Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The cop who said no to ‘kettling’

Amid the deluge of stories over the past two years recounting G20 police abuses, the efforts of good officers — those who kept a moral compass firmly pointed under trying circumstances — have largely gone unheralded.

The OIPRD has identified at least one: Staff Sgt. Bradley Thompson of the Ontario Provincial Police.

The 26-year veteran said he was led to believe there would be no kettling at the G20.

But when Thompson — a unit commander during the summit — and his 40-officer team were called to Spadina Ave. and Queen St. W. that notorious Sunday in June 2010, they found hundreds of people boxed inside police lines.

Big unions want to open up membership in merger

The two unions contemplating the biggest merger in Canadian labour history want to open membership to workers who don’t have bargaining rights.

In a revolutionary move for the labour movement in North America, a committee of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) unions will reveal the proposal Wednesday as part of an “innovative plan” to attract and organize many more employees, a centrepiece in their merger talks.

“We would be opening up the union to a whole new group of workers who we can’t reach right now,” Gaétan Ménard, CEP’s secretary treasurer and a committee member, said Tuesday. “We get to really walk the talk.”

Clement tackles Mulcair over 'reckless' views on oilsands

Federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement used a speech in the heart of Canada's oil and gas sector to launch an attack on NDP Leader Tom Mulcair for his views on Canada's resource industry.

Mulcair charges that booming energy exports, particularly from the oilsands, have created an artificially high dollar that has, in turn, hollowed out Canada's manufacturing sector — a phenomenon dubbed the "Dutch disease."

"This is a reckless and irresponsible ideology that is bad for Alberta, it's bad for my home province of Ontario and quite frankly, it's bad for Canada," Clement said Wednesday in a morning speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

"He has proposed to cure the disease with much higher taxes, more burdensome regulations and endless red tape," he added.

CP Rail strike: 2,000 employees get temporary layoff notices

CP Rail and the Teamsters union are continuing talks to end a strike by 4,800 employees including conductors, locomotive engineers and rail traffic controllers.

The workers, members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, walked off the job just after midnight Wednesday, shutting down CP’s freight train traffic across the country.

CP Rail has already sent out temporary layoff notices to more than 2,000 other unionized employees including support staff because the system has been shut down, spokesman Ed Greenberg said.

And, if the strike continues, an additional 1,400 other workers could be laid off as well.

The ripple effects of the strike are expected to be felt in all sectors of the economy from coal to fertilizer out West to grain in the Prairies and the auto industry in southern Ontario. CP operates 24,000 kilometres of tracks from Vancouver to Montreal and into parts of the U.S. Midwest.

The Conservative Fantasy History of Civil Rights

The civil rights movement, once a controversial left-wing fringe, has grown deeply embedded into the fabric of our national story. This is a salutary development, but a problematic one for conservatives, who are the direct political descendants of (and, in the case of some of the older members of the movement, the exact same people as) the strident opponents of the civil rights movement. It has thus become necessary for conservatives to craft an alternative story, one that absolves their own ideology of any guilt. The right has dutifully set itself to its task, circulating its convoluted version of history, honing it to the point where it can be repeated by any defensive College Republican in his dorm room. Kevin Williamson’s cover story in National Review is the latest version of what is rapidly congealing into conservatism’s revisionist dogma.

The mainstream, and correct, history of the politics of civil rights is as follows. Southern white supremacy operated out of the Democratic Party beginning in the nineteenth century, but the party began attracting northern liberals, including African-Americans, into an ideologically cumbersome coalition. Over time the liberals prevailed, forcing the Democratic Party to support civil rights, and driving conservative (and especially southern) whites out, where they realigned with the Republican Party.

Tall Tales About Private Equity

PRESIDENT OBAMA started his general election campaign by taking aim at Mitt Romney’s job creation record at Bain, setting off a lively debate over the fairness of the attacks.

I am among those who have been drawn into the argument — there was even a snippet of me defending private equity in a Romney campaign ad.

As a former Obama administration official, I was uncomfortable about being used in a Romney ad in support of his position.

However, I was also concerned that the Obama ads, while narrowly accurate, might be seen to portray Bain Capital (and implicitly, private equity) in an ugly light because a few of the companies the firm invested in went bankrupt while Bain Capital still made money

CBO Report Says Deficit Reduction Will Cause New Recession

A new government report said spending cuts scheduled to go into effect in 2013, coupled with the simultaneous expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, will shrink the U.S. economy and raise unemployment -- contradicting the Republican claim that reducing the federal budget deficit will spur economic growth.

