People’s Voice November 16-30, 2017

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PEOPLE'S VOICE      November 16-30, 2017 (pdf)


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(The following articles are from the November 16-30,2017, 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.)

1) Venezuela solidarity movement to Freeland: Lima Group not welcome in Toronto

By Drew Garvie

As Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland further escalated Canada’s shameful interfer­ence in Venezuela, the Venezuela solidarity movement in Toronto made a stand to show that Venezuela is not alone.

The so-called “Lima Group” of twelve nations that support the United States’ regime change plans against the democratically elected President of Venezuela, was hosted by Freeland in Toronto. We should remember that Canada has hosted these kinds of meetings before, including in 2003 where a secret international meeting discussed regime change in Haiti, a few months before the coup against the democratically elected President in that country.

The Canada-wide solidarity organization, the Hugo Chavez People’s Defence Front, called for the meeting to be cancelled and issued a warning, “history has taught us that such actions are a pretext for foreign military intervention, regime change and looting of natural resources.” In a press release, the Hugo Chavez Front, pointed to facts ignored by the Trudeau government and the Lima Group: “Venezuelans went to polls for the second vote this year, this time to elect Regional Governors. The outcome, recognized by observers and the majority of the opposition leaders, was a resounding victory for the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 18 of 23 states.”

After the official meeting, a public meeting was organized at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs titled “Resolving the Venezuelan Crisis.” The event was hosted by Global Affairs Canada and the “Canadian Council for the Americas,” whose corporate membership includes Scotia Bank, Kinross Gold, Goldcorp, Lundin Mining,Frontera Energy and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Solidarity groups gathered outside the event holding large banners demanding that Canada and the USA keep their “hands off Venezuela.”

Chrystia Freeland and Irwin Cotler opened the meeting. Irwin Cotler is an ex-Liberal MP, who has been appointed by the historically US-dominated Organization of American States to investigate supposed “crimes against humanity” committed by the Venezuelan government.

Freeland said that Canada was not interested in “regime change” necessarily, and implored the opposition in Venezuela “get itself together”. However, the meeting as a whole discussed the use of sanctions, funding and organ­izing “Venezuelan civil society” and ramping up the propaganda campaign to change the government of Venezuela. This is clearly a regime change strategy and was acknowledged as such by one of the academics speaking on the panel later in the forum.

Minister Freeland claimed that "Canada has never been an imperialist power. It’s even almost funny to say that phrase. We’ve been the colony." Is it funny? Freeland seemed oblivious to the fact that the event in which she was discussing how to best interfere in a sovereign country tens of thousands of miles away was hosted by large Canadian mining, energy and financial monopolies. She also seemed unaware of the Canadian government’s long and genocidal history of colonialism directed at Indigenous nations since Canada was founded.

The featured speaker on the panel was the ex-Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who is currently facing charges in Venezuela for corruption and extortion. The Constituent Assembly of Venezuela removed Ortega as Attorney General, after it became apparent that she was not enforcing the law in regards to violent opposition demonstrations, which cost the lives of over 120 people.

As soon as Ortega began to speak, protestors chanting “hands off Venezuela” got up on stage displaying large banners. One read “Hands Off Venezuela” and the other read “Canada and OAS: Stop the plunder! Out of Venezuela!” The event was peacefully interrupted for a few minutes as event organizers reacted and the protesters were escorted out by security. Unfortunately, other dissent in the audience was silenced due to the organizers insisting on no questions or comments from the floor and only questions submitted in advance.

The events surrounding the Lima Group meeting in Toronto showed that the Canadian government is intent on playing a shameful “leadership” role in interfering with a country that is struggling for sovereignty, independence and democratic advancement and greater equality.

It also showed that solidarity groups and many Torontonians see this as shameful and dangerous.

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2) Montréal peace activists say "Yes to peace, no to NATO!"

On October 14th, around 200 peace activists marched in down­town Montréal to oppose Canada’s participation in NATO and Trudeau’s pro-war agenda, in a global context where US and NATO’s actions lead the world closer to the brink of globalised war everyday.

Organised by the newly created Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix, the march reached out to different progressive activists and also cultural personalities from Québec. It benefited from the endorsment or participation of Dominique Daignault, President of the Montreal CSN Labour Council, Yvon Deschamps, famous humorist, Roméo Saganash, Cree activist and mem­ber of parliament from the NDP, Mario Beaulieu, President of the Bloc Québécois and Amir Khadir, member of National Assembly from Québec Solidaire amongst others.

This march was the first public and official event organised by the Mouvement québécois pour la paix, a broad coalition of peace activist and peace-loving organisations. It was officially created last June after several months of discussions that reached a consensual basis of unity articulated mainly around the opposition to NATO and for Canada’s withdrawal of this imperialist and terrorist organisation as well as the total withdrawal from NORAD. This is a key demand that no other Québec peace organization(s) have yet identified as a priority or even endorsed.

The MQP also calls for solidarity with peoples victims of wars of aggression, for their rights to self-determination without foreign interference (starting with the Indigenous Nations at home), the dismantlement of Canada and Québec’s industrial and military complex, promotion of integral and universal disarmament starting with nuclear, biological and chemical disarmament, the withdrawal of all Canadian soldiers in duty in foreign countries and for massive transfer from Canada’s military budget towards more social programmes.

The founding of the MQP responds to a concern of different Québec peace activists who were concerned about the need to mobilise peace-loving forces with with a breadth similar to the one that forced, in 2003, Canada’s government to refuse participation to the US invasion of Iraq. Groups that participated since the beginning in the formation of this coalition include Women of Diverse Origins, Artistes pour la paix, the Parti communiste du Qubec and the Ligue de la jeunesse communiste, retired journalist and specialist of in­ternational issues Jooneed Khan and community activist Dimitri Roussopoulos.

Considering that today’s main obstacle in the mobilisation of peace forces is the rhetoric around so-called "humanitarian interventions" and the "Responsibility to Protect" or R2P, this march, although modest, was able to bring progressive people and groups of different orientations together to assert that the main threat to peace, the main obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the world still is US and NATO imperialism and their allies, including Canada.

