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Archive for September, 2016

REGINA VOTES 2016: 6 QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES

Posted by strattof on September 23, 2016

  1. Do you think Regina needs an anti-racism campaign?

Regina is in denial. Many of us, including a number of our prominent officials, believe Regina is not a racist city. How then do we account for the following?

THE FREQUENT OCCURRENCE OF INDIVIDUAL ACTS OF RACISM—for example, racist abuse shouted out a car window.

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM—that is racist policies and practices that are embedded in institutions and work to maintain conditions of inequality. For example:

  • Segregation: Regina is an extremely segregated city, with its primarily Indigenous North Central neighbourhood, “Canada’s worst neighbourhood,” according to Maclean’s, cut off from the city’s more affluent areas.
  • Inadequate Housing: 37% of First Nations households in Regina live in inadequate or overcrowded housing.
  • Child Poverty: Regina has an Indigenous child poverty rate of 41%, the 2nd highest in Canada.
  • Unemployment: The unemployment rate for First Nations in Regina is more than three times that of the general population.
  • Police Surveillance: Excessive police surveillance is the norm in North Central. Racial profiling is a city-wide practice.
  • Lack of Representation: Regina has no Indigenous City Coucillors. Yet Indigenous people make up about 10% of Regina’s population.
  1. How would you address Regina’s affordable rental housing crisis?

The good news is that Regina’s rental vacancy rate has improved, rising from 1.8% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2015. The bad news is that rents too have increased—by 84% between 2005 and 2015.

As a result:

  • Regina has a growing population of homeless people.
  • Many Regina residents have to choose between paying the rent and buying food.

While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are things it can do. For example:

  • Require developers to include affordable rental housing in their plans or pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Identify empty buildings that can be converted into affordable housing and, with the help of the business community, NGOs, and volunteer citizens, convert them into affordable rental housing.
  • Develop a program to build 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year, with matching funding from the province.
  • If City Council can spend $73 million of Regina property taxes on a new stadium, it can spend $73 million on affordable housing. 
  1. If elected, what will you do to make Regina Police Service more democratically accountable?

The Board of Police Commissioners is supposed to scrutinize the conduct of Regina Police Service (RPS). In fact, it functions mainly as a police cheerleading squad.

The Board has five members, three of whom are City Councillors, including the Mayor who chairs the board.

The current chair’s standard response to any criticism of the RPS is to say it is “the best police service in Canada.” Much of the public portion of each and every board meeting is dedicated to accepting hundreds of “letters of appreciation”—notes of praise from Regina citizens. Criticism is not permitted.

What is needed is a robust level of civilian oversight.

  1. Do you think Regina should adopt a living wage?

In May, City Council voted to delay until 2017 any decision on a motion that the city adopt a living wage policy for city employees. In the words of Mayor Michael Fougere, such a policy is “premature.”

A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each need to earn to meet the family’s basic needs and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is calculated to be $16.46 per hour.

By contrast, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage—10.72 per hour as of October 1—is a poverty level wage.

Many US cities and some Canadian cities, including Port Coquitlam and New Westminster, have adopted a living wage.

Regina should follow suit. After all, our city pays 700 city employees in senior positions $100,000 or more! (Mayor Fougere is a member of this six-figure salary club.) The living wage should also be extended to cover employees of firms contracting with the city and then to all workers in Regina and the province.

  1. Where do you stand on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline?

The Energy East pipeline will cut right through Regina in the Harbour Landing area. It will carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil a day.

  • TransCanada has a poor safety record. A spill would have a devastating impact on our city.
  • The pipeline will expand Canadian tar sands production, thus driving dangerous climate change.
  • 2016 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded.

Toronto City Council passed a resolution banning the transport of tar sands oil through the city by rail or pipeline. Mayors from the entire Montreal metropolitan area have spoken out against the Energy East pipeline project.

Regina needs to follow these good examples.

  1. Do you support Regina’s adoption of the Blue Dot Movement’s Declaration of Citizens’ Right to a Healthy Environment?

The Blue Dot refers to planet earth as seen from outer space. The Movement is an initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation.

When the Blue Dot motion calling on the City of Regina to respect citizens’ right to a healthy environment came before Regina City Council in January, Council voted to postpone making a decision.

What kind of City Council does not want its city’s citizens to have a healthy environment? 125 other Canadian municipal governments have already passed the Blue Dot resolution.

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WORLD PEACE DAY 2016

Posted by strattof on September 16, 2016

Wednesday September 21 is the day declared by the United Nations as International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. Established in 1981, it is a day devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people.”

This year, World Peace Day has a special meaning for Canadians:

  • Canada is directly involved in two international wars: Iraq-Syria and Ukraine.
  • Canada is sending troops to Latvia as part of a new NATO force.
  • Canada sells weapons to many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US.
  • Last month, Canada voted against a UN plan to ban nuclear weapons.

