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September 4, 2014 - No. 70

Workers Continue Opposition to
Anti-Social Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program! Rights and Status for All!

Workers Continue Opposition to Anti-Social Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program! Rights and Status for All!
Organize for the New!

Security in Retirement an Important Agenda
Defend the Pensions We Have! Fight for Pensions for All!
Discussion on Pensions

Alberta Progressive Conservative Leadership Race
Bogus Election of New Premier
PC Leadership Race Shows Need for Democratic Renewal - Peggy Morton
Who Is Jim Prentice?

Fight to Keep Michener Centre in Red Deer Open
Prevent Further Tragedies -- Stop Moving Michener Residents! - Peggy Askin

Workers Continue Opposition to
Anti-Social Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
Rights and Status for All!

Workers from the building trades and other sections, temporary foreign workers and their allies organized actions in Edmonton on Labour Day. They raised the demand to stop Harper's low wage agenda and give status and rights to all workers.

The politicians of the rich continue to conjure up a labour shortage as pretext for worker trafficking. In an editorial board meeting with the Edmonton Sun on August 13, provincial PC leadership contender Jim Prentice said the federal government's changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program "is the biggest issue on the ground" in Alberta and the province needs to have a discussion with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Prentice joined another candidate, Thomas Lukaszuk, in calling for a "made-in-Alberta" approach, which would expand the provincial nominee program. The third candidate, Ric McIver, also claims that Alberta faces a labour shortage.

Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan responded, "There is no worker shortage in Alberta, unless you mean a shortage of workers who are willing to be underpaid, exploited and deported the moment they're no longer of use to an employer."

According to the politicians of the rich, a "made in Alberta" solution would mean expansion of the provincial nominee program whereby workers must be nominated by their employers for permanent residency status. This is presented as a "win-win" solution: employers decide who will remain in Canada while some temporary foreign workers, who face the choice of deportation or staying in Canada as undocumented workers after living and working in Canada for years, will have a chance at permanent residency.

How can this be the choice? Expansion of the provincial nominee program in no way changes the reality that the monopolies have a gun to the head of temporary foreign workers. This is precisely the situation the monopolies want and why the TFWP exists in the first place. Creation of a vulnerable stratum of workers has always been the preferred policy of the rich in order to attack that stratum and extend it to an attack on the rights of all.

Expansion of the provincial nominee program is part of the restructuring of the state, where immigration becomes the preserve of the monopolies and not the public authority, which is effectively sidelined. It shows the extent to which governments are under direct dictate of the most powerful monopolies and private interests have been politicized.

These politicians of the rich are trying to divide workers and pit worker against worker. The virulently anti-worker Thomas Lukaszuk did exactly that in a forum organized by Migrante, where he accused the organized workers' movement of blaming temporary foreign workers for "stealing their jobs" and presented himself as a friend of temporary foreign workers.

The Workers' Opposition exposes this nonsense and puts the blame squarely where it belongs, on the global monopolies and the governments that serve them. The Workers' Opposition answers with its stand, "Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!" Through organizing to defend the rights of all, the working class can and must defeat the divide-and-rule tactics of the rich.

Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
Rights and Status for All!

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Organize for the New!

The call to end theTemporary Foreign Worker Program and grant permanent residency to temporary foreign workers now working in Canada is a just stand. All employers who hire temporary foreign workers through labour traffickers who charge temporary foreign workers as much as $10,000 should be forced to repay in full the money workers have paid to the wage-slave traders!

The Harper government's worker trafficking operation is integral to its low-wage agenda. Resistance to this assault on workers' rights requires new thinking and ways of organizing. In the building trades, union membership has been reduced from 80 per cent to less than 20 per cent, while workers in sectors such as fast food are almost completely unorganized. The idea that the building trades unions can survive and thrive based on protecting their "market share" has been shown to be old thinking and totally ineffective. Employers have used the anti-worker organization CLAC, and governments have intervened with labour laws and dictates to carry out union-busting. The Harper government has expanded the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, deprived even more workers of EI benefits, especially in regions where the local economy has been destroyed, and used other means to pursue its low wage agenda and wreck the workers' movement in defence of their interests and rights.

Let us not sell ourselves short with old thinking, traditions and forms that clearly no longer meet today's challenges. The defence of the rights of all within the present conditions, renews and develops the forms required by a collective workers' opposition at every work site and in the community. It gives rise to the social forms, thinking and practical politics which favour the resolution of problems in the workers' favour. Our future lies in defending the rights of all!

