Issuu on Google+

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

1

Members of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community fear for rights Canada’s LGBTQ communities have watched the recent federal election with special interest because of the possibility that samesex marriage could once again be up for debate. In Edmonton, community members expressed deep concern that the new government could cause long-sought rights to be lost, in spite of a limited Conservative win.

LANA PHILIPS

T

wenty-one-year-old software devel oper David Brandon says his initial reaction to the election results was fear. Brandon, who is gay, believes that the Conservative minority will be a “major setback to human rights in general,” and the first issue to be “attacked” will be the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Despite his concern, Brandon knows his views aren’t indicative of the entire Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) population of Edmonton.

“I have many friends in the LGBTQ community that have voted conservative at the promise of lower taxes, or simply because they believe that there is a need for a change,” he said. “They believe that our right to marry is secured, and fail to see the other parts of our life that will be affected by this decision.” Kristopher Wells is also skeptical that same-sex marriage is a done deal. An educational policy studies graduate student, Wells is a long-time gay rights advocate who works with the Agape

INSIDE THE POST

O

ne fall day, a big shiny flyer arrived in my snail-mail box here at Saddle Lake First Nation. I unfolded it and read: “What you need to know about EDUCATION A better road for Alberta’s students, page 3 ALBERTA Conference debunks Alberta’s myths for Ontario journalist, page 5 Letters - Tax loopholes help the rich at the expense of average Canadians, page 5 $20 Words and $5 Indians, page 6

marriages in Canada would only serve to create confusion and three classes of marriages: heterosexual marriages, same-sex marriages pre-Harper, and civil unions for same-sex couples postHarper. Local human rights lawyer and activist Julie Lloyd also believes that while the Conservatives’ hands may be tied to some degree, there’s no guarantee that gay rights won’t be threatened by the party’s policies. See LGBTQ/ page 9

STEWART STEINHAUER

Who’s surplus?

Alberta’s 2005 Resource Rebate is steeped in crimes against the province’s indigenous peoples

Project, a sex, sexual, and gender difference focus group at the University of Alberta, and is the co-founder of camp fYrefly, a leadership camp for LGBTQ youth. He believes that Stephen Harper is well-funded by the religious right, both within Canada and the United States, and will hold a free vote in Parliament to appease these groups. If the vote defeats same-sex marriage, the promise to recognize the same-sex marriages that have already been performed as legal

Alberta’s Surplus.” On the big shiny back, under the heading “Where government revenues come from,” a sentence jumped out at me: “Over the last decade, resource revenue in Alberta has ranged from $2.4 billion to $10.6 billion annually.” While I must admit that I was reminded a bit of a t-shirt my cousin used to wear, which featured a crude sketch of the solar system, the question “where do farts come from?” and an arrow pointing to Uranus, the pamphlet still triggered an interest in me to find out more about the government’s own accounting of resource revenue for the last decade.

DECISION 2006 Low-income Edmontonians weigh-in on Decision 2006, page 8 Oh Canada! page 9 Who speaks for Canada?, page 10 Conservative minority will ensure collaboration among parties, page 10

So, I typed in the web site address at the bottom of the big shiny back, and scrolled my way around. Following their friendly advice, I dropped a line, and, by mid-afternoon, got a response: On 2005-11-09 05:40:00.0 you wrote: A recent flyer that came in the mail from the Alberta Government says, on the back page, under heading “Where government revenues come from”: “Over the last decade, resource revenue in Alberta has ranged from $2.4 billion to $10.6 billion, annually.” My question is: What is the combined total amount of resource revenue for the last decade? See SURPLUS/ page 15

ENVIRONMENT Revisiting the time of Sands, page 11 Socially responsible agriculture or disaster, page12 WEALTH If Ralph’s a friend, who needs enemies? page13 Not in our best interests, page 14


2

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

editorial the

Post

The New Western Alienation?

Volume X, N˚4, Winter 2006

What is the Parkland Institute? Parkland Institute is an Alberta wide research network that examines issues of public policy. The Institute is based in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta and its research network includes members from most of Alberta’s academic institutions and other organizations involved in public policy research. It operates within the established and distinctive tradition of Canadian political economy and is non-partisan. Parkland was founded in 1996 and its mandate is to: · Conduct research on economic, social, cultural, and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians. · Publish research and provide informed comment on current policy issues to the media and the public. · Sponsor conferences and colloquia. · Bring together the academic and non-academic communities. · Train graduate students. Opinions expressed in this newspaper reflect the views of the writer, and not necessarily those of the Parkland Institute. Readers are invited to submit letters and articles (maximum 500 words), which may be edited for style and length. Information on up-coming events and conferences may also be submitted. The Parkland Post is organized and admininistered as an editorial collective. Coordinating Editor: Caitlin Crawshaw Director: Gordon Laxer Executive Director: Ricardo Acuña Research Director: Diana Gibson Program/Admin Coordinator: Cheri Harris Promotions/Outreach Coordinator: Mary Elizabeth Archer Administrative Assistant: Katia Michel Design: Flavio Rojas

RICARDO ACUÑA

“...western alienation...is not a whine about the past, but rather a heartfelt concern about the future ...western Canadians are concerned and quite often convinced that their aspirations are not shared by the rest of Canada, and worse, that ‘national goals’ will work to undermine the interests of the West.” • from Western Visions, Western Futures by Roger Gibbins and Loleen Berdahl

“The west is in!” was Stephen Harper’s triumphant cry on election night after his Conservative Party won a minority government. His reference, of course, was to Preston Manning’s famous assertion, upon founding the Reform Party, that “the west wants in.” The implication in those statements is that Western Canada has long been denied access to the halls of power in Ottawa, and that, as a result, western goals and priorities have not historically been reflected in federal government policy. This assertion, however, is dubious at best. Think back to the prominent role that Peter Lougheed played in pressuring the federal government to proceed with free trade - one of the most important economic policies Canada has implemented in recent years. Consider the extent to which Ottawa’s natural resource policy is influenced by decisions made in Calgary board rooms. Think about the influence that Calgary’s oil company head offices wield around the table at the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Canada’s most powerful and influential business lobby. What about the ability of a group like Vancouver’s Fraser Institute to effectively change the political language of the mainstream media across the country, and of the political parties themselves. Alberta’s economy is currently driving the country’s inflation, forcing the Bank of Canada’s hand on interest rates, and pushing the Canadian ever higher and higher. It was pressure from Alberta that forced the Liberal government to back off their initial desire to make the National Child Care Program apply to only not-for-profit child care centres.

Alberta’s economy is currently driving the country’s inflation, forcing the Bank of Canada’s hand on interest rates, and pushing the Canadian ever higher and higher. It was pressure from Alberta that forced the Liberal government to back off their initial desire to make the National Child Care Program apply to only not-forprofit child care centres. These examples would lead one to believe that the west, at least as defined by Stephen Harper and Preston Manning, has been “in” for some time now. Maybe the results of this election will give us the opportunity, in a sense, to drastically redefine the concept western alienation - to transform it from an apparently unfounded pout by Alberta’s elite to something that truly reflects a sense of alienation from the halls of power by real people in the west. Perhaps western alienation can now refer to Alberta’s gay and lesbian community, who are now represented in

Ottawa by MPs who want to take their rights away and for whom they did not vote. Which Alberta MP will take their western voices to Ottawa? Or what about the people in Alberta ridings where more than 50 per cent of voters voted for a candidate other than the conservative? There were two of those, both in Edmonton, and a third where 49.9 per cent of votes cast were against the conservative. Do these folks feel like they have a voice in Ottawa? Then there is the question of the 59 per cent of registered Alberta voters (a clear majority), who either did not cast a ballot at all, or cast one in favour of someone other than the Conservatives. They are all clearly Albertans, and clearly westerners, and somehow most of them probably do not feel that in the election of 2006 they gained access to the halls of power in Ottawa. The reality is that those who have been crying the loudest that “the west wants in” have actually been in all along. On the other hand, those Albertans who have been ignored and dismissed for years by consecutive provincial and federal governments - minority groups, the poor, single mothers, workers - have no more influence on government policy today than they did before the election. Are there those in the west who are alienated, disempowered and disenfranchised vis á vis Ottawa? Absolutely. Do they include the likes of Premier Klein, Preston Manning and Stephen Harper? No. Are they now “in”? No - it actually looks like they are farther out. Why isn’t anyone talking about this alienation in the West?

Parkland Research Update

Momentum from a busy fall continues into spring By Diana Gibson

contact us Your comments are welcomed and may be submitted to: Parkland Institute, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta 11045 Saskatchewan Drive, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1 Phone: (780) 492-8558 Fax: (780) 492-8738 E-Mail address: parkland@ualberta.ca Visit our website at: www.ualberta.ca/parkland or contact the Coordinating Editor directly at: parkpost@ualberta.ca Canadian Publications Mail Agreement 40065264 ISSN 1206-9515

With Alberta’s economy booming and regular announcements of tar sands expansion, Parkland has remained focussed on energy and industrial policies. Over the fall we released two reports: Back to Drawers of Water and Hewers of Wood: Energy, Trade and the Petrochemicals Industry by Diana Gibson and Terisa Turner and the Parkland Institute Energy Security Strategy Discussion Paper. Hewers of Wood is a study of Alberta’ss energy and industrial policies, and free trade. It reveals the government’s priority on raw resource extraction and ties this into NAFTA using the closure of the Celanese petrochemicals plant as a case study. The report was well-received nationally and the related events were well-attended. The Energy Strategy Discussion Paper is part of the institute’s ongoing project to stimulate a national dialogue on Canada’s energy security. The paper built on a symposium Parkland held in Calgary in October, 2005, which brought together policy analysts, energy experts and prominent thinkers from across the country to discuss the need for a Canadian energy security strategy. On the same theme, watch for our upcoming report on the tar sands, a joint project with the Polaris Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Research on social policy issues also remains a Parkland priority. Watch for our annual budget commentary and our upcoming book to be published by New West Press. The Bottom Line: The true story behind private health insurance will be authored by Parkland’s Diana Gibson along with Colleen Fuller, a well-known health policy researcher. We are looking forward to another busy spring and thank all of those who support and participate in our research programs.


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

3

education L

iving in Alberta necessarily means confronting constan contradictions, particularly when it comes to our public services. To understand what is happening in education, we need to look more closely at one crucial contradiction. An outsider would be forgiven for expecting that Alberta’s enormous energy wealth would translate into wellfunded, first-rate public education, health and social services for all of its citizens. Instead, we are faced with continuing and well-documented accounts of long waiting lines and inadequate services in healthcare, deteriorating long-term care for seniors, social workers with impossible caseloads, accelerating environmental degradation, overcrowded classrooms in the K-12 sector, as well as soaring tuition fees and a frustrating lack of spaces in our post-secondary system. The more disturbing element is that the situation seems to be getting worse over time rather than better, despite the existence of a decade of big-surplus provincial budgets and Alberta’s staggering increase in energy revenues.

