Kinder Morgan's $771,000 donation to B.C. Liberals raises red flags while Premier shifts to damage control

14 March 2017 - 11:25pm
March 14, 2017EnvironmentPolitics in CanadaKinder Morgan's $771,000 donation to B.C. Liberals raises red flags while Premier shifts to damage controlThe B.C. Liberals are under scrutiny for accepting significant donations from lobbyists, including those connected to the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project, sparking an RCMP investigation.BC

French presidential race finds two leading candidates enmeshed in corruption

14 March 2017 - 9:28am

In France, if you have a political secret to reveal or scandal to relate, the place to dish the dirt is the 102-year-old, eight-page, weekly satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné.

Sources for the paper's investigative reports include whistleblowers, revenge-seekers, opposition researchers from political parties, and journalists from other newspapers, concerned about protecting themselves from retribution for publishing destructive material.

Each Wednesday the Canard is required reading in the public affairs milieu. Since January the current French presidential campaign has been dominated by its revelations of corruption surrounding François Fillon, the high-profile candidate of the right-wing Republican party.

In November 2016 Fillon was a surprise winner of the Republican party primary defeating the favourite, Alain Juppé, mayor of Bordeaux. With Fillon's party nomination safely stowed away, along with over 10 million euros to wage his campaign, the Canard was ready to attack.

In a first report, followed each week by others that have dominated news coverage of the Fillon campaign, the Canard revealed that throughout his career in municipal, regional and national politics, Fillon had his wife, Penelope, on the payroll -- though the Welsh-born U.K. national was on record as having "never" devoted time to her husband's career. 

The estimated cost of this non-employment to the French Treasury over the years was 930,000 euros.

His two children also had paying jobs, totalling 84,000 euros, at different times.

As part of his nomination campaign, Fillon had pledged to uphold the honour and dignity of public life. In a thinly veiled reference to judicial proceedings underway against a primary rival, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, Fillon asked if anyone could imagine Charles de Gaulle facing criminal charges.

Fillon is now scheduled for judicial hearings March 15.

The embezzlement scandal (alternatively labelled a misappropriation of public funds) led to speculation that Fillon would resign as candidate.

The one-time prime minister has steadfastly refused to do so, and because he controls the party campaign funds, the Republican party executive committee has been unable or unwilling to make him step down.

Fillon did lose his campaign manager, the support of over 300 elected Republican officials, and the backing of UDI -- L'Union des démocrates et indépendants -- a small independent right party.

For years French politics has drawn its battle lines between left and right forces. Indeed, the political usage of left and right worldwide derives from the arc of seats facing the Speakers Podium of the French National Assembly with the Socialists to the left, as seen from the podium, and Republicans to the right.

In 2016 with first Juppé, then Fillon, leading the polls as replacements for the outgoing Socialist President François Hollande, it appeared the usual dynamic of right replacing left in French politics was at work.

With Fillon wounded and falling in public esteem, surprisingly, a centrist candidate, campaigning as being neither left nor right, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, has emerged as the front-runner.

Macron was an investment banker recruited by François Hollande to be his economic adviser and then named to his cabinet. Unhappy -- Hollande was insufficiently "liberal" -- Macron resigned, and announced the creation of En Marche (or EM, his initials), a movement for change rather than a party.

Macron is soliciting candidates via the Internet to run under the EM banner in the June parliamentary elections. Part of his appeal is his willingness to throw out entrenched political office holders.

After five years of Socialist government, the assessment of left philosopher Alain Badiou rings true for many, supporters included: once in power, the Socialist party exists to explain why it can't do the things it promised to do when in opposition. 

Its indifferent record and its failure to attack unemployment contributed to a simmering Socialist party internal revolt. Les Frondeurs (rebels) a group based in the National Assembly, created Vive la Gauche, a collective. One of its members, ex-minister Benoît Hamon, won the Socialist primary, defeating the former prime minister Manuel Valls.

Hamon was able to arrange support for his candidacy from the French Greens, who have withdrawn in his favour, but the strong left candidacy of Jean-Luc Mélenchon bleeds support from the Socialists. Mélenchon represents the dissident wing of the left, and he has used the poor historical record of the Socialists in power to build his campaign strength.   

French presidential elections take place in two stages. In the first vote scheduled for April 23, over 10 candidates will be on the ballot. In the run-off election two weeks later, the top two vote-getters face each other.

The weakness of Fillon suggests he will place third in the first round of balloting, leaving Macron to face Marine Le Pen, the extreme right-wing, anti-immigration, anti-EU candidate.

Some worry that Fillon will eclipse Macron, giving Le Pen a shot at winning the presidency on the second round, because so many people would refuse to vote for an embezzler.

However Le Pen herself is facing a judicial enquiry in France and is in trouble in Brussels for illegally using funds provided her as a member of the EU parliament to fund her National Front party activities in France.

Meanwhile, this week it was revealed that Fillon had received nearly 50,000 euros in custom-tailored suits paid for by an anonymous benefactor.

