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Canadian Politics

  • Quebec’s National Question

    Nine years after the 1995 referendum and the numbness that followed it, Québec is returning to the debate on the national question. The sovereignty movement has never been a monolithic block behind the PQ. Support for sovereignty (around 45 per cent, according to the latest polls) cuts across political positions from right to left. In such a context, a wide debate on strategy is necessary, a debate that could have repercussions on the next electoral campaign, expected in 2007.

  • Making Low-Income Women of Colour Count in Toronto

    Poverty is the women’s biggest challenge, and even their tough resourcefulness cannot overcome the impossibilities this condition creates in their lives. Yet the women, many of whom are racialized immigrants, have insistent dreams of better and more independent lives. Managing rising levels of stress and ill health, Toronto’s low-income women try to make the impossible possible.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

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