Archive for the ‘democracy’ Tag

Democracy and the Climate Change Crisis

We all know that there is a crisis happening now with respect to the climate(s) that we are living in. Denial, however, seems to be more powerful than the will to act to deal with the crisis.

The David Suzuki Foundation has written an important commentary on how the lack of leadership by people in positions of responsibility is affecting our democracies in North America. This certainly applies in Canada, and particularly in Ontario where there is no definite plan to counter additional greenhouse gas emissions. The Suzuki Foundation has written:

“In the face of an overwhelming crisis that threatens our very future, it might be time for an overhaul of our democratic and political systems, which are clearly failing the people they were designed to serve.”

More on this is available at: http://community.davidsuzuki.org/index.php/email/emailWebview?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTnpRMU5tVTVNalkzWVdaaSIsInQiOiJWME1MRjFNdVdUXC9GTE1Cd0ZSdWh1NndmTUFFRnpWVnJuZHJMa3NXdVErQTFDUXdFVzJSUVdQTG9kbmVEd1c3N1htMlZ5TWp6Nm9FTUEzOXZaSVM4R25tWEdURytsejRGSjBuN3MrbTFcL2N4bm5qNXorT1pmem8yc1RlNGE3bTZzIn0%3D

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Carbon tax needed

Donald Gutstein has written a book on how politicians have been influenced on this issue, and how people can inform themselves so that we can challenge their claims that they are taking meaningful action on global warming. The book is called:

“The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks Are Blocking Action on Climate Change In Canada”

Here’s a brief review from the Toronto Public Library website:

Summary/Review: “In fall 2015, the new Trudeau government endorsed the Paris Accord and promised to tackle global wamring. In 2016, it released a major report which set out a national energy strategy embracing clean growth, technological innovation and carbon pricing. Rather than putting in place tough measures to achieve the Paris targets however, the government reframed global warming as a market opportunity for Canada’s clean technology sector.

In The Big Stall, Donald Gutstein traces the origins of the government’s climate change plan back to the energy sector itself – in particular Big Oil. He shows how, in the last fifteen years, Big Oil has infiltrated provincial and federal governments, academia, media and the non-profit sector to sway government and public opinion on the realities of climate change and what needs to be done about it.

Working both behind the scenes and in high-profile networks, Canada’s energy companies moved the debate away from discussion of the measures required to create a zero-carbon world and towards market-based solutions that will cut CO2 emissions – but not enough to prevent severe climate impacts. The progressive-seeming Trudeau Liberals have been co-opted by the embedded advocates of the oil and gas industry. The result: oil and gas companies can continue profiting from exporting their resources, instead of leaving them in the ground to minimize climate change. The door has been left wide open for oil companies to determine their own futures, and to go on drilling new wells, building new tar sands plants and constructing new pipelines.

This book offers the background information readers need to challenge politicians claiming they are taking meaningful action on global warming.”–

 

Acting on Climate Change

The release of the most recent report by the IPCC (October 6, 2018) has motivated me to abandon my passivity and write a letter to the Premier of Ontario concerning the price of carbon emissions in Ontario. I hope that, for the sake of our common environment, and life on Earth as we have known it, many others will also be taking similar actions.

If we believe in democracy, we have to believe that the political class will hear what we have to say.

 

My letter of October 22, 2018 is as follows:

October 22, 2018

Dear Premier Ford;

What will a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature mean for the “the people” of Ontario?

On October 6, 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spelled it out in plain, damning details. The question now is: who listened?

Will the leadership in our Province of Ontario pay attention to these urgent warnings and start facilitating and implementing solutions at the pace required to forestall climate disaster? How do you suggest that we respond when our children, and grandchildren, ask us in 20 years time about what we did to prevent the type of climate catastrophes that were predicted in 2009 when James Hansen published, “Storms Of My Grandchildren”?

A week after the publication of the IPCC report, the Globe and Mail, a conservative voice in Canada, editorialized on this issue. The conservative Globe and Mail advocates a policy of taking immediate and effective action to deal with the rise in the temperature of our Earth’s atmosphere. As their editorial states; “every bit of warming hurts”.

