All posts by Mark Taliano

About Mark Taliano

Mark Taliano is a writer, activist, and retired teacher. His views may not appear prominently on the corporate media agenda, but in an age of concentrated media ownership, the seemingly controversial positions that he advances should figure prominently in the public discourse.

New book asks: Can civilization survive unprecedented climate crisis?

Water scarcity and resulting wars will be a key consequence of the climate crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that human-caused climate change is already responsible for 150,000 deaths annually. If we continue our current trajectories of “business as usual” as our response to climate change, the WHO expects that between 2030 and 2050 climate change will cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year.

According to the WHO, the yearly death rate will include, “38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood under nutrition.”

Once “tipping points” occur, non-linear changes will emerge, and the death toll will be much higher.

As author David Ray Griffin demonstrates in his book, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive The CO2 Crisis?, we are facing a constellation of unprecedented, intersecting threats that are leading humanity to increasingly severe catastrophes, and possibly even extinction.

The unprecedented, lethal threats identified by Griffin are these:

  • Extreme weather
  • Heat waves
  • Droughts and wild fires
  • Storms
  • Sea level rise
  • Fresh water shortage
  • Climate refugees
  • Climate wars
  • Ecosystem collapse
  • Extinction
  • Food shortage

Reservoirs in the sky

Glacier National Park in BC's Kootenays has seen decreasing snowpacks in recent years (Sesivany/Jiri Eischmann/Wikipedia)
Glacier National Park in BC’s Kootenays has seen decreasing snowpacks in recent years (Sesivany/Jiri Eischmann/Wikipedia)

A closer examination of just one of these threats shows how they are inter-related:

Author Lester Brown explains in “Rising Temperatures Melting Away Global Food Security” that we are losing our “Reservoirs In The Sky” – glaciers and snowpack – and that these reservoirs are melting in all the world’s major mountain ranges.

Melting glaciers and snowpack deliver less water for drinking and agriculture. Once these “reservoirs in the sky” – also called “natural water towers” and “frozen water towers”- are degraded and disappear, food scarcity and drought impacts are amplified. In the winter of 2015, for example, California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack was measured at 25% of its average depth.

“Deglaciation” also contributes to sea level rise and regional hydrological changes. In Western Canada and elsewhere, for example, it impacts freshwater fisheries; once the glaciers are gone, the fisheries will become extinct.

Disappearing water drives instability

Since deglaciation impacts food and water security, it also contributes to desertification, and this in turn creates “climate refugees”, as people are forced to leave for more habitable locations. A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation claims that, “on average, 27 million people are displaced by climate and weather-related disasters each year.”

Increased scarcities of food and water, and the growing displacement of peoples due to climate change – and de-glaciation – will likely be casual factors of so-called “water wars” as well.

Radical change: our only hope

Canadian communities to rally for climate as BC, Alberta pen pipeline deal
Citizens rally against pipelines in Victoria (photo: TJ Watt)

Our collective response to catastrophic, human-caused climate change, is inadequate on many levels. Griffin argues that our failures and challenges are also “unprecedented”. He shows that the status quo/business-as-usual approach to climate change will accelerate catastrophic consequences, that a “wait and see” attitude would be even more cataclysmic, and that the only reasonable approach is radical change.

Radical change means full scale societal mobilization and the rapid decarbonisation of the economy, all with a view to reducing the global temperature increase by less than 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, since we literally face the real prospect of human extinction if we do not radically change our approach now.

Critical failures that must be addressed

Griffin identifies the following unprecedented challenges and failures that are currently preventing radical change:

  • Climate change denial
  • Media failure
  • Political failure
  • Moral challenges
  • Religious challenges
  • Economic challenges

As with the iteration of unprecedented lethal threats, the aforementioned list of challenges and failures share intersecting trajectories as they meet, overlap, and create common ground. Consequently, a closer examination of one failure sheds light with others as well.

The industry of Climate Change/Global Warming Denial, for example, is closely linked to, and sometimes a causative element of, the other challenges and failures.

The denial industry

Despite the fact that the scientific debate is closed, and the scientific consensus is that humans cause global warming, the Climate Change Denial Industry spends vast quantities of money to promote unreasonable doubt about this scientific fact.

