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Archive for September, 2012

REGINA VOTES OCTOBER 24 2012

Posted by strattof on September 22, 2012

5 QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES

1. Do you think there should be a referendum on the stadium?

The total cost of the proposed new stadium, including loan interest and maintenance over a 30-year period, will be $675 million. This amount does not include cost overruns.

The main burden of paying for the stadium will fall on Regina taxpayers who will be dinged for at least $300 million. According to the City’s funding plan, this amount will come from an annual 0.45% increase in property taxes over a 10-year period.

Without consultation, the current City Council is substantially increasing property taxes, as well as taking on a sizable debt, to fund the stadium.

In 1977, the last time Regina taxpayers were asked to put a considerable amount of money into the stadium, there was a referendum.

2. What would you do to solve Regina’s affordable housing crisis?

Key Facts:

  • Regina’s rental vacancy rate is the lowest in Canada: 0.6%.  
  • In 2010, over 3,400 people used one or more of the city’s shelter services. Many others double-bunked, couch-surfed, or lived in overcrowded unhealthy conditions.
  • The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $817.  A full-time minimum wage earner, making $1,649 a month, cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 a month. Affordable housing, as defined by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is 30% or less of a household’s before-tax income.

Ask the current City Council to do something about Regina’s affordable housing crisis, and the response is always “Housing is not a municipal responsibility.” While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are, in fact, many things it can do. For example:

If City Council can spend $300 million worth of Regina taxpayers’ money on a new stadium, it can spend $300 million on affordable housing. How many affordable housing units can we get for one stadium? At a cost of $150,000 per unit, $300 million will get us 2,000 affordable housing units.

  • City Council can require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • To protect rental housing, City Council can pass a demolition bylaw prohibiting demolitions of low-rent apartment buildings until the supply and availability of rental housing returns to a healthy state.

NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN STADIUM PLAN

The new stadium is part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Both city and provincial officials will tell you this plan includes affordable housing. But it does not.

What the plan calls for is “up to 700 new affordable, market-rate housing units.” As everyone knows, the market-rate for housing in Regina is anything but affordable.

3. If elected, what will you do to ensure the Regina Public Library Board operates in an open and democratic manner?

The Library Board has big plans for Central Library. But it is refusing to be open about them. Indeed, there have been no public consultations since August 2009.

In the meantime, the Board has submitted an application to the P3 Canada fund. The intention seems to be to have Harvard Developments construct a large multi-use facility on the land where Central Library now stands and then lease back some of the space to the Library. The rest of the space would be allocated to private businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, and hotels.

Regina Public Libraries are public property, paid for and owned by the citizens of Regina. We must be involved in any changes that are to be made to our libraries.  

4. What is your position on public-private partnerships (P3s)?

Earlier this year, City Council approved a change to its purchasing policy, allowing for public-private partnerships (P3s) to be used for city projects.

  • P3s are a form of privatization. They involve a transfer of public property and services into private hands.
  • P3s cost more. In P3 schemes, the public pays for the service and the profits that must be paid to stockholders.
  • Under P3s, quality of service is often compromised because the profit motive takes priority.

5. Should the cosmetic use of pesticides be banned in Regina?

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, “Research linking pesticides to serious health issues is significant and growing. Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, brain, prostate, lung, pancreatic, stomach, kidney and other forms of cancer have all been linked to pesticides.” 

Over 150 Canadian municipalities have heeded this warning and banned pesticides. But not Regina. Here the pesticide lobby has more authority and influence than the Canadian Cancer Society.  

ALL CANDIDATES FORUM

Tuesday, September 25, 7-9 pm: Regina Christian School Gym, Albert Street at 23rd Avenue 

The event will have two parts: ●Start at 7pm with questions for the mayoral candidates from the audience. ●At 8pm, each candidate for Mayor or Council will be allocated a table, so that voters can speak to the candidates informally.

