Fighting For The Right To Protest


One week ends and another begins. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for many, even more so than other weeks. After a bitterly cold and seemingly unending winter, Toronto’s spring has yet to settle in, as it jumps from sweltering daytime highs to overnight lows that wreak havoc on wardrobe choices and spark terror in the hearts of gardeners. Yesterday’s cold rain came and went in great sweeps and gusts, ripped my umbrella inside out, and left me soaked and miserable as I waited for that most elusive of creatures – the dreaded Lawrence Bus. It’s a hard rain, baby.

C51 pinsI had intended to join the thousands protesting Bill C-51 at Queen’s Park, but the downpour, a lack of bus fare, and a husband increasingly concerned by possible repercussions due to my outspoken opposition to our government, kept me home.

BILLC51 protesters Toronto

For those who think that opposition to the Bill is melodramatic and all conspiracy theorish, ask yourselves; is your concern that the protesters will be beset by terrorists? Or that the protesters will be stealthily added to a police file, arrested for attending a rally, audited mercilessly, or simply have their characters assassinated, and their passports taken away?

Think I’m exaggerating? A new law became effective on Friday. “The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration says it would revoke citizenship for anyone found guilty of terrorism, treason and high treason, and spying for a foreign government.” And bear in mind, terrorism as defined by the bill includes “activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes “terrorism,” “interference with critical infrastructure” and “interference with the capability of the Government in relation to … the economic or financial stability of Canada.

Which means that protesting the Pipeline, or even Monsanto, is loosely covered under the bill, as terrorist acts interfering with Canadian economics.

WW2 vet against c51There will, if this law is not blocked, be no checks left on state power. State Security will operate outside the law. Citizens will be convicted on secret evidence in secret courts. Citizens will be subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. Due process will be eradicated. Internal security organs will serve as judge, jury and executioner. The outward forms of democratic participation — voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation — will remain, but become meaningless forms of political theater.” Chris Hedges on Bill C-51.

The Canadian arm of Amnesty International indicated that the anti-terrorism bill could be used to target environmental activists and aboriginal protesters, or any other form of protest without an official permit or court order.

Bill C-51 “opens the door to collecting, analyzing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians,” including every instant of “a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel.”

It’s pretty ironic that Canada is set to ramp up security, just as America’s NSA has been told to stop collecting citizens’ private information.

senate votes to kill NSASo basically it all boils down to a Senate debate between those who say we must give up some liberty to keep us safe, even though it doesn’t, and those who believe we must protect our liberties, even though they won’t.” — Jon Stewart

Yep. And same thing here. In a matter of days, the Senate will vote on whether to accept the Bill or not. Ergo the protests across Canada, as 67% of Canadians do NOT want the bill passed. At this stage, official word is that “A Senate committee is offering to conduct a review of Canada’s new anti-terrorism powers five years after Parliament adopts Bill C-51, and is calling on the government to quickly adopt new measures to fight terrorism and improve its existing counter-terrorism operations.”

And that’s very daunting. And a real blow to Freedom of Speech and Canadian democracy.

But don’t take my word for it … ask the Raging Grannies of Ottawa.

They’re game, these Grannies, if a little distracted. And brave.

Or ask Cathy Cook, who wrote and performed this blues, empathizing with victims of Stephen Harper’s contempt of aboriginals, women, environmentalists, and veterans.

Or the Ontario based singer/songwriter Terry Tufts, who’s written several songs on our messed up government, and lack of choice in the upcoming election.

Dirty Little War – Written And Performed By Terry Tufts

If nothing else, it seems like we’re finally getting new Canadian protest songs. What is concerning, however, is that the new protesters all seem to skew to the higher end of the age spectrum. Like Dennis Jones, a musician and songwriter based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who’s been playing guitar and singing for 48 years.

Or Ian Patton, a 5-string banjo player/composer from Edmonton.

Or Halifax based Mike Chandler and Margaret Anne McHugh of SolidariGLEE

I find it interesting that the songwriters protesting this Bill are middle-aged and older. People of all ages are attending rallies for this and other protests, so there are certainly younger voices available. I’m not sure if the lack of participation is due to apathy, a dread of the folk music scene, or a lack of information. Maybe it’s a mix of all three.

Let’s close out with Stevie and the ConserviCats singing the praises of the new Secret Police Bill C-51.

Right then, enough with the politics … How’s about some new music?

This moody ballad is from Vintage Trouble’s first album. Their next release, 1 Hopeful Rd., is due to drop August 14th. Currently, the band is opening for AC/DC in Europe. Live, these guys are monsters, as several of us here at DBAWIS can attest.

Quirky singer/songwriter David Celia has a record release party set for June 4 at the Great Hall. Here’s a taste of the new CD.

Rats! I missed Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver’s global campaign to put compulsory practical food education on the school curriculum, on May 15th!

At least we can watch the video. Here’s Jamie with Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney, Jazzie B, Professor Green, Alesha Dixon, Jamie Cullum, Mr Hudson, Hugh Jackman, Us the Duo, George The Poet, Che’nelle, DJ MK and The London Youth Choir

And of course, don’t forget that Xprime will be playing their new album at their CD release party at the Rivoli on June 4th. See you there!  Xprime CD Release June 4

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/roxanne-tellier-fighting-for-the-right-to-protest/)

An Open Letter to the Canadian Senate on Bill C-51


There are few moments in time so pivotal to a nation’s ongoing health and democracy. Such a moment is facing you, as you decide how you will cast your vote on Bill C-51. The question is: will Canadians continue to live in freedom and peace, or bow to a largely non-existent threat that calls for national paranoia, fear and the silence of her citizens?

Those of you who will make this decision, those of you who hold Canada’s future in your hands, have an enormous weight on your shoulders. Do you abide by partisan lines, obeying your country’s Prime Minister and his directives, no matter how potentially dangerous they may be? Or do you rise to this occasion and tell the truth – that Bill C-51 is a travesty, a declaration of war not on terrorism, but rather an assault on Canada that fundamentally contravenes rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  (image, Stephen Lautens)

Canadian Charter After Bill C-51

Bill C-51 would label those few who still care enough about their country to demand change and accountability from what is increasingly seen to be a battle for corporate wealth over Canada’s health, as terrorists. It would do the same to Natives who demonstrate peacefully against their own ceded lands being ruined or stolen from them in the name of economic growth. It would stop people from speaking out against justice being perverted by the wealthy and the corrupt. It would allow democracy to be eaten away by the demands for unlimited corporate expansion at the expense of the lower and middle class.

