As many of you know, the Canadian national anthem actually begins:
Seriously, is that an acknowledgment that this land was stolen from indigenous groups?
Growing up, I took it to mean our land of origin or natural land...What did you think?
Anyway, studying migration over the past few years in world that cannot be described as anything other than a system of global apartheid, I have become leery of nationalism and associated holidays.
I've been slowly making my way through Yves Engler's recent book 'The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy' which is described as follows:
This book could change how you see Canada. Most of us believe this country’s primary role has been as peacekeeper or honest broker in difficult-to-solve disputes. But, contrary to the mythology of Canada as a force for good in the world, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy sheds light on many dark corners: from troops that joined the British in Sudan in 1885 to gunboat diplomacy in the Caribbean and aspirations of Central American empire, to participation in the U.N. mission that killed Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, to important support for apartheid South Africa, Zionism and the U.S. war in Vietnam, to helping overthrow Salvador Allende and supporting the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, to Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan today.
Anyway, I have to work today so I don't have time to develop this entry as much as I would like to...but I will leave you with a recent article by Todd Gordon which analyzes Canada's official response to recent events in Iran, Honduras and Peru in an article titled 'Acceptable Versus Unacceptable Repression: A Lesson in Canadian Imperial Hypocrisy.'
June has been a difficult month for progressive activists around the world. Mass protests in Iran and indigenous blockades in Peru were met with heavy repression, while a left-of-centre President in Honduras was ousted in a military coup. What these tragic events do offer us, however, is a very clear perspective on Canadian foreign policy.
Consider the Canadian response to the events in Iran. Canada issued three press releases on the events in Iran, all by Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon. The first was on June 15 after the repression against the protests challenging electoral fraud began. It called for an investigation into the allegations of fraud by the Iranian government and condemned the government’s move to ban protests.
On June 21, after perhaps the worst day of violent repression of protesters in Iran up to that point by government security forces and the government-aligned militia, in which more than a dozen people were killed, Canada issued a sharp condemnation of the Iranian government. In the press release, Cannon stated that:
“Canada condemns the decision of the Iranian authorities to use violence and force against their own people … The Iranian people deserve to have their voices heard, without fear of intimidation and violence. Canada condemns the use of force to stifle dissent, and we continue to call on Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice, and to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the fraud allegations.”
A third statement was released on June 25 calling for the release of political prisoners and personally criticizing the Iranian official put in charge of the investigation of the detained reformist leaders.
But what did the Canadian government say following the first rumblings of a potential military coup against the moderately left wing Honduran president, Jose Manuel Zelaya, on June 25? Nothing. As of the evening of June 29, it had issued one rather tepid press release late on June 28, more than 12 hours after the coup became known outside Honduras.
And what did the Canadian government say when over 50 indigenous activists in Peru were gunned down on June 5th by military and police forces for protesting their government’s free trade policies? Nothing. The massacre of indigenous protesters in Peru, many of whose bodies were then dumped by police in a river, didn’t rate any mention at all.
So why does Iran rate a sharp rebuke, but a military coup in Honduras and brutal repression in Peru inspire cautious condemnation and silence respectively?
Canadian Economic Interests versus Human Rights
For starters, the Iranian government is a part of the “Axis of Evil” in the war on “terror,” of which Canada is an eager member. Thus Iran is a fair target for criticism when it moves to crush dissent, as it should be. (Though we should be mindful that the interests of Canada, like those of the U.S. or U.K., aren’t necessarily a democratic Iran but a compliant one; one need only look at the history of foreign intervention in Iran in the 20th century to be skeptical about the intentions of imperial powers.)
But the situation is different when it comes to Honduras and Peru.
In Honduras, Canadian corporations – largely, though not exclusively, in mining – are major economic players. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, from 1996-2006 Canada was in fact the second largest foreign investor in the Central American country. Mining companies like Goldcorp, Yamana and Breakwater Resources benefit from a mining law passed in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 that strongly favours foreign corporations over the rights of local communities. The mining law and Canadian investments, particularly Goldcorp’s San Martin open pit mine, have been the target of large demonstrations and blockades over the last few years by indigenous peoples and small farmers whose lands and livelihoods are threatened by the expansion of – well documented – ecologically-disastrous Canadian mining.
In active support of Canadian capital (and foreign capital more generally) in Honduras, the Canadian government has supported, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), structural adjustment (now described as Poverty Reduction Strategies). Structural adjustment is aimed at the neoliberalization of the Honduran government and its public policies. Among other things, CIDA committed $1.5-million from 2004 to 2010 toward a program at the Universidad Nacional de Honduras to assist in the development and implementation of the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy process. The Canadian government has also been pursuing a free trade agreement (FTA) with Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
It should come as no surprise, then, that social movements opposed to mining investment and reactionary mining laws are a threat to well-established Canadian interests in Honduras. President Zelaya was also not on the best of terms with the mining industry. In his inaugural address in January 2006 he declared a moratorium on the granting of new mining concessions. While by no means stopping existing exploration or halting operational mines, this move was nevertheless seen as a threat to the security and stability of mining in the country, and industry officials responded with lobbying and advertising campaigns to push their interests.
Zelaya’s tenure also saw the adoption of a minimum wage increase, measures to nationalize energy generation plants and the telephone system, and Honduras’s entrance into the Venezuelan-initiated Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a political and economic formation that seeks to counter imperialist influence in the region.
Against this backdrop Zelaya, supported by trade unions and social movements, called a vote for June 28 to determine if a majority of Hondurans wanted to have a referendum during the upcoming elections in November on convening a constitutional assembly. If called, the constitutional assembly would seek to replace the current constitution, adopted in 1982 by a brutal American-backed military regime, with one more inclusive and democratic. Such a constitution could very well further jeopardize mining interests in the country.
But the vote – to decide whether or not to have a referendum – was strongly opposed by the anti-Zelaya-dominated Congress and Supreme Court and by the military, all of whom claimed it’s illegal. Their efforts to block the vote in the days leading up to it brought thousands of Hondurans onto the streets, as the first concerns about a potential coup were raised. But early in the morning of June 28 the military made its move, violently detaining Zelaya at his house and then deporting him to Costa Rica. Anti-Zelaya President of the Congress (and fellow member of Zelaya’s Liberal Party), Roberto Michelletti, read a letter of resignation later in the day allegedly signed by the ousted President, but Zelaya denies signing the letter. The military occupied the country, establishing checkpoints at the entrance of towns, while the national telephone system, cell phone service and the energy grid has been shut down in a number of areas.
The threat to the interests of the Canadian government and corporations has subsided, at least for the time being.
And so the Canadian government is much cagier around the situation in Honduras than it is with respect to Iran. The Organization of American States (OAS) did pass a resolution on Friday June, 26, after the first rumblings of a coup were heard, which called for the maintenance of democracy and the rule of law. Yet, at the same time, in the special session of the OAS Permanent Council on the situation in Honduras held that same day the Canadian representative remained silent. Foreign Affairs and International Trade issued no press release on the 26th or the 27th condemning the clear threat to Honduran democracy.
A press release was finally issued by Peter Kent, Minister of State for the Americas, very late in the evening of June 28. While Kent condemns the coup d’état, he “calls on all parties to show restraint and to seek a peaceful resolution” to the crisis, as if all parties, including Zelaya and his supporters, are responsible for the military-orchestrated coup or are equally unrestrained in their actions. This position is echoed in the Canadian representative’s statement to the OAS Permanent Council following the coup on the 28th. Canada has thus far failed, furthermore, to call for the reinstatement of the Honduran President, placing it politically behind the United States, which has called for Zelaya’s return, in its response to the coup.
Non-Response to the Massacre in Peru
In Peru, meanwhile, Canadian companies have over $2.3-billion in investments, ranking fourth among foreign investors in general but first in mining, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In an effort to strengthen the rights of Canadian capital in the Andean nation and lock in its access to Peruvian resources, Canada signed a free trade agreement with Peru late in 2008.
CIDA has also been busy at work in Peru, spending over $24-million between 2002 and 2009 on public sector reform (aimed at “improving efficiency”), developing new institutional and regulatory frameworks in the hydrocarbons sector (promoting “international private sector investment”), and reform in the mineral sector. Export Development Canada (EDC) – a government credit agency designed to finance Canadian foreign investment – recently posted a permanent representative for the Andean Region in Lima. EDC President, Eric Seigel, proclaimed that “EDC intends to become a permanent member of the Andean financial community, supporting growth for both Andean and Canadian companies operating in the region.”
