Municipal Climate Action, Federal Pipelines, and Other News This Week!

The Thorn on Thursdays | Nov 19th 2020

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Vancouver City Council passes recommendations of the Climate Emergency Action Plan Report


On Tuesday, Vancouver City Council passed an amended version of the recommendations of the October 22 report on the Climate Emergency Action Plan. Against the opposition of a number of NPA councillors on most points, the 370-page CEAP report was passed item by item at a vote late Tuesday evening.

Multiple amendments from Jean Swanson were passed that aim to address the potential impact of the plan on vulnerable populations. These include accommodation for the accessibility needs of seniors and people with disabilities in the implementation of Transportation 2040 directions; ensuring that renters are protected from displacement and/or rent increases around building energy retrofits; consideration in CEAP reports and recommendations of impacts on households earning under $50K, with plans to mitigate adverse impacts; and a direction to staff to work with TransLink to expedite a shift to 100% electric buses.

The following article in the Georgia Straight includes the full amended text of the motion: Vancouver city council approves Climate Emergency Action Plan.

Here’s how organizer Sophia Bi from Sustainabiliteens, an organization that made a major push to win support for climate emergency actions by the city, summarized the council decision in a press release from the youth climate group: “The Climate Emergency Action Plan has some of the most game changing steps we can take as a municipality to fight climate change and achieve our 2030 climate targets. These include looking into mobility pricing, retrofitting buildings, and zero emissions parking.” 

Canadian Parliament votes down NDP wealth tax motion

On Monday, the Canadian parliament voted down a motion from NDP MP Peter Julian, calling for a one percent wealth tax on people with wealth in excess of $20 million.

Liberal, Conservative and Bloc MPs teamed up to defeat the motion. The Liberals voted against the motion despite a promise in the Liberal government’s most recent throne speech to find new ways to tax the wealthy.

Following the defeat of the motion, the NDP issued a statement on their website: Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc side with wealthy instead of Canadian families

The Broadbent Institute tweeted: “Liberals, Conservatives, and the Bloc voted against the wishes of their constituents today. They voted down an NDP motion to tax extreme wealth & pandemic profiteering to support recovery.” The tweet included a picture of the key finding from a May 2020 Abacus Data poll commissioned by the institute, which found that 75% of Canadians support a wealth tax and that this support extends across supporters of all Canadian political parties.

A 1% wealth tax is quite frankly far too low to address the extreme inequality in Canadian society. Canada’s billionaires have increased their wealth in excess of $37 billion since the beginning of the pandemic in March, as summarized in this Ricochet Media article on this pandemic profiteering back in September: COVID sucks, unless you're a billionaire. Canada's richest have raked in $37 billion since March.

Trans Mountain pipeline protests


Opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline held another round of protests on Tuesday, in conjunction with the AGM of the Trans Mountain Crown Corporation that is now in charge of the pipeline expansion project.

In BC’s Lower Mainland, Extinction Rebellion blockaded the railway line that runs parallel to the Trans Mountain expansion route, near Highway 1 and North Road in Burnaby.
CTV News ran a comprehensive report on the blockade: Pipeline protesters set up new blockade in Metro Vancouver

According to the following tweet from 350 Canada, protests were also held outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence in Ottawa; in Toronto outside the Trans Mountain Crown Corporation’s AGM; in Hamilton, London (Ont.), and Saint John.

On October 5, members of the Secwepemc Nation set up a permanent protest camp near the Trans Mountain work site in Kamloops. Several members of the Secwepemc Nation and one ally were arrested in mid-October while attempting to block the construction of the pipeline.


RCMP’s privacy breaches reveal disregard for Constitutional rights

Days after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association announced their latest lawsuit against RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki for her failure to respond to a complaint that the RCMP illegally spied on organizers and Indigenous nations, The Tyee reported on 3,000 pages of internal RCMP communication about the RCMP’s operations in spying on internet users.

The basis of the BCCLA’s lawsuit is a complaint the organization filed against the RCMP in 2014, contending the RCMP “illegally spied on the democratic activities of organizations and Indigenous nations opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. The complaint further alleged the RCMP improperly shared the information it collected with oil companies and the National Energy Board.” These activities, according to the BCCLA, were in clear breach of constitutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and privacy. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which acts as oversight for the RCMP, completed a report in 2017. Despite a lawful requirement that the RCMP respond to the CRCC’s report in a “reasonable time,” it has not done so, almost six years later.

