Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Year's Party Still Going for Top CEOs

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

TORONTO - By the time most Canadians roll up their sleeves to begin a new year of work, Canada's best paid 100 CEOs will already be having a good year: They'll pocket the national average wage of $38,998 by 10:33 am January 2 nd.

And they will continue to earn the average Canadian wage every nine hours and 33 minutes for the rest of the year, according to a new report on CEO pay by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

"Most Canadians are heading back into work with a mound of Christmas bills and financial worries but for Canada's best paid 100 CEOs it's like Santa Claus delivers every nine hours," says the report's author, CCPA Research Associate Hugh Mackenzie.

"That's what happens when you make an average of $8,528,304 – which is the average of what Canada's 100 best paid CEOs made in 2006."

On average, the best-paid 100 CEOs make more than 218 times as much as a Canadian working full-time for a full year at the average of weekly employment earnings.

"That represents a significant gap between the rich and the rest of us – especially the working poor who earn the minimum wage," Mackenzie says.

By 1:04 p.m. New Years' Day, the best paid 100 CEOs pocketed what will take a minimum wage worker all of 2008 to earn. Every four hours and four minutes, they will keep pocketing the annual income of a full-time full-year minimum wage worker.

"We have to ask ourselves, are those at the top of the income heap really worth so much? And are those at the bottom really worth so little?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SEC January Speakers' Series/Webcast - Mapping the Social Economy: Three Views

David Lasby of Imagine Canada will discuss the recently completed mapping of Ontario's social economy that combines nonprofits, co-operatives, credit unions, and other community organizations.

Using data taken from the first-ever census of Ontario co-ops, credit unions and caisses populaires, Mark Ventry from the Ontario Co-operative Association will discuss the social and economic impact of the province's co-op sector, what census information surprised On Co-op, and what the data confirmed.

Sherida Ryan of OISE/University of Toronto will discuss Ontario organizations that meet the broad definition applied to social economy enterprises and that rely on internet-based technology to achieve their organizational objectives, their similarities to traditional social economy enterprises, use of information technology and their understanding of an online social economy enterprise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2007, noon - 1:30 pm
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
Room 12-199, 12th floor, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto
This event will be simultaneously webcast (see our website for details).

For more information, see

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Holiday Season, Buy Union

Union members, college students, and all kinds of folks are doing the right thing by deciding to wear clothing made under decent conditions, in union shops instead of sweatshops. Click on the links below to find union-made, sweat-free suppliers.

Visit to buy items from artwork to chocolate, from books and clothing to clocks, computers, and vacation packages.

While you're planning your holiday trips, please visit our Union Hotel Guide ( and stay in UNITE HERE hotels across North America.

At Justice Clothing we don't think fashion should hurt. Justice Clothing's mission is to support democratic principles, workers' rights and economic sustainability through the sale and distribution of goods manufactured by workers protected by collective bargaining agreements.

Monday, November 19, 2007

UN Says Market Privatizations Would Be the Worst Scenario for the Environment

By Herv Kempf
Le Monde

Saturday 27 October 2007

The planet's ecological future directly depends on the political choices that will be exercised: this observation had never before been clearly spotlighted by a United Nations decision-making body. Now it's done: the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) asserts in a thick report, the so-called "GEO 4", published Thursday October 25, that generalized privatization of resources and services would be the worst scenario from an environmental perspective.

That's the conclusion of an original approach to possible futures that a group of international experts has been conducting the last two years: it models each scenario as a function of the type of policies put into place. The point of departure for this modeling effort is the major ecological crisis, which the planet is already experiencing.

By actualizing the description through numerous sources, the UNEP report synthesizes changes in climate, biodiversity, soils' health, water resources ... It highlights the shrinkage in available resources per inhabitant, with the available earth surface for each human being going from 7.91 hectares in 1900 to 2.02 hectares in 2005.

The rapidity of the phenomenon is emphasized: the breadth and the composition of terrestrial ecosystems that "are being modified by populations at an unprecedented speed." The experts insist on the concept of a threshold: "The cumulative effects of the continuous changes in the environment may reach thresholds that will manifest themselves as abrupt and irreversible changes." This idea of "tipping points" is applicable not only to climate change, but also to the phenomena of desertification, drops in water tables, collapse of ecosystems, etc.

Tipping Points

The continuation of present trajectories inescapably leads to these tipping points, the UNEP indicates. That's where the work with models comes in. The experts have defined four scenarios, according to the type of policy that is followed. In the first model, the State takes a back seat to the private sector; unlimited trade develops; natural goods areprivatized. The second scenario is based on a centralized intervention that aims to balance high economic growth with an effort to limit its
environmental and social impacts.

A third route would be to favor security to respond to civil disorders and external threats: a significant effort would then be devoted to security. Finally, the fourth option is one in which society chooses environmental sustainability and equity, with citizens playing an active role.