France awaits the results of judicial enquiries launched against the Republican candidate and the Front National candidate, not just the first round of voting for a new president.

Duncan Cameron is former president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Prachatai/flickr

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french election 2017france politicsfranceEuropean politicsFrançois Fillongovernment corruptionEmmanuel Macronsocialist partyDuncan CameronMarch 14, 2017Populism and faux feminism: Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump and Justin TrudeauJustin Trudeau arrived in Washington on Monday with a plan to help Trump polish his image with women, even though Canadian women are still waiting for action on public child care from our feminist PM.Why is France emulating the U.S.?Instead of making declarations of war, France needs to remember the Lafontaine fable about the ox and the frog, and re-examine its blind new alignment with American imperialism.Why France's economic problems matterFrance is at that critical juncture where it seems poised to begin tearing down its social democratic infrastructure by embracing the neoliberal playbook of austerity.

Vancouver film festival takes on colonization as Canada celebrates confederation

14 March 2017 - 9:04am
March 14, 2017Vancouver film festival takes on colonization as Canada celebrates ConfederationThe "Beyond 150 Years" film festivals asks: what exactly is Canada 150 celebrating and who is invited to the party?

Alberta finally moves, cautiously, toward reforming labour laws, more boldly to ban cash-for-blood transactions

14 March 2017 - 1:25am
David J. ClimenhagaMarch 14, 2017

No sooner asked than answered, Alberta's NDP government announced a plan yesterday morning to consult with the public and the usual suspects on both sides of the labour relations aisle about the sorry state of Alberta's workplace laws.

Calling the fact Alberta’s labour laws haven’t been meaningfully updated since 1988 "staggering," Labour Minister Christina Gray used a news conference in the Legislature Building to announce a mercifully short consultation period.

The consultations will focus on the Alberta Labour Relations Code, the legislation that governs working relationships in unionized worksites, and the Employment Standards Code, the law that sets minimum standards for employment relationships on non-union worksites.

The whole consultation phase is supposed to be wrapped up by April 18.

So far, so good! Although, as was observed in this space yesterday, it's not entirely clear why we need to spend even a month studying policies like first contract compulsory arbitration for which there is an evident need and have been operating without problems in other provinces for decades.

There were certainly some good signs during Gray's news conference -- for example, she acknowledged openly that Alberta has badly fallen behind both the law in other provinces as well as decisions made by the courts in many aspects of labour relations, leaving us out of step with the rest of the country.

"Work life in Alberta has changed a lot over the last 30 years," the minister observed -- to which we can add a hearty no kidding! These have been three decades in which the whole shabby edifice of globalization, de-skilling, precarious work, institutionalized anti-unionism and other depredations of neoliberalism has taken deep root in Alberta and elsewhere on this continent.

Another good sign was the appointment of Edmonton labour lawyer Andrew Sims, respected by pretty well everyone in the field in this province. Sims has worked both for conservative and not-so-conservative governments on this file, and is well known as a mediator and arbitrator, and has managed to continue to be held in most everyone's esteem.

But there were also some not-so-good signs -- for example, there's still no timetable for getting any of this stuff signed off, let alone passed through the Legislature, and few hints of what actually might end up in legislation.

You can count on business groups, as also suggested here yesterday, to argue that you shouldn't fix what ain't broke, and to claim, furthermore, that not broken is a fair description of the state of Alberta's labour laws. That, of course, is baloney, but opponents are certain to try to stall for time in the hopes another election will be upon us with this essential job left undone.

The danger is that the NDP -- still spooked by the hysterical reaction to its farm-safety legislation last year -- will buy into this, giving the opposition time to gin up more anger.

I should pause here and declare my interest in this topic. I was one of the strikers in 1999 and 2000 at the Calgary Herald -- the folks Conrad Black described as "gangrenous limbs" who should be surgically lopped off -- and I saw for myself how Alberta's labour laws, and the lack of first-contract compulsory arbitration in particular, abetted an employer determined never to comply with its employees' legal right to be represented by a union.

I am also, paradoxically, grateful to his Lordship and his less lordly minions for saving me from the moribund daily newspaper business moments before it crumbled into dust -- more evidence of which we learned about just this past weekend.

Opponents of any change the NDP is likely to propose, I imagine, would be singing a different tune about the quality of Alberta's supposedly unbroken labour laws if there were a conservative government in the driver's seat in Edmonton. Then they would be crying for the nearly vertical labour relations playing field to be tilted even further in favour of employers.

Gray told the newser her goal, a laudable enough aim, is to ensure that Albertans are able not only go to work and contribute to the economy, but also to "care for themselves and their families."

She indicated the review will focus on hours of work, overtime, special leaves and collective bargaining rules. I'm going to assume that union organizing regulations are included under the last heading on that list.

She encouraged members of the public to complete a survey and provide their views through a website set up for this purpose -- work.alberta.ca/leg-review. If you're a veteran of an ugly strike in which the employer ignored your legal rights and got away with it, I'd strongly encourage you to take part.

