Orleans NDP Member Blog

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Crown Corporation Pensions Under Attack

DPB Pensions Under Attack -- Morneau’s Pound of Flesh

The National Organization of Retired Postal Workers (NORPW) and their coalition partners demand that Finance Minister Bill Morneau stop the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) from proceeding with changes to its instruction guide on pension amendments.

Morneau is making it easier for employers to make amendments to Defined Benefit Pension (DBP) plans through the government’s OSFI Department. The OSFI has called for consultation on proposed changes to the Instruction Guide for Authorization of Amendments Reducing Benefits in Defined Benefit Pension Plans. These changes would pave the way for employers to make amendments to DBPs.

Morneau and the Trudeau government are once more trying to achieve some of the draconian aspects of their Bill C-27 Target Benefit Plan (TBP) through the OSFI. Simply put, Morneau is now attempting to achieve via the back door the changes that the government could not achieve through their TBP legislation, which has died on the Order Paper now that the election writ has been dropped!

The proposed changes to the Guide give the employers the ability to amend Defined Benefit Pension plans. The OSFI claims there are “no significant policy changes” in the guide, but it is using some of the Bill C-27 language. These changes show the contempt Finance Minister Morneau has for workers and retirees’ guaranteed pensions! The OSFI proposed guide changes would now allow for authorization of an amendment that reduces “or could reduce” an accrued pension benefit at a later time, similar to what Bill C-27 was proposing. The 2012 guide was unambiguous and required “unanimous agreement by all affected groups” for any change to the pension to occur. With the proposed changes to the guide, unanimous agreement would no longer be required. The OSFI would now simply expect written agreement to the change by anyone (e.g. member, former member or survivor) whose pension benefits would be reduced. The OSFI also added wording almost identical to section 9.7(2) of Bill C-27 “A bargaining agent may consent on behalf of a unionized member if the agent is authorized to do so.”

                Morneau Conflict of Interest Complaint - September 18, 2017

Morneau narrowly escaped being found in a conflict of interest following the complaint filed on Sept.18, 2017! He was forced to divest the one million plus shares he still held at the time in his former company, the pension industry giant Morneau Shepell. In addition, Morneau agreed that all the profits he had made from his shares in Morneau Shepell since he was elected would be paid to a charity of his choice.

               Retirees and Workers Demand Trudeau Live up to His Promise

The NORPW demand that the OSFI stop the changes to the Guide for Authorization of Amendments Reducing Benefits in Defined Benefit Pension Plans! We demand that the Liberal government live up to Trudeau’s July 23, 2015 promise “that no employees and pensioners’ accrued and paid for Defined Benefit Pensions would be allowed to be retroactively converted to a Target Benefit Plan”. A Promise is a Promise! The NORPW  call for Retirement Security Now!

Jean Claude Parrot

President- National Organization of Retired Postal Workers


Para Parity

The Healthy Transportation Coalition is currently running a campaign to improve Para Transpo, by demanding the following from City Council and OC Transpo:

- A report about online booking for Para Transpo, including a draft plan for implementation and the key components of an online booking system, be presented by OC Transpo staff to the Transit Commission at its meeting in September 2019;

- The online booking system be fully functioning and operational for Para Transpo customers not later than end of 2020

- Fifty per cent of seats available to be booked on Para should be saved for people using the online booking application, and 50% for those who use the phone service, so as to allow for everyone to access these services. To be changed accordingly, reviewed quarterly.

 

Please add your name to the petition below in order to help further their extremely important cause:

https://www.healthytransportation.ca/para_parity

 


By-Elections

After our holiday Hiatus, the Orleans NDP blog is back.

