First, the federal government rejects the demand of the unemployed, their defence associations and the unions that support them for urgent measures. They demand immediate steps to deal with the arbitrariness of the EI regime, which has made the situation untenable. Regarding the black hole, the defence associations in eastern Quebec have put forward a threshold of 420 hours of work to qualify for 30 weeks of EI benefits, retroactive to the period when the official and arbitrary unemployment rate suddenly fell in their region. The measures they propose would prevent seasonal workers from having to go for months without any income.
Instead of straightforwardly meeting the demands of the
unemployed and their supporters, the section of the budget
entitled "Helping Workers in Seasonal Industries" states:
For most Canadians losing a job is a temporary, one-time occurrence. The length of time it takes to find a new job will depend on the circumstances of each individual and the local job market they face at a particular point in time. This is why EI provides benefits that vary depending on the regional unemployment rate.
However, a number of Canadians also work in jobs like tourism and fish processing which fluctuates by season. Because EI benefits vary from year to year in each region, this dynamic can cause disruption for workers whose main jobs are seasonal. For those who are not able to find alternative employment until the new season begins, this can represent a challenging and stressful loss of income, especially if EI benefits vary significantly from year to year.
This self-serving description of the problem distorts the reality and does not solve anything. The federal government begins from the status quo of unemployment as a given rather than considering it a serious problem that needs a solution and a social program until the problem is resolved. Unemployment is endemic to the present system and the ruling elite refuse to envisage any other direction to the economy. Their outlook does not begin from what is best for the human factor but from what serves making maximum money profit for a few, which requires a constant surplus population of working people available on a labour market.
The current system does not begin from the needs of the human factor or have that as its aim. It can never provide employment for all because that is not a consideration of the aim, which is to expropriate maximum money profit from what workers produce. This means a social program is necessary that guarantees the right of the unemployed to live at a Canadian standard. But no, the government says the loss of employment is a one-time experience for "each individual" that involves "the local job market." By sleight of hand, the government denies the reality of endemic unemployment and imposes an arbitrary arithmetic formula based on an imaginary regional rate of unemployment that "evens out" an entire region. All this blather has nothing to do with the actual situation workers face and in particular the black hole, which causes the unemployed serious hardship.
Of course, the government does not feel compelled to explain why "a number of Canadians also work in jobs like tourism and fish processing which fluctuates by season." As a mere description of the situation, and a very poor one at that, the government avoids explaining what happened to the manufacturing sector in these regions and why successive governments have refused to lead in developing an all-sided economy that serves the needs of the people and does not suffer the uncertainties and insecurity of employment "which fluctuates by season." These regions have essentially become repositories of raw materials available to global private interests when needed for refinement and manufacturing elsewhere. The raw material in the regions could be developed as the foundation of an all-sided economy if the working people were in control with a new human-centred aim instead of being left to the self-serving plans of the supranational private interests, which leave the regions underdeveloped and workers subjected to "fluctuating" employment made worse with an inadequate and arbitrary EI regime.
1. Approximately 16,000 workers in Canada are estimated to face the "black hole" or are likely to face it within the year. Thirty-six per cent of those workers live in Quebec and twenty-eight per cent in the Atlantic Provinces. The black hole is becoming worse because the EI regime divides the country arbitrarily into economic regions. Those EI regions are a mix of very different industries and economies. The EI regime allocates each region with an unemployment rate, which plays a big role in determining EI eligibility. This determination is arbitrary because it does not reflect the real situation of the unemployed and the regional economy. For example, the unemployment rate in the EI determined Lower St. Lawrence - Côte-Nord region even includes part of Lac-Saint-Jean, which is not even geographically linked. The unemployment rate for the EI region officially dropped to 6.9 per cent in November compared with 8.9 per cent last May. Consequently, the qualifying threshold for employment insurance rose in this EI region from 595 hours worked for 18 weeks of benefits, which is already unacceptable, to 665 hours worked for 15 weeks of benefits. Through sleight of hand using a statistic that does not reflect the actual conditions, many workers in areas of the vast region are excluded from employment insurance and left without income in the EI black hole for as long as 3 to 4 months.
Workers Beware of Liberal Hypocrisy!
The Trudeau federal budget includes two measures touching on EI with regard to seasonal workers. Budget 2018 reads:
1. "To test new approaches to better assist workers most affected by these circumstances [unemployment and the black hole -- TML note], Budget 2018 proposes to invest $80 million in 2018-19 and $150 million in 2019-20 through federal-provincial Labour Market Development Agreements. In the coming months, the Government will work with key provinces to co-develop local solutions that can be tested to support workforce development.
2. "In addition, Employment and Social Development Canada will reallocate $10 million from existing departmental resources to provide immediate income support and training to affected workers. These measures will help ensure that unemployed workers in Canada's seasonal industries have access to the supports they need when they need them most."
Point one has absolutely nothing to do with the demand
unemployed for measures to alleviate their situation of deep and
increasing poverty or to take corrective measures based on the
concrete conditions and the real needs of the unemployed. The
Federal-Provincial Labour Market Development Agreements involve
amounts allocated to the provinces, Quebec and the territories by
the federal government to provide training, assistance in finding
employment, wage subsidy programs to employers who hire the
unemployed, and other such measures. The clientele for these measures
is essentially the claimants and beneficiaries of EI.
The federal government links training and other programs to workers who are laid off because their work is seasonal. Workers in regions where seasonal work predominates are already trained for their jobs. They have the required schooling when schooling is needed and the rest they learn working in their trade. Training does not provide employment in the regions where seasonal work predominates. If year round work were available, then why would workers work in uncertain seasonal jobs that leave them trapped in the black hole? If year round secure work were available who would be available for the seasonal work unless broad cooperation existed and workers were made available to do seasonal work. But that is not how this economy functions, which is based on competition and expropriating the maximum money profit from what workers produce. Companies, seasonal or not, buy workers' capacity to work from working people available on the labour market. For workers to be bought (or hired), a demand for their capacity to work must exist.
