Northern Lights (news & views from Canada)

Ontario workers rally against concessions and lock-out
Some 10,000 people, according to the Toronto Star, converged at London’s Victoria Park, two hours west of Toronto, on Jan. 21 to participate in the rally sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) against the lockout of 500 workers.

The London workers are members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union at the Electro-Motive Canada plant (recently acquired by Caterpillar Inc.).
The lockout was imposed after the union refused to negotiate the outrageous concessions demanded by the company, including a 50% reduction in wages, and savage cuts in benefits.
The company is threatening to move the work to the United States and to close the plant. The rally heard from a number of speakers, including OFL President Sid Ryan, NDP federal Leader Nicole Turmel, and the mayor of London.
Unfortunately, more than half the crowd could not hear the speakers because the OFL—once again—failed to mount an adequate sound system.
Following the rally a large number of the demonstrators travelled to the plant, a few kilometers away, where they joined the CAW picket line.
Socialist Action members carried a banner that read, “Nationalize Auto, Steel and the Banks—Under Workers’ Control! Make Capital Pay for the Crisis.”
After the rally, NDP Socialist Caucus activist and unionist John Orrett told this reporter, “In his speech Ryan said the OFL believes in a different model of capitalism, but of course they never spell this out. For them it is just capitalism with a happy face. They never admit that there is no such thing.”
> The article above was written by John Wilson.
Defection to Liberals highlights dilemma for NDP
While NDP officials go to great pains to prevent leftists from becoming NDP candidates at election time, they’d do better to spend more time screening the right wingers in their ranks. A case in point is Lise St-Denis, who was elected NDP MP in the Quebec riding of St-Maurice-Champlain and who crossed the line to join the federal Liberals on Jan. 10. She was one of 58 NDP rookies to win a seat in Quebec last May 2. Why the sudden decision to bolt, after St-Denis spent a decade volunteering for the party?
The 71-year-old MP said she did not feel “at ease” in a party that wanted to put an end to the Canadian Forces mission in Libya, that called for abolition of the Senate, and that rejected any private-sector involvement in building a new bridge in Montreal. She stressed that the NDP had lost its “drawing card” in Quebec with the death of Jack Layton.
But could St-Denis be as flaky as that? Could she have been unaware of basic NDP policies when she ran last Spring? Or was it a case of the party brass being unaware, or worse, unconcerned about her “ease” with perpetuation of the status quo—including the non-elected “Upper Chamber,” imperialist interventions in the Arab countries, and private-public partnerships that undermine workers and squander public funds?
NDP MP Guy Caron, who chairs the party’s Quebec caucus, was correct to say, “Changing political affiliation is a blatant lack of respect for democracy. If the Liberals think that this is what the voters of her riding want, we challenge them to run Ms. St-Denis in a by-election.” But there is another point to this incident. And it’s not just that the NDP was unprepared politically for the “orange wave” breakthrough—a victim of its own success, so to speak.
The point is that the party leadership recruits candidates in its own image. At its core, that image is increasingly associated with opportunism, lack of principles, and shallowness. Party bureaucrats and party electoral campaigns project accommodation to the capitalist system and its vaunted institutions. They foster illusions in Ottawa’s foreign policy, covering up the reality of military intervention at the service of corporate power and profit.
And the party elite’s longstanding subordination of the aspirations of oppressed nations to the vice-grip of the bourgeois state makes it completely unsurprising that the NDP attracts liberal federalists in Quebec like St-Denis, who after surviving the shock of her election as MP, discovered that she is more at “ease” in the Liberal Party caucus. The only good thing about this incident is that there will be one less advocate of merger with the Liberal Party inside the NDP federal caucus.
Until her departure, St-Denis was a strong supporter of Thomas Mulcair’s bid for NDP Leader. What does Mulcair think about his erstwhile fan’s act of treachery? And what say the other candidates for NDP Leader? The silence is deafening. What we see here is fundamentally a problem of class perspective. For what class programme does the NDP fight?
The ambiguity of the NDP’s stance underscores the need for NDP political education in the spirit of working-class independence from the system of exploitation, and from its state apparatus. So, when the NDP Socialist Caucus argues that, in order to survive, the NDP must turn sharply to the left, clearly it is no exaggeration. 
> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.
Harper warns against environmental ‘radicals’
The Conservative Stephen Harper government has revealed its mean streak once again. In an open letter released on Jan. 9, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lashed out at environmental organizations, branding them as “radicals” who “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
    
The letter came on the eve of regulatory hearings into the development of the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would see oil flow from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it would be poured into supertankers bound for Asia and elsewhere. It is one of two proposed tar sands pipelines, the other being the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas, which was dealt a major setback in January when U.S. President Barak Obama rejected (for now) its proposed route through a sensitive ecosystem in Nebraska.
As with Keystone XL, the Northern Gateway poses a serious risk to the environment. The pipeline would pass over the Rocky Mountains and cross 1000 rivers and streams in some of Canada’s most pristine natural sites. It would also cut through 65 First Nations communities, 61 of which have declared their opposition to the project.
It is therefore not surprising that 4300 people have asked to participate in the regulatory review to draw attention to the pipeline’s threats. However, according to the Conservatives, a “radical ideological agenda” is at play, aided by “jet-setting celebrities,” which aims to “delay a project to the point it becomes economically unviable.”
This argument is a mix of misinformation, hysteria, and blatant hypocrisy, which has become Harper’s standard formula in attacking opponents. Undoubtedly, certain Canadian environmental groups do receive support from abroad—it is only normal that they would work with other groups who share their concern for protecting the planet. But the real threat is the corporate money that is being poured into the dirty business of extracting the tar sands. According to the Globe and Mail, such money is “welcome” in Harper’s Canada, even when it comes from disreputable anti-worker regimes such as China’s.
In the midst of the manufactured hysteria, it bears noting that, according to Environmental Defence, all of the environmental organizations intervening in the review are based in Canada, and 79 per cent of those registered to speak are B.C. residents. On the other hand, 10 of the 16 intervening oil companies have foreign-based headquarters.
Harper’s demonization of respected environmental organizations is a disgraceful tactic, deployed to ensure that the even more disgraceful business of extracting tar-sands oil continues unabated. Socialists demand a halt to tar-sands extraction, and call for strong resistance to Harper’s belligerence against civil society groups, whose advocacy work represents an important expression of the exercise of democratic rights.
> The article above was written by Eric Kupka.