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A DIFFERENT CANADA IS POSSIBLE!

Charting a Democratic Agenda for the 2004 Federal Election

by the Canadian Dimension Collective,
the Socialist Project, l’Union des forces progressistes,
& the Structured Movement Against Capitalism
How This Pamphlet Came To Be

Speculation about a spring election has been in the air for the better part of a year, ever since Jean Chretien announced that he would be stepping down as leader of the Liberal Party and as prime minister. Over this period Winnipeg’s Structured Movement Against Capitalism (SMAC) has had numerous discussions about how it should participate in these elections or whether it should participate at all. In the course of these discussions a consensus has emerged that SMAC neither views elections as the be-all and end-all of democracy, nor does it dismiss elections as irrelevant. Elections are one form of struggle in which people must engage to advance their own interests, but our experience is that electoral politics in the absence of a vigorous extra-parliamentary movement is a dead end road.

However, in discussing how SMAC should participate in these particular elections, we keep running into the same problem - there is no national electoral vehicle to champion an anti-capitalist political agenda. Given that reality, how do we participate in these elections in a meaningful way? Who can we even suggest that people vote for? On these questions, no real consensus has emerged within SMAC. Some members suggest that, lacking an electoral vehicle of our own, we should call on people to vote for the NDP as an interim step. Other members are opposed to this position on the basis that the NDP has never opposed capitalism and that every provincial NDP government during the past couple of decades has embraced neo-liberalism in practice.

In the course of our discussions, SMAC has discovered that other anti-capitalist organizations and groups in other parts of the country are also grappling with these problems and proposing solutions. More than that, there is the beginning of a general convergence of opinion within the anti-capitalist movement on what needs to be done. This pamphlet reflects the general orientation, if not always detailed agreement, on some of the issues that an election on issues rather than personalities might address. Specifically, it reflects the thinking of the Canadian Dimension Collective, the Socialist Project in Ontario, the Union des Forces Progressistes (UFP) in Quebec and the Structured Movement Against Capitalism (SMAC) in Winnipeg.

SMAC is of the opinion that, in the absence of a national anti-capitalist vehicle there is very little the anti-capitalist movement can accomplish during the current election campaign. However, this pamphlet representing the political collaboration of four anti-capitalist groupings in Canada and Quebec, is an important step towards the creation of a national, united anti-capitalist electoral project. We sincerely hope that other anti-capitalist groups will also see the value of such a project and join in the discussion of how, together, we can make it a reality. — Winnipeg’s Structured Movement Against Capitalism •

The Federal Election and the Continuing Challenge of Neoliberalism

by Greg Albo, Sam Gindin and Herman Rosenfeld for the Socialist Project

We have been living with neoliberalism for three decades now — for most of us, all our adult lives. It began in the latter part of the Trudeau era and has continued with a run of governments from all the major federal and provincial Canadian political parties, without exception. From old PCers, like Clark and Mulroney, to Liberals, like Chretien and Martin to NDPers, like Rae and Romanow, to hard-nosed right-wingers, such as Bennett, Harris and Devine. Now, with renewed attacks on public sector workers by Campbell’s BC Liberals and Danny Martin’s Newfoundland Tories, with Stephen Harper’s promises to make Canada the “most competitive economy in the world” and with Paul Martin’s veiled overtures about further integration with the US, it is clear that neoliberalism remains a dominant force.

Neoliberalism is now more then a set of policies; it is a form of American-led global social rule, implanted or being implanted everywhere. It will not be changed without a dramatic rebellion from below.

PAUL MARTIN’S CHOICE

February’s throne speech gave Prime Minister Paul Martin an opportunity to make an important choice. The choice he finally made was to remind Canadians of the need for unending fiscal vigilance. As he had done so often since 1993 as Minister of Finance, Martin concluded, “This Government will not spend itself into deficit”.

Martin made this choice in spite of the fact that more than a decade of surplus projections have turned out to be far too conservative. He made it in spite of the fact that Canada already has the lowest debt to GDP ratio of any large industrial country. He made it in spite of the fact that even with the last Budget, the projected surplus is $5.5 billion with a “planned” $4 billion for the next two years.

Martin decided that the new focus, like the old focus, was to be on debt repayment. As a direct result of this decision, a growing number of ordinary people will be subjected to the economic horror of a life of unrelenting insecurity. At the very moment that the ideologues of fiscal restraint are expressing such indiscriminate confidence in market capitalism, an economic nightmare has arrived for millions, the nightmare of social polarization, abject immiseration and global unemployment, from the most vulnerable in Africa to the most vulnerable on the streets of downtown Toronto. The sense of insecurity grows into all facets of life. The stories our grandparents and great grand parents told us have now become the stories we are telling to our families, friends and neighbours.

