Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson a working class hero?

Sycophant: “a servile self-seeking flatterer

In a June 15th Windsor Star article, Chris Vander Doelen did a marvelous job of portraying Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson as a working class hero. In reality, Mr. Watson is a middle class sycophant to power and a traitor to his working class roots.

Mr. Watson’s very real struggles to ‘get ahead’ are repeated millions of times by working class people around the world. According to Vander Doelen, Watson plugged away at multiple jobs at minimum wage and finally made it to a unionized Chrysler Canada assembly line with a living wage. All the while he struggled to pay tuition for a degree in history and help raise a family while his wife also worked. Watson had his eyes on something other than an assembly line job for the long term. Like Watson, all workers’ desires are determined by complex social, political and economic forces. Workers are usually in the position of reacting to these forces with precious little opportunity to influence them proactively. For hundreds of years workers have struggled to extract wealth from the capitalist class at great peril requiring enormous sacrifice. Today we all still reap the dwindling social rewards of those struggles; however, the past thirty years or so have seen the dismantlement of the accommodation between capital and workers manifested in free trade deals after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A new global order emerged featuring the primacy of corporate personhood, and workers have not yet been able to effectively reorganize to confront and challenge it. The current economic regime places global ‘free’ trade and competition as the top priorities which in turn have devastated the manufacturing sector in Windsor and Detroit, and not because we lack the competitive drive – on the contrary; the work was simply taken away.  What working people lacked was the political and economic power to confront the new global order which specifically excluded labour. Our slow transmutation from working class to middle class overshadowed the knowledge of our own history. We forgot the struggles but the capitalist class never has.

What workers did get out of the new global order was a snow job called  the ‘knowledge economy”, a murky concept that generally translated into getting more education – a move that made sense on the surface in a time of massive down-sizing (which became “right-sizing” and could now be referred to as ‘capsizing’) since living wage work was disappearing. What has the knowledge economy produced? Mathematicians creating derivative trading and a global financial collapse, and an MP history major with no sense of history. In the meantime, Canada cannot produce enough skilled tradespersons who actually make things we need. Don’t misunderstand: more education is always a good thing; just not when it is sold by those who know that under their plan there will never be enough meaningful, well paid work to go around – there must always be a pool of surplus labour in a capitalist system.

That Mr. Watson could get a job at even $9 an hour was thanks to the efforts of thousands of workers who campaigned and agitated for an increase in the minimum wage. That Mr. Watson could find a unionized factory job with a living wage is because workers, through their union, fought for decades to gain a living wage and improve working conditions. But does Mr. Watson understand at all the context of these tumultuous times? Apparently not. When he made the admirable decision to enter politics, he chose or was recruited to run as a conservative under Stephen Harper, a leader who has made it abundantly clear he will dismantle every social, political and economic tool workers have to defend and improve our interests. Already, it appears too many working class people will never make it to a job with a living wage, never be able to raise a family because of that, and will remain stuck in low wage and precarious work with shamefully weak provincial labour laws.

On top of this, the stage is set for ugly social unrest as Watson’s boss has set into play a wage regime that will see migrant workers earn 15% less than Canadian workers, as all workers start to compete for ever scarcer jobs. Has Watson used his working class experience to speak out to his leader that if present trends continue all workers will suffer further and so also civil society? He has been silent. The Omnibus budget bill, itself a crime against the democratic process, will make it harder to retire, harder to collect Employment Insurance, harder to protect the environment, and harder to regulate corporations – in short harder to be a worker. Mr. Watson stood in the House of Commons, and while other MPs stood against the obvious injustice that was the “budget” bill, gladly did what his masters told him to do and voted against everything that got him to the House of Commons. Mr. Watson is more than an embarrassment. He is a sycophant to a regime bent on making Canada a hell hole for workers and a ‘free-for-all’ trade zone for corporations wanting to enrich themselves with Canadian resources: resources that belong not to them, but to the people of Canada, with a special emphasis on First Nations.

