Sinking the Harper Agenda conference

"Late in October I had the privilege of attending the Council of Canadians (COC) AGM and Conference in Nanaimo."

Late in October I had the privilege of attending the Council of Canadians (COC) AGM and Conference in Nanaimo.

It gave me the opportunity to meet and reconnect with Canadians from across the country, all of whom are deeply concerned about our future as a sovereign nation.

I have followed very closely as the COC, together with other social justice groups, continue to expose the flaws of the proposed so called “Free Trade” agreement with Europe (CETA). I can only marvel at the energy of Maude Barlow and others as they tirelessly call upon Canadians to take action.

It is not difficult for me to identify with the goals of this grass roots organization since I have always been, first and foremost, a Canadian nationalist.

I firmly believe that values and needs of our own citizens must come first in the types of foreign investment we allow, the trade agreements we negotiate and in the international objectives we choose to support.

Canada used to have a fairly balanced approach when aligning corporate interests with the rights of workers and the need for effective social programs.  This balance started to shift to the corporate sector with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the 1980’s and the signing of the Free Trade agreement with the US.

Prior to this, successive federal governments, both Conservative and Liberal were able to focus to a greater degree, often under pressure from the NDP, on the strong social policies that were being demanded by the Canadian public.   Medicare, Employment Insurance and pensions are examples of this courageous social commitment.

One of the highlights for me at the conference was attending a plenary panel entitled, “Uniting Against Austerity: Strengthening Solidarity in the Movement for Economic Justice”, which examined the impact on pensions, social programs, trade unions, immigrants, deregulation, privatization and cuts to public service jobs as Harper and other governments around the world forge ahead with harsh austerity measures and deep corporate tax cuts.

I was encouraged to hear of the growing resistance among the public to these measures.

Panelist Robert Chernomas, Professor of Economics, University of Manitoba, equated such government actions with class warfare and mentioned how the super-rich in the world are evading taxes to the tune of $21 Trillion dollars.  He pointed out how Corporations in Canada are sitting on cash reserves of approximately $525 Billion which, interestingly, is the same amount as our national debt.

Chernomas also discussed the ‘high tax – high spend’ policies of Nordic countries which can boast the lowest national debt, the most competitive economies, a highly trained labour force, the strongest unions and the highest per capita income in the world.  His presentation reminded me of the film I have provided several screenings of throughout the riding entitled, “Poor No More”.

Throughout the film Canadian TV icon Mary Walsh, narrates comparisons between the quality of life in Canada, Ireland and Sweden.  We saw how Sweden has free university tuition, 400+ days of maternity/paternity leave per child, strong health care, national child care and effective state-run care for seniors.  We learned about the strong partnership that has been developed between labour, corporations and government which has made all this possible.

Clearly, political choices were made in that country for a strong social net for all its citizens rather than regressive tax breaks for the corporate sector and “slash and burn” austerity measures for everyone else.

In Part II of my column I will explore what other panelists had to say about the topic of austerity.

Alex Atamanenko, MPBC Southern Interior

Just Posted

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Author John Vaillant joins Lisa Moore and Fred Wah for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Alumni Reading on Friday, July 9. All three authors were featured at the inaugural festival in 2012. Photo: Submitted
FESTIVAL TALES: When 2012 meets 2021

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival will include authors from the event’s inaugural year

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read