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR PEACE?

P   E   A   C   E 

WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE OVERCOMES THE LOVE OF POWER THE WORLD WILL KNOW PEACE–Jimi Hendrix 

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or under the holy name of liberty or democracy?Mahatma Gandhi 

It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.–Albert Einstein 

Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.–Harry Patch, Britian’s last surviving World War I veteran 

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.–Martin Luther King 

All we are saying is give peace a chance.–John Lennon 

You can bomb the world to pieces but you can’t bomb the world to peace.–Michael Franti 

J   U   S   T   I   C   E

Our motto should be: let us make peace so that we can concentrate on the really important work that needs to be done. That is, alleviating the plight of the poor and the defenceless, for as long as most of humanity feels the pain of poverty we all remain prisoners.–Nelson Mandela 

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.–George Monbiot

W E   A R E   T H E   9 9 %–Occupy Movement

Let us all eat cake!–Making Peace Vigil

He who sleeps on a full stomach whilst his neighbour goes hungry is not one of us.–The Prophet Muhammad 

Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. House the homeless.–from the Christian corporal works of mercy 

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.–Dr. Seuss 

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.–Arundhati Roy

MARKING WORLD PEACE DAY

 RAISING OF PEACE FLAG

You are invited to the raising of the peace flag in front of City Hall, Tuesday September 20, 10 am. The ceremony will include a peace prayer and a peace song. EVERYONE IS WELCOME.

MAYORS FOR PEACE

Mayors for Peace is an initiative of the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It works for the abolition of nuclear weapons. As of September 1 2016, 7,132 cities had joined the movement, including 105 cities in Canada.

Regina’s Mayor was invited to join in April. Four months later, he still has the proposal “under consideration.”

KEEP SPACE FOR PEACE

Attend a public discussion of “Keep Space for Peace”—or Why Canada should not join the US ballistic missile defence system: Saturday October 8, 2 pm, University of Regina, Research and Innovation Centre, Room 208.

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ROBIN HOOD, WHERE ARE YOU?

Posted by strattof on September 14, 2016

Robin Hood is known for robbing the rich to give to the poor. The Saskatchewan government is Robin Hood in reverse. It robs the poor to give to the rich.

Earlier this month, the Sask Party government announced cuts to Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID), “an income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities.” 2,700 people will see their already-meagre incomes reduced even further.

When the cuts come into effect, a single person on the SAID program living in Regina will receive $1,064 as a general living allowance and up to $262 as a rental supplement, making a maximum total of $1,326. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Regina is $918.

Rather than cutting SAID, the Sask Party government could have raised taxes on the wealthier classes.

ROBIN HOOD, SASKATCHEWAN NEEDS YOU!

SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM AKA MINISTER OF SOCIAL SERVICES

The claims made by the now former Minister of Social Services, Donna Harpauer, in defence of the SAID cuts are worthy of the main villain of the Robin Hood legend, the Sheriff of Nottingham, a mean-minded schemer and representative of the power elite.

EQUITY & FAIRNESS

These are the key terms used by Harpauer, by which she meant decreasing SAID benefits so they match those of programs with inferior benefits.

  • Rather than a race to the bottom, why not increase the benefits of all those on income support programs?
  • In the name of equity and fairness, why doesn’t Donna Harpauer try living on $1,326 a month?

ELIMINATING DUPLICATION

This has been another of Harpaurer’s frequent claims: that the cuts will “eliminate duplication.” Is “duplication” the right word when SAID recipients (people with disabilities) have only $1,326 a month to live on? “Meanness” seems more accurate.

AVAILABILITY OF RENTAL HOUSING

Harpauer was at least accurate in her claim that rental units are more available now than they were several years ago. What she didn’t say is that rents in Saskatchewan have doubled since 2006 and are still increasing. The average monthly rent for even a bachelor suite in Regina is $706.

The Sask Party’s solution to the province’s growing homelessness problem is to buy homeless people a one-way bus ticket to Vancouver. What we really need are more affordable (social) rental housing units!

ADVISORY GROUP ON POVERTY REDUCTION

Harpauer must have gotten desperate! Her ultimate defence of the SAID cuts was that they were recommended by the Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction.

Read the Advisory Group’s report and see for yourself that Harpauer’s claim is UTTER NONSENSE!

OFF THE BACKS OF THE POOR

CUTS TO OTHER SOCIAL PROGRAMS

SAID is not the only social and/or income support program being cut by the Sask Party government. For example:

SASKATCHEWAN EMPLOYMENT SUPPLEMENT

This program supplements the income of low income families with children, thus helping the working poor.