MQP's view is that the best contribution Canada could make in this situation is to withdraw from NATO and NORAD now, to massively cut its military budget and adopt an independent foreign policy based on the principles of International Law, which include the absolute respect of sovereignty and

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3) Day of Action for Public Housing: Anti-poverty groups call for cross-Canada actions on November 22

An invitation from: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) – Ontario; Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) – Quebec; Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) – British Columbia

There is a severe shortage of social housing in Canada, a direct result of the federal government’s failure to fund new housing projects over the last 24 years, and its gradual strangling of funding to maintain the existing housing stock. The situation has reached a point where buildings are literally crumbling for the want of repairs and thousands of units are being boarded up. Vacancy rates are at zero and wait-lists in major urban centres have grown so large that many people have to wait for over a decade for a unit to become available.

Meanwhile, even as most people’s real incomes drop, speculation in the private housing market has elevated rents to absurd heights. The combination of the two factors, coupled with poor provincial rent control, has sent poverty and homelessness on an upward spiral. Housing has been transformed from a basic human need to a commodity that is bought and sold solely for maximizing profit.

Rather than deal with the crisis, the federal Liberals are playing tricks. In this year’s budget, the Trudeau government announced a plan to spend $11 billion on affordable housing. But as others have pointed out, the announcement is mere smoke and mirrors. First, the money will be spent over 11 years. Second, the spending plan is unjustifiably backloaded. In the two years the Liberals have left before the next election, they will spend less than 3% of that pledged amount, at best increasing existing social housing stock by 0.2%, and will allot a big fat $0 to renewing federal, provincial and territorial partnerships in housing. In keeping with the Liberal record, they promised a mountain but aren’t even delivering a mole hill.

Let’s not be fooled by this Liberal treachery. We all deserve decent affordable public housing and we must fight to win it. So this November 22, the National Housing Day, we are calling on groups across the country to join together and demand that the Liberals spend 100% of that $11.2 billion within their current mandate, on building and fixing social housing. We urge groups to endorse this call and organize local actions on November 22 that respond to the social housing needs in your communities. Our basis of unity is our resolve to win the following demands and a commitment to respect local autonomy of actions taken and tactics used.

We demand that the Trudeau Liberals:

• Spend 100% of the $11.2 bil­lion announced in the March 2017 budget within the next two years to respond to the crisis of social housing plaguing the country.

• Renew federal subsidies to low-income tenants in existing social housing (co-op, nonprofit and public).

• Build new social housing units with rent-geared-to income subsidies that are affordable to people living on social assistance and old age pension.

• Eliminate homelessness and prioritize needs of those in precarious housing situations, especially marginalized groups including on and off-reserve Indigenous communities, recent immigrants, racialized communities, lone parent families and single seniors, women fleeing violence, disabled people, youth, people on social assistance, and the working poor.

Join us!

To endorse this call or to organize an action locally, contact the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty at

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4) United Conservative Party promises hard-right wedge in Alberta

PV Alberta Bureau

With the two right wing parties herded back into the United Conservative Party (UCP), and Jason Kenney elected as their leader, it is likely but not certain that they will win the next provincial election in Alberta.

In the May 2015 election, the NDP took its ridings in Edmonton and the bedroom communities of St. Albert and Sherwood Park by absolute majorities. Their votes outnumbered Conservative and Wildrose votes combined. In the rest of the province, except for Calgary Fort and Lethbridge West, the total of the two right wing party votes was significantly larger than the NDP vote. If the UCP can command the loyalty of all those Conservative voters and all those Wildrose voters they will overturn the NDP quite handily.

However, taking the loyalty of these voters for granted is what lost them the last election in the first place.

The NDP has been a well-behaved centrist party with respect to the economy. They have not challenged the supremacy of the oil and gas multinational corporations in the economy in either policy or rhetoric, leaving royalties low, framing any move towards green diversification as a way of justifying continued development of oil sands production, and claiming to be better than the conservatives at gaining approval for new pipelines. The final round of looting of the oil and gas sector before it is swamped globally by technological advances will be only marginally affected by whether it is the NDP or the UCP that fails to raise royalty rates or corporate taxes. This leaves little room for the UCP to claim the capitalist high ground, and gives only tepid motivation to the corporate sector back them. So expect an up-tick in treason – the right-wing propaganda machine will be doubling down on their old trick of blaming Ottawa, denouncing transfer payments and posing as defenders of poor exploited Alberta, and trying to implicate the provincial NDP in this nasty Eastern cabal.

If current projections are correct, the Alberta economy should do well between now and the next election, so blaming the NDP for the economy may not be such a winning strategy.

The local propaganda battle is therefore likely to play out in the area of social policy, and there's going to be a lot of sex in it. The NDP has taken a forthright stand on supporting LGTBQ youth, mandating Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) clubs in high schools wherever students ask for them, and being willing to combat the homophobic trends in Catholic and Public School Boards to do so.

Jason Kenney has always been not just an opportunist supporter of corporate interests but an ideologue of misogyny and homophobia, starting his career campaigning against reproductive rights and consistently opposing protection of human rights at the federal level. Part of his handy majority within his own party came from organized anti-choice groups. His campaign for the leadership of the UCP was launched by proposing that schools should be required to tell parents if their child joins a GSA club. The NDP is now introducing legislation explicitly to protect children from being outed to their parents without their consent.

Consent could be the word of the year. Reactionary hatred of sex education, in the context of a general review of the public school curriculum, has handed the NDP another useful tool. Catholic school superintendents’ attempts to counter the proposed sex education program allowed NDP premier Notley and education minister David Eggen to take an explicit stand that homophobia will not be taught and the need for consent will be taught. They are essentially taking Jason Kenney's dog whistle away, by explicitly refuting the unspoken implications of “parental rights” and “variety of religions perspectives”.

Last month's municipal elections in Alberta featured the renewed election of progressive Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, in spite of a right-wing challenge that included both corporate backers and racist and Islamophobic mutterings. When polls mistakenly predicted that Nenshi would lose, the right-wing was happy to embrace the idea that this municipal election was a preview of the next provincial election.

