A Different Point of View....: Strong voter registration campaign could mean the end for Harper

The primary objective of Stephen Harper’s absurdly-named Fair Elections Act  is to prevent hundreds-of-thousands of Canadians from voting for the NDP, Liberals, Greens, etc.

The Conservatives are, in effect, “cheating” the electoral process again, just as blatantly as in the past. They know that a large number of people – students, marginalized people and First Nations – will have a hard time voting because of the changes. And they know those people would not likely vote Conservative.

Even though the Conservatives are trailing in the polls, it’s much too soon to say they will lose the election. Harper’s gang of strategists and pollsters have masterminded their way to victory three times, overcoming tough odds each time.

But efforts to help people to register to vote are not as strong as they could be. There needs to be close co-operation among groups to make sure that as many people as possible – particularly people in some 70 ridings where the Conservatives are vulnerable – have the identification they need to vote.

Alexie Stephens is one of  Leadnow’s staff members
 working to defeat the Conservatives. 

The Council of Canadians contends that some 770,000 people may have a difficult time voting because of the changes to the Act. Included are 400,000 people who used the voter ID card in 2011 and believe that’s all they need this time; 250,000 people who will move during the election period; and 120,000 who used vouching in 2011.

Harper ‘scheme’ must be stopped

If many of those 770,000 people are unable to vote, the Conservatives could win a crucial number of closely contested seats. Vote splitting among New Democrats, Liberal and Greens – similar to what occurred in 2011 – could also result in another Harper government.

A second factor could prevent many people from voting. Voting was less complicated when Elections Canada enumerators went door-to-door registering voters and explaining where to vote, a process that was eliminated in 1997. Now voter information is compiled from tax records, which are less reliable.

“ It’s all part of voter suppression, making it as complicated as possible so people will just throw up their hands and stay home,” says Stephanie Sydiaha, a Saskatoon activist working on registering voters.

Public interest organizations are responding to the challenge, hoping to play a leading role in defeating the Conservatives.

Dozens of groups want to “knock off” the Conservatives, including well-staffed NGOs, the Council of Canadians, Leadnow, and Dogwood Initiative; unions UNIFOR, the Public Service Alliance of Canada , the Professional Institute of Public Servants of Canada, the Quebec Federation of Labour and others; First Nations groups in many ridings; and avaaz, the international lobby group.

Some groups are urging people to vote strategically for either the NDP or Liberals in as many as 70 ridings, while others are campaigning for just the NDP.

So far, only a few groups are running campaigns that encourage people to vote.

Fairly similar campaigns

The Council of Canadians and Leadnow’s ‘Vote Together’ are the main groups encouraging people to vote. Their campaigns are quite similar. People who visit their websites are asked to pledge that they will vote.  So far, the response has been limited.

Both groups are giving extra attention to young voters. The Council has hired high-profile activist Brigette DePape to run its campaign.

The Council and Leadnow are conducting door-to-door campaigns, talking with people and leaving information on what they need to do to vote. The Council has been working in 10 ridings and Leadnow 13. Both groups say they plan to conduct detailed work in more ridings.

Because the Act makes it more difficult for people to vote, groups should do more than just drop off literature and a voters’ guide.

Excellent project in Saskatoon

Interestingly, one small group is doing a more thorough job. In Saskatoon’s downtown generally low-income core, a group of about 15 volunteers have been trained to take people – many of whom have never voted before – through the entire process to get ready to cast their ballot.

The volunteers, equipped with laptop computers, printers and cell phones, go to locations in the city where people congregate. They show people the Elections Canada website and, if they’re not registered, they help them through the process. They make sure people have the right pieces of identification to make sure they will not be turned away at the polls.

“I started with one church I knew about that has a food market for core neighbour residents,” says Stephanie Sydiaha, who launched the volunteer campaign. “I called the Food Bank, they were very eager, so we go there one afternoon a week.”

“We’ve been going to a soup kitchen that feeds 1,000 people a day – yes, in booming Saskatoon, they feed 1,000 people a day,” says Sydiaha , a long-time activist. “These are people who are not reached by politicians, they don’t have TV, or computers, etc. But they want to vote, believe me.”

This kinds of hands-on facilitation should be used by other groups in many neighbourhoods.
Some 14-million-plus people are expected to want to vote. It’s difficult to say how many will not make it through Harper’s rabbit snare of a voting process. But if a million are stymied, it will have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.

I dread thinking of a situation where, two or three days before the election, the NDP is leading the Conservatives by, say, three points in opinion polls. But come the morning after the election, and Harper ends up with perhaps three more seats than the NDP because of his latest trickery.

Serious need for groups to get involved

There is still time – and a serious need – for more groups, particularly unions, to get involved in voter registration campaigning.

Groups involved in the registration campaign need to co-ordinate their efforts. The Canada Elections Act restricts groups (Third Parties) from colluding to provide more than the legal amount of advertising revenue in support of a candidate, but there’s nothing in the Act preventing groups from working together to help people to vote.

Even at this late date, the creation of a national co-ordinating committee could give the campaign the profile needed to warm people about the changes to the Act. There’s still time to publicize the issue and conduct fundraising through a series of national newspaper ads.

There’s plenty of work for individuals. People can contact the Council of Canadians, Leadnow’s Vote Together  or their union and volunteer to help with door-to-door voter registration.

Or, if you’d rather work in your neighbourhood on your own, that’s great too. Post voter information in community centres, churches, and grocery stores.

Voting guidelines and, if you want to, you can vote now. 

If the campaign works, it will be one of the main reasons why Canadians will wake up on October 20th to a new government.

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A Different Point of View....: Weak tactics, stupidity and lies cloud seriousness of climate change for Canadians

In addition to the staging of the PanAm Games, Toronto was the location of some unusually high profile activities in recent days that were supposed to increase the efforts to tackle climate change.

The events raised some important questions: How effective are efforts to slow the increase of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, do Canadians agree on the extent of damage to our environment, and what do scientists say in their most recent reports about the degree of the threat?

Celebrities lead ‘the big protest: First, Toronto had the spectacle of actor/activist Jane Fonda, environmentalist David Suzuki and author-activist Naomi Klein leading a march of some 12,000 protesters belonging to a new coalition through downtown streets. From all accounts, they were a cheerful bunch.

“I think that the coalition that is represented in today’s march and rally … will make a difference.” said Jane Fonda. But isn’t the year 2015 a little late to form a new coalition? Climate change has been a growing problem over 30 years, and Canada still does not have an effective, coordinated environmental effort to fight the biggest crisis in history.

Radicals have their say: Later in the week, a much angrier group of some 200 protesters  succeeded for a short time in blocking a lot of high profile delegates to the Climate Summit of the Americas from entering the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

The aggressive small group chanted “Shut down the summit.” After their initial success, they were blocked by dozens of police. This scene has been repeated across the country hundreds of times in recent years and, unfortunately, instead of rallying “ordinary” people to their cause, it instead tends of turn them off.

Delegates from 20 countries make an appearance: Inside the Fairmont Royal York, more than 300 delegates from 20 countries were claiming to be urging jurisdictions around the world to come forward with meaningful commitments for carbon reductions to present at the long-anticipated UN Climate Summit in Paris in December. This UN Summit is “the biggie” of 20 years of efforts to come to agreement on how to slow climate change.

A news op for politicians: Politicians  at the Toronto Summit turned into a news op for political opportunism, with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Environment Minister Glen Murray, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and even California Governor Jerry Brown taking turns tearing strips off Stephen Harper, whose government was not represented at the meetings.

Big corporations help set agenda: Interestingly, powerful corporations lurked in the background. While politicians take the heat for failing to act effectively on climate change, giant corporations, including Shell’s CEO and the head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, had already steered the pre-Summit discussions enough to make sure non-renewables would not be unduly targeted in a closing statement.

Non-renewable energy corporations have spent many millions-of-dollars during their evil campaign of deception and lies, producing and circulating disinformation about the dangers of their carbon-producing products for more than 25 years. The independent Union of Concerned Scientists earlier this month released a 56-page dossier detailing the lies of the industry.

Delegates sign meaningless statement: At the close of the Toronto Climate Summit, hundreds of delegates signed a non-binding, motherhood statement urging jurisdictions around the world to make carbon-reduction commitments and present them in Paris.

In short, while athletes from the Pan American region were delighting crowds with some wonderful performances, the Climate Summit was, well, a fraud. It was a massive, hugely expensive and cynical public relations stunt – a nice travel perk – for participating politicians. We all would be better off if the wasted money had been spent on a practical carbon-reduction program, perhaps in Africa, the continent that has the fewest resources and that will suffer the most.

Mainstream media ‘misinforms’: Unfortunately, mainstream media coverage of the Summit failed to go beyond the speeches. The papers, TV and radio news dutifully reported the politicians’ rants. But a Google search failed to find any mainstream news report that provided any analysis of the event or that explained the extremely serious threat that climate change presents.

Mainstream media must be held largely responsible for the fact that only 50 per cent of Canadians are “extremely” or “definitely” concerned about the climate threat.  Corporate news coverage and media analysis of the seriousness of climate change is too often wrong, misleading or incomplete.

If bad reporting on climate change issues confuses the public, so do incorrect statements by poorly informed politicians.

Premier Couillard was an offender at the Toronto Climate Summit. He said Quebec is committing itself “to a very ambitious set of targets with only one objective: to keep warming below or at the maximum 2 degrees Celsius by 2050.”  This says, as Bob Marley’s famous song goes, Everything gonna be alright.

But sorry Philippe, according to a lot of scientists, keeping the average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius – which has been the goal pulled out of a hat several years ago, is pretty much impossible.

Here’s what scientists who I trust have to say:

Because of the melting of the icecaps, we’re already on our way to surpassing 2 degrees, says the highly regarded and independent Union of Concerned Scientists. The melting of the icecaps cannot be reversed.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in June that, if governments do not strengthen policies dramatically, the world would be on a path to an average temperature increase of 2.6C by 2100 and 3.5C after 2200.

The IEA says this translates into an average temperature rise of 4.3C over land in the northern hemisphere where most of the world’s population lives, and even more in urban areas.

Yes, this would be catastrophic.

And here we are, poorly informed Canadians, going on with our lives pretty much as usual because — as I have shown here — our environmental groups, politicians, media, and our corporations, will not tell us a) how serious a problem we face, and b) what can an ordinary person do to make a meaningful difference?

It’s impossible to say how massive an effort would be required to keep temperature increases to levels that will allow us to continue living pretty much as we do now. We can only guess.

Dr. Matania Ginosar, a prominent California environmental scientist, says that “only a global effort larger than WWII may be able to save the Earth’s environment from destruction. . . .”

In Paris in December, enormous pressure will be put on many of the 196 countries taking part in the much-anticipated United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21). They will try to come up with some sort of agreement or understanding that will allow an orchestrated attack on greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020.

But the UN process has been under way for 20 years now and, because of its repeated failure to advance the climate agenda, cannot be considered an overall success.

One serious problem with the UN meetings has been that powerful corporations have used their influence and money to move into a powerful position in the process. So far they have helped prevent the kind of progress required.

In one major way, the Paris Summit is already a failure even before it begins. UN officials involved with the talks are already saying that whatever is accomplished in Paris alone, it will not hold global warming to less than 2 Celsius.

Embarrassed when the crucial Copenhagen talks ended in chaos and vicious attacks, leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama and the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao won’t attend the Paris Summit. Only high level ministers will be there.

Reflecting back, given the seriousness of the crisis as it is now being described internationally, it is difficult to understand how Toronto’s protests and climate talks were allowed to be so meaningless. These weaknesses, plus deplorable reporting by mainstream media, are responsible for millions of Canadians being poorly informed and not taking the threat of potentially disastrous climate change seriously.

