A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Politics and its Discontents: CETA: The Real Deal

While it looks, unfortunately, like the Belgian opposition to CETA is dissolving, it is perhaps instructive to understand the core of Wallonia’s concerns about it. While some of it revolves around the hit that some of its domestic industries will take if it is ratified, of much greater concern is the power it gives . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: CETA: The Real Deal

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Dani Rodrik discusses the growing public opposition to new corporate-dominated trade deals based on the lessons we’ve learned from previous ones: Instead of decrying people’s stupidity and ignorance in rejecting trade deals, we should try to understand why such deals lost legitimacy in the first place. I’d . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

The Canadian Progressive: CETA just imploded, future of the deal uncertain

The Council of Canadians calls the European Union’s failure to reach consensus on signing the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) an epic failure that makes the deal impossible.

The post CETA just imploded, future of the deal uncertain appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.

Politics and its Discontents: The Art Of The Deal: A Guest Post By John B.

In response to yesterday’s post about free trade, John B. provided a detailed commentary that derves a separate posting. Below is what he wrote:

Are any Canadians asking?

I find the current tap dance we are witnessing reminiscent of the public displays of angst and pretense of desperation by Mulroney and Burney a . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: The Art Of The Deal: A Guest Post By John B.

Politics and its Discontents: Free Trade Is Never Free

While it is beginning to look like International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland’s departure from CETA negotiations was more of a ploy than the end of talks, the hiatus at least gives Canadians the opportunity to once more reflect on its dangers, the same dangers that afflict other so-called free trade deals.

The fact is, . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Free Trade Is Never Free

The Canadian Progressive: Canadian academics’ open letter to Wallonia on CETA deal

Read Canadian academics’ letter to the Parliament of Wallonia and the people of Belgian. The academics expressed their support for Wallonia’s continuing rejection of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA.

The post Canadian academics’ open letter to Wallonia on CETA deal appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew applaud Wallonia’s principled stance against the CETA. And Joseph Stiglitz discusses the need to set up social and economic systems which actually serve the public good, rather than favouring corporate interests: Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Politics and its Discontents: This Is Good News

I’ll have more to say about this in the future, but for now, some good news for those who oppose free trade deals that sacrifice national sovereignty and jobs so corporations can be further enriched: Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has walked out of negotiations to salvage a major trade deal with the European Union, . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: This Is Good News

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Mainly Macro offers a useful definition of neoliberalism, while highlighting its relationship to austerity. And Ed Finn writes that we shouldn’t be too quick to presume neoliberalism is going to disappear just because it’s proven to be harmful in practice – and that it will take a massive . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Peter Rossman explains why the CETA falls far short of the mark in accounting for anybody’s interests other than those of big business. And Dani Rodrik discusses the dangers of laissez-faire fundamentalism, particularly to the extent it threatens to undermine the foundation of a functional society: (T)he . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

– Ellen Gould comments on how the CETA and other trade deals constrain democratic governance – and the fact that corporate bigwigs are threatening any government which considers giving effect to popular opposition doesn’t exactly provide any comfort. Meanwhile, Scott Sinclair points out the dangerous effects of the . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– George Monbiot discusses the importance of recognizing our social connections in making our political choices, rather than treating the world as merely a collection of unconnected individuals: It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Cowichan Conversations: European parliamentarian & CETA critic Jose Bove denied entry into Canada

Prime Minister Trudeau has some explaining to do and should apologize and invite him back.

So much for sunny ways. We wanted so badly to believe that Trudeau would be different.

Turns out French

Read more…

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

– Bruce Johnstone notes that rather than further attacking public services which have already been under siege throughout his stay in office, Brad Wall and his government should be looking to question Saskatchewan’s inexplicable giveaways to businesses: Well, if Doherty is looking for some “low-hanging fruit” to make our . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

The Canadian Progressive: Canada-EU trade deal undermines public interest regulation, workers: study

The Canada-EU trade deal, CETA, “will elevate the rights of corporations above workers and the environment and undermine government regulatory flexibility,” new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds.

The post Canada-EU trade deal undermines public interest regulation, workers: study appeared first on The Canadian Progressive.