John Lennon sang that “… a working class hero is something to be” in a song that decried the slow and easy transition of workers into the illusion of the middle class. A working class hero Watson is not and rather than celebrate him,  he should be roundly denounced for the class traitor that he is.


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Windsor’s Aquatic Centre: The Tyranny of the Middle Class?

By Paul Chislett:

The term middle class is in the news a lot these days, usually cast as that downtrodden lot getting hard done by in the economic downturn. But the middle class is not a homogenous group; rather, it is a complex creation of industrial capitalism and some in it are better off financially than others. Blue collar and white collar are a terms going back decades to describe waged workers vs. salaried. Lately, I found it handy to use managerial or professional class to differentiate doctors, teachers, editor and publishers, lawyers, and the like who often gravitate to positions of economic and political power. However, the layers must be further pulled back to expose those at higher executive and CEO level ranks. I think you can see what I am getting at. The further we go we’ll find ourselves in the rarefied atmosphere of global elites like Bill Gates, leaders of nations, IMF types, and so on. The air is thin here so let’s just dive back closer to where we can pick up the odor of the chlorine in the pools at Water World and Adie Knox in Windsor.

 Last evening at city council, itself the privileged domain of the managerial class, the good people of places like South Windsor and Forest Glade saw their dreams come true for a competitive style aquatic centre to be built in the area behind the Art Gallery of Windsor. Sure, it will have other pool features, but much of the discussion last night centered on the needs of local competitive swimmers. Council basically voted on a multi-million dollar power point presentation of pretty pools in a dizzying visual tour of various European cities with aquatic centres. It was baffling because no one knows what the Windsor proposal will look like, and the implication sat as heavy as a wet hound dog that it would look like Dublin; no, Eindhoven; no, Minsk!

Windsor Water World

 The Windsor aquatic centre was the subject of a business plan with various options on how to proceed. The stumbling block was operating expenses for the new facility. Since council has pledged no hike in taxes, it was keen to accept recommendations from city staff (more managerial elites) to close Water World pool, close College Ave. Community Centre, and close the main branch of the library and move it into the new proposed facility. In the motion voted on, the Adie Knox pool was included for closure. Since the library board is independent of city council (even though Ward 10 councillor Al Maghnieh is the chair of the library board) it will deliberate that proposal on its own.

 On April 6th council directed city staff to conduct public consultations in affected areas. It did not take long for residents to see that council seemed to have made up its mind already, as the questions residents were supposed to consider all led to the acceptance of the closure of the facilities. Councillor Halberstadt, the only councillor to vote against the plan to take from some so others can have what they want for virtually free, remarked last night about what point was there of having consultations since the residents said clearly not to close their pools and community centre. Council neither cared nor listened. Mayor Francis and council seem desperate to do something with the vacant land known as the Western Super Anchor, bordered by Pitt St. West, Bruce Ave., Church St., and the south side of Chatham St. West. From arenas to canals and now to an aquatic facility, ideas have come and gone. But this one stuck. Why? Who stands to benefit the most? Windsorites are familiar with stories of a London based developer who owns land, a hotel, and car park in the area near the proposed aquatic centre. Might he be influencing the rush to build something?

 Opposition to the plan relying on the theft of assets to pay for an aquatic centre which no one has an exact idea of the cost of gained some media traction. In a CBC interview the mayor rebutted critics that the College Ave centre actually does have a future other than closure, since the city was in talks with the Windsor Essex Community Health Centre (WECHC) to take over the space. I should quickly note here, that the WECHC is a provincially funded non-profit entity charged with delivering health care services. The city is attempting to off load its responsibility for city programs, and as questionable as this is, it is by no means a certain deal. WECHC CEO Lynda Monik may be getting caught in the middle of an ugly fight over program delivery in the Sandwich area. Also what must be mentioned is the sheer dereliction of duty displayed by Ron Jones in his refusal to fight for his ward. He was first in line to call for people to do what is best for all of  Windsor. His shameful roll over was a capitulation to power and had nothing to do with the best interests of Windsor citizens.

Is Sandwich a priority? Councillor Ron Jones doesn' think so.