They must now repudiate this notion, and it does not bode well for the UCP if all they have to offer is attacks on women and children.

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5) Confronting harassment and assault

People’s Voice Editorial

As the sexual harassment and assault scandal involving Harvey Weinstein exploded, an increasing amount of media and public discourse has become focused on the depth of these problems. The recent #metoo social media campaign, for example, involved a huge number of people sharing their experience of harassment or assault. The overwhelming majority were women. A research poll conducted on November 1 revealed that 53% of women in Canada, 8 million in total, had experienced unwanted sexual pressure.

The telling of these experiences is a poignant and important reminder that violence and oppression continues to target and hurt so many women and girls in our society. They call upon our society, as a whole, to do a better job of recognizing and confronting oppression that occurs around us.

At the same time, there have been valid and important critiques of both the media response and social media campaigns like #metoo: Why does it so often take a massive public scandal, involving famous man and a large number of victims, before the media looks seriously at sexual harssment and assault? Why do women and gender oppressed people have to publicly expose their experiences, over and over again, for the issue to be taken seriously? Why do we seem unable to move beyond a temporary – some would say voyeuristic – focus on these problems?

These questions deserve a lot of discussion and analysis. But one thing is clear – we need to build a stronger alliance to combat harassment and sexual assault.

In part, this requires making connecting the harassing and violent behavior of individuals (usually men) with the broader systems and ideologies around us. Unfortunately, these are often separated. For example, Statistics Canada’s report, “Women in Canada: A gender-based statistical report”, includes data on the different experiences of women (from men) in social, political, education, economic, and health-related spheres. Astonishingly, however, it doesn’t once mention sexual harassment or assault.

Closing this gap is important. Deepening our understanding of how patriarchy has become institutionalized within capitalism, and how capitalism relies on the systemic oppression of women in order to reproduce itself, helps inform the tactics of our struggle against both. This includes extending our awareness of the disproportionate impact of harassment and violence upon Indigenous, racialized and trans women.

As we celebrate, worldwide, the centenary of the October Revolution, we should recall the words of Bolshevik revolutionary, Inessa Armand:

“If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.”

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6) Youth show the way of the future

In the framework of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students, 36 communist youth organizations from all across the world gathered in Sochi’s “Lenin Conference Hall” to honour the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. They celebrated its achievements in favour of the working class, youth and popular masses everywhere, in socialist countries and also in capitalist countries.

From India to Guatemala, from Colombia to Austria, the room was heavy packed by hundreds of young people who committed to following the path opened up by the October Revolution a century ago.

In a common resolution, the organizations present recalled that the October Revolution “proved the peoples, through their struggle, can overthrow capitalism and construct a superior society, socialism.” The resolution further states that all the problems youth are facing in capitalist countries “can be resolved through the seizure of power by the working class, with the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. In the countries where socialism was built, the youth had important achievements that even today seem a distant dream for the youth of our countries. These include the access to all levels of education, guaranteed and stable work, sports and culture.”

Taking part in this event, the YCL-LJC Canada made an intervention outlining the influence of the October Revolution on the working class, the youth and progressive movements in Canada, either through their domestic struggles, like the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, or through their massive support for revolution abroad. All of this occurred in a context in which Canada, along with 18 other countries, had invaded the newly created Soviet Republic in order to overthrow socialism.

The YCL-LJC Canada also stressed that the October Revolution inspired the formation of the Communist Party of Canada in 1921 and, two years later, the creation of what would become the Young Communist League. Both of these organizations have been part of the key struggles that contributed to increased quality of life for the working class and the youth in this country. These include the ‘On to Ottawa Trek’ that led to the first system of employment insurance, and Norman Bethune’s call for socialized medicine that paved the way for public healthcare, decades before Tommy Douglas and the CCF.

The youth organizations who participated in the conference noted that the October Revolution still has an impact throughout the world. Their common conclusion, despite different conditions in their different countries, was that Great October is not an event of the past, but rather an event of the future. They understand that today, new socialist revolutions are not only possible, but necessary. The aggressiveness of capitalism and imperialism, and the rise of the ultra-right in many countries show to the youth of the world that the need to build socialism is more urgent than ever. Capitalism cannot have a human face – whatever its form, it is a system aimed to suit the interests of minority over those of the toiling majority. The youth know that as long as capitalism exists, the dangers of war, environmental destruction and fascism will always be on the horizon.

But they also know, thanks to Great October, that capitalism is not undefeatable. The youth of the world see the way of the future, and are inspired to take up the challenge of their generation, their class, and all of humanity – to strengthen our common struggle for the victory of socialism.

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Special to PV

CNN described it as “China’s ‘Game of Thrones’” and warned about “the Cult of Xi.”Bloomberg fretted that there was “a great centralization of power in one man.” The Guardian cried of China’s “increasingly assertive – domineering, some say – foreign policy.” The Globe and Mail howled that “the Chinese system of authoritarian capitalism is seeking to undermine Western democracy.”

Far be it from us to question the assessments and characterizations of the mainstream bourgeois media – bastions of truth and democracy that they are – but it does seem that they have taken great pains to depict China’s 19th Communist Party Congress as a singularly threatening event. After all, such characterizations do directly support and facilitate imperialist plans to demonize, encircle and isolate China.

Clearly, something was astir at the 19th Congress that caught the attention of these spokespeople for global capitalism and planted the seeds of panic. While there is a lot to be analyzed in this situation, the opening speech from Chinese President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is a good place to start. The following is based on excerpts from that speech:

 “The CPC’s 19th Congress is held in this key period, on the eve of the victory of attaining an Affluent Society, of achieving “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics (SCC).” This is a key meeting.

“The 5 years since the 18th Congress have been extraordinary years for the CPC and country. Facing a world with weak growth, uncertain conditions, worsening global problems, and changing economic conditions, we remain steady to face our difficulties head on, to advance toward the historic outcome of modernising socialism.

