PEOPLE'S VOICE - Issue of July 1-31, 2023
The following articles are from the July 1-31, 2023 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper.
“Government must be forced to act, to bring down prices!”
Communist Party meeting calls for independent labour political action to lead struggle
In the wake of yet another interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, the leadership of the Communist Party of Canada gathered in Toronto in mid-June to discuss the worsening economic and social situation facing working people.
The meeting of the Central Committee (CC) noted that advanced capitalist countries all over the world are preparing for a global recession, which was touched off by inflation but made worse by the response of these same governments to cut wages and jobs while corporate profits soared. The clear purpose of these kinds of fiscal policies is to pile the costs of pandemic deficits onto the backs of the working class, while disciplining working people with real wage losses and the threat of unemployment.
This deliberate drive toward a recession comes on the heels of enormous difficulties faced by working people during the pandemic, as well as the massive accumulations of profits and wealth by the biggest national and global monopolies, which occurred at the same time. Under cover of COVID, work and the workplace underwent a massive restructuring, with part-time and remote work replacing full-time unionized jobs in many sectors and accelerated privatization of public services and social programs.
The Party leadership also noted the growth of far-right populist movements, which are increasingly connected with more “mainstream” political entities including prominent members of the Conservative Party and the People’s Party of Canada.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has adopted an attack dog leadership style intended to depict the Tories as opponents of Bay Street and the wealthy and privileged, and defenders of workers who they claim are the victims of ‘woke’ Liberal and NDP governments as well as labour union bureaucrats. This fictitious narrative plays on workers’ justified frustration at the injustice and precarity they experience on a daily basis. It’s a conscious effort to distort legitimate working-class anger and channel it away from the struggle to preserve and expand decades of social gains that right-wing governments and their corporate backers want to strip away.
But in a wealthy country that generates huge corporate profits while working people lose their homes and struggle to hold on, that anger continues to bubble over.
Public reaction to the televised parliamentary hearings into rising food prices and soaring grocery chain profits was instant and visceral. It was enough that CEO’s for both Loblaws and Sobeys resigned from their posts within weeks of the hearings. But beyond that, the only other product of the parliamentary investigation was to remind the public of the bread price fixing scheme which involved these same players and which neither the government nor the courts have followed up on.
In the face of such abject failure of the government to act on price gouging and profiteering, the Communist Party’s campaign to raise wages and roll back prices, profits and interest rates has been very well received across the country.
The Bank of Canada’s “anti-inflation” policy of raising interest rates is an enormous attack on workers and consumers, whose incomes and living standards are plummeting while their housing costs and debt loads are rising substantially. Canada’s banks are setting aside billions of dollars to cover the anticipated spike in mortgage defaults. Landlords are passing higher mortgage costs on to their tenants – on top of annual increases – resulting in increased evictions for non-payment of rent.
The Bank of Canada says it will continue raising interest rates until inflation drops to 2 percent from its current level of 4.4 percent. According to labour economist Jim Stanford, this will push the economy into deep recession, further slashing wages and incomes, and driving unemployment to as high as 8-9 percent.
The Central Committee stated clearly that cutting wages and jobs will not bring down inflation, because it is not caused by workers’ wages or high levels of employment. What the Bank’s policies will do, however, is further increase corporate profits while greatly harming working people, pensioners, the unemployed and those on fixed incomes, as well as tenants and homeowners and small businesses.
In the face of this, the CC looked at the positive results of the Party’s campaign on wages and prices, and discussed how best to build and expand on it through the summer and into the fall. The government must be forced to act, to ring down prices. The Communist Party’s projections last winter about the consequences of the current crisis were correct: increasing crime and violence, the spread of serious mental illness, rising deaths from the opioid crisis, and increased hate directed at Indigenous, Black and 2S/LGBTIQ+ communities, Muslims, Asian Canadians, immigrants, refugees and women.
There is an urgent need for a mass campaign to oppose the government-corporate attack on working people, to block the rise of the far-right, and to confront the increasing threats of war and environmental catastrophe.
Communist Party leader Elizabeth Rowley said that resistance is building, and that it is shaped and sharpened by the difficulties of the pandemic and the greed demonstrated by employers and corporations who were unfazed by the dangers of sickness and death that workers faced every day. While calling their employees “heroes,” they cut their pandemic pay, refused to provide sick days and laid off hundreds and thousands without a thought for their wellbeing.
Anger bubbled over with news of the enormous profits racked up by grocery chains, banks, landlords and oil and gas companies, combined renewed austerity measures and announcements that workers’ wages were responsible for skyrocketing inflation. “Class collaboration ended,” said Rowley, “as it became crystal clear that workers and employers were not ‘all in this together’ and that workers had been shafted.”
The CC noted that the increase in labour militancy is happening in both public and private sectors, and that it is accompanied by an upsurge in labour solidarity. Key examples of this are the Common Front of unions in Quebec and the cross-country unity in support of the Ontario education workers’ struggle against Doug Ford’s threat to use the notwithstanding clause to break their strike.
At the same time, however, the labour leadership’s commitment to leading this militancy and anger into an escalating mass campaign is, at best, uneven.
The Communist Party leadership heard that the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) convention in May was full of militant language from President Bea Bruske but short on action that didn’t involve lobbying as the centrepiece. It seems sadly apparent that the CLC leadership has no plan to deal with skyrocketing prices and rising interest rates, the tsunami of mortgage defaults and mass evictions just ahead, or the deep recession and mass job losses that are expected this fall as a result of the Bank of Canada’s policies.
While the convention showed the weakness of the CLC leadership, which seems content to leave workers’ political struggles at the door of the NDP caucus in parliament, it also demonstrated that workers are ready to fight and are looking for leadership to take on corporations and their governments.
The CC agreed that independent labour political action is an idea and practice that needs to be strengthened in the union movement. To achieve this, it is vital to build strong left caucuses and left leadership in unions, labour councils and federations, based on and committed to class struggle unionism and mass independent political action.
A key element to building the strong and militant left that is necessary for the class struggle is a strong Communist Party.
Healthcare capacity crisis? Wait 'til you see what Ford has planned
Ontario in for "a decade of trouble" unless working people defeat government's plan
Despite the current healthcare capacity crisis, the Ford government plans to cut healthcare service levels.
Hospitals: The news is bad for hospital services. The new Financial Accountability Office (FAO) report on the government's healthcare funding plan reports the government plans 3,000 new beds over the next decade. That’s about an 8.4 percent increase in nominal capacity.
Measured against need, however, this will mean a sharp decrease in service levels. The public wants improved service levels, but the opposite is planned.
That "increase" won’t come even close to covering off increasing demand for services due to population growth, which according to provincial government projections will be about 15 percent. The demands on healthcare will be much more than this, however, due to a rapidly aging population.
Healthcare needs are very sensitive to age. People aged 65 and over use most of our hospital bed days – fifty-eight percent in 2018-19. The population of the 65+ age group is projected to grow by close to 3 percent a year, twice the rate of the overall population. We will have about a third more people aged 65+ in a decade. According to Ontario Ministry of Finance projections, the oldest parts of the 65+ age group (the 75+ and 90+ age groups) are projected to grow the fastest, compounding the need for extra hospital capacity.
The rapid growth in the number of elders is driving up the need for hospital beds (and the hospital workers to staff them) by more than double the planned increase in staffed beds.
Aging is a long-term trend and should have been planned for decades ago – capacity was not adjusted for that reality and crisis resulted. In the midst of that crisis, it should, at the very least be planned for now.
The plans for the years immediately ahead are even worse. The FAO estimates that (despite the current capacity crisis) only 1,000 new beds will be added in the next four years, less than a 3 percent increase. That's enough for about two years of population growth, with nothing to offset aging, much less improve service levels to deal with the capacity crisis.