The Congressional Budget Office report, released on Tuesday, estimated that the policies slated to kick in on Jan. 1 would slash the deficit and shrink the national economy by 1.3 percent during the first half of next year, likely throwing the country over a "fiscal cliff" into another recession.

If left in place, the current policies would reduce the federal deficit by $607 billion, or 4 percent of gross domestic product, the report said. That reduction, from immediate tax increases or spending cuts, would "represent an added drag on the weak economic expansion," the CBO noted in its report.

The Revenge of the Rust Belt: How the Midwest Got Its Groove Back

We're not used to thinking of the old industrial Midwest as a beacon of good news. Just the opposite. It's Exhibit A in the story of America's economic decline -- a land of hollowed-out factory towns and shrinking cities. There's an entire genre of photography dedicated to Detroit's decaying cityscape alone.

Yet, it may be time to rethink that view. Because there are signs that the heart of the rust belt may be finally shaking off its rust.

For the past thirty years or so, there have been two great running narratives about American manufacturing, both of which have been disastrous for the Midwest's economy. The first has been about the disappearing factory worker -- how by shipping some jobs abroad and replacing others with machines, companies have figured out ways to produce more goods with millions of fewer employees on their assembly lines. The second narrative has been about migration -- the decision by companies to move production away from once-booming industrial centers of the north, to southern states with weaker unions and lower wages.

Both of those trends, it appears, may have drawn to an end.

How Rural America Got Fracked

If the world can be seen in a grain of sand, watch out. As Wisconsinites are learning, there's money (and misery) in sand—and if you've got the right kind, an oil company may soon be at your doorstep.

March in Wisconsin used to mean snow on the ground, temperatures so cold that farmers worried about their cows freezing to death. But as I traveled around rural townships and villages in early March to interview people about frac-sand mining, a little-known cousin of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," daytime temperatures soared to nearly 80 degrees—bizarre weather that seemed to be sending a meteorological message.

In this troubling spring, Wisconsin's prairies and farmland fanned out to undulating hills that cradled the land and its people. Within their embrace, the rackety calls of geese echoed from ice-free ponds, bald eagles wheeled in the sky, and deer leaped in the brush. And for the first time in my life, I heard the thrilling warble of sandhill cranes.

The $1.45 Trillion Fighter Jet—and the Florida Deficit Hawks Who Love It

The F-35 fighter jet's first missile floated wide. The second found its target, and an explosion brought the bogey down. "Yes! Got him! Woo!" exclaimed the pilot, Jennifer Carroll, a 52-year-old former Navy officer and airplane mechanic.

But it's Carroll's current job—lieutenant governor of Florida—that explains why her simulator flight was being closely watched by about two dozen members of the Florida League of Defense Contractors at an industry gathering in Tallahassee on a drizzly morning in mid-February.

Next, with a technician from Lockheed Martin furiously pointing at indicators and whispering commands over her shoulder, Carroll nosed the simulator down to take on a ground target. "Three, two, one…blam!" she exclaimed, to laughter. "Osama, you're gone!" Virtual mission accomplished.

UN Food Envoy: Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq Acknowledges Northern Food Problems, Maintains Criticisms

OTTAWA - Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says that when she tore a strip off a UN right-to-food envoy last week, she never meant to imply there were no hunger problems in the North.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Aglukkaq said there are indeed serious poverty challenges in her home region.

But she said she resents being told how to fix things by an outsider who has no first-hand knowledge of the North and who comes from a country that opposes the seal hunt.

"I never said that there is no hunger issue for aboriginal people," Aglukkaq said in a phone interview from Geneva where she was attending global health discussions. "I come from there, I see it first-hand.

Mom can't leave Canada with children, or stay either

An American mother with five Canadian children who lives in B.C. is shedding light on an immigration dilemma she says leaves her family at risk and dependent on charity.

“It’s a heartbreaking scenario — to watch your children when they are going to school and they are hungry,” said Heidi Roggero.

Roggero is the ex-spouse of a Canadian — with no legal status in Canada — who can’t go back to the U.S. unless she abandons or kidnaps her children.

“I have a restraining order that prevents me from taking my children across the U.S. border,” said Roggero, who relies on friends and neighbours, as well as the food bank and the school, to help feed and clothe her kids.

Canadians want feds to assume "leadership role" and fix health care: report

OTTAWA — Canadians believe the health care system is "overburdened" and they want the federal government to assume a broader "leadership role" to fix the problem, a new report commissioned by the Harper government has found.

