Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

the threat to our future: BETTER OFF WITH TTIP? BETTER OFF WITHOUT!

In John Wilmot on June 25, 2015 at 12:04 pm

They like to keep it a secret, but the looming menace of TTIP (short for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) poses a threat to us all.

It’s a concept first unveiled by the American administration back in 2013. This so-called “free trade” deal sounds harmless enough – until you read the small print of course. And those backing it want to keep this as small as possible.

It may “free up” trade, as its supporters claim, but who will benefit? In fact it’s a cunning plan to shift power to transnational capital, freeing up the markets for globalised capitalism (much of it American based of course). The instigators of TTIP want to spread this octopus-like “partnership” first through Canada and then Europe.


According to Mark Dearn of the charity “War on Want” “TTIP ushers in a massive shift of power to transnational capital. This will lead to job losses, the privatisation of our public services (and the blocking of any attempts at re-nationalisation), the erosion of social health and environmental protections and the eradication of equality before the law through a system of corporate courts for suing states.” (From the Morning Star, April 18th).

When it comes to negotiating the deal, this is in the hands of the EU, acting on behalf of its 28 member states. But as far as we’re concerned in the UK, David Cameron has already given it an enthusiastic welcome. And even the Liberal Democrats (before they were slaughtered in the election) greeted it warmly, claiming that it leave Britain £10 billion a year better off.

The reality will be very, very different. There will be those who’ll get even richer from its implementation, of course, but for ordinary workers, our social services and our social infrastructure, the impact could be dire. Perhaps it’s no wonder that it’s received so little coverage in the mass media. There have been no documentaries on TV or radio, and nothing much in the mass circulation newspapers, leaving any coverage of what’s at stake to what’s become known as “social media”.

Already in Canada there has been repeated legal action to prevent the passing of moratoriums on fracking or revoking patents on drugs with unproven benefits.

But in Europe, the fightback is beginning.  There have been mass petitions (gaining some 1.65 million signatures at the last count), and demonstrators have taken to the streets in protest. Again, there has been little coverage in the UK media.

As Mark Dearn of “War on Want” says,  “we are fighting to retain some control over the fundamentals of our own lives: what we eat, whether corporations can control and profit from our education, healthcare… our working conditions and the ability of democratic government to enact social, health and environmental legislation without the sanction of litigation in corporate courts.”



MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on April 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

Preparing for the “Sicko” society?

I don’t know how many folk out there actually watch the adverts on TV. Maybe they prefer just to blank them out, treat them as rather annoying moving wallpaper, or go off to make a cup of tea during the commercial breaks.

But those who have been paying attention may well have noticed the sudden increase in the number of adverts for private health insurance. I’m aware that for some time we’ve had to put up with those smugly cosy plugs for BUPA, but now a range of insurance companies are getting in on the act.

After the National Health Service came into being, back in 1948, private health insurance seemed to sink without trace. After all, we all paid national insurance as a matter of course, so why pay twice for our health treatment? So is this sudden resurrection of private health insurance a sign of the times? Getting ready for when the Health and Social Care legislation comes into effect? It’s a chilling thought, isn’t it?

Those who’ve watched Michael Moore’s film Sicko will have seen what happens in the USA where folk rely on private insurance to see them through bouts of ill health and sickness. Me, I’m one of the NHS generation of dinosaurs – and I’ve no intention of surrendering to the blandishments of the private health care industry.

branching out:

Since Group 4 merged with Securicor it has attempted to re-brand itself. It now calls itself G4S, and in recent years it has been busy bidding for any Government contracts that come its way – including Ofsted, for goodness sake.

But one contract that it gained didn’t work out quite so well. It was some time ago that it was signed on to provide the security at Halifax Airport, Nova Scotia, Canada.

As readers may have noticed, this Dinosaur is partial to the odd visit to Canada – and Nova Scotia in particular. On one such visit we flew in – only to discover that Group 4 were now in charge of airport security. It was like stepping into a Marx Brothers’ comedy film.

