People’s Voice December 1-31, 2017

Volume 25 – Number 20   $1














13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker



PEOPLE'S VOICE      December 1-31, 2017 (pdf)


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(The following articles are from the December 1-31,2017, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)




PV Ontario Bureau


            Hundreds of union delegates met in Toronto from November 20-24th to discuss policy resolutions and adopt a plan of work, at the biennial convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour. This was the first convention since the newly elected team of Chris Buckley, Patti Coates and Ahmed Gaied replaced Sid Ryan, Irwin Nanda and Nancy Hutchinson two years ago. This leadership projected a united image claiming that many of the crises plaguing the OFL over the previous four years have been resolved or dealt with.


            With the return of two large affiliates and the sale of the OFL building, the treasurers’ report was praised as being miraculous and that a million dollars in debt had been retired. Not mentioned was that the financial crisis had been caused by a few large affiliates withholding their dues per capita, in protest of the previous leadership. The return of OPSEU and the SEIU had largely been expected this past year, since they made it clear they would return if Sid Ryan were replaced as president.  However, it is unclear how much of their withheld dues these two unions paid upon re-affiliating. It is likely that they only paid a token amount, similar to what the CAW paid upon their return from an extended absence in the last decade. The labour movement needs to find a way to prevent an affiliate from withdrawing its funds and financially strangling its provincial labour central when it disagrees with its decisions. 


            The OFL is Canada’s largest provincial labour federation, representing 54 unions and one million workers. This convention celebrated its 60th anniversary with a general sense of comradery and unity. Much of this celebratory mood was focused on Ontario’s fight for $15 and Fairness, which saw labour and community allies work tirelessly to improve labour laws and raise the provincial minimum wage. During the convention, legislation passed that increases the minimum wage to $14 on January 1, 2018 and to $15 by January 2019. The new law also includes a host of other improvements in sick leave, equal pay, vacation and emergency personal leave for all workers.


            Buckley’s “FedForward” team was handily re-elected. Hamilton activist Barry Conway challenged for the presidency, on a platform of fighting resurgent fascism and stopping raiding, but his campaign had only begun during the convention, so it was very small. Still, Conway was supported by 18% of the delegates, indicating a notable protest vote against Buckley’s leadership.


            The proposed Action Plan was presented for discussion on the first day of the convention, a significant improvement over the past two decades. The plan included 118 items, ranging from statements on various areas of struggle, ongoing work for improved labour laws, fighting for decent green jobs, and a commitment to organize new communities and sections of the working class. Overall, the action plan rededicates itself to achieving equity and diversity in the OFL’s approach to political action. In promoting peace and equality, the plan asks that workers not be divided but instead stand firm against white supremacy, islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-black racism and racism in all of its forms.  


            The convention adopted a motion, advanced by the Action Caucus and submitted by a number of affiliates, declaring housing a human right and demanding that the provincial government: immediately introduce a comprehensive social housing program and delivers it according to need; develop and implement an emergency plan to build new, publicly owned social housing; legislate real rent controls and roll backs for all renters; legislate a ban on evictions and utility cut-off due to involuntary unemployment, including strikes, lockouts and layoffs. 


            The resolution also calls for the OFL to launch a campaign with labour councils and affiliates to mobilize workers to demand a provincial housing program.


            As with many of the action plan items, it remains to be seen which priorities the executive council and executive board set over the next two years. A number of commitments made in the 2015 plan remain unfulfilled. Furthermore, the Buckley leadership deliberately abandoned the Ontario Common Front, an effort to bring together labour and community allies in a structured movement, which was the main conduit for achieving many of the key elements of the action plan.


            Ironically, the new plan proposes that the success of the Ontario Common Front be expanded in building allies, and notes that “together, community and labour hold tremendous potential for creating transformative change”. 


            In the midst of this cautious and, at times, orchestrated sense of unity, the issue of the OFL’s election strategy and labour’s relationship to the NDP emerged as a sharply divisive flashpoint.


            The most controversial amendment to the action plan focused on the goal of achieving “one million votes for the NDP”. With specific timelines and commitments, the amendment calls on all affiliates to collaborate uncritically and unconditionally with the Ontario NDP, to train voter organizers in key ridings, and to mobilize a minimum of 150 organizers from union activists, including young workers and retirees. No other section of the action plan contains such detailed commitments for either the OFL leadership or the affiliates.


            The election amendment was sponsored by unions with longstanding links to the NDP, and was opposed by unions not aligned with any specific political party. Its introduction was set up by speeches from Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and from long-time NDP leader Stephen Lewis, who curiously spoke about strategic voting during his panel on human rights.


            The debate on the floor revealed some of the underlying political divisions within the OFL and the labour movement as a whole. Some delegates indicated they favour a “strategic voting” approach which allows their members to vote for that candidate best positioned to block or defeat a Tory candidate. Others argued that the NDP is the “only party that supports the labour movement”. Many progressives argued that this insertion was divisive and would in the long run, weaken the unity of the OFL by making uncritical and unconditional support for the NDP a binding tactic in the upcoming provincial election. Examples were given where the NDP did not embrace the labour movement’s positions and where their campaign platforms lagged behind those of other parties.


            In the end, the action plan was divided into two parts, with the election tactic voted on separately. The bulk of the plan passed unanimously, but with diminished enthusiasm. The election strategy passed with a 70-30 vote, and the feelings of division and bitterness extended throughout the room.


            The challenge to the trade union movement, in the aftermath of this convention, will be to recover the sense of unity that filled the room at the start. The best way to do this is for the OFL to engage and mobilize all affiliates around those elements of the action plan that were unanimous – including fighting racism and white supremacy, organizing the unemployed and unorganized, and pressing for strong action on the housing crisis.


            Without question, for this to happen the labour movement needs a much stronger and structured Left, who can speak to the necessity of projecting a comprehensive set of independent demands for workers. Such activity would force political parties to answer to working class issues, much more effectively than by giving “carte blanche” to the NDP or any other political party.


