Showing posts from April, 2014

China's Income-Inequality Gap Widens Beyond U.S. Levels

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[Not your father's communist workers' paradise. Also see China is hiding how bad income inequality is in the country*RON*]
By Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg Business Week, April 30, 2014

The gap between China’s rich and poor is now one of the world’s highest, surpassing even that in the U.S., according to a new report being released this week by researchers at the University of Michigan.

The metric used in these studies, the Gini coefficient, would be zero in a society where all income is equally distributed, while a score of one would reflect a society in which all income is concentrated in the hands of a single individual. Over the three-decade period starting in 1980, shortly after China’s economic reform and opening, the Gini coefficient has grown from 0.3 to 0.55 in 2010.

In the U.S., by contrast, the index reads 0.45. Anything over 0.50 is considered “severe disparity,” says the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sci…

Canadian income disparity growing in Canada among fastest in the OECD

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[Canada is at the forefront of income inequality. *RON*]

CP / 680 News Raddio, Apr 30, 2014

OTTAWA – A new OECD paper shows Canada is among the worst in the developed world in terms of the widening income gap.

The analysis shows income inequality has grown in most advanced economies represented in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development over the past three decades, but the United States and Canada are near the top in terms of growth and in absolute terms.

The OECD says the top one per cent of Canadian pre-tax income earners captured 37 per cent of the overall income growth between 1981 and 2012, and now account for 12.2 per cent of the country’s total annual income.

In the United States, the top one percenters captured 47 per cent of the total income growth in the country during the period — and now share one-fifth of the country’s pre-tax income.

Meanwhile, incomes among the poorest households have not kept pace with overall income…

How Piketty's Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies

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[Sorry, Ayn Rand. Your fiction has been exposed as, well, fiction. *RON*]
By Lynn Stuart ParramoreAlterNet, April 27, 2014
Libertarians have always been flummoxed by inequality, tending either to deny that it’s a problem or pretend that the invisible hand of the market will wave a magic wand to cure it. Then everybody gets properly rewarded for what he or she does with brains and effort, and things are peachy keen.

Except that they aren’t, as exhaustively demonstrated by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page treatise on the long-term trends in inequality, Capital In the 21st Century, has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one.

To understand the libertarian view of inequality, let’s turn to Milton Friedman, one of America's most famous and influential makers of free market mythology. Friedman decreed that economic policy should focus on freedom, and not equality.

TransCanada Charitable Fund Launches Keystone XL "Good Neighbor" Charm Offensive

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["Less than a week after Public Citizen published its November 2013 report addressing safety issues discovered during the construction phase of KeystoneXL's southern leg, TransCanada announced the launch of its charitable fund....its charitable fund equates to 0.04 percent of the expense of building Keystone XL South" *RON*]
 Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog, 29 April 2014

TransCanada has taken a page out of former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's playbook and deployed a public relations “charm offensive” in Texas, home of the southern leg of itsKeystone XL tar sands pipeline now known as the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Roosevelt utilized a “good neighbor policy“ — conceptualized today as “soft power” by U.S. foreign policy practitioners — to curry favor in Latin America and win over its public. Recently, TransCanada announced it would do something similar in Texas with its newly formed TransCanada Charitable …

Path to Prosperity? A Closer Look at British Columbia’s Natural Gas Royalties and Proposed LNG Income Tax

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[The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives just released the first in a series of reports that look closely at BC’s LNG industry. Path to Prosperity? A Closer Look at British Columbia’s Natural Gas Royalties and Proposed LNG Income Tax kicks off the series by checking the assumptions behind the provincial government’s projected $100 billion LNG “Prosperity Fund”. In short, it finds that the giant, optimistic figure being tossed around by the province is simply terribly unlikely given real world conditions – from projected changes in global energy markets to shortcomings of the LNG tax and royalties regime. Our policymakers clearly need to stop putting all of our eggs in the one basket of the natural gas export industry. See also BC LNG economics don't add up on Commonsense Canadian. *RON*]

By Marc Lee, CCPA, April 30, 2014

Download, 824.06 KB, 15 pages

This report examines the assumptions behind the BC government’s projection of a $100 bill…

Working for a Living Wage 2014: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver

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[The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their Metro Vancouver living wage calculation for 2014, which indicates that parents with a young family must make $20.10 per hour each in order to make ends meet. This year is the first—since they began to do this calculation in 2008—that has seen the living wage rise over the $20 mark. It goes to show that BC families are in desperate need of government policies, like a $10/day child care program, that make everyday life more affordable. *RON*]

By Iglika Ivanova, Seth Klein, CCPA, April 29, 2014
Download 1.52 MB, 8 pages

To get involved with the campaign or to become a Living Wage employer, contact the Metro Vancouver Living Wage for Families Campaign:

For those seeking to calculate the living wage in other BC and Canadian communities, download the living wage calculation guide and spreadsheet (below).

More BC living wage reports:
The 2014 living wage for Victori…

Why The Fair Elections Act Is A Very Good Thing For Rich Politicians

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[The best democracy money can buy. *RON*]

Althia Raj, Huffington Post, 29 April 2014

OTTAWA — As MPs prepare for a second day of clause-by-clause debate over amendments to the Fair Elections Act, The Huffington Post Canada looks at how the Conservative government’s election bill increases the influence of money in the political process – and how it fails to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding how political parties spend their money.

This despite the fact that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been used to subsidize political parties in the past decade. Critics point to four key ways the act does not go far enough to reform how political parties account for their spending.

Firms won't say how often feds given customer info without warrant: commissioner

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[Canadian law allows for warrantless disclosure of private information on Canadian citizens yet no law requires that we be given access to information about any of this. *RON*]

CP / Huffington Post, 04/29/2014

OTTAWA - Canada's privacy commissioner says telecom companies are refusing to tell her office how many times they have handed over personal customer information to the federal government without a warrant.

Chantal Bernier, the interim privacy commissioner, says her office has repeatedly asked telecom companies to disclose statistics and the scope of warrantless disclosure of data, to no avail.

"I'm not disputing that there are times when there is no time to get a warrant — life is in danger," Bernier said Tuesday.

"What we would like is for those warrantless disclosures to simply be represented in statistics so that Canadians have an idea of the scope of the phenomenon."

But she says the companies have only provided h…

LittleSis is a free database of who-knows-who at the heights of business and government.

Click here to visit the actual website.
[I just thought this resource was very cool. I ran across it in a DeSmogBlog story called Wealthy Corporate CEOs Behind Fake Anti-Fracking Ads. "Little Sis" is meant to be the opposite of Big Brother. This is a grassroots watchdog network connecting the dots between the world's most powerful people and organizations -- "An involuntary facebook of the 1%". This is a great example of the things that can be done in the US where so much more public data collection is mandated than in Canada. *RON*]
A unique resource for investigating cronyism, conflicts of interest, and systemic corruption.

An involuntary facebook of the 1%
We bring transparency to influential social networks by tracking the key relationships of politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions. We help answer questions such as:
Who do the wealthiest Americans donate their money to?Where did White House officials work before …

The Depressing Truth About The US Jobs Recovery

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[The recession destroyed good, solid middle class jobs and the 'recovery' has replaced (only a portion of) them with a smaller number of crummy McJobs. *RON*]
Mamta Badkar, Business Insider, April 28, 2014

The U.S. economy has come a long way from the recession. The unemployment rate is now at 6.7%, compared with a peak of 10% in late 2009.
Of course many have pointed out that this ignores that the unemployment rate fell in part because many people left the labor force. But there is another disappointing trend about the job recovery the U.S. has seen.

Most of the job losses during the labor market downturn from January 2008 to February 2010, came from high and mid-wage industries.

The latest report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), via George Magnus, shows that in the recovery, from February 2010 to 2014, most of the job growth has come from lower-wage industries.

There are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries no…

Jason Kenney On Defensive After Foreign Workers Controversy

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[There has been an unusually high rate of floundering about by Harper & Co. lately! *RON*]

By Lee-Anne Goodman, CP / Huffington Post, 04/28/2014

OTTAWA - In the midst of a fresh eruption of abuse allegations surrounding the government's troubled temporary foreign worker program, Jason Kenney's reputation as a capable task-master taking a beating.

The employment minister was on the defensive Monday in the House of Commons, but he's also under attack from business groups, labour unions and — perhaps most troubling for Kenney with a federal election looming — everyday Canadians who believe the Conservatives have made it easier for foreigners to swipe their jobs.

"The minister has been responsible for the temporary foreign worker program for the past six years," NDP leader Tom Mulcair said during question period.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly maligned companies who import workers with "the intention of never ha…

Ottawa keeps ‘public report’ on fighter jets under wraps

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[In other words, "We want to make our decision about buying these jets before we let the public know anything that might be pertinent to a public debate on the subject." *RON*]

by Daniel LeBlanc and Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, Apr. 28 2014

Ottawa is refusing to release what it calls a “public report” on the strengths and weaknesses of the four fighter jets in line to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s, stating it wants to make its own decision before disclosing the information.