Hosted by: Clean Green Regina, Friends of Regina Public Library, Making Peace Vigil, Queen City Tenants Association, Real Food Regina, Regina and District Labour Council, Regina Citizens Public Transit Coalition

The information above is taken from the website of David Loblaw. To see the complete list of candidate debates and forums, go to http://reginaelection.com/7.html

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TREATY 4: 138th ANNIVERSARY

Posted by strattof on September 15, 2012

Saturday, September 15, is the 138th anniversary of Treaty 4. On September 15 1874, Cree and Saulteaux First Nations and the Canadian government signed Treaty 4 at Fort Qu’Appelle. Additional signings occurred in 1875, 1876, and 1877.

Treaty 4 was negotiated by the Canadian government in order to gain land for European settlement, agriculture, and industry, as well as for the transcontinental railway that would run through southern Saskatchewan.

A key demand of the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations was for education. Since the buffalo had nearly vanished from the prairies, they wanted to acquire new tools that would ensure a strong and prosperous future. 

Under Treaty 4, the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations relinquished most of current day southern Saskatchewan. In return, they received small parcels of land, as well as long-term government commitments in a number of areas, including education.

The Treaty Commissioner, Alexander Morris, promised the Treaty would last “as long as the sun shines and the water flows.”

WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE

All southern Saskatchewan residents, whether Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, benefit from Treaty 4. The Scarth Street Mall, where we stand every Thursday, is situated on Treaty 4 land. So too is Mosaic Stadium, Wascana Park, and all the rest of Regina.

For the past 138 years, the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty 4 agreement. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its treaty commitments. Education, “the new buffalo,” as Blair Stonechild terms it, is one of the areas in which the government has broken its treaty promises.

BROKEN PROMISES: EDUCATION

RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1884–1996

Under Treaty 4, the government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead, the government implemented the genocidal residential school system, with the aim of assimilating First Nations into European-Canadian society–of “killing the Indian in the child.”

Attendance at the schools was compulsory for all children aged 6-15. Parents who failed to send their children willingly had their children taken from them forcibly.

Students were required to live on school premises and most had no contact with their families for up to 10 months at a time and sometimes for years. The attempt to force assimilation also involved punishing the children for speaking their own languages or practising their cultures.

All students at residential schools experienced cultural abuse. As is now well known, many students were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. A lesser known fact is that the mortality rate at some schools reached 69%–caused by overcrowding, poor food and sanitation, and a lack of medical care. 

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to First Nations for the residential school system.

RESERVE SCHOOLS: 2012

●Some reserves still do not have schools and children must leave their families and communities to attend school. ●Schools on reserves are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces. ●The federal government typically provides less money for schools and education than do the provinces. When this happens, the provinces usually do not top up federal funding. ●As a result, many First Nations children and youth get an unequal education just because they are First Nations and living on a reserve. 

  • A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children. In Saskatchewan, the funding gap is as high as 40%, according to Education Minister Russ Marchuk.
  • Unlike provincial governments, the federal government does not provide any funding for libraries, computers, special education, extracurricular activities, or the development of culturally-appropriate curricula.
  • Because of underfunding, many First Nations schools are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, and high carbon dioxide levels.

Is it any wonder that the high school graduation rate for on-reserve schools is less than 50%, as compared to 90% for other Canadian schools?

According to the website of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada,The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal peoples enjoy the same education opportunities as other Canadians.”

SHANNEN’S DREAM

Shannen’s Dream is a campaign for safe schools and equal education for First Nations children. It was founded by Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation, who, in her short life, worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children the same educational opportunities as other Canadian children. Tragically, Shannen was killed in a car accident at the age of 15.

TAKE ACTION

  • Find out more about Shannen’s Dream by going to http://www.fncaringsociety.com/shannensdream/   
  • Ask Federal Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, John Duncan, why a child who attends school on a reserve receives 25% less in government funding than a child in a provincial school. Let him know that you want the Canadian government to live up to the claim stated on his ministry’s website: The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal peoples enjoy the same education opportunities as other Canadians:Duncan.J@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-2503.
  • Send the same message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.