Workers Must Be Vigilant
Will participation in training programs be made a condition for access to Employment Insurance benefits for seasonal workers? Will the seasonal workers be "deemed" to have a job once they get "trained," leading to their benefits being cut off or reduced as is done in the case of injured workers in Ontario when they are "deemed" to have a job which is a phantom job? Will the unemployed in remote areas be forced to travel long distances to take training programs because training centres do not exist in their region?
Workers have to be very vigilant because for several years now imperialist "think tanks" that are closely tied to the Liberals, such as the C.D. Howe Institute, have been proposing that the federal government divest itself of its responsibilities with respect to the unemployed who are considered "captives." "Captive" refers to the unemployed who do not participate in labour mobility. According to the C.D. Howe Institute and others, the EI program should promote work mobility and be available only to those who move around in the "labour market" and take jobs far from their region and hometown.
The C.D. Howe Institute proposes downloading responsibility for the "captives" to Quebec and the provinces, which it considers better able to deal with the issue of seasonal unemployment because it allegedly resembles that of social assistance, which is provincial and the "captives" are in fact "dependent on the state" and not really part of the free labour market.
The Liberal government's outlook and measures do not respond to the demands or needs of the unemployed because that is not its aim. Could anyone imagine a Liberal government proposing to abolish the labour market and throw it in the museum of anti-people history along with the slave market? The only social program workers can expect is one that they fight for and demand and make clear their expectation of nothing less than their right to a Canadian standard livelihood at all times.
With regard to the second category, the "$10 million from existing departmental resources to provide immediate income support and training to affected workers," no one knows at the moment how these amounts will be disbursed and what will be the relationship between these income support amounts and the training programs. The defence organizations of the unemployed have already said that an amount of $10 million is totally insufficient and does not address their demands for immediate emergency measures and corrective measures so that unemployed workers can live in dignity. It sounds more like pathetic robbing of Peter to pay Paul, done for show, than anything substantive to resolve the situation.
The refusal of the federal government to deal with this
problem of the black hole and generally with unemployment is
contemptible. Workers and their organizations demand immediate
measures of emergency relief and corrective action based on the
concrete reality and needs of the unemployed. The state and
others who buy workers' capacity to work hold the social
responsibility to ensure a dignified existence for all at a
Canadian standard. Any refusal to uphold their social
responsibility proves that they are unfit to rule.
In another notable case, Air Canada fought tooth and nail to deny the wage equity claim of flight attendants represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). When the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Air Canada's appeal in 2006, the court stated, "It is regrettable that Air Canada has resisted this pragmatic definition of 'common personnel and wage policy' for almost 15 years, creating enormous expense for itself and the public, and intolerable delay in wage equity, should the flight attendants succeed."
Bell Canada also used every tactic in the book to stall
workers' pay equity fight, before finally being forced to
These cases show the serious flaws in the complaints-based system that permits governments and private monopolies to use every conceivable tactic to drag out court proceedings for years on end. To make matters worse, the courts have enshrined the concept of "ability to pay" as a pretext to deny justice. In 1994, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had discriminated against women health care workers when it failed to pay them a portion of the pay equity adjustments they were due. However, the Supreme Court then accepted the government's argument that it could not afford to make the payments and absolved the government of any legal responsibility.
This experience shows the need to strengthen legal protection against discrimination and to enact laws that put the responsibility firmly on both state and private employers. Employers who discriminate against women or anyone else must not be permitted to do so with impunity. Deliberate attempts to evade their social responsibility should be punished.
In 2000, the federal government appointed an expert Pay Equity Task Force, which issued its report in 2004. The Task Force recognized the importance of pay equity as a fundamental human right. It recommended a new pay equity law, which would require all employers in the federal jurisdiction, both public and private, to examine their compensation systems to ensure pay equity. The report recommended all employees would be included: full-time, part-time, temporary, casual and contract. It was claimed that this is particularly important since women face an added barrier to Canadian-standard wages and benefits as they are employed routinely in part-time, casual and contract work. The Task Force also recommended that national minority women, Indigenous workers, and workers with disabilities be covered by the pay equity law.
The Trudeau government has stated that it will bring in new legislation by the end of 2018. Then-Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said in October last year that the proposed legislation will take a "proactive" approach to pay equity, focusing on helping employers comply with the law rather than forcing employees to lodge complaints about discriminatory wages. Mihychuk said forcing workers to file complaints and go to court to receive equal pay had proven to be "burdensome, costly and unfair to workers."
To date the Trudeau government has not even repealed the legislation enacted by the Harper government that bars unions from assisting members who pursue complaints through human rights tribunals. Whether the government will keep its promise to enact legislation and what the content of such legislation will be, if it does, is anyone's guess. Previous Liberal governments have repeatedly paid lip service to pay equity, but refused to implement their promises. The federal government announced in Budget 2018 another promise that it will introduce proactive pay equity for workers in federally regulated sectors but nothing concrete has appeared.
The Pay Equity Task Force in 2004 proposed time limits to require employers to prepare pay equity plans within a year and make payments within three years. The recommendations of the Task Force provided for union involvement in the development, implementation and maintenance of pay equity plans. The time limits have long passed without substantive action.
It is important to analyze why, despite the findings of the Task Force and laws against discrimination that women continue to be considered "fair game" for wage discrimination amongst other things.
1. For further details, see
Statistics Canada report, Women
Nonsense About Tariffs and Trade and Real Wars
Working people could do better than
integration into the U.S. war economy
The Canadian steel and aluminum industries are in turmoil. They seem to be forever in chaos. Algoma Steel is almost always in Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) bankruptcy protection. The Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) smelter in Quebec has locked out over one thousand workers for months demanding concessions from both workers and Hydro-Quebec, and to reduce supply to force higher prices for aluminum on the international market. Stelco steel plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke have only recently emerged from CCAA bankruptcy protection for the second time since 2006.