The plan is to double down on long-term cuts in hospital service levels – a very funny way to respond to a hospital capacity crisis. Hospital service levels are going to take a plunge unless the Ford plan is changed, and more capacity is added.
Home care: A similar dynamic plays out in home care. The government trumpets new money for home care – but (with aging and population growth) the FAO projects a decline in the number of nursing and personal support hours per Ontarian aged 65 and over, from 20.6 hours in 2019-20 to 19.4 hours in 2025-26. That is down 5.8 percent – almost 1 percent per year. Unless this improves there will be no relief of the pressure on healthcare through home care – in fact just the opposite.
Long-term care: There was one small bright spot in the Financial Accountability Office's report on the government's healthcare funding plan. But it's a very tiny one, and only if you ignore longer term cuts.
The FAO now sees a slight improvement in the ratio of long-term care bed to elders 75 years of age and over – from 71.3 beds per 1,000 in 2019-20 to 72.1 in 2027-28. The increase amounts to a 1.1 percent increase over 8 years. That's an increase of 0.1 percent per year.
This is the plan when almost 40,000 elders are on the LTC wait list and the government has just passed legislation to coerce hospital patients to move into long-term care?
Even with this very modest increase, we are still far short of the 90 beds per 1000 elders 75 and over in 2010-11 – 20 percent less.
Like hospital bed capacity, governments have long ignored the need to improve LTC bed capacity, despite the obvious growth in the elder population. Ford's plans to build new capacity in LTC only very modestly improves the low level of capacity established over the last 20 years, when governments decided to all but stop the creation of new LTC beds.
So, this may be better than nothing – but an improvement? That's a stretch. We are far behind where we were only a decade ago.
Surplus healthcare funding? The media focused on $4.4 billion "more than what is necessary" in planned healthcare funding reported by the FAO over four years.
But the FAO was not measuring funding against need – it was measuring funding plans against these miserable service level plans developed by the provincial government. It's not hard to have a surplus when you are actually cutting service levels. And in any case, with the final defeat of the government's unconstitutional Bill 124, the FAO estimates that an additional $2.7 billion will be needed to provide higher hospital wages than it had forecasted through 2027-28 (on top of the $900 million already bargained for higher wages under the Bill 124 period).
The bottom line is that the government is planning 3.9 percent annual healthcare funding increases from 2021-22 to 2027-28, and no one can credibly claim that is sufficient to keep up with rising demand. Even before the current wave of inflation, healthcare cost pressures were commonly put at over 5 percent per year.
Despite the capacity crisis now driving unprecedented hospital closures, the plan of the Doug Ford government is to cut service levels further. We are in for a decade of trouble unless this changes.
In 2018, Ford ran on a promise of ending hallway healthcare: now there are more inpatients in hallways than ever, hospital ERs are closing, and staff vacancies are skyrocketing.
Now we know, the response is to cut capacity relative to rising need.
Science of the struggle:
Whether it is unipolar or multipolar monopoly capitalism, it is still imperialism
What does the thinking of Luxemburg and Lenin, shaped in the midst of imperialism’s first great, global war, have to offer us today, over a century later?
Ideas born from Luxemburg’s imprisonment and Lenin’s exile surely deserve more than scholarly interest. Both stood firmly, and with demonstrated integrity, against policies that served up working people to a fate of death and destruction. If working people were to sacrifice, let it be for liberation from the tyranny of capital. Or, for Lenin, let it be to drive out the rule of a colonial oppressor.
Both were appalled that the left of the time abandoned its partisanship for working people, its working-class internationalism, to endorse – even participate in – imperialist war, war to advance interests of national bourgeoisies.
Neither bothered to distinguish between the antagonists in imperialist war. It did not matter to Luxemburg that Czarist Russia fought for “the political interests of the nation” and “not for the economic expansion of capital.” Russia participated in the imperialist system and did not deserve the support of workers.
Nor did it matter to Luxemburg that many in Germany believed that “German guns” would liberate Russia from Czardom. Instead, she reminds us, “never in the history of the world has an oppressed class received political rights as a reward for service rendered to the ruling classes.”
Imperialist war is not one in which workers weigh the issues (as expressed by their respective bourgeoisies), pick a side and go off to die.
The last three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, similar to the forty years prior to World War I, have been witness to the rise of left opportunism – the abandonment of the socialist project and the elevation of a muddled, meta-class, identity-driven liberalism.
Like its twentieth century antecedent, twenty-first century opportunism has spawned its own version of “social-chauvinism” – let’s call it “imperial exceptionalism.”
These are the practitioners of so-called “American exceptionalism” or its European equivalent. They are “leftists” who have dutifully endorsed and apologized for US and NATO intervention and aggression in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria and, most recently, Ukraine. With differing degrees of understanding, they have supported the so-called Orange Revolution, the 2014 coup and resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, all in the supposed interest of human rights. This group defends imperialism as humanitarian intervention.
These modern-day “social chauvinists” have long abandoned the idea of class and are, thus, totally invested in forcing bourgeois values on the rest of the world. They find no contradiction in forcefully imposing Western-style “democracy” on others, while denying those same people their right of self-determination. They justify imperialist intervention as the duty of the guardians of civilization. Their arrogance knows no bounds.
As Lenin maintains, a “break” must eventually come with these class traitors.
Still others resolutely resist US and European meddling and aggression, but cling to the model that imperialism is strictly US imperialism, and every other country is either a loyal satrapy, a client or a neo-colony of US imperialism. This idea has more in common with the imperialism of ancient Rome than with the imperialism understood by Lenin and Luxemburg. Such a perspective poses the US as the system’s architect, ruler and enforcer, with Europe and other advanced capitalist states loyal enablers, legitimized and protected by US economic and military might. All other countries either tolerate, comply or resist this arrangement.
This is an “empire” theory of imperialism that sees the structure of imperialism held together – not with monopoly capital, spheres of influence and class interests – but with the brute power of the US. It is a state version of the great-man theory of history.
On this view, imperialism is not a system evolved from nineteenth-century capitalism to protect and capture markets, put accumulated capital to work, and exploit every nook and cranny in the world; it is not a system of rivalries; it is instead a hierarchical system with the benefits flowing up to a monolith and subjugation flowing down to those countries that are dominated to one degree or another. It simply exists. And from this myopic perspective, imperialism, as we have known it, will end when US imperialism is throttled.
While this may be a snapshot of how things look at a quick and superficial glance, there are two elements that separate it from a Marxist deeper dive.
On the one hand, it leaves out the basic contradiction between capital and labour. The countries within the imperialist system – participating by virtue of their capitalist economic system – are all class societies. Their position in the imperial hierarchy does not change the class alignment of capital and labour. Improving their relative position or dissolving the hierarchy does not necessarily or fundamentally change that relationship. From the perspective of Lenin and Luxemburg’s theory, changing the hierarchical position is not worth the life-and-death sacrifices of the working class (with the exception of colonial subjection, in Lenin’s view, where struggle may change a country’s status and end class super-exploitation).
Secondly, and as a corollary to the first element, it is capitalism that is at the root of the modern imperialist system. Hierarchies have existed throughout history and at every level – from the family to the nation-state to the global economy. In every hierarchy, there are fundamental social relations that dictate, that determine the hierarchy. In Roman times, Rome was at the top of the hierarchy, but it was not necessary that Rome was at the top of the hierarchy; under those same social conditions, other states could have and did strive to be in that position.
In feudal times, hierarchies were structured by a different, unique set of social conditions. Similarly, the lords enjoying the most dominant positions were challenged by others. Hierarchies are contested; they must be maintained; but they remain unless the conditions – the social relations – allowing and maintaining the hierarchy are eliminated.