The security guards were all dressed in what looked like ill fitting Ruritanian uniforms, and they charged around in a state of disorganised chaos. Queues at the checkout lengthened, with passengers reduced to a state of bemused uncertainty. There was no panic, but, hey, this was Canada, after all..

The next time we flew in to Halifax, the Group 4 guards had vanished, and it was all back to normal.

The nature of capitalism – in Canada

Whilst we’re talking Canadian, I came across one news item about a stand-off between the US company Caterpillar and its workforce at the company’s plant in London, Ontario.

Caterpillar makes those giant earth moving machines, as well as a range of mining and construction machinery. They’re big, in more ways than one. In 2010, It took over the local firm EMD, and moved into Ontario.

At the time, Canada’s Tory Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, praised the takeover as an example of how his government was attracting foreign investment into the country. But now Caterpillar has sacked the entire workforce at its Canadian plant – after they refused to take a 50 per cent pay cut. Yes, 50 per cent – I kid you not! Not only that, but workers would lose their pension rights.

On New Year’s day, the workers were locked out, and then in February the company announced that it was closing the factory and moving to a non-union plant back in the USA.

The union involved. is the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Its members put up a brave fight to save their jobs and the factory – but faced with unacceptable demands from a predatory company, their jobs have gone, and the whole local economy will suffer as a result.

Incidentally, on an ironic note, it was in London, Ontario, that the Tolpuddle Martyrs chose to settle after they returned from their long years doing penal servitude in Australia. And they are remembered by the town that they chose to settle in. There is a monument there to their memory, as well as a co-op housing development and a trade union complex in the town, both named after them. Despite the machinations of US asset stripping companies like Caterpillar, this is the true face of trade unionism in Canada.



In A.Graham on June 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

In May, Canadians went to the polls in a snap election which saw the Tories win an overall majority. But the real shock to the electoral status quo was the disintegration of the Liberal vote, the virtual elimination of the separatist Bloc Quebequois -and the rise of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), to become Canada’s official opposition party.
When the votes were counted, the Conservatives emerged with 167 seats, and the NDP with 102. The once mighty Liberal Party lost 43 of its seats, ending up with a mere 34 MPs. One of those who lost his seat was the party’s leader, Michael Ignatieff. The Bloc Quebequois slumped to just four MPs – whilst Elizabeth May gained a seat for the Green Party in British Columbia.
For the New Democrats, it was an astonishing rise in their party’s fortunes. But achieved with mixed emotions. One NDP supporters was quoted as saying, “it’s amazing…. it’s bittersweet because even though we won, the Conservatives got a majority. To me that’s the scariest thing.”


The NDP has certainly come a long way since the party was founded back in 1933, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. These were the depression years, with 30 per cent of the Canadian workforce unemployed. It was particularly grim in the prairie province of Saskatchewan. On top of the depression there was drought – and farmers and farmhands faced starvation.
It was against this background that Socialists from all over Canada came together to found a new party – the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). The principles of the CCF were laid down in the “Regina Declaration”, which ended with a call for the eradication of capitalism.
Amongst those joining the new party was a young immigrant from Scotland, Tommy Douglas. Douglas had become a Baptist minister, but faced with the appalling poverty and desparation he saw about him every day, he soon became a convert to Socialism.
He went on to become premier of the province, when the CCF formed the first avowedly Socialist government in North America, in 1944. He was to remain premier for 17 years. 


