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Equalizing divorce and promoting women's equality in Canadian law

Fri, 2018-04-20 01:03
Penney Kome

Linda Silver Dranoff became a lawyer about the same time that family law became a specialty, following the first federal Divorce Act. Her memoir, Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution, chronicles the changes since then, as well as her own role in shaping Canadian family law. Dranoff spent her career as lawyer, writer and activist, lobbying for better legislation through court cases and lobbying. She worked for fair, equitable compensation and support for women and children when marriages ended.

Just by entering law school, Dranoff was already breaking barriers. One of 14 women in her law class of 300, she was also divorced and a single mother. She had been an activist for women's rights since 1957, when she was among 20 women who demonstrated outside the University of Toronto's Hart House to protest being excluded from seeing Stephen Lewis debate U.S. Senator John Kennedy.

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women released its report during Dranoff's second year of undergrad school. She studied the recommendations carefully and, when a women's centre opened nearby, she offered to teach a free course on the history of women's legal issues.  

In law school, she conducted a survey of women lawyers, for a seminar law course. She found women's histories shouted discrimination but the women themselves denied it. A classmate's separate survey of law firms found that 40 per cent of the firms "openly and freely" admitted to discriminating against women candidates.

Dranoff's own challenges in finding a place to article convinced her she was better off "being my own boss and doing it my way."  As a one-person law firm, she practised every kind of law except criminal law. As a feminist, she also worked with the Ontario Committee on the Status of Women (OCSW), and participated in the founding of the National Association of Women and the Law, a network of women lawyers and law students.

Her clients brought her what amounted to a crash course in workplace gender discrimination. "Discrimination against women in pay, promotions, working conditions, and access to non-traditional jobs was systemic...There were almost no affordable and accessible public child-care supports. Women workers who became pregnant had no legal protection..."

Fledgling provincial family property laws were what sparked public outrage, though. The 1971 Irene Murdoch case in Alberta galvanized feminist groups nationwide. A hard-working ranch woman was denied any share of the family property because the deed was solely in her husband's name. Even as Murdoch fought all the way to the Supreme Court and lost, the provinces were already reviewing their laws.

In 1974, the Ontario Law Reform Commission proposed the principle that marriage is an economic partnership -- not a Head of Household relationship with a dependent -- that husband and wife be deemed co-owners of the matrimonial home, and that all property be divided equally in the event of death or divorce. Revolutionary as this principle seems, decades of discovery and fine tuning still lay ahead.      

Linda Silver Dranoff did everything in her considerable capacity to promote the family laws that recognize women's realities. She took one client's case to the Supreme Court on contingency because she believed that (at worst) an adverse court decision would trigger legislative change. She settled cases when possible, and litigated when necessary. She also wrote op-eds, gave broadcast interviews, worked out positions and lobbied with the Ontario Status of Women  Committee, presented briefs to legal and legislative bodies, and wrote regular detailed personal letters to politicians.

When at last the Ontario government adopted an equitable Family Law Act and a Custody Orders Enforcement Act in 1986, Linda Silver Dranoff received due recognition for her indefatigable efforts in promoting women's equality and autonomy. For example, Ontario Attorney-General Ian Scott wrote her to acknowledge "the truly significant contribution you have made to the form of the new law(s)."   Better, in 2000 Ontario adopted a non-adversarial approach to divorce, that protects children as well as women's interests.

Fairly Equal is an engaging book to read, written in a conversational style, with meticulous attention to detail. Dranoff seems to have worked on practically every legal issue affecting women, by herself or, often, alongside well-known legal, community or media women. Her book preserves their names and feats as well.

She also shares some details of her personal life: her first marriage, her longterm long-distance relationship that ultimately foundered, and her happy late marriage to a longtime colleague with a large family. Her parents and extended family helped her raise her daughter Beth while she attended law school. Once of the book's most moving moments depicts Dranoff's graduation from law school, when tiny Beth raced down the long aisle to embrace her mother, to the crowd's applause.    

Women need to keep reminding ourselves how far we have come since the 1950s, when in some provinces, women were still chattel, like children. Herstory too often disappears behind more official stories. Although sometimes the detail in this book can seem overwhelming, as if the reader is wading through old files, the information is always useful and the documentation is essential. And the blow-by-blow descriptions could serve as a manual for future lobbying.

Linda Silver Dranoff's engaging memoir shows a trailblazing feminist in action, carving gender equity into the law to protect women and to create a more caring and just society for all, especially children. Canada needs more such herstories, to document the astonishing progress the Second Wave of feminism made.     

This review appears in the Spring 2018 issues of Herizons Magazine. Used with permission.

Photo: houstondwiPhotos mp/Flickr

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New Kinder Morgan exit strategy hint emerges as tangled Trans Mountain tale twists national knickers

Fri, 2018-04-20 01:00
David J.Climenhaga

Jason Kenney, leader of Alberta's Conservative Opposition party, must've struggled to keep a smirk off his face Wednesday as he bloviated piously about Kinder Morgan President Steven Kean's rumination the time may be nigh to pull the plug on the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project that has the national knickers in a twist.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, a New Democrat, had just expressed her confidence everything was going swimmingly in the Alberta government's negotiations with the Texas-based energy company to "reduce or eliminate investor risks" and ensure the controversial pipeline expansion to the B.C. Coast moves ahead.

Premier Notley, Kenney declared smugly, "constantly had this tendency to declare victory when we're further and further away from the certainty we need for this project."

For his part, Kean mused that nothing has happened to change his mind about his company's decision 10 days ago to stop spending any money on the $7.4-billion megaproject. It may be, he added, "untenable for a private party to undertake." Ahem!

The timing of the remarks by the former executive of the bankrupt Enron Corp. was interesting, made almost simultaneously with the release of an online survey suggesting a majority of Canadians has now come around to the idea The Pipeline Must be Built, thanks presumably to days of continual encouragement by a variety of actors with access to the media pulpit.

It could have been coincidence, of course. After all, Kean was speaking on a media conference call to discuss the company's financial results. Still, the timing suggested a sense that now may be the moment for Kinder Morgan to apply a little more pressure on the federal and Alberta governments to come up with some cash, or even take the pipeline off his hands.

Perhaps Kean had been reading the New York Times, wherein economics columnist Paul Krugman makes a compelling case the end that is nigh is that of the Age of Almighty Oil.

"Believers in the primacy of fossil fuels … are now technological dead-enders," wrote Krugman, who once won a Nobel Prize in economics. "There is no longer any reason to believe that it would be hard to drastically 'decarbonize' the economy. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that doing so would impose any significant economic cost."

The lobbying goal of the fossil fuel industry, Krugman wrote, is no longer to stop the transition to renewable energy, merely "to slow things down, so they can extract as much profit as possible from their existing investments."

If Krugman is right, that does not bode well for a project like the Trans Mountain pipeline -- whoever owns it. That may explain why Kinder Morgan is starting to act as if it would be just as happy if Edmonton and Ottawa would take the pipeline off its hands for a tidy profit, even if a majority of people in B.C. now support the project, as Wednesday's online poll by the Angus Reid Institute also indicated.

Viva Hugo! Viva Cheson! Hasta la victoria siempre!

Meanwhile, here in Revolutionary Alberta the debate is growing more hysterical by the day, with Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel comparing the Alberta NDP's Bill 12, which would allow the province to turn off the gasoline tap to B.C. if it gets mad enough about that province's NDP government's lack of enthusiasm for the pipeline, to something the late lefty Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez would have gotten up to.

Judging from her tweet, Rempel didn't seem to be aware either that President Chavez has been dead since 2013 or that Kenney, now the captain of her team's local franchise, has been taking credit for Premier Notley's policy.

"We do not want a socialist having consolidated power to control Alberta's natural resources," Rempel fumed, never mind that it's the Constitution that gives the Notley government such power. Twitterists were soon asking Kenney if he's a socialist now.

I suspect Rempel merely got to Kenney's future strategy too soon.

All will be revealed in the fullness of time if she takes it easy. Kenney says right now he supports the idea of sinking federal and Alberta taxpayers' money into a pipeline project for which the business case is controversial. But it's easy to imagine him blaming a lousy investment on the NDP and the federal Liberals in a couple of years.

Indeed, this whole situation remains rife with potential for unintended consequences.

Committed environmentalists will certainly not be broken hearted if retail gasoline prices rise dramatically in B.C. That is as it should be, they will feel, if people are to be encouraged to drive with the environment in mind.

Thinking such thoughts may get you accused of being an "eco-terrorist" by Rick Orman, the oilpatch executive and former Tory cabinet minister who wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to send the army to B.C., but we know from the study of economics that it's likely to work as advertised -- at least if prices get high enough.

Meanwhile, implementation of the bill's provisions will also likely mightily displease fossil fuel shippers, which will win the Alberta NDP few friends in the business world -- something that apparently matters to the party nowadays.

What's more, if the pump price rises in B.C., it may well result in a tax windfall as B.C.'s NDP government -- those "shitheads" Alberta NDP ministers are so angry at -- take their percentage cut.

So another unintended consequence of Bill 12 could be a boost to the finances available to the B.C. NDP -- which would be able to use the extra revenues to please their voters while blaming Alberta for their pain at the pumps.

It's said here the NDP's much-reviled and now apparently abandoned "social licence" strategy was working, and was the only strategy that had the potential to work in the long term.

It was never going to persuade every single British Columbian, but if you look at Wednesday's survey, it had the potential to convince enough.

Not, though, on the timetable both the Notley NDP and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals now seem to be trying to meet, with federal and Alberta elections looming next year.

It is time, perhaps, for Notley to start spending more energy explaining how her government is different from Kenney's UCP, and less on how it's the same!

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

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Imprisoned activist Siwatu-Salama Ra deserves justice this Earth Day

Thu, 2018-04-19 10:24
Anti-RacismEnvironmentPolitical Action

Siwatu-Salama Ra is no stranger to standing her ground. It was because she did, though, that the 26-year-old pregnant mother may have to give birth while imprisoned. Siwatu, an environmental and racial-justice activist, was unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned, and, now in the third trimester of a high-risk pregnancy, is serving a mandatory two-year sentence. She, her family, her lawyers, her Detroit community and a global network of activists who know her as a crusading organizer are doing all they can to ensure that she is released to have her child safely, with her family by her side. The time between Earth Day and Mother's Day will be critical.

"This tragic story started on a Sunday evening in July in Detroit at Siwatu's family home, where her mother, sister, brother and nieces resided," Victoria Burton-Harris, Siwatu's attorney, said on the Democracy Now! news hour.

In a video released by the FreeSiwatu.org website, Siwatu recounted the incident that led to her imprisonment, speaking about the woman who had dropped her child off at their house:

"She started yelling at me, screaming at me, cursing at me. In the midst of this, I'm asking this woman to leave, just go, and she wouldn't. So the next thing that she did was ram her car into my car. Plus, my baby was in the car, playing. That shocked fear in me, and I jumped and got my baby out of the car. She's literally going back and forth with this car, putting it in reverse and fixing herself to come at us again and go after my mom. My mother, who was also standing very close to me, wasn't able to run."

Her mother, Rhonda Anderson, added: "She's using her car as a weapon. When I could not move, that's when I was the most frightened. She was so close to hitting me that I can feel the car on my clothes."

Siwatu continued: "That's when I made the decision to reach for my firearm, that was unloaded, with no bullets. I was afraid. And I told her, 'You have to leave now.'"

Siwatu was licensed to carry a concealed firearm. The assailant quickly snapped photos of her holding the gun, then fled to a police station, where she filed a report. Siwatu filed a police complaint as well, several hours later. Unbelievably, the police contend that whoever in a conflict files the police report first is considered, automatically, the victim. The second person is automatically considered the aggressor.

Following that bizarre logic, the police never followed up on Siwatu's complaint. Rather, several weeks later, a SWAT team descended on her home and arrested her.

The jury trial went twice as long as the judge predicted. As the jury began deliberating, a massive snowstorm was heading to Detroit, adding pressure on jurors to render a verdict quickly. Critically, the jury was never told that the charges carried a mandatory minimum two-year sentence, meaning that the judge could not use any discretion. The jurors found Siwatu guilty of two of three charges. Her conviction is on appeal.

Siwatu is the co-director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, where she started as a youth leader in her teens. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement: "Siwatu has spent her life fighting environmental injustice and pushing back against the big polluters who are violating the law to poison her community. She does this difficult work against the backdrop of a legal system and society that disproportionately oppress people of colour, particularly Black women, at every turn."

Brune continued: "Her unjust incarceration during a high-risk pregnancy is just one example of the racism people of colour in our country experience every day. Her story underscores the reality that our struggles are all deeply connected -- from environmental justice to the fight against racialized oppression in the criminal justice system."

From Earth Day this Sunday through Mother's Day in May, Siwatu-Salama Ra should just be concerned with giving birth to a healthy son, into a world she has been fighting to make healthier for all. Instead, she sits in a prison cell, seven months pregnant, facing the prospect of being shackled en route to the hospital, and not being able to breastfeed her newborn when she returns to the prison. The growing #FreeSiwatu movement is working to prevent this gross miscarriage of justice.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: skepticalview/Flickr

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environmental activismracial injusticeUS justice systemAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanApril 19, 2018'We need to start pushing back': Chelsea Manning on war, freedom and her political plansAlmost one year has passed since Chelsea Manning was released from the U.S Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. On the Democracy Now! news hour, she talked about her newfound freedom.Remembering activist Erica Garner, who worked tirelessly against police brutalityErica Garner has died at the age of 27. The loss of this remarkable young African-American woman is incalculable. She was a tireless activist and a mother of two.We can't close our eyes to climate changeExtracting, processing, selling and transporting polluting, climate-altering fossil fuels isn't the best way to ensure economic prosperity.

Compare Ontario party platforms and you'll find huge differences

Thu, 2018-04-19 03:41
April 19, 2018Politics in CanadaCompare Ontario party platforms and you'll find huge differencesOntario's three provincial parties have chosen very different strategies for portraying themselves to the voters. For some of them, one has to hunt around to find anything of substance. 2018 Ontario electionDoug FordKathleen WynneAndrea Horvath

Happy birthday, rabble!

Wed, 2018-04-18 20:32
Sophia Reuss

rabble was born 17 years ago, on the eve of the Summit of the Americas, on April 18, 2001. In honour of the occasion, Judy Rebick, rabble's co-founder, and Duncan Cameron, president emeritus of rabble, reflect on rabble's impact and legacy.

rabble roars

Duncan Cameron [DC]: "Seventeen years ago, at the Quebec Summit of the Americas, rabble really emerged right in the midst of a major social movement to stop an incredibly stupid trade agreement -- and it was stopped! rabble started engaged in life on the planet and life in the Americas and specifically life in Canada. The word for rabble is engagement -- rabble engages citizens, people who say not only we need a better world but we're going to make one."

Judy Rebick [JR]: "We kicked off rabble from the Quebec City demonstrations against the G20, so from the beginning we identified with social movements, something very new at the time."

The first of its kind

JR: "rabble was really one of the first online publications that attempted to reach around the mainstream media. There were alternate newspapers that tried to do that, but rabble was one of the first to create an independent media online in Canada."

DC: "The key to rabble is that it's Canadian and we discuss Canadian issues. It's fairly easy to do something that's local, and there's a lot of international coverage out there. It's very different to do something that's Canadian. That's the challenge, to try to be a real Canadian presence with small resources."

babble while you rabble

DC: "rabble had its babble boards before Twitter or Facebook, so there were people meeting people on those boards who were discussing Canadian politics in a spirited, but moderated, environment. We had the first podcast network. We never ceased to innovate across that period of 17 years."

JR: "The real innovation of rabble was babble: creating a space for our readers to talk to each other. Most of our traffic was from babble."

rabble's feminist roots

JR: "rabble was from the beginning female-led. Now is a time where we're actually seeing a rise in feminism, so if anything, rabble should have more prominence."

DC: "The spirit of feminism always permeated rabble. We've been feminist and engaged on feminist issues. To see that kind of widespread attention to feminist issues is key. It's a desire to see the world not just as it is."

Spirit of debate

DC: "When rabble arrived, [...] people were turned off politics. We had a Liberal Party of Canada that no longer believed in liberalism, that believed in austerity policies common to the neoconservatives and neoliberals. We had a Conservative Party that didn't believe in government, and then we had a main opposition party, the Parti Québécois, that didn't believe in Canada. The NDP was the fourth or fifth party down the line, it was so far down it was barely breathing. And people thought they could be political without being involved involved in politics. It turned out to be so not true -- if you're not debating, you can't change anything at all."

JR: "The culture of rabble has always been open debate in the progressive community. Our political culture is less and less open to political debate. There's not a lot of room for good intellectual debate anymore, just polarized or partisan debate. But rabble doesn't do that, rabble doesn't take a political position itself, it gives a space for people to debate."

rabble thrives

JR: "It's an incredible achievement that we've managed to sustain and develop such a valuable website, without any kind of venture capital or government funding. It's totally funded by the community. Pretty impressive, I'd say."

Well, you know what they say: it takes a village. So thank you for your continued support for rabble and our community. Here's to many more years together.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism.


We're all getting played by Kinder Morgan

Wed, 2018-04-18 09:54
Seth Klein

Here's a different take on Kinder Morgan's ultimatum and the so-called "constitutional crisis" it has sparked. I'm speculating, of course, as we all seek to understand what Kinder Morgan is really up to. But allow me to posit a minority theory:

We're getting played!

It is entirely possible that Kinder Morgan has already decided to cut its losses and walk away from the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) -- and not for the reasons they are telling their shareholders or the public. It may well be that the May 31 deadline is merely for show, and the Texas-based corporation has already determined the project is not feasible both for economic reasons and due to profound Indigenous and popular opposition.

The economics of the project have been on shaky ground for some time, as the CCPA has extensively documented. Particularly since the Trump administration's revival of the Keystone XL project, and with the approval of Enbridge's Line 3 expansion, the industry's need for TMX pipeline capacity has been undercut (which helped to kill the Energy East proposal). The temporary gap in oil prices internationally compared to in North America is now largely gone, undercutting the case for Pacific "tidewater" access. And the higher costs of extracting, refining and transporting oil sands bitumen further erodes the economics. I testified before the federal government's Ministerial Panel on Kinder Morgan in 2016 and sought to debunk the economic arguments made in favour of the pipeline expansion.

Layered onto the dubious economics are the growing protests, but most significantly, Indigenous opposition.

The civil disobedience phase of TMX opposition kicked into gear March 10 with a protest of about 10,000 people on Burnaby Mountain. Like the larger movement to stop the project, the protest was Indigenous-led, with the call to mobilize coming in particular from leaders of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).

Full disclosure: on Saturday, April 7, I joined a group of about 25 people blocking the gates of Kinder Morgan's Burnaby site, standing behind the full executive of the UBCIC -- Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Bob Chamberlin and Chief Judy Wilson. I was prepared to get arrested, but no arrests were made that day. The company never called the RCMP asking them to enforce the injunction. Little did we know that Kinder Morgan would make its surprise announcement the next day, announcing it was "suspending non-essential spending" on TMX. But also, there can be little doubt that the company did not want images of the entire UBCIC executive being arrested beamed around the world.

Since then, arrests have continued and now about 200 people have been charged after engaging in peaceful civil disobedience. If pipeline construction resumes, these protests are surely on track to become the largest civil disobedience in Canada's history.

Simply put -- and the prime minister's assurances notwithstanding -- this pipeline may never be built. And the company may finally have realized it.

But Kinder Morgan has focused on the B.C. government as a strategic whipping boy. And political leaders federally and in Alberta, along with much of the punditry, are playing right along.

Of all the barriers facing TMX, the B.C. government's legal reference case is the least consequential. Numerous Indigenous court challenges before the Federal Court of Appeal and B.C. Supreme Court are more likely to succeed (legal challenges by the Tsleil-Waututh, Coldwater, Upper Nicola, Stk'emlupsemc Te Secwepemc, and Squamish First Nations all remain outstanding).

While the federal government and Kinder Morgan like to point to the 43 Benefit Agreements signed with some First Nations, these agreements do not mean the signatory nations support TMX. All they mean is that First Nations wish to secure economic benefits should the project proceed.

More importantly, consent is lacking from a number of First Nations directly along the route. The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations, whose territories encompass the Burrard Inlet at the terminus of the pipeline, vigorously oppose the project and insist they were not properly consulted. And the Secwepemc, who are also opposed, have territory covering a very large chunk of the pipeline's route in B.C.'s interior.

My theory: Kinder Morgan doesn't want to admit to shareholders the role of Indigenous opposition and the possibility of a First Nations court win as the implications of losing on this ground are surely more profound. The B.C. government makes a more convenient target.

Kinder Morgan's focus on the B.C. government may also have an economic angle. If the corporation is indeed ready to walk, it may be hoping to launch a NAFTA Chapter 11 challenge to recoup its losses (as TransCanada was preparing to do over Keystone XL prior to Trump's decision to overturn Obama's rejection of that project). If Kinder Morgan does invoke Chapter 11, the matter doesn't go to open court, but to a secret trade tribunal where the company would argue that the B.C. government is unfairly harassing the project. Read more about this possibility.

A related but different theory, well articulated by Ricochet's Ethan Cox, is we are witnessing is a corporate "shakedown" of the Canadian public. Cox's view has more weight given Trudeau and Notley's recent admissions that they are in discussions with Kinder Morgan about offering up billions in public money to defray investor risk in the project. If Cox is right, Trudeau and Notley's repeated insistence that "this pipeline will be built" places them (and hence all of us) in a terrible bargaining position. They are effectively saying to the corporation, "name your price." (Is it just me, or are others plagued by the distinct feeling that the company is laughing at us?)

Under either of these scenarios -- one, that Kinder Morgan is walking and preparing to sue us or, two, that they are shaking us down in an effort to socialize their investor risk -- here are three key lessons about what our governments should and shouldn't be doing:

First, we shouldn't take the bait. Reinforcing Kinder Morgan's claim that B.C. government opposition triggered their decision to suspend or kill the project merely helps build their NAFTA case. Ironically, if a NAFTA challenge does proceed, under NAFTA rules, the defendant on the hook for damages will be the federal government, not B.C. So the federal government may want to watch what it says.

Second, Canadian jurisdictions should stop fighting with each other, and walk away from this ill-advised project. It was never compatible with our Paris climate commitments, never mind our promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Third, now that political leaders federally and in Alberta have revealed themselves to be so open to major public investments in energy infrastructure -- across the political spectrum -- let's encourage them to focus those investments on the next economy, not the old fossil fuel one. A large public stake in renewable energy and climate mitigation projects will produce far more jobs and won't become stranded assets. That's a much wiser investment than socializing the losses of a Texas-based multinational pipeline company.

This piece was published as part of the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP). The CMP is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' B.C. and Saskatchewan Offices, and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute. This research was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

This piece originally appeared on the B.C. CCPA's Policy Note blog.

Photo: Protect the Inlet/Flickr

Ten things to know about the newly signed housing agreement

Tue, 2018-04-17 11:50
Nick Falvo

A federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) framework agreement on housing was signed on April 10 in Toronto. It supports the Trudeau government's National Housing Strategy, which was released last fall.

Here are 10 things to know about the just-signed agreement:

1. Though a National Housing Strategy (NHS) was released last fall, a federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) framework agreement still had to be signed.

That's because a lot of the funding proposed in the Strategy is dependent on cooperation from provincial and territorial governments.

2. The federal government will now seek to negotiate bilateral agreements with every provincial and territorial government.

In fact, it's quite likely that the federal government has already begun to negotiate such agreements with some provinces and territories. If recent history serves as any guide, the federal government will likely begin by trying to negotiate agreements with provincial/territorial governments they think are especially keen to sign on (British Columbia might be low-hanging fruit in this regard).

3. Each bilateral agreement will have a clause that ensures equal terms for all jurisdictions.

Such a clause will stipulate that if a subsequent signee gets better terms, those better terms will apply to any provincial or territorial government that previously signed. The intent of such a clause is to not discourage a provincial or territorial government to come to the table early.

4. One important section of the newly signed agreement pertains to the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

The newly signed agreement stipulates that provincial and territorial governments will have a role in decision-making pertaining to this fund; whereas, last fall's NHS agreement suggested it would be a unilateral federal program. (For more on this fund, see point 3 of this previous blog post.)

5. The newly signed agreement touts the goal of removing 490,000 households from core housing need over 10 years.

While hundreds of thousands of households may well be removed from core need, this is likely an unrealistic target. For example, the Canada Housing Benefit would need to be very deep and reflect regional differences in order to completely remove most beneficiary households from core housing need (For more on problems associated with using core housing need as a metric, see this June 2017 analysis by Steve Pomeroy. There's a footnote in the NHS in reference to this. It makes reference to this target being related to either the removal of a household from core housing need or the household's degree of core need being "significantly reduced" (p. 4).) Also, the (NHS) released just last fall indicated that the goal was to remove 530,000 households from core housing need; likewise, the media release for the just-signed agreement also uses the 530,000 figure.

6. Much of the federal funding committed will have to be matched by provinces and territories -- but still, very few details have been offered as what this will look like.

Some of the matching dollars won't come from provincial/territorial governments themselves -- but rather, from municipal governments, Indigenous organizations, non-profits and private entities. Some of these details will surface later in bilateral agreements. Also, some of the federal funding (such as the "targeted northern funding") won't require cost matching.

7. No specific information has been provided on program structure.

These details will appear in the schedules in bilateral agreements. Such details will include information regarding who's eligible for housing support and how exactly funds can be used.

8. The federal government plans to introduce legislation that would underpin the framework agreement.

Regardless, future federal, provincial and territorial governments will still have some opportunity to back out as future governments always have the opportunity to pass legislation to undo all of this. However, there would be political risk in doing so (i.e., they'd get a lot of political flak).

9. The just-signed agreement says nothing new about homelessness per se.

The homelessness file is being handled by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), while the NHS is being handled by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. An Advisory Committee on Homelessness has been meeting over the course of the past year "to support the redesign" of Canada's Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Their consultation has concluded and they recently released a "what we heard" document.

10. The just-signed agreement says nothing about supportive housing.

Supportive housing refers to subsidized housing for marginalized groups (including persons experiencing homelessness) that comes with social work support. I suspect we may hear something about supportive housing from ESDC over the coming months. It's also possible that the bilateral agreements stemming from the just-signed agreement will get into the details on supportive housing.

The just-signed FPT housing framework agreement marks a crucial step toward making NHS a reality on the ground. The Calgary Homeless Foundation will be watching the status of bilateral negotiations closely, especially those involving the Government of Alberta. We'll also be watching for developments on the federal homelessness front.

The author wishes to thank Vicki Ballance, Steve Pomeroy and Greg Suttor for assistance with this blog post. Any errors lie with the author.

Nick Falvo is Director of Research and Data at the Calgary Homeless Foundation. This blog was first posted on the Calgary Homelessness Foundation.

Photo: Robert Ashworth/Flickr

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What would it take for the world to help Palestinians -- Jesus Christ Superstar?

Tue, 2018-04-17 11:23
April 17, 2018WorldPalestine: The MusicalMaybe their plight would get more attention from the West if they put on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar to show what real suffering can beJesus Christ SuperstarPalestinepalestiniansIsrael

Texas boardroom sets agenda for Justin Trudeau on Trans Mountain pipeline

Tue, 2018-04-17 09:41
EnvironmentIndigenous RightsPolitics in Canada

The Texas-based company Kinder Morgan -- formerly known as Enron Liquids, formed and staffed at the highest levels by veterans of Enron, a fraudulent company -- has the Canadian government doing its bidding, as it looks to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline.

Kinder Morgan operates, with regular spills, a 1953 pipeline that delivers refined petroleum and crude oil from Alberta to B.C. destinations in Cranbrook, Abbotsford, and ultimately Burnaby, where the crude is refined into gasoline for lower mainland B.C. drivers, or shipped out mainly to the U.S. through tankers.

As economist Robyn Allan has documented, Kinder Morgan pays little in taxes -- about $1.5 million a year from 2009-2013 -- while "gushing" dividend income to its U.S. owners.

In this respect, Kinder Morgan fits a well-known model of Canadian resource development. Governments provide infrastructure so that foreign companies can ship out resources and profits, while paying little in provincial royalties or corporate taxes.

On April 8 the Houston pipeline company, promoting its Trans Mountain expansion (TMX), served the federal Liberal government with an ultimatum.

Kinder Morgan told Justin Trudeau to deal with the B.C. government's opposition to the project before May 31, or else the planned twinning of the existing pipeline that delivers refined petroleum and crude oil from Edmonton to B.C. will not be funded.

In response to the Kinder Morgan ultimatum, B.C. Premier John Horgan indicated that the interests of British Columbians, and Canadians, had to come before the interests of Texas boardrooms.

Kinder Morgan wanted it known that its board of directors was unwilling to undertake the risks associated with spending over $7 billion on the project to bring diluted bitumen to the coast without support from the government of British Columbia and other "stakeholder" interests.

In response, Trudeau summoned the B.C. and Alberta premiers to an Ottawa meeting on Sunday. The prime minister has insisted the pipeline will be built; Alberta premier Notley is four-square behind TMX.

Rather than an attempt to mediate between leaders of the two provinces, the meeting was about squeezing the B.C. premier.

Following the Ottawa summit, the Alberta government introduced Bill 12 to give itself the authority to control the export of petroleum products to B.C. This measure will allow Alberta to boost already high gas prices in the neighbouring province, in the hopes of pushing the population to support TMX.

To appease Kinder Morgan, Trudeau and Alberta premier Rachel Notley have come to an agreement to cover any financial risks incurred by the Texas company in the building of the controversial project that would increase tanker traffic in B.C. coastal waters sevenfold.

Ottawa asserts it has the constitutional authority to approve the project. And, true enough, cross-border commerce does constitute a federal responsibility.

Historically, however, Canadian jurisprudence has preferred to recognize joint and shared responsibility, between the two levels of government, especially in areas such as environmental protection -- ones not expressly covered by the division of powers outlined in the Constitution Act (1867).

The Constitution Act (1982) added seven new parts to the 1867 Constitution. Part Six confirmed provincial legislatures have exclusive jurisdiction over non-renewable natural resources. This, for example, allows the B.C. government to exercise its authority over oil tanker traffic in the coastal waters dear to Aboriginal Peoples.

Moreover, Part Two safeguards Aboriginal rights in Section 35. All governments and the courts are bound to respect those rights.

In 2016 Canada removed its objections to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and in 2017 the Government of British Columbia announced it would govern in accordance with the UNDRIP principles.

Rather than leave vital matters for the courts or governments to deal with alone, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is calling on citizens to support wide-scale action through Coast Protectors. Supporters include the mayor of Burnaby and the federal MP for Burnaby South, Kennedy Stewart, as well as Indigenous people.

Indigenous nations whose ancestral lands and waters include the site of the construction and the operation of the current pipeline want a broad coalition strong enough to block TMX on the ground.

As the updated Summary Risk Assessment of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion prepared by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET) concludes: "Nothing the government or the company can do will earn the project approval from the Secwepemc and other Indigenous Peoples who hold Aboriginal title and rights."

The B.C. TMX opposition can appeal to constitutional authority, mobilize climate justice activists, and deliver a serious blow to the re-election of any elected official who sides with the Texans against Indigenous rights.

The Trudeau government is totally unprepared to deal with civil action on the scale that is likely to emerge in greater Vancouver with a population of nearly 2.5 million to draw upon for activist protest.

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

Photo: Roy Luck/Flickr

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Kinder MorganTrans Mountain pipelineenvironmental protectionOil Spillsindigenous resistanceoil tankersCanadian ConstitutionDuncan CameronApril 17, 2018As storm clouds gather for Justin Trudeau, sunny ways provide no helpInstead of being inspired by his father and using federal constitutional powers to promote environmental protection, Justin Trudeau has adopted the sunny ways approach -- decentralized federalism.Kinder Morgan ultimatum reveals fraudulence of Trudeau's climate dealJustin Trudeau's bargain has always seemed full of holes, but perhaps it has taken the Kinder Morgan ultimatum to finally out it as the truly unworkable, fraudulent deal that it is.The claim that Canada's facing a constitutional crisis is just politicsThe current dispute between Alberta, B.C., and Ottawa over the Trans Mountain pipeline is not a constitutional crisis, but it could turn into one.

A bill to squeeze B.C. introduced in Alberta Legislature -- but can it pass constitutional muster?

Tue, 2018-04-17 02:17
David J. Climenhaga

Is it just me, or is almost everyone from Alberta quoted in the media sounding a little overwrought these days?

Yesterday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Energy Minister Margaret McQuaig-Boyd rolled out Bill 12, rather tendentiously dubbed the Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, the sole purpose of which seems to be to squeeze residents of B.C.'s Lower Mainland till their pips squeak if they and their NDP government won't get out of the way of Alberta's demand for a fat new pipeline to carry our diluted bitumen to the Pacific Ocean, and pronto.

"We are very committed to putting pressure on B.C. to come around and focus on what this pipeline actually means," said Premier Notley, who is also a New Democrat. This was presumably a reference to what she thinks will happen to gasoline and heating prices in the Vancouver area if Alberta launches the trade sanctions it's been threatening against the province next door, which Bill 12 is intended to allow it to do.

Notley also told her news conference Alberta has a legal opinion saying the bill won't violate the interprovincial trade provisions of the Canadian Constitution, the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement or interprovincial trade deals.

I don't know who the government's lawyer is, but it's pretty hard to believe legislation that permits Alberta's energy minister to treat companies and jurisdictions arbitrarily and differently, launch trade boycotts of vital materials to other provinces, and fine companies that won't co-operate with its embargoes up to $10 million a day won't quickly run afoul of all three.

At any rate, we know the government's lawyer can't have been Joe Arvay, Q.C., the well-known B.C. legalist who handled Alberta's "Enron Clause" case that ended last month with a quiet settlement with Calgary-based Enmax Corp. Arvay is otherwise occupied these days, writing up the reference question for the B.C. government about whether it has jurisdiction over what goes through Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline and what environmental controls it can place on the project. The impact of the reference question on Kinder Morgan's sense of "certainty" is the proximate cause of this 10-week interprovincial pipeline brouhaha.

The question is taking a long time to draft, but at least we're likely to know what it is before May 31, the day on which Kinder Morgan has said it will pull the plug on the project if it can't get an ironclad guarantee it can be profitably completed.

For her part, Notley suggested that's also the date the taps may start being eased shut on the flow of resources to B.C.

Meanwhile, Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney, who for weeks has been screaming at the government to do something just like this, appeared to be getting cold feet yesterday, now that there's actually something on paper. Ummm, Kenney said, he'll be reserving judgment until after his United Conservative Party Caucus mates can take a good long gander at the wording.

"We certainly accept the goal but we have to do our due diligence as the opposition to make sure the bill doesn't go farther than it needs to," said Kenney, obviously ready to duck and cover. Well, maybe he'd just had a blistering call from some oil company executive who wasn't going to be told by any elected politician to whom he can peddle his dilbit.

As a legal strategy, I'm sorry to have to tell you, Bill 12 sounds like it's on life support before it's even had first reading. But -- who knows? -- as a political strategy maybe it'll work around here, regardless of the constitutional and inter-jurisdictional niceties, if Notley ends up looking tougher than Mr. Self-Declared Tough Guy himself.

Maybe this realization is what caused former Progressive Conservative Party MLA, energy minister and two-time failed leadership candidate Rick Orman to go right over the top, as it were, and demand yesterday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau call out the army to crush B.C.'s "eco-terrorists." This really is the term Orman used to describe well-behaved B.C. protesters like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Meanwhile, B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman sounded as cool as a cucumber on CBC's As It Happens last night, calmly explaining that B.C. is doing nothing not allowed by the Constitution (a fact that is impossible to dispute despite a lot of hyperbole about the rule of law on this side of the Rockies), will obey the rulings of the courts when its pipeline question gets before them, and will continue to look out for the province's environment.

He said he expects to disclose his government's legal strategy within a few days.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby reminded Alberta that his government is pretty confident discrimination against another province of the sort proposed in Bill 12 really is unconstitutional and B.C. expects to take legal action against Alberta if it follows through on its threats.

It's safe to say this is not the last time we're going to be writing about this.

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

Photo: Government of Alberta/Flickr

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Canada's acquiescence in Syria's war is wrong

Mon, 2018-04-16 03:31
April 16, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldCanadians should oppose Trudeau government’s support for air strikes in SyriaBy launching airstrikes without UN approval, the U.S. has once again flagrantly violated international law, and Ottawa immediately supported the U.S. bombing.syria bombingDonald TrumpSyria

Denominational schools a flashpoint in Ontario politics

Fri, 2018-04-13 09:55
April 13, 2018EducationOne issue is too hot for all Ontario parties, except the Greens -- denominational schoolsWith an Ontario election coming, all major parties still refuse to consider abolishing the costly and archaic denominational school system, even though others did so long ago. Ontario educationdenominational schoolsReligious SchoolsOntario election 2018

Kinder Morgan brouhaha shows why it's time for Canada to pull the plug on NAFTA

Fri, 2018-04-13 02:40
David J. Climenhaga

We've got the chance, thanks be unto Donald J. Trump. Obviously, it's time to get the heck out of NAFTA!

