Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lobbying for Canada’s “Ethical Oil”

By Yves Engler
September 25th, 2012

While scientists are reporting a stunning reduction in Arctic sea ice Canada’s ambassador in the U.S. is stumping for heavy carbon emitting oil.

Last Tuesday Ambassador Gary Doer spoke at Washington D.C.’s Johns Hopkins University in support of heavy polluting tar sands oil. According toSun News, Doer touted the job benefits of Calgary-based TransCanada’s plan to build a $7 billion pipeline to take oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

Incredibly, lobbying for tar sands interests may be the main thing Canada’s top U.S. diplomat does. Both Maisonneuve magazine and The Tyee have published articles detailing Ambassador Doer’s voluminous efforts on behalf of the tar sands. “Doer has devoted much of his professional energy to promoting the oil sands industry, flying to industry roundtables, meeting with US policymakers, and speaking to national magazines,” noted Tyee reporter Geoff Dembicki in an April 2011 article.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trade unions must join the fight against climate change

By Ian Angus
ESSF website
29 September 2011

Ian Angus, editor of Climate and Capitalism, is currently in Australia to speak at the Climate Change Social Change conference in Melbourne, September 30 – October 3.

During his pre-conference speaking tour, he was invited to address several meetings of trades union members. The following is a lightly edited transcript of the opening comments he made at union meetings in Melbourne and Geelong.

“If we leave this issue to the bosses, to the corporations and politicians who profit from the existing system, the changes will be inadequate – and they will put the entire burden on working people.”

Thank you for inviting me to speak today.

This week, in Canada, hundreds of people gathered on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, to support a civil disobedience action against the environmental crime known as the Alberta Tar Sands, and the related Keystone XL pipeline.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

7 Ways Canadian Environmental Groups Are Being Attacked as “Terrorists”

SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

Environmentalists have drawn international attention to Canada’s tar sands, vast deposits of a particularly gooey, toxic form of petroleum called bitumen that Canada hopes to ship thousands of miles. Civil disobedience campaigns against the Keystone XL pipeline were so effective that President Obama placed construction of its northern leg on hold (and activists in Texas and Oklahoma have beenrelentlessly blockading construction for the southern leg).

With the Keystone XL in jeopardy, Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper has tried to shift gears with another plan called the Enbridge Northern Gateway, which would cut through the lands of indigenous groups and three major watersheds. Not surprisingly, this has been fiercely opposed by groups like ForestEthics, the Sierra Club, First Nations groups, and the general public (as background see Rolling Stone‘s “Keystone Moves North, Where Big Oil Is Losing”). Just this week, another investigation by ForestEthics documented how toxins from tar sands refineries are polluting communities.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Broke the Law to Defeat Climate Change

By J.B. MacKinnon
19 September 2012

Editor's note: On May 5, 13 people were arrested on the railway in front of the White Rock Pier for blocking trains loaded with American coal from reaching port in Tsawwassen. It was the most dramatic act of civil disobedience against climate change yet in the Lower Mainland. This Friday, members of the "White Rock 13" will lead a public discussion on whether nonviolent civil disobedience is needed to increase the pressure for action on climate change. J.B. MacKinnon, co-author of The 100-Mile Diet, gets that conversation rolling for The Tyee with arrestee Lynne Quarmby, who is also chair of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University.

J.B. MacKinnon: Lynne, are you now, or have you ever been, a "professional activist"?

Lynne Quarmby: Never. After grad school in the early '80s I did participate in the big peace rally on the Burrard Street Bridge, with 100,000 people. And at various times in my life, I've been a big letter writer -- I've written dozens of letters to politicians. So I've been politically aware -- sort of an activist, but not a protester.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Capitalism, Socialism, and Economic Democracy: Reflections on Today’s Crisis and Tomorrow’s Possibilities

This article seeks to contribute to the development of the ecosocialist project by exploring the connection between the ineffectual way that the mainstream political Left has responded to the current crisis and its lack of a compelling and coherent political project that would allow it to capitalize on the bankruptcy of the neoliberal model. - Costas Panayotakis, Capitalism Nature Socialism, December, 2010


In December 2008, after the current economic crisis erupted, Walden Bello speculated that capitalist elites might respond with a new political project: global social democracy. By injecting into global governance a greater concern for equity and sustainability, global social democracy could avoid the evident failure of neoliberal policies. In so doing, this new political project would attempt to breathe new life into the process of capitalist globalization by managing and alleviating the sharpening of economic, social, and ecological contradictions under the neoliberal regime. Bello went on to identify some of the figures who could act as carriers of the global social democratic project, including politicians such as Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and academics such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

As his conclusion made clear, Bello’s purpose in writing this article was not to embrace global social democracy but to warn that such a project was more consistent with top-down, technocratic management than with real social liberation. Bello’s warning was understandable at the time and is well worth keeping in mind today. However, more salient now is the fact that despite the monumental failure of the neoliberal model revealed by the current crisis, the policies and philosophy underlying neoliberalism continue to have the upper hand to the point that even a nod toward global social democracy is nowhere to be seen on the horizon.