Moreover, while many Canadians still believe medicare is "compassionate" and is among the best of the world's health care systems, it is not working effectively and is showing signs of decline that make it "unreliable" and "wasteful".

The public opinion research report finds Canadians are frustrated — despite many promises by political leaders — about the lack of action on improving medical wait times, a shortage of doctors and nurses, and cutbacks in medically available services.

Why did Harper change the resource review regime?

Five years ago, a senior executive with a Chinese oil company voiced his frustration with Canada's regulatory system, saying it took too long for projects like pipelines to get up and running.

"Here you need a very long time," Yiwu Song, vice president of CNPC International Limited, a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, was reported as saying in an Oilweek article at the time.

"It takes three years just to start up a pipeline. The situation keeps changing. We're fed up already," he continued.

His comments came at the sidelines of an oil sands forum. At the same time, Mr. Song said the company would scrap plans to get involved in Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway project.

The national implications of the student protests in Quebec

With word that Jean Charest’s government in Quebec was set to pass legislation that would restrict student demonstrations outside of university and college buildings, negotiations to end the 15-week long student strike seem unlikely to end any time soon.

Despite the high profile of the incident, there has been little public opinion research done in Canada. Nevertheless, these series of events highlight a growing trend in Canadian public affairs: generational angst and divide between Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) and their parents, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

For the sake of disclosure, Abacus Data’s clients include student groups in Ontario and a coalition of faculty and student groups in Alberta. However, no group or organization paid for this research. This was completed out of my own curiosity.

Our past research for our clients found that the public in Ontario and Alberta believe that post-secondary education is critical to the long-term prosperity of their provinces. Most people in these provinces also believe that the cost of education is a barrier to accessing an advanced education.

Table set for another nasty war of words over EI

The economic marginalization of Atlantic Canada is about to take on another new twist.

The complaints about folks in this part of the country relying on pogey to get through the winter, at the expense of truly hard-working taxpayers, all of whom apparently live somewhere else, is hardly new.

The legend of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein’s 1982 attack on eastern “bums and creeps” has been resurrected amid growing concerns over changes to the Employment Insurance program currently in the works by the federal Conservative government.

Klein was mayor of Calgary at the time, dealing with a housing crisis, an influx of job-hungry easterners and jails that were said to be filled with non-Albertans. A CBC report at the time said 70 per cent of convenience store robberies and 95 per cent of bank robberies had been committed by offenders who were newcomers to Alberta.

Premier to Harper: We need to talk

Premier Kathy Dunderdale made it clear Tuesday that she thinks the federal government made some mistakes in the search for Burton Winters earlier this year.

A requested Cormorant helicopter was not dispatched to help search for the missing Labrador teen in early January.

On Tuesday, Dunderdale called it “a very bad judgement call” made by the military not to send the Cormorant and aid in the search, and she said it will be one of the items on the agenda of a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper she’s requested.

In recent weeks, issues have been piling up that have the provincial government criticizing Ottawa.

"So Rich, So Poor": Peter Edelman on Ending U.S. Poverty & Why He Left Clinton Admin over Welfare Law

Census data shows nearly one in two Americans live in poverty, and now the Congressional Budget Office warns things could soon get worse if President Obama and Congress remain at an impasse over the 2013 fiscal budget. House Republicans are calling for cuts to food aid, healthcare and social services, while protecting funds for the Pentagon. We discuss poverty with Peter Edelman, who resigned as assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services over then-President Bill Clinton’s signing of the 1996 welfare reform law that threw millions off the rolls. "Basically, right now, welfare is gone," Edelman says. "We have six million people in this country whose only income is food stamps. That’s an income at a third of the poverty line. ... Nineteen states serve less than 10 percent of their poor children. It’s a terrible hole in the safety net. Welfare has basically disappeared in large parts of this country." Now a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Edelman has written a new book, "So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America." "I’m very much supportive of Occupy," he adds. "The idea ... of the 1 percent and the 99 percent ... all fits together. We really should be all one country."

Source: Democracy Now!
Author: ---

It's a 'disease,' the studies agree

Canada appears poised to rerun the bitterly divisive East versus West resource wars of the 1980s. But a leading economist argues they can be avoided.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the "rip and run" exploitation of Alberta's oilsands is killing Canada's manufacturing sector by driving up the value of the dollar. He isn't against extracting and exporting the bitumen but he wants the environmental cost factored into the international price.