The policy advocated by the Globe and Mail is also a policy that has been thoroughly researched by the person who was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, William Nordhaus. As the Globe editorial states; “Mr. Nordhaus is not some lefty. His work shows that a carbon tax is the most efficient way to lower emissions, because it depends on market forces rather than on direct regulation.”

In the 2018 election campaign I heard that a Ford government would promote “efficiency”. A carbon tax, Mr. Nordhaus says, is “efficient”.

As you know, the Province of British Columbia has demonstrated that a carbon tax has been good for its economy, AND good for the environment. They have ten years of experience in this. You might ask their Premier if you wish to have additional information on how the economy of British Columbia has actually grown with a carbon tax in place.

The editorial to which I have been referring concludes with a call to action:

the UN and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences have shown that fighting climate (change) is the world’s most important collective endeavour, and that carbon taxes are the best way to join that fight. Canada must do its bit.”

We are part of a global village Mr. Ford.

  • The science says we must act now.

  • We have a means of acting effectively.

  • British Columbia has shown that it can be done.

Let’s have a meaningful carbon tax here in Ontario as soon as possible. We can do our part.

Yours truly;

Allan Baker

Cc Rod Phillips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks

Cc Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader

Cc Mike Schreiner, Green Party Leader

Cc Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

 

 

One Face of resistance in Ontario

Sally McLean was arrested after she refused to leave the Ontario legislature’s public gallery in an act of protest. This courageous 73 year-old woman explains why she thinks she is obligated to stand up for democracy, and against injustice.

https://ucobserver.org/society/2018/09/sally_mclean_queens_park_arrest/

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Take Responsibility

 

Posted September 21, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Politics

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A Tale of Two Narratives

Challenges await Venezuela’s Maduro as he wins a second term

Closing of a voting table at about 7 pm Sunday in the teacher’ college in Ali Primera park, Caracas. Photo: Jim Hodgson

To no one’s surprise, Nicolas Maduro has won a second term as president of Venezuela. And again (not a surprise) we see two narratives developing about what happened here on Sunday.

Our Canadian labour observer delegation saw an election that was expertly run, had good participation, and which had no fraud that was evident to us. Granted, we were mostly in the poorer neighbourhoods where support for Maduro is highest — the neighbourhoods where the majority of Venezuelans live.

Meanwhile, even by mid-afternoon, the international media were reporting a low turnout and complaints of fraud.

“Polls close as opposition cries foul,” said the BBC. Such reports cited opposition candidate Henri Falcon who by mid-day had registered 350 complaints about the process. By the time the polls closed, he registered more than 900.

Around mid-day, the United States declared it would not recognize the result. Other countries, including Canada, are expected to follow suit.

In the end, the vote was not close. Maduro won with 5.8 million votes. His principal opponent, Henri Falcon, had about 1.8 million. Voter turnout was 48 per cent.

“We are the force of history turned into popular victory,” Maduro told supporters gathered outside the Miraflores presidential palace after results were announced. Promising to be a president for all Venezuelans, he renewed his call for dialogue. “Permanent dialogue is what Venezuela needs,” he said.

For Maduro, the negative international reaction, while predictable, will be a problem. Existing sanctions already hurt the country’s ability to make purchases abroad. Companies and banks are now reluctant to engage with any Venezuelan purchaser, making access to food and medicine imports ever more difficult — and provoking shortages that have a direct impact the lives of ordinary people. To make matters worse, U.S. administration officials have warned of new sanctions that could reduce Venezuela’s oil exports.

Some problems are home-made. Despite concerted efforts, corruption is still an issue. I spoke with a young doctor who supports the government and deplores the diversion of medicine from Venezuela to Colombia. “People who do that are traitors,” he said.

Venezuela also suffers from hyperinflation and some of the world’s highest crime rates.

Maduro has promised a new national dialogue to achieve some way of living with the opposition. The problem is that at least since their failed coup attempt in 2002, most opposition forces have shown little or no interest in any solution other than complete capitulation or regime change through force: another coup or foreign military intervention.

The most concerted effort to bring opponents into the present electoral process collapsed in early February after months of international mediation led by the Dominican Republic. A previous Vatican-led effort also failed.

