Pub Nite on Oct 20

Toronto Pub Night Social:
Meet the Socialist Candidate for United States President,
Jeff Mackler

Thursday, October 20,
9 p.m. at the Duke of York Pub,
39 Prince Arthur Avenue [map]

California-based Jeff Mackler is a veteran teacher unionist, national coordinator of the Campaign to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, steering committee member of the United National Anti-war Coalition, and national secretary of Socialist Action U.S.A.

Jeff Mackler will be the featured speaker at a Toronto election rally on Friday, October 21, 7 p.m. at OISE 5-280, 252 Bloor Street

Everyone welcome.

Contact us for more information.

British Columbia Survey Shows Religion in Decline

By Helen Smith

The Canadian census mandatory long-form has, for many years, been an important guide for the government in Canada to understanding the extent of religious belief in the country. The census results are used to assist government in providing social and cultural resources to the population according to greatest need and demographics. Secular humanists, however, have long wondered if the wording on the census was too favorable towards religion and has skewed the results by giving the wrong impression about religious belief in the country.

The British Columbia Humanist Association (BCHA) set out to inquire further into this subject by hiring Insights West, a survey company, to conduct 800 on-line interviews between May 31 and June 3, 2016. The BCHA hoped to find out more detail about people’s religious beliefs, and also their religious practice. The results were quite marked. While 56% of respondents replied that they believed in the existence of a higher power (26% did not believe and 18% were unsure), when the same people were asked in a separate question if they actually practiced a particular religion or faith, 69% responded that they did not. When asked for more detail in yet another question on whether they ever attended religious services at a church, temple, mosque, or synagogue, 55% indicated that they never attended, 23% indicated that they only attended on holidays or for special events, 4% attended once or twice a month, 5% only several times a year, and only 11% attended once a week or more. The results indicate that religious observance, through attendance at a religious institution, is low regardless of whether people profess to believe in a higher power or not.

The survey company then asked whether respondents supported charitable status for religious groups to which 60% agreed with the granting of such status. However, when this question was broken down into separate questions about specific government subsidies (tax exemptions and income tax credits) for houses of worship, parking lots, and clergy residences, respondent support dropped significantly with 51%, 68%, and 58% opposed, respectively. The support for subsidy to institutions such as religious hospitals also dropped significantly if these institutions were seen to discriminate in human resource decisions against a job candidate or employee based on the person’s religious beliefs (56% strongly opposed and 19% somewhat opposed) and support for government subsidized religious hospitals significantly dropped if they refused to provide specific services to the public such as abortions or doctor-assisted dying (52% strongly opposed and 19% somewhat opposed).

Ian Bushfield, the executive director of the BCHA remarked that “Religion is on the wane in BC. In its place is an increasingly secular and non-religious constituency that politicians and policy makers will need to pay attention to … As B.C. becomes increasingly irreligious, it is up to religious groups to justify the entitlements they continue to enjoy at taxpayer’s expense. There’s no reason many of their services couldn’t be provided by secular and inclusive alternatives. The state doesn’t need to continue to privilege religious world views over secular ones.”

See Religious and Secular Attitudes 2016

For Trudeau Teletubbies, the jig is up!

by Barry Weisleder

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s protracted political honeymoon appears to be coming to a close. General irritation with his unctuous, almost unbearable lightness of being is taking hold – especially as his “sunny ways” imagery collides with the real actions of the Liberal government. One New Democrat MP scored media high fives when he compared Trudeau to the bright-colored characters in a British TV show for children who look like babies stuffed into cuddly animal costumes with TV antennae on their heads and screens on their bellies. “How do you wrestle with Teletubbies who want to keep hugging you?”

Well, the group hug is over, and the jig is up. It turns out that Trudeau’s agenda is not that different from his predecessor’s, the uber-Conservative PM Stephen Harper. What a rude awakening that must be for many of the folks who voted Liberal in October 2015, hoping and expecting to get something completely different.