Make no mistake, deficits are a serious matter. However, there are many kinds of deficits in Canada, deficits that are accumulating and urgently need to be slashed. These deficits are being forced onto individuals, families and communities. But despite what Martin maintains, the most important of these are not related to debt repayment. And Paul Martin, despite his concern for the fiscal deficit, does not take these other deficits seriously.

This is understandable, since in his stint as Finance Minister he aggravated, if not created, most of them due to his unstinting support for the policies that facilitate globalization.

WHAT IS GLOBALIZATION?

The political project of globalization has been about expanding the sheer scale of market activities through trade and privatization. A central mechanism for doing this has been by reducing the scale of democracy.

As globalization proceeds, the market becomes increasingly universal as an economic regulator. This compels the whole world to keep up with the technological advances being made in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. Globalization keeps raising the pole of competitiveness so that even newly industrializing regions and countries characterized by low wages, few social benefits and fewer environmental regulations, find it difficult to compete.

INTERVENING WITHOUT ILLUSION

With the advent of neoliberalism, the importance of elections has faded. In virtually every capitalist country, increasing numbers of voters have either stopped bothering to vote or cast votes without the conviction that real change is possible.

The problem is not that elections are irrelevant, but in the era of neoliberalism they can only be relevant when there exists a movement with both the vision and the political capacity to put radical change on the agenda.

Such a movement is only in its initial stages. In a number of centres across the country, anti-capitalists and socialists are working to create organizational forms to allow us to intervene in political activities. All the while, we are attempting to deepen the influence of radical ideas, especially amongst working people. We have some resources such as CD, but at this time our influence is extremely limited.

We should not enter this election with illusions. But we can make the election into part of building the movement we so desperately need. During this election campaign, we need to proclaim that society can aspire to more than what capitalism offers and we need to insist that it is time that we organize ourselves to make this possible.

WHAT ABOUT TODAY’S NDP?

In the present election, anti-capitalists and socialists must ask themselves whether a resurgence of the fortunes of Canada’s social democratic party in the upcoming election can make a real difference in the struggle against neoliberalism.

To be sure, party leader Jack Layton has dramatically increased the party’s profile and has spoken out on a number of important issues, such as Canada’s and the US’s role in the Middle East, the necessity of adequately funding urban infrastructure and a host of other questions. This can help lend a certain amount of credibility, in the public mind around these issues, making it easier for the anti-capitalist left to organize and educate around them.

As well, amongst the candidates running for the NDP are a number of respected activists who would certainly play a positive role in fighting for and popularizing the struggle for important reforms — reforms that can make a difference for people fighting for child care, peace, union rights and social programs. Many of them have been and will remain important allies of the anti-capitalist left. It is therefore almost obligatory for the anti-capitalist left to vote for and sometimes work for NDP candidates.

While all of this is true, however, it doesn’t move us forward in the battle against neoliberalism. Nothing in the NDP’s language or policies aims at the heart of neoliberalism: the rule of capital and the domination of our economy and society by the demands of profit.

The vision of the party remains similar to every other social democratic party in the world: a form of competitiveness where somehow Canada can maintain well-funded and universal social programs, paid for by an economy dominated by private corporations featuring high-wage, “high value-added” jobs. Somehow, this model is supposed to allow us to compete successfully in a globalized capitalist economy.

In the real world, however, this ideal social democratic image of capitalism doesn’t exist. That is why when social democratic governments have gotten elected — from Western Europe, to Britain, to Ontario to the prairies — they have implemented the requirements of neoliberal capitalism — privatization, deregulation and a subordination of the needs of working people to the demands of competition.

A DIFFERENT VISION

As socialists, we must bring what means we have available to advance an alternative vision. For too long, the emphasis of Left economic policy has been employment expansion through faster economic growth — at whatever the ecological and human costs. Work was seen as, well — work.

This approach today will neither solve the crisis of unemployment nor prove ecologically sound. Solidaristic work policies that radically redistribute work through work-time reduction, overtime caps, sabbatical and parental leaves must be vigorously pursued. As the Canadian Auto Workers have demonstrated, work-time reduction can also be put towards education and skills that expand workers’ capacity to challenge employers, strengthen their unions and fight for social change in the community.

In a country like Canada, trade will always be important. Nevertheless, we call for reducing our dependence on external markets and therefore firmly embedding production and finance in national and local spaces. This is why capital controls, planned trade and new relations of co-operation internationally are so pressing.

Inward strategies are also a necessary ecological imperative: to move agricultural production away from mono-culture crops toward bio-diversity; to reduce the energy usage and carbon emission consequences of the geographical scale of trade; and to adopt labour intensive techniques when capital intensive ones like clear-cut foresting or factory fish trawlers have such colossal environmental impacts.

