39 posts categorized "poverty"

September 07, 2008

The ABCs of Smart Voting

I want to start out by wishing everyone the best with their campaigns, now that we're into a Federal election.

As regular readers of this blog already know, I will be backing Peterborough federal Liberal candidate Betsy McGregor and Federal Liberal party leader Stéphane Dion, both of whom I consider to be leaders of vision and integrity. (You can catch Dion's fabulous campaign launch via Scott's DiaTribes.)

That said, I also see a lot of good in the campaign messages of the NDP and the Green Party; and I would be happy to see either of them form a coalition government with the Liberals, if the Liberals are unable to form a majority government on their own. Progressive is progressive is progressive -- is not conservative.

WayoutMy campaign bottom line?

A positive outcome for me in this election, both locally and nationally, will be what Danny Williams has been campaigning for since his part of the country was betrayed last year by a Harper government broken promise: "Anything but Conservative."

A - B - C.

It's so simple and so logical -- and so essential.

Here's why.

I hardly recognize Canada anymore -- this after just 2 1/2 years of Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) rule. Imagine what our country will be like if they achieve another minority or (I hate to even type this) a majority government.

We'd be handing them a license to continue on their current path -- a path that has seen them

Many political observers have raised concerns about the Tories' future plans for the CBC (e.g. whether it will continue down the slippery slope to privatization (we've already seen the CBC TV have to resort to airing US game shows in the prime after-dinner time-slot in order to make ends meet and everyone knows that privatization is a sacred principle in neo-conservative circles); asked if the Tories still intend to privatize the food safety system in light of the listeriosis outbreak and deaths in Ontario; and wondered if we would be subject to more embarrassment internationally as other countries are left wondering what has happened to our country's traditional commitment to human rights, the environment, and global peace-keeping. Since the election of the Harper government, many Canadians have found it difficult to feel proud of our government and our country.

The mere timing of this election raises further concerns and questions. Was this election called in a hurry in the hope that the current government would be returned to power before the U.S. election results come in? (A wave of change in the U.S. might not bode well for a Canadian Conservative government.) Is the government concerned about the outcome of the ethics committee hearings, the follow up to the Schreiber, investigation, and the outcome of the Harper "misappropriation of personality" trial (a.k.a. the Cadman affair)? It's clear that what has brought about this election was a sense of urgency from within the Conservative Party to seize the day (and potentially deplete the funds of other political parties, according to a recent rather Machiavellian op ed piece by long-time party advisor and pundit Tom Flanagan) rather than any grassroots groundswell of desire to head to the polls by average Canadians.

Here is my plea to everyday Canadians at this crucial juncture in our country's history.

  • Refuse to allow yourself to be swayed by all the vote-buying of recent weeks and months. (Here's where the vote-buying tally sat as of Friday. Pretty incredible, huh?
  • Take time to research the record of this government and this Prime Minister. I was going to direct you to the House of Commons website www.howdtheyvote.ca, which tracks the voting records of all MPs, but all versions of that URL have mysteriously ceased to function. Very mysterious, in a 1984 kind of way. I mean if ever there was a time for this website to be available to Canadian voters, it's right now.
  • Look beyond the smoke and mirrors of elections advertising. Do your homework and vote with your brain rather than allowing attack ads aimed at CPC opponents and political ads starring the PM as Super-Dad in Utopia to do your thinking for you. You may be more chilled than thrilled -- and you may be less likely to buy into the PM's "just an ordinary dad" pitch and persona (unless your idea of an ordinary family guy is a family guy with neo-conservative roots so deep no hair-dresser could hope to cover them) once you've done some independent research. Seriously! Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the founders of the Reform Party of Canada and headed up the right-wing think tank the National Citizens' Coalition before that. So people -- write this on your garage doors so other people get the message: Steven Harper may be a Conservative, but he's anything but progressive. There's no such thing as a Progressive Conservative in Federal politics anymore. They went the way of the dinosaur after Mulroney had his way with the party. It's a shame because there were some really good people in the PC Party of yesteryear. But those days are gone.

Related:

IMC Winnipeg: 10 Good Reasons Harper's "Conservatives" Should Get the Boot

August 10, 2008

An Uneven Playing Field: Kids, Sports, and Politics

Tothesquare

On the great playing field of life, some players are more equal than others and some kids don't even get a chance to step foot on the field. And, things being as they are right now in Canada, one of the federal government's much talked up policies is only making the situation worse for the kids who have been left out of the game. Read my entire column over @ The Star's ParentCentral.