ExxonMobil, for example, launders money through organizations, foundations, think tanks etc. to create unreasonable doubt about human-caused global warming.

Increasingly, money is being laundered through Donors Trust. A Greenpeace analysis reveals that Donors Trust has laundered $146 million in climate denial funding from 2002 to 2011.

False Balance

Corporate media also amplifies disinformation. One particularly effective strategy is a technique called “false balance.” Editors will “balance” science-based global warming articles with articles that deny global warming, with the effect that readers become confused and doubt the scientific reality of human-caused global warming.

Politicians invariably exploit the fabricated confusion and endorse policies that serve the narrow interests of Big Oil. An extreme example of this is the Tea Party movement.

This seemingly grassroots movement endorses policies that align with Big Oil interests – low taxation, high profits, de-regulation. Evidence suggests, moreover, that it was created with a view to make it appear like a grassroots movement, when it was actually fabricated by Big Oil to serve Big Profits rather than the interests of those who support the party. The term used to describe the process is “Astroturfing” (i.e. fake grass roots).

In terms of morality and religious propriety, the use of deceit and subversion to advance a civilization-killing agenda is repulsive.

It’s also bad for the economy.

False economy

A 2011 article by Joe Romm,  IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy” cites the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) assessment of the economic cost of delaying action.

[quote]Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.[/quote]

What is to be done

The complexities of “What is to be done?” to confront our dire circumstances can be reduced to three momentous actions.

First, we need a mass mobilization of people prepared to respond to the global warming emergency. Second, we need to transition immediately and completely to clean energy. And finally, we need to abolish dirty energy.

David Ray Griffin’s extraordinarily comprehensive and well-researched book, Unprecedented, should serve as a foundational guide for our needed mobilization.

This article first appeared on Whatsupic

Common Sense health care would save lives, help the economy

Common Sense health care would save lives, help the economy


Common Sense health care would save lives, help the economy

If the definition of good governance includes the sound management of public monies and resources, then Canada has very bad governance.

The manufactured health care crisis is a case in point.  Solutions to challenges of cost, quality, and access are fairly straightforward but wilfully ignored, and current trajectories towards corporatization are leading us in the wrong direction.

If the challenges are responsibly addressed, every Canadian will have access to exemplary health care, based on need rather than ability to pay.  Additionally, Canadians will save money, and the economy will be positively impacted.

3 big ideas

Dr. Danielle Martin – family physician, V.P of Medical Affairs and Health Systems Solutions at Women’s College Hospital, and Assistant Professor in Medicine and Health Policy at the University of Toronto – is eminently qualified to offer solutions.

She argues that we could immediately implement “Three Big Ideas” within an expanded  medicare system. Martin describes these ideas as follows:

  • “20 Drugs to Save a Nation”
  • “Less is More”
  • “Sick with Poverty”

The first idea, “20 drugs to save a nation” would save lives while improving the economy.

Currently, one in ten Canadians can not afford their prescription medications.

Consequently, their medical conditions often worsen, which invariably leads to more expensive care, including hospital admissions.  A study by the New England Journal Of Medicine, appropriately titled “Dead Man Walking” , shows that when heart attack patients fail to adhere to their prescriptions, they are more likely to be readmitted to hospital.

National public drug coverage also saves lives. As Alan Cassels explains in “Opinion: A prescription for cutting costs” , public drug plans screen drugs for value and safety better than their private drug plan counterparts. He explains:

[quote]… out of the top 50 most costly drugs covered by private drug plans, several of them wouldn’t merit coverage by public drug plans because of their poor value: they were branded drugs which had cheaper equivalent generics.[/quote]

The Vioxx tragedy

The tragedy of Vioxx resonates with this opinion: premature release of the brand drug Vioxx caused between 4,000 – 7,000 deaths in Canada.

Bulk buying through a public drug plan also means that one purchaser (versus many) can secure lower prices for medications. New Zealand, for example, pays 2.4 cents for one Lipitor pill, while Canada pays 32 cents for the same pill.

A national pharmacare program with first dollar coverage (a best case scenario) would save Canada as much as $10.7 billion per year.

