Thursday, December 07, 2006

French Youth Continue Uprising Against Police Brutality, Poverty

On the first anniversary of the riots which spread across Europe against the police brutality, racism and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants, French youth have again brought these issues to the forefront.

On October 27th, French youth from poor suburbs of France rioted against the state oppression which last year claimed the life of two teenagers and set off country wide uprisings against racism, chronic unemployment and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants in France. On October 27, 2005 two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore were electrocuted after climbing into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Friends and locals say that this was an attempt to hide from police.

Just two days earlier, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says that a Paris suburb mostly comprised of immigrants of African and Arab descent says that crime-ridden neighbourhoods should be "cleaned with a power hose".

Responding to this continued violence and oppression, youth from across working class neighbourhoods in France took to the streets to express their unwillingness to live under these conditions. In the two week urban uprising that ensued, more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 300 buildings firebombed.

The uprisings spread across France and even into Belgium
and Germany, vividly connecting the common issues faced by immigrants of various nations living in Europe. These uprisings were successful in bringing the world’s attention to the condition of immigrant people in Europe and in providing an important lesson to the emerging movements for immigrant rights which have sprung up all over Europe and North America.

Not surprisingly, the French governments’ pledge to address the core issues have largely been empty words and little has changed for working people. Nevertheless, their example and that of the Latino movement in the United States which organized a work, school, buying stoppage and mass demonstration last year in the United States demonstrates that the rights of working people can only be upheld by the people militantly asserting themselves.

As we head into a recession, Harper’s government is likely to try and increase its targeting of immigrant workers in order to distract and divide working people as a whole. People need to unite in order to prevent this from happening, and assert that the right of all working people to jobs, education and inclusion is non-negotiable!

Minimum Wage Unlivable

The fact that the current minimum wage does not provide people with enough to live was recognized recently by the Provincial government. A private members bill submitted by the NDP to increase the minimum wage to $10/hr passed the second reading at Queen’s Park this November.

With the Liberals and Conservatives already voicing their opposition to this bill, it is highly unlikely that the bill will get passed. Premier McGuinty warned that increasing the minimum wage would be imposing undue economic pressures on businesses, alluding that business will go elsewhere if wages are increased here. This idea is something that the Conservatives have repeated as well.

What is important however, is that no newspaper or Political party has argued that the $7.75 per hour is enough for someone to live on. Clearly this demonstrates the fact that even the political parties of the rich know that the current minimum wage is not a living wage. McGuinty’s argument also exposes the hypocrisy and uselessness of a system which acknowledges that it is only willing to pay people less than or just enough to get by on the grounds that it might inconvenience big business.

Even though the minimum wage will not be increased, the issue of wages for the poor has become an issue that the politicians have had to deal with for the first time in several years.

Friday, October 27, 2006

City Elections means little to Workers

Working people in Toronto have been offered little this year, despite having seen at least two, and in some areas three elections this year.

This fall, 44 new Councillors and a new Mayor will be elected for City Hall.

The prospect of any change is minimal, as the main opponents to David Miller are disorganized and have little base of support other than small pockets of people who want to see even more cops on the street, homeless people in jail and privatized social housing.

The likes of Jane Pitfield, Cesar Palacio, Peter Lipreti and others have spent most of their time pushing for these things and other policies that keep pressure on working people.

However, it is becoming increasingly evident, even inside Miller’s campaign that 3 years of a Miller lead City Hall has left a lot to be desired in the minds and wallets of Toronto workers.

Miller’s City Hall has made some positive steps in addressing some environmental concerns, but it has also put more money to Police at a time when police brutality and corruption are being exposed more than ever in this City. It has also increased user fees on services such as the TTC, made little or no progress on issues of addressing affordable housing, and moved to ban homeless people from sleeping in City Hall.

City Hall for its part, like every other level of government, blames another level of government. And while other levels of government are also to blame, the sentiments of Toronto workers is undeniable – Miller’s priorities are out of whack.

Faced with no mayoral race and very little discussion of actual issues, it is likely that voter turnout will not increase beyond last elections 35%.

Nonetheless, people can still raise awareness about issues such as affordable housing and social services, and a real answer to the difficulties faced by working people and families.

Organize the block for better housing!

Toronto Community Housing Corporation has begun a series of ‘consultations’ around proposed plans to tear down and re-build Lawrence Heights, in a similar way as was done in Regent Park.

There is no question that Lawrence Heights needs repairs and investment from government. However, Lawrence Heights residents should be active and should ask questions to find out how this will TRULY impact working people of Lawrence Heights:

Where will people be moved to?

In the case of Regent Park, residents were given the option of either staying in Regent and moving houses, going to another TCHC property, or getting out of TCHC all together. Some people had to move as far as Hamilton. Where will people be forced to move?

Will TCHC, or another level of government pay for moving expenses?

Moving is a difficult and expensive process. Moving can easily cost a few hundred dollars plus whatever costs are associated with missing work. Will residents have to pay for this out of their own pocket?

Are the number of Rent-Geared to income housing going to be increased?

In Chicago, similar public housing re-developments have lead to a decrease in the real number of RGI units. In Regent, the number of RGI units has stayed the same.

Are families going to have more space in the proposed new development?

The Regent Park redevelopment was expressedly designed to pack people into a tighter space. Since Lawrence Heights is less dense than Regent, is TCHC going to try and do the same at Lawrence Heights?

Are there going to be measures taken to ensure that reconstruction does not have negative affects for the health of the community?

Demolition can release a lot of debris into the air, and with old buildings there may be building materials that can have detrimental affects on the health of people in the community.

Is there guaranteed funding for the reconstruction, and what are the consequences of money being pulled mid way through?
The Federal government has recently made it clear that they will only give half of the $2.2 Billion that they had previous promised the Provincial government for housing. The Provincial government in turn is not releasing any of that money to the City, much of which is earmarked for Regent Park.
What will happen if something similar happens? Will people be pushed out and more space be turned over to condo developers?

Will re-development make TCHC more responsive to the community?

In every TCHC block, working people know about the lack of responsiveness of TCHC when it comes to repairs and security. The TCHC tenant representative organs have little power to influence things so that this continues.

So how will this re-development make Toronto a better landlord?

Many other questions need to be asked about how this may impact the community, and any proposals for re-development have to answer these questions.

The Community also needs local jobs and economic development that can be achieved if plans for re-development incorporate these through measures such as setting up micro-credit investment to give locals first crack at setting up bakeries and other small business.

Working people of Lawrence Heights cannot afford to sleep on this issue. We have to assert ourselves and demand that our needs be addressed, otherwise the so-called ‘consultations’ will be little more than public relations campaigns for the plans that TCHC and others already have.

* Organize the block!
* Demand Better, More affordable housing!
* Make TCHC act on repairs

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Captive Nations: Ombudsman Slams Justice System's Treatment of First Nations

The Office of the Correctional Investigator released a report on Monday blasting the federal Correctional Service for its treatment of the First Nations in Canada. First Nations peoples make up 18.5 per cent of the prison population despite being only 2.7 per cent of the population of Canada and are nine times more likely to go to jail than the population at large. In Western provinces the situation is even worse, where Natives make up 60 percent of the inmate population.

Once inside the justice system, First Nations fare worse than non-First Nations. They are less likely to get sentenced to community supervision and are frequently "over-classified" - ie. sent to maximum security instead of medium - forcing them to serve their time far from their homes, families, elders, and communities. They have less access to rehabilitative services, such as education, job training, or addictions counseling. They are released much later into their sentences and are more likely to get their parole yanked and sent back to prison on technical grounds.

While this injustice has grown worse in recent years, it is hardly new. "Despite years of task force reports, internal reviews, national strategies, partnership agreements and action plans, there has been no measurable improvements in the conditions for aboriginal offenders during the last 20 years," Sapers said. The pattern of sweeping the problem under the rug continues, as Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he would "take the report under consideration" but denied that there was any evidence of systemic discrimination against First Nations in the prison system.

Such avoidance makes sense, since having impoverished and locked-up First Nations communities benefits powerful interests in our society. The First Nations have repeatedly and consistently struggled to defend their sovereignty and land rights, arousing the ire of the government and their corporate backers. Traditional, unceded First Nations territory includes lucrative fishing areas on the East and West coasts, massive oil and uranium deposits in the prairies, hydroelectric projects in northern Quebec, rich logging areas all over Canada, and more. Even those lands that lack natural resources are still be considered useful - as dumping grounds for solid or toxic waste that would be politically unacceptable in richer, whiter, parts of the country. As long as we have a government in power that views strong, vibrant, First Nations communities as a threat to their power and control - rather than allies in the struggle for justice - we can look forward to another decade of government stonewalling, sabotage, denial, and repression.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Congratulations DPR Korea!

On October 9th, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced “with 100% of sheer indigenous wisdom and technology… under secure conditions… at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation” the successful underground testing of a nuclear bomb. Predictably, the United States blasted the test as a “provocative act threatening international peace and stability” and threatened sanctions.

The corporate media has been demonizing Kim Jong Il, calling him a "madman" for wanting a nuclear bomb. But given the world situation, wouldn't he be insane not to? Look no farther than Iraq. The Saddam regime in Iraq destroyed their stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons (supplied by the United States during the Iran/Iraq war it should be noted), agreed to weapons inspections, and never had a nuclear weapons program. Yet for the crime of nationalising its oil production, the United States killed 1.5 million Iraqis through a decade of sanctions and bombings, then invaded and occupied the country, established a puppet government, and fomented civil war, killing an additional 600,000+ in the process. The United States (along with Japan) has been threatening to do the same to the DPRK since the end of Korean War in 1953. The DPRK has repeatedly sought one-on-one negotiations with the US to end hostilities and to sign a mutual non-aggression pact. In other words, they want peace. The US has rejected these calls and continues to maintain tens of thousands of its troops in South Korea, along with aviation, artillery, and armoured brigades. In these conditions, the only way for the DPRK to maintain its national sovereignty is to have sufficient military force to deter the United States from turning them into another Iraq.

That the United States would rattle its sabers over the DPRK's testing of a nuclear bomb is beyond hypocritical. The US has a stockpile of over 10,000 nuclear weapons - more than enough to destroy all life on Earth - and have conducted 1,127 nuclear tests of their own. They are the only country in the world to maintain a "first strike" policy and under the Bush regime have amended that policy to include "first strikes" against even non-nuclear adversaries. They are also the only country to actually use nuclear weapons in warfare. They bombed the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though they knew that the Japanese were attempting to open surrender negotiations via the Soviet Union. If nuclear disarmament has to start anywhere, it's in the United States. Until then, countries targeted by imperialism have the right to defend themselves!

Tories All Talk, No Action On Climate Change

The calls of environmental scientists and activist groups have been unanimous: Steven Harper's government must take immediate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. More than 50 environmental groups united in a letter sent to Harper demanding regulation of big-industry emitters by 2008 and re-commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Harper's response? More talk and little action.

The talk itself sounds great. While promoting new legislation, Harper claimed that "Canada's Clean Air Act will allow us to move industry from voluntary compliance to strict regulation. It will replace the current ad-hoc patchwork system with clear, consistent and comprehensive national standards." So why are the environmentalists still not happy?

The problem is that Harper's new Clean Air Act is just a stalling tactic. The federal government already has the power under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to enact strong regulations on industry that would force them to immediately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. By bringing in new legislation, Harper has guaranteed inaction on the climate change issue until the legislation is fully enacted, which can take years. In the meantime, industry gets to keep their profits up by not investing in new, cleaner technology and proper pollution control and reduction. Steven Harper and the previous Liberal governments have put the short term interests of polluting corporations ahead of dealing with what is now undeniably the single greatest crisis facing humanity as a whole.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Gov't Death Squads Run Rampant in the Philippines

2001 was a year of great hope in the Philippines. Joseph Estrada, the notoriously corrupt American puppet president was overthrown by a popular uprising and replaced by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was hoped that the new president, who owed her place in office to the mass movement of the Filipino people, would usher in a new more democratic era. Instead, the Philippines today has turned into the new killing fields of Asia.

The Philippines is a land of tremendous natural resources, but also tremendous inequality. Over 30 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day while a small group of wealthy landowners control the government, the courts, the armed forces, and various paramilitary death squads, which they use to maintain their brutal exploitation of the Filipino workers and peasants. It is these conditions that gave rise to the civil war between the government and the National Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Rather than use her position as President to deal with the terrible sufferings and poverty of the Filipino people, GMA launched full scale war against the NDF, displacing whole communities in their drive against the New Peoples Army. Unable to defeat the CPP/NPA on the battlefield - and in many cases facing reversals - the government decided that rather than battle the guerrillas they would target the unarmed and legal mass movement.

Karapatan, an independent human rights organization in the Philippines, has documented that as of September 12, 752 activists have been murdered and 184 more have been forcibly "disappeared" by the GMA regime. The main targets of the military-backed death squads have been the political coalition BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance, representing thousands of grassroots peoples organizations), as well as trade unionists, peasant leaders, members of progressive partylists, and clergy. After being eliminated, the victims are labeled "terrorists" by the government to justify the killings.

Rather than condemn these grave human rights abuses, the United States has aided and abetted.
"After 9/11, American military assistance to the Philippines skyrocketed by 1,111% between 2001 and 2002. US support has allowed the government to increase the military budget by nearly 11% from 2003 to 2005."(

Even non-military assistance tends to be channeled in ways that benefit the military campaign against the peoples movement, such as pacification programs or psychological warfare operations, often masked as "civil society initiatives" through NGO fronts. Canada also continues to assist the GMA regime as its sixth largest donour of foreign aid. In other words, the tax dollars of workers in Canada are being used to oppress workers in the Philippines.

Yet the popular outcry in the Philippines has not gone unheard. A growing international solidarity movement is getting the word out on what is going on in the Philippines. Recent presentations by several human rights groups to the United Nations may result in the Philippines losing its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, and maybe even a loss in foreign investment. This would not be unprecedented: after worldwide outcry against human rights abuses in King Guyanendra's Nepal and the military dictatorship or Burma, those countries lost much of their military assistance and foreign investment. By affecting the policies of their "own" governments, workers at home can positively impact the struggles of workers the world over. The government of Canada must stop supporting death squad regimes!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wasun Gets It Done

On street corners, work places and living rooms, people discuss the problems in their lives and in the World and ponder over one question – what can be about this? Toronto hip-hop veteran Wasun gives us his answer with his debut CD What is to be done (Interscope 2006).

Hailing from the infamous blocks of Vaughn and Oakwood, Wasun skillfully flows over a diverse range of beats with relentless street knowledge. The lead off-track in this blazing 8 track EP, Building to Building which topped the charts of, paints the picture of the reality of Toronto streets since free trade after the exit of industrial jobs to sweatshops in the ‘Third World’.

Wasun hold no punches back, proclaiming very loudly that this system is corrupt and violent, and that he is working to organize its victims – immigrants, Black people and people of colour, and ultimately the working class.

Perhaps the most compelling song on the album is Urban Guerrillas, which combines a crazy catchy cinematic beat with one of the best displays of Wasun’s robust rhyming with lines like
"this revolutionary who inspired lots of crews/ love, peace, wisdom understand no talk is new/ the working class still not free - a lot to prove/ and organize until hi-hop is not the blues/ we gotta move"

Wasun’s fast spreading notoriety is well deserved. The flow is raw, the beats are hot and the lyrics are tight and direct. A must get for hip hop fans and those who still don’t know how to change things.

4.5 fists out of 5

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Whats good for the Politicians is good for the Workers

Salary increases show need for increase in wages of working people

Torontonians have seen two of the three levels of government officials give themselves raises in the last couple of months.

First, the Conservative Federal government, with approval of most Liberals Members of Parliament (MP’s) gave themselves a 20% pay increase, putting them in the richest 1% of Canadians.

More recently at the July session of City Council, Councillor’s approved a 9% increase to their base wage, arguing that Councillors in cities such as Vaughn and Mississauga are paid upwards of $117 000.

Predictably, the same Conservative media that rambles on about how ‘fiscally irresponsible’ socially funded education, health care and housing are, stayed relatively silent on the MP’s increase. With City Council being dominated by the New Democratic Party (NDP) these same media outlets came out blasting City Council.

Ultimately, what do these things mean for working people? In reality, these policies and the media response provide some important lessons regarding the opportunism and hypocrisy of government and media.

Nonetheless, the $8 million (308 MP’s X $25 000 per year) would have impact on people lives if it meant giving money for grants to low and middle income families looking to put a child through University. Likewise, the $400 000 (44 Councillors X $9000) would have benefited communities like Parkdale with hiring of a few more inspectors to shut down slum houses, or in Lawrence Heights where parks are in need to repair and clean up.

These same levels of government, not matter what Party controls it all are opposed to measures to increase the real or social wage for the majority of people. Not only this, but they have also implemented policies that DECREASE people’s wages. The municipal government continues to increase cost of services like the TTC, which the Federal government has gone out of its way to destroy the idea of a national system of affordable child care.

With the wages and services for the majority of people in decline, Politicians think it justified to be rewarded while our lives become harder. These increases will not make government more responsive and in fact show how hypocritical and unconcerned they are already.

Politician’s salaries should be indexed to minimum wages, so that politicians can’t raise their wages without raising the wages of all. We should remind these politicians that we need cheaper services, higher wages and more, better paying jobs.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Urban Sprawl and Expanding Waistlines

A new Statistics Canada study has revealed that adults who live in cities are less likely to be obese than those who lived in outlying areas.
"as the size of the city increased, the likelihood of being obese fell. In CMAs with a population of at least 2 million (Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver) only 17% of adults were obese. The comparable figure for CMAs with a population of 100,000 to 2 million was 24%. In urban centres with populations of 10,000 to 100,000, 30% of adults were obese."

While the diet and fitness industry promotes individual solutions to obesity through the consumption of high-priced "specialty" foods (low-carb being the latest craze) or purchasing a whole gammut of excercise equipment (exercise balls, palates bands, etc.), the real solution to obesity is pro-people urban planning. Larger numbers of poor and working class are being pushed out of downtown Toronto by the lack of affordable housing into the suburbs, where there is less access to public transit, recreation facilities, or local shops within walking distance. The government let the developers make a killing off of urban sprawl, but the health of the people is being sacrificed in the process.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fear and Loathing in the UK and Toronto Terror Plots

Last weeks arrests in the UK of an alleged terorist ring was accompanied by the usual hype and hysteria, as the media reprinted uncritically every apocolyptic image spun out by the British police. Massive security crackdowns were justified with images of a "new 9/11" - of thousands of people meeting their flaming deaths in simultaneous suicide bombings of trans-Atlantic flights unless flyers poured out their bottles of wine or mouthwash.

Yet there are some facts about the recent "terrorist plot" that the British government has either neglected to mention or downplayed:

* No bomb had been constructed.
* No airline tickets had been purchased.
* Many of the men arrested didn't even have passports.
* None come even close to matching the psychological profile of a suicide bomber.
* Most of the evidence against the "plotters" comes from a man currently being "interogatted" by Pakistani intellegence. Given the methods frequently used in "interogations" conducted by military dictatorships, he has probably also linked the men to 9/11, the Kennedy Assassination and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Craig Murray, who was fired from his position as British ambassador to Western-allied Uzbekistan for critcizing that country's horrendous human rights record, points out:

"...the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered."

Such was the outcome of the terrorist scare in Toronto two years ago. Project Thread, carried out by the RCMP and CIC, alleged to have uncovered a "sleeper cell" of 26 Pakistani Muslims out to detonate "dirty bombs" at a nuclear power plant. Coincidentally, the arrests took place just as CSIS (Canadian Security Inteligence Service) was raising demands for more funds to "fight terrorism." In the end none of the Pakistanis were charged with any criminal offence and most were deported, their only offence having been getting ripped off by a phoney business school.

The more resent arrests in Toronto are equally suspect. Little information has been released and so far the only evidence against the accused is that they engaged in trash talking on internet chatrooms. The explosives on display by the police turned out to be props brought for the photo-op, and there is no evidence that anyone other than an RCMP agent ever had anything resembling explosives.

If the cases are so flimsy, then why the hype? It's not for public safety, but it does attempt to accomplish other important objectives:

First, to build social support for ever-greater state intrusion into our lives. The state creates fear and then paints a picture of a trade-off between freedom and security, demanding that we sacrifice the former for the latter. Of course if we accept this trade-off, we will wind up with neither. First the repression was directed against "foreigners", then the "foreign-born", then "Canadian-born of X descent". It seems we are already pretty far down the slippery slope. Second, it encourages passivity in the face of the war for empire in the Middle East. By demonizing Muslims and Third World peoples anything can be justified - be it invasion, occupation, or war crimes.

War and the restriction of civil liberties go hand in hand, so we must demand an end to both! We should have the right to privacy and security from government witch-hunts just as the Afghani, Iraqi, and Hatian people should have the right to be free of invaders and occupiers!

For additional info on these and other "terrorist" cases, see
William Blum's article
on Counterpunch.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

City Politicians Trying to Hike Own Pay

Toronto city council's Policy and Finance Comittee is pushing forward a proposal to raise the salaries of all councillors and the mayor, to be decided on mext week. David Miller, Howard Moscoe and a host of other municipal politcians are publicly supporting this move. Presently a Toronto councillor salary is 87,000 (around three times the average Canadian income) and the mayor's salary is 147,856 (around five times the average Canadian's income). The self-serving rationale being offered by the mayor and councillors is that such a move is necessary in order to attract talent to the positions. This is an outrageous claim as these positions are supposed to be a public service, not a position for personal advancement at the public expense. In reality this is nothing more than a display of these politicians culture of entitlement.

Wage Still Too Low! Rent Still Too High!

Canadian politics seem to have been dominated by a few, select issues in the last couple of years. While these social topics get played up by media and others, the basic issues that affect most people get little attention.

Take for example rent and pay. Every person in Toronto, and indeed in World, needs a place to live and a way to pay for it. For too long, working people in Toronto have been faced with the dilemma of having to pay exorbitant rents on low wages.

Since both of these rent and wages are dependant on government policy in Ontario, as the provincial government sets the minimum wages and sets how much rent can be increased by (or can order rents to be frozen, meaning not increased), it is almost astounding that there has been so little mention of these issues in the media or by the mainstream political parties at election time or elsewhere.

However, it isn’t that surprising when realizing how the lack of public spotlight on these issues has lead to making working people poorer. During the early years of the Harris Conservatives, a lot of noise was made (and with justification) about the increases in rents that were taking place. A report by the Canadian Mortgage and
Housing Corporation in 2003 revealed that between 1993 – 2003, rents had increased
41% overall in the GTA. One can certainly assume that this figure is higher, since this report was based on figures voluntarily submitted by landlords!

Similarly, many pointed to the lack of increase to the already too low minimum wage throughout this period, which remained at a measly $6.75/ hr. The Liberals took advantage of the anger around the affect that these issues were having on working people and promised to bring solutions. In reality though, they have continued the policies that people in Ontario voted them to overturn.

The Liberals have refused to institute rent freezes, have cut into social assistance and have not addressed the issue of living wages for many workers and their families.
Minimum wage isn’t only an issue for those who make it, as a low minimum wage depresses the wages of the rest of the population. While an estimated 621 000 people in Canada work on or below a minimum wage, more than 1.2 Million workers in Ontario worked in jobs that paid below the poverty level in 2000.

McGuinty and his cronies argue that their meager increases to the minimum wage, which will be up to $8/hr by the end of 2008, are a solution to this problem. Their math doesn’t add up! Earning $8/hr for 40hrs per week, equals a before-tax total of $320 dollars per week. This would mean that the gross amount of money earned by a worker on minimum wage for a month would be $1280 before taxes.

With huge waiting lists for subsidized housing in the City and with the average cost of a two bedroom apartment at $1027 per month, there are thousands of Toronto families living cheque to cheque. In a 2005 submission to the government, the Vanier Institute of the Family said the minimum wage in now “not even close” to being a living wage, and added that “even two minimum wages in a household will not protect its children from the short-term and long-term consequences of poverty.”

Indeed, taking into account the average cost of a two bedroom apartment and factoring in minimum $524 grocery allowance needed by a family according to Toronto Public Health, a $99.75 MetroPass to commute to work, plus ‘luxuries’ such as clothes and home supplies, a living wage cannot be lower that $14/hr!

Implementing an actual living wage has a positive ripple effect on the economy, as people have more disposable income to spend. Even many economist agree that this is will have a positive effect on the economy. So why is it that there has been so little action on this? Truth is companies have an interest in keeping wages down, and keeping people poor. Having low minimum wages coupled with unemployment means that overall wages can be kept low, and people will still work for them because they need to try and provide for themselves and their families. In short, low minimum wages means more profits for big businesses and the people who own them.

Moreover, it must be said that most politicians either have no idea what the reality of most working people is, or simply don’t care. This is even reflected in the bureaucracies of the state. In a report on poverty, the Chief Statistician of Canada declared that in terms of income, “being significantly worse off than the average does not necessarily mean that one is poor.”

A huge portion of working people, particularly those in cities and immigrants, do not vote and are not the sources of campaign donations for the elections campaigns of those sitting in Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill. With City elections around the corner, and Provincial elections next year, those of us who know this reality need to create movements that will ensure that these issues are front and center.

Rents must be immediately frozen. Minimum wage must be increased to living wage levels of no less than $14/hr in order to actually address to the main problems that working people face every day!

Climate Change: The Real Threat to Our "National Security"

The science is in: climate change is real, it’s caused by man-made pollution, and the impacts could be catastrophic on a global level, up to and including the destruction of human civilization. Yet despite this threat the Conservatives plan to do even less than the Liberals!

Instead of vigorously implementing the Kyoto Protocol, a modest international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels, the Harper regime has proposed a vague program of voluntary, non-binding (and therefore toothless) “targets” in cooperation with “industry” and the provinces. This strategy, despite its promotion as a “Made In Canada” solution, is actually straight out of the policy book of George W. Bush. While the Conservatives love to point out that the US has had lower increases in emissions than Canada in recent years, they neglect to mention that much of our rise in emissions comes from increased extraction of oil and natural gas for export back to the US.

To understand the government’s lack of concern, look at who suffers the most immediately due to climate change. It’s not the people who finance the politicians’ election campaigns. It won’t be the CEOs of the oil and gas companies, nor the ad agencies that encourage endless consumption as a means to personal fulfillment.
They are not the ones living in substandard housing that gets decimated by extreme weather, or get E-coli poisoning from contaminated water, or die prematurely due to poor air quality. The people who set the government’s priorities exist in a highly sheltered and custom-made environment, able to afford the best air conditioners and water filters, organic food at triple the normal price, and flights to vacation beach resorts unspoiled by toxic waste dumping. They have made sure that the costs of their polluting has been dumped on working people. It is these narrow interests that Harper wants to “cooperate” with in setting our country’s response to climate change.

The good news is that climate crisis can be solved. Our society has the tools available to fix the problem. Wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal power are hardly new technologies. Neither is the streetcar, bus, or subway. Combining already existing technologies with a commitment to sustainable urban planning, higher efficiency standards in industry, buildings, and consumer products can drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions well beyond the targets set by Kyoto. What is needed is an anti-imperialist environmental mass movement capable of forcing such changes.

The environment is a national security issue not Afghanistan! Implement
Kyoto as a first step!

Canada’s Role in Afghanistan

Stephen Harper’s government is desperately trying to justify the war in Afghanistan, claiming that we are in Afghanistan to “defend our national interests, ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs, and help Afghanistan rebuild” (presumably by destroying it more?). As usual the corporate media bombards us daily with reassurances that Canada should remain in Afghanistan and that it is playing a noble role. The truth could not be further from those claims.

In reality neither Canada, nor the other invading NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Alliance) powers are wanted in Afghanistan. The Afghani people have expressed their discontent through continued resistance in the countryside and multiple uprisings in Kabul, triggered by abuses by foreign soldiers and the fact that Canada is helping prop up a puppet warlord drug regime. These uprisings have been violently repressed by the U.S., Canada and other foreign powers.

This war represents Canada’s participation in George W. Bush’s “war on terror”. Pretensions of rendering humanitarian services are a secondary window dressing to what is in fact a combat mission. Canadian troops are being sent to Afghanistan in order to free up American soldiers for the continuing war in Iraq. The U.S. government considers Afghanistan important because it has sought for years to build key oil pipelines from neighbouring Turkmenistan (part of the Caspian Sea Basin which is estimated to contain as much oil as Saudi Arabia) through Afghanistan. Picking up on this Harper is cynically throwing away more Afghani and Canadian lives to angle for a piece of that market for Canadian based oil and gas companies.

To complete this aim, Canada and other powers are propping up an unpopular puppet leader in Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul and attempting to expand this colonial government by recruiting drug warlords in the countryside. The thugs of these warlords are then referred to here in the press as the “Afghan Security Forces”. All for oil pipelines and the continued foreign occupation of Iraq, Stephen Harper is willing to sacrifice the lives of countless thousands in this escalating role as an unwanted occupying power in collaboration with George W. Bush.

Harper’s claims that Canada must not back down from its commitments are cynical and wholly unbelievable, as he had no problem canceling the popular commitment to both the national childcare program and Kyoto. In reality there was no commitment from the Canadian people to this war. We were never consulted. The Liberals and now the Conservatives have simply thrown us into this mess without one iota of public consultation and the NDP has voted to stay as well. It’s fallen to us to raise our voices: Canadian troops out of Afghanistan now!

Who’s Who in the Harper Regime: a people’s guide

Despite the “modern” and “inclusive” image the Conservatives tried to push during the elections, Harper’s cabinet is overall rich, white, rural and male. It is unlikely any of these people have ever had to worry about paying the rent or how they were going to pay off their student loans since they come from backgrounds of wealth and priviledge: lawyers, bureaucrats, CEOs, businessmen and corporate flunkies. Let’s take a closer look at a select few of the Conservative Party’s “best and brightest”:

Minister of International Trade
A former bureaucrat and CEO of a bank, airport, and logging company, Emerson revealed both his own lack of principles and the minimal differences between the Liberals and Conservatives when he jumped ship to Harper government immediately after the election, keeping the same cabinet position he had under Martin. This from the man who less than a year ago referred to the Tories as “blatantly opportunistic, partisan and misleading the Canadian people.”

Minister of Public Works
A wealthy banker, lawyer, and backroom Conservative organizer in Quebec, Fortier couldn’t get elected to the House of Commons so Harper appointed Fortier as a minister and Senator, meaning the person in charge of the multi-billion dollar Public Works ministry won’t have to face questioning by opposition politicians in the parliament. So much for Harper’s talk of “democratic accountability.”

Minister of Health
Clement got his start as a conservative student “activist” when he invited the ambassador of apartheid South Africa to speak at the University of Toronto. He went on to play a key role in drafting Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution”. His role as health minister in the Tory government earned him the nickname “Two Tier Tony” for his support for the privatization of health care, closing of public hospitals, and laying off thousands of nurses right before the SARS crisis.

Minister of Public Safety
The person now in charge of the government’s secret police (RCMP and CSIS) believes that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as humans. Day showed his diplomatic skills when he refused to send condolences on the death of Yasser Arafat because David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, speculated (without foundation) that the Palestinian leader may have died of AIDS. Day calls himself “pro-life” but he criticized the then Martin government for not joining in the US’ bloody war of bombing and occupation in Iraq. His greatest achievement was turning the Alliance Party into a laughingstock during the 2000 federal elections with his awkward media stunts. Anyone remember the jet-ski incident?