Our vision must convey a socialist project for environmentally responsible production. As well, budgetary and monetary policies need to emphasize redistribution and quality production rather than simply economic growth to reduce unemployment. Tax and welfare polices also need to be based on a model that stresses redistribution, collective service provision, ecological sustainability and expansion of democratic capacities. There are literally hundreds of areas where unmet needs — housing, day care spaces, cultural diversity — can be matched with unused resources and egalitarian initiatives.

OUR PERSPECTIVE

Our approach needs to be from an anti-capitalist and socialist perspective. Some of the reforms we call for will be more radical than those proposed by the NDP, others will be identical. It is the orientation we bring that will be different, and our commitment to use elections and other time periods to bring together different social forces — such as working people, women, people of colour, oppressed minorities — into a large movement for fundamental social change.

Though we are limited at this time, we should use our resources, such as Canadian Dimension magazine, and various newspapers, newsletters and pamphlets as ways of intervening. Most importantly, we need to build a broader and longer-term movement capable of challenging the capitalist order in Canada and working with other movements around the world to challenge capitalism globally.


Slashing the Deficits

by the Canadian Dimension Collective

HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN DEFICITS

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies clean water, shelter, food, health care and education as basic human rights. These rights are increasingly in jeopardy for growing numbers of Canadians. So are others, like the right to quality employment.

Our water is unsafe. Walkerton showed that. Our supply of electricity is unreliable. The blackout across Ontario showed that. Our food is unsafe, as the new evidence on contaminated salmon reveals. Our jobs are insecure, made ever more so by unprotected exposure to international competition under free trade and the unwelcome provisions of the WTO. The solvency crisis at Stelco, in Hamilton, Ontario, is but the most recent indication.

Thanks to Martin’s cutbacks as Finance Minister, our health care system is seriously compromised. Under proposed changes of the WTO, all of our public services and provisions could be privatized and deregulated — including our water systems, education, the postal service, health care, home care and day care. And under NAFTA’s provision of a continental energy market, our heating bills are already skyrocketing as our finite supply of natural gas is being sucked into the limitless American market.

In our opinion, the deficits that really need to be tackled are the ones that relate to the serious issues of democracy, sovereignty, aboriginal rights, the environment, poverty, security and peace.

THE DEMOCRACY DEFICIT:

Paul Martin’s parliamentary reforms do nothing to address the democratic deficit. These reform have roots in a rightwing anti-politics which denies both collective action and any enduring social differences. Free-voting MPs will somehow represent all the different views in their riding, from left to right? No, we’ll be moving in the direction of U.S. politics.

* The first-past-the-post electoral system is barely democratic. It makes a mockery of the principle of fair representation and allows situations where governments elected with the support of a minority of voters and with an even smaller minority of the electorate, are given full power to rule. We need some form of proportional representation to help eliminate this deficit.

PR assure that all the diversity of Canadian political views can be represented. Better representation of the political spectrum will do a number of things — prevent phony majority governments from holding essentially dictatorial power, force explicit political coalitions to be formed to govern, increasing the level of public deliberation/scrutiny around such deals

PR and coalition government would increase the points of access for social movement activists. It shouldn’t be a question of in-the-streets versus in-the-institutions — we need a strategy that brings our social mobilizing power to bear on the state.

* Limiting corporate spending and third party spending in elections and providing public financing of elections is a positive step (although we do not see the justification of restricting trade unions alongside corporations and millionaires). But allocating public funds in a way that rewards participants solely on their success at the polls denies smaller and new parties funding. This urgently needs revision.

* These two measures, PR and fair funding, would assure a more representative democracy but however improved, voting for politicians to represent us every few years hardly puts a dent in the democracy deficit. Genuine democracy requires not just elections every few years to choose people to represent us, but a radically different kind of society in which everyone is encouraged to participate in making the decisions that affect us both as individuals — in the workplace, for example; and as a society — everything from urban planning to war and peace.

These are a few examples of what we mean:

* Introducing a democratic administrative process within the state sector itself, enabling public sector workers to participate in the organization of their workplaces and in the decisions of how to implement government policy — instead of this being structured in the typically hierarchical fashion found in all workplaces and in public institutions like universities and hospitals governed by boards and agencies run by patronage appointees.

* Establishing a participatory federal budget process that empowers citizens to help in determining priorities. The Brazilian city of Porte Alegre has done this for several years. The Alternative Federal Budget produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and provincial equivalents have some participatory features.

* The current state of media concentration is an affront to the very principle of democracy which demands that citizens have available diverse expressions of opinion. Freedom of the press and communications at the very least requires that no individual or company should be allowed to own or control more than one means of communication — newspaper, television, cable or radio company.