SENIORS’ DRUG PLAN

Low-income seniors now have to pay $25 for every prescription over $25, an increase of $5 per prescription. This is the Sask Party government’s second increase to the cost of prescriptions. When the plan was first introduced, the cost was $15 per prescription.

ABORIGINAL COURT WORKER PROGRAM

This program which helps Indigenous people navigate the colonial (in)justice system, has been cut by a third of its funding.

MINIMUM WAGE

On October 1, the minimum wage in Saskatchewan will be raised from $10.50 to $10.72 per hour. This measly 22 cent increase won’t do much to help low-income earners’ frail standard of living. In the name of equity and fairness, Saskatchewan MLAs should try to live on the minimum wage.

WHAT WOULD ROBIN HOOD DO?

  1. Raise taxes on the rich.
  2. Increase income support payments so that everyone in the province has an income above the poverty line.
  3. Adopt a Living Wage policy. A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each needs to earn in order to meet the family’s basic requirements and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is $16.46 an hour.
  4. Expand quality affordable housing.
  5. Implement a Saskatchewan Anti-Poverty Act which recognizes in enforceable legislation the right of everyone to an adequate income, adequate housing, and fair wages for a decent living.

TAKE ACTION

  • Sign the STOP CUTS TO SAID petition. We have copies with us.
  • Ask former Minister of Social Services Donna Harpaurer to try living on $1,326 a month in the name of equity and fairness: humboldtwatrousmla@sasktel.net or 306-787-3661.
  • Present Premier Brad Wall with the same challenge. Also let him know you want him to be more like Robin Hood: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Ask the newly appointed Minister of Social Services, Tina Beaudry-Mellor, to cancel the cuts to SAID and to increase support payments so that everyone in the province has an income above the poverty line: admin@ReginaUniversityMLA.ca or 306-787-7550.
  • Send the following statement to your MLA: “I challenge all elected members of the Legislature to vote to cut their own salaries in order to sufficiently fund the level of maintenance promised to persons with disabilities.”

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PEACEKEEPING: IS THIS WHAT CANADA SHOULD BE DOING?

Posted by strattof on September 8, 2016

Many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of Canadian identity. This association of Canada with peacekeeping began in the 1950s when Lester B. Pearson, who later became Prime Minister, suggested to the UN that it establish a peacekeeping force. In 1957, Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for proposing the idea.

Over the next 40 years, Canada participated in more UN peace-keeping missions than any other country. In the early 2000s, however, Canada began to direct its participation to US- and NATO-led missions, as, for example, in Afghanistan and Libya.

Now, the Trudeau government wants to “renew Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping operations.” In August, the Trudeau government announced it would commit 600 troops, 150 police, and $450 million for “peace and stabilization operations.” Also in August, the Trudeau government sent Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on a fact-finding mission to Africa to identify the government’s priorities for peacekeeping missions.

Given this reengagement with peacekeeping, now might be a good time to consider questions such as the following:

  • What exactly is “UN peacekeeping”?
  • How is it related to peacemaking?
  • What is its relationship to war-making?

PEACEKEEPING = WAR-MAKING

The concept of peacemaking, even going back to the 1950s, when Lester Pearson first proposed the idea, has been problematic. It seems to be a clear instance of Orwellian doublethink: “War is peace.”

  • UN peacekeeping is carried out by military personnel—that is soldiers who have been trained to kill.
  • These soldiers have at their disposal all kinds of military hardware, including machine guns and armoured vehicles.
  • The UN peacekeeping principle of “Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate” leaves plenty of room for the use of force.

In Orwell’s 1984, doublethink—the act of “holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them” as correct—is a tool used by the ruling elite to control the minds of citizens. Even though Oceania is endlessly at war, citizens believe their country is working for peace.

ENDLESS WAR

Canada has been endlessly at war since 2001: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria. While the Trudeau government sounds less belligerent than its predecessor, it is, sadly, making as much, if not more war. For example:

  • The Trudeau government extended Canada’s military mission in Iraq and Syria for another 12 months and tripled the number of troops on the ground.
  • It has committed to sending troops to Latvia as part of a new NATO force to deter “Russian aggression.”
  • It approved a $15 billion deal to sell combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
  • It recently voted against a UN plan to ban nuclear weapons.

ENDLESS WAR: WHO BENEFITS?

  • War is big business. It is very profitable for Canadian arms manufacturers, making them $12.6 billion in annual revenues, approximately 50% of which comes from international sales.
  • Who loses? Ordinary citizens everywhere. 

PEACEMAKING

Peacemaking means working to prevent or to stop war through non-violent means. It also means working to make war obsolete. It requires what the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace calls “a transformation of values…from violence and warfighting to nonviolence and peace.”