Dr. Martin’s “Drugs to Save a Nation” plan would be a first step towards national pharmacare.  She argues convincingly that we could start bulk-buying 20 generic drugs, and that such a step would not only improve patient-adherence rates to medications – and their health – but it would save a substantial amount of money.

Less is More

The next idea, “Less Is More”, would also save money, and lives.  According to Martin, numerous medical tests, treatments, and procedures are administered more often than necessary. Consequently, health outcomes can be negatively impacted, and additional costs accrued.  A sobering study by Dr. Ray Sahelian reinforces the message.  He notes that “Radiation from CT scans done in 2007 will cause 29,000 cancers and kill nearly 15,000 Americans.”

The top five tests, treatments, and procedures that are done more often than necessary are:

  • Electrocardiograms (ECG’s)
  • Imaging tests for lower back pain
  • CT scans and MRI’s for headaches
  • Bone density tests (DEXA scans)
  • Antibiotics for sinusitis

The excellent internet site not only identifies the numerous problems, and dangers, associated with unnecessary testing, but it also explains  “When you need them – and when you don’t” .

Poverty as disease

The final big idea, “Sick with Poverty” explains that poverty is basically a disease. The corollary of this is that if poverty can be eliminated – and 1 in 7 Canadian children live in poverty – then we will be a much healthier (and productive) society.

A 2013 study by the Canadian Medical Association, “Health care in Canada: What makes us sick?” identifies four social determinants of health:

  • income
  • housing
  • nutrition and food security
  • early childhood development

Canada’s failure to understand this aggravates and perpetuates an unnecessary situation – poverty.  If all Canadians had adequate income, housing, nutrition/food security, as well as early childhood education, our population would be healthier, while societal costs for health care, policing, and other social services would be reduced, and we would collectively be more productive.

Evidence shows that Canada would save $7.6 billion per year on reduced health care costs alone if the lowest group of earners moved up by one “quintile” (to two) on a scale of earnings with the top quintile being five.

This could be financed by discarding Canada’s current welfare system

And replacing it with a Guaranteed Annual Income  system which would redistribute monies through taxes.

Clearly, we have the tools and the funds to make Canada a better and stronger nation, but it won’t happen until the current theology of predatory economics that is poisoning the economy, and our collective mindset, is rejected.

Instituting Dr. Martin’s “Three Big Ideas” would be a huge step in the right direction.

Predator Economics

The rise of Predator Economics

Predator Economics
Anishinaabe Native American activist Winona LaDuke coined the term “Predator Economics” (youtube)

Canadians are forever being informed, explicitly or implicitly, that the solution to the crisis of the day, or decade, is a freedom-sounding word called “privatization”.  This, the free-marketeers tell us, will solve our problems.

The reality is invariably the opposite.  “Privatization” – also known as bailed-out, highly subsidized corporatism – is in fact the problem, not the solution.

Furthermore, the crises being addressed are often manufactured for the express purpose of rolling out a parasitical regime of corporatization that profits from calamity, even as its “host”, the public, is fleeced.

Exploiting the commons

Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein identifies the process as the “shock doctrine” and/or “disaster capitalism”; author, environmental activist, and economist Winona LaDuke calls it “predator economics”; writers call it neoliberalism, and corporate media pretends it doesn’t exist.

A tattered thread is woven into a seemingly endless series of crises, and it is the public sector, the commons, that is invariably being exploited.

Neo-conservative strategists disguise  the real problem, and deflect attention from it, using a myriad of strategies, all of which serve to instil what insurance whistle-blower Wendel Potter calls FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt—in the collective mental landscape of the masses.

Instead of identifying the real problem – neoliberalism/predator capitalism/shock economy—neo-cons typically scapegoat other polities.

Canada’s emblematic instituions being undermined

According to neo-con politicians, union bosses and their minions, as well as public servants, and public institutions, are the causes of our economic woes, even as these are some of the few remaining polities that mitigate the damages caused by predator capitalism.

Two of Canada’s “emblematic” institutions, currently being undermined so that they can be replaced by inferior models, are “universal” health care, and Canada Post.

Canada’s public healthcare system is in distress.  Community hospitals are closing, wait-times are long, and the public is dissatisfied.  Corporate messaging proclaims that since the status quo of public universal healthcare is failing, then the answer must be privatization/corporatization.  Consequently, the 2004 Health Accord has not been renewed, and the federal government will be cutting $36 Billion over ten years from its Canadian Health Transfers (CHT’s) to the provinces.