* Beyond this, the role and budget of the CBC must be strengthened; consideration given to the establishment of a publicly funded daily newspaper; and further support for alternative media organizations.

* Democracy would receive a huge boost if we got rid of NAFTA’s Chapter 11. Chapter 11 gives effective veto power to multinational corporations whenever government contemplate measures to protect the environment, introduce new programs or pass legislation of any kind that infringes on property rights and that might impact on present and future profits. Getting rid of Chapter 11 should be one of Canada’s conditions for not abrogating NAFTA.

THE INDUSTRIAL DEFICIT:

Corporate restructuring is a regular feature of capitalism. But the present round of job cuts, outsourcing, bankruptcies and corporate reorganization is massive in its scope and its effects on working people. Driven by the neoliberal environment of intensive competition and financial deregulation, key economic sectors in Canada, are close to bankruptcy, and workers in them are facing calls for concessions, job loss and threats to their pensions.

Two key examples are Air Canada and Stelco. At Canada’s national air carrier, almost a decade of privatization and the deregulation of the airline market, has put its very survival at stake. Investors and the business community are demanding that the workers match conditions at low-cost competitors requiring cuts to wages, work rules and pension rights. At Stelco, the company has fallen behind its competitors in responding to complex market segmentation and increasing competition. In this sector, the norm increasingly means production technologies with higher capital intensity and fewer workers. As well, the model which business interests use as a guide for Stelco’s reorganization — based on the US experience — calls for a radical downsizing of workers’ pensions and other rights. Stelco has also underfunded the pension fund of its workers.

In each of these cases, like numerous others in different sectors, like Aerospace (MacDonnell Douglas/Boeing) and telecommunications (Northern Telecom/Nortel Networks) governments have done their best to foster an environment of deregulation and enhanced market competition and have refused to step in and undo the damage caused by the expected actions of investors and corporate giants.

In this election, we call on political parties to:

* Guarantee negotiated pensions and place worker pension funds and salaries at the top of the priority list in any bankruptcy proceedings

* Begin the process of re-regulating the airline market in Canada by nationalizing Air Canada and placing strict rules on all carriers regarding routing, wage and benefit packages, right to unionization and pensions.

* Develop a National Steel Strategy, in consultation with unions in the sector, based upon serving the needs of Canadian industrial redevelopment. Public ownership of Stelco should be considered as one possible component of that strategy.

* Approach the issue of corporate restructuring as part of a general rejection of deregulation and privatization, and a consideration of a more inwardoriented developmental strategy of economic development.

THE DECENT LIVELIHOOD DEFICIT:

Liberal (and Conservative) governments not only did very little to address poverty, they aggravated it with policies that sharply reduced access to employment insurance benefits while permitting high levels of unemployment to persist. They taxed welfare benefits and all but eliminated new social housing. Meanwhile provincial governments contributed their share to the poverty deficit by cutting back on social allowances; allowing minimum wages to stagnate and fall further behind inflation; increasing university and college tuition fees. And city governments weighed in with higher transit fares and higher user fees for all municipal services.

Everyone, including politicians, says that poverty in a country as rich as Canada is unacceptable.

Poverty places a burden on the economy, it is true, yet it also has a function in any capitalist economy. The poor ensure that there is a supply of people available to perform low-paid, dangerous or menial work; the low wages of the poor often subsidize the life-styles of the rich; the poor generate jobs in numerous professions, social services, government bureaucracies, businesses and institutions that serve the poor, analyze the poor, protect mainstream society from the poor and sell to the poor.

Eliminating or even significantly reducing the poverty deficit would no doubt create a larger economic burden on employers and some professions than the burden poverty itself poses. Perhaps that is why there has been so little success in reducing it.

To address the decent livelihood deficit, governments need to:

* implement zero tolerance for unemployment. Develop a plan for full employment and begin implementation by 2005.

* remove the tight restrictions on employment benefits, EI so as to include more of the unemployed and extend benefits over a longer period.

* implement a universally accessible child care system.

* integrate prescription drugs into the public health care system through a comprehensive, universal, publicly-funded prescription drug plan.

* construct 25,000 affordable housing units each year for ten years.

* raise the child tax benefit to a maximum of $5000 per child.

* raise the minimum wage to a Living Wage of $10/hr by the end of 2005 in all provinces. A Living Wage is a basic human right.

* reduce transit fares by half.

* address the fiscal deficit endured by women who still make a 70-cent dollar.

* address the reality that old women, young women with children, aboriginal women and racialized women disproportionately live in poverty.

Where is the money for these programs to come from? Restoring the tens of billions of dollars lost to income tax reforms and to capital gains exemptions all of which mainly benefit the wealthy would be a place to start. A second source is to channel annual government surpluses into these anti-poverty programs rather than using them to pay down the country’s financial debt every year.

THE ABORIGINAL RIGHTS DEFICIT:

Although Paul Martin has been paying lip service to raising the priority of areas pertaining to Aboriginal peoples, in fact what he has done entirely belies any hopes of a new initiative. Instead of scrapping former Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault’s widely criticized governance suite, Martin will go ahead with most of the elements involved . Martin offered no significant new funding for Aboriginal peoples in his new budget, and on the basis of the throne speech seems to be adopting the term “Aboriginal Canadians”... from John Richards (a Simon Fraser University professor who has recently come up with, once again, a “new”... policy to assimilate Aboriginal peoples). It appears that the major new initiative will involve repeating the same old colonial policies and mistakes of the last century.

A serious program to address the aboriginal rights deficit would:

* strike an eminent citizens committee to conceptualize and recommend a Post-Colonial Reconciliation Commission, with a mandate to air the injustices perpetuated by Canadian colonialism on Aboriginal peoples. This mandate would include a national reconciliation process to begin a major dialogue across cultural boundaries and the colonial divide.

* implement a short time line for reducing and eliminating this colonial administrative bureaucracy, and turning the money and human resources over to representative, accountable aboriginal agencies, organizations, and governments. All such transformations must be done in consultation with representative aboriginal women’s and feminist organizations, so that aboriginal women’s aboriginal and treaty rights, human rights, and equality are furthered by administrative and bureaucratic transformations.

* pass a First Nations Governance Recognition and Validation Act that provides constitutionally protected self-government arrangements for First Nations based on models each First Nation itself develops and on timelines each First Nation proposes.

* establish a moratorium on any natural resource developments in any areas where treaties have still not been negotiated or where land claims are still outstanding or where the proposed development would derogate from aboriginal and treaty interests in environments, ecosystems, and habitat.

* amend the appointment convention to the supreme court, to include the convention that at least one member be an aboriginal member of the bar, selected in consultation with the indigenous bar association and other legal scholars.

* pass stronger legislation establishing aboriginal languages as heritage languages with official language status within the appropriate territories; this legislation must also explicitly address aboriginal women’s human, aboriginal, and equality rights.

* bring housing, water, electrification, health care delivery and policing up to a national minimum standard in all Aboriginal communities, in consultation with the governing institutions in those communities, and where appropriate, in governance frameworks.

* fund post-secondary education for Metis, Inuit, and on-status Indians as well as for status Indian students — on a formula that seeks to achieve a high level of post-secondary and technical education in Aboriginal populations within a targeted time frame.

* establish a program that recognizes and remunerates land based Aboriginal families as natural resource stewards, with authority to veto any resource development proposals and to revoke licenses, fine or otherwise discourage environmental abusers.

THE SECURITY DEFICIT:

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights identified clean water, shelter, food, health care and education as basic human rights. These rights and others, like jobs and reliable energy are increasingly in jeopardy for growing numbers of Canadians.

To close the security deficit we need to:

* End the NAFTA -driven requirement that Canada cannot reduce its energy sales to the U.S. unless it cuts its own consumption by the same amount. This provision has caused a rapid depletion of our energy resources and a nasty hike in our heating and gas bills. Let this be the second condition for Canada not abrogating the NAFTA.

* Build a national energy grid to ensure a reliable supply of electrical power for our homes and workplaces.

* Protect the commons — remove water, health care, educational institutions, postal services, day care and other parts of the commons from the negotiation table at future GATS/WTO talks

* Restore full federal funding to health care and supplement it with a universal prescription drug program.

* Work with the provinces to establish national clean water standards.

* Ban toxic substances used in foods like trans-fatty acids.

* Support community-based food security programs.

* Establish a National Investment Fund along the line developed by the Canadian Labour Congress and the CAW. The NIF would fund community and regional job-development banks with moneys levied from financial organizations like banks, mutual funds and pension funds. The Fund would offer a less than market rate of return which would also be made available to individuals prepared to invest in National Investment Bonds. Locally elected democratically controlled boards would elect representatives to the national board, supplemented by government appointees to ensure accountability to the public at large.

* Establish business closure legislation to establish community-based enquiries that would investigate why a business is failing and threatening bankruptcy and explore alternative courses of action in the public interest.

* Where bankruptcy occurs, ensure that the claims of workers and in particular their pensions are placed ahead of all other claims on the company assets.

* Introduce measures to reduce the likelihood of short-term capital flight.

* Limit the distribution of farm aid to family farms.