The Tyee’s recent reporting demonstrates the extent to which the RCMP acts in direct contravention of the constitutional rights of Canadians and the extent to which they will go to cover up these breaches of fundamental rights. As The Tyee reports, the RCMP’s “advanced web monitoring program called Project Wide Awake” utilized software to investigate and view private communications and other activities of web users. The RCMP used “national security exemptions” and other means to hide its purchase of privacy-invading software and otherwise obfuscate the RCMP’s invasive activities.

The BCCLA’s lawsuit and The Tyee’s reporting reveal a culture wherein police believe themselves to be above the law. The RCMP acted to not only breached rights fundamental to the Canadian Constitution but also sought to hide these breaches from public scrutiny, further compounding their flagrant disrespect for Canadian law. Continued action is necessary to hold the RCMP and other police agencies to account and to curtail their interference in the privacy of Canadian citizens.

Coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 continues to surge in BC, with over 700 cases per day over the last three days. Cases remain concentrated in Metro Vancouver (Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions). Deaths in long term care continue to be a concern. The BC Health Coalition is hosting two (2) webinars on the long-standing challenges in this sector and how we care for elders in this province. To register for the first webinar on this critical issue (on Nov 24) follow the link below or visit their FB page:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_qr6udpG6Ra2o1cBmRTy6ww

https://www.facebook.com/events/371738227554390/

The BC Government's website has a full list of COVID restrictions in place in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan gave a press conference on the COVID pandemic in which he announced that more restrictions are coming Thursday.  These could include a ban on non-essential travel. Horgan also called on the federal government to restrict interprovincial travel during the holidays to prevent spread of the virus between provinces.

Schools remain a point of contention between the BCTF and the provincial government. While most schools remain open, three schools in Fraser Health Region closed for two weeks beginning Monday after outbreaks; and one Surrey music teacher has been in the ICU, though her condition has gone from critical to stable. The BCTF has called for class sizes in Fraser Health to be limited to 15 kids -- the same demand the Ontario NDP has been pushing for the Conservative government in Ontario to adopt province wide. 

Kennedy Stewart pushes for Vancouver to decriminalize drug possession

On Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart unveiled a plan to ask the Canadian government to allow Vancouver to decriminalize simple possession of all drugs. This would first involve passing a motion at Vancouver City Council.

Read about it in this story from Global News: Plan unveiled to make Vancouver first jurisdiction in Canada to decriminalize simple drug possession

In 2001, Portugal became the first country to decriminalize the possession and consumption of all illicit substances, and by all accounts, the policy has been a resounding success. Read all about it in the following article in The Guardian: Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?

Richmond Election Results

Jaeden Dela Torre, the BC NDP Candidate for Richmond North Centre, offers some reflections on the results of the BC Election in Richmond:

“With the election results finally counted, voters resoundingly rejected the selfish policies of the BC Liberals. But what’s most certain of the BC NDP’s victory, is that for the first time in nearly 50 years Richmond has repudiated the BC Liberals!  What was supposedly a “stronghold” of Conservative strength, has now been swept out with a decisive Progressive victory in three of Richmond’s seats. The historic victory in Richmond has still sent shocks throughout the political world. But what can be said, is that the leftist victory in Richmond is attributed to a desire for a better change. Richmond folks are known for their sense of community, and progressive values. The shameful anti-poor campaign of the BC Liberals would disgust any decent person and it’s no surprise it didn’t resonate with anyone, other than those who are rich. Richmond repudiated the selfish capitalist policies of the BC Liberals, and is charting a new path in progressive politics in Richmond. This is a positive sign that we are moving forward towards a newer leftist political environment in Richmond after a long drought of Conservative politics. 

In my view, the political landscape has changed in Richmond, and that change has come for the better! Growing up in the city and having run previously in the federal election, it’s always had that reputation as a “conservative suburb”, which I find to be a false attribute. 

There is a strong element of progressive values in Richmond (worthy to note there is a strong environmental progressive contingent in Richmond) but because of our FPTP voting system that usually splits between the BC NDP/BC Greens, which allows the BC Liberals to get in. However, given the unique circumstances of the election, we saw how damaging the BC Liberal record was in government. People care about healthcare, public services, and housing. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how flawed and deeply damaged our system is, when the Liberals were in government. We’re still playing catch up now to fix those issues. During the campaign, I heard strongly from a lot of people that issues such as healthcare and affordability were at the top of their minds. We saw how badly mismanaged the province was when the Liberals were in government, and the resulting consequences  have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The overwhelming rejection of the Liberals, especially in Richmond demonstrates a decisive defeat of their capitalist policies, desire for better change, and moving towards left-wing politics, not seen since the days of the first BC NDP MLA from Richmond, Harold Steves. 

