Category Archives: Canada

Spring 2017 Rebel Films series concluded

Spring 2017 Rebel Films series concluded with the screening of “The Killings of Tony Blair” on April 13 at U of T.

This 21st edition of the Socialist Action-sponsored series, now in its twelfth year, was one of the best, with between 40 and 60 people present for each of the screenings.

In the photo below, see guest speaker Jason Baines, a leader of NDP Momentum, address the topic of the riveting film about how the former British PM and Labour Party leader nearly destroyed the party and became very rich in the process of cutting welfare, privatizing industries, and serving as a tool for western military intervention, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Next up:

  • Toronto’s 31st Annual Socialist May Day Celebration with speakers and entertainers. Saturday, April 29, 2017   7 p.m.
    Free Times Cafe, 320 College St., (2 blocks west of Spadina) Toronto, Ontario. Admission:  $10 waged, $5 non-waged or PWYC. More info.
  • Socialism 2017:  100 Years of World Revolution,   an International Educational Conference – May 12–13, 2017
    at Woodsworth Residence, U of T, 321 Bloor St. W. at St. George   (in room 35, lower level)
    co-sponsored by: Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste – Canadian state, Socialist Action – USA, the Socialist Unity League (Liga Unidad Socialista) – Mexico, and New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) – France. More info.


The Political Situation in Canada Today, and How Revolutionary Socialists Intervene in the Workers’ Movement

Barry Weisleder

[Speech to Kurdish people, April 9, 2017, in Scarborough.]

Ewara bash. (Good afternoon.) Choni? (How are you?) Bigi! (Long live)

Please pardon my poor pronunciation.  You may be relieved to learn that the rest of my remarks will be in English.  As a socialist, I am an internationalist who believes that solidarity knows no boundaries.  My party, Socialist Action, stands in total solidarity with the struggle of the Kurdish people for self-determination.  We condemn imperialism, and all the governments under its influence that have denied the Kurdish people a state you can call your own. National liberation is a precondition for the emancipation of the working class internationally.

My task today is to begin a dialog with you about the present political situation, and how socialists intervene in the workers’ movement in this country to improve living conditions and to advance the socialist transformation of society.

Continue reading The Political Situation in Canada Today, and How Revolutionary Socialists Intervene in the Workers’ Movement

Change coming to OPSEU

On March 18, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union met in seven regional assemblies across the province to elect members of the union’s executive board, as well as to fill equity seeking committees and send delegates to affiliated labour bodies.

A campaign for “class struggle and union democracy”, launched in Toronto, succeeded in electing socialist Julius Arscott to one of three executive board seats in the Toronto region. The 188 delegates also elected militants Myles Magner, who is the Regional Vice President, and Jessica Sikora. Seven candidates contested the election, offering a spectrum of views from left to right. The successful candidates, all on the left, won on the first ballot, each garnering over 50% of the votes cast.

Myles Magner received a strong 76.5% after declaring that, if elected, he would run for President of OPSEU against incumbent Smokey Thomas who is mired in controversy over concessions bargaining, bad relations with staff, and possible collusion with a community college boss to have a union activist fired.

A clear mandate for change emerged from the Toronto Region 5 meeting of OPSEU. There are indications of this sentiment across the province. Elected are eight new Executive Board Members, some 40% of the top executive. This result comes at a volatile time, rife with intimidation tactics directed against union activists. One case is currently before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Who’s CSIS spying on now?

Thanks to the latest WikiLeaks spill of thousands of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency, it is clear that spies and hackers can view private information stored on home computers, cell phones, and use internet-connected televisions as surveillance devices.

The CIA can do this with sophisticated software tools with names like ElderPiggy and AngerQuake. That’s deep snooping without breaking into your home. Privacy rights are just gonzo. The surveillance state is marching arm in arm with authoritarian rule. It’s a trend that suits US President Donald Trump. But in Canada too? You bet. A ruling last November by a Federal Court judge confirms it.

The court found that for 10 years the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spied on people who posed no threat to ‘national security.’ It retained the data illegally, using it to gain “specific, intimate insights into the lifestyle and personal choices of individuals.”
If the CIA now has enhanced spying capabilities, can Canadian police agencies be far behind? Canada is allied with the USA in the “Five Eyes” intelligence network, so it’s reasonable to assume that Canadian cops are up to the same dirty business.

Remember, Liberal Justin Trudeau refused to rescind law C-51, Conservative Stephen Harper’s odious code of intrusion. Instead, the Liberal Party promised to establish “independent oversight” of security agencies – whatever that means. Now it seems Justin is in no hurry to implement that pledge, however ineffectual it may prove to be.