THE SOVEREIGNTY DEFICIT:

In this increasingly interdependent world no peoples can expect to exercise full sovereignty. Further, when given the opportunity, most peoples would likely agree to surrender some degree of sovereignty to appropriate international bodies in order to protect the environment, keep the peace and ?ght poverty and disease. Canadians, in particular, are committed to these and other expressions of international solidarity. But our dominant reality is one of subordination to the American Empire. In this we are anything but unique. Canada’s economic dependence upon the U.S.A. simply occurred earlier and is more total than elsewhere on the globe. Nor, should it be added, did it occur without the approval and active support of Canada’s business class including both its American and Canadian elements.

The major forces behind the drive for U.S. expansionism are the transnational corporations whose logic requires the free movement of capital, goods and services and skilled people across borders. This free movement succeeds best when national sovereignty is replaced by the supra-sovereignty of international agencies like the WTO, the IMF and NAFTA. The rules imposed by these U.S. dominated organizations are designed to give priority to the needs of transnational capital over and above local custom and democratically determined legislation and regulation. Other U.S. dominated organizations like NATO serve to open up and/or maintain spaces for the penetration of transnational capital.

From time to time, Canadian governments have acted in de?ance of the U.S., specifically, as in the case of Iraq, where public opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to its blatantly imperialist actions. But overall, Canada clearly plays a supportive role within the American Empire as was so clearly demonstrated in its participation in the coup against Aristide’s elected government in Haiti and in its apparent agreement to enroll Canada in the U.S.’s cockamamy “Star Wars scheme.” In effect, the U.S. Space Command seeks to become “the enforcement arm for the global economy,” as Bill Sulzman of Citizens for Peace in Space , has described it.

To protect what sovereignty remains and to move towards greater sovereignty, Canada must:

* Work to diversify our trade links, on the one hand, and on the other, to increase self-reliance by fostering greater local, inter-regional and east-west trade.

* Work with other like-minded nations to replace or convert the WTO into an institution that fosters, rather than undermines environmental and social objectives rather than entrenching the interests of transnational capital; and in particular to remove from future WTO negotiations measures that aim to privatize water, health care, education, postal services and other parts of the commons.

* Announce our intention to abrogate the NAFTA unless it is rewritten to i) re-empower the government of Canada to manage this country’s ?nite energy resources for the bene?t of its citizens; and ii) terminate the infamous Chapter 11 that gives transnational corporations the right to sue Canadian governments to stop them from introducing legislation and regulations that might impinge on their current and future pro?ts. We are aware of the serious repercussions that challenging NAFTA would bring. Social movements need to build citizen support to enable Canada to bite the bullet and detach ourselves from the hooks of NAFTA.

* In place of NAFTA establish a different kind of relationship between the US, Canada and Mexico, and eventually the rest of the hemisphere, that would include the right of each country to organize its own social system, common efforts to control transnational capital (like mutually-agreed domestic content requirements for access to consumer markets in each country), and managed trade.

* Refuse to participate in the American Missile Defense System.

* Withdraw from all joint security projects which result in further integration of Canadian defense with that of the U.S.

* Withdraw from NATO and NORAD.

THE MULTI-SOVEREIGNTY DEFICIT:

Canada is not a collection of provinces and territories. It is a state that involves the unequal coexistence of a dominant and majority English-speaking Canadian nation, a majority French-speaking Quebec nation, and a host of mostly dispossessed and displaced First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

Previous attempts at breaking the constitutional impasse have chosen topdown elitist processes that were successively defeated.

* Only the fundamental recognition of Canada’s multi-national reality offers the basis for renegotiating the constitution of the Canadian state.

* This is best achieved through a democratic, participatory and feminist method of constitutional negotiation based on political actors delegated by the various national communities.

* In this negotiation it is essential that the inalienable rights of Aboriginal peoples to choose their own political destiny, their own way of life, culture, education and government be recognized.

* Further, constitutional reform must place at centre the transfer to them of the resources with which they can build their future.

* Constitutional reform should recognize the inalienable rights of the Quebec people to choose their own political destiny, their own way of life, culture, education and government. Quebec is not a province like the rest. As the homeland of a distinct nation, Quebec has a wider claim to jurisdictional authority than other provinces. It was, in fact, Quebec’s right of national self-determination that the federal government was violating when it poured millions of dollars of public moneys into the “sponsorship” fund in a campaign to subvert Quebec’s referendum.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFICIT:

Fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas are used to transport people and goods, heat our homes, generate electricity and cook our food. They are non-renewable. Once they’re burned there’s that much less for future generations. And burning them causes climate change and air-pollution. Canada has signed onto Kyoto whose targets are modest indeed. Even so, there is still no plan in sight to meet those targets, let alone ones that would go a distance to shrink this deficit.

* Canada needs to follow European nations by undertaking investment in cleaner and renewable energy sources like wind power, solar energy and tidal energy.