Manufactured health care crisis

The manufactured crisis in health care is chronic under-funding, and the solution is more comprehensive public funding, not corporatization.  Since 1981 hospital funding has decreased significantly as a share of Canada’s  health care budget.

Corporate health care is less efficient, and more expensive, than public health care.  The more it is corporatized, the more expensive (and less accessible ) health care becomes.

A CUPE article entitled, “Public Health Care Costs Less, Delivers More

clearly shows that the “private” components of health care far exceed its public counterparts in costs even as they deliver less. Listed below are some (of numerous) examples identified in the article:

  • Ontario paid 75 per cent more to for-profit labs than it had to non-profit community labs over the    previous 30 years, for the same tests.10
  • Public-private partnerships are 83 per cent costlier to finance than public projects.11  (Canadians) spend roughly half of what the private US system spends per person,16 and we get better coverage and outcomes.
  • Studies comparing US and Canadian outcomes for heart attacks, cancer, surgical procedures and chronic conditions show that Canada does at least as well, often better.21
  • A recent Canadian study found that expedited knee surgery in a for-profit clinic costs $3,222 compared to $959 in a public hospital (with worse return-to-work outcomes)24

Clearly, the false “solution” is making a bad situation (under-funding) worse.

What happened to Canada

Canada Post is also suffering from a manufactured crisis.  Marianne Lenabut argues in “What Happened To Canada” that Canada post ran a profit for the last 16 of 17 years, and that it has yet to receive a tax-payer bailout.  Yet the “solution” to the illusory crisis has been the creation of a real crisis, consistent with Shock Doctrine economics.  Canada Post is being restructured so that service costs increase dramatically even as services are deteriorating: bulk stamps will cost .85 cents and a single first-class stamp will cost a dollar, door-to-door urban delivery is being ended, and 8,000 postal positions are slated to be eliminated.

The crisis is being engineered so that the public will become frustrated, blame the victim (Canada Post), and welcome a false “market-based solution” so that the private sector can roll in, and further erode the public domain.

Private mail will raise cost to public

James Clancy of the National Union Of Public And General Employees argues in “President’s Commentary: Privatization is not the answer at Canada Post, modernization is” that “when the final play is made in this game, Canadians will see private companies selling mail service at a higher cost.  There will be no accountability mechanism if this happens because the public will no longer own the service.”

These two important examples are, nonetheless, the tip of the iceberg. The list is long, but the strategies are consistent: create a crisis to undemocratically impose inefficient, expensive corporate models in domains best suited to public funding.

Internationally, the same strategies are being used, and the descriptors are the same: predator economics, shock doctrine economics, neoliberalism.  But, when supranational polities such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) impose these strategies on other countries, the process is called colonialism.

Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in 'Coporatocracy'

Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in ‘Corporatocracy’

Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in 'Coporatocracy'
Top corporate leaders gather at the annual Bildergberg conference in 2010

“Freedom” and “democracy” are useful words, but very bankrupt: useful because they serve to advance imperial/corporate agendas, bankrupt because they are empty vessels, perennially co-opted.

When illegal coups are orchestrated to overthrow democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Honduras, Ukraine, or elsewhere, the lies of freedom and democracy are seamlessly attached to the criminal acts.

“Freedom” and “democracy” are still cloaking, tacitly or overtly, mass murder and genocide in Iraq, at this moment.

Hostile takeovers

As long as the masses are fooled, conquest and regime change, not democracy and freedom, are enabled and perpetuated.  Illegal coups and wars of aggression are about imperial control, setting up puppet dictators, and the imposition of neoliberal economic business models for the corporate extensions of the invading nations.

Once the vanquished “host” nation is subjugated, its industries are corporatized, and wealth is extracted  for the benefit of transnational corporations, corporate elites, and local oligarchs. The vanquished nations face corresponding losses of political and economic self-determination, human rights, democracy, and freedom. De facto corporate proxy regimes may call themselves democratic, or proclaim freedom, but the words are delusional, even if those being enslaved believe otherwise.

