Category Archives: Better Late Than Never

Residents speak out in support of Water World pool

By Paul Chislett

On April 27th, it quickly became apparent that the crowd of about 80 people attending the city led meeting of the Water World pool facility, primarily from the Glengarry Housing Development, did not want to see their pool close. City council has voted to study the construction of a 50 meter pool complex that would be built farther west onRiverside drive.

Concerned citizens pack hall

Residents where neighbourhood pools exist are fearful the city will close neighbourhood facilities forcing everyone from seniors, children, and the disabled to share a facility primarily aimed at athletes and tourists. As a result of concerns, neighbourhood meetings were arranged for the Glengarry community, and one for those who rely on Adie Knox in May. At the meeting it was quickly evident that city administrators had an agenda meant to diffuse citizen opposition to a pool closure at Water World. Even though the residents were adamant that the Water World pool is the heart and soul of the Glengarry housing community and should not close, the city officials proceeded with a process that included breaking into smaller groups and discussing three pre-arranged questions formulated by city officials without input from the community.

Ronna Warsh, General Manager of Social & Health Services for Windsor, facilitated the meeting on behalf of the mayor and council. Four councilors also attended the meeting: Fulvio Valentinis who represents the ward Water World sits in, Alan Halberstadt of Ward 4, Ed Sleiman, Ward 5, and Ron Jones, Ward 2. Warsh addressed the citizens stressing that no decision has been made on a new pool being built, and that she and her team were there to hear what residents had to say. However, at one point during an exchange with residents Warsh stated that “city council could have deliberated this without hearing your voices, so good for them they are in the room, they are hearing your voices.” This was an astonishing statement to hear since city councilors are paid to listen to the concerns of citizens. Residents were encouraged to consider the pool as only one element of a multi-use facility. If the pool were gone, the other service elements and the building would remain and possibly be enhanced. The three pre-arranged questions put to the citizens were: ‘What do you like that happens inside and outside of the facility’? ‘If council were to close the pool what could you dream about that would replace it’? And ‘what ideas do you have for new programs that would use the pool space’?  While small group discussions are a valuable part of a consultation process, it seemed in this case that small groups were calculated to better control the agenda of city officials, and that agenda was to deflect discussion from the pool closing and instead fabricate consensus for the closure.  Citizen opposition was anticipated and steps were taken to control the outcome of the meeting while giving residents the sense they had contributed to the process. It took some doing for Warsh to convince citizens to move into small groups as there was resistance to her agenda. People responded with a resounding No! when asked if they would go to another facility onRiverside. Nevertheless, in a spirit of cooperation, the residents moved into five groups to have discussions.

Ronna Warsh addresses citizens

When the main group reconvened, it was clear to Warsh that “this pool is a huge, important asset” for the citizens. Out of 18 in her group, only two would take their family to the new facility. Common themes in all groups were that many residents have limited mobility and count on the pool being close to where they live, that community cohesiveness is built and maintained by the proximity of the pool, and that seniors, children, and disabled people count on this facility. Bonnie Bailey, a tireless advocate for the facility and former recreation assistant to the manager of Water World, has no doubt that the new pool complex being proposed is needed. However, it will primarily serve athletes and tourists. She was adamant that children, seniors, and disabled people would not be able to access nor afford the new pool facility. The smaller size neighbourhood facilities such as Water World are there to serve residents, while the proposed pool complex would serve a specialized clientele and non-residents. Bailey was fearful about the dislocation and disintegration of community that would occur with one pool facility. For this observer, a world class city would include both a large pool complex as well as accessible and affordable neighbourhood pools and fitness facilities.

Bonnie Bailey voices concerns in support of Water World pool

In his remarks, Councilor Valentinis warned that those opposed to a pool closure must be able to prove why it is needed, rather than simply say they want the pool, end of discussion. Valentinis said that when it comes to council, other councilors will say that they don’t have such a pool in their area so why is Glengarry so special? Obviously not allWindsorneighbourhoods are socially and economically equal. Other neighbourhoods are better off economically and have greater mobility, so a neighborhood pool is not considered a necessity the way it is in Glengarry. Also, there was a definite sense that the city administrators feel they are stuck with operating costs for Water World since the casino paid for it to be built. Is the city now trying to railroad Glengarry residents into giving up their pool so Mayor Francis can put another feather in his cap for his vision of economic development? Is the city going to tell Glengarry residents they are simply not entitled to such a facility in their neighbourhood because there isn’t one in all neighbourhoods? Ronna Warsh stated that she heard very clearly that residents do not want their pool closed, and that the remarks recorded in the discussion groups will be included in the business case to be presented to council very soon. That business case will include the $700,000 needed to keep Water World open as is. The fight, therefore, to keep Water World open has just begun. Glengarry residents may have had their say, but if they leave the process in the hands of city administrators who only see numbers, this pool will close.

Barbara Pellarin listens intently

The city led consultations were not a participatory democratic model. While Glengarry resident Barbara Pellarin did feel the group discussion was a good idea and that her voice was heard, she remains doubtful that her concerns will sway decision makers on council. She is right to be apprehensive. Ward 3 residents need to be pro-active about council’s agenda for Water World. Residents would do well to form a citizen led neighbourhood council which can put together an air tight case for Water World and build links with other citizens to resist council’s ill-conceived notions of progress.

A version of this article appears in the May issue of The Scoop, Windsor’s alternative for news and views. 

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Letter for Action Re: Prorogation of parliament

I emailed this letter to as many newspapers across Canada as I could find:

January 1, 2010

RE: Proroguing parliament

The Editor,

Much has already been commented on in the major papers about Prime Minister Harper’s move to prorogue parliament until March. This move should outrage all who value the democratic process regardless of how battered that process may be.

The time has come where the parliamentary process is completely stalemated with the prime minister deciding he does not have to answer to the opposition. If he has so little respect for his peers in parliament, imagine how much less he has for the citizenry. He seems to regard us as mere numbers to plug into his political calculations. He seems confident that we will be so easily distracted by the Olympics, that he can boost his ratings by pasting himself and his party on the Olympic brand, thereby positioning himself in majority territory once again. A spring election is likely the next course of action.

I submit to your readers a plan of action that I believe is more necessary now than at any other time in our history. If parliamentarians cannot get to work on January 25th then neither should the rest of the country.  All citizens who care about democracy should take the day off and make phone calls to the Prime Minister’s office demanding that parliament be resumed at once. The opposition parties, social justice groups and union leaders should be front and center in helping to organize this effort. It may seem a done deal since the Governor-General has already agreed to prorogue parliament (over the phone no less); however, the will of the people through parliament should override a non-elected figurehead.  As well, this effort is not intended to simply support the status quo, rather this could and should be the beginning of a new political paradigm leading to electoral reform and ending the growing power and influence of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

All Canadians should carefully consider how easily this country can slip into authoritarianism; we seem to be well along the way.

Sincerely

Paul Chislett

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Filed under Better Late Than Never, Blogroll, Canadian Politics

A Plea for action to Canadian labour leaders

December 12, 2008

A Plea for Action

I write to you with great concern for the plight of the working class in Canada. I fully recognize that many Canadians are as concerned as I am and that you are concerned as well. With Mr. Ignatieff crowned as the leader of the liberal party, there will likely be a Harper/Ignattief coalition; a continuation of the coalition of the elites in Parliament. The soon to be decimated working class now has one option: the formation of an extra-parliamentary coalition of Labour, NGOs, social justice groups, students, and all citizens who are ready to act for themselves and neighbours. This coalition would conduct a national strike and organize a People’s Parliament (PP) to directly challenge the political and economic elites who have simply gone too far. A national strike is necessary because there will be so much work for the PP to do, there will be no time to continue to help capitalists accumulate more surplus value at our expense.

I know this kind of mobilization is possible because I saw the organizing effort by this very coalition in Quebec City in 2001. The question is: do Canadians have the courage that the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, and elsewhere (Bolivia, Venezuela, and Cuba), have had in countering the same forces of global capitalism that Canadians have faced and ignored?

The first order of business for the People’s Parliament will be to open political space in order to create the framework for these minimum achievements: 1) to claim the full amount of the billions of dollars stolen from the EI fund; 2) plan for at least partial employee ownership in key industries such as the auto plants, oil companies, BCE, and Vale/INCO in Sudbury, and including other industries such as, food production, and other resource extraction industries, such as forestry (the Oil Sands operations should simply be ended); 3) a massive national education program using all available people and technology to counter the false messages coming from the corporate media.

The coming firestorm will create hardship not seen in decades for the working class. Our working class history clearly demonstrates that workers can and must take action for our

own survival. For too long, we have given our consent to govern and manage the economy to those who claim to be our betters, and they have run democracy (such as it was), and the economy, the environment, and health of people into the ground. What is different from decades past is that we have a labour organization framework already in existence able to join forces with other social justice organizations and NGOs, and this organization is global in reach: as never before, the working class does not stand alone.

Does the leadership of the Canadian labour movement have the courage and passion to lead? This is not a criticism; courage will be needed and the risks great. However, there is no other real political opposition left in Canada, save the dormant passions of the labour movement.

I attended the Labour College of Canada in 2000, and have never been able to look at Canada and the world in the same old way since. Today I am a member of the Socialist Party of Canada and as such, I want to be part of change that will lead to a better and just world; a world I may never live to see, but fight on we must. Of course, it will take a massive collective effort to make change and we have to start where we are.

Why is there such silence from the labour movement at a time when the working class is under serious siege?

In solidarity,

Paul Chislett, Windsor, On.

This letter was emailed to Canadian labour leaders Dec 12, 2008

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Filed under Better Late Than Never, Canadian Coalition, Canadian Politics, Canadian Unions, Capitalism, corporatism, Employment Insurance, Global Capitalism, Paul Chislett, Socialist Party of Canada, Stephen Harper

The history of capitulation

There are few times in history when capitalism gets caught with its pants down. We are ‘lucky’ enough to be in such a time now. The ravaging effects of unregulated capitalism have been laid bare for a new generation to see, and are like a blow to the solar plexus to those who have been directly affected by the Great Depression.

There are no more excuses for CEO’s who are so blind to their own excesses that they cannot see a problem with hopping in separate executive jets to go and ask for $25 billion as though they were hapless victims. It’s just what they do and the CEO’s of the Big Three merely represent the latest examples of how the profit motive is no substitute for just social policies. The crisis currently in vogue is not a financial problem; it is a social problem that was recognized as such many years ago.

Marx and Engels knew that socialism could not take root while want existed and the productive capacity to eliminate want did not yet exist. They believed that capitalism would give way to the means by which people could emancipate ourselves from the tyranny of our own thinking. Socialism will allow us to reorganize the way we think about our relationships with each other, the environment and the production of material goods. Today, we have the productive capacity to end despair, hunger and poverty practically overnight. What has not changed since Marx’s time is our willfulness to engage in short term solutions for individual gain. Socialism is a process by which we can end the tyranny of our own thought. It is a call to transcend the technical and monetary aspects of our achievements and meld them to an order of living that recognizes we all exist in community.

The problems today are the same as all other problems of capitalism. We have built a regime in which the middle class lives in a propagandized world awash in media messages that sell toothpaste as effectively as war and free trade that isn’t free. Free trade cost us dearly and undercut the best the working class could glean from capitalism: Fordism. We worked for a wage good enough to allow us to buy the things we produced. The rise of the investment class is a result of the globalization of production and the increasing use of debt to fuel an unsustainable middle class, suburban lifestyle. The jobs we relied on to create the “good life” disappeared overseas to be replaced by low wage service jobs. A rising professional class appeared to show success for some. The investment class made billions and the media machine cranked out message after message trumpeting the genius of corporate leaders. Underlying all this is the fact that not only is a debt regime unsustainable so is the unrelenting consumption of the very earth we rely on for life itself. Try buying soil, air and water with a credit card. Underlying this race for resources to fuel the madness of consumption is war.


Financial train wreck

And so we sit, bewildered and afraid for the future, while the media sputters at the ineptitude of those they once touted as gods and all hope is thrown to one man who will enter the White House next January. The real hope lies in all of us acting in our own best interests. We need to examine our past as working class people who were and are able to create our own history instead of remaining hostage to the history of oppression, greed and war: the history of capitalism.

A version of this article appears in the December issue of The Scoop.

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Filed under Better Late Than Never, Canadian Politics, Capitalism, corporatism, Culture and Media, Global Capitalism, Left Politics, Paul Chislett, Politics, The Scoop

Bring them home: it is NOT working.

