GOOD READING: Pam Palmater on The Throne Speech and Canada’s War with the Mi’kmaw Nation at Elsipogtog

A clash erupted on the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick Thursday after Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers moved in on peaceful Mi’kmaw Nation demonstrators opposed to hydraulic fracking by Texas-based Southwestern Energy. The demonstrators had been blockading vehicles owned by the company.

There were reports of rubber bullets being fired by police, snipers pointing weaponsat First Nations women and children and police cars lit ablaze.

Tensions flare as the police line advances. Police tear gassing the crowd. Photo/Ossie Michelin/APTN

Tensions flare as the police line advances. Police tear gassing the crowd. Photo/Ossie Michelin/APTN

Academic and activist Pam Palmater wrote an insightful post that touches on the lead-up to today’s incident, a history of clashes between the Canadian state and the Mi’kmaw Nation and provides valuable context. It also offers answers as to what the incident means at a macro-level in the Canadian political economy.

Here is the link: Feathers verus Guns: The Throne Speech and Canada’s War with the Mi’kmaw Nation at Elsipogtog

The place of First Nations nationhood in the wider Canadian context ─ especially as it relates to water and earth, which are being industrialized heavily by settler governments ─ is arguably unresolved for many people, both First Nations and Moniyawak* alike.

On the facts, today incident appears to have been an example of the Canadian state employing its coercion monopoly against a recognized nation with legitimate concerns about the sustainability of the water supply. The upshot appears to be that state intended to protect foreign capital.

I believe this is a disproportionate and inappropriate response by the Canadian state. The Elsipogtog First Nation must be treated with respect and play an equal and important role in discussions about what is intended for the land being eyed for fracking.

(*Many thanks to Otâcimow for teaching me, via Twitter, the Cree word for “white person.”)


Lobbyists: The People Behind The Power

Word emerged today in a Toronto Star story that Councillor David Shiner worked as a federal lobbyist while simultaneously serving as a councillor for the Willowdale area of North York between 2006 and 2011.

At Illuminated By Street Lamps, I put up a post last March analyzing the demographics of the 100 most influential people who lobby the federal government (based on the Hill Times’ annual list for 2012) and attempting to explain what they do.

Here is the link: Canadian Lobbyists. Who They Are and What They Do.

GOOD READING: His Feminist Mama On Staring Down Anti-Abortionists

Abortion, which is legal and publicly-funded in Ontario, remains a significant body autonomy power struggle and an issue of negative liberty.

HisFeministMama has written a powerful post about how, yesterday, she ─ alone ─ peacefully confronted a group of anti-abortionists intent on pressuring governments to remove funding for the procedure.

Here is the link: Duct-Taped #DefendAbortion Sign Drives Anti-Choice Rally Away

Ontario’s Flirtation With Extreme Capitalism

The past week has been busy for those interested in the relationship between power and capital in Ontario.

First, word emerged on Oct. 30 that the provincial Liberals and Progressive Conservatives were intent on ramming a PC MPP’s Private Member’s Bill through the Legislature that would allow construction giant EllisDon to skirt 55-year-old obligations to hire unionized workers.

By Tano4595/Wikimedia Commons

By Tano4595/Wikimedia Commons

Some background:

  • EllisDon, which the Toronto Star has reported is a major donor to both the Liberals and the PCs, lobbied Queen’s Park for the legislation despite an Ontario Labour Relations Board ruling against the company on the very same issue in 2012.
  • That labour board ruling was overturned by the Divisional Court on Sept. 27.
  • EllisDon is within its rights to lobby the government. It is up to the province to decide whether the request is compelling.

Then, yesterday, the Liberals abruptly reversed their course, yanking their support for the bill, provided the Divisional Court ruling is not appealed.

A report by Ontario Newswatch emerged late yesterday that one union involved in the case plans to appeal.

Meanwhile,  a separate story emerged yesterday in which PC Leader Tim Hudak called for major restrictions on advertising by third parties such as citizen coalitions and unions.

Hudak, who is no fan of unions, even went so far as to say it is not OK for unions to donate to political parties but it is OK if corporations do so, according to the Toronto Star’s Richard Brennan.

Both of these cases suggest Ontario’s power structure is flirting with an extreme brand of capitalism in which big corporate donors to political parties are seeing their agendas pushed through the Legislature and workers’ rights are being eroded under the guise of economic competitiveness.

If that isn’t the reality, then it is an arguably fair opinion, based on the facts.

Karl Marx told us that the government Executive exists merely to manage the issues common to capitalists.

Indeed, it is difficult to ignore the Marxist analysis when presented with the above cases.

Corporations create jobs. But unions help make sure those jobs are well-compensated, safe and secure for workers who must sell their labour for a wage.

The message the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals are sending is that Ontario’s political culture is one that favours the entrenched privileged elite.

But in a province in which the first same-sex marriage was solemnized and where battles over the legalization of marijuana and prostitution have been fought to extend rights and civil liberties to marginalized people, such a political culture, as that being pushed at Queen’s Park, is looking awfully rusty and out of touch.

The events of the past week lead to real questions about whose interests the PCs and Liberals are working for and to what end. Workers ─ just like any marginalized group ─ deserve just as much consideration from a provincial government as capital.

It seems like the Grits and Tories need to be reminded of that.