#CDNpoli Polarization

A CBC headline trumpeted, “Political advocacy group North99 uses misleading petitions to gather voter data

But one of the two founders of north99 wrote an angry Facebook post denying misleading anyone, insisting CBC had made a mistake

This morning CBC published a misleading and factually incorrect piece about North99. We have already filed an official complaint with the CBC and asked for a correction to be issued.
If you’ve read the piece and are wondering what’s true and what’s not, here’s the facts: people sign up to our email list through issue campaigns, surveys, petitions, and our newsletter. We always make it clear up front what issue or campaign people are joining when they sign up. 

The CBC claimed we were not being clear with people about this, and that we were signing them up for campaigns they didn’t want to be a part of. Let me be clear: this is 100% untrue. It’s as untrue as saying the sky is green.  Their so-called “analysis” of the forms on our website was wrong, and this led them to report a falsehood. That’s unfortunate, and we hope they will correct this embrassing error. Canadians deserve the unvarnished truth from our public broadcaster.

But you know who doesn’t give a damn about the truth? The Conservatives.  And they have already seized on the mistakes made by the CBC to attack us and the North99 community. 
This morning Lisa Raitt — a former Harper Cabinet Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party — took to Twitter to attack North99.  She made wild allegations about us — the sort of stuff you’d expect from The Rebel, not someone trying to lead the country. 

Look, none of this is surprising. Our community is disrupting politics in this country, and we have to expect the forces of the right and the status-quo to come after us with everyone they’ve got. Now that we are growing in size and our community is having an impact, people are going to try to tear us down.  Lisa Raitt won’t be the last politician to smear and slander us. They hate what we stand for. But you know what: we aren’t going to back down from a fight.

Here’s my commitment to you: 
1) We take your trust seriously, and we take accuracy seriously. We won’t always be perfect, and sometimes — like the CBC! — we’ll make mistakes. But we’ll always correct them and be honest with you. 
2) We will never stop fighting for a Canada that works for the many, not just the richest few — even when we’re attacked by powerful politicians like Lisa Raitt. As long as you’re with us, we’ll keep on working. 

If you ever want to get in touch with questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to send an email to priority@north99.org. 
Thanks for your support,
Taylor 
Co-Founder, North99
https://www.facebook.com/OntarioVotesToStopDougFord/posts/514137532666333

Perhaps most interesting is how deftly Mr Scollon this message of righteous indignation was transformed into a Conservative attack piece.

While I don’t know the truth of the misleading petition allegation, it is nonetheless clear that the two gentlemen who are behind North99 are indeed Liberals.

A quick internet search revealed that Taylor Scollon had been the U of T Liberals’ communications director
https://www.facebook.com/uoftliberal/posts/taylor-scollon-uoft-liberals-communications-director-reminds-us-its-the-economy-/396372270425866/

and cofounder Geoff Sharpe had been the President of the BC Young Liberals
https://web.archive.org/web/20170728231036/http://abacusinsider.com/canadian-millennials/interview-geoff-sharpe-consultant-navigator-canadian-millennial-watch/

But are they operating with the blessing of theLiberal Party of Canada or are they acting alone in support of it.  Presumably North 99 is a third party advertiser in this, the new “Pre-Election Period” devised by the latter, else they’ll fall afoul of the LPC’s own new law which lays down rules about third party advertisers and possible collusion with political parties.

The WRONG KIND OF GREEN writes:

“While it shouldn’t be surprising that online partisan front groups stir the pot, what is remarkable is how effective they have been with so little accountability. All of these groups are scooping up massive amounts of data, often directly collecting information through their own cynical petitions on hot issues. These groups show how empty much of the political landscape has become. Digital media strategists are running a shell game that treats ordinary working people as something to be manipulated and toyed with. Forget about all that nonsense about Russians on distorting democracy through social media. We need to look no further than the communication specialists and political parties in this country to see who the true manipulators are.”

The WRONG KIND OF GREEN article  NAVIGATING ONTARIO’S ONLINE POLITICAL FRONT GROUPS looks at North99 and Ontario Proud, and who is behind them.  Yet the closest WRONG KIND OF GREEN gets to revealing who is behind *it* is characterizing itsellf as “a 100% volunteer, critical-thinking collective.

Whoever WRONG KIND OF GREEN is, I share their concern about who is driving our politics.  Both North99 and Ontario Proud are working to build an us against them political culture that polarizes Canadians, and certainly seems to impose undue influence on our electoral process by demonizing the other side’s politicians.

This is, of course, why we still have the atrocious First Past The Post voting system.  Attacking the enemy is a time honoured strategy that often leads to winning elections and becoming the winner who takes all in our majoritan political system.

The Liberals and Conservatives take turns getting elected by convincing their base and any swing voters they can woo that only they will save us from the other.

But what is it doing to our country?

drawing of gladiators fighting

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The #TMX Pipeline Approval and Canada’s #ClimateEmergency

Pipeline approval will likely lead to more legal challenges and protests that will continue to delay and block the controversial project

[guest post by Stand.Earth]

The Canadian federal government’s announcement reapproving the Trans Mountain Pipeline is inconsistent with the government’s declaration of a climate emergency the day before.  This will likely lead to more legal challenges and protests that will continue to delay and block the controversial project, said international environmental organization Stand.earth.

“Approving the Trans Mountain Pipeline is inconsistent with our government’s declaration of a climate emergency. Oil and gas emissions are the largest and fastest growing component of Canada’s emissions. If we are going to fight climate change in Canada, we need to face the fact that we can no longer expand fossil fuel production and infrastructure. Canada’s oil is high cost and high carbon, and it is struggling to compete in a global market. Investing pipeline profits into clean energy? How about you just put the $10 billion directly into clean energy, instead of wasting taxpayer money on this risky investment?” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Stand.earth. “We stand by city leaders, the B.C. government, and First Nations who oppose this project, and we call on organizations and individuals around the world to stand with us.”

“No matter who forms the next government in Ottawa, the Trans Mountain Pipeline will never be built,” said said Sven Biggs, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Stand.earth. “People care deeply about protecting the BC coast, and British Columbians remain opposed to this pipeline and the risks of a devastating oil spill that come with it. Whenever construction resumes, another wave of protests is guaranteed in British Columbia.”

Pipeline opposition

Opposition to the pipeline remains strong, with tens of thousands of people pledging to stop the pipeline and multiple cities, municipalities, and the province of B.C. also stating opposition.