* Invest massively in energy efficient public transit , promote rail transport over truck and air transport and impose sur-taxes on gas guzzling SUVs, mini-vans and other such vehicles.

* Subsidize the purchase price of more durable, energy efficient goods like hybrid automobiles while imposing a pollution tax on energy inefficient, toxic, and least durable (e.g.. throwaway) products

* Subsidize energy efficient renovations in homes (100% for poorer families) and buildings.

* Provide anti-sprawl grants to cities that take measures to limit urban sprawl and concentrate growth within existing urban envelopes.

THE PEACE DEFICIT:

The “peace dividend” which was expected to arise as a result of the ending of the Cold War has failed to materialize. Instead, the U.S. has used its position as the sole military superpower to forcibly extend its control in the Middle East and Southern Europe and is threatening preemptive strikes against any country which attempts to compete militarily with the U.S. The illegal invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and Britain has clearly established that the United States has become the greatest threat to peace and security in the world today. Canada is linked to the U.S. war machine through both NATO and NORAD and the federal government is considering integrating Canada even closer to the U.S. through the proposed Missile Defense System, which threatens to trigger a new arms race. With the ending of the perceived threat to Canada from the Soviet Union, they is no rational reason for Canada to continue such a close military relationship with the U.S. In fact, as American military adventures expand across the globe, such a close military relationship between Canada and the United States will rapidly become a serious security liability for Canadians.

In the interest of peace and security, both internationally and for Canadians, the Canadian government should:

* Refuse to participate in the American Missile Defense System.

* Withdraw from all joint security projects which result in further integration of Canadian defense with that of the United States.

* Withdraw from NATO and NORAD.

* Order the Canada Pension Plan investment board to stop investing our retirement savings in companies that manufacture arms.

* Prohibit the export of arms and military materials.


The Union des forces progressistes on the federal election

The Union des forces progressistes (UFP) is a progressive party working on the Quebec political scene. In the absence of a progressive party at the Canadian level that the UFP could consider a true corresponding party - and taking into account the diversity of situations in local ridings where progressive candidates might be found running with the NDP, the Communist Party of Canada, the Green Party or even independents or perhaps the Bloc quebecois - the UFP is encouraging its local and regional associations to support a candidate by referring to certain elements of their political platform.

To gain UFP support, a candidate must stand for:

Candidates must also stand against:

It goes without saying that no candidate from the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party will pass such scrutiny.

Finally, the UFP will pursue and consolidate its collaboration on the ground with those parties or political actors on the federal scene with the goal of raising awareness of its priorities as well as to encourage the development of a true Canadian progressive political alternative that is able to converge with the platform and values of the UFP.

Questions for the candidates

CONSERVATIVE PARTY:

1. What is the Conservative Party policy on:


i. Aboriginal Rights? On Treaties?
ii. Kyoto?
iii. the Canadian Wheat Board?
iv. Abortion?
v. Capital Punishment?

2. The old Reform/Alliance Party advocated weakening the national government in favour of the provinces. Does that remain Conservative policy and how would it work?

3. Mr. Harper has advocated continental integration with the U.S.A., if only as a means of reducing the number of governments and the extent of government regulation that the Canadian people have to endure. Is that the policy of the Conservative party? If so, what would be the timing for creating a custom union, adapting the American dollar as our currency, integrating the Canadian military into the U.S. armed forces?

4. Every few years in Canada, we are witness to a crisis involving the clash of federal and band authority on First Nations territory; every ten years or so now, we are witness to a major constitutional crisis over the status of Quebec. Will the Conservatives help resolve this condition of semi-permanent uncertainty by recognizing the multi-national reality of the Canadian state and sitting down to bargain in good faith for a new constitutional settlement?

5. Would a Conservative government implement the 2004 recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of Canada on Electoral Change which include everything from a mixed member prop rep system, to requiring parties to recruit and promote women and aboriginal peoples and report on their progress on same, to re-energizing democracy in Canada in and between elections.

6. Does the Conservative Party accept the recent Supreme Court ruling that restricts third party advertising during election campaigns as a means of stopping interest groups from using their wealth to blanket the media in order to sway public opinion.

7. Would a Conservative government reduce public funding for the CBC?

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY:

1. What concrete steps would an NDP government take to actually get rid of/radically alter NAFTA? What would be the timetable?

2. What concrete steps would an NDP government take to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel?

3. Does the NDP support capital controls and government determination of Bank of Canada policy as a way of gaining control over our economy?

4. Would an NDP government pull out of NATO and consider a truly independent foreign policy?

5. The national airline industry is in a mess after deregulation and privatization. The US industry is in the same situation. Will the NDP make the nationalization of Air Canada a policy priority?

