NDP Leader race crowded, on the right
Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who takes pride in his role in early “free trade” negotiations, brings a decidedly pro-capitalist, anti-Quebec self-determination perspective to the New Democratic Party leadership race. When Mulcair announced his candidacy, he had the backing of 15 MPs, soon likely 30, but few supporters outside of the ranks of strongly pro-federalist Quebecers.
British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, another leadership contender, advocates a “non-compete agreement” with the Liberal and Green parties. While the stated aim is to unite anti-Conservative votes in the next federal election, such a move, welcomed by the pro-Liberal media as a step towards merger, would destroy the NDP as a party independent of the business class. And it would drown generations of working-class social gains.
Ottawa MP Paul Dewar promises that as NDP Leader he would give city governments more say—even a seat at federal-provincial ministers’ meetings. Dewar, until recently NDP foreign affairs critic in Parliament, defended the bombing of Libya by Canadian Forces. He supports the Canada-UN occupation of Haiti, opposed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, and rejects boycott, sanctions, and divestment towards the Zionist apartheid state.
Among other candidates for NDP Leader, Northern Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, a Cree leader, has yet to detail his policy positions. Nova Scotia pharmacist Martin Singh extols the virtues of entrepreneurship.
On Oct. 28, Toronto MP and former Canadian Auto Workers negotiator Peggy Nash declared her candidacy. Her platform, in the words of Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom, “is straight-up NDP orthodoxy”: “address social inequality … and boost corporate taxes to pay for it.” The only point of differentiation is Nash’s praise for the Occupy movement.
That brings us to the never-elected-to-public-office Brian Topp, touted as the front-runner. He enjoys the backing of the Steelworkers’ Union and party icons Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow. Lately, Topp called for higher taxes on corporate profits and big income earners.
But he is a very unlikely candidate of the left. Topp rescued the party establishment from embarrassing defeat at the federal NDP convention in Vancouver in June when he moved to refer back to the executive its proposal to delete the word “socialist” from the party constitution preamble. Post-convention, the preamble disappeared from the federal party website—a sleazy move typical of the backroom politics associated with Topp and company.
Sadly, leftist B.C. MPs Libby Davies and Peter Julian opted out of the race. Bizarrely, Davies subsequently endorsed Topp, the man who as federal campaign director presided over the party’s steady shift to the right. The dearth of meaningful choices for NDP Leader poses a serious challenge to the NDP and to the anti-capitalist left: either raise the thousands of dollars needed to run a socialist candidate for Leader, or find other ways to fight for a Workers’ Agenda in the only mass, labour-based political party in North America.
The global Occupy movement, a whole generation of concerned environmentalists, and millions of the victims of war and capitalist economic crisis cry out for a socialist alternative inside the mainstream of the workers’ movement, where it matters most. ~Barry Weisleder
Oct. 15 — Canada out of Afghanistan!
TORONTO—Despite high winds and cold showers, scores of antiwar activists took to the streets on Saturday, Oct. 15, to demand an end to the 10-year-long war of occupation in Afghanistan. A coalition of 11 organizations united behind the slogan “Canada Out of Afghanistan Now!”
The protest began with a rally of about 70 people at the corner of Yonge Street and Dundas at 1 p.m. Earlier, Dundas Square “security” personnel and Toronto police tried to shoo away the first arrivals, but organizers stood their ground, distributed event flyers, and provided a platform for representatives of the sponsoring groups.
Magdalena Diaz chaired the rally, and introduced the speakers, who included: Nicolas Lopez of Barrio Nuevo; Azeem of the Canada South Asian Solidarity Association; Tom Reid of the International Bolshevik Tendency; Steve Da Silva of the International League of People’s Struggle-Canada; Elizabeth Byce for the NDP Socialist Caucus; Ming and Chanda for the Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee; Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste Federal Secretary Barry Weisleder; and Joe Lombardo, co-chair of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) in the United States.