“The poverty rate has dropped from 12.2 percent to 4 percent. The comprehensive development of education, the central and western regions and rural education has been significantly strengthened. Growth of urban and rural incomes exceeds economic growth, and middle-income groups continue to expand.

“Significant ecological protection and restoration projects are progressing smoothly, and forest cover continues to improve. Ecological environment management has been significantly strengthened, and the environmental situation has been improved. We have become a global leader, guiding international cooperation in response to climate change.

“At the same time, we must clearly see that our work still has many deficiencies and we face many difficulties and challenges. The development of quality and efficiency is not high, innovation is not strong enough, the real economic level needs to be improved, ecological and environmental protection has a long way to go. The contradiction between the urban and rural areas and the income distribution gap is still large. There are many problems in the areas of employment, education, health care, housing, and pensions. These problems must be addressed.

"We must speed up the improvement of the socialist market economic system. We should improve all kinds of state-owned assets management system, reform the state-owned capital authorized management system, speed up the optimization of state-owned economy layout, promote the preservation and appreciation of state-owned assets, enable state-owned capital to do better and effectively prevent the loss of state-owned assets.

"Our country is a socialist country under the leadership of the working class and a people’s democratic dictatorship based on the alliance of workers and peasants. All the power of the state belongs to the people. China’s socialist democracy is the most extensive, the most real and the most effective democracy to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people. The development of socialist democratic politics must reflect the will of the people, protect the rights and interests of the people, and stimulate the people to create vitality.

“We must develop quality education, promote education fairness, and cultivate the socialist constructors and successors of moral, intellectual and aesthetic development. We must promote the integration of urban and rural compulsory education; run pre-school education, special education and online education; popularize high school education; and strive to make every child enjoy fair and quality education. We must improve the student subsidy system, so that the vast majority of the urban and rural labor force receives high school education, and more receive higher education.

“We must improve the quality of employment and people’s income level. We must adhere to the employment priority strategy and active employment policy, to achieve higher quality and full employment. We must provide a full range of public employment services, and promote college graduates and other youth groups, and provide migrant workers with multi-channel employment opportunities. We will adhere to the principle of distribution according to work, improve the institutional mechanisms for distribution, and promote the distribution of income in a more reasonable and orderly fashion. To fulfill the redistribution function of the government, we must speed up the equalization of basic public services and narrow the income distribution gap.

“We must strengthen the social security system to cover the whole people, urban and rural areas. We must fully implement the national insurance program, improve the basic old-age insurance, and improve the unified basic medical insurance system. We must adhere to the basic national policy of equality between men and women, to protect the legitimate rights and interests of women and children. We will improve social assistance, social welfare, charity, the special care and resettlement system, and the elderly care service system. We will speed up the construction of housing supply, so that all people are housed, either through rental or purchase.

“We must resolutely win the fight against poverty. It is our party’s solemn promise to ensure the poor and the poor areas join the whole country into a comprehensive well-off society.

“We will implement a healthy China strategy. We will build the high quality and efficient medical and health service system, improve the modern hospital management system, strengthen the primary health care service system, promote a healthy and civilized way of life, and work for prevention and control of major diseases. We will implement a food safety strategy, so that people eat at ease. We will adhere to both Chinese and Western medicine, and support community-run medicine.

“The modernization that we want to build is the modernization of the harmonious coexistence of humanity and nature. It is necessary to create more material wealth and spiritual wealth to meet the growing needs of the people and to provide more quality ecological products to meet growing environmental needs. We must adhere to the principle of conservation priority, protection priority, natural recovery, the formation of conservation of resources and the protection of the environment.

“To promote green development, we will build market-oriented green technology innovation systems; develop green finance; strengthen energy-saving environmental protection industry, clean production industry, and clean energy industry. We will promote comprehensive conservation and recycling of resources, the implementation of national water-saving action, and reduce energy consumption and material consumption, to achieve a link between production systems and living system cycle.

“We advocate simple and moderate, green low-carbon lifestyle, against luxury waste and unreasonable consumption. We will carry out the creation of conservation-oriented organs, green homes, green schools, green communities and green travel and other actions.

“Comrades! We must firmly establish the socialist ecological civilization concept and promote a harmonious development of humanity and nature, a new pattern of modernization, in order to protect the ecological environment!

“China will hold high the banner of peace, development, and cooperation. The world is in a period of great changes. Peace and development are still the theme of the times – at the same time, the uncertainties of instability in the world are prominent, the world economic growth is not enough, the polarization between the rich and the poor is becoming more and more serious, and the regional hotspot problems continue to spread through non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, cyber security, major infectious diseases and climate change. Humanity faces many common challenges.

“The world we live in is full of hope and full of challenges. We cannot give up the dream because of the complexity of reality. No country can respond to the challenges of humanity alone, and no country can turn into a self-enclosed island.

“Comrades! The Chinese people are great people who are industrious and courageous and self-reliant. The Chinese Communist Party is a great political party who dares to fight and dares to win. History will only favor the firm, who forge ahead fighting, and it will not wait for hesitators, slackers, or the fearful. The whole party must consciously safeguard the unity of the party, keep the party’s flesh and blood ties with the masses of the people, consolidate the unity of the people of all ethnic groups throughout the country, and strengthen the unity of the Chinese people at home and abroad. We must unite all the forces that can be united, and work together towards the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation – the bright future!”

 (translated and edited for length)

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8) XIX World Festival of Youth and Students: A challenging Festival concludes with success

Adrien Welsh

            Last October 22nd, the 50,000 young people from over 180 countries who gathered at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students put a final, successful mark to a challenging edition of the biggest anti-imperialist youth event in the world. For over a week, the Sochi Olympic village was turned into a massive forum where young people took part in political debates, seminars, meetings, conferences, sportive and cultural activities. The mobilisation of the Russian people and youth was remarkable: with 5000 volunteers and with opening and closing ceremonies of Olympic calibre, it was clear that Russia was ready to greet and host the youth of the world.

However, as the President of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), Nikolas Papadimitriou, outlined in his closing remarks, “the success of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students was a challenge for the World Federation of Democratic Youth. This success is not reflected only by numbers and facts. It is reflected with the messages that the youth will carry from Russia and from the Festival to their homelands; messages of peace, solidarity and anti-imperialism.”