Having greatly reduced Stelco's production capacity and markets during the period of U.S. Steel control from 2007 to 2017, the new U.S. owners took control of the facilities last year after having the CCAA bankruptcy court allow them to ignore their social responsibility to Stelco retirees and the necessary environmental remediation of historical pollution. This new assault from foreign imperialists occurred after Stelco steelworkers and the steel community had suffered attack after attack under the control of U.S. Steel. In 2013, U.S. Steel sold off a Stelco mill in Hamilton to German global brigands calling themselves MANA, who seized control and almost immediately locked out all steelworkers, demanding monstrous concessions. The lockout continues to this day while members and supporters of USW Local 1005 pursue a battle for justice at MANA.
Global monopolies dominate the steel and aluminum sectors, twisting and squeezing them to meet their narrow private interests. The steel sector in particular is plagued with fluctuating market prices widely disconnected both up and down from prices of production, causing continuous problems. The sectors do not serve an independent Canadian economy because that is not the aim; nor does such a conception even exist in the consciousness of the imperialists in control whose outlook is one of self-interest, as if society does not exist and the rights, claims and needs of the people are debilitating costs and a drain on their money profit.
No nation-building project for a Canadian economy not dominated by supranational cartels is currently being discussed in official circles of the ruling elite let alone struggling to emerge in practice. All the official politicians, economists and pundits say a Canadian economy under control by Canadians themselves is not possible in this world dominated by global empire-builders obsessed with expanding their own private interests as supranational cartels in opposition to nation-building and the right of the people to control those affairs that affect their lives. Yet here the people are faced with constant crises and a President down south who says, without any concern for humanity, that trade wars and real wars are winnable and good.
A disconnect appears between the real world Canadian working people face and some fanciful one that official politicians, experts and those in control concoct. The aluminum sector, entirely controlled by supranational empire-builders, has located in Canada because of cheap and plentiful electricity, which is by far the largest material input in the production process. So what is the problem with the market price of aluminum that moves President Trump to threaten a tariff? U.S. manufacturers, especially those in the war economy, want aluminum at the lowest price possible and Canadian aluminum suits that purpose because of cheap, plentiful and clean hydro-electricity and a skilled workforce and modern infrastructure.
If Trump wants aluminum at a higher price and U.S. manufacturers that use aluminum are on board with his proposal, which is highly doubtful, why not just say so and have the global owners arrange a higher market price than the fluctuating market price. The higher price could then go back to Hydro-Québec as full exchange for the electricity its workers produce. Some view it as ironic that the global rich who control Canada's aluminum sector are already trying to force higher prices by reducing supply with the lockout at ABI, so they obviously would be overjoyed with Trump's demand for higher prices as long as it flows back to them and not the U.S. state. Why does it have to descend into a global trade war? The entire mess appears inexplicable and irrational.
The problem with these and other basic economic sectors is that sensible working people in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., who want to live in peace and hold high a spirit of international trade for mutual benefit and development and oppose the war economy, are not in control of their workplaces, the broader economy or political affairs.
The threat of steel tariffs that Trump made and now has temporarily withdrawn is also bizarre in the sense that around $5 billion worth of steel produced in Canada is shipped to the U.S. while Canada imports about $7 billion worth of U.S.-made steel in recent years. With some adjustments in quality and types of steel this means almost all trade in steel between the U.S. and Canada at this point could be eliminated with each country producing for their own needs without any loss of production. Some opportunities for development could even arise as Canada and the U.S. are so broad east to west that production could be rationally developed in all the main regions of each country to make them self-reliant in steel and even broaden out into manufacturing of steel-based goods. The other most positive feature would be to begin to extricate Canada from the U.S. war economy where both steel and aluminum are key.
Again the problem here is lack of control by working people. Canadian and neighbouring fellow workers down south face the dilemma that they are not in control of the steel or aluminum sectors, the broader economy and politics. The lack of control means they cannot bring to the fore in practice their social consciousness of the necessity to first have a diverse and self-reliant internal economy, and from a sovereign base under their control search and find peoples abroad who are willing to trade following modern principles of mutual benefit and development and are not bent on destructive trade wars and real wars requiring a war economy.
Canadians and friends in the U.S. face the task of bringing into being a new direction for the economy because the situation of gearing up for bigger and more devastating wars and crises is not good to say the least. Working people can do better because they begin neither from an aim of expropriating social wealth from the value their fellow workers produce nor do they speculate as those in power now do of waging "winnable" destructive trade and real wars to steal from others and destroy what they cannot control. The official anti-social talk saying trade and real wars targeting fellow working people are good and winnable and require a war economy puts everyone constantly on edge with their minds overwhelmed anticipating the next crisis and war.
The official politicians and other leaders in Canada are shameful in their response to Trump's bluster of first proposing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and then backing off if NAFTA talks go his way. Canadian officials all stressed the necessity to develop the joint North American war economy as essential in strengthening the war capacity of NATO and NORAD for which steel and aluminum are crucial.
Prime Minister Trudeau's Office on March 8 released a statement of Trudeau's phone conversation with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, which said in part:
"The United States is Canada's closest ally. Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum to the U.S., recognized under U.S. law as part of the U.S. defence industrial complex."
In a release about Trudeau's conversation with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the PMO said in part:
As a close ally of the United States, Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum to the United States and is part of the United States National Technology and Industrial Base related to National Defence.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on March 1, "As a key NORAD and NATO ally, and as the number one customer of American steel, Canada would view any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable.... Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum for U.S. defence and security. Canada is recognized in U.S. law as a part of the U.S. National Technology and Industrial Base related to national defence."
Later on March 8 following Canada's exemption from the global U.S. tariff on steel and aluminum she said:
We are America's best friend and closest ally. Canada and the United States have the greatest economic partnership of any two countries in the world. We're staunch allies in NORAD, in NATO, and all along our 8,891 km peaceful and secure border.