Transnational corporate monopolies are the drivers behind the malaise.

Some of the predominant monopolies, all inter-related and mutually reinforcing, are often prefaced with the adjective “Big”.  They include:

  • Finance
  • Oil
  • Military-Industrial Complex
  • Media
  • Pharmaceuticals

These transnational monopolies  metastasize beneath protective umbrellas of secretly negotiated, supranational “free trade” agreements, and they exert disproportionate control over political economies throughout the world.  Additionally, their leverage is amplified and perpetuated through a matrix of intersecting trajectories that converge to create seamless, reciprocal unions with each other, and with elected polities.

Crony Capitalism

One strategy used by the resulting “corporatocracy” to increase its political might is the creation of a culture of “crony capitalism.” In this culture, a “revolving door” is created through which personnel from corporations and government come and go, thus creating a mutually empowering relationship, more responsible to each other than to the voting public.

Author Tony Hall reveals the inherent conflict of interest created when a “revolving door” exists between industry-funded regulators and Big Oil. In “Oil Consultant Turned Whisleblower Exposes Fracking Crimes In Alberta”,  Hall explains that Gerard Protti, the current head of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), is a former executive of EnCana petroleum corporation.

Not only is the industry self-regulated, but the “regulator” himself is a former executive of the industry being regulated. “His conflict of interest,” explains Hall, “is illustrative of a culture of conflict of interest that is transforming the governments of Canada and Alberta into wholly-owned subsidiaries of Texas-based and China-based oil and gas companies.”

Big Oil and Big Media join forces in Canada

Big Oil also works hand-in-hand with Big Media.  Close links between corporate media and the petroleum industry are detailed in a Vancouver Observer article entitled, “Presentation Suggests Intimate relationship Between Post Media And Oil Industry”.

According to the article, the Canadian Association Of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), a powerful right-wing “think tank”, would provide “thought leadership” for the media outlet, and that “topics (would) be directed by CAPP and written by Postmedia.”  In other words, the petroleum industry’s intent in this instance is to control media messaging related to petroleum related topics, thus creating its own platform/infomercial embedded within media that presents itself as “neutral”.  Interestingly, one of the first casualties of the proposed “marriage” was environment reporter Mike De Souza.

The Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Corporate media and the military-industrial complex are also welded together.  The Military-Industrial -Media complex profits from keeping countries on a war footing, and  is complicit in unfathomable misery throughout the world.

War and war preparations serve as a pretext for vast outlays of money from the public to corporations. Consequently, war-friendly media barely reported the huge protests against the illegal invasion of Iraq, but it did spin stories about Iraq’s imaginary Weapons Of Mass Destruction, and the imperatives of invasion.

Meanwhile, once the Shock and Awe invasion started, Pentagon inspired nomenclature such as “collateral damage” or “surgical strikes” continued to anesthetize the public to the horrors of the invasion.  Over one million died as a result of the carnage of the Second Gulf War, and the death rate is still climbing.

The interlocked military-industrial-media complex is created by the myriad of intersecting connections between the industries. Peter Philips and Mike Huff, in “Truth Emergency: Inside The Military Industrial Media Empire” describe some of these connections:

[quote]Only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. Four of the top 10 media corporations share board director positions with the major defense contractors including:

  • William Kennard: New York Times, Carlyle Group
  • Douglas Warner III, GE (NBC), Bechtel
  • John Bryson: Disney (ABC), Boeing
  • Alwyn Lewis: Disney (ABC), Halliburton
  • Douglas McCorkindale: Gannett, Lockheed-Martin.[/quote]

The Canada-Honduras “Free” Trade Agreement

Financial monopolies, for the most part overseen by the U.S, are also wedded to the destructive, self-reinforcing web of supranationally protected monopolies.  Honduras is a case in point.

Since the US-backed coup in 2009, transnational corporations, soon to be further protected beneath the umbrella of the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement, have wreaked havoc on Honduras.  Transnational Financing cartels, including the International Monetary Fund, bundle their loans with neoliberal market models, for the profit of foreign investors and Honduran oligarchs. The loans finance cash crops such as African Palm monoculture plantations, and the results are devastating to almost all Hondurans.