Participants then took to the street, travelling down a car traffic lane south-bound on Yonge Street until police directed the parade onto the sidewalk. By the time the march reached King Street, and proceeded eastward to St. James Park, where over 2000 people gathered for the Occupy Toronto encampment, over 150 people had joined the antiwar action. Chants of “Money for Jobs, Not for War,” “Money for Schools, Not for War,” along with the main slogan, echoed through the downtown intersections. In the park, hundreds welcomed the marchers and joined an impromptu speak-out featuring antiwar coalition leaders.
The Oct. 15 antiwar protest was a somewhat bold, and certainly worthwhile initiative. It was undertaken by the sponsoring organizations chiefly because the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and the Canadian Peace Alliance declined to do so, despite being asked repeatedly over a five-week period.
It is no mean feat for a range of ideologically and ethnically diverse bodies to cooperate openly and respectfully, and to carry out a modest but successful action of the Toronto Oct. 15 type, with most of the organizing taking place in the short span of one week. The experience augurs well for future such endeavors.
One week later, over 1500 supporters of Occupy Toronto marched to City Hall under grey skies. On Saturday, Oct. 22, the parade made its way along King St., Bay St., to City Hall Square, and following speeches, returned to St. James Park, just east of the financial headquarters of Canadian capitalism. A number of social justice movements, and half a dozen leftist groups, carried signs and banners. They were joined by scores of union activists. The core of the march consisted of the 200 or so denizens of the park encampment, and hundreds of regular visitors to the Occupy Toronto site.
Socialist Action members carried a banner bearing the slogan, “Nationalize the banks, steel and auto, under workers’ control!” We sold over 50 copies of SA newspaper. Dozens of people walked in the SA contingent, and chanted with us: “Cutbacks? No thanks. Nationalize the banks!” “Money for schools, not for war!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, (mayor) Rob Ford’s got to go!” ~Barry Weisleder
OPSEU threatens to split Ontario labour
The last thing the labour movement needs at this time is division. Yet this is exactly what is happening due to a dispute between officers of the Ontario Federation of Labour, including OFL President Sid Ryan, and some affiliated unions including the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and its president, Warren “Smokey” Thomas.
The dispute may result in the withdrawal of Canada’s largest provincial public service union, the 125,000-strong OPSEU, from the OFL. The OPSEU Executive Board decided to suspend payment of its dues to the OFL and to recommend that the union vote at its April 2012 convention to disaffiliate.
Reasons given for this split include faults in the OFL Constitution that undermine proper representation in the labour body, along with claims that it is difficult to negotiate internal issues with Sid Ryan. Ryan was acclaimed to the OFL top job in Fall 2009.
Non-payment of dues has already led to OPSEU being denied delegation status to the Nov. 21-25 OFL convention. The decision to withhold dues was made minus any consultation with the OPSEU membership. It contravenes the union’s constitution, which states that OPSEU is responsible for paying its dues to labour bodies to which it is affiliated, and that any decision to disaffiliate can be made only at an OPSEU convention.
OPSEU’s withdrawal from the house of labour in Ontario will result in serious damage to the labour movement in Ontario, which is already under fierce attack by the employers and the state.
Working-class solidarity and unity in action is now urgently needed. Sadly, instead of proposing a programme for militant action, the bureaucrats are dissing one another. However, opposition to the split is emerging. Socialists and other labour activists in OPSEU are campaigning against the unprincipled decision by OPSEU’s EBMs.
The Greater Toronto Area Council, which encompasses dozens of OPSEU locals in Toronto, passed a motion on Oct. 19 asking the Executive Board to rescind its decision, and to resume paying dues to the OFL. GTAC also asks that OPSEU’s president immediately meet with Sid Ryan to resolve the issues in dispute.
Activists know that this bureaucratic spat is occurring at a very bad time, and that our leadership should not descend to the level of personal attacks, even character assassination, in dealing with disputes amongst affiliates. It is a poisonous distraction from the bosses’ drive to squeeze workers’ wages, benefits and pensions. Workers deserve much better than this from our labour leadership. ~Julius Arscott
Proposed mega-quarry to face tougher review
A month before facing voters in the Oct. 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 2300-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 Sept. 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 http://www.rabble.ca on Sept. 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 Oct. 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. ~Erik Kupka