And so Canada said nothing when Peruvian President, Alan García, sent in a 600 strong police and military force – including armoured personnel carriers and helicopter gun-ships – to crush a blockade of a major highway by 5,000 indigenous activists. The military and police assault led to the deaths of fifty protesters and the disappearance of many – possibly hundreds – more, according to indigenous organizations. Nine police officers were also killed during the assault when indigenous people fought back in self defense against the massive government show of brutal force.
While Canada remained silent about the repression in Peru, it couldn’t contain itself when, a mere two weeks later, Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, proudly announced that legislation to implement the Canada-Peru FTA was passed by parliament. But it was precisely the neoliberal and Free Trade policies of García that sparked the blockades in the first place. García, who has a long history of violence and political corruption that led to his exile in the 1990s, has moved to open up large swathes of indigenous land in the Amazon to foreign resource companies, sweetening the deal for Canadian and other foreign companies with low tax and royalty rates and cheap government-subsidized electricity rates.
The result, predictably, has been a steady growth of Canadian and other foreign resource firms in the Peruvian Amazon, and increasing confrontations between them and indigenous communities. Canada’s FTA with Peru, along with the American FTA, will only intensify the conflicts surrounding resource development and indigenous land.
If it’s Good for Canadian Business…
It’s no accident that the Canadian government quickly and sharply condemns some instances of repression, such as that in Iran, while it ignores or tepidly responds to others. If it’s good for Canadian business, then it’s okay. This is imperialist Canada in the developing world: exploit people and their resources to make a buck, and if some repression is required along the way, well so be it. This isn’t just an American act; it’s a Canadian one too, and it’s becoming all too familiar.
It’s also worth noting here that Canadian involvement in Honduras and Peru (and many more countries besides) extends beyond investment interests and financing neoliberal reform. Canada has also trained Honduran and Peruvian military personnel through the Military Training Assistance Programme (MTAP). The MTAP provides language, officer and “peace support” operations training to roughly 1,300 military personnel from sixty-three different developing countries a year. According to its Directorate, the MTAP serves to “promote Canadian foreign and defence policy interests.” It “uses the mechanism of military training assistance to develop and enhance bilateral and defence relationships with countries of strategic interest to Canada.”
It happens to be the case that many of the participating countries are ones with which Canada has, or is hoping to develop, strong economic ties and which have troubling human rights records, including Peru and Honduras.
The reality of Canadian involvement in the third world is an ugly one, and deserves greater attention from the Canadian Left. The Honduran and Peruvian situations are not the exception to the rule of Canadian foreign policy. They represent the normal practice of the Canadian government defending Canadian business interests against the human rights of workers, poor communities, and indigenous peoples.
'Acceptable Versus Unacceptable Repression: A Lesson in Canadian Imperial Hypocrisy' by Todd Gordon via New Socialist
A Different Picture of O Canada:
The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy by Yves Engler
This is what I had to say at the protest against Condoleezza Rice who was invited by The University of Calgary to open its new school of public policy...
A couple of weeks ago, I began a petition asking The University of Calgary to rescind its invitation to Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be the keynote speaker at tonight's gala.
I'm happy to say that, to date, we have collected over 250 signatures online and more in hard copy. The petition was signed by faculty and students at The U of C and members of local and international communities.
The Iraq and Afghanistan invasions were launched using the rhetoric of freedoms and rights. And yet, over the past couple of weeks, I have become more aware than ever of the efforts that are made in North America to curb our freedom of speech.
Unfortunately for Dr. Mintz - the chair of the new school of public policy - we will not all be silenced.
The chair of the school of public policy - Dr. Jack Mintz - who incidentally sits on the board of Imperial Oil - celebrates Dr. Rice as "a good example of what a school of public policy can achieve."
Let us consider what the policies of the Bush administration - including those formulated and implemented by Condoleezza Rice - have achieved:
So, I would like to ask Dr. Mintz - again the chair of The U of C's new school of public policy - when you say that Rice offers a good example of what can be achieved, good for whom? Who benefits? Who loses?