This time, the submissions will not be published, a reasonable precaution to protect commenters favouring labour law reform from harassment by right-wing social media trolls.

NDP moves to ban unsavoury practice of selling blood for cash

Meanwhile, the government wasn’t fooling around at all yesterday when it took tough action banning private pay-for-plasma clinics and other commercial efforts to buy human blood in Alberta.

"Donating blood should not be viewed as a business venture, but as a public resource," Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said when she announced the introduction of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act.

So Albertans will be spared the unsavoury -- and sometimes unsafe -- practice of allowing corporations to offer $25 a pop to the most disadvantaged people in our society to sell their blood, presumably permitted in Saskatchewan by the same market-fundamentalist vampires who think you ought to be able to sell a kidney if you feel like it.

The act, introduced in the Legislature by the NDP, carries hefty penalties for individuals and corporations that pay donors for blood -- fines of up to $10,000 a day for a first offence and $50,000 a day for subsequent offences for individuals, and $100,000 and $500,000 daily for corporations.

The goal of the legislation, like laws in Ontario and Quebec and in line with the recommendations of the 1993 Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, is to prevent the province's voluntary blood donor pool from being depleted or put at risk from infected donors relying on donations for cash.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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Food & HealthLabourPolitics in CanadaAlberta politicsAlberta NDPblood donationslabour relationsChristina GraySarah HoffmanPay for PlasmaVoluntary Blood Donations ActAlberta Labour Relations Codecollective bargainingAlberta Employment Standards CodePrecarious WorkAndrew SimsCalgary Herald Strike

Leadership debate showcases NDP unity and a feisty spirit

13 March 2017 - 2:27pm
March 13, 2017NDPPolitics in CanadaLeadership debate showcases NDP unity and a feisty spirit While the 14 Conservative leadership candidates squabble and attack each other, the four NDP aspirants agree on most issues.NDPleadership debateCA

Leadership debate showcases NDP unity and a feisty spirit

13 March 2017 - 6:39am
Karl NerenbergMarch 13, 2017

NDP organizers seemed almost giddy Sunday afternoon at the success of the de-facto launch of the party’s leadership race, the first candidates’ debate, at a downtown Ottawa hotel.

More than a 1,000 people attended, many young. Their evident enthusiasm indicated they thought it worth braving Ottawa’s wicked wind chill to be there. One person who attended rated the four candidates in this way:

  1. Guy Caron, because of his substantive ideas, candid way of expressing himself in both languages, and surprising flashes of humour;
  2. Niki Ashton, because of her poise and clear commitment to a progressive vision (with the caveat traditional working class NDP voters in Hamilton or Windsor might not relate to Ashton’s talk of such matters as intersectionality);
  3. Peter Julian, for his solid, if somewhat too-earnest-by-half, grasp of the issues; and
  4. Charlie Angus, who came in last mostly because his French seemed, to this debate watcher, a bit on the dubious side. The northern Ontario MP did get points for folksy charm, even if some thought he might have laid it on a bit thick at times.

Others thought all candidates acquitted themselves well, and none were either winners or losers. As one observer who has watched many NDP leadership debates over the decades put it: "Overall, I am unable to rank them with much confidence and am frankly impressed by the field."

Guy Caron, who normally seems like a fairly serious economist, got the biggest laugh when he said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might be quoting another Justin named Bieber during the next election campaign: "Is it too late to say sorry?"

The NDP candidates all took the unequivocal position that Trudeau has, indeed, let down the voters, that he used the time honoured Liberal tactic of campaigning from the left only to shift rightward once in office. Charlie Angus was speaking for them all when he said Trudeau is not a real progressive; he merely "plays one on TV."

But all candidates showed signs of understanding their party will have to do more than attack the current Prime Minister if it hopes to make significant inroads next time.

Harkening to the party's history, kitchen tables and social movements

Julian is the candidate most likely to evoke NDP tradition – and that of the CCF that preceded it. He is fond of pointing out he occupies the office in Parliament’s Centre Block that once belonged to Tommy Douglas; and he talks about how it took courage for the party, historically, to advocate policies that were neither fashionable nor popular at the time. Julian cites extending the franchise to Indigenous people, public pensions, and universal health care. Without the NDP and CCF before it, Julian says, Canada would be a meaner, less compassionate, less equal and less fair country. 

Ashton unabashedly portrays herself as the candidate of young, marginalized and racialized Canadians. She is the only candidate to make consistent use of the language of social movements, such as Black Lives Matter. Her mission echoes the Politics Initiative (NPI), founded in 2001, and supported by folks such as Judy Rebick, on the social movement side, and Libby Davies, from the parliamentary party.  The aim of the NPI was to bring the NDP closer to feminist, Indigenous, environmental and other grass roots organizations. The party of the left cannot succeed, NPI supporters argued, without the energy and commitment of community level activists. Ashton makes a similar case today, while being careful to avoid giving the impression she wants to create a left splinter faction in the party.

Charlie Angus sees the current task to be one of re-engaging with working class Canadians over their kitchen tables. Journalists have asked him if he sees himself as a sort of northern Bernie Sanders, but they have it wrong. 

