7, 2014 - No. 81
Monopoly Right No!
Public Right Yes!
Oppose the Alberta Government's
Right No! Public Right Yes!
• Oppose the Alberta Government's
Agenda of "Environmental Leadership" - Peggy Morton
• Environmental Regulations
and the United States of North American Monopolies
Education Is a
Right! Increase Investments in Alberta's Public Education!
• Oppose Continuing Tory
Attacks on Post-Secondary Education - Dougal MacDonald
• Restructuring of
• Prentice Government Toys
with the Basics - Kevan Hunter
Monopoly Right No! Public
Oppose the Alberta Government's Neo-Liberal Agenda of
"Alberta needs to be an environmental leader,"
said Alberta Premier Jim Prentice in a September 2014 interview in
Calgary. "We got off
our game there many years ago and it's going to take considerable
effort and leadership to get back on." This statement echoes remarks
made by Prentice when he was Environment Minister
in Harper's Cabinet (2008-2010).
In 2010, Prentice stated, "I think there's been
substantial progress made, but I think as events have unfolded, both in
the United States on Keystone and on other issues, it highlights how
important it is that Canada be not only a producer of energy, but an
environmentally responsible producer of energy. That has
to be the space that we occupy."
Mother Earth is the source of all material needed
to survive and the source of everything human beings transform into
useful products. Human beings with the power and control to take
decisions consciously and to implement those decisions responsibly
would certainly recognize their duty to protect Mother Earth.
But working people are not in control of the decisions that affect
their lives and the natural and social environment. The monopolies call
the shots and have usurped decision-making power to serve their own
narrow private interests. In Alberta, the mostly foreign energy
monopolies control decision-making; their prime
motivation is to make as much money as possible in the shortest time.
Their motivation is not to look after the well-being of the people or
Mother Earth. They pay lip service to those two issues with policy
objectives and demand they not interfere with their capital-centred
objective to make money.
Not only are governments not standing up to the
monopolies, the private monopoly interests have seized direct control
of governments. The Harper government, Alberta government and others
may talk about being "environmentally responsible producers of
energy" but in practice, they are shredding environmental
legislation, regulations and research. They gag scientists, shut down
important scientific research, attack the rights of First Nations to
decide what development can and cannot take place on their territories,
and declare whatever suits the energy monopolies as the national
interest, which the people must accept without
Prentice has been installed as Premier to
integrate Alberta and Canada further into the United States of North
American Monopolies. This alienates Canadians from their right to
decide issues that affect their lives. Even the limited participation
of Canadians in regulatory hearings is considered too much of an
irritant to monopoly right to be permitted. In this regard, the Alberta
government has been going all-out to deny standing to opposition forces
and prevent citizens from participating in regulatory hearings.
Prentice advocates "environmental leadership" to
the extent that it opens markets to bitumen and finds markets for
natural gas and other raw resources. Importantly, his role in politics
is to make disappear or at least pacify any resistance to monopoly
right. Already the monopoly media speak of Prentice as someone
environmentalists can "talk to," who has credentials when it comes to
the environment, and who understands First Nations' concerns. In other
words, the people are to believe that he is not a Harper clone who says
"my way or the highway." Everyone can be in Prentice's big tent so long
as they accept the premise
that the private interests who have sidelined the public authority and
are exercising direct rule can and will continue to have their way.
Will this "environmental leadership" put
brakes on the frenzied expansion of the oil sands? Quite the opposite,
Prentice has declared that building pipelines to ship the raw bitumen
to market is a national imperative. Prentice says ripping and shipping
more and more bitumen is necessary to achieve the target
of doubling the level of production arrived at in the past 50 years by
2022, in just eight years.