The battle could kill Mulcair's chances at becoming Canada's first NDP prime minister. The last time an "eastern" French-speaking political leader -- Pierre Trudeau -- bucked Alberta's fiercely defensive pride in its oil riches, Albertans plastered their vehicles with bumper stickers screaming "Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark." Ottawa capitulated.

Versailles on the Ottawa

In her stint as First Lady, Nancy Reagan did three things to show that Marie Antoinette had no imagination.

First, she had an exact replica of her bed shipped anywhere in the world when she was traveling for state reasons longer than three days and two nights because she liked to sleep in her “own” bed.

Second, she insisted that every bedroom assigned to her be painted red, her favorite color.

Finally, the workmen who constructed her bed-away-from-home also had to re-hang all the mirrors in the First Lady’s room so that when she looked into them she saw more than the top of her head.  Details courtesy of Lewis H. Lapham.

MP David Wilks addresses Bill C-38 critics at Revelstoke meeting

Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks said he will vote against the Conservative government's omnibus budget bill, but only if 12 other government MPs vote with him.

"I will stand up and say the Harper government should get rid of Bill C-38," he told a gathering of about 30 constituents at the Best Western Hotel in Revelstoke Tuesday morning.

However, he added that he alone couldn't stop the bill and 12 other Conservative MPs would have to vote against the government bill with him for him to do so.

And that, has zero chance of happening, he said after the meeting.

The environment is dead: Long live Mother Nature

"Environmentalism has failed" is a statement that deserves attention. It comes from famed environmentalist David Suzuki marking 50 years since Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, widely regarded as having sparked the environmental movement.

Suzuki's May 2 article on the fundamental failure of environmentalism is ominous. The world faces not only environmental calamities such as deforestation, coral reef depletion and freshwater shortages, it is also mired in economic crises and harsh political realities.

Despite the promise of "Arab Springs" and the global Occupy movement, we are increasingly in planetary peril. Throughout his life, David Suzuki has been a leading educator on planetary health; his conclusion about the environmental movement's failure must be agonizing. Perhaps that's why his blog offered no new way forward.

Wrongs and rights: how did Quebec’s student standoff come to this?

Reasoned debate is off the table. The student protesters and the Charest government are sharply at odds – in fact, they despise each other – but they’ve collaborated in one respect: each side has acted to ensure that rather than a robust public discussion about how to fund the province’s universities we get an ugly, protracted battle about the right to protest.

Why has the situation deteriorated so miserably? There is no shortage of finger-pointing on either side.

From the government’s perspective, too many protesters engaged in unacceptable tactics, including blocking non-protesting students from attending classes, vandalism, intimidation and violence. Some critics assert that the peaceful majority failed to condemn, in strong enough words, the hooliganism of those in their midst. Then, last week, classes on one campus were literally invaded, in defiance of court injunctions.

Wrzesnewskyj urges PM to call byelection in Etobicoke Centre after judge rules last year’s election result ‘null and void’

PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper could hold off a byelection well into November or later for the Toronto riding where a judge threw out the results from last year’s federal election, if the Conservative MP whose win was overturned appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Both sides in the unprecedented appeal—the Supreme Court has no record of hearing an appeal up to now of an election result that was voided by a provincial Superior Court—would have to agree before the Supreme Court could suspend statutory timetables giving Conservative MP Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, Ont.) 12 weeks to file appeal arguments, a prominent Ottawa lawyer and the Supreme Court’s legal officer told The Hill Times on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court has only two weeks of hearings, beginning the week of June 4, before its summer recess, said the court’s legal officer Wytold Tymowski. That would leave just over two or three weeks for both sides to put together detailed legal briefs for an expedited Supreme Court process the electoral law calls for.

Wheat board appeal allowed, hearing arguments today

The Federal Court of Appeal will allow an appeal of a ruling that said the federal government broke the law with its plan to strip the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over western wheat and barley sales.

The Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board and others, including the board's former directors, had asked the Federal Court of Appeal to quash Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's motion to appeal a lower court's decision.

On Wednesday, however, the federal appeals court said it would allow Ritz's appeal to be heard.

It's the latest legal step in a long and bitter battle over the fate of the wheat board.

Expat voters launch legal challenge of '5-year rule'

A law stripping voting rights from more than a million expatriate Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years should be struck down as unconstitutional, according to a legal challenge served on the federal government Tuesday.

The new application, filed in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of two Canadians living in the United States, argues the five-year rule in the Canada Elections Act is arbitrary and unreasonable.