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PV Vancouver Bureau


            This year's change in government in British Columbia has raised hopes that the province's staggering income and wealth gap, a legacy of policies going back over thirty years, may finally be acknowledged and perhaps even addressed to a significant degree. But NDP Premier John Horgan and his cabinet face big challenges in tackling the wide-scale levels of poverty in this province.


            One trusted measure of economic realities in British Columbia has been the annual BC Child Poverty Report Card, published for over a decade by the First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. The Report Card highlights the income inequality that leaves British Columbia families struggling to cover basic living expenses, notably the fact that nearly one in five children in this province still live in poverty.


            Using the most recent data, the report issued on Nov. 17 shows BC’s child poverty rate for children age 0-17 in 2015 was 18.3%, representing 153,300 children. This is nearly a full percentage point higher than the national average of 17.4%. It is down slightly from the 2014 rate of 19.8%.


            In 2015, while BC children made up just 18% of the province’s total population, they made up 22% of all British Columbians living in poverty.


            The report contains new 2016 census data highlighting the much higher poverty rates among some groups of children in the province, with recent immigrant children at 45%, off-reserve Aboriginal children at 31%, and racialized (‘visible minority’) children at 23%.


            “Children living in lone-parent families continue to have the highest poverty rate at 47.7%, or close to one in every two children in these family type, says Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call. “As most of these families are led by women, this points to the continued need to make sure our poverty reduction efforts address issues disproportionately affecting women, such as the gender wage gap and the lack of affordable quality child care.”


            Other key findings in the 2017 report include:


* In 2015, the child poverty rate for children in lone-parent families (47.7%) was more than four times the rate (11.2%) for their counterparts in couple families.


* 2% of the 14,490 children living with grandparents, alone or with relatives, non-relatives or in foster care, were living in poverty.


* Nearly half (45%) of recent immigrant children were poor, one in three (31%) Indigenous children were poor (not counting children living on First Nations reserves), and 23% of racialized (‘visible minority’) children were poor.


* In 2015, a single parent with one child working full-time for the whole year for minimum wage would have only earned $18,761, leaving them $10,111 below the $28,872 LIM before-tax poverty line.


* Poor families with two children in BC in 2015 had median incomes that were $11,000 below the poverty line. This means over half of them were even deeper in poverty.


* The 2017 Metro Vancouver homelessness count found 386 homeless children and youth under 25 years, including 201 children under the age of 19.


* For a couple with two children on welfare in 2015, their total income was $23,468, just 64% of the poverty line income of $36,426, leaving them $12,958 below the poverty line.


* Approximately 85% of the poor children in BC live in the province’s 25 urban areas. However children living outside urban areas had a 23.3% poverty rate, much higher than the provincial child poverty rate of 18.3%.


* Across BC, 23 out of the 29 regional districts had at least 1,000 children living in poverty. Metro Vancouver had 76,880 poor children, representing 50% of the poor children in BC.


* The income of BC’s richest 10% of families with children took home 24% of the income pie, compared to the 2% shared by the poorest 10% of families.


            In addition to calling for a provincial poverty reduction plan, the 2017 report card makes 21 public policy recommendations that would help reduce the child poverty rate to 7% or less by 2020.


            Key recommendations to the provincial government include implementing the $10 a Day Child Care Plan; bringing the minimum wage up to $15 an hour and indexing it, significantly increasing income and disability assistance rates and extending the provincial child tax benefit for all children under 18. Additional provincial recommendations include enhanced supports for youth transitioning out of government care, removing financial barriers to obtaining a post-secondary education, paying living wages and substantially increased investments in affordable housing options for families, among others.


            Federal contributions to many of these key areas are also targeted in the report’s recommendations, as well as areas that are under federal jurisdiction, such as enhancing Employment Insurance benefits and eligibility, eliminating refugee transportation loan debt and extending universal health coverage to prescription drugs, dental and eye care and hearing aids, among others.


            First Call wants both senior levels of government to end discrimination and immediately increase funding for First Nations child welfare, education and community health services and services for urban Indigenous people, and develop a long-term poverty eradication strategy in collaboration with First Nations and other Indigenous organizations and communities.


            For more information, visit


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By Liz Rowley, leader of the Communist Party of Canada


            The 19th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP) took place November 2-3 in St. Petersburg - formerly Leningrad. In October 1917, it was Petrograd, the cradle of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia.


            It was a fitting location as 106 parties from countries, including the Communist Party of Canada, came together to mark the centenary of the first socialist revolution in history to survive and thrive over more than 70 years. “Great October” opened the way for new socialist revolutions to follow in this century, as the world continues its transition from capitalism to socialism in increasingly difficult, dangerous, and complicated circumstances.


A pre-fascist period


            Speaker after speaker noted the growth of far-right and fascist movements in countries around the world, and in particular in the US and Europe, and the election of fascists to parliaments, legislatures, and local governments on both continents. While fascist parties were not elected to government in the recent votes in France and Germany, they substantially increased their vote and grew their popular base, including among sections of the white working class, using unemployment and the growing number of immigrants and refugees as the whipping boy.


            In Poland the Communist Party has been declared illegal, their leaders arrested and facing long sentences if the politically motivated charges against them are upheld in reactionary courts. In Ukraine, the fascist government has also outlawed the Communist Party and has destroyed all physical, legal, cultural and other markers of working class power. Ukraine is also the lead hand in imperialism’s new encirclement and attack on Russia through the on-going struggle over the Donetsk region. Canadian troops are stationed here, and also permanently stationed in Latvia.


            All over Europe, the history, achievements and victories of socialism are being eradicated, while imperialism’s propaganda machines pump out the lies that socialism was a failure, that socialism and fascism are synonymous; that austerity, militarism, xenophobia, and war are the only way forward.