In truth, Angus is trying to channel Jack Layton, whose name he mentions frequently, not the Senator from Vermont. Like Layton, Angus has more faith in the power of optimism and empathy than in ideology. When asked if he considers himself to be “on the left” he answered: “I failed ideology 101.” Folksiness is Charlie Angus’ calling card. He evoked his grandmother in his closing remarks – she told him New Democrats were the only ones who would stand up for working people when the chips were down – and made a point of saying he wanted to put the "party" back into the Party. Fun is an important part of who we are, the onetime punk rocker said.

Guy Caron points out that all candidates have very similar goals. They all agree on what they want to achieve. They might differ, however, on how they want to achieve it. Caron cites his guaranteed annual income proposal as an example. The Rimouski MP believes such a measure would be a powerful weapon in the fight against growing inequality. Not the only weapon, he hastens to add, but one that would be worth trying.

As for the lessons of the disappointing 2015 election, only Caron brought up what, in Quebec, they call "la question identitaire" – meaning, in this case, the Niqab debate. It was not entirely clear what Caron would have done differently from Tom Mulcair, when one woman’s demand that she be allowed to wear a Niqab while swearing an oath of citizenship became a toxic election issue in Quebec. Caron seemed to be saying he agreed, substantively, with the party’s position on the Niqab – i.e., that it was within a person’s rights to wear it, if she so chose – but believed the NDP could have communicated its position more effectively during the last campaign. In particular, Caron said the party should have framed its stance with more "empathy" – but empathy for whom? That was not at all clear.

We will no doubt be hearing a lot more about this, and other issues, in the weeks and months to come. We have eight months to go before the party choses a new leader. 

NDPNDP Leadership 2017NDP leadershipguaranteed annual incomeniqabhilldispatchesHill DispatchesJack LaytonGuy CaronCharlie AngusNiki AshtonPeter JulianCA

NDP leadership candidates must present concrete and bold ideas on Sunday's debut debate

10 March 2017 - 5:23pm
March 10, 2017NDP leadership candidates must present concrete and bold ideas at Sunday's debut debateThe first NDP leadership debate takes place on Sunday. There are four strong, experienced candidates. Their task will be to demarcate the party on the political map.

A Day Without a Woman: Women's global strike shows resistance to Donald Trump on the rise

9 March 2017 - 12:46pm
March 9, 2017A Day Without a Woman: Women's global strike shows resistance to Donald Trump on the riseDonald Trump is doing damage, daily, to pillars of progressive achievement. But the resistance is growing, offering hope in a time of darkness.

Judy Rebick: An oral history of International Women's Day in Toronto

8 March 2017 - 12:43pm
March 8, 2017Judy Rebick: An oral history of International Women's Day in TorontoGiven all the attention to International Women's Day this year, Judy Rebick is sharing a chapter of her book Ten Thousand Roses on how IWD came to be celebrated in Canada.

Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men

7 March 2017 - 11:54pm
March 8, 2017Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men If the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim communities whose freedoms were sacrificed for the "war on terror."

Democratic socialism can build an economy that works for everyone

7 March 2017 - 12:10am
March 7, 2017EconomyDemocratic socialism can build an economy that works for everyoneDemocratic socialist economist Kenneth Arrow passed away recently. His ideas could set the path for a popular alternative that doesn't include Donald Trump.

What was the problem with naming Islamophobia in Motion M103?

3 March 2017 - 8:58am
Anti-RacismEconomyPolitics in Canada

A short history of political correctness:

1. It began on the Marxist left. If you think you own the key to history -- what makes it work and where it's going based on "class analysis" -- it's only logical to grade your actions based on whether they're correct responses.

Figures such as Lenin and Mao talked about making a "correct analysis" of the forces: who's up, who's down, who's "the main enemy." From that you calculate a "correct line:" e.g., in 1939, do you attack Hitler or momentarily ally with him?

By the 1960s revival of the New Left, the notion had become playful. There was a strip called Correct Line Comix with a chubby cheery Mao. Leftists in restaurants would ponderously joke about ordering politically correct dishes. But the term itself -- referring to minorities or identities -- wasn't yet in wide use.

2. After the dazzling triumph of neo-conservative forces in the 1980s (Reagan-Thatcher-Mulroney), came a right-wing attack on a new catchphrase: political correctness. In my opinion this was part of an effort to bury the residue of the Marxist left, along with the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

At the same time it was an attempt to dismantle the left critique of capitalist society by draining it of its encompassing economic bite: splintering it into demographic fragments thus defusing the notion of popular "solidarity." Numerous cover stories demonized the evil force. But oddly, it was hard to find specific examples or advocates of PC, whatever it actually was. The real-life version of PC meanwhile -- a ban on critiquing sacred cows, such as capitalism or NATO -- stayed in force. In fact it still is. Even the elected president of the U.S. can't question NATO, long after its raison d'être has vanished. But I digress.