The wrong road This contradiction between what should be and what actually exists has not occurred because of some unfortunate accident, but as the logical result of choices and decisions made by Alberta’s government over the past fifteen years. In the early 1990s, education (K-12 and post-secondary), healthcare, and other public services were, in varying degrees, subjected to the “magic bullet” of socalled “market reforms,” and we have all been on this wrong road ever since. The specifics have varied, but the core of this simplistic and misguided approach has long been clear: privatization, commercialization and deregulation (accompanied by the twin mantras of competition and choice) will supposedly allow the “magic of the market” to solve our problems and will provide more-for-less in each of these areas. Of course, markets were never designed to deliver a service to everyone (which is what we want in health, education and other public services). Rather, they are designed to separate winners from losers, or those who will get the service from those who won’t. So it should not have been a surprise that this approach resulted in greater inequalities in education, healthcare, and other public services. The surprise is that we have continued to follow this road despite its obvious shortcomings in Alberta and elsewhere. (Think of Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Walkerton, and energy deregulation for clear examples of what can occur with an unrestricted market approach.) And the longer we stay on this road, the worse things will get, no matter how high the price of oil and gas rises.

The K-12 system In Alberta’s education sector, the growing problems prompted a strike by over 20,000 Alberta teachers in 2002. The resulting Alberta Commission on

A better road for Alberta’s students

Our cash-starved education system overemphasizes testing and fails to meet the needs of all learners; but with democratic action, change is possible LARRY BOOI

Learning (ACOL) looked into K-12 conditions across the province, and concurred with the view that far too many classrooms are overcrowded and lacking the necessary supports, particularly for children with higher needs. It also reflected concerns about deteriorating schools, the fact that schools aren’t being built in new neighbourhoods in this wealthy province, and many other inadequacies that parents, teachers, administrators, and students have decried for more than a decade. However, the Alberta government continues to blithely promote the view that Alberta’s K-12 system is the best in the world, pointing constantly to Alberta students’ results on international tests. In the process, the government ignores the narrow nature of these tests and the disturbing fact that Alberta high school students have the highest dropout rate in the country. In fact, rather than making the necessary additional investments in education, the government’s basic approach has essentially been to attempt to drive the system through a costly and ultimately harmful over-emphasis on testing, to the point where the evaluation tail clearly is wagging the educational dog. The consequences of this overemphasis on testing, when combined with chronic under-funding, are both negative and insidious. Schools are led to try to make up the funding shortfall by fundraising, charging student fees, or corporate begging; all of which help to worsen the plight of schools in have-not areas. The Fraser Institute’s published school rankings (not a surprise from an organization whose primary purpose is privatization)

help to push schools to a much more narrow focus on core subjects, to the detriment of fine arts, languages and vocational studies. Schools are also led to focus on students scoring in the 45 to 50-per-cent range, in an attempt to increase the percentage of those who achieve the all-important “acceptable standard.” As a result, improving the work of “average” students is seen as less important. The constant emphasis on what is easily measured (particularly through multiple choice testing) has led to an inevitable de-emphasis on vital but harder-to-measure outcomes such as critical thinking, creative thinking, active and engaged citizenship, and the ability to work with others. (In fact, of the 20 goals of education listed by Alberta’s department of education, only six are now measured.)

“In fact, rather than making the necessary additional investments in education, the government’s basic approach has essentially been to attempt to drive the system through a costly and ultimately harmful over-emphasis on testing, to the point where the evaluation tail clearly is wagging the educational dog.”

This narrowing of education has, in part, resulted from a confusion of “standards” with “standardization.” While a concern for standards is essential, that does not mean that we should “standardize” education, which is what we have been doing. Writer Eliot Eisner, pointing to the fact that our students have widely varying gifts and talents, asks why we are so intent on forcing them through “the same funnel at the same time” in our test-driven schools. As a consequence, we are quite simply failing to develop the full potential of our students at a time when improved education is seen everywhere as a key to success in an increasingly globalized world. The forced competition among schools has been especially detrimental to students who are not bound for university. While high-schools scramble to attract the so-called “high flyers” with special (and expensive) programs such as International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, and Academic Challenge, very few schools compete for those not headed for university. In fact, industrial and vocational offerings have declined substantially, precisely at a time when we hear of the great need for Albertans who are skilled in the trades. But why should we be surprised? Isn’t heightened competition what we were after? Apparently, no one thought about all those students for whom we wouldn’t compete.

Further down the wrong road The bad news is that it seems to be getting worse, not better. Alberta’s Department of Education recently announced two new initiatives to guide our schools: Computer Adaptive Assessment (CAA) and Grade Level of Achievement (GLA) reporting. In reality, the two initiatives are a further reflection of the government’s obsessivecompulsive fixation on testing and measurement, instead of better supporting the work that teachers do with students. CAA is a multi-million dollar test bank that will provide an online testing service in the four core subjects (as usual, done without consultation with the teaching profession) which will essentially allow students to be “tested to the point of failure.” The contract has been given to a private firm; a fact which the ATA refers to as a “multi-million privatization of testing programs.” However, CAA will assist in GLA reporting, which is seen by the ATA as an expensive, unnecessary and unhelpful attempt to further refine the grade standing of students (in other words, to put a number on them), rather than improve conditions to help to improve their learning. Why does the government continue on this manifestly unproductive road? Presumably it’s because they cannot seem to let go of this neo-liberal market-methods approach, founded in choice and competition rather than support for learning. However, the sad fact is the K-12 system has not suffered as much as the post-secondary sector in this regard; partly because the shift to market fundamentalism was even more pronounced in our universities, colleges and technical institutes. Cont.d on next page


4

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

education Post-secondary education It is now a cliché to say that education (especially post-secondary education) is the key to the future in a globallycompetitive world. But this cliché is clearly founded in truth. And what have we witnessed in this regard in wealthy Alberta since the early 1990s? The recent Post-Secondary Education Report Card released by Public Interest Alberta (PIA), after eight public forums and an online consultation, summarized the situation as follows: “Across the province there is an enormous sense of frustration and concern with a wide range of postsecondary issues and with the government’s failure to adequately address those concerns. The frustration was compounded by the sharp contrast between the government’s rhetoric about the vital importance of postsecondary education to our individual and collective futures versus the realities of large student debt, lack of access, inadequate loans, rapidly-growing tuition fees and other expenses, crowded classrooms, deteriorating infrastructure, and many other concerns. There was a widespread view that the government has failed to address key issues in the past, and that it lacks a vision and commitment for the future.” (Available online at www.piablerta.org) The “wrong road” for post-secondary education involved massive funding cuts in the mid-1990s, followed by the usual emphasis on competition, entrepreneurialism, choice, deregulation, and privatization (combined with an exaggerated faith in technology, which supposedly would solve the many problems, and with far less cost). The predictable outcomes are clearly and eloquently reflected in comments by students, staff and parents in the PIA report. One grandparent in Edmonton summed it up by saying that it is a mistake to cast post-secondary education as a “private good” of concern only to the particular individual, stating that grandparents care profoundly about the education of their grandchildren and about the education of all of our young people. A teacher in Olds described the frustration of graduating so many fine young people from our high schools, only to find that they are turned away by universities and colleges, despite having honours marks. A college instructor in Calgary described the dilemma of their institution whose mandate was academic upgrading. Because of the need to generate revenue it has been driven to offer more two-year diploma programs, thus duplicating the offering of other colleges, while at the same time the need for academic upgrading is increasingly unmet. The head of the food bank at the University of Alberta said that in 1991 about 250 students made use of the campus food bank; by 2004 that number had grown to 2300.

Finding a better road If anyone can do better, surely it is Canada’s wealthiest province; of course we can make big improvements. But it won’t happen as long as we continue to

look for the quick fixes offered by those who promote the “magic of the market.” When you think about it, who believes in magic anyway? Magic is invariably based on illusion, and the market fundamentalist, more-for-less solutions in education were just that: seductive illusions. That is not to say we should abandon the goals of efficiency, effectiveness and excellence. However, we must abandon the idea that these outcomes will result from a commitment to using market mechanisms. In other words, we must leave this misguided neo-liberal path, and get onto a better road. The good news is that, while there are no quick fixes, the foundation for a better road is clear. We need to begin by turning away from a system that is founded on separating winners from losers, and toward one based on a firm commitment to developing the gifts, talents and potential of every person. Such an approach has to begin with much more focus on early childhood education and development, where so many barriers can be overcome with wise investments and practices. The ACOL called for full-day kindergarten and junior kindergarten, which would be important positive steps. Also, childcare based on the QUAD principles (Quality, Universal availability, Accessibility and Developmental focus) would help to provide a firm foundation for future success. With respect to K-12 education, we

costs to individuals and families. As one person at a PIA post-secondary forum stated, “The key principle should be that post-secondary education is a matter of the public interest, it is a public good, and it should be delivered through public investments.” At the close of the government’s PSE conference in November 2005, PIA executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said, “We must recognize that the postsecondary education system has not recovered from the chronic underfunding of existing programs. To provide on-going sustainable funding, the government should commit to returning to a funding level of at least 1.6 per cent of GDP as we had in 1992.” Clearly, funding is crucial, but much more is involved. The PIA PostSecondary Education Report Card has a broad range of suggestions for an improved foundation, and a PIAsponsored conference in February will help to identify additional insights and directions. There are a number of reasons for optimism. The failures of the government’s misguided approach are becoming more apparent each year. The enormous energy revenues and future prospects are fueling a demand for improvements in education, health and other public services. However, it is crucial to recognize that the reasons for the problems have never really been financial: they have always been political. Consequently, the issues will require a political solution. Quite simply, we need

writers! the Post is currently recruiting writers interested in the social, political and environmental issues affecting Albertans. Enthusiasm, not experience, is the only requirement. For more information, contact the Post's coordinating editor at parkpost@ualberta.ca

need a speaker? Parkland Institute has a variety of informed engaging speakers available to speak on a variety of local, national and international issues. If you are looking for someone to speak in your school, community group, church group, or organization, please contact us at (780) 492-8558 or parkland@ualberta.ca with the date and time of your event and the topic, and we will find you a speaker.

volunteers!

