Even before the proclamation, between October 7-10, the police had already carried out over 1,000 raids. As a result of the Canadian government having invoked provisions of the National Defence Act, on October 12 the army was deployed on the streets of Ottawa and three days later, on the streets of Montreal. On October 13, 1970 outside Parliament, a reporter asked Trudeau how far he would go in suspending democratic rights. The Prime Minister replied, "Just watch me."
Upon invoking the War Measures Act, in the wee hours of the morning on October 16, soldiers began to appear on the streets of Quebec in full combat gear. The police carried out a further 3,068 raids and searches and another 465 arrests were made without warrants. The majority of those arrested were released without charge after 21 days, however some were detained longer.
All those events were passed over in silence. We are told that this is all part of the past, that it serves no purpose to "stir things up again." Why then does the Canadian army continue to carry out exercises, like it did during September, right in the heart of Montreal?
The War Measures Act was adopted by the Canadian Parliament in 1914, at a time when Canada was part of the British Empire, at a time when Great Britain, France, Czarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire sought to redivide Europe and the colonies linked to these colonial powers.
These war measures were again invoked in 1917 when Great Britain, in concert with France, attempted to break the impasse on the battlefields of Europe, in particular after troops in Czarist Russia, France's ally, massively deserted the eastern front.
The Canadian government used these measures to impose conscription, which Quebeckers opposed by organizing in Quebec City in March 1918. Big demonstrations of close to 10,000 people broke out to oppose the kidnapping of youth by the federal police, to enroll them by force.
On July 21, 1988, the War Measures Act was replaced by the Emergencies Act. In the section of the law entitled "Application and Construction," it describes a "national emergency," as a "public welfare emergency" "that results or may result in a danger to life or property, social disruption or a breakdown in the flow of essential goods, services or resources, so serious as to be a national emergency." Within such a situation, "When the Governor in Council believes, on reasonable grounds, that a public welfare emergency exists and necessitates the taking of special temporary measures" it may "take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times."
It is important to recall that before the Emergencies Act was adopted in 1988, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 entrenched the underlying premises upon which both the War Measures Act and the Emergencies Act are based. The Charter states that almost all rights it "guarantees" are subject to "reasonable limits." In addition, it also allows the withdrawal of rights by use of the Charter's "notwithstanding clause." The right to vote and the right to have periodic elections, at least every five years, are safe from the notwithstanding clause. However, even the right to have elections every five years can be suspended "in time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection." In other words, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms negates the very conception of the inviolability of rights and freedoms.
For Your Information -- The War Measures Act
The War Measures Act is a federal law passed by Parliament on August 22, 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War. The law grants sweeping emergency powers to the federal Cabinet, allowing it to govern by decree if it perceives the threat of "war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended." It was used to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered "enemy aliens," leading to mass arrest and detention without charge or trial. The War Measures Act stayed in force in Canada from 1914-1920.
With the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, additional regulations and orders were added, forbidding membership in communist and socialist organizations.
The War Measures Act was used again during the Second World War.
In 1937, Quebec also passed a law protecting the province against communist propaganda, better known as the Padlock Law. It aimed to stop communist activities in the province and its nickname comes from the fact that the authorities could order a premise to be locked to prevent access.
The text of the Padlock Law states:
It is illegal for anyone who owns or occupies a home in the province to use it or allow anyone to use it to spread communism or Bolshevism by any means.
The law was declared unconstitutional in 1957 by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The only time the War Measures Act was enacted in peacetime was in October 1970 when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau used it to conduct searches and arrests during the October Crisis. It has since been replaced by the Emergencies Act, which was passed on July 21, 1988.
1. See "War Preparations in Montreal," Chantier politique, September 9, 2018.
2. See "Anti-Conscription Protests," Chantier politique, March 28, 2018.
Indigenous Peoples Affirm Hereditary Rights
Supreme Court's Decision on Mikisew Nation's Appeal Points to Need for Constitutional Renewal
The Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling on October 11 that the government has no duty to consult Indigenous nations when drafting legislation that may affect treaty, constitutional, and inherent rights of Indigenous peoples. The decision was immediately condemned by the Mikisew Cree Nation, Indigenous leaders and organizations, who vowed to continue to defend their sovereignty and right to be, defend the interests of First Nations and Canadians, and carry out their duties to care for Mother Earth.
The decision in Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada (Governor General in Council) (SCC2018-40) arose from the Mikisew Cree First Nation's challenge to Harper's omnibus legislation of 2012. Bill C-38 made sweeping changes to Canada's environmental assessment regime under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as well as related environmental and regulatory approval legislation, including the Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act (now Navigation Protection Act). It resulted in nation-wide actions and protests and the Idle No More movement.
The Mikisew Cree First Nation asked for judicial review arguing that the Crown had a duty to consult them on the development of the legislation, since it had the potential to adversely affect their treaty rights to hunt, trap, and fish under Treaty No. 8, rights which they have fiercely defended.
