from Apple to General Electric to Walmart for speaking out against the hateful laws, they conveniently forgot recent historical facts. Many of these republican state administrations are only in power because these corporations continue to support Republican and right-wing Democrats who push a pro-corporate agenda along with their socially conservative “anti-everyone not like you” populism. Let's not forget that when corporate elites take a public stand on these polarizing issues it also provides a lot of great PR for their companies who are targeting a younger generation.

More: Companies are preaching to a new consumer audience: gay rights-conscious youth (registration wall)

More: Arkansas, Indiana enact fixes to measures seen as targeting gays

Women lead the fight in UK leaders' debate

The rise of the left in the UK was on full display during the UK party leaders' debate. While Labour's Ed Miliband clearly topped Conservative PM Cameron, it was the female leaders of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Welsh Nationalist Plaid Cymru (PC) who took the spotlight and focused it on the critical damage caused by austerity politics.

SNP's Nicola Sturgeon and PC's Leanne Wood hammered on their male counterparts with such a refreshing and distinctive style that their support has grown in parts of the UK where they don't have any candidates (they are nationalist parties after all). All told, a good display for the left in the only debate allowed by the Tories.

More: Who won the leaders' debate? The Guardian columnists' verdict

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