We need to begin by turning away from a system that is founded on separating winners from losers, and toward one based on a firm commitment to developing the gifts, talents and potential of every person. need to ensure that we provide the necessary supports so that all children can be successful as learners. In addition, we must ensure effective programming so that all of our young people, not just those bound for university, receive a rich and rewarding education. Improving Public Education: Supporting Teaching and Learning, part of the ATA submission to ACOL, provides a suggested foundation with more than 70 recommendations on the full range of issues and directions. In post-secondary education as well, we need to move forward with the commitment to developing the full potential of each person, through a system that is genuinely accessible, affordable and of high quality. However, in order to do so we must turn away from the last decade’s shifting of the

to do more of the hard work of democracy, and to do so in more effective ways. In the final analysis, the road to better education and public services in Alberta will rest on a foundation of more action by engaged citizens, and more democracy.

The Parkland Institute needs volunteers from communities around Alberta. We are looking for: distribution, web page design, media list, event organizing, promotions, fundraising and more! To get involved call Cheri at (780) 492-8558 or email us at parkland@ualberta.ca

Larry Booi was president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association for four years, and has just completed a two-year term as vice-president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Booi presented at the Parkland Institute’s annual fall conference in November, entitled The Alberta We Want: In Canada and the World.

www.ualberta.ca/parkland


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

5

alberta Conference debunks Alberta’s myths for Ontario journalist HEATHER MALLICK

T

he reason Ontario isn’t more concerned about the Alberta Conservatives’ rape of the provincial landscape and their squandering of what could have been a hefty profit from diminishing oil is Albertans’ fatal insistence that they stand alone. Like cowboys, you know. Of course, Alberta doesn’t stand alone. No province in Canada does, but we in Ontario swallowed the Alberta party line whole. Thus the received wisdom is that Alberta doesn’t need or care for the rest of Canada and that Alberta is actually doing just fine. The Parkland Conference taught me the actual wisdom. The Heritage Fund is a disgrace. Compared to the oil money socked away by say, Norway, or even Alaska, it’s a pittance. I am indebted to journalist Andrew Nikiforuk for these revelations. Not only has Alberta negotiated a pathetic royalty rate on its dwindling oil, but it has not cleaned up the environmental mess it has created. Doing so will empty the Heritage Fund. Furthermore, parts of Alberta are running out of water, such is Klein’s lust for the elusive tar sands oil. You are going from a mythical plenty to a complicated lack, and it is all happening very quickly. The idea of Alberta that has been sold to the rest of Canada is fraudulent. Much has been made of the notion that Ontario could become a “have-not” province while Alberta becomes the “have-lots-of ” province. Both of these are myths. As anyone who manages a household budget knows, there’s a thin line between have and have-not. Don’t

letters Canadians have voted for change. Will that change include closing tax loopholes that are available to the very rich?

The Parkland Institute’s fall conference, The Alberta We Want in Canada and the World, was a revelation for this Ontarian. People from Ontario associate Alberta with two things: skiing and that idiot Ralph Klein. But when it comes to politics, they think Klein is doing harm only to poverty-stricken Albertans. It never occurs to them that there’s much more to it than that.

get caught on the wrong side of that line, as Bruce Springsteen puts it. But the key is that provinces don’t necessarily have much say in what side of the line they end up on. Bad fiscal management is like credit card debt. The pain grows exponentially, as Ontario with its auto plants, and Alberta with its diminishing tar sands, will learn. I’ve always thought of the point of government is to do what citizens can’t do for themselves. And the most important part of that is looking ahead, 50 years, 100 years, however much time we have left, and figuring out how to dodge what’s coming at us. For instance, have you built a highspeed rail link for the year the trucking industry as we know it goes under? No, Ontario has not done that. Have you killed your urban sprawl so as to make rapid-transit workable even as the very distant sprawl becomes an urban slum? Calgary isn’t doing that. Ralph Klein doesn’t seem to think government has a purpose at all. Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty takes it as a given that government shouldn’t do anything. The very idea seems to offend him.

Even as they both work hard at achieving nothing, they forget to plan ahead, to think of a time when they won’t be around, but somebody - people they can’t envision but who are being born now - will have to live in the place they so badly neglected. It won’t be pleasant.

Bad fiscal management is like credit card debt. The pain grows exponentially, as Ontario with its auto plants, and Alberta with its diminishing tar sands, will learn.

The Parkland Conference made me feel foolish, as if I had been wandering in a fog of myths for decades. The fact that none of the social and economic revelations of the conference were reported in Alberta’s newspapers made me feel as if I were living in the United States. It is like being in a children’s story. The story is true because you wish it were true.

In fact, it’s a crock. At least at the Parkland, you know where you stand. I think the great challenge for the Institute is to get the message out: If Albertans knew how badly they were being screwed, they’d rid themselves of Tories. And if Ontarians knew how easy it is to manipulate and shrink a government until it isn’t a government anymore but a tiny cabal (as in Alberta), perhaps they would vote more wisely. I still say online journalism is the only option, given how little money is available. So I’m calling for an Alberta edition of www.rabble.ca. I don’t know how Rabble, or indeed anyone feels about this, but we are an intelligent populace, unlike vast tracts of the U.S. Once we know the facts, we vote accordingly. We have to get the word out. ❂ Heather Mallick has worked for many Canadian newspapers, including as a reporter at the Toronto Star, review editor at the Toronto Sunday Sun, chief copy editor at the Financial Post and columnist at the Globe and Mail. She has an MA in English Literature, a journalism degree and has won two National Newspaper Awards, for feature writing and critical writing. She spoke at the Parkland Institute's annual conference this fall.

Tax loopholes help the rich at the expense of average Canadians For several years now, Canada’s Auditor General has expressed concern over the disastrous effects of certain tax provisions and of the tax agreements between Canada and other countries throughout the world, which allow for the use of tax havens. It is known that in the early 1990s, one prominent and wealthy Canadian family transferred a $2-billion family trust to the U.S. and successfully avoided paying about $700 million in taxes. The 1996 report of Canada’s Auditor General included the following observation: “We have observed two advance rulings relating to moving at least $2 billion of assets held in family trusts into the United States from Canada. In our view, the transactions ruled on may have circumvented the intent of the law regarding the taxation of capital gains. Therefore, we are concerned that Revenue Canada may have eroded the tax base by forfeiting a legitimate future claim to many millions of dollars in tax revenue.” Ten years have elapsed, but the laws allowing the very rich to use tax havens have not been changed. Can it be that the MPs we have been electing to govern us feel that they are acting in our best interests by allowing the tax loopholes to remain? So that ordinary Canadians have to pay more than they should in taxes? Or is it because the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which is a lobby group in Ottawa comprised of about 150 executives of major Canadian corporations and act as a kind of shadow cabinet, have more influence on federal legislation than our elected MPs? William Dascavich Edmonton, Alberta


6

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

alberta representatives, to address the collective needs of Cree people. An important addition was a guarantee that the Cree way of life would not be interfered with by The Queen’s People-a subject connected to the Cree language issue identified at the beginning of this article.

1876 vs. 2005

$20 Words and $5 Indians STEWART STEINHAUER

Here, at Saddle Lake Cree Nation, I’ve been accused of using $20 words on $5 Indians. Say what?

$20 words Words are about imparting meaning; it is the thoughts themselves that are most important. Linguists like Noam Chomsky suggest that, in simplest terms, words ring a bell in the language receptor areas of the brain. This effect creates our understanding of the word. For instance, if you are an Englishspeaking person, and I greet you with “how are you?” or, if you are a Creespeaking person, and I greet you with “tanisi?” my words have rung the same bell inside of your head. Aside from the fact that, at Saddle Lake, English is a second language as well as the language of colonial oppression, on my reserve, the English language has class features that mimic the same class features which appear in English language-use in Euro-ancestry Canadian society. The previous sentence is an example of a bunch of words in the $20 class.

$5 indians So much for $20 words; now who are these $5 indians? In 1876, my Cree ancestors agreed to share a vast tract of prime agricultural land with The Queen’s People. The

operative word in the previous sentence is “share.” The word is not “sell” nor “surrender”, and yet the words “cede, release, surrender and yield up” appear in the handwritten text of the Articles of a Treaty document, dubbed Treaty 6 by The Queen’s People. Hopping in my imaginary linguistics time machine and speeding back to 1876 for a moment, I see that there are no words in the Cree language for “land surrender.” Therefore, it would be impossible to translate this concept from English into Cree, discuss it all of the way around the circle, and then consensually agree to it, as was the Cree custom at that time. If I say the word “share,” what bell rings in your mind? In exchange for the agricultural benefits deriving from the use of the 121,000 square miles of prairie landscape described in Treaty 6, The Queen’s People agreed to provide a new economic base for Cree Peoples. Although too delicate a matter to be openly stated by Canadian politicians, it was tacitly understood that Canada, and her neighbor to the south, the United States of America, had already begun and almost completed the destruction of the 60-million-head of buffalo that once roamed free from Florida to the boreal forests north of 60. The Cree leadership of the day needed to cover off two areas before they could agree to share the agricultural bounty of their lands; the needs of Cree individuals, and the needs of the Cree collective group. Healthcare, education, a famine clause and ongoing “new economy” development assistance were asked for, and agreed to by Her Majesty’s

Notice that the collective needs of Cree Peoples in 1876 are not so different from the collective needs of Canadians in 2005. In fact, the same issues are still on the table, with the same colonial mentality voicing calming sounds while steering the current version of empire, the Empire of Capital, into position. Unlike Eurocentric societies, which see individualism and collectivity as adversarial, most indigenous societies prior to European colonization had worked out a balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the collective. The Cree leadership of the day saw to it that both sets of needs were satisfied, so they asked for, and Her Majesty’s representatives agreed to, a $5 per capita annuity payment. In 1876, within the Treaty 6 territory, $5 could buy a horse, and meet all cash needs for an entire year. In 2005 functional equivalencies, this $5 would be able to purchase a small car, truck, or tractor, and cover all basic cash needs for an entire year. Looking at the most recently available Canadian Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) numbers, adjusted for variable factors to match my rez, I see a per capita figure of $14,000. Even though an average middle-class Canadian would say that this number is ridiculously low, I’ll use it to represent annual basic cash needs. If I add the cash value of the cheapest car on the regional market, $12,000, to the LICO figure of $14,000, it looks like the original $5 offer would have a minimum value (in buying power circa 2005) of $26,000 per child, woman and man, per year. How would that annuity payment affect the current rez economy? What is the economic reality on reserves today? On my reserve, unemployment ranges between 70 per cent and 90 per cent, values that are fairly typical in reserves across the country. Beyond the programs funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Saddle Lake has a handful of businesses, and that’s not counting the 60 or more known crack dealers. Twenty-miles to the east of us is a small Alberta town with a similarly sized population: it has 150 formal businesses, and 150 informal businesses listed with its local Chamber of Commerce. The combination of Canada’s Indian Act, with its feudal mentality which actively prevents on-reserve participation in the Canadian economy, and, at least here in Saddle Lake, 130 years of a social engineering project that includes repeated instructions for planned failure, has produced an onreserve Cree population with up to 90 per cent unemployment and up to 60 per cent disabling addictions. Now that’s a $20 paragraph. Welcome to the world of the $5 Indian. Would you like to Supersize that?