Minister of Finance
One of the most right-wing members of the former Mike Harris provincial government, Flaherty oversaw budgets that slashed services to working families while giving massive tax cuts to the rich. During the 2002 PC leadership campaign Flaherty proposed throwing the homeless in jail, tax credits for private school tuition to undermine public education, and privatizing the LCBO.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Solberg’s qualifications? He owns a meat packing plant in south eastern Alberta, an almost entirely white rural riding. This means that not only does he have no experience with the issues that immigrants face, he also won’t have to face the backlash of outraged constituents directly impacted if his policies hurt newcomers to Canada.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
A former lawyer and Minister of Labour in Manitoba, Toews is known for his anti-worker, proprivatization policies. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to violating elections laws by overspending during his 1999 provincial election campaign. A vocal homophobe, Toews opposes same sex marriage and giving gays and lesbians protection under hate crimes laws. He is also against decriminalizing marijuana, so we can look forward to seeing more youth in jail and more tax dollars going to chasing down potheads instead of dealing with real crimes that harm communities.

Minister of the Environment
In a time of climate change, environmental degradation, and the highest rate of species extinction since the dinosaurs, who does Harper pick as the head of the ministry of the environment? An MP straight out of the Alberta oil patch with no record on environmental issues and little experience in general, other than having been an advisor to Ralph Klein’s government (which opposes the Kyoto protocol). Her only claim to fame is for her opposition to providing working families with an affordable national daycare program on the grounds that “working women want to make their own choices, we donʼt need old white guys telling us what to do.” Way to stick up for the sisterhood, Ms. Ambrose.

Minister of Defense
Former occupation: Lobbyist for the arms industry, including such defense contractors as Airbus Military, United Defense, General Dynamics Canada and BAE Systems. Current job: in charge of “rebuilding” the military (in other words buying guns and bombs from the same people he used to work for so that Canada’s military will be better equipped to help the USA occupy Third World countries). Harper is against politicians becoming lobbyists, but lobbyists becoming politicians is apparently just fine.


Almost three years ago, the people of Toronto elected a mayor who projected himself as the saviour for communities who suffered under the Federal Liberal, Provincial Conservatives and Mel Lastman crooks. Not only were we promised an end to corruption, but also social housing, improved transit and more. Three years later, with another Municipal election looming at the end of the year, what exactly did Mayor Miller do for us?

Let’s look at the track record.

Organizations such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) have pointed out that while having been elected as the ‘people’s mayor’, the one who would focus attention to improvement of services and programs for communities, Miller has instead cozied-up to the very people he was supposed to be against. While drop-ins such as the one at 60 Richmond have closed, no new social housing units have been built in the City at all. On the contrary, the shelter by-laws that limit the amount of beds in shelter within given communities as well as gentrification projects such as the Regent Park re-development will ensure that Miller’s legacy will leave Toronto with less housing and shelter for poor and working class people.

Over the last couple of years, there have not only been significant Police scandals involving corruption and abuse, but also extreme cases of police brutality. In some of these cases, the Police have even murdered. Such was the case for example of Jeffrey Reodica, a Filipino youth who was shot in the back by undercover police. Despite this, Miller’s City Hall has rewarded these unprecendented abuses with the largest ever increase in Police funding for the City of Toronto.

Miller campaigned hard on affordable Public Transit. Over the last couple of years, TTC fares have increased dramatically and are facing another hike in April. We are told that despite the City’s $8 Billion budget, there is no money and so this is necessary. The reality is that the Mayor and his City Hall have chosen to increase their revenue on the backs of the poor and working class through property tax increases, fares and other user fees. With these revenues, they have chosen to prioritize massive increases in dollars to a repressive and increasingly corrupt Police force, instead of social services and community programs that act as preventatives to crime.

Some say that he can deliver on those social promises with another term.
This is highly doubtful if we look at who will be running his re-election campaign.
Among those who will be organizing to get David Miller re-elected are former Conservative cabinet Minister David Crombie, former Ontario Liberal Premier David Peterson and John Laschinger, Belinda Stronach’s Conservative Leadership race organizer as campaign director.

Miller has made it evident that the interest of working people are not his priority.
With almost 10 months until the election and no alternative candidate who even pretends to care about working people and the poor, people have to build to show that they want substance, not empty promises.

Regent Park: Renaissance or Rip Off?

400 Households have been demolished and almost 1200 residents have been relocated. With the new developer yet to be announced as of publication, it isn’t clear whether the new Stephen Harper government will even follow through on the previous arrangements for Federal funding to urban centres. That’s no small problem when one considers that the entire redevelopment plan concocted by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and City Hall, depends on 90 million dollars in Provincial and Federal funding. Many remain justifiably skeptical about the motives behind this. As it stands, the whole plan will actually reduce the number of rent geared to income units in Regent, and turn over sections of the Park to private condo developers and commercial businesses.

The first phase is no exception as most of the units built will be for market rate sale. While the idea of a new look and some building upgrades has appeal, was it really necessary to sneak in a back door partial gentrification? Is this the pill we are supposed to swallow just in order to get building disrepair addressed? It’s high time, and still not too late for an organized community response.