Project risks

Construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the likelihood of a spill associated with the project poses significant risks to the climate, the public safety of the communities it passes through, the economy, and the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales.

  • Climate change: If built, the Trans Mountain Pipeline would expand the production of Canada’s oil sands, and the increase in emissions would be the equivalent of putting 2.2 million cars on the road. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report in late 2018 showing that Canada has just 12 years to reduce its climate emissions by 40%. Meeting those climate objectives is simply not possible if Canada continues to build new fossil fuel infrastructure like the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
  • Spill risk: If the Trans Mountain Pipeline is built, it will lead to a 700% increase in oil tanker traffic in the Salish Sea, with the likelihood of an oil spill in the 50-year lifespan of the project as high as 79-87%. A major oil spill would expose the entire Vancouver population to human health risks due to inhalation of toxic chemicals.
  • Public safety: A potential tank fire at the Burnaby Mountain Terminal poses a significant risk to nearby high-density neighborhoods, elementary schools, and Simon Fraser University. Proposed increased storage capacity could cause multiple tanks to ignite during a fire.
  • Economy: An oil spill would put at risk the 98,000 coast-dependent jobs in British Columbia. By comparison, the Trans Mountain Pipeline would create an average of 2,500 jobs a year for two years during construction, with 90 full-time jobs after construction.
  • Tar sands markets: Economists have questioned Trudeau’s claims that the pipeline would help Canada reach new markets in Asia, instead of simply expanding into existing U.S. markets in California and Washington, where opposition to the pipeline is heating up. Last week in California, the Protect the Bay coalition launched to oppose an increase in tar sands tankers in the Bay Area. In May, the California Assembly threw its support behind AB 936, a proactive measure to protect California’s critical marine and freshwater resources from harms caused by a spill of non-floating oils like tar sands, which if passed, would join similar legislation in Washington state on non-floating oils. In Washington, the King County Safe Energy Leadership Alliance sent a letter to the Department of Ecology to strengthen oil spill response requirements for dilbit, specifically calling out the Trans Mountain Pipeline. The letter includes signatories from multiple city mayors, city and county councilmembers, and state senators.Save Orcas
  • Endangered orcas: Even without a spill, the increased tanker traffic and the resulting underwater noise disturbance will have a huge impact on the endangered Southern Resident Orca population, and could push the struggling population toward extinction.

Republished from Tzeporah Berman: Approving the Trans Mountain Pipeline is inconsistent with Canada’s declaration of a climate emergency


Image Credits

White Rock, BC – Coast Salish housepost and Haida totem pole © by Joe Mabel is licensed to share under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Oil Flag of Canada © by Laurel Russwurm photographed at Jobs.Justice.Climate 2015 Toronto is licensed to share under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

#FridaysForFuture Save Orcas © by Laurel Russwurm, photographed at #FridaysForFuture Waterloo (2019) is licensed to share under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Canada’s MMIWG report spurs debate on the shifting definitions of genocide

Lorelei Williams responds to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report.
Lorelei Williams, whose cousin was murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton and whose aunt went missing in 1978, sheds tears while responding to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  |  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

by Andrew Woolford, University of Manitoba


When the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report, it described the ongoing violence as a Canadian genocide. In the aftermath of the report’s release, many public intellectuals and journalists in Canadian news outlets and others on social media have contested the use of the term genocide.

I am a genocide scholar who has written widely about settler colonial genocide.

Genocide, originally defined near the end of the Second World War in 1944 by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin and consequently taken up by sociologists, historians, lawyers and others, is for Lemkin “a co-ordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

As a sociologist, I’m not interested in adjudicating this case according to an official legal definition of genocide. Rigid legal concepts can interfere with understanding the social nature of group destruction. It can flatten the analysis of group relations. It can serve as a hammer to pound a complicated history into a singular event.

Two women sitting in the audience sadly embrace during the MMIWG report ceremonies.
Two women embrace during ceremonies marking the release of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report in Gatineau on June 3, 2019. | THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

One genocide is never the same as another, and therefore a static law or a fixed concept of genocide is of little use to protect us from its horrors. Understanding genocide as a process can help Canadians grapple with the ongoing threat faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada and Indigenous women and girls as outlined in the final MMIWG report.

Legal professionals over time have had to adjust their reading of genocide law. Since the Second World War, contesting ideas and debate have brought about changes to how legal scholars and courts interpret genocide. The authors of the genocide supplement for the MMIWG report draw upon these interpretations but also pose new challenges to the laws of genocide.

These questions are necessary because the history of settler colonialism in Canada includes a variety of efforts to remove, assimilate, starve and erase Indigenous nations. When one approach failed, the settler colonial mesh recalibrated.

For example, residential schools mutated into child removals and mass incarceration. Moreover, the strands of the mesh continue to entrap and strangle communities long after the supposed end of any one manifestation of group destruction.

This is the destruction to which the report draws our attention.

United Nations Convention on Genocide

The 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (UNGC) is the basis for both international and national laws on genocide. The law is the product of a socio-political moment. In the meetings leading up to the convention on genocide, delegates from colonial nations such as South Africa, Canada, the U.S., Sweden and New Zealand voted against inclusion of cultural genocide (Article III) in the genocide convention..

Colonial and masculine assumptions are evident in genocide law, as is the political will of the drafting parties to protect their own nations from accusations of genocide, hence the withdrawal of Article III from the final document.

Despite these beginnings, the law develops as people engage with it, and genocide case law has gradually addressed some of the limitations of the UNGC.

For example, through decisions from bodies such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the groups protected from genocide have been expanded beyond narrow understandings of ethnicity, nationhood, religion and race.

As well, the social death caused by mass rape has been interpreted as genocidal.

The MMIWG final report seeks to bring a grassroots, gendered and Indigenous reading of these laws to the discussion of MMIWG and how Canada’s actions and omissions contributed to their deaths.

This is a valuable contribution and pushes the boundaries of the definition of genocide. Thinking on this topic always needs to be pushed.

Genocide is a transgressive act. It overturns all expectations, violates social norms and continuously mutates to take on new and surprising forms. Different readings and interpretations of genocide are needed to truly confront the many evolving methods of group destruction.