3. During the 1990s, in an amazing twist anticipated by the late Edward Said, many leftists, especially those lefter than pasty versions such as the NDP, more or less adopted the version of themselves painted by the right-wing critics of PCness.

They did this by adopting identity politics, focusing on minority rights, gender rights or human rights generally. (Said had written that Muslims, when smeared by overwhelming Western imagery portraying them all as terrorists, sometimes embraced that role in a desperate attempt to feel they existed at all.)

There was nothing wrong with these campaigns. They'd been underplayed for too long. Except that they were often accompanied by a de-emphasis, or abandonment, of economic issues, such as Who owns everything? and Who did they steal it from? There's no reason you can't include both.

But the intense stress on identity, combined with a burning focus on appropriate language, gave right-wing critics of PC far juicier targets than they'd originally had. The right, rather surprisingly, became the main advocates of free speech.

4. And so to Motion M103, the mild declaration (nothing more, no legal force at all) of concern for the rights and especially safety of Muslims in Canada. It's the PC controversy writ small.

Whose rights are of overriding concern here: the six Muslims murdered in Quebec City as they prayed (or the two Indian men in Kansas City shot down because their killer thought they were Iranians -- as if that might have justified it)? Or the free speech rights of critics of Islam, such as Ezra Levant and Conservative leadership candidates to pursue their detached scholarly critiques of Islamic theology and law?

The argument has focused mostly on language, especially the term, Islamophobia: if the bill said anti-Muslim instead, for instance, people would supposedly be less bothered.

I know words are supposed to matter but they don't much, in this case, because everyone knows what Islamophobia means. It's the same with anti-Semitism, a terribly imprecise term -- many Jews aren't by any stretch Semites, even if you manage to define it -- but everyone knows what it means.

In fact, Islamophobia is far more precise. Hatred of Muslims gets ginned up over their religion -- Islam. That's not been the case with hatred of Jews -- at least since the Middle Ages. In the modern era it's been based on racial, economic or global conspiracy myths. By comparison, the term, Islamophobia, reflects the issue exactly.

As Trump and others keep insisting, the "enemy" is Islam, with or without "radical." What's the matter, they taunt, are you afraid to say it? What would you call that if not Islamophobia?

This column was first published in the Toronto Star.

Photo: JMacPherson/flickr

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political correctnessidentity politicshuman rightsMarxismthe leftislamophobiaMotion M103Rick SalutinMarch 3, 2017Human rights protections raise new questions for freedom of speechA commitment to free speech doesn't reconcile easily with human rights codes that may compel respect and courtesy toward specific groups -- including their right to be addressed as they choose.Putting Black faces on our money won't paper over systemic racismRepresentation in its basest sense has come to stand in place for actual change when no change is happening at all.Joseph Boyden and the identity trapThe Joseph Boyden imbroglio raises fundamental questions about identity.

Don't be fooled by the Sanctuary City trend. Migrants in Canada are still at risk

3 March 2017 - 8:19am
March 3, 2017Don't be fooled by the Sanctuary City trend. Migrants in Canada are still at riskThough a number of cities across Canada are adopting "Sanctuary City" declarations, deportations persist and basic public services are still not being provided.

A message to young activists in the fight against Donald Trump

2 March 2017 - 9:05am
Political ActionUS Politics

President Donald Trump's first address to Congress was hailed by many as "presidential," primarily because he didn't stray far from his prepared remarks on the teleprompter. Despite the pomp and ceremony of the joint session, Trump's delivery of his 5,000-word speech was replete with inaccuracies, mischaracterizations and fabrications. While touted as his opportunity to unify the country, he instead rattled off a string of divisive policy prescriptions that are red meat to his base, from building a "great, great wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border to increasing military spending by tens of billions of dollars. Among the guests in the chamber was a remarkable 26-year-old African-American woman, Ola Ojewumi, seated in the gallery in her wheelchair.

Ola is alive today, she says, because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Trump spoke about what he calls the "imploding Obamacare disaster," calling on Congress to "repeal and replace" the law that has led to an increase of over 20 million people obtaining health insurance. "It was quite scary when I heard his comments about the Affordable Care Act," Ola told us on the Democracy Now! news hour. "I personally was affected. I am the survivor of a heart and kidney transplant. And I was able to receive insurance and stay on my parents' insurance until I was 26." She had the transplants when she was 11 years old, and her parents' health-insurance company tried to boot her off the plan several times. As a result of the transplants, she must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. Having recently beaten post-transplant lymphoma, she is a cancer survivor as well.

Despite all she has had to overcome personally, her main focus is helping others: "I get strength from my community and seeing the problems in the world. I knew I was meant to do social justice when, in recent months, I've watched the news and literally been brought to tears about the way America is headed and about the regression." In college, Ola founded Project ASCEND with a $500 tuition-refund check. The group's mission is "to create higher education opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged young people across the globe."