            In Latin America, reaction has overturned progressive governments in Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador, and is working hard to destroy the Bolivarian revolutions in Venezuela and Bolivia, the peace agreement and FARC in Colombia, and to overthrow socialist Cuba. While the US threatens invasion and “regime change”, so far imperialism has succeeded in its aims with political, material, and financial support for the internal opposition in these countries. Counter-revolution from within, where the corporations and the wealthy, and often the military, join hands to defeat progressive governments and re-install reactionary cliques – all with the active and material support of US imperialism.


            The Trump administration is threatening war and invasion in countries around the world, with military spending that is unprecedented at $603 billion in 2017-18. At the same time Trump is amping up the attack on the US population, with massive corporate tax cuts and de-regulation which his administration hopes to offset with a protectionist trade policy and xenophobic foreign and domestic policies, attacking immigrants, refugees, undocumented workers, Indigenous and racialized peoples, women, and the LGBTQ population. 


            In Canada, the Trudeau government is moving to send troops to NATO hotspots around the world, to increase military spending by 75%, and to increasingly adopt US foreign policy objectives. Canada is playing a particularly vicious role in the US campaign to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution and the Maduro government in Venezuela. The Communist Party of Canada has worked hard to expose Canada’s dirty role and to force the Liberal government to end it. Similarly, we have campaigned to get Canada out of NATO, NORAD and NAFTA – agreements that are bad for Canada, and bad for the world’s peoples. 


Human rights used as instrument of fascization


            As the Belgian Communists succinctly pointed out at the IMCWP, the world is in a pre-fascist period, where imperialism is on a global offensive, using human rights as an instrument of fascization.  


            This includes the struggle around imperialism’s doctrine of “responsibility to protect”, and the idea that free speech, assembly, and other democratic rights are the justification to allow fascists to organize and propagate hatred. But hate crimes and incitement of hatred have nothing in common with civil and democratic rights; this is criminal activity wherever it appears, and must be opposed and exposed as fascist ideology. Likewise the “R2P” doctrine is an attempt to promote illegal wars and invasions for which there is no legal or other justification. This is the case is Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, among others.


Socialism is the alternative


            A sharp struggle, uniting the broadest social forces, is called for now to defeat the forces of fascism, reaction and war. But it must also be linked by the Communists, to the struggle for an alternative to the social, economic and other conditions that create the conditions for these menaces to be tolerated, even embraced by some working people. As Rosa Luxemburg said 100 years ago, the choice is socialism or barbarism. Communists must therefore focus much more on socialism as the only alternative to decaying capitalism and imperialism, without making this demand a condition of unity in the struggle.


            Simultaneously, much more theoretical work needs to be done on the problems of socialist construction and the socialist economy, as well as on 74 years of Soviet power in the USSR.  21st century revolutionaries will need the benefits of this theory and experience to carry through the socialist revolutions still ahead.


            While US imperialism’s dominance is waning on a global scale, and its economy is in serious trouble, China and Vietnam have both experienced significant economic growth, with China a major player in the world’s economy and politics. Five socialist states now govern 20% of the world’s population, which is why imperialism is so bent on destroying the remaining socialist countries and the ideals and example of socialism that they represent.


Resistance is growing


            While imperialism’s offensive is on-going, resistance round the world is growing.  Some parties have had to temporarily retreat in face of imperialism’s offensive, but they too are working to build the alliances and tactics that can move the struggle forward and put the working class and its allies in the offensive position, which is decisive and urgent everywhere. New problems, such as coming mass unemployment due to automation in the capitalist countries, and the peak environmental crisis and climate change, have forced themselves onto the agenda. Capitalism has no answers here, though these issues are looming. War and peace is also a critical issue, as the existence of the world’s peoples it threatened by a nuclear or environmental catastrophe.


            In this regard, the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, in which the US, South Korean and Japanese surround the DPRK and continuously undertake simulated invasions, is the cause of the crisis. The IMCWP reaffirmed the position of the parties that the solution is political, and involves immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops, and reunification of the Korean Peninsula, free of external pressure. Universal nuclear disarmament is the only way to prevent nuclear war, whether by deliberate action or by accident.


            The national question has also become a major factor in Europe, with the reprisals by the Spanish government against the Catalan people following the October 1st demonstrations for national self-determination, and the subsequent independence vote. The parties at the IMCWP reiterated their unequivocal support for the right of nations to self-determination, and their condemnation of the Spanish government’s actions before and after the vote, without expressing a view on the issue of independence. Both Spanish and Catalan governments are advocates of austerity, and neither is a friend of the working class in either nation.


Internationalism and solidarity


           The parties passed resolutions supporting the peoples’ struggles for peace and against imperialist interference, in many countries. This included solidarity with the peoples of Latin American and Caribbean; Turkey, Cyprus, the peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Balkans; and solidarity with the Catalonian people against the Spanish government’s reprisals.  A final statement was also adopted unanimously by the gathering, committing the parties to common actions on May Day 2018, to mark the bi-centennial of Karl Marx’s birth with new theoretical work, to expand campaigns to popularize socialism. The statement is available on the website of the IMCWP,


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            The Communist Party of Canada has welcomed a court ruling which nullifies the requirement that candidates pay a $1000 financial deposit to run in federal elections. The case was launched by Kieran Szuchewycz in November 2015, shortly after the most recent federal election. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench found that the deposit requirement violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While the Liberal government is considering an appeal, it appears that the ruling may have widespread implications for Canadian electoral laws, removing a financial barrier which restricted the ability of independents and smaller parties to take part in elections.


    Szuchewycz had unsuccessfully attempted to run as an independent candidate in former PM Stephen Harper’s riding of Calgary Heritage. His case cited several arguments, two of which were rejected by Justice Avril Inglis, who upheld the Elections Canada requirement to submit 100 signatures of eligible voters resident in the riding as well as the $1000 deposit.


    On that point, Inglis declared the $1,000 deposit requirement “is of no force and effect." Szuchewycz had argued that while the deposit was refundable to candidates who meet other reporting obligations, it constitutes a wealth test deterring poor and marginalized people from becoming candidates.