The Federal Court reviewing judge ruled the Mikisew were entitled to notice of the relevant provisions of the bills, as well as an opportunity to make submissions. The federal government appealed the ruling, and the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the judicial review should not have been conducted and was contrary to the Federal Courts Act. The court concluded that the creation of legislation is immune from judicial review, and the decision is inconsistent with the principles of parliamentary sovereignty, the separation of powers, and parliamentary privilege. The Mikisew appealed. The Supreme Court has now dismissed the appeal in a unanimous decision that the Federal Courts Act does not give the Federal Court jurisdiction to consider the application for judicial review.
The majority also went much farther, ruling that the
"Honour of the Crown," the basis for the duty to consult, applies only
to executive actions of the Crown, not to legislative actions. If
legislative actions were included, the court said, this would
constitute unwarranted interference by the judiciary in the workings of
parliament, violate the supremacy of parliament and the separation of
powers, and, in any case, would be an encumbrance.
Former Mikisew Chief Steve Courtoreille who initiated the court challenge responded, "How are they going to know if they are impacting our treaty rights if they don't talk to us, if they don't consult with us? How would they know that? Are they going to undo the legislation if they find out that it impacts our rights? The sad part is that it not only affects the First Nations, it affects the rest of Canada. When they brought out the environmental act, basically they wanted to destroy the environment. They wanted full steam ahead. They wanted no First Nations in the way and we were the problem, because we wanted to be consulted in our territories, we wanted to protect our fish habitats. And they did not care, they wanted to bulldoze through, have plants, have projects coming out as fast as they can. Coming to this day, thinking about all that, anybody with reason would say it is a simple decision, You have to consult before you draft any kind of legislation, you have to talk to the people, the owners of the land, the First Nations people, and then you know whether you are going to be impacting our rights. I don't know how they were thinking. It is very sad that the justice system has failed the First Nations again."
He pointed out that Indigenous peoples have defied them: "We are still here. They put us in residential schools, they tried to take the Indian out of us. It did not happen and we are still here. We will still be here going forward. Canada, thank you, you just made our people stronger, Thank you for that."
Chief Archie Waquan stated that the ruling is not the end of their fight to defend treaty rights, and that may include taking the issue forward to the United Nations, as Canada has signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The court ruling means that Indigenous peoples have no legal recourse until after a bill has become law. Only then, if the new law may have a negative impact on Aboriginal or treaty rights, can Indigenous peoples challenge the law in the courts.
The arguments provided by the majority of justices deny that Indigenous peoples are sovereign, with rights that belong to them by virtue of their being. They negate the fact that the treaties were signed by sovereign peoples on a nation-to-nation basis.
The conception that the honour of the Crown has to be balanced with the sovereignty of parliament does not recognize that the treaties are nation-to-nation and does not recognize the laws and institutions of governance of Indigenous peoples. Canada needs a new constitution based on this recognition and the right of all Canadians, Quebecers, and Indigenous peoples to exercise the sovereign decision-making power.
For Your Information
What the Justices Had to Say
The court dismissed the appeal of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in a unanimous judgment that the Federal Court of Appeal lacked jurisdiction for judicial review because the definition of "the Crown" in the Federal Courts Act applies only when the Crown is exercising executive functions. When the executive -- prime minister and cabinet -- are conducting functions related to legislation to be put before parliament, these acts are immune from judicial review.
A majority of judges went much farther. They ruled, "The duty to consult is an obligation that flows from the honour of the Crown, a foundational principle of Aboriginal law which governs the relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples. This duty requires the Crown to consult Aboriginal peoples before taking action that may adversely affect their asserted or established rights under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and ensures that the Crown acts honourably by preventing it from acting unilaterally in ways that undermine s. 35 rights. Although the duty to consult has been recognized in a variety of contexts, Crown conduct sufficient to trigger the duty has only been found to include executive action or action taken on behalf of the executive."
Several justices noted that it would be wise for governments to engage in consultation when legislation potentially impacting Indigenous "groups" is being drafted, but there is no obligation to do so.
Reference is made to relevant precedents by three justices, who comment, in part, "When legislation has been adopted, those who assert that the effect of the legislation is to infringe s. 35 rights have their remedies under the infringement and justification framework set out in R. v. Sparrow,  1 S.C.R. 1075. Those who assert that government decisions made pursuant to the legislation's authority will adversely affect their claims can rely on the duty to consult first recognized in Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73,  S.C.R. 511. Where new situations arise that require the adaptation or extension of the existing jurisprudence, the courts provide a means for further development of the law. No such requirement has been shown on the facts of this case..."
Justice Rosalie Abella and Justice Sheila Martin dissented from the majority on what was required to uphold the "honour of the Crown." Abella wrote:
...This obligation of honour gives rise to a duty to consult that applies to all contemplated government conduct with the potential to adversely impact asserted or established Aboriginal and treaty rights, including legislative action.
The honour of the Crown is always at stake in its dealings with Indigenous peoples, whether through the exercise of legislative power or executive authority. It is a constitutional imperative giving rise to obligations on the Crown which are enforced by the courts. When the government contemplates conduct that might adversely affect Aboriginal or treaty rights, the honour of the Crown gives rise to a duty to consult and accommodate. This duty is more than just a means of upholding the honour of the Crown. The question is not whether a duty to consult is appropriate in the circumstances, but whether the decision is one to which the duty to consult applies.