Many of the Democratic congresswomen wore white to the Trump speech, echoing the dress style of the American suffragettes of a century ago. "I had on my white jacket and a red dress. I was proud to see women standing up for what's right. It's really remarkable how much power we have as women in understanding that our voices will be heard, even if we aren't the majority," she said. "I'm proud of women on the Hill championing our rights and championing Planned Parenthood. They provide a voice for voiceless populations, including women of colour and women with disabilities."

Ola has volunteered with Planned Parenthood, handing out condoms in the annual gay-pride parade in Washington, D.C. "Planned Parenthood's work in passing the ACA and the ACA having a free birth-control option allowed for women with disabilities, like me, to receive free birth control," she explained. "We aren't included in the discussion. Women with disabilities, we have the highest rates of sexual assault, and we are more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than able-bodied women. So, Planned Parenthood Metro Washington gave women like me a voice and taught me how to really protest and advocate on behalf of my group."

Ola also is critical of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who said during her confirmation hearings that implementation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should be left to the states, opening the potential that states could discriminate against students with disabilities. Ola said DeVos shows "a lack of understanding about equal access to education."

Ola Ojewumi has been through a lot, but clearly has much to more to do.

"My message to young activists is: Continue to advocate. Draw inspiration from what you see. Don't change the channel. Don't ignore what's going on in the world. Watch what makes you angry, so it can keep you fired up and keep you in the trenches fighting, because change does not just get done on the Hill. It gets done with your voices and your advocacy. Continue to speak out about anti-Semitism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia. And be sure to be inclusive in your movements ... people with disabilities, people in wheelchairs, our rights matter. Make sure your movements are inclusive of everyone, from every background. We can really change the world together."

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,400 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan and David Goodman, of the newly published New York Times bestseller Democracy Now!: 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America.

This column was first published on Democracy Now!

Photo: Alisdare Hickson/flickr

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trump administrationObamacareU.S. Health CareU.S. politicsStop Trumpsocial changeAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanMarch 2, 2017Defeats of Andrew Puzder and Michael Flynn reveal power of grassroots movementsThe engine driving both the ouster of Andrew Puzder and Michael Flynn are movements of thousands upon thousands of people across the U.S., saying "no" to hate, bigotry and injustice.Silenced twice by U.S. Senate, Coretta Scott King's words live onSen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was interrupted while reading the words of Coretta Scott King on the U.S. Senate floor this week. What you should worry about when you worry about President Trump (Hint: not where Ivanka sits!)If you want to worry about the Trump Family, think about the fact Mr. Donald now has the firing codes to 4,000 nuclear weapons.

NDP leadership candidate Peter Julian 'just a regular guy' with lots of ambitious policies

2 March 2017 - 8:23am
March 2, 2017NDP leadership candidate Peter Julian 'just a regular guy' with lots of ambitious policiesThe first-to-declare NDP leadership candidate tells rabble that the party lost touch with the grass roots last time. If he is chosen leader, Julian pledges that will not happen again.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse makes it official: He wants to lead Alberta Liberals

2 March 2017 - 1:16am
David J. ClimenhagaMarch 2, 2017ElectionsPolitics in Canada

Departing St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse's principal problem as a candidate to lead the Alberta Liberal Party -- and as the party's leader, in the event he gets the job -- will be to find a way to differentiate between the policy proposals of the governing NDP and those of his own party.

This won't be that easy. Dyed-in-the-wool political partisans are one thing, but what Liberal voters, NDP voters and the left-of-centre portion of mushy and moveable electoral middle all want right now is pretty much within the same general policy range.

Why would voters who essentially support the NDP policy approach -- even if they don't particularly love the NDP -- risk voting for a party like the Liberals, who are unlikely to offer anything except a cast-iron guarantee they can't form the next government?

Crouse needs to answer this question to succeed.

At the same time, Alberta's already pretty far-right conservative parties -- whether or not they manage to merge before the next general election -- are moving even further to the right, which is not likely to be comfortable territory for Alberta Liberals to occupy.

So Crouse, who announced he is running to lead the Liberals yesterday morning on the edge of the North Saskatchewan River Valley overlooking downtown Edmonton and Alberta’s lovely Legislative Building, has his work cut out. It won't be easy to persuade voters that the Liberals are viable as anything except a spoiler that can split the centre-left vote and guarantee a destructive market fundamentalist government led by Jason Kenney, Brian Jean or some other conservative contender.

To succeed, therefore, Crouse is going to have to find and articulate several polices different enough from Premier Rachel Notley's New Democrats to woo voters who might otherwise vote NDP, and yet not so different that he doesn't appear to be just another conservative, as does Alberta Party Leader and sole MLA Greg Clark nowadays.

This, of course, is exactly the role Conservatives hope the Liberals will play -- but the question is, notwithstanding Crouse's undeniable political talents, will it play in Ponoka, let alone in any of the province's big cities?

At the moment, the Liberals only have one MLA -- former leader, current interim leader and likely soon-to-be-retired leader David Swann. It seems highly improbable Swann, popular in his own Calgary-Mountain View riding, will run again.

