Sunday, May 24, 2015

Renovated Canadian Museum of History excludes former exhibit on Winnipeg General Strike

A room in the Canadian Museum of History was modelled on the meeting room of the James Street Labour Temple in Winnipeg where workers met for discussions that led to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.
In renovation plans for the Museum of History, located in Gatineau Quebec, the room will be excluded. Officials promise, however, that the labour movement will still be included.
The Star newspaper was able to obtain documents pertaining to the renovation through a freedom of information request. One document, a renovation risk assessment, claimed that there were few risks associated with the decision to shut the exhibit down: “Changes can be made to the module with few political or institutional risks. Some comments by academics cite the closure as evidence of the museum’s lack of interest in working class history . . . . The removal of this module represents minimal risk to the museum, though it will entail communications challenges to the academic community."Interesting that the challenge is to meet the objections of the academic community and not labour groups or the general public. The dismantled exhibit is to be replaced by a new Canadian History Hall that is scheduled to open on July 1, 2017. The Star notes:The Canadian Museum of History has come under public scrutiny in the past couple of years, following a controversial change in name — it was formerly known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization — and mandate that had critics accusing the Conservative government of using the Crown Corporation to rewrite history in its image.
David Morrison, director of research and content for the new Canadian History Hall denied the Conservative government had any influence on the decision to do away with the exhibit: “Government is certainly not telling us what to put into the hall. Nor do they know what we are putting into the hall. We are not reporting to them and they are not telling us what to do. There is a very high level of cynicism and paranoia out there"
The Canadian Labour Congress had no influence on the decision. Morrison has not consulted them yet. The group expressed concern about the elimination of the exhibit.
A short account of the General Strike can be found as part of the museum exhibit. A much more detailed description is given in the Wikipedia entry.
The strike began at 11 in the morning on Thursday 15th of May 1919 with 25,000 to 35,000 Winnipeg workers walking off the job. Authorities were shocked when police and fire fighters joined the strike. Many returning war veterans also supported the strike. The strike lasted six weeks and culminated in Bloody Saturday on June 21st when a huge demonstration of about 25,000 strikers was broken up by Royal Northwest Mounted Police who charged the crowd on horseback beating them with clubs and firing weapons. Two strikers were killed. When the crowd dispersed into the side streets they were met with special deputized police who clubbed them. Crowd control was not high tech in those days. There were sympathy strikes in many other cities including Brandon the other main city in Manitoba.
Many who took part and were leaders in the strike became important political figures later. One was James Shavers Woodsworth, a cleric, who later became leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation(CCF) the predecessor of the New Democratic Party. While the Communist Party of Canada had not yet been founded many opponents of the strike considered the strikers Bolsheviks. One important leader of the strike Jacob Penner later was an important figure in the Communist Party of Canada after its formation in 1921. Penner reminisced about the strike in 1950:The Winnipeg General Strike is immortal. It lives in the memory of those that are still with us and who took such an honourable part in the struggle for the rights of the producers of wealth. It lives in the memory of the sons and daughters of those that participated and to whom this story is being related by their parents during quiet family hours.
Penner was elected to the Winnipeg city council in 1932 and served until 1960 and was replaced by another Communist Party stalwart Joe Zuken who served another two decades, indicating the radical tradition in the north end of Winnipeg was long lasting. Penner's son Roland became dean of the University of Manitoba law school even though he was involved in his youth with the Communist Party. He later joined the New Democratic Party and became Attorney General of Manitoba. Another son Norman was a professor at York University who wrote an interesting history of the General Strike as seen through the eyes of the participants.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bombardier sheds 1750 workers plus one executive