I my eyes, the policies that Dr. Mintz celebrates come at the cost to millions of people including myself and all of you standing in this crowd.
I believe the news has reported that tonight's gala is a $500 plate affair. How many of us here can afford a $500 for a meal?
I think we can safely say that this public policy institute has invited local elites and plans to serve up policies in their interests while the rest of us - the majority - are left scrounging for scraps.
We are not just angry that The University of Calgary has invited a war criminal to our campus and our city. We are angry because of the underlying values of the policies that Dr. rice represents. And, be certain that academic freedom and integrity are not among them!
To use a favourite phrase of Bush and company, I say MAKE NO MISTAKE that we will not accept imperialism of any kind.
We are through with illegal invasions that secure the interests of global elites while killing millions. We will not fund invasions that take from the public coffers and leave us with crises of education, child care and housing.
And be sure that we will not settle for Imperialism Lite. We will not turn a blind eye because some administrations limit torture to the bombing of those on the streets. What is imperialist war other than mass torture and mass murder?!
Condoleezza Rice's policies are not good in any way, shape or form. Indeed, the outcomes of Dr. Rice's policies should be held up and identified as an example of the horrors that result when policy is made at the service of the military industrial complex, oil corporations and geopolitical gain.
Canada can no longer be the United State's Imperial puppet.
Canada must get out of Afghanistan.
'Contentious Condi Visits Calgary' by Katy Anderson, The Gauntlet
Online petition 'Illegal War is Not Good Policy'
Pictures of the Calgary protest of Condi's visit by local photographer Robert Thivierge
Recently, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce came under scrutiny for hosting George W. Bush.
While many asked why the Chamber of Commerce would be one of the first organizations in the world to welcome a man that many consider a buffoon, if not a war criminal, the University of Calgary Graduate Association is more than happy to cozy up to the club. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce reports that it has forged a new relationship with the University of Calgary Graduate Students' Association (GSA).
The current president of the Graduate Students' Association is as pleased as punch:
“The GSA couldn’t be happier to receive this opportunity from the Chamber of Commerce,” said GSA President Rithesh Ram. “Over 70 percent of graduate students return to industry upon graduation. Yet even with multiple degrees, graduate students will face a highly competitive job market. Grad students joining the Chamber will get the chance to network and meet industry leaders in Calgary, which we believe will give them an edge in gaining employment.”
Yes, that's right. The approach of the GSA is not to fight for students for reduced student debt and adequate economic and labour policies, but to hope a lucky few can strike deals. They are more than ready to serve up students as the new "labour force" with little care to our rights as citizens to accessible education and living wages.
This warm and fuzzy, elite ass-kissing approach to student issues continues the trend that was set by the former president of the GSA, David Coletto. In 2007, Coletto made the mind-numbing move to not challenge tuition hikes at the University of Calgary. As the Calgary Herald reported in 2007,
Next month, at this year's annual tuition meeting, the administration hopes board members will vote to raise tuition by the maximum 4.6 per cent for next fall.
But on Dec. 7 -- for the first time in recent memory at the university -- student leaders won't be at the board table protesting the proposed tuition increase.
There won't be bands of students tenting in massive campus shantytowns either; no Kraft Dinner cook-offs; no traffic blockades and no protesters chanting outside the boardroom.
Instead, the elected undergraduate and graduate student presidents have made the controversial decision not to fight the fee hike.
"We can't yell and scream about it anymore because it doesn't get us anywhere," said David Coletto, graduate student president.
"Protests have gone on here for years and have never made a difference. Students don't win that argument, so it's time to find a different strategy."
It's a move that satisfies board members, angers some U of C students and surprises political watchers.
"Wow. It sounds like they are simply rolling over," said Keith Brownsey, a political science instructor at Mount Royal College.
"That's what students do and what they have always done -- they protest tuition."
Brownsey suggested the students reconsider, or risk facing an angry student body.
"They are abrogating their responsibilities as student leaders," he said. "I am sure the student body didn't elect them to to do something this goofy and silly."
An online discussion around a recent Gauntlet article on the GSA election has raised an important issue: to what extent can student associations represent students under the Alberta Post-Secondary Learning Act that was proclaimed in 2004?