  Today I would like to talk about an important issue for the NDP party, for the 2019 federal election as a whole, and the Burnaby South and Outremont by-elections. For anyone who doesn't know in 2007 former Quebec environment minister Tom Mulcair ran for the NDP in Outremont a liberal stronghold. |He was able to win in the by-election in a surprise victory for many Liberals. And in some people's opinions, this victory started the "orange crush" of 2011 when Jack Layton won the hearts of many Quebecers. Tom Mulcair would go on to serve as the leader of the NDP after Jack Layton's tragic death and was replaced as leader in 2017. After Mulcair resigned the seat in August a by-election had to be held and that's where we are now. This area is a historic riding for the NDP and it's important for our chances in Quebec in October. We have a great candidate in Julia Sanchez who has worked really hard to make sure we keep this riding orange. I truly hope she can keep this riding for the NDP because it really is important and truly symbolic for our party and I think Julia Sanchez can do it. Now to Burnaby South. As we all know Jagmeet Singh our new leader who was elected in 2017 is fighting for his seat in Parliament in the BC riding of Burnaby South. Jagmeet is a guy who has a lot of courage and I believe he has a good chance of getting in, he's talking about real issues that the people of Burnaby and Canada in general really do care about like affordable housing and stopping Trudeau's leaky pipeline. Burnaby South does have a connection with the NDP being the riding that our former leader Tommy Douglas had back in the 60s and as well the seat of former MP and now mayor of Vancouver Kennedy Stewart. Even parts of this riding used to be part of former MPS Svend Robinson's riding (who is now trying to win in Burnaby North Seymour). Though some might say Jagmeet does not have a connection to this community the NDP certainly does and I believe with the issues based campaign Jagmeet has run, we can truly keep Burnaby South orange and have our leader Mr. Singh debate Justin Trudeau in Parliament. In conclusion, these by-elections are important for us as they represent our past and our future as a party. Good luck to our NDP candidates in these by-elections and I hope we have good results!

Cheers

-Alexander Kernick


Après nos vacances Hiatus, le blog du NPD d'Orléans est de retour.

  Aujourd'hui, j'aimerais parler d'un sujet important pour le parti NPD et pour l'élection fédérale de 2019 dans son ensemble, les élections partielles de Burnaby-Sud et d'Outremont. Pour ceux qui l'ignorent en 2007, l'ancien ministre de l'Environnement du Québec, Tom Mulcair, a présenté sa candidature pour le NPD à Outremont, un bastion libéral qu'il a réussi à remporter à l'élection partielle. Une victoire surprise pour de nombreux libéraux. Et l'opinion de certaines personnes cette Victoire a commencé le béguin orange de 2011 lorsque Jack Layton a conquis le cœur de nombreux Québécois. Tom Mulcair assumera ensuite les fonctions de chef du NPD après la mort tragique de Jack Layton. Il sera remplacé à la tête du parti en 2017. Après le départ de mulcair en août, une élection partielle devait se tenir et nous en sommes maintenant. Cette écriture est une circonscription historique pour le NPD et c'est important pour nos chances au Québec en octobre. Nous avons une excellente candidate, Julia Sanchez, qui a travaillé très fort pour que cette circonscription conserve Orange. J'espère sincèrement qu'elle pourra conserver cette circonscription pour le NPD parce que c'est vraiment important et vraiment symbolique pour notre parti et je pense que Julia Sanchez peut le faire. Maintenant, à Burnaby South, comme nous le savons tous, jagmeet Singh, notre nouveau chef élu en 2017 se bat pour obtenir un siège au Parlement dans la circonscription de Burnaby South, en Colombie-Britannique. Jagmeet est un gars qui a beaucoup de courage et je pense qu’il a de bonnes chances d’être admis. Il parle de problèmes réels qui préoccupent les habitants de Burnaby et du Canada en général, comme le logement abordable et l’arrêt du pipeline en fuite de Trudeau. Burnaby South a des liens avec le NPD étant la circonscription de notre ancien chef, Tommy Douglas, dans les années 60, ainsi que le siège de l'ancien député et maintenant maire de Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart. Même certaines parties de cette circonscription faisaient autrefois partie de la circonscription de MPS Svend Robinson (qui tente maintenant de gagner à Burnaby North Seymour). Bien que certains puissent dire que Jagmeet n’a aucun lien avec cette communauté, le NPD en a certainement une et je crois qu'avec la campagne contre la jungle, nous pouvons vraiment garder Burnaby South Orange et laissez notre chef, M. Singh, débattre de Justin Trudeau au Parlement. En conclusion, ces élections partielles sont importantes car elles représentent notre passé et notre avenir en tant que parti. Bonne chance à nos candidats du NPD et à ces élections partielles, et j'espère que nous avons de la chance.

À votre santé

-Alexander Kernick


Veterans and Remembrance Day

 

