Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The CLC and the Liberals - Pandering to power

In what is one of several "let them eat cake" moments made by members of the governing Liberal caucus lately, this past Saturday Finance Minister Bill Morneau threw young Canadian workers under the proverbial bus when he said that they should get used to the 'reality' of precarious employment. 

At a meeting with Ontario Liberals he said the "job churn" was here to stay, that the next generation of Canadians should expect shittier pension benefits and that recognizing all of this will "soften that blow".

This is a rather astounding acknowledgement by Morneau that his government is part of a seeming generational willingness by those who had more secure jobs and better pensions to, due to their political decisions, shut the door to these things for young people, basically screwing their own kids out of the kind of future that they themselves took for granted.

Setting aside for the moment that this 'reality' exists only due the unwillingness of our governments (this one included) to take on the corporations and to enact legislation and take real steps to fight precarious employment and to preserve pensions -- reality, you know, is created by us, Bill, it does not just 'happen' -- it is clear that Morneau is no friend to young workers.

And yet, in the wake of these comments, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) actually continued with plans to invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address their Young Workers Summit in Ottawa a few days later.


Predictably, and entirely justly, Trudeau got something of a rough ride from many of the summit delegates. According to the CBC:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced off with a room of angry protesters today who were venting their frustrations over everything from pipelines to the failed federal payroll system.
Some of the participants turned their backs on Trudeau in protest during the "armchair discussion" event at the Canadian Labour Congress National Young Workers Summit in Ottawa.
"Honour your promises!" hollered some in the crowd, as event moderators tried to keep the peace.
"We don't have dialogue with liars!"
"Shame! Shame!"
In a moment of surreal elitism and condescension,  Trudeau proceeded to say that the protest "reflects poorly" on the delegates!

This is pretty rich given his Finance Minister's comments on the weekend. They reflected rather poorly on his government.

While his response was predictable, what is far harder to understand is the response to the protest made by the CLC itself in a statement they released later that day.

The statement acknowledges the protests but goes on to say of the delegates that "the majority applauded his willingness to take questions from the room." This is a rather snide jab at those who wanted to confront Trudeau's completely lackluster performance as PM when it comes to both youth and workers, and it implies that they did, indeed, reflect poorly on the others who 'applauded' Trudeau.

In fact, at the summit itself CLC president  Hassan Yussuff told the protesters that the labour movement is a "respectful movement" and called for "constructive dialogue".

It seems speaking truth to power when the direct opportunity arises is not as welcome as it once was in the CLC and this wing of the labour movement!

The CLC statement goes on to say:
Delegates pressed the prime minister about a statement by Finance Minister Bill Morneau asserting that young workers have to get used to the “job churn” – meaning a future without lifelong, stable careers.
“Moving from job to job to job creates a lot of instability and insecurity,” said Amy Huziak, the CLC’s national representative for young workers.
“What can we do together to ensure that young workers have decent jobs instead?” she asked the prime minister.
In the statement Yussuff answers on Trudeau's behalf by saying:
“Prime Minister Trudeau promised legislative support for workers stuck in precarious jobs and we intend to hold him to that commitment,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “He’s already worked with labour to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan, and we look forward to doing the same for labour laws across the country.”
An interesting quote generally given that Morneau on Saturday had specifically said the changes to the CPP were "a recognition that people aren't going to have the same pension benefits" they did before.

All of this comes in the wake of the decision by Toronto's Labour Council to allow Trudeau's Labour Minister to march in Toronto's Labour Day parade.

So what are these labour leaders up to?

The reality seems to be that Yussuff and others think that they can wrest enough concessions for their existing membership to make collaboration with this government worthwhile despite the fact that doing so sidelines the workplace and economic issues confronting youth, workers not in unions, those fighting for higher minimum wages (Trudeau opposes the $15 Now movement), those living in poverty and many others for whom the Liberal government has really just been more of the same.

With a ludicrous rewriting of the history of the struggle to secure the basic rights of workers by the labour movement -- often in the face of vicious state violence -- to claim the movement is now "respectful" of representatives of what is and always has been an avowedly capitalist Bay St. party what Yussuff seems to be really seeking is to make the CLC and labour respectable to this Liberal government.

Protests and anger at a labour union summit by young workers towards a PM who has delivered them essentially nothing just won't do!