Eric Martel, president of the business-aircraft division of Bombardier is leaving his position less than two years after he was appointed. He will be replaced by David Coleal who had been vice-president and general manager of Spirit Aerosystems.
Although only head of the business aircraft division for two years, Martel had been with the company both in the Aerospace and Transportation units for 13 years. He said that he would pursue other career opportunities. The business jet division has fallen on hard times. Russian oligarchs in particular are short of cash and subject to sanctions. Sanctions against Russia caused Bombardier problems last year in March:Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier faces $3.4 billion in lost potential sales to Russia as Canada and its allies impose sanctions over the former Soviet state's move to annex Crimea, reports said Friday.
As a result of slowing demand for Bombardier's Global 5000/6000 business jets the company is slashing 1,750 jobs in its aerospace division. Almost 1,000 of the jobs lost will be in Montreal a big blow to the city and the province of Quebec. 480 jobs will be lost in Toronto, and 280 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The company is going to reduce production of the business jets. CEOAlain Bellemaire said:"We recognize there are a lot of challenges ahead us of but we are taking firm, clear and quick actions to improve the situation." Bellemaire is part of the new management that is trying to turn the company around. The cuts are expected to save Boombardier about $183 million a year. Bellemaire took over the top job this February. The company has also hired Jean-Paul Pelissier a procurement expert to do a review of the company's supply chain. Over the longer term Bombardier expects strong demand for its business jets. It expects to 210 of the jets this year.
Bombardier is having problems with vehicles being provided for the Toronto Transportation Company(TTC). TTC CEO Andy Byford said:The first of the 204 new streetcars — price tag: $1.2 billion — were so flawed that the TTC simply couldn’t risk putting them into service because they would almost certainly break down on Toronto streets, he said. Parts produced in Mexico were so poorly made that they couldn’t be properly assembled in Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant, where attempts to rivet badly cut walls and under-frames were rejected by the TTC. Byford also cited defective laminate, loose screws and faulty electrical connectors among the issues on the new TTC vehicles.Provincial agency Metrolinx has also placed a $770 million dollar order but the vehicles are a year behind on delivery. Metrolinx is encountering similar problems with their vehicles as is the TTC with the vehicles being assembled in Mexico. Metrolinx says that it is working closely with Bombardier management who are taking corrective action in Mexico.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Many Liberals angry at Trudeau's support of Harper anti-terror bill

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal Party have voiced their support for the Conservative Harper government's anti-terror bill c-51. Some Liberals are angry at this move.
Even the Liberal opposition leader in the Senate, James Cowan, said that he will break with party policy and vote against the controversial anti-terror bill. He said there is lack of oversight in the legislation and it also violates the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms.
In a speech at the University of British Columbia, liberal leader Justin Trueau said that the party was supporting the anti-terror bill to prevent the Conservatives from making "political hay" using national security issues during an election year. Of course they will do so anyway. Trudeau's strategy is to support the bill, even though he knows it has many faults, because he can then avoid the Conservatives charging him with being soft on terrorism. In other words, he will sacrifice principle to gain votes by being seen as tough on terrorism. Trudeau's own remarks show that he worries about Conservative tactics rather than the content of the bill: “But we know that, tactically, this government would be perfectly happy if the opposition completely voted against this bill because it fits into their fear narrative and [their desire to] … bash people on security.”
Nevertheless he says he sympathizes with those who have concerns about Bill C-51 and said that if elected his government would amend the bill. Several questions from his student audience were critical of Trudeau's position. One young woman said: “Sir, I must say that supporting the bill that you know is dangerous while promising to reform it when you’ve been elected to government is tantamount to putting our rights hostage, and our vote is our ransom.”
Trudeau pointed to three measures in the Harper bill that were primary reasons he supported it. First, was strengthening the no-fly list. Second, extending powers to make preventive arrest making it easier for police to detain a person and hold them without charge or a warrant for a longer period. Finally, increased information sharing among government departments and agencies. Sounding much like Stephen Harper, Trudeau said:“[These] are significant improvements that will keep Canadians safer". These specific measures are ones that experts have concerns about. Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said the scale of information sharing was unprecedented. and the safeguards against unreasonable invasion of privacy were "seriously deficient".The sharing of information includes income tax information. Trudeau apparently is not concerned about the Snowden revelations about extensive snooping by spy agencies. Law professor, Craig Forcese, said that after the Air India and Maher Arar investigations there were proposals for improving information sharing yet the government ignored those recommendations in drafting this bill.
Social media show images of Liberal supporters cutting up their party membership card in reaction to Trudeau's support for the anti-terror bill. Here are a couple of many critical comments on Trudeau's Facebook page: "Bill C-51 has passed and you helped do that. My vote is now with the NDP," reads one of the hundreds of comments on the Liberal leader's page. "Too bad you sold us out to spying by supporting Bill C-51," says another, reflecting the tenor of most of the comments.
The NDP, which voted against the bill, may gain some support as a result of the Liberal position. The bill has been sharply criticized by legal experts, academics, aboriginal groups, environmentalists, and many others. Some activists who might have supported the Liberals as their choice to oust the Conservative may now turn to the NDP led by Thomas Mulcair. This could make a significant difference in the election, more than any negative voter effect of being criticized as being soft on terrorism.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Polls had it right this time as NDP crushes PC's in Alberta