Crouse's announcement, by the way, wasn’t exactly a surprise. He's been dropping hints about this for weeks, even months, possibly even years. In mid-January, he published a statement on his personal website saying, "the opportunity to serve Albertans in a volunteer capacity such as the Liberal Party Leader is one opportunity that I am seriously considering." He added: "I will update Albertans in the near future." Well, now he has.

When he unexpectedly revealed two months ago he wouldn't be seeking a fourth term as mayor of the upscale bedroom suburb northwest of Edmonton, he said he would not be running for the Liberal leadership. But that was then and this is now, and a politician's allowed to change his mind. It's telling that at the time he was queried about this ambition by reporters.

As mayor of the city of 65,000, Crouse has been an enthusiastic retail politician, attending literally hundreds of community events over the past decade. Before being mayor, he served one term as city councillor. A former timber and energy industry executive, company owner and successful junior hockey coach with an MBA, Crouse has been chair of the Capital Regional Board since 2012.

St. Albert has grown and mostly prospered through his tenure as mayor, and continues to attract newcomers. The principal knock against Crouse by his often-bitter opponents has been the city's higher-than-average property taxes, a situation that does not rest solely in his hands, obviously. But he has also been criticized over the years for a range of local controversies that included being accused of voting on a matter from which he should have recused himself and suggestions he improperly submitted mileage claims to the Capital Region Board.

In the last municipal election campaign Crouse was subjected to a vicious campaign of anonymous trolling by persons unknown, which he overcame with relative ease.

Crouse says he will complete his term as mayor and, if he wins, volunteer full-time for the Liberals after the next municipal election in October.

So far, Crouse is the only candidate to announce his intention to seek the Liberal leadership. The party, obviously, needs a contest to generate some interest and bring in new members. Nominations close on March 31.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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Alberta politicsAlberta Liberal PartyAlberta NDPWildrose PartyRachel NotleyBrian JeanJason KenneyNolan CrouseSt. AlbertGreg ClarkAlberta PartyDavid SwannCapital Regional Board2017 Municipal ElectionAB

EKOS poll: Canada should support Israeli sanctions, not demonize them

1 March 2017 - 3:37pm
GazaPolitics in CanadaWorld

Foreign policy is one of those areas of democratic governance that doesn't often get on the public's radar. But when it does it provides citizens with a kind of unsullied opportunity to apply their values. That is, unsullied by considerations of self-interest, we get to ask: what is the right thing to do?

Governments, of course, aren't quite as free to make such decisions given that they have so-called "national interests" to consider. But Canadians should be able to expect from their federal government that its foreign policy conforms closely to their values.

When it comes to Canada's policy towards Israel the Trudeau government, aping its predecessor, is several country miles from reflecting Canadian values. That is the irrefutable conclusion of an EKOS poll whose partial results were released February 16. A second batch of survey results released yesterday (all survey results can be found here) focussed on the issue of whether or not Canadians think it is appropriate to use sanctions and/or boycotts to pressure Israel to obey international law.

The results demolish conventional wisdom on this question. Respondents were asked -- in the context of the UN Security Council denunciation of settlement building in the West Bank: "[d]o you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?" Overall, 66 per cent expressing an opinion answered "yes." But that number is heavily skewed by Conservative supporters, 70 per cent of whom reject sanctions on Israel.  Openness to sanctions on Israel by supporters of other federal political parties ranged from 75 per cent for Liberals to 94 per cent for Bloc Quebecois supporters. Eighty-four per cent of NDP supporters believed sanctions on Israel would be reasonable.

Levels of acceptance for the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel was even higher with fully 78 per cent of those with an opinion stating they believe the Palestinians' call for a boycott is "reasonable." Again, Conservative supporters expressed radically different views from respondents supporting other parties: 51 per cent rejected a boycott. Supporters of other parties who were receptive to the Palestinian call for a boycott ranged from 88 per cent for Liberal supporters to 94 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois.

Flashback to February 2016, when Parliament adopted a Conservative motion (by a vote of 229-51) condemning Canadian individuals and organizations who promote the Palestinian call for a boycott.  That shameful assault on freedom of expression was supported by the Trudeau government. Only the NDP and Bloc opposed it.

When asked if they supported the passing of this resolution a majority of respondents expressing an opinion -- 53 per cent -- said "no" while half that that number, 26 per cent, said "yes." Only 20  per cent of Liberal supporters supported the resolution while 55 per cent disagreed with it.

Most Canadians still have little idea of just how sycophantic the Trudeau Liberals are when it comes to support the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly when it comes to UN votes on Palestinian rights and Israel's violations of international law.

The Trudeau government has cemented Canada's reputation as an embarrassing outlier when it comes to UN votes on Israel. Since October, 2015 when it came to power, the Liberal government has voted against United Nations resolutions that were critical of Israel on over 25 occasions. In fact, it has never voted in favour of a UN resolution that is critical of Israel. Which illustrious democracies does Canada find itself allied with in these votes? Besides Israel and the U.S., its loyal benefactor, our fellow travellers are normally Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Most of these resolutions pass by a vote of 156 or 158 to six or eight (with our EU allies voting for or abstaining).