Organize for the New!

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Security in Retirement an Important Agenda

Defend the Pensions We Have!
Fight for Pensions for All!

Workers turned out in record numbers for public hearings on pensions across Alberta.
During the summer months, workers in Alberta continued to be active in defence of their pensions and the right to security in retirement. More than 150 workers made presentations to the Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future during public hearings held in June across Alberta. In addition, 458 individuals and organizations made written submissions. The vast majority of these were from workers, seniors' organizations and occupational groups representing plan members. They called on the government to scrap Bill 9, the Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014 and Bill 10, the Employment Pension (Private Sector) Plans Amendment Act, 2014 which attack workers' right to security in retirement. Workers also called on the Alberta government to take action to provide retirement security for all.

The Standing Committee will report to the Legislature during the fall session, which begins October 27. The Alberta Labour Coalition on Pensions is urging everyone to keep the pressure on MLAs in preparation for the fall session. In its August 28 message, the Coalition said, "Let them know that you and other voters in your area will not allow your elected representatives to abdicate their responsibility to protect Albertans' best interests. That means defending pensions."

The next several months are also an excellent time to sum up the pension fight to date and set a future course.

The assault on pensions is based on a profound shift where even the limited conception that governments have some social responsibility towards the members of society no longer exists. The rich are demanding that everyone submit to their perverse and twisted capital-centred logic that because many workers have no security in retirement whatsoever, public sector workers who do have modest pensions should be deprived of them. According to the rich, if everyone is forced to fend for themselves, life will be fine. The rich of course are not included in the "everyone," as they demand that all the resources of society must be put at their disposal, including plundering the state treasury for their private gain.

Workers have come forward in these conditions to defend with passion the pensions they have and have forced the government to retreat for the moment. But a temporary government retreat does not mean that the situation simply reverts to the old status quo. The government's retreat means business as usual which means it will continue to find the ways and means to restructure the state to achieve what it wants -- to put its hands on workers' pension funds.

The financial oligarchy is intent on wrecking pensions and the modern conception that security in retirement is a right. The government has shown in practice with its anti-worker bills against the public sector that it is fully prepared to replace negotiations with force and violence. The government's willingness to impose its dictate in opposition to the established norms shows that the situation facing the working people has undergone a seismic shift. The working class has risen  to the occasion by defending its rights. It must now go further so that it can move all of society forward on the basis of its own pro-social agenda. Eventually, it must empower the popular will so that this popular will becomes de facto the legal will as well.

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Discussion on Pensions

One of the important features of the pension fight is that in defending their pensions, workers have come forward to affirm the modern definition that security in retirement is a right. The demand for pensions and security in retirement for all is a reflection of the new based on fighting for a society that guarantees the rights of all by virtue of being human.

A wide-open discussion of pensions is needed. A starting point would be to consider from where pension benefits should come. Under current conditions of low interest rates and the ongoing impact of the financial meltdown of 2008, pension funds like the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) and Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) have had to increase the contribution rate from plan members. Not all can afford the increased contribution while continuing their standard of living, especially if they are forced to accept a part-time position. The government has turned more and more jobs into part-time, and those with low full-time equivalencies are not even eligible to join the pension plan. The result of increased contribution rates, part-time work, stagnant wages and other factors has been a growing number of workers not joining the plans because of difficulties in making ends meet in the present. This further weakens the plans and deprives those workers opting out of even the nominal security provided by the plans' defined-benefits.

Everyone in society is bombarded with the idea that they should be saving for retirement, buying RRSPs and so on, instead of having the collective resources of the economy channelled into providing security in retirement for all. But capital-centred propaganda cannot change the reality that individual savings can never provide retirement security for the majority of workers. Forcing savings on individual workers is one way the monopolies and their governments shift money away from working people into the coffers of the rich, depress workers' income in the present, and negate modern society's responsibility towards all its members.

Why should it be the case that retirement security is funded through individual means and savings? This method is contrary to the socialized economy where working people work collectively to produce the value on which everyone and society depends. Individual means and savings for retirement can only end in individual disasters and horror stories. Workers certainly would not agree that health care should be funded in this retrogressive manner. They uphold the modern definition that health care is a right belonging to all people regardless of personal circumstances, for which society is duty bound to provide. Retirement security should be put on a par with free comprehensive public health care.

An alternative would be for government guaranteed pension benefits for all to come out of general revenue collected from companies based on their gross income. In such a situation, government, company and individual pension plans would not be necessary. The government in practice would guarantee the right of Canadians to defined pension benefits at a standard of living they attained during their working lives with an established minimum. Let's discuss!

For further discussion see DBRS Neo-Liberal Study of Defined-Benefit Pension Plans by K.C. Adams in TML Weekly, September 22, 2012 and October 20, 2012

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Alberta Progressive Conservative Leadership Race

Bogus Election of New Premier

The winner of the PC leadership race will soon be decided, with predictions of one to two per cent of the polity's eligible voters casting a ballot. The winner automatically becomes the Premier of Alberta. Voting will take place on September 5 and 6 with results announced on September 6 at 5:00 pm. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes cast on the first ballot, the top two candidates will compete in a second ballot vote on September 20.

The PC Party has chosen three candidates to stand for election as leader and Premier: Edmonton MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, Calgary MLA Ric McIver, and former cabinet minister in the Harper government and Senior-Vice President of CIBC Bank Jim Prentice. The media have declared Prentice the front-runner. He has the support of almost all members of the PC caucus, while no member of caucus has endorsed the other candidates.

The leadership contest itself is designed to reveal nothing about what is at stake. One of the main methods is to present endless details about the lavish spending habits and records of the PC MLAs, especially the cabinet ministers and the contenders for leader of the PC party. Plenty of material of this sort keeps official news stories churning, together with the stock in trade of gossip and innuendo.

Trivia is used as a form of disinformation, where people are subjected to endless news about the size of a cell phone bill or cost of a hotel room and travel. Who was going where and for what purpose is not discussed. The monopoly media and legislative opposition parties incite everyone to join the chatter about such matters as a government MLA's large bill for travel or living expenses. But where is the accounting of how many billions of dollars the oil and gas cartels, construction monopolies and others have plundered from the $44 billion provincial budget or the billions more in profits they have siphoned off from the value Alberta workers have produced? These matters regarding the basic accounting of the wealth workers produce is not even considered newsworthy. They are even considered state or company secrets and off limit for the workers who produce the wealth in the first place and for the people from whose land the wealth is extracted.

The trivia diverts official news from looking for and exposing the source of corruption, which lies in the outmoded relations of production, the destruction of the public authority and the complete takeover of government by the most powerful monopolies whose private interests are politicized and served.

Disinformation is also used to create the impression that waste in government spending is the problem. An atmosphere of government spending "beyond its means" is generated to push an anti-social austerity agenda. If only politicians would practice "austerity" when it comes to their expense accounts and other spending, the people are told, this would set a good example of the need to accept the austerity agenda generally, with wrecking of social programs and public services as the target.

Issues of deep concern to the people, including public health care, education, a new direction for the economy, and protection of the environment are barely discussed or dismissed with general questions such as, "where do the candidates stand on health care," which can be easily swallowed up in broad declarations or deflected with attacks on what others say. All this underlines how the people are disempowered and reinforces their disengagement from politics and political life, which is exactly what the ruling elite want.

The issue of course is what to do under the circumstances. We can start by taking stock of what we know. We know that this manner of electing the new Premier of Alberta confers him no legitimacy whatsoever. Despite handing out free membership cards which allegedly provide every Albertan the chance to elect the new Premier, it is a thoroughly bogus process which in no way gauges the popular will to confer on it a legitimate legal will. This means that sooner or later calls will be given for another general election. But then the electoral process has become so self-serving and bogus that it too is not seen to legitimately gauge the popular will and turn it into the legal will. But nonetheless, the charade is repeated over and over again. All of it leads to disengagement from politics because there is, in fact, no political movement except the one the working people create. This is not merely a matter of protesting unjust politics but organizing to discuss a pro-social agenda for Alberta and to present candidates in the next election which represent those pro-social solutions to the problems people face. The fight for the affirmation of rights of all, and to elaborate and push forward a program for renewal of the political process is the only path which will yield the kinds of results the people are looking for. This is the battle for people's empowerment. Breaking through the disinformation and diversions, and raising the real issues facing society are the first steps towards empowerment. They are ways to cut through the spin and counter-spin of the media and professional politicians of the rich so as to develop the independent politics of the working people. This can be done by creating social forms which defend this new content and help it to find its place. The fight for the democratic renewal of the political process is a central part of the work required to stop Canada's destruction and integration into the United States of North American Monopolies and its plans to take Canada toward enslavement and war.

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PC Leadership Race Shows Need for
Democratic Renewal

In Canada, political parties are said to be the mechanism through which people participate in political affairs. According to the system of representative democracy, the dominant political parties function as primary political organizations through which people can participate in deciding the direction for society.

The reality is very different, as can be seen from the Alberta PC leadership race. The usual estimate for membership in political parties in Canada today is about one per cent of the electorate. Not only is the number of people joining the political parties who hold seats in the legislatures and Parliament at an all-time low, but also, nominal membership has little if anything to do with actively participating in politics.

These cartel parties need money, not members per se. One remaining function of membership is to carry out the exercise of electing a leader of a party, although the Alberta Liberals were desperate enough to allow even supporters to vote to provide an appearance of a mass base. After 43 years in power, in which membership in the PCs was considered a necessary cost of doing business, the PCs are reduced to handing out free memberships and blocks of membership cards, as each candidate lines up his voting cattle and does whatever is needed to bring out the vote. In the past, blocks of thousands of membership cards were bought up by organizations, while in 2014, candidates are simply giving away membership cards.

Come election time, members are asked to get out the vote but they are increasingly being supplanted by the use of sophisticated data bases, micro-targeting of voters and so on. None of this activity can be considered participation in political affairs. The ordinary nominal member of a cartel party is as marginalized as any other member of the polity when it comes to having a say.

Whether it is a leadership contest or general election, everything is organized so that no public opinion can develop and no discussion takes place. For example, the entire program presented on Jim Prentice's website, entitled "Jim's priorities for Alberta" consists of five trite phrases totalling 43 words. This from a man who has been making long speeches all over the country giving marching orders to governments on behalf of the owners of capital of the banks, oil, gas, construction and other monopolies. That the tawdry process to elect a new PC leader produces as well a new Premier of Alberta leaves no doubt of the need for renewal of the political process.

Once the new leader is installed as Premier, the winner will assume broad executive or arbitrary power. The Alberta government has been particularly active in using its wrecking-ball to serve the narrow private interests of the monopolies. Regulatory regimes to protect workers and peoples' health and the environment, unions and the post-war labour relations systems, public institutions including hospitals, universities, colleges and school boards, municipal authorities, independent regulatory bodies of any kind are being muzzled, curtailed or even destroyed.

A farcical election within a party to produce a Premier or a general election to decide which party will rule on behalf of private monopoly interests does not provide legitimacy to the Premier or government. They do not serve to convert the popular will into the legal will. During elections, highly sophisticated databases, marketing techniques, endless polling and so on are used to manipulate the electorate. This was the case in the last Alberta election when hysteria was created about a possible Wildrose victory and many who considered voting against the government because of its attacks on workers were stampeded into voting for the PCs.

The aim of the PCs and other dominant parties is to come to power by any means necessary and in doing so block the people from exercising power. Everything is geared to winning power at all costs, and wielding this power on behalf of the most powerful monopoly interests. Competing private monopoly interests and groupings vie for control of the state, to use its legislative power and to plunder the state treasury to advance their private narrow interests. As everyone knows, in Alberta the private monopoly interests that wield the power are the Calgary-based oil and gas cartels merged with the banks as finance capital.

A new form has been brought into being to affirm the right of the people to take control of their lives. It is the citizenship committee in which people directly participate in setting the agenda of work which serves their interests and in carrying it out and holding themselves to account. This is the form which does not permit corruption and hidden agendas and it must be implanted and strengthened in every work place, neighbourhood and educational institution. Working people of Alberta, who hail from all over Canada and the world, are very capable of running a modern society. The people, not the political parties must wield power, and political power must represent all human beings who are members of the society, not just a privileged few who abuse their power to trample on the rights of all and serve their narrow private interests. Democratic Renewal is the call of the times!

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Who Is Jim Prentice?

The monopoly media have declared Jim Prentice the front-runner in the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership race. Prentice, a former member of the Harper federal Cabinet has been extremely active in presenting the agenda of the Alberta-BC based oil and gas cartels, construction monopolies and banks with which they are merged.

As Senior Vice-President of CIBC, Prentice toured the country speaking of what governments should be doing to serve these monopolies and help them come out on top over their competitors. When he refers to Canada, he means in particular the monopolies heavily invested in the oil sands and natural gas fracking plays in BC and Alberta. More generally, he speaks about a Canada completely annexed into the United States of North American Monopolies.