While the document was recently completed, and it is specifically intended for public consumption, the government plans to keep it secret until the cabinet has made its choice on the acquisition of new fighter jets. Without the document, it will be harder for the public and interested parties to hold an informed debate on the choices that are currently facing the government.

Stephen Harper Says Maternal And Child Health A Priority For Canada

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[Just don't ask Mr. Harper about reproductive health - which is crucial to child and maternal health - and which he has steadfastly refused to include in this policy purely on ideological grounds. "This is obviously something we care passionately about because it is the right thing to do," which is, equally obviously, why Aboriginal maternal and child health are in the abysmal state he has left them in. *RON*]
By Diana Mehta, CP / Huffington Post, 04/28/2014

TORONTO - An upcoming Toronto conference on child and maternal health in developing countries, that will bring together international leaders, experts and philanthropists, will help keep the world focused on a "great cause," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday.

"Canada has and can make a difference," Harper said at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, where he discussed details of the three-day international summit slated for May 28-30.

"We don't w…

Keystone proponent found 'non-compliant' again

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[It should be the law that the gist of this article be read following every single airing of all Keystone XL ads that run on television, radio and on the internet. *RON*]
By Andrew Nikiforuk, Tyee, April 25, 2014

The Calgary proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has spent millions telling North Americans that "pipelines work," continues to break federal pipeline laws, says the national regulator.

A comprehensive 2013 audit that looked at the company's take on public safety, emergency management, public awareness, pipeline crossings, and environmental protection reported nearly two dozen examples of non-compliance this week.

The audit again confirms allegations made by former TransCanada employee Evan Vokes that the firm supported a "culture of non-compliance."

Major instances of non-compliance were highlighted in five categories. Pipeline companies, for example, must have in place a crossing program so that they can pre…

Are You Being Monitored? New Tool Helps Find Out

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[Interesting piece in which a civil liberties group shows how to unearth dirt that the government may have on you. Click where indicated below to learn more about the resources available through the Don't Spy On Me campaign and to add your voice to those who would like to see protections for citizens and activists strengthened. *RON*]

By David P. Ball, 24 Apr 2014,

With the federal government's monitoring of Northern Gateway pipeline critics, revealed last year, civil liberties advocates yesterday unveiled a new online tool that helps people find out if authorities are keeping tabs on them.

While the B.C. Civil Liberties Association admits there may be no data at all on most people, advocates hope the exercise will shed light on the right of citizens to file Access to Information requests on themselves. Revelations of government monitoring environmentalists and First Nations activists could prove the exercise a fruitful one, t…

Cities Demand Cross-Exam of Trans Mountain Pipeline Hearing

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[Vancouver, Burnaby ask federal regulator to reinstate 'critical' process. "Failing to include oral cross-examination will be interpreted as a clear sign that this process is designed to limit the influence that citizens can have on its outcome." Andrew Weaver *RON*]

By Andrew Nikiforuk, 25 Apr 2014,

Proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would increase transport of heavy oil diluted with condensate from Alberta by 540,000 barrels per day, ramp up super tanker traffic in the port of Vancouver by nearly 800 ships a year.

The cities of Vancouver and Burnaby have asked the federal energy regulator to reverse its decision to exclude oral cross-examinations from the Trans Mountain bitumen pipeline hearings.

A refusal to amend the hearing process would mean that Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion project would be the first National Energy Board hearing on an oil pipeline triggering an environmental assessment which doe…

Ottawa well under way to balanced budget, but restraint saps growth, jobs: PBO

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[Harper's austerity policies are holding back the economy and slowing job creation, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. *RON*]

CP / Huffington Post, 04/28/2014

OTTAWA - Canada's budget watchdog says federal spending curbs will shave 0.5 per cent from the economy by 2016 and result in about 46,000 fewer jobs.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer also anticipates that the government will virtually balance the budget during this current fiscal year, one year earlier than projected.

The estimates are contained in the PBO's latest economic and fiscal outlook, which on balance is a little more optimistic than previous forecasts.

The PBO says the economy is likely to advance by 2.1 per cent this year and remain above its potential growth rate until 2018.

The pace of growth and job creation would be even faster, the office says, but for spending restraints introduced in budget 2012 as a means to eliminate the deficit.

