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by Editors — last modified Aug 25, 2014 02:58 PM
Contributors: Faiz Ahmed, JBB, Graham H. Cox, R. Dubois, JA Cox

Update on the Mount Polley Mine Disaster - Imperial Metals and Government Focus on Covering Up Instead of Cleaning Up

by JA Cox last modified Aug 31, 2014 03:01 PM
"Its been over 3 weeks since the disaster began on August 4th and the breach in the dam hasn't been plugged yet by Imperial Metals. Heavy metal laden sludge is still flowing down Hazeltine Creek to Quesnell Lake. Community members continue to express concern over the remnants of the spill, which sit leaching into the lake, and a large cloudy plume of suspended solids in the water, visible from the air.The government initially lifted the drinking water ban for the town of Likely, and then reinstated it after communities members sounded the alarm that the sediment plume had moved to the the waters around the town and salmon expert and advocate Alexandra Morton found a mysterious blue sheen on the water. At a community meeting on August 27th, the company revealed that the sediment plume tests showed elevated Iron, Turbidity and Manganese within the plume"

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Canada, workers and the fight for trade justice | Graham Cox

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 29, 2014 12:11 PM
The federal government has had three different occasions over the previous year to boast about the end of the negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. In all three instances the government has declared their unwavering support for free-trade and blasted anyone who has dared criticize the undemocratic nature of free-trade agreements as out-of-touch anti-trade ideologues.

The self-congratulatory nature of the Conservative's announcements hide the fact that the supposed benefits of "free" trade are absent for the average worker in Canada.

For workers in Canada, the economic history of globalization and the expansion of free trade agreements is one of transition from high-value production and quality unionized jobs to resource extraction and export and more precarious work. It has also meant reduced access and privatization to public services. This transition has been met with skepticism from working people as they see our economy become more precarious, more unequal and with fewer well-paying jobs.

However, the government continues to sign trade and investment agreements at an increasing and alarming rate, with little care for their implications.


More and more trade agreements

For six years, Canadian trade justice activists have focused on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) being negotiated between Canada and the EU. CETA, like the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is an agreement that reduces democratic control over local economies.

CETA will limit the ability of governments pass regulations, require local labour or products be used in publicly funded projects, undermines local food sourcing. It will increase drug costs by extending monopoly ownership of drug patents and it has a process where companies can challenge governments who pass laws that might interfere with future profits through an unaccountable arbitration system stacked in their favour.

The arbitration process, called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), has ignited a firestorm of criticism from Europeans who see it for what it is: giving corporations the power to undo democratic laws they do not like. Popular opposition has grown so much that the German and French governments have openly criticized the validity of having ISDS in CETA and the EU sister agreement with the US (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- TTIP).

CETA is one of several strategies the Conservatives are using to permanently shrink government by reducing federal and provincial capacity to regulate economic activities in Canada and abroad. However, since CETA negotiations began in May 2009, Canada initiated and/or signed several other bilateral and regional preferential trade agreements. Important examples include the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, led by the United States; the Canada-South Korea FTA; and NAFTA-plus agreements with several Latin American countries.

More recently, the Conservatives have been part of a new WTO process which seeks to bring public services under direct influence of trade agreements called Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).

Calling for trade justice

The federal Conservatives and right-wing allies in the media and big business continue their assault on the credibility of those that call for a more democratic, open and fair trade negotiations and agreements.

The main objective of free-trade advocates is to discredit trade justice activists as being generally anti-trade and extremist. Unfortunately, this strategy has worked to undermine our position even with progressive politicians in Ottawa and in provincial governments that do not want to be seen to be aligned with the fictitious “anti-trade” movement.

Trade justice activists are calling for the full text of CETA to be officially released (full text of CETA have been leaked) to allow for open and democratic debate by Canadians before the negotiations are finished. We are also calling for the investor state provisions to be removed.

There is no way to “build a better” Investor-State Dispute Settlement process. These processes are fundamentally flawed, and have one goal: transfer power away from governments and to multinational corporations.