With Veterans Day or Remembrance Day or whatever you want to call it happening this week, I would like to take a personal reflection on how we treat our veterans and servicemen and women in our country. As someone who has the military in their blood and has had many family members serve and even lose their life in the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans and how we take care of them is important to me. It's sad to say but realistically veterans are not cared about 365 days a year in our country politicians tend to bring them up the week before Remembrance Day and then right after November 11th they're forgotten about again until the 1st of November. Veterans have to fight their own government in the courts and at Legion Halls all the time. I think Brock Blaschek said it best when he said “ I was prepared to die in the line of duty what I wasn't prepared for was Canada turning his back on me”. This is the feeling of many veterans when they come back to Canada as a lot of the time the treatment is not equal between veterans depending on when they served and when they got out. We need to establish an equal pension for every veteran if some MPS can get a pension of $90,000 I think a brave soldier who served in Afghanistan should be able to get his or her rightfully deserved pension. Peter Stoffer former NDP MP was a champion of veterans issues in the House of Commons and for the NDP serving as the Veterans Affairs critic and now aiding veterans when suing the federal government he's a prime example of what our country and our party needs. People who will fight for veterans to defend their honor and to make sure they can have a good life after they served our country. The moral of the story is that we as a country need to make sure our veterans can live comfortably and have a great life after military service. I would also encourage anyone who can go out on Sunday to A Remembrance Day ceremony please do we need to remember the past and honor those who served.

Lest we forget

À l’occasion de la Journée des anciens combattants ou du jour du Souvenir, ou ce que vous voudriez que ce soit dit cette semaine, j’aimerais réfléchir personnellement à la façon dont nous traitons nos anciens combattants et nos militaires canadiens. En tant que personne qui a les forces armées dans le sang et comme de nombreux membres de sa famille ont servi et même perdu la vie dans les Forces armées canadiennes, les anciens combattants et la façon dont nous les prenons en charge sont importants pour moi. C'est triste à dire, mais dans la réalité, les anciens combattants ne se soucient pas de nous 365 jours par an dans notre pays, les politiciens ont tendance à les évoquer la semaine précédant le jour du Souvenir. Ils sont ensuite oubliés jusqu'au 1er novembre, juste après le 11 novembre. Les anciens combattants doivent constamment se battre contre leur propre gouvernement devant les tribunaux et dans les salles de la Légion. Je pense que Brock Blaschek a dit le mieux quand il a dit: «J'étais prêt à mourir dans l'exercice de mes fonctions, ce pour quoi je n'étais pas préparé si le Canada me tournait le dos». C’est le sentiment de nombreux anciens combattants lorsqu’ils rentrent au Canada, car souvent, le traitement n’est pas le même pour tous les anciens combattants, selon le moment où ils ont servi et quand ils sont sortis. Nous devons établir une pension égale pour chaque ancien combattant si un député peut obtenir une pension de 90 000 dollars. Je pense qu'un courageux soldat qui a servi en Afghanistan devrait pouvoir bénéficier de sa pension légitimement méritée. Ancien député néo-démocrate, Peter Stoffer était un défenseur des droits des anciens combattants à la Chambre des communes. En tant que porte-parole du ministère des Anciens Combattants, il aide maintenant les anciens combattants à poursuivre le gouvernement fédéral, ce qui en fait un excellent exemple des besoins de notre pays et de notre parti. Des gens qui se battront pour les anciens combattants afin de défendre leur honneur et de s'assurer de pouvoir mener une belle vie après avoir servi notre pays. La morale de cette histoire est qu’en tant que pays, nous devons nous assurer que nos anciens combattants peuvent vivre confortablement et avoir une belle vie après le service militaire. J'encourage également tous ceux qui peuvent se rendre le dimanche à une cérémonie du jour du Souvenir, s'il vous plaît, devons-nous nous souvenir du passé et rendre hommage à ceux qui ont servi?

Ne l'oublions pas

-Alexander Kernick Orleans NDP Youth Director


Is Neoliberalism destroying the Word? CBC Ideas Podcase

Is Neoliberalism destroying the world?

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Listen to the full episode53:59

Deregulation. Infinite growth. Self-correcting markets. All are hallmarks of neoliberal thinking. But they're more than just assumptions about the economy. They undergird much of the most influential thinking about governance right now, and dominate political and economic thinking everywhere. The results, according to some, have been disastrous. Investigative journalist Bruce Livesey asks four experts about the rise and rule of neoliberal thought, and what it may mean for societies around the world.

The Trump administration is largely populated by people from the neoliberal thought collective and they are busily carrying out things that they wanted to do for years.- Philip Mirowski

The term "neoliberalism" is likely more used than understood. But if at its heart it's the ideology that markets know better than humans, then its ascension into virtually every sector of society is nearly complete. At least that's the view of economic historian, Philip Mirowski at the University of Notre Dame. For him, the presidency of Donald Trump represents textbook neoliberalism: privatizing education and health care, gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as health and safety, and food safety laws.

"People don't pay any attention to this because they're so fascinated by the buffoonery of Trump himself," Mirowsky says. "The Trump administration is largely populated by people from the neoliberal thought collective and they are busily carrying out things that they wanted to do for years."
 