C51 tearsThis bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials. This bill will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people.” (http://stopc51.ca/about-c51)

It would change our very souls as we became afraid to speak out against any wrongdoing or injustice. It would end our precious Freedom of Speech. Perhaps you remember when world leaders gathered In France in support of the Charlie Hebdo journalists rights to free speech? How quickly we revert from courage to cowardice when the cameras are turned off.

c51policebootWe are a nation of peace keepers – or at least, we used to be. Bill C-51 throws down the gauntlet, daring terrorists to do their worse, in spite of the fact that the only terrorist attacks in this country were not ideologically based, but the ravings of shattered, mentally ill men who should have received treatment for their illnesses, but instead, were preyed upon by the very police this bill is asking us to trust.

So I beg you, those of you who stand poised to yea or nay the most important bill of this century, to think long and hard about where you really stand. Are you truly the “sober second thought” that Canadians have been led to believe? Or are you entangled in a game of partisan one-upmanship, a veritable race to the bottom, and dragging 35 million Canadians down that rabbit hole with you?

Stop Bill C-51We are watching you. The whole world is watching you. A vote to approve this bill, despite all of the input you’ve received on this subject from everyone from former Prime Ministers of Canada, to international economists, political experts, and Canadian citizens, will send a clear message to Canadians and the world that Canadian democracy is on life support, with a callous “Do Not Resuscitate” sign hanging over the death bed.

  • Less than 33% of Canadians are in favor of the bill
  • virtually all of Canada’s national newspaper editorials have spoken out against it along with, the Green Party, the NDP, 4 former prime ministers, civil liberties advocates, Canada’s privacy commissioners, former supreme court justices, Former attorney generals, 60 Canadian Business Leaders Sign Letter Against Bill C-51, The Canadian bar association representing over 36,000 lawyers, the people behind Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser, 100 Quebec organizations, Seven leading Canadian Human rights groups, The Union representing over 51,000 Canada Post workers, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and over 100 organizations, hundreds of constitutional lawyers, Native Chiefs across the nations, former CSIS agents, NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, Ralph Nader

 Tell Your Senator to Stop Bill C-51

The government’s controversial “secret police” Bill C-51 has made its way to the Senate. We have to stop it now. Find out below if your Senator wants to #RejectFear and #StopC51.

https://stopc51.ca/

Moving The Goal Posts


malena arpeAs we get older, we move the goal posts of what we think we can accomplish. When I heard that Toronto writer/humourist Malena Arpe had died this week, I was gutted. “But she was so young! Only 50!” I said to friends.

2001 vhsOnly 50. When you’re a kid, 30 seems ancient. When you’re 30, you can’t imagine being 60. I remember a time when I wondered if I’d be around to see the turn of the century; the year 2000 was so far away, and 2001 was just a sci-fi notion.

The year I turned 40, and we released the eponymous Delta Tango CD, we were told that the music was good, but we were just too old for anyone to get excited about.delta tango frt bck 002-001 It was hard to get that CD together, at our own expense, and while we all raised families and worked demanding day jobs. We promoted the music, played showcase gigs, and had airplay across Canada and in Europe. But even with some success, the words of that A&R idiot echoed in our heads, whispering “too old,” whenever the going got tough. And eventually, we caved to that nasty voice, and gave up trying.

I think of those days when I hear about kids who found a cause and stuck to it, despite peer pressure, and despite being teenagers with raging hormones. There are multiple turning points in our lives, and how we react to them says a great deal, not only about ourselves, but about those people around us, who likely have no idea how much impact they have upon our successes and failures. Those people can be the good or bad little voices we hear when it’s hard to carry on. We can’t do it all by ourselves. And there’s strength in numbers. thumbs up successThat’s why the best way to succeed in any walk of live is to surround yourself with positive people who believe that you, and they, have the right, the voice, and the ability to make positive changes in your worlds.

Malala Yousafzai’s family ran a chain of schools in the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. malalaWhen she was about 11 ½, she began to write a blog for the BBC (under a pseudonym,) detailing her life under Taliban occupation. The next year, a New York Times journalist made a documentary about her life, which brought Malala to prominence, but unfortunately, also brought attention to her determination to make schooling available for Pakistani females, as it was illegal under Taliban rule.

At 15, as she boarded her school bus, a gunman shot her three times in the head. She was unconscious for three days before being airlifted to England, where she was treated, and began intensive rehabilitation. The attempted assassination caught the media’s attention, worldwide, with one German newspaper dubbing her “the most famous teenager in the world.”

Malala-YousafzaiUpon recovering, she continued her fight for women’s and children’s rights. In 2013, she spoke at the United Nations headquarters to call for worldwide access to education, In 2014, at 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

But you needn’t look to the world stage to find young activists who seek to bring information and change to the planet. We have several kids right here in Canada who aren’t afraid to speak up. Kids with good parents who support their children’s need to raise their voices against what those young, clear eyes see is wrong in our civilization.

At yesterday’s March Against Monsanto, I spoke to Rachel Parent, 16, who was a featured speaker. Rachel Parent 2At 11, Rachel was plagued by allergies that interfered with her life, and rather than whine, she tried to find the cause. After reading that organic foods might help with the symptoms, she changed her diet and saw an improvement. More study on the subject made her realize that the advent of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in food coincided with a massive increase in allergies, especially in children.

Rachel began to speak on the subject of GMOs, first in her school, then in ever widening circles. At 14, she challenged Kevin O’Leary, of The Lang and O’Leary Exchange , to a debate, after he’d accused her of being a “shill” for environmentalists. As you can see, the man did not fare well in this particular exchange.

rachel parent not science experimentAs her reputation grew, so did her access to politicians, and her frustration with their vague protestations that they could do little to require companies to label GMO foods. (The U.S. and Canada are the only two world powers who will not label.) She calls this “corporate wealth over human health.” The clip below is of an interview from two days ago. To keep up with Rachel, follow her blog at KidsRightToKnow.com.

Hannah AlperAnother young activist currently making waves is Hannah Alper. At the age of 12, Hannah addresses topics like eco-friendly living, anti-bullying, wildlife conservation, and fair trade on her blog and through various initiatives. She began her blog, CallMeHannah.ca, at age nine to ”share her growing knowledge and concern for the environment.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/hannah-alper/

Proud papa Eric Alper (Director of Media Relations at eOne Music Canada, and an enthusiastic blogger himself) told me about Hannah’s latest writing venture with The Huffington Post when I ran into him at an eOne event during CMW. I’m very surprised he didn’t mention this wonderful and inspiring speech she made at the TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen event last year, on “How to find your spark.”