Because the honour of the Crown infuses the entirety of the government's relationship with Indigenous peoples, the duty to consult must apply to all exercises of authority which are subject to scrutiny under s. 35. This includes the enactment of legislation. This conclusion flows from the jurisprudential development of the duty to consult from an aspect of the infringement and justification analysis in R. v. Sparrow,  1 S.C.R. 1075, to an independent obligation in Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73,  S.C.R. 511. No longer confined to the justification context, the duty to consult now forms part of the essential legal framework of Aboriginal law, and requires consultation wherever the potential for adverse effects on claimed or established s. 35 rights arises. This approach recognizes that the legislative sphere is not excluded from the honour of the Crown. Endorsing such a void in the honour of the Crown would create a corresponding gap in the s. 35 framework, leaving Aboriginal rights-holders vulnerable to the same government objectives carried out through legislative, rather than executive, action.
Although parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary privilege are central to ensuring that the legislative branch of government is able to do its work without undue interference, these concepts cannot displace the honour of the Crown. The issues in this appeal require this Court to reconcile, not choose between, protecting the legislative process from judicial interference and protecting Aboriginal rights from the legislative process. The right of Aboriginal groups to be consulted on decisions that may adversely affect their interests is not merely political, but a legal right with constitutional force. Cases which advocate against intrusion into the parliamentary process must therefore be read in the context of a duty that is not only a constitutional imperative, but a recognition of the limits of Crown sovereignty itself. Parliamentary sovereignty should not be interpreted in a way that eradicates obligations under the honour of the Crown. Like all constitutional principles, parliamentary sovereignty must be balanced against other aspects of the constitutional order, including the duty to consult.
One justice stated, "The only procedure due any citizen of Canada is that proposed legislation receive three readings in the Senate and House of Commons and that it receive royal assent."
Mikisew Cree First Nation
Mikisew Cree First Nation is located in Northeastern Alberta. The Athabasca Delta, which is in the centre of their traditional lands, is a unique ecosystem where the Mikisew Cree have lived from time immemorial.
The traditional lands of the Mikisew Cree First Nation range over much of the area where the Athabasca oil sands deposits have been found. Mikisew Cree First Nation shares this territory with four other First Nations that make up the Athabasca Tribal Council.
The Mikisew Cree signed Treaty 8 in 1899. Oral history, including interviews with Indigenous people who were alive when Treaties 6, 7 and 8 were signed, has clearly shown that Treaty 8 was not a land surrender treaty, but a nation-to-nation agreement to share the land with the settlers. However both the Supreme Court and successive governments continue to assert that in making Treaty 8, the First Nations surrendered 840,000 square kilometres of what is now northern Alberta, northeastern BC, northwestern Saskatchewan and the southern portion of the Northwest Territories. In 1986 the Mikisew Cree signed a Treaty Land Entitlement with Canada that created several reserves in and around the Fort Chipewyan area and into the area north of Lake Athabasca.
The massive oil sands developments in the lower Athabasca region have severely altered parts of their traditional territory, as has the W.A.C. Bennett Dam.
Wood Buffalo National Park, located directly north of the Athabasca oil sands, is part of the traditional territory of the Mikisew and other Cree and Dene First Nations, and was carved out of Treaty 8 territory. The park covers 44,807 square kilometres, and is the second largest national park in the world. The Mikisew Reserve is located within the park.
In 2005, the Mikisew won a landmark case at the Supreme Court of Canada, which established that the Crown had to carry out meaningful consultations and substantially address Aboriginal concerns before making important decisions that impacted rights recognized in treaty. This decision, Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada (Minister of Canadian Heritage), 2005 SCC69, forced the federal government and Parks Canada to carry out consultations regarding road building in Wood Buffalo National Park. In 2000, the federal government approved a winter road, to run through the reserve without any consultation. Mikisew Cree First Nation has also challenged BC Hydro's failure to consider impacts of the Site C dam on the Athabasca Delta and has filed for judicial review of the federal approval of Site C.
Mikisew Cree First Nation has been second to none in
defending the integrity
the park on behalf of all Indigenous peoples, Canadians and
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO points out: "Wood Buffalo National Park is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes encompassing some of the largest undisturbed grass and sedge meadows left in North America. It sustains the world's largest herd of wood bison, a threatened species. The park's huge tracts of boreal forest also provide crucial habitat for a diverse range of other species, including the endangered whooping crane. The continued evolution of a large inland delta, salt plains and gypsum karst add to the park's uniqueness." It is also the world's largest dark sky preserve.
Mikisew Cree First Nation petitioned the World Heritage Committee in 2014 requesting that the park be added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, which led to a formal request from the World Heritage Committee that Canada develop an action plan for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. Eleven Indigenous Nations are now involved in development of the plan for Wood Buffalo.
At the present time, most Mikisew Cree First Nation members reside in Fort McMurray, Edmonton, and Fort Chipewyan, Alberta and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.