Sadly, it would appear that the Liberal government is not alone in its willingness to shut the door on the generation of workers coming next.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Program for Vancouver by Alderman Harry Rankin - 1960s

Today we are going to take a look at a remarkable piece of Vancouver political history.

The impact of Harry Rankin on the evolution of municipal politics in post-war Vancouver would be hard to overstate. Rankin served as an alderman from 1966 until 1993. He was involved in the formation of the Committee of Progressive Electors (COPE) and ran, unsuccessfully, for Mayor in 1986 losing to future right-wing British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell.

Rankin joined a Communist club when he was at university and, as a result, faced a challenge when he tried to become a lawyer in the 1950s. Due to anti-democratic McCarthyist laws, rules and blacklists that existed across North America at the time he was essentially put on trial before being allowed to join the bar in BC.

This leaflet was published as Rankin was running for re-election for the first time after having been elected to city council in 1966. When he had been elected he had broken a near monopoly that right-wingers held on council seats due an undemocratic voting system and to the Non Partisan Association which, as he notes in the leaflet "had dominated City Hall for over 30 years".

The leaflet is an amazing document. It is a veritable manifesto that touches on all aspects of civic policy from taxes to transit to tenants. He talks about Vancouver's 'housing crisis' (it had one then too), calls for Vancouver to establish public utilities, demands more public rapid transit with lower fares, and deals with an array of other issues, all while juxtaposing his people's agenda to the big business agenda that dominated civic politics.

He even has a fascinating section that asks "what will Vancouver be like in 1985"!

(Click on images to enlarge)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Yueh Tung -- Hakka & Chinese Cuisine by Toronto City Hall

Yueh Tung is a well-established restaurant just a stone's throw from Toronto's City Hall and Nathan Phillip's Square. For over twenty-five years they have been serving up classic Chinese dishes with the the addition of a variety of Hakka dishes throughout the menu as well.

For those unfamiliar with Hakka cuisine it is a style of cooking influenced by the flavours and techniques of both Chinese food and Indian food. It originated in southern China and northern India.

Yueh Tung delivers both with bold
The view of the back of City Hall from just outside!
flavours, nice presentation and excellent service. It's second floor dining room is large (though reservations for generally busy nights are recommended, especially for larger groups) and bright with modern decor. Service is excellent and very friendly.

Portion sizes are large and the prices very reasonable. This is great spot to go with family or friends after an event or afternoon spent downtown. It also could not possibly be more central!

There are a lot of great dishes on the large menu, but here is a look at a few favourites.

Hot & Sour Soup: Ranges from individual  serving at $3.95 to a large group bowl $14.95

The Hot & Sour soup here is a real standout. One of the best I have had in the city.
Tangy and spicy, it is full of shrimp, tofu and absolutely delicious BBQ pork.
Honestly, the Hot & Sour soup alone would be worth coming here for.

Hakka Wonton Yam Mein: $8.95

Hakka cuisine is noted for it noodle dishes and this is a great one.
The noodles are perfect with delicious pork & shrimp dumplings 
and more of that wonderful BBQ pork!

Chili Chicken: $9.95

Bold flavours and mildly spicy, a terrific chicken dish.

Calamari Fritters: $9.95

They have this in the appetizer section of the menu but it the size of a main!
Battered and crispy, they have a nice kick of heat. 

Crispy Beef: 10.95

This is one of my family's favourites.
Just as they say -- crispy battered beef strips in a terrific sauce that has a hint of sweetness.

Manchurian Fish: $13.95

'Manchurian' sauced dishes are Hakka staples with chicken, fish and other varieties.
The Manchurian fish at Yueh Tung is moist and bursting with spicy flavour.

A night view of bustling Dundas St. W. taken from Yueh Tung's window
by 11-year old Julia Laxer

The Manchurian Fish, Crispy Beef and Chili Chicken can all be had served on a sizzling plate for an additional dollar. This is always a fun and crowd-pleasing service.

There are so many dishes to try and keep you coming back from Shrimp or Chicken Pakora platters to sauced seafood platters with Vancouver Crab or East Coast Lobster.

They are licensed and serve beer and wine. The dining room also has a few tables that accommodate large groups. Unfortunately, however, it is a second floor restaurant that can only be accessed by a staircase so there are accessibility issues. It is very family friendly and the busy and bustling dining room is great for kids. They do also deliver within downtown Toronto.