A glance at just a few federal departments — environment, indigenous peoples, health care, and foreign affairs – is enough to see the trend.

On September 27 Ottawa gave the green light to a massive liquefied natural gas project on the coast of British Columbia. The Pacific Northwest LNG would involve a pipeline across the province and a terminal to export the liquefied gas from northern B.C. to Asian markets.

Touted as the largest private-sector development in Canada’s history, the megaproject is the first approved by Trudeau and provides a framework for upcoming decisions on the merits of pipelines designed to bring Alberta oil to eastern and southern ports. Absent is the agreement of several First Nations communities who have serious concerns, including over the health of wild salmon habitat. Environmentalists, from the Sierra Club to the David Suzuki Foundation to the Pembina Institute, oppose the plan despite the 190 conditions attached to it by the feds. Even with a cap on the project’s greenhouse gas emissions (one of the conditions), Pacific Northwest LNG would significantly raise B.C.’s greenhouse gas output. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency calculated that it would be “one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in Canada.”

How does that jibe with the promise by Catherine McKenna, the rookie environment minister, who proclaimed when she got her job last autumn that the carbon-reduction targets set by the Conservatives were a minimum. Now it’s clear that the Liberal government will be lucky to come anywhere near to meeting Harper’s low-bar targets.
In any case, shouldn’t Ottawa promote the spending of billions on making wind and sea wave turbines, solar panels and geothermal technology, rather than on conduits to increase the flow of climate-change-causing fossil fuels?

Instead of obtaining a “social license” from indigenous peoples, as he promised to do, Trudeau has been issuing construction permits for BC Hydro’s Site C dam, over the objection of First Nations that have taken the government to court. An article in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper referred to Trudeau’s “lofty rhetoric” on indigenous rights as “a cheap simulation of justice.”

Health-care funding is another credibility loser for Trudeau. The issue is transfer payments from Ottawa to the provinces. After growing at 6 per cent a year for a decade, subject to the terms Liberal PM Paul Martin reached with the provinces in 2005, which Stephen Harper upheld, transfers are scheduled to grow only about 3 per cent annually, starting in 2017. Harper built in that drop in funding. It made the provincial governments very angry. In the 2015 election, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair promised to restore the growth rate to 6 per cent, at a cost of $36 billion over ten years. The Liberals under Justin Trudeau were deliberately vague. Then in late September 2016, federal health Minister Jane Philpott admitted that Harper’s plan for transfers is Trudeau’s too.

Sadly, for the provinces, the Canada Institute for Health Information reports that total health spending in Canada “has fallen gradually in the past few years” as a share of GDP. “Since 2011, health spending has decreased by an average of 0.6 per cent per year.”
On the foreign affairs front, notwithstanding his canola summit in China, and restored diplomatic relations with Iran, Trudeau pursues a course bent on aggression and military weapons sales abroad. The Canadian military is gearing up to support a major French “counterterrorism” operation in northern Africa. This occurs in the wake of NATO’s obliteration of Libya’s secular Gadhafi regime. A Canadian air force general commanded the NATO bombing campaign, which quickly opened up political space for al Qaeda-linked fighters there and across the region. The Liberal government has said it will commit up to 600 troops to UN “peacekeeping” duties. Without saying where the soldiers will be deployed, National Defence, Global Affairs and the RCMP conducted a “reconnaissance mission” to Mali in August. Canadian military aircraft carried nearly 40 tonnes of equipment between France and Africa last year.

Notably, Canadian “aid” is not going to countries where Canadian-supported coups resulted in devastating human rights abuses, such as Honduras or Egypt. But why Mali? Does it have anything to do with Trudeau’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat? Or could it be because Mali is a major supplier of uranium, or because Canadian gold mining operations at Nampala, which recently reported positive cash flow for Canadian firm Robex, got Ottawa’s attention. Mali happens to be the third-largest gold-producing country in Africa.