Indeed, WFDY and the International Organising Committee, as well as the National Preparatory Committees, encountered difficulties due to unilateral actions taken by the Russian authorities, that were in contradiction with the different collective decisions made during the preparatory process of the Festival. These included the invitation of international participants without consulting with the National Preparatory Committees (who are the bodies responsible for the mobilisation to the Festival in each country), several attempts to depoliticise the event as well as deliberate efforts to isolate WFDY, the main organiser of the event, from the rest of the Festival. All of these actions were publicly denounced by WFDY, who issued three statements regarding this problematic situation.

Despite these difficulties, thousands of young people who mobilised through the World Federation of Democratic Youth made the Festival’s slogan resonate in Sochi: “For peace, solidarity and social justice, we struggle against imperialism – honouring our past, we build the future!” They sent a clear message of resistance against imperialism, honouring the 70-year tradition of the Festival movement, and continuing its anti-imperialist character. Over the past 70 years, the Festival has become the world’s biggest gathering of youth in struggle, and a bastion of anti-colonialism, anti- fascism and anti-imperialism. It has strengthened the youth in its fight-back against its main enemy, imperialism. The Festival represents 70 years of struggle, that continues to inspire our mobilizations today and will help us build our future, a future without exploitation and war.

Strong and united, WFDY and its member organisations stood together in order to show the presence of anti-imperialist forces in the Festival and to promote, as much as possible, the official discussion programme approved during the 3rd International Preparatory Meeting.

In doing so, we honoured the legacy of three anti-imperialist figures who dedicated their lives to the struggle against imperialism. Saluting Mohamed Abdelaziz, we stood in solidarity with the people and the youth of Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony, who has been fighting occupation by Morocco since 1976. Honouring Che Guevara, 50 years after his assassination, and Fidel Castro, we paid tribute to two freedom fighters that liberated Cuba, and made the Caribbean island into the “first free territory of the Americas.” In a powerful moment of solidarity, delegates had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Che Guevara with his daughter Aleida, who emphasised the need to honour Che through our daily struggles. Indeed, honouring him along with Fidel was a tribute to their internationalist commitment, the Cuban Revolution, and its achievements in fighting on the side of the peoples against imperialism in Africa, Latin America and everywhere.

On the morning of October 16th, thousands of young people marched in the middle of the Olympic Village to honour the Great October Socialist Revolution. It was an event that showed the path of resistance of the peoples against capitalism, imperialism and colonialism, and for peace, social justice and revolutionary social transformation. We remembered the achievements of the Revolution, as well as the help and support the USSR provided to the anti-imperialist, anti-fascist and anti-colonialist forces in general, and to the youth of the world and the Festival movement since 1947.

At the conclusion of the march, representatives of the main international anti-imperialist organisations allied to WFDY, such as the World Peace Council, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the Women’s International Democratic Federation, addressed delegates. They expressed their solidarity and confidence in the struggling youth, asking them to keep up the guard during a period in which, as WIDF President Lorena Peña said, “imperial and androcentric forces, patriarchal, homophobic and sexist capitalism are harming the youth and women. Let’s celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution as a preparation for current and future struggles!”

Honouring the October Revolution was part of the programme on many occasions. On October 18th, for example, 36 communist youth organisations including the YCL-LJC Canada attended a special seminar. They reiterated the need for the youth to fight for socialism and “continue in the way of the Red October,” 100 years after the first socialist revolution.

As the slogan outlines, “honouring our past we build the future.” Thus, the Festival was not only an occasion to celebrate a glorious past, but also to celebrate the ongoing anti-imperialist struggle of millions of young people across the world.

Throughout different activities, delegates were able to exchange with current, inspiring anti-imperialist figures, such as Oscar López Rivera (activist for the independence of Puerto Rico who served 35 years in prison before be- ing liberated last year), Fernando González (one of the Cuban 5) and Elián González. Participants attended conferences, panel discussions and seminars addressing the different problems confronting youth today. These included issues such as racism, the rise of the ultra-right, women’s rights and emancipation, the rise of militarism and the danger of globalised wars, the threat of regime change, environmental issues, neoliberalism, the need for free and quality public and education. Looking at these individual issues, delegates also discussed their overall relation with imperialism.

One of the core events at the Festival movement is the Anti-imperialist Tribunal. As heir to courts of conscience like the Russell Tribunal, which accused the crimes of US militaries in Viet-Nam, the Anti-imperialist Tribunal of the World Festival of Youth and Students is an occasion for young activists to prosecute imperialism’s crimes. Among the countries who submitted a case to the Tribunal were the youth from Cyprus, DPR Korea, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Venezuela, Cuba, Eritrea and Western Sahara.

The Pan-Canadian delegation also presented a case against Canadian imperialism, both at home and internationally. Amongst the accusations presented to the court, the delegation denounced Canada’s mining corporations for their extractions in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere; Canada’s foreign policy that is increasingly bound to the NATO and US war agendas; and the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada, with particular reference to the case of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

In the end, the Tribunal, presided over by World Peace Council President Maria do Socorro Gomes, declared imperialism guilty of crimes against humanity. This was demonstrated through “aggressions, invasions and colonial occupation; neo-colonial wars, economic war, installation and proliferation of military bases to guarantee imperialist hegemony; genocide, crimes against humanity and gender-related crimes; actions against biodiversity and the appropriation of the natural resources, principally water; use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; and the overthrow and destabilization of democratic and legitimately constituted governments.” The final statement also called on the world’s peoples to “develop their active resistance and all the forms of struggle to reach the ideas of social justice, freedom, democracy, and the construction of a better world, socialism.” In addition to its contribution to the International anti-imperialist tribunal, the pan-Canadian delegation participated in a panel, denouncing NAFTA and the role of free trade agreements.

