Thursday, May 17, 2012

Repressive Tactics Smack of History

Of course the so-called budget bill, stuffed to the gills with non-budgetary items as such, has multiple political purposes, but one of them is clearly to limit dissenting voices within parliament itself and to usurp parliamentary power and transfer it to cabinet - as can be seen, for example, in the new environmental regulation proposals. This is a significant undermining of parliamentary democratic legislative procedure, but equally disturbing are two other recent repressive tactics that smack of other repressive regimes witnessed in history.

Can there be any doubt that both the proposed further criminalization of wearing a mask at a lawful assembly and the aggressive CRA assaults on legitimate charities are unequivocally designed in essence to stifle dissent?  This is obvious even to the mainstream media for a change. But perhaps what is most perplexing  is what seems to be the utter complicity of a significant number of ordinary Canadians who have indicated in recent polls that they support such a repressive, undemocratic regime. Maybe, just maybe,  I shouldn't remain baffled for too long,  however, for that implicit consent, that complicity, also smacks of history where both the indifferent and the complcit get swept up in illusionary power.

And today in the news, James Moore's outspoken appeal to the public to decry the Ottawa Educational Sex Exhibit is nothing more than another instance of an attempt to repress that which the Harper Regime finds ideologically objectionable, this time the target being a form of free speech and educational art by way of censorious intimidation. And yet we'll all roll over if not bend down.  It seems we continue to lack the collective moral outrage to do anything substantive about our oppressive condition. I hear the sound of much weeping across the nation from those defeatist positions.

See, too, my earlier post: Are Canadians resigned to the current repressive methods of the Harper Regime? 

Friday, May 11, 2012

a tiny glimpse into the ways our government serves the corporate and financial world, not the people of Canada

Some Key Areas Where Neoliberal Policy Undermines both the Industrial Economy and Canadian Democracy

Under the Harper Regime, the investor class is constantly being protected at the expense of the real industrial economy, for just about all policy decisions privilege both the financial sector, with its market-driven initiatives and debt-driven growth strategies, and of course corporations - in particular resource corporations in oil, gas, and mining, all of which combined have a heavily weighted presence on the TSX and, in fact, together with financials drive the TSX index. The obsession with deficit reduction and austerity are part of this process in order to maintain socalled  “market confidence,” played off ironically, as they always are around the world, against sustainable growth. And do I need to mention successive corporate tax cuts presumably designed to attract investment, but the success of which no economist has ever measured accurately? Much if not all of the financial sector is, of course, composed of corporations.

Foreign worker policy is designed both to drive wages down with differential pay scales, and targeted immigrant recruitment is designed to enhance a neoliberal policy of economic growth in the sectors the Regime favours as being in “Canada’s national interest.”

Anti-labour, anti-union, policies and back-to-work legislation are obviously designed to suppress wages and erode workers’  benefits. Throw the newly proposed changes in EI into the mix here too, and it’s a war on  the majority of Canada’s very own citizenry.

Reducing in effect government financial participation, pension reforms clearly favour the financial class because of the profit possibilities of the  Pooled Registered Pension Plan proposal, as do the OAS changes that will force many to seek private pension arrangements if they can afford it or otherwise to stay in the workforce for longer than planned.  Add the corporate management shift to defined contribution plans, which also obviously aid corporate bottom lines and, in turn,  shareholders and the investor class, and we see another neoliberal triumph.

Gutting of a myriad of regulations and other laws and policies wherever and whenever possible to allow corporations to exploit both people and the planet at will for profit is now commonplace for the Regime. The legislative assault on long-standing environmental regulations is only the latest, but countless not-so-subtle manoeuvres in foreign policy, whereby Foreign Affair diplomats become sales people, so-called shifts in foreign aid such as the new CEDA relationship with mining companies, and the assault on charities  through the CRA also come readily to mind.

All the free trade agreements negotiated by the Regime serve a neo-liberal agenda, as they did, to be fair, under Liberal rule as well.  Even as we can’t change NAFTA through parliamentary process, we will not be able to change any of these other, more recent international trade agreements, including CETA, simply because they’re international. We lack the power nationally in law to do so, though there are costly international mechanisms we could avail ourselves of but, it would seem,  never do.

 Gutting expenditures and a host of smaller programs  for Social Services, including limited Health transfers to the provinces, wherever possible is de rigueur in such neoliberal driven government such as ours.

This is a mere but, alas, sad glimpse into some of the ways our government serves the corporate and financial world, not the people of Canada.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Are Canadians resigned to the current repressive methods of the Harper Regime?

“Fascism creeps; and one of its hallmarks is that by the time you realize you're in it, it's too late to do anything about it.” We see where things are going, but it’s like watching a train wreck -- “that slow-motion horror in your head, the disbelief, the sense that nobody can hear you screaming, and the sickening knowledge that there's nothing you can do to stop what you know is coming.” (Sara Robinson )

There’s a considerable degree of credibility in this scenario since, given the utter failure of our representative political system, the now absolute division between power and politics in that system, we have become completely powerless to change things in time. Our government  clearly serves corporate Canada, in particular the financial sector and big oil, not the people of Canada. (This abject condition  is merely a watered down, subtler version of the U.S. government’s relation to corporate America.*)  Despite all our protests, letters to the editor, petitions, teach-ins, marches, tweets, blog posts, sit-ins, and occupy efforts, we remain powerless since our only  real leverage in such a tyranny is the ballot box.  But by the time the next election rolls around, even if we mange to engage the mainstream in a recognition of the danger, the utter destruction of both democracy and the environment  in Canada may be irreversible.

* I would argue that we are significantly more powerless than the Americans because parliamentary procedure has allowed the Regime to exercise pathological, serial abusive power on bill after bill - most obviously with omnibus bills and closure. Congress, as dysfunctional as it is, gives more power in its discursive formats to individual representatives than our whipped MPs, and dissenting voices are frequently heard on both the left and the right.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More at The Real News

14 economic advisors Flaherty consults on policy and budgets are all from the financial sector: Fiscal contraction doesn't work

The 14 economic advisors Flaherty consults on policy and budgets are all from the financial sector, mostly banksters.

Here's what James K. Galbraith says about the implicit danger of such a stacked deck:

 "....economic policy should not be under the control of bankers, and any economic team which is dominated by the financial sector is going to be largely serving that sector's interest. Now, that, I think, is a very clear fact and something which everybody should be prepared to resist and to object to when it occurs and to protest until it changes. Until that happens, very little else will happen."

 Let me reiterate by way of paraphrase that last bit:  we should be resisting, objecting to - whenever and wherever we can -  the Harper Regime's deep privileging of the financial sector through its overt neoliberal agenda. There's nothing remotely subtle going on here. As I've noted many times, it's such a classic neoliberal agenda it ought to be taught in university political economy classes. If we can't shift that ideological policy ground, none of the social and poltical transformations we seek has a chance. This should be our primary concern in our efforts to bring about system change. Everything else is a symptom.

And here's what even Larry Summers, Harvard professor, late of the White House advisory staff, has to say about misguided austerity such as that implemented by the Harper Regime:

"Fiscal contraction reduces incomes, limiting the capacity to repay debts. It achieves only limited reductions in deficits once the adverse effects of economic contraction on tax revenue and benefit payments are accounted for. And it casts a shadow over future growth prospects by reducing capital investment and raising unemployment, which inevitably takes a toll on the capacity and willingness of the unemployed to work."

This is what protests around the world yesterday were really about.