"I was very surprised to learn that I have no voting rights, that I have no capacity to interact with my government formally, that there's no one representing me," said Gillian Frank, 33, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

China's cabinet promises to boost economy

China's Cabinet promised Wednesday to step up efforts to reverse a steep slowdown in the world's second-largest economy and said it would encourage private investment in energy and other state-dominated industries.

Chinese leaders have gradually eased controls imposed over the past two years to cool an overheated economy and inflation. But some analysts warn they need to move faster as global demand and Chinese consumer spending weaken.

Economic growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 per cent in the first quarter and factory output in April grew at its slowest pace since the 2008 crisis, raising the threat of job losses and possible political tensions.

Spain can’t sustain high borrowing rates, PM says

Spain can’t continue much longer with its current high borrowing rates, its prime minister warned Wednesday as he urged a joint European response to keep the region’s debt problems from getting worse.

Mariano Rajoy and newly elected French President Francois Hollande, due to meet other European Union leaders later in the day, also stressed their commitment to keeping Greece in the euro despite its political uncertainty.

“Europe has to come up with an answer,” Mr. Rajoy said in Paris alongside Mr. Hollande. “It is a must, because we cannot go on like this for a long time, with large differences when it comes to financing ourselves. And it is because of these differences that the policies that we Europeans believe in, such as controlling government spending and reforms to encourage growth, ultimately have no effect.”

For almost a million young people: No job, no school

Nearly a million young Canadians were neither in school nor holding down a job last year, a proportion that has inched higher since the recession but remains lower than in most other G7 nations.

New analysis by Statistics Canada -- the first of its kind in the country -- finds 13 per cent, or 904,000, of the 6.8 million Canadians between the ages of 15 and 29 weren't in school nor at work last year.

The portion is the second-lowest in the G7. Germany – a country that's becoming a global role model in how it integrates youth into the workplace -- had the lowest rate, at 11.6 per cent. Italy had the highest of the G7, at 21.2 per cent (based on 2009 comparisons).

The dirty tricks sellers play to push up real estate prices

In Week 3 of the Buyer Diaries, our Winnipeg bloggers decided to walk away from a house they liked because of the seller's pressure tactics.

Corey and Angela were considering making an offer but were told by the selling agent that the owners were taking the house off the market the next day, so it was now or never for a bid.

"We didn't want to feel pressured into making an offer on a house that we were not completely sure of," Corey wrote.

Several listings the couple looked at were priced low in an attempt to attract multiple bids, Corey said. When the bids didn't appear, however, the sellers put their prices up $25,000 to ward off low offers.

Etobicoke vote raises troubling questions about Elections Canada's competence

Voters in Etobicoke Centre are likely to vote in a byelection this year because Borys Wrzesnewskyj is both a politician and a well-to-do businessman.

Wrzesnewskyj won a landmark decision on Friday when Justice Thomas Lederer ruled that the election in Etobicoke Centre is null and void.

Unless Conservative MP Ted Opitz appeals successfully to the Supreme Court of Canada this week, he soon will be the former MP for Etobicoke Centre, and be forced to fight an election against Wrzesnewskyj again to get his job back.

Wrzesnewskyj was only able to force the byelection because he was able to spend more than $250,000 on a legal challenge.

15 ways to use a 450-page federal budget bill

The Conservatives' spring budget made headlines two months ago with plans to save billions by cutting public sector jobs, speed up major industrial projects by streamlining environmental reviews and kill the penny.

But details of those and many other changes are still trickling out as Parliament picks apart the legislation meant to implement the budget's promises.

Bill C-38 goes beyond tax and monetary measures to make major changes in dozens of policy areas, including the environment, natural resources and human resources. It seeks to amend or create dozens of laws, while repealling others entirely, and has been called an omnibus bill as a result.

Father of soldier speaks out against Afghan pledge

The father of a Nova Scotia soldier killed in the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan is speaking out against the prime minister's decision to reaffirm the commitment to leave the country in 2014.

Jim Davis of Bridgewater told CBC News he's conflicted over Canada's withdrawal but said he believes entering the Afghan mission was the right decision.

"I believe we did the right thing by going, I know we did," Davis said, "The problem is that we didn't see the mission through."

Davis's son, Cpl. Paul Davis, was the ninth Canadian soldier to die in the Afghanistan mission after the vehicle he was riding in rolled over in March 2006.

"It hurts," Davis said, "My goodness, it's been six years. It's been a long time.

"It's been a long time, but the pain doesn't change."

On Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada would pledge $110 million annually to help fund the embattled Afghan National Army after the withdrawal of Canadian soldiers in March 2014.