Both Rachel and Hannah can point to Craig Kielburger as a role model. In 1995, when he was 12 years old, he began researching child labour after reading a newspaper article about forced child labour in Pakistan. craig kielburgerHe was so angered by what he read that he took the article to his Thornhill school, and eventually gathered a group of friends of his own age to found a group he called the “Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds.” This group evolved into “Free the Children“, an international organization that has 45 countries participating in helping the world become a better place. In 2007, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada. (Wikipedia)

At the age of 9, Severn Cullis-Suzuki (yes, the daughter of Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki) “founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues. severn cullis suzukiIn 1992, at age 12, Cullis-Suzuki raised money with members of ECO to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she was applauded for a speech to the delegates.” 

“Today she is a Canadian environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.” (wikipedia)

What drove those kids to pursue their dreams of making the world a better place? What support was in place for them, and how did the people around them – their parents, their friends, their teachers – keep the spark of their passions alive?

passion MandelaWell, for starters, these young activists didn’t listen to those who told them to “just be grateful you don’t live in (insert third world country/war torn area here).” They didn’t just get mad and rant, they got off their butts and put themselves on the line. If you want change, you can’t just kick back just because no one’s bombed your house lately. We have the opportunity to improve upon what we have already, if we make enough noise. Too many people think we should just shut up and take whatever we get – from our families, our friends, and our government.

My cat will yowl at me until I give her what she wants. All I, as the stupid human, have to do is figure out what that is. She’ll sit beside my chair for ages, letting out that piercing Siamese meowl, breaking my concentration as I’m tippy typing away. What is it, Lady Jade? Food? Out? Brush? Water? Door? Until finally, I hit upon what it is that she’s requesting. “I want a treat. Now now now wow ow!”

Sweet Black CatShe doesn’t stop because she’s determined to get what she wants, and she knows that she will, if she just yells long and loud enough. Persistence comes naturally to a small black cat that is loved and respected, and thus fearless.

A lot of us get that determination beaten out of us by life, and at an early age. if you want to go fastWe can always find a reason why our dreams are just too hard to achieve. We know what it is we want to accomplish, but the barriers seem insurmountable, the couch is so comfy, and that funny show is on the telly. That’s when you most need people around you who’ll help you climb those barriers. The difference between those who fail and those who succeed is the people around us, who make us fearless, and encourage us on our journey.

be ashamed to die

(originally published May 24, 2015 at bobsegarini.wordpress.com)

Defining Down


no meat on FridaysI grew up in a time when single mothers were scorned, when people who ate meat on Friday went to purgatory, when interracial marriage was illegal in many parts of the United States … My husband’s mother married a black Bermudian, and most of her family refused to speak to her for years. There were few visible minorities.

Gays did not only have no option to marry, they were closeted and lucky if they kept their sexuality hidden, tormented by local bullies, or prosecuted under archaic laws against homosexuality if found in compromising positions.

But times have changed. Change happens because you care enough to make a difference, when enough like-minded people decide that the guiding principles they’ve been following either no longer make sense, or are plainly unjust.

It’s frustrating to watch how slowly organizations and governments move to make change. The people speak, and when their voices shake society’s pillars, those who control power acknowledge a possible problem. In order to defer action until it’s decided if the issue is good or bad for those in power, comObamaSignsBillprehensive studies are done, dragging out the questioning still longer. When finally a solution is presented, it’s inevitably a compromise that makes no one completely happy, but which we all hail as a step forward.

There are downsides and upsides to expediting change. While it’s frustrating to wait for the wheels of progress to turn, lore tells us that slow change would be of a “sober second thought.” But in a world that regularly examines and attempts advancements based on new ideas and technological advancements, a less cumbersome process allows opportunities for change that really matters. And if the change is not completely positive, swift movement to curb or perfect that change should occur.

defining deviancyFunny how we absorb change. In 1993, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote an insightful paper on how American society has coped with massive social change. When deviant behaviours – from births to unmarried women, to violent crime, to a simple rejiggering of our attitudes towards pornography – reach a certain level, we soothe ourselves by “defining deviancy down.” By declaring these behaviours normal, we take the stigma and the sting out of the action.

iatrogenic govtHe had another theory, of “iatrogenic government.” This proposes that some social problems may have been inadvertently caused by government; for instance, the conservative contention that liberal policies produce a culture of dependency. (In the medical field, an iatrogenic ailment is one inadvertently induced by a physician or medicine.)

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Politics is an argument about the future.

By defining deviancy down, those who prefer to live peacefully are kept lulled by what they are told by authority figures. While they may sense a problem, they are easily soothed when a mainstream media assures them that this is the ‘new normal.’

When it comes to social mores, they can safely quote authorities who tell them not to worry about the stuffy old ways of thinking they learned from their parents and grandparents; that’s ‘fuddy-duddy thinking now. All the cool people know what’s really happening, and it’s all just fine.

storming the castleHowever, there are bigger issues at stake. There’s a surprising lack of dismay over economic numbers that would have given our recent ancestors cause to storm the Capital with pitchforks. Those numbers get massaged until the public can be assured that all is well, despite what they’re seeing with their own eyes.

In the United States, the passing of Citizens United completely changed any sense of a level playing field in a democratic government.

“The Citizen United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads andcitizensunited other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.

In a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate.” (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/18/11527/citizens-united-decision-and-why-it-matters)

Flash forward just five years, and we have the Koch Brothers, the 7th and 8th richest men in the world, vowing to spend nearly a billion dollars on whomever they’ve decided to back in the next Presidential election. citizensunited 2

Welcome to the oligarchy. Most democratic governments currently in power already appear to be hamstrung by those who have exchanged campaign funding for a say in government policies. Citizens United simply made the manipulation more visible.

(As Katty Kay, journalist and lead anchor of BBC World News America, recently  said, “The Democrats would do it too, if they could. She added, “It is only going to get worse… If I invested $10 million in an election, I would want a return on my investment. I would want to make sure there were votes on the floor.”)

Our cultural instinct is to find those who think like us, a society where we are safe from having to be responsible for caring for all around us, since it’s difficult enough to get through our busy lives. Exhausted at the end of the day, we don’t want to feel obliged to think very deeply about a myriad of issues, each more convoluted than the next.