The challenges are immense, and there will be no honeymoon for this president as he begins a second term.

Yet Venezuelans merit attention and solidarity as they try to find a way forward. Democracy is supposed to be about the people ruling. Venezuela is one of a handful of countries remaining where the poorest people have wrested control away from the rich who used political structures to maintain economic privileges.

This column originally appeared on Rabble.ca

 

 

Good News in the Forest

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The Great Bear Rainforest agreement has been decades in the making.   Photo by Jens Wieting.

Good news from Canada’s west coast arrived last week.

20 First Nations; advocates for the environment; government(s) and forestry companies all endorsed a land use planning agreement concerning the Great Bear Rainforest. Although negotiations took too much time, and there were countless protests by environmental advocates, the accord is an illustration of what good-hearted people can accomplish.

Read more about this agreement at: http://thetyee.ca/News/2016/02/01/Great-Bear-Rainforest-Deal/

Climate Depression

Naomi Klein counsels all of us NOT to succumb to “climate depression”, but to continue to act to reduce carbon emissions, AND to speak up. In her book, This Changes Everything, she says that little has happened to reduce carbon emissions because the actions that would do so, and benefit the vast majority of humankind, “are extremely threatening to an elite minority”.

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Winter 2014 on Lake Ontario

She also writes that, “during the same years that our governments failed to enact a tough and binding legal architecture requiring carbon emissions, supposedly because cooperation was too complex, they managed to create the World Trade Organization – an intricate global system that regulates the flow of goods and services around the planet, under which the rules are clear and violations are harshly penalized.”

Is it any wonder that the agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 did not have legally binding provisions?

Addressing climate change cannot be relegated to governments, and the political elite. It is what all of us can do, both as individuals and as a part of grassroots communities that demonstrate that the power to do the right thing will not be taken away from us.

 

Beyond Voting: The Fetishization of the Ballot Box

Efforts to get people to vote, complete with ballot-box selfies, loomed large on social media, but when casting a ballot is treated as the noblest thing you can do in a democracy, it accommodates a status quo of incredibly narrow choices.

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An excellent reflection on this important issue, written by Matthew Behrens, is available at:

https://nowtoronto.com/news/the-now-guide-to-the-2015/beyond-%23elxn42/

Posted October 20, 2015 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Idle No More, Politics

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Inequality in Canada

When Will Bankers Take Inequality Seriously?

TD Economics pondered the trend, and just couldn’t get too worked up.

By Crawford Kilian, December 1, 2014, TheTyee.ca

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TD economists seem not to read writing on the wall for Canada when they say: ‘In America, there has truly been a hollowing-out of middle skill jobs.’

It’s taken three years for the issue of income inequality to filter upward from the tents of the Occupy movement to the upper reaches of Canada’s banks. But we now have a report from economists Craig Alexander and Francis Fong of TD Economics that admits inequality is indeed an issue — what’s more, an issue affecting the top one per cent.

While they provide a useful overview of Canadian inequality, the economists reveal a striking lack of interest in its causes. That in itself tells us something about the attitudes of the business class.

The complete story is at: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/12/01/Inequality-Bankers/

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A Sad Night for the United States of America

IMG_2156Many black families woke up this morning (November 25, 2014) knowing that the lives of their children are worth less than the lives of white children in America. The deep distrust of law enforcement in their own communities that so many African Americans feel just got deeper last night — 108 days since the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown — when the prosecuting attorney announced the decision not to subject the police officer who killed Brown to a trial where all the facts could be publically known and examined.

We now all have the chance to examine the evidence — released last night — in the grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who fired multiple bullets into Michael Brown. But the verdict on America’s criminal justice system is already in for many Americans: guilty, for treating young black men differently than young white men.

According to veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys, many things were unusual about the grand jury that ultimately decided not to indict Wilson. But most unusual may have been the decision to hold the news until after dark — as anxiety rose and hundreds gathered on the street. The decision was reportedly in by 2 p.m., so why did authorities wait seven hours to announce it? Why did they wait until people were off work and anxious young crowds had gathered outside police headquarters in Ferguson? Focus quickly turned from the grand jury’s decision to the response in the streets. While most protestors remained peaceful, the media naturally focused on the very unfortunate violence.

Other large questions remain …

READ THE FULL ARTICLE by Jim Wallis.

Posted November 25, 2014 by allanbaker in Politics

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Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (7)

Four Prime Questions about Harper’s Response to Ottawa Shooting

PM’s moves at home and abroad demand closer scrutiny.

By Murray Dobbin, November 3, 2014, TheTyee.ca

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Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don’t. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know — and indeed could predict one second after the shooting — that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, “this will change everything.”)

We know that the enhanced security measures and police powers will do nothing to help us understand, let alone deal with, the root causes of what the Harper government claims is an existential threat to Canada and the West (but is content to deal with symptoms).

We know that there will be no additional resources from governments to deal with mental illness as Mr. Harper plans to cut billions from medicare. There will be no revisiting of the issue of gun registration in spite of its obvious importance in dealing with such incidents. And there will be no effort on the part of our Christian fundamentalist PM to counter the anti-Muslim backlash he knows he is contributing to by hyping the terrorist threat.

The bigger questions remain to be asked and so they won’t likely be answered. They include:

1. What freedoms must we now erode and why? Mr. Harper, who eagerly adheres to the (simplistic) idea that jihadists “hate our freedoms,” might reasonably be asked to explain why he is so eager to destroy those freedoms in response to the jihadists’ “war” against the West. Isn’t that exactly what they want — or does Harper want to rid us of freedoms so the jihadists won’t hate us so much? Wouldn’t a genuine response be to celebrate and enhance our freedoms even more (perhaps by ending the auditing of groups critical of the government)?

2. What is producing Canada’s homegrown jihadists? This is another question the government seems decidedly uninterested in: what is it about our Western societies — supposedly the model for the entire world, morally, culturally and socially superior — that alienates some young people so much that they can suddenly decide it’s all right to kill innocents and it’s worth dying for a cause so remote and alien to their lived experience that it is scarcely possible to believe they can understand it let alone truly embrace it? Could it possibly have anything to do with 35 years of neoliberal assault on community and consumer capitalism’s failure to provide meaning to their lives beyond purchasing the next electronic gadget?

3. What is the most effective response to Islamists? Yet one more question not being asked is what would a rational, enlightened (we are enlightened, right?), effective response to so-called “radical” Islam look like? The “this changes everything” gang certainly don’t intend to change Canada’s foreign policy or recommend a change to its allies. Yet it is key to any long-term solution.

There are countless experts and historians who are eager to address the issue. And we know what they would say about Stephen Harper’s efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

The fact that these two unconnected killings were not terrorist acts doesn’t mean such acts cannot or will not happen. And while Mr. Harper puts on his warrior’s armour and militarizes the government’s response, he ignores the impact of his reckless Middle East foreign policy on escalating such threats. Canada’s ham-handed policies actually do put us at risk.

According to a report in the National Post, on Sept. 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…. Rely upon Allah…. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

This threat is clearly connected directly to Canada’s policies and its determination to join the war against ISIS. Harper, in what has become his standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” Yet Canada’s contribution is laughably minuscule — but just big enough, perhaps, to put us at risk of a future attack. And all, as usual, for domestic political consumption as evidenced by the total inability of the government to explain its mission.

To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the ISIS mission for most of the right reasons: what exactly was the mission, what were the government’s expectations, how was success being defined, what Canadian interests are being served and why six months? Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from the prime minister.

4. Can we learn from how we got here? We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. It’s worth tracing back to its origins. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and the key architect of the mujahedeen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. began arming, financing and training the original handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in 1998, Brzezinski revealed his impoverished imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

ISIS would not exist had the U.S. not created its predecessors. And this failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House, in the Strangelovian world of NATO and now in Ottawa. Imperial hubris, wilful ignorance, political opportunism and sheer incompetence still determine Middle East policy. Harper enthusiastically bombed Libya, with the unintended but predictable consequence of handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists. He gives Israel absolute carte blanche in its savaging of Palestinians, alienating even moderate Arabs throughout the region, and now he pointlessly tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

His every act in the name of Canada creates more jihadists. We are just lucky that an attack on Canada initiated by ISIS is extremely unlikely.  [Tyee]

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