Trump's government is simply the visible part of the ideological iceberg that is neoliberalism. Brexit, the rise of extreme right-wing nationalism and anti-globalization, the Euro crisis, austerity, consumer debt and economic anxiety — these are all arguably byproducts of neoliberalism's ideology.

Ideas
You hear the term everywhere. But what exactly is neoliberalism?
Philip Mirowski, Anat R. Admati, Sam Gindin, Yanis Varoufakis and Bruce Livesey on neoliberalism. 1:12

Roots of Neoliberalism

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan share a laugh during a break from a session at the Ottawa Summit on July 21, 1981, at Government House in Ottawa. (AP)

Some believe neoliberalism was ushered in with the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s when they promised to roll back the so-called "welfare state" and clip the wings of organized labour. Thatcher and Reagan said government had to get out of the way of business, claiming that regulations, taxes and tariffs were preventing corporations from meeting their potential. Yet the ideology's roots go much further back than the Reagan-Thatcher moment. 

According to Mirowski, one of the world's leading scholars on the topic, it's not rooted in the traditional conservatism of Edmund Burke, the 18th-century Anglo-Irish statesman and intellectual, who felt governments must be neutral in guiding the economy. "(Neoliberals) don't believe in laissez-faire," explains Mirowski, "and this is the other big mistake that people make. They don't believe in libertarianism. They don't believe that markets will just operate wonderfully on their own. That's why they have to engage in various kinds of political intervention to make the world more like a market society." 

Neoliberalism's origins begin with Frederick Hayek, an Austrian-born British economist (1899-1992), known most for his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom. Hayek was famous for his opposition to the Keynesian school of economics, which called for massive government intervention during the Great Depression to alleviate the cataclysmic poverty and unemployment that defined the era. Keynesian economics, named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes, held that governments should introduce social programs like unemployment insurance and labour reforms that benefit average workers, and that they should place controls on banks and stock markets. 

But Hayek felt that any such efforts to control market forces were pure folly.

Birth of Neoliberalism

Neoliberals  believe they have to build a certain kind of government and economy. Their key doctrine is that the market is an information processor more powerful than any human being.- Philip  Mirowski

In 1947, Hayek organized a meeting that would change the course of economic history. He invited thirty-nine scholars from ten countries to meet at Mont Pèlerin, on Lake Geneva in the Swiss Alps. This was the beginning of the Mont Pèlerin Society, a group of economists who conceived of the ideological tenets of neoliberalism and whose influence would come to dominate in the coming decades. Many of the attendees later found positions at think tanks in the U.S. and Europe, and especially at the University of Chicago, earning themselves the label the "Chicago Boys".

Whatever disagreements they may have had, they were united in one central belief, according to Mirowski: "Neoliberals believe they have to build a certain kind of government and economy. Their key doctrine is that the market is an information processor more powerful than any human being."

Neoliberals believe government must be involved in the economy, but solely on the side of business and the wealthy. A recent example is Prime Minister Trudeau's decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2018 on behalf of the oil industry — a move traditional conservatives would never have countenanced. 

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of Kinder Morgan Canada's Trans Mountain Expansion Project sit on rail cars at a stockpile site in Kamloops, British Columbia. The plan to twin the existing 1,150 kilometre-long pipeline has been indefinitely suspended. (Dennis Owen/Reuters)

More general examples are bilateral investment treaties, contained in free trade agreements like NAFTA, which allow corporations to sue governments if local communities impose policies that interfere with their right to make profits. Canada has paid out $160 million to U.S. corporations which challenged public decisions, including ones made on environmental policy. 

So is neoliberalism ultimately anti-democratic? 

Mirowski thinks so. "They are very suspicious of democracy but that doesn't mean that they'll never participate in a democracy," he remarks. "What they'll try to do is they'll try to bend some democratic procedures." Neoliberals are comfortable "making it way harder to vote," says Mirowski, "and that's why you get so much voter suppression in the United States. They want to make it so it's very hard to pass legislation. And that's why for them when the Congress doesn't do very much, that's a win. They love that."

In the 1970s, neoliberal economists from University of Chicago school, particularly Milton Friedman, began advising the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on how to "liberalize" the Chilean economy. Pinochet's reforms, including opening the economy to foreign competition, led to widespread poverty and protests, and they in turn helped destabilize his regime.

Rise of Neoliberalism

[It's] capitalism working without a working class opposition. I think that's a fairly accurate description of what it is. - Sam Gindin

Another major target of neoliberals are unions, which emerged in the post-war era as powerful counter-balances to the power of corporations. 