    Election deposits have been required since 1874, with the aim of preventing so-called "frivolous" candidates from ballot status. Deposits were half refundable until 2000, when they were made fully refundable as part of the ruling in the Figueroa case. Named for the leader of the Communist Party of Canada at the time, that historic case was a major victory over arbitrary Election Act rules which hindered smaller parties and independents.


     The Supreme Court and an Ontario Court had both previously found constitutional issues with deposit requirements. In the Ontario case, a justice had argued, based on the Ontario elections law, that “a right is limited if one must pay $1,000 before one can exercise it.”


    In the wake of the Alberta ruling, acting chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault stated Nov. 8 that the deposit requirement provision will no longer be applied by Elections Canada “effective immediately.” That could still change if the government made a successful appeal, but this appears unlikely.


    Paul Cavalluzzo of Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish LLP, who practises constitutional and electoral law, said the decision was “fair and not particularly surprising.”


    “The judge found there are less intrusive or more proportional ways to ensure a candidate is serious and protect the integrity of the electoral system,” he said. “Obviously she felt by demanding the deposit it is a disincentive for people with impecunious means to run for office."


    He also noted that, “If you’re wealthy, you can afford the $1,000 and still be a frivolous candidate... The focus should be on encouraging people to run for office, and if you impose this for people who can’t afford it that shouldn’t be lawful.”


    Responding to the ruling, the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada made the following statement:


    "We welcome the ruling in the Szuchewycz case as another important victory over the historic application of unfair and undemocratic restrictions against electoral rights in this country. By its very nature, any requirement for a financial deposit targets working class and low-income people who seek to become candidates in elections.


     "The exorbitant requirement for a $1000 deposit was a significant barrier for independents, and particularly for smaller parties which rely on the support of their members rather than donations from wealthy individuals and corporations. This ruling builds on the historic Figueroa case, in which our party won a major court victory against Election Act rules which forced small parties to nominate at least 50 candidates and put up $50,000 in deposits before spending a nickel on a campaign, in order to keep their registered status.


     "In the most recent federal election, our party had to meet a wide range of requirements to nominate 28 candidates, such as collecting thousands of  signatures, and providing the deposits for each candidate to submit through a complicated nomination process. These requirements do nothing to encourage debate over the crucial issues in an election campaign, but they do force parties such as ours to devote time and energy on overcoming hurdles to participation. This exercise makes it even more difficult to get our message out to voters, or to succeed in taking part in some all-candidate forums which unfairly exclude many candidates.


    "We note that election deposits have been abolished in provincial legislation in at least two provinces for several years now, eliminating a systemic barrier to democratic electoral rights. We hope that the government takes note and drops any idea of an expensive and unnecessary appeal of this ruling, and instead focuses on ways to encourage wider democratic popular participation in the electoral process. This should include action on PM Trudeau's pledge to end first-past-the-post elections, in favour of a mixed-member proportional representation system which would ensure that all votes are truly counted when it comes to electing our members of Parliament. The Prime Minister's decision to abandon this platform pledge was a shameful, self-serving decision by a party with a history of making progressive promises, only to impose reactionary policies when in power.


            "The Communist Party also continues to demand other democratic electoral reforms, such as a steep reduction in campaign spending limits, measures to ensure that all parties and candidates are provided fair and equitable coverage in the mass media, and a prohibition against candidate forums which are open only to certain parties. This must also apply to leaders' debates.  This will enable electors to cast an informed vote, free of the current undemocratic filtering.  As well, right to recall legislation should be enacted.  Steps in these directions would help to ensure that election campaigns are opportunities for a full and free debate on critical issues, rather than a corporate media horse race between a few parties which uphold the status quo or propose only minor reforms."


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People’s Voice Editorial


            The annual year-end retail madness has already started, with barrages of corporate advertising, Santa Claus parades, re-runs of “holiday favourites”, and homilies about the season of good cheer. At People’s Voice, we enjoy time off with family and friends over the winter solstice as much as anyone, but things are far from merry for millions of people.


            For example, over 21% of single mothers in Canada are raising their children in poverty. An appalling 50% of status First Nations children live in poverty, rising to 64% in Saskatchewan and 62% in Manitoba. In total, almost five million people in this country live below the poverty line; many depend on food banks to survive, and most could only dream about putting a big pile of colourfully-wrapped gifts under the tree.


            Or think about the huge numbers of people desperate for an affordable place to live. In Toronto alone, approximately 5,000 people are homeless, with 3,200 people on the wait list for supportive housing at any given time. In the Vancouver area, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now estimated at $2000, more than double the social assistance rate for British Columbia. For them, the Christmas holiday brings no respite from the cold.


            Statistics can become numbing, especially when the mainstream media celebrates consumer spending as a virtue. But here’s another: the two richest Canadians - billionaire business owners David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr. - have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 30 per cent of the country combined. This is a life and death issue. On average, the highest income earners in Canada live 20 years longer than the poorest.


            Instead of hoping that charity will lift people out of poverty, we need a wide range of government policies to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor. That’s our wish for 2018.


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People’s Voice Editorial


            Opponents of the massive Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia have wavered between hope and pessimism since the former Liberal government was defeated earlier this year. Since NDP Premier John Horgan needs the votes of three anti-Site C Green MLAs to remain in office, the project faced a major obstacle. Horgan asked the BC Utilities Commission to carry out a review, weighing up the fiscal pros and cons of Site C for the government’s consideration before a final cabinet decision expected in late December.


            The initial news from this process pointed towards cancellation. As critics have long argued, Site C will likely cost at least $3 billion more than the previous estimate of $9 billion to complete. It also appears that other sources of renewable energy could provide as much power as this dam, without flooding irreplaceable agricultural land. Cancellation would preserve the unceded territories of indigenous peoples in the region. For a brief period, it appeared that former premier Christy Clark’s desperate drive to push Site C past the point of no return might fail.