What would a peacemaking Canada look like? A peacemaking Canada would:

  • Make the diplomatic resolution of conflicts its top international priority—rather than rushing off to war under US- or NATO-led missions or in UN military interventions, otherwise known as “peacekeeping missions.”
  • Stop supporting the manufacture and export of weapons—such as the combat vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia.
  • Get out of NATO—a US-led, aggressive military alliance, that perpetuates violence across the globe.
  • Work for the elimination of nuclear weapons—weapons whose existence make nuclear war all too likely.
  • Replace the Ministry of Defence with a Ministry of Peace—a ministry that would specialize in preventative diplomacy, non-violent conflict resolution, and peace research.

TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE 

CANADA FOR PEACE

  • Let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want Canada to become a peacemaker:: trudeau@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0253.
  • Send the same message to Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan: Sajjan@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-7052.

MAYORS FOR PEACE

Mayors for Peace is an initiative of the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It works for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

As of Seotenber 1 2016, 7,132 cities had joined the movement, including 105 cities in Canada.

Regina’s Mayor was invited to join in April. Four months later, he still has the proposal “under consideration.”

PEACE SYMBOL CONTEST

Enter the Peace Symbol Contest: Create a peace symbol on any surface: for example, a sidewalk using chalk; your garden using flowers or rocks; a cake using icing. Take a photo of your peace symbol and email it to makingpeace@sasktel.net  You will, in return, receive a peace gift and become eligible to win a major peace prize.  Enter soon. The deadline is midnight September 21.

 

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HAPPY LABOUR DAY!

Posted by strattof on September 1, 2016

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 today’s workers: lack of respect for workers’ rights; growing unemployment; dangerous workplaces; and an inadequate minimum wage.

LACK OF RESPECT FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS

In January of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the Saskatchewan government’s Essential Services Act was unconstitutional. The law as written took away the right to strike from many workers, and thus weakened their ability to bargain freely with their employers. In consultation with groups representing the labour movement, the government was forced to re-write its bill to conform with the Supreme Court decision.

Just this week, groups representing the affected workers appeared in court in Regina to argue for damages arising from the government’s original decision not to respect workers’ rights.

The problems are not limited to Saskatchewan’s workers. Ontario employs the largest number of temporary agricultural workers in Canada under a 50-year-old program called the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program (as well as the Temporary Foreign Workers program). Under this program, workers are bound to a single employer, cannot bargain freely, have ineffective means for addressing workplace safety issues, and cannot expect their employers to bargain with them in good faith. They have no prospect of gaining permanent-resident status.

As a result, these are among the most vulnerable workers in Canada. A review of the conditions of these workers is promised for the fall, but the pressure must be put on the federal government to see their rights are respected.

DANGEROUS WORKPLACES

In 2015, 32 Saskatchewan workers were killed on the job or due to workplace injuries or illnesses. Many more became ill or injured.

Just this month in our province, there have been three workplace deaths of young people in their 20s:

  • A 21-year-old construction worker died of injuries at the site of the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
  • A 27-year-old mining worker died at the Agrium Potash mine in Vanscoy.
  • A 29-year-old worker died at an oilfield site near Alameda.

All workers deserve to work in safe and healthy workplaces. Families and friends should not see a loved one leave the house for the last time in the morning after losing them to a workplace injury.

INCREASING UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment continues to rise in Saskatchewan. According to Stats Can, in July, there were 38,600 unemployed people in Saskatchewan, a number greater than the population of Moose Jaw. This represents an additional 5,600 unemployed people over the previous year.

The unemployment rate rose from 5.4% to 6.3% from June to July, while in June of this year, the number of EI recipients had risen by 20% over the same month in the previous year.

While some new jobs are being created, the Sask Trends Monitor reports that many of these are of lower quality (low-paying, part-time) than the jobs that have been lost.

The government has placed a large amount of the blame on falling oil prices, but maintaining an economy based on cycles of boom and bust contributes to economic insecurity of workers just as poor-quality, low-paying jobs do. We must work to build an economy in which all workers enjoy economic stability and security.

AN ADEQUATE MINIMUM WAGE?

  1. Beginning in October of 2016, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will rise by 22 cents to $10.72, placing it among the lowest in Canada.
  2. Across North America, cities, states, and provinces are joining the $15 and Fairness campaign, which seeks to ensure a minimum wage of $15 per hour as a first step towards ensuring that all workers can have a livable wage.

TAKE ACTION

  • Endorse the $15 and Fairness campaign at http://www.15andfairness.org/take-action/#endorse
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you want Saskatchewan to have the highest (not the lowest) minimum wage in Canada: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Attend the LABOUR DAY FAMILY PICNIC, Monday September 5, noon – 3:30 pm, Legislative Building: Sponsored by Regina Trade Unions. Free food, entertainment, and fun!

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