An alternative, to upgrade and refine existing
production and develop a socially responsible petrochemical industry
using the feedstock is rejected in favour of making a short-sighted big
In the name of high ideals of "environmental
leadership," Prentice aims to divert Canadians and First Nations from
setting their own agenda. In opposition, the working people and their
allies by sticking to their own aims and fighting to defend the rights
of all, including Mother Earth herself, and seizing control
over how her bounty is distributed, can give rise to a human-centred
All decisions affecting the land, work, resources,
well-being and future of Albertans are and must be public decisions
based on serving the public interest. Monopoly right no! Public right
Environmental Regulations and the United States
of North American Monopolies
Premier Jim Prentice was previously the Senior Vice-President of CIBC
from 2010-2014. In his role as bank executive, Prentice played a very
active role in speaking about the
need for regulatory change. While promoting the proposed Keystone XL
pipeline from Alberta to the U.S.,
he also repeatedly stated that the pipeline has become a distraction
broader agenda necessary to
secure markets for Canadian oil and gas.
Prentice said last January, "The United States
needs to reflect on the purpose and the importance of the Canada-U.S.
Free Trade relationship, and recognize all it has achieved -- and can
continue to achieve -- for both countries. Canada, meanwhile, needs to
provide the United States with a
clearer picture of where it is headed on issues related to the
environment and climate change."
Prentice suggests that U.S. President Barack Obama is
playing the protectionist card, the other side of the free trade coin
when it comes
to Keystone XL. The environmental impact of Keystone XL is only a
convenient cover for Obama. So Canada must be seen to be taking action
to curb pollution caused by
the oil sands because such posturing is necessary to expand the U.S.
market for bitumen.
The FTA and subsequent free trade agreements have
tightened the stranglehold of monopoly capital over Canada's political
and economic life. Both monopoly-controlled free trade and
protectionism serve the most powerful private interests. Trade is
conducted by and for monopolies to serve
their narrow private interests in competition with other monopolies.
Free trade and protectionism are both under the control of the
monopolies and stand in opposition to sovereign state to state trade
for mutual benefit and development under the control of a public
Regulatory Continentalism in the Service of the
Prentice is an agent of the drive to step up the
nation-wrecking agenda and to forge ahead with complete North American
regulatory integration. He said, "Using [common passenger car and truck
standards] as a foundation, we need to continue to pursue a full
continental harmonization of the transportation grid and bring
continental standards to the heavy truck, rail and aviation industries."
All "sub-national standards" -- i.e. state,
provincial and municipal standards -- are to be eliminated, as are
national standards. All are to be replaced with continent wide
regulations and standards. Prentice does not rule out some form of
"price on carbon" (i.e., a way for industry to commodify and trade in
carbon dioxide emissions, ostensibly to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions) so long as it is harmonized across North
America. He also advocates a low carbon fuel standard to be applied to
every barrel of oil produced in North America.
These proposals are part of the agenda of the
annexation of Canada into the United States of North American
Monopolies. Canadians are to be deprived of all sovereign
decision-making power when it comes to regulating energy extraction,
production and distribution or any other aspect of
The annexation of Canada into the United States of
North American Monopolies means that Canadians are denied their
sovereign right to control the direction of the socialized economy,
including international trade, and deprived of their right to exercise
authority over their political institutions.
Any remaining ability to regulate the monopolies through local,
provincial or federal regulations and laws would be smashed. The people
are right to demand where this is heading. Will it mean banning the
right of any public authority in Canada including provincial
governments from saying No!
fracking? Will it entail taking away the right to enforce safety on the
railways and prevent another tragedy like Lac-Mégantic? What
Prentice call nation-building is nation-wrecking. It must not pass!
Nation-building stands in opposition to monopoly
right and the dictatorship of the owners of capital and their
governments. It means saving the basic sectors of the economy from
monopoly wrecking and providing a new human-centred direction, which
restricts the monopolies and serves the
working people and the public interest, and humanizes the social and
Given our shared border, the U.S. will always be a major
trading partner of Canada, but harmonization of regulations cannot be
done on the basis of subservience to U.S. imperial interests and those
of the biggest private monopolies. Harmonization of regulations can
only be acceptable as part of trade for mutual benefit that affirms the
sovereignty of all countries and ensures the people's well-being.