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A Different Point of View....: Pan Am’s over-spending $-billions, but it’s okay ’cause it’s public money

If a group constructing a massive project for you set a budget of $1.4-billion, but later came back and said they were spending $2.5-billion, what would you do? Normally you would probably throw the whole team out the door, and perhaps sue them for the $1.1-billion overrun.

But in this case, the $1.1-billion overrun belongs to former Premier David Peterson’s Pan Am Games organizing committee, and even though two officers were fired, expenses continue to climb.
By the time they’re finished, I’ll bet it will cost $3-billion – well over double the amount we were told in the beginning we would be paying.

But considering that the Games are a big hit with influential folks in Toronto, there’s not nearly as much criticism of the atrocious waste of money as there would be if, say, Toronto Community Housing was found to have greatly overspent.

Hamilton Stadium: A Bargain at $6,041 per seat

Moreover, it seems that the proud folks of our “world class city” don’t want to blemish the image of the Games, which are running in Toronto and across Southwestern Ontario from July 7 to 26, followed by the ParaPan Am Games, August 7 to 15.

Games’ advocates point to all of the shiny facilities communities will inherit and, while many of them are very beneficial, in some cases, it appears we are not getting our money’s worth.

Officials are proud of the Athletes’ Village, a huge complex built on old scrubland near the Toronto waterfront. After the athletes leave, the buildings will become townhouses, condos and student housing for George Brown College. This sounds fine until we learn that the price tag just for construction of a bare-bones structure with no furnishings is at least $709-million.

Athletes’ Village gets an extra $1.4-million

And, at the last minute, Pan Am Games organizers spent $1.4 million upgrading the rough cement floors in the athletes village “to preserve the event’s international image.”

There are 2,200 units in the complex. Hmmm . . . . over $700-million for housing. Just imagine how much housing the co-op folks could build if given this amount.

The biggest shocker is the construction of the Hamilton Pan Am Stadium, which is coming in at least $145-million for the 24,000-seat structure. Break it down and this comes to $6,041 per seat. Construction was finished two years late.

Travel expenses have certainly been abused. The Star says that critics claim up to $800,000 was spent on flying TO2015 and Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) officials to far-flung destinations where they were wined and dined.

The weird would-be porcupine mascot, Pachi, had cost us $383,045 as of last November and I can imagine expenses growing by another $75,000 or more.

Lots of ‘perks’ on the side

And, for whatever reason, there are lots of small perks, such as $8,220 for Toronto Argonauts tickets, $9,820 in Tim Hortons gift cards, yoga pants and jackets. That’s not all. There is a wine tour, flowers, parking tickets, dozens of catered meals and snacks, educational courses and professional dues for staff.

Now here’s a good one: No one can say within millions of dollars what security for the PanAms will end up costing. It’s unclear what the bill from the Ontario Provincial Police will be, and private security costs are now estimated at $81-million, double the amount budgeted just two years ago.

The obscenity of the degree of exploitation of the public dollar is understood when we learn that the fired CEO, Ian Troop, who was paid $477,000 a year, billed taxpayers 91 cents for parking and $1.89 for a cup of tea.

As a final slap in the face, we learn that the business community – the sector making profits from all of this – did not come through as expected. Last fall, the Ontario government had to put an additional $74 million into the Games, most of it because of lower than expected sponsorship revenues.

Had the public known that the original budget for the Games would double, perhaps they would have protested so much we would not have had the games. Officials claim that the first budget was not submitted low on purpose, but the budget was such a mess we really need to question their claim.

Interestingly, Torontonians will moan and groan if a Councillor spends, say, $5,000 on a trip or goes over their office budget a little, but people have no comprehension of the waste involved when we get into spending $2.5-billion.

Benefits mainly to elites

Giant sports events, whether the limited Canada Summer Games all the way up to the Olympics are exercises in gross public overspending while the benefits go mainly to an elite segment of the population.

Sure, we love the glitter of the Opening Ceremonies, perhaps 125 Canadians will win shiny medals, and there will be both sports and social legacies – but billions of dollars should not come out of the public purse for “circuses” when Ontario faces so many serious issues.