Financial planning for willionaires The Indian Act and federal Indian policy have made sure that there is no “legal” income-generating activity on reserve, and racism in the general Canadian society has made sure that there is no “legal” income-generating activity off of the reserve. All while capitalism has made sure that livelihood must be mediated by income. (Is that legal?) So, what choices are left? As far as I can see, there are two choices, and folks here at Saddle Lake usually create their own special blend of these choices. There’s the lineup at the welfare office with its peculiar subset, a line up at Chief and Council’s door, and then there’s the life of petty crime, with its own peculiar subset, too: a line up at Chief and Councils other door. Why would a socalled ethnic minority group, which comprise 3 per cent of the general population, make up 60 to 80 per cent of prison populations across Canada? Bad Indian, bad! Go straight to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $229. A single person on welfare (“Willy”) gets a monthly check for $229 (a.k.a “Club 229”), and becomes a “willionaire for a day,” which totals $2,748 per year. (Many willionaires walk out of the band office to the parking lot only to trade their endorsed check for a teeny, tiny baggy of crack.) Oops, late-breaking news: Her Majesty’s Government, in its infinite wisdom, just upped that $229 to $236, bringing the yearly total to $2,832. Folks here at Saddle Lake say despairingly, “I’m just a $5 Indian,” making an unconscious reference to what has become of the treaty obligations undertaken by Her Majesty’s government on behalf of the Canadians who receive the benefits of living upon our bountiful lands. When I was a child, we weren’t Canadian citizens, we were Treaty Indians: permanent wards of the Canadian state. As a young man, my father had to go to the local Indian Agent and apply for a pass if he wanted to travel off of the reserve, while on the reserve, the Priest and the Indian Agent wielded dictatorial powers.

... a line up at Chief and Councils other door. Why would a so-called ethnic minority group, which comprise 3 per cent of the general population, make up 60 to 80 per cent of prison populations across Canada?

Canada’s ‘gifts’ to its first peoples Wait a minute. That was then, but this is now. Doesn’t Her Majesty’s Government wring buckets of money out of Canadian taxpayers to shower upon “Aboriginal” people? Currently, Canada is spending close to $12 billion dollars annually, on so-called Aboriginal people: a group whom Canada now claims are ethnic minority Canadians, numbering close to 1 million. That’s a federal transfer of $12,000 per capita, roughly


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

7

alberta equivalent to federal transfers to all Canadians when adjusted for variables. But let’s pretend that it’s a special gift to lazy Indians, who are fortunate to have their white brothers and sisters looking after them. Speaking of good fortune, reading the Statistics Canada website I see that Canada’s GDP was $1.3 trillion in 2004, and Her Majesty’s consolidated government revenues were $459 billion for the same period. Ignoring the fact that the $12,000 per capita federal transfer to ethnic minority Canadians of Aboriginal descent is reduced to $2,832 by the time it trickles down through the INAC bureaucracy to the rez, let’s instead look at $12 billion ($12,000 per Aboriginal times 1 million Aboriginals) in comparison to Canada’s GDP, and then in comparison to Her Majesty’s government consolidated revenues. First, $12 billion is 0.92 per cent of the $1.3 trillion GDP. Here’s a trick question: try viewing that $12 billion as a royalty. Secondly, $12 billion is 2.6 per cent of $459 billion in government revenues; try viewing it as a commercial lease payment. Last time I checked, large commercial leases were running around 10 per cent of gross, and royalties were running from 15 to 50 per cent of gross. If all the $5 Indians were $26,000 indigenous peoples (notice the pluralized form of “peoples”; it’s a UN Permanent Forum for indigenous peoples kind of thing) would they be able to understand $20 words? What effect does the destruction of a “plenty for everyone” national economy (bye, bye buffalo), and the forced introduction into a controlled scarcity economy (so ya wanna be a willionaire?) have on peoples’ mental capacity? Am I ringing anyone’s bells, yet?

What if Canada played by its own rules... What if The Queen’s People met the legal obligations undertaken with the signing of Treaty 6, way back in 1876, and paid a $26,000 per capita annuity to every indigenous child, woman and man inside of the Treaty 6 Territory? What if The Queen’s People decided to play by their own market rules, and become businesslike in their relations with the original Peoples of Turtle Island trapped inside of the modern nation-state of Canada? Free market experts at the Fraser Institute would laugh at the naiveté of such a remark. Everybody knows that you have to be able to separate the ideology of Free-Market Fundamentalism from how the market actually works. It’s all about public subsidy of costs, and privatization of profits. Canada is currently following an economic ideology that the indigenous Mayan Zapatistas call the neo-liberal agenda; inside of the constraints of this agenda, how could the modern nation-state of Canada go about doing business with indigenous peoples? Let’s take a glance at what a $26,000 annuity payment to every indigenous person might look like. Zooming to the bottom line, (left-progressive Euroancestry Canadians, pretend you aren’t looking), simple math says that $26,000

times 1 million is $26 billion; that’s roughly 6% of Her Majesty’s consolidated government revenues, and 2% of Canada’s GDP. The $26,000 annuity payment could be almost doubled, to $50,000, and, at 10.4% of government revenues, and 3.8% of GDP, still be unreasonably reasonable lease and royalty payments, from a freemarket point of view. Try suggesting to Alberta’s Premier, Ralph Klein, that he accept a 3.8 per cent royalty on all the stolen (from me and my sisters and brothers) oil and gas he’s peddling on the world market, if you’re a little unsure about whether it’s unreasonably reasonable.

However, vote-buying is considered bad form when done by folks not aligned with either one of the major political parties in the Free World, or whose personal net worth is under the $100million mark, so I’ll graciously say that I’m willing to share the bounty of my lands freely with everybody whose annual income is under $50,000. And above that amount, beneficiaries pay based on a sliding scale ranging from 1 per cent and up. Because I care about my fellow human beings, I further recommend a levy of 100 per cent on all income above $10 million as a means of protecting individuals from the harm caused by greed. This mental health levy could be invested in rebuilding indigenous nations inside of the modern nationstate of Canada, extending the benefits of good mental health to all of us $5 Indians.

$50,000 Indians

What if The Queen’s People decided to play by their own market rules, and become businesslike in their relations with the original Peoples of Turtle Island trapped inside of the modern nation-state of Canada?

Canada currently pays out tens of billions of dollars annually on foreign debt, most of it going to ultra-wealthy investors in the U.S. and Western Europe. The indigenous annuity payment I’m talking about is a legal obligation, undertaken by Her Majesty’s governments, to nations of peoples not Canadian, no different than the payments currently being made on other foreign debt. Media voices, speaking for investors sitting on trillions of dollars, (the old “over-accumulation of capital” problem) would squeak,”The economy can’t afford it.” Who can afford it? By giving the “user pays” concept, advocated in the neo-liberal agenda, a slight tweak, Canada could institute a “beneficiary pays” scheme, with a sliding scale; the more that you, as a Canadian citizen, benefit from the bounty of indigenous lands, the more you pay for those benefits. A LICO threshold for Canadian citizens could be established; if you are below that threshold, then we, as owners of the land and resource, agree to share freely with you. As a purely political move, I could crunch the numbers to discover the 60-per-cent mark in the general Canadian population, and offer this free ride to all of you in exchange for your vote in support of this idea in a national referendum.

If $5 Indians were $50,000 indigenous peoples, would we still have trouble understanding $20 words, whether or not it was a second language, or a

colonizing language? For instance, if I said that the industrial agricultural model called the Green Revolution has failed by every possible measure, including by the original business class intent of providing cheap food for starving people in order to stave off a global socialist revolution while directing global agricultural incomes into corporate profits, and that a freeranging, self-managed 60-million-head buffalo herd harvested by a selective hunting process is the most efficient and effective agricultural use of the largest single bio-region on Turtle Island, known now as the Great Plains, would it ring a bell? ❂ Steinhauer lives and works at his birthplace, Saddle Lake First Nation, where he carves stone for money, and studies the relationship between racism, colonialism and capitalism for fun. See www.indigenius.biz for details.


8

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

decision 2006 Low-income Edmontonians weigh-in on Decision 2006 For those without financial means, the winter months can be taxing. January’s federal election results may be furrowing even more brows in the low-income community, now that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have formed a minority government.

LANA PHILIPS

I

n Edmonton, low-income people and their supporters have different ideas about how the new leadership will affect them, but all share a concern for what kind of support will be available to those who most need it in the upcoming months and years. “The youth we serve are marginalized and exist on the edges of our community,” said Joe Cloutier, principal of Inner City High School. “This was the case under the previous government. I hope there will be supports for these members of our society.” Inner City High School is one of the few resources for street youth who, for one reason or another, have trouble succeeding in traditional schools. The school grew out of a drama program for at-risk students run by the Inner City Drama Association in the mid-1980s. Eventually, the association began renting out a house for these young people who had no permanent place to live, and provided for their basic needs. The youth saw education as one of the only ways to change their lives, but traditional high schools were not flexible enough for their unique situation. Eventually, these students asked for a school that would meet their needs, and in 1993, Inner City High School was established as a private school. Free rent in the Boyle Street Community League, and funding from the City of Edmonton kept the school afloat for the next two years, but in 1995, the school was in danger of closing its doors. It was saved by an association with Edmonton Catholic Schools, but funding remains a struggle, says Cloutier. As the school becomes better known, it attracts more and more supporters; however, he explained that they try to keep a low profile to prevent

the media from sensationalizing the students’ situations. The youth have played an active role in keeping their school alive, even running weekend bingos in the

monetary terms and greatly in donations in-kind.” But funding still isn’t where it needs to be, she adds. The organization is struggling to maintain a small fund to provide a buffer against funding problems in the future. Therefore, the challenge remains fresh each year. Darryl Learie, who lives on the Alberta Government’s Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), maintains hope following the election outcome.

The experience, he says, was terribly, and caused him “to witness the dark side of humanity.” Despite his bad experiences, Learie pursues knowledge on his own terms. He may be just as tenacious in his personal life, having fought a hard legal battle to gain custody of his now eightyear-old daughter. Now a contributor to the street newspaper Our Voice, Learie says he transforms his anger into community activism. “My anger continually reminds me of what has to change, what must be changed,” said Learie.