In Lenin and Luxemburg’s time, Britain stood at the top of the imperialist hierarchy, yet World War I proved that the existing pyramid of global dominance was neither stable, nor capable of being reformed. Its instability results in war, as it did when other great powers challenged Britain. As Luxemburg stated, the war could have begun on many occasions from different sparks and different challenges. It was the competition of capital that drove great-power rivalries; it will be the elimination of capitalism that will ultimately end imperialism and stifle the lust for war.
Karl Kautsky – a leading social democratic theorist in Lenin and Luxemburg’s era – gave life to the idea that the imperialist hierarchy could be replaced with a balance of great powers, an equilibrium that would maintain a peaceful, stable imperialism without violent conflict. In our time, proponents of globalization anticipated the same capitalist harmony in inter-state relations. These ideas infect today’s left through the concept of multipolarity, the notion that eliminating the US’s overwhelming dominance of the imperialist playing field will somehow result in a fair, civil and polite era of capitalist harmony, with established rules and collegial sportsmanship. This is the same pipedream that petty-bourgeois reformers have that eliminating the giant monopolies or cartels will establish a kind and gentle capitalism composed of earnest small-scale entrepreneurs. Both notions ignore conflicting class interests and sanitize capitalism. Capitalist countries, like capitalist corporations, are in brutal competition with each other. On the scale of countries that leads not to harmony and prosperity, but to war.
Of course, the left should spare no effort in attempting to stop US and NATO military spending, interference, intervention and war-making; but the left should have no illusion that – should that goal be achieved – it exhausts the anti-imperialist project. That will come only when we eliminate capitalism. Whether it is unipolar or multipolar monopoly capitalism, it is still imperialism.
Protest disrupts opening of huge Ottawa armsfair
Over a hundred people disrupted the opening of the CANSEC 2023 arms fair in Ottawa on May 31. CANSEC, which used to be called ARMX, is North America’s largest military weapons fair and attracts around 10,000 military, industry and government participants each year.
Carrying 50-foot banners saying, “Stop Profiting from War” and “Arms Dealers Not Welcome,” and holding dozens of “War Crimes Start Here” signs, activists blocked vehicle and pedestrian entrances and delayed Defense Minister Anita Anand’s opening keynote address for over an hour. Police arrested one protester, who was later released without charges.
Protest organizers said they wanted to “make it impossible for anyone to come anywhere near their weapons fair without confronting the violence and bloodshed these arms dealers are complicit in.”
Rachel Small of World BEYOND War explicitly noted the connection between war and corporate profits. “While more than eight million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of 2022, while more than 400,000 civilians have been killed in eight years of war in Yemen, while at least twenty-four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces since the start of this year, the weapons companies sponsoring and exhibiting in CANSEC are raking in record billions in profits. They are the only people who win these wars.”
Just prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Officer James Taiclet predicted the conflict would result in higher military spending and additional sales. Indeed, the company’s share price increased by 37 percent by the end of 2022. Similarly, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes said the company expected to see “opportunities for international sales” amid the Russian threat. Both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are major sponsors of CANSEC.
Project Ploughshares reports that Canada’s arms exports in 2021 totalled $2.73 billion, the second highest ever and clearly establishing the country as one of the world’s top arms dealers. Ploughshares’ researcher Kelsey Gallagher told the CANSEC protest, “As has been the trend in recent years, we expect huge volumes of arms to have been transferred around the world in 2022, including some to serial human rights abusers.”
World BEYOND War noted that the promotional video for CANSEC 2023 features military and government attendees from countries which currently have poor rights records, such as Peru and Israel.
During protests in Peru at the start of the year, security forces used lethal force including extrajudicial executions, resulting in the deaths of at least 49 protesters. Peru’s former foreign minister Héctor Béjar sent a video message to the CANSEC protest, saying the arms fair “will only bring the suffering and death of millions of people to feed the large profits of arms dealers.”
Despite global calls for a comprehensive arms embargo against Israel, Canadian military exports to that country increased by 33 percent in 2021 to total over $26 million. Palestinian Youth Movement organizer Sarah Abdul-Karim noted that Israel was the only country to have a diplomatic booth at CANSEC.
Abdul-Karim also pointed to the link between the global arms trade and the occupation and oppression of Palestine. “The [CANSEC] event also hosts Israeli arms corporations – like Elbit Systems – that regularly test new military technology on Palestinians and then market them as ‘field-tested’ at arms expos like CANSEC. As Palestinian and Arab youth we refuse to stand by as these governments and weapons corporations make military deals here in Ottawa that further fuel the oppression of our people back home.”
Brent Patterson, coordinator of Peace Brigades International-Canada, reminded protesters that military weaponry is also used by the Canadian state against progressive movements in Canada. “The military goods sold at CANSEC are used in wars, but also by security forces in the repression of human rights defenders, civil society protests and Indigenous rights.”
An example of this is the RCMP and its militarized unit, the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG). The RCMP is a significantpurchaser at CANSEC, equipping the C-IRG with helicopters, drones, rifles and bullets, which it has used against Indigenous land defenders and journalists including at Fairy Creek and Wet’suwet’en territory.
As the contradictions within capitalism continue to sharpen globally, imperialist countries like the US and Canada and their NATO allies are becoming increasingly aggressive in their pursuit of resources and markets, often at one another’s expense. As Larry Wasslen of the Ottawa Peace Council said, “In the scramble to protect and reproduce their individual capitalist interests, these countries are involved in a renewed arms race which is driving up military spending. It’s a sellers’ market for military profiteers and arms fairs like CANSEC.”
Wasslen argues that the solution isn’t just to confront arms manufacturers, but that we also need to change Canadian foreign policy. “The protest against CANSEC is perhaps the most important individual anti-military event in the country. It’s right in the capital, it involves all the major weapons builders and dealers, and it’s the biggest event of its kind on the continent. It’s an important step in the overall struggle for a new, independent foreign policy based on peace, disarmament, mutual cooperation and respect for sovereignty. We need to consciously build toward that goal.”
Written with files from World BEYOND War
Labour can and must lead the fight for jobs, public services and climate justice
(So, why is the CLC leadership greenwashing class collaborationism?)
PV Labour Bureau
Without question, one of the most urgent issues facing working people today is the climate crisis and the need for rapid decarbonization of the economy. With so much of production in Canada related to carbon, whether directly or indirectly, millions of jobs and billions of dollars are held in the balance of any transformation plan.
Of course, since we live in a capitalist society, corporations are driving government policy in this area. The drive to maximize private profit largely explains the near-criminal delay in any notable progress toward shifting from fossil fuel-based energy to renewables, replacing gasoline and diesel cars with EV vehicles, or building mass inter- and intra-urban transit and public transportation. Even now, as many of these captains of industry take up the mantle of “green transition,” they do so with an eye toward increasing profit through deskilling, production speedups, automation and, famously, massive public subsidies.
Letting capital lead the shift toward lower impact production means shifting toward higher profits at the expense of jobs, wages and social programs.
Fortunately, labour has weighed in on this issue with a number of unions preparing transition plans that put workers’ needs ahead of profit, usually in the context of their specific area of concentration and representation.
One of, if not the most impressive of these is the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ “Delivering Community Power” plan, launched in 2016. It’s a comprehensive approach which calls for infrastructure upgrades to lower climate impact, and an expansion of public services available through Canada Post as a way to meet social need while reducing carbon use. The plan promotes several specific initiatives including greening the Canada Post vehicle fleet (the largest in Canada) with union-made electric vehicles, retrofitting Canada Post buildings with solar panels, and expanding the use of Canada Post as the consolidated last mile delivery to ease congestion and pollution caused by too many delivery trucks that aren’t full to capacity.
Critically, “Delivering Community Power” emerges directly from CUPW members’ work, with the union, speaking in its own voice, proposing working-class solutions to social problems. This is an example of labour independently setting the bar for social and economic development, and challenging governments and industry to meet it.