Together, we took the pledge, as mentioned in the Final Declaration of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students, “to unite our voices and strengthen our common struggle to overthrow imperialism,” at a moment in which the aggressiveness of imperialism and capitalism are increasing every day, in which the danger of nuclear war is higher than it has been for over half a century, and in which US-NATO imperialism has waged a constant war against the peoples of the planet since 2001.

Together, the progressive youth of the world reaffirmed the importance and the pertinence of the Festival movement and the vanguard role played by the World Federation of Democratic Youth. They committed to “march forward with the ideals of the WFYS and to join hands to become the builders of the world of peace and solidarity, a world free from imperialism, of this global system of the domination of capital and the monopolies.”

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            In what has been called Spain’s worst political crisis in 40 years, on October 27 the Spanish government dismissed the regional government in Catalonia, just moments after Catalonia’s declaration of independence, and imposed direct rule. This was preceded by the single largest state security operation since the end of the Franco dictatorship, aimed at preventing the October 1 referendum on Catalan independence.

The move to direct rule was based on a never-before-used article in Spain’s constitution, and had the support of both the right-wing ruling party (Partido Popular) and the social democratic opposition (Partido Socialista Obrero Español).

Capitalist governments and institutions around the world – including the European Union, Britain, Germany, the United States and Canada – have quickly indicated their support for the Spanish government.

The social democratic Podemos has presented a timid and confusing position. While they have declared their opposition to the government’s dissolution of the Catalan government and the imposition of direct rule, their main concern is that the Partido Popular will use these measures to acquire more influence than their electoral results provide. Podemos has adopted the contradictory position of supporting the referendum, but agreeing with the government that the results (independence) are illegal and illegitimate.

While Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias does hint that there is class basis to the crisis, he locates this factor exclusively within the government and not within the State itself. Rather than respect the right of self-determination, Iglesias tacks toward opportunism and self-promotion: “The elites know that only a coalition government with Podemos could provide a democratic solution to the problem in Catalan, but our presence in the Government would have threatened their privileges.”

In contrast, the Spanish Left has denounced the government’s moves as an aggressive denial of the right to self-determination, and has called for mass mobilizations in protest.

The Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE) declared on October 27 that the dissolution of Catalonia’s regional government is “another demonstration of how the great Spanish bourgeoisie, in its historical inability to solve the national question, resolves difficulties generating immense problems through the application of measures of the highest repressive nature.”

The PCPE describes the current crisis as a product of capitalist society. “The capitalist system, in its higher stage of development, is immersed in a profound general crisis that turns the bourgeoisie into a decadent class whose only way out, to maintain the hegemony that it recovered with Franco and kept intact in the so-called Transition [to democracy], is to increase the exploitation of the working class and the exclusive looting of what it considers its "national" market.”

In this context, the PCPE refers to the government’s actions as a “self-coup” (autogolpe in Spanish). A self-coup is typically an act through which the State aggressively curtails its own democratic institutions, in order to preserve or reproduce its foundations during a time of crisis. The PCPE observes that deepening contradictions within Spanish capitalism are leading to an “accelerated liquidation of the social, labor and political achievements reached through decades of hard workers and popular struggle.” It identifies a confederal, socialist republic as necessary for guaranteeing the right to self-determination and other progressive gains.

In a statement issued on October 29, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) called for “an exit from the current crisis, which allows the People of Catalonia to vote freely and democratically about their future and that contemplates the recovery of social, labour, and economic rights, lost in Catalonia for years.”

The PCE notes that the crisis is being presented in a way that deflects attention from many of the key issues facing the working class in Catalonia and throughout Spain. “The reality is that with this territorial confrontation, today we are not talking about the increasingly harsh working conditions, or of the precariousness suffered by millions of people throughout the country. Nobody points out that the Partido Popular has profited from corruption. The problems of hundreds of evicted families do not appear in public discussion, or the fact that women continue to be victims of sexist violence. All of these issues, which are really the ones that should worry the working class and people today, are hidden behind the territorial issue.”

The PCE advocates a federated republic as the “constitutional framework that allows the peoples of the State to decide on all the issues that affect them, social, labour, and territorial, a constitution(al) that guarantees by law the rights to housing, work, health, education, a Constitution that effectively guarantees the rights of women and that includes the right to self-determination.”

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10) “Fix Our Schools” campaign launches in Ontario

PV Ontario Bureau

            On November 14, the Campaign for Public Education (CPE) is launching a province- wide campaign to eliminate the repairs and maintenance backlog in Ontario’s schools. CPE was founded in 2002 to coordinate efforts of parent, teacher, education worker and ethno-racial organizations in campaigning for needs-based funding for public education.

The “Fix Our Schools” campaign builds on a comprehensive study of Ontario’s school repairs and maintenance backlog, undertaken by economist Hugh Mackenzie. On November 14 Mackenzie will release his report, which will detail how the next Ontario government could eliminate the school repairs and maintenance problem.

The alarming state of disrepair in Ontario’s schools was highlighted in a 2015 Ontario’s Auditor-General’s report which detailed chronic government underfunding to the provinces 74 school boards:

“An independent assessment calculated that the Ministry of Education needs $1.4 billion a year to maintain schools in a state of good repair. However, actual funding in the last five years has ranged from $150 milion to $500 million.”

In the three years between 2011 and 2014, provincial funding to school boards for school renewal was only $150 million per year – roughly one-tenth of what the Auditor’s Report indicated was needed.

Because of the serious inadequacy of the government’s public education funding formula, the choice for Ontario’s school boards has most often been to defer maintenance expenditures and renewal investments so as to protect school programs. This growing crisis was highlighted in the December 2002 report of the Education Equality Task Force (the Rozanski Report). That re- port identified a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at $5.6 billion and growing.

Despite several rounds of special funding aimed at school facility renewal over the ensuing 15 years, the backlog, as measured by the Ministry itself, has grown consistently, and is now well over $15 billion. Even this figure is an understatement. Of the 4,636 schools in the detailed database released in 2017, no data on renewal needs was reported for 346, of which 284 schools were shown as not having been assessed.

Parents, students, teachers and education workers all know what needs to be done.

The Fix Our Schools campaign is a province-wide effort to force the Ontario government to address the immediate problem and take steps to ensure that it does not recur.