Heiltsuk Nation Sues Government, Kirby Corporation on Second Anniversary of Oil Spill
On the second anniversary of the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart, Heiltsuk chiefs filed a Notice of Civil Claim in the BC Supreme Court. The Nathan E. Stewart, a tug-barge combo, ran aground on October 13, 2016. The tug portion sank, spilling 110,000 litres of diesel fuel and other pollutants into Gale Pass, near Bella Bella.
Heiltsuk's territory is centrally located in the Great Bear Rainforest, and consists of extensive land and marine areas, including offshore waters that encompass the Goose Island Group and Banks, Campbell Island, and Bella Bella, and twenty-three reserves.
The Heiltsuk Nation is seeking compensation for loss of commercial harvesting of marine resources and infringement of Aboriginal rights relating to the food, social and ceremonial importance of marine resources -- factors that the current oil spill liability framework does not account for. The case will address vital questions, including Aboriginal title to seabeds and coastlines, national and provincial spill response frameworks, and the duty to consult Indigenous nations affected by spills.
The existing oil spill response framework excuses the polluter and government from full responsibility for oil spill impacts on Aboriginal rights otherwise protected by the Constitution, the Heiltsuk point out. Heiltsuk Nation will be asking the courts to assess whether this existing regime of liability for oil spills is constitutional.
"When I'm not harvesting Gale Pass to feed my family, I am working there as a commercial fisherman, earning an income to support them -- and I'm one of many," says harvester and volunteer oil spill responder, Robert Johnson. "Despite our reliance on Gale Pass, the governments of BC and Canada and Kirby the polluter have little interest in understanding the impacts of this oil spill on the health of my community, this environment, or our economy."
The case will also examine illegal actions of the U.S.-owned tug, including the presence of one person on watch when two are required.
Gale Creek and the marine area near Athlone Island is a rich ecosystem that Heiltsuk have traditionally harvested using sustainable practices. It provided Heiltsuk with many food species for food, social, ceremonial, and commercial purposes. At least 25 food species were harvested from the area, including commercial harvests of manila clams, red sea urchin, sea cucumber, salmon, and herring spawn on kelp.
The Heiltsuk carried out two years of independent investigation into the spill's cause, the response, and impacts. In announcing the court challenge, first responder and Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt said, "Government representatives travel the province, country, and the world preaching reconciliation and nation-to-nation relationships with First People. Meanwhile, back home, they are avoiding our calls and emails, excluding us from meetings, and ignoring our rights. If the courts have to explain that this is not what nation-to-nation relationships and reconciliation look like, so be it."
Chief Councillor Slett stated, "[T]he preparation of the case itself is a major achievement, since Canada, BC, and Kirby have denied or ignored our requests for information, consultation, and support. Our hope is that this case sets a new precedent for oil spill response for the province and the country. I wouldn't wish these last two years on anyone."
The investigation confirmed that the Heiltsuk responded immediately and did everything in their power to contain the spill. The response of the Coast Guard and the monopoly acting for Kirby was slow and chaotic, with no on-site command. When containment booms were finally provided, there were too few, and unsuitable for use in strong currents. Other containment equipment did not work at all and had to be removed. The Heiltsuk responders were not provided with any safety equipment or instruction.
The consequences of the failure of the spill response have been devastating, including the complete loss of the commercial clam fishery which has been closed since the spill. "When the Nathan E. Stewart sank it took with it livelihoods, our clam fishery, and part of what makes this place home," says Hereditary Chief Humchitt. "It was painful to watch the damage unfold as we waited for support and supplies. More painful still when the teams and equipment that did arrive were disorganized, ineffective and, ultimately, powerless to protect our waters and lands."
The Heiltsuk report that the struggle to recover from the disaster has jumpstarted their efforts to chart a different, sustainable and just course through troubled waters, using traditional law and ecosystem management practices rooted in 700 generations of knowledge.
"Since time immemorial, we have followed Ǧviḷás, Heiltsuk traditional law. It tells us to balance the health of the water and land with the needs of our people and to ensure there will always be plentiful resources. Today, Gale Pass is in jeopardy because of Canada, BC, and Kirby's actions. Our law has been violated and the legal action we are taking in the BC Supreme Court today is our bid to hold them accountable," said Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief Frank Brown.
While governments use their police powers in the service of the monopolies, the Heiltsuk law is consistent with the need to humanize the social and natural environment. It recognizes that we come from Mother Earth and must protect her. In place of the rule of the oligarchs motivated by greed and self-interest, is the recognition and conscious activity to balance the needs of the people with the protection of the natural environment from which we come.
TML Weekly calls on Canadians to put full support behind the Heiltsuk. Their sovereignty, hereditary rights, and laws must be recognized and a new relationship based on the internationally recognized right to self-determination established.
The Heiltsuk Nation Adjudication Report can be found here.
(With files from heiltsuknation.ca, RAVEN, CBC)
Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows)
According to the Premier, these government employees will be moved into back office jobs if they refuse to remove what the government refers to as their religious symbols. Furthermore, should they refuse to be moved, they will be dismissed. The Premier added that he is ready to invoke the notwithstanding clause, Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, to protect his forthcoming legislation from future legal disputes.