The mayor also claimed misinformation was being spread by critics that the Water World building would be closed. This appeared to be an attempt to show opponents as know-nothings when in fact it was well understood that the pool only was being slated for closure. Where the mayor obfuscates, however, is that it is not clear at all what will replace the pool at Water World other than cement. Ideas floated range from office space to community space for “social enterprise” ie: job skills training already provided by the YMCA and other nearby agencies. The claim is that since the Glengarry community, where Water World is located, is heavily populated by newcomers to Canada the pool is not required, but other programs are. However, council admitted they had no statistics on this. No one knows what the community wants because the city simply barged and said in so many words, ‘hey, we’re taking the pool out and what would you like to replace it with’. Any reasonable person faced with this would say the same as the residents did in the consultation meetings: we don’t want to lose anything. Like the rest of this whole plan, council is relying on assumptions because the facts simply get in the way of what they want to do: develop the Western Super Anchor Lands at all costs.

Windsor City Council

 Council used the suburban middle class, primarily the small population whose children are in competitive swimming, as the weight behind their wrecking ball. It’s clear that city council planned from the beginning to co-opt one group of middle class citizens to go along with a long promised aquatic centre, planned how to bully vulnerable residents into first giving up their necessary neighbourhood assets, then just took them regardless of valid arguments to the contrary, and then planned a public relations campaign on the run (from vocal opponents) to paper over the theft by claiming this whole endeavour was in the best interests of all Windsorites.

 What is happening in Windsor? Is the railroading of vulnerable populations evidence of a class war? That seems rather evident. Do we need to have a discussion in this city about the difference between working class and middle class? You bet we do. Do we need to discuss the realities of global capitalism and how this fits in with how the city is being run? Right again! Are we in the throes of debating who really owns this city? Absolutely. Battles between neighbourhoods and a council hooked on big ticket developments they argue are needed to increase the tax base, do not bode well for this city. Opponents to this aquatic centre plan argued from the perspective that it is neighbourhoods that are the key to a successful city. Council argued that to think that way means we are only thinking of ourselves rather than what is best for all of Windsor. However, if there are any special interests in this fiasco it is the small competitive swimming population that just wants a 50 metre pool no matter what, and a developer who wants his investments to pay off. The rest of us can politely watch from the sidelines. Neighbourhood organizing to counter the heavy handed methods of council will have to occur – and soon. Windsor, can we talk???


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Neighbourhood resistance to Windsor City Hall

As people in the Windsor Facebook community may have noticed, there are two public meetings planed for June 7th at the College St community Centre, and at the Main Branch of the library, June 9th.

College St. Community Centre

The intent of the public meetings – called for by citizens for citizens – is to allow people to deliberate a reasoned response to city council’s plan to build an aquatic centre requiring the closure of perhaps four public pools (Adie Knox, Water World, and College Ave.).

central Branch Windsor Public Library


Windsor Water World


At the meetings, we can find out who would like to be a delegate to speak at a special sitting of city council on June 13th. This council meeting is set to debate the business plan for a new aquatic centre. It is our last chance for public input. The process used by the city in the three “consultation” meetings was flawed:

• People had no clear idea what the aquatic centre will provide for them if they lose the neighbourhood pools

• The city had pre-arranged questions everyone could see were meant to shepherd people into accepting the closure of neighbourhood pools for questionable benefit

• The whole process is rushed to have an aquatic centre by 2013 for the Childrens’ Games

• Residents were asked to justify the existence of the facilities, where it should have been the city providing solid reasons why it is worth the removal of neighbourhood services for a complex meant for athletes and visitors.

Council rules require advance notice of speakers on an issue by noon on Friday before a council meeting. This means we have to have speakers turning in their names by noon June 10th. It is envisioned that speakers will simply say how the existing facilities are important to them and that if anything they should be enhance as a new facility is planned and built. The message is simple: world class cities have both specialized attractions for athletes and visitors AND vibrant neighbourhoods. Windsor should be for Windsorites.