Nation-building requires a socially responsible
self-reliant economy with manufacturing as its base and
publicly-controlled trade for mutual benefit and development of the
state to state trading partners. Nation-building upholds the
nation-to-nation relationship with First nations and the right
of the Canadian people and First Nations to ownership and control of
their natural resources and their responsible development.
Nation-building recognizes the right of the Canadian people to set a
new human-centred direction for the socialized economy and to be a
factor for peace in the world
by demanding that international problems be sorted out without
violence. A sovereign Canadian nation would immediately remove the
country from NATO and end all military agreements with the U.S. war
machine and its constant predatory wars.
1. Jim Prentice, Senior Executive Vice-President
and Vice Chairman, CIBC, speaking to the Canadian Defence and Foreign
Affairs Institute, January 9, 2014.
Education Is a Right!
Increase Investments in Alberta's Public Education!
Oppose Continuing Tory Attacks on
On September 17, Don Scott, Alberta's new
of Innovation and Advanced Education (post-secondary education),
reiterated Premier Jim Prentice's previous promise to restore the
funding for post-secondary education that was slashed in the March 2013
budget. The savage cuts were fraudulently justified
on the basis that the province had to request $4 billion less in
revenue from the energy companies due to their supposed difficulties in
Prentice made his education funding promise at an
August 20 Alberta Tory leadership race forum in Edmonton. He did
not identify a target amount nor did he address that the universities,
colleges and technical institutes have been underfunded for decades.
Aside from keeping in mind the long Tory history
of routinely breaking their promises to the people, what should people
make of these latest promises? The question is especially pertinent in
light of Prentice's September 15 "mandate letter" to Advanced Education
Scott, which demands adherence to "sound conservative fiscal
principles" and alignment with corporate
Following well-established Tory policy,
selection of Minister Scott on September 5, to replace the resigning
Dave Hancock ignores appointing anyone to represent post-secondary
education who has actual experience in teaching, research, and serving
the public re higher education. Scott, a lawyer, was
elected in 2012 as the MLA for the newly-created far northeast riding
of Fort McMurray-Conklin, winning by only 470 votes. Scott also serves
as Deputy Government House Leader and previously served as Associate
Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation, an area of
governance highly criticized
during the previous Redford regime. During his graduate studies at
Cambridge University, England, in the late 1990s, Scott served as an
assistant solicitor with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry
into the 1972 killing of 13 civilians by British soldiers in Derry,
Ireland. The inquiry report followed traditional lines:
blame those at the bottom, protect those at the top of the hierarchy,
prosecute no one, and leave policy and practice unchanged.
Prior to the March 2013 budget cuts, the Alberta
Tories promised a two per cent increase to post-secondary funding even
though the post-secondary education institutions (PSEs) required a four
per cent minimum increase. Instead, the government announced a seven
cent decrease in the form of a $147 million cut
to the operating budgets of Alberta's 26 universities,
colleges, and technical institutes, a de facto cut of 11 per cent.
Also heavily cut, although less publicized, were
PSE maintenance budgets, even though every PSE in Alberta has a major
backlog of incomplete maintenance projects. Then on November 6, 2013,
the Tories "returned" $50 million in funding to the PSEs, stating that
this token gesture heralded a new era of collaboration
between the government and the PSEs. The broad opposition of students,
staff, and their allies to the original March cuts obviously played an
important role in forcing the government to reduce the cut. In the
March 2014 budget, the Tories restored a mere $32.5 million to the
PSEs, still leaving them more than $100 million
short of what the Tories promised them in 2013.
Since March 2013, the Tory budget cuts, following
as they did on previous chronic underfunding, have greatly damaged the
educational programs provided by the universities, colleges, and
technical institutes. A number of PSE administrations have laid off
staff, bullied older experienced staff into accepting severance
packages, cut staff wages, pressured academic and non-academic workers
to reopen their collective agreements for concessions to be introduced,
eliminated important programs and courses, and reduced student access
by raising entry requirements and offering fewer classes.
One group hard hit by the internal cuts was
contract academic teaching staff, commonly known as sessionals.
Sessionals teach a high percentage of courses at many PSEs, however,
the vast majority of them are part-time, have no job security, must
sign new contracts every term and are seldom considered for
full-time positions. When "fiscal austerity" is arbitrarily declared,
sessionals are one of the first and most vulnerable groups to be
attacked under the hoax of "saving money."
For all Scott and Prentice's recent promises, no
reason exists to believe that the Prentice regime will make major
changes to the retrogressive direction of post-secondary education in
Alberta, which has been entrenched by previous Tory governments. Rather
than guaranteeing the right to education, the Prentice
regime will continue to guarantee monopoly right and to turn the PSEs
more and more into the direct handservants of the private monopolies,
especially the energy monopolies that rule Alberta.
Restructuring of Post-Secondary Education
Alberta's post-secondary education system is being more
restructured to serve the monopolies, for example, by expanding
business programs that promote nation-wrecking and incoherence, by
promoting ideologues of imperialist doctrines such as "responsibility
to protect," and by directing research towards areas demanded
by the monopolies, such as oil sands technology at the University of
Alberta and University of Calgary.
Rather than increasing investments in public
education to serve the public good, the Tory government and its
neo-liberal counterparts across Canada have declared that the
monopolies, which are the main benefactors of post-secondary education
in terms of a constant supply of well-trained workers and access to
publicly-funded research, should be released from any responsibility to
pay for the education value they consume. The code for this in Premier
Prentice's recent mandate letter to Minister of Innovation and Advanced
Industry Don Scott is the
call for "long-term stable and predictable funding." The Alberta
post-secondary educational institutions (PSEs) should
expect less and less payment in return for the educational value they
produce, in particular from the "unstable" non-renewable resource
industry. This "unstable" budget category for education revenue in
plain language means less money coming from the value the monopolies
routinely plunder from Alberta's resources,
less money from them in exchange for the educational value they
consume. The monopolies want the state to provide them with educated
youth and research for far less than their price of production.
Instead of exchange-value for what they produce,
the PSEs are commanded to generate other more "stable" revenue. They
are denied revenue in direct exchange with the monopolies for
educational value. Other dubious means of "stable" revenue are
suggested, which more or less are attacks on public education,
such as commercialization of publicly-funded research, ever-rising
student fees, private donations (usually with strings attached),
alliances with private business interests, leasing of university-owned
lands to private developers, as the University of Alberta Board of
Governors recently did with "the establishment of
a land trust" etc. It has even been suggested that every individual
faculty and department should become a profit-making enterprise to
prove its worth but with no right to charge directly those monopolies
that consume the education value the PSEs produce.
Education Is a Right!
In any modern society, the right to education
should be provided with a guarantee. "Education is a right" resonates
with everyone except the monopolies and their agents. Since people have
rights by virtue of being human, then "fiscal austerity" or whatever
excuse the ruling
circles dream up can never be a reason to deprive people of their
rights. Rights, including the right to education, must be guaranteed
under all circumstances.
Albertans should unite in action to defend the
right to education and to demand that the Prentice regime provide the
right to education with a guarantee and greatly increase funding to
public education at all levels. At this time, this requires that the
monopolies, which consume a huge proportion of public education
value, must pay directly for that value. The monopolies must directly
exchange the value their workers produce for the education value they
consume. This exchange-value should go directly to the Ministry of
Education for distribution amongst the PSEs and other public education
A basic requirement of any modern society is to
guarantee the right to education. The right to education needs to be
enshrined in provincial legislation and the Canadian Constitution.
Legislation guaranteeing education as a right with constantly increased
investments in public education is a key demand of the
people of Alberta.