The plantations dispossess indigenous small-holder farmers, rob the nation of food sovereignty, and destroy indigenous cultures.  Since 2009, oligarchs, in concert with illegal proxy dictatorships, have killed 100 campesinos from the Aguan Valle alone – with impunity.

Harper caves into Big Pharma

Big Pharma , yet another protected monopoly, also creates misery and desperation throughout the world, and its influences are woven into the fabric of lies and omissions perpetuated by the other monopolies.

Michael McBane, in “Harper Caves In To Big Pharma“, argues “(We ) need to take patents out of secret trade agreements and impose conditions that benefit the public interest in exchange for drug monopolies…”

If the suppression of Big Pharma and its ubiquitous messaging were lifted, Canada could also create a National Pharmacare program, which would save Canadians about $10.7 billion per year.

Once freed from the devastating tentacles of the transnational monopolies, Canadians will realize that it’s time to call 911 on the corporatocracy. We might then recapture real democracy and freedom, rather than settle for their bankrupt facsimiles.

Petro-state economy costs Canada far more jobs than it creates

Fossil fuel economy costs Canada far more jobs than it creates

Petro-state economy costs Canada far more jobs than it creates
Canada’s economy – including its dollar – is too attached to fossil fuels, financial experts warn

The current trajectories of Canada’s predominant political economies are increasingly dysfunctional, due in no small part to the fact that we have become, in many respects, a petro state, rather than the much vaunted “Energy Superpower” that we were promised.

A petro-state, as defined by Bruce Campbell, executive director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is “dependent on petroleum for 50 per cent or more of export revenues, 25 per cent or more of GDP, and 25 per cent or more on government revenues.”

While Alberta is not a sovereign nation, it does qualify for “petro-state” status under these criterion. So does Norway. But the differences between the two polities ends there. While Norway manages its resource wealth extraordinarily well, Alberta — and Canada, by extension — does not.

Norway: $656 Billion / Alberta: $16 Billion

One significant difference is savings. Norway has a savings fund, known as a “Sovereign Wealth Fund” which is worth about $656 billion for a population of under 5-million people.

Unlike Canada, Norway’s oil industry generates huge public profits

Alberta’s Heritage Trust Fund, on the other hand, is worth a relatively paltry $16.6 billion, for a population of about 3,847,100 people.

The differences in the sizes of these savings funds has far-reaching impacts. As author Terry L. Karl explains in “Understanding The Resource Curse,” a country (such as Norway) that diverts its resource revenue to a savings fund, is necessarily compelled to use its tax base for government funding. Consequently, citizens pay higher taxes, but the politicians represent those who pay the bills (the citizens) rather than representing the insular interests of oil-producing corporations, to the detriment of the public sector, and democracy.

Unlike Norway, Canada, is quite dependent on its resource revenues for government funding. About 40 per cent of Canada’s resource revenues go to Ottawa, and about one third of Alberta’s bills are paid by oil and gas revenues. According to Karl, these differences explain why Alberta’s tax rates are so low, (the lowest personal taxes in Canada) and why its governance is more top down, corporation oriented. As long as taxes are low, people remain relatively disinterested in issues of governance. In the 2008 elections, 60 per cent of eligible voters in Alberta stayed home.

There are other significant problems which are generated by this dependency on resource revenue. One of them is wealth distribution.

Rich get richer from energy wealth

Stephen Leahy explains in “The Bigger Canada’s Energy Sector Gets, The Poorer People Become” that economic markers can be deceiving. Consider statistics for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a measure of economic activity. The GDP averaged about $600 billion per year in the ’90s and by 2012 it had increased to $1.7 trillion. On the surface, this seems laudable, but little of the wealth stayed in Canada, and what did stay went to a small percentage of the population. Consequently, income inequality has also increased.

Similarly, our reliance on the boom/bust cycle of resource revenue funding (without setting aside sufficient funds) means that governments habitually overspend. Resource rich Alberta has run a deficit for the last six years running.

This boom/bust revenue model, a hallmark of neoliberal economic theory, impacts the whole country. Safety, environmental, and human rights have become less important; international efforts to address global warming, such as the Kyoto Protocol, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have been rejected; real science is now seen as an enemy to overcome; and democracy is an inconvenience.