The Premier ignores and rejects the great examples of social solidarity expressed by all Quebeckers towards religious minorities and others. One eloquent example of this took place after people were killed and injured during the massacre at the mosque in Quebec City on January 29, 2017. Quebeckers of all backgrounds broadly expressed their support for the community that had come under attack, with large gatherings Quebec-wide opposing all violence and discrimination against them.
To say that the Legault government knows what Quebeckers are thinking is unfounded. Resorting to the policy of divide and rule of the British or of any opportunist thug, to divert the attention of the people from the real challenges facing the society, will not succeed.
The Legault government does not represent Quebeckers when it commits to its ignorant bill to sow divisions and create diversions from the real problems facing the society. It has neither the mandate nor any grounds to do so.
The Legault government is committed to introducing and passing over the coming year a law on secularism that will prohibit the wearing of religious symbols by those considered to be in a position of authority in the public service: the police, crown prosecutors, judges, prison guards and teachers. Premier Legault claims his government has received a strong and clear majority mandate to proceed with such legislation, as with any law or measure it deems appropriate. The Premier says that he is responding to the consensus that he believes exists in Quebec and is only expressing the values of Quebeckers. Yet according to the Premier, it is time to put this issue of religious symbols "behind us." The monopoly media echoed him, saying such a law could put an end to the tensions that exist on this issue among the population by solving the question once and for all.
This is the first bill tabled by the Legault government, as a result of the biased and undemocratic electoral process that Quebeckers have just experienced, with a fraudulent majority made up of 37.7 per cent of valid votes and 24.5 per cent of registered electors. This was an election where all electoral issues were defined and imposed by the cartel parties in the National Assembly, their private marketing firms and monopoly media. It is telling that the first measure to be invoked is one whose goal is to provoke as much tension, division and diversion as possible among Quebeckers. While doing so, the government is setting the stage for its intensified privatization of public services and the accelerated sell-off of Quebec to private supranational monopolies and oligopolies in the name of prosperity.
This shows the extent to which the current political process is an obstacle to resolving any problem whatsoever. It deprives the people of any power to decide issues in a calm atmosphere, where the people themselves discuss and present the need for political unity to solve the problems of society. This unrepresentative democracy must be renewed and replaced by a mass democracy in which the decision-making power is in the hands of the people themselves as it should be, since it is their interests and rights that are at stake.
Ontarians Rally in Defence of Social Programs
On Tuesday, October 23, Ontarians are coming to Queen's Park from all over the province to hold a rally sponsored by the Ontario Health Coalition under the slogan: "Rebuild and Improve Public Health Care -- No to Cuts and Privatization." The rally expresses the opposition of the people of Ontario to the neo-liberal agenda of the reactionary Ford government which has hired EY (formerly Ernst and Young) to provide a rationale for privatizing health care services even more. EY is one of the four global monopolies providing neo-liberal accounting and consulting services to reactionary governments in support of the anti-social offensive of the rich.
The Ontario government's Financial Accountability Office (FAO) has detailed and current information about Ontario's fiscal health and, specifically, it issued an Updated Assessment of Ontario Health Spending -- Winter 2018. It shows that the neo-liberal agenda has constrained spending and has already significantly worsened the working and living conditions of workers in the health care sector by driving down their real wages and forcing many to work longer hours for less pay.
But the facts do not fit with the argument and agenda being pushed by the Ford government to step up the anti-social offensive, so EY was hired to come up with a suitable story. The Ford government, like the Liberal government before it and all the governments since Mike Harris declared Ontario "Open for Business" in 1995, follow the pragmatic dictum made famous by Ivanka Trump, who tried to attribute it to Albert Einstein: "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
EY has now completed its "Line-by-Line Review of Ontario Government Expenditures 2002-03 -- 2017-18. The very title of the report betrays its mission: "Managing Transformation -- A Modernization Action Plan for Ontario" and, as expected, it contains bogus neo-liberal accounting. A PR exercise from the outset for the Ford government's anti-social agenda, the report is the furthest thing from a serious review of Ontario's finances which do not support further cuts to funding of social programs and more privatization.
The example of spending on social programs in Ontario suffices to show that EY cherry picks facts and presents them in a self-serving manner to support the neo-liberal theory. We learn from the "line-by-line" review that "the most significant portion of (government) spending is in the 'Big Three' sectors: Health, Education and Children, Community and Social Services." It then uses coloured graphics to show that Ontario spends more on health care than BC and Quebec, but fails to note that these three provinces are at the bottom of the list when it comes to per capita health care spending in Canada.
EY also discovers the well-known fact that these service sectors are labour intensive and, being servants of imperialism, they present the value of the capacity to work as a cost. "Salary and wages account for a significant, and in some instances growing, portion of expenditures," the report says, and "overtime in the Health and Community Safety sectors is significant, and although it is to maintain service levels, the result is costly."
EY issues another known fact as a warning. "[F]ederal support for health care, as a share of provincial spending, has declined from historic levels and will continue to decline in future," it says. Besides the fact that federal governments have similar anti-social neo-liberal agendas as the provinces and refuse to uphold their social responsibilities, this is an exercise in disinformation to deprive people of an outlook on the basis that there is no alternative but to privatize.
"And yet this is not a story of dire straits," EY
is "a story about opportunity" to capture the benefits of "a
digital approach," "workforce transformation," optimizing "skills
of government employees and reduce wasted cost due to overtime
The Ontario Health Coalition denounced the EY report and aim of the government. Working people and their organizations are demanding more investment in health care and social programs, not less, and certainly not more pay-the-rich schemes.
The Ontario Health Coalition's condemnation of the EY report noted, "Ontario has already cut and downsized its public hospitals for decades. In fact, no other province in Canada, and virtually no other country in the developed world, has cut as deeply as this province. Already Ontario has the lowest public hospital funding in the country. We have fewer hospital beds left than any other province. Ontario has the lowest level of nursing care per patient, occupancy [overcrowding] levels in hospitals that are unparalleled anywhere in Canada or Europe. Here, patients are pushed out of hospitals more quickly than in other provinces, and as a consequence, Ontario has the highest levels of hospital re-admission in the country. One in ten patients ends up back in hospital after they are discharged. As overcrowding has reached crisis levels, violence in hospitals has spiked. 30,000 people are waiting for long-term care placements and care levels are too low to provide for their needs. The Coalition is calling on government to rebuild and restore services, not cut and privatize."
Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions stated: "Far from delivering a 'line-by-line' accounting of provincial funding, the PC government's $500,000 Ernst and Young (EY) report on the province's finances is gun for hire advocacy for downsizing public services, the sale of profitable provincial assets, user fees, means testing and increased privatization."
The Ontario Nurses Association, in its 2018 Pre-Budget Consultations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs stated in part: "ONA recommends a 5.3 per cent increase in hospital base operating funding to cover the full costs of inflation, population growth and aging, plus increased demand for hospital services. We urge the government to implement a moratorium on any further erosion of RN positions, including a directive to all hospitals from the Health Minister to ensure hospitals make appropriate evidence-based nurse staffing decisions that do not negatively affect the care patients receive."
For more information on the Ontario Health Coalition's
Park from noon to 1:00 pm on Tuesday, October 23 click here.
For Your Information
Below are extracts from the report provided by the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) of the Government of Ontario:
"The health sector is the largest expense item in the Ontario budget. The 2017 Fall Economic Statement projects $57.9 billion of health sector expense in 2017-18, comprising 42 per cent of total program spending. ... The two largest program areas are hospitals and the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), together accounting for $34.8 billion or 60 per cent of health sector expense in 2017-18." (p. 5)
"[A]fter the 2008-2009 recession, limiting the growth of health sector spending was a critical part of the Province's plan to achieve a balanced budget in 2017-18. From 2011-12 to 2015-16, annual health sector expense grew by only 2.4 per cent on average." (p. 5)
"From 2011-2012 to 2016-17 health sector spending growth was consistently slower than the growth in its core cost drivers." (Population growth, population aging and price inflation are three core drivers of health care costs.) (p.1)
"Since 2012, the Province has restrained the growth of health sector spending primarily by: imposing a four-year freeze in base operating funding to hospitals, increasing hospital efficiency, and restraining wage growth in the health sector." (p.2)
"Hospital Efficiencies: Over a four year period from 2011-12 to 2015-16, the Province froze base operating funding for hospitals. ... From 2012-13 to 2015-16 hospital funding restraint and funding reform resulted in the cost of a standard hospital stay in Ontario decreasing by 1.8 per cent while the national average increased by 5.4 per cent. According to the Ontario Hospital Association, these cost savings were achieved through efficiency gains such as reducing the length of time patients stay in hospitals, as well as through temporary measures such as deferring hospital maintenance and equipment purchases." (p. 16-17)
"Health Sector Wage Restraint: ... wage restraint has been an important aspect of slowing health sector expense since 2012, hourly wages in Ontario's broader health sector have grown more slowly than the rest of the economy, and have not kept pace with price inflation." (p. 17)
"Since 2012, a freeze in base operating funding to hospitals and wage restraint have been significant contributors in slowing health sector expense growth. Even with the additional health sector spending in the 2017 budget, hospital and OHIP program area spending is set to grow more slowly than their core cost drivers." (p. 18)
Much was made about additional health sector spending in the pre-election 2017 Ontario Liberal budget. Here again the FAO breaks it down pointing out that of the $6.9 billion in cumulative new health sector funding budgeted for the three-year period 2017-18 to 2019-20, 20 per cent of that amount was actually an "accounting adjustment ($1.2 billion) which does not involve any additional cash spending."
Most of the new funding ($4.2 billion) was "allocated to relieve pressures in existing programs," which sheds a bit of light on how strained delivery of existing health care services has become, and the rest ($1.5 billion) was funding for new initiatives, mainly the introduction of OHIP+. The FAO wrote, "Even though the 2017 budget plan announced $6.9 billion in new health sector spending ... health sector expense growth is only projected to out-pace the growth of core health care cost drivers in a single year -- 2018-19." (p.14)
The Fight Against Anti-Social Offensive in Nova Scotia
In Nova Scotia as is also the case in the rest of Canada, the working people are left out of the decision-making process. Last year, teachers took to the streets throughout Nova Scotia and surrounded Province House expressing their views, needs, concerns, demands and proposals for changes at their workplaces. The McNeil Liberals feigned interest in what they had to say but once again resorted to their favourite weapon of commissioning a report from a hand-picked expert. They then turned the discussion into whether the report of the expert was good or not and should be implemented or not, effectively blocking the teachers from leading a broad discussion on their proposals, which played no role whatsoever in the plans put in place.