Some of the resolutions Canada actively opposed should shock Canadians. The Trudeau government opposed a UN resolution that reaffirmed "[t]he importance of Israel's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT]." Another resolution, supporting "The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," was opposed by the Liberals as was a resolution that almost precisely reiterates the government's official policy -- that "Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem" are an obstacle to peace.  

Last December the UN Security Council voted unanimously (with the U.S. abstaining) to declare that Israeli settlements on territory intended for a Palestinian state were a "flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of … peace" between Israel and Palestine. Canada remained absolutely silent as it was (effectively) when Israel passed its "land grab" law which retroactively legalizes settler homes on private Palestinian land.

What could possibly justify Trudeau's immoral and frankly irrational stance when it comes to promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians? In determining its policy towards Israel the Trudeau government has three apparent motivations at play: defending Israel's right to exist, tending to Canada's specific national interests and reflecting Canadian values.

None of these shine any real light on Canada's continued blanket support for the Netanyahu government. It is being increasingly argued by Israel's friends that the trajectory of that country today is in fact the biggest threat to Israel's existence: a one-party state that can be Jewish or democratic, but not both. Canada on its own has no compelling "national interests" in the Middle East -- except as a yes man for the U.S. empire.

And lastly, Trudeau's inexplicable stance is overwhelmingly at odds with Canadian values. Not only do large majorities see Israel in a negative light, they reject by 91 per cent the notion that criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic as implied in the Commons resolution. Flying in the face of Trudeau's cowardly denunciation of BDS supporters are 75 per cent of his own party supporters who are open to sanctions and 88 per cent who say the same of boycotts.

Justin Trudeau has a lot of explaining to do.

Murray Dobbin has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble's State of the Nation column.

PMO Photo by Adam Scotti

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Israel lobbyIsrael-Palestine Conflictpublic opinionCanada-IsraelTrudeau governmentBDS campaignMurray DobbinMarch 2, 2017Canadians at odds with their government on IsraelPro-Israeli government policy is built on a foundation of untested assumptions about Canadian attitudes. A new EKOS poll reveals this to be convenient but quite false.Trudeau's pro-Israel stance offside with Canadians -- and hampers bid for UN seatWhile Trudeau's persona of a progressive internationalist has won him kudos at home and abroad, his staunch support for Israel at the UN has left Canada significantly offside with public opinion.Liberals' shameful BDS stand gives carte blanche to IsraelJustin Trudeau and his government could not be more mistaken if they believe they are doing Israel a favour by supporting the repugnant Conservative anti-BDS resolution.

Seeking justice for Nadine Machiskinic

1 March 2017 - 10:05am
Scott NeighMarch 1, 2017Talking Radical RadioFeminismIndigenous Rights

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Delores Stevenson. Her niece, Nadine Machiskinic, died on January 10, 2015. Since that day, Stevenson and other members of the family have been pushing for a proper investigation and for some kind of justice -- in the last year, with the formal support of a coalition of groups and individuals called Justice for Nadine.

When Nadine was found unconscious in the laundry room of a hotel in Regina, Saskatchewan, hotel staff did not notify the police. When Nadine died in hospital a couple of hours later, still nobody notified the police. It was only 60 hours after she was originally found that someone -- a coroner -- decided that the death under mysterious circumstances of an Indigenous woman who had experienced physical injury warranted police attention.

While the investigation that began at that point produced an official conclusion that Nadine's death involved no foul play, the family and many in the community are highly skeptical of this conclusion. Her death was caused by falling 10 stories down a laundry chute, but how she got into the laundry chute to begin with has never been adequately explained. Nor have the details of who she had been with on the 10th floor, or what role they might have played in her death. The investigation was marked by delays, errors, and contradictions, and left the family with an overarching sense that authorities were not taking it seriously.

Though Delores Stevenson is Nadine's aunt, they were close in age and had a relationship more like sisters. During the active investigation, she persistently sought answers from the police and the coroner, and because of their reluctance to provide answers she frequently had little choice but to take her questions to the media. Though she still does not have all of the answers that she wants, and certainly has not found the justice that Nadine deserves, the persistence of Stevenson and of Justice for Nadine, and their hard work to keep the case in the public eye through events and media work, have definitely had an impact. Their persistence played a role in unearthing the fact that toxicology samples were not sent for analysis until many months after they should have been, for instance, and the fact that two very contradictory autopsy reports were issued. Already the case has resulted in a provincial review of the coroner's office in Saskatchewan, and Nadine's death will be subject to a formal coroner's inquest in March. Currently, Stevenson and Justice for Nadine are raising money with the crowdfunding site GoFundMe so that the family can be represented by a lawyer at the inquest.

Stevenson talks with me about Nadine, about the case, about the broader issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and about the hard work of trying to find some justice for Nadine.

For more information about the case and about Justice for Nadine, go here. To help the family hire a lawyer for the coroner's inquest, go here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

The image that was modified for use in this post was taken from the Justice for Nadine Facebook page and is used with permission.

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