While there is still much work ahead to solidify these results, it nonetheless showcases a new path to build ahead. No longer can the city be seen as a hub for conservative thought, or the perception that conservatives have a stranglehold on the city. We are now in a prime time to repudiate the 50 year drought of conservative politics, and move  towards shifting the dialogue towards progressive and leftist policies; dramatically altering the political landscape in Richmond for the better.”

Left Merch facing eviction

Once the last textile factory has been liberated by its workers, we’ll be able to put all kinds of slogans on free t-shirts and hand them out to the masses for free. Until then, we all have to hustle for our loonies, and some socialists are doing that by printing swag.

Left Merch is a Vancouver-based collective making apparel and accessories with anti-capitalist messaging, specifically with a Canadian POV. If you want a T-Shirt that communicates your distaste for the Irvings, reminds your prairie kin that there are commies among them, or just plain old proclaims “Democratic Socialism!” in a spooky font, then they’ve got that!

Dynamic duo Megan & Mariah run Left Merch with tongue-in-cheek humor, noting on their FAQ: “ Activists and politicians are busy trying to save our dying planet to make dumb crop tops so we’re trying running this shop.”

Unfortunately, Left Merch has faced multiple evictions. First, Megan was evicted from her place in April: “I lost my housing and my job in the same week... At the beginning of the Pandemic, everything was chaotic and we had no idea how things were going to go.” Mariah offered Megan her dining room as a temporary crash pad. “When I moved in I thought I’d be here for 6 weeks.”

Then the BCNDP’s Eviction Ban was put into place, allowing Left Merch some breathing space. But when it was lifted in September, Mariah’s landlord also decided it was time to do some renovicting. They’re hesitant to get into detail as the eviction is ongoing, but it appears it will not be happening until 2021. Still, the threat hangs over their heads even as they try to get Left Merch off the ground.

Just last week, the BCNDP reinstated a rent freeze, preventing landlords from increasing rent during the pandemic. Little comfort to Left Merch, whose landlord is more interested in a lucrative sale than housing tenants. This is a common occurrence in the Lower Mainland, and to put a stop to it will take more than a rent freeze. Eviction bans and unit-based rent control would be a good place to start!

To support Left Merch, check out their website and get a few items for yourself or as holiday gifts to the other socialists in your life! If you’re struggling to make rent yourself, follow and share their pages on Facebook or Instagram - even if it’s just to annoy your conservative uncle!

Slow Learner #3 ’I really don’t care - do you?’

The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence: The Care Collective by Andreas Chatzidakis

In April 2020, at the Start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC government announced that it was taking over as the employer of all long term care facilities in the province. The government-mandated that every worker would be paid standardized wages and receive full-time hours for the next six months. This resulted in thousands of workers receiving pay rises. Unionized care workers won a starting wage of 24.83 an hour. This was a pay rise of as much as 7 dollars an hour for some workers who had been operating in privatized health facilities. The low wages were a result of privatization, erosion of services, and anti-labour policies implemented by the BC liberals across almost two decades of cutbacks. The corporate seizure of care homes is one aspect of neoliberalism as the welfare state has declined and the race for profits accelerated. Privatized care homes are limited in their capacities to provide care due to limited budgets that hamper training, support, wages, and supplies. The raises, the job security and the standardizations were implemented partly by Dr. Bonnie Henry as a recognition of the importance of and central necessity of long term health centres in our communities.

It is exactly towards this kind of reframing of understanding of care, as a pillar of primary importance to our communities, that the ‘Care Collective’ writes about in their brief text ‘The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence’. This text is divided into six sections, each centred around a different reimagining and expansion of care; politics, kinships, communities, states, economies, the world.