It is estimated that it will cost $4.1 billion a year for Afghanistan to run its security forces once the NATO-led coalition pulls out in 2014.

Canada had been asked to consider leaving some soldiers in Afghanistan post-2014 to continue to help with training, but Harper said the deadline is firm. He said it is not an abandonment of Afghanistan but a transfer of responsibility to the Afghans.

Since 2010, the coalition has been planning to finish the military mission at the end of 2014, even as moves by nations such as France to pull combat troops out early has tested their strength.

Original Article
Source: CBC
Author: cbc

Inquiry into veteran’s suicide derailed as MacKay gags military lawyers

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s gagging of military lawyers brought an inquiry into an Afghan veteran’s suicide to an often bizarre and grinding halt Tuesday.

Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Richards told the inquiry into the 2008 suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge that MacKay would not relinquish his legal right to solicitor-client privilege.

As defence minister, MacKay is the client of his department’s lawyers, she said.

And as the client, she added, MacKay has the legal right to keep secret the advice DND lawyers gave to military colleagues who dealt with Langridge’s family after the troubled solider hanged himself at CFB Edmonton.

Quebec students are teaching us all an important lesson

Here at, we've been hard at work to break through the wall of mainstream media that - either by ignoring or cynically attacking - has largely kept the rest of Canada in the dark about the historic social movement taking place in Quebec.

All across Canada and beyond, we need fair and in-depth coverage of the Quebec student strike. Not just so we can show solidarity with their efforts, but so we can learn from their creative and determined movement. Here are a few of my thoughts on the strike, which I originally wrote up for a regular column I do in The Source / La Source, a bilingual newspaper in Vancouver.

"Those who struggle may fail. Those who do not struggle have already failed." - Bertolt Brecht

Everything in Between

Political-science textbooks usually present the political spectrum as going from the extreme right to the extreme left. According to this schema, you have the libertarians on one side who believe in a small state whose responsibility should be to ensure the rule of law and safeguard contractual obligations. For these people, the world is an agglomeration of self-interested individuals in an open market and, as Margaret Thatcher famously put it, “There is no such thing as society.” For the extreme left, meanwhile, everything is social, because, well, no man is an island. From the property we own and the pay we earn to the air we breathe, everything is affected by, the result of, or contingent upon, social relations. These two extremes largely direct our thinking about political affairs.

Then, there is everything in between.

Massive Montreal rally ends with police clashes

More than 100 people were arrested at the end of a long day of protests in Montreal that saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets over several hours to mark the 100th day of a student movement against tuition hikes.

Carrying signs, chanting slogans and wearing the student movement's red felt square, most protesters followed a pre-approved route submitted to police, as required by Quebec's new protest law. But encouraged by the more hardline CLASSE student group, a minority of protesters broke off from the main crowd in a symbolic defiance of Bill 78.

At least one splinter march was declared illegal by police shortly after 9 p.m., because according to police, protesters were throwing projectiles at officers, walking on an unannounced route, and some were wearing masks.

Tories prep back-to-work law for Canadian Pacific Railway

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says she's giving notice of legislation to send Canadian Pacific Railway's striking workers back to work after engineers and other workers walked off the job this morning.

Raitt urged Canadian Pacific Railway and its striking workers to keep negotiating but said she's being prudent by putting the legislation on the order paper in the House of Commons. The announcement came 10 hours after the workers went on strike.

"We want to make sure that they're doing the best that they can, but they understand as well that if they cannot conclude their deal, we will have the ability to intervene," Raitt told reporters in Ottawa.

"We want to make sure that the effect on the economy is being brought to people's attention and that we're keeping it in mind as it proceeds."

Oil the wheels of creativity, Alberta

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. But if my biology is correct, a mother alone isn’t enough – you also need a father. And the father of invention is creativity.

Take Alberta’s energy patch. For all the bad press it gets from uninformed critics, its engineers and geologists are rather creative when they need to be. Applications of innovative solutions abound. Think of the steam-assisted gravity drainage technology in the oil sands, which uses much less water and no tailings ponds. Or the achievements in human safety, which have produced a record that is among the best in the world. Or the technology around carbon capture and storage, which is waiting only for a suitable price on carbon to be economically feasible.

But a not-so-new problem in Canada’s oil sector could use a huge dollop of creativity: abatement of tanker spills and pipeline ruptures. That’s necessity (the mother-in-waiting). Now, Father Creativity needs to initiate a courtship.