The trade justice community are not anti-trade. However, we are against agreements that go well beyond trade to institute special corporate rights systems. Canada has been a trading nation for hundreds of years, we do not have to trade away our democratic rights to maintain or expand our trading relationships.

The European centre-left parties and movements in the UK, France and Germany have taken a strong stand against investor-state provisions, as have the labour aligned groups and parties in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, India and Indonesia. So much opposition has been directed at investor-state that the new Japan-Australia agreement does not include the provision.

It is time for Canadians to join our global allies and call for trade justice and a progressive alternative to free trade for Canadian workers.


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Growing concern in European Union parliament about Canada trade deal #CETA

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 29, 2014 12:23 PM
More trouble for the sputtering Canada-EU trade deal. It seems that the premature victory laps that the Harper government have been running on CETA are foul of the line.

Embassy magazine is reporting EU trade deal ratification process yet to be settled and that it is an "open question" as to the process of ratification in the EU:

The European Union has not yet settled on a process to ratify its trade deal with Canada, say ambassadors from two EU member states, putting into question the Canadian government's claim that the agreement is expected to be in place in two years.

While Reuters is reporting that because of political shifts since the recent elections for the EU parliament, CETA might be in trouble.

EU lawmakers are threatening to block a multi-billion dollar trade pact between Canada and the European Union -- a blueprint for a much bigger EU-U.S. deal -- because it would allow firms to sue governments if they breach the treaty.

What makes this especially interesting is their opposition to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) so-called "corporate rights provisions" being included in both the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU, but also the Transalatantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA.

We have written previously about how the opposition to ISDS has grown in the EU and around the world because EU countries have started to fall on the receiving-end of these arbtration decisions.

The Council of Canadian's analysis shows the EU parliament and their opposition to ISDS and free trade more generally.


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Net Neutrality Is 'Marxist,' According to This Koch-Backed Astroturf Group

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 29, 2014 11:10 AM
In fact, we do think it is a bad idea to get rid of net neutrality. "A mysterious conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a "grassroots" campaign to kill net neutrality—at one point suggesting that "Marxists" think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea."

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Fraser Institute tries and fails to be the Grinch Who Stole Labour Day | Press Progress

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 29, 2014 11:07 AM
"On the eve of Labour Day, the right-wing think tank just published its annual "study" that tries to make a case for rolling back worker rights. We haven't heard the Fraser Institute talk much of so-called "right-to-work" since former Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak dropped the idea earlier this year, which is funny because Hudak's idea actually came from the Fraser Institute."

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The tragedy of the private | Hilary Wainwright

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 29, 2014 11:06 AM
"The phrase turns on its head ‘the tragedy of the commons’, which was an attack on the idea that people can effectively manage common resources together for shared benefit, if they have suitable conditions. The tragedy of the anti-commons, and in particular of the private, arises from the presumption that people act only in their immediate self-interest (rather than taking account of mutual benefit and interdependence) and do not communicate, let alone collaborate, over shared problems."

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Patrick Cockburn on ISIS and the US | The Real News Network

by Faiz Ahmed last modified Aug 29, 2014 09:15 AM
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Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all Syrians displaced: U.N. | Reuters

by Faiz Ahmed last modified Aug 29, 2014 09:11 AM
"Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, an exodus that began in March 2011 and shows no sign of abating, the United Nations said."

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How to Think About the Corporate Income Tax | Dean Baker

by Graham H. Cox last modified Aug 28, 2014 04:02 PM
An interesting analysis of corporate income taxes from Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research: "much of the bread and butter of the private equity industry is bringing creative tax schemes to smaller businesses that lacked the expertise to do it themselves. To personalize this some, think of Mitt Romney. Much of the story of his wealth was the corporate income tax. By devising clever schemes that allowed businesses his firm took over to escape the tax, he was able to resell these businesses at an enormous profit. In this way, the corporate income tax is not just a way of taking money from rich people, it is also a way to give money to rich people by creating enormous profit opportunities in altogether unproductive areas of the economy."

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Attenborough: More Socialist than Luvvie

by JBB last modified Aug 27, 2014 08:07 AM
PETER FROST looks back on the career of the director who brought Steve Biko and Gandhi to cinema screens | Morning Star

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