Politics and its Discontents: A Boost To The Spirit

Fifty years ago, Star Trek – The Original Series – began. As a young person at the time, I was quite enthralled by a series that depicted a time when humanity had apparently solved its myriad problems on Earth and had expanded outward to seek out new life and new civilizations. Although Earth was never shown, one was left with the distinct impression that it had evolved into the closest thing to a Utopia, where harmony and understanding prevailed. The series served as a soothing counterbalance to the tumultuous nature of the Sixties, with war, race divisions, crime and poverty being our reality.

I am far from the somewhat optimistic lad I was 50 years ago, but visiting Word On The Street always reminds me of the idealized world that Star Trek presented: thousands of people milling about, examining, buying and discussing books, a diverse crowd both racially and demographically, citizens engaged and knowledgeable about the world. A hint of Utopia, one I found uplifting in part due to the fact that graybeards like me, although quite sizably represented as we tend to be, were flanked by much younger people for whom knowledge, information and engagement on issues are also very important. it gives me some hope.

We spent three hours at The Star tent, and were fortunate to have arrived early enough for seats, as it turned out to be standing room only. I won’t bore you with the details of what was discussed, but I will mention the response I got to a question I asked of Chantal Hebert, Paul Wells and Bruce Campion-Smith (Ottawa bureau chief), who were discussing Trudeau’s first year in power. They suggested that with the ousting of Harper, many Canadians feet they can get back to their ‘normal’ lives for the next four years, given that the polarization and divisiveness of the old regime ended with Harper’s ouster. I asked if that is likely to continue, given that issues such as CETA and pipelines will likely prove controversial for the government. The answer that I got is one I am not sure I agree with. The feeling was that few people follow free trade agreements like Ceta, and that pipeline issues are primarily of concern to those living in British Columbia.

I hope they are wrong. Judging by the very large attendance at the greatly expanded Star tent, they may just be.

In any event, I leave you with this letter from today’s Star. Clearly, some people are thinking about the issues:

It’s not like we don’t know how trade deals work. And NAFTA is small potatoes compared to CETA and TPP.

While we sit complacently, the Liberals have dispatched Chrystia Freeland to save CETA from wavering European politicians faced with voters actively taking to the streets in displeasure about more compromise on jobs, services, taxes and the environment, all in the name of further enriching the 1 per cent.

Under the guise of global trade have we not lost enough well-paying permanent jobs and seen a decline in important services such as education and health to know we are getting taken to the cleaners, again? Are the unimaginable billions already hidden in tax havens not sufficient for the proponents of one sided trade deals?

Shame on the Liberals who promised change. Shame on Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super Rich and shame on Canadians for not speaking up loud enough to be heard.

Nancy Stevens, Institute of Technical Trades, Toronto

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: A Boost To The Spirit

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Scott Sinclair, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew study the contents of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Sinclair and Trew also highlight why Canadian progressives should oppose the deal, while Howard Mann notes that the same criticisms, including a gross transfer of power to the corporate sector and the absence of any concern for developmental and environmental issues, apply to all of the new generation of corporate rights agreements. But the Council of Canadians notes that not only are the Trudeau Libs pushing ahead with every single trade agreement currently on the table, they’re also trying to lay the groundwork for a similar deal with China – even if it comes with both a blind eye to human rights violations, and an obligation to approve a tar sands pipeline.

– Bill McKibben examines how new climate data shows that we need a nearly immediate transition away from dirty energy in order to meet the Paris conference commitment to rein in global warming. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub call out the new form of climate denialism – which pays lip service to the science of climate change, but attempts to detach it from any policy steps to improve matters.

– Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that there’s no reason to keep hewing to neoliberal orthodoxy when decades of evidence show how it exacerbates inequality and harms health:

Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, neoliberalism was causing what the University of Durham’s Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra have called “neoliberal epidemics.” As Schrecker and Bambra and many others have shown, income inequality has profoundly damaging and far-reaching effects on everything from trust and social cohesion to rates of violent crime and imprisonment, educational achievement, and social mobility. Inequality seems to worsen health outcomes, reduce life expectancy, boost rates of mental illness and obesity, and even increase the prevalence of HIV.
Deep income inequality means that society is organized as a wealth-based hierarchy. Such a system confers economic as well as political power to those at the top and contributes to a sense of powerlessness for the rest of the population. Ultimately, this causes problems not only for the poor, but for the affluent as well. 
Careful analysis of statistical data debunked the idea that stressed executives are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Now, it has debunked the 1980s myth that “greed is good,” and has revealed the extensive damage inequality causes. It was one thing to believe these myths decades ago, but when experience and all the available evidence show them to be mistaken, it is time to make a change. 
“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero. Now that we know how inequality harms the health of societies, individuals, and economies, reducing it should be our top priority. Anyone advocating policies that increase inequality and threaten the wellbeing of our societies is taking us for fools.
– And Ashley Quan points out how a basic income could alleviate many of the harms caused by precarious financial situations.

– Finally, Thomas Walkom rightly notes that a federal crackdown on extra-billing under the Canada Health Act is long overdue. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, examining how Chris Hamby’s brilliant reports on the effect of investor-state dispute settlement terms in past trade agreements should inform our choices in discussing new ones. For further reading…- Haley Edwards offers another worthwhile look… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Politics and its Discontents: CETA – A Threat We Should All Be Aware Of

A recent post I wrote contrasted the apparent indifference/ignorance of Canadians toward CETA with the furious involvement of the Europeans, most recently the Germans, in open protest against the deal. It is a pact that will see even greater erosion of our ability to enact strong legislation to protect labour, the environment and a host of other realms thanks to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions that protect multinationals at the expense of citizens. It will further undermine our increasingly fragile sovereign rights.

And sadly, it is a deal the the Trudeau Liberals are avidly embracing.

Scott Sincleair and Stuart Trew write a trenchant reminder of CETA’s dangers:

Much more than a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document that will restrict public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights, government procurement, food safety and environmental protection, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, and public services.

My previous post noted the weak language governing some of the above, including platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.

All part and parcel of what Liberal International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland calls “a gold-plated trade deal.”

As Sincleair and Trew observe,

While CETA’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.

The devolution of our sovereignty began long before CETA, however.

Canada’s experience with investor-state arbitration under NAFTA is pitiful. We are the most-sued NAFTA party despite our highly developed legal system and strong protections for private property. Many of these challenges involve environmental protection policies that were legally enacted, but which upset an investor’s plans or profits.

Just last year, Canada lost a disturbing NAFTA dispute over an environmental assessment that recommended against a massive quarry in an ecologically sensitive part of Nova Scotia. Canada currently faces a raft of claims as a result of progressive policies, such as banning natural gas fracking in the province of Quebec.

The pending deal promises more of the same, a source of puzzlement to European progressives:

European labour unions, environmentalists and human rights advocates question why Canada and the EU would want to expand this anti-democratic process through CETA. Despite being rebranded as an “investment court system” with pretenses to judicial independence, the substantive protections afforded to foreign investors remain largely intact. This will expose taxpayers in both Canada and the EU to huge financial liabilities and have a chilling effect on future progressive public policy.

European progressives are also asking important questions about the interplay between CETA and public services. CETA contains no clear protections for governments hoping to expand public services into areas where there is currently private sector competition, or to bring previously privatized services back under public control. Doing so can actually trigger foreign investor claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatization.

All the warning signs are there. Whether the vast majority of Canadians can rouse themselves enough to care is an open question.

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: CETA – A Threat We Should All Be Aware Of

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Arthur Neslen points out how new trade agreements figure to make it impossible for governments to meet their environmental commitments. And Corporate Europe Observatory highlights how the CETA will give investors the ability to dictate public policy.

– The Economist discusses the effect of high executive compensation in the U.S., and finds that corporations that shovel exceptionally large amounts of pay to their CEO get sub-par returns for their money.

– Penney Kome writes that the sugar industry’s work to mislead the public about its own health represents just one more example of the dangers of presuming that an undiluted profit motive is anything but antithetical to the public interest.

– On the bright side, Giles Parkinson notes that on a level playing field, solar power has become more affordable than any alternative no matter how dirty.