Our media knows that, dutifully feeding us mere tidbits of real ‘news,’ and filling the rest of the air time with feel good stories and barely concealed infomercials for the products of advertisers who sponsor the show. choose responsibilityWe can choose from a variety of consumer goodies, but are given only a tiny menu of pre-approved opinions and positions on the things that really matter – like how our countries are being run.

Because if we choose, then we are responsible, are we not? Better to define deviance down, to live with a new normal we feel powerless against, than to choose to make changes that matter.

John Baird – Bouquets and Brickbats


Political junkies were surprised and excited when rumours began that Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird would resign his position, effective immediately, and also resign as an MP, to take effect within days. Speculations as to woil prices cartoonhy, and especially as to why NOW, filled the mainstream and social media.

Was this the beginning of a Conservative meltdown, as oil prices tanked, the loonie dived, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sabre rattled and proposed new security measures accused of restricting civil liberties?

National Post columnist John Ivison speculated that there was a rift between Baird and Harper over Canada’s sanctions on the Russian government. Some wondered if being pelted with eggs and shoes by dozens of Palestinian protesters in January 2015 had shaken his resolve. (Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party earlier called for a boycott of Baird because of Canada’s Baird Palestineperceived pro-Israel stance, and its opposition to a Palestinian bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel.)

Still others noted that, by not running in 2015, Baird also qualifies for his pension, of $100,00 per year, under an old rule, at age 55. Parliament increased the qualifying age to 65 years old but that policy only covers those who are elected or re-elected in 2015.

Or maybe it was just that, after two decades in public office, he’d simply decided it was time to seek other opportunities, possibly in the private sector. He is said to be finalizing two offers.

Mohamed FahmyOn Monday, Baird reported that Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who is in jail in Cairo, would be released imminently, which would be his last diplomatic victory.

Although Baird’s stances were often provocative, even prompting Conservative colleagues to tease him of having a partisan nature, he was well liked by many in the other Parties.

“I quickly learned thoBaird resignsugh to make a difference, to really make a difference, you can’t be defined by partisanship, nor by ideology. You need instead to be defined by your values,” he said in his resignation speech.

Since being named foreign affairs minister in 2011, Baird has spoken out against controversial issues at home and abroad.

In 2012, he addressed a British audience on human rights, saying that Canada would not stand by while its “Commonwealth cousins” criminalized homosexuality and ignored other fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women, minorities, and the right to practice religion. Homosexuality is illegal in 41 of 54 Commonwealth member states.

child marriageIn 2013, Baird spoke at a United Nations session called “Too Young to Wed,” about child brides forced to marry. Baird said “It’s been felt that in some cultures, in some places, this was a social reality. And for the good of the conference, would I mind shutting up,” adding that forced marriage is “unacceptable” and can be ended within a generation.

But he’s made a few gaffes along the way – his request for gold-embossed business cards was outed and ridiculed. He was always on the move, traveled more often, and to more out of the way places than any Canadian foreign minister before him. To his credit, he traveled commercially, but some of his trips didn’t make much sense, and were thought to be a drain on taxpayer funds. He recently flew to Brazil for President Rousseff’s second term swearing in, and attended Persian Gulf conferences that were not important to Canada’s needs.

John BairdIn 2013, a scandal occurred when CTV News reported that Baird and six friends stayed for eight days at the official residence of Canada’s high commission to Great Britain, Macdonald House.

His diplomats were not fond of his frequent, high-maintenance visits. Apparently he wasn’t very fond of them either. In 2014, Baird quietly ordered his department to cut millions of dollars out of a foreign aid program and to call the cut a “surplus.” He blamed the cuts to the program on the bad performance of Canadian diplomats. Associate Deputy Minister Peter Boehm revised the figures in a May 13, 2014 memo, which read “per your instructions, $7 million was declared surplus.”

foreign aid surplusThe NDP Foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, felt the minister was being deceptive. “It’s what I would call a parlour trick, to make it appear like they’re sound fiscal managers, when in fact in this case, Minister Baird is trying to make people believe that his cut of $7 million is in fact a surplus. This is exactly the same thing that they did with regards to lapsed funding.”

Canada’s former Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, wrote  “The Conservative government has managed the austerity program launched in the 2012 budget with deliberate secrecy. They did not inform Parliament of the details of their spending plans…Austerity is difficult and they did not want to pay a political price for making difficult trade-offs…their strategy was to limit planning information to shut down debate and evade accountability.”

baird_IsraelDuring his time as Foreign Minister, his critics have also accused him of selling embassies and ­unflinching support for Israel, diminished backing for multi-lateral institutions and a “distinctly un-Canadian” stance on foreign policy.

However, he leaves behind many who say he played a large part in shaping Conservative foreign policy and personalizing Canada’s diplomatic relations with the international community

NDP MP Paul Dewar, his party’s foreign affairs critic, told Embassy that Mr. Baird brought the Conservative Party’s foreign policy “into the limelight.”

Canada in the world“John Baird made Foreign Affairs—for good or bad—relevant again within the Conservative government. Prior to that, it really wasn’t a portfolio that was important to the government because of the players involved. They didn’t have as much of an interest or an understanding of the role,” he said.

Harper has appointed International Trade Minister Ed Fast as the interim foreign minister.

The Politics of Terror


Harper new security Jan 2015“The world is a dangerous place and, as most brutally demonstrated by last October’s attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism.”

Or so Prime Minister Stephen Harper decreed on January 30th, flanked by Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, and the largest personal protective detail in the history of Canada.

It would seem that Harper sees himself as a ‘war-time’ leader, who, in the run up to the next election, wants to project a manly, statesmanlike image. While cultivating a culture of fear, he is appealing to those who traditionally will cling to the political status quo in times of unrest.

And in one swell foop, the man who spent the Ottawa siege in a closet ramped up the anxiety harper in closetand fear of a nation, while simultaneously putting into place measures that many feel will result in further loss of civil liberties and reduction of freedoms.

By no means am I minimalizing the two horrible attacks . They were horrific, and shocking to Canadians who rightfully believe themselves to be a part of the world’s peace keepers. But these attacks increasingly seem to have been the acts of self-radicalized, troubled and confused young men, with no evidence connecting them to ISIS. Harper’s proposal sounds less like a desire to protect the nation, and more like the fear mongering of a politician desperate to keep his seat in power. MuzzlingScientists

So much for his vaunted and pious defense of Canada’s Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech after the recent Charlie Hebdo attack in France. Our Freedoms were already considered under attack, based on his own government’s track record of secrecy, muzzling, sneaky omnibus bills, a disdain for democratic Parliamentary rules, and the misleading of Parliament.