The PBO says the govern…

Harper's dangerous petro-politicking with rail safety

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["Doable is another word for economically feasible. The directive represents a reasonable timetable for shippers to address the market-access logistics to get oil to refiners rather than create any sort of 'stretch objective' for industry to quickly remove a known threat to public safety." *RON*]
By Michael Butler,, April 28, 2014

There was more smoke and mirrors on Canada's rail tracks last week when the Harper Conservative government finally announced their long-awaited changes to rail safety 292 days after the preventable Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt announced that the federal government plans to phase out or retrofit older DOT-111 tank cars over the next three years. Further, a certain 5,000 tank cars that are the least crash resistant will be removed within 30 days by ministerial order. Mandatory emergency response plans will be required for all crude oil shipments, some reduction in…

Bill C-23, Fair Elections Act, Illustrates Harper's Vindictiveness, Pragmatism, Tom Flanagan Says

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["Harper has managed to succeed politically. However,... the cost of that success has been an ever-shrinking inner circle around the prime minister as insiders quit or get thrown under the bus." Plenty of sour grapes on Flanagan's part, but his characterization matches with pretty well every other published report on Harper's personality and style. *RON*]

By Joan Bryden, CP / Huffington Post, 4/28/2014

OTTAWA - The federal government's controversial proposed overhaul of election laws illustrates the ruthless, vindictive and hyper-partisan side of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's character, a former chief of staff says.

But Tom Flanagan says the fact the Conservative government has suddenly backed down on some of the most objectionable aspects of the bill shows another side of the prime minister — his capacity to be pragmatic and realistic.

"The whole episode illustrates the complexity of the man," Flanagan said…

US Govt Can Search Private Emails Stored Overseas: Judge

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[Hopefully it won't simply be Microsoft that's complaining about this and other governments will have something to say about the US government's belief that it can demand access to emails across the planet. *RON*]

First-of-its-kind ruling likely to have far-reaching ramifications as concerns over online privacy continue to rise following Snowden's revelations
By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams,  27 April 2014

In the first decision of its kind, a federal judge ruled this week that the U.S. government has the authority to force cyber-companies to hand over customers' emails and other digital data, even when that data is stored overseas.
Issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York, the decision pertained to a case in which Microsoft was given a warrant to search the email account of one of its clients whose email data is stored in a server located in Dublin, Ireland.

Microsoft challenged the warrant on the grounds that the…

No Community is Prepared for Major Oil-By-Rail Accident, Senate Hearing Told

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[A classic example of a massive negative externality, i.e., an unintended consequence of an economic activity experienced by a third party that no one wants to pay for. And, by extension, an excellent illustration of why 'free markets' aren't. *RON*]
 Justin Mikulka,, 27 April 2014

Just as you aren’t supposed to try to put out an oil fire in your kitchen with water, you aren’t supposed to try to put out a crude oil fire with water either. But in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that is all firefighters had for the first two days of battling the catastrophic oil-by-rail fire last July.

The fire burned until 8,000 gallons of firefighting foam finally arrived from Toronto, an eight-hour drive away. Forty-seven people were killed in the accident.

Corporate CEOs Demand That They be Tipped Off When a Whistleblower Reports Their Crimes

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[It's astonishing that CEOs publicly fight for and win, from the courts, the ability to actively stifle and seek punishment against people who draw their illegal activities to light. *RON*]
Written by Bill Black, posted on Naked Capitalism by Lambert StretherApril 26, 2014

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

I’m writing on the flight returning from the XIIth International CIFA Forum in Monaco. CIFA is an NGO. It is a confederation of independent financial advisor organizations that works with the UN in promoting the protection of investors. This means that their clients are often very wealthy and that many of the participants are speakers are very conservative or libertarians (or an admixture). One of the speakers, Dr. Hans Geiger, gave an impassioned denunciation of …

Why British Columbians Want to Speed the Shift to Clean Energy

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[A good illustration of the chasm between public opinion, public versus private interests, and our provincial government's priorities. *RON*]

By Merran Smith, Dir. Clean Energy Canada, Huffington Post, 27 April 2014

A new poll released this week not only reveals that most British Columbians are keen to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, but also highlights their motivations for doing so:
More than three quarters of British Columbians (78 per cent) agree that B.C. should transition away from using fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy to prevent climate change from getting worse.More than two thirds (67 per cent) agree the province should decrease its reliance on fossil fuel exports to avoid future "boom and bust" economic cycles.Three quarters (74 per cent) agree that the province has a good opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy by developing the solutions needed to transition away from fossil fu…

Reporters Should Use Original Language Instead of Repeating Politicians' Misused Phrases

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[A good decoding of the political language Conservatives use to talk about (vilify) refugee claimants, and a strong call to less lazy journalism. We need one of these translations for each and every pronouncement by the Harper government. This is something we need to see more of in Huffington Post. Blogs like and try to uphold this standard, but they have a small readership. *RON*]

Dana Wagner, Huffington Post, April 27, 2014

I never meant to take my journalism professor seriously when she advised reading Politics and the English Language by George Orwell once per year. But at least annually, there's a reason to dig up his essay.

