Tuesday, September 27, 2016
I'll be offline for the next few days as I go off on a small adventure with a couple of my retired buddies. If the weather cooperates, we will be viewing the night sky up north. If it doesn't, well, I don't know what mischief we'll get up to.
See you soon.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I am far from the somewhat optimistic lad I was 50 years ago, but visiting Word On The Street always reminds me of the idealized world that Star Trek presented: thousands of people milling about, examining, buying and discussing books, a diverse crowd both racially and demographically, citizens engaged and knowledgeable about the world. A hint of Utopia, one I found uplifting in part due to the fact that graybeards like me, although quite sizably represented as we tend to be, were flanked by much younger people for whom knowledge, information and engagement on issues are also very important. it gives me some hope.
We spent three hours at The Star tent, and were fortunate to have arrived early enough for seats, as it turned out to be standing room only. I won't bore you with the details of what was discussed, but I will mention the response I got to a question I asked of Chantal Hebert, Paul Wells and Bruce Campion-Smith (Ottawa bureau chief), who were discussing Trudeau's first year in power. They suggested that with the ousting of Harper, many Canadians feet they can get back to their 'normal' lives for the next four years, given that the polarization and divisiveness of the old regime ended with Harper's ouster. I asked if that is likely to continue, given that issues such as CETA and pipelines will likely prove controversial for the government. The answer that I got is one I am not sure I agree with. The feeling was that few people follow free trade agreements like Ceta, and that pipeline issues are primarily of concern to those living in British Columbia.
I hope they are wrong. Judging by the very large attendance at the greatly expanded Star tent, they may just be.
In any event, I leave you with this letter from today's Star. Clearly, some people are thinking about the issues:
It’s not like we don’t know how trade deals work. And NAFTA is small potatoes compared to CETA and TPP.
While we sit complacently, the Liberals have dispatched Chrystia Freeland to save CETA from wavering European politicians faced with voters actively taking to the streets in displeasure about more compromise on jobs, services, taxes and the environment, all in the name of further enriching the 1 per cent.
Under the guise of global trade have we not lost enough well-paying permanent jobs and seen a decline in important services such as education and health to know we are getting taken to the cleaners, again? Are the unimaginable billions already hidden in tax havens not sufficient for the proponents of one sided trade deals?
Shame on the Liberals who promised change. Shame on Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super Rich and shame on Canadians for not speaking up loud enough to be heard.
Nancy Stevens, Institute of Technical Trades, Toronto
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Heading off to Word on the Street this morning, so I only have enough time to strongly recommend that you read Marie's post at A Puff of Absurdity on protecting our water sources.
It is an issue of vital importance and one that we should all be very, very concerned about.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
I have written previously about the deplorable government 'stewardship' of our natural resources that allows rapacious companies like Nestle to take Ontario's groundwater for literally pennies as it makes obscene profits on bottle water.
Unfortunately, the story keeps getting worse.
Corporate giant Nestlé continued its privatization creep on Thursday as it won approval to take over another Canadian community's water supply, claiming it needed the well to ensure "future business growth."Happily, this is not going unnoticed by the Council of Canadians, which has proposed a boycott of the company, one that I encourage everyone to sign. Part of the boycott reads,
Nestlé purchased the well near Elora, Ontario from Middlebrook Water Company last month after making a conditional offer in 2015, the Canadian Press reports.
In August, the Township of Centre Wellington made an offer to purchase the Middlebrook well site to protect access to the water for the community. Consequently, the multinational—which claimed it had no idea the community was its competitor—waived all its conditions and matched the township's offer in order to snag the well for itself.
"Groundwater resources will not be sufficient for our future needs due to drought, climate change, and over-extraction. Wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is madness. We must not allow groundwater reserves to be depleted for corporate profit."For her part the extraordinarily unpopular Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has often acted as if she is surprised by Nestle's pillaging, is now sounding a cautious note.
“As we look at the water bottling industry, that has to be a question because we’re talking about what we could argue is our most precious resource,” she said.Hardly a stinging rebuke.
“There is much pressure on our water, so as we have this discussion about our water, the status of and the treatment of water bottling companies, that needs to be taken into consideration.”
For its part, Nestle has this to say:
Nestle, which has 2,500 employees in Ontario, has said it is prepared to pay more if rates were increased, but only if all companies with water-taking permits face the higher fees.The fact that this multinational company feels free to stipulate conditions on government decisions tells you all you need to know about who is really running the show, doesn't it?
Friday, September 23, 2016
The news is alarming, the statistics incredible, the implications dire. A convergence of factors, not the least of which is climate change, is causing rapid ice-sheet melting in Greenland. It is estimated to be losing 40 trillion pounds more ice per year than had been previously thought.
We will soon be drowning in our excesses.
We will soon be drowning in our excesses.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
A recent post I wrote contrasted the apparent indifference/ignorance of Canadians toward CETA with the furious involvement of the Europeans, most recently the Germans, in open protest against the deal. It is a pact that will see even greater erosion of our ability to enact strong legislation to protect labour, the environment and a host of other realms thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that protect multinationals at the expense of citizens. It will further undermine our increasingly fragile sovereign rights.
And sadly, it is a deal the the Trudeau Liberals are avidly embracing.
Scott Sincleair and Stuart Trew write a trenchant reminder of CETA's dangers:
Much more than a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document that will restrict public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights, government procurement, food safety and environmental protection, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, and public services.My previous post noted the weak language governing some of the above, including platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.
All part and parcel of what Liberal International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland calls "a gold-plated trade deal."
As Sincleair and Trew observe,
While CETA’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.The devolution of our sovereignty began long before CETA, however.
Canada’s experience with investor-state arbitration under NAFTA is pitiful. We are the most-sued NAFTA party despite our highly developed legal system and strong protections for private property. Many of these challenges involve environmental protection policies that were legally enacted, but which upset an investor’s plans or profits.The pending deal promises more of the same, a source of puzzlement to European progressives:
Just last year, Canada lost a disturbing NAFTA dispute over an environmental assessment that recommended against a massive quarry in an ecologically sensitive part of Nova Scotia. Canada currently faces a raft of claims as a result of progressive policies, such as banning natural gas fracking in the province of Quebec.
European labour unions, environmentalists and human rights advocates question why Canada and the EU would want to expand this anti-democratic process through CETA. Despite being rebranded as an “investment court system” with pretenses to judicial independence, the substantive protections afforded to foreign investors remain largely intact. This will expose taxpayers in both Canada and the EU to huge financial liabilities and have a chilling effect on future progressive public policy.All the warning signs are there. Whether the vast majority of Canadians can rouse themselves enough to care is an open question.
European progressives are also asking important questions about the interplay between CETA and public services. CETA contains no clear protections for governments hoping to expand public services into areas where there is currently private sector competition, or to bring previously privatized services back under public control. Doing so can actually trigger foreign investor claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatization.