March 4, 2017 - No. 7

In Memory of Wendell Fields

In Memoriam
Wendell Fields

August 26, 1957 - March 1, 2017

Presentation to Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature
on Justice and Social Policy, 1999

In Defence of the Right to Conscience
- Regina v. Fields, 1986 -

All Out for March 8 International Women's Day
Calendar of Events

Necessity for New Direction for the Economy
Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline
Looking at the Hype About Pipelines
- Peggy Morton -
Alberta's Petrochemical Diversification Program
- K.C. Adams -
Quebec People's Legitimate Concern over Fracking
- Fernand Deschamps -

Neo-Liberal Reforms to Canada Transportation Act
Workers Demonstrate Against Deregulation and Privatization
Nation-Wrecking Reform of Canada's Transportation System
- Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) -

In Memoriam

Wendell Fields

With profound sorrow the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) informs you that our Comrade Wendell Fields died on the afternoon of March 1 at 1:55 pm. Wendell learned of his cancer a little more than two short months ago. Despite its severity, he never flinched; he marched on. Five short weeks ago, on January 21, despite his illness and pain, he joined the marches of millions of people in the United States, Canada and other countries following the inauguration of the new U.S. President. He wrote a sign calling for the defence of women's rights and the rights of all and to Renew the Resistance! Renew Canada!

We express our deepest sympathies to Wendell's comrades and friends and his brothers, sisters and other family members. We all take solace in knowing that their loving care and attention permitted Wendell to leave us knowing how profoundly he was appreciated and the social love and affection he inspired in so many.

Wendell was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on August 26, 1957. When Wendell was 10 years old, his father Corporal Hugh Fields and six other paratroopers based in Canadian Forces Base Petawawa were killed in a night-time training exercise when a sudden change in winds blew them off course, and they fell into the Ottawa River and drowned. This tragedy was to cause the family great hardships in the following years as Wendell's mother Eileen struggled to look after herself and her five young children. From an early age, Wendell took responsibility to contribute to the family's well-being, working the kind of low-paying jobs typically open to young people. From this experience, he formed a consciousness of the problems arising from the relationship between the society and its members and their well-being and the question of social responsibility. Politics was to become a defining part of Wendell's life.

Wendell became involved in the work of the Party as a young man when he and his family were living in Cambridge, Ontario in the 1970s. He was listening to the University of Waterloo campus radio station and heard about the Anti-Imperialist Alliance, the youth and student branch of CPC(M-L). He was immediately drawn to the work of the Party to organize the workers to oppose the shifting of the burden of the economic crisis onto their backs -- the struggle at the time to Make the Rich Pay, which later became focused on the struggle to stop governments from paying the rich at the expense of the peoples' well-being.

Wendell joined in the unfolding struggle at the university over the student newspaper, the Chevron in 1977. Students rallied to defend freedom of the press when the student council shut the paper down because it disagreed with the student press being open to all political views and opinions, including those guided by Marxist-Leninist theory.

After Wendell joined the Anti-Imperialist Alliance as a community youth activist, he went on to participate in the struggles against state-organized racist and fascist attacks, such as the opposition to the formation of the Tactical Swat Squad in Kitchener-Waterloo, and the harassment and persecution of CPC(M-L). He was amongst those who contributed to the defeat of the state's attempt to frame Comrade Hardial Bains on the trumped up charge of "aiding and abetting an illegal immigrant" after the political police raided a party research centre in Kitchener-Waterloo. He became a member of the Party in 1979.

Wendell worked as a moulder in a plastics factory in Cambridge in the early eighties and never missed an opportunity to stand in solidarity with other workers fighting for their rights. In 1984, while supporting striking workers at a Canada Trust branch office in Cambridge, he was arrested and charged with "assaulting police" when the police violently attacked the picketers to enable cars to cross their picket line. Wendell initiated a criminal charge of assault against a police officer who had injured him in the arrest. During his testimony as a witness at the officer's trial, Wendell was questioned about his membership in CPC(M-L). When he refused to answer on the ground that it was irrelevant to the fact that he had been assaulted, the judge demanded he answer the question or be jailed for contempt. Still Wendell refused whereupon the judge cited him for contempt of court and jailed him. Wendell appealed the verdict and was vindicated when the Ontario Court of Appeal decided that he had rightfully refused to answer and that his contempt conviction should be overturned. This decision set two precedents and was written up in Martin's Criminal Code.

In 1987, after being laid off from his job in Cambridge, Wendell moved to Hamilton, which became his home. In his new location he contributed to the work of the non-Party mass press helping to establish and distribute New Hamilton Weekly. Besides constant work of the Party, Wendell also became active in Hamilton Against Poverty (HAP), which he participated in thereafter. With other HAP members, Wendell organized opposition to the Harris government's anti-social offensive. He and his comrades never stopped their resistance, as succeeding governments at all levels have continued the anti-social offensive with a vengeance.

Wendell waged an informed ideological offensive against the legislation of the anti-social offensive, exposing the retrogressive direction that was destroying the very conception of a modern society and its responsibility towards its members. He fought to elaborate a pro-social program in the face of the attacks on the rights of the workers and the most vulnerable sections of society. Wendell lived by the mottos that Our Security Lies in the Defence of the Rights of All and that No Means No! He refused to go along with the marginalization of any section of the people, be it on the basis of their political beliefs, race, national origin, gender, religious beliefs, social status or ability.

Wendell also stood with the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory against the illegal encroachment of their lands at Caledonia and participated in the struggles of the disabled for their rights and dignity, as well as in many other battles.

Wendell was a candidate of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada in the 1997, 2000, 2011 and 2015 federal elections and highlighted the need for the people to fight for their political empowerment. In his statement made on cable TV to the people of Hamilton during the 2015 federal election, he pointed out among other things:

"For all the working people of the Hamilton area, for the many thousands of retirees and for the good of the entire community -- we need to recognize the need for political renewal so that we can empower Canadians and not have political parties form governments which reduce citizens and residents to spectators of decisions taken in the boardrooms and corridors and back alleys. We need a new direction for the economy that is set by and for the people in which they have the decision-making authority to halt the destruction of everything they have built."

He also ran as an independent candidate in the 1999 Ontario elections and was a mayoral candidate in Hamilton for the 1997 municipal elections calling for mechanisms to be brought into being so that Hamiltonians could exercise political decision-making power over the affairs of their city.

As an activist in Hamilton, Wendell stood with steelworkers from the first day of their epic fight against the legalized theft under the CCAA perpetrated by Stelco in 2004. Rolf Gerstenberger, President of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada and former President of USW Local 1005, recalls:

"Wendell moved to Hamilton around 1987 when the New Hamilton Weekly was started. He volunteered to help with the distribution, helping to deliver New Hamilton Weekly to stores and apartment buildings. In those days we printed 140,000 copies paid for with advertisements and distributed for free so it was no small feat to distribute them in a timely manner. Our project would not have succeeded without Canada's unsung heroes like Wendell.

"Wendell was an avid reader of political literature and an active participant in the Party's programs and never hesitated to volunteer for various projects. He fought all his life to affirm the rights of all by virtue of being human, and it was a rare demonstration in Hamilton that Wendell did not participate in. He was active in the anti-war movement and in opposing the U.S. imperialist domination of Canada. He was one of the stalwarts in Hamilton fighting for the rights of the most impoverished. And of course the steelworkers knew Wendell for he attended all their rallies, demonstrations and events."

All those who knew Wendell and worked with him will forever treasure his uncompromising fidelity to his principles, his revolutionary communist spirit, as well as his warmth and comradeship. When Wendell was undergoing medical treatment, one of the staff asked him, "What would you like to do more than anything else?" Without hesitation Wendell answered, "I want to overthrow this man-eating system and build a society fit for human beings." This was the spirit that characterized Wendell throughout his life as a communist fighter for the rights of all and for the new world being born.

In a letter to Wendell shortly before he died, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of CPC(M-L) wrote:

Dearest Wendell;

On behalf of the entire Party I send you our most profound revolutionary communist greetings, social love and appreciation for your contribution to building the New in Canada and the fight for peace and justice internationally as well.

One of the things that always stands out for me is your steadfast refusal to permit the most important concerns of the people to be marginalized or dismissed. You did this by putting your own self on the line time and time again -- standing up to the cowardly powers that be as they paraded as democratic and humanitarian and tried to present those like you, who fight to humanize the social and natural environment, as extremist, fringe and dispensable.

Dear Wendell. Never ever under your watch has that ever succeeded. You addressed public consultations and meetings. You ran for parliament as a worker politician. You joined forces to build the technical base of the Party and non-Party press. You stood with the Party and modern communism through thick and thin. You even set two legal precedents in defence of the rights of all, especially the right to conscience. You have made us so proud time and time again.

The spirit of modern communism has your name on it, Wendell Fields. It is an inspiration like no other.

Ever Yours

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Presentation to Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature on Justice and Social Policy, 1999

Comrade Wendell Fields actively participated in the struggle of the working class and youth of Ontario against the anti-social offensive of the Harris Conservative government. As the "common-sense revolution" of Premier Mike Harris unfolded, attacking the rights and well-being of the workers and particularly targeting the most vulnerable with its cuts to social funding and criminalization of the poor, Wendell was unflinching in his conviction that society is duty-bound to take care of its members by recognizing and affirming the rights of all. As part of this work, during the period of Harris' second majority government, Wendell appeared on November 29, 1999 before the Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature on Justice and Social Policy along with two other members of Hamilton Against Poverty to speak out against Bill 8, the "Safe Streets Act, 1999." The full text of Wendell's intervention follows.


My name is Wendell Fields. I'm a member of Hamilton Against Poverty.

For over a year now the government and monopoly media have been engaged in a well-financed campaign of misinformation and fear-mongering about the youth, the poor and squeegee kids being a safety hazard. Once a climate of fear has been established, it's used to justify putting in tough legislation as the solution to criminalize the poor and the youth.

Why did the government not consider that they were creating a hazard to Ontario society and people when they cut or reduced social programs, when they cut or reduced health care, when they cut or reduced education?

Squeegeeing and panhandling are one result of these measures. It's a problem of society. The "bad behaviour" of panhandlers and squeegee kids is promoted to ensure that the substantive issues are not raised. Why there's a need for squeegeeing or panhandling to make a living for oneself is not addressed, nor is it even a consideration of those who draft this legislation. What the problems facing squeegee kids and panhandlers are is not considered. It doesn't occur to some people to investigate and address this. Why do people beg? Why do people squeegee? Why does Ontario society not take all human beings and their well-being into account? Why is the sole concern of the Ontario government to make monopolies competitive on the global market? Why does this government not recognize that it has a social responsibility to all the members of Ontario society?

This government represents a certain type of society which refuses to recognize that the people of Ontario have the right to a livelihood, the right to a free, quality education, the right to 24-hour recreational centres, the right to their own social consciences. In the 19th century, with the logic of the criminologists and social workers in Canada, it was promoted that aggression appears to be an innate human impulse. Poor families were not guaranteed food, shelter, education or income support, which led to malnutrition and starvation. Under such conditions, the youths were forced to steal food and other household necessities in order to biologically survive and to sustain themselves and their families.

Today, when the government's role is to do everything to ensure corporations' maximum return on their investment dollar in the global market, it is abandoning the Ontario people to destitution by removing funds from health, education and social programs. This is also done in the name of having a strong economy, one in which the provincial debt has increased almost two times, from $39 billion in 1989 to $105 billion. There's your strong economy.

When the youth try to survive by offering a service for a voluntary donation -- a tip, if you will -- by cleaning car windows, a service once done by gas station attendants, they do so out of necessity because Ontario society is not organized in a manner which guarantees that their needs are met.

What do the youth and poor have? What is the level of education they're receiving? Do they have access to recreational facilities? Do they have food? Do they have shelter? Do they have warm clothing? Does the government, when drafting legislation, take these factors into consideration?

There are very real social, economic and political problems facing Ontario society and this arbitrary legislation to force the youth to toe the line, shut up and accept their lot in life will not solve these problems, and pretending these problems of society don't exist won't wash either.

Unemployment and destitution face youth daily. In an attempt to solve this problem with some squeegeeing, they try to solve a social problem facing them. For this they're held in contempt, criminalized and attacked. The fact of it is that the youth do have the right to think, to organize and to have a livelihood despite the attacks they face from this old society.

Squeegeeing is actually working for some money, trying to survive. For this the youth are criminalized. When conditions exist where their rights as human beings or the collective rights of youths are denied, certain things occur. When their rights to a livelihood, shelter, education and so on are violated, they will aggressively demand and affirm that society has a social duty, a social responsibility to guarantee their needs to live as human beings. They will organize themselves into squeegee squads and work for some money to buy food, and establish their own work rules. There is nothing wrong with the behaviour of the youth. They are simply demanding to live. They are not the troublemakers.

This legislation seeks to create an atmosphere where the youth question nothing, where they don't think for themselves, where they consider themselves criminals and have no bright future. It is the spirit of the youth to have their own conscience, their own thinking, and to be exuberant, rebellious, to have a spirit of resistance and rebelliousness against the status quo. This is a factor, this is a symptom of being youthful, and this cannot be quashed by this legislation.

To hide the fact that this old Ontario society is unable to sort out any problems facing society, there are those who seek to create a diversion. Small businesses face economic difficulty. Big businesses like Eaton's go under and are gobbled up by the competitors. The economy cannot provide for everyone. Only the rich and the debt payments are considered.

An economy which has not and cannot provide and guarantee human rights for the people is not a strong economy. What sort of strong economy creates a destitute people? To divert from this, beggars and squeegee kids are set up as being the problem. They are attacked and scapegoated. Their problem is this old society and its economic system. When the squeegee kids and others in society organize themselves to defend their rights, they're considered a problem, a concern for the rich corporations, banks, a concern of this government.

Cleaning the streets of beggars and squeegee kids and those who fight for their rights does not show the warmth of the Ontario people. Squeegee kids and beggars are marketing for tourists and tourist dollars just what type of great province Ontario actually is. They show to a monied tourist just what kind of strong economy Ontario has. Squeegee kids and beggars show what the natural destination for people is once health, education and social programs are cut, reduced and eliminated. Hiding this won't heal this festering wound of decay.

When legislation is imposed on the youth and the poor without the beggars' and squeegee kids' participation, in the name of "for their own good" or "for the good of society," then such rules will not be respected nor will such rules be defended. The youths' spirit of resistance will be inspired and this is what will get them through the coming desperate straits.

They will take the responsibility to organize themselves in order to fight for a society to recognize and guarantee their needs and rights, and for a society to meet these claims made upon it. These are the real people, these are the real heroes of Ontario and of Canada, these are the people to which a democratic society will listen.

Just on a question of democracy, a fundamental, democratic principle is that 50 per cent plus one of a vote is a majority. There is no political party in power on the basis of near this number of votes. The present Ontario government is in power with less than 25 per cent of the eligible voters' vote. It really doesn't have any legitimate democratic right to govern us.

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In Defence of the Right to Conscience

Wendell Fields dedicated his life to defending the rights of the working people and even joined the Party in 1979 as part of a battle waged by the youth at that time in defence of freedom of speech and expression.

One of his greatest causes was to defend the right to conscience. The courage with which he did so became clear in 1984 when he stood up to the badgering of a judge of the Ontario Court who threatened him again and again that if he did not answer a question about his political affiliation he would be found in contempt of court and jailed. Wendell was jailed for 30 days -- a sentence which was later overturned on appeal.

Wendell refused to answer the question on grounds that it was irrelevant to the case, in which a police officer was charged with assaulting him during a strike in July 1984. The defence lawyer for the police tried to insinuate that Wendell's beliefs somehow justified the police assault against him and insinuate that he belongs to a criminal organization.

This is exactly what is being done today to criminalize all the forces across the country who want problems of the economy, environment, nation-building, resource extraction, social and political policy and war and peace discussed publicly. The state finances so-called right wing extremists to spew hate and commit violent acts. It then blames those who defend the cause of justice and rights, accusing them of also engaging in hate crimes, all to outlaw the right of all members of the polity to speak or defend just causes.

Wendell won his case in 1986 on appeal and the case Regina v. Fields set two legal precedents. TML Weekly is publishing extracts from the transcript in which the defence attorney and then the judge asks Wendell over and over to state whether he is a member of the Marxist-Leninist Party and Wendell refuses -- a great courtroom defence of freedom of conscience and defiance of injustice.


Defence: Mr. Fields, on the date in question you were not a member of this particular Union that was striking, were you?

Wendell Fields: No, I am a Union sympathiser.

D: No, just answer my question, I said you were not a member of that Union?

WF: No.

D: All right, and as a matter of fact you are not a member of any Union?

WF: No, that is correct.

D: Right, you are a member, however, of the Marxist-Leninist Party?

WF: Ahhh, I am not going to answer that.

D: Well I am asking you.

WF: My political beliefs is not the issue here.

D: Your Honour, I ask for an answer to that.

Judge: Yes, you have to answer the question.

WF: And if I refuse?

Judge: And if you refuse you may be held in contempt of court.

D: I undertake to you that it is relevant, sir?

Judge: Yes.

WF: I'm going to refuse to answer the question.

D: All right, I will finish with my other questions and then perhaps you can get some legal advice and answer that question in due course.

WF: If I was an NDP member would you ask what my political affiliation was?

D: I don't care about your political affiliation, I asked you if you were a member of the Marxist-Leninist Party?

WF: Well the question was geared to it.

D: I asked you specifically if you are a member of an outfit called the Marxist-Leninist Party?

WF: Well what my political affiliation is doesn't matter.

D: I don't care about politics.

WF: Well obviously the question shows that you do.

D: I am asking you if you are a member of that group? I am suggesting that it is the same if I ask you if you are a member of a motorcycle gang?

WF: I can't answer that question.

D: You won't answer?


D: Okay, all right, now you ... let's get back to the question that I asked you earlier, and I do want an answer because it is important. Are you a member of a group called the Marxist-Leninist Party?

WF: I am going to refuse to answer that.

D: But His Honour has instructed you to answer?

A: Yes, I know that, yes.

D: Your Honour I want an answer to that question because it is relevant in this sense in terms of what the whole purpose is of these proceedings and by that I mean the charges and so on and I want an answer to that question.

Judge: You are refusing to answer?

WF: Yes, I am.

Judge: Yes, well I am going to cite you for contempt and I will give you an opportunity to present a defence to that charge, do you understand me?

WF: Yes.

To read the full decision in Regina v. Fields, click here.

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All Out for March 8 International Women's Day

Calendar of Events

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) calls on Canadians to go all out to make March 8 International Women's Day 2017 a success.

This year, International Women's Day is taking place at a time of heightened consciousness of the need to renew the resistance. Millions have taken part in demonstrations to reject government of police powers represented by the new Trump administration as well as repudiate the misogyny, racism and aggression espoused by the U.S. and other big powers, some in the name of progressive values. Many are also becoming conscious of the need for political movements in defence of rights and against war. How to identify and overcome what is blocking the fight for women's rights and contribute to the emancipation of all working people is on everyone's minds. One conclusion increasingly drawn is that the existing institutions the people are saddled with are anachronistic.

One hundred and six years ago, the first International Women's Day was celebrated to focus on the call for peace issued by women in Europe prior to World War I. International Women's Day is in fact from its beginning imbued with the spirit of proletarian internationalism because it is centred on the striving of women for their emancipation in the context of the emancipation of the entire working class and oppressed peoples. Women have always stood in the forefront of the struggle for rights, peace, and the progress of society. This shows that the question of women's fight to affirm their own rights is inseparable from the issue of political power and the fight of the working people to exercise leadership over the society, build their own institutions and put an end to exploitation, oppression and war.

TML Weekly is publishing a calendar (link above) of International Women's Day celebrations, gatherings and rallies across the country beginning on Saturday, March 4. CPC(M-L) encourages everyone to participate and join in the work to defend the rights of women and the rights of all.

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Necessity for New Direction for the Economy

Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline

Protest against construction of Keystone XL pipeline, Washington, DC, November 6, 2011.
(TSA Clayton)

U.S. President Donald Trump issued executive orders pushing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines on January 24. The presidential order on Keystone XL invited TransCanada Pipelines to reapply for its cross-border permit and directs the U.S. State Department to "take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review." The order gives the State Department 60 days from receipt of TransCanada's new application to issue a final decision.

TransCanada Pipelines announced two days later that it had filed a presidential permit application seeking approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline will ship dilbit (bitumen plus diluents added so the oil will flow down the pipeline) to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The presidential order does not mention any conditions Trump would negotiate and impose other than building the line with steel made in the United States.

In response to this development, Prime Minister Trudeau boasted during a federal cabinet retreat in Calgary: "I've been on the record for many years supporting [Keystone XL] because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans." Trudeau's remarks seemed intended to convey the impression that Trump's reversal of President Obama's opposition arose in part from Trudeau's insistence the pipeline be built. It appeared to many as a desperate attempt to reverse the image of a man who callously said an unemployed energy worker in Edmonton did not deserve full unemployment insurance benefits because the city's rate of unemployment did not warrant it.

Regardless of Trudeau's subjective motives, how about the substance of the remark that building pipelines "leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans." Keystone and Keystone XL were opposed by organized energy workers, the Alberta Federation of Labour and many other organizations because they ship jobs down the pipeline through the export of unprocessed oil. The opposition to the pipeline reflects a growing public opinion that the extraction and sale of natural resources must be tied to a strict ratio of investments in regional and national basic industries, manufacturing, social programs and public services. A consciousness is developing that Canada and its regions need a new economic direction, one that develops a diverse economy that retains the bulk of its earnings from exports and ploughs them back in exchange and investment for extended reproduction. This would develop a broad internal regional economy that could stand on its own and provide security from the boom and bust cycles of today within the imperialist system of states. Canada needs a nation-building project that restricts the financial oligarchy from taking the new value workers create out of the regional and national economy. Without such a direction Canadians remain vulnerable to recurring economic crises.

The energy oligopolies and their political representatives through their control have put the economy in a straitjacket of dependence on oil and other natural resource exports, their global market prices and uncertain demand. The earnings from exports are mostly taken out of the regional economy or invested back into producing and shipping out more of the same natural resource. More of the same is epitomized in building more pipelines. But the constantly repeated mantra that pipelines "lead to economic growth and good jobs" does not survive a closer look.

The capacity of pipelines approved or under review exceeds anticipated production to fill them. Together, Keystone XL, the recently approved Trans Mountain and the Enbridge Line 3 replacement would increase pipeline capacity by about 1.8 million barrels per day (b/d). The Energy East project would add another 1.1 million b/d, for a total of 2.9 million b/d. This contrasts with the oil industry's estimate that oilsands production will grow by between 850,000 and one million b/d by 2025, which in turn is based on oil prices rising or at least remaining at current levels. But production levels are bound to increase in the U.S. shale fields of the Bakken Formation (North Dakota) and the Permian Basin in west Texas where vast amounts of oil are available through fracking and profitable even at today's market prices. Also, Trump is escalating Obama's policy of encouraging U.S. oil production.

Western Canada currently produces about 3.7 million b/d of oil transported to market by pipeline or rail. Three oilsands projects will come on stream in 2017 -- Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL)'s Phase 3 Horizon, Suncor's Fort Hills project and Japan Canada's Hangingstone with total production from the three of 260,000 b/d. No one is expressing concern about pipeline capacity for this oil.

After accounting for new production in 2017, the total amounts to less than 100,000 b/d in new production annually to 2025, all slated for export without upgrading or refining. This represents lower levels than during the past two years. Yet some argue 2.9 million b/d of additional pipeline capacity will be needed. It does not add up.

Enormous amounts of added-value created by the hard work of the working class are seized by these oligopolies that own and control the oil and gas industry. For example, MEG Energy CEO Bill McCaffrey is quoted by Bloomberg as saying its recently announced 25,000 b/d expansion to its Christina Lake project "will provide an investment rate of return of 50 per cent, some of the highest economic returns available to the company today."

This wealth is invested according to the narrow private interests of the owners of capital. Not only is ownership and control mainly outside Canada, the added-value workers produce generally follows the ownership out of the economy. Any amount that remains is not used to diversify the economic base. Rather than being invested to put an end to boom and bust and guarantee the well-being of the people, the over-reliance of investments in oil and gas and particularly in extraction for export of raw resources exacerbates the recurring crises and leaves the people and their economy vulnerable and insecure.

How will the current direction of the economy provide a solution to the economic crisis facing Alberta, to unemployment and the huge gap between public expenditures and revenues? Nothing is going to be turned around by continuing down the same road that produced the current crisis. What the government calls "more competitive" royalty rates and various pay-the-rich schemes being implemented will make things worse as they take funds, which are needed for investments in social programs, from the government coffers and put them in the hands of the already bloated rich. They continue the direction of not only seeing jobs shipped down the pipeline but also the social wealth the working people produce.

Another serious objection to increased energy exports to the U.S. lies in the NAFTA proportionality clause. Under NAFTA, Canada cannot enact any measure restricting exports that would decrease the proportion of total production available for export to the United States. Under this clause, U.S. buyers of oil are not obligated to purchase oil from Canada, but producers of oil in Canada are prohibited from restricting exports to the U.S. So if the Keystone XL project goes ahead and is fully used, Canada would then be obligated to maintain the total production being exported to the U.S. under the NAFTA proportionality clause. This in itself is a serious violation of Canadian sovereignty and right to make decisions about the direction of the economy, such as whether to divert those crude oil exports into refining and manufacturing in Canada or reduce investment in oil production and use those funds for increased investments in other sectors such as social programs, public services and manufacturing.

Which way forward? Workers are very well aware that continued reliance on the export of energy, mainly unprocessed bitumen from Alberta, is no road to prosperity. The problem to be solved is that the working people are not the ones who make the decisions, and the proposals discussed are only those presented by the oligopolies and suit their private narrow interests and the strategic aim of U.S. imperialism to secure a guaranteed source of oil and other natural resources for its insatiable armed forces.

More than ever, putting Canada at the mercy of the U.S. market within an annexed economy producing mostly natural resources is a perilous path. The working class needs to discuss what nation-building under its control would look like. The working class should strengthen its social consciousness and understanding of the possibilities for a new direction for the economy and way forward for society. One thing is certain: the current direction is not working and demands serious attention.

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Looking at the Hype About Pipelines

Demonstration against Kinder Morgan pipeline, Vancouver, November 29, 2016. (H. Syed)

Trudeau says pipelines "lead to economic growth and good jobs"

The idea that pipelines are necessary to create higher paying jobs is hyped by the western provincial and federal governments, as well as the energy industry. The rights of the Indigenous nations, environmental concerns and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are pitted against what is presented as a solution to unemployment and the serious problems of the economy, especially the tens of thousands of currently unemployed oil workers.

The working class is overwhelmed with ever-inflated numbers of the jobs that go along with the building of pipelines providing it with both false hopes and false consciousness. President Trump repeats the long-discredited number of 28,000 jobs in the U.S. for the Keystone XL pipeline. In Canada, the U.S.-controlled oligopoly Kinder Morgan initially pegged the number of spin-off jobs for its Trans Mountain line expansion at 2,000, but now says twinning the existing line will result in "the equivalent of 37,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs per year." After completion, only 90 workers will be required to operate the two lines. What will the other 36,910 workers be doing in their "equivalent" jobs?

Kinder Morgan says construction will involve up to 4,500 workers at peak over two years. What is not explained is that pipeline construction typically takes place in the summer, except in muskeg or swamp areas where work can proceed when the ground is frozen. Contractors bid on sections of the pipeline, and the average length of a job to complete one section is usually three months or less, while an exceptionally long run might be four months.

Not only are the employment numbers inflated, they are impossible to verify. Even more significant is that the calculation of "direct, indirect and induced jobs" is based on an all or nothing scenario. Either accept the decisions made by the oligopolies as to the direction of the economy including heavy reliance on investments to extract and ship diluted bitumen, or nothing. Those who challenge this logic are dismissed as unreasonable and opposed to economic development. Even existing alternatives to the export of unprocessed bitumen are not discussed because the oligarchs and their political representatives do not allow them to be discussed.

For reference, a comparison with the construction and future operation of the Sturgeon refinery now under construction in Redwater, close to Edmonton, is revealing. The estimated price of production to build the refinery is $8.5 billion, while the Trans Mountain pipeline is estimated at $6.8 billion. A comparison shows that investments in pipelines actually rate quite poorly when compared to an investment in refining capacity to serve the Canadian market.

Phase One of the Sturgeon refinery is now nearing completion, the first new refinery built in Canada in more than 30 years. It will produce 80,000 barrels a day of ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel, as well as diluent and low-sulphur vacuum oil and other products that can be used in the petrochemical industry.

Canada imports all of these products now, and all production from this phase at Redwater will serve the Canadian market. A gasification unit will take the heaviest, lowest-value portion of the feedstock bitumen and convert it into hydrogen and pure C02, which will be used in a carbon capture system to be injected into existing oil wells in central Alberta to "enhance oil recovery from mature fields."

The Sturgeon refinery project will have taken four years when completed later this year. In June 2016, 5,200 workers were on the construction site, with another 3,000 workers in modular yards around Edmonton. This brings the total peak of construction workers to 8,200, while the non-peak workforce has been about 5,000 workers including engineers and NW Refining staff. Around 500 workers are required for Phase One production. Two additional phases were included in the initial design, but their future is uncertain.

The Sturgeon refinery will process 78,000 barrels of bitumen a day. The province will provide 75 per cent of the project's feedstock through its bitumen royalty-in-kind program (BRIK), while the remaining 25 per cent will come from Canadian Natural Resources. Canadian Natural Resources owns the project in a 50/50 joint venture with NW Refining. BRIK was designed under the government of Ed Stelmach to encourage in-province upgrading, refining and petrochemical development. Since the financial crisis of 2008 and crash in oil prices in 2014, the oil monopolies have lost interest in building refining and upgrading capacity in Alberta, and the Sturgeon refinery has only proceeded with arrangements where the risk is borne by the people of Alberta.

The government pays the refinery a processing fee or toll and retains ownership of the bitumen. The provincial government also has a 25 per cent stake in the project through the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, but only so long as the "subordinated debt" is outstanding.

Ian McGregor, CEO of NW Refining, claims significant environmental benefits from the project, saying the diesel produced has the lowest sulphur content of any diesel fuel produced in North America. Needed pipeline capacity is reduced by one-third as bitumen flow can be maintained without adding diluent. The refinery has a carbon capture system, which will ship about 4,000 tonnes a day of C02 by pipe from the refinery to central Alberta and a nearby Agrium fertilizer plant for injection into mature oilfields for enhanced oil recovery.

(To put this carbon capture in perspective, the 4,000 tonnes a day of C02 amount to about 1.5 megatonnes annually. Total CO2 production from the oilsands is now about 70 megatonnes/year and has been capped at 100 megatonnes/year).

"I have a basic belief in Alberta that we are really good at making logs but we had better quit doing that and start making furniture or there's not going to be a very good future," NW Refining CEO McGregor stated recently.

McGregor challenges the need for new pipelines, pointing out that shipping bitumen requires about one-third of the pipeline capacity for added diluent to make the bitumen flow. He also points out that adding pipelines to export dilbit (bitumen plus diluent) may well leave Alberta with no oil for refining and the petrochemical industry given the projected oil production capacity.

The Sturgeon refinery is being built because of direct government involvement where the state assumes the risk, while ownership and control remains in private hands. An alternative would be to use state investments to establish refining and manufacturing capacity under public service control and state ownership, with companies like NW Refining acting as hired contractors.

The workers themselves, especially the energy and building trades workers whose lives are made so precarious by the present rip and ship direction must themselves find a way forward through their own initiative. Those elements entrenched in class privilege and control of the economy and their political representatives have no interest in change unless it consolidates their privilege and control. A new direction for the economy to serve the people and build vibrant thriving communities can only come from the initiative of the workers, their allies and political representatives themselves forming a powerful movement along with the institutions they require to bring in the new.

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Alberta's Petrochemical Diversification Program

No to pay-the-rich schemes -- time for a twenty-first century
nation-building project

Many in Alberta pay lip service to the need for diversification of the economy, at least during the bust part of the boom and bust cycle. Especially starting with the crash in oil prices in the 1980s, when governments speak of diversification they mean pay-the-rich schemes. Private monopoly interests are given grants or interest-free loans to "incent" them to make investments. The Alberta government's Petrochemicals Diversification Program does not stray from this model.

The government invited the energy oligopolies to submit proposals and then chose two for its Petrochemicals Diversification Program. Together, they will receive $500 million in grants from the state treasury on completion of the two facilities, which will process propane extracted from natural gas making plastics products propylene and polypropylene.

The amount awarded the two global oligopolies is greater than the total $493 million in royalties the Alberta government claimed from natural gas producers in 2016. Working people should think deeply about this backward use of state funds, which are in effect a portion of the social wealth Alberta workers produce and should belong to them by right.

A joint venture between Pembina Pipeline Corporation and Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC), will receive up to $300 million in provincial royalty credits to build an integrated propylene and polypropylene plant in Sturgeon County at an estimated price of production of $4 billion. PIC is a subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Kuwait's national oil company.[1]

Inter Pipelines will receive up to $200 million in royalty credits to build a $1.85 billion facility in Alberta's Strathcona County. The plant will also produce propylene and polypropylene. Inter Pipelines is a subsidiary of Koch Enterprises, owned by the notorious Koch Brothers, one of the richest families in the world.[2]

The pay-the-rich schemes amount to the following: some of the richest people on the planet, who have amassed incalculable social wealth from the control of natural resources and the work of hundreds of thousands of workers, are invited to Alberta to plunder Mother Earth's natural bounty using the hard work and expertise of Alberta's working class and the existing infrastructure. But that is not enough for the oligarchs. They are "incentivized" to pillage the province's land and labour with a promised gift of half a billion dollars from the state treasury.

Once in production, the oligarchs are free to do as they please with most of the new value workers produce, which is declared their private property. Generally, the new value workers produce is not invested back into the local economy but spirited off by those in control to where another government is offering "incentives" or a big score is anticipated. This is not the way to diversify the economy regardless of the grandiose title given to the program.

These energy oligopolies from the U.S. and elsewhere cannot operate in Alberta without skilled workers educated for the most part in Canada's public schools and cared for when sick or injured in Canada's health care system. These plants also require Alberta's natural gas and the extensive infrastructure needed to extract it from the land and transport it to the plants.

Think about it for a moment. The investments and value produced in all the public services, social programs and infrastructure these plants require to operate have to be realized in exchange for the value the workers in the new plants produce. Instead, the state is giving those in control of the new plants social wealth from state coffers and, as well, most of the added-value workers in those plants produce can be spirited away by the oligarchs to who knows where. How is this sustainable? How does this grow the economy or diversify it? This is not nation-building in the twenty-first century. For Alberta and Canada's economy to grow and diversify and become stable and secure, it needs the internally produced added-value to be poured back into the economy for extended reproduction of different sectors, both means of production and articles of consumption.

How can health care, education, seniors' care, care for the most vulnerable, transportation and other infrastructure and a host of necessary social programs, public services and manufacturing of a modern society be financed when those companies consuming the social wealth those sectors produce refuse to pay for it but instead demand to be paid for the right to use them and to take added-value out of the economy for use elsewhere? These pay-the-rich schemes such as the high-sounding Petrochemicals Diversification Program are profoundly irrational and backward, and exacerbate the contradictions, tensions and social conflicts within the economy and society dragging them down into insecurity and recurring crises.

Provincial Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous said the scheme was necessary to "lure" the investment to Alberta rather than Texas or Louisiana and would "level the playing field." In other words these oligopolies hold governments hostage, demanding various pay-the-rich schemes or they will go elsewhere. This is not a game governments in Canada should be playing. Robbing the state treasury to benefit the Emirate of Kuwait and the U.S. Koch Brothers is exactly the kind of deals that should be prohibited by law as criminal corruption.

Even the claim that the plants would not otherwise be built is spurious. Canada has lost its U.S. market for natural gas due to the U.S. fracking spree resulting in a glut of propane. What to do with the propane forms a big part of the motivation for building the plants. If they can be paid to do so, so much the better from the point of view of the rich.

The dangers posed with these schemes cannot be ignored. The Don Getty Alberta government did the same when oil prices tanked in the 1980s. The state deficit from paying the rich was then used by Premier Ralph Klein as a pretext to launch the most vicious anti-social offensive in the history of Canada. Everything was on the chopping block when it came to the social programs and public services the people need and a modern society requires for its existence. Today, the state deficits from these new pay-the-rich schemes and the refusal to open a new direction for the economy will be used down the road by the Jason Kenneys and others of his ilk to attack the people and society with a vengeance.

The conception that the Koch Brothers and Kuwaiti emirates are going to secure Alberta's future boggles the mind. Such ridiculous deals tighten the stranglehold of the very rich over the wealth the working class produces and its potential. Far from strengthening the economy, it weakens it with increased class privilege and control, with the rich taking wealth out of the economy, local communities and province in ever greater amounts and abandoning the province altogether when the inevitable crisis erupts.

An obvious question is staring the working people in the face: if these manufacturing plants make sense, why would Alberta not fund its own state-organized enterprise to build and operate the facility instead of paying Kuwait's national oil company and the Koch Brothers for the privilege. The new social wealth workers produce at the plastics plants would then be available to be poured back into the economy in increased investments in social programs, public services, infrastructure and other state enterprises not to speak of properly realizing the social wealth the plants consume. That is called nation-building in the twenty-first century.