Why would I say such a wild thing? Well, as has been said here before, most actual evidence suggests that "trade deals" in general, and the North American Free Trade Agreement in particular, have very little to do with actual trade, which would happen anyway under the rules of the World Trade Organization. NAFTA is a corporate rights agreement engineered to keep a lid on workers' rights and environmental regulation.

Case in point: the latest gambit in the continuing brouhaha about Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

If the pipeline isn't built on terms Kinder Morgan likes, the CBC informed us on Tuesday, "the Houston-based company could go on the offensive to try to recoup billions of dollars." How? "It would likely use NAFTA, since Chapter 11 of the agreement allows foreign companies to file compensation claims in countries where they have investments and believe a government action is unfair and discriminatory," the CBC explained.

Now, whether this suggestion is being floated by Kinder Morgan as part of an effort to shake down the federal and Alberta governments, or by pipeline proponents in Ottawa and Edmonton to stampede British Columbia's NDP government into an agreement is not yet 100 per cent clear, and may never be. But it's important to note that the "unfair and discriminatory" problem Kinder Morgan would be taking action against if such an action proceeded could be summed up in a single word: Democracy.

This pipeline wouldn't be a problem if large numbers of people in British Columbia, especially on the coast, were not opposed to it and saying so loudly, as is their right in a democracy. And it still wouldn't be a problem if they hadn't, you know, voted based on their views in the last British Columbia election in May 2017. This eventually led to the fall in the Legislature of the thereafter much-diminished B.C. Liberals (who are really modern neoliberal conservatives), and the swearing in of an NDP government led by Premier John Horgan in July 2017.

And it wouldn't now be a problem for either Alberta Premier Rachel Notley or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- both of them elected in 2015 in similar outbreaks of democracy -- since the deal they thought they had with former B.C. Premier Christy Clark would have allowed the project to move ahead without impediments.

But that's democracy, isn't it? If you don't like a government's policies, you vote in a government with different policies at the first available opportunity. As Andrew Nikiforuk asked in The Tyee yesterday, "aren't democracies supposed to challenge projects that impose unprecedented economic and environment risks on their citizens?"

Mr. Nikiforuk was arguing Kinder Morgan is looking for an exit strategy, and NAFTA gives it an opportunity fleece Canadian taxpayers while exiting.

So we now see precisely what we were warned about by opponents of the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement back before the deal was done in 1987 -- to wit, that NAFTA is a mechanism of last resort to overcome the will of democratically elected governments and the people who vote for them when the marketplace of ideas interferes with the almighty market.

Now, I'm not an expert on trade agreements, so I can't tell you if a compensation claim as described by the CBC and apparently contemplated by Kinder Morgan would work before a NAFTA panel.

What is clear is that a certain amount of "uncertainty" -- supposedly anathema to business -- is an inevitable outcome in jurisdictions governed by democracy. You can only have certainty of the kind Kinder Morgan seems to want if you can't really change the government when you vote, the way "democracy" apparently works in the United States.

Since we still don't know what the B.C. government is contemplating when Horgan says it will "use every tool in the tool box to defend B.C.'s coast, our economy and our interests," it simply can't be said that B.C. is sure to lose in court, as Alberta pundits keep insisting.

It depends, actually, on what the B.C. NDP's law will say if it ever gets drafted. If the legislation merely requires Kinder Morgan to hand over its emergency plan -- which the company has been reluctant to do -- the court might well uphold it. And what happens then if the company doesn't have a meaningful plan?

The CBC's expert noted that even if Kinder Morgan's problem is with the government and voters of B.C., under NAFTA the company would have to go after the federal government. Maybe that's a good thing, since it's Ottawa that's trying to renegotiate NAFTA.

Trudeau's intellectual heft seems each day more like that of a helium balloon, so I suppose this message should be directed to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland instead, since she seems to do the prime minister's thinking for him:

Back away from the deal! Back away from the deal!

Either that, or stop pretending we're a real democracy.

Of course, it's also possible Kinder Morgan has overplayed its hand in a game of bluff because the brainiacs at head office in Houston never imagined that Premier Notley would come right out and say she'd buy a stake in the pipeline.

This could well have happened if it didn't occur to them that Canadian New Democrats weren't exactly the same as American Democrats, good neoliberals to the man and woman who would never utter such a proposal.

Corporate bosses sure as heck don't want a government sharing their profit or, even worse, having some clout at the boardroom table!

They just want Canadian governments to do what any reasonable petro-tyranny would do: crush dissent.

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

Photo: William Chen/Flickr (Released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

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Despite NDP stamp of approval, pipeline rally on Alberta Legislature's steps looked like a UCP event

Fri, 2018-04-13 02:26
David J. Climenhaga

The situation may have felt normal to the cadre of Opposition United Conservative Party MLAs there, but I imagine some of the NDP backbenchers huddled on the steps of the Legislature in Edmonton yesterday afternoon felt pretty uncomfortable.

If not, they darn well should've.

I'm not talking about the effects of the icy wind that whips through the coldest spot in this cold city, but the angry pipeline proselytizers summoned up, mostly from UCP ranks or worse by the sound of them, for Thursday afternoon's big pro-pipeline rally.

It was an unedifying sight. Political reality of Alberta may require a noisy push by Premier Rachel Notley's NDP to get Ottawa to press British Columbia to let the Trans Mountain pipeline be completed before Kinder Morgan packs up its Russian steel and goes home to Texas. So, yeah, I can forgive Trade Minister Deron Bilous for spending so much of his time at the podium on the Legislature's steps ripping into the B.C. NDP for the benefit of the 600 or so people who showed up.

But if a progressive political party is going to put its stamp of approval on such a gathering, as the NDP most certainly did, it should be damn sure the majority of people there are its supporters.

And if you ask me -- and, no, I didn't check IDs -- aside from a few Unifor members and a couple of dozen freezing ministerial aides, the NDP base mostly decided to give this rally a miss, even if it was in Edmonton. This crowd looked pretty much like the Bill 6 demonstrations of 2015, only smaller, without the turkey, the Anabaptists or the sense of humour. This is appropriate, I guess, for a supposedly non-partisan rally organized by the "Rally 4 Resources movement," a group that has a sour-gas whiff of oil industry Astro-Turf about it.

In other words, this seemed like a UCP crowd to me, and not a particularly nice one. Even if Mr. Bilous got a cheer or two, as well as a few boos, these weren't people who are going to see a flash of light on the road to Damascus and start voting NDP any time soon.

And when the crowd tried to shout down federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi with cries of "go home" -- he's from here, you knuckleheads, and he was trying to take your side of this argument, God knows why the Liberals bother -- it reminded me of something the Wildrose Party and some of its less savoury internet friends might have cooked up. No wonder the former Wildrosers up there behind the NDP looked so smug.

Well, I know what I think inspired that chant, and that proved to be an excellent moment to head back toward the bright lights of Jasper Avenue. Maybe someone told the participants to stand up and stop dragging their knuckles in the dirt after I'd gone. I certainly hope so. I have my doubts, though, since one of the next speakers on the agenda was UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

At least no one was chanting, "Lock 'Er Up" this time, although I'd bet you some of them were thinking about it.

