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June 16, 2014 - No. 58

Fort McMurray--Athabasca Federal By-Election

Defeat Harper's Anti-Worker,
Nation-Wrecking Austerity Agenda!

Fort McMurray--Athabasca Federal By-Election
Defeat Harper's Anti-Worker, Nation-Wrecking Austerity Agenda!
It Can Be Done! Make a Difference on June 30!
Campaign Launched to Protect Learning at Athabasca University - Dougal MacDonald
Fort McMurray All-Party Forum on Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Protest at Minister of Employment and Social Development's Office in Calgary
Rally in Fort McMurray Against Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Fort McMurray--Athabasca Federal By-Election

Defeat Harper's Anti-Worker,
Nation-Wrecking Austerity Agenda!

Not one vote for Harper in the Ft. McMurray--Athabasca federal by-election!

The four federal by-elections taking place on June 30 are an important opportunity for working people to take an independent stand. Through a concrete analysis in each riding, the working class movement can develop its practical politics to oppose the Harper dictatorship's attacks on the rights of all, its low-wage agenda, nation-wrecking and complete hand-over of the public authority to private monopoly interests.

According to the Harper dictatorship, only the global monopolies and their political representatives have the right to decide every question concerning the economy and the well-being of the workers and their communities. Harper's wrecking ball awaits all those who get in his way and the private monopoly interests he represents.

The working class can smash Harper's delusion that he is all-powerful and that the people are incapable of organizing an effective opposition. Workers have to prove to themselves and society generally that they not only have the right to decide but also the courage and determination to organize to bring that right into being. They must show the world the human factor/social consciousness in action and that workers and their allies are willing to take up the organized practical politics necessary to gain the legal right to decide and control society and their fate.

Alberta Workers Are Not in Harper's Bag

No doubt Harper and his gang consider that the by-elections in Alberta are "in the bag." They are very confident that their political system works to silence the organized voice of working people. According to the ruling elite, workers are not capable of thinking for themselves and developing their own independent politics and direction for the economy and society. In Fort McMurray--Athabasca, concrete measures to defeat the Harper Conservatives in this by-election will make the independent voice of the working class heard loud and clear across the country!

Workers have already taken initiatives to use the election to demand that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) be scrapped and replaced with an immigration policy that recognizes the rights of all and serves the public interest and nation-building. Human trafficking of vulnerable workers from around the world under any excuse is a vestige of the slave trade and must be abolished. The international trade in workers drives down wages, degrades working conditions and tramples on the rights of all. Voting no to Harper means voting no to the TFWP. (See below for upcoming actions to oppose the TFWP.)

The TFWP is just one aspect of the anti-worker, anti-social austerity agenda of the Harperites and their allies in Alberta. They have launched vicious attacks on unions and criminalized workers for defending their right to wages and working conditions commensurate with their work and qualifications. They have gutted health and safety legislation putting workers and communities at risk. Scientists have been muzzled; transportation and environmental safeguards deregulated; public funds given to private interests in the form of direct subsidies or free infrastructure; health care, education and government itself are being privatized to pay the rich and transfer wealth from the working class to the ruling elite. Warmongering has reached such a fever pitch that Harper boasts that he has "beaten his ploughshares into swords."

Show Harper and his gang that Alberta workers do not accept his neo-liberal direction and are definitely not "in the bag." Not one vote for Harper!

A New Direction for the Economy

The people of Ft. Mac know very well the enormous wealth they create through their hard work, skills and experience. As the creators of wealth, the working people together with the First Nations on whose ancestral lands the resources are found have the right to decide and control the direction of the economy and society on which their lives depend.

The by-election is an opportunity to oppose the ripping and shipping of raw resources and the refusal of the monopolies and governments to build a self-reliant economy beyond resource extraction. The by-election is an occasion to discuss amongst the people that a new direction for the economy is possible with vibrant development of upgrading, refining and manufacturing, public enterprise and social programs, a new direction that protects Mother Earth and guarantees the health, well-being and rights of First Nations, workers and their communities and families. It is the duty of government to make sure workers are provided with proper and safe working conditions and safe and affordable living conditions. Fort McMurray is a good place to start.

Let's go all out to use the by-elections to organize and prepare to defeat Harper in the coming general federal election as well. Let's put an end to the delusions of Harper and his flunkies that the working people of Alberta are in their pocket and will accept whatever anti-worker assaults, anti-democratic manoeuvres, corruption and contempt for the well-being of Canadians that the Harperites dish out.

All out to defeat Harper and raise the independent voice of the working people! Make a difference during this by-election by organizing and fighting for change on June 30!

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It Can Be Done! Make A Difference on June 30!

By-elections traditionally have a low voter turnout. In Fort McMurray--Athabasca, voter turnout is one of the lowest in the country with only 40 per cent of registered voters casting a ballot in 2011. Harper and his Alberta cronies think the Ft. Mac by-election is a slam-dunk for the Tories.

In 2011, the Conservatives received 17,000 more votes than the NDP, which came second in the past two federal elections. At first glance, it does look like an overwhelming lead, but looks can be deceiving. Things appear different when considering the fact that 44,707 registered voters did not vote. The Conservatives won the seat with the votes of only 30 per cent of registered voters while over 60 per cent did not vote and around 10 per cent voted against Harper's candidate. That is not an overwhelming Conservative lead, if half those registered voters can be persuaded to vote no to Harper and some who voted for his candidate could be encouraged to change their vote this time. Harper can be defeated so long as the workers of Fort McMurray do not sit this one out and instead engage actively in the fight for change!

Click to enlarge.

A defeat for the Harper dictatorship, especially in Fort McMurray--Athabasca would show the rest of Canada that it can be done! By going all-out in the by-election to defeat the anti-social austerity agenda and the attacks on the right of all, workers can start sorting out the ways and means for a Harper defeat in the coming general election.

You can make a difference by contacting three people and asking them to each call or speak to three more. If you do not live in the riding, contact your friends, family and workers in your sector or union so they can contact someone in the riding directly. You can also organize to come to Ft. Mac to participate directly in the campaign.

For those in the riding, make sure that your employer provides everyone with three consecutive hours off while the polls are open to go and vote with no loss of pay. Together we can make the difference!


By law, qualified electors must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on Election Day. If your hours of work do not allow three consecutive hours to vote, your employer must give you time off with no deduction in pay.

Polls are open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm on Election Day. For example if your shift is 7 am to 7 pm, your employer could allow you to arrive at work at 10:30 am, leave at 4:30 pm or take three consecutive hours off during the day. The employer can decide which option to provide. This rule may not apply if you work in transportation such as the railway or long-haul trucking. In that case, you should vote in the advance polls.

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Campaign Launched to Protect Learning at
Athabasca University

The tutors at online Athabasca University (AU) in the Fort McMurray-Athabasca federal riding have just launched a campaign called "Protect Learning at Athabasca University." The tutors are opposing the administration's arbitrary attempt to convert AU from its original and very successful tutor-learner teaching model into a glorified call centre. The approximately 300 tutors organized in Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3911 are the part-time contract academic staff teaching most of AU's online courses.

The administration move toward the call centre model is based solely on what they misleadingly call "cost-saving," which simply amounts to attacking the livelihood of the workers. At present, the tutors receive a salary called block pay, which is based on how many students the tutor is responsible for plus added payment for marking. Moving to the call centre model would eliminate all block pay and turn tutors totally into pieceworkers. An added problem has arisen for those tutors already forced into the call centre model, administrators are blocking their legitimate pay claims for certain items on their timesheets.

The acceleration of the AU administration's call centre agenda began after the Alberta provincial government cut $147 million from the operating budgets of Alberta's 26 post-secondary educational institutions in its March 2013 budget. Instead of helping organize resistance to the cuts, the AU administration caved in to provincial blackmail and is trying to shift the burden of the underfunding onto the backs of the tutors and other staff through lay-offs, furlough days, salary cuts, course cuts, and so on.

The centre of the tutors' opposition campaign is a public website, www.protectlearningatau.ca, which begins with this preamble: "Athabasca University wants to move its courses to a call centre model of distance learning. This is a bad idea! It is a bad idea for students. It is a bad idea for instructors. It is a bad idea for education. The call centre model will put barriers between students and instructors. It will provide less academic instruction and assistance for the same tuition cost. It devalues the programs and puts the reputation and integrity of Athabasca University at risk."

The "Protect Learning at AU" website includes a "Background" link to a very comprehensive discussion of why the tutors want to keep the tutor-learner model. A number of tutors and other AU staff have compiled extensive material to aid the discussion. To place the fight against the call centre in context, the discussion includes the debunking of both the Alberta provincial government's phony argument that it must cut funding for post-secondary education (even though the energy monopolies are making big profits) and the AU administration's lame attempt to portray tutors as a "cost" rather than what they really are, the producers of much of the value at AU through their teaching.

The federal Conservative government is also to blame for the cuts to post-secondary funding in Alberta because it has drastically reduced the amounts transferred to the provinces to help fund post-secondary education. According to the Canadian Federation of Students fact sheet on funding for post-secondary education[1]: "In spite of multi-billion dollar federal budget surpluses for most of the decade, federal cash transfers for post-secondary education in the last decade have declined by 50 percent when measured as a proportion of GDP. When accounting for inflation and increases in enrolment, cash transfers are still over $400 million short of 1992 levels."

The "Protect Learning at AU" website asks people to sign on to a short open letter that states: "I am concerned about Athabasca University's move toward a ‘call centre' model of distance education. Instead of direct contact with their instructors, students will have to call or email to a centre staffed by non-academics who decide if the students should talk with their teacher."

The website has only been open a few days but already has 405 signatures, as of June 15. Other plans for the tutors' campaign include distributing "Protect Learning at AU.ca" buttons and appearing at AU events with pro-tutor-learner model literature.


1. See http://cfs-fcee.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/11/Fact-Sheet-Funding-2013-11-En.pdf

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Fort McMurray All-Party Forum on
Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Monday, June 16 -- 7:00 pm
Fort McMurray Legion, 9317 Huggard St.
Free admission

The Alberta Federation of Labour is holding an all-party forum on the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (#TFWP) in Fort McMurray. All are welcome to attend.

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Protest at Minister of Employment and
Social Development's Office in Calgary 

Thursday, June 19 -- 12:00 noon
Minister Jason Kenney's Constituency Office, 1168 - 137 Ave. SE
Organized by: Migrante Alberta
For information: migrantealberta@gmail.com

A little over a month ago, Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada Jason Kenney, imposed a nation-wide moratorium on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the food service sector. The Minister has not given any timeline for the moratorium nor any information on it.

Many migrants whose work permits have expired or are expiring soon and those who are waiting for Labour Market Opinions or Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program nominations are in a bad situation. Their status is in limbo and their numbers continue to grow every day. The moratorium ignores the impact on the workers already here in Canada. A large number of these migrants will also be affected by the four-year cap by April 1, 2015.

We will be mobilizing at Jason Kenney's office in Calgary to say that permanent immigration and not a nation of guest workers is the right and just way to go. Immigration Not Deportation!

For folks coming from Edmonton, transportation and lunch will be provided. We will meet at the Century Park LRT Station parking lot. The bus will leave at 8 am sharp and will be bringing people back. 

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Rally in Fort McMurray Against
Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Saturday, June 28 -- 2:00 pm
Provincial Building, 9915 Franklin Ave.
Organized by: Canadians Against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
For information: Facebook

A demonstration for those against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). This rally is being held in Fort McMurray two days before the federal by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca. This is an important event for all people in Fort McMurray and the region who are worried more projects will be turned into a mess because of the TFWP, like the Kearl Oils Sands Project and the Sunrise Energy Project. Please come out and send a message to the candidates in this election that Canadians do not want this program!

Free transportation by bus will be provided from camps from Fort McMurray to as far north as Firebag, wherever enough workers come forward. Please speak up if you would like to attend and require transportation.

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