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.

2 Dec 2014

What needs to happen to
save and rebuild the CBC

The CBC, and particularly CBC Radio, is easily Canada’s most important cultural and public interest institution.

I say this not so much as someone who worked at the Corporation during the glory days of the 1970s and '80s but, like so many other people, a kid who was brought up in a home that was always watching and listening to the CBC.

Residing in a small village in Nova Scotia, we greatly appreciated the voices and images, ranging from Clyde Gilmour’s 40-year run of Gilmour’s Albums  on radio to the hard-nosed journalism of Norman DePoe on TV.

But after decades of serving and educating Canadians, Stephen Harper’s vicious cuts have brought the organization to its knees.

Can the CBC be saved and restored? Probably. But it will take some time and some good luck, as well as some heavy duty political lobbying.

19 Nov 2014

How will radical change occur,
and what will it look like?

Journalist Chris Hedges is one of my favourite rabble-rousers. This article is re-printed from Truthdig.

By Chris Hedges
TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’├ętat and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.

Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

6 Nov 2014

Tough week for Canada's already
poor climate change reputation

Canada's dismal record on fighting climate change was brought into the spotlight twice this week -- first with a crucial UN report spelling out the tough task ahead for the world's nations, and second, with the president of France delivering an embarrassing lecture to the Harper government in our own Parliament on Monday.

French President takes a strip off Canada in Parliament.
Practically tongue in cheek, French President Francois Hollande, glancing at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told Parliament that he had no reason to doubt Canada's commitment to reaching a global agreement on climate change when the final round of negotiations are held in Paris in December 2015.

But the president warned Parliament that negotiations must not be left to the last minute.

"We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours. This is not possible," said Hollande. "We have to find an agreement within the coming months."

1 Oct 2014

Environmentalists, civil society
must unite, adopt stronger
tactics to fight climate change

Note: I'd appreciate your feedback after you've read this. Contact Nick at: fillmore0274@rogers.com

The 311,000 protestors who took part in the exhilarating Climate Summit march through Manhattan and those who blocked some entrances to Wall Street have returned to their homes.

The leaders of the more than 120 nation states that made pie-in-the-sky, non-binding promises for reductions in carbon emissions at the UN meeting and dozens of powerful corporations have moved on.

And across Canada and other countries, news about the greatest threat ever to humanity’s survival
'Big Green' Hard at Work
has returned to the inside pages of our newspapers.

But people who strongly believe that the earth is in the initial stages of a downward spiral cannot allow conditions to return to the norm of the past.

A draft of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis Report raised new concerns. It said that climate disruption is here, and will dramatically worsen unless something is done immediately - and that something is on the level of a wartime response.

Because environmentalists are badly losing the battle to keep carbon emissions to liveable levels, campaigning strategies must be totally re-thought. On its own, the UN process cannot be trusted because much of it is driven by corporate interests.

While the New York march encouraged millions of people, a march is still a march. One possibility is the formation of a huge global network or coalition that would give groups and ordinary citizens the power base needed to begin winning the environmental war.

15 Sep 2014

200,000 protesters won't stop
corporations from dominating UN

The United Nations will host dozens of governments, corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during a one-day Climate Summit 2014 in New York on September 23rd but, alas, according to scientists and environmentalists, the meeting will deal mainly with only one limited way of fighting climate change.

In recent years the UN has proven incapable of playing an important role in slowing world climate change in a meaningful way, and is not practically dictated to by a powerful lobby.

“On the climate issue, the world’s biggest corporate polluters and pushers of unsustainable rates of consumption are hell bent on maintaining ‘business as usual’ and are working alone and in groups [and at the UN] to ensure that climate policies will not interfere with the profitability of their operations” says a research paper produced by Canada’s highly-respected Polaris Institute.

3 May 2014

Canadian group not dealing with
major free expression issues

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit organization I worked with for 14 years, is one of dozens of groups from around the world that celebrated the importance of an unencumbered media on World Press Freedom Day May 3.

CJFE has an almost 30 year history of carrying out vital press freedom work throughout the developing world with its own programs and, in particular, through the creation and operation of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), a worldwide network of 88 groups. Working with other groups, lives have been saved and entire nations of people have gained the right to express themselves.