“I feel the government should provide all people with an income adequate to meet their basic needs. This is just a simple humanitarian principle.” She shares a quote from Martyn Joseph, Welsh singer and songwriter: “Democracy does not lead to freedom: justice does.” One thing that needs to be changed, is how Canadians participate in politics, he says, as political involvement wasn’t

...the association began renting out a house for these young people who had no permanent place to live, and provided for their basic needs. The youth saw education as one of the only ways to change their lives, but traditional high schools were not flexible enough for their unique situation.

community league hall to raise money for the school’s operating expenses at one time. For Ele Gibson, resource development director at Bissell Centre, the new leadership could make a bad situation even worse for Edmonton’s low-income people. “I feel the government should provide all people with an income adequate to meet their basic needs. This is just a simple humanitarian principle.” She shares a quote from Martyn Joseph, Welsh singer and songwriter: “Democracy does not lead to freedom: justice does.” Gibson explains that her work involves maintaining relations with local foundations and individual donors. “It is a ‘soft sell.’ I tell people how important the work we do is and hope the money rolls in,” she said. “When I started at Bissell Centre, I made it my mandate to make Bissell Centre a household name. The intention is that if people know about us (or think they know about us), they choose us to give their charitable dollar to. This has worked as we have slowly increased the amount of community donations in

“I felt a mixed sense of despair and hope. I felt relieved to some extent that if the Liberal party worked with the NDP, our country could cater to all, given the balancing force that comes with an effective opposition,” he said. Learie, like many AISH recipients, is faced with many challenges. The 32year-old writer struggles with anxiety and depression, and lives on $950 a month (which is scheduled to increase to $1,000 in April 2006). He did graduate from high school, but he says: “I was robbed of my chance to learn and develop as an academic.”

postoons

designed for the uninformed or selfish. “If you’re going to vote, be informed,” he said. “Voting is not (just) about ‘what’s best for me’ - it’s also about what’s best for your country.” ❂ Lana Phillips is a freelance writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. Her writing has been published in Our Voice, as well as the new national women’s magazine Cahoots Magazine.


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

9

decision 2006 Oh Canada!

Canada’s social programs and sovereignty are at risk, but the NDP is more concerned with marketing their brand than creating a vision for Canada RODNEY MILLER

C

anada is facing unprecedented pressures to lock its policies in with Bush’s America in a process formalized by the heads of government of the three North American Free Trade Agreement countries in Waco Texas in March 2005. It has become evident that the corporate elite located here does not want Canada to be an independent country any longer. But you wouldn’t have known about any of this by listening to the leaders of the main parties in the 2006 federal election campaign. This includes Jack Layton and the NDP. Since September 11, 2001, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) has pressured Canada to adopt U.S. military policies, U.S.-style health care, U.S. immigration and refugee policies, and guaranteed exports of environmentally unregulated Canadian energy to the US even if Canadians face shortages. Why should Canada give up so much of what an independent country does? The transnationals answer: so they can retain easy access to US markets.

If deep integration would bring Canadian policies in line with Bush’s America in so many crucial areas, why did we not hear from the NDP on this threat to Canada’s social programs and popular sovereignty? Instead, the NDP ran a narrow tactical campaign to differentiate their brand from the Liberals. ‘More New Democrats,’ the rallying cry of the 2006 federal election campaign, did not have quite the ring of ‘universal health-care for all Canadians,’ Tommy Douglas’ 1962 campaign theme, nor the symbol of an alternative vision for Canada embodied in David Lewis’ 1972 crusade against ‘corporate welfare bums.’ The NDP tactic to win votes from the Liberals, the brand which is their closest competitor, was evident in the New Democrats pulling the plug on the Martin Liberals between the two Gomery Reports. The election timing represented the perfect conditions for the election of Harper’s Conservatives. In the early part of the campaign Layton helped to make Harper seem less

scary. He condemned Liberals for portraying the Conservatives as the big bad wolf and ‘a fairly tale.’ When the leader of the left party says the most right wing leader is not so bad, it frees up voters, not necessarily to vote NDP, but for wavering Liberals to vote Conservative.

be able to operate effectively,” Lloyd said. She also expressed concern about the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prevent same-sex couples from marrying-a power only the federal government holds. “It is only the federal government that can define who can marry ‘marital capacity.’ The provinces only have jurisdiction to legislate about the formalities of marriage. It is only the feds that pass a law to create a ‘hets only’ definition of marriage, and so it is only the feds that would use the notwithstanding clause to protect such a law from Charter scrutiny,” Lloyd explained. While it may take time to see how the new government will respond, Wells, for one, isn’t content to sit idly by. He believes that groups must band together to fight against what he sees as the first threat to their rights under the new government.

“While it will be more difficult for the Conservatives to pass any bill, whether it might involve social policy or fiscal policy, that does not give us a guarantee,” she said. “Remember that many Liberal MPs have voted against bills extending rights to our community.” - Julie Lloyd

If deep integration would bring Canadian policies in line with Bush’s America in so many crucial areas, why did we not hear from the NDP on this threat to Canada’s social programs and popular sovereignty? The same game plan was evident in one of the big mysteries of the campaign. Why did Layton maintain a silence on the defense of fundamental NDP objectives such as the dangers of a reversal of the right to gay marriage and a woman’s right of reproductive choice? The only feasible explanation was to downplay the threat of a Conservative victory, on the grounds that discussing

such threats would play into Liberal hands. What’s the model here, taking a principled stand on the future direction of the country or treating elections like they are a consumer market and selling a brand of soap which is distinctive from its nearest competitor? You could see this logic at work in the breathtakingly myopic hopes of NDP strategist Jamey Heath for a repeat of 1988, “the NDP’s breakthrough election.” Some breakthrough. The New Democrats won 43 seats in that election, their highest total ever, partly because they joined in on the Conservative and corporate attacks on Liberal leader John Turner after the latter won the leaders television debate by telling Mulroney that “I believe you have sold out this country” with your “Free Trade Agreement” with the United States. The upshot of the 1988 election was a Conservative majority, the passing of the Free Trade Agreement and a sharp turn towards neoliberalism or right wing economics. The FTA cut the ground from under social democracy and the NDP plummeted to nine seats in the next election. The party was almost moribund at the federal level throughout the 1990s, hovering between seven and 11 per cent of the vote. A Pyrrhic victory indeed. Win a skirmish and lose the war. The NDP once offered a distinct and compelling vision of what a noncorporate Canada could be like. The party attempted to, and often did, move the whole country in a progressive direction. Now only the political right offers a compelling, though reactionary vision. The federal NDP has been reduced to discussing this or that progressive policy, jousting for narrow partisan advantage and damn the consequences for the country as a whole. Why should people vote for a third party which has no chance of forming the government if it does not stand for a clear and principled alternative vision? Chuck out the marketers and bring back the visionaries. Where is Tommy when he is needed? ❂

LGBTQ / continued from page 1

Lloyd, who was appointed in 2005 to a three-year term on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, married her partner of many years last summer at the Edmonton Folk Fest. “While it will be more difficult for the Conservatives to pass any bill, whether it might involve social policy or fiscal policy, that does not give us a guarantee,” she said. “Remember that many Liberal MPs have voted against bills extending rights to our community.” Additionally, the prime minister has the power to make federal appointments, including the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Courts and the lower and appellate courts in each province. The prime minister and his cabinet also appoint people to important bodies like the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. They also set budgets for these agencies and other initiatives. “If budgets and funding initiatives are slashed, these kinds of agencies will not

“Minority groups must come together and realize that when one minority is under attack, all minority groups are threatened. Indeed, all Canadians are only as safe and valued as their most vulnerable citizens - our minorities.”

Lana Phillips is a freelance writer living in Edmonton, Alberta. Her writing has been published in Our Voice, as well as the new national women’s magazine Cahoots Magazine.


the Post •

10

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

decision 2006 Who speaks for Canada?

TREVOR HARRISON

Elections are one way, though not the only way, of giving citizens a democratic voice. This January, Canadians who exercised their democratic right and cast a ballot, chose Stephen Harper as the new face and voice of Canada.

B

ut certainly no single party represents all people and all views. So whose voice speaks for Canada? And who will be heard now that the Conservative party has come to power?

A flawed system The question of voice is particularly pertinent if we look at the percentage of votes and seats won by the various parties in the election. Critics, including myself, have long argued the Canadian electoral system, based on first-past-thepost rather than proportionality, is

deeply flawed. The 2006 election results again highlight this problem. The Conservative party garnered 36.3 per cent of the vote, but 40.3 per cent of the seats (124 of 308). Likewise, the Liberal party took 30.2 per cent of the votes but 33.4 of the seats (103), while the Bloc with 10.5 per cent of the vote nationally gained 16.6 per cent of the seats (51). As always, the NDP were the big losers: their 17.5 per cent of votes cast resulted in only 9.4 per cent of the seats (29). But the Green party also suffered unfairly, gaining no seats despite taking 4.5 per cent of the votes. Had the House of

Commons seats been distributed on a proportional basis, the Conservatives would have 111 seats, the Liberals 93, the BQ 32, the NDP 54, and the Green Party 15 seats. The current system is not only undemocratic in weighting some votes more than others, but it also contributes to false impressions of regional exclusion (except in the obvious case of the Bloc) and may also be a deterrence to voter participation. Furthermore, it reinforces dominance by the two major parties-the Liberals and Conservativesas voters often feel compelled to vote “strategically” for one of these parties rather than vote as they might prefer. Harper’s Conservatives have talked about democratic reforms, but there is no more pressing issue than replacing the current first-past-the-post system with one that ensures the full expression of competing voices within Canada’s parliament. Of course, the first-past-thepost system also exists at the provincial level, and must also be remedied there. But discussing the provinces also suggests another problem of voice: competing political jurisdictions. The fact is, like kids gathering trading cards, politicians love to acquire power, even if sometimes they don’t have any need for it and may be counter to the interests of citizens. This goes for all levels of government. At what level should power properly reside? Obviously, it depends on what area we are discussing and whether we are talking about program development, funding, or delivery.

But do Canadians want this to happen? In some areas, perhaps they do, though Canadians may also wish powers decentralized all the way to the municipalities, ignoring the provincessomething that has been insufficiently discussed. But opinion surveys also consistently show most Canadians, including many Quebecers who are not ardent sovereigntists, desire a strong and functioning federal government. They want this for at least two reasons. First, Canadians at large understand that many programs, health and education among them, are inherently national in scope, and do not want them balkanized (as was much the case before the 1950s). Second, Canadians intuitively understand also that, unlike the United States which has an elaborate (if not stifling) system of checks and balances, Canada’s federal government is the only check against overweening provincial powers and vice versa. Unlike politicians who dislike sharing power and would like a Cartesian separation of spheres, most Canadians understand and like the notion of shared powers and responsibility. But will Canadians voices be heard regarding these jurisdictional issues? Or will they be drowned out by Harper’s minority government, a few premiers, and assorted right-wing think tanks bent on weakening the Canadian federation? Who genuinely speaks for the interests and desires of Canadians or even Albertans? And will their voices be heard? Only the next few months, and years will tell. ❂

A power shift? Prime Minister Harper has signalled his desire to shift power downwards to the provinces. Some of Canada’s provincial premiers, especially Quebec’s Jean Charest and Alberta’s Ralph Klein, are eager to gain new powers, and many others will also willingly accept the same.