The state agenda Prentice is pushing boils down to three imperatives for the monopolies. Firstly, access to markets for oil and gas; secondly, building the infrastructure necessary to rip and ship the raw material of Alberta and BC; and thirdly, the sell-out of resources through increased foreign investment.

Prentice presents a key to markets as securing a North American regulatory framework for environmental, transportation and other standards, where Canada aligns itself completely with the United States. His agenda aims to put the monopolies operating in North America on top in the ever increasing competition with other global monopolies. Such an agenda seeks domination and dictate over the entire world with predatory and inter-imperialist war an integral weapon.

TML will provide additional information next week on "Who Is Jim Prentice?" Stay tuned!

See also "Harper's New Fifth Column Strategy in Alberta?" TML Daily, May 6, 2014.

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Fight to Keep the Michener Centre in Red Deer Open

Prevent Further Tragedies --
Stop Moving Michener Residents!

Families of residents of Michener Centre, staff, and the people of Red Deer and surrounding communities were shocked 17 months ago when the Alberta government announced the closure of Michener Centre. Michener Centre is a home and community for developmentally disabled adults, many of whom are seniors. The Alberta government had repeatedly promised the families that Michener Centre would remain open, yet the announcement to close Michener came without any consultation with residents' families or staff. Part of the government's plans for closure of this award-winning facility is a transition process of moving residents to private group homes in the community or to seniors' facilities.

Lee Kvern from the Friends of Michener Centre speaking during a protest outside the Alberta Tory policy conference in Edmonton on May 25, 2013.

From the time of the announced closure of Michener, families have raised their concerns that moving their family members would result in a dangerous deterioration of their health and well-being. The government and its transition team have also been told that keeping the same caregivers and level of care and compassion the residents receive at Michener is critical to their well-being and to their very survival.

Some of the families have spoken with the transition team to find other options. Their concerns about moving their family members, many elderly and in frail health were tragically warranted. Five residents who have been transferred out of Michener to private nursing homes or seniors homes have died in the last four months. The families and friends of Michener are demanding that not one more resident be moved out of Michener until a full investigation of these deaths is completed.

In a letter posted on the Friends of Michener Centre Facebook page, Lee Kvern, Michener Guardian and advocate spoke about the deaths.

"Hello Michener Families and Guardians:

You may or may not be aware of the five recent Michener residents who have died as a result of being transitioned out of Michener. Despite this the PC government is standing behind the closure, will not put a halt to these transitions that are likely hastening the early death of our Michener loved ones. The closure date for Michener is December, which means the Transition Team will be pushing hard and strong to make this happen.

"Over these next four months we need to stand strong, refuse any and all contact with the transition team no matter what they are telling you. As witnessed by these five deaths that the government is citing 'natural causes' for, we know that this is not the case. Either the Michener residents were in fragile health prior to being moved and should not have been moved, or the care on the other end is NOT Equal or the Same care as Michener. We are far better to take our chances at Michener than to move our loved ones out into a community away that cannot care for them. Our worst fears have been realized by these fives recent deaths."

Since March 2013, the Families and Friends of Michener have mobilized the people of Red Deer, the surrounding areas and across the province behind the demand to Keep Michener Open! More than 30,000 Albertans have signed petitions, written letters and participated in rallies demanding that Michener Centre stay open to guarantee the quality care its vulnerable residents need.

In opposition to the anti-social actions of the government, the broad mobilization of people to Keep Michener Open has raised the demand that the needs of the residents must take first place, and the government must be held to account for its failure to do so. People have rights by virtue of being human. People with development disabilities have the right to everything they require to live life to the fullest, and governments are responsible to provide this right with a guarantee.

This ongoing fight to uphold the rights of Michener residents and their families, and to have a say in their future is part of the fight Albertans are waging for the people's empowerment, and to say No! to the use of dictate, and No! to the fraudulent austerity and privatization agenda of the federal and provincial governments.

The government must abandon its anti-people agenda and take up its social responsibilities not only towards the residents of Michener Centre but to all those in Alberta who require special care to affirm their being. There must be no place in our society for arrangements designed for private profit instead of the benefit of those who require such care. All people with development disabilities have a right to the exemplary care that the residents of Michener receive and should continue to receive. All should be able to live in a humane atmosphere such as Michener, where the staff and surroundings convey profound social love and care of the residents.

Stop the Deaths -- Keep Michener Open!

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