            Since then, proponents of the project have launched a massive PR blitz to confuse the debate. Cancellation would be too expensive, they argue, ignoring the future costs of lost food production. Jobs would be lost, they claim, as though redirecting government spending towards urgent social and economic priorities would not create employment. Renewable sources could not meet future energy needs, they say, using inflated projections. But perhaps most important, it appears that cancellation could contribute to increased BC Hydro rates, a political hot potato for Horgan.


            Failure to halt this huge white elephant might bring the NDP some short-term relief on hydro rates. But the long-term costs would be devastating. This decision will be the first major political test for the new government; we urge them to do the right thing for the future of BC - cancel Site C now!


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By Helen Kennedy, Toronto


            As we commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on Dec. 6 this year, we must acknowledge the weight of revelations of women’s experiences with sexual harassment and gender-based violence through the #metoo campaign.


            While we hear daily revelations from Hollywood stars, working class women are also affected across all sectors. Working class women don’t have the advantages of their star power, nor the economic benefit of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) that are offered these stars to keep quiet. Their harassers may be their co-workers, their supervisors, their partners or their ‘friends.’ Rape Crisis Centres report that they have been swamped with calls requesting support with harassment and sexual assaults since the hashtag began trending.


            A recent study quantified this trend even further. According to the poll, “there are almost 15 million adult women in Canada and according to our latest survey, almost 8 million of them (53%) have experienced unwanted sexual pressure. The prevalence of this experience is highest among women under 45. Women 30-44 are most likely to see this problem in the workplace: 22% say it is common, and a total of 64% say it happens in their workplace.”


            In 2016, legislation in Ontario strengthened the workplace sexual harassment law. Over the last year, legislation in Ontario, BC and Manitoba mandated all public post-secondary institutions establish a stand-alone sexual assault policy to address the rape culture that permeates university campuses.


            But only so much change can be legislated. The problem of harassment and gender violence is deeply rooted in our capitalist system. Capitalism depends on the systemic oppression of women in order to reproduce itself. Fighting oppression is a longer-term goal that will only end exploitation and oppression when the capitalist system itself is replaced with socialism.


            However, harassment, sexual assault and gender violence is behaviour that can be ‘fixed’ in the short term. Legislation helps, but doesn’t go far enough. Women, and some men, in precarious workplaces whether unionized or not, indigenous, immigrant, migrant, racialized, queer and poor workers are left to fend for themselves in most workplaces. Hotel workers are often forced into challenging positions based on their interactions with ‘guests’ in intimate surroundings. Women in the building trades face a misogynist environment in their everyday working lives. Women who work as servers, cleaners, government workers, nursing home workers, post-secondary workers all face harassment in their working lives - and the list goes on and on.


            Both men and women are socialized within our patriarchal society. Some may not realize how their socialization may lead them to perpetuate the disproportionate power imbalance that exists in all structures and institutions in our society. This doesn’t include nor excuse those men who are well aware of their predatory behaviour.  But it does give us a starting place to begin an educational process to strengthen the numbers of activists, both men and women, who will challenge behaviour and help develop an informed culture of consent.


            Survivors should not be expected to ‘solve’ the problem of gender-based violence.  The individual examples must be addressed with systemic solutions. We need to identify allies in this struggle and put together a central strategy and action plan to address sexual harassment and gender violence in the workplace and in society. A national women’s movement would help enormously in developing this strategy. In its absence though, the labour movement could an essential ally in this struggle. 


            However, the labour movement itself is not above the systemic oppression that defines our current political and economic system. There are secrets hidden in affiliates, local unions and labour centrals that normalize rape culture behaviour and fail to support survivors. The decline of women in the leadership of affiliates, local unions and labour centrals doesn’t help strengthen the image of the labour movement as a woman-friendly environment.


            But – if we build a labour movement that is more reflective of the workers it represents; diversity on the basis of racialization, gender identity, national identity, gender orientation, ability, etc, - we can change the pattern. We can build engaging, inclusive, welcoming locals, affiliates and councils that are able to confront harassing and oppressive behaviour quickly and effectively. We can build alliances with women and social justice groups across the country. We have no time to waste.


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            Unifor is calling for immediate action following the release of a survey that found nearly half of women journalists polled around the world reported facing gender-based violence in the workplace.


            "The level of harassment women journalists face for simply doing their jobs is simply unacceptable," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. "Media outlets in Canada need to take this threat seriously and they need to act to address the safety and security needs of their female journalists."


            The survey by the International Federation of Journalists, of which Unifor is a member, found that 48 per cent of women polled reported that they had suffered gender-based violence in their work, and 44 per cent had suffered online abuse. The abuse took place both in the workplace and out in the field, with 45 percent of perpetrators being people outside of the workplace – sources, politicians, readers or listeners – while 38 per cent were a boss or supervisor.


            Two-thirds (66.15 per cent) did not make a formal complaint, and of those who did complain, 84.8 per cent said adequate measures were not taken. Only 12.3 per cent were satisfied with the outcome.


            Unifor Media Director Howard Law said the situation in Canada is no better than what is reflected in the survey, which polled 400 women journalists in 50 countries, including Canada. It found that 39 per cent of the time, the perpetrator of the abuse remained anonymous, and that only 26 per cent of workplaces had a policy covering gender based violence and sexual harassment.


            "Women journalists from 50 countries tell the same story – gender-based violence in the world of work is widespread and action to combat it is either non-existent or inadequate in virtually every case," said IFJ Gender Council co-chair Mindy Ran.


            The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) represents 600,000 journalists in 187 unions and associations in 146 countries. The results of a second survey on union action against gender-based violence at work will be published later this year.


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By Kimball Cariou


            By an odd coincidence, when Communist Party of Canada leader Liz Rowley and I travelled to Russia last month, our flight had a stopover in Zurich - the city where Vladimir Lenin and other revolutionary exiles lived before the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II allowed them to return home. Three hours later, we were disembarking in Leningrad (as Petrograd was renamed after his death), the city where Lenin and his comrades became the key figures in the “ten days that shook the world”.