Our efforts will avoid ad hominem attacks – that is, on individuals – and concentrate on the issue itself: the either/or proposition where the economically disadvantaged, elderly and disabled have to give up local services and compete for space in an aquatic centre not designed for them.


There is a small organizing committee getting flyers out to affected neighbourhoods, and if you’d like to be involved simply resolve to get yourself on the speaker list. The procedure is copied below:

Excerpt from the City of Windsor Procedure By-law 240-2001 (Part 10-Delegations)

The Clerk shall not register a delegation unless there is a specific item listed on the Order of Business to which the delegate has a bona fide interest and wishes to address Council / Committee. Any person who wishes to appear before Council shall make application to the Clerk by the Friday preceding the Council meeting, 12:00 noon, to be placed on the Order of Business to appear before Council at the meeting at which it will be dealing with the item of interest to the delegate. A written brief is encouraged and, if submitted to the Clerk by noon on the Friday preceding the Council meeting shall be copied and distributed as “Delegation” submissions to Council members. A maximum of 5 minutes shall be allotted for each delegation to present his/her position of support or opposition to the relevant item on the Order of Business. Where there are numerous delegates taking the same position on a matter, they are encouraged to select a spokesperson to present their views.”

Also, pickets are planned in front of City Hall for the June 7th regular council meeting as well as for the one on the 13th. So if you’d rather show your opposition to council’s plan to shut down neighborhood facilities by picketing please do so!

This is a citizen led effort in the spirit of popular education where citizens learn by doing. If we need to resist, we do so while building an alternative to the existing method where a select few at the top of an organizational pyramid believe they, and only they, have all the answers for the city, and so refuse to engage in a true participatory process where the answers come from the whole. It is hoped this effort will lead to the formation of citizen led neighbourhood councils which can mobilize opinion and alternatives. Out of such councils would also come future councilors rooted in the places they live and can act in the best interests of the whole city.

If you have questions please email Paul at


Meeting Notice. Please distribute widely:


Organize to defend neighbourhood pools and libraries


It’s not over yet!


Our voices can still be heard.

Let’s build on the win at the last city led consultation meeting.

A citizen led public action meeting will be held

June 7, @ 7PM

College Ave. Community Centre 3325 College Ave

June 9 @ 6PM

Central Library Branch 850 Ouellette Avenue (Downstairs)

(Centres at risk are below with contact info)


• To prepare delegates to tell city council why community pools and libraries should not be sacrificed for an aquatic centre on June 13th

• Show city council we can and will organize to protect neighbourhood resources

Can’t make a meeting? Call Mayor Francis: (519) 255-6315

or Email:

Fulvio Valentinis Ward 3: (519) 977-5067

Alan Halberstadt: Ward 4 (519) 973-8323

Ron Jones: Ward 2 (519) 252-1005

Al Maghnieh: Ward 10 (library board chair) (519) 962-5921


Central Library: Manager Nancy Peel: (519) 255-6770

College Ave. Community Centre: (519) 253-5576

Adie Knox Herman Complex: (519) 253-3157

Windsor Water World: (519) 253-3806

OR Call 311 to voice your concerns

Sponsored by a coalition of concerned citizens

For more info call: Paul@ 519 253 1466



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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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Harperland: Day 5

In this brief little treatise I will argue that we must look beyond party politics in order to fully understand the struggle for control of the state being waged by the corporate elites and the working class. I have a broad definition of the working class which includes students, academics, waged workers, union representatives, and so on. I owe my thinking to the ideas I have been exposed to so far in my university studies at the University of Windsor (Communication, Media and Film Studies), and at Laurentian University (Communication Studies)  in Sudbury, Ontario. Also, in 2000 I attended theLabour College of Canada and never saw things in the workplace and society in general the same way again. Most recently I have been influenced by certain lines of anarchist thought  regarding the concept of the state and am becoming more convinced that direct democracy needs to be implemented in political and economic decision making. This requires a huge sea change on the part of the working class as we will need to abandon the idea of voting in experts to look after things while we continue to fight among ourselves in a political and economic system that exploits and kills.