Campaigns like CUPW’s provide a path for public and private sector unions to work together and advance political demands based on working-class experience and connect those to their struggles in the workplace and at the bargaining table. It’s the kind of thing we need to see more of. Imagine the possibilities if Unifor, USW and CUPE launched a joint campaign for publicly owned and operated high-speed electric rail and other mass public transportation, to reduce the number of passenger vehicles and related infrastructure. Combine this with the call for a shortened work week with no loss in take home pay, and we would have a strong labour-led campaign for jobs, wages and climate justice that could engage millions of workers across many industrial sectors.
In the wake of the Canadian Labour Congress convention in May, where delegates clearly and consistently pressed for real action on jobs, wages, public services and equity, working people might have expected the CLC leadership to step up to the plate and lead this kind of strong fight.
But, if its response to Ottawa’s recently announced “green jobs” legislation is any indication, it looks like the Congress reached for a rubber bat and struck out in three straight pitches.
On June 14, a full day before the government even tabled Bill C-50, The Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act, the CLC was publicly championing the bill as “an unprecedented opportunity to foster collaboration” between labour and business, “to strengthen our economy as we tackle climate change.” This narrative was immediately echoed throughout the labour movement, with major union affiliates all chiming in to celebrate the legislation which, they rush to insist, “emerged as a result of the New Democrat and Liberals’ Supply and Confidence Agreement.”
It’s absolutely true that climate change and the related economic impact are enormous and pressing challenges which demand government action. It’s also true that working people – not private capital – need to be driving the solutions to those challenges, if there is to be any hope of success.
But there is a world of difference between being in the driver’s seat and having “a seat at the table,” especially when that table has been built, set and seated according to the priorities of business and its representatives in government.
What does the Sustainable Jobs Act contain that the CLC feels is so unprecedented? It begins with a three-page preamble which repeatedly mentions the importance of decent work in an inclusive economy, the key role that the labour movement has in building a net-zero economy, and the necessity of strengthening collaboration (that word again) with Indigenous peoples. But beyond preambular platitudes, the bill contains very little specifics and a whole lot of weasel words.
The first stated purpose of Bill C-50, before anything about sustainability or net-zero, is “to facilitate and promote economic growth.” To the extent that this discounts zero-growth or degrowth narratives, it’s somewhat useful. But labour or anyone else reading this needs to view it against the backdrop of a federal government which has purchased and bankrolled an oil pipeline and repeatedly sent heavily armed security forces into Wet’suwet’en territory, betraying its own oft-repeated commitments to climate justice and Indigenous rights, all in the name of economic growth. The same energy corporations which are so well-served by the government’s actions are also among the loudest voices calling for state assistance in realizing the “economic opportunities” of the shift to a net-zero economy. Corralling public funding for private profit is clearly job number one for the Sustainable Jobs Act.
The bill also creates a Sustainable Jobs Partnership Council, composed of representatives from government, industry, Indigenous organizations and labour (which is to be one of the co-chairs), whose task is to provide “advice” to the government. Interestingly, all members of this council are appointed by the (unspecified) government minister – there is absolutely no provision for labour or Indigenous organizations to name their own representatives. Would the labour movement accept employer-appointed worker representatives to joint health and safety committees, grievances or collective bargaining?
The legislation compels the government to prepare a Sustainable Jobs Action Plan which, again, has “facilitate and promote economic growth” as its primary goal. But the government doesn’t have to prepare its first plan until the end of 2025, meaning it won’t even be discussed until early 2026. So, this means workers have to undergo at least another two and a half years of corporate profiteering under the pretext of climate justice, or just outright foot-dragging while the environmental crisis deepens.
Disgracefully, after repeating the importance of Indigenous peoples’ involvement in the preamble, which also references the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Bill C-50 makes not one single commitment to the UNDRIP principles in the body of the legislation. Unquestioningly, this is to avoid committing the government to consulting with Indigenous peoples and receiving their “free, prior and informed consent” to the legislation or development arising from it. This is not an honest oversight – it is a deliberate effort by the government to avoid its obligationsunder international law. Like the original theft of Indigenous land and ensuing genocide, this is the state acting in the interests of capital in the same way that it acts in capital’s interests against workers. Labour cannot not turn a blind eye to this.
It is peculiar that the CLC leadership is celebrating the class collaborationism which Bill C-50 legislates at a moment when the economic base for “class partnership” is steadily eroding. As the systemic crisis of monopoly capitalism deepens, big business is placing increasing demands on the working class and extracting more and more concessions, not opening its mind to workers’ needs. In this context, labour needs to stiffen its resistance, not seek an accommodation with capital.
There is a lot at stake for the working class as confront the climate crisis and the related economic transformation. We need to press the labour leadership to take a class struggle approach, building on campaigns like “Delivering Community Power,” rather than a defeatist line that jumps in bed with corporations and greenwashes class collaborationism.
McMaster experience shows nature of class struggle on campus
On March 31, an executive member of CUPE 3906 – the union representing teaching and research assistants at Hamilton’s McMaster University – was tackled, handcuffed and detained without charge by Special Constables on campus. Their crime? Putting up a climate justice poster in support of a hunger strike held by MacDivest, a student organization dedicated to the university’s divestment from fossil fuels.
Following the assault, the member in question was made a persona non grata – they were banned from campus for a year and barred from seeking future employment. This punishment, which is meant to be a last resort for cases in which an individual poses some immediate harm, was not passed democratically. Not only is this a gross misapplication of university policy, but it also circumvents due process.
This is merely one among many recent unsettling events at McMaster University which demonstrate the irreconcilable antagonism between capitalism and the values which emerge as its superstructure. In the case above, speech is as free as the movement of capital; as soon as the prior threatens the latter, it is abandoned or – as demonstrated at McMaster – violently suppressed.
On March 1, several graduate students disrupted a State of the Academy address delivered by the Provost, Susan Tighe. Once Tighe’s address concluded, these students read an open letter calling on the university to improve funding for graduate students.
Many graduate students at McMaster are funded below the poverty line, and although around 70 percent of them are projected to take more than 4 years to finish their degrees, there is no guaranteed funding beyond their fourth year.
Despite the university’s claim that it would be far too expensive to increase funding, its yearly consolidated surpluses have totaled over $730 million since 2016 and the university regularly boasts about its financial accomplishments and spending ventures. Clearly, they aren’t fooling anybody.
Although the graduate students who disrupted the State of the Academy address were acting as students and not as members of CUPE, on March 29 the university filed a grievance against the union. The grievance alleges that the disruption was organized by CUPE, in violation of collective agreements.
Among the many remedies proposed by the university, the grievance seeks damages (apart from the feelings of the provost, it is unclear as to what exactly was damaged by the disruption), a commitment to stop “the disruption of university business” (graduate students starve so that “university business” can thrive, after all!) and an end to an alleged harassment campaign against the provost.
What evidence did they present to demonstrate this harassment campaign? Public posters containing a picture of the provost and publicly available information about her salary. CUPE denied the grievance, but the university has referred it to arbitration.
The violent suppression of speech for the sake of capital, therefore, is not always as brutal as the first event described above. In many instances, one is beaten over the head with bureaucracy or legal procedures – this is the university’s modus operandi.
For example, during the teaching and research assistant strike in November 2022, the university’s negotiating team presented CUPE with a lackluster contract and announced that following its meeting about a week following, the Board of Directors would not convene again for several months. This meant that if CUPE members voted against the contract, it would take several months for any subsequent proposals to be ratified.
Many union members understood this to be an ultimatum: either vote in favour of a lackluster contract – one which was not fundamentally different from the one which they overwhelmingly rejected in favour of a strike – or continue striking and bargaining for the next few months. Ultimately, members chose the former.