Ottawa Citizen reporter Ian MacLeod called the proposal “the most dramatic package of new laws since the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001.” But .. hang on … who flew into our towers? Three misguided fools in Canada took it upon themselves to mirror the acts of other misguided fools in the Middle East, whom we’ve done nothing but publicize in the media. The same media that attempts to inflame viewers by ramping up anxiety about events in other parts of the world in hopes of getting higher ratings, and very often has the issues completely wrong. fox apologizes

Ironically, terrorism is most effective when it’s target reacts disproportionately to fear. Perhaps those sweeping powers would be better used in policing how media is actually romanticizing terrorism, and making it seem glamorous to impressionable and disenfranchised people who believe they have no voice or impact upon their own democratic governments. There’s a huge difference between planned, organized and directed attacks (terrorism) and a misguided fool whipped up by web sites designed to muster support for a cause.

No matter how often the Conservatives tell us that the attacker of Ottawa’s Parliament was linked to a terrorist network, we’ve still not seen follow up information, or the RCMP background video we are told contains proof of such a link. It’s the politics of fear and terror.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was right when he questioned why Harper is proposing new legislation with far reaching consequences without so much as consulting with opposition parties. Canadian rights, already being pecked away by post-9/11 laws, look to be even more constrained under a grantingcsis_record2 of extraordinary power to Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), with a mandate to “investigate and disrupt” terrorist plots. Canada’s police services will be able to go after online terrorist propaganda.

The line between being branded as an activist or a terrorist is already grey. With these proposals, that line could be even more abused than it currently is, and in fact, simply obliterated. Could a government with a long list of enemies, including labour and environmental movements, simply capitalize upon already existing powers such as restricting the right to remain silent, laws allowing CSIS to spy on Canadians overseas, detainment without charges, and arrest without warrants?

In 2012, Joe Oliver, then Minister of Natural Resources, wrote an open letter to Canadians on the government’s commitment to the diversification of energy resources (i.e. the Northern Gateway, Alberta’s Tar Sands.) In it, he said “environmental and other radical groups threaten to highjack our regulatory system to achieve their radical and ideological agenda.” He claimed that these ‘radicals’ were employing AmeriJOE-OLIVER Natural Resourcescan tactics to “sue everyone and anyone to delay the project,” and that ‘slow, complex, and cumbersome regulatory processes’ were slowing down the government’s ability to push ahead their own unilateral decisions and agenda.

Those ‘radical’ environmentalists were concerned about 50 square miles of tailing ponds full of toxic chemicals, supposedly lined but actually leaking at the rate of 3 million gallons per day. (Pembina Institute.) Cancer rates are 100 times the norm for the First Nations living on the Athabaska River. Over 80% of BC residents have said NO to oil tankers on their coast, and coastal First Nations have declared a ban under their traditional laws. oliver oil sands copy-002Perhaps these are small concerns to Mr. Oliver, but they are of vital importance to those who actually live in the area.

These ‘radical’ environmentalists could now potentially be charged with terrorism.

(In March, 2014, Mr. Oliver was appointed Minister of Finance. Yes, the same Joe Oliver who recently had to delay our next budget, due to the unexpected downturn in the price of oil. The government had banked on a big payoff on the pipeline, but instead, low oil prices are going to cost provinces nearly $10-billion in lost royalties and tax revenue, and see the government lose $4.3 billion in expected revenues. )

Could there be a better time for the government to ramp up fear and politicize terror? Data Mining

When the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 was due to expire, the Tories’ Combatting Terrorism Act of 2013 reinstated them, with yet more power, and this new legislation would continue to expand on an overbearing and intrusive presence by government controlled security forces , bringing us ever closer to becoming a surveillance state.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that it’s important “we maintain a proper perspective,” on ISIS, and that they are not “an existential threat to the United States or the world order.” He added that the U.S. needs to see the threat for what it is and respond to it in a way that doesn’t undermine American values. obama isis

“It means that we don’t approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing whack-a-mole wherever a terrorist group appears, because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military,” he said.

Contrast this with Harper’s “Stand Your Ground” stance on Canada’s presence in Iraq. As the opposition questioned if Canada was actually at war with Iraq, and what “advise and assist” actually mean to the Canadian soldiers “accompanying” Iraqi troops fighting against Islamic State soldiers, Harper said, safe_image.php

“Let me be clear. This is a robust mission. We’re there to make those guys effective so they can take on the Islamic State and deal with them and if those guys fire at us, we’re going to fire back and we’re going to kill them, just like our guys did.”

Look – I get it. We’re all scared. We’re afraid of ISIS and Ebola, of extreme weather and IEDs, of Monsanto and dirty bombs and oh my lawdy, what’s next! There’s too much crime, we’re told, and draconian systems of justice continue to be put into place at enormous cost, when in fact, crime rates are falling. While some American states legalize marijuana, those in opposition continue to pump out propaganda against pot, and institutionalizing people where the substance has not yet been legalized.

The truth is, “we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence,” as Stephen Pinker concluded in his 2012 book The Better Angels of Human Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. terrorist attacks globally

Terrorism peaked worldwide in the mid-1980s, and in North America around 1970. If you live in Canada or the United States your chances of being killed by terrorism are almost zero. We’ve been sold an exaggerated sense of danger about conflicts and events in other countries, which has allowed those in power to divide and conquer it’s people, alienate North America from war torn nations, engage in wars that profit only those in the military trade, and snip away at Canadians civil liberties, eroding our freedoms.

There are those who will say, “What do I care? I’m not a terrorist! Go get the bad guys!” Those people should perhaps have a chat with the innocent citizens caught up in the police actions taken against the G-20 demonstrators in 2010. g20protestMore than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in policing the protests, which at its largest numbered 10,000 protestors. Over a thousand arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. There were no ‘innocent until proven guilty’ dispensations; in fact, Toronto Police and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) of the summit were heavily criticized for brutality during the arrests. harper controlling

You cannot hermetically seal a democratic society to protect it from violence; doing so actually reduces democracy. Despite the self-inflicted threat fear that Harper is trying to sell us, it’s our own government limiting our rights, not jihadists.  