Prentice Government Toys with the Basics
As part of Premier Jim
"reset," a new Minister of Education has been appointed. The previous
Minister, Jeff Johnson, lost all credibility after consistently
attacking the rights of teachers and education workers in the K-12
education system. Under Johnson,
the Ministry violated the privacy rights of teachers by using their
emails to communicate a message from the Education Minister directly to
teachers, in an attempt to sideline their organization, the Alberta
Teachers' Association. The Minister manufactured a so-called "crisis"
by constantly interfering in collective bargaining, and then used that
"crisis" to legislate teachers' wages and
working conditions. Finally, Johnson's phony Task Force on Teaching
Excellence was hand-picked to ensure that it would advocate for further
attacks on teachers' collective organization.
The new Minister of Education, Gordon Dirks, is a
former teacher, school principal, and was chair of the Calgary Board of
Education Board of Trustees. He is an evangelical pastor and has held
positions at private religious colleges. He was Assistant Deputy
Minister of Family and Social Services under Stockwell
Day in the 1990s. He was unelected at the time of appointment and is
seeking election in Calgary-Elbow, which was previously held by Alison
The new Premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice, issued
mandate letters on September 15, the day that he was sworn in and
cabinet was reshuffled.
The mandate letter Dirks was issued states that
the Minister must, "Develop a strategy for higher student achievement
in a world class education system that includes: coherent grading
acceptable to Albertans, the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic), and
incorporates 21st century competencies such as innovation,
communication and critical thinking that are applied in all subjects;"
and repeating this as a religious doctrine, "Revisit curriculum changes
to ensure that the Alberta school curriculum includes coherent grading
acceptable to Albertans, the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic) and
incorporates the 21st century
For the past nine months, the Wildrose Party has
been organizing opposition to inquiry-based learning
methods, which both Alberta Education and the Alberta Teachers'
Association support. Much of the Wildrose opposition
learning is based on disinformation and absurd and wild
accusations, for example, that teachers are not allowed to teach
children the multiplication table. In ordering the Education Minister
to implement a "back to basics" approach, Prentice is simply pandering
to the Wildrose in an attempt to disarm it.
Many in education would agree that curriculum
changes have been and are presently taking place without sufficient
consultation. In all of this, the voice of parents and the entire
society is necessary. The polity needs solid information on which to
have a discussion. Teachers, students, parents and society need
an informed inquiry as to what is needed to improve education, which
relies on the profound knowledge, skills and experience of educators to
guide the discussion. Instead, silly catch-phrases are introduced in a
game of political football between two parties of the oil monopolies
contending for power. The football,
in this case is students, their parents, teachers, education workers,
the broader society and Canada's economy, which needs a strong public
education system. How outrageous that the Conservatives and Wildrose
would toy with children's lives for partisan gain!
Meanwhile, private and charter schools will
continue to teach as they see fit, be it through inquiry-based
learning and drills or whatever they decide in private.
The use of publicly issued mandate letters claims
to be in the service of accountability. In reality, the aim of this
game of political football is to divert people from their own agenda of
strengthening public education.
The irony of Prentice speaking of going back to
the basics is however not lost on teachers, students, parents and
society. When did having a proper school, owned and controlled by a
public authority cease to be part of the basics? If the government is
so keen on basics, then it can begin with building proper schools,
owned and controlled by the public authority. It can put an end to
overcrowded classrooms, make sure that no child goes to school hungry,
and provide teachers with the resources they need to teach. It can make
sure that changes in curriculum are introduced with wide consultation
and the resources required for successful
implementation. It can stop wrecking the public education system on
which society depends.
1. The website of Alberta Education states that,
"Inquiry-based learning is a complex process where students formulate
questions, investigate to find answers, build new understandings,
meanings and knowledge, and then communicate their learnings to
others. In classrooms where teachers emphasize inquiry-based
learning, students are actively involved in solving authentic
(real-life) problems within the context of the curriculum and/or