Trevor Harrison teaches at the University of Lethbridge and is Parkland Institute's southern Alberta research coordinator. He recently edited The Return of the Trojan Horse: Alberta and the New World (Dis)Order (2005), co-published by Parkland Institute and Black Rose Books.

Conservative minority will ensure collaboration among parties SHAUNA WILTON

A

fter a long wait, the West is in. Having swept Alberta (and eleminated the last few dissenting voices in the process), Stephen Harper has become Prime Minister and the Canadian right is chomping at the bit, salivating at the thought of holding the reins of power once again. But, how much power will the new government really wield? And, how much of a voice will the West have in that government? In spite of the terrible campaign that Paul Martin´s Liberals ran, the sponsorship scandal, the ongoing allegations of Liberal corruption and arrogance, and the natural desire of many Canadians for change, the Conservatives still only won 124 seats less than Paul Martin´s Liberals held in the last session! At the time of writing (with several possible recounts looming on the horizon), Harper´s Conservatives only won 124 out of a possible 308 seats. No matter which way you count it, this

is not an overwhelming endorsement, nor is it a strong position from which the Conservatives can govern. Even in Alberta, where the Conservatives gained 100 per cent of the seats, only 65 per cent of the approximately one million Albertans who voted chose the Conservatives. This small minority government, combined with the wide ideological divide between them and the other parties, will make it very difficult for the Conservatives to fulfill their campaign promises. The other parties, in general, stood strongly opposed to many aspects of the Conservative´s platform, such as their child-care policy, the GST cut, and their desire to pull out of Kyoto. The Conservatives will need to compromise and work with the other parties in order to get any legislation passed, but what impact will these compromises have on the people who elected them? Those in the West want a

strong voice opposing the more liberal and progressive viewpoints of the rest of Canada. They want conservative Alberta´s importance to Canada´s economy and so-called ‘Albertan´ values -such as traditional family structures, a decentralized federation, and increased privatization of the public sector - to be taken seriously on the national political scene. If the Conservatives compromise too much, they risk alienating their strongest supporters. But, if they don’t compromise, Canadians will be seeing another election much sooner than they would like. Playing to the centre has long been a characteristic of Canadian politics. You can´t win an election without also winning seats in Ontario and Quebec. This is a reality of the population distribution of the country. Also, you need to be able to take a moderate stance on most issues in order to appeal to as many people as possible. In order to hold

on to power, Harper and the Conservatives will have to move towards the centre. The newest reality of Canadian politics, however, appears to be one of minority governments. There are an increasing number of parties on the national scene, and Canadians appear unwilling to give any of them the support necessary for a majority government. Instead, Canadians are asking the parties to work together, to build consensus, to compromise, and to get things done. This is a radical change from the antagonistic and competitive politics that we are used to. But, if our politicians are up to it, it is probably much better for Canadian democracy.

❂ Shauna Wilton is an assistant professor of political studies, at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Faculty.


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

11

environment A January publication by investment bank CIBC, titled The Time of Sands, was widely reported in the media as a pronouncement of Alberta’s imminent rise to glory. The Calgary Herald covered the report with the headline, “Make way, Saudis, for Alberta oil sands; Region will be top supplier of new oil.” Alberta’s government no doubt enjoyed the CIBC publicity and viewed it as further support for current policies.

Revisiting the time of sands Report wrongly presumes that province will gain from fast extraction of oil

JONATHAN KAGAN

H

owever, reading beyond the head lines, one reaches the opposite conclusion. If the world is indeed entering “the time of sands,” then current policies, with the promotion of rapid oil extraction as their cornerstone, are an anachronism. To serve the best interests of Albertans, both today and for generations to come, extraction must slow down. The CIBC report makes three simple points relevant to the rate of oil extraction: first, oil prices can be expected to continue their rise, as production from conventional sources drops; second, rising prices increase the value of the oil sands; and third, a shrinking percentage of the world’s oil resources are available to private investment, thus making the oil sands a rare opportunity. Chief CIBC economist Jeffrey Rubin makes the point quite clear when he writes that the stage is set “for a mad scramble for whatever proven reserves the market still has access to. And there are no greater reserves accessible to private investment than the Canadian oil sands.” In other words, the report hints at imminent glory, but not for Alberta. The stars of the future are those who are buying oil sands today, the likes of Suncor, Imperial, and CNRL. On the Alberta government website, a prominently posted “open letter” from Premier Ralph Klein begins with the government’s slogan, “Alberta’s surplusour chance to invest in the future.” But if the premise of rising oil prices is correct, then Klein has it wrong. While the surplus of dollars is being generated, the “chance to invest” is being given away to developers. From another perspective, one could say that Albertans already have an investment in their future: several million hectares of oil sands. Sound financial management would dictate holding on to that investment, rather than converting it as quickly as possible to a monetary surplus. To paraphrase the Parkland Institute paper, “Toward an Energy Security Strategy for Canada:” encouraging overdevelopment today is tantamount to giving away the family silver. In the face of protests that rapid development of the oil sands damages

the environment, turning pristine forests and wetlands into moonscapes, increasing greenhouse gases, and threatening water reserves, the Alberta government has remained steadfast. But Albertans cannot continue to accept the mismanagement of their financial future. The recent $400 rebate, the “Ralphbucks” that ended up at random addresses throughout Canada, may have been scandalous, but it was only the tip of a scandalous policy of running up a surplus with little rationale other than that of giving away oil rights. When high oil prices caused the “unexpected” budget surplus of $6 billion this past November, the government should have brought policies in line with revised expectations. A first step could have been to stop the bi-weekly crown land auctions, which raised $2.2 billion last year, $400 million of which came from sales of oil sands rights. But the auction program, originally justified within a balanced budget, is set to continue throughout 2006, exacerbating the flood of unplanned surplus and enabling Klein to leave behind a legacy of having transferred into private hands the bulk of Alberta’s oil rights.

In other words, the report hints at imminent glory, but not for Alberta. The stars of the future are those who are buying oil sands today, the likes of Suncor, Imperial, and CNRL. If Alberta were to put off selling additional rights, those rights would continue to appreciate in value. Auction prices will rise not only because of increasing oil prices, but because of technological advances that allow the extraction of more oil, more efficiently, from each ton of sand. The same arguments also hold for extraction. Even after auctioning, the government should discourage development, because the price rises and technological advances will similarly increase royalty revenues if the extraction is delayed.

Beyond the long term financial gain, and beyond the environmental benefits, slower extraction will enable Alberta to grow with a more balanced economy, one that is less dependent on oil production. The appreciation of the Canadian dollar will be slowed, helping to promote local industry and helping to prevent the export of better paying manufacturing and high tech jobs. Inflation will be better controlled, serving the interests of lower income residents far more than an occasional $400 cheque. Finally, urban growth will be more gradual and can be planned for sustainability. Some have proposed that as oil becomes more valuable, the local market should be protected to keep down energy prices in Canada, or at least in Alberta. But the oil will run out at some point, and local protection, by

encouraging consumption, only hinders preparation for that inevitability. A responsible agenda must be predicated, instead, on slowing oil extraction. Slower extraction not only preserves the provinces wealth, but perhaps more importantly, enables local communities to develop infrastructures that are less dependent on fossil fuels. Ultimately, reducing the need for fossil fuels will be the only way to ensure Alberta’s energy security. ❂ Jonathan Kagan, a native of gas guzzling Los Angeles, currently lives with his family in Israel. In his local community, he promotes programs for energy frugality, such as telecommuting and efficientbuilding design.


the Post •

12

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

environment

Socially responsible agriculture – or disaster The Alberta I want would nurture socially responsible agriculture ˜ creating laws that hold producers responsible for all costs of their operations, and restricting odour, dust and other pollution to the boundaries of a meat production facility. LISA BECHTOLD

T

his kind of practice is, unfortunately, not the norm in Alberta. However, it does exist on a handful of sustainable, free range, organic, and small family farms. It is my belief that this can change.

operation. More often than not, they are paid by the surrounding neighbours through sickness, decreased property values, and contamination of water sources.

Weak regulations The way it was In 1971, there were 26,000 farms that produced pigs, and in 2001, about 2600 farms and today, even fewer. And yet, the pig population in Alberta has increased from 1.1 million to 3.6 million in the same time frame. Thirty-five years ago, we had small family farmers producing hogs causing few or no problems with the way they managed their herd and the manure. These producers did not use antibiotics and hormones to speed up growth. What’s more, they conserved scarce water sources. The animals were allowed to participate in normal behaviours such as rooting and making nests to have their babies in. And farmers supported their local economies by purchasing supplies from local businesses. For the most part, they were good neighbours. And maybe most importantly, they were able to use manure as fertilizer properly, because they had the land base to support it. But today, we have thousands of animals crammed into a small area that produces far too much manure to manage properly. Today’s large farming enterprise uses thousands of gallons of water, contributes to air pollution, which in turn negatively impacts neighbours‚ health. The quality of life for the animals has similarly declined. Nowadays, animals rarely see sunlight or normal soil and have trouble moving around. They are routinely fed antibiotics to promote quick growth and to keep disease from spreading. Arguably, these are all costs of operating a confined animal operation that are not paid by the

Our current regulations were written with more traditional methods in mind, and they are out of date for the types of massive, confined operations we see today. Even the best producers can not raise animals in a confined manner and still be “socially responsible.” Here are some of our current problems: 1) As long as a proposal meets the minimum technical requirements under the Agriculture Operation Practice’s Act (AOPA), a proposal is approved. The problem is that the technical requirements are not that difficult to meet. I could build an island in the middle of Sylvan Lake and put a livestock operation on it and engineer it so it would meet all technical requirements. Does this mean that that would be a good place to locate one? Certainly not. 2) Regulators are hiding behind AOPA and enforcers can not enforce with any teeth because regulations are not tough enough. 3) Health impacts are not part of AOPA and therefore do not have to be taken into consideration. 4) Air emissions are exempt because these operations are considered to be agriculture. They refer to themselves as the livestock “industry,” so why aren’t they classified as industry? 5) Many operations begin before building is complete, or before permit conditions are met. In fact, they may never be met.