The crisis is such that no official Canadian leader or mass media has objected to this warmongering talk and integration of the Canadian economy into the U.S. war economy. Canadian, Mexican and U.S. working people reject the official warmongering, anti-social view and outlook and are organizing to gain the power to deprive those currently in control of their power to destroy through crises and wars what humans have built.
In organizing and fighting for the new, working people and their political and defence organizations are developing the human factor and social consciousness that a modern economy must have a new aim that strives to develop the socialized economy in an all-sided manner without crises and war. A modern economy cannot be built on brutal competition and war but on cooperation where modern social relations ensure the interrelated sectors of the socialized productive forces perform in conformity with each other and their socialized nature for extended reproduction of the economy without war and crises so that it can meet the needs and claims of the actual producers and general interests of society.
A modern economy opposes trade wars, real wars and preparations for war. It strives to guarantee the well-being of all members of society and its general interests. A pro-social economy with such a sound internal foundation trades globally based on the principles of mutual benefit and development, consciously opposing all trade and real wars and preparations for war. This is not the case now where the Canadian economy is integrated into the U.S. war economy supplying both raw and semi-finished material while the U.S. economy produces most of the finished weapons of individual and mass destruction.
Working people with their modern social consciousness can take the economy in a new pro-social direction but to do so they must organize to bring themselves into power politically with new social relations in harmony with the socialized productive forces of modern industrial mass production. Only with political empowerment can working people make the leap to directing the economy without crises and war according to their modern social consciousness, aim, outlook, principles and social relations, working together for the good of all humanity and the social and natural environment.
Working People Can Do Better!
Unite and Organize to Build the New!
Destructive Direction Liberals Have Set for Economy and Society
John Lester of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary has released a study of pay-the-rich schemes for the fiscal year 2014-15. It details what he calls business subsidies from the governments of Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC. Twenty-nine billion dollars were given to various private enterprises during that year alone "through program spending, the tax system, government business enterprises and direct investments by government. These subsidies represent almost half of the corporate income tax revenue collected by the five jurisdictions."
Discussion of pay-the-rich schemes and why they exist has very seldom appeared in the mass media or politics of the cartel parties that form governments. One exception occurred during the 1972 federal election when NDP leader David Lewis registered his opposition to "corporate welfare bums."
The rationale for private corporations receiving public funds generally circulates around the need to protect or provide good jobs or address market failures. Never mentioned is the systemic failure of a socialized economy dominated by competing global private monopolies that dictate their narrow interests in contradiction with the needs of the whole. The root cause for a lack of jobs and recurring crises resulting in business failures and the demand for governments to save private enterprises from possible collapse is never addressed.
The imperialist lords of business and official politics and their academic experts do not even want to acknowledge that the value workers produce in the economy is the only source of value for the society to solve its problems and to reproduce the economy. Instead of recognizing that the source of value to solve problems and guarantee rights is found in what workers produce, the imperialist oligarchs demand value be taken from other parts of the economy to serve their narrow private interests. Not only do the oligarchs refuse to turn over to society a necessary amount of value to sustain it and guarantee the well-being and rights of the people; they want half of the miserly amount they pay in corporate taxes to be returned to them in pay-the-rich schemes!
The imperialist oligarchs refuse to acknowledge that their market failures, falling rate of profit and recurring crises require a profound new direction to bring ownership and control into conformity with the socialized nature of the modern economy. Rather than doling over public funds to select private interests at the expense of other parts of the economy, working people and the general interests of society, the economy needs a new direction and outlook. A new direction would entail the actual producers exercising rational control over the economy in the public interest. Their thinking would be towards promoting overall cooperation and scientific planning among all the parts and sectors of the economy instead of the brutal competition serving narrow private interests that constantly tears it and society apart.
Ignored in the doling out of public money to the imperialist rich, politely termed business subsidies, is the fact that Canada is a class society divided between those who sell their capacity to work, the working class, and those who buy workers' capacity to work, the not-working class. The imperialist not-working class that buys workers' capacity to work controls the economy, the means of production and the social product workers produce. Official public policy of governments is to support and defend the antagonistic class divisions in society and to perpetuate the class privilege of the imperialist not-working class. No official deviation is allowed from this firm commitment to support those who hold economic, political and social wealth and power. In opposition, the working class is the only social force that can change the situation, solve problems and open a path to a new direction where the full potential of the socialized economy can be unleashed.
Whatever rationale is used to excuse these pay-the-rich business subsidies, it cannot hide the fact that they essentially serve narrow private interests in opposition to the public interest, common good and the desire of the working class to solve the fundamental problems of a modern economy of industrial mass production. The pay-the-rich schemes reinforce class privilege of the imperialist not-working class over the working class and perpetuate class divisions and the conditions giving rise to economic and social problems. The private interests that receive the public subsidies do not and cannot change their imperialist class nature in opposition to working people, as the exploitation of workers is the material source of their class privilege and lavish lifestyle. Why would they want to change their nature? Public funds reinforce their rule and dictate over the working people and their seizure of the social product workers produce.
The economy needs a new direction under the control of the actual producers, who care about the whole because they form part of the whole not in contradiction with it but in unity with the whole within a modern nation-building project, which they want to build. They want to uphold their social responsibilities towards themselves, the economy and general interests of society. Workers know instinctively that they depend on the socialized economy and society, and the socialized economy and society depend on their work producing value. With a new direction under their control, the mutual relationship of themselves with the socialized economy, society and all its members can grow and strengthen into an unbreakable bond of one humanity marching forward together for the benefit of one and all and the general interests of society in sharp contrast with a few imperialist oligarchs using the economy to serve their narrow private interests.
The socialized economy cannot function properly and solve its problems at this time because the private interests of those who control the economy, the not-working class, constantly interfere to serve their narrow interests at the expense of other parts, the working people and the whole. The problems are politely termed market failures and life goes on with a helping hand from the public purse in a state of anti-conscious perseverance leading to further market failures, economic crises and continuous wars for control of markets, workers, raw material and regions.