Some observers thought this looked like we'd all gone through the looking glass. When the NDP started urging people to attend this event, my friend Jason, union builder and cynic, wondered if the NDP has finally jumped the shark. I don't want to ask myself the same question for fear I might not like the answer.

With friends like Kenney, Rally 4 Resources, and the usual suspects in the Alberta commentariat, Ms. Notley and her strategic brain trust might want to give their heads a shake about how closely they wish to be tied to these guys in the run-up to an election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to fly back from Lima, Peru, to meet on Sunday in Ottawa with Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan to try, as the mainstream media puts it, to break the deadlock between Alberta and B.C.

Trudeau's been saying repeatedly, as did Mr. Sohi yesterday, that the pipeline will be built no matter what British Columbia thinks. The Alberta NDP vows to economically punish British Columbians if their government won't knuckle under. I'm not sure where the incentive for Horgan to compromise is in that kind of posturing, which sounds more like an ultimatum than a bargaining position. I guess we'll see on Sunday.

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

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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Trudeau's Kinder Morgan deal is a compromise on climate change

Thu, 2018-04-12 12:49
EnvironmentPolitics in Canada

Last time I checked, Alberta's oilfields had not been seized by marauding bands of eco-warriors. But you might be confused into thinking so by the inflamed rhetoric coming out of Ottawa and Alberta.

We're told that the country faces a national crisis over the resistance to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, following an ultimatum by Houston-based Kinder Morgan that it's suspending long-stalled building plans unless it's assured a green light by May 31.

With both Alberta and Ottawa offering full-throttle support for the project, including potential financial backing, a chorus of rage has arisen from the country's business and political ranks over B.C.'s refusal to fall into line.

Some commentators insist this shows Canada is broken, even implying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a sissy unless he gears up to send in the army to restore the rule of law.

So what precisely has B.C. done that it is trampling on the rule of law?

After hiring the distinguished former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger as a legal adviser, B.C.'s NDP government sought and won intervener status in a federal court case involving the pipeline, and it has announced plans to consult the B.C. public about developing new regulations to protect its environment from oil spills.

These seem like law-abiding measures.

In a legal showdown, Ottawa would almost certainly win, since it has constitutional power over projects it deems in the national interest. But without a Supreme Court ruling, it doesn't seem outrageous for B.C. to test its right to protect its environment.

Business pundits complain that there's no time to seek such a ruling since we're staring at the May 31 deadline.

No doubt, Kinder Morgan has shareholders to satisfy, but should the timetable here -- given the momentous issues involved -- really be driven by the needs of a foreign company?

The pipeline would dramatically increase oil tanker traffic in the sensitive Burrard Inlet -- to more than 400 supertankers a year -- risking potentially devastating, long-lasting impacts from an oil spill that put the May 31 deadline in perspective.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in B.C.'s government, notes that the diluted bitumen travelling through the pipeline from Alberta's oilsands is more dangerous than regular oil if spilled into water.

"It sinks. We cannot clean up a spill," said Weaver, an internationally recognized climate scientist, in an interview on CBC-TV's Power and Politics.

Weaver, who was part of a team sharing a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, dismissed the scientific review of the Kinder Morgan project carried out by the National Energy Board as a "sham."

Then there's the fact the pipeline would go through unceded Indigenous territory, where resistance to it has been fierce.

Martyn Brown, who was chief of staff to former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell, argues that B.C. should go further and bring in legislation giving Indigenous people shared jurisdiction over environmental protection related to oil spill prevention and cleanups.

Then, of course, there's the matter of climate change; building a new pipeline means we'll pump more oil, making it harder to reduce our carbon emissions.

Weirdly, Trudeau fashions himself as a champion of climate solutions. According to his backflip of an argument, the pipeline is key to an implicit bargain that allows Alberta to get its oil to market, in exchange for Alberta's support for a carbon tax.

Only by pumping more carbon into the atmosphere can we hope to stop climate change -- sort of like only by smoking more cigarettes can we hope to stop cancer.

Trudeau's bargain has always seemed full of holes, but perhaps it has taken the Kinder Morgan ultimatum to finally out it as the truly unworkable, fraudulent deal that it is.

It's premised on the notion of compromise, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that climate change isn't something you can compromise on.

In a column in the National Post, Claudia Cattaneo expressed outrage over how B.C.'s intransigence is negatively impacting foreign investors, complaining that B.C. "doesn't seem to grasp the implications of messing with a lawfully approved project."

But she and other business commentators apparently don't grasp the even bigger implications of messing with nature.

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her book Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Mythswas among the books selected by the Literary Review of Canada as the "25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years." A version of this column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Photo: William Chen/Flickr

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Trans Mountain pipelineKinder MorganTrudeau governmentrule of lawOil Spillsenvironmental protectionClimate ChangeLinda McQuaigApril 12, 2018Will the NDP take the great Leap Manifesto forward?With key Sanders and Corbyn acolytes attending the Ottawa annual conference, there is a chance to get a jump on Trudeau when it comes to fossil fuel use.The calm before the resistance -- Ceremony week for Kinder Morgan protesters'A good reminder of why you're doing it': Ceremonies and teaching followed a week of demonstrations where 173 people were arrested in Burnaby.Message to Alberta's chattering classes: Quit misinterpreting 'the rule of law,' already!Somebody has done some message testing and determined "the rule of law" is a good talking point to which Alberta audiences will respond favourably. The argument is fatuous.

Judy Rebick on her life and new memoir

Thu, 2018-04-12 11:23
April 12, 2018Politics in CanadaJudy Rebick talks about her new book 'Heroes in my Head' rabble.ca's cofounder talks about her new memoir about her life as an activist while coping as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.Judy Rebickactivismsexual abusemental healthabortion rightsbooksmemoir

Exploitation of personal data on Facebook has dark implications for democracy

Thu, 2018-04-12 10:37
Civil Liberties WatchTechnology

The for-profit social media giant Facebook harvests vast amounts of data from each of its two billion users across the globe. This data trove gives Facebook unparalleled commercial power and, as is becoming increasingly clear, the ability to influence significant events, including national elections. Revelations about Facebook's role in the exploitation of user data by a company called Cambridge Analytica to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, as well as the outcome of the Brexit vote -- the referendum leading the United Kingdom to leave the European Union -- have provoked widespread calls for tough, new data privacy laws.

For the first time ever, Facebook's founder and CEO, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, appeared before Congress for two days of hearings. On Tuesday, among those who questioned him was Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin:

Sen. Durbin: "Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?"

Mark Zuckerberg: "Umm, uh, no."

Sen. Durbin: "If you've messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you've messaged?"

Mark Zuckerberg: "Senator, no, I would probably not choose to do that publicly here."

Sen. Durbin: "I think that may be what this is all about: your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you give away in modern America in the name of, quote, 'connecting people around the world.'"

The hearings generated much heat but little light, as was predicted by Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina and one of the keenest observers of Facebook and our evolving digital landscape. Appearing on the Democracy Now! news hour, Tufekci said: "We don't really need Mark Zuckerberg to explain the very basics of Facebook to a bunch of senators who don't seem to even understand that. We need to sit down and say, 'How do we deal with the new information commons? How do we deal with the new public sphere as it operates?'" She added: "People mistakenly think that Facebook sells your data. Facebook doesn't sell your data. Facebook sells you."