But if the Alberta government wants these operations so badly, and figures that they‚re beneficial for communities, why don‚t they build them in the cities? In the city, there are already existing water treatment and sewage treatment plants as well as the infrastructure to support them. A large body of academics specializing in the area of industrial animal production –which is what this amounts to –have agreed that no further need for research in this area exists. All credible academic research has reached the same conclusion: confined feeding operations are bad for the region’s economy, for the community, and for the physical and social health of the individuals living around them.

Better practices are possible Knowing all of this, is this the Alberta we want? I say no. Once our communities, land, air, and water are destroyed, we may never recover. Why are we not learning from the mistakes of others? What makes us think that disaster won’t strike here? This reminds me of a quote from The True Cost of Food: “We vote three times a day. With every meal we can choose to help the environment or to harm it.” I don’t think the province can expect to change over night, but each one of us can begin to make small changes, make better, healthier choices. And the first thing each one of us needs to do is educate oneself on the impacts of industrial animal production. Don’t take my word, or the government’s word, find out for yourself. Ask where your meat comes from. Most food travels over 2,500 km from where it is produced to get to your plate. Another thing Albertans can do is stop buying factory farmed meat and other industrial food products. Find a farmer’s market where you can buy fresh produce and hormone and antibiotic free meat.

Adopt a local farmer from which you can buy directly. Create a Community Supported Agriculture group (there are already two in Alberta that you can join or who may offer advice in how to set up your own). Most importantly, eat/buy locally as much as possible. The further your meal has to travel to get to your plate, the more negative impacts there will be on our environment. And urge restaurants and stores to sell and serve sustainably raised, locally grown meat, dairy, and produce. We can make a difference. It is becoming easier to find better food choices for our family, even if it‚s one step at a time. Whether you decide to find out where your meat comes from, buy locally grown food, eat seasonally, buy organic or grass-fed meat - it’s all a start to making the Alberta we want. ❂ Lisa Bechthold lives on a fourth generation family farm in Foremost, Alberta, and is the Canadian consultant for the Global Resource Action Centre for the Enviornment (GRACE) Factory Farm Project. Bechtold spoke at the 2005 Parkland Institute fall conference.

Websites to check out: www.serlo.org (An Alberta-based organization) www.factoryfarm.org www.eatwellguide.org (find local producers in your area) www.truecostoffood.org (find out the true cost of your food)


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

13

wealth

Ralph Klein has taken time out from his Jean Chrétien retirement course to issue prosperity cheques. The media can’t gush enough about his beneficence; other Canadians are envious. Everyone wants some “Ralph bucks.” But please, don’t envy us. Whenever a government sends money to its citizens, you can be sure it wants to buy forgetfulness or hide an addiction.

If Ralph’s a friend, who needs enemies? ANDREW NIKIFORUK

A

nd in Mr. Klein’s case, the Premier is hoping his prosperity dividend will obscure the province’s growing economic vulnerability and a trail of land abuse so grotesque that even Americans in Dick Cheney’s Wyoming might shake their heads. Frenzied gas drilling by EnCana and other land-eaters has turned some parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico into what even National Geographic now calls “national sacrifice zones.” Alberta, which has no plan other than frenzied drilling, may yet outdo Wyoming on the sacrifice scale. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta is now the country’s largest single producer of cattle, natural gas, oil, bitumen, coal-bed methane, and unplanned urban growth. The Alberta Genuine Progress Indicator, just published by the Pembina Institute (a non-profit energy watchdog), says if that everyone spent their natural capital so liberally, “five planets would be needed to meet global consumption demands.” To print Ralph bucks, the province has systemically looted one landscape after another. Forty years ago, Alberta’s boreal forest was a wilderness; today, provincial records show that 90 per cent has been seriously fragmented by roads, well sites, seismic lines, pipelines, and power lines, and looks like an industrial park. What isn’t being drilled is being logged. In Drayton Valley, southwest of Edmonton, the government allows companies to build highly toxic sour-gas wells so close to people’s homes that many Albertans live in what’s known as “emergency response zones.” (In the event of a leak or accident, they would die or suffer permanent brain damage if not evacuated in time.) There are as many as 52 such zones; to be located inside one devalues a home by an average of $6,000. But property devaluation is par for the course in Alberta. The eastern slopes of the Rockies, Alberta’s signature landscape, is now slated for gas drilling so intensive that within the industry it’s known as “carpet-bombing.” Watersheds and

fescue grasslands, which can capture more carbon dioxide than forests (maintaining these lands is the province’s smartest climate-change fighter), could all be destroyed just to make a few more Ralph bucks. To accommodate urban sprawl and other goodies, the government admits that it has over-allocated water from every major river in southern Alberta; an area experiencing a three-per-cent economic growth rate. In 50 years, no one expects to be able to float down the Bow or Oldman rivers. To please Dick Cheney, we are now liquidating Alberta’s #1 revenue earner, natural gas, faster than VLT gamblers can eat up cash. Even with a quarter of the world’s drilling rigs at play in Alberta, production is dropping by three per cent a year, according to Dave Hughes, a geologist at Natural Resources Canada. We have a nine-year supply of conventional gas left and the sorry replacement, coal bed methane, promises to fragment more land, threaten more water, use more energy, and unsettle more rural Albertans than all previous drilling combined. The much vaunted oil sands, Alberta’s original “provincial sacrifice zone,” remain a sobering study in megaproject mismanagement. It’s not likely that the world’s biggest holes in the ground will ever be reclaimed. And most projects are already being dogged by the rising costs of steel, water, solvents, natural gas, manpower and basic infrastructure. Even industry sources describe the province’s cumulative impact planning as “dysfunctional.” Although Mr. Klein pretends that Alberta is deficit-free, don’t believe it. The provincial oil and gas regulator (the Alberta Energy and Utility Board) reports that the oil patch has $9-billion worth of wells and gas facilities that haven’t been cleaned up and has only set aside $20 million for the job. Alberta Infrastructure Minister Lyle Oberg admits that the province has a $7-billion backlog in work on schools and roads. A $1-billion water strategy has gone largely unfunded. Growth, of course,

never pays for itself. But you’ll never hear that truth in Alberta. When a society greedily eats its children’s future, the social indicators generally look bad. Pembina’s sobering, 51-page Genuine Progress Indicator reports that Alberta has Canada’s highest rate of car crashes and fatalities, a divorce rate that grew by 357 per cent in the last 40 years and one of the worst gambling records anywhere. Albertans now spend more on gambling ($2 billion) than the province earns from oil revenues. Many consider it Mr. Klein’s most impressive legacy. Saving for the future should be a nobrainer, but it just isn’t happening. Norway has a rainy day petroleum fund worth $100 billion and Alaska has a $35billion fund, plus its own petro-cheques. Yet Alberta hasn’t put one penny in the province’s static $12-billion Heritage Fund since 1987. With Ralph bucks, who needs to worry about rainy days or grandchildren? The worst is this: Alberta can’t even be bothered to collect a fair share of its fossil-fuel wealth. Between 1995 and 2002, Norway and Alaska collected twice as much revenue from their oil and gas reserves. In contrast, Alberta simply let the profits slip south of the border. Our one-per-cent royalty rate for oil sands remains a continental embarrassment. The poet Sir Walter Scott once asked if there breathed a man “with soul so dead/Who never to himself hath said,/ ‘This is my own, my native land!’” Gamblers with petro-bucks can’t be bothered with such reflective nonsense. Envy us? Hell, no. Envy Norway. ❂ Andrew Nikiforuk is a Calgary journalist and author of Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig and the War Against Big Oil. Andrew also shared his views at the annual Parkland Institute Conference this fall. This article first appeared in the Globe and Mail on Sept.28, 2005.

Western Water, the Environment, and Economic Growth A conference presented by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society Wednesday March 29 (evening session) and

Thursday March 30 (8:30 AM - 5 PM) Mayfair United Church, 902-33 St. West, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Western Canada, like regions worldwide, faces mounting challenges in terms of water quality and quality. Economic growth, increased food production, accelerated energy extraction, population growth, urbanization, and industrialization are all putting increased demands on (and posing increased threats to) western Canadian water. Furthermore, climate change will intensify uncertainty and insecurity surrounding our water future. This conference will bring together water experts, advocates, and citizens to take on the difficult task of finding a balance between the needs of natural and human systems. Conference delegates will critique proposals to intervene massively in the hydrology of western Canada and examine, instead, promising alternatives that can help bring economic security while preserving environmental integrity. This conference will stretch the debate surrounding water, the economy, and the environment and help begin to fashion bold, no-regrets strategies for a secure and sustainable future.

For more information, email darrinq@environmentalsociety.ca


14

the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

wealth

Not in our best interests Banks keep consumers, countries shackled to debt

“Every bank of discount, every bank by which interest is to be paid or profit of any kind made by the (lender), is downright corruption. It is taxation of the public for the benefit and profit of individuals.” -John Adams, the second President of the United States.

DAVID WILSON

P

rofits for Canadian banks are always booming, no matter how the economy is doing. At the height of the recession in 1991, the big six banks in Canada made almost $4 billion in profits, which was a record at the time. In 2005, despite CIBC’s $2.8 billion litigation cost related to Enron, the big six banks in Canada made over $12.1 billion in profits, but were still unsatisfied. Clearly bank executives have nothing better to do but to devise ever more ways of making the consumer pay. Imagine what could be achieved if these motivated individuals used their talents for the public good.

Whose interest? It was not always like this in North America. Even by 1809, the state of Virginia still made it clear that if a corporate charter “is merely private or selfish; if it is detrimental to, or not promotive of, the public good, they have no adequate claim upon the legislature for the privileges.” In 1857 alone, the state of Pennsylvania dissolved 10 banks because they did not promote the public good. How many banks should be closed in 2005? For-profit is one problem, but the of charging interest may be the biggest one though. Over our lifetime, 80 per cent of us pay more in interest than we ever receive from it. Those in the top 10 per cent get back twice what they ever pay in interest, with the elite hogging the most of this.

Locked into debt: the Southern Hemisphere By looking to our neighbours in the global South we clearly see just how devastating interest can be. Nigeria has borrowed a total of U.S.$5 billion. They have paid back U.S.$16 billion, but still owe U.S. $32 billion on the original U.S.$5 billion balance. With loan payments that large, interest compounds like Tribbles. By 2001, the debt in the South reached an unreal and unpayable U.S. $2.4 trillion. In the year 2000 alone, the South paid U.S.$331 billion in debt payments. How did this colossal nightmare begin? In the 1970s, the Middle East was flooded in oil profits. They put their money into Northern banks. With the price of oil increasing so quickly in 1973, coinciding with a recession in the North, the South was hit the hardest. The result was that the South could not sell as many exports to the North plus they had to pay more for oil. Northern banks needed to lend out the Middle Eastern oil money to make money. With a recession in the North the banks couldn’t find anymore takers to lend money to so they looked South. Only nations could borrow in amounts equal to the Middle East oil profits. From 1974 to 1976 the South borrowed a stunning U.S.$109 billion. Lending to nations was thought to be safer than to people or even corporations. Sadly, most of this money that was lent to the South was not put towards productive investments, but was just to keep consumer spending at the same

level to avoid an even steeper recession. At relatively low interest rates though they found willing takers in the South. It was like you see in the junk mail ads here, ‘credit card rate of 3.99 per cent. After taking on colossal loans, the North increased interest rates significantly in the 1970s and early 1980s. Though during periods of time in history it has been outlawed, interest seems to now be accepted and even deemed necessary to us. Here we, without any thought, view a mortgage as a prudent thing to obtain. In French, mortgage translates to “grip of death.” Interest ends up enslaving us during the majority of our working lives. Mortgages are the biggest reason for this. The hidden cost of interest in the goods and services in our society has been estimated at between 30-50 per cent. Imagine how much cheaper goods would be without costs such as interest built into them?

The Swedish example Can banks survive without charging interest? In Skvode, Sweden (180-km west of Stockholm) there is a bank called JAK (which translates into Land Labour Capital). JAK does not charge interest. Interest-free loans as you can imagine can save you big time money. For example, a loan of $20,000 over 10 years at JAK compared to an interest charging bank loan would save you over $5,416. Imagine how much you would save over a 25-year mortgage on a house that costs over $200,000?

Though during periods of time in history it has been outlawed, interest seems to now be accepted and even deemed necessary to us. Here we, without any thought, view a mortgage as a prudent thing to obtain. In French, mortgage translates to “grip of death.” Interest ends up enslaving us during the majority of our working lives. Instead of interest, JAK charges a fee to cover operating expenses. At the beginning of the loan one is charged 3.5 per cent of the loan balance and every year after the fee is 1.0 per cent. On a ten-year loan, converting the fee to interest would be the equivalent to our banks charging us interest of two per cent. With these savings, the average JAK member takes 11 years to pay off their mortgage. Perhaps one day a bank like JAK will be the norm in North American communities. Interest-free community banks could also lend, at a lower cost, to create cooperatives that make local goods and services with local labour made from local resources in a sustainable way. Cooperatives would be able to lower the price of their goods and services because interest would not be charged on their loans from fee based community banks. Our short-term goal should be the capping of profits made by insatiable for-profit banking institutions. The long-term goal should be converting these institutions into not-for-profit ones that do not charge interest, whose primary goal is to strengthen local economies. Instead of siphoning money from the poor to the rich, to make them richer, a bank could be in the community’s interest - pun intended.

Interest-free community banks could also lend, at a lower cost, to create cooperatives that make local goods and services with local labour made from local resources in a sustainable way. Cooperatives would be able to lower the price of their goods and services because interest would not be charged on their loans from fee based community banks.

❂ David Wilson works for a community development organization, and is a volunteer with Oxfam, CU.S.O and the Calgary No Sweat Coalition (which raises awareness of sweatshops).


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

WINTER 2 0 0 6

15

wealth On 2005-11-09 05:47:00.0 you wrote: How many aboriginal people (Indian, Metis, and Inuit) live in Alberta?

SURRPLUS / continued from page 1

Finance responded as follows: Thank you for your inquiry. That information can be found in the Historical Fiscal Summary in Budget 2005. Here is a link to the summary: h t t p : / / w w w. f i n a n c e . g o v. a b . c a / publications/budget/budget2005/ fiscal66.gif The link pulled up a spreadsheet which included resource revenues from fiscal year 1885-1986 through to projections for fiscal year 2007-2008. Not wanting to count unhatched chickens, I added up the numbers from 1985 to 2005, and got a grand total of $78.62 billion. Just for the sheer hellishness of it all, I had also written a note to Aboriginal Affairs, and got this response:

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development responded: Greetings, Alberta First Nations population (94,422) : Males = 46,533 ; Females = 47,889 On-reserve population (58,782) ; Offreserve (32,873) ; on Crown land (2,767) Alberta’s total Aboriginal (ancestry) population was 199,015 That’s 199,015 Aboriginal people in Alberta, divided up into various segments. Indigenous folks are badly divided; we joke about “Indian crabs” and have cartoons about a chief with forty arrows in his back.

Parkland Institute Publications Order Form 11045 Saskatchewan Drive Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1 Phone: (780) 492-8558 Fax: (780) 492-8738 Title

$

BOOKS Writing Off the Rural West Shredding the Public Interest Clear Answers Contested Classrooms Trojan Horse The Return of the Trojan Horse

$30 $5 $10.65 $21.35 $5 $28.88

PARKLAND STUDIES free upon request to sponsor members A Time for Vision: Sustainable & Equitable Economy From Rhetoric to Reality: Protecting Whistleblowers Quality Health Care in Alberta A Time to Reap Advantage for Whom? Advantage No More Aftershock Alberta’s Good Enough Approach B.C. Advantage Change and Opportunity Energy: Free trade and the price we paid Giving Away the Alberta Advantage Light Among the Shadows Making it Work: Kyoto, Trade and Politics Public Bodies, Private Parts Reclaiming Medicare Sobering Results Trouble in Paradise? Views on Democracy Un-accountable Youth Crime and Justice in Alberta

$5 $5 $10 $5 $5 $4 $10 $5 $5 $5 $5 $10 $10 $8 $5 $10 $5 $10 $5 $5

G.S.T INCLUDED.

Name Phone #

Fax #

Address City/Prov.

Postal Code

Shipping $2.00/item TOTAL COST

Quantity

As the UN Treaty Study politely pointed out, indigenous peoples won’t unite for the purpose of repelling the attacks being made upon us by European colonizers. But what if we changed course and took the UN’s advice, and decided to unite? Then we could claim 199,015 Aboriginal people on our side. As the UN Treaty Study also confirms, our treaties with Europeans and their settler states are not land surrenders, but shared use agreements, still valid today, in international law. The three treaties covering the entire province of Alberta make no mention whatsoever of resource revenues; this issue has not yet been brought to the table for discussion. You would think that something involving $78 billion over 18 years would be hard to overlook. Why hasn’t Her Majesty’s Government asked to meet with indigenous peoples to discuss this matter? Canada’s illegal, possibly even genocidal Indian Act unilaterally created conditions, never agreed to, but enforced by Canadian police, armed forces, courts, and prisons, that led to today’s situation. By the time the 1931 Natural Resource Transfer Act was passed through the Alberta Legislature, indigenous peoples were assumed to be in the ashcan of history.

...what if we changed course and took the UN’s advice, and decided to unite? Then we could claim 199,015 Aboriginal people on our side. As the UN Treaty Study also confirms, our treaties with Europeans and their settler states are not land surrenders, but shared use agreements, still valid today, in international law.

However, as Alberta’s Aboriginal Affairs notes above, indigenous peoples are still alive, today. If international law counts for anything, over the past 18 years Alberta has taken, illegally, $78.62 billion in resource revenue from the poorest population segment inside of Alberta. Consider me a simpleton. Ignoring the fact that dollar values have changed, and population counts have changed, this means that the Alberta Advantage has been subsidized to the tune of $21,946 per year by each indigenous person inside of Alberta, over the past 18 years. The Alberta government claims to believe in the free market system, and the rule of law, yet illegally subsidizes the general activities of Albertans, as well as the general activities of major energy corporations, and does it illegally. Energy corporations, posting the largest ever single year’s profits in the history of the world, apparently need subsidies to extract oil from oil sands, and so the province of Alberta takes from the poorest of the poor and gives to the richest of the rich.

By tossing a wee bit of extra cash at the good ol’ boys ‘n girls of Oilberta, Alberta’s surplus, all stolen money, will keep the decent settler folk who populate white Alberta quiet. The accumulative effects of 129 years of the illegal Indian Act will make sure that the natives don’t get too restless either, even though some may be partying on to the beat of rez rappers like War Party, from Hobbema, hip-hopping to the Rez Zone Nation’s national anthem, “Feeling Reserved.” Someday alienated and disillusioned indigenous youth may not feel so reserved, and an inchoate outpouring of violence may flow, like we have seen in France in recent months. If $78.62 billion had been spent over the past 18 years rebuilding nations of indigenous peoples, who should not to be confused with First Nations, or nation-states, badly damaged by Canada’s genocidal assault, I, for one, believe that it would be to every Albertan’s advantage. I sincerely believe that it is not too late to turn the tide; all it will take is courageous people seeing beyond the ideology of racism to stand up for the rule of law.

War Party from Hobbema

❂ Steinhauer lives and works at his birthplace, Saddle Lake First Nation, where he carves stone for money, and studies the relationship between racism, colonialism and capitalism for fun. See www.indigenius.biz for details.

writers! The Post is currently recruiting writers interested in the social, political and environmental issues affecting Albertans. Enthusiasm, not experience, is the only requirement. For more information, contact the Post's coordinating editor at parkpost@ualberta.ca


the Post •

A PARKLAND INSTITUTE PUBLICATION

PARKLAND INSTITUTE’S

WINTER 2 0 0 6

Available from Parkland Institute

upcoming events

The Return of the Trojan Horse: Alberta and the New World (Dis)Order

Fueling Fortress America Oil Sands and Energy Security A talk and discussion featuring: Hugh McCullum and Gordon Laxer Edmonton, March 7, 2006 7:00 to 8:30 pm Room 129 in the Education Building, On 87 Ave, between 115 and 116 St University of Alberta Campus Red Deer, March 8, 2006 3:00 to 4:30 pm Margaret Parsons Theatre Red Deer College Calgary, March 8, 2006 7:30 to 9:00 pm University of Calgary, location TBA

Edited by Trevor Harrison

“Peel away the careful packaging of the Klein government's record and what have you got? This book tells the story. Facts, clear prose, and the courage to tell it straight make it essential reading.” –Canadian Forum

Calgary Parkland Institute Office Launch Come meet the staff and celebrate our new location.

Order your copy today from the Parkland Institute: (780) 492-8558 or parkland@ualberta.ca

March 16, 2006 7:00 to 9:00 pm (Parkdale United Church) 2919 - 8 Avenue NW

Book Tour: The Bottom Line The truth behind private health insurance in Canada Late March, 2006 Seven-city Alberta tour

Parkland Institute AGM Meeting and Speaker Calgary, location TBA April 29, 2006 Day time event

Parkland’s Tenth Annual Fall Conference Edmonton November 17-19, 2006 University of Alberta Campus

Please visit our website for the most up-to-date information about our upcoming events at www.ualberta.ca/parkland or call us at (780) 492-8558 in Edmonton or (403) 270-9669 in Calgary

Winter 2006

16


Winter Post 2006