Read more HERE.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Green New Deal: An Ecosocialist Perspective

By Davis Schwartzman 
Political Affairs
September 16, 2012

Let me first provoke: the lack of strategic thinking is the great deficiency of much of what calls itself Left today. Saying or even demonstrating with great eloquence that capitalism must be replaced by socialism is the mere beginning for political intervention, not a strategy. I hope here to begin to confront this deficiency in order to reignite a discussion on socialist strategy in the 21st century. One present symptom of the lack of strategy is to summarily reject the possibility of a Green New Deal (GND) with a critique of so-called Green Capitalism (Smith, 2010). Here I will rather propose a consideration of the struggle for a GND as a nexus of class struggle with the potential of opening up a path to ecosocialist transition on a world scale.

Can we draw lessons from the experience of the success of the New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930s as we consider ecosocialist strategy and a potential Green New Deal approach to dealing with the current economic crisis facing capitalism today?

Contrary to popular belief, FDR's New Deal was implemented to save capitalism, and its most progressive initiatives only came as a response to fierce class struggle, including the resurgence of the industrial worker movement, which resulted in the formation of the Congress of Industrial Unions in 1936. The Wikipedia page on the CIO describes it this way:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Book: Trade Unions and Canadian Democracy

Next Year Country Books is pleased to announce our first publication.


As Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party is posed to launch yet another attack on Saskatchewan workers and their unions through their "Labour Law Review",  Lorne Brown's Trade Unions and Canadian Democracy provides a timely historical perspective on the role labour has played in the fight for democratic rights.

Submitted by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour to the Court of Queen's Bench when challenging Bills 5 and 6, Brown reviewed the role of labour in promoting and defending worker's rights and democracy in Saskatchewan and Canada.

This short book is essential reading for labour and civil rights activists.

Click HERE to purchase the book.

Preface to Trade Unions and Canadian Democracy

This overview of the relationship of organized labour to the political economy results from a case heard before Mr. Justice Dennis Ball of the Court of Queen’s Bench in 2011. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and intervener unions challenged the constitutionality of the Public Service Essential Services Act (PSESA) known as Bill 5 and an Act to Amend the Trade Union Act (Bill 6) passed by the Wall government in 2008. It was argued that both Acts violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by interfering  with the right to strike.

I was retained by the SFL as an “expert witness” because of my experience as a labour historian. This essay constitutes my submission to the Court. The submission was unchallenged by lawyers for the Wall Government and the employers who defended the legislation.

On February 6, 2012 Justice Ball ruled that the Public Service Essential Services Act (Bill 5) was unconstitutional in that it “infringes upon the freedom of association of employees protected by s. 2 (d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. He found amendments to the Trade Union Act (Bill 6) to be constitutional.  While Justice Ball found the PSESA to be unconstitutional he suspended his ruling for twelve months with direction to the provincial government to make amendments to the legislation.

The overview provided in this submission tends to be somewhat limited in scope because of the exigencies of what was required for the case before the Court. However, I think the essay provides a useful introduction to the important role trade unions have played in defending the interests of not only their own members but of all working people and Canada in general. Indeed trade unions have played a major role in building and defending both political democracy and social and economic security. Medicare, Public education, universal suffrage, public pensions, statutory and annual paid holidays, hours of work, health and safety regulations, minimum wages, employment insurance, pay equity legislation are a short list of the many benefits Canadians enjoy thanks to more than a century of trade union struggle.

Trade unions, the welfare state and indeed democracy itself are now under constant attack. We must be ever mindful that an attack on trade unions is an attack on democracy.

Lorne A. Brown
Regina, Saskatchewan
August 2012

Lorne Brown is Professor Emeritus at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His research specialties include labour history and civil liberties.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ecosocialism and Deglobalization

By Aurélien Bernier
Le Journal des Alternatives
September 3, 2012
This is a google translation of the original article

"Wild industrialization that accumulates pollution, urbanization out of scale that dislocates communities, no longer meet the needs and aspirations of present time. The time has come to define a new growth. "[...]

"I insist, in fact, for several years, and in various circumstances, the need for a different kind of growth, more humane and economically. This new growth is not only a concept, something to think about or dream, it can actually draw. In environmental matters, it means first "zero growth" of pollution. "[...]

"In traditional economic indicators that measure only the expansion of commodity production, it will be necessary to add additional criteria that reflect also the changes of life and are a currently registered in any of our statistical elements . In tomorrow's world, the increase in public parks, the largest clean air and water, the decline in accidents or road signs must be measurable and measured progress. '

This quote is not from the book of the Left Front in environmental planning. She dated 29 October 1975 and was delivered by the President of the French Republic, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. This shows how the recovery of ecology by the ruling classes is not a new thing.