You can see their full menu and read about the story of the restaurant and the Hakka style of cuisine at their website. 

Yueh Tung is located at 126 Elizabeth St., right behind and to the north of Toronto City Hall. 416-977-0933. They are open seven days a week with extended hours on Friday and Saturday. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Labyrinth Nawayee by the Healing Garden at Sam Smith Park

At the north end of South Etobicoke's huge and beautiful waterfront gem, Colonel Samuel Smith Park, a new place of contemplation was recently opened. 

Labyrinth Nawayee lies just to the south of the Healing Garden that sits by The Gatehouse. The Healing Garden is meant as a place of healing for victims of childhood trauma and sexual abuse.

At the time of the garden's opening in 2014, Brad Hutchinson, The Gatehouse's manager, said of the circular design:
“The circle has no beginning and no end. Healing comes through quiet, keeping still, meditation. We reach the eternal part of ourselves that has no beginning and no end.
“There is beauty and wisdom here. You can feel it if you come here, slow down and let go, whether for five, 15 or 30 minutes. It is a community garden for people to bring their positive energy and give it to people who need it.”
The labyrinth was added this past summer. Nawayee means "the centre" in Ojibwe. At the entrance is a small sign that tells us:


The Labyrinth

The Healing Garden

Labyrinth Nawayee and the Healing Garden are found at the north end of Colonel Samuel Smith Park. They are just to the south of Lake Shore Blvd at Fourteenth St. The park is on the 501 Queen streetcar line. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Urgent solidarity appeal in support of the WE ARE PALENQUE universal healthcare rally in Chiapas, Mexico

via B. Ross Ashley 

I have been asked to write a note of support to the WE ARE PALENQUE rally in Chiapas, Mexico, called for Sunday. You may know that the universal healthcare system in Mexico is under attack by the Mexican federal government at the bidding of the IMF and the OECD.

Brother Alan Benjamin of the San Francisco Labor Council writes:

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Last June 22,  doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers across Mexico staged  marches, rallies and work stoppages to demand the repeal of the "Sistema  Universal de Salud" (Universal Healthcare System) -- a healthcare  privatization law enacted by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto at the  behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization  for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The  mass actions were organized mainly by the #Yosoymedico17 movement.  Workers from the Mexican national public healthcare institute (IMSS),  the public sector workers' healthcare system (ISSSTE), and medical  students at the BUAP and UPAEP were in the front ranks of the  mobilizations. In many states, entire local chapters of the National  Union of Healthcare Workers (SNTSSA) went out on strike to demand the  repeal of the privatization law, the proper supply of medicines and  medical supplies to hospitals, and a host of other demands pertaining to  the union contract.

In the town of Palenque, in the state of Chiapas, the local chapter of Section 50 of the SNTSSA had been out on strike since May 23 to press for their community's healthcare demands.

Four  months after the first national day of action, the #Yosoymedico17  movement and local and statewide chapters of SNTSSA are calling for a  Second National Day of Action Against the Healthcare "Counter-reform"  Law, to be held on October 23.  They have been joined in this call by the Mexican Electrical Workers  (SME), the Political Organization of the Workers and People (OPT), and  the Nueva Central Sindical (an organizing committee for a new trade  union federation), among others.

In  the state of Chiapas, the strike initiated by the Palenque workers has  now extended to five other regions across the state: Yajalon,  Villaflores, Tonala, San Cristobal and the capital city of Tuxtla  Gutierrez. The statewide action will be held in Tuxtla, at the  initiative of the fighting chapters of Section 50. (The leadership of  Section 50, like the national leadership of the SNTSSA, has supported  the Peña Nieto counter-reform law.)

Throughout Mexico's south-east region, the protest actions on October 23 will  be held under the banner of "Todos Somos Palenque" (We Are All  Palenque) in recognition of the courageous strike -- now in its 147th  day -- waged by the 350 healthcare workers in the town and its  surrounding area.

Mexican healthcare workers fighting to protect and improve their national public healthcare system need our support!

Please send your solidarity statements to the October 23 National  Day of Action to Russell Aguilar Brindis, one of the main organizers of  the march and rally in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. His email is  The Tuxtla rally organizers will read aloud all statements received,  and they will forward all messages to the rally organizers in Mexico  City, so that they, too, can be read to the crowd.  They are especially  anxious to receive solidarity statements from healthcare workers and  their unions and organizations.

Please send copies of your messages to

Many thanks, in advance, for your continued support,

Alan Benjamin
U.S. Delegate to the Mumbai Conference

This is a sample solidarity letter:


AS a health-care worker, a soldier in the service of the fight against disease and death and injury, I have always thought that those of us in the trenches were better managers of the system than our financially-oriented masters.

Since then NDP leader David Lewis forced Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau into passing the Canada Health Act in return for NDP support in the 1970s, we in Canada have had one of the strongest health and hospital care systems in North America, but we have always had to fight tooth and nail to keep it.

The fight for public healthcare here goes on, especially given the court case in British Columbia wherein a private clinic owner seeks to overturn the ban on two-tier pricing in the name of constitutional “freedom of choice” for their potential clientele of well-off patients who would be ushered to the front of the line and triaged by the size of their insurance policies and bank accounts rather than the severity of their conditions.

Our colleagues in Mexico are also fighting for the continuation of their current publicly-run health and hospitalization system. We Canadian health-care workers, physicians, nurses, service workers, stand with them.


B. R. Ashley, retired hospital worker, Toronto, Ontario

Again, please send them to and c.c. to

Do you have a left-wing event or solidarity appeal you want to share? Send them to

Thursday, October 20, 2016

When it comes to 'universal' health care, it is a lot less universal than Canadians like to think

The other day one of life's unpleasant little surprises came along.

My youngest son Robert, who is nine, had his foot slip off an exercise bike at his school and the peddle came around to hit him hard in the ankle. That night it hurt a bit, but seemed ok.

The next morning as we went into school he said it was hurting more and finally said it hurt too much to walk properly and so, of course, we went up to an emergency clinic. Despite right-wing propaganda we were seen very quickly as usual. It turned out he had a fracture. The very nice specialist put him in a temporary cast and handed me the referral for an early morning appointment the next day at a fracture clinic.

All of this up to this point, covered as it is by OHIP, was 100% free.

And, then, the specialist said that if I wanted crutches for my son they would be $40. Now, if I had insurance I would get that $40 back (I don't) but otherwise they would send me a bill and expect a payment. Needless to say I took the crutches, as how was my son to possibly walk out of the clinic without them?

You cannot walk on a plaster cast.

The next day we went to the clinic as directed. The doctor felt that the best treatment -- apparently by far -- for the fracture was an air brace ankle boot cast that would keep his ankle safe, and then a follow up visit for more X-rays in two weeks.

Again, all of this was, of course, free, and was very fast and effective care. But as my son was being sized for the special boot, I found out that it would cost $190. Payment was expected on the way out the door. They had debit/credit card machines right on the counter.

What happens if you do not have $190 (I did have it) or insurance? Well your kid does not get the boot. Instead they would get a plaster cast that is covered but that would not be ideal and that requires crutches (which again, are NOT covered) unlike the boot.

This is one of those moments where you realize that 'universal' health care in Ontario and Canada is not as universal as we like to think.

As we all know, other than for kids, seniors and people on social assistance -- who get some coverage, sometimes, depending on various factors -- dental care (except in extreme emergency cases) and eye care is not covered by OHIP despite the essential role they play in people's physical, emotional and personal well being.

So if you are having trouble making ends meet and have eye problems or problems with your teeth, you are shit out of luck. You are going to have to either forgo proper care or have trouble paying the rent, with groceries or with the bills.

As the Association of Ontario Health Centres noted, what is "Needed: A Tommy Douglas for Dental Care". One is certainly not forthcoming including from the NDP.

But while some will try to frame these as somehow non-essential health services-- a rather bizarre claim -- there is absolutely no doubt about how essential another item that is not covered by OHIP is, that being life-saving medications.

Again, with some exceptions, other than for those who have coverage due to work or an insurance plan medicines and prescriptions are not covered by OHIP even if not taking them would lead to your death.

There are many examples of this, but one I know from personal experience. My partner has had a serious form of asthma for her entire adult life. She has to take various medications, some of which are very expensive. If she does not take these medications, she dies.