Cambridge Analytica, co-founded by former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and billionaire Trump supporter and extreme right-wing ideologue Robert Mercer, claimed it could create "psychographic profiles" of people based on their Facebook data. A company whistleblower revealed that they advised the Trump campaign on how to target ads, both to boost Trump and suppress Democratic voter turnout.

The wholesale, planetwide exploitation of personal data has dark implications, Zeynep Tufekci said. "We could enter into a phase of 'surveillance authoritarianism,' where we don't face [George Orwell's] '1984' model, where there's open totalitarianism, where we're dragged off in the middle of the night. But we're silently and quietly, person by person, screen by screen, nudged and manipulated according to our individual vulnerabilities."

Tufekci says the targeting specificity that Facebook user data allows is chilling, giving as an example the ability to determine if a person is bipolar: "You can predict people's likelihood of entering a depressive state or a manic state in the next few months … you can imagine the kind of manipulation that it's open to." Cheap flights to Las Vegas, she gave as an example, could be offered to people when their Facebook activity indicated they were entering a manic phase and might be more easily induced to make a rash purchase.

And then there are young children. That is a population recently targeted by Facebook with the development of its application "Facebook Messenger Kids." This would allow Facebook to recruit new users younger than the current minimum age of 13, even as young as six. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is pushing to end the app.

"There is a wealth of research that shows that social media is harmful to adolescents, that excessive time on social media is linked to things like depression, unhappiness. Girls who are on social media are more likely to feel dissatisfied about their bodies," Josh Golin, executive director of the advocacy group, said on Democracy Now! "Here is Facebook knowing this research and deliberately trying to get even younger kids to use their platform … the last thing that kids need is to normalize this idea that relationships should take place online, that relationships should take place through a commercial product."

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms have become central to our modern, digitally connected lives. But evidence is mounting that who we "friend," what we "like" and share, can be used by malevolent groups to target entire swaths of the population with a few keystrokes. If democracy is to survive in this brave new world, mass movements of people will need to organize together to restrain these corporate behemoths and protect our digital commons.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: Brian Solis/Flickr

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facebookprivacy rightsdata collectioninternet surveillanceCambridge Analyticasocial mediaAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanApril 12, 2018WTF? Say 50 million Facebook usersFacebook is just the latest and most sophisticated medium to sell our eyes and attention to advertisers. There's a new media saying that crops up over and over again, a variation on "buyer beware."Don't despair, here is some hope despite Cambridge Analytica and FacebookI tend to see the horrors of manipulation as less striking than the signs of human ability to act independently anyway. How else do you explain unexpected events like Bernie Sanders' surge?The cost of free expression online for women With online platforms increasingly being a site of public discourse in democratic societies, gendered online violence silences and makes invisible a key sector of society in the public sphere.

University top brass salaries capped in Alberta; David Suzuki to get honorary degree from U of A

Thu, 2018-04-12 01:34
David J. Climenhaga

The Alberta government has put a much-needed cap on the salaries of top university administrators, providing a nice break in the news columns from the continuing frenzy over the Trans Canada pipeline expansion project.

At the same time the salary cap decision hit the news, the University of Alberta announced that high-profile B.C. environmentalist, scientist, author and broadcaster David Suzuki will be granted an honorary degree this June.

Readers will be relieved to know there can be no way the two situations are connected.

The new salary regulations introduced by Advanced Education Minster Marlin Schmidt for senior university officials are years overdue, but certainly won't please top administrators like University of Alberta President David Turpin, who has already had a very public spat with Schmidt over his pay.

Turpin, late of the University of Victoria and other well-known institutions, joined the U of A administration in July 2015. Back in mid-March, the NDP's Schmidt said publicly that Turpin should cut his own salary before allowing students to be charged more for tuition, residence fees and the like.

Apparently wounded, Turpin fired back, complaining that "I've worked at three of the country's finest universities in three different provinces and this is the first time I have been personally and publicly attacked by a minister of the Crown." Subsequently, Turpin was yelled at by a crowd of students upset by the fee increases.

Bonuses, incentives, allowances and some other perks are going over the side by provincial decree at Alberta's public colleges, universities and technical institutions, according to Schmidt's announcement Tuesday. A five-level pay scale will take effect next week, limiting the amount a university president can receive, although it will be phased in over two years for top brass already on the job.

Right now, Turpin has a base salary of $500,000 a year but is paid more than $800,000. Under the new rules, a president will only be able to get about 20 per cent more than base salary in perks and benefits.

The government says the cap will save around $5 million a year, but it packs a more powerful symbolic punch.

As has been observed in this space many times, there is no evidence huge corporate-style salaries result in more inspiring leadership or better administration of Canadian post-secondary institutions. Indeed, if one considers the huge contribution made by the postwar generation of university administrators for a small premium over what a senior professor was paid in those days, the contrary would appear to be true.

Meanwhile, a U of A news release published Tuesday said that Suzuki -- widely considered an infuriating villain in United Conservative Party circles and the oilpatch -- will receive an honourary doctor of science degree from the university on June 7 at 10 a.m.

Suzuki is described in the release as "an award-winning scientist, broadcaster, author and activist" with a "devotion to promoting scientific literacy," both statements that cannot be disputed.

Alert readers will recall that when Suzuki was invited recently to address the Alberta Teachers Association, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney and his online outrage machine went right over the top, condemning "teacher union bosses," as a friendly Postmedia columnist put it, for "flying in a millionaire jet-setter to tell us we should destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Albertans."

One can only imagine that the same kind of stuff is about to hit the fan again, this time directed at the U of A for having the temerity to award this honour to Suzuki.

Meanwhile, one also imagines that Victoria is starting to look pretty good to Turpin, now that he has experienced a couple of Alberta springs … and whatnot.

As noted, the timing of the two announcements is a coincidence. So is the fact Suzuki and Turpin are both PhD biologists.

You couldn't make this stuff up: Entire United Conservative Party Caucus goes missing!

You have to give Alberta's Conservatives their full due -- they don't do things by half measures.

Parliamentarians cross the floor of the House now and again, for example. But politically alert Albertans will recall how the Legislative caucus of the Wildrose Party, precursor to the United Conservative Party, tried to defect en masse to the Progressive Conservatives in 2014. Unfortunately for them, that didn't end well.

On Tuesday, the entire UCP went missing!

Politicians step out of the kitchen from time to time when it gets too hot for them. But for an entire 25-member caucus to disappear is unusual. Nevertheless, Tuesday while the Legislature debated Bill 9, the Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act, reliable reports indicated not a single UCP MLA was in the House.

Where did they go? Hard to say. A search party will be checking the bars in the neighbourhood of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton. If need be, the search can be expanded to neighbouring provinces, although Saskatchewan seems more likely than B.C.

Bill 9, of course, sets 50-metre safe zones around abortion clinics to keep the ever-present protesters from harassing people entering and leaving the facilities.

So this disappearance is really no mystery. It's like those flocks of American politicians who cross state lines now and again to prevent a vote on this or that in their state legislatures. Only the UCP MLAs aren't trying to prevent a vote, they're just trying to make damn sure they're not caught taking part in one.

UCP leader Jason Kenney is well known to be a social conservative who strongly opposes reproductive rights. In the unlikely event he voted for the bill, he'd be in deep doo-doo with his base. If he voted against it, he'd be in trouble with a large number of voters. He must have reckoned that sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour!

I imagine some of the UCP Caucus members -- you know, the ones who have principles -- are none too happy about this development. It says something for Kenney's iron fist that they've gone silent too.

That broody sound you keep hearing in the shed out back? Sounds like … Nobody here but us chickens!

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

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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