BC MLA Melanie Mark and her daughter listen as Indigenous women and allies respond to the MMIWG report.
British Columbia Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Melanie Mark, B.C.‘s first female First Nations MLA, and her daughter Makayla, 8, listen as Indigenous women and allies respond to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, June 3, 2019. | THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Genocide as a process

Many genocide scholars view genocide as a process rather than an event. In my book, This Benevolent Experiment: Indigenous Boarding Schools, Genocide, and Redress in Canada and the United States I focus on “cultural genocide,” though I treat cultural genocide as one technique of genocide rather than as a separate and distinct type.

I chart the development of Indigenous residential and boarding schools in North America and highlight the settler colonial practice of attempting to assimilate children through education.

Residential schools can be seen as situated within a series of nets that operated on all levels in society, including at the upper echelons of society among elite social influencers, and also through government and missionary institutions as well as individual teachers, principals and communities. There was a complex coordination of activities, habits, ideologies, motives and intents that were generally directed toward eliminating Indigenous peoples as distinct peoples.

These layers of destructive action can be likened to a settler colonial mesh constructed to entrap Indigenous peoples within an assimilative project. But the mesh is prone to snags and tears allowing for the emergence of resistance and subversion. Indigenous people were not passive; parents refused to send their children, children ran away and communities sometimes preserved their cultures when conditions allowed.

Impact on group destruction

The MMIWG report is about the results of such processes and their effects on community and family relationships: harmful relations established through settler colonialism, their impact on intimate and everyday group relations and the possibility of better relations in the future.

It demands more of genocide law, and more from Canadian society, to address the intersecting settler colonial and hetero-patriarchal wrongs that have led to the injustice of MMIWG.

Rather than staunchly defend a narrow conception of genocide, it is time to demand this concept to do what it was intended to do: enable human thriving through respectful collective relations.

Andrew Woolford, Professor, University of Manitoba


Creative Commons License
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0) license.
Read the original article.

The Conversation

PEI: Green Wave Rising

PEI Greens 2019 : Members of the Legislative Assembly | Peter Bevan-Baker in New Haven—Rocky Point | Hannah Bell in Charlottetown—Belvedere | Lynne Lund in Summerside—Wilmot | Trish Altass in Tyne Valley—Sherbrooke | Michele Beaton Mermaid—Stratford | Karla Bernard in Charlottetown—Victoria Park | Steve Howard in Summerside—South Drive | Ole Hammarlund Charlottetown—Brighton |
results via CBC

Back in 2015, Peter Bevan-Baker was the first Green ever elected in PEI.  It was only the second time any third party had ever won a seat in PEI.

Then, in a 2017 by-election, Hannah Bell won a second Green seat.

I’m not a big believer in Opinion Polls in politics.  Parties used to do them as research, to get a feel for how voters felt, and to get an idea which way they might vote (and what they could change to get voters to vote for their party).   Largely because I think they’re misused.  But it’s a good bet the only Opinion Polls we see today are only the ones whoever paid for them wants us to see.  They are used as advertising.  Propaganda to convince us how to vote.   And in these days of decimated news rooms, main stream media outlets have taken to writing entire articles about Opinion Poll results: they’re treated as news by the main stream media.

The only Opinion Poll that counts is the one on Election Day.   Even so, for the last year or so, the third party Greens have been consistently polling ahead of PEI’s Liberal Government.  That’s not a single Opinion Poll, it’s a trend— and in a traditionally 2 party province.   Clearly such a trend is a strong indication that voters are looking for change.

This trend made people start thinking and talking about the unthinkable… what if the upstart Greens, going into the election with only 2 MLAs — were to come out the other side with enough support to form government?  Pretty wild idea, right?

Firsts

Last night, PEI Greens MLA’s Peter Bevan-Baker and Hannah Bell were both re-elected to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.  That was the first time any third party MLA had ever been re-elected in PEI.

It was also the first time a third party became a second party in PEI.  The Greens are likely to form the Official Opposition (at minimum).

Although the Greens didn’t win enough seats (14) to claim a majority, they did win 8 seats.  Clearly a Green record for Canada.

A clear majority— five of the eight elected Greens— are women.  I understand no PEI party has ever managed anything like this before.

Added to the single female PC candidate, that makes six: a record number women sitting MLAs in PEI.  Another First.

 2019 Prince Edward Island General Election Result Chart | Colour: Blue | Progressive Conservative - Leader Dennis King | 26 Candidates | 8 seats in 2015 | 8 seats at the dissolution of the legislature | 12 seats in 2019 | +4 | 29,333 votes | 36.52% Change -0.88 | Colour: Green | Green Party of PEI | Leader Peter Bevan-Baker | 26 Candidates | 1 seat in 2015 | 2 seats at the dissolution of the legislature | 8 seats in 2019 | +6 | 24,591 votes | 30.62% | Change +19.81 | Colour: Red | Liberal - Leader Wade MacLauchlan | 26 Candidates | 18 seats in 2015 | 16 seats at the dissolution of the legislature | 6 seats in 2019 | -10 | 23,711 votes | 29.52% | Change -11.31 | Colour: Orange | New Democratic - Leader Joe Byrne | 23 Candidates | 0 seats in 2015 | 0 seats at the dissolution of the legislature | 0 seats in 2019 | -- | 2,402 votes | 2.99% | Change -7.98 | Colour: Grey | Independent | 3 Candidates | 0 seats in 2015 | 1 seat at the dissolution of the legislature | 0 seats in 2019 | -1 | 282 votes | 0.35% | Change +35 | Colour: White | Vacant | 0 seats at dissolution | 1 Seat in 2019 | TOTAL 104 Candidates | 2015: 27 seats | dissolution: 27 seats | 2019 27 seats | Popular Vote: 80,319 | 100% |
Wikipedia: 2019 Prince Edward Island General Election

Now What?

The ruling Liberals dropped to third place.  The PEI Progressive Conservative Party had gone through 5 leaders in 5 years, but 2 months before this election, they chose a new leader.  Under Dennis King’s leadership, the PC’s won 12 seats, two shy of a majority, but certainly enough for a minority government if he can get the Confidence of the House.  The CBC commentators talked about how Mr King’s leadership style had contributed to the civility of the election.  Listening to his own post election speech, peppered with words like collaboration and sustainability, he seems to be an old style PC, and it sounds as though the reimagined PC party will actually be both progressive and conservative under his leadership.

But its early days; we will need to see how it unfolds.

Under Westminster rules, Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan will be given an opportunity to win the confidence of the house.  This seems unlikely as the outgoing Premier was unable to retain his own seat, and his party is down to 6 MLAs.