July 03, 2008

Boston College's Juliet Schor and Prasannan Parthasarathi on the need for broad-based economic reforms

LandscapeFrom The Boston Globe, April 27, 2008:

"The nation can no longer sustain the same old policies that enrich the energy giants, agribusinesses, and other transnationals who bear a large part of the responsibility for the current mess.

"We need broad-based reforms that cushion higher prices for basic needs by putting more purchasing power into lower-income hands, expand secure access to sustainable food sources, and provide climate-friendly power and transport. That requires egalitarian policies, bottom-up power, and sustainable methods of production.

"The sooner we get on the path to this inevitable transition, the easier, and fairer, the process of adjusting prices will be."


April 24, 2008

Dion Charms the Crowd in Peterborough

GlobalwarmingStéphane Dion thoroughly charmed the crowd in Peterborough this morning. He was warm, personable, and funny in his wonderfully low-key way. He talked about the link between environmental change and human health and did a fabulous job of fielding questions from the crowd on a wide variety of issues: social justice, economic sustainability, the environment, and more specifically the link between poverty and health (both in Canada and abroad), immigration, NAFTA and environmental rights, bio-fuel and other alternative energy sources), job creation in an environmentally sound economy, nuclear energy, rehabilitation of the tar stands, water as a basic human right, and much more.

His passion for making a difference for Canadians came through in everything he said.

I had the last question of the day. I thanked him for standing fast in the face of personal attacks that were unprecedented outside an election period and told him that I thought he was a real class act. (Clearly the majority of the people in the room agreed with what I had to say because there was thunderous applause in response to this statement.) I then asked him what ordinary citizens could do to help spread the word about what he has to offer Canadians, given that his message is all-too-often obscured by the mainstream media.

He didn't say anything negative about the mainstream media (what did I just finish saying about what a class act this gentleman is?), but he commented briefly about what keeps him going. He said (and I'm paraphrasing): "When you're driven by your convictions, you keep going." He then talked about how committed he was to making a difference for Canadians: how he wanted to become Canada's next Prime Minister so he could work for a world in which Canada was a leader in the area of environmental change, social justice, and economic sustainability.

This is a man who is speaking from the heart and who has the intelligence and the determination to be a brilliant Prime Minister. It's no wonder Stephen Harper (also not a stupid man) has been running scared and resorting to bully-style attacks since practically the day Dion became leader of the Liberal Party. After all, you don't invest massive energy and resources trying to take down an unworthy opponent. You save your energy for someone who has the potential to take you down.

Dion was introduced by Federal Liberal candidate Betsy McGregor (Peterborough Riding) and thanked by former MP Peter Adams (also Peterborough Riding).

April 23, 2008

Dion in Peterborough for Town Hall

Urgent

I had a difficult time finding any information about Stéphane Dion's visit to Peterborough tomorrow afternoon when I did an online search myself earlier tonight, so I figure others might be having difficulty tracking down the details, too. Here's a link to the recent Peterborough Examiner news story about tomorrow's Town Hall Meeting. It sounds like it's going to be a fabulous event. I had the pleasure of meeting Dion face-to-face last year and found him to be absolutely charming.

Don't miss the chance to hear him if you're in Peterborough tomorrow, even if you only have the chance to pop in briefly during your lunch hour.

Added 4/24: Here's a recap of how the event went. People will be talking about Stéphane Dion's April 2008 visit to Peterborough for a very long time.

August 22, 2007

"Angry Anarchists and Family-Friendly Activists"

Graffitti2The language that people use to report on events is often as fascinating as the events themselves. A CP wire story that ran in yesterday's Peterborough Examiner, for example, mentioned the "angry anarchists and family-friendly activists" who travelled to Montebello to protest the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership talks. I have a mental image of people being separated into two separate lines -- the angry anarchists and family-friendly activists -- so that they can be processed accordingly. ("Hey, Fred. Do you have any more 'angry anarchist' delegate badges? I'm all out.")

And as for Harper reportedly describing the protesters as "sad" -- that's a comment that speaks for itself when it comes to a Prime Minister's lack of respect for the tradition of protest in a democracy. Sad, indeed.

August 07, 2007

Anything But Child's Play: The Fisher-Price Toy Recalls

PuzzlemapI've been thinking a lot about the Fisher-Price toy recalls ever since it happened last week. I decided to blog about the recall and some related issues today in my Yahoo! Parenting blog.

I find the story disturbing on so many levels because it ties into so many of the issues that concern me on a day-to-day basis -- and that I blog about here in this blog: the drive for lower-and-lower prices by big-box retailers; the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs -- and, as we've seen repeatedly this year, with dire safety consequences; and the as-yet-unknown long-term social costs of globalization, both here and around the world.