– Finally, Owen Jones discusses how a strong progressive movement needs to respond to being unfairly dismissed and derided by the corporate media:

A defeatist attitude – and a condescending one, too – says that the media programme people with what to think, reducing the electorate to Murdoch-brainwashed zombies. But a clever approach can neutralise media hostility. Take Sadiq Khan: he was subjected to one of the most vicious political campaigns in postwar Britain, portrayed by the press – including London’s dominant newspaper, the Evening Standard – as the pawn of Islamist fundamentalist extremists. He could have bellowed his frustration every single day, and would have been more than entitled to do so. But he didn’t. He focused on a positive, optimistic message, and not only won the election – he had glowing personal ratings, too.

Momentum, too, presented a masterclass last weekend in dealing with hostile media. Rather than taking aggressive swipes at the media, it framed a response to Dispatches before it was even aired. It projected disappointment rather than fury; it gave a platform to Momentum activists who contrasted sharply with the media portrayal; it was witty; and it showcased what it actually did, using the attack as an opportunity to get its own message across. And there is a lesson there. The left is bitterly accustomed to living with almost farcically hostile media in a country where the press is as much a sophisticated political lobbyist as a means of information. A natural response is to become grouchy, to shake fists angrily, or simply boycott the media altogether. It’s an approach that fires up some of the most dedicated leftwing activists, but it’s a strategic mistake. And both Khan and Momentum show the left can rebut media hostility – and even thrive.

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Politics and its Discontents: UPDATED: Thank You, Germans, For Fighting What Should Also Be Our Battle

While Canadians by and large seem content to sleep through the entire CETA negotiations, uttering nary an objection to a deal that will severely compromise our sovereignty, ordinary Germans are turning out en masse to protest its dangers:

Demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin and six other German cities Saturday to voice their displeasure with pending trade deals, one between the European Union and Canada and another with the U.S.

The treaties they’re concerned with are the yet-to-be ratified EU pact with Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) [the Canadian version is called the Trans Pacific Partnership, but carries essentially the same perils] deal with the U.S. that is still being negotiated.

While the deal between the EU and Canada has escaped the same scale of criticism and widespread outrage among the Canadian public, it continues to be a hot button political issue in Germany and one that protesters are hoping to stop from being ratified sometime in the fall.

In broad terms the critics say that CETA would give multinational corporations too much power within European Union markets and they object to a dispute resolution mechanism that has been proposed in the framework agreement.

This dispute resolution mechanism would allow companies to bypass national courts in both countries, allowing then to argue their cases in front of international arbitration panels instead.

Despite the fact that we have access to the same information about the dangers of these free-trade deals, few seem upset by the unbridled enthusiasm that both Justin Trudeau and his poodle Chrystia Freeland profess for them:

Despite Freeland’s rhapsodic recitation of the improvements that have been made in the CETA deal, a quick check of the facts reveals something quite different, unless motherhood statements and feel-good empty rhetoric are your thing. I would encourage you to read about these ‘improvements’ yourself under the pertinent sections, but here are a few highlights:

Dispute Settlement

CETA includes a more robust voluntary mediation mechanism than has been included in Canada’s previous trade agreements. Mediation is a cost-effective and expeditious way to resolve disputes without the need for a third party to decide the outcome. When parties choose arbitration rather than mediation, CETA improves on the WTO dispute settlement mechanism by streamlining and shortening the process. In addition, CETA includes an accelerated arbitration procedure for cases requiring urgent resolution, such as those involving live animals and perishable or seasonal foods.

So in other words, the great improvements Freeland was extolling have nothing to do with changing what might come under dispute, such as environmental and labour laws, but only offers a faster and potentially cheaper way to resolve conflicts. There is nothing that protects our national sovereignty here, nothing that prevents the signatories from suing governments that enact legislation that may hamper the profits of corporations.

Similarly, the language dealing with labour, environment and sustainable development are peppered with platitudes like commitments to cooperate, provisions encouraging Canada and the EU to continue developing our resources in a way that is environmentally sustainable, establishes shared commitments to promote trade in a way that contributes to the objectives of sustainable development in Canada and the EU, etc.

All in all, empty language that enables the Trudeau government to lie to Canada’s citizens. But at least our Prime Minister has a nice smile, perhaps something to dream about as we continue our long, collective snooze.

UPDATE: Be sure you read Owen’s excellent post today on Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms.