            As described above on this page, we were in Russia as delegates representing the Communist Party of Canada at the 19th annual gathering of fraternal Communist and Workers’ parties. The main work of this year’s IMCWP was an intense two-day meeting where most of the attending parties spoke about the relevance of the October Revolution, and the struggles for socialism today.


            The timing was also a unique opportunity for over 200 delegates and many other unofficial foreign participants to take part in a range of other activities to mark the centenary of the October Revolution.


            On the directly political side, this included a special “Forum of Left Forces” held a few days later at the Moscow hotel where delegates stayed for the second half of the trip. Many of the speakers at this event represented prominent international progressive movements, such as the World Peace Council, the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, and the International Federation of Resistance Fighters.


            Others were present on behalf of liberation movements which won victories over their colonial and imperialist masters in large part due to the fraternal assistance of the USSR and other socialist states. These included SWAPO from Namibia, the ANC from South Africa, and others.


            Special gala cultural celebrations were organized by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), at a major downtown theater in St. Petersburg, and at the Luzhniki sports complex in Moscow. Both events featured a wide range of stunning dance and music performances, paying tribute both to the October Revolution, and to highlights of seventy years of the successes of socialism in the USSR.


            Delegates were taken on several tours to places associated with the history of the revolutionary movement in Russia, such as the Aurora Cruiser, from where the blank shot signalling the uprising against the Provisional Government was fired. We toured the Smolny, which was the headquarters of the Bolsheviks during the October Revolution, and the IMCWP itself was held in the same building where meetings of the Petrograd Soviet convened during 1917.


            In Moscow, delegates toured the Kremlin, joined a special ceremony to lay flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier just outside its walls, and visited the Lenin Mausoleum.


            November 7 was the 76th anniversary of the famous 1941 military parade in Red Square, from which Red Army troops marched directly to the outskirts of the city to battle the Nazi invaders. On this occasion, IMWCP delegates and other visitors witnessed a special re-creation of that parade, organized to represent the war against fascism, the defeat of Napoleon’s armies, and other notable episodes from Russian military history.


            Later that afternoon, the CPRF held a street demonstration attended by thousands in downtown Moscow, using the occasion of the October Revolution centenary to recall the working class gains achieved during and after 1917, and to raise demands for progressive change in today’s capitalist Russia.


            One feature of all these activities was the presence of large numbers of young people. After the overthrow of socialism in the USSR, pro-capitalist critics crowed that once the “older generation” were gone, there would be no communists left in Russia. But the CPRF reports that it has recruited 27,000 young members so far this year, and wherever one goes in Moscow or St. Petersburg, young people wearing radical t-shirts and buttons can be seen. Clearly, for them, the Great October Socialist Revolution is not just a page from the dusty past, but the beacon of a future socialist Russia.


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People's Voice recently interviewed Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández, the Ambassador to Canada of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Here are the Ambassador's replies to our questions.


Currently, what is the general, economic and social situation in Venezuela?


            Venezuela is living a transcendental historic moment. This is a decisive historic stage for the continuity of a progressive, free, independent and sovereign government with no ties to neoliberal ideas. Venezuela lives a true and vigorous democracy, whose centre is the human being.


            For almost 20 years, the Venezuelan people have resisted firmly internal and external attempts to destabilize the country. The election and implementation of the National Constituent Assembly is the most recent example of the degree of political consciousness that Commander Hugo Chavez thought us. Unfortunately, with the beginning of the National Constituent Assembly’s work, the imperial threats have increased—even military ones, and unilateral and illegal economic sanctions have been imposed, trying to establish a diplomatic-financial fence against Venezuela.


            This imperial strategy has the support of transnational media corporations, which have spread an image of Venezuela as a country in bankruptcy and with an insurmountable economic crisis throughout the world. With the imposition of unilateral and illegal sanctions the international financial war has deepened. These actions, together with the breakdown of the oil profitable model and the internal economic war, have destabilized the Venezuelan economy, sharpening the shortage of basic products and hitting the most vulnerable people. Among other measures, the Bolivarian Government has promoted a plan to diversify the economy. The results will be seen in the medium and long term.


What should Canadians know about the National Constituent Assembly?


            The National Constituent Assembly is already a political-juridical fact and is a faithful reflection of the sovereign will and the firm dignity of a people with a clear political conscience.


            Since its election, Venezuela has returned to normalcy. Violent demonstrations have ended, and people can now live in a climate of peace and tranquility. The National Constituent Assembly is an instrument of peace and dialogue. Its call by President Nicolas Maduro was attached to the Constitution, our legal framework. Anyone who has taken the time to read our constitution will note that the National Constituent Assembly is clearly defined. Its call was aimed at restoring national peace, favouring respect and political tolerance. A response against the generalized violence that the Venezuelan opposition tried to impose, and the growing imperial interference led by the United States, seconded by Canada.


            The election of the National Constituent Assembly was a successful process for the Venezuelan society. It was supported by the participation of more than 8 million Venezuelans. Our people’s only desire is to live in peace and independence. We have developed a transparent electoral timetable. We try to maintain and deepen the social gains achieved since the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution under the leadership of Hugo Chavez.


Have the mainstream Canadian media interviewed you about the developments in Venezuela?


            Unfortunately, mainstream Canadian media follows patterns established by big television channels and international media agencies, carrying a communication campaign of reality distortion and international discrediting against Venezuela. In spite of this strategy, I have given some interviews to alternative newspapers and radio stations to counteract the negative effects of such campaign and offer an accurate vision to the Canadian public.


What is the status of diplomatic and economic relations between Canada and Venezuela?