August 01, 2007

Unpaid Teen Workers at Mexican Wal-Mart: NEWSWEEK

Simplefairness

This Newsweek story about teenagers in Mexico working for nothing but the possibility of tips (reprinted at CommonDreams.org) made me question, once again, why these things are allowed to go on.

Joseph Contreras writes, in part:

"Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico-and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING."

While some would argue that without that gratuity, these teens and their families would be even worse off, couldn't the case be made that without the volunteer packers, Wal-Mart would be forced to pay its 19,000 "volunteer" laborers? And as Mexico's largest private-sector employer -- an employer that made $280 million in net profits in the second quarter of 2007 -- shouldn't Wal-Mart show some leadership or be mandated to do the right thing?

Why are Canada and the U.S. doing business with Mexico, if this is how it treats its labor force. Why aren't the Canadian and American branches of this multinational company being called to task in a major way.

Maybe we should all march to our local Wal-Mart stores during back-to-school season and ask if they pay teenagers, or if they expect our sons and daughters to volunteer for the privilege of working for Wal-Mart. And if Wal-Mart Canada and Wal-Mart US wouldn't consider asking our kids to work for free, why should they pay other people's children that way -- children whose families are desperately poor?

It is unbelievable that these questions even have to be asked.

How did our ideas about what will be tolerated -- let alone what is right or wrong in our society -- get so far off track?

Will any political party ever stand up to the mega-corporations? Or has the power shifted so much in favour of those mega-corporations that talk is futile?

Sources: CommonDreams.org, Newsweek

May 12, 2007

What the Mom Working at WalMart Really Wants for Mother's Day

Woman14 leading women's groups in the U.S. have joined with WakeupWalmart.com to launch the
Moms Deserve Better Than Wal-Mart Campaign.

Here's the campaign pledge:

I, _____________, pledge not to buy a Mother's Day gift from Wal-Mart unless Wal-Mart promises to pay a living wage, provide affordable health care, and end its anti-family policies that hurt all women, especially moms, who work at Wal-Mart.
This year, until Wal-Mart changes for the better, I promise to
"Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart"

Related:
Christian Science Monitor Review of The Wal-Mart Effect by Fast Company Editor Charles Fishman: "Today, when Wal-Mart negotiates with suppliers, it tends to get its way. The firm has an obsession, Fishman reports, 'almost a corporate fetish' with the kind of cost- and price-cutting that have made Wal-Mart a consumer magnet....Dangling the prospect of volume sales, it essentially gets companies hooked....Wal-mart is perhaps a perfect fit for the culture that spawned it - one that simultaneously values frugality and loves to consume."

WalMart Watch: "Our mission is to persuade Wal-Mart to assume its leadership role as America's largest corporation and enact positive change."

April 29, 2007

An Uneven Playing Field

Nosign“It was just so obvious that if you didn’t [fundraise] you got nothing. The playgrounds that were getting built were the places where the parents had all chipped in.”
- Caz Zyvatkauskas, the parent of a student at Orde Street Junior Public School, in the heart of downtown Toronto, quoted in
The Playground Wars, by Alfred Holden, Taddle Creek Magazine, Summer 2002.

Peterborough This Week has an excellent story about playground politics in its current issue -- specifically about how the need to fundraise for playground equipment is dividing local schools into "have's" and "have nots."

At the root of the problem is the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board's policy of excluding playground equipment from the list of educational necessities that it provides for its students (and this in an era of sky-rocketing child obesity rates). Parents are expected to fundraise for anything else. This means that schools that draw from wealthier neighbourhoods have a greater opportunity to fundraise for playground equipment than schools from lower-income neighbourhoods.

Parents from one school community note that it took them five years to raise the $20,000 required to purchase new playground equipment five years ago -- equipment that is now deemed unsafe.

The associate director of education, who is quoted in the article, doesn't appear to be troubled by the fact that students being served by the same board of education -- and a publicly funded school board at that -- will provide drastically different outdoor play experiences to students attending different schools because the parents at one school are less well off.

"People believe everything has to be the same, but it's not the same," Sherry Summersides, associate director of education for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, told Peterborough This Week. "There's no definition of public education that says everyone has to be the same. It wouldn't be reasonable or logical for us to do that. There's a breaking point. What do we have to have in place for student achievement and what are the nice to haves. It has to be the local school that makes that decision."

I would argue in favour of top-level leadership: in order to live up to the values spelled out in its statement of mission and vision, the Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board needs to takes a leadership role and to act with principles of social justice in mind. Downloading playground equipment fundraising responsibilities to school communities that lack fundraising capacity amounts to passing the buck where there's no buck to be had. That's no solution at all.