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.”
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 Uncertain Path to PR
The election of a minority Liberal government in the June federal election has created a historic opportunity to push democratic reform in Canada, specifically dumping our unrepresentative, uncompetitive first-past-the-post voting system for some form of proportional representation. While there have been minority governments before – throughout the 1960s, from 1972-74 and in 1979 – this is the first time since Mackenzie King’s farmer/labour-supported Liberal minority government of 1921 that a number of key political parties favour at least considering PR.
Democracy in Montréal: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The municipal political boundaries of Montréal are to be redrawn once again. Instead of one big city divided into 27 boroughs, Montréal will be one big city interspersed with 15 small municipalities. But apart from the question of identity, with its socio-economic and ethno-linguistic dimensions, does this movement represent a bid to strengthen local democracy?
Winnipeg: City of Contradictions
Winnipeg’s history is one of contradictions. On one hand, it was once the “Gateway to the West”. On the other hand, it was the city of labour and struggle. Out of their struggles sprung a wealth of labour and social activism and progressive political thought and organization.
The Parkland Institute: Alberta’s Unofficial Opposition
In an oil-rich province with a seemingly undefeatable Progressive Conservative government, it can seem more than a little difficult to challenge the status quo. Gordon Laxer knows this, but it didn’t stop him from creating the Parkland Institute, a left-wing think tank he describes as Alberta’s “lone alternative voice.”
Cities and Imperialism
Armoured Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers tearing down neighbourhoods in Gaza; fierce battles raging in the winding streets of Fallujah; smart missiles blasting dense housing blocks in the West Bank – these recurrent images from the Middle East point to more than attacks on “terrorist” targets and “regrettable” collateral damage, as is often claimed by the Pentagon or the Israeli Defence Force. They also represent two examples of urbicide: a concerted and preemptive military strategy designed to undermine the urban foundations for independence; destroy networks of resistance; and separate settlers and occupiers from immobilized colonized populations while demolishing their infrastructures of survival.
When one thinks of “cities” or an “urban agenda,” the university town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia (population: 8,000, including students) is likely not the first place that comes to mind. “The city” here almost invariably refers to Halifax, some 90 km to the east. But - perhaps because of a quirk of Canada’s electoral system, which disproportionately favours rural voters over urban - Paul Martin’s “New Deal for Cities” is (or has quickly become) in fact a plan for municipalities, encompassing Wolfville (and surrounding Kings County) as much as Canada’s metropolitan centres. The urban agenda thus matters to Wolfville, and developments in Wolfville around issues of “sustainable communities” may be important for those elsewhere, who are concerned with the ecological sustainability of the urban form.
Compete or Die
The campaign to make the city of Toronto competitive has been waged for more than a decade by supporters from across the political spectrum. Competitiveness, a catch-all term, is often measured by how many companies and tourists are lured here instead of Chicago or Cleveland or Charlotte. And there is a list of things a city like Toronto apparently needs to have in order to attract the big-spending tourists and investors looking for places to park their fortunes.
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