Those with privilege, who have seized power through an anachronistic process of unrepresentative democracy, declare they have a "mandate" from the people. The reality is they receive next to no support from working people on whom they prey through micro-targeting, disinformation and even vote-suppression.
In Nova Scotia, McNeil consolidated his "mandate" by capturing a mere 39.6 per cent of the votes in an election that saw only 53.4 per cent of Nova Scotians cast a ballot. How can an electoral victory be so lousy as to barely engage more than half the eligible voters to participate? And, if the victory is so ridiculous and unrepresentative how can it be used by the McNeil Liberals to claim a mandate to impose their narrow, self-serving agenda on workers and the rest of the people of Nova Scotia?
The block on workers having a say over the conditions at work, in their communities and the broad economy begins with an electoral process that serves to keep the people out of power. The cartel parties are all too happy to declare victories with the lowest levels of participation because they do not even have as an aim to politicize and engage the people; only to use them as voting cattle. The role of the electoral process at present appears to be to block the people from having a decisive say and role in their work and in society generally while doing next to nothing to engage the majority of the polity in politics.
The breakthrough waiting to happen in Nova Scotia is for the workers to engage in a movement for political empowerment. They need to become the decision-makers by organizing for democratic renewal. The programs by the cartel parties, such as the McNeil Liberals, to pay the rich and deny the people what belongs to them by right will be smashed by workers organizing in a manner conducive to the needs of a modern society which takes up its social responsibilities.
As is the case across the country, health care and education workers are fighting against the attacks on health care and education in Nova Scotia. Plenty of blame is spread around for what is described as a crisis in both these crucial sectors of modern life.
Some say the problems appear as just a matter of underfunding or neglect by successive governments. Others blame teachers for being greedy and too demanding. Some even blame the elderly for becoming old and burdening the health care system! One could say the anti-social offensive now led by the McNeil Liberals has brought Nova Scotia to the point where blame has to be assigned and other solutions sought. The government and media seem all too happy to let all sorts of nonsense be bandied about as long as the solutions put forward by workers in the two sectors are ignored.
The Liberal McNeil government has announced plans to replace three aging hospitals with a public/private/partnership model, as well as construct a new outpatient clinic in Bayers Lake. The budget is estimated at $2 billion. According to McNeil, the P3 pay-the-rich model provides the greatest certainty that the project will be delivered on budget and as ordered. This assertion was given to the McNeil Liberals by the accounting firm Deloitte, through a self-serving report the government commissioned.
To deprive the polity of the relevant information it requires to draw warranted conclusions, the government, political parties, monopoly media and others limit the discussion to whether P3s are good or bad and where the funds are going to come from to build these new institutions. No one argues, and correctly so, that the province does not need new facilities. They are long overdue. Arguing against a private solution, NDP leader Gary Burrill cited instances where P3 builds in Ontario and BC have come in over budget. Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union President Jason MacLean welcomed the news but cautioned, "Nova Scotians have already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on other costly P3 projects -- more than 30 schools, toll roads, and the Burnside jail, just to name a few."
In this way, the social responsibility of a modern society to meet the claims of its members becomes muddied and lost. The central role of the workers who do the work to discuss and find a way forward to solve problems is ignored and denied.
The hallmark of the anti-social offensive is to make changes to all state responsibilities and arrangements so as to pay the rich. In order to get away with this, the working people must be deprived of an outlook which makes what they have to say on the matter ineffective. This leaves the door perpetually open for the financial oligarchs to serve their narrow private interests by feasting on all aspects of the economy and the people's needs.
The cartel parties in government act to ensure the people's movement for empowerment is not effective. This problem must be taken up for solution if the people are to control those affairs that affect their lives and society, in which health care and education are fundamental.
War Exercises of Unprecedented Proportions
Russia held its Vostok 2018 (East 2018) war games from September 11 to 17, said to be the largest war exercises in the region since the end of the Cold War. They involved some 300,000 Russian troops, over 1,000 aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, up to 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles, along with some 80 ships and supply vessels. The exercises took place throughout Siberia, Russia's far eastern region and the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean. The last time Russia was involved in war exercises on such a scale was 1981 when the Zapad 81 (West 81) drills, that involved about 100,000 troops, were held in the Soviet Union's Belarusian, Kiev and Baltic Military Districts and in the Baltic Sea.
A Kremlin press release stated that the main objectives of the Vostok 2018 exercises were to check the level of readiness of the military command bodies for planning and conducting the regrouping of troops over long distances and organizing interaction between land troops and naval forces. They should also help commanders and staff improve their command and control skills, it said. The Kremlin also informed that a brigade commander of the Mongolian Armed Forces, as well as 87 observers from 59 countries, attended the drills.