Is Ontario NDP Ready for 2018 Election?

by Barry Weisleder

The Ontario New Democratic Party is heading towards the June 2018 provincial election, stuck in third place behind the discredited Liberal government at Queen’s Park and the chameleon-like official opposition Conservatives, according to most opinion polls.
Hydro electricity rates, which have doubled in ten years, command public attention. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s last ditch plan to cut rates by 25 per cent has NDP Leader Andrea Horwath saying “me too.” But Horwath’s proposals to tinker with delivery costs, time-of-use rules, private profit margins, and her plan to buy back, at top market dollar, the 30 per cent of Hydro One that the Liberals sold off, leave many Ontario consumers cold.

Instead of a bold policy – immediate nationalization of all energy generation and transmission, with minimal, long term compensation to rich stock holders – the ONDP offers only short fixes. Typically, it calls for another study, rather than a phase-out of the dangerous and uber-costly nuclear power plants.

After the June 2014 electoral debacle, Horwath hired Manitoba NDP government guru Michael Balagus. His speeches to ONDP provincial council meetings have been larded with selective poll data he uses to rationalize opposition to free post-secondary education. He proposes commendable, but milquetoast, policies to ease union organizing and modestly raise the minimum wage.

Balagus and Horwath say the party should champion “bold policies”. Agreed. But where are they?

Is the platform now being cultivated in party back rooms, with the usual dearth of membership input, enough to warrant a vote of confidence in the Leader at the ONDP convention in Toronto, April 21-23, 2017?

Recall the Ontario NDP convention in November 2014. After months of intense campaigning, drawing on all the party’s resources, Horwath managed to hang onto her position. But she did so only after promising to atone, and by pledging to turn left.
In the mandatory leadership review, Horwath received 76.9 per cent support from the 1,055 district association and union delegates, only slightly more than the 76.4 per cent she got two years earlier.

The move to remove Horwath sprang from the discontent of NDPers with the June 2014 provincial election campaign she led.

Like Tom Mulcair, whose subsequent “balanced budget no-matter-what” mantra that sank the ship in the 2015 federal election, Horwath embraced moderate, populist themes and discarded social justice issues. Moreover, the turn to the centre was not mandated by the party ranks, and it strained relations with large segments of the labour movement.

The shift mostly helped the Liberals. Kathleen Wynne campaigned for pension improvements and a wage increase for low-paid workers, while Horwath promoted a Ministry of Cost Savings that seemed to target jobs in the public service. She also pledged to hold the line on wealth taxes.

Once the Liberals emerged with a majority government, costing the NDP three key seats in downtown Toronto, Horwath purged her senior staff and apologized to delegates at the party’s Provincial Council. She later told the Convention that she would “keep talking about our ultimate values and goals and not just our first steps.” While this was pretty thin, it persuaded many members to give her another chance – especially as there was no heir apparent to the Leader.

Still, the mood of the convention was angry, and quite critical of the party tops.
Although the establishment dominated elections to the provincial executive with an official slate, the organized party left wing, the Socialist Caucus, and independent candidates did remarkably well.

Debates on convention procedures and resolutions produced a number of upsets. In the opening minutes of the convention, delegates voted to amend the agenda, forcing the vote on Leader to occur late Saturday afternoon, rather than immediately following the Leader’s rah-rah speech set for the morning. This meant that hundreds of delegates summoned by conservative riding and union leaders to vote to sustain Horwath had to hang around an extra seven hours.

Motions of referral, with instructions to integrate tougher language into resolutions from the official vetting committee, succeeded in a number of cases. This radicalized the policy on Social Assistance, Post-Secondary tuition, the bitumen pipeline known as Line 9, the Ontario Municipal Board, and nearly did so on Minimum Wage. The rebellious feeling also produced a win for more time to debate Labour issues. It led over 30 per cent to vote against acceptance of the Provincial Secretary’s Report, a report that was clearly identified with the failed election campaign.

By far the biggest upset to the establishment was the victory for Free Post-Secondary Education, Abolish Student Debt — a long standing Socialist Caucus cause celebre. Sadly, the adopted free tuition policy was buried by Horwath, and remains interred.
In 2014, NDPers were looking for change. But as Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn then wryly observed, “New Democrats are sticking with their leader largely because they are stuck with her.”

That was cold comfort for the Leader who pledged to change her ways. The question is: What have we seen since then? Clearly, not enough to justify a vote of confidence.
In the wake of mass sentiment for the ideas of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and the march of 4 million women against Donald Trump’s agenda in January, there are plenty of reasons for the party and union left to continue to press for a Workers’ Agenda.