More likely possibilities are that Dennis King’s PCs could form an actual minority government on their own.  Or his PCs could forge a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens.  Or the Liberals to ensure electoral stability for the next 4 years.   Or the PCs could join with another party to form a ruling coalition.

Just as the Greens and Liberals could form a majority ruling coalition.  My best guess is the PEI Greens won’t join a coalition with anyone; they’ve worked too hard to build a viable third party to turn PEI back into a 2 party province.

Is it really a Green wave sweeping the country?  It sure looks like it.  But if we had some form of Proportional Representation, there would be many more Green MPs in Parliament.  Nearly a million voters voted Green federally in 2008.  And not a single Green was elected that year.  The GPC hasn’t earned that many votes since.   That doesn’t mean those Green voter stopped being Green, they just stopped voting Green because voting Green wasn’t effective.  So maybe it isn’t a “Green Wave” … maybe it’s just a case of the people who want to vote Green actually voting Green.  Because they believe in the policy that’s been formed out of Green values.  And they believe in the candidates who would best represent them.

However it plays out, it will be interesting.   Go Greens!

Hannah Bell and Peter Bevan Baker at the 2018 Guelph Green Party Convention

More Reading: Tragedy and politics on Prince Edward Island

Canada should not be supporting a military coup in Venezuela


[guest post by Michael Nabert]

Venezuela’s electoral system has been widely praised. Until, of course, it became convenient for foreign powers to proclaim a result invalid.

Forbes: Venezuela’s Election System Holds Up As A Model For The World

Nicolás Maduro’s government actually requested that the UN send election observers to monitor the election and ensure a fair and honest vote. It was the faction that Canada and the US now support who opposed having UN observers present.

Reuters: Venezuela opposition asks U.N. not to send observers to May vote

Backing a coup in Venezuela is a violation of international law.  Ask yourself how you would feel if a foreign nation proclaimed that they would decide for you who runs your country and ignore the results of your own elections.

Democracy Now: Former U.N. Expert: The U.S. Is Violating International Law by Attempting a Coup in Venezuela

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents.

The following open letter—signed by 70 scholars on Latin America, political science, and history as well as filmmakers, civil society leaders, and other experts—was issued on Thursday, January 24, 2019 in opposition to ongoing intervention by the United States in Venezuela.

The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.

Venezuela’s political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolás Maduro through extra-electoral means. While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.

“Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.”

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.” Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened  by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

Now the US and its allies, including Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela ― something illegal under the OAS Charter ― the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

The reality is that despite hyperinflation, shortages, and a deep depression, Venezuela remains a politically polarized country. The US and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America.

Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America ― in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention ― but also to protect themselves from likely repression if the opposition topples the government by force.

In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections. There have been efforts, such as those led by the Vatican in the fall of 2016, that had potential, but they received no support from Washington and its allies who favored regime change. This strategy must change if there is to be any viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis.

Signed:

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT and Laureate Professor, University of Arizona
Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy
Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pomona College
Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney
Steve Ellner, Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives
Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and only UN rapporteur to have visited Venezuela in 21 years
Boots Riley, Writer/Director of Sorry to Bother You, Musician
John Pilger, Journalist & Film-Maker
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Jared Abbott, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University
Dr. Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies
Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender, Smith College
Alexander Aviña, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University
Marc Becker, Professor of History, Truman State University
Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK
Phyllis Bennis, Program Director, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies
Dr. Robert E. Birt, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University
James Cohen, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, George Mason University
Benjamin Dangl, PhD, Editor of Toward Freedom
Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, UK
Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Wesleyan University
Jodie Evans, Cofounder, CODEPINK
Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Washington
Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University
Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College
Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History, Indiana University
Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis
Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University
John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, CUNY
Mark Healey, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Gabriel Hetland, Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies, University of Albany
Forrest Hylton, Associate Professor of History, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín
Daniel James, Bernardo Mendel Chair of Latin American History
Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh
Winnie Lem, Professor, International Development Studies, Trent University
Dr. Gilberto López y Rivas, Professor-Researcher, National University of Anthropology and History, Morelos, Mexico
Mary Ann Mahony, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University
Jorge Mancini, Vice President, Foundation for Latin American Integration (FILA)
Luís Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies, University of California San Diego
Teresa A. Meade, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, Union College
Frederick Mills, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University
Stephen Morris, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Middle Tennessee State University
Liisa L. North, Professor Emeritus, York University
Paul Ortiz, Associate Professor of History, University of Florida
Christian Parenti, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, John Jay College CUNY
Nicole Phillips, Law Professor at the Université de la Foundation Dr. Aristide Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques and Adjunct Law Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law
Beatrice Pita, Lecturer, Department of Literature, University of California San Diego
Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
Vijay Prashad, Editor, The TriContinental
Eleanora Quijada Cervoni FHEA, Staff Education Facilitator & EFS Mentor, Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching at The Australian National University
Walter Riley, Attorney and Activist
William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mary Roldan, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College/ CUNY Graduate Center
Karin Rosemblatt, Professor of History, University of Maryland
Emir Sader, Professor of Sociology, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro
Rosaura Sanchez, Professor of Latin American Literature and Chicano Literature, University of California, San Diego
T.M. Scruggs Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa
Victor Silverman, Professor of History, Pomona College
Brad Simpson, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut
Jeb Sprague, Lecturer, University of Virginia
Kent Spriggs, International human rights lawyer
Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
Sinclair S. Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University
Steven Topik, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine
Stephen Volk, Professor of History Emeritus, Oberlin College
Kirsten Weld, John. L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of History, Harvard University
Kevin Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Patricio Zamorano, Academic of Latin American Studies; Executive Director, InfoAmericas

Common Dreams:  Open Letter by Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

For context, we can look at all of the other relevant examples of this sort of thing in the region, which have harmed democracy and cost many thousands of lives just to support corporate imperialism. Pretending that this time will be different is ludicrous.

I highly recommend making time to watch John Pilger’s excellent documentary about decades of US assaults on democracy in South America, “The War on Democracy” which can be watched for free on Vimeo here:  https://vimeo.com/16724719

By restricting Venezuelans in Canada from casting their votes through the Venezuelan embassy, the Canadian government effectively deemed Venezuelan elections fraudulent before they even took place. This is not how international law works.

Venezuelan Analysis: Who Needs Elections? Ask the US About the Government Your Country Should Have

Guatemala’s President, Jimmy Morales, dismantled a United Nations anti-corruption group and barred its head from entering the country.