1. The Pembina Pipeline/PIC Joint Venture will involve from 2,000 to 2,500 construction jobs at peak and take about two years to complete. The plant in operation will employ about 150 people processing 22,000 barrels per day of propane into polypropylene.

2. The Inter Pipelines plant, it is said, will take about three years to build with a similar number of workers involved in construction as the Pembina Pipeline/PIC Joint Venture and about 95 workers upon completion processing propane into polypropylene.

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Quebec People's Legitimate Concern over Fracking

The Liberal government of Philippe Couillard last December 9 passed Bill 106 An Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions. Subsequently, the government is attempting to allay the fears and major concerns of municipalities, farmers and local populations living close to hydrocarbon exploration and operations of the petroleum industry.

Quebec contains non-negligible quantities of natural gas trapped in a geological formation called the Utica Shale. This geological formation is present in the St. Lawrence Lowlands between Montreal and Quebec City. The area between Portneuf and Beaupré near Quebec City is also potentially rich in oil in the same rock formation. The Utica Shale is composed primarily of low permeability shales that contain non-negligible quantities of natural gas (mainly methane) that is already extracted in Pennsylvania by the method called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking).

Because the Utica Shale formation is not very permeable, the only way to release the gas (or oil) trapped in the shale is to drill a vertical well, which is then deflected horizontally for a distance of 1 to 2 km. Once the well is drilled, huge quantities of water totalling millions of litres or the equivalent of several thousand loads of water-filled tanker trucks are pumped under high pressure into the well. This fluid is enriched with a retaining agent or proppant (sand or ceramic microbeads) that forms 10 per cent of the liquid solution. This retaining agent fills the fractures caused in the rock by pressurized water and eventually allows the gas trapped in the shale to escape.

Click to enlarge

The injected fluid also contains about 0.5 per cent of chemical additives. The additives are predominantly toxic biocides intended to prevent the development of possible bacteria, which would complicate the extraction process. Section 80 of Bill 106 describes this entire process of hydraulic fracturing as "a well by physical, chemical or other stimulation."

The mixture of liquid once injected under pressure is then mostly recovered a few hours or days later and deposited as brine in surface recovery tanks to be used again or moved to permanent storage. Generally, neighbouring municipalities close to fracking operations have refused to treat this wastewater (referred to as "brine" in Bill 106) because municipal wastewater filtration systems are not suitable for filtering complex wastewater from fracking wells. For this reason, the operators of fracking wells resort eventually to storage of their brine in either natural underground reservoirs or those created during fracking.

Who is Responsible for Environmental Damage?

Chapter IV of Bill 106 "Permanent Well Closure and Site Restoration Plan" states that any company engaged in fracking and doing the drilling and operating the well(s) is pledged to create a situation whereby, "in the Minister's opinion, the condition of the territory affected by the work or activities no longer poses a risk for the environment or for human health and safety" (section 106, paragraph 2).

The question arises whether or not "the Minister's opinion" is based on the best scientific and environmental practices for the remediation and rehabilitation of hydraulic fracturing sites. Those best practices include dealing with contaminated or polluted sites and returning damaged or degraded land to beneficial use. Section 123, Chapter VII in Bill 106 "Optimum Petroleum Recovery and Brine" states, "An exploration, production or storage licence holder must recover petroleum and brine optimally using generally recognized best practices for ensuring the safety of persons and property, environmental protection and optimal recovery of the resource."

According to the restricted definition of best practices in Bill 106, the company responsible for fracking and the resulting brine is not required to return the contaminated site to its original state for beneficial use. It has become well-known that most fracking operations do not fully recover their wastewater, as brine leaks into existing or reactivated fractures. This experience makes problematic even the restricted definition of best practices in Bill 106 regarding the storage of brine to ensure "the safety of persons and property, environmental protection and optimal recovery of the resource."

It Is the People Who are Made to Pay the Price for Fracking

Section 119, Chapter VI in Bill 106, "Liability and Protective Measures" states:

"An exploration, production or storage licence holder or a junction pipeline authorization holder is required... to make reparation for any injury caused through or in the course of their work or activities, including a loss of non-use value relating to a public resource, in particular due to emanations or migrations of gas or spills of oil or other liquids.

"[Also] The holder must provide proof, in the form and manner the Government determines by regulation, that they are solvent to an amount determined by the Government."

The experience of workers in Quebec and the rest of Canada is that when a company is obliged to pay for damages caused to the environment, it always tries to pay the least it can, not to return damaged, contaminated, degraded or polluted sites to beneficial use and compensate all who have been affected. When all judicial recourses have been exhausted, the company will declare bankruptcy under commercial law so as not to be forced to pay for the full damage it caused.

To all this is added the dangers caused by the activation of fractures and dormant faults near zones where hydraulic fracturing occurs. A study in Alberta and British Columbia, and another in the United States by the U.S. Geological Survey found a link between an increase in seismic activity in several states and the injection of wastewater into wells used for brine storage resulting from fracking operations. Earthquakes have increased in Oklahoma since fracking began including one of magnitude 5.7 in 2011, which destroyed 14 houses and injured 2 people.[1] This is occurring in an area that was not previously recognized as an active seismic zone. The geological phenomenon represents the movement of fractures and dormant faults that have been activated by the introduction of fluids (in this case wastewater from fracking operations) into underground reservoirs.

Underground reservoirs for storing brines, a by-product of fracking, are often located in porous rock formations that are generally located close to the surface but deeper than groundwater to avoid contamination. However, some scientists have raised the issue that because no studies exist to monitor the movement of brines along these fractures where earthquakes have been observed, as in the case in Oklahoma and also in Alberta and BC, no assurance can be offered that these brines will not travel up rock formations to contaminate groundwater. Such a situation would be a disaster in the making for all municipalities and farms close to fracking operations, which depend on groundwater to supply the local human and animal population with safe drinking water.

Demonstration against Bill 106, Quebec City, August 16, 2016.

The St. Lawrence River flows through the broad St. Lawrence Valley, which is geologically recognized as an old tectonic rift. Known (and unknown) secondary faults exist on both sides of the North and South shores of the river. Fracking and/or brine storage operations near those faults could activate them. One needs to ask the Premier of Quebec, and the government is obligated to disclose, the science behind Bill 106 authorizing oil and gas companies to engage in large-scale fracking and underground brine wastewater storage operations in the St. Lawrence Lowlands. The government is obligated to disclose fully the science behind Bill 106. A chance must be given to all concerned to challenge the findings, which is how science should be practiced, examining every possibility of danger to life and the social and natural environment, including the water. Without doing so, Bill 106 remains an irresponsible act jeopardizing the life and safety of tens of thousands of people and the general well-being of the social and natural environment.


1. Becklumb, Penny et al, Shale Gas in Canada, Environmental Risks and Regulation, Library of Parliament, Publication 2015-18e, 2015, Ottawa, p.16.

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Neo-Liberal Reforms to Canada Transportation Act

Workers Demonstrate Against
Deregulation and Privatization

Vancouver, February 23, 2017

On February 23, transportation workers in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and elsewhere rallied to oppose the federal government's plans to privatize sea and airports and dismantle cabotage. Workers denounced the federal government's endorsement of the review of the Canada Transportation Act known as the Emerson Report, first commissioned by the Harper government in 2014. The report advocates deregulation and privatization to hand over control of maritime, air, rail and truck transport systems to the global oligopolies in the name of making Canada competitive on global markets.

In Vancouver, workers marched through the downtown area led by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada, Seafarers' International Union (SIU) of Canada, UNIFOR, the BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers. Representatives of the Maritime Union of Australia, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the BC Federation of Labour were also present. The slogan emblazoned on the shirts of many present was, "Our Coasts, Our Jobs, Our Future."