But they are not covered by OHIP at all. Not one penny.

I had a friend in Ontario who noted on Facebook at the end of last year, after having to go through surgery for cancer, that "after developing a blood clot after surgery I've been given a prescription for a month's worth of blood thinner to prevent me from dying from a heart attack or stroke. Cost? $300 - and that's after my drug plan pays 80% of the cost which means if I wasn't lucky enough to have a drug plan it would have cost over $1000!".

Note that the medicine still cost him $300. That is a lot of money, drug plan or no drug plan.

$1000 a month is inconceivable for many people.

It is a disgrace that this reality means that we do, despite our pretensions, absolutely have a two-tier medical and healthcare system in the province and country.

Unless you are either on an existing social assistance program or, in some cases, qualify for a limited mean's test driven plan, you are on your own if you are one of many, many workers who do not have a plan through their workplace or privately to cover the countless things that are a part of a healthy and fulfilling life free from what is completely unnecessary suffering or economic anxiety.

Going back to the point I began with, $190 is a lot of dough. Especially as it would be a straight up hit to your family/personal budget and as there is very good chance you would not see it coming.

I had no idea I would be parting with that kind of cash that morning.

Had I had less than that in the account, even with access to money in theory eventually my kid would have been possibly screwed for at least a day or two minimum. At the very least we would have gone through the humiliating experience of a parent and child trying to negotiate or get care that they cannot afford.

That is really, really wrong.

Luckily, due to fate, I could afford the care. But this must be beyond stressful for many people, something that again has a direct and demonstrable impact on health.

Having to use credit, borrow from family or do without other necessities to make sure your kid, yourself or your loved one gets proper care is a reality that puts the lie to some of our national myths.

And that is depressing, immoral and infuriating.

See also: Ontario's poverty gap puts the lie to Wynne's 'social justice' pretensions

Monday, October 17, 2016

It is time to ask Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli, Jose Ramirez and the rest of the Cleveland team...are you really ok with that racist caricature you wear everyday?

So let's cut the crap.

Chief Wahoo, the logo of the Cleveland baseball team, is a transparently racist, ugly, vicious and vile caricature of Native Americans.

It is so staggeringly and transparently racist and awful that it is is being challenged in the Ontario courts as discriminatory. While an attempt to get an injunction failed, the case is still proceeding.

I would add that the Cleveland logo is obviously hateful. It is incomprehensible that this would be the logo of a sport's team in the modern era, especially given North America's history of genocide towards native and indigenous peoples.

Various native groups and activists, as well as commentators generally, have noted just how appalling it is.

They have made logos with Jews, African-Americans, Asians and others that show just how bigoted the logo is.

If it portrayed any group other that Native People, it would not be acceptable to anyone.

And yet countless Cleveland fans wear it.

And all of the Cleveland players -- including those from communities that have suffered terribly due to exactly the kind of racism portrayed in this sick logo -- wear it.

Which begs the question, why?

Are you really proud to wear on your hats and shoulders and chests a racist patch? Would you wear it if it caricatured people deemed to be from your own background?

Do you really think it is ok, because you absolutely enable and encourage the racism by wearing this.


So let's ask the millionaires who were the Cleveland starting lineup tonight, given that racism is a day-to-day reality for native people, indigenous people,  people-of-colour, brown and black people, Asian people, Jews...let us ask them in consideration of the fact that sport's people across North America are answering the call made by players like Colin Kaepernick to oppose racist injustice by showing actual courage...

DH Carlos you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

2B Jason you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

SS Francisco you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

1B Mike you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

3B Jose you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

RF Lonnie you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

LF Coco you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

CF Tyler you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

C Roberto Perez ... do you feel good wearing a racist caricature on your hat and uniform?

None of you have to do this. You have chosen to without protest.

The Cleveland logo is an overt symbol of white American racist colonialist oppression. That countless clueless white idiots wear it and apologize for it is unsurprising.

It is as clear as it gets. As sick as it gets.

No one who sports or wears this logo -- fan or player -- without protest can ever claim to actually seriously care at all about racism in North America.

You are literally wearing racism on your sleeve.

See also: The beer can toss was bad. The racism at the Blue Jays game was much worse

See also: It was not the American military that fought for democracy and justice. The people -- and people like Kaepernick -- did that.