Target’s Gain, Canada’s Loss


Attention Target Shoppers! Start your shopping carts as Target gets ready to liquidate stock from its 133 Canadian stores! Great news, right?

going out of bizNot quite, actually. In a continuance of mismanagement, and “whatever could go wrong, will,” Target will begin to sell off stock in early February, after receiving court approval of a liquidator. They will not, however, be advertising closing sales with “bankruptcy” or “going out of business” signs. You’ll have to pick through the goods to find the goodies.

But – what goods? Canadians have been faced with lacklustre merchandising from Target stores since they entered the market, with many stores being visibly under-stocked, and shelves either empty or with a few sad items lined up in single rows.

There’s been a problem with Target’s supply chain management since they first arrived in Canada, which resulted in Tony Fisher, the first president of its operation here, being fired in early 2014. CEO Gregg Steinhafel was asked to resign from Target Corp in Juntarget less for moree of 2014 – he’s the one that got a total severance and other benefits package worth about the same as the total amount being offered to all 17,600 of the chain’s Canadian employees.

(Steinhafel’s severance, which includes Gregg_Steinhafel_Golden_Parachuteprofit sharing and stock, will amount to $61 million USD, according to Fortune magazine, a sum greater than the severance package for all 17,600 Canadian Target employees combined ($58 million USD). Target Corp has now agreed to increase the employment trust to $90 million (CDN) to ensure the Canadian employees receive their full severance payout.)

empty-shelvesMark Schindele was parachuted in as president of Target Canada in May 2014 to try and fix the merchandise log jam, and pricing discrepancies that resulted from products arriving at warehouses with incorrect information, thus failing proper price comparison checks. In January 2015, he was quietly moved to Minneapolis to become SVP of Target Properties.

Target’s withdrawal from Canada is going to cost the corporation a bundle – they have said they estimate they’ll take a loss of $7 Billion. But what has been the cost to Canada?

<> on January 17, 2013 in New York City.The total amount of jobs gained across Canada in all industries for 2014 were 121,000 positions, down from the previous high figure of 186,000 reported in November. I’m not great at math, but the loss of 17,600 jobs at Target, spread across 133 stores, is a significant chunk of the pie. Also, our new jobs were concentrated around the oil industry, which is taking a beating as OPEC drops prices.

“The City of Edmonton’s chief economist says 80 per cent of new net jobs in Canada in the last year came from Alberta. “Over the past 12 months, Alberta has generated more new jobs than any other province in Canada and that includes Ontario, which is five times as large as we are,” said John Rose.” (Sept 11/14 http://globalnews.ca/news/1559263/40-of-all-new-jobs-in-canada-last-year-generated-in-edmonton/)

target-continues-to-failAdditionally, those 17,600 jobs were suspect to begin with. . When Target first arrived, they bought 200 Zellers stores, but did not honour the employees union in place. In fact, the first thing it did was ditch the union, eliminate seniority for long term employees, and drop all former Zellers employees to the bottom of Target’s pay scale. Because the majority of Target Canada’s workers were largely part-time, seasonal, or working irregular shifts, they will not qualify for Employment Insurance or other benefits.

The 133 stores, as well as office space leases and the three massive distribution centres in Milton, Calgary and Cornwall, will all be put up for sale at the same time, as early as March 5.

target distribution centreThe distribution centres alone represent a significant real estate investment; each warehouse covers some 1.5 million square feet, or about 26 football fields.

Target came to Canada promising jobs, new shopping opportunities, and a boost to the Canadian economy. In exchange, they received subsidies and tax breaks, along with favourable bank financing. This should have been a win/win situation.

bankruptInstead, it’s one of the biggest corporate bankruptcies in Canadian history.

Target wants to walk away from over $5 billion that is owed to creditors, big and small. They owe cities, suppliers and landlords. It’s such a long list of creditors that it took a 45-page document to list them all. They owe The Canada Revenue Agency and provincial governments millions in taxes ( $12 million to the CRA, $2.6 million to the B.C. government, and $6.5 million to the Quebec government.)

PharmacistGuest With just five stores in Manitoba, they still managed to rack up bills of $850,000 to Bison Transport, more than $450,000 to TransX, more than $200,000 to Old Dutch Foods and more than $1 million in tax owed to the Manitoba government. Beyond that, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to smaller suppliers and pharmacies which operated independently within the stores.

elfe juvenileSuppliers owed hundreds of thousands of dollars are considering ways they can force Target to return their unsold goods that were shipped within 30 days of the filing – rather than have the inventory be included in the chain’s liquidation sales. Target filed under the Companies Creditor Arrangement act, which doesn’t have the 30-day goods provision. After aggressively purchasing stock for anticipated December sales, it entered the crucial holiday season with the highest levels of stock possible. Companies such as Elfe Juvenile Products of Montreal, listed as being owed $38,294, is actually out $147,758, based on stock now in Target’s possession. So is Sager Food Products Inc. in Montreal, which is owed more than $11,000 on the books, but the company estimates as closer to $16,000.

Sager Food VP Santo Fata received its last order the day before the filing. Sager had been happy to fill Target’s orders, which “were steady, regular and getting larger. We were happy.”

Sobeys vegChapman’s Ice Cream is owed $19,987. Coca-Cola Canada hopes to see some of the $339,699 it is owed. $1.7 million is owed to Hillcrest Mall Management Inc. Roots Canada Ltd is owed $433,248 in royalties. Sobeys will have to absorb over $3 million in losses.

But no worries – Canada will take up the slack, in a loss of jobs, and increased prices and taxes to cover the share that Target is walking away from. Over $5 billion.

CANADA-CORPORATE-TAX-RATEThis is not the first corporation that has been invited, even aggressively courted, to bring their business to Canada. Nor will it be the last. It’s just one more corporate experiment that failed, and is ultimately paid for by workers, taxpayers and Canadian companies.

Added March 6/15 …

The gall of these thieves!

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/03/05/suppliers-gear-up-to-chal_n_6809404.html

Use Your Power – Vote!


CANADA-2030Even those amongst us, who are tired of hearing about, and arguing about, politics and the economy know, deep down, that we must take responsibility for how Canada will be governed and represented to the world. It’s no longer enough to whinge and moan about the issues that have snuck up on us while we struggled to keep up with the cost of living; Canadians need to decide what sort of Canada they want to live in. And that means we have to vote.

10.-Represents-the-peopleWe have the right and a duty to vote, but voter turnout has been steadily declining in Canada and the United States, as well as in Western Europe, Japan and Latin America. The world’s highest voting rates, at 95%, are in Belgium, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, which does not.

