15 Sep 2015

Can Mulcair work a miracle
and gain unlikely victory?

From the very start, the main issue in the federal election race has been as obvious as the beard on Tom Mulcair’s face, but it’s been largely ignored by mainstream media.

The big time journalists are rushing from the leaders’ pre-planned news conferences day after day, but the majority of voters have said in opinion polls that by far the biggest issue for them is to have either the NDP or Liberals emerge as the party that can soundly defeat Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

During the fourth week of the campaign, it looked like the NDP might be the chosen party. They were at 33.9 per cent in the polls. The Conservatives were at 28.4 per cent, and the Liberals 27.9.

It looked like the NDP might jump to, say, 36 or 38 per cent in the polls and become the party to stop Harper. But it didn’t happen. Instead, the NDP fell back a little.

The NDP might be suffering because of Mulcair’s misguided promise to balance the budget. This is not playing well with Canadians who question how the NDP is going to both balance the budget and pay for all the promises they’ve made. Meanwhile, many progressives who believe the government should borrow to stimulate the economy – as Trudeau promised to do – are upset with the NDP for adopting an overly-cautious position.

If you believe Monday’s opinion polls, the NDP was at 31 per cent, and the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 30 per cent.

This week the NDP faces two big hurdles. On Wednesday, Mulcair will release figures showing how the party would pay for its election promises. And on Thursday he will join the other two leaders in a televised debate on the economy. If Mulcair survives the attacks he will face during Thursday’s debate, the NDP should still be in the race.

Harper hopes ‘dirty tricks’ let him win

Some analysts have written off Harper – largely because they thought the Conservatives took a big hit during the frantic Syrian refugee acrimony. But in Monday’s Nanos Research poll, the Conservatives were back to 30 per cent.

2 Sep 2015

Strong voter registration campaign
could mean the end for Harper

The primary objective of Stephen Harper’s absurdly-named Fair Elections Act  is to prevent hundreds-of-thousands of Canadians from voting for the NDP, Liberals, Greens, etc.

The Conservatives are, in effect, “cheating” the electoral process again, just as blatantly as in the past. They know that a large number of people – students, marginalized people and First Nations – will have a hard time voting because of the changes. And they know those people would not likely vote Conservative.

Even though the Conservatives are trailing in the polls, it’s much too soon to say they will lose the election. Harper’s gang of strategists and pollsters have masterminded their way to victory three times, overcoming tough odds each time.

But efforts to help people to register to vote are not as strong as they could be. There needs to be close co-operation among groups to make sure that as many people as possible – particularly people in some 70 ridings where the Conservatives are vulnerable – have the identification they need to vote.

Alexie Stephens is one of  Leadnow's staff members
 working to defeat the Conservatives. 

The Council of Canadians contends that some 770,000 people may have a difficult time voting because of the changes to the Act. Included are 400,000 people who used the voter ID card in 2011 and believe that’s all they need this time; 250,000 people who will move during the election period; and 120,000 who used vouching in 2011.

22 Jul 2015

Weak tactics, stupidity and lies cloud seriousness of climate change for Canadians

In addition to the staging of the PanAm Games, Toronto was the location of some unusually high profile activities in recent days that were supposed to increase the efforts to tackle climate change.

The events raised some important questions: How effective are efforts to slow the increase of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, do Canadians agree on the extent of damage to our environment, and what do scientists say in their most recent reports about the degree of the threat?

Celebrities lead ‘the big protest: First, Toronto had the spectacle of actor/activist Jane Fonda, environmentalist David Suzuki and author-activist Naomi Klein leading a march of some 12,000 protesters belonging to a new coalition through downtown streets. From all accounts, they were a cheerful bunch.

14 Jul 2015

Pan Am's over-spending $-billions,
but it's okay 'cause it's public money

If a group constructing a massive project for you set a budget of $1.4-billion, but later came back and said they were spending $2.5-billion, what would you do? Normally you would probably throw the whole team out the door, and perhaps sue them for the $1.1-billion overrun.

But in this case, the $1.1-billion overrun belongs to former Premier David Peterson’s Pan Am Games organizing committee, and even though two officers were fired, expenses continue to climb.
By the time they’re finished, I’ll bet it will cost $3-billion – well over double the amount we were told in the beginning we would be paying.

But considering that the Games are a big hit with influential folks in Toronto, there’s not nearly as much criticism of the atrocious waste of money as there would be if, say, Toronto Community Housing was found to have greatly overspent.

Hamilton Stadium: A Bargain at $6,041 per seat

Moreover, it seems that the proud folks of our “world class city” don’t want to blemish the image of the Games, which are running in Toronto and across Southwestern Ontario from July 7 to 26, followed by the ParaPan Am Games, August 7 to 15.

1 Jul 2015

Can the IMF turn over a
new leaf and challenge the 1%?

...and will we follow Dutch court &
challenge Harper on climate change?

Two remarkable developments during the past week that could have a significant impact in many countries are worth a lot more attention in Canada and the United States.