Honduras’s President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, took power in 2014 after a dubious election and violent crackdown on dissent, then ignored his country’s constitution to win re-election in 2017.

Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, has not only publicly attacked women, gay people, immigrants and people of colour, he has also expressed support for torture and his country’s military dictatorship.

“Colombia has witnessed the execution of 120 human-rights leaders in the past two years.

Is Ms. Freeland promoting democracy in those countries?

Globe and Mail: Canada’s leadership on Venezuela is misguided, misdirected – and a mistake

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Read more:
TruthDig: The U.S. Is Orchestrating a Venezuelan Coup in Plain Sight
National Post: NDP leader Jagmeet Singh sows confusion on ‘sensitive’ Venezuela issue, contradicting party line
Green Party of Canada:  Statement on the Situation in Venezuela
venezuelanalysis.com: Why is the CBC Lying About Venezuela? Anna Maria Tremonti Manufactures Dissent

Dear Ontario: Stop #Bill66

The #Bill66 Comment deadline is today!

I’ve just posted my comment. If you live in Ontario you should too.  There’s more information after the comment.

I am writing to tell you to withdraw “Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018”

I grew up Woolwich Township, and went to high school in Elmira, and I moved back to the area to raise my child. As a child I spent time visiting family from the Walkerton area. Both these towns have a lot going for them, but the terrible water issues they’ve suffered have left deep scars.

Human beings will not be able to drink the water in our town in my lifetime, and likely not even in my grandchildren’s lifetime. The laws protecting the health of our people and out environment are better than they were, but I expect they could be improved. Going the other way is simply not an option. I invite anyone who thinks otherwise to drop by my town and drink the water under our feet rather than the tap water we pipe in from Waterloo.

I agree with our town councillor who expressed anger at the provincial government’s implication that Woolwich Township isn’t “open for business.” And another who said we don’t need or want businesses that can’t operate within existing laws that protect our water, natural heritage, farmland and human health and well-being.

Urban sprawl is expensive, and I’m lucky to live in a place that has worked hard to responsibly manage growth through regional and municipal planning based on evidence and citizen consultation.

Parcels of land, factories, farms, cities, towns and hamlets aren’t islands; they share the environment that supports us all. Our current regional planning procedures ensure that the use we make of our lands don’t harm our neighbours. We all need a healthy environment.

Kitchener-Conestoga is a predominantly rural riding. Pesticides are killing off our bee population: we need stronger environmental law. The farms that surround the settlement areas and knit Waterloo Region together are important if we want to eat.

But the safety of our water and our land is only part of the problem with Bill 66. Omnibus Bills are never a good thing. Democracy doesn’t serve the public if laws are rushed through willy nilly without making use of the democratic procedures that subject them to scrutiny, so they are properly formed.

I have not had the time to read through the 22 other laws Bill 66 will change, but it is inconceivable that your government would strip away what feeble protections we have in the Wireless Services Agreements Act 2013. If there are any good parts in Bill 66, they can be pulled out and introduced as standalone laws.

As bad as everything I do know about Bill 66 is, the worst to me is your government’s attempt to strip public consultation out of the process. That was one of the things your predecessors got very wrong. My friend has been trying to set up an appointment with our MPP without success. This is still a democracy, isn’t it?

In case there is any doubt, I am writing this to tell you to withdraw Bill 66.


[The following is reprinted from the KitCon Blog]

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

During the election, Mr Ford categorically promised not to touch the Greenbelt.

Not only is the Greenbelt home to 5,500 farms, 78 species at risk and 102 million tonnes of carbon storage, the reason it was protected in the first place was to protect a great deal of Ontario’s water.

But now Mr Ford’s majority government has introduced Bill 66, The Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018, legislation. This will indeed open Ontario’s Greenbelt up to development.

Because it was introduced quietly going into Christmas, and the Ford Government has made no secret of its intention to push Bill 66 through quickly, I don’t know if anyone has yet managed a thorough examination of all the ramifications of Bill 66.

It may only be 35 pages long, but it’s an omnibus bill, which means everything you need to know isn’t contained in this draft legislation.  You’d have to read through every one of the 22 laws it will change:

Some of the changes it makes may be good things, but the bad things thoroughly outweigh any good that may be there.  That’s the thing about Omnibus Bills: many different things are bundled together in a package too big to be adequately considered in a democracy.

There is no reason Bill 66 couldn’t be stopped, and the good parts could be reintroduced as ordinary laws that can be properly understood and debated in the Legislature. 

Our unrepresentative voting system has gifted Mr Ford’s government with 100% power to pass any law it wants, even though it was elected by only 40% of the votes cast.  (A mere twentysomething percent of eligible votes).

So what’s the rush?

There is nothing stopping them from allowing citizens and the MPPs in the legislature to know what it is they are passing, and allow adequate parliamentary debate of all aspects.  That’s how our system is supposed to work.  In a majority government, even though the party with all the power can pass any law it wants, the reason we have an opposition parties is to ensure that our legislators make sure the laws they pass stand up to scrutiny.  If there are bad unintended consequences, or even if the legislation is too broad or unclear, these things can be dealt with before they become law.

The only reason for pushing something like this through fast is to keep us from knowing what they’re doing until it’s too late.  Keeping the people in the dark is not how a Government for the people would operate.

In the Region of Waterloo discussion of Bill 66, Waterloo Mayor Jaworsky said, “No one asked for this.”

Mr Ford keeps saying he needs to do this to show Ontario is “Open For Business.”  But what does that mean?  This law is supposed to “cut red tape” that prevents development.

But the fact is that development isn’t being prevented.  There is plenty of room in Ontario, plenty of land available and open for development without going anywhere near the protected lands of the Green Belt.  There is no need to endanger our water or anything else.  That’s why municipalities across Ontario are passing resolutions saying they don’t want or need this.

Why is this happening?

Because when the laws protecting Ontario’s water and the Greenbelt were put in place, land prices in the Greenbelt stayed low.  When a farmland can’t be turned into a factory or subdivision, it stays viable as farmland.  But because of the low prices, some developers bought land in the Greenbelt, speculating that in time they would elect a government willing to undo Greenbelt protections.

Although all-party approved changes to Ontario’s election financing law prevented political parties from accepting corporate donations directly, the changes didn’t go far enough, because developers like Mattamy Homes were allowed to contribute ridiculous sums of money to Partisan third party advertiser Ontario Proud which specialized in attack ads against Mr Ford’s opponents.  (And Mr Ford is undoing that election financing law because the people he is for have lots of money to spend to ensure the governments they want get elected.   But that’s another story.)

The only reason the Ford Government is trying so hard to carve up the green spaces of our province with factories and subdivisions is because their rich supporters want to make a profit.

Ontario has been doing a pretty good job of long term planning, protecting sensitive environments, our water and our food supplies. Once farmland is paved, its gone.

Once farmland is developed, it’s not farm land anymore.

The best we can hope for from Bill 66 is that decades of careful land management will be messed up.  The worst is another Walkerton.  Or another Elmira.

And if that’s not bad enough, Bill 66 does away with any requirement for public notice or consultation or meetings, and no matter what problems are caused, we won’t even be able to appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.  So called “Open For Business” by-laws passed behind closed doors will trump laws, policies and municipal official plans developed through extensive and open public consultation.  Communities would have no recourse to influence or challenge them.

And even if your Council doesn’t do any of these things, the Council next door might, and endanger the environment we all share.

What Can We Do?

We have until January 20 to formally tell the Ford Government consultation what we think about Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018 on the province’s website.

January 20th is the deadline for comments to Bill 66 on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (EBR).
Be sure that you and others that you know speak up and let your concerns be known.  It would be fantastic if your group or organization can make an official response or submission.  There is plenty of information in the Bill 66 Recent Articles
linked below.  There are a myriad of issues and concerns, but you can say as little or as much as you like in your comment.   Don’t be shy about making comments personally – even if it is just a short sentence or two.  I would suggest making it clear right at the top that you don’t want Bill 66.  I am afraid to say that at this point they are not likely to listen to what we say, but they will certainly tally up how many comments support or oppose the bill.

Please take two minutes to send a message to the Ontario Government to stop Bill 66:

COMMENT ON Omnibus Bill 66 HERE

DEADLINE SUNDAY: January 20th, 2019

You can also visit the Green Party of Ontario’s Defend The Greenbelt website.  If you feel you need assistance in using the comment process, the GPO advises you to Click here for step-by-step instructions to participate in the government consultation.

You can still use Hold The Line tool to send email to local politicians.


And of course we can always contact our Member of Provincial Parliament:
Michael Harris Jr, Kitchener-Conestoga, Progressive Conservative Party

Toronto:  tel 416 326-6945, fax 416 326-6942

Rm 434, Main Legislative Bldg, Queen’s Park M7A 1A8

Constituency office:  Unit 3 and 4, 63 Arthur St. S., Elmira, N3B 2M6

Mike.harrisco@pc.ola.org

Tel 519 669-2090, fax 519 669-0476

And you can also call the Premier’s Office directly!
Call 416 325-1941 and leave a short message re your concerns about Bill 66


Bill 66 Recent Articles and Background:

Pat Merlihan, Woolwich Township: Dear Mike Harris, MPP

Woolwich Observer: Groups call on townships to oppose province’s Bill 66

Elmira Advocate: ENVIRONMENT UNDER THREAT FROM BILL 66

Global: Walkerton residents worry about Ford government’s Bill 66

CTV: Local councils urge Ford government to protect farmland

CBC: Region of Waterloo won’t support Bill 66, votes to send message to province

theRecord: Region of Waterloo says no to Bill 66 — Jan. 9

Jenn Pfenning, Wilmot Council: Bill 66

theRecord: Proposed bill could lead to policy patchwork in Ontario endangering environmental protections and public health

theRecord: Local groups asking municipalities to reject Bill 66

theRecord: Waterloo Region politicians need to say no to Bill 66

Today’s Farmer: Waterloo Federation opposes Bill 66

Ontario Nature: Bill 66: What you need to know

New Hamburg Independent: Local groups asking municipalities to reject Bill 66

theRecord: Increasing the risk of another Walkerton

Toronto Star: That ‘red tape’ Ford is cutting? It was meant to protect the environment, workers, lives

Toronto Star: Developing the Greenbelt is a disaster on multiple levels

Canadian Environmental Law Association : Deregulation Redux: Ontario’s Environmental Laws under Attack (Again)

TU mirror: Equalization Questions and Misconceptions

mirrored from @procedurepols former Thought Undermined website.


Originally published April 24th, 2014;
harts updated with 2015-17 economic data

(If you are looking for information about federal transfers to a certain province, or federal expenditures vs revenues in the provinces, please go to either this post for information about all federal transfers to all the provinces, and this post for a closer look at federal revenues and expenditures by province. For some reason, Google always directs people to this post only, which doesn’t really address those issues in detail.)

Equalization is the Government of Canada’s transfer program for addressing fiscal disparities among provinces. Equalization payments enable the recipient provinces to provide their residents with public services that are reasonably comparable to the national standard, at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. Not every province receives equalization transfers. Six provinces will receive equalization payments in 2016-17: Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. The provinces that don’t receive equalization are frequently referred to as the “have” provinces and those that do receive money under this program as the “have-not” provinces, which is unfortunate and not an accurate representation of the actual state of affairs. There are also a number of misconceptions about the equalization program. Here I will address some of the most common.

1. Alberta pays for equalization

One of the common misconceptions is that equalization is entirely paid for by the so-called “have provinces”, notably Alberta. The keyword search activity on this blog regularly shows people searching for things such as “how much does each province pay for equalization”, “how much does province X contribute to equalization”, “province Y receives equalization money from province Z”, etc.  It isn’t uncommon to see comments on blogs or online media stories calling for Alberta to “pull out” the equalization program, or about how other provinces are spending the money they get from Alberta via transfer payments from that province. For example, on the Alberta Wild Rose Party website, we find the following:

Federal equalization and other wealth transfer programs were ostensibly intended to balance the quality of social programs across the country. Instead, what has happened is that the provinces benefiting most from these programs are now able to offer significantly more generous services to their citizens than the two or three provinces who are the actual net contributors (primarily Alberta and Ontario). It is no small irony that the biggest single beneficiary of such transfers, Quebec, provides cheap university tuition and inexpensive provincial day care, while Albertans pay high prices for, and have severe shortages of both in their own province. These annual wealth transfers also create the perverse incentive for ‘have-not’ provinces to retain fiscally irresponsible taxation and spending levels thereby remaining on the transfer dole in perpetuity.

Everything in that passage is simply incorrect (as will be explained in the rest of this post) and it is worrying that the party does not understand how equalization actually works (or maybe it does, but prefers to mislead). While some talk about money being transferred from one province to another, this is incorrect. All the money for equalization comes from Canadian taxpayers from across the country, including those in provinces which receive equalization transfers, and is shared among the provinces that fall below the national standard. Equalization is paid by the federal government to provincial governments and does not include any sharing of provincial revenues among provincial governments. Equalization funding is paid out from the federal government’s general revenues. The general revenues are the revenues the federal government collects from a wide variety of sources including: the federal personal income tax paid by all taxpayers in the country, the federal corporate income tax paid by all businesses in the country, GST revenue, revenue from customs and duties, resource revenue from federal sources, the federal portion of gasoline, alcohol and other taxes, etc. Provinces keep all the money they raise from resources and all their other tax bases. No provincial government funds go to support equalization. There is no special “equalization tax” or levy paid to the federal government by richer provinces such as Alberta, and even if the equalization program were cancelled tomorrow, this would not affect how much money the federal government collects from individuals and businesses in the forms of taxes, duties, etc. This can’t be stressed enough: no province “pays into equalization” – all individual taxpayers and businesses pay into the federal government’s general revenue fund, from which equalization is just one of many programs funded. So in answer to questions such as, how much money does Alberta transfer to Quebec or how much money does Alberta pay to equalization, the answer is simply “$0.00”. No province transfers any money to any other province. Individuals and corporations transfer money to the federal government.

In terms of federal government revenue collection by province, it is important to note that the federal government collects tax revenue in the provinces, not from the provinces. This distinction may appear subtle, but it has important implications. To say that the federal government collects taxes from provinces suggests either that the level of federal taxes people pay is related to their province of residence, or that the fiscal capacity of individual provincial governments is affected by how much federal tax is collected in their jurisdiction.

Neither of these statements is true, however. In fact, from the point of view of federal revenue collection, the very notion of “provinces” is irrelevant. Federal taxes do not differ by province; all Canadians pay federal tax at the same set of rates regardless of where they live.

Granted, Ottawa does collect more money in the form of personal and corporate incomes taxes, GST, etc. in provinces with larger populations and stronger economies than it does in provinces with smaller populations and weaker economies. I strongly encourage you to read this post for a closer look at federal revenues and expenditures by province in order to gain a better sense of what has been explained here, especially if you’re one of the many people who are looking for the answer to “Does Quebec pay more in federal tax than it receives in equalization?”

If you want to try to get a sense of how much tax revenue the federal government collects in each province from various sources (personal income, corporate, etc.), you can look at the various statistics available on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website. Please note that the data is never current (e.g. data is available for tax years 2006-2009, depending on the tax source).

2. How much has a province (e.g. Ontario or Alberta) contributed to equalization?

Again, as explained above, provinces don’t contribute to the equalization program. By that I mean, no province sends a specific amount of money to Ottawa to be used for equalization. The equalization program is paid for out of the federal government’s general revenues, which are collected in (not from) each province, including those that end up receiving equalization. The general revenues are the revenues the federal government collects from a wide variety of sources including: the federal personal income tax paid by all taxpayers in the country, the federal corporate income tax paid by all businesses in the country, GST revenue, revenue from customs and duties, resource revenue from federal sources, the federal portion of gasoline, alcohol and other taxes, etc. The existence of the equalization program has no effect on how much money is transferred from individuals and businesses in any province to the federal government.

3. When did Alberta (or any other province) start contributing to equalization?

As the explained in the previous two answers, provinces do not contribute to equalization. It is a federal program, paid for by the federal government, from its general revenues. All taxpayers in the country contribute to the general revenues of the federal government when they pay their personal income tax, sales tax, duties, corporate income tax, etc. Therefore, taxpayers in every single province have been contributing funds used for equalization (and every other federal government program) from the very first day the program started. There aren’t separate start dates for individual provinces, because Ottawa does not collect tax income from provinces, but from individuals.

4. Provinces which receive equalization are simply lazy/spend too much/just need to develop a work ethic and pay off their debts, are mismanaged economically, etc.

Eligibility for equalization is based on a province falling below a national per-capita income standard based on revenue from five different tax sources. It is not based on how much a province spends, if it runs a deficit, or if it has budgetary surpluses. A small province could consistently have a balanced budget, and budgetary surpluses, yet simply not be able to generate enough own-source revenue to meet the national standard for a multitude of reasons – smaller population, smaller tax base, lower average incomes, less corporate tax income, a downturn in international commodity prices for mineral resources, etc.

Even if a recipient province paid off its provincial debt, it is quite likely, under the current equalization scheme, that it would still qualify for equalization because it still would not raise enough own-source revenue from the five tax bases to meet the national standard. Prince Edward Island, for example, has a population of only 146,000. It is inconceivable that it will ever be able to generate enough own-source revenue from personal income tax, business income tax, consumption tax, property tax and natural resource revenues to meet a national standard based on all ten provinces, especially when you consider that many of those provinces have much larger populations and larger, more diversified economies (e.g. Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec). This has nothing to do with Islanders being lazy, not having work ethics, being “moochers” or not managing their provincial finances effectively. It is simply because they are a very small province and are thus limited in how much own-source revenue they can generate.

Similarly, the province of Ontario became eligible for equalization transfers for the first time in the province’s history in 2010-11. While the opposition parties in Ontario were quick to blame this situation on mismanagement by the governing Liberal Party, the real reason why Ontario now qualified for equalization was because the formula had changed to a true national standard, one which included all 10 provinces, and the inclusion of oil-rich Alberta into the calculation raised the national standard significantly. Under the old five-province formula, Ontario was the top-performing province. Other reasons explaining Ontario’s shift from “have” to “have-not” status included: booming commodity prices which benefited the resource-rich Western provinces, soaring energy prices and the soaring Canadian dollar, which both negatively impacted the manufacturing sector. These were all factors beyond the control of the Ontario government.

5. The recipient provinces could meet the national standard if they simply raised their taxes.

Again, as touched on above, this isn’t true. A small province such as Prince Edward Island simply doesn’t have the population to compete with a large province such as Ontario, or the resource base to compete with Alberta. And one of the key goals of the equalization program is to  enable less prosperous provincial governments to provide their residents with public services that are reasonably comparable to those in other provinces, at reasonably comparable levels of taxation. Also, in a highly competitive global market, provinces can’t raise taxes too much without hurting themselves and driving away investment and jobs. The recipient provinces already do tax their citizens and corporations more in many areas, as the chart below demonstrates (see point 9). Raising these various taxes even more would most likely have a negative effect on their economies, and still not be enough for them to not qualify for equalization.