These billions to pay the imperialist rich must stop. The accumulated assets of society within its working people and infrastructure and the value they produce must go towards strengthening the entire socialized economy and investing in social programs and public services and the general interests of society. The working people are discussing and organizing to find a way forward towards control of their economy and the entire value they produce. Their modern outlook is to uphold both the needs of the particular enterprise where they work and the entire socialized economy. Where does their particular enterprise fit into the whole; how does it serve the whole and in return strengthen itself and the whole. They are motivated to activate the human factor/social consciousness to build the new. The time is now to organize for a new direction!
1. "Business Subsidies in Canada: Comprehensive Estimates for the Government of Canada and the Four Largest Provinces" (excerpts), research paper by John Lester, University of Calgary School of Public Policy, January 10, 2018.
In the style of announcing lottery winners, but with a far more lucrative payout than even Lotto Max, the Trudeau government recently released a list of winners of $950 million of public funds in non-repayable grants. The government awarded the huge sum to five consortia of private companies, not for some tangible exchange-value in return to replenish the public coffers but simply for being chosen private enterprises involved in the economy, which have been declared in need of public funds to compete in the global economy and grow their private empires.
Each consortium will establish, or has already established, what the government calls a supercluster. Trudeau's Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in a release, "Superclusters are job-creating regions with strong economies, like Silicon Valley, and our government intends to create five of them in Canada."
The winners of the government lottery will receive between $150 million and $250 million per year for five years. The private enterprises within each consortium apparently will receive even more than the $950 million in public funds bringing the total windfall to $2.4 billion. The superclusters have participating public institutions, such as universities and colleges, which are required to pony up a share to match the federal funding dollar for dollar. Minister Bains told the media that the superclusters exceeded the goal of matching the federal funds by raising a total of $1.5 billion from the participating institutions.
The private companies involved in the public-private partnerships are both Canadian and foreign-based, which means the public funds are going towards strengthening not only Canadian owners of private companies but global owners. Each consortium is said to be tied to a region but the CBC reports that the companies and institutions involved are "from all parts of Canada and other parts of the world." A cursory look at the companies involved reveals names of some of the biggest global monopolies.
For example the Atlantic region supercluster, engaged in offshore oil and gas development and other projects, includes Chevron Canada Resources, ExxonMobil Canada Ltd., Husky Energy, Suncor Energy, Canada Steamship Lines, Cisco, Irving Shipbuilding, Microsoft, Siemens Canada and others.
The other four superclusters are similarly dominated by global monopolies. The federal minister did not explain how the global monopolies qualified as competitors on the Canadian side and others were disqualified as competitors on the side of others. The chosen ones in the Ontario consortium include some familiar names that have already been graced with public funds in various pay-the-rich schemes and have appeared jointly with the Trudeau government, such as the CEO of auto parts giant Linamar, Linda Hasenfratz, who chairs the Ontario supercluster. The Ontario supercluster with Communitech Corp. and Maple Leaf Foods, along with other monopolies participating, promises to make the private companies more competitive within the imperialist system of states.
The supercluster in the Prairies includes monopolies that are well-known for their role in destroying the Canadian Wheat Board and putting small farmers under pressure of extinction through monopoly practices and worsened rail transportation. According to AgCanada.com, this supercluster includes "companies such as Archer Daniels Midland, Canadian National Railway, Cargill, DowDuPont, G3 Canada, Mosaic Co., Parmalat and Richardson International."
The British Columbia supercluster purports to want "to drive competitiveness in environment and resource technology, precision health and manufacturing. Proponents include Telus and Microsoft Canada Development Centre."
The practice of governments paying the rich is an admission that the imperialist economy cannot overcome its contradictions and needs a new direction and aim. Governments have become a means to pool funds from the economy to dole out to select private interests. This means governments do not represent the public will and interests but select private wills and interests. The pooled public funds go to strengthening select private interests and their class privilege and power in contradiction with competing private interests, the overall needs of the people, the socialized economy, and the general interests of society.
The select private interests and their government representatives say that their private interests equate with the national interests and therefore the public interest. Their say, however, contradicts the reality of an economic system in crisis where private interests in control of competing parts of the economy can no longer survive without public funds. The reason they cannot survive is found in the reality of a completely socialized economy of industrial mass production, which requires its interconnected parts to work in harmony, but instead is in constant crisis and chaos, as a result of its fundamental contradiction with relations of production based on private ownership and class privilege where privately owned parts compete with other parts to expropriate the maximum social wealth from what the working people produce within the socialized economy. This contradiction, and the inherent competition and infighting among the economy's privately-owned and controlled parts, leads to crisis after crisis and wars for control.
The theory of a marketplace spontaneously sorting out winners and losers amongst the competing privately-owned parts of the economy is bankrupt and false. The state chooses winners and losers according to which private interests hold the most sway within the ruling elite. This leads to vicious infighting for control of the state machine amongst the competing private interests for that is the only way they can hold onto their class privilege and power. The infighting is now quite ugly in Ontario and even more so in the U.S. where competing cliques are on the brink of civil war.
The system is exhausted and needs a new direction to bring relations of production into conformity with its socialized forces of production. The working people who are the actual producers must emerge in an organized conscious way to exercise control and give a new direction and pro-social aim to the economy. The economy needs cooperation from all its interconnected parts, constant scientific planning and a growing body of knowledge to guide the modern economy and its extended reproduction to meet the needs of the people and general interests of society.
In response to these anti-social pay-the-rich schemes
federal and other governments, Canadians must respond with one
voice: Stop paying the rich! Increase funding for social programs
and public services! We the working people vow to organize
ourselves to bring into being a new direction and pro-social aim
for the economy!