(Other countries with compulsory voting include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Greece, and Luxembourg.)

Voter turnout among Canadians is at an unprecedented low, and has been declining since the late 1980s. Voter turnout in the most recent election, at 61.4%, was the third lowest in Canadian history. Young voter turnout was 39% in the 2011 federal election. Canada’s youth will often say that there is little in politics that relates to them. If an issue catches their attention, they are more likely to participate in boycotts and demonstrations, groups with like-minded views and passions.

Screen shot 2014-10-23 at 14.12.48.jpgThere’s a general malaise about voting. As much as I adore the witty and eloquent Russell Brand, I find his disdain for voting appalling and unhelpful to his more impressionable followers. Even that old reprobate Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols, once famed as an anti-establishment rebel, has called Brand’s refusal to vote “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” adding “You have to vote, you have to make a change. You’re given lousy options, yes, but that’s better than nothing at all.”

In 2013, Brand guest-edited Britain’s “New Statesman” and wrote at length about his views on politics, saying “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics… I will never vote because, as Billy Connolly said, “It encourages them.””dont-vote

He has since moderated his words. “What I said was, ‘There’s nothing worth voting for.’ If there was someone worth voting for, I’d vote for it and I’d encourage other people if they think that there is a political party that represents their views; if they think there are politicians that are speaking on their behalf, by all means vote for them.”

We’re exhausted with the process. We’ve also lost interest in civic and social participation. Pre-1980’s, more of us were involved with our churches and schools, and we were more likely to be involved with professional or fraternal organizations. Before televisions and computers were available in every home, we met our friends and neighbours socially, to play bridge, or to pit our skills against each other physically in pickup sports and bowling leagues.

When pressed, those who can’t be bothered to vote will say that they’re just too busy. It may feel that way, but studies have consistently shown that we have the same amount of leisure time we have always had – we’re just using it differently.

Statist-voting-logicOthers will say that voting makes no difference; we’re only exchanging one self-serving politician for another. Since the early sixties, we’ve had less trust in government and in politicians in general. The rise of ‘attack ads’ and smear campaigns has left voters with a foul taste in their mouth about politics in general.

There’s an actual formula for figuring out the likelihood of someone voting.

PB + D > C.

P is the probability that an individual’s vote will affect the outcome of an election; B is the perceived benefit that would be received if that person’s favoured political party or candidate were elected; D is for democracy or civic duty, or any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting, and C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting. (Wikipedia.org)

One of the issues affecting voters in Canada and the States has been a sneaky tinkering with that C; in the name of efficiency and a feigned attempt to curb ‘voter fraud,’ politicians have made it more difficult for some groups to be heard.

election-fraud-for-dummiesVoter suppression, the ‘dirty tricks’ dreamed up to intimidate, or to make it inconvenient or impossible for citizens to vote are illegal activities. After the Canadian Federal election of 2011, the Conservative Party was accused of having used live calls and robocalls to tell voters that their polling station had been changed. Voters were directed to false addresses, often several hours away from correct stations. These calls claimed, illegally, to be from Elections Canada.

A federal court was asked by The Council of Canadians to look into allegations of Conservative Party voter fraud. The court concluded that fraud had indeed occurred, probably by someone with access to the Conservatives databases, but said that there was no direct proof that the Party or any successful candidates were either directly involved or profited from the fraud. Although the Conservative were criticized for making “little effort to assist with the investigation,” the court did not annul the result in any of the six ridings where the fraud had occurred, concluding that the number of votes affected had been too small to affect the outcome. (Wikipedia)

In 2015, changes to Canada’s voter eligibility have a new requirement, that each voter prove his or her physical address on paper. The long accepted practice of having a second person vouch for a voter’s address will no longer suffice.

native voice“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to vote to every citizen in Canada who is 18 years and older. While the Fair Elections Act doesn’t trump the Charter and render the right to vote for these groups null and void, the EFFECT of the Act could be just that. The Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand reported in a CTV news article that removing vouch voting could affect over 100,000 people — particularly those who are Aboriginal and live on a reserve.

homeless votePeople who are homeless, whether on the streets, couch surfing or living somewhere temporarily, are also at risk of losing their ability to vote if voter vouching is dismantled. People who are homeless can experience theft, or sometimes misplace their personal identification because of housing instability. This shouldn’t hold them back from voting.

“Irregularities” have been noted with respect to voter vouching in the last election according to a report commissioned by Elections Canada. These irregularities are being touted by the current government as a reason to end voter vouching, however, the report actually states that these issues were ‘administrative’ and made by elections workers — not by voters themselves. In court cases that preceded the report, both the Ontario Superior Court and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that, “there was no evidence of fraud or ineligible voters being provided ballots.” (Huffington Post Canada)

bc reserveThis change may also become a problem as physical mail delivery becomes a thing of the past. It will definitely be a problem for many First Nations people, who often do not have regular street addresses, and thus relied on vouching. Elections Canada now requires each person lacking identification that includes an address to have a different registered voter swear an oath as to the technical land description of their home or a letter from the First Nation confirming the location, along with a piece of identification with the voter’s name. Elections Canada will not accept Indian status cards alone.

voter-suppressionIn the United States, elections are locally administered, which has often been found to allow the manipulation of elections. Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses were used to suppress poor and racial minorities from voting. Today, voter suppression is more subtle, but is an integral part of policy for the Republicans, who have championed voter ID laws, voter caging, and felony disenfranchisement. There is also a sad history of physical intimidation at polling stations, ranging from unauthorized security guards, to simply making voters wait for long hours in gruelling weather.

Some countries are working to improve voter turnout by increasing possible voting locations, requiring companies to give workers paid voting time off, or allowing voters to vote over several days, as they do in India. In France, voting is held on the weekend, so that most voters have no need for time off from work.

internet-voting1France, Switzerland, Estonia, Geneva and the United Kingdom also allow internet voting. The US Department of Defense has been looking into making internet voting secure, but no decisions have been made.