This act requires student associations to be governed as "corporations" and allows the government to dissolve student unions. An undergraduate representative explained to The Gauntlet in 2003:
We try to act in the best interests of students. One of our first
thoughts was tuition decisions and things like Bill 43. When these
situations come about, at many times the students' unions can do many
things that can be very confrontational to the university and to the
The moment that the provincial government has the ability to go into our finances and decide: "Well this tuition fight or this Bill 43 fight is an 'irregularity' and we're going to send in an investigator," or "You shouldn't spend X amount of dollars to send people to Edmonton to panhandle on the steps of the legislature. We're going to remove you from office," it prevents us from properly representing much of the wishes and desires of students. It hangs a cloud of fear over our heads.
They didn't elect us, they aren't our constituents here, yet they would have the ability to step in and remove us. I don't see that as being correct. It's not democratic, and it certainly hinders our ability to wholeheartedly represent the wants of students here at the U of C.
Unfortunately, I have never heard about Bill 43 from the current executive of the GSA. I don't get the sense that Coletto or Ram feel hindered by the legislation. They seem content with the silencing of students. Indeed, they write off a long history of student dissent and protest as being "uncivilized."
The current GSA is in the process of pursuing de-federation from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The recent GSA election was compromised by the abuse of poorly designed bylaws. When asked by the student newspaper about the relevance of the candidates' positions on the CFS, Ram said that, "any candidate who did not question CFS 'would look bad' to the council."
I know as a graduate representative that I am considered 'bad' for my general (though not uncritical) support of the Canadian Federation of Students. Indeed, Ram has accused me of working for the CFS. I have also been informed that he has printed off some of my email communications in relation to the CFS.
I think it is appropriate to clarify my position. My concerns with the Graduate Students' Association of the University of Calgary extend well beyond the issue of de-federation from the CFS. I should, perhaps, thank Coletto and Ram for initiating the process of de-federation because it has alerted many of us to the terrible track being pursued by the GSA and its complicity with outrageous legislation that acts to deny students substantive representation.
Also, let me be clear that the Ram, Coletto and their gang will need a hell of a lot more than printed copies of my emails to intimidate me.
I have smoked pot and I did inhale. I don't respond to these little political witch hunts.
I am more than willing to endure public humiliation in the fight to regain adequate student representation.
Ram and Coletto have both rebuked me for my blog. If the two of you are reading this, I suggest that you go curl up in the fetal position and cling to your Michael Ignatieff Christmas cards. Don't bother me with emails and requests for private so-called meetings.
As a student, I feel that you have inadequately upheld your duties as representatives. You can double check with the constitutional lawyer you flew in last month (on the student dime) for the 45-minute anti-CFS speech, but I am quite sure that I am guaranteed freedom of speech and association under the Canadian Charter of Rights.
You are political representatives. You've made political choices. Your choices are being criticized. Suck it up.
'Grads Students Lose Votes to Bylaws' by Sarelle Azuelos, The Gauntlet
'Chamber Partners with the GSA' via UToday
'Where Have All the Protesters Gone?' by Deborah Tetley, The Calgary Herald
'The Alberta Disadvantage in Higher Education' by Anthony J. Hall, Canadian Dimension
I could write a blog post about blood cell phones and conflict in the Congo. And, I could tell you how I have never owned a cell phone and that would be the truth. And, I could tell you that I don't own a cell phone because I am a socially conscious consumer (problematic phrase?) and that would be a lie. (I am just an introvert and can't imagine paying money to communicate everywhere-and-anywhere!)
I could and will tell you that I shop at Old Navy, the Gap, and Banana Republic.
I throw Enloe's classic Bananas, Bases, and Beaches back on the bookshelf and walk the aisles for clothes from a corporation that more or less explicitly celebrates garments that are the product of militarization, structural adjustment, and neocolonialism.
How do I live with myself?
I don't know...anxiously, sleepily, angrily, hysterically...occasionally hopefully...I guess like I imagine others live in this world.
I came across the following photo on Flickr tonight which documents and responds to the anti-panhandling campaign in Cleveland.