1. For a list of the participants in this pay-the-rich scheme click here.
(With files from the CBC)
More on TransMountain Pipeline Controversy
In recent days the energy monopolies have ramped up their claim that the lack of pipelines is having a devastating effect on the Canadian economy.
The Calgary Herald reported that Frank McKenna -- former Premier of New Brunswick, Deputy Chair of the TD Bank, and a member of Alberta Premier Notley's Task Force to consider retaliation against BC -- put the cost of the discount at $50 million a day, or $117 billion over the past seven years. He based this on the claim that the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS) is discounted about U.S.$10.00 a barrel, or CAD$12.55. "This dissipation of resources, this waste of a great national resource -- and this vaporization of so much Canadian wealth -- is offensive to me," he said.
As Canada produces about four million barrels of oil per day, McKenna reached his conclusion by adding about CAD$12.00 for every barrel of oil extracted, whether in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Newfoundland, whether exported or consumed in Canada, upgraded or sold as raw bitumen, and whether light or heavy oil. But the price he is referring to applies only to the price of a bitumen blend composed of bitumen, diluent and some synthetic crude. Further, it assumes a very narrow spread between two very different products -- one a heavy oil needing much more upgrading or refining than the other, which will never get an equivalent price.
Scotiabank chief economist Jean-Francois Perreault weighed in on January 20, stating, "Pipeline approval delays have imposed clear, demonstrable and substantial economic costs on the Canadian economy," putting the cost at roughly $29 million a day or $10.7 billion a year. He also attributed this loss to lower prices for WCS, a heavy oil blend composed of bitumen, diluent and a small amount of synthetic crude (upgraded bitumen).
The price for WCS tanked when Trans Canada's Keystone XL pipeline was shut down after a spill in December. The line is still operating at reduced pressure, which means volumes are lower. As a result, Alberta inventory of bitumen has soared and the price has dropped. WCS traded at a price differential with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) of about CAD$16.53 (U.S.$13)/barrel during the past two years, but grew to CAD$30.52 (U.S.$24)/barrel following the spill. Most analysts are predicting that as the inventory is depleted, prices will return to or exceed their previous level.
A similar statement from Energy monopoly Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix referred to the "extraordinary impact on the Canadian economy" of the difference in price between WCS and the U.S. benchmark WTI, and how "wealth is being transferred from Alberta and Canada to the U.S. refiners and consumers."
None of these statements acknowledge what the impact would be if bitumen was upgraded in Canada. Synthetic crude, that is bitumen upgraded in Alberta, was selling for CAD$78.80, slightly higher than WTI at CAD$78.18 as of February 18, 2018. Without upgrading, the price was $43.26 for WCS. The real cost to the Canadian economy is evidently from shipping raw bitumen instead of upgrading it in Canada and refining some product here. The obvious conclusion is that Canada should be upgrading this bitumen.
The energy oligopolies decided to stop building upgraders in Alberta because they were deemed not to be "economic" and opted instead for shipping bitumen with diluent added to make it flow. Fortress North America would be supplied with oil from the oil sands. Bitumen would replace Venezuelan oil and Mexican Mayan to supply the refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast which process heavy oil.
Access to the Gulf Coast was going to be a big win, but that scheme did not go as planned. Even though the Keystone XL has not been built, enough pipeline has been built to the Gulf Coast to transport 1.2 million more barrels/day from the U.S. Midwest. But U.S. production has soared, providing stiff competition for pipeline space, and much of the 500,000 barrels/day of bitumen that goes to the Gulf Coast is shipped by rail.
Most Canadian bitumen ends up not on the Gulf Coast but in the U.S. Midwest where refineries have been flooded with cheap, light crude oil from U.S. hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The Canadian Energy Resource Institute says the main downward pressure on the price of heavy oil is not lack of pipeline capacity, but lack of refining capacity in the Midwest.
The CEO of Cenovus and other monopoly spokesmen also don't mention that while they have stopped building upgraders in Canada, they have been acquiring total or joint ownership of refineries in the U.S. Midwest. With their integrated operations, many companies are selling bitumen to themselves at discount prices. Jobs have been shipped down the pipeline and added value lost to the Canadian economy because these monopolies decided not to upgrade in Canada. They made this decision to suit their own narrow interests, greed, and empire-building. To now claim that they are concerned about the Canadian economy and Canadian workers is the height of hypocrisy.
Cenovus has 50 per cent ownership in two refineries in the U.S. -- Wood River in Illinois and Borger in Texas, jointly owned with Phillips 66 which processes about 444,000 barrels/day. BP's refinery in Whiting, Indiana is a major buyer of the bitumen blend WCS, and can refine 413,000 barrels/day. Husky operates the Toledo refinery in northwestern Ohio, in a joint venture with BP, which processes about 160,000 barrels/day, including WCS. Exxon Mobil which owns 70 per cent of Imperial Oil has refineries in Illinois and Louisiana which process WCS. The Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota owned by Koch Industries refines about 265,000 barrels/day of oil from the oil sands. Koch is reputed to have massive land assets in the oil sands.
Over the years, Canadians have been embroiled in a for-or-against pipeline debate which negates the right to decide of Canadians and First Nations. Oil workers and the organized workers' movement have called for nation-building, not empire building. Instead of shipping raw bitumen, the workers' opposition has called for upgrading, refining and manufacturing in Canada. To accomplish this requires public enterprise to develop an all-sided self-reliant economy, including the social programs which Canadians need to provide rights with a guarantee.
The working class and people of Alberta threw out the Tories who governed on behalf of the oligarchs, but the oligarchs remain firmly in control of all decisions about what to produce and how to produce it. Now it is déjà vu all over again and pipelines are presented as the issue while the entire agenda of the workers' opposition is buried. Far from abandoning the demands for a new direction, the present situation shows that the working class must organize itself to assume its rightful place. As the producers of all wealth, the working class has the duty to vest the decision-making power in the people who will decide what is produced and how to produce it. The working class has the duty to defend Indigenous rights, and the right and duty to make sure that developments serve Canadian nation-building and trade for mutual benefit.