The group has just published its most elaborate ever, 46-page Free Expression in Canada Review. The report addresses a number of important issues, such as access to information, digital surveillance, and the failure to protect the country's whistleblowers. The Review should result in more people becoming involved in CJFE, which is important.

But with this anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, I feel it's important to explain how CJFE comes up short when addressing the free expression problems we face here in Canada.

It's not only in developing countries where journalists lack rights. In fact, Canada is facing its greatest public information crisis in many years.

It is true that mainstream journalism is adversely affected by the economic downturn and the loss of millions of dollars in advertising revenues to Internet-based companies. But this is not what I'm referring to.

15 Apr 2014

Flaherty's Legacy:
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The unexpected, shocking death of Jim Flaherty, the Conservative Party of Canada’s only finance minister until his retirement less than a month ago, has resulted in hundreds of tributes for his commitment to public life and praise from those in business and conservative circles who approved of his financial and economic policies.

Flaherty, who was only 64, was devoted to his family and one of the most popular Members of Parliament. And while his life achievements and humanity should be praised, it also needs to be said that during his time in the federal government his policies severely discriminated against the vast majority of Canadians.

Flaherty had control of Canada’s purse strings during a period that led to a situation where, by 2012, the 86 wealthiest residents held the same amount of wealth as the bottom 11.4 million Canadians combined. Lagging wages have led many Canadians to take on record-high debt as they try to keep up with increasing costs.

In fairness, it’s impossible to assess Flaherty’s legacy as finance minister without factoring in that Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept him on a short leash. Harper, a rabid neoliberal, no doubt put forward a number of the Conservatives’ most anti-social policies. The two argued, but it’s safe to say that Flaherty lost more battles than he won.

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, the Flaherty/Harper contributions to the economic life of the country can be broken into three main areas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

27 Mar 2014

Guest Blog By Murray Dobbin

From Nick Fillmore: This week I am re-printing a "must read" column by Murray Dobbin, a leading journalist and social activist for the past 40 years. This excellent article gets to the bottom of what the NDP needs to do to be an effective, progressive force in this country.

Here's a Big Idea:
Transform Capitalism

By Murray Dobbin
The notion of 'big ideas' periodically raises its head in Canadian politics and I recently criticized the NDP for
Murray Dobbin
taking a good idea -- a national day of action -- and wasting it on, well, small ideas. Specifically I suggested that the party's focus on excessive interest rates and other charges effectively redefined citizens as consumers, something that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been doing for eight years.

In response to the criticism, the party's deputy leader Megan Leslie wrote a response, claiming that the NDP had big ideas "in spades" and that she was proud of them. It is unusual for the NDP to engage its critics on the left outside the party and it is a positive sign -- as are days of actions and national town halls. Engaging people outside the four-week period of elections is critical to the NDP's future success.

21 Jan 2014

'One Big World Campaign' needed
to challenge power of right wing

(Note from Nick of One Big Campaign: Please take a couple of minutes to read about this new global initiative and give us your feedback. Is it time for massive international campaigns to take on greedy corporations and right-wing governments? We would like Canadians to be involved. By the way, I won’t be doing very many blogs for a while as I will be working on this project.)

If you are like me, you are tired of seeing greedy right-wing companies and governments destroy the things we value in Canada and world – our once pristine environment, ‘real’ free trade not corporate-controlled trade, scientific research, and most important, our democracy.

Unfortunately, it is now obvious that the tactics we’ve been using are not strong enough to stop these powerful right-wing forces. We win a battle here and there – say against fracking or in support of LGBTQ rights – but year after year, we keep losing the war.

The right wing has too much money and too much power. And if they are not stopped, who is to say they’re not going to destroy much of the planet? That’s the path they’re on.
So, over the past weeks a number of progressive-minded people in a few countries have been wondering what could be done to better challenge and even defeat these self-serving corporations and governments.


There is a huge open space internationally – and in Canada - waiting for the right project to come along and capture people’s imagination.

Starting in February, groups working in several countries are going to start building something the right wing does not have – a massive, global, loosely-knit network of networks, organizations and people who are determined to engage in large-scale campaigns to take back what the right has “stolen” from the rest of us.