Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ontario and Federal Canadian government help Toyota finance new Lexus plant

Both the federal and provincial Ontario governments will contribute to the financing of a new manufacturing plant that will produce Toyota's luxury Lexus model hybrid.
A total of as much as $34 million will be advanced to help Toyota finance the production of the first hybrid car to be built in Canada. The financing will be shared by the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper and the Liberal provincial government of Ontario.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at the Toyota plant in Cambridge, Ontario, that federal funds would come from the Automotive Innovation Fund. The financing is described as as a repayable contribution. Toyota will be expected to repay all or part of the amount, or the government will receive some financial return. Harper said:
"The rebound of Canada's auto sector is one of this country's biggest economic success stories of the past five years.We are here because our government is committed to creating high-quality, well-paying jobs for hard-working Canadians."
The outgoing Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, said Ontario's portion of the financing will come from the Strategic Jobs and Investment Fund.
Toyota will also invest $125 million in a new assembly line designed to increase production of Lexus luxury cars. New models include a sport utility vehicle with a hybrid gasoline-electric engine. This is expected to be in production next year. Harper said:
"Besides being the first hybrid vehicle assembled in Canada, the RX 450 hybrid has been, up until now, only, and I want to emphasize that, only, built in Japan. But that's changing. In a short time, that fuel-efficient vehicle will be assembled right here."
Toyota is increasing its auto production in Canada and employing more auto workers as a result. Toyota plans to increase production by 30,000 Lexus RX units next year to a total of 104,000 vehicles. This would include 15,000 RX450h sport-utility models. Toyota's productive capacity in Canada will be increased to about half a million vehicles per year. Toyota will hire about 400 new workers.
Harper also announced that the government is committing $250 million more to the Automotive Innovation Fund over the next five years. The fund was established in 2008 to help the Canadian automotive industry during the recession. The fund had already provided funding to four other projects. Ford received $80 million as part of its investment of up to $730 million in an engine assembly and power-train research center in Windsor Ontario. Toyota received $70.8 million to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles. Two parts companies also received financing.
Note everyone, even in the business community, supports the Automotive Innovation Fund. An article in Canadian Business points out that financing has been to huge global corporations such as Toyota and Ford. Harper's own guidelines call for helping small innovative companies to become larger. The article also notes that increasing efficiency often does not create jobs but results in job loss. The program will not result in much job creation and even those created may be expensive:
"More than 170,000 automotive jobs have disappeared in the past five years. New positions do exist in some of the plants funded by the Innovation Fund—Toyota expects to add 400 new jobs this year—but these jobs come an inflated cost. For each position either saved or created, the Institute for Research on Public Policy found, government spent as much as $212,946."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NDP may remove references to "socialism" in preamble to party constitution

The New Democratic Party, the main opposition party in the Canadian federal parliament, may rewrite to preamble to the party constitution. The preamble still has a few phrases that make favorable reference to "socialism".
The predecessor of the New Democratic Party(NDP), the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), had as its party platform a document that would make many present NDP members run for cover. The document was called the Regina Manifesto. The term "manifesto" became a cause of great concern because it was associated in the public mind with the Communist Manifesto. It made no difference that the official party line and the early leaders were all staunchly anti-communist.
The CCF was founded in 1932 and the Regina Manifesto adopted the next year at a convention in Regina. The Manifesto as well as calling for pensions, universal health care, and the nationalisation of major industries also said:
" No C.C.F. Government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning which will lead to the establishment in Canada of the Cooperative Commonwealth."
The CCF Saskatchewan provincial government was able to introduce the first free hospital care system in North America in 1946.
By 1956, the CCF changed its position to that of a social democratic party that accepted capitalism and a mixed economy. The Winnipeg_Declaration replaces the socialist aim of eradicating capitalism with the following:
"The CCF will not rest content until every person in this land and in all other lands is able to enjoy equality and freedom, a sense of human dignity, and an opportunity to live a rich and meaningful life as a citizen of a free and peaceful world."
The NDP was founded in 1961 and combined the old CCF with the labor movement. The preamble to the constitution of the party makes several references to democratic socialism, the principles of socialism and association with socialist parties around the world. It is this preamble that has caused the difficulties. The preamble is not that long so I will post it so that you can compare it with the revised version that was not voted on at the last convention:
The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Canada can be assured only by the application of democratic socialist principles to government and the administration of public affairs.
The principles of democratic socialism can be defined briefly as:
That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a sustainable environment and economy and not to the making of profit;
To modify and control the operations of the monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning. Towards these ends and where necessary the extension of the principle of social ownership;
The New Democratic Party holds firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended; and
The New Democratic Party is proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.
The 2011 NDP convention was held just weeks are the NDP made huge electoral gains to become the Official Opposition for the first time ever. In order to broaden the appeal of the party, the party brass and others wanted to scrap any references to socialism. The furthest the revision would go is to refer to social democratic principles. Here is the revised preamble:
The New Democratic Party believes that social justice, equality, and environmental sustainability are vital to achieving a strong, united and prosperous Canada for all.
To that end, the New Democratic Party is dedicated to the application of social democratic principles to government.
These principles include an unwavering commitment to economic and social equality, individual freedom and responsibility, and democratic rights of citizens to shape the future of their communities.
New Democrats hold firm to the belief that individual freedom and dignity are basic rights that find the fullest expression in healthy and prosperous communities, where individuals can realize their full potential and contribute to a stronger Canada.
Established in partnership with the Labour movement in 1961, the New Democratic Party is the voice of working people in the Parliament of Canada, advocating and implementing laws that advance their collective and individual interests.
New Democrats are proud to stand in solidarity with its allies around the world working for international peace and justice, ending discrimination and exploitation, eliminating poverty and ensuring that wealth and power are in the hands of the many and not the few.
Any reference to socialism or any suggestion that capitalism might be replaced by socialism is entirely lacking. Most of the document is rhetoric of the sort that most any progressive party might produce, including the Liberal Party of Canada. Note that the reference to production not being for the sake of profit is also eliminated. There was no vote on this amendment at the convention as Brian Topp, who was then Federal Director, moved to send the motion back to the federal council for further consideration.
Amazingly, over the next few months, the preamble actually disappeared from the copy of the constitution that was posted on the NDP website! Without any explanation or acknowledgement that anything had happened it just as mysteriously reappeared.
The current federal director of the NDP Nathan Rotman said that the motion that had been referred to the federal council and there had been a small group of party elders and others who had consulted on the issue. This panel will report it conclusions at the upcoming meeting in February. They will then put forth a motion to be voted upon or they may wait to see if any riding associations put forth amendments to the constitution.
I would expect that some riding associations will suggest amendments in line with what the party brass want and just as certainly there will be strong opposition especially from the Socialist Caucus. Whatever the wording change, the reality is that the NDP has moved rightward for decades. As James Laxer wrote in an e-mail:
“Like other social democratic parties in the West, the NDP has adopted much of the outlook of the neo-liberalism that is the dominant ideological strain in the market-centred era of globalization.The NDP has been able to challenge the Liberals as a less corrupt, more principled and somewhat more progressive party that occupies centre-left ground.”
As I understand it, socialism is the socialization of the major means of production, distribution, and exchange plus production on the basis of need not profit. The New Democratic Party has nothing to do with that. Indeed a former New Democratic Premier of M anitoba, Gary Doer, now serves as the Conservative government's ambassador to the US and the present leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, was a former minister in the Quebec Liberal government. Whatever changes in wording are ultimately made, the NDP will still be called socialist by many in the media while not being socialist at all.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winnipeg trash collector faces $400,000 in fines