Modeling allows the influence on the environment of each one of these scenarios to be measured in terms of energy consumption, polluting emissions, the type of agricultural activity, water extractions and numerous other parameters.

The last scenario (sustainability) appears preferable from a social and ecological point of view, while the first scenario (privatization), although it assures the strongest growth, also manifests an environmental impact deemed unbearable, all while generating ever-greater social inequalities. In that case, "the environment and society rapidly reach, even cross over the tipping point."

The scenarios that are less bad for the environment are not exempt from flaws, however: the second scenario, which favors a strong policy intervention, may generate bureaucracy; the fourth, which emphasizes sustainability, demands that much time be devoted to cooperation among actors. And they do not guarantee a carefree future: in all these cases, "climate change and the loss of biodiversity will remain significant challenges."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Canada's Rich Not Contributing Fair Share in Taxes: CCPA Study


TORONTO – More than a decade's worth of tax cuts have disproportionately lined the pockets of Canada's most affluent families, says a new tax study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study finds the top 1 percent of families in 2005 paid a lower total tax rate than the bottom 10 percent of families.

"Canada's tax system now fails a basic test of fairness," says Marc Lee, senior economist with the CCPA's B.C. office and author of the study. "Tax cuts have contributed to a slow and steady shift to a less progressive tax system in Canada."

The study, which is the first comprehensive review of tax changes at all levels of government in Canada within the past 15 years, finds the system is delivering larger tax savings for high income families. This reinforces the growing gap in market incomes between high income families and the rest of Canadians.

"Most Canadians will be surprised by these findings because they believe we have a progressive tax system – but looking at all taxes combined, that's no longer the case."

The study, Eroding Tax Fairness: Tax Incidence in Canada, 1990 to 2005, is available at

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

LABOUR DAY SEPTEMBER 2007: Reviving the Labour Movement Through Reviving Class Solidarity

by Socialist Project Labour Committee

As Canada and Ontario's labour movement marches in this year's Labour Day Parade it does so with something to celebrate: an increase in the provincial minimum wage. That victory, all the more significant for victories being so rare in recent times, was partial – amongst other things it is only being phased in over three years – but all victories for working people are partial. Why this achievement merits special celebration is that:

  1. It materially matters for hundreds of thousands of workers.
  2. It demonstrated the exciting possibilities of creating spaces through which immigrant workers and youth could express their frustrations and mobilize to improve their conditions.
  3. It opened a new door through which the unionized labour movement – in various stages of crisis since the Days of Action – might be revived: supporting the struggles of non-union workers because it is both the morally right thing to do and because it contributes to uniting and building the working class as a potential social force agent.

What next?

That victory poses a number of questions. First what will the labour movement now do to build on this momentum? One option is to move on to fight for improvements in other standards (such as paid time off). Another is to raise the ante and get unionization itself more clearly on the agenda. New minimum standards are themselves an opportunity to do so because in many cases, these minimum standards are not enforced. And so there is a powerful opening for the need for a union just to get what the law allegedly guarantees you. A further campaign might be to take on the 'temp agencies' – parasites that live off the back of workers – and restore this function to public agencies providing a social service.

Second, having experienced the potentials of collective action at the community level, how can the labour movement strengthen these capacities? One step is internal: if we really want to make some organizing breakthroughs, we will have to overcome our sectionalism (divisions over who 'gets' new members) and develop an effective degree of cooperation that puts workers and the movement first. Another is external to formal unionism: there are groups like the Workers Action Center in Toronto that currently provide services to non-union workers (and have been long-time activists in the struggle for raising the minimum wage); they should be encouraged and supported in expanding their work.

What about the people on welfare?

A third question relates to the shameful conditions of those members of the working class who, for various reasons, are currently not in the workforce or only marginally attached and who consequently depend on welfare. Welfare rates are today 40% lower in purchasing power than they were when the Conservative government launched its own version of the 'War on Poverty' in the mid-90s (and they were hardly overgenerous before then). This too must be of fundamental concern to all working people simply because of the injustice it exposes in how we treat those with disabilities, single mothers trying to raise a family on their own (poverty rates are stunningly higher for women and 280,000 Ontario children live in families who rely on social assistance), and workers who have been laid off (such as those now benefiting from the higher minimum wage but at risk of not getting full-year employment or seeing rising housing prices and the lack of affordable housing eroding any gain they thought they made). Furthermore, the low standards brought on by unemployment represent pressures to stay at any job, no matter how poor the pay and conditions and no matter how sick you might be. And this can't help but increase pressures on standards for other workers.

A coalition of anti-poverty and related groups is planning a protest this fall (September 26) to profile their plight as the Ontario election takes place. Their goal is to 'raise the rates' (bring the $10 minimum wage forward and return welfare and disability rates to their former levels with a 40% increase), build affordable and accessible housing, and access without fear to government services for non-status immigrants. This coalition – Toronto Anti-Poverty (TAP) – is committed to continuing that struggle after the election. For organized labour, the question is where do we stand? Will we identify the fight against poverty as not just a matter of charity, but a dimension of solidarity against all the manifestations of exploitation and injustice working people experience?