The collective’s main contention is that care work in our societies is presently massively undervalued and under-appreciated. This is directly linked to the current dominance of neoliberal capitalism which prioritizes profit over people. The collective advocates for the creation of a ‘care logic’ to combat ‘market logic’. The collective’s goal is to stop market logic from expanding into all aspects of human behaviour. They quote David Harvey ‘we need to go beyond the fetishization of the market’. Our current health care systems are under enormous strain due to constant threats of austerity and cuts, especially as the pandemic continues. attempts to transform care into a consumer product and burden the responsibility of care on the individual. The rich are able to outsource their care needs through transactional relationships. The market places no value on personal engagement, emotional connections, commitment, empathy, or attentiveness. For many of us, this competitive individualism can create an accelerated social system of organized loneliness and isolation. 

The allocation of resources for community care under capitalism becomes grossly unequal. Multinational corporations have benefited from the pandemic without facing the sacrifices or hardships many of us have had to endure. The reliance of the private sector for care creates a kind of shadow state that takes advantage of the actual state and operates beyond government control. This inequality will continue so long as corporations and tax havens operate beyond the jurisdictions of democratic institutions. 

Under neoliberalism, the nuclear family is assumed to be the basic unit of care. This orientation of care is harmful as not everyone participates or belongs to a nuclear family. This leads to the marginalization of alternative modes. Furthermore assuming families as a nexus of care places a burden on women if they are assumed to take on traditional gender roles of care. Within nuclear families, women end up doing the lion’s share of paid and unpaid work. These structures can create high levels of loneliness, frustration, and melancholy among those relegated to such duties. Against family orientated care models, the collective argues in favour of community models.

Nationalist arguments that we should ‘care for our own’, can easily become a platform for the radical right. Racist claims that we should care only for ‘people like us’ are commonplace. This leads to enormous harm migrants are treated without the rights of citizenship. The continued tragedy in the Mediterranean and the violence of ICE in America exemplify these forms of injustice. The care manifesto advocates for porous borders that allow people to seek a better life so that people can travel without fear of encountering a hostile environment. The text advocates for care models based on human rights and the right to claim rights.

The collective’s view of care includes care for nature and the planet. Vancouver city council has recently voted to pass its new climate change plan. Capitalism views the natural world as available for exploitation. World care means acknowledging the rights of the planet so that we can care for the natural world in a sustainable, ecological manner. This may mean giving natural landmarks such as rivers or mountains equal rights of personhood, and the accompanying rights of wellbeing and good health. The collective gives the example of the indigenous water protectors at standing rock who acted to protect a relative Mni Sose (The Missouri River). The collective states we must act 'upon the understanding that as living creatures we exist alongside and in connection with all other human and non-human beings and also dependant upon the systems and networks that sustain life across the planet.’

The manifesto asks us to rethink the Keynesian welfare state while absorbing strategies used by the Black Panthers, Act Up, Green New Deal advocates, and current examples of mutual aid that are operational under Covid. There is much to learn from indigenous struggles against settler colonialism and extractive capitalism. The care manifesto asks us to treat others as kin, with what Derrida refers to as ‘limitless hospitality towards the stranger’. They ask us to fight for our right to the city, an expansion of the commons, re-regulate markets, and build sharing institutions capable of delivering universal community care. The infrastructures proposed must be based around mutual support, public space, shared resources, and local democracy. Strategies here include nationalization, progressive municipalism, localism, and insourcing. The approach is towards building enduring, participatory, outlooks, and caring contexts into structures wherever we can. This may mean a four day work week for care workers. The manifesto advocates the development of new caring imaginaries on a global scale. The goal should be that the legacy of COVID-19 is not intensified neoliberal authoritarianism, but a new political with care at every level.

Current budgets allocate a massive overfunding of policing and surveillance, as opposed to the social provisions that can open the doors to human flourishing. The collective writes we ‘need urgently to build care infrastructure based upon a recognition of our profound interdependencies and vulnerabilities while putting the necessary material, social, and cultural conditions in place for the material thriving of all.’ For those curious about current movements towards defunding the police, especially the VPD, The collective’s text offers a vision of what an alternate world, centred around care as an organizing principle, might look like.

Verso Pamphlets are available wherever fine books are sold or directly from their website https://www.versobooks.com/series_collections/126-verso-pamphlets

Each week The Thorn reviews a pamphlet published by Verso. This is week 3 of 4.

Events and Announcements

November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month (IDAM)!

Massy Books 50/50 Raffle to Support Battered Women’s Support Services

https://www.massybooks.com/fundraiser/

Deadline: December 16, 11:59 PM

Draw: December 17 @ 7:00 PM

Vancouver Ecosocialist Group Upcoming Events Page -- Broad list of left events, mostly online due to COVID-19.

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