Sometimes the prospect of immediate profits from mineral resources take a back seat to larger considerations of geo-political power. Canada is sending an additional 500 troops to Latvia for an open-ended mission to help its imperialist allies to scare the Russians. It’s a move so provocative that Mikhail Gorbachev (former top bureaucrat of the USSR, and a strong critic of Vladimir Putin) warned: “NATO has begun preparations for escalating the Cold War into a hot one. All the rhetoric in Warsaw just yells of a desire almost to declare war on Russia. They only talk about defence, but actually they are preparing for offensive operations.”

This deployment adds to the hundreds of Canadian troops already playing war games in the Ukraine, where Trudeau took his nine-year-old son in July.
The Liberals kept their promise to remove Canada’s fighter planes from the war in Iraq, but compensated by tripling the number of Canadian “military advisers” on the ground there.

When Trudeau spoke to the United Nations Assembly in September he sweetly intoned “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help.” He showed what he meant by that, in practice, when he recently approved the export of $15 billion worth of armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country which is occupying parts of Yemen, and is the be-heading capital of the world widely condemned for its horrible human rights record.

Not to be outdone by Harper, Justin Trudeau’s Canada now ranks second in arms exports to the Middle East for the first time in history, behind only the United States.

But why stop there? We could examine the government’s failure to amend, let alone rescind the intrusive and repressive Bill C-51 that gives Canada’s spies and police unprecedented powers, money and resources. We could look to Trudeau’s broken promise to restore home mail delivery where it was curtailed. We can reflect on Ottawa’s paltry planned increase in Canada Pension Plan payments to seniors, or its undiminished allegiance to the so-called free trade deals, the TPP and CETA. The list seems almost endless. But the point is this. When the fresh coat of paint called Justin Trudeau is stripped away, one sees basically the same austerity agenda designed to perpetuate capitalist rule, to maintain the dominion of the 0.1 per cent over the rest of us.
To end the pernicious cycle of capitalist political fakery and abuse, it is necessary to terminate the socio-economic system itself. The break up of the Liberal political honeymoon is a welcome step in that direction.

Pension Concessions Sell Out Young Employees Across Industries

The tentative collective agreement reached between General Motors, Canada and Unifor on September 19 thrust the pension issue, defined benefit (DB) versus defined contribution (DC) plans, back into the public spotlight.

Under a DB plan, workers are guaranteed a specific amount of monthly pension income based on employee/employer contributions and the worker’s years of service. The employer is obligated to ensure the plan is fully funded to meet this pension promise.

general motors canada

Exterior pictures of the GM Oshawa Car Assembly Plant as a 11:59 p.m. strike deadline looms on Monday, Sept. 19th in Oshawa. (Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

On the other hand, DC plans are basically savings plans that do not guarantee a fixed amount of monthly income; they depend on the vagaries of the stock market. The employer has no future obligations with respect to security of retirement income for former employees, which is why bosses fight so hard to convert DB into DC plans.

Recently, Canada Post Corp clashed with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) in a high-profile, year-long and futile attempt to force the union to sell out future employees by accepting a much inferior DC pension plan.

canada post

CUPW President Mike Palacek fought to preserve a defined benefit pension plan for Canada Post workers like the one seen here. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)

During tough negotiations, CUPW President Mike Palacek wrote an inspirational letter to future employees of Canada Post, dated 2036. In it he “reminded” them of the sacrifices made by past generations of postal workers who fought for the good wages, benefits and DB pension plan that they enjoy. His message was really addressed to his current membership, urging them to be strong and not to sell out the future generation of workers.

His members rose to the occasion. They preserved the DB pension plan for the workers of 2036 and beyond.

Palacek understood that if his union folded and accepted “two-tier bargaining,” where future workers are denied the same wages and benefits as current employees, that the cancer would spread like wild fire into every workplace in the country, across public and private sectors alike.