The CBC decision desk has declared a New Democratic Party (NDP) majority government with the Wild Rose party the official opposition.
The polls this time were right and Albertans doubts about whether the NDP would really win over the Progressive Conservatives were quite wrong. The New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley won a convincing victory over the Conservatives with almost 40 percent of the popular vote so far. The NDP was winning or elected in 55 seats and the Wild Rose party to be the official opposition in 19 while the Progressive Conservatives held only nine seats as I write this about 11 p.m. Central Time. The NDP had just four seats at dissolution. While the NDP were expected to do well in Edmonton, they also broke through dramatically in the business centre of the oil patch, Calgary. They also did well in smaller cities such as Lethbridge. There are still many seats in which winners have not been declared but the final figures will probably not be too much different than those at present. The NDP has never won an Alberta election before or even come close to winning. A party must win 44 seats to have a majority. The best showing ever before for the NDP was in 1986 when it had a mere 16 seats.
The relatively new PC party leader Jim Prentice, made a number of serious errors. Instead of waiting until the fixed date for an election a year from now, he called an election on April 7. The PC's held 70 out of the 87 seats in the legislature so perhaps he thought he could hardly lose. His team had managed to get nine members of the opposition Wild Rose Party to cross the floor including the leader. This upset some of the progressives in the PCs. Rather than causing the demise of the Wild Rose Party it simply made supporters even more determined to defeat the PCs. They did not do that but they will become the official opposition. There was obviously no move to unite the right by voting for the Conservatives and as a result the surging NDP was able to end a 44-year-old dynasty of PC rule in Alberta.
As with many other Albertans Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi did not believe the NDP would win until he saw the numbers coming up on the TV screen and saw them leading or elected in over a dozen Calgary ridings. The NDP had not won a seat in the city since 1993. Alberta Federation of Labour president, Gil McGowan, said: “This is not going to be a union government. It’s not going to be a business government, It’s going to be a people’s government because people from all walks of life and all regions of the province voted overwhelmingly for this party.”Harold Jansen, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge along with many others gave credit to NDP leader Rachel Notley for running an almost flawless campaign that tapped into Albertans' feeling that the PC party was too much aligned with corporate interests. Given the economic situation in Alberta Notley will probably be cautious and not take any radical steps that would alienate the oil industry or other business interests.

Greens make breakthrough in PEI election but Liberals win majority again

The ruling Liberal Party retained a third majority in the PEI legislature winning 18 of 27 seats even though their vote count was down a whopping ten per cent from the last election.
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All four leaders were running in their first campaign. Wade MacLauchlan for the Liberals is a well known and respected personage in PEI and helped prevent an even greater fall in the fortune of the Liberals. The Liberals held 20 seats in the last legislature at dissolution.The new leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Rob Lantz, failed to win his seat although the party won 8 seats, a gain of 5 seats, and a much better showing than last election. He lost by just 24 votes so there will likely be a recount. One of the most surprising results in the contest was a huge increase in votes for both the NDP and the Green Party. Both traditional parties lost vote percentage. Usually results of PEI elections are predictable not long after polls close but this election was different with it being a considerable time before anyone was even declared elected and with many close races. Probably there will be several recounts. An NDP candidate was ahead all night but lost the election on the last poll. The party ended up with no seats. Together the NDP and Greens together won 22 per cent of the vote, in itself a huge break with tradition. However, the first-past-the-post electoral system results in third parties rarely being elected. MacLauchlan hinted during the campaign that electoral reform could be on his agenda but he stressed most economic development. A plebiscite taken in 2005 on the issue of proportional representation was soundly defeated. However, with the trend towards rejection of the major parties by a significant proportion of voters perhaps a new vote on the issue might give a more positive result.
The most dramatic result in the PEI election was the election of Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker. In spite of the huge disadvantage of running for a third party and against a Liberal cabinet minister, Bevan-Baker scored a decisive win. He won close to 55 per cent of the vote in Kelly's Cross-Cumberland constituency receiving 2,077 votes against just 1,046 for his opponent Valerie Docherty. In the first poll results Bevan-Baker got more votes than in his total vote count last election. The Greens concentrated most of their resources on Bevan-Baker's campaign while the NDP which received nearly the same vote percentage had a more province-wide campaign and won no seats even though the party had a huge increase in their popular vote from three to eleven per cent. Leader Mike Redmond came in third in his own constituency.
Reacting to the election Liberal Prime Minister, Wade MacLauchlan, a former president of the University of PEI, said: “It has been a very interesting evening in the province, one that I expect has taken us further into the evening than people may have intended. I think that indicates it will be a very interesting era that’s ahead of us in terms of Prince Edward Island politics and we very much look forward to being part of that. “