The photographer, Maureen Sill, writes:
fuck that shit
fuck the middle man
give to the source
people are so worried they will spend it on beer
well fuck i would give a homeless guy a beer if that is what he wanted
people are so cold
jenny holzer said, sin is a means of social control
and that is what this is, homelessness is deviant so we gotta clean it up gotta get rid of the visibility and make them ashamed of themselves
yeah sounds fucking great
There a lot of things that I want to blog about...so many things, but I feel so mentally and physically exhausted these days. It is hard to know where to devote one's energy. Currently, I am getting more involved in student organizing...I find it hard. The commercialization and growing inaccessibility in Canadian education frightens me...Between trying to get my course work and thesis done, I am trying to squeeze in time to read books like Trevor Harrison's Contested Classrooms. I want to find time to write about the issue of unpaid practica in social work programs...and I am tired of having faculty feed capitalist rhetoric to me sweetened by cuddly-social-work-jargon so that I will be OK with my own exploitation and that of my peers.
While I am increasingly disenchanted with academia, I am also losing faith in formal politics - why does the NDP continually shy away from a radical program that would include nationalization of energy and free education among policies that actually help us average Joes?
Are we ever going to get national child care or shall I count on the inevitability of the exploitation of both my unpaid and waged labour? Wow. Thank you, Capitalism, for all these choices.
Fortunately, there are some good things happening in my personal life. I am acutely aware right now of the need to embrace the joys of life...because activism can be thankless and tiresome...and scary.
Anyway, since I am feeling at a loss for words, I offer this video from Seriously Free Speech that tells the story of three activists being sued my the media giant Canwest. I'm not being sued but I sure as hell know what it is like to be pressured to shut the fuck up.
I genuinely wonder how the people being sued by Canwest feel...Do they feel "chilled"? I do.
Grrr...data collection/analysis plus student organizing in Alberta = mental health problems and addictions.
Rising gas prices are just another joyful reality this the fucking Fall.
The Calgary Herald captures people's stress in response to the spike in gas prices - '12-Cent Gasoline Spike Sparks Call for Relief':
Hurricane Ike's rush toward Gulf Coast refineries sent gasoline up a dime a litre Friday throughout the city, a jolt that had even free-market-loving Calgarians demanding federal party leaders control fuel prices.
"They should put a cap on it, you know?" Ray Perrett grumbled as he waited in line to fill up at a Co-op station on 17th Avenue S.E. "They can't just put it up every time a storm blows through the Caribbean."
A buddy warned Perrett to rush to the nearest station Friday after his overnight grocery store shift, as word spread of spikes of 13 cents a litre in Ontario. Pump prices in Calgary went as high as $1.409 per litre.
With the economy facing choppy waters, voters are increasingly worried about their pocketbooks, be it from soaring fuel costs or food expenses.
People were calling for drastic action Friday and weren't in a mood to wait.
Eleven cars lined up at that southeast Co-op station. The price Friday morning was at $1.249, while the Esso a few blocks away had just changed its sign to $1.369.
"I do believe it's up to Mr. Harper to step in and to put a stop to it and lower our gas," retiree Darlene Smith said, eight cars behind the pumps. "Control the prices at the pump."
Of course, the Herald stays true to its role as corporate whore and solicits the opinion of single
neoliberal economist Mike Percy who, incidentally, is on the board for Epcor - which operates one of the province's largest-emitting coal-fired power plants:
While pocketbook issues have become major campaign issues, University of Alberta economist Mike Percy said Canada doesn't need a ruling party that messes in such private-sector matters.
Indeed, we would not want the government messing in "private" matters such as the environment and welfare of citizens. Of course,in spite of all the free-market rhetoric, the corporations welcome government interference when it suits them. In 'Albertans missing out on the benefit of soaring oil prices', Diana Gibson and David Thompson explain that a royalty cap ensures firms aren't paying top dollar for our natural resource:
Oil prices didn't always used to make headlines, but they have now quadrupled in the last four years and doubled since just last summer.
In fact, prices have been increasing so fast that it's hard to find decent graphs showing oil prices over the long term.
Oh, there are many price graphs. But most are terribly out of date. Many were produced prior to March, when oil cruised past the $100/barrel "psychological barrier."
Remember that barrier?
