Articles Canadian Politics

  • Private Pretensions

    In our day, all that seems to remain of the historical struggle between the competing visions of socialism and capitalism, between the collective interest and the individual interest, is the euphemistic “public sector” versus the “private sector.” But while most of the vitality has been drained from this revolutionary residue, some meaning yet remains unspoken, suggesting rival conceptions of society. So, locating our institutions in one or the other of these categories, public or private, carries a larger significance and merits our close attention.

  • The Panhandler Law

    The writer Anatole France once observed, “the law, in its magnificent equality, forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges and begging for bread in the streets.” In rookie mayor Sam Katz’s new Winnipeg, we now have achieved the same magnificent equality. In a recent vote at Winnipeg City Council, a new by-law was adopted forbidding panhandling within the vicinity of “captive” audiences: bus stops, banks and ATMs, parking lots and parked cars, indoor public walkways, elevators and outdoor patios. This step effectively fulfills Mayor Katz’s entire anti-poverty program advanced in the course of his election campaign just over one year ago.

  • Electing a Constituent Assembly

    In the struggle for Quebec independence, the Constituent Assembly, proposed by the Patriots in 1837 and by the États-généraux of 1966-69, seems more pertinent today than ever.

    The PQ attempts to monopolize the struggle for sovereignty, despite the repeated failure of its strategy and the undeniable political plurality of the sovereignty movement. At last June’s PQ congress, numerous voices demanded a clear rupture from the “good provincial government” strategy that holds that once the “winning conditions” are attained, a referendum on sovereignty should be held. Instead, the congress more or less reiterated its referendum strategy. A sovereigntist coalition is envisaged, but only after the election of the PQ and with the purpose of supporting the referendum campaign that would ensue. Under this strategy, the government and, therefore, the PQ, reserve control of the overall process.

  • 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.

  • 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 Call for a Living Wage

    No surprise to those of us trapped in low-wage jobs, but for others more fortunate, let’s make it official: having a job is no longer a way out of poverty. The minimum wage in most provinces is so low that even someone working full time at a minimum-wage job falls far short of the poverty line. Indeed, it’s a fact that half of the families in Canada who are living below the poverty line have someone working 35 or more hours per week.

  • Fernwood

    Errol Sharpe does not have a corner office in a towering skyscraper. The view from his desk is not of the Toronto skyline, but of Croucher, Wood and Strawberry Island in the quiet cove of St. Margaret’s Bay. It is here, in Black Point, Nova Scotia, that Fernwood Publishing has its national office, publishing critical non-fiction that challenges existing scholarship on issues of race, economics, trade, globalization, gender, labour and numerous other social issues.

  • A Very Tory Commission

    The Montreal hearings put the spotlight on a long line of prominent people, all of whom appeared to have been gleefully putting their hands into the taxpayer’s pocket. The creative villains in the “adscam” affair were Liberals or friends of the Liberal Party of Canada. Reporters, columnists, talk-show hosts and cartoonists bellowed and brayed about this betrayal of the democratic process, resulting in a frenzy of speculation over a possible snap election.

  • Why Quebec Says No to War

    Just over half the Canadians polled this past November strongly opposed missile defence. In Quebec, opposition to Star Wars was stronger by far: nearly two thirds were strongly opposed. This popular opposition, in addition to being co-opted by the Bloc Québécois, also managed to break the ice with the Liberal Party and won the support of the Quebec section of the federal Liberal Party.

    On March 15, 2003, 250,000 Montrealers responded to the call from the “Échec à la Guerre” (Block the War) Collective. They marched through downtown crying out their opposition to the Washington’s war of aggression against Iraq. Elsewhere in Quebec, a further 40,000 people were mobilized. Many sectors of the Quebec population rejected this war and came out into the streets.

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