6. Does the NDP favour the 2004 recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of Canada on Electoral Change which include everything from a mixed member prop rep system, to requiring parties to recruit and promote women and aboriginal peoples and report on their progress on same, to re-energizing democracy in Canada in and between elections.

7. Is full employment still a priority to the NDP? If so, how would an NDP government go about creating it? Is economic planning still a part of NDP philosophy and if so, what does it mean in today’s world?

8. We are constantly being reminded that we cannot raise taxes to fund important programs — health, education, environmental regulation, affordable housing. Yet we have more wealth in our economy than ever. The wealthy can dodge income and corporate taxes in many ways (deductions, corporate engineering, offshore accounts etc). Is the NDP committed to eliminating tax loopholes and shelters? Instituting a wealth tax? What about a tax on speculative transactions?

9. Every few years in Canada, we are witness to a crisis involving the clash of federal and band authority on First Nations territory; every ten years or so now, we are witness to a major constitutional crisis over the status of Quebec. Will the NDP help resolve this condition of semi-permanent uncertainty by recognizing the multi-national reality of the Canadian state and sitting down to bargaining in good faith for a new constitutional settlement?

LIBERAL PARTY:

1. What will your party do to ensure that economic restructuring is never done at the expense of women’s human rights? What will you do to improve the numbers of jobs for women that pay a living wage? What will you do to guarantee family leave days to women, who are (regrettably) the primary caregivers of the sick, the young and the old?

2. Will your party treat the Kyoto Protocol as a first step, and make ecological health the prime directive for Canadian economic policy and for development projects generally?

3. Will the Liberals implement the 2004 recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of Canada on Electoral Change which include everything from a mixed member prop rep system, to requiring parties to recruit and promote women and aboriginal peoples and report on their progress on same, to reenergizing democracy in Canada in and between elections.

4. Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced yet another Liberal plan to forge new relations with First Nations and to dismantle Indian Affairs. We’ve heard this all before — many times. We’ve also heard about “breaking the cycle of poverty, injustice and indignity” from Mr. Martin as from several other prime ministers over the years. Why should anyone take these and other recycled pledges of First Nations self government seriously?

5. What will a Liberal government do to ensure that Aboriginal women’s human rights are protected.

6. Will the next Liberal government send Canadian troops to Iraq under U.N. auspices?

7. Will Canada join the American Continental Missile Defense Initiative?

8. Why did Canada help to overthrow a democratically elected government in Haiti?

9. What will the next Liberal government do to ensure national airline transportation to its citizens?

10. Much is being said about the 100 million unaccounted for dollars arising from the sponsorship program initiated to “save Canada” by using taxpayers’ money to display the maple leaf at picnics and hockey games in Quebec. But what will a Liberal government do to recover the billions of dollars owed by corporations who accepted but have never paid back government loans provided them over the past few years?

11. Will a Liberal government insist that Chapter 11 be removed from the NAFTA? that water, health care and education be taken off the table in future WTO/GATS negotiations? and that Canada opposes the establishment of a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas?

12. Every few years in Canada, we are witness to a crisis involving the clash of federal and band authority on First Nations territory; every ten years or so now, we are witness to a major constitutional crisis over the status of Quebec. Will the Liberals help resolve this condition of semi-permanent uncertainty by recognizing the multi-national reality of the Canadian state and sitting down to bargain in good faith for a new constitutional settlement?

13. Given the limited margin of maneuver the government has with the current tax system to raise revenues for essential services, would your party act to abolish unfair tax privileges (loopholes, tax shelters) and impose a tax on speculative transactions along the lines known as the Tobin tax?

BLOC QUEBECOIS:

1. The Bloc has advocated a monetary union for North America. Is this not incompatible with any substantive project for multinational sovereignty (Quebec, First Nations, Canada)?

2. Will your party commit itself to exclude entering into any strategic alliance with the Conservative Party?

3. Does the Bloc support the 2004 recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of Canada on Electoral Change which include everything from a mixed member prop rep system, to requiring parties to recruit and promote women and aboriginal peoples and report on their progress on same, to re-energizing democracy in Canada in and between elections.

GREEN PARTY:

1. The Green Party of Canada has historically opposed all military alliances with the United States and has called for limiting Canadian forces to the defense of Canada and UN peacekeeping operations. Why is the new leadership of the party calling for a major change in this policy and supporting the development of a “mobile force” similar to that being used in Afghanistan in support of U.S. policy?

2. The Green Party of Canada has established a strong policy of opposing socalled “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and has a commitment to fostering “fair trade.” Why has the new leadership of the Green Party dropped this from the 2004 election platform? •


CONTACTS:

If you agree with the general orientation (not necessarily all the particular demands), please join with us in working to build a common movement to achieve these objectives.

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