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: UPDATED: Thank You, Germans, For Fighting What Should Also Be Our Battle

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Joseph Stiglitz discusses how entrenched inequality and unearned income hurt the economy for everybody:

We used to think of there being a trade-off: we could achieve more equality, but only at the expense of overall economic performance. It is now clear that, given the extremes of inequality being reached in many rich countries and the manner in which they have been generated, greater equality and improved economic performance are complements.

(A) key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average— as GDP leads us to do— but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income. People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline. Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

The economic policies required to change this are not difficult to identify. We need more investment in public goods; better corporate governance, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws; a better regulated financial system; stronger workers’ rights; and more progressive tax and transfer policies. By ‘rewriting the rules’ governing the market economy in these ways, it is possible to achieve greater equality in both the pre- and post-tax and transfer distribution of income, and thereby stronger economic performance.

– David Macdonald discusses Canada’s growing consumer debt levels, and notes that matters figure to get worse before they get better. And the CP reports on Canada’s high gender wage gap as another area where we’re lagging even on an international scene where there’s far more work to be done.

– Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the economic fallout we could expect from the CETA, while the Canadian Labour Congress suggests a few ways to minimize the damage. But Murray Dobbin asks why we’re wasting any time on corporate power agreements when they’ve so thoroughly failed to live up to any promises to the public.

– Juha Kaakinen writes about the success of Housing First in alleviating homelessness in Finland. And Gary Bloch and John Silver point out how encouraging people living in poverty to file tax returns (and thus receive available benefits) can produce positive outcomes all around.

– Finally, PressProgress discusses Wayne Smith’s resignation as Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada due to a lack of meaningful change from the Cons’ attempts to politicize data collection and management. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.- Alan Freeman is duly appalled by Apple’s attempt to throw itself a pity party with the money it’s hoarding rather than paying in fair corporate taxes. And James Mackintosh reports on Jeroen Dijsselbloe… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

– Jared Bernstein comments on the prospect of a labour revival which can boost the prospects of unionized and non-unionized workers alike. And Thomas Walkom makes the case for closer identification between the NDP and Canada’s labour movement:

Labour needs a political party because unions, on their own, are a declining force. Only 29 per cent of the Canadian workforce is unionized. The number continues to fall.

This has happened because the economy, once characterized by large manufacturing plants, is now dominated by smaller service firms that, under current labour laws, are more difficult to unionize.

The decline of well-paying union jobs is one of the key factors behind the rise in income inequality that politicians routinely fret about.

Yet to reverse this trend would require a total rethinking of employment and labour laws, most of which were designed in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Among other things, the laws must be amended to eliminate the loophole that allows so many employers to pretend their workers are independent contractors who do not qualify for benefits or statutory protection.

As well, labour relations laws would have to be changed to allow unions organizing, say, fast-food franchise outlets, to take on the ultimate employer.

These are just a couple of examples. The point is that, if unions are to survive, labour laws must be rethought.

That in turn requires a political party willing to do the rethinking.

– And CBC reports that Ontario’s NDP looks to be taking that advice by looking to facilitate both certification and collective bargaining – though there’s still more to be done in examining the broader trends affecting unionization rates.

– Mark Dearn discusses how the CETA figures to undermine democratic governance in Canada and Europe alike. And the CP reports on Justin Trudeau’s attempt to stifle discussion of the actual terms of corporate control agreements by indiscriminately bashing anybody who raises reasonable questions about business-oriented trade deals.

– Michael Winship points out how profiteering around the EpiPen the fits into a wider pattern of pharmaceutical price gouging and other anti-social behaviour.

– Finally, Lyndal Rowlands writes that developed countries have a strong stake in working toward meeting global development goals – and suggests it’s long past time that we started acting like it. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

The Canadian Progressive: Canada-EU trade deal CETA a major threat food safety: Report

A new report warns that the Canada-EU trade deal CETA could threaten food safety and the greater public interest. Meanwhile, a group of Germany NGOs have launched a massive constitutional lawsuit against the deal. The post Canada-EU trade deal CETA a m… . . . → Read More: The Canadian Progressive: Canada-EU trade deal CETA a major threat food safety: Report