“It is unacceptable in Canada that First Nations children cannot attend a safe and healthy school. It is unacceptable in Canada for First Nations education to languish with outdated laws, policies and funding practices that do not support basic standards. It is time for fairness and equity.”–Shawn Atleo, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

“Some Canadian children have more education rights than others.”–Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay

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SHOW SUPPORT FOR REFUGEES

Posted by strattof on September 6, 2012

REFUGEES

A refugee is a person who has left his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group (UN Convention on Refugees).

Canada has a responsibility to welcome refugees who are fleeing persecution or violence, but some recent government decisions have ignored that responsibility:

  • In August of this year, Kimberly Rivera, the first female American War Resister, was ordered to leave Canada for the US, even though she could face harsh penalties for refusing to join the war in Iraq. (CTV News.)
  • In the spring, the government passed Bill C-31, which will allow it to designate certain countries (such as Hungary or Mexico) “safe” countries, from which it will be harder for those fleeing persecution or violence to claim refugee status. (Globe & Mail.)  This, even though the UN identified over 12,800 refugees and asylum seekers originating from Mexico earlier this year, and Amnesty International has documented discrimination, segregation and violence against the minority Roma people, including in Hungary.

The Latest Challenge Cuts to Health Care:

On June 30th, the federal government implemented cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, a program that provides health care to refugee claimants waiting to qualify for provincial health care benefits.

Among the health care services to be cut for some or all refugees were prenatal care for pregnant women, well child care and access to mental health care.

The government’s planned cuts would have hurt some of the world’s most vulnerable people, people who will have just escaped war, violence or famine. (Source: Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care.)

The Public’s Response to Bad Public Policy:

Immediately, medical professionals and ordinary citizens spoke out about the cuts, pointing out that they were bad public policy.  Organizations from the Canadian Medical Association, to the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions, to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, to the Canadian Paediatric Society called for the cuts to be reversed.

Experts pointed out that vulnerable people would suffer from the cuts, and costs to the health care system could actually increase if people were forced to delay needed tests, treatments, screening programs or counseling appointments until their conditions became more serious.

Across Canada, hundreds of people mailed the government envelopes containing 59 cents—the amount students at the Canadian Mennonite University calculated it would cost each citizen to continue the IFHP’s funding.

The government claims its cuts will save it about $20 million/year.  For comparison’s sake, the government spent $28 million this year alone to celebrate the War of 1812.  What are our policy priorities?  Celebrating war, or helping the victims of war and violence who come to Canada for refuge?

CANADA CAN DO BETTER!

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care believes that:

  • Canada’s approach to medically treating refugees should be guided by fairness and sound public health policy; the federal government’s planned changes meet neither criteria;
  • Cutting preventative and primary health care is poor health policy that threatens public safety and increases costs to taxpayers; and
  • The government’s plans to cut health services to refugees residing in this country – some of whom will have just escaped war, violence or famine – is unjust and counter to Canada’s long history of compassion and openness.

ADD YOUR VOICE!

In response to the public outcry at the cuts, the government partially backed down, restoring some funding for some classes of refugees.

Many people, though, will still lack the health care services they need.  Further pressure is needed to help reverse the cuts altogether.

Call or write the Hon. Jason Kenney – Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism – at 613-992-2235 / jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca / Fax – 613-992-1920 to express your opposition to the federal government’s cuts to health care services for refugees.

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HAPPY LABOUR DAY

Posted by strattof on September 3, 2012

Labour Day is an annual holiday to recognize the economic and social achievements of workers. In Canada, it traces its origins to December 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. Since 1894, it has been celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Today, Canadians tend to treat Labour Day as the last holiday weekend of summer. But whether we are barbequing on the patio or cheering on the Riders in the Labour Day Classic, we can take a moment to acknowledge the many accomplishments of Saskatchewan workers. We might also spare a thought for the many challenges faced by the province’s workers, in particular those who work for the minimum wage.

