October 23, 2015 • No. 199 Previous Issues
There Is an Alternative
Develop the Independent Politics
of the Working Class
Despite the victory of Justin Trudeau in the 42nd General Election and the propaganda that he stands for real change, the underlying current is that no alternative is possible to the neo-liberal anti-social offensive and depriving the people of what belongs to them by right.
Recognizing that there is an alternative is the first step to finding it. If no alternative to the present direction exists within any sphere of human activity, then humans are doomed or should have been doomed from the very beginning of Homo sapiens. Of course, the line of no alternative is self-serving for those who do not want to see an alternative come into being because it may adversely affect their own narrow interests and in today's world, their class privilege and control.
Even the coming into being of Homo sapiens represents an alternative to the hominids that came before, an improvement on the journey of natural selection, of which the most important is a bigger brain. Those who would deprive people of an alternative do not want them to use their bigger Homo sapiens brains. They want people to be non-thinking Homo sapiens, which is a non sequitur if ever there was one. But humans do have big brains which they can use to go beyond survival. They can abstract absence to develop and bring into being an alternative.
An alternative has always been there for humanity to advance from one stage to another but it exists in abstracting absence and bringing what is missing into being. The alternative comes alive in the doing, in the organizing and fighting for it. The alternative is found in the recognition of the necessity of what to do in the present, in conscious participation in acts of finding out.
From slavery and oppression to freedom through the practical recognition of the necessity of an alternative the people have marched forward by organizing and fighting for the alternative, by engaging in the practical activity of bringing the alternative into being. From the darkest days of slavery to emancipation, from the harrowing experience of brutal fascism in modern times to victory for the people in the defeat of the Hitlerites and the fascist axis, the people have found a way forward to assert their right to be. Today, the alternative is to develop the independent politics of the working class and make sure that in all spheres of activity people keep the initiative in their own hands. To make advance, the starting point is to recognize the necessity to deprive those in power of their authority to block the way forward to pro-social solutions that guarantee the rights of all.
Montreal Police Staging Terror Drill October 24
Montreal residents can expect to hear gunfire ring out in downtown Montreal on Saturday, CBC reports, assuring us firearms will be loaded with blanks.
Police are staging a three-hour drill -- responding to a simulated terrorist attack -- in the heart of the entertainment district. This is where all big festivals and spectacles are held in the summer and, incidentally, where both the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and one of Montreal's biggest colleges, Cegep de Vieux Montreal, are located. The area also touches on the Latin Quarter which houses many students and their activities. It is also the area where the massive student mobilizations took place in 2012 and earlier this year and where the provincial and federal government buildings are located.
Montreal police are closing several major streets on Saturday, October 24 at noon to conduct the drill in a busy downtown area, the CBC reports. The following downtown streets will be closed to traffic from noon to 3 pm:
- St-Urbain between Sherbrooke and Ste-Catherine
- Jeanne-Mance between Sherbrooke and De Maisonneuve
- Bleury between Sherbrooke and President-Kennedy
- Ontario and President-Kennedy between Clark and City Councillors
- De Maisonneuve between Clark and Jeanne-Mance
"The main goal of the exercise tomorrow is to see how we work together," said Commander Ian Lafrenière of the Montreal police. Lafrenière said that signs will be posted.
The role played by Montreal police in demonstrations of workers and students is very controversial. In the name of security City Council has also passed bylaws violating civil liberties and criminalizing dissent which the police enforce. Another major concern when it comes to the Montreal police is police brutality against the youth. The police engage in kettling and mass arrests of young people. Their treatment of minority youth in poor neighbourhoods where killings are a major concern is also very controversial.
Quebec Public Sector Workers Call National Strike
The 400,000 member Common Front of public sector unions in Quebec announced on October 9 that they will launch national strikes beginning Monday, October 26. The workers will hold six days of rotating strikes against the brutal austerity agenda of the Couillard Liberal government, including three consecutive days December 1 to 3.
Fifty-four thousand teachers and health care workers will begin the strikes on October 26 in Saguenay-Lac St-Jean, the Outaouais, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Northern Quebec and in the Laurentians.
The actions will take place throughout October, November and December unless the Liberal government in Quebec backs off its demands for cuts to public services and attacks on the workers' conditions and livelihoods.
More than 150,000 people converged in Montreal to demonstrate against the austerity agenda on October 3, led by public service workers and their organizations in the Common Front. The workers are fighting to maintain the public services they provide, oppose cuts and privatization that threaten the health and well-being of the public and defend their own rights as workers and the rights of all.
For a list of strike dates and closures, click here.
Severance Pay and Pensions for Departing Members of Parliament
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released its calculations of estimated severance and pension payments that will go to the 180 members of Parliament who were either defeated in the election or chose not to seek re-election. They calculate that those MPs will collect around $209 million in pensions over their lifetimes and $11 million in immediate severance payments.
Those who are over the eligibility age of 55 get an annual pension for the rest of their lives which kicks in right away. Those who are under 55 and have served for more than 6 years, get a severance package equal to six month's pay.
The 180 defeated and retiring MPs will be the last to receive what many have called overly generous lifetime pensions, an article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald reports. It explains that "because of laws passed by Parliament in 2012, members' contributions will increase by almost four times by 2017, bringing them up to par with the 50-50 cost-sharing model most private employers use. They must also wait until age 65 to begin collecting payments."
Eight former MPs will gather more than $100,000-plus a year in pension income including outgoing Conservative cabinet ministers John Duncan ($132,394), Peter MacKay ($117,746) and Bernard Valcourt ($116,987). In terms of lifetime estimated benefits to age 90, 21 MPs are projected to collect more than $3 million, including MacKay ($5.9 million), Liberal Gerry Byrne ($5.2 million) and Conservative Rob Anders ($4.7 million).
"When you consider (under the old model) for every dollar the politician puts in the taxpayer puts in 17, it's such a huge golden parachute for politicians. When most Nova Scotians have no pension at all, it is unjust that these politicians will be getting this very rich pension programs," said Kevin Lacey, Atlantic Canada director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Here are examples of the kind of severance packages these MPs will receive according to the information provided by the Canadian Taxpapers Federation and reported by the Chronicle Herald:
Peter MacKay (Central Nova) collects one of the highest pensions at $117,746 annually "after serving for 18 years and in several high-profile cabinet positions." Though retired from politics, MacKay will receive a severance package equal to six months salary "because of extra duties": $123,750.
"NDP MPs Megan Leslie (Halifax) and Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook ) are both eligible to collect a pension, as they've held their seats for more than six years.
"For Stoffer, who is over the eligibility age of 55, that annual pension of $93,862 for the rest of his life will kick in right away. Leslie only served for seven years so her annual pension is significantly lower, at $34,152, as she contributed much less than Stoffer over his 18 years as MP. But because Leslie is under 55, she'll also receive a severance payment of $86,650 -- equal to six months salary -- while Stoffer will not."
The severance pay and pensions for each outgoing MP can be found here.