It's a manual because of the maxims for clear, vivid writing. (My favourite is to avoid dying metaphors like iron resolution, Achilles' heel ... gravy train.) But it's timeless for the connection from bad language to politics. Each ready-made phrase, each vague metaphor, and each pr…

Now Playing in Progressive Film: The Secret Trial 5

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[A Cheney-esque, totalitarian streak runs deep through many of Harper's policies. *RON*]
By Amira Elghawaby,, April 25, 2014

"Our strength is in our humanity, in our justice system and in who we are as a people, and if you let fear dictate how you live your life, then you lose everything." - Ahmad Jaballah, son of Mahmoud Jaballah

After four years of production and grassroots fundraising, the story of Canada's secret trials is finally hitting the big screen.

The Secret Trial 5 will be premiering at the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival in Toronto April 26, 28 and 30. A cross-country tour will follow.

The documentary tells the stories of four Muslim men (the fifth declined to participate). All of them were held without ever being able to see or challenge the evidence of their alleged terrorist activity. Told that all they needed to do was leave the country to gain their freedom, the government could not itself …

5 Recent Supreme Court Decisions That Went Against Harper

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[Checks and balances disturb to Mr. Harper, a lot. The Supreme Court, the Constitution, the Senate -- forget about it. *RON*]

CP / Huffington Post, 04/25/2014

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada dealt the Harper government another blow Friday, this time on the subject of Senate reform. Here's a look at five recent cases in which the high court rejected the government's arguments.

1. April 25, 2014
The court rules that the Harper government cannot use Parliament alone to impose Senate term limits, allow consultative elections for senatorial candidates or abolish the upper chamber. The justices hold that the first two changes would need the consent of seven provinces representing half the provinces. Abolition would require provincial unanimity.
2. April 11, 2014 The government's Truth in Sentencing Act sought to stop judges from routinely giving inmates extra credit for time spent in jail before custody. The court ruled judges have the d…

Fair Elections Act: Pierre Poilievre Backtracks On Contentious Issues

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[Poilievre blinks at last. If he follows the CP playbook he'll wait until the next budget then re-submit the bits he was forced to cut under a different title, buried in an omnibus bill. *RON*]
Althia Raj, Huffington Post, April 25, 2014

OTTAWA — The Conservative government is flip-flopping on some of the most contentious issues of its electoral reform bill, the Fair Elections Act.

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre announced Friday that the government will compromise on the issue of vouching by allowing individuals who have ID but no proof of address to be vouched for by another individual.

It is also backing away from a plan that would have allowed a riding's incumbent MP to appoint the central poll supervisor at election time. The poll supervisor oversees the poll and decides critical issues on election day. The position is currently non-partisan.

Fast Food Companies Pay CEOs 1,200 Times What They Pay Workers (And You’re Helping Them Do It)

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[Among fast food companies CEO average pay since 2000 more than quadrupled, while workers’ incomes rose just 0.3 percent. CEOs at the 20 largest companies received $662 million in performance pay in 2012 and 2013. This is tax deductible, so those 20 companies reduced their taxes by $232 million. The public also subsidizes low fast food wages through government assistance programs that workers rely on because they are paid so poorly for their labour. *RON*]

By Alan Pyke, Think Progress, April 24, 2014

Fast food CEOs now earn about 1,200 times more than their workers and taxpayers are helping to make that possible, according to a pair of new reports on the industry’s pay practices.

Earnings for fast food executives have increased by more than 300 percent since 2000 while their workers’ wages have increased by 0.3 percent over the same period, Demos reports. The think tank’s work shows that food and lodgings services “is the most unequal sector in th…

The Canadian Government's 'Secure' Phones Come Straight from the NSA

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[If it will help keep his speech secret Harper has $50 million of your dollars to spare. Also, of course, there is no way the NSA would ever have the capacity to spy on its own equipment, right? *RON*]

Written by Justin Ling, Motherboard, April 25, 2014

World leaders may be fretting over whether the NSA bugged their phones, but Canadian government officials aren't particularly worried—they bought theirs directly from the agency. A survey of procurement records kept on public government websites reveals that Canada has spent over $50 million purchasing a bevy of secure communications equipment from the largest branch of the American intelligence community.