In 1961, the CCF changed its name to the less cumbersome one of New Democratic Party – and Tommy Douglas became its leader. One of his major achievements, as far as Canadians are concerned, was the introduction of Medicare – Canada’s version of our National Health Service. This was first introduced in Saskatchewan, despite bitter opposition from doctors in the province. Later, in 1966, it was rolled out across Canada.
Tommy Douglas died in February 1986. The party he and others had helped to found in the Canadian prairies had come a long way – but despite being the instigators of Canada’s health system, it had failed to break through the two party stranglehold on Canadian politics. Governments came and went – but at federal level they were always either Liberal or Conservative.
Is the pattern about to change? And has the once mighty Canadian Liberal Party, the party of Pierre Troudeau, now been eclipsed?
The success of the NDP in May’s election undoubtedly owes much to the leadership of Jack Layton, an experienced political operator with a folksy image. But he is no Tommy Douglas. Indeed his family background makes him a strange choice for leader of a left-wing party. Layton’s grandfather was a member of the right-wing Union Nationale government that ruled in Quebec for many years, whilst his father was a prominent Conservative politician.

As leader of the opposition, he will have to be able to mount an effective attack on the redneck Tory policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Future generations of voters will judge him and the NDP on his success.

Modern Times- the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on October 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Back from the land of the maple leaf

I’ve just returned from taking time out in the land of the beaver and maple leaf. Yes, Canada’s been calling me across the pond yet again.

For those who’re interested in the political set-up of this vast and sprawling country, Canada also has a Tory Prime Minister – and, like in the UK, he heads a minority government. But unlike here, he hasn’t formed a coalition. Instead he relies on the divisions between the opposition parties to remain in power.

The opposition consists of the Canadian Liberal Party, the left-wing New Democrats (the NDP) – and the Bloc Quebecois, who naturally enough represent the separatist elements in the province of Quebec, and thus have their own particular agenda.

Canada’s Prime Minister is one Stephen Harper – and as far as I know he’s no relation to Mark, our own MP here in the Forest. Indeed, the Canadian PM rose through the ranks of the redneck right in the province of Alberta – though I’m sure that he likes to think that he’s matured somewhat since those days.

Whilst I was there, the main political debate seemed to be centred on whether to scrap the “long gun register”. Harper and his party were keen to get rid of the legal requirement for folk to register any rifle or shotgun in their possession. When it came to the vote, he was narrowly defeated.

Somehow I couldn’t quite grasp what all the fuss was about. I don’t own a gun of any sort – and neither does any one else I know. I thought that was just for the gun-happy lobby in the USA. And anyway in Canada, anyone who really really wants a gun has to get a certificate, covering such points as why they want a firearm and whether they’re capable of using it without endangering anyone (apart, perhaps, from some hapless moose). No, I think it’s just the inner redneck emerging in Harper and his supporters.


I was however interested to note that rather than tackling the recession through cutting everything that’s not nailed to the ground, the Canadian Conservatives launched what they call a stimulus package of public spending to try to re-energize the economy. Canada hasn’t suffered quite as much as some countries from the recession – though it’s all relative, I suppose.

But Harper has now announced that his stimulus package will end next year. It’s done its job, he says, and from 2011 the Canadian economy will have to stand on its own feet. The opposition, of course, aren’t happy. They think it will expose the country to the danger of a “double dip” recession – particularly as it’s so reliant on trade with its neighbour the USA these days. Me, I’m no economist, but I think they may be right.

Oil for the taking?

The debate over the havoc caused by the exploitation of Alberta’s oil tar sands has been covered several times in the Clarion. And whilst I was in Canada CBC television also gave it major coverage. The Canadian born film director, James Cameron, had, it seemed, decided to travel to the site to see for himself.

Cameron likes to see himself as an environmentalist, and he concluded that the oil companies really needed to clean up their act before any further exploitation could be regarded as acceptable. He also denounced the way in which the rights of First Nation people living in the area had been brushed aside in the scramble to exploit the oil tar reserves.

I was also interested to see some prominence given to the decision by the Co-operative Bank here in Britain to give backing to those First Nation tribal chiefs who are trying to sue the oil industry and the province over the conditions under which their people are now forced to live.

Incidentally, the USA oil industry is strongly represented amongst those exploiting the tar sands – and America now gets over half its oil from Canada. Its representatives strongly resent anyone who tries to interfere with their “right” to get its oil from Canada. After all, declared one Republican senator, its only wilderness territory up there, so who cares?