The perverse logic of the monopolies should not be
to divide the working class and people and the Indigenous
nations. The First Nations and people of BC are concerned about
spills and want further study to ensure spill response is
adequate to protect the coastline and salmon fishery. When a
spill occurred on the Keystone pipeline, the political and
economic elite manipulated the situation. Instead of discussing
why it happened and how to prevent such spills, the response was
that the demand to ensure spills response and remediation is
in place for the Trans Mountain pipeline is an attack on the
workers of Canada and the national interest. It is not Trans
Canada which is considered socially irresponsible for its spill
and the consequences, but the demands of the First Nations and
people of BC. Passions are inflamed and disinformation abounds to
block the people from discussing what the problem is and how to
solve it. This situation requires a calm atmosphere in which people can
think about the problem and find new ways to express independent
working class politics based on a nation-building project which solves
the crisis in favour of the people, not the rich.
1. For full report of the
Canadian Energy Resource Institute click
(With files from CBC, Calgary Herald, Global News, Financial Post)
From the Party Press on Direction of the Economy
The Liberal government and its leader Jean Chretien put together a group of business people and went hunting for investment in Asia. The monopoly capitalist media called it "Team Canada" in order to fool public opinion. This mission of Team Canada was touted as a search for jobs.
The entire coverage given to this by the press hid the real issue. The issue is what should be done with surplus capital. Should it be invested in Canada for the balanced, full development of the economy as a truly nationalist and progressive state would do, or should the surplus capital be used where the return is the greatest? This means using surplus capital to intensify exploitation anywhere in the world.
The aim of Team Canada led by Jean Chretien was to look for areas of investment where the return is the greatest. If Chretien was interested in employment, he would ban the export of capital by the financial oligarchy. Furthermore he would force them to invest within Canada. Finally, he would encourage bilateral trade with all countries of the world on the basis of mutual benefit.
Jean Chretien's Liberal government is the government of the financial oligarchy. Governments at all levels declare that the cornerstone of prosperity in Canada comes from importing foreign capital and from the anti-social offensive. The role of governments, according to the financial oligarchy, is to lure foreign capital to Canada by providing all sorts of facilities and concessions. Secondly, their role is to provide and hunt for markets for its surplus capital. This was the aim of Team Canada going to Asia. Thirdly, it is to pursue the anti-social offensive. This means that the government is subordinate to the program of the financial oligarchy to protect its own interests at the expense of the people. Finally, in its foreign policy, the Chretien government champions the creation of a unipolar world under U.S. imperialist dictate.
The mission of Team Canada, in sum, was not to look for business in order to create jobs in Canada. It was to facilitate investments or trade where the return is the highest. Under the slogan of the "globalization of the economy," the Liberal government is hoping that Canada will corner a chunk of the world market. But the Liberal government is deeply mistaken. An economy built on trade and foreign investment is an economy that has no national base and is asking for trouble. It will soon have a rude awakening for the world's people are beginning a serious fight against this "globalization" in favour of their own national economies. Furthermore, Team Canada is not the only capitalist team scouring the world. The inter-monopoly and inter-imperialist dogfights will lead to a redivision of the world. Canada's activity as a member of the U.S. imperialist bloc, through its membership in NATO, NORAD and NAFTA, will become a factor for imperialist war.
Ignoring the national economy by permitting foreign capital in and national capital out, and by launching the anti-social offensive, the Liberal government is taking Canada on a disastrous course. The mission of Team Canada to Asia was another step down that treacherous path.
(TML Daily, Vol. 26, No. 118, January 25, 1996.)
On February 12, the Government of Canada launched "Canada's innovation strategy" with the release of two complementary papers titled Achieving Excellence: Investing in People, Knowledge and Opportunity and Knowledge Matters: Skills and Learning for Canadians.
According to a government press release, "This marks another significant step towards fulfilling the commitment made in the 2001 Speech from the Throne to equip Canadians with the cutting edge skills and learning they will need to prosper and realize their unique potential, and to brand Canada as one of the most innovative nations in the world." The government claims that "Canada's innovation strategy rests on the principle that in the knowledge economy, prosperity depends on innovation which, in turn, depends on the investments that we make in the creativity and talents of our people."
"This is why we must invest not only in technology and innovation but also support an environment of inclusion, in which all Canadians are equipped with the tools they need to fully participate in our economy and society," the government says.
"The papers propose a series of national goals and milestones that will mark our progress over the next decade. We will be working closely with the provinces and territories, business, labour, scholars, Aboriginal leaders, the voluntary sector and individual Canadians to develop the innovation strategy that will allow us to reach our goals," it says.
The government announced that it will be holding consultations across Canada over the coming months. "We urge Canadians to read the discussion papers and to participate in the consultation process. They can also visit and submit their comments online," it says.
Also on February 12, in a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Industry Minister Allan Rock outlined what he called "a series of national goals for a more competitive economy, more jobs and economic growth over the next decade." According to a government press release, "Minister Rock released his portion of Canada's Innovation Strategy in a paper entitled Achieving Excellence: Investing in People, Knowledge and Opportunity."
In his speech, the aim of the consultations to be held was made clear. "Minister Rock called on leaders in business, academia and the public sector to work with all levels of government to identify ways to meet the national goals identified in Achieving Excellence," the press release said. In other words, they are not consultations to discuss the way forward for Canada, but to create public opinion in favour of the Liberals' sellout of Canada. "It is time to push our efforts to a new level, to challenge Canadians with ambitious targets, and then work together to achieve them," Rock said. "Government alone cannot achieve this goal. We must build on the growing consensus among business leaders, entrepreneurs, unions, academics and all levels of government that Canada's future success depends on our ability to innovate in all sectors of our economy, and in all regions of the country," he added. "These meetings will result in a National Summit in the fall of 2002, where we will put our strategy into final form and concrete actions," Rock said. "I look forward to finding creative ways to meet these national goals. Together, we can make Canada a symbol for excellence in the world," he said.
