Monthly Archives: October 2016
I attended the town hall meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Toronto on June 15, 2016, along with hundreds of other concerned citizens, despite a lack of publicity. I recall only two people standing up to say anything in favour of the TPP and they both represented ‘industry groups’ which is a nice way of saying they were corporate shills. Everyone else was vehemently opposed, citing a variety of serious problems with the deal, particularly the odious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which would allow even more transnational corporations to sue Canada than they already do under NAFTA. This 6000-page agreement was negotiated by corporate lobbyists in secret and isn’t about trade so much as consolidating even more money and power in the hands of the billionaires who hide behind opaque, undemocratic, unaccountable transnational corporations while they rape the planet to death, destroy democracy and shove more and more people into poverty. The TPP is NOT the ‘New Deal’ we’re looking for, and it is so clearly contrary to the interests of our nation that ratification should be considered an act of treason.
The Honourable Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote a book about Plutocrats, so she understands as well as anyone how the ultra-rich control public policy. Although we pride ourselves on being ‘better off’ than Americans whose government has been so corrupted by money they don’t even have a democracy anymore the truth is Canadians should be worried about the state of our democracy too. In our Westminster system we have this odd feature called ‘party discipline‘ which means elected representatives, with rare exceptions, have to vote the way the leader of the party says, no matter what their constituents want. This means plutocrats don’t have to bribe loads of MPs, just use the access money affords in order to influence the handful of people at the top of the party in power.
The billionaires behind the corporations that are trying to shove the TPP down our throats travel in the same circles as the Prime Minister, his cabinet and other influential advisers who are not elected. These people often have connections that are not transparent. They may have gone to school together, their spouses may be friends, they play golf together. Plutocrats have access to power and opportunities to exert influence that the rest of us cannot even see. This is the reason that our politicians don’t keep their promises.
In her 2013 TED talk about plutocrats, Chrystia Freeland placed blame for rising income inequality on abstract factors like technology and globalization, exonerating the “new global super-rich.” No wonder her Rosedale neighbours elected her to parliament. Although she calls for a “new New Deal” Freeland fails to recognize that the gains in working conditions and living standards were not gifts from politicians or generous plutocrats.
Workers fought for decades in the struggle for dignity and justice. Thousands were beaten and jailed, well over a thousand died in America, including some striker’s wives, as well as 62 children murdered in the Italian Hall disaster. The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, resulted in 2 deaths, over 30 injuries and a virtual city-wide military occupation, in which the striker’s newspaper was shut down and it’s editors arrested. History makes it clear that the ultra-rich are not going to give up their ill-gotten gains voluntarily.
American billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer issued a warning in his 2014 TED talk:
“I have a message for my fellow plutocrats and zillionaires and for anyone who lives in a gated bubble world: Wake up. Wake up. It cannot last. Because if we do not do something to fix the glaring economic inequities in our society, the pitchforks will come for us, for no free and open society can long sustain this kind of rising economic inequality. It has never happened. There are no examples. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state or an uprising. The pitchforks will come for us if we do not address this. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.”
Reports out of North Dakota suggest America is morphing into a dystopian Police State, not unlike Toronto’s experience during the G20. Canadians are notoriously tolerant and polite and we really don’t want to light torches or raise pitchforks, but we do need to teach plutocrats the meaning of the word “ENOUGH.” We have to take back our power so we can solve income inequality, the climate crisis and a host of other problems.
If the landmark study “Testing Theories of American Politics” by Gilens and Page was replicated in Canada, I believe the results would be the same. Canadian voters have no hope of having our voices heeded unless and until we reclaim democracy through meaningful electoral reform. I am sick and tired of my vote being wasted in a first-past-the-post system and sick to death of having my trust betrayed by elected representatives who serve the interests of plutocrats. I know I’m not alone in this, as evidenced by the volume of applause and cheering at the TPP town hall for the many speakers who trashed the TPP in no uncertain terms.
The gist of this message was originally sent to the parliamentary committee charged with ‘consulting Canadians’ about the TPP. I’ve lived long enough to have seen so many broken promises that I do NOT trust the government to heed the clearly expressed wishes of the electorate. Although the official consultations have now closed, I REFUSE to shut up about this. The more you learn about the potential impacts of the TPP on your life, the more horrified you will be. We need to tell our elected representatives LOUDLY AND OFTEN that ratification of the TPP would be considered an act of TREASON and that party discipline is no excuse. You can help by sharing this, emailing your own MP and encouraging your friends and family to do the same.
(Updated Nov 7, 2016)
I just watched the trailer for “Before the Flood” and spotted a serious error made by one of the talking heads interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary. The interviewee says:
“Politicians will do what the people want them to do. Once the American people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”
This fundamental error is the reason climate change is still getting worse. Gilens and Page wrote a paper that demonstrated in 2014 that although politicians respond well to the wishes of billionaires, the average voter has “little or no independent influence” on public policy. This is a difficult fact to accept, as is the reason people have not been shouting louder about the climate crisis.
Ten years ago Al Gore tried to convince us of “The Inconvenient Truth” (2006) that climate change was the most pressing issue of our time. Gore was correct, but his ideas were attacked and marginalized by organized right-wingers. The documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (2015), based on a book of the same name, unmasks the climate deniers, but fails to appreciate the role the corporate media plays in controlling the narrative. For that you have to go back to “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), to learn how the Propaganda Model works. The consolidation of media ownership is part of an even larger problem described in “The Corporation” (2003) which makes the case that if a corporation was a person, they would be considered a psycho.
This is the fundamental root problem of climate change. The biosphere is not under threat because you ate a hamburger this week (although it would be better if you didn’t). The problem is that the greed of billionaires is out of control. The climate scientists are not experts in the politics of power. The mainstream media produces propaganda instead of journalism. Corporations are abusing eminent domain not for public good, but for private profit because the Supreme Court condoned their behaviour. Politicians on both sides of the party divide are beholden to their major corporate donors. The average voter is learning that, worse than being ignored by elected representatives, even if their vote is accepted, it may not even be counted at all. Once we finally realize that the root cause of climate change is a lack of democracy, the way forward becomes clear.
When a critical mass of people wakes up, our peace officers will stop acting like rent-a-cops doing dirty deeds for greedy billionaires. Anti-corruption laws, driven by grassroots action and ballot initiatives, can take government out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street banks, and restore it to the people. Electoral reform can break the corrupt two-party system and ensure that paper ballots are used to audit electronic voting machines. The debate system can be opened up so smaller parties are not unfairly marginalized. When the people take back their power they can stop greedy corporations from destroying the biosphere and solve all kinds of problems.
Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. If you want to be part of the solution, share these ideas with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, classmates and neighbours. Don’t wait until it’s too late.