Of course, events such as these are not unique to McMaster. Insofar as universities operate as businesses, they become a site of class struggle like any other business. In each and every case, the pretense of liberal values ends once the worker’s shift begins.
But, even if workers have a union like CUPE acting as their collective voice, the extent of a union’s effectiveness is limited within a capitalist economy. Only a democratic reorganization of the economy can put an end to events like those described above. So, graduate students cannot just fight the class struggle within the university – they must also fight the class struggle outside the university.
Owens Illinois strike: organization, mobilization and solidarity
Striking workers at the Owens Illinois plant took to the streets of Montreal’s Le Sud-Ouest borough on June 16 to publicize their struggle.
The 330 workers, affiliated with USW Local 206G, have been on strike at the Pointe-Saint-Charles beer bottle plant since May 10. The solidarity march on June 16 was a further step in their pressure tactics. In recent weeks, picket lines have also been set up in front of the Wellington Street plant and at the company's LaSalle warehouse. These picket lines have disrupted plant operations and put pressure on retailers and businesses which are dependent on glass packaging products.
The struggle at the Owens Illinois plant is particularly important because it is Quebec's only accredited conditioner of recycled glass. With public pressure to improve recycling and the future expansion of bottle deposits, the US company decided to take advantage of growing demand and invest nearly $70 million over four years in its Montreal facilities by 2022.
However, the strikers feel neglected and are raising the issue of the company's under-investment in labour benefits, which has led to stagnant wages and deteriorating working conditions. Despite several months of good-faith negotiations by the union, no significant progress has been made with the employer. In May, Local 206G representative Éric Dumas declared that the 330 workers were saying "no to rollbacks!" and had decided to "put their foot down" by delivering a 97 percent strike mandate. In addition to wage demands, which are justified by the decline in purchasing power, the Owens Illinois strikers also want improvements to their pension plan. The latest round of negotiations, held on May 25, failed to produce a decent offer from the employer.
The Owens Illinois workers’ relentless struggle demonstrates their determination to fight and win this battle for just demands against the multinational corporation. They understand that the best strategy for countering the employer's antagonistic interests is to rely on organization, mobilization and solidarity. This enables them to forge a real balance of power, strengthening their position and their chances of success. The 330 workers at the Pointe-Saint-Charles plant are not alone in this struggle; they have the support of other workers and union organizations in Quebec and elsewhere.
WFTU calls on labour movement to fight for refugee rights
On the occasion of World Refugee Day, June 20, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) calls upon its more than 105 million members in 133 countries on 5 continents to continue and strengthen their struggle, in every sector and in every region, for the full and smooth integration of immigrants into local societies and every aspect of social life, including trade unions.
It is obvious that imperialist aggressiveness for the control and exploitation of markets, natural resources and energy roads; capitalist barbarity; anti-labor and anti-people’s policies; hunger, poverty and the modern slave trade are the main causal factors that have directly or indirectly compelled millions of people into forced displacement. The latest data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees shows that there are 108 million people who were forcibly displaced worldwide.
Refugees are one of the most vulnerable social groups who are uprooted from their homelands and end up in the so-called host-countries where, in most cases, they live in inhumane conditions, facing insecurity and being deprived of basic necessities. Refugees, as well as economic migrants and all forcibly displaced people, are treated as a “reserve army” for capitalist production. When capitalists need to increase production, refugees and migrants are exploited as cheap labor in insecure and miserable working conditions with starvation wages.
Besides that, the number of people who were displaced within their countries due to conflicts, natural disasters, climate change and economic consequences is increasing year by year. The number of internally displaced people has reached 62.5 million people, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Attacks against refugees are increasing. With the rise of neo-nazi and fascist governments around the world, refugees are met with discrimination and hate crimes. Also, neoliberal governments are using anti-refugee and anti-people policies to limit the entrance of refugees to their countries, most of the time in violation of international treaties and human rights.
Imperialist forces interfere in the internal matters of sovereign countries – leaving wars and destruction and imposing blockades and economic sanctions, leading people to flee their homelands – meanwhile, doing whatever in their power to repel refugees from entering their countries and therefore refusing to take responsibility of their actions, while playing the role of human rights defenders and activists.
The latest tragedy in the Mediterranean has caused many crocodile tears to fall. European leaders shed tears over the victims of the sunken boat that was transfering 750 refugees, but they are still funding military conflicts and imposing sanctions on the country that the refugees are coming from.
Once again, the Mediterranean Sea is turned into a vast wet grave for the victims of imperialist wars and capitalist barbarity, looking for better days in Europe. Once again, the EU is murdering people with its policies and interventions.
The international class-oriented trade union movement unites millions of workers in every part of the globe against exploitation, regardless of their origin, nationality, gender, colour, religion or any other insubstantial differentiation.
We are fighting for the creation of dignified welcoming and hospitable centres, where food and medical care as well as education for the children of refugees will be provided. The protection of refugees is an obligation of the states of the host countries, and they should not transfer this duty to the NGOs and their controversial operation. We demand simplification and acceleration of all procedures for the secure transport of migrants to their final destination countries.
We continue and intensify our struggle to ensure democratic freedoms and civil rights, dignified wages, appropriate working and living conditions, security and prosperity for all refugees. We are strengthening our voice for the dissolution of NATO and the abolition of imperialist interventions. We oppose all forms of discrimination and racism. We isolate the far right, neo-fascism and xenophobia that is sowing poison, obscuring the real division of society into exploiters and exploited, serving the perpetuation of capitalist barbarism.
Youth around the world send solidarity to Venezuelan left
Declaration from World Federation of Democratic Youth member organizations
Through a joint communiqué, more than 20 youth organizations from different parts of the world expressed their concern at the “advance of dangerous actions aimed at violating the political and democratic rights of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).”
The declaration was issued between May 26-28, 2023, when the General Council of the World Federation of Democratic Youth was taking place in Havana, Cuba, where the signatory organizations met to reaffirm their anti-imperialist and democratic positions and their unwavering struggle for peace and social justice for all the peoples of the world.
The declaration is reproduced below:
Hands off the JCV and PCV!
The undersigned youth organizations express our concern over information coming from Venezuela about the advance of dangerous actions aimed at violating the political and democratic rights of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).
We advocate respect for the historic right won by the workers to organize their own political parties independently of the bourgeoisie and the governments of the day. In this sense, we demand that the political and democratic rights of the PCV be guaranteed, and that the decisions adopted by the XVI National Congress of the PCV held in November 2022 be respected, within the framework of its statutes and principles of internal democracy.
We call on the government and institutions of Venezuela to halt their plans that threaten the democratic freedoms and the legitimate right to exist and struggle of the Communist Party and the Communist Youth of Venezuela.
We express our solidarity and support to the Communist Youth of Venezuela (JCV), member organization of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) since 1947, and whose right to exist is also seriously threatened if the maneuvers to assault and intervene in the PCV prosper.
We reiterate our firm solidarity with the people and youth of Venezuela in the face of imperialist interference and illegal criminal sanctions, as well as with the legitimate struggles of Venezuelan workers for living wages.
Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterjungen ~ Communist Youth of Bolivia ~ Communist Youth Union – Brazil ~ Young Communist League of Canada ~ Communist Youth of Ecuador ~ Communist Youth Collectives – Spain ~ Union of Communist Youth of Spain ~ Communist Youth of Greece ~ All India Students’ Federation ~ Youth of the People’s Unity Party – Jordan ~ Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth ~ Communist Youth Front – Mexico ~ National Youth Federation Nepal ~ Palestinian Youth Organization ~ Paraguayan Communist Youth ~ Syrian Communist Youth Union ~ Syrian Democratic Youth Union ~ Socialist Youth Union Sri Lanka ~ Socialist Students’ Union of Sri Lanka ~ Communist Youth Türkiye ~ Communist Youth of Venezuela
"Without the 2014 coup, Ukraine would be living in peace"
The following is an excerpt from part one of a three-part interview with Oleg Nesterenko, President of the European Trade and Industry Center, by the French publication "L'Éclaireur des Alpes.” Here, Nesterenko describes the backdrop to the current war in Ukraine and discusses the role of foreign interference in escalating and continuing the conflict.