A main concern highlighted by the maritime workers was to defend cabotage, the system that ensures that commercial maritime work in Canadian waterways is done by Canadian workers, trained for the work, on Canadian-registered ships. The Emerson Report recommends the deregulation of cabotage by opening it up to foreign vessels, many flying flags of convenience or employing temporary foreign workers in brutal conditions. Workers also raised opposition to the recently-adopted Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union which threatens to eliminate cabotage. Speakers noted that in this context, cabotage helps to defend the living and working conditions of Canadian maritime workers, protects the most vulnerable foreign workers, and contributes to the safety of Canadian waters and the environment.

ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton
addresses rally.

Rob Ashton, President of ILWU Canada said, "This is to protect families of our nation. [...] If [corporations and the government] have an ability to break us and to tear us down, who is going to protect those seafarers that are coming to our shores, who is going to protect them when they need to be protected? Who is going to protect the marginalized workers who are brought into this country as slave labour because they are not paid properly, they are not allowed to become Canadian citizens? It is us as Canadians who have to rise and stand up against those who want to do harm to our people and to those they are bringing to our country and they treat like slaves. And how do we do that? We stand up and fight back."

Terry Engler, president of ILWU Local 400 pointed out, "Workers fought to bring in regulations to cover those workers, to bring regulations on safety, on crew sizes, to protect our security. This protects our environment because we are able to say 'you cannot do that here.' We have seen what happens around the world when corporations are allowed free rein. If we lose cabotage, if we don't have regulations and inspectors, which they need more of, our world will be destroyed far worse than it is now."

Workers pointed out that a main goal of deregulation and privatization is to smash the resistance of unionized workers and smashing unions as a line of defence of the working and living conditions of Canadians. The militant stand of workers made it clear that ports, airports, waterways and everything else required for the modern economy on which Canadians depend belong to the people and the society, not private interests.

(Photos: Docker Podcast, ILWU)

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Nation-Wrecking Reform of Canada's
Transportation System

Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau is spearheading a reform of the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) and Canada's transportation system. The stated aim is to make his strategic plan Transportation 2030 part of the Trudeau Liberal government's goal of "making Canada competitive on global markets."

From April to September, 2016 the Minister of Transport held consultations on five themes: Safer transportation; Trade corridors to global markets; Green and innovative transportation; The traveller and waterways; Coasts and the north.

Changes to the CTA are expected to be implemented in the coming months and years. For this, the Minister of Transport is using as a guide what is commonly called the Emerson Report. The Harper government commissioned a review of the CTA in June 2014. David Emerson, a former member of the Harper government cabinet chaired the committee mandated to do the review. Liberal Minister Garneau tabled the Emerson Report in Parliament on February 25, 2016. In a number of speeches, he said that the report was "excellent" and would serve as a guide to the reform of the CTA.

Workers in the transportation sector have been raising the alarm, warning Canadians that the Trudeau government is about to adopt nation-wrecking recommendations from the Emerson Report. They point out the report's disturbing demands for deregulation and privatization of transport services and infrastructure, and the increased imposition of user fees. The report recommends the privatization of airports and ports, and the opening up of cabotage rights for internal waterways to European vessels, many of which fly European "flags of convenience" and have wages and working conditions far below accepted standards. The report also recommends legislative changes to increase foreign ownership limits to at least 49 per cent for air carriers operating commercial passenger services and to 100 per cent for airlines operating all-freight and specialty air services. In a recent speech, the Minister of Transport said as a first step he is planning to implement this year the Emerson recommendation to allow an increase of foreign ownership of air carriers to 49 per cent.

Thesis of the Emerson Report

The Emerson Report is entitled "Pathways: Connecting Canada's Transportation System to the World." The report is 286 pages with 230 additional pages of appendices. It begins with a letter to former Conservative Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt, followed by thirteen chapters: Points of Departure; Governance; Linking Trade and Transportation; The North; Innovation; Climate Change; Access and Accessibility; Rail Transport; Air Transport; Marine Transport; Canadian Transportation Agency; Summary; Recommendations.

The report defines Canada as a trading nation, depending on international trade for its prosperity. It says: "What has not changed over many decades, and will probably never change, is the fundamental reality of Canada as a large northern land mass with a comparatively small population. We are a nation dependent on international trade to support a uniquely attractive quality of life and standard of living. We share the North American continent with the world's most dynamic economy, the United States, and with one of the more dynamic developing economies, Mexico. North American integration and collaboration is both a reality and a necessity, whether for economic, security, or environmental purposes."

This Canadian nation, states the report, is now facing a world in turmoil, and its fate is linked with its ability to annex itself to this world in crisis and to compete within it. A basic tenet of the report is that Canada cannot be master of its own destiny on the basis of a pro-social sovereign and diverse economy under the control of its people, where international trade acts as an additional support to the independent internal economy.

Instead, as a dominated trading nation, which does not even own or control its basic sectors, it cannot control the demand or prices for its resources; it has no say over economic development and must leave such decisions to unknown "investors" who must be enticed to invest with guaranteed promises of big scores. This trading nation, at the mercy of the global market, cannot protect itself from the inevitable cyclical crises within the imperialist system of states dominated by the U.S. Empire, both from the generalized economic crises such as erupted in 2008 and from sectoral crises such as the current one of market prices for energy resource commodities and others below their prices of production.

The report says, "Since the last Review, changes in global markets, technology, security threats, environmental vulnerabilities, and the patterns of economic growth and development within Canada have reinforced a reality of the twenty-first century: we live in an intensely interconnected world that is constantly rocked by change, much of it unanticipated....

"While Canada's 36 million people thrive from our interaction with the 7.3 billion people in the world, we are a modest global force, responding to, but largely unable to control global events. The fact that connectedness to the world economy provides life-giving oxygen to the Canadian economy has two critical implications. First, the role of transportation and logistics -- the efficient movement of people and goods -- has become increasingly critical to international competitiveness. In fact, transportation logistics and supply chain efficiency is now seen by various research organizations as more important to global competitiveness than duties and tariff rates. Second, turbulence and change beyond our borders permeate quickly and deeply into the economic life of Canadians. A major challenge, therefore, is to develop our capacity for rapid adaptation to natural disasters and other predictable disruptions, as well as to emerging trends and changes that are hard to foresee and largely beyond our control.

"Global security issues will also continue to play a role in shaping transportation and trade linkages. Creeping military and nuclear capability, coupled with religious, ethnic, and territorial tensions, will limit flows with some countries and expand them with others. Adaptive transportation systems will require increasingly sophisticated security arrangements integrated into the chain of movements."

Once all this is accepted as a truism, the only prospect for Canada is to become a global hub for global trade amongst the world oligopolies. What Canada mainly brings to the table is its abundance in natural resources, which it exports to the global markets.

"The extent to which slowing economic growth, volatile markets in Asia, and slumping commodities prices have buffeted Canada's economy and public finances over the past year is a strong reminder that ours is a small, open economy, more likely to be influenced by global events than to shape them. And though the value of our dollar has declined recently and interest rates are low -- which helps to improve Canada's cost competitiveness in international trade and encourages new investment -- Canada should not base its economic growth forecasts on this situation remaining static. Over time, global development will continue to drive demand and competition for agricultural products, as well as energy and other natural resources. Subject to our ability to capitalize on new markets, these commodities represent huge export opportunities, and all are intense users of transportation."