SASKATCHEWAN’S MINIMUM WAGE: THE LOWEST IN CANADA

On Saturday September 1, Alberta will raise its minimum wage to $9.75 an hour, leaving Saskatchewan with the lowest minimum wage in Canada: $9.50 an hour.

Could you live on the minimum wage?

  • A full-time minimum wage earner makes $1,649.20 per month (assuming a 40-hour work-week for 4.34 weeks a month).
  • The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina in April 2012 was $817.
  •  A full-time minimum wage worker cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina, as it would mean spending 49.5% of before-tax income on rent. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “Affordable Housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.
  •  A cashier earning $1,811.30 per month cannot afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. Nor can a security guard earning $2,031.43 per month or a food services supervisor earning $2,395 per month.
  •  The cost of food in Canada rose 2.1% from July 2011 to July 2012. Many minimum wage workers are forced to choose between paying the rent and buying food.   

 WHO WORKS FOR THE MINIMUM WAGE?

The minimum wage was originally implemented in Canada to protect women from being exploited as cheap labour. To this day, it serves as an important tool for protecting vulnerable workers.

  • Approximately 31,000 people, or 7.3% of the labour force, earn the minimum wage or less in Saskatchewan.
  •  60% are women.
  •  38% are between the ages of 25 and 55.
  •  40% work in the retail trade, while 27% work in accommodation and food services.
  •  78% work in permanent jobs.

As Premier Brad Wall keeps reminding us, “Saskatchewan is leading the nation in economic growth.” Why then does Saskatchewan have the lowest minimum wage in Canada?

BOOM AND BUST, OR EXCESSIVE INEQUALITY

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In Saskatchewan, income inequality has increased dramatically over the past three decades, with the wealthiest 10% of families making the greatest gains.  

  • Between 1976 and 2006, the richest 10% of Saskatchewan families increased its share of earnings from 23% to 28% of all earnings in the province. In contrast, the share of earnings of the bottom 50% of families declined from 26% to less than 20%.
  •  In 2006, the richest 10% of Saskatchewan families had after-tax incomes of over $110,000, while the poorest 20% had incomes of less than $17,626.
  •  In 2006, the median income of the poorest 10% of Saskatchewan families was $15,400.
  • In 2006, the poorest 20% of Saskatchewan families received only 6% of all Saskatchewan after-tax income. In contrast, the richest 20% received 40% or 6.5 times as much.

Minimum wages are one of a set of tools in the battle against poverty and excessive inequality. Who would be against raising the minimum wage and at the same time be uncritical of the wages of CEOs?  

A minimum wage worker earns $19,790 a year, while the CEO of PotashCorp takes home over $11 million556 times more than the minimum wage worker.

WHY IS THERE NO MAXIMUM WAGE?

WHAT CONSTITUTES AN ADEQUATE MINIMUM WAGE?

1. For the minimum wage to remain adequate over time, it must be indexed either to inflation – as are other government programs such as Old Age Security and the Canadian Pension Plan. In 2011, the Saskatchewan government rejected the recommendation of the Saskatchewan Minimum Wage Board that the provincial minimum wage be indexed to inflation.

2. However, indexing only works if there is an adequate minimum wage to begin with. One way of achieving adequacy would be to phase in a minimum wage of $11 an hour, which would match Nunavut, which has the highest minimum wage of any province or territory, and then index it to inflation.

TAKE ACTION

  • Find out more about the minimum wage by reading a recent report from the Caledon Institute of Social Policy: Restoring Minimum Wages in Canada. Also read Boom and Bust: The Growing Income Gap in Saskatchewan by Paul Gingrich. Both are available online. Much of the information in this leaflet is taken from these publications.  
  • If you work at a secure job, think about joining with others in a one-hour strike on behalf of minimum wage workers.
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you want Saskatchewan to have the highest (not the lowest) minimum wage in Canada.

‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’–Karl Marx

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