16,000 jobs gained, half a million lost

Our mixed economy is also being decimated. Leahy explains that from 2000-2011, the oil and gas sector created about 16,500 jobs, while, at the same time, Canada lost 520,000 manufacturing jobs.

Much of the manufacturing losses are tied to the rise of the petro-dollar which tends to rise and fall with the price of petroleum. Ten years ago, the Canadian dollar was worth about 65 cents relative to the U.S. dollar. Now both dollars are at about the same level. This parity negatively impacts exports and, therefore, the manufacturing base.

Even Industry Canada acknowledges the problem. Their report notes that between 2002 -2007, from 33-39 per cent of Canadian manufacturing job losses were due to “resource-driven currency appreciation.”

Major banks, think tanks warn against Canada’s economic model

Despite the overarching negatives, including job losses and deficits, trajectories of Canada’s reigning political economies have remained unchanged. Continued on-the-ground realities, however, may force the government’s hand. Sources as varied as the International Energy Agency (IEA), HSBC, the Conference Board of Canada, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are increasingly concerned about Canada’s misdirected obsession with extreme energy extraction.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook states that “no more than one third of proven energy reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050.” (Barring the unlikely and exponential growth in carbon capture storage strategies.)

The HSBC Global Research Report (2013) cautions investors about capital intensive extreme resource extraction such as bitumen extraction, and recommends instead low cost companies with a “gas bias.”

Alberta needs more sustainable model: Conference Board

Solar already beating coal on job creation, energy cost
Canada should be promoting green jobs, experts suggest

The Conference Board of Canada in an article entitled “Opportunity Lost? Alberta is Facing Short And Long Term Financial Challenges Despite its Oil Wealth” observes that Alberta is facing a $4-billion budget deficit, and recommends a “more sustainable fiscal model.”

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), recognizing the imperatives of transitioning to a low carbon world, is urging nations to slash carbon subsidies, which would drastically slow bitumen extraction developments.

Unlike Norway, Canada’s economic and political self-determination is already curtailed by NAFTA, and by the time Harper’s next suite of corporate empowerment treaties (FIPPA, CETA etc.) are ratified, our ability to determine better political economies will be further hamstrung.

However, despite the restrictions, there still remain some possible alternatives to our current self-defeating political economy.

End subsidies, raise taxes

The Pembina Institute, paralleling views of the IMF, argues that the $1.3 billion in subsidies handed out to the oil and gas industries would be better spent on transitioning to clean energies, as it would create 18,000 more jobs as well as “a healthier economy, and a cleaner environment.”

Meanwhile, Shannon Stunden Bower, Research Director for the Parkland Institute, advises that Alberta needs to raise taxes:

[quote]Alberta could collect nearly $11 billion more in taxes and still remain the country’s lowest tax jurisdiction.[/quote]

Clearly Canada’s economic direction, which is to increase rather than decrease extreme energy extraction, is hitting the wall.

Evidence shouts that we should be transitioning to a low carbon model. Creating a strong Federal Savings Fund, reducing carbon subsidies, and increasing taxes in certain jurisdictions (like Alberta and New Brunswick) would be a start, but we also need more evidence-based policy making, and therefore different governance.

The longer we wait before the inevitable and necessary transitions, the more it will cost.


Deconstructing the language of corporate power

Corporate power uses nomenclature to deceive Canadians (Photo: Bloomberg Business Week).
Corporate power uses special nomenclature to deceive Canadians (image: Bloomberg Business Week).

by Mark Taliano

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best ones. Unfortunately, though, Canada’s extreme concentration of corporate power often precludes the solutions from ever seeing the light of day.

The first step towards resolution of this problem is nomenclature. We need to free corporate-fashioned words from their false meanings.

Here are some examples:

Trade deals, including the so-called ‘free trade’ deals which have crippled North American manufacturing, are more accurately described as ‘corporate empowerment’ deals. Invariably, these deals empower transnational companies to relocate where wages are low (or in the case of prison labour, non-existent), where collective bargaining doesn’t exist, and where unions are impotent or non-existent.

Corporate empowerment deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the as yet unratified Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), a bilateral agreement with China, empower corporations to the extent that government legislation becomes subordinated to corporate profits.