Image from “The ugly truth in Afghanistan”“A Canadian soldier of the International Security Assistance Force patrols near his base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2008.” (Allauddin Khan/AP)
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The Globe and Mail’s GRAEME SMITH AND PAUL KORING are reporting in the March 1 online and print versions of the paper that “[m]ost aid organizations quietly withdrew their international staff from Kandahar in recent weeks, the latest sign that the situation here is getting worse” They paint a bleak picture, writing that “[r]esidents have even started avoiding their own city streets after dark, [and that] …there is rarely any electricity…”
Especially disturbing is the soon to arrive US Marine reinforcements. While their presence may help reduce Canadian casualties and provide needed helicopter support, they may begin to increase the severity of the assault on the Taliban at a time when negotiations should be sought:
“The Marines, sent in to reinforce NATO forces for this summer’s fighting season, will add massive punching strength to the thinly stretched Canadians in Kandahar. The influx of Americans may also bring a shift in strategy: U.S. commanders have been saying that Canada and other NATO countries have been too “soft,” too hesitant to pursue the Taliban into their rural strongholds.”
This strategy in itself will likely incur Canadian losses. The Taliban are primarily a guerrilla fighting group and will avoid an American onslaught directly, while upping suicide attacks against Canadians. Besides, a recent suicide blast in the Canadian sector in Afghanistan caused the deaths of civilians, not soldiers. The locals had warned the Canadians to stay out of the area because the soldiers are targets mixed with civilians.
The Americans will fight as they did in Fallujah killing civilians while keeping the media away. Do we want to be a part of this continuing bloodshed?
The article is a MUST READ for Canadians.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Better Late Than Never, Globe and Mail, Graeme Smith, Paul Koring, War on Terror

More American-backed killing in the Middle East

BBC news online reports that dozens of Palestinians are killed in the latest raids there. The quote below seems to justify Israeli Army in its murder of children. Canada should be speaking against the onslaught of the Israeli army against the Palestinians.

Palestinian health workers wheel a wounded Palestinian to a hospital in Beit Lahia.

From Al Jazeera:

1_242096_1_5.jpg“The latest attacks mark the fourth day of Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip”[AFP]
“Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that “at best” Abbas could hope to get a Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli action.

“And as we know, Israel has ignored tens of UN Security Council resolutions over the last 40 years and hundreds of UN assembly resolutions – so this is going to be more talk and probably not much will come out of it in the end,” he said.”

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Filed under BBC, Better Late Than Never, Middle east, West Bank

Stephan Dion: master of outrage?

The federal liberals have demonstrated how insider elite policy making shuts out the “herd” which does not get to participate in policy making – in this case, democracy has been thwarted thus denying Canadians an opportunity to influence Canadian military policy in Afghanistan. It is tempting – with general Hillier so front and centre – to suggest that Canada has experienced a bloodless military coup.

On the one hand,the lib/conservative elites are agreed that troops should remain in Afghanistan. Mr Dion and Mr Harper made lovely cooing noises to each other and there was little sense of public discord; the right words had to be said to signal corporate elites that all was well and the right nationalistic words were used to placate the upper middle class. So Mr Dion, apparently without a hint of knowledge about irony, says that the liberals will support the mission even though they don’t agree with the timetable AND allow the budget to pass as well which he admitted was not something his party would have constructed.

72703704.jpg Mr. Ignatieff is the real voice of the liberal establishment.

What did the herd get? Square facts on our military? Help for unemployed? Commitment to infrastructure and the environment, to name just a few burning public policy issues? Nope. Instead, Mr Dion was, the next day, in a contrived outrage about possible conservative influence peddling on the deceased Chuck Cadman. That is obscene in itself. However, that kind of politicking goes on all the time, yet it was picked up as front page news. It was nothing but a contrived distraction from the fact that Canadians were denied a chance to truly debate our role in Afghanistan – this is easily an election issue because it is life and death for Canadians and Afghans. Mr Dion should have been outraged at an extension of the combat role without an election to clear the air once and for all. In Mr Dion and Harper, the elites have MADE SURE there is no public debate – it’s too risky for the profits to be made selling the Canadian military nifty new killing machines. This is too uncomfortably close to a military dictatorship for this commentator.

In terms of shaping public opinion, or in this case, the denial to voice one, this scenario is an important example of how public policy is not the purview of ordinary Canadians. Real policy (combat troops in Afghanistan and the militarization of Canadian foreign policy) is already agreed to behind closed doors and a managed vote is held in parliament. We, then, get the soap opera – there will be no threat of an election over the Cadman thing, but Dion is playing now to those who have no role in real policy development. “Look how outraged I am”, he says. And we insist on calling this democracy! It’s sad and Canadians deserve better than this,

The thing is we can change this. There should be outrage in the streets demanding an election and yet we are silent…….Don’t blame the elites – they are doing their thing because they can get away with it. We should be resisting.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Better Late Than Never, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, War is NOT the answer, War on Terror