L'Éclaireur des Alpes: What are the reasons that led the Russians to intervene militarily in Ukraine, and what are the underlying causes?
Oleg Nesterenko: When talking about the reasons why the Russians intervened militarily in Ukraine, root causes and triggers are often confused, especially in the Western press. Triggers are mistaken for causes. As for the causes, we don't even talk about them, or we just talk nonsense. It's important to distinguish one from the other.
There are two main interdependent triggers. The first is the coup d'état in Kiev in 2014. Without this unconstitutional overthrow of power, Ukraine would be living in peace today. Without this coup, for which there is tangible evidence of US initiation and backing, there would not be the current war. It's important to stress that before this event in 2014, neither Crimea nor the Donetsk region nor the Lugansk region had any intention of separating from Ukraine. In Crimea, I never heard anyone, whether ordinary residents or senior officials in closed circles, talk about the possibility or necessity of separating from Ukraine and rejoining Russia. There was no reason to do so.
And even later, within the framework of the Minsk agreements, the idea of Ukraine's separation from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions was by no means foreseen or even raised. The subject of the agreement was the issue of autonomy from the central power in Kiev, starting with linguistic autonomy: the right of the inhabitants of eastern Ukraine to speak and use their native language, the language they want and not the one imposed by the new power bearing a more than questionable legitimacy.
The second trigger for the war in Ukraine was the 2014 Odessa massacre, about which little is said [in the West]. Local propaganda seeks to conceal this major fact – it's far too embarrassing.
When the coup took place in Kiev and the ultra-nationalists, supported directly by the United States, came to power, the Russian-speaking and traditionally pro-Russian parts of Ukraine – the Russian-speaking regions of Donbass, Crimea, Odessa, Nikolayev, Kharkov – rose up.
And when the extremists came to Odessa to put down the perfectly peaceful demonstrations by the inhabitants, they came armed to kill. Officially, 48 people died; in reality – certainly more. And these were victims of some accident. It was the people of Odessa who were massacred by ultranationalists and neo-Nazis from the western regions of traditionally Russophobic Ukraine. And these inhabitants were massacred with enormous savagery for their refusal to accept the new power that was never elected by anyone. The inhabitants of the pro-Russian regions were deeply traumatized by this slaughter, even more so than by the events in Kiev, because this time it happened on their territory and could happen again at any time. I was in Crimea in 2014, and I vividly remember the locals saying, "It's totally out of the question for these degenerates to come to us".
Although almost all the perpetrators of the Odessa massacre are well known – there is a wealth of eyewitness accounts, photos and videos with the unmasked faces of the participants in the massacre – not a single one has been arrested or even bothered by the new Ukrainian government. This is the foundation of the new Ukrainian "democracy" so admired by the gullible, manipulated masses in the West.
So, after the proclamations of independence from Ukraine by the Crimea and Donbass regions – which were easy to carry out, given that at least three-quarters of the populations concerned were vehemently opposed to the new power installed in Kiev – the events in Odessa only confirmed the validity of separation.
How do you explain the interference of the United States and the European Union in matters that, all things considered, could have remained regional?
This is because the real root causes of this conflict are quite different. The real reasons lie with the United States. You have to forget even about Ukraine, because it actually has little to do with it. It's not the Ukrainians who have decided or are deciding anything – they're just performers and victims in a great game that's way beyond them.
So, Ukraine is just a pawn, and Europe a kind of chessboard?
Unfortunately, that's exactly the case. And those in charge in Kiev are perfectly aware of the situation. I don't believe for a second that Zelensky and his entourage are unaware of their real role.
To return to the underlying reasons for the war in Ukraine, there is not one, but three key reasons. On the one hand, there is the desire to continue world domination by the US monetary system – the dollar. The war in Ukraine is, first and foremost, a war for the US currency.
The second reason is to reduce economic relations between Russia and the European Union as much as possible. It's not Russia, but the European Union that is the United States' main competitor on the world market. Reducing European competitiveness by depriving them of one of the key elements for regulating their cost of industrial production – cheap Russian energy – was one of the key elements of US foreign policy.
The third reason is to significantly weaken Russia, and therefore its ability to intervene in the inevitable major conflict between the United States and China, for which Russia is the latter's energy and food "rear base." When the active phase of Sino-American hostilities begins, without Russia behind it, China's economy will be doomed.
But hasn't Russia underestimated the Ukrainians' ability to resist?
Remember the appraisals of Ukraine's ability to maintain resistance against Russia. Just before the outbreak, it was estimated that Ukraine could only hold out for a very limited time against Russia.
Contrary to what is being reported in the Western mass media, and in spite of what has been happening on the ground for over a year now, I'd like to stress that those experts who predicted that Ukraine would only be able to hold out for a limited time were not wrong at all. They were not at all mistaken in their predictions.
We mustn’t forget that the active phase of hostilities was launched at the end of February 2022, and that talks between Ukraine and Russia were already taking place in Istanbul at the end of March 2022. Why would a side that feels strong and knows it still has considerable capacity for resistance sit at the negotiating table and agree to a form of surrender? It never happens that way. The Ukrainians went to the negotiating table knowing that their capacity for resistance was very limited.
In Istanbul, when the two sides reached consensus on most of the key elements in the ceasefire agreement, when they were practically one step away from ratifying the peace agreement, there was a 180-degree turn on the Ukrainian side. Why was this? It doesn't take much business experience to know. In negotiations, when one side does an overnight about-face, it only means one thing – that they've had a counterproposal from the competitors of those seated opposite them. That's how it is in the business world; it's the same in politics.
For Ukraine to afford the luxury of backing out of the peace agreement, it must have received a counterproposal. And this counterproposal could only come from the Western camp. The events that followed revealed the elements of this proposal: Ukraine was offered a gigantic line of credit, partly payable in arms, and in return it would refrain from concluding an agreement with Russia to stop the war and continue supplying the fighting "manpower." That was the deal.
To meet Kiev's second commitment, Ukraine's national borders were closedto prevent people leaving the country. At the start of the war there was a gigantic exodus of people from the Ukrainian territories, particularly the male population. Men knew that if they didn't leave, they would be sent to the slaughter. When Western TV talks about Ukrainian heroism, it makes me smile because I know full well that the country would have been quickly depleted of future fighters if the borders hadn't been closed.
Incidentally, leaving Ukraine since the borders were closed requires bribing Ukrainian customs officials with between 7,000 to 10,000 USD. So, virtually no wealthy Ukrainians are fighting in Ukraine. Dying today in Ukraine – that's the fate of the poor.
In Europe, Ukrainian refugees have enjoyed a very protective status, compared to Syrians and Afghans in particular. But in your opinion, is this contrived?
Yes, it is. On the one hand, the "Atlanticist" bloc is directly responsible for the exodus of the Syrian and Afghan populations – it would take a separate article to list the "charitable" actions committed by this bloc against these countries and their disastrous consequences. If we are in the logic of welcoming refugees from all horizons, then it is these two populations who have the most legitimacy to benefit from it, not to mention the Libyans whose US proxies have destroyed the future of their country.
On the other hand, when it comes to Ukrainian refugees there's what we know about them from the mass media, and there's the reality, which differs greatly from the propaganda. The Western media presents Ukrainians as a group of individuals who have fled the war. That's the narrative we know. The reality doesn't match it at all.
Ukrainian refugees are far from a homogeneous block. There's a clear divide between refugees from the country’s east and the west. Those from the west, traditionally nationalist territories, fled Ukraine while their region was under no real threat. They have risked nothing, either at the start of the war or today. By the second month of the conflict, it was already clear that Russia had no interest in this area. The real reason for people’s departure from this area to Europe is not humanitarian, but economic.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the western regions of Ukraine have lived in great poverty, bordering on destitution: virtually all the country's wealth is concentrated in Kiev and eastern Ukraine. Between 1991 and 2022, millions of Ukrainians, mostly from the above-mentioned regions, left to work abroad. There are two destinations for these workers: Russia and the European Union.
With the outbreak of war, many families left to join their husbands working illegally in the European Union. Many others saw an opportunity to leave and change their lives. When they left, many rented out their properties to refugees from the east of the country, who are not traditionally attracted by the riches of Europe and prefer to stay in Ukraine.
On the other hand, those from the east of the country, traditionally pro-Russian territories, have fled a very real danger. Among them, those who have gone to Europe are those who did not have the financial means to stay in western Ukraine, which is a perfectly safe zone, but where they are being robbed by locals who hate them almost as much as they hate Russians. And what the Europeans don't know is that many of these genuine refugees are fundamentally pro-Russian and hate the Kiev regime and everything it stands for. If they didn't go to Russia, it's only because it wasn't possible to cross the front line.
There was only one way for them to escape: westwards.
Translated from French by PV staff
“The real censorship of Cubans comes from outside of Cuba”
CNC condemns withdrawal of award to Cuban poet
The Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC) is appalled by the treatment in France of distinguished Cuban Poet Nancy Morejón, by the Paris Poetry Market (Marché de la Poésie). Nancy, an internationally recognized poet and academic, was the first Black woman to win Cuba’s National Literature Prize and her considerable body of work touches on Black Cuban history and culture, women and much more.
The poetry festival’s 40th edition (June 7 to 11 in Paris) gave Honorary Presidency to Nancy Morejón, but then suddenly withdrew it after a campaign by right-wing activist and writer JacoboMachover, who lives in Paris. The PEN Club of France protested the honour to Morejón because she supports the Cuban government.
The shameful decision of the Poetry Market to cave and withdraw its merited invitation of Honorary President to Nancy sustains the glaring fact that the real censorship of Cubans comes from outside of Cuba.
This attack on Morejón is part of an orchestrated repression of Cubans who are faithful to the Cuban people, such as Buena Fe, a music group on tour in Spain, who in the midst of right-wing hardliners violently disrupting several of their performances and attacking its singer Israel Rojas in a Barcelona restaurant, have pressured venues to cancel some scheduled concerts due to threats to the safety of the musicians and fans.
Artists and writers around the world have condemned this recent treatment of highly respected and creative Afro-Cuban woman Nancy Morejón. The CNC adds its voice to those condemning the attempts to silence a great Cuban poet. We join protests from UNEAC, the World Poetry Movement, the International Union of Left Publishers and others.
Nancy Morejon’s incredible work and legacy should be shared with the world, but instead, we see this effort that is congruent with the imperial onslaught and economic, media and culture war against Cuba, an attempt to silence her. The Canadian Network on Cuba offers its support and solidarity with Nancy Morejón and to all Cubans who are standing up to unjustified, malicious attacks.
Samantha Hislop and Julio Fonseca
Co-Chairs, Canadian Network on Cuba
Just in time for Quebec’s Moving Day, Legault reinforces the speculative housing cycle
For several months, Quebec’s Housing Minister France-Elaine Duranceau has been promising legislation that will "balance the rights of tenants and landlords.” With renovictions multiplying and tenants facing a market overheated by speculation and a chronic shortage of affordable housing, the minister was under pressure to provide additional protections for tenants.
Under the guise of supposedly tightening the rules on evictions, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government instead remained true to the class it represents, and tabled Bill 31 which effectively abolishes lease assignments. [Ed. Lease assignment, also called lease transfer, involves a new tenant taking over the lease entirely and the previous tenant has no right to move back.]
Under current law, a tenant can assign their lease and the landlord cannot oppose this without serious grounds. This legal operation of lease transfer prevents the landlord from arbitrarily increasing the rent between two tenants. Although the law formally prohibits rent increases which exceed the rent-setting threshold established by regulation, in practice, tenants who suspect an abusive increase when they move in must force the landlord under a subpoena to disclose the last rent paid. Most tenants don't have the resources, time or energy that the legal process requires. What's more, even if they have the means to do so, they may be reluctant to start their new contractual relationship with a landlord with a legal claim.
For the housing minister, having a mechanism – such as assignment of lease – to enforce rent-setting rules constitutes "an impediment to landlords' property rights." "Is the tenant the owner of the building? No. It's not up to the tenant to control the rent increase for the next person," she chants. Under Bill 31 the tenant can still propose a lease assignment but if the landlord objects, the lease will be automatically terminated.
This major setback for tenants' rights will facilitate the acceleration of rent increases in Quebec. A rent increase doesn't simply increase the landlord's monthly income – the market value of the income property increases with the amount of rent on the lease. So, when a landlord increases the rent substantially between two tenants, they also increase the resale value of their building. In this way, a landlord can also obtain more financing from their lenders on the new value of the building, to buy other buildings occupied by longstanding tenants paying below-market rent, and thus reinforce the speculative spiral.
In her press briefing following the tabling of the bill, the housing minister spoke of measures to put an end to "unbridled speculation." The proposed measures are nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Bill 31 changes the procedure for contesting evictions due to expansion, subdivision or change of use of a dwelling. From now on, silence of a tenant who has received a notice of eviction will be taken as a refusal, and the landlord will have 30 days to file an application for authorization to evict.
These are the rules that already apply to repossessions (when the landlord wants to house themself or a dependent in the tenant's home). In the case of these eviction applications, it will be up to the tenant to prove the landlord's bad faith. But how can such bad faith be proven in advance?
The only change in this bill pertains to compensation for eviction. This is increased from a total of three months' rent currently, to one month's rent for each year of occupancy up to a maximum of 24 months. So, a tenant who has occupied a dwelling for 24 years and is paying $500 a month will receive $12,000 in compensation, instead of $1,500.
This will help the tenant pay for, at most, a few months' rent in today's market. And, given the tempting profits available to speculators when they succeed in doubling or tripling the rent on units that have been occupied for a long time, the additional compensation will not be a deterrent. In such cases, their profits are measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.
As long as the burden of deterrence remains on the shoulders of the individual without the means – the tenant – to sue speculators for damages in the event of bad-faith eviction, after the fact, the speculative spiral will continue to accelerate. Making cosmetic changes to eviction rules only serves to mask – in the name of "balancing rights" – the considerable advantage that Bill 31 gives to landlords, especially the larger ones.
The only way to put an end to this is to adopt truly dissuasive mechanisms, including fines that represent the amount of the building's added value obtained by increasing rents abusively after an eviction in bad faith or between two tenants, and the expropriation of speculators when necessary.
Science takes a back seat to corporate lobby with federal decision on agri-food gene editing
Even though they have no history of safe use in Canada or elsewhere, Agriculture Minister Bibeau announced on May 3 that Canada will exempt gene-edited plants from regulation and mandatory public notification unless they contain foreign DNA or if they are herbicide tolerant. For all other changes in a gene-edited plant, it is up to the company to decide whether their product might cause an environmental harm and thus should be assessed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). There is no way for the public to know whether a biotech company’s assessment was thorough, and no mechanism to ensure it reports any troublesome impacts it might discover.
Nobody doubts that gene editing is a powerful tool. With CRISPR, it is possible to change a plant’s DNA at specific locations by silencing or forcing the expression of specific genes, altering the DNA sequence or removing a gene altogether. Gene editing can force genetic changes that are not otherwise possible because CRISPR can defeat mechanisms that protect critical areas of a plant’s genome from random mutation. New techniques are further expanding the scope of gene editing technology, allowing even more profound changes to the functions of the cell.