Corporate power deals are all shrouded in secrecy, but at least NAFTA arbitrations have pretensions of  transparency (and Canada has yet to win a case), but the FIPPA arbitrations will likely not even be made public. If Canada determines that its sovereignty, economic, or environmental needs are more important than Chinese state-owned corporate profits, the case will be heard outside Canadian law, and in private.

Free trade is not free

PM Stephen Harper with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2012

The ‘freedom’ being exercised by these deals is clearly corporate freedom from the shackles of democratically legislated rules, regulations and laws. The false notion that they are ‘free’, or that ‘liberalized’ trade agreements are ‘liberal’ for anyone but the corporations, should be put to rest. Trade agreements negotiated over the last 30 years or so have been neither free, nor liberal, for the people of Canada.

‘Globalization’ is another corporate-engineered word that is intentionally deceiving. The globalization being described is not ‘democratic’ globalization, nor is it the globalization of improved human rights, or a globalized respect for the environment. In fact, it is the opposite. Corporate globalization, a more accurate description, has led to top-down corporate rule, diminished respect for human rights as defined by the United Nations, and reckless destruction of the world environment.

The word ‘capitalism’ is also wearing new clothes, thanks to corporate messaging of the ‘free marketeers’, and those who profess a love for ‘free enterprise’. Now the term more often refers to state-subsidized ‘monopoly capitalism’ (think Walmart, Monsanto, etc.). The new ‘capitalists’ are the speculators who drive up world prices of food and fuel, as they trade in commodities, derivatives, and hedge funds. In the world of these boom/bust/starvation-creating ‘capitalists’, the term is divorced from production, and it is too often divorced from the notion of the ‘public good’ as well.


The term ‘privatization’, a hallmark of neoliberalism/neoconservatism, has also been crafted to mislead the public. Now the term more accurately describes anti-public ‘hyper-privatization’.

In many instances, hyper-privatization means that para-private interests are making in-roads into the public sphere to the detriment of the public. One such instance would be Public Private Partnerships (P3 arrangements). Evidence clearly shows that P3 hospitals cost more and are, therefore, an unnecessary burden on the public. This, however, has not stopped them from gaining a foothold in Canada.

Another example of hyper-privatization would be healthcare. Once the insurance lobbies persuade the public of the false-logic that privatized healthcare is the way to ‘move forward’, we will be stuck with a multi-tiered, inefficient, and costly healthcare system, (similar to the U.S. system) that will be an unnecessary disservice to the public.

The deconstruction of the corporate nomenclature gives us a clearer view of what is happening, but there are still huge impediments, or firewalls, to achieving a better economy and a better world.

Self-Interest lobby groups

Some of these firewalls include self-interested lobby groups that have disproportionate influence over public discourse and legislative polities. A list of these powerful organizations, as described by award-winning investigative reporter Nick Fillmore, in  “It’s high time the Liberals or NDP challenged our ‘corporate elite’” includes:

• Canadian Council Of Chief Executives
• Canadian Bankers Association
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
• Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Once past the nomenclature and the corporate-media supported ‘firewalls’, the list of better alternatives reveals itself.

The Bank of Canada advantage

One of many glaring examples, as described by George H. Crowell in his article,”An Urgently Needed Change in Monetary Policy: Borrowing from Bank of Canada would make governments debt-free” is brilliant in its simplicity.

Crowell argues that we should do what we did until about 1974 — instead of paying billions of dollars in interest on debts to private banks, the federal government should resume the practice of borrowing from the publicly-owned Bank of Canada, interest free. The benefits that would accrue, including the elimination of government debt, would empower the government to spend money on public institutions, improve the economy, and so on.

This change to monetary policy, endorsed by the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER), is self-evident, but largely ignored by corporate media, since such a policy wouldn’t serve the immediate self-interests of their corporate owners.

Getting past the nomenclature and the lobby groups are the first steps to opening up the dialogue for a better Canada. Powerful special interest groups, such as the ones listed above, will not be our partners in the endeavour, but unearthing the seemingly simple solutions is a necessary step to rebuilding this country and the global community.

Mark Taliano is a writer, an activist and a retired teacher. 

Watch Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s recent speech on the increased influence of corporations on the Canadian and US governments: