Proposed Mega-Quarry to face tougher review

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>A month before facing voters in the October 6 Ontario provincial election, the governing Liberals decided to require a more stringent approval process for a controversial proposal to dig a massive quarry in a sensitive environmental area near Toronto.

As reported in the July 2011 edition of Socialist Action, the proposed 2,300 acre aggregate quarry in Melancthon, Ontario was originally slated for the relatively lax approval process of the Ministry of Natural Resources. This soft-gloves treatment sparked widespread criticism and protests. Ultimately the government relented. It announced on September 1 that the project would be subjected to a comprehensive environmental assessment under the province’s environment protection legislation – a process that could take months or years.

However, this development does not mean that the quarry project has been scrapped. In fact, the project’s proponent, the U.S. hedge fund-backed Highland Companies, has been aggressively buying up farmland and cutting down vegetation. According to “Melancthon quarry unites diverse communities”, an article by Meg Borthwick, posted on on September 23, this has the convenient effect of deterring protected bird species from nesting on the proposed site and potentially stalling the project.

Activists and the local community continue to galvanize opposition to the quarry. The “Foodstock” festival, presented by the Canadian Chefs’ Congress on October 16, drew 28,000 people, including such notables as the musical group Barenaked Ladies and renowned chef Jamie Kennedy. They attended a festival of food, music and speeches to generate support and raise funds for the campaign against the quarry project.

Socialists demand a thorough and transparent environmental assessment of the proposed Melancthon quarry, with full input from the local community, environmental groups and First Nations’ peoples. We stand with all Ontarians who will be impacted, and those who have already been affected.

> The article above was written by Eric Kupka.

Recession with a Vengeance

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>As voters troop to the polls in six provincial and territorial elections across Canada in October and November, they do so in the shadow of another global economic melt down.

Stocks are falling, markets are contracting and credit is seizing up. Many economists and politicians are already declaring the onset of a recession. Distractions from reality, like Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ‘law and order’ parliamentary agenda (see article below), are coupled with elite demands for more sacrifice by the working class.

But this begs a few questions.

Did the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008 ever really end? When did the downturn that wiped out trillions in wealth, destroyed millions of jobs, and plunged millions of people into abject poverty, turn around?

What happened during the so-called economic ‘recovery’?

Well, the rich got bailed out. The income gap widened. Young people bore the brunt of rising unemployment, and still do.

In Canada, the banks (through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and the auto giants got hundreds of millions of dollars in government relief. Big capital benefited from billions in corporate tax cuts, which contributed mightily to the public debt that is so often cited as the reason for cutbacks. This is the story, from the feds on down to each city hall.

In the USA, $2 trillion in tax money went to Wall Street bailouts. For their greed and malfeasance, the rich actually got rewarded. Business CEOs now pay themselves 325 times the compensation of their shop floor or office cubicle wage slaves. That ratio was closer to 25 to 1 in the 1960s — no thanks to Mad Men.

The gap between rich and poor in Canada has widened markedly. The top 1 per cent of income earners accounts for almost 40 per cent of total national income. In the 1950s and 1960s that figure was a mere 8 per cent. Today, up to 4.4 million Canadians live in poverty.

The official jobless rate, at 7.3 per cent, remains higher than the 6 per cent of October 2008 when the Great Recession began. According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate among people 24 and younger is 17.2 per cent. That’s up 0.3 per cent from the previous summer, and more than 3 per cent higher than it was in 2008.

Canadian household debt, which fueled the illusory ‘recovery’, is at near record levels, as the income of working people, including white collar professionals, has continued its 30 year stagnation.

In the downtown corporate towers, business profits have soared. But capital investment is down. That’s because billions of dollars are sitting in reserve, or moving to low-wage countries where the conditions for plunder are ‘more promising’.

Recession is a grim reminder of how capitalism operates, and a warning as well: If working people don’t take back the wealth created by our labour, the wealthy will only continue to take it out of our hides — to make us pay for the crisis of their system. Now that’s something to think about on the way to the polls.

> The article above was by Barry Weisleder.

Tory Crime Bill Wants to Lock ’em Up

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked off his first Conservative-majority Parliament on September 19 by introducing changes to the criminal justice system that seek to put more people in prison and keep them there longer.

The Tory crime bill imposes mandatory minimum sentences and restricts the availability of house arrest, thus depriving judges of discretion in such matters. These measures are not aimed only at serious offences: a person caught with as little as six marijuana plants would now face at least six months in jail.

The bill also downgrades almost all factors for consideration in the correctional and parole process, including the special needs of First Nations. This risks increasing the First Nations’ incarceration rate, which is already scandalous at 17 percent of the overall prison population. Aboriginal peoples make up less than 3 percent of adult Canadians.

Behind this regressive law-and-order crackdown by Harper is the uncontested fact that crime rates have been falling steadily in Canada for the past twenty years. This has led to much criticism of the reform bill, including by many in the mainstream media. The Globe and Mail mockingly called it the “Prison is the Answer to Everything” bill. The Toronto Star denigrated it as “a classic of misplaced priorities, a wholesale assault on a problem that doesn’t exist” that will cost billions. Star columnist Carol Goar warns that Harper’s adoption of U.S.-style crime policies will lead to a “disproportionate increase in the number of poor, non-white people behind bars.”

The Conservatives tried to pass many of the same provisions in previous parliamentary sessions, when they ruled as a minority government. However, they were blocked by the opposition parties, including the labour-based New Democratic Party.

Now back with a majority, the Conservatives warn that this bill is “just the beginning.” As we witness the highly controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, and the recent hunger strikes by prisoners in California, we shudder to think what else Stephen Harper has in mind.

Socialists demand that the Conservative crime bill be withdrawn, and that the government focus its efforts on crime prevention rather than fear-mongering and punishment. We demand that special attention be given to young persons, women and aboriginals who are involved in the criminal justice system. Education and good jobs, not punishment for being poor, should be at the center of society’s agenda.

> The article above was written by Eric Kupca.

Will Socialist Caucus Run a Candidate for Leader?

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>NDP socialists are looking for a left wing alternative to Brian Topp, the back room strategist who announced his candidacy for the federal party leadership. In June, at the NDP federal convention in Vancouver, Topp expressed his support for the still-born Liberal-NDP coalition that took shape two winters ago. NDP leftists strongly reject coalition or merger with the business-backed Liberal Party.

Romeo Saganash, the Cree leader and MP from northern Quebec, declared his candidacy in mid-September. He didn’t outline his platform, but his candidacy may already have had the salutory effect of crippling the leadership bid of Thomas Mulcair, a Montreal area MP who jumped from the Quebec Liberal Party cabinet to the NDP in 2006.

Sadly, leftist Vancouver East MP Libby Davies has ruled out a run for the job.

The NDP Socialist Caucus, the cross-country, organized left wing of the labour-based New Democratic Party, will host a conference on November 26 in Toronto to decide its position on the federal NDP leadership race.

The Socialist Caucus, which played a significant role in preventing removal of the term “socialist” from the party constitution at the June 2011 federal convention in Vancouver, is concerned that putative candidates for leader, like Winnipeg MP Pat Martin, advocate a merger of the NDP with the big business-backed Liberal Party, and seek to steer the NDP on a policy course further to the right.

The SC opposes suggestions that the party weaken its ties to the union movement. Socialists seek to increase and strengthen the labour character of the party, and to win it to the fight for a Workers’ Agenda — counter to the corporate agenda, and against the mounting anti-worker ‘austerity’ measures being imposed at all levels.

At the November 26 SC conference, members may decide to run a candidate for Leader, or to support one of the candidates already running for the post.

SC policy resolutions, publications, forums, and candidates for party executive positions at the Federal NDP convention (March 23-24 in Toronto) and at the Ontario NDP convention (April 12-15, 2012) will also be on the agenda at the November 26 SC gathering.