The trouble is, science doesn’t fully understand what actually happens when changes are made this way. CRISPR can cut a gene sequence at a precise spot – but it is up to the cell to knit the DNA back together, and it might not do that exactly as envisioned.
Genes are not Lego blocks – an individual gene can control multiple aspects of an organism’s development and its response to different environmental conditions. Using gene editing is therefore likely to change more than just one trait. A gene-edited vegetable might, for example, produce a less bitter-tasting leaf, but the altered genome might also make it more susceptible to insect infestations, leading growers to use more pesticides. Or the bitterness gene might also regulate the plant’s response to heat stress – changing it might mean the new plant needs more intensive irrigation or produces lower yields during summer weather.
Canada regulates genetically engineered organisms as “Plants with Novel Traits” based on their outward characteristics instead of the technology used to make changes. The CFIA’s new regulatory approach defines most gene-edited plants as “non-novel” or not “new” and thus exempt. The companies that hold patents on CRISPR have licenced the world’s biggest seed companies – Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and BASF – to use the technology in seed, allowing them to collect royalties on gene-edited varieties. As with patented GM corn, canola and soy, farmers will not be allowed to save seed from gene-edited crops for future planting. To obtain a patent, inventors must demonstrate their product or process is new, involves an inventive step, and is capable of industrial application. So how can the same gene-edited seed be non-novel in the eyes of the CFIA, but novel when seen by the patent office?
In spite of having no experience assessing gene-edited crops, the CFIA assumes that, for gene edited seeds that have no foreign DNA, all the science needed to safeguard health and environmental safety already exists and is known – there will be no new questions. Chemicals like DDT and drugs like Thalidomide taught us that benefits of new products are easy to see, but harms and problems may only become apparent over time. By allowing non-disclosure of gene-edited seed before marketing, the CFIA is closing its eyes to what might be growing in our fields, thwarting its own ability to investigate emerging issues in the future.
The current tools used to identify transgenic crops for GMO labelling by sensitive markets such as the EU cannot find gene-edited plants. However, several scientists have now published methodologies to detect them. Allowing biotech companies to market gene-edited seed without mandatory public disclosure puts huge financial risks on farmers who will pay the cost when buyers use these tools and find unwanted gene-edited products. How will our agriculture sector recover if our export customers lose trust in Canada?
The biotech companies claim that by using gene-editing they can create seed with amazing new qualities to solve our biggest problems – and at the same time say these high-tech seeds are no different from the seed that farmers, plant breeders and Indigenous communities have developed over centuries of traditional breeding. Since both these claims cannot be true, shouldn’t gene edited plants and seeds be publicly disclosed and examined with unbiased science and publicly listed before being released?
We need mandatory, independent safety assessments and mandatory reporting to government for all gene-edited seeds and foods. The CFIA and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have put their faith in the biotech lobby’s claims and self-interested promises. Minister Bibeau must re-evaluate this misplaced trust and reverse her decision to give biotech companies free reign over gene-edited seed. Until then, it is simply not possible to claim that Canada’s regulations are independent, science-based or in the public interest.
Cathy Holtslander is Director of Research and Policy at the National Farmers Union
Pages from our past…
Working-class solidarity on the docks
Canadian Tribune Vol 57 No 2153 ~ July 9, 1979
Dock workers expressed their hatred of fascism and their solidarity with Argentinian workers July 3-4 by refusing to load a shipment of $120 million worth of Canadian nuclear technology to Argentina.
About 135 members of the International Longshoremen’s Association and the Brotherhood of Railway, Steamship and Airline Clerks refused to cross a picket line set up outside a giant port terminal by 40 protesters from labor, church and environmental organizations.
By honoring the picket line, the longshoremen and other dock workers effectively blocked the loading of 15 containers of heavy water, destined for use in Candu nuclear reactors, aboard the Argentine freighter Entre Rios II. The picket line was organized jointly by the New Brunswick Federation of Labor and the Saint John Labor Council.
The picketers were supported by 48 organizations including the 2.5-million-member Canadian Labor Congress, numerous labor councils across the country, seven provincial labor federations, several church groups and environmental organizations, the main trade unions in the nuclear industry and the No Candu for Argentina Committee.
While the pickets were up July 4, a seven-person delegation led by Don Lee, Human Rights director for the Ontario Federation of Labor, met with Tory external affairs minister Flora MacDonald to demand the government cancel its sale of Candu nuclear technology to Argentina, and press the fascist government there to immediately release 17 political prisoners. Some of these have been held since 1974.
To date, only one person has been allowed to leave the country under the agreement between Argentina and Canada. The military dictatorship isn’t anxious to release people who could bear witness to the repression and vicious oppression being inflicted on the working people of Argentina.
The New Brunswick action unleashed a flood of more than 50 telegrams and messages of support from labor and other organizations across the country.
Art Jenkyn, Director of Organization for the 20,000-member United Electrical Workers, called the action “an outstanding display of our bonds with working people in other countries and will broaden the demand in Canada for a halt to the sale of Candus until labor and other democratic rights are restored in Argentina.”
Forty-one union leaders were arrested on April 23 this year for organizing a general strike to oppose a proposed new fascist law that would effectively outlaw trade unions completely.
Since the April 27 general strike which involved workers in the transportation, automobile, steel, textile and brewing industries, there have been two major work stoppages in the Argentinian railway system.
Canadian taxpayers have paid the shot for more than $100 million and a bribe of $2.5 million so that AECL can get a foothold in Argentina for its Candu technology, while the workers there are denied the right to a decent life.
Solidarity with the people of Sudan
In Sudan, progressive and democratic forces are in the grips of a war being fought out in the streets of Khartoum between the army and militias, who are struggling for control of the country’s resources and wealth.
The military-civilian coalition government, which was formed after the previous military government was overthrown, fell after the military attacked its democratic coalition partners. The remaining military government was then itself attacked by marauding militias who see the country as a prize.
The current fighting is in no small part the product of foreign interference. The militias – called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – were formed by former Sudanese dictator Omar Al-Bashir in 2013 and they have been legitimized and built up by the European Union, as part of its campaign to halt the flow of African refugees to Europe.
Since the fighting began, hundreds of communists, workers and democrats have been murdered, tortured and jailed. The offices of the Sudanese Communist Party were occupied in late May by the RSF, who trashed its contents and turned it into a militia headquarters.
The Sudanese people continue their struggle to survive the death, destruction and terror around them and to regain control of their country.
People’s Voice is working with our Sudanese comrades to build up pressure – including on the Canadian government – to end the war in Khartoum, for the formation of a civilian government and the dissolution of the militias, and to bring to justice all those responsible for the carnage and the terror.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Sudan in their struggle for democracy and socialism, and we call upon all labour and progressive forces in Canada to do the same.
Still waiting on $10-a-day childcare
Despite an exhausting amount of government fanfare and a desperate need among countless working families, the promised $10-a-day childcare program is far from delivered anywhere in Canada.
The program includes public, non-profit and private childcare centres, which agree to be part of the government program. But because the government has signed deals allowing provinces to cobble together existing childcare centres, there are insufficient spaces available compared to the number of spaces needed. This is the case in almost every province and territory.
Further, the quality of care is uneven, and childcare workers – mostly women – are still grossly underpaid. There is a disgraceful irony in building a social program which largely benefits women, on the backs of women’s underpaid work.
Instead of this inadequate system, the federal government should have created a universally accessible, quality, public childcare system across the country. This should include requiring childcare workers to be ECE graduates and to be paid according to recognized standards.
Since women’s equality – beginning with their return to the workforce after the pandemic –requires access to childcare, pressure on the federal and provincial governments to deliver is urgent.