Articles

  • Adrienne’s Tour

    Anti-poverty demonstrators jeered Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in September as she made a well-guarded, carefully scripted promenade through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. According to a spokesperson for the Anti-Poverty Coalition, the group offered Her Excellency a guided tour of Canada’s poorest urban neighbourhood, but she chose instead the “sanitized” version offered by Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell.

  • Community Development in Winnipeg’s Inner City

    If you look hard enough in the midst of Winnipeg’s sprawling and decaying inner city, you will see scattered islands of remarkable creativity and collective action: innovative community development (CD) initiatives battling the seemingly relentless spread of urban poverty. Most Winnipeggers are oblivious to this struggle: they choose not to know about it – or to care.

  • Health Care on the Mend?

    Following hard negotiations at the government conference centre in Ottawa in September, representatives of the federal and provincial governments hammered out a new deal for health care. This new deal promises $18 billion in its first six years and $41 billion over ten, promising to create more homecare, shorter treatment waiting times and a national drug strategy. An additional feature of the accord is an escalator clause, which is due to take effect in 2006-07. This escalator clause aims to boost transfer payments to the provinces by six per cent annually to keep pace with the increasing costs of health care.

  • Cities and Strategies for Progressive Politics

    Today over 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities. Toronto, Montréal, greater Vancouver and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor are huge concentrations of people and economic activity. Nearly all of the 300,000 new Canadians who arrive every year choose to live in these regions, dramatically changing the demographics and diversity of our urban centres. Yet Canada’s constitution, set in 1867, gives no role or power to cities, keeping them instead as chattels of provincial governments. While it may seem that the “cities agenda” is about accessing the finances to maintain a full range of services under public control, it is actually about staking out the ground for the kind of society we want. In order to do that, we need to be able to connect with far more people than the Left has done in many years. This stark fact helps to explain why the labour movement must be at the centre of a “new urban politics.”

  • Bush’s Victory and Canada’s Choice

    The re-election of George Bush at least clarifies things. Within the strict confines of what passes for democracy in the United States today, the American electorate has affirmed the rogue imperialist policies of Bush and rejected the more traditional imperialism advocated by Kerry. This outcome reflects profound changes not only in the nature of America’s politics, but in its whole economic and social order. As such, it holds grave implications for Canada and the rest of the world. Within the United States, Bush’s re-election represents the consolidation of a right-wing plutocracy backed by the soldiers of God over American politics and society. Grave damage, or even the outright end of the corrupt American political democracy, can be expected. Regressive social and economic policies, including the gutting of the Social Security System, are likely.

  • The Cost of Forgetting

    Even this close to downtown, the buildings are small. This landscape is from a time when bustling city centres were not synonymous with glass towers, live-work studios and lifestyle marketing. Tonight I am surrounded by wood-shingled houses and brick or concrete four-story apartments glowing under the rain and street lights. I am walking through Canada’s “worst” neighbourhood, our poorest postal code, North America’s largest open drug market, on my way to the theatre.

  • “Utopia on the Pacific”?

    November, 2002: Jammed into the downtown library, 2,000 activists roared as the results of Vancouver’s civic election were announced. For the first time since its formation in 1968, the labour/Left-backed Coalition of Progressive Electors swept the race, electing the mayor (Larry Campbell), eight of ten city councillors, seven of nine school trustees, and five of seven Parks Board commissioners. Visions of “Utopia on the Pacific” danced in the minds of campaign workers.

  • Glen Murray’s Failed New Deal

    When he was president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Jack Layton called for cities to be recognized constitutionally so as to be independent of the provinces and to be able to create their own forms of taxation. The Federation backed his argument that cities could not continue to finance themselves through property taxes alone. The media and federal governments chose to ignore the issue until Winnipeg’s then-mayor, Glen Murray, picked up on the idea and made it a national issue to the point that a cities agenda has become a declared top priority of Paul Martin’s new Liberal government.

  • The Resistible Rise of the Creative Class

    “The Creative City” should immediately strike one as an odd phrase, one that we could very well do without. Because it has become such a buzz word since the publication of American consultant Richard Florida’s urban economic policy manual The Rise of the Creative Class, however, not everyone may feel this way. Indeed, we forget too easily in the company of our “bohemian” neighbours that cities have been creative places for much of human history, and especially so after the rise of capitalism; and that creativity itself is a fundamental feature of human nature, at least according to Karl Marx’s view on the matter.

  • Fanning the Flames

    “Hey, where’s the Russian flag?”

    Windsor’s Labour Day march, 1957, and I was three years old. Marchers carried flags of Canada, England, the United States. I rambunctiously blurted out the question above as my parents tried to hush me up. I had no idea there was a Cold War. In my child’s mind, Russia helped win the war against the bad Nazis. “We were Russian! Weren’t we the good guys, too? Wasn’t the flag with the hammer and sickle a good flag?”

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