Sunday, May 3, 2015

PEI voters may vote in Liberals once again

The Prince Edward Island(PEI) election May 4 will see all four main party leaders facing their first election campaign. The leader of the ruling Liberals, Wade MacLauchlan, has been leader for only two months.
The former leader, Robert Ghiz, announced he would be stepping down last November. He was replaced by MacLauchlan, a former president of the University of Prince Edward Island, in February of this year. Just a few days later, the Liberal government faced problems. The former Liberal government was embroiled in a scandal involving a failed plan to earn millions in revenue through the regulation of on-line gambling. After MacLauchlan replaced Ghiz, he introduced conflict-of-interest reforms to improve government accountability and transparency. There had also been a three-year investigation into fraud allegations concerning an immigrant investor program. No charges were laid but MacLauchlan was faced with a battle to restore the tarnished Liberal brand. He has also instructed the provincial auditor to examine the conduct of former elected officials and staff with respect to their role in the internet gaming plan that was scrapped back in February 2012.
The new Conservative leader Rob Lantz tried to stress the accountability issue early in his campaign but has seemingly let off on the pressure, perhaps because he fears a backlash from a negative campaign. Lantz is also a new leader, who was a Charlottetown city councillor, until chosen as leader of the Conservatives in February. The Conservatives have suffered from fights within their own party. In October 2013, Olive Crane, the former leader was ousted from the caucus altogether after she was forced to resign in late 2012.
PEI voters have long elected one or the other of the two main parties, the Liberals and Conservatives. Often victories are very lopsided. At dissolution, the Liberals held 20 seats, the Conservatives just 3 with one independent, and 3 seats vacant. Third parties have had a difficult time turning what votes they do get into seats. Recent polls can be seen at this site. A poll on April 23 shows the Liberals with 44 per cent support among decided voters. The Conservatives have 35, with the New Democratic Party at 15 and Green Party 6. Other recent polls put the Conservative vote lower but there has been a trend towards closing the gap between the two main parties. Both NDP leader Mike Redmond and Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker are credited by some commentators as running solid campaigns and doing well in debates with the main party leaders. Only one third party candidate has ever been elected to the PEI legislature, an NDP candidate in 1996 and just for one term.
PEI faces an ageing population and few opportunities for young people. The economy is an important issue in the campaign. The Liberals claim that the province must find new partners to grow the traditional farming and fishing industries upon which the economy depends but also needs to develop new sectors such as bioscience and aerospace. The Conservatives have stressed development of infrastructure, pledging $50 million over five years to improve roads, bridges and other infrastructure to create jobs. While the polls indicate that the Liberals may be returned to power it could be with a reduced majority and a larger group of opposition members probably all Conservatives.

NDP tops polls both in Calgary and Edmonton and rest of Alberta

A split among conservative voters and anger against the ruling Progressive Conservatives(PC) may lead to the New Democratic Party(NDP) winning the upcoming Alberta provincial election.
The Alberta NDP has surged in one of the final polls of election 2015. In the Edmonton Sun polling company Mainstreet Technologies said that the "only possible outcome" of the vote is the "coronation of an NDP government." That prediction seems very premature. Last election the polls predicted the Wild Rose party, a breakaway group on the right, dissatisfied with the ruling Progressive Conservatives would definitely win the election. The Conservatives ended up winning. To add insult to injury the Wild Rose Party leader defected to the Conservatives along with a number of other elected representatives. One might think that this would spell the end of the Wild Rose Party but it hasn't. An Ipsos Poll a week before the election shows that 37 percent of decided voters would vote NDP with 26 percent for the Wild Rose and 24 percent for the Progressive Conservatives.
In ordinary circumstances one might expect that with a combined conservative vote of 50 percent, the Wild Rose Party voters would opt to vote Conservative. However, the Wild Rose supporters obviously are quite angry at the ruling Conservatives. Mainstream Technologies' president, Quito Maggi, notes that polling shows 75 percent of Albertans want a change in government. He said the relatively new but quite popular leader of the NDP Rachel Notlley showed in the debates that she was a viable alternative. Rachel is the daughter of former Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley. However, support for the same party does not always run through the family. Former Conservaitve premier Ralph Klein's daughter, Angie, has come out in support of the NDP. However, Angie said she had supported the NDP before and even when her dad was premier! Maggi's polling shows Wild Rose voters overwhelmingly put the NDP as their second choice rather than the Conservatives, showing perhaps that dissatisfaction with the ruling Conservatives trumps the large ideological gap between the Wild Rose and the NDP.
The NDP leads both in the two major cities and the rest of the province. In Edmonton, where Rachel Notley holds a seat, the NDP has a huge 73 per cent support level. Even in Calgary, the NDP has the lead with 35 per cent of the decided vote to 26 for the Wild Rose and just 24 for the PCs. Even outside the cities where voters tend to be more conservative the NDP is winning by a substantial margin of 39 per cent to 33 for Wild Rose and a mere 22 for the PCs. Strategic voting may mean that even more conservative votes go to the NDP at the expense of the Wild Rose party rather than what you would expect that they would vote PC since they are closer to them ideologically. However, even Albertans apparently have doubts about what is happening since 32 per cent believe that Progressive Conservatives will win the election but only 29 per cent believe the NDP will win. More polls and seat projections can be found at this site.