To anyone who watched the G20 circus, the headline isn’t much of a hyperbolic stretch. Here was a country, which spent nearly $1 billion on security measures — greater than any summit’s security budget in the history of the world — and yet footage of burning police cars and shattered store windows played on loop throughout the week on Canadian television.
Where were the cops? How were a handful of fringe protesters able to create this — admittedly limited — havoc?
Naomi Klein proposes an interesting explanation. The state and cops had received widespread criticism for the tremendous amount of cash being dumped into security for this single event (78 percent of Canadians believed that the cost was unjustified,) and when some anarchists lit up their police car, they may have decided to take a long lunch break just to teach everyone a lesson.
Colin Horgan follows up on an article I wrote about BP racing up to Canada in order to get northern legislators to deregulate their industry (because that worked out super well in America). This time, the villain is the Canadian government itself.
After two years and a request under the Access to Information Act, the Canadian Press has revealed that there have been numerous toxic spills and dumps in the Arctic, and that “one of the most frequent offenders is the federal government.”
The CP report continues:
The analysis found 260 spills in the North over five years. There were 137 spills in the Northwest Territories, 82 in Nunavut and 41 in the Yukon.
The biggest spill happened in Nunavut two years ago. Residents of Hall Beach marked Canada Day in 2008 with a dike failure that released 13.5 million litres of sewage in their remote hamlet.
Environment Canada says sewage seeped out of a lagoon into a wetlands area. The sewage didn’t make it into any bodies of water where fish could be affected.
Some spills took weeks or even months to clean up, while others were dealt with in a day or less.
Daniel De Groot, Open Left
A Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan has been granted union certification by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) after years of Wal-Mart legal wrangling and delays, including two Wal-Mart applications to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the process.
This isn’t in Pepsi-drinking, poutine manging, socialisté Q-bec either, but rural Saskatchewan (which just elected 13 Conservatives to its 14 ridings).
Wal-Mart, naturally is not taking this in stride.
Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Andrew Pelletier said the decision is unjust because some employees didn’t get to vote on whether to unionize.
“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Clearly, you know, our associates have been denied here a vote. They’ve been denied a democratic process. And we believe they should have that process.
Rhetoric sound familiar? It should:
Wal-Mart Canada said it will appeal the ruling to unionize, pointing out that many of the employees who signed union cards no longer work at the Weyburn store.
“The fact that you’ve got a store now with 104 associates … and only 29 of them were even there at the time of the union’s application, really speaks to the fact that it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that there is widespread support for that store for this union,” said Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada.
Changes to Saskatchewan’s Trade Union Act this year made it a requirement that a secret ballot vote be held, open to all employees in the proposed bargaining unit, before a union can be certified.
Paul Meneima, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1400, said the decision to unionize the Weyburn store fits with the pre-2008 act,which allowed for union certifications when 50 per cent of employees, plus one, signed union cards.
Yup, Saskatchewan, in better times when it had an NDP government, had its own EFCA, which allowed a Wal-Mart in a conservative part of a fairly conservative province to unionize. Now that it has a conservative government, bye bye card-check.
Anyway, the company’s position seems to be “Since we fought to delay this so long that many of the original employees have moved on, we demand a new election under the new us-favouring rules.” Nice. I wonder how many of those departing employees left voluntarily?
The town’s mayor is worried Wal-Mart will close the store, which is a real risk, but unlike many other places, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other places they could put a Wal-Mart nearby. If they close, they’re likely abandoning this region of the province (and of course other retailers could move in).
A sad follow up on the 8 lube-shop workers who unionized at a store in Québec, Wal-Mart closed the garage in that store, saying it was losing money. They apparently did keep the workers at least, though.
As for the Union (UFCW) they have pending cases with the Sask Labour Board to unionize two other stores in the Province. Strength in numbers. Wal-Mart can’t close every store down.
He hopes it will give him and his Conservative government enough time to develop a stimulus package that could prop up the economy.
Mr Harper said: “The opposition’s criticism is that we have to focus on the economy immediately and today’s decision will give us an opportunity – I’m talking about all the parties – to focus on the economy and work together,”
He said a budget will be the first order of business when Parliament resumes.
Three opposition parties have united against Harper, accusing him of failing to protect Canada from the global financial crisis. The credit crisis and a global sell off of commodities have slowed Canada’s resource-rich economy, and the finance minister said last week he expects a recession.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion said the opposition would seek to oust Harper unless he makes a “monumental change” in dealing with the economy and other parties.
“For the first time in the history of Canada the prime minister is running away from the Parliament of Canada,” Dion said.
The opposition was also outraged by a government proposal to scrap public subsidies for political parties, something the opposition groups rely on more than the Conservatives.
Although that proposal was withdrawn, the opposition has continued to seek Harper’s ouster, saying he has lost the trust and confidence of parliament.
Governor General Michaelle Jean, who represents Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, had the power to grant the unusual request to suspend parliament. Had she refused, Harper would have had two choices: step down or face a no-confidence vote he was sure to lose.
Harper would not offer details on their a two-and-a-half hour long conversation, citing constitutional tradition.
Opposition politicians blasted Harper’s methods.
“I have friends calling me from other countries saying ‘Oh well, don’t worry, we’ve seen this happen in third world countries before, we’ve seen Parliament’s get suspended, and people pull fast tricks in order to not face the will of Parliament,’ but in Canada?,” Liberal Bob Rae said. “I frankly don’t regard his government as legitimate any more. His government is there because he avoided the will of Parliament.”
Opposition New Democrat leader Jack Layton called it a sad day.
“He’s trying to lock the door of Parliament so that the elected people cannot speak,» Layto said. «He’s trying to save his job.”
Layton said the shut down only delays Harper’s inevitable defeat.
Analysts said a governor general has never been asked to suspend parliament to delay an ouster vote when it was clear the government didn’t have the confidence of a majority of legislators.
Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said Jean’s decision strengthened the office of the prime minister at the expense of the popularly elected Parliament.
“It’s not a good day for parliamentary democracy,” Wiseman said.