First, a major research document published by five top economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) admitted that the strong pro-capitalist policies at the centre of its activities in developing countries for the past 30 years do not work.

10 Jun 2015

G7 false commitments won't help us
tackle 7-million air pollution deaths

During the hour that it took the world’s elite G7 politicians discussing climate change to wander through an enchanting meadow of flowers in Germany’s Bavarian Alps earlier this week, at least 800 people died prematurely from the impact of air pollution, most of it caused by the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels.

Wanting to show the world – particularly voters at home – that they care about the seven-million people a year dying from various pollution and carbon related causes, the leaders of the world’s richest countries, including Canada, signed a joint declaration calling for a global phasing-out of fossil fuels 85 years from now.

It’s unlikely that, during their deliberations in the picturesque Schloss Elmau at the foot of Germany's highest mountain, anyone at the Summit reflected on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report of a year ago that said in 2012 around seven million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure.

25 May 2015

We must start 'shaming' those
who lie to us, destroy our climate

During a flight from Montreal to Halifax I missed a chance to carry out an act of defiance – “shaming” – against a person who has greatly abused his position of authority in Canada.

Given how powerless ordinary folk and public interest groups have become, I would like to see people embarrass the hell out of those who take advantage of the public by lying to us, cheating us, or destroying our priceless environment.

As I made my way down the aisle, I spotted the square jaw, the glasses and the prematurely-balding head. I was going to get my chance to walk right up to the Right Honorable Peter MacKay.

MacKay has lied to us enough times that cartoonists depict him with a Pinocchio nose. As Justice Minister, he lied that he didn’t know information ignored by the Department would mean a law the government passed violated the Constitution, and worst of all, in 2007, he misled the House of Commons over what he knew about the possible torture of prisoners handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghanistan government.

As I got closer to MacKay, who was already seated, our eyes locked. I squinted angrily, and then. . . .  I walked right by, not saying a word!

Damn! Opportunity lost!
I should have told MacKay what I think of him. I’m sure he would have been embarrassed. Some folks would have been shocked, but perhaps a few would have felt empowered just a little. 

Photo by Latuff 

Democracy is broken

Of course MacKay is only a tiny cog in a well-organized system that is taking advantage of millions of us.

18 Apr 2015

CBC's Q aimed at U.S. youth while
most Canadians given back seat

When CBC management announced following the dismissal of Jian Ghomeshi last October that the radio program Q would be re-launched, I hoped that we might see a revival of true Canadian arts and culture programming in radio’s morning time slot.

I and tens-of-thousands of other Canadians yearn for the return of programming similar to some of the greatest radio broadcasting in the world that found its home on CBC Radio going back to the mid-1970s – programs such as This Country in the Morning, Morningside and This Country.

I’m talking about the high calibre of Peter Gzowski’s Morningside. Gzowski was a master of radio, capturing the spirit and substance of Canada perhaps better than any broadcaster before or since.  And there were outstanding hosts such as Don Harron, Michael Enright and Shelagh Rogers.

Those programs could safely allow CBC Radio to live up to its recently abandoned motto: “Canada lives here.” They explored both the lives of Canada’s greatest citizens, our cultural quirks and the lives of small town folks who had interesting things to say.

CEO Herbert Lacroix : The real problem behind the CBC. 

7 Jan 2015

Today's media language a little
too much like 1984's Newspeak

Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit freedom of thought and concepts that pose a threat to the regime.

Canada is not Orwell’s imaginary society where peoples’ every thoughts and ideas are controlled by The Party, but our own powerful elite has pushed our media closer to censorship and a propaganda-feeding machine than I ever imagined possible.

Our elite include the wealthy, corporate executives, private media, and the Harper government. As Orwell wrote in his novel, the elite understand that if they have strong influence over media they can limit serious criticism of the tremendous changes they impose on ordinary people.

CBC's At Issue: Anderson, H├ębert, Mansbridge, Coyne
All but one of Canada’s 118 daily newspapers and all four of its private television networks support the business-dominated ideology of the elite and the Harper government. The CBC has some excellent, independent minded programming, but CBC management is so terrified of Stephen Harper that it doesn’t allow the boat to be rocked.

Of course journalists are allowed to write stories that are politely critical of the Harper government, one of the links in the chain of power, but far too often stories focus on the government’s strategy to overcome an image problem.

17 Dec 2014

Climate talks suffer a setback, chances of strong deal in Paris a longshot

With yet another United Nations high level conference making very little, if any, real progress on slowing climate change, a near miracle will be required if countries are to reach a meaningful and binding global agreement on carbon emissions in Paris next December.

10,000 march in Lima in support of a strong agreement they never got.

The "Lima Call for Climate Action" document, agreed to on Sunday by 194 countries, is not a new “deal” for the climate, as conference observer Green Party Leader Elizabeth May pointed out. It is a 12-month work plan leading to the final meeting in Paris.

One major change – a setback for some developing countries – expects nations with ‘riding economies’, such as China, Brazil and India, to begin taking action on climate change in much the same way rich countries are expected to contribute.