The much anticipated election has produced a most undesirable outcome. Many are putting the best spin on it by suggesting that at least the NDP is in opposition rather than the Liberals. This is true as far as it goes and it doesn’t go very far. Mr. Harper, with an absolute majority, doesn’t have to give Jack Layton the time of day. In fact,Layton may come in handy if Harper calculates a need to show magnanimity and so will throw the NDP a scrap or two. It will be hard to watch as Layton will then go on about his successful proposition rather than opposition tactic. However, we are where we are, and looking at Ontario and Quebec results we can see that the NDP and Liberals split the vote right down the middle allowing the Conservatives to win 73 seats with 44.4% of the vote. Out goes the cry for electoral reform. However, in Quebec, the BQ, Liberals, and Conservatives split the vote in the six figure range each, leaving the NDP to win 58 seats with 42.9% of the vote. So, as long as the ‘right’ side wins in this ridiculous electoral sham it works for someone but rarely for the working class. What are we fighting over in elections, especially this one? Stripped to the core, the working class and corporate business elites are fighting for control of the state. The business elites, backed by the power of the banks, media, and energy conglomerates, see the state as useful for a minimum of regulation to keep the wolves from completely devouring each other and, most importantly, the state apparatus for bureaucratic and physical violence to coerce and control the population if the media propagandists cannot do the job. The working class wishes to see the state apparatus used to redistribute wealth in order to provide the services needed to keep the population healthy, productive, and useful to each other.

With the ascendancy of Harper and his thugs to a majority, the working class has suffered a major and dangerous defeat. We cannot sugarcoat this. Perhaps if Harper managed a majority a decade or so ago it would be easier to say we’ll get to work and be ready in four years. However, today, we live next door to a country with a president who is a celebrated assassin and who easily accepts torture as routine and legal. President Obama long ago abandoned his supporters who thought he meant it when he pledged change. Our Prime Minister is a slavish admirer of the criminal regime in Washington and this changes everything for the hopes of the Canadian working class as surely as it has in the US.

The NDP will be focused on consolidating their gains in Quebec and continuing to build on the theme of standing up for working families. Good for them. Their victory is a victory for the party not Canada. The disconnect between party politics and the battles of the working class should be clear to anyone now. The real issues the working class face are war and occupation here and abroad, First Nations aspirations and poverty, the ransacking of the state apparatus to dismantle social programs leading to greater social inequality, the G8/20 debacle, the Afghanistan detainee report, and the general authoritarian bent of the Harper regime. Sticking up for working families is a shallow attempt for redress of grievous wrongs committed and about to be committed by the capitalist controlled state. Party politics have become hopelessly corrupted, and representative democracy no longer functions since we do not have an electoral system that is adequate for proper representation. The only bright spot is that the working class has four years in which to build an effective opposition and alternative. We cannot continue to allow ourselves to remain divided as suburban middle class consumers to whom poverty is something other people suffer in urban cores or on First Nations reserves.

Click on image for more information

As I mentioned, when I use the term working class, I am including unions and district labour councils, university students and faculty, community activists, religious leaders, and socialist leaders. The latter is a term I use to include anarchists, communists, and so on, each with their own competitive take on how to counter global capitalism – the real target and subject of study and resistance, the real object of transformation. The goal of the working class should be transformation; transformation of ourselves, society, and how we organize our politics and economy. The working class has the means, ability, and very soon the motivation to make the transformation possible. So called extra-parliamentary actions such as mass strikes will be necessary, not just to withhold work for wages and working conditions, but to hold teach-ins and popular education sessions so people can understand the moment we are living in and what is necessary to change it. We will have to reject the capitalist debt machine by withdrawing from banks and investing in credit unions. We will have to organize community gardens on a scale comparable to what the Cubans did after they experienced the loss of Russian oil imports. We will need to rally and organize neighbourhood councils that can stop, for example, the closure of neighbourhood pool facilities in Windsor and directly challenge city council which is simply a creature of developers and a political stepping stone for those who wish to prove their mettle by putting the boots to ordinary working people. In fact the Windsor/Detroit area is a potential model, along with Wisconsin and Ohio, where, by economic necessity, citizens need to come together to pick up the pieces after capitalist exploitation has wrecked the environment and the lives and communities of working people.