The campaign will press for 5 main objectives:

  1. The education funding formula must be enhanced to provide a realistic level of funding for on- going school renewal. Taking the mid-point of the 2% to 4% range of ongoing renewal investment needed, that would require an increase in school renewal funding from the current temporary level of $1 billion a year to an ongoing funding level of $1.7 billion per year, increasing as the replacement value of school buildings increases.
  2. A separate stream of capital funding must be created to replace the 346 school buildings across the province determined to be too expensive to repair as of the most recent review cycle. That will require a one-time capital injection estimated at $3.9 billion for those 346 schools. Each year, more and more schools move across the line that divides those that require substantial renewal investments from those that are prohibitively expensive to repair.
  3. Capital funding should be opened up to enable boards to develop new schools in growing areas under their jurisdiction, without reference to the occupancy status of distant schools. To support that additional investment, school boards should be required to levy development charges to defray a portion of the cost of both land and buildings in growing areas.
  4. To mitigate against school conditions continuing to deteriorate in the future, the funding formula for school operations and maintenance should be enhanced, and its fundamentals reconsidered.
    1. The general level of funding for school operations and maintenance should be established based on a careful analysis of community-based data on what is required to maintain schools as safe and secure public-use facilities. As a starting point, total operations and maintenance funding should be increased by 8.7% to match the APPA North American Average.
    2. The formula should recognize explicitly the underlying drivers of differences in operating costs for schools in the province, including:

·   Labour costs in the community

·   Heating costs and climate

·   The age and design of school buildings – a formula that recognizes building age only up to 20 years is not realistic

·   One size does not fit all; equality does not achieve equity when needs and costs are different.

    1. The formula should take explicit account of school space needs for specialized programs such as music and art, school breakfast and lunch programs and special education programming as well as community use of school facilities.
    2. Expected utilization should not be used as a weapon to force school boards to close schools; utilization expectations should be based on a broadly-based view of the role of the school in the community, and should take into account the implications for student access and commute times of forcing underutilized schools to close.
  1. The provincial government should establish an explicit and quantifiable standard of good repair for school facilities in the province, require that school boards maintain their facilities to that standard and ensure that funding provided to school boards is sufficient to support that standard. For more information about the Fix Our Schools campaign, please visit

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11) Making Vancouver “SAFE”: 50 people gather to form local anti-fascist group

By Ismail Askin

            As right-wing hate groups and white supremacist organizers become bolder and gather with more regularity across the country, using the cover of “free speech” to spread their racism and genocidal propaganda; the left continues to resist Nazis and fascists as they have done in decades past, as they have been doing so since, and as they will continue to do so for a long time to come.

It was to resist this increase in fascist, Islamophobic, racist and white supremacist forces at work in Canada that, on October 30th, around 50 people gathered at the Centre for Socialist Education (CSE) to attend the founding meeting of the Vancouver chapter of Toronto-based coalition Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere. Among the gathered were students, academics, union representatives, representatives from city-wide and Canada-wide activist organizations, and solo activists, a diverse group united for a single purpose.

Solidarity Against Fascism Everywhere, or SAFE, was founded under the name Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia (OCAI) by, among others, veteran organizer Sarah Ali. OCAI was founded as a broad-based coalition intended to work towards forming a mass movement to combat the growing forces of Islamophobia, white supremacy, and fascism. From its beginnings, SAFE has been strongly supported by the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and the Young Communist League (YCL).

Together with the continued strong support of a wide range of political, labour, religious, and community organizations, SAFE grew exponentially, continuing to enjoy great successes with organizing the Toronto community against fascists and white supremacists. Organizing massive rallies, counter-protests, and even block parties to prevent fascists from marching in the streets of Toronto, SAFE has begun making more permanent in-roads with the communities in Toronto and changed its name to reflect its commitment to fighting fascism in all its manifestations, including but not limited to colonialism, imperialism, and foreign interventions.

As SAFE grows, it has begun to move to establish itself as a Pan- Canadian coalition and has begun establishing sister chapters in cities across Canada. It was with this aim that the aforementioned range of individuals and organizations met at the CSE on Monday night.

At a meeting organized with the help and funds of the University of British Columbia based student-led Social Justice Centre (UBC SJC) and with catering from Tamam Fine Palestinian Cuisine, SAFE co-founder and CPC member Sarah Ali Skyped in with a number of representatives from the Toronto chapter of SAFE to guide Vancouver activists in establishing a branch of the coalition in the city. Alongside facilitators from the UBC SJC, the CPC and the YCL; members of labour unions, the East Indian Defence Committee, Salaam Queer Mosque, International League of People’s Struggle, Kagawasan Liberation Campaign, the University of British Columbia Women’s Centre, Critical Muslim Voices, Coalition Against Bigotry, Stand Up Against Racism, Inter- national Socialists and countless others listened to Sarah and her comrades speak of the history of SAFE, the organization’s structure and their experiences organizing, as well as answer any questions and concerns the crowd at the CSE had.

After the conversation with Sarah, the assembly viewed SAFE-Toronto’s statement of unity and a lively discussion on the coalition’s points of unity ensued. Participants discussed the importance of building a mass movement that incorporates more than just the most radical elements of society to prevent fascism from taking root in the community. To members of the CPC and YCL, for example, it was self-evident that it would take a mass movement to prevent fascists from feeling comfortable enough to march and organize in Vancouver, and that it would take more than just a handful of revolutionaries to keep the marginalized and targeted communities of Vancouver safe from far-right violence – it would take thousands.

Due to the late hour, formulating a basis of unity appropriate to Vancouver was tabled for a future meeting; despite the long and intense meeting, the gathered crowd remained enthusiastic about meeting again and continuing to work on organizing the SAFE coalition. The crowd’s willingness and desire to continue organizing regardless of the diversity of political and communal backgrounds serves as an important indication of the desire for anti-fascist organizing present in the city and the commitment the Vancouver community has to prevent the city from becoming a place the far right feels safe enough to march in. The city’s activists and communities remain united in their determination to combat the far right and it is about time the far right begins to take this unyielding resistance into account.