            Venezuela and Canada have had respectful diplomatic relations since 1948. Currently, the dynamics of the bilateral relationship is complex. Canada has accentuated its criticism and interventionist stance against the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela. Canada has placed itself as the unconditional, and sometimes executioner, standard-bearer of United States interventionist policies against Venezuela. Obviously this position of interference and illegal unilateral actions has impacted all areas of bilateral interest, especially our economic-commercial exchange.


Is it safe for Canadians to travel for tourism and business in Venezuela?


            Venezuela is an emerging market with immense economic potential and a privileged geographic location. It is no secret that Venezuela is a country with huge mining resources and hydrocarbons. We offer comparative and competitive advantages for its use in a business framework with shared benefits, under investment conditions that respect national sovereignty.


            Venezuela is a multi-destination country with internationally recognized tourist attractions. Canadian tourists keep a positive image of their tourism experiences in Venezuela, despite the recurrent warnings to travellers issued by the Canadian government.


            Canadians, both on business and tourists’ trips, can give their testimony about the guarantees that they have received during their stay in Venezuela.


Any other comments you would like to make to our readers?


            I ask Canada to respect our democracy and the essential principles of international law such as non-interventionism in other States’ internal affairs and the free self-determination of people. Indeed, imposing unilateral sanctions are measures that, besides being illegal and contravening international standards, are aimed at breaking the spirit of a people that mostly supports the revolutionary process.


            These actions violate the human rights of the vast majority of poor sectors since they provoke economic difficulties. These sanctions increase even more scarcity and shortages caused by the economic war that hegemonic power centres lead against the homeland of Simon Bolívar and Hugo Chavez. Such circumstances lead us to reflect about Canada’s double standard in the defence of human rights.


            This year, Venezuela experienced a period of violence that resulted in 121 deaths, including 23 who were burned alive. Canada never condemned the Venezuelan opposition for such brutal and inhumane acts. Based on these facts, these people were not worth for Canada to defend their human rights. Insisted, Canada has advocated for human rights, which we have respected, of politicians imprisoned for violating Venezuelan laws.


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            North Vancouver's Capilano University is being pressed to provide a decent wage and better conditions for cleaning staff.


            Dozens of students and supporters gathered on November 22 in the Cap U Student Union Lounge for a panel organized by the newly formed Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) to discuss what a Living Wage would mean for low-wage workers on campus.


            The panel, called “A Dialogue on Justice,’ included Tom Walker, Labour Studies Professor at Simon Fraser University; Kimball Cariou, Editor of the People’s Voice newspaper; Deanna Ogle from the Living Wage for Families Campaign; and Máire Kirwan, Director of Staff Membership at the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU).


            Delia Tanza, Analou Espina, and Stephan Scott, who are cleaners at Capilano University and members of the Bargaining Committee, shared their personal stories and struggles that led them to form a union with SEIU Local 2 earlier this year.


            Tanza reiterated the need for public support on campus for the cleaners to win a fair first contract and explained to the audience; “I want a union, and my coworkers want it, because we want safety and benefits… We work for very little salary, just one job is not enough for us… I am a single mom and work 3 jobs. I work in the morning, I work here [Capilano University] at night, and I work Saturday and Sunday…  So, hopefully people here at the University can help us.”


            The crowd and panel members discussed what a Living Wage means for workers and their families; in particular, for contracted service workers who have been put in more precarious situations due to constant contract flipping and a competitive bidding model that has created a race to the bottom.


            Kirwan elaborated on what HEU contracted workers said a Living Wage would mean for their lives and families. “They said that they’d be able to go home at night to say good night to their kids, or they wouldn’t have to survive on the food bank, or they would be able to do something fun with their kids because they would have a little extra money. These are things that many of us take for granted.”


            Deanna Ogle discussed examples of some successful Living Wage campaigns that have forced Employers to provide Living Wages to all direct and contracted workers, but still, there is a lot of work to be done. A Living Wage in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland is $20.62 an hour, but as Ogle explained “almost 1/3 of families in the Lower Mainland are not earning a Living Wage.”


            Living Wage campaigners have argued that governments and public institutions should be the ones leading the way in setting higher standards.


            The panel also discussed some of the challenges in winning a Living Wage and the need to keep on organizing workers and fighting for improvements.


            “You can’t take anything for granted. We all have to fight to win every single battle, but you always know any gain that you make is in danger of being pushed back… There are no easy short-term solutions. Yes, having a union is almost always better than not having a union, but it’s not the end of the struggle,” said Kimball Cariou.


            Founded in conjunction with negotiations of the contracted cleaners at Capilano University, SWAG has been pushing forward a policy of a Living Wage on campus for all workers, with plans to take on other social justice issues affecting workers and students.


            On Nov. 29, SWAG and SEIU Local 2 will organize a rally to stand with low-wage working people on campus. The groups deliver a petition and open letter to University President Paul Dangerfield, callomg on all stakeholders to implement a formal Living Wage and Benefits policy for all campus workers.


            (Based on a report from


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Morning Star Editorial,


            Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko led a ceremony in Kiev’s Independence Square on Nov. 21, laying flowers and lighting candles to the memory of the “Heavenly Hundred” killed during anti-government protests that began in 2013.


            Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman and parliamentary speaker Andriy Parubiy perpetuate the myth that all the dead perished at the hands of security forces, portraying the Euromaidan events of four years ago as a simple case of good versus evil.


            Good was represented by demonstrators who filled the square to protest against then president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to postpone plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and to seek closer economic ties with Russia.


            Evil was personified by Yanukovych, his Ukraine of the Regions party, the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) and, above all, by Moscow. Yanukovych favoured Ukraine joining the EU but believed it possible to maintain ties with Russia, in light of trade links that eastern Ukraine’s mining and heavy industry enjoyed with its eastern neighbour.


            He learned quickly that Brussels wouldn’t compromise over the extent of its influence as initially peaceful Maidan protesters were joined, without discussion with the Kiev government, in the square by EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton and US Senator John McCain and encouraged in their actions.