Click image for more info.

The struggles to come are not unique to Canadians. When left commentators talk of the capitalists consolidating their power, Harper’s ascendancy is an example as is the ongoing fake war on terror. Authoritarian technocrats like Harper are in power in all major “democracies”, and if they aren’t bludgeoning a fallen sycophant like Gaddafi, they are pillaging their own people, and these days they are doing both simultaneously. It is important for us to see that the uprisings in the Middle East, while certainly subject to interference from the West, are working class fight backs against global capitalism that wishes to enforce low wages in politically weakened, yet armed to the teeth states so as to maintain for as along as possible a criminal regime of exploitation that is overheating the planet, increasing violence, and perpetuating a fake war on terror. Mr. Harper has fumed for a majority so he can be a complete member of this sick club and he no doubt has every intention of fulfilling every part of his agenda, of which we got a small taste over the last five years. He may throw a crumb our way if it suits his calculations and for that Mr. Layton will be useful. However, the working class must struggle on all the harder, for the political system no longer serves us, the economic system enslaves us, and in fact both will be used to further suppress and oppress the working class even as it struggles towards a transformative model of participatory democracy.

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The Promise of Neighbourhood Councils

By Paul Chislett

In his 2010 inaugural address, Mayor Eddie Francis said he hoped “City Council will act quickly to create Neighbourhood Advisory Councils [which will] bring City Hall, local residents, and businesses together to . . . meet neighbourhood needs.” Adding that he would not bend to special interest groups, Francis stated that “. . . for this to work . . . ideas must be consistent with our larger vision, . . . [be] focused, and deliver on two or three priorities that enhance our quality of life. . .” .

On the surface Neighbourhood Advisory Councils sound like a very good and necessary idea. However, in the context of a divided community highlighted by the city strike and the defeat of a citizen movement to allow urban chickens, a closer look is needed at what neighbourhood advisory councils can be.

One look at a photo of the present city council indicates that not all Windsorites are represented. Out of 10 councilors, eight are white males with professional backgrounds. This stands in stark contrast to the multicultural and working class reality of Windsor.

In Windsor, representative democracy is failing to include many viewpoints and experiences, and this fact makes neighbourhood councils necessary. In a report entitled Respect All Voices: Neighbourhood Councils as a Tool for Building Social Inclusion, Glynis Maxwell reports that “…community members feel . . . their vote won’t make a difference to the outcome of [an] election and/or to the policy decisions made thereafter.” Maxwell indicates that neighbourhood councils, as a form of citizen engagement, should be seen as a “transformative process”; that is to say, a citizen process to liberate politics from what Daniel Schugurensky, a researcher with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), calls a “clientelistic” relationship which “disempowers and control[s] people” – that is to say people as passive accepters of services designed and delivered by others. Neighbourhood advisory councils can enable people to engage in the democratic process on an ongoing basis, not just when election time rolls around.

Windsor’s municipal government can be described as a technocracy peopled by a professional class with an agenda of further economic growth which enriches other members of the same class. Municipalities are generally in the hands of developers and city professionals, and our elected representatives serve those interests. It is a democracy of a kind, but exclusionary, lacking humility, and generally derisive of citizen involvement. Before these councils are formed, citizens need to define their roles in these councils before it is done for them. Even the definitions of what constitutes a neighbourhood and citizen need to be agreed upon , according to Maxwell.

Maxwell points out that neighbourhood councils have a confusion of names and purposes and that there “…is no commonly agreed definition of any of these terms.” Windsorites, therefore, have the ability to define for themselves the framework for the councils. The most important elements, according to Maxwell, are that the councils be “neighbourhood based”, be “formed with the support of, and have a formal relationship with, municipal government”, and “formed for the purpose of building social inclusion and civic engagement” , the latter of which is arguably the most key. As well, they should not be confused with other committees or advisory boards that simply give input to decision-makers. Maxwell stresses that city officials must learn to have confidence in “neighbourhood intelligence” , something that seemed absent during the debate on urban chickens. Yonn Dierwechter and Brian Coffey, in their study of Tacoma, Washington neighbourhood councils, investigated whether neighbourhood councils evolved as “political spaces” able to challenge and transform development agendas or if they were merely useful political tools – “segmented spaces” – keeping activists busy and powerless. They found that Tacoma’s neighbourhood councils had yet to reach their potential as political spaces and struggle to avoid being co-opted by the city .