By all accounts, the founding meeting was a massive success and the next step, building a plan of action and agreeing on a statement of unity, appears to be on the path to being an even greater success. As CPC-YCL member and labour organizer Brent Jantzen put it, “… The organizers who started this movement out in Toronto spoke so well, helped us lay a great foundation to what we need to organize against, and what to expect while organizing this kind of coalition. Honestly seeing this collaboration coast to coast, not only built around a frame work of fighting these fascist forces, but fighting the settler colonial government of Canada and the policies they are bringing in to further this process of colonization warms my heart… From cook to poet we are all resisting and fighting this fight. There has never been a struggle we fought for in society won by a single person, it was the collective around them that got it there. I'm really excited to see the change we push for become a reality.”

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12) OFL Convention: Power ON or ON Standby? Five key questions for Ontario labour

PV Ontario Bureau

The 2017 Ontario Federation of Labour Convention is meeting against a backdrop of strikes against precarious employment, privatization and underfunding of public services, a desperately inadequate minimum wage, anti-labour corporate trade deals, and related job losses to low-wage jurisdictions.

From the OPSEU college faculty strike, to CUPE’s fights at public libraries and Children’s Aid Societies across the province, to HERE’s $15 minimum wage strikes at campus food service providers, to CUPW’s refusal to distribute fascist material through the postal service, to USW’s struggle against liquidation of Canada’s steel industry, to Unifor’s strike at CAMI to protect jobs and wages in the face of NAFTA – from these and many other examples, Ontario workers are in motion. They continue to face many defensive struggles, but are increasingly shifting onto the offensive by making progressive demands. Increasingly, they are building their collective agreement disputes into political struggles.

In both the public and private sectors, all of this represents an important growth in militancy and political radicalism for Ontario labour.

But is this growth emanating from the Ontario Federation of Labour’s leadership, or in spite of it? Sadly, the answer seems to be the latter.

Two years ago, the OFL Convention passed a 25-page action plan that stressed the need to strengthen the Common Front. It also proposed increasing coordination among affiliates, to achieve a range of goals like organizing new workers. 

Unfortunately, rather than build upon the work in the 2015 action plan, this convention has to face the reality that many things agreed to in that plan were not accomplished.  The organizing school, for example, was not held. The Common Front has not met – in fact, it has actively been scuttled, sidelining those activists who have a strategic vision for labour, based on class and class struggle.

Instead, the OFL leadership appears to have pursued an action plan based on shoulder-rubbing, photo ops and backroom lobbying of the Ontario Liberals.

The OFL will be proud of the work done on its Make It Fair campaign and on the modest but important employment reforms achieved through Bill 148.  However, we need to note that Make It Fair represented the OFL running a parallel campaign to the already existing $15 and Fairness campaign. It was this campaign, initiated and sustained by grassroots labour and community activists, which pressed the OFL into working more deliberately on changes to the Employment Standards Act.

But why did the OFL leadership have to be pushed into accepting the $15 and Fairness community partners? Why was their response to develop their own separate campaign on these issues, and push aside these active allies who had built and sustained the struggle?

The “FedForward” team of Chris Buckley (President), Patty Coates (Secretary-Treasurer) and Ahmed Gaied (Executive Vice-President) is running again without opposition. Registration is down, with only about 800 delegates coming, and many affiliates are not sending their full complement. The convention’s slogan may be “power ON,” but is seems that this convention will be a sleeper and that Ontario labour is “on standby.”

As Ontario approaches a provincial election, in June 2018, workers and progressives are eager to see how the OFL will weigh in. Will it target and expose the right-wing danger of Patrick Brown’s Conservatives, at the same time that it promotes a strong and independent set of demands, based on class struggle? Or will it buckle again to the pressure of right-wing social democracy, telling workers to uncritically support an NDP who has moved so far to the centre that it is repeatedly outflanked on its left by the provincial Liberals?

Over recent years, labour conventions have become carefully managed events that sideline debate and engagement. Delegates cannot run from the floor and they cannot seek a vice president position for equity spots or young workers without the written approval of their leadership.  This means that delegates who are opposed to the business unionism of their leadership will likely never be candidates for OFL leadership, despite the fact that they often represent the views of the majority of workers.

At this convention, once again, resolutions will be grouped and combined into composites that reduce sharp actions to a commitment to lobby, informing and petition governments.

Clearly, a stronger left is needed, to press the need for action and to hold the leadership accountable. This is developing, but it is a task that requires time, organization, cooperation, and leadership.

In the meantime, delegates to this Ontario Federation of Labour Convention, along with militant and progressive labour activists across the province, can consider five key questions:

1.         Will the OFL develop and assert labour’s independent political program, leading a provincial mobilization against privatization and in defense of adequately funded and expanded public services, for full employment and good wages, for a provincial public housing program, for card check certification for all Ontario workers? Or will it continue to uncritically outsource its political work and responsibilities to the NDP and, increasingly, the Liberal Party?

2.         Will the OFL commit to building the Common Front, a strong and active community-labour fightback against austerity, war, resurgent fascism and white supremacy? Or will it continue to sit on its hands, providing meek verbal support to these movements, while sidelining their active potential?

3.         Will the OFL put time, energy and resources into a plan to actively organize Ontario’s 4.5 million unorganized workers, including the unemployed? Or will it continue to function as a “traffic director” for those sectors and workers who are already unionized?

4.         Will the OFL function according to engaging and active grassroots and member-driven democracy – including the voices of women, LGBTQ and gender oppressed workers; Indigenous and racialized worker; young workers; workers in precarious employment; and workers with disabilities – in its conventions and campaigns? Or will it continue its current practice of “stage managed” conventions that do not allow motions from the floor, combined with a powerful and detached Executive that can disregard convention action plans, without being held accountable?

5.         Will the OFL take a leading stand on Canada-wide and global issues that affect Ontario workers – NAFTA and corporate trade deals, militarism and war? Or will it continue to avoid this responsibility by outsourcing it to another level of labour organization?

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