The "goals, targets and federal priorities" proposed by Rock are in "four key areas":
- creating knowledge and
bringing the ideas to market
quickly, as well as increasing investment by all sectors in
research and development;
- ensuring that in years to come, Canada has enough highly qualified people with the skills for a vibrant, knowledge-based economy;
- modernizing our business and regulatory policies to support investment and innovation excellence while protecting our quality of life; and
- supporting innovation at the local level so our communities continue to be magnets for investment and opportunity.
(TML Daily, Vol 32 No. 31, February 15, 2002.)
Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the World Economic Forum (WEF) Signature Session in Davos, Switzerland on January 20. He recycled former Prime Minister Martin's failed appeal to the international financial oligarchy to "rebrand Canada." Instead of seeing Canada as a "hewer of wood and drawer of water," Trudeau seeks to promote the high tech sectors and Canada's human resources -- what former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called "the knowledge-based economy."
"Canada was mostly known for its resources. I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness," Trudeau said.
Canada is a reliable reserve of profit-making opportunity, he said. While natural resources "are important," "Canadians know that what it takes to grow and prosper isn't just what's under our feet, it's what's between our ears."
He emphasized Canada's competitive advantage because the production of education and health care value is organized through public infrastructure and provided to the monopolies for free.
"We have a diverse and creative population, outstanding education and health care systems, and advanced infrastructure. We have social stability, financial stability and a government willing to invest in the future," Trudeau said.
He stated that governments should invest in education, infrastructure, science, innovation and research "while recognizing the dynamic innovation that happens in the private sector."
In particular Trudeau cited Waterloo University and the high number of Canadians working in the U.S. Silicon Valley or for international firms. Trudeau said that Canada has "the diversity, the resilience, the positivity and the confidence" to take advantage of the "next industrial revolution." "[...]There has never been a better time to look to Canada," he said.
Global mostly U.S. monopolies have shown time and time again they are not prepared to permit Canadian high tech firms to pose an obstacle to their own empire-building. Yet Trudeau appeals to those same global monopolies that crushed Nortel and others to expand their reach to Canada with promises of "a diverse and creative population, outstanding education and health care systems, and advanced infrastructure... social stability, financial stability and a government willing to invest in the future."
Trudeau's appeal at Davos for the global elite to view Canada as more than resources includes the old message that Canada's economy and human and natural resources are at the disposal of the global monopolies. With this offer he hopes they will see fit to "diversify" and make Canada a player in the "knowledge economy."
Some would call Trudeau's behaviour unseemly grovelling at the feet of rich autocrats. It highlights the serious problem that international trade and decisions about what to produce and how to use Canada's resources are under the control of the international financial oligarchy and investment schemes serving their private interests and empire-building. It underscores the concrete condition that international trade, the movement of social wealth and workers and development generally are dominated by global monopolies themselves through multilateral free trade deals and not by sovereign states in control of their economies and engaged in nation-building.
An example is the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal that would permit the global monopolies almost unfettered access to and control over Canada's human and natural resources, production of goods and services including financial services and home market. Another is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. At Davos, Trudeau vigorously pushed the member states of the EU to sign CETA as quickly as possible and said his minister for international trade Chrystia Freeland was very busy lobbying Europeans to accept the deal without delay.
Global monopoly control of the economy means the negation of sovereign rule over the economy within each country. Neo-liberals contend that giving up sovereign control of the economy to global monopolies is the only way the monopolies will invest in Canada and, therefore, the only way the economy can grow. A false assumption is made that a people can engage in nation-building without control of their own economy. Another false assumption about Canada is that the accumulation of social wealth from the national production of goods and services is insufficient for investment in the economy. Unspoken in neo-liberal reasoning is how the narrow private interests of the global monopolies that seize control of the national economy to expand their empires can be harmonized with the broad public interests of the people and their rights, and the necessity to humanize the social and natural environment.
The people's desire for nation-building and their opposition to the stranglehold of the international financial oligarchy over their lives, require that the actual producers and residents of a country have the political power to exercise democratic control over the economy and international trade. Without democratic control to decide the direction of the economy, the narrow private interests of the global monopolies run amuck leaving political, social, economic and environmental problems not only unresolved but worsened, and the people's rights overwhelmed by monopoly right.
The people's opposition proposes democratic renewal as the first priority and to build an economy that is stable, self-reliant and consciously integrated. Such an economy, under the democratic control of the actual producers and residents serves the broad public interest. From this solid foundation of self-reliance, with production, manufacturing, social programs and public services reliably serving the people's needs and food security, international trade can be conducted on a wide scale with all those countries willing to engage in trade for mutual benefit and development, and without interfering in the sovereign affairs of each other.
The results of Canada's international merchandise trade for the first 11 months of 2015, the most recent available, show a negative outflow of $22.8 billion from the economy. Those results are stark evidence of the fallacy promoted by Trudeau that free trade and the dictate of the global monopolies over Canada's production of goods and services, wholesale market, trade, currency and pricing will solve the problems in Canada's economy.
The narrow private interests of the global monopolies dictate all facets of trade from what goods are produced and traded, to how they are produced and priced. Prices fluctuate wildly, the economy stumbles from one crisis to another, social wealth pours out of the economy and country, manufacturing and food security come under attack, public right and interest are negated, and the social and natural environment suffers.
Canada's economy and international trade need a new direction towards public right and control. The people must build up the power to restrict monopoly right and the dictate of the global monopolies. The country needs a new direction towards a self-reliant consciously integrated economy under the democratic control of the actual producers and residents. The people can and must oppose the Trudeau government's neo-liberal direction of the economy and its promises and appeals to the international financial oligarchy to exploit Canada's public treasury, social and material infrastructure, and human and natural resources.
(TML Weekly, Vol. 46 No. 4, January 23, 2016.)
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