Schurgurensky takes the approach that education is a transformative function, and that we must learn to be empowered citizens, a process neighbourhood councils can play an important role in shaping. Schurgurensky points out that there is an “urgent need” for citizens to begin the learning process of empowerment by doing it. That we learn by doing is a key concept in adult education; and therefore, neighbourhood councils are crucial for citizenship development and decision-making. Schurgurensky adds that “…learning . . . acquired through participation … often has an expansive effect”, leading to greater interest and participation beyond local issues. The expansive effect . . . allows “. . . the transition from narrow self-interest to the common good, and . . . to a more comprehensive understanding of the community as a whole.” Citizen solidarity, therefore, has the capacity to transform the way we do politics.

Mayor Francis already views citizens as merely taxpayers and has warned against special interest groups – a convenient phrase to denigrate those outside the established order. This does not bode well for neighbourhood councils in Windsor. Maxwell points out that city councils and staff should avoid viewing citizens as “consumer[s] of services (the taxpayer approach)”, but rather as “. . . urban citizen[s] with a vital role to play in governance. . . “ . Neighbourhood councils, by transcending the traditional top down model of politics, should be able to challenge authority, be agenda setters, and build solidarity among citizens to overcome barriers of privilege. The expansive factor can also influence provincial and federal politics.

( A version of this article appears in the April issue of  Windsor’s The Scoop)

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Naming the Moment to Seize the Future

Time: Saturday, April 2 · 11:00am – 3:00pm

Location: Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, 328 Pelissier St., Windsor, ON


The Premise

Borrowed from : Deborah Barndt: Naming the Moment:Political Analysis for Action, A Manual for Community Groups. (Ontario: The Moment Project, Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice, 1989): 24-53

If we need to change how our society is constructed, and as a result, change the course of history “…we must see ourselves as part of that society and history.”  We probably know more than we think we do about how society is actually constructed but since we are immersed in a media landscape controlled by a capitalist framework, we are for the most part unable to stop long enough to properly assess our true situation.  This Naming the Moment to Seize the Future exercise is meant to “help us read history and act more effectively toward social change.” In short, how do we see society and do we think the structure ought to be changed.

To answer we start with ourselves – to situate ourselves in this particular historical moment.  Over the course of yet to be determined weeks, we’ll work through four phases of Naming the Moment:

Phase 1: Identifying ourselves and our interests

Phase 2: Naming the issues/struggles

Phase 3: Assessing the forces

Phase 4: Planning for action

Phase I

Identifying Ourselves and Our Interests

  • Who are ‘we’ and how do we see the world
  • How has our view(s) been shaped by our race, gender, class, age, sector, religion, etc?
  • How do we define our ‘constituency’: are we of, with, for the people most affected by issues we work on or wish to work on?
  • What do we believe about the current structure of Canada – about what it could be, about how we get there?

Barndt: ” It’s important to talk frankly about the different perspectives we bring to the longer term questions, even if we don’t agree. The differences, in fact, may offer both constraints to and possibilities for our proposed actions. They will inevitably affect how we read and use present moments for short-term goals as well as for longer-term objectives.” (p.28)

At this point it’s seems prudent to not get too far ahead. This exercise is meant to be participatory, self – led, adult education. We often don’t think of ourselves being in a ‘historical moment’  so we need to get as good a picture as we can of ourselves, what we bring to this process, and what we hope to get out of it. Then we can determine how we approach the other three phases.

The election is on, we are all busy, and this is short notice. If you can at all come out we can start a process of change in Windsor which will be able to challenge and then transform the societal structure we live with.



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