For more information, please telephone: 416 – 535-8779 e-mail:
Visit the web site:

> The article above was written by Julius Arscott.

Ontario NDP brass violate party democracy

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>On Thursday, September 1, Barry Weisleder, chairperson of the NDP Socialist Caucus, won the nomination to be the NDP candidate in Thornhill constituency, just north of Toronto. Two days later Darlene Lawson, the Ontario NDP provincial secretary, ‘rescinded’ the democratic nomination, which occurred at the best-attended meeting of that NDP riding association in decades.

What was the excuse for the punitive action? Lawson said it was an article by Weisleder mildly critical of the party platform and leadership written weeks before he sought the nomination. It was nearly a month before Lawson gave his bid for the candidacy her stamp of approval at a meeting held in her office on August 10. The only thing that changed between August 10 and September 3 is that Weisleder won the Thornhill nomination.

Unfortunately, this attack on party democracy is not an isolated incident. It is being challenged. Heading up this effort is the Campaign to Restore Democracy in the Ontario NDP (CREDO NDP). There are many ways you can help.

How to respond to the attack on party democracy?
1. Vigorously oppose the multiple attacks on party democracy being waged by Ontario NDP officials. Urge all New Democrats to protest the removal of the democratically elected candidate in Thornhill, Ontario. NDP and union members, indeed everyone concerned about democracy in the workers’ movement, should send e-mail messages, letters, faxes, and make telephone calls of protest to Darlene Lawson at 101 Richmond St. E., and to the office of Ontario Leader Andrea Horwath at Queen’s Park.

Telephone:  416-591-5455, ext. 2245          fax: 416-599-4820             E-mail:

2. Endorse and join CREDO. The NDP Socialist Caucus, along with many friends and allies, is launching the Campaign to Restore Democracy in the Ontario NDP (CREDO NDP) as a broad, common front. The purpose of the Campaign is to hold Ontario NDP officials accountable for rescinding the democratic NDP nomination in Thornhill, and to expose and reverse the attack on party democracy occurring on all levels. After the October 6 Ontario election, this effort will be launched publicly. It has already reached hundreds of New Democrats through direct personal and inter net contact.

The party bureaucracy’s decision to rescind Barry Weisleder’s nomination follows the ugly incident in Toronto‘s Etobicoke North constituency. There, on August 17, NDP officials did not allow Diana Andrews (a Black, lesbian, elementary school teacher) to run for the NDP nomination, ostensibly because she is involved in a conflict with her union leadership.

It also follows the bureaucratic overturn of the elections held at the Ontario New Democratic Youth convention in Fall 2010 by party officials, and the cancellation of the constitutionally mandated ONDP convention that should have occurred in Spring 2011.

Before that, the Ontario party Leader ordered NDP MPP Michael Prue not to speak at an open hearing on the issue of public funding for Catholic schools. The hearing, attended by over one hundred New Democrats on March 12, 2010 at OISE U of Toronto, was organized by the NDP Socialist Caucus and was held when the party was openly reviewing its position on the question and seeking public in-put.

Most recently, the Preamble to the federal NDP Constitution, which still includes the word “socialist” after a bitter, highly publicized struggle at the federal convention, has disappeared entirely from the federal party web site.

3. CREDO invites New Democrats to spread the word about this campaign for accountability and party democracy via e-mail, phone calls, web sites, and Facebook. It invites everyone to attend an open public meeting, at a time and place to be announced, featuring a panel of activists who will speak to the incidents mentioned above. For the latest news, contact:

4. NDP members will exercise the right to appeal the party brass decision to rescind the Thornhill nomination, and continue to seek accountability and justice in this matter at the next Ontario NDP Provincial Council meeting on November 19, 2011 – indeed, all the way to the April 12-15, 2012 Ontario NDP Convention.

> The article above was written by Elizabeth Byce.

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