We should begin to worry that Toronto’s elite is now talking about a possible bid for the Olympics. If the idea of a bid gets off the ground, we need some new rules. First of all, participating countries should share some of the costs. When fundraising begins, hotels, restaurants, and special event locations, etc. should be expected to contribute financially. After all, they’re raking in billions while we pay a lot of the costs.

And finally, let’s make members of the organizing committee personally legally responsible for sticking to the first budget they submit if the Olympics become a possibility. Surely they’re familiar with this business concept.

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A Different Point of View....: Can the IMF turn over a new leaf and challenge the 1%?

…and will we follow Dutch court &

challenge Harper on climate change?

Two remarkable developments during the past week that could have a significant impact in many countries are worth a lot more attention in Canada and the United States.

First, a major research document published by five top economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) admitted that the strong pro-capitalist policies at the centre of its activities in developing countries for the past 30 years do not work.

One of the IMF’s main roles in recent years has been to bail out countries during financial crises. In return for loans, some 60 mostly poor countries have been forced to follow strict rules, such as privatizing government resources, deregulating controls to open markets to foreign investment, and restricting what they can spend in areas such as education and health care.
Now the paper, Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective, says there needs to be a shift and that greater income equality in both developing and developed countries should become a priority.

Dutch told to act on emissions

The other significant – but unrelated development – which received scant attention, concerns a ground-breaking decision judges in the Netherlands. They ordered the Netherlands government to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least a remarkable 25 per cent by 2020.

The ruling came after almost 900 Dutch citizens, headed by the group Urgenda, took their government to court in April in a class action lawsuit to force a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change. Netherlands has been lagging behind other European countries in tackling climate change.
Significantly, the challenge was based, not on environmental law, but on human rights principles. Urgenda asked the courts to “declare that global warming of more than two degrees Celsius will lead to a violation of human rights worldwide.” 
The court said, “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts … Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.”
“A courageous judge. This is fantastic,” said Sharona Ceha, a member of the climate change group Urgenda. “This is for my children and grandchildren.”
The international community is attempting to set limit global warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels. Countries are to publish their own undertakings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a hoped-for global deal to be agreed in Paris in December.
While the Dutch government can appeal the ruling to a higher court, lawsuits against governments and companies in Europe have increasingly been seen as a way to press for action against climate change.
The Amsterdam-based group said the case was the first in Europe in which citizens attempted to hold the state responsible for its potentially devastating inaction and the first in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change.
The landmark case could very well set an important precedent for public interest groups in other countries. Cases are already being brought forward in Belgium, Norway and the Philippines.  
Perhaps this is a course Canadian environmental groups should consider. Diane Saxe thinks so. As the Toronto-based environmental lawyer told the CBC’s The Current, “The more I read the Dutch court decision, the more I’m getting excited about it, because the arguments made by the three judges could be made in Canada . . . .I think it eventually will happen.” 

IMF denounces ‘trickle-down’ economics

In the other story, the IMF report contradicted its long-held position of following hard-nosed capitalist guidelines. It said that the dreaded concept of ‘trickle-down’ economics – which it forced on developing countries and which is practiced by the Harper government – should be abandoned.
“To tackle inequality, financial inclusion is imperative in emerging and developing countries, while in advanced economies, policies should focus on raising human capital and skills and making tax systems more progressive,” concludes the report. Wages and living standards for the bottom 20 per cent should be raised, worker protections improved, and environmental standards implemented.
The practices and policies of the IMF have been controversial for many years.
The rich and powerful countries that control the IMF have used the body’s loans program to force their preferred economic policies on poor countries, even though rich countries themselves did not employ the same strict measures on themselves when they were developing.
The report’s critical analysis also applies to neo-liberal economic policies practiced by most Western governments, including the United States, Canada and several European countries.
The document was enthusiastically received by IMF critics, who have accused the world body of hindering – not helping – development in several poor countries over the years.
“Fighting inequality is not just an issue of fairness but an economic necessity,” said Nicholas Mombrial of Oxfam International in response to the report. “And that’s not Oxfam speaking, but the International Monetary Fund.”
“By releasing this report, the IMF has shown that ‘trickle-down’ economics is dead; you cannot rely on the spoils of the extremely wealthy to benefit the rest of us. Governments must urgently refocus their policies to close the gap between the richest and the rest if economies and societies are to grow,” said Mombrial.

Austerity increases poverty

Critics strongly object to austerity measures that have been forced upon most of the 60 countries where the IMF has been providing loans.   

“Such belt-tightening measures increase poverty, reduce countries’ ability to develop strong domestic economies and allow multinational corporations to exploit workers and the environment,” argues Global Exchange, an international human rights organization.
Global Exchange charges that the IMF contributes to poverty instead of alleviating it: “Nearly 80 percent of all malnourished children in the developing world live in countries where farmers have been forced to shift from food production for local consumption to the production of export crops destined for wealthy countries.”
It’s very likely that the IMF will change some of its policies concerning developing countries. However, change may be slow. The IMF is a huge and complex organization where the wheels grind slowly. Secondly, the Western countries that control the organization tend to be strongly influenced by powerful and wealthy people who benefit from “trickle down” economics.  
When the IMF finally makes significant policy changes, and if countries were to follow its lead in their own economic planning, many countries could experience a significant change in income distribution. Perhaps it will result in the one per cent no longer owning 48 per cent of the world’s wealth. 
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A Different Point of View....: G7 false commitments won’t help us tackle 7-million air pollution deaths

During the hour that it took the world’s elite G7 politicians discussing climate change to wander through an enchanting meadow of flowers in Germany’s Bavarian Alps earlier this week, at least 800 people died prematurely from the impact of air pollution, most of it caused by the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels.

Wanting to show the world – particularly voters at home – that they care about the seven-million people a year dying from various pollution and carbon related causes, the leaders of the world’s richest countries, including Canada, signed a joint declaration calling for a global phasing-out of fossil fuels 85 years from now.

It’s unlikely that, during their deliberations in the picturesque Schloss Elmau at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, anyone at the Summit reflected on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report of a year ago that said in 2012 around seven million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure.

Unfortunately, despite positive coverage in mainstream media in several countries, the section of the Summit dealing with climate change must be considered an over-blown failure.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was disappointed that G7 members – largely because of opposition from Canada and Japan – wouldn’t agree to a commitment to a low-carbon economy by 2050. Instead, the G7 agreed to a full-blown, no-carbon economy, but not until 2100.

According to their declaration, the G7 countries say they intend to insist on greenhouse gas reduction at least in the upper 40 to 70 per cent range by 2050. There’s also a promise to cut emission by 17 per cent by 2020.

But, despite the tough talk, no nation-specific targets were set, and the G7Declaration is not binding.

Canada, living up to its long-held reputation as the world’s leading foot dragger on climate issues, balked at Merkel’s earlier proposal that G7 countries would eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who rejects scientific information on the threat of global warming, said Canada would reach the G7 targets through developing new technologies, not by reducing living standards.

Meanwhile, the G7 countries – in a farcical display of public relations – agreed on a binding two degree target for limiting global warming. Again, no timeframe was set, but the G7 group will take their declaration with them to Paris in December for the crucial UN Climate Summit.

Had they been more concerned about the hardship people around their world are experiencing – including people in some of their own countries – perhaps the Summit would have taken a more realistic, more dynamic approach to tackling the world’s most pressing problem.

Environmental groups were divided
in their opinions of the Summit. 

Christoph Bals from the NGO Germanwatch said “the summit sends a strong signal for a successful climate agreement at the end of the year in Paris.”

But the development organization Oxfam said the outcome was inadequate. “If the G7 really want to implement their decisions, they must take concrete measures – such as promptly initiating a phase-out of harmful coal,” said Oxfam climate protection analyst Jan Kowalzig.

“Coal is the biggest single cause of climate change”, says Oxfam, “yet the G7 countries are still burning huge amounts, despite efficient, affordable, renewable alternatives being available. G7 coal power stations emit twice as much fossil fuel CO2 as the whole of Africa, and their contribution to global warming will cost Africa alone more than $43-billion per year by the 2080s . . . .”

In addition, despite the bravado in Germany, G7 countries have pledged US$8-billion per year in subsidies to expand fossil fuel production. This runs totally contrary to their claimed emission commitment positions.

Despite U.S. President Obama’s action-oriented position in Germany, the globe’s second largest polluter is not committed to substantive action on climate change. Back home, 70 per cent of Republicans in the Senate and 53 percent of Republicans in the House deny the existence of human-caused global warming.

In view of such contradictions, holding global warming to two degrees appears to be a monumental challenge.

In fact, expectations for a successful outcome in Paris have been waning, and the lack of any concrete action by the G7 further decreases expectations.

If the planet is to avoid large increases in global warming, massive actions never before accomplished by humankind will be necessary.

No doubt some progress will be made but, according to the independent Climate Action Tracker, the world’s current policies would result in global warming of 3.6 to 4.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. Even the current pledges of the G7 countries, if converted into effective policies, probably would not be enough for the world to stay under the target of keeping warming to 2 degrees Celsius.


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A Different Point of View....: We must start ‘shaming’ thosewho lie to us, destroy our climate

During a flight from Montreal to Halifax I missed a chance to carry out an act of defiance – “shaming” – against a person who has greatly abused his position of authority in Canada.

Given how powerless ordinary folk and public interest groups have become, I would like to see people embarrass the hell out of those who take advantage of the public by lying to us, cheating us, or destroying our priceless environment.

As I made my way down the aisle, I spotted the square jaw, the glasses and the prematurely-balding head. I was going to get my chance to walk right up to the Right Honorable Peter MacKay.

MacKay has lied to us enough times that cartoonists depict him with a Pinocchio nose. As Justice Minister, he lied that he didn’t know information ignored by the Department would mean a law the government passed violated the Constitution, and worst of all, in 2007, he misled the House of Commons over what he knew about the possible torture of prisoners handed over by Canadian troops to the Afghanistan government.

As I got closer to MacKay, who was already seated, our eyes locked. I squinted angrily, and then. . . .  I walked right by, not saying a word!

Damn! Opportunity lost!
I should have told MacKay what I think of him. I’m sure he would have been embarrassed. Some folks would have been shocked, but perhaps a few would have felt empowered just a little. 

Photo by Latuff 

Democracy is broken

Of course MacKay is only a tiny cog in a well-organized system that is taking advantage of millions of us.

Democracy is broken, leaving ordinary people next to powerless.

This stranglehold has resulted in outrageous imbalances:

Unfortunately, the so-called left, unions, the liberal-minded community and sectors such as the environmental movement in English-speaking Canada have failed miserably to build any kind of a movement to slow the endless right-wing advances. Even if the NDP is elected in the fall, it will be restricted in what it can change by entrenched, iron-clad economic policies tied to neo-liberal policies and international banking practices.

After three decades of outrageous exploitation it’s clear that the powerful people who control our lives are not going to change unless forced to do so.

I know there are thousands of people who feel just like the character Howard Beale in the movie Network who bellowed out the window: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Nothing wrong expressing anger

Today, when people are being treated unfairly, I see nothing wrong with us expressing our anger. It’s the powerful in society who have engineered the belief that expressing anger over social issues is, well, not nice. Remember when the Occupy movement scared the hell out of them?

Unfortunately, as individuals we have felt there is nothing we can do to help bring change. But, if thousands of people join in, there is one way we can have an impact.

We can begin shaming and embarrassing those in powerful positions who lack decent values and who are ruining our country. Many of them know they are guilty.

The idea of using shaming to guilt organizations over their criminal behaviour was given a big boost in the U.S. with the recent publication of Jennifer Jacquet’s book, Is Shaming Necessary?
“The power of shaming is that it can be used by the weak against the strong,” says Jacquet.

Shaming individuals works for the California Tax Franchise Board. It shames the top 500 individuals and corporations who owe at least $100,000 in state taxes. The list received a lot of attention a couple of years ago because it included celebrities such as actress and model Pamela Anderson. Many, including Anderson, paid up.

There are many American shaming lists, including the Corporate Hall of Shame, The Customer Service Hall of Shame, and the Public Eye Awards.

In Canada there’s far less shaming of the people who have disgraced themselves. Consider the nauseating way mainstream media and many prominent people have catered to Conrad Black since he was released from prison in the U.S.

Canadian companies on ‘shame’ list

This Magazine publishes an impressive annual Corporate Hall of Shame Edition listing more than 25 irresponsible businesses. The 2014 list included CP Rail, Enbridge, Bell Canada, McDonald’s, and many more.

While it’s good to shame corporations, they are soulless structures that do not themselves decide anything. It’s the Executives and Board Members who authorize unethical and illegal activities behind the cover of the corporation that we have to expose.

As a start, we can stop bowing and braying in the presence of so-called leaders who betray us, whether a slippery politician such as MacKay or an unethical “captain of industry.”

When they come into our communities, there should be no handshakes, no smiles. We should walk away, or go the extra mile and tell them we don’t approve of their behaviour.

There are thousands of people in Canada who can be targeted who head organizations that create and carry out unconscionable and immoral actions.

Just about anyone involved in two of Canada’s most powerful business groups could be singled out.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian Bankers Association are bastions of neo-liberalism and greed. They are responsible to a considerable extent for the inequity in society.

But right now it would be appropriate if we focused on shaming the people behind the giant corporations that are destroying our environment and contributing to global warming.

I would like to see the people who head these companies – accumulating great personal wealth at the same time – publicly shamed so strongly that they would move to a more honourable line of work.

I would like their families, their neighbours, and the guys at the club to be aware of the damage they are doing to our country.

Target the men behind tar sands

A good idea would be to target the men behind the corporations that mine the tar sands. In January an international study said the tar sands – the dirtiest of all non-renewable energy – must remain in the ground if we are to meet the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius and avoid unknown environmental catastrophe.

But Canada’s tar sands mining companies and governments are paying very little attention to the worsening environmental situation. Canada’s tar sands oil industry is producing record volumes of crude despite prices that have been slipping.

The Number One tar sands enemy is Suncor Energy, headed by Steve Williams of Calgary who is president and chief executive officer. Suncor produces the greatest amount of bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands. Williams has worked with Suncor for 13 years. He’s also a member of the powerful afore mentioned Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

Executive demonstrates social responsibolity 

To demonstrate his commitment to society – at the same time his company has been helping to destroy the climate – Williams was chair of Suncor’s United Way 2011 campaign and a Board member of the Northern Lights Regional Hospital Foundation from 2003 to 2007. To no doubt demonstrate Suncor’s commitment to a clean environment, he is the Founding Chair of the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative.

Another enemy of the public is Syncrude Canada. Ryan Kubik of Calgary is chairman of the board of Syncrude and president and CEO of the company’s Canadian Oil Sands Ltd.

Kubik keeps a fairly high profile in the community as Canadian Oil Sands gives millions of dollars to “the more vulnerable” in the Calgary area. Since 2005, the company has funded about $24 million for projects for those who can’t afford housing and the working poor.

Kubik has won his personal war on poverty. According to Bloomberg Business, his total annual compensation in 2014 was $2,900,640.

As we know, the natural instinct of many Canadians is to be polite. But where has this gotten us when it comes to protecting the things we need and value?

We must wake up and realize that people who are, in reality, national criminals are lying and cheating us, and destroying the air we breathe.

You may not think that shaming an unethical person in a position of power will make much of a difference. But sometimes – when people who are angry take the important first step – the smallest of actions can be the needed spark.

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Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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A Different Point of View....: Guest Column: How will radical change occur, and what will it look like?

By Chris Hedges Chris Hedges TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the

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