Articles

  • Leaders and Members at Odds on CLC

    There is a tendency within Canadian labour to ignore the split occurring in the AFL-CIO. This is a mistake. In the United States the leadership of the largest unions have initiated a debate about the structure of the movement and the role of the AFL-CIO. The three largest unions have left the AFL-CIO and more may join them. In contrast, the leaderships of most Canadian unions appear completely satisfied with the laissez-faire approach of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) towards organizing and bargaining. But the election results in the CLC convention, where challenger Carol Wall received a whopping 37 per cent, indicates many activists feel otherwise. In fact, the debate in Canada is alive and well whether the leadership likes it or not.

  • Canada Needs a Real Public Health Care System

    Many people like to think of Canada’s health care system as an example of “socialist” medicine. In reality, however, this label does not accurately reflect the true nature of the system.

    Of course, it is certainly true that aspects of Canada’s health care system are publicly owned and/or publicly regulated. The public or social character of the health care system is most clearly seen in the principles of universality and distribution according to need (rather than according to wealth or social status). Not surprisingly, the principles of universality and needs-based distribution enjoy the broadest support amongst the Canadian people. They are what Canadians have indicated they are determined to fight to preserve.

  • America’s Other War

    Throughout the Cold War, Colombia was one of the largest recipients of U.S. counter-insurgency military aid and training. Counter-insurgency–CI for short–was designed to reorient recipient militaries away from a posture of external defence, toward one of “internal defence” against allegedly Soviet-aligned guerrillas. States that received U.S. CI military aid were told to police their own populations to make sure that “subversion” did not grow. Interestingly, when we examine the manuals used by U.S. military trainers to find out what they mean by subversion, we find some interesting clues as to why so many civilians died at the hands of Latin American “internal security states.”

  • Demanding More Than Democracy

    Over a million people filled the streets along the historic route of Mexican social protest on May Day–marching from the Angel of Independence to the Zocalo, and then filling the enormous square at the city’s centre. This was the largest demonstration in the city’s history, a great peaceful outpouring crying out, not just for formal democracy at the ballot box, but for more. The multitude demanded true choice in the country’s coming national elections, but they wanted more than that, too. People took to the streets to demand a basic change in their country’s direction.

  • Whatever Happened to Lula?

    The election of Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva raised great expectations on the centre-left. For most, his election heralded a new progressive epoch, which, while not revolutionary, defined the “end of neoliberalism.” Noted progressive religious figures like Leonardo Boff announced imminent “change,” which would challenge U.S. hegemony and lead to great popular participation. These hopes have not been realized.

    The rightward turn of the da Silva regime has spurred a range of explanations. In the first few months of his regime, da Silva loyalists argued that the orthodox neoliberal policies were “tactical moves” to stabilize the economy before turning to social reform. As da Silva’s policies, appointment alliances and legislation all converged into a logically coherent, orthodox neoliberal strategy, however, this explanation has gradually lost credibility. Among radical sectors of the Left, it has been replaced by a much more convincing, multi-causal explanation.

  • Northern Temperatures Rising

    You’ve probably heard the old joke about Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory: it’s not the end of the world, but if you look hard enough, you can see it from here. These days, the joke isn’t quite so funny anymore. Climate change has arrived in the Yukon. And although climate change doesn’t actually herald imminent global disaster, it does have dark implications for existing Yukon ecosystems.

    The Yukon is one of the planet’s climate-change hot spots, a fact that has attracted considerable interest in the academic research community. At the same time, the Yukon government is working hard to attract the interest of the oil-and-gas industry. Both exploration and research are touted by government as sources of economic diversity and job creation. The government argument is that work for Yukoners will be created by establishing an oil-and-gas sector. Perversely, too, the Yukon will create academic and industry opportunities in the study of–and adaptation to–climate change! This is ecological madness, sort of like paying someone to burn down their house in order to develop their firefighting skills.

  • Smart Regulations

    Regulations are boring, bone dry and tedious, right? Red tape–better to get rid of it! That is the type of message you are likely to start hearing, as the “Smart Regulation” agenda for Canada rolls out. It is sure to get some support from those of us who feel we are under siege from constant demands for more paperwork. But take a closer look. Is “Smart Regulation” really smart?

    Regulations are the rules that we make, via various levels of government, that define the scope and conditions of legal behaviour for businesses and individuals. The ability to regulate is a fundamental aspect of sovereignty. Regulation is the mechanism that makes the policy rubber hit the reality road.

  • A Multi-Faced Crisis

    In Canada, the political system has long been based upon the illusion of choice provided by a ruling party in power and an opposition party waiting in the wings. However, the Liberal corruption crisis in Quebec, together with the failure of the Liberals to make significant headway in the West, has stripped the ability of the Liberal Party to form a majority government.

    Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Liberals are embroiled in the worst scandal of the past half-century, the Harper-led Conservatives have not been able to get beyond 35 per cent of popular support. The defection of Belinda Stronach, the Conservatives’ most visible moderate and urban member, together with the successful efforts of the religious right to win Conservative nominations throughout the country, confirms widely held suspicions that this party harbours a socially conservative agenda of intolerance. Harper’s Conservatives are thus condemned to their rural, small-town western base.

  • The Sovereignty Movement and the Sponsorship Scandal

    Québec’s political conjuncture currently favours the integration of the struggle for national independence with other progressive social struggles. We may be headed for a historic rendez-vous that – this time – people will sure not to miss. For this to happen the different components of the sovereignty movement must agree on a common strategy and forge a national (Québec) alliance reflecting all elements of the population without any one party trying to monopolize the process. Will the principal actors concerned – beginning with the Parti-Québécois – be able to take on this historic task?

  • Leadership the Issue at CLC Convention

    Just another day in the labour movement. On June 13, 2005, 212 garbage collection workers began a legal strike in Mississauga. The workers were confronted with scabs performing their work. The union, Teamsters Canada Local Union 419, refused to comment publicly on the reasons for the strike or the issues at stake. The Toronto Star reported on the frustration of the public having to deal with hot weather, smelly garbage, with no idea of the reasons behind the strike.

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