It flows from this that Canada participates in this venture by making sure that its transportation system is driven by what the report calls "competition," "market forces" and "commercialization," and by privatization of national assets, deregulation of policies and increasing use of user fees. The entire country is to be transformed into a giant supply chain for the transportation of mostly raw and semi-processed goods to the global markets while annexed within fortress North America dominated by a U.S. imperialist government of police power both internally and internationally.

This agenda proceeded from the Harper government's enthusiastic support of full North American integration demanded by the U.S. political and business elites.

In October 2014 a task force report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations outlined the agenda for such a plan. The Task Force was co-chaired by David H. Petraeus -- retired U.S. Army general, ex-Director of the CIA and now chairman of the KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick -- former president of the World Bank Group and chairman of Goldman Sachs' international advisors.

The report points out that the Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative -- a series of meetings of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments to promote measures to bring the economies and security arrangements of North America under U.S. imperialist control -- "fell far short of what is urgently needed -- a true North American transformation." The transformation required is described in great detail: "The task force believes that today's challenge is to envisage a North American vision, frame a concept of North American policy aims and cooperation, and make this policy agenda a priority.

At that time the Harper government immediately budgeted over $70 billion in public funds for what was called the National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Trade Corridors, including the New Building Canada Plan, to build on the infrastructure needed to create a fully integrated North American economy in the service of oligopoly interests.

Instead of being centres of economic development where people can make a living by building a diverse, balanced and pro-social economy under their control and the majority of value workers produce remains in the community and becomes available for sustained and diverse economic development, the regions become gateways and corridors for the benefit and adventures of the global oligopolies over which people have no control.

As it stands, the oligopolies are owned and controlled in the centres of the financial oligarchy and other than the value workers reproduce for their own wages and benefits, the majority of added-value workers produce flows out those gateways and corridors to the private coffers of the oligarchs, to the centres of the financial oligarchy in New York, London and Frankfurt. This leaves Canada's economy extremely vulnerable to global economic crises, to price changes of major commodities, such as the turmoil caused with lower oil and potash market prices, to a fall in global demand for uranium, copper, coal and other resources, and to specific sectoral attacks such as the current unfolding U.S. state-organized attack on Canadian softwood lumber production.

On Governance

The Emerson Report advocates all-out deregulation and privatization of the transportation industries so that nothing comes in the way of private corporations manipulating the economy for their narrow self-serving interests. To ensure this domination by the oligopolies without restrictions, the report demands the Canadian state play a greater role in what it calls building the supply chains into a national chain, making sure that all assets are put at the disposal of empire-building.

The report states, "Unlike jurisdictions such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union Canada does not have an ongoing private-public sector framework that considers the entire national system and is geared to strengthening its contribution to economic prosperity. Divergent but critical interests such as infrastructure investment, research, innovation, and the environment need to come together with a transportation focus. While Transport Canada is the main entity responsible for the sector, there is no mechanism to integrate the breadth of interest in transportation across departments, sectors, or in terms of federal-provincial dialogue.

"The goal should be to embed these policies in a national framework that builds and optimizes the transportation system over the next 20 to 30 years. The strategy would identify investment needs in trade-enabling infrastructure, describe the proper regulatory and policy environment, and provide long-term stability for investments and investors in the system."

The report details a process where global private interests increasingly assume direct state governance in the sense that they become the decision-makers of what is to be privatized and deregulated, how the value workers produce is to be distributed, and all other issues of importance.

"The Review recommends that Transport Canada lead the development of a clear performance and evidence-based National Framework on Transportation and Logistics in collaboration with the provinces, territories and industry" and "new governance arrangements based on a public-private sector collaborative approach." It continues: "Including the private sector in priority setting as a key source of knowledge and expertise would also improve outcomes. Important investment decisions would be evidence-based, transparent and intended to maximize results."

The report makes no secret of the aim it pursues of handing all power to the private interests of the oligarchs who own and control the social wealth available for big investments. This includes the pooled savings of the working class over which the financial oligarchy has control.

"The Review recommends that the Government of Canada act to attract increased private sector financing for transportation infrastructure projects by:

"a. using the Transportation Infrastructure Plan and Projects Pipeline ... to identify national priorities (and assets that could be considered for privatization) and to highlight those projects and initiatives that may be of interest to private sector investors;

"b. working with institutional investors and pension funds to consider additional tools or mechanisms to attract and leverage private investment in transportation infrastructure. This will involve:

"i. ensuring existing financial, policy and regulatory frameworks do not unnecessarily discourage private sector investment in Canadian transportation projects;

"ii. legislative amendments to remove any barriers, such as the restrictive investment regulations on pension funds;

"iii. encouraging and assisting private financial institutions to establish managed transportation infrastructure investment funds in which private investors (small and large) could reduce risk by pooling funds and investments;

"iv. adopting policies and stable, predictable regulatory frameworks that de-risk investor cash flows and inspire greater confidence among institutional investors in P3 and private infrastructure projects.

"Finally, it would foster a healthy exchange of ideas and expertise: members could participate in bilateral fora, such as the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council, which was created to increase regulatory transparency and coordination between the two countries."

Gateways and Corridors

The Emerson Report devotes a lot of attention to gateways and corridors as key elements of the supply chain. It defines them in the following way:

"'Gateways' are major convergence points for the international flow of people and cargo. They are the marine ports, airports, and Canada-U.S. border crossings (by land, international bridges, or waters) that serve as points of entry to and exit from Canada.

"A 'trade and transport corridor', according to the World Bank, is a coordinated bundle of transport and logistics infrastructure and services that facilitates trade and transport flows between major centers of economic activity. A trade and transport corridor may include transfer points, such as intermodal and distribution centres, where goods are changing hands or being transferred from one transport mode to another."

The report recommends further activation by the public-private governance structures of the existing gateways and corridors: the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, the Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor Strategy, and the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor.

The report says the conditions of global trade are fluctuating, markets are volatile and crises occur that more or less idle these huge infrastructures and yet it sees no other direction for the economy than to continue in the same way. This direction means privatizing and expanding the existing gateways and corridors, building more of them and seizing more land in advance to prepare for even greater expansion.

The report says: "The Review recommends that the Government of Canada establish a National Corridor Protection Program within the next five years, with Transport Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, and provincial governments as partners. The purpose of this program would be to:

"a. protect trade and transport corridors. Efforts should include, but not be limited to, identification of potential corridor alignments and rights-of-way requirements, consultation with stakeholders and the public, and acquisition of required land along the corridor;

"b. protect critical industrial land parcels for gateway facility expansion, with the aim of creating an inventory of, and preserving, port-related industrial areas that could be used to accommodate future trade growth."

The Review also recommends close collaboration with the provinces and territories to:

"c. add to the registered titles on the parcels of land that are located in close proximity to an existing or an established future trade and transport corridor;

"d. partner with municipal governments and the private sector to improve sound-barrier and anti-vibration standards in building bylaws for residential developments in neighbourhoods adjacent to an existing or future trade and transport corridor."

The report calls this submission to the empire-building projects of the global oligopolies "nation-building." This attempts to hide the desperation of selling-out the country to global investors over which the people have no control. It covers up the recklessness of committing the nation's assets and the capacity to work of Canadian workers to the reckless schemes for big scores of the financial oligarchy and the inevitable economic crises and commercial wars of a world serving competing narrow private interests and empire-building.

The Emerson Report is not a basis for reforming and improving the Canadian transportation system or any legislation governing it. The report is a deplorable attempt to put the entire transportation infrastructure and services, and ultimately the natural resources of the country and the work-time of workers at the disposal of the crisis-ridden adventures of global oligopolies for profit, domination and empire-building. It deprives Canadians of their right to build a national transportation system that serves nation-building and a diverse self-reliant independent economy in a truly modern pro-social way to guarantee the well-being of the people and humanize the social and natural environment.

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