No doubt oil prices will fluctuate in the future. They will go down. And then up, and much higher than they are today. Growing demand and a limited global supply will see to that. It's not a question of if, but when.
What will happen with Alberta's royalties when oil is much more expensive?
Well, it appears that the government's new royalty framework, published last October and not yet in effect, is already well out of date.
When it adopted the new framework, the government said it was "fundamental and necessary change to current royalty structures. It creates a system that is more sensitive to market value ... ."
What does "sensitive to market value" mean? It means royalty rates rise when oil prices rise.
However, the current cap maxes out royalty rates when prices reached $30 per barrel, and last October oil was hovering around $80 to $90 per barrel.
As the government's own royalty review panel said, the $30 cap is "so low that royalty rates are no longer sensitive to market conditions. They do not rise or fall with price changes because prices are consistently above the caps."
The government's new framework will raise the rate cap to $120 per barrel in order to "ensure" royalties were sensitive to price. The document repeats the price sensitivity mantra no less than 12 times in 19 pages.
Of course, oil is now $130 per barrel. Or maybe near $140. Depends on the day. Anyway, we're already above the cap, and thus the new rate would be completely insensitive to new higher price.
Note the "would be." The greater irony is that the new cap doesn't take effect until January of next year. Right now the cap is still only $30 per barrel.
And for natural gas, the same problem will likely emerge.
Gas has soared by 50 per cent in the last five months to $11.60/GJ. The new $16.59/GJ rate cap may well be of date before it kicks in.
Economist Pedro van Meurs, who has regularly worked with the energy industry and government, told the Calgary Herald this spring: "They are not capturing the proper economic rent ... You leave a bundle (of money) on the table. It is just unbelievable."
That money doesn't stay on the table for very long; it seems energy multinationals break earnings records every year now. And the majority of company revenues in the Canadian energy extraction sector are controlled outside of Canada.
It seems the government has realized that the $120 new royalty rate cap may not be such a good idea.
In late April, when oil was approaching the $120 cap, Energy Minister Mel Knight was facing heat from MLAs on both sides of the legislature.
He said: "If oil is above $120 a barrel and stays above $120 a barrel for an extended period of time, then the province may have to take action to ensure that Albertans continue to receive their optimum value."
So what to do -- raise the cap to a higher price? Well, if a cap is a bad idea at $120, will it be a good idea at $150? How about when oil passes $180? Or $200, as many economists now predict?
Short answer: no. A royalty rate cap is a bad idea, at any price. Period.
Let's get back to basics. The people of Alberta own the resource, and we should be getting top dollar when we sell it. Not a "fair share," not a "balanced" deal, but top dollar. That's how owners think.
And if we can sell at a higher rate when the price goes up, then we should do so. Can you imagine any corporation consistently selling at less than full price? If it did, the shareholders would fire the directors, and rightly so.
The provincial government owes it to the people of Alberta to sell our natural capital at the best rate it can.
The government needs to maximize royalties, so we can have savings for the future, when our energy resources dwindle. The first step is getting rid of the royalty rate cap.
The price of oil per barrel is currently around $91/barrel. It is amazing that those who would not have the government interfere in the "private" issue of citizen well-being, are quite happy to be protected from the market and, for the time being, continue to pay royalties on only $30/barrel.
"Please Help. Don't Give." - The City of Denver
"Handouts Do Not Help The Needy." - Memphis Centre City Commission
"Don't Give Where it Can't Help" - Downtown Cleveland Alliance
"The More You Give Change. The More Things Will Stay the Same." - Philadelphia Centre City District
"Be Part of Change. Don't Give Change." - The City of San Francisco
"Capitalists Have Your Best Interests at Heart. And, I'm a Chimpanzee." - Polly Jones of Marginal Notes
The War on the Poor:
San Francisco has become the latest city to heighten the war on the poor: waging a campaign to purge panhandlers from the downtown core under the disingenuous rhetoric that giving money hurts the poor.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The city's latest attempt to deal with one of its most vexing problems will be announced in coming weeks in the form of 10 old parking meters installed in some of the most heavily panhandled areas, The Chronicle has learned.
Money deposited in the meters would go directly to charities that help the homeless. The goal, officials say, is to reduce panhandling and to educate tourists and residents about the problem of giving money directly to people on the streets.