In Canada, federal elections still use paper ballots. There have been some efforts at the provincial level to allow internet voting, and some municipalities, including Peterborough, Markham and Halifax, provide internet voting as an option. We’re still a long way from being wired politically.

ask questionsNonetheless, and despite the best efforts of those who fear we’ll make the ‘wrong’ decision come Election Day, it’s still imperative that we use our votes to demand the changes we want to see in government. Voting is our power. By not voting, you cede that power to whomever’s voices are louder than the peoples, to further their own agendas and gain.

help wantedUnless we want a democracy in name only, we need to get involved, to seriously look at the candidates in our constituencies, and make an informed judgment on those who are seeking to work for us. Politicians are job seekers; they need to present a résumé and an outline of what they intend to do for us before being handed power. And they must be held accountable if they fail to perform up to their claims and our standards.

powerWhile they vie for their ‘job’ as your representative, you have the power. Once they’ve been elected, it’s out of your hands. So tell those who want your vote that they’ve got to work for it. Choosing not to vote, or to vote without understanding whom you’re hiring, only guarantees that Canada will find itself in the same place or worse by the next time the opportunity to make a difference comes along.

If you don’t vote, you just won’t matter. And all your complaints and demands will only be the wasted breath of the unheard and the unempowered.

Canada’s Heartaches by the Numbers


crude oil boomingOur dollar depreciated more than 2 cents on Wednesday, and is now worth .81 of the U.S. dollar, the lowest level since 2011. The Harper government put all Canada’s eggs in one basket by banking on North American crude oil, our top export, but the commodity has plunged from a high of $85 US a barrel in October of 2014, to a low of $46.US on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced this week that he would be delaying his budget from the usual February-March date until at least April, due to “market instability.”

Unable or unwilling to admit Canada’s damaged economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters yesterday that “These things are creating some shocks that will impact us but they’re not going to throw us off our fundamental growth path or undermine the very strong fundamentals of the Canadian economy.” He added that “The government has complete confidence in the Bank of Canada in the actions that it has taken.”

The Bank of Canada cut the rate on overnight loans between commercial banks by a quarter point to 0.75% on Wednesday, in a response to the recent drop in oil prices. The previous rate had been at 1% since September 2010.  market failure

“The drop in oil prices is unambiguously negative for the Canadian economy. Canada’s income from oil exports will be reduced, and investment and employment in the energy sector are already being cut,” BoC’s Governor Stephen Poloz explained.

Many, including NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen, think Harper is in denial. The Conservatives had hoped to sail into 2015 on a high of oil fumes and the elimination of the$2.9-billion federal deficit , but it looks like their plans may be tanked as predicted federal tax revenues could be reduced by several billions of dollars thanks to global oil price shake-ups.

No worries, though, as Harper is relying on the annual $3 billion contingency fund built into the budget for “unforeseen circumstances.”

He also said that “The oil industry isn’t remotely the entire Canadian economy.” So … what is the Canadian economy?Canadian economy

Our population of 36 million boasts a 6.6% unemployment rate, with approximately 62% employed (16-64 years of age). (The United States, with 316.1 million, is at 5.6% unemployed, and 59.2% employed, while the United Kingdom, with 64.1 million people, has an unemployment rate of 6.0%, and 73% of people are employed.)

In Canada, wealth inequality, while an issue, is not quite as visible as in America; our Canadian 1% holds 12.5 per cent of Canada’s total income. 29 per cent earn $135,000 or more. But our incomes are generally lower – 95 per cent of working Canadians earn less than $100,000 a year. Our definition of ‘wealthy’ begins at $150,000.00 per year – chump change for wealthy Americans.

One of the reasons Canadians have not felt as impacted by wealth inequality is that, beginning in the late 1970’s, women surged into the workforce in record numbers. A household with two incomes could manage quite well. With the inclusion of children into the family, however, things got shakier financially. If one of the two wage earners has to stay home with the kids, they’ve effectively halved the family income, in order to raise children and run the home. As baby boomers aged, that child care burden lifted for a large portion of the middle class.

canadian workforceEducation, and it’s inevitable costs, are a factor. In order to succeed in a technological society, we need workers with complex skills and higher education. 64.1% of adults aged 25 to 64 had post-secondary qualifications in 2011, with women aged 25 to 34 holding a larger share of university degrees. 8 in 10 Registered Apprenticeship certificates were held by men.

In 2011, Almost two-thirds of adult Canadians had post-secondary qualifications, Stemwhile 2.1 million adults had a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree in STEM (science and technology, engineering and engineering technology or mathematics and computer sciences) but half of STEM university degrees were held by immigrants who have lived in Canada for many years, and Canadian newcomers.

waiterUnfortunately, Canada has the third-highest proportion of low-paying jobs in the world, with only the U.S. and Ireland having a higher percentage of low-paying jobs. Canada is becoming a ‘nation of part-timers’; part-time employment may still outgrow full-time employment for some years as the baby boomers reduce their working hours or retire.

But the big, well-paying manufacturing companies have left Canada to take advantage of lower labour costs abroad. What’s left for those with or without special skills are low-wage service and retail jobs, which generally lack the benefits associated with higher paying positions, and are becomingly increasingly insecure.

StatsCan released this information in January 2015:statscan

In December (2014), Canada lost 4,300 jobs as full-time employment rose by 53,500 while there was a decline of 57,700 in part time jobs… Employment gains in 2014 amounted to 186,000 (+1.0 percent), with increases in the second half of the year accounting for most of the growth. Compared with 12 months earlier, the total number of hours worked increased by 0.7 percent.”

“There were 24,000 fewer women aged 25 to 54 employed in December. Their unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.2%, as fewer of them participated in the labour market. Employment among men aged 25 to 54 increased by 23,000 in December and their unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 5.5%, their lowest rate since 2008.”

This month, however, it was announced that five large retail companies will be closing Canadian operations. Lured to Canada by massive tax breaks, cuts and incentives, they’ll be leaving more than 21,000 unemployed by March or April.

Stephen-Harper-CowboyIn Alberta’s tar sands, Suncor cut 1000 jobs last week as oil prices crashed. They also announced that they’d decrease their capital spending program by a $1-billion, and reduce operating expense s by another $200 million.

Canada’s largest growth sector in jobs has been in service and retail industries. Only Alberta has seen respectable job growth. Mr. Harper’s blithe suggestion that the current oil crisis will fail to impact the economy as a whole, sounds very much like a man whistling past the graveyardcanada bleak future

Update Jan 24/15: Last week on Global TVs The West Block, Jason Kenny (MP, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism) told host Tom Clark, “We won’t be using a contingency fund. A contingency fund is there for unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters.”

But during an interview for this week’s episode of The West Block, Canada’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver told Tom Clark, “The contingency fund is there for unexpected and unavoidable shocks to the system and, you know, the oil price decline – which was a dramatic one – would fall in that category. I’m speaking as minister of finance so I’m sort of current on the thinking here.”