            Matters swiftly took a violent turn when snipers on roofs fired at both protesters and police officers while detachments of far-right paramilitary groups spearheaded attacks on security forces.


            Yanukovych subsequently fled the country to Russia, fascist groups were integrated into the armed forces and second world war criminals, notably Stepan Bandera, who slaughtered Jews and Poles, were honoured with monuments as historic memorials to Ukraine’s liberation by the Red Army were vandalised.


            Anti-fascist forces in the Donbass set up people’s republics in Donetsk and Lugansk provinces while the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking population of Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, voted to return to Russia.


            Even though the Communist Party never backed secession from Ukraine, Poroshenko’s regime sought to ban the KPU and remains set on doing so.


            KPU general secretary Petro Symonenko’s devastating critique of the post-coup government’s plan to divest the country of 3,500 public corporations at fire-sale prices to foreign speculators explains this determination. The justification for this treasonable act is that these enterprises lose money, are a financial burden and would be better run under private ownership.


            Similar statements were heard when the federal republic of Germany annexed the German Democratic Republic, axing its industries as outdated and plunging eastern German workers into penury.


            History suggests that new owners will slash workforce numbers in quest of profits or simply close these firms, dumping tens of thousands more Ukrainian workers onto the scrap heap. As Symonenko points out, the capitalist paradise promised for Ukraine’s workers has proved to be a capitalist hell run by thieves.


            Poroshenko and his allies are so determined to enmesh Ukraine in the EU and NATO that they undermine the national independence they claim to revere.


            It beggars belief that a country that suffered so greatly under nazi occupation could elevate the likes of Stepan Bandera while dropping its backing for Russia’s annual UN general assembly human rights committee resolution on combating the glorification of nazism. Just Ukraine joined the US in voting against the proposal, which moves on now to the 193-member general assembly next month.


            Kiev’s subservience to Brussels and Washington does not augur well for the future of Ukraine’s working people.


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13) MUSIC NOTES, by Wally Brooker


Northwest Passage: Stan Rogers redux


Folksinger Stan Rogers made a big impact in his short life. By the time of his death in 1983, at age 33, he'd written a body of songs that marked him as a uniquely Canadian balladeer, including "Barrett's Privateers", "The Mary Ellen Carter", and "Northwest Passage". The latter has been in the news a lot in recent years, especially since the mystery alluded to in "Northwest Passage" - the lost nineteenth-century arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin - was finally solved in 2014. Canadian folksinger, David Newland, who has traveled the Northwest Passage as an expedition host and performer, published an article on his experiences for the current issue of the Canadian roots music magazine, "Penguin Eggs". He describes his problem with being asked to sing "that song", aware as he is that Rogers ignored the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. Newland writes that he always chokes on the phrase "a land so wild and savage". Toronto singer-songwriter and theatre-maker, Evalyn Parry, sailed the Northwest Passage with climate change scientists in 2014, just as the resolution of the Franklin mystery was being used by the Harper Government to extend Canadian sovereignty claims in the High Arctic.  Afterwards, Parry composed "To Live in the Age of Melting: Northwest Passage", a 20-minute performance piece combining original music and narrative passages with excerpts from "Northwest Passage" and the traditional ballad "Lady Franklin's Lament". She reminds listeners that the colonial process itself is "wild and savage". Parry is still reflecting on this experience in her work. Last month she presented "Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools" at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Her co-presenter was Inuk storyteller and dancer, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathroy, who she had met on the 2014 expedition. Their performance embodies stories of their personal heritages and examines colonial histories, power structures, and the changing climate. (


Bryan Adams: Unplug From Israel


The Canadian BDS Coalition is asking artists to endorse an open letter to Canadian rock superstar Bryan Adams, asking him to honour the call of Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel by cancelling shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in early December. One might expect as much from an artist who, in debating supporters of Israel on Twitter during the 2014 war on Gaza, stated,  "I say the war against Gaza was a crime against humanity". The open letter, endorsed by Roger Waters, Leon Rosselson, and Tanya Tagaq, salutes Adams for those brave words, as well as for another 2014 tweet criticizing Israel’s blockade on Gaza, then in its eighth year. But its authors tell Adams that they're puzzled by his upcoming concerts in Israel, because that blockade is now in its eleventh year. It quotes Amnesty International reports on the continuing dire conditions imposed upon the population of Gaza. Another open letter to Adams, from Boycott From Within (Israeli Citizens for BDS), acknowledges that he must feel that his performance will be a chance to deliver a "positive message of resistance". But it goes on to quote English rock star Elvis Costello, who, in honouring BDS in 2010, wrote, "there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung, and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent". (


Adios Daniel Viglietti (1939-2017)


One of the outstanding musicians of Latin America, Uruguayan singer, guitarist, and composer, Daniel Vigiletti, died on October 30 while undergoing surgery in Montevideo. He was 78. Just days before, he'd performed in Bolivia at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara. The Uruguayan Communist Party (PCU) reported the news on its Facebook page, referring to him as "the dear comrade Daniel Viglietti". Crowds gathered in Montevideo to remember the beloved musician and sing his songs. Viglietti was a protean artist. He had a beautiful voice, brilliant guitar technique, and a knack for combining elegant melodies with poetic lyrics - words that were infused with both compassion and indignation. Viglietti recorded his first album in 1963, and quickly became one of the leading voices in Latin America's burgeoning Nueva Cançion movement, alongside artists like Violeta Parra and Victor Jara. After the military coup in 1973, he was imprisoned and tortured, but was released thanks to an international campaign. Vigliett returned to his homeland in 1984 and continued to flourish artistically until his death. I recall a sold-out Sunday afternoon concert at Toronto's Harbord Collegiate in the 80s, where people were hanging from the rafters. At intermission, he adjourned to the basement daycare to give a concert for the children. Several Viglietti albums can be heard in full on YouTube. Songs to listen to: "A Desalambrar", "Vamos Estudiantes", and " Cançion Para Mi America".


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