"The reason people are panhandling is because there's a market for panhandling," Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday. "We're not helping these individuals by handing out cash. If there was strong evidence to suggest this helped people turn their lives around, we would not be using this approach."
The bright orange meters, donated by the city's Department of Parking and Traffic, will be scattered along places like Market Street and Van Ness Avenue that typically attract a steady stream of panhandlers every day. The meters will be accompanied by signs telling people how they can give money to help the homeless.
The slogan for the program and accompanying advertising campaign will be plastered on the meters: "Be a part of change. Don't give change."
The plan is to have the Department of Parking and Traffic employees who collect money from parking meters also collect money from the homeless meters. The money would be divided among local nonprofit organizations, Newsom said.
A handful of cities around the country, including Denver and Baltimore, have installed homeless meters in recent years. And while the programs haven't necessarily been lucrative, some cities have seen less panhandling as a result.
Newsom and his homelessness czar, Dariush Kayhan, say it's worth a try.
"This is not going to solve poverty," Kayhan said. "But it is another strategy to see if we can save lives out there."
Local advocates for the homeless, however, laughed - and gasped - when told about the idea Monday.
Sister Bernie Galvin, executive director of Religious Witness with Homeless People, called the meter idea "utterly ridiculous." She said it was based on a stereotype that all panhandlers use every nickel and dime to buy drugs and alcohol.
"Forget the children, forget the mothers who are struggling to raise their family homeless or in inadequate housing," she said. "Will the city never give up on trying to find ways to make the lives of homeless people harder?"
Homeless advocate and community organizer James Chionsini liked the idea at first - until he realized you don't actually get parking for your change. Then he said it sounded like a political stunt that would have very little impact on funding homelessness programs or stopping panhandlers.
"I'd rather give it to a panhandler than put it in a meter personally," he said. "At least if you give it to them personally, you're going to get a smile." Newsom contends that most of the panhandlers in San Francisco aren't actually homeless but are supplementing government assistance with the money people give them.
Over the years, city leaders have struggled to curb the panhandling problem, which is largely centered around tourist areas and downtown. City officials estimate that about 150 panhandlers are on city streets on any given day.
In 2003, the San Francisco Hotel Council funded a $65,000 billboard campaign that linked panhandling to drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
One ad read, "Today we rode a cable car, visited Alcatraz and supported a drug habit."
Homeless advocates said the campaign was mean-spirited, and then-state Sen. John Burton took out ads of his own reading, "Jesus gave money to poor people on the streets of Galilee."
Also in 2003, then-Supervisor Newsom authored Proposition M, a voter-approved measure that banned aggressive panhandling in public places.
Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project that deals with homelessness issues, recalled attempts under previous mayors to place jars by cash registers in businesses and sell coupons for services that could then be handed over to panhandlers. He said the meters idea was especially "asinine" and San Francisco's all-time second-worst idea to curb panhandling.
The worst, he said, was a failed proposal during Willie Brown's administration to equip homeless people with credit-card machines like those used for retail purchases. People could swipe their cards and choose how much to donate, with 80 percent going to homeless programs and 20 percent to the individual panhandlers.
"It's not fair for the government to create this incredible level of poverty and then turn around to the rest of the community and say, 'Harden your hearts and give the money to us,' " Boden said. "Human beings when they see other human beings are going to give a little change, and that's good."
But Newsom asked doubters to keep an open mind. He said aggressive panhandling is by far the top complaint he hears from people.
"I ask them to give us a chance," he said. "If it doesn't work, show me the evidence, and then we'll abandon it."
Most of these downtown groups belong to the International Downtown Association. I guess Capital has its own downtown, while people are being pushed out of their real downtowns or told how to act, including how to use their money.
These businesses and municipalities want to rid their cores of glaring poverty to keep tourists happy and, therefore, rake in more profits. If they cared about helping the poor, they should start plugging the "homeless meters" with the tens of thousands of dollars they spend on anti-panhandling campaigns.
Capitalism creates poverty NOT generosity, empathy, and kindness towards other human beings.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT LINKING TO ANY ANTI-PANHANDLING CAMPAIGNS IN YOUR CITY
The people will win this war!!!