There are at least 100 different contracts listed, the earliest of which date back to 2004. They include procurements of telephones, fax machines, and cryptographic cards for encrypting calls, all bought from the NSA.

McDonald's Canada CEO John Betts Calls TFW Controversy ‘Bulls**t,' Then Aims At CBC

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[The video is amazing to listen to. *RON*]

Huffington Post Canada, 04/25/2014

McDonald’s Canada went on an all-out attack against the CBC Friday, accusing the broadcaster of playing loose with the facts after it aired audio of McDonald's CEO John Betts calling the temporary foreign worker program controversy “bullshit.”

In a recording of a conference call with franchisees, obtained by the CBC, Betts calls the heated debate over temporary foreign workers “an attack on our brand. This has been an attack on our system. This is an attack on our people. It’s bullshit, OK!”

Betts went on to praise Employment Minister Jason Kenney, saying the minister “really knows his stuff. And I’ll say he knows his stuff from a business person’s perspective."

Elections Canada report no whitewash -- it's far, far worse than that

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[No reason to be surprised at this outcome. The Harper government consistently stonewalled Elections Canada. Why not? It carefully controlled the pertinent legislation so that EC had no power to compel them to do or say anything at all. The inevitable result is a the finding of "insufficient evidence" - which is what Harper wanted and engineered. Democracy is the only fatality. *RON*]
By John Baglow,, April 25, 2014

Elections Canada Commissioner Yves Côté's report yesterday is not a whitewash. It's worse than that. It's a re-write of history, and the scribbling Pharisees are already wanking furiously. "It's over! There was no fraud! There was no conspiracy! Take that, you leftist goofs! Blar-har-har!"

Is this the time for the rest of us to duck and cover? Hardly.

The bottom line of the report is that Elections Canada didn't have enough evidence to proceed. Why? Well, potentially valuable witnesses wo…

Supreme Court shoots down Stephen Harper's Senate reform plans

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By Joan Bryden, CP / Huffington Post, 04/25/2014

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper's hopes of a quick fix for the scandal-plagued Senate were blown to pieces Friday by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a historic, unanimous decision, the top court advised that the prime minister's proposals to impose term limits on senators and create a "consultative election" process to choose nominees cannot be done by the federal government alone.

Rather, the court said such reforms would require constitutional amendments, approved by at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population — a route fraught with political landmines which Harper had hoped to avoid.

Moreover, the court set the bar even higher for abolishing the Senate, something Harper has threatened to do if his reform agenda is stymied. Getting rid of the chamber altogether would require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces, the eight justices said.

Temporary Foreign Workers Program Moratorium Issued, Food Services Sector's Access Suspended

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[As CD Howe points out, this is another instance in which the Harper government's aversion to collecting data makes it nearly impossible to determine whether the program is even needed or if it is doing harm or providing a benefit. On CBC, McDonald's Foreign Workers have referred to their experience as 'slavery.' *RON*]

By Lee-Anne Goodman, CP / Huffington Post, 04/24/2014

OTTAWA - Amid a roar of criticism, Employment Minister Jason Kenney took action Thursday against the government's scandal-ridden temporary foreign worker program by banning restaurants from accessing it.

Kenney issued the surprise moratorium hours after the C.D. Howe Institute released a damning study into the program that concluded it had spurred joblessness in B.C. and Alberta, two treasured Tory strongholds.

The smackdown to Canadian restaurants came despite Kenney's insistence in recent weeks that only a small number of companies were abusing the progra…

Fair Elections Act Petition Reels In Nearly 50,000 Names In 24 Hours

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[Sorry, I couldn't resist "tinkering" with the photo! :-) See also An open letter on the Fair Elections Act inked by more than 200 professors, and Fair Elections Act: An Exercise in False Marketing. But then again, see What Fair Elections Act? Few following heated debate, poll finds. Sigh. *RON*]

By The Canadian Press, 04/23/2014

OTTAWA - Thousands of Canadians have signed an online petition urging Conservative senators to put the boots to the government's Fair Elections Act.

More than 46,000 people have signed the petition on Avaaz, a global online activist network, calling on Conservative senators to amend the act.

Signing the petition, which needed just 24 hours to near its goal of 50,000 signatures, provides links to email addresses and phone numbers so participants can express themselves to senators directly.

The petition calls the Fair Elections Act an outrageous effort by the Harper government to fix the next election by…

Ottawa to Propose New Pension Scheme

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[Note the contented purring noises from the CD Howe Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. A bad precedent, and highly threatening to Canadian seniors - this will essentially work to eliminate defined benefit programs. Employers with defined benefit programs would have every incentive to down-grade their plans, whereas employers with defined contribution programs would have absolutely no incentive to upgrade. *RON*]

Canadian Press / April 24, 2014

Ottawa is preparing to announce a proposal to create yet another new pension scheme designed to occupy a middle ground between defined-benefit plans, generally favoured by workers, and defined-contribution plans favoured by employers.

Read: DB pensions gain strength

The announcement for a so-called target benefit plan, or shared-risk plan, would apply to Crown corporations and federally regulated workers is being sold as a proposal for "affordable and sustainable" life…

Chemicals killing smartphone chip factory workers: claims

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[Benzene and trichloroethylene have been known to cause cancer for almost a hundred years. See Devra Davis' The Secret History of the War on Cancer. *RON*]
Mahesh Sharma, Sydney Morning Herald, April 24, 2014
Dangerous chemicals are killing workers in factories that assemble processor chips for Apple and Samsung smartphones, advocacy groups claim.

Worker representatives, advocacy groups and academics are demanding manufacturers lift their standards to eradicate the dangerous conditions causing occupational leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

With more than 100 victims and counting, they claim companies have so far turned a blind eye, and said that Samsung is actively subverting the victims' pursuit of compensation and justice.

The problem originates in 'clean rooms', dust-free environments where semi-conductors, used in electronics such as smartphones and LCD TVs, are produced.

Only armed with 'white bunny-suits' designed to m…

Piketty’s “Capital,” in a Lot Less Than 696 Pages

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[Sorry, just one more on Piketty... *RON*]

 by Justin Fox, Harvard Business Review, April 24, 2014. Justin Fox is Executive Editor, New York, of the Harvard Business Review Group and author of The Myth of the Rational Market. Follow him on Twitter @foxjust.

It was only published in English a few weeks ago, but French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has already become inescapable. The reasons start with the confluence of subject matter and author. There’s a lot of interest in economic inequality these days, and research conducted over the past 15 years by Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, is a big reason why. In the U.S., Piketty and UC Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez transformed a tame discussion of income quintiles and deciles into a sharp debate about the skyrocketing incomes of the 1% — and the mind-boggling gains of the 0.1% and 0.01% — by gathering and publishing income

Family Wins Fracking Suit in Legal Blow to Industry

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[First win ever, and in Texas no less. Attorney: "I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore.'" *RON*]
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, April 23, 2014

In what is being called a legal blow to the fracking industry, on Tuesday a Texas family was awarded $3 million in the first ever verdict to be handed down over the negative health impacts of fracking.
Bob and Lisa Parr of Wise County sued Aruba Petroleum in 2011 for shale gas drilling operations which their lawyers said "fouled the family’s 40-acre ranch property, their home and quality of life," by sickening both them and their daughter Emma, as well as their pets and livestock.

“They’re vindicated,” said Attorney David Matthews following the news of the verdict. “I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore. It takes guts to sa…

Over 2.7 million people now demanding leaders Stop The Secrecy before it's too late

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[Click on the links below to add your voice to the opposition against the secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership so-called trade agreement (it is in reality a corporate rights over peoples' rights agreement). *RON*]
By Josh Tabish,, April 22, 2014

Today is the big day. Together with our partners at Daily Kos, Fight for the Future, Roots Action, and Demand Progress, OpenMedia has launched Stop The Secrecy -- a huge international campaign calling for an end to the excessive secrecy around the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You can see it for yourself at

To amplify our message, we have attracted support with the help of dozens of groups from across the political spectrum -- including -- to make Stop The Secrecy one of the largest online campaigns ever. Together with major collaborators ranging from Avaaz to Reddit, over 2.7 million people have spoken out against fast tracking the secretive TPP withou…

Kitimat Council votes 4-1 to oppose Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline

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[Kitimat council cannot stop the project, but it certainly has a democratic right to let Harper and the Canadian public know its position on the matter. *RON*]
Jenny Uechi, Vancouver Observer, Apr 23rd, 2014

The District of Kitimat Council voted April 22 to formally oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, upholding the recent town plebiscite to reject the controversial pipeline.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan, Councillors Phil Germuth, Mario Feldhoff and Rob Goffinet voted in favour of the motion by Germuth. Two councillors were absent that day due to illness, and Councillor Edwin Empinado voted against the motion, saying he wanted the Council to remain neutral on the issue. He also said the municipality had no power to say 'no' to the pipeline, as the final decision remained with the federal government.

Ministry of the Environment quietly approves up to 20-fold coal export expansion on Texada Island

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[Another piece of "let's do this quietly and see who notices" insanity from the Christy Clark government. Independent lab tests show high levels of arsenic in coal found on the beach, causing locals to fear health risks if coal exports are increased dramatically -- "within an hour and a half...we managed to collect about 70 pounds of coal." *RON*]
Erin Flegg, Vancouver Observer, Apr 22nd, 2014

Finding coal washed ashore on the beach
A group of residents of Texada Island, BC, are alarmed by news that the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines quietly approved permit amendment that allows the Lafarge Canada coal plant on Texada Island to expand its exports up to 20 times its current rate.

The group has already found chunks of coal washed up on the beach -- meaning that the mine was breaking its permit regulations and allowing coal into the water.

“There were larger chunks of coal scattered among the gravel and rocks alongside the v…

Obama's Keystone XL delay forces Harper into the "choose first" hot seat

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[Good summary of the strategic quandry this puts Harper into. *RON*]
Barry Saxifrage, Vancouver Observer, Apr 22nd, 2014

You first, Stephen.

Yet another procedural delay means US President Barack Obama won't have to decide on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline until sometime next year. Before then, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper must decide on one -- and possibly two -- bitterly-fought and politically-toxic tar sands pipelines in his own nation:
by June 2014, Enbridge Northern Gateway to Kitimat March 2015, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain to Port of Vancouver, BC. Back when Obama had to decide first, Harper famously chided the US President for delaying his own politically-toxic tar sands pipeline decision by calling it a "complete no-brainer". One has to wonder if Harper still feels that way now that he has to lead off?

How income inequality can hurt the economy

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[Beware of studies that report changes in the 'average' income: the mean of a highly skewed distribution will be misleadingly high. This article is, again, about killing the good that laid the Golden Egg, aka the gutting of the middle and lower middle class: "Households in the middle quintile earned only $69 more per year, but spent an additional $345, meaning that they increased their spending by 500 percent of their income gain. The next lowest quintile saw income increase by $143, but increased spending by $881—616 percent of their income gain." *RON*]
Rob Garver, CNBC, April 2, 2014

Given that the adjectives most used in describing the economy's recovery from the great recession include "sluggish" and "disappointing" it may come as a surprise to some that average household income in the U.S. is higher, in nominal terms, than it was in 2008.

Not only that, it passed the 2008 average as long ago as 201…

Four charts reveal gigantic climate impact from proposed Kinder Morgan mega-pipeline

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[Important information documenting the extent of the impact of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. *RON*]
Barry Saxifrage, Vancouver Observer, Apr 22nd, 2014

As the climate crisis intensifies it is getting harder for those who benefit from fossil fuels to shirk any and all responsibility for the climate damage that results. The greater the climate damage the more extreme the measures are becoming to avoid taking any responsibility.

Such is the case with Kinder Morgan's recent push to build a gigantic new Trans Mountain XL (TMX) pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Pacific Ocean shoreline at the Port of Vancouver.

People concerned about our increasingly dangerous climate say this will enable billions of tonnes of new bitumen to be extracted and burned. They point out -- as my four charts below illustrate -- that the resulting climate impact will be far too huge to safely ignore. They insist that climate pollution of th…

Intelligence Chief Issues Limits on Press Contacts

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[Harper's been doing things this way for years now. It's discouraging, as a Canadian, when you see a regressive US government copying the practices of Stephen Harper. Canada - leader of the Western World in anti-democratic practices! *RON*]

By Charlie Savage, NY Times, April 21, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has barred officials at 17 agencies from speaking to journalists about unclassified intelligence-related topics without permission, according to a newly disclosed directive.

The directive, issued by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, also requires the agencies’ employees to report any unplanned contact with journalists. Officials who violate the directive may be disciplined or fired, the directive says.

The directive prohibits unauthorized “contact with the media about intelligence-related information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments,” without regard to whether it is…

Humpback Whale Removed From 'Threatened' Species List

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[A favoured tactic of the Harper government - once they have promised that they will protect the environment while approving pipelines and tankers - is the change the rules for what they are obliged to protect. Then they can always say that they are enforcing the (gutted) law to its fullest extent. *RON*]

Huffington Post, 04/22/2014

The North Pacific humpback whale is no longer protected as a "threatened" species after the Canadian government quietly downgraded its classification earlier this month.

Despite objections from several groups, the Harper government declared the humpback a "species of special concern" under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The whale population off the B.C. coast has increased "significantly" since it was first listed as threatened in 2005, so it is now at a point where it can be reclassified, according to a federal government notice in the Canadian Gazette.