Sam Gindin, former research director of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (now called Unifor), and adjunct professor of political science at York University, explains the dynamics of neoliberalism: "[It's] capitalism working without a working class opposition. I think that's a fairly accurate description of what it is." 

Gindin says neoliberalism destroyed class opposition by "changing labor laws, making it harder to organize. But it especially meant letting unemployment rise." Gindin had a front row seat to the assault on organized labour, joining the staff of the auto workers' union in the early 1970s, just as the post-war boom was running out of steam and neoliberalism began replacing Keynesianism. 

But the first real shot in this ideological war was the 1981 firing of striking air traffic controllers. Soon corporations were demanding wage concessions and other rollbacks that unions had won. In the UK, there was a bitter strike that went on for more than a year between the Thatcher government and militant mine workers union — which the union lost.

Gindin says labour's defeat has meant workers have in effect internalized neoliberal values, as they've been compelled to compete as individuals in the marketplace. "They change the overtime laws so that you can work more overtime," he says. "They increase the availability of debt so you can go into debt to solve your problem. These were all problems that you could solve individually. That's why that kind of individualistic ideology could work, because it was materially the only thing a lot of people saw they could do."

Fallout of Neoliberalism​

But what happens when the neoliberalism recipe is applied to entire countries — do you end up with a debilitated country like Greece?

The  neoliberal mantra was utilized in order to [create a] tsunami of capital that came to Greece in the form of loans that created bubbles.- Yanis  Varoufakis


Prior to the 2008-2009 credit crisis, Greece had borrowed heavily from bankers and the European Union, despite having a weak economy and very little prospect of paying off its debts.

So when their recession struck, the EU and banks wanted their money back, pressuring Greece to sell off state assets like airports, land, and even the national broadcaster, all in return for more loans. The civil service was gutted and government spending chopped. Unemployment rose to a staggering 25 per cent. 

"Consider the fact that between 2010 and 2015 we lost more than one fifth of our national income," Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, told Ideas. "It was the worst episode in history at least since the Great Depression of the 1930s. You only have to take into consideration the fact that one in two families had no one working. Three and a half million Greeks out of a population of something like six and a half million adults were either unemployed or bankrupt."

Pensioners waiting outside a closed National Bank branch and hoping to get their pensions, argue with a bank employee (L) in Iraklio on the island of Crete, Greece June 29, 2015. Greeks struggled to adjust to shuttered banks, closed cash machines and a climate of rumours and conspiracy theories on Monday as a breakdown in talks between Athens and its creditors plunged the country deep into crisis. (Stefanos Rapanis/Reuters)

In 2015, the left-wing Syriza party swept to power on an anti-austerity, anti-EU platform. Varoufakis, a charismatic Marxist economist, was appointed finance minister. He immediately challenged the EU and its bankers, demanding debt relief and better terms for loans. The EU and the bankers refused.

In a referendum that year, Greeks voted against further austerity measures. But the prime minister, Alex Tspiras, folded to pressure from the EU, fired Varoufakis and embraced a new package of austerity and privatization. The country has been mired in crisis ever since. 

Varoufakis — who has since formed a new political party — argues that "neoliberalism is not an economic model. Neoliberalism is an ideology. Imagine we were in the 1970s in the Soviet Union and we're talking about the Soviet economy in terms of Marxist ideology. There was no relationship between the policies implemented in the Soviet Union with Marx or Marxism."

Instead, Varoufakis argues, European bankers embrace neoliberalism only when it suits them. "The neoliberal mantra was utilized in order to [create a] tsunami of capital that came to Greece in the form of loans that created bubbles. They gave most Greeks a false sense of prosperity and, of course, when the bubbles burst, being a deficit country, the burden of adjustment in the form of austerity fell upon the Greeks."

The loans to Greece were so large, he says, that there is no chance of ever paying them off, leaving Varoufakis with a bleak view of Greece's future: "Very soon, we're going to witness the building of splendid facilities for pensioners from all over northern Europe by the sea in the warm climate, while Greek pensioners, and whomever is left of the Greek population, will be eating out of garbage bins."


Guests in this episode:

  • Philip Mirowski is a historian and philosopher of economic thought at the University of Notre Dame. 
  • Sam Gindin is the former research director for the Canadian Auto Workers union (now called Unifor) and an adjunct professor of political science at York University, and co-author of "The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire, (2012).
  • Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek politician, economist and author, and former finance minister of Greece
  • Anat R. Admati is a professor of finance and economics at Stanford University and author of "The Bankers New Clothes: What's Wrong with Banking and What to do About It, (2013).
     


**This episode was produced by Greg Kelly.