We have no alternative

It is crucial, in all our struggles, to recognize that we are not simply fighting against 'bad policies', but something deeper. Governments seem to have concluded that capitalism in its present phase can only reach and maintain the profits it needs by: a) limiting 'diversions' to those not in the labour market and therefore not contributing to profits; and b) keeping those in the labour market insecure and fragmented from each other – insecure about their jobs, increasingly cut off from essential services, and struggling to survive on their own rather than collectively. This will not be fundamentally changed unless we can mobilize in a way that scares them the way they have worked so hard to scare us. Real change will only come if we reject their cramped and debilitating vision of what is possible and develop the solidarity, structures and capacities to move towards an alternative vision. Their own mantra of 'there is no alternative' within capitalism is essentially an admission that capitalism has itself become a barrier to human progress and that we 'have no alternative' but to challenge capitalism itself. •

This article was originally published in The Bullet, a Socialist Project e-bulletin.

Friday, September 7, 2007

TORONTO STAR: Public historically cool to faith-based funding

Doug Hart and D.W. Livingstone
September 06, 2007

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory's new position on funding all faith-based schools is a poor fit with public opinion.

In 20 years of polling, we have never found more than a minority in favour of any extension of public funding to private schools.

Moreover, the views of this minority do not privilege faith-based schools but prefer funding extended to all private or independent schools meeting provincial standards.

Since 1984, the OISE Survey of Educational Issues has asked Ontarians every two years about extending public funding beyond the current public and Catholic systems. In 10 separate surveys over this period, support for funding religious schools has only once reached 10 per cent (in 1992) and has usually languished at between 4 per cent and 7 per cent. In contrast, support for extending funding to all private schools has fluctuated between 17 per cent and 27 per cent.

In 2004, the last year for which specific data are available (a different question was used in our soon-to-be released 2007 survey), 7 per cent favoured government funding of religious schools but 20 per cent wanted financial support extended to all private schools. This strongly suggests that among the minority who favour extended funding, the key issue is parental choice, not equity among faith communities. (In 2000, in the wake of the United Nations Human Rights Committee finding that Ontario's policy of funding Catholic schools but not other denominational schools was discriminatory under international human rights provisions, we asked people their preference if they were forced to choose between funding schools for all religious groups or no
religious groups, including Catholics. Forced to choose on this basis, the public split down the middle: 46 per cent to fund all religious schools, 47 per cent to fund none.)

Overall, willingness to extend funding at all to private schools has been and remains a distinct minority position. Between 1984 and 2004, support has fluctuated between 25 per cent and 35 per cent. Most Ontarians continue to support either a single public system or the status quo of public and Catholic systems.

The split between these options has fluctuated over time but neither option alone has ever come close to commanding majority support.

Since full funding was extended to Catholic schools by the Conservative government in 1984, around 40 per cent have supported this option. Support for funding a single public school system, with Catholic schools converted into it or losing their public funding, has hovered around 30 per cent.

Our 2007 survey uses a more general question (suitable for the national survey conducted with the Canadian Education Association this year) asking whether only currently funded public schools or all public and private schools should receive funding. In Ontario, we find 58 per cent in favour of currently funded public schools and 39 per cent willing to extend funding to all public and private schools.

The Conservative party proposal is in line with public thinking in making acceptance of the provincial curriculum, province-wide testing and teachers certified by the Ontario College of Teachers necessary conditions for public funding.

There is widespread unanimity on these conditions among all political parties and the general public. In 2002, when the issue was tax credits for parents of private school students, the OISE
survey asked whether the public agreed or disagreed that to be eligible for the tax credit system private schools should have to accept each of those three conditions. The overwhelming
majority (around 80 per cent) agreed that all three should be conditions for eligibility.

The whole issue of which schools should be funded is caught in a long-term gridlock as far as public support is concerned. There is no consensus on any basic option – a single public system, the status quo or extending funding to all private schools.

Hence, there is no net public pressure for change. The current Conservative policy to fund faith-based private schools charts a course through a political landscape at odds with most public opinion on the issue.

If politicians are going over this ground again, they might pause to check that their maps take account of the landscape as the electorate actually sees it.

Finally, while strong views on each of these options surely will be expressed in the current election, it should be kept in mind that whatever their views on extended school funding, Ontarians show similarly strong support for greater government funding of elementary and secondary education, and a willingness to accept higher taxes to improve public education.

In groups of all religious persuasions there is a similar acceptance of the need to improve the resource base for public schools.

Doug Hart and D.W. Livingstone are authors of Public Attitudes Towards Education on Ontario 2007: the 16th OISE/UT Survey.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.