The authors point out that providing subsidized electricity rates and infrastructure to these monopolies, BC Hydro undermines any motivation for them to conserve electricity. In the end, it will be BC households and small and medium-sized businesses that pay the bill.
A second major feature of the huge price increases to be passed on to BC households and small and medium-sized business electricity users in coming years is the outrageously high prices BC Hydro has been compelled to pay by the former Campbell Liberal government for Independent Power Producers' (IPP) privately-owned electricity production.
"In 2006, BC Hydro paid $87.50 per MWh for new supply. By 2009, the average price had risen to $124 per MWh," the report states. "According to the 2011 BC Hydro Review, private power projects supplied 16% of BC's total domestic electricity requirements, but accounted for 49% of overall domestic energy costs."
All told BC Hydro has been forced by government dictated policy to agree to a "total of $40 billion in long term contracts to purchase private power at unreasonably high prices."
From paying $290 million for private power contracts, the projected bill for 2014 will reach $1.1 billion.
The Clark Liberal government repeats the mantra that all the new investment in BC to extract and export natural resources is "about jobs." The truth is just the opposite. The resource extraction industries as they are now constituted provide very few jobs, and do not enhance communities. They are based on extraction at the lowest cost and highest profit and then desertion. They are not based on nation-building.
The loss of dozens of saw mills and pulp mills due in part to the increased export of raw logs especially from coastal communities forms part of this same mania to export raw material as quickly as possible without considering the long-term consequences of such destructive practices. The layoffs of those mill workers have exceeded any employment gained from gas extraction, mining and LNG.
The report notes: "The BC government justifies its resource export strategy by pointing to the very large investments that resource projects pump into BC's economy. For example, in its September 2011 'Jobs Plan' the government points to the large investments in new mines and other resource projects as key components of its overall economic development strategy. However, the Jobs Plan ignores the fact that these sectors are extremely capital intensive, and employ few British Columbians. In 2008, mining and oil and gas combined employed 28,100 workers, about 1.2% of total provincial employment."
The "Jobs Plan" reality contrasts sharply with the fact that in 2011 there were 183,400 officially unemployed in BC or 7.5 per cent of the workforce. Even if employment had doubled from 2008 to 2011 in the mining, oil and gas industries, there would have still been 155,300 unemployed workers in the province.
The Calvert/Lee analysis of what is taking place with BC Hydro is revealing for the working class. The "Jobs Plan" is really a plan to lead the province into impoverishment and ruin. By charging resource extraction monopolies a fraction of what BC Hydro has to pay for electricity from private producers, and considering BC Hydro's own price of production and costs of new infrastructure, the public enterprise is assuming an ever greater debt imposed on it by the politicization of the private interests of the resource monopolies and private power companies. This public debt becomes part of the excuse for cutbacks to social programs and public services and increased individual taxation and user fees.
The Calvert/Lee research paper makes clear that the Liberal government, as the direct tool of finance capital investors in resource extraction ventures and private power, is an instrument to politicize the private interests of the monopolies. This points to the necessity for a new direction for political and economic affairs of the province.
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Flavelle Sawmill Closure in Port Moody, BC
Flavelle Sawmill in Port Moody, which produced lumber and cedar products such as siding and panelling, has been shut down. The company's parent company, Mill and Timber Products claims that, "Soaring insurance premiums in the wake of two fatal sawmill explosions in the BC interior caused the closure." The company says its annual insurance premium has jumped from $300,000 to just over one million dollars.
In the wake of the April 23 explosion at Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George that killed two workers and injured 22, WorkSafe BC ordered all mills in the province to inspect their premises for dust build-up. The mass media jumped to the conclusion that dust from dry pine beetle infected trees was the cause of the explosions and that all mills in the province were in danger and insurance rates would soar. Little consideration was given to a process where governments would hold companies to account to improve mill safety standards and no mills would be held ransom by insurance companies. Even less consideration was given to the fact that the working class is quite capable of building and enforcing a safe working environment if given the control. Why would workers want to work in an unsafe site, given a chance for control over conditions?
However, other forces behind this wrecking of manufacturing may be at play at the Flavelle Mill and elsewhere. Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay, while lamenting the fact that the closure will severely affect the city's tax base, revealed that parent-owner Mill and Timber Products' long-term plan does not include a prosperous value-producing mill but to "develop" the waterfront property with a hotel, condominiums and marina. Mr. Clay also revealed that discussions on the future of the mill site have been going on for many years.
Port Moody is part of Greater Vancouver and appears to be caught in the stranglehold of big real estate development capital, which has little by little destroyed the city's manufacturing base and much of its agriculture. Port Moody became the western terminus of the Canadian Pacific railway in 1886. The first sawmill was established there in 1905. Over the next few decades, a string of mills, factories, oil refineries and port facilities such as Pacific Coast Terminals, the largest sulfur port in the world, were located along the eastern shores of Burrard Inlet in areas that were not directly in the rich agricultural regions of the nearby Fraser Valley.
In the last twenty years, Port Moody has been largely de-industrialized while real estate and road construction has spread even into the Fraser Valley agricultural regions. The IOCO (ESSO) refinery closed in 1995. Andre's winery closed in 2005. The Burrard Thermal (natural gas) Generating Station is now used by BC Hydro only as an emergency backup.
Successive Canadian governments have overseen the destruction of manufacturing including in BC. In contrast to the wrecking of manufacturing, real estate development and speculation in the Lower Mainland has exploded, even taking over prime agricultural land. Combined with this has been the ever increasing production and exporting of raw mineral and forestry commodities such as raw logs.
BC workers are discussing this problem in the context of developing their own agenda for nation-building. The current wrecking of manufacturing and food security is not sustainable and an alternative must be worked out and fought for with practical politics. A modern economy cannot sustain its requirements for social programs, full employment, infrastructure and public services without a nation-building project that has manufacturing as its basic creator of value and food security as an essential aspect. This means self-reliance in manufacturing and food security is key, with other elements of the economy such as exports, imports, tourism and real estate as supporting instruments not qualities to be relied on as a foundation.
In BC, several popular slogans have developed that reflect the desire for self-reliance and nation-building in a sustainable way such as, "Refine it where you mine it," and "Saw it where you log it." This sentiment can be developed into a mass movement to bring the economy under the control of the actual producers in harmony with the hereditary rights of First Nations and sensitive to the needs of Mother Earth.
One thing is certain; this wrecking of manufacturing and food security and putting all our eggs in the basket of raw resource exports, tourism and real estate development is a dead end that does not bode well. Let's discuss and organize for an alternative!
Aveos Workers Fight for their Livelihoods and Against Dismantling of Aircraft Maintenance Sector
Aveos workers and their supporters protest the company's mass layoffs, Vancouver, March 19, 2012.
For more than three months now the Aveos workers
have been fighting non-stop in defence of their livelihoods and against
the dismantling of the aircraft maintenance sector in Canada in which
Aveos was a major player. Without warning, on March 18, Aveos closed
across Canada, permanently laying off its 2,600 workers. On March 19,
it filed for and was
bankruptcy protection under the Companies'
Act (CCAA). On
March 20, the court overseeing the bankruptcy protection granted the
order to begin the sale of all Aveos assets.
The Aveos workers held many actions against such
wrecking. The targets of their protests were Air Canada, Aveos
and the Harper government for their refusal to take responsibility for
what is happening.
Air Canada and Aveos blame each other for the shutdown of Aveos. Air Canada washed its hands of Aveos, claiming it is an independent company and a mere subcontractor doing some of its maintenance work. It blames the closure on bad management by Aveos executives. It persists in claiming that Aveos is an independent company even though it was part of Air Canada until it was sold in 2007 and even though the Aveos workers were considered Air Canada workers until late in 2011 -- their pension fund was part of the Air Canada Pension Funds until July 2011 and is still held in trust by Air Canada. As well, the maintenance and overhaul centres where airframes were repaired are still owned by Air Canada. There are many other examples that show that the link between Air Canada and Aveos was never broken. In fact, right up until the shutdown, it is estimated that 85 per cent of Air Canada's heavy maintenance was being done by Aveos. For its part, Aveos blames Air Canada for its alleged financial troubles because the carrier was sending more and more of its maintenance work elsewhere.
But workers' anger is primarily directed at the
arrogance and aloofness the Harper government has shown towards their
livelihoods, rights and the fate of this industrial sector
in Canada. A comment made by federal
Minister of Transport Denis Lebel on June
14 in the House of Commons typifies this arrogant detachment from the
real world. Answering an Opposition MP's question on
what the government intends to do to defend the workers and the sector,
Minister Lebel answered:
"As we have been saying since the beginning, this is an issue between private companies. Air Canada has 2,500 maintenance workers, it owns its whole maintenance team, of course they have their contracts with other companies to do the maintenance that is somehow more heavy duty. We are going to keep on making sure that the law is upheld, that our workers continue to have jobs. This is a matter between private companies and we are hearing that there are buyers coming forward for the former employees of Aveos."
Minister Lebel deliberately twists the truth. Besides the fraud that it is merely a private matter when livelihoods and an industrial sector are at stake, he gives false the impression that everything is fine and legal because maintenance activities carry on. But these are not the same workers he is talking about and they are not doing the same work. The 2,500 maintenance workers Minister Lebel refers to are the workers who are doing the on-site maintenance work of Air Canada -- the routine maintenance that is done between flights. The 2,600 workers who did the maintenance at Aveos are gone, terminated. Aveos was responsible for Air Canada's heavy maintenance -- different from the on-site maintenance -- which means airframes, engines and components like landing gears. This work was done in maintenance and overhaul centres that have now been closed. The fact that Air Canada has this maintenance work done by a different workforce does not replace what has been lost in terms of those workers' experience and their livelihoods.
As for as the law to which Minister Lebel refers, this is the Air Canada Public Participation Act adopted by the Mulroney government in 1998 after Air Canada was privatized. Again Minister Lebel is twisting the truth when he says that his government is going to make sure the law is upheld. The workers claim that Air Canada is violating the law and even the Quebec government has taken Air Canada to Court to demand a ruling that Air Canada is violating the law in closing the overhaul centre in Montreal.
The law says that as part of its obligations, the privatized Air Canada must "maintain operational and overhaul centres in the City of Winnipeg, the Montreal Urban Community and the City of Mississauga." Is this the same as maintaining the on-site maintenance activities to which Minister Lebel refers?
Minister Lebel seems oblivious to the fact that the workers are challenging Air Canada and his government on this matter and so are the Quebec government, while many experts have been quoted in the press saying that "operational and overhaul centres" cited in the law are precisely the Aveos facilities that have been shut down.
Minister Lebel also twists the truth in his comments that he has heard that there are buyers for the Aveos facilities who would potentially give Aveos workers their jobs back. In June, within the deadline set by the bankruptcy court, no buyer came forward for the airframes maintenance part of the company which was by far the largest segment of the operation and the one with the highest number of workers. The divestiture process for the components and engine maintenance parts of the operations is not yet completed and nothing has been said by the court about any results.
Workers report that for a couple of months now the officials of the Harper government have simply refused to talk to them and do not even acknowledge receipt of the faxes and emails they have sent to them.
Meanwhile the bankruptcy protection proceedings carry on and the workers are deprived of what belongs to them. At the beginning of April, the court overseeing the CCAA proceedings ordered Aveos to pay about $6 million in unpaid pre-filing wages to the Aveos workers plus about $450,000 in payroll contributions. This payment was made at a time when workers had been without income since the closure, from either wages or Employment Insurance. The payment was made under the hoax of providing immediate relief to the workers who were already facing personal bankruptcies and other hardships but the ruling says that this amount is a payment against the $2,000 of unpaid wages that are considered to be secured under CCAA. These unpaid secured wages are for vacation and overtime pay. So the workers were paid their regular unpaid pre-filing payroll cheques under the condition that if they accept this, they forego their other unpaid wages as secured payments which means that these monies are now in limbo. According to a union leader in Montreal of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that represents the Aveos workers, roughly 500 Montreal workers have found new jobs since the closure and more than 1,000 are still unemployed.
The issue of pensions is also a major concern. The union was recently notified that the Aveos pension plan was being wound up. The union reports that a major question that cannot be answered at this time is the solvency funding ratio at the date of windup because no actuarial valuation of the plan was done prior to Aveos' insolvency filing. This, the union says, is related to the intricacy of the pension plans because until July 2011, the pension plan of the Aveos workers was still part of the Air Canada pension plans and the money is still with Air Canada because the transition of the plan to Aveos has yet to be approved by the Office of the Ministry of Finance that supervises all federally regulated pension plans. That final approval and transfer of money was expected to be done sometime in 2013.
The Aveos workers continue to hold actions, talk to the media, demand justice for themselves and oppose the dismantling of the aircraft maintenance sector of the airlines industry in Canada.
Notice to Our Readers
With this issue of TML Daily we inform our readers that during July and August we will publish irregularly. This will give us time to take necessary measures to improve our work. TML Weekly Information Project will continue regular publication during the summer.
We remind you to please continue sending in your
articles, comments, reports and photographs. It is also time to renew
your subscriptions and financial contributions to sustain this very
important work. Please send cheques or money orders made out to
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada and mail to Box 666 Station C,
Montreal, QC H2L 4K4;
tax receipts will be issued for contributions over $20.
Thanking you for your support throughout the year, we wish you a very fruitful and safe summer.
Technical and Editorial Staff
1. The maximum contribution to
a registered political party is $1,200 per year. Monetary contributions
to registered political parties entitle the contributor to an income
tax credit as follows: 75 per cent of the first $400 to a maximum of
$300, 50 per cent of the next $350 for a maximum of $475 and 33.3 per
cent of any amount more than $750 up to $1,200 for a maximum tax credit
Read The Marxist-Leninist