Canada

The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike: six weeks of solidarity in the fight for workers’ rights

By Kelly Anne Griffin In the spring of 1919, tensions boiled over in Winnipeg. Social classes were divided by both wealth and status. Labourers gathered in a common front, and ideas about workers’ rights spread. Canada’s largest strike and its greatest class confrontation began on May 15. Even though changes were slow to come in the […]

via The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike: six weeks of solidarity in the fight for workers’ rights — Library and Archives Canada Blog

Newspapers, Endorsements, and Legitimacy

When a newspaper endorses a political party or a candidate during an election, the public assessment of the endorsement tends to turn on two factors: the reasoning leading to the endorsement, and the perceived legitimacy of the newspaper itself. But, as in any kind of legitimacy judgement of an organization, the perception of a newspaper’s legitimacy isn’t based on a single event or piece of information. It’s based on multiple factors, including the perceiver’s beliefs about whether the organization’s actions “are desirable, proper, [or] appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions”. And that is where the Postmedia newspapers in Canada went so spectacularly wrong with their endorsement of the incumbent Conservative Party in the upcoming federal election. (more…)

Bill C-377: A Sad Day for Democracy

Canada Day, July 1, is a day for Canadians to show their pride in their country. I love my country deeply. I am very grateful to have been born here, and I chose to live here. But this Canada Day is less than a joyous occasion for me – because on June 30, a law was enacted whose content and history is an embarrassment to democracy in this country.

I’ve written a couple of previous posts about Bill C-377, which started out as a private member’s bill in Canada’s House of Commons in late 2011. The bill amends Canada’s Income Tax Act to require “labour organizations” to submit statements to the Canada Revenue Agency showing the details of every financial transaction they make with a value over $5,000, along with details of any salaries over $100,000 annually that they pay. They are also required to submit a statement estimating the amount of time they spend on “political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities”.

This information would be made publicly available on the Canada Revenue Agency website. It’s important to note that the details of financial transactions could include the amount of the transaction and the details involving the union, and the details of the other party or parties participating in the transaction.

There are many articles on the Internet describing the selective interpretations of Parliamentary procedure that were used to push this bill through Canada’s House of Commons and Senate. It says a lot about the poor quality of this bill that procedural manipulations were necessary for it to receive the approvals needed to become law. However, what I want to focus on in this bill’s enactment is the shameful disrespect for expert opinion and the apparent dominance of party loyalty over responsible decision-making. (more…)

Amanda Lang, the CBC, and Journalistic Standards

Amanda Lang, CBC News’ “senior business correspondent” and the host of the CBC-TV show The Exchange with Amanda Lang, has recently been the subject of some controversy. In the last few weeks of 2014, it was alleged that she violated CBC’s conflict of interest policies by accepting paid speaking engagements from companies that she then “favourably” covered on her TV show. Then in early January it was alleged that she had lobbied within CBC News to downplay a story about the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) outsourcing jobs held by Canadian workers, when in the past she had given paid speeches at RBC-sponsored events. It also emerged that Lang was involved in a personal relationship with an RBC executive.

In a newspaper op-ed column, Lang denied the allegations of improper influence and defended her integrity – a response that was not well received. CBC subsequently banned its on-air staff from making paid appearances at non-CBC events, and, last week, announced that an “internal review” had found that Lang’s coverage did not violate CBC’s “journalistic standards”.

This series of events was deeply distressing to anyone who cares about the integrity of Canada’s publicly-funded national broadcaster – especially when the allegations involving Lang came directly after the allegations of workplace harassment by CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, followed by multiple criminal charges being laid against him. What was also distressing in Lang’s case was that both she and the CBC didn’t seem to understand that a perceived conflict of interest can be as damaging as an actual conflict of interest. Lang’s dismissing the allegations as “malevolent” and “utterly unwarranted” was ill-advised, and in my opinion only made the situation that much worse.

I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with much of Lang’s television work. But recently, while looking for something else entirely in the CBC’s online video archives, I came across a recent interview on her show that was so appalling (more…)

“I’m Not An Expert”

A number of American media commentators have recently taken aim at the fallacy of the “I’m not a scientist” argument. “I’m not a scientist” is an increasingly popular statement from American politicians who don’t believe in climate change. Whenever these politicians are presented with evidence that suggests climate change is real, they say “I’m not a scientist”, and think that excuses them from commenting on the evidence that contradicts their position. But, as several commentators have pointed out, it’s not acceptable for politicians who make legislative decisions on climate change to not be informed about it – and they don’t have to be scientists to do that. Politicians don’t have to be experts on everything, and they shouldn’t be expected to, but they do have the responsibility to know something about the issues they vote on.

North of the border, we in Canada now seem to have our own version of the “I’m not a scientist” argument. It’s the “I’m not an expert” reasoning. The “I’m not an expert” reasoning tends to arise whenever a member of the Conservative federal government uses questionable information, and then claims that the information must be accurate because it came from “experts”.

A few weeks ago, Finance Minister Joe Oliver used this reasoning while testifying at Canada’s House of Commons Finance Committee. At the Finance Committee meeting, he was asked about (more…)

Bill C-377: New Information on “The Bill That Nobody Wants”

Two researchers have uncovered some new and very troubling information about Bill C-377, the proposed Canadian law that would impose exceptionally rigorous financial reporting requirements on unions. “The bill that nobody wants”, as it was called in the researchers’ lecture last week, is now the center of an even more appalling story of misinformation and deception – a story that should concern not only anyone who cares about Canadian unions and workers, but also anyone who cares about the integrity of Canada’s democratic legislative process.

The first version of this bill was introduced in the House of Commons in 2011 as Bill C-317, and the Speaker of the House dismissed it as being out of order. The bill was then re-introduced in the House as Bill C-377 – a private member’s bill sponsored by Member of Parliament Russ Hiebert. It was approved in the House of Commons and sent to the Senate. The Senate refused to vote on it, and returned a heavily amended version of the bill to the House in mid-2013. The House returned the original, unamended bill to the Senate, where it is currently being debated again. It’s extremely unusual for private members’ bills to make it this far in the federal legislative process, or to be on Parliament’s agenda for so long. So what’s really going on here? (more…)

More on Public Sector Sick Days “Abuse”

A few months ago I wrote about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s completely unsupported allegations of rampant sick day “abuse” by British Columbia’s public sector workers. Sadly, similar accusations have also been flying around (more…)