Similarly, there are some critics of equalization who argue that equalization allows the recipient provinces to have higher taxes, which kills jobs and investments, so if we got rid of equalization, they’d have to lower their taxes to attract more investments and create jobs. This doesn’t even make any sense. Provinces aren’t deliberately overtaxing people and companies – provinces are constitutionally obligated to provide certain services such as education, healthcare, social welfare, etc. These are very expensive programs, in particular healthcare, which accounts for the biggest percentage of spending in every single province. Getting rid of equalization would simply make it more difficult for some provinces to pay for these services. Also, there are realistic limits to how much investment certain provinces will ever be able to attract. People may wish to debate the logic of having a province as small as Prince Edward Island, for example, but PEI is a province and it could declare itself a tax-free haven – it still wouldn’t be able to attract enough jobs and investment to fully fund the programs it needs to provide.

6. Equalization allows the poorer provinces to provide all kinds of social programs they couldn’t otherwise afford – subsidised by the rich provinces.

This argument usually refers to social programs that many consider “luxuries” rather than the social programs that all provinces are constitutionally obligated to provide such as healthcare, education, welfare, etc. and the criticism is normally aimed at the province of Quebec, which offers its citizens subsidised $7/day daycare, and the lowest university tuition rates in the country, for example.

However, as explained above, equalization eligibility is based on a province falling below a national per-capita income standard based on revenue from 5 different tax sources — personal income tax, business income tax, consumption tax, property tax and natural resource revenues. The provinces that receive equalization do so not because of how much they spend (or don’t spend) on social and other programs, but because they don’t raise enough own-source revenue from those five tax bases to reach the national standard. Remember that provinces also raise funds from many other sources of revenue not included in the equalization formula. The current equalization formula only considers 5 sources of revenue (the previous formula included 33 different tax bases). Quebec would still receive the same amount of equalization it currently gets even if it didn’t offer $7/day daycare or raised tuition fees significantly.  The issue isn’t really that Quebec does offer these programs to its citizens, but that other provinces which could maybe better afford them, choose not to offer such programs to their citizens.

7. Why does Quebec get so much equalization?

Of the six provinces receiving equalization in 2016-17, Quebec does receive the most in terms of total equalization payment, $10-bn. However, on a per capita basis, Quebec actually receives the second least amount of equalization. Quebec, like all recipient provinces, receives equalization based on two factors: its population, and because its fiscal capacity is below the average fiscal capacity of all provinces – known as the “10 province standard”. However, while Quebec’s fiscal capacity is below the 10 province standard, it is not that as far below the standard as some of the other recipient provinces since it has a fairly diversified and large economy, as well as being quite populous. On a per capita basis, Quebec gets only $1,213 per citizen from equalization. Ontario gets $167 per citizen. Ontario’s fiscal capacity is better than Quebec’s, and so it receives less equalization overall ($2.3-bn) and it has a much larger population – 13,792,100. Prince Edward Island is actually the province which benefits the most from equalization. It receives the smallest overall amount, $380-mn, but with a population of only 146,400, that works out to $2,603 per Islander. This chart shows how much equalization each province receives total, and per capita:

Province Population
2015
Total Equalization
2016-2017
(millions of $)
Equalization per capita
Quebec 8,263,600 $10,030 $1,213
Ontario 13,792,100 $2,304 $167
Manitoba 1,293,400 $1,736 $1,343
New Brunswick 753,900 $1,708 $2,265
Nova Scotia 943,000 $1,722 $1,826
PEI 146,400 $380 $2,603


8. How does each province spend the equalization money it receives?

It isn’t possible to know this. Equalization transfers are unconditional, meaning that there are no conditions attached to the money dictating how a province must allocate the funds. Recipient provinces are free to allocate the money according to their own priorities.

9. Equalization allows the recipient provinces to have much lower tax rates at the expense of the non-recipient provinces

If one compares the various income, sales and other tax rates of the provinces, it quickly becomes very clear that this argument simply does not hold up.

Major Provincial Tax Rates, 2015
(Source: Government of Alberta Budget documents)
(Rates as of 9 October 2015)

Type of Tax AB BC SK MB ON QC NB NS PEI NL
Personal Income Tax
Statutory rate range
Lowest rate (%) 10.00 5.06 11.00 10.80 5.05 16.00 9.68 8.79 8.80 7.70
Highest rate (%) 11.25 16.80 15.00 17.40 13.16 25.75 25.75 21.00 16.70 14.30
Surtax (%) 20.0/
36.0
10.0
Personal Amount ($) 18,214 9,928 15,639 9,134 9,863 11,425 9,633 8,481 7,708 8,767
Spousal Amount ($) 18,214 8,509 15,639 9134 8,375 11,425 8,180 8,481 6,546 7,164
Corporate Income Tax
General rate (%) 12.0 11.0 12.0 12.0 11.5 11.9 12.0 16.0 16.0 14.0
M&P rate (%) 12.0 11.0 10.0 12.0 10.0 11.9 12.0 16.0 16.0 5.0
Small business rate (%) 3.0 2.5 2.0 0 4.5 8.0 4.0 3.0 4.5 3.0
Small Business threshold ($000) 500 500 500 425 500 500 500 350 500 500
Capital Tax
General (max. %)
Financial institutions (max. %) 3.25 6.0 4.0 4.0 5.0 4.0
Other Taxes
Retail Sales Tax (%) 7.0 5.0 7.0 8.0 9.975 8.0 10.0 9.0 8.0
Gasoline Tax (cents/litre) 13.0 21.17 15.0 14.0 14.7 19.2 15.5 15.5 13.1 16.5
Tobacco Tax (dollars/carton) 50.00 47.80 50.00 59.00 27.95 29.80 38.00 51.04 50.00 47.00
Payroll Tax (max. %) 2.15 1.95 4.26 2.00

Related Posts:


The “Thought Undermined” website is no longer online.  The following information is too important to be allowed to slip away beneath the waves of Internet chaos.  Fortunately Radical Centrist [aka @procedurepols‘] published under a CC-BY-ND license. 

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EQUALIZATION QUESTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
On procedure and politics:Equalization Questions and Misconceptions by Radical Centrist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License