Emterra, the company contracted by the city of Winnipeg to collect residential garbage, is facing fines of $350,000 to $400,000 for poor service during the month of November alone.
Councillor Dan Vandal, chair of the infrastructure and public works committee says he has finally received rough numbers about the fines. Earlier, administrators had come under fire for not providing information to the councillors.
Emterra just began to collect most city waste back in October. Since that time the city has been plagued by thousands of complaints of missed pickups. An appended video shows one such case.
The city had warned Emterra that it would be fined $100 for every home it misses garbage or recycling pickups starting on November 1 last year. Given the estimated range of fines, they must have missed quite a few pickups.
The councillors had been hoping to get exact numbers but that seems not be possible if Emterra does not want the figures revealed. Michael Jack,. the city head of legal services said that Manitoba's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act prevents city administrators from revealing the figures unless Emterra granted permission. Guess what? Emterra would not grant permission. IMHO the act needs to be amended so that it is not used by companies to prevent authorities from receiving information they should surely be able to have. The councillors pointed out that they needed to know the amounts of fines as the revenue could have an impact on budget decisions. Vandal complained that city administrators needed to be more open about giving councillors information they need.
Councillor Harvey Smith wants to see the city contract with Emterra. He said the contract should be made available to all councillors.
Vandal told reporters:
"If we're not seeing the standards that we had before reached within a reasonable period of time, after the month's grace, then we'll look at other options."
Mayor Sam Katz actually went out and collected uncollected cardboard from a recycling bin after a citizen phoned a radio station to complain. See the featured video. Katz said that city lawyers are looking at options:
"Maybe we should start looking at giving part of that collection to another contractor, so that they would have less part of the city and they can focus on getting that job done in a prompt manner."
Emterra has divisions in three different provinces.
Contracting out rather than in-house operation of trash collection is all the fashion now. It provides entrepreneurs new opportunities to make money in the public sector but often saves little or no money and reduces services. However it does serve the interests of capital.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Canadian and US auto sales increase in 2012

US auto sales for 2012 are predicted to rise by 13% or 14.5 million new vehicles This is the best year since 2007. Canadian sales also rose in 2012.
Many people put off buying cars during the recession and their aging vehicles need to be replaced. As credit is cheap and the economy slowly recovers, sales are increasing. In December this year the big 3 American automakers saw a 5% increase in sales, a bit better than analysts had predicted. Compared with the previous December, GM sales increased by 5%, while Ford sales increased just 2%. The winner was Chrysler with a sales increase of 10%. Toyota increased sales by 8%. For the year, Toyota had a large increase of about 27% compared to just 3.7% for GM, 4.7% for Ford, and 21% for Chrysler. Consulting firm Polk, expects sales to continue increasing in 2013 to 15.3 million vehicles or a nearly 7% increase. Jonathan Browning, who is with Volkswagen in the US, warned however:
"It would have been nice if all the open questions had been resolved in the 'fiscal cliff' discussion over the holiday, but clearly they weren't, and that does extend this period of uncertainty from a consumer point of view."
In Canada, Ford Motor Co. of Canada was the top seller for the third straight year. Chrysler, however, with many fuel-efficient cars was able to become number two, replacing GM. Even though it is number one, Ford sold only 90 more vehicles last year than the year before. In December, sales actually slipped 13 % from 2011. Chrysler reported its sales rose 8% putting it in second place. Reid Bigland, CEO, of Chrysler Canada said:
"Our investment in fuel-efficient new vehicles and power trains has propelled us to be the number two seller.".
For the year, Chrysler car sales rose 33%. The Chrysler group is controlled by Fiat of Italy. Bigland predicted another good year for Chrysler in 2013.