Mongolia, China and NATO member Turkey were invited to participate. Units of the Mongolian Armed Forces took part while China sent 3,200 troops, more than 900 pieces of land equipment and 30 aircraft and took part in mobile defence and counterattack drills at the Tsugol training range in the Trans-Baikal region. A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry explained that "The drills are aimed at consolidating and developing the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, deepening pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the two armies, and further strengthening their ability to jointly deal with varied security threats, which are conducive to safeguarding regional peace and security."
The "strategic partnership" cooperation between China and Russia refers to high-level exchanges that began this spring between the two countries explicitly for purposes of countering U.S. unilateralism.
(With files from Xinhua and agencies.)
Troops from NATO countries are preparing to take part in the Trident Juncture 2018 war games in Norway and other parts of Scandinavia, which the aggressive alliance called its "largest since the Cold War." Fifty thousand troops from 31 countries (the 29 NATO member countries plus purportedly neutral Sweden and Finland) are taking part in this six-week exercise. Some 10,000 military vehicles will be involved, the first of which arrived in Norway in August. One hundred and fifty aircraft and 60 vessels will also take part.
Trident Juncture is an expression of the U.S. striving for world domination and the preoccupation of NATO with the encirclement of Russia, which it attempts to justify by portraying it as an aggressor nation. This exercise is a particular threat to the peoples of Europe. Trident Juncture is said to show that NATO is adapting and responding to a "more demanding and difficult security environment." The immediate aims of Trident Juncture include jointly training NATO forces and training them to rapidly deploy across Europe. These are the second Trident Juncture war games; the first were held in Spain and Portugal in 2015.
The war games officially start on October 25, however advance exercises were held in Iceland from October 15 to 17, while troop movements to Norway are also being used as training. For example, the British military convoy is currently making a 2,000-kilometre overland journey from the Hook of Holland harbour through northern Europe to Norway. NATO states that its "move through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden will test how efficiently soldiers and equipment can move between European countries. It will also test customs, border regulations and infrastructure's ability to cope with rapid and heavy troop movements." Similarly, the German army shipped Leopard tanks and other military vehicles onboard a civilian cargo ferry from the northern German town of Emden to Fredrikstad, Norway where they arrived on October 11. Meanwhile, U.S. forces are travelling to Norway by sea via the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
"Military mobility is vital, especially to reinforce in a crisis. That's exactly why we exercise it," said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. "Over the past few years, NATO has made real progress in improving our ability to deploy troops quickly across Europe. We are overcoming legal hurdles and cutting red tape, including by working closely with the European Union. Looking ahead, we aim to further reduce border-crossing times (clearances within five days by the end of 2019), identify alternative supply routes, and exercise even more to practice military mobility," she added.
NATO's concerns about mobility and logistics were elaborated at the October 9 Trident Juncture press conference. U.S. Admiral James Foggo noted, "At the core of the exercise is the NATO Response Force and within that, the 5,000 person-plus Spearhead force, otherwise known as the VJTF or the Very High Readiness Joint Taskforce." In response to a question from the press, he later explained, "Germany is part of the German-Netherlands Corps, which is part and parcel of the 5,000-plus Spearhead Force that I told you about, the very high readiness joint task force, which shows that NATO can move quickly. Part of the discussion during the [NATO] Summit in July was the proposition to be able to do the 30/30/30 point [the 'Four Thirties' or 'European Readiness Initiative'], so that was to move 30 battalions, 30 aircraft squadrons or 30 ships in 30 days. The alliance aspires to be able to do that extremely well, and we will demonstrate that with the heavy logistics capability that will be demonstrated in this exercise. I think I have said it before: logistics is the sixth domain of warfare. And you can see that play out through Trident Juncture."
Another feature of the exercise is the imposition of NATO forces on the local population and the militarization of civilian life. Norwegian Lieutenant-General Rune Jakobsen stated, "During the exercise, the regional forces will cooperate closely with civil emergency services, the police, the railway, port and transportation authorities, as well as with local and national businesses." Canadian Lieutenant-General Christian Juneau pointed out that there will be "over 10,000 vehicles on Norway's roads, that will present a traffic control challenge that will stress-test the system."
Working people in Norway are greatly concerned about the presence of these aggressive foreign troops in their country and are organizing to oppose it.
An event was held on October 13 in Sandnes in western Norway, in which the organizers stated, "We say yes to peace exercises and no to war exercises and protest against NATO's build-up, which we believe are war preparations and a threat to people and climate."
The Facebook group Aksjon mot Nato-øvelsen Trident Juncture (Action on NATO's Trident Juncture Exercises) has been set up to promote and coordinate anti-war actions. The organizers explain that their "goal is to inform about activities across the country and create national protests against Trident Juncture." They also point out the timing of Trident Juncture on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
They note that the continuous upgrading of armaments, both conventional and nuclear, "shows that we are in a new arms race. The exercise is part of militarization at a time of calm and an active peace movement. It is paradoxical that Norway awards the [Nobel] Peace Prize at the same time as a military exercise is being held that will increase the tension between the U.S./NATO and Russia and lead to increased militarization, including on Norwegian soil."
Mass actions to oppose Trident Juncture will take place in Trondheim on October 20 and in Oslo on October 27.
(With files from NATO, Wikipedia, Xinhua)
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