Young workers will see this deal as the “boomer generation” pulling up the ladder behind them, selling out the next generation without a fight.

The arguments advanced by employers and right-wing lobbyists about the ongoing viability of DB plans are bogus. RBC Investor & Treasury Services conducted a study of 120 DB pension plans in 2014. It found an average 14.2 per cent return on investments. DBRS, a Toronto-based rating agency, reviewed 64 major pension plans in 2014 and found they were funded at 94.7 per cent levels — well above the 80 per cent range viewed as the danger zone for pension funding.

When asked in April 2015 about General Motors’ push for new hires to accept the lesser DC pension plan, Unifor President Jerry Dias said, “This is a huge fundamental issue for us as an organization… defined benefit pension plans would come under pressure at all employers that have them.” He added, “If you take a look at the profitability of the industry today, there is no need for them to make that kind of a request.” GM announced it is on track to meet its 2016 financial target of 10 per cent returns on investment.

The “fundamental issue” Dias was wrestling with in his 2015 interview was this: if Unifor agreed to scrap DB plans for new hires in GM, it would result in the eventual end of DB plans for the entire auto industry and beyond.

jerry dias

Jerry Dias, seen in this file photo, provided General Motors with a concession that may lead to the erosion of defined benefit pension plans among auto industry workers and beyond. (Photo: David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Despite the known consequences of such a move, he inexplicably signed a tentative agreement with a profitable GM — providing what is arguably the biggest concession ever given to a major employer in Canada — which will have serious ramifications for every union collective agreement in the country.

The Ford Motor Co. and FCA (formerly Chrysler) will now expect the same concession from Unifor. This is very bad news for public-sector unions. Right-wing propagandists like the Fraser Institute will rush to cite this concession to push their agenda to end DB plans in the public sector.

Clearly, young workers will see this deal as the “boomer generation” pulling up the ladder behind them, selling out the next generation without a fight. Two-tier bargaining divides the membership and weakens the union from within. It makes it all the more difficult to organize young workers when they see the older generation giving concessions to employers that previous generations fought so hard to gain — essentially screwing them out of a secure future.

Will GM workers retiring in 2036 on poverty-level DC pensions look back at the deal struck in 2016 by their union and say we should have fought harder and used that 96 per cent strike mandate to protect our pensions?

(This article first appeared on Huffington Post and is re-published with permission of the author.)

Trotsky School, Nov 18-19

Trotsky School 2016 Poster (1).jpg

Revolutionary Strategy

Socialist Action Toronto’s Trotsky School : 9th Annual Education for Activists’ Conference

November 18-19 ●  Woodsworth Residence (U of T) Room 20 ● 321 Bloor St  West [map]


Friday, November 18

6 p.m. Registration

7 p.m.  “The Working Class and the Road to Power”, a presentation by John Riddell, drawing on his books on the Communist International, including the latest, which he co-edited, “To the Masses”.  Barry Weisleder, co-editor of Socialist Action newspaper, will contribute as a ‘discussant’ on the panel.

Saturday, November 19

10 a.m.  “Theories of Underdevelopment – What Path to Prosperity for the Poor Countries?”, with Yasin Kaya, PhD. candidate in Political Science, York University.

12 noon   Lunch break.  Screening of film “Fidel is Fidel” (with English subtitles)

1 p.m.  “What’s Wrong with Identity Politics?”, talks by John Wilson, a Socialist Action leader and a pioneer of the gay liberation movement in Ontario; Cherie MacDonald, long time pro-choice activist; and Nick Mule, founder of Queer Ontario, and associate professor in the School of Social Work, York U.

4 p.m.  “Is Climate Justice Possible?”, with Robbie Mahood, a leader of SA/LAS based in Montreal.  There may be an additional speaker, t.b.a.


  • $5 per session
  • $10 in advance for all sessions
  • or PWYC

Contact |  (647) 986 – 1917 |  (647) 728 – 9143

Ligue pour L'Action Socialiste