Friday, October 29, 2010

Wind Power Produces 6% of Ontario's Electricity, Big Deal!

The recent high winds in Ontario has given rise to some power outages in a variety of locations in Ontario. Now this is hardly news (unless we do a seperate blog on the failure of the Ontario government to support the ongoing needs for renewal of our electrical transmission system), but it did focus for a day or so the attention of the media on Ontario's electricity supply. The Media true to form missed the big issue, but pronounced with much fanfare that Ontario's wind farms produced 6% of Ontario's electricity needs for a short period of time this past week.

This is a fine piece of information and given the need for a diversified supply mix it is likely not bad news, but the issues that are missed by the media are the real story. The first of these would be the fact that when Ontario had an industrial jobs strategy and a significant industrial load (which wind cannot support)over 60% of Ontario's electrical needs were met by nuclear power and that billions (with a "B") tonnes of greenhouse gases were mitgated by the use of electricity from nuclear plants. Still in the vein of nuclear power; all the electricity from nuclear energy was created in three defined geographical areas (Bruce, Pickering and Darlington) as compared to the various wind farms that dot and destroy landscapes and are built without any consideration for negative health effects.

The media in Ontario and in most jurisdictions exhibit an astounding lack of understanding of the electricty sector and energy policy and this has recently been demonstrated in the focus of this blog, but I would also suggest it is further demonstrated in the media's failure to research the issues around what will without a doubt be the safe transfer and shipment of used steam generators from the Bruce Nuclear Site and the inability of the media to fully grasp the complete disaster that awaits the electricty consumers of Ontario as the Ontario goverment implements more and more of it's green energy act. Perhaps the most ludicrous piece of this act is the ability for the government to count the energy not used by a now shutdown manufacturing plant (shutdown due to the lack of an industrial jobs strategy)as conservation.

A safe, dependable and diversified electricity supply and a responsible energy policy with knowledgable media reporting on the sector is absolutely necessary for general understanding of the energy sector and to ensure that decisions are made that align policy with need and not with ideology.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The highest court in Saskatchewan has upheld a decision to certify a union at a Wal-Mart in Weyburn, Saskatchewan

Dear Editor;

The highest court in Saskatchewan has upheld a decision to certify a union at a Wal-Mart in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. In a unanimous decision the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upheld the certification of United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) Canada Local 1400 bargaining unit at the Weyburn store. The certification had originally been issued by the Saskatchewan Labour Board in December 2008.

Wal-Mart had successfully challenged that certificate in a lower court but that court’s decision was struck down by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, and the union certification upheld. This is a victory for workers rights and the principle that no company is above the law.

It was the second time in a week the courts have ruled against Wal-Mart. Just two days prior to the Saskatchewan ruling, the Quebec Superior Court upheld an arbitrator’s decision that Wal-Mart had acted illegally when it shut a store in Jonquiere, Quebec shortly after workers there joined a union.

Meanwhile, UFCW Canada members at a Wal-Mart in Gatineau Quebec recently achieved a first contract. UFCW Canada members at a store in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec also have a contract in place.

In Saskatchewan, UFCW Canada Local 1400 also has applications pending before the labour board for Wal-Mart stores in Moose Jaw and North Battleford.

Seeing the workers in one of the largest, if the not the largest business in the world, able to access their rights to free collective bargaining is some of the best news the trade-union movement and workers in general could possibly receive. It tells the world that people are long past the point of accepting that their standard of living must be diminished while the unbridled greed associated with globalization and as many people refer to it, the Wal-Mart mentality, proceeds unchecked as business drills deeper and deeper into the poorest countries of the world to establish their outposts where no labour, environmental or health and safety regulations exist. In fact this very behavior exists within our own borders as globalization permits the use of sub contractors that have no access to any legislative protection.

If business had nothing to hide and was interested in looking after their workers they would not oppose unionization nor would they oppose the various forms of legislation that protects the lives and livelihoods of workers such as improvements to health and safety legislation, pension reform and legislation that prohibits the use of replacement workers (scabs) when workers exercise their right to withdraw their labour when the employer fails to offer a reasonable collective agreement.

Dave Trumble, President, Grey-Bruce Labour Council

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mid term Elections

Is anyone else watching the most hypocratic batch of candidates in history; the batch involved in the mid-term elections in the US. Each and everyone is trying to lay claim to the high ground on the jobs front? Now, to be fair, some of them are legitimate in their claims, but on the whole they are about as hypocratic as the day is long.

The vast majority seeking re-election came to be in office on the free-trade. low taxes and de-regulation platform; a platform that any person of social conscience or just minimally interested in job creation will discredit. The spin on this is that these same people have two disgusting habits. The first is their self-righteous attitude that they are the only ones to see the failing of these policies of successive previous governments and that they will make it right. Don't forget many of them came to power believing in this same travesty in the eighties and nineties. Even more distasteful is the efforts they make to try and convince us that they discovered Free Trade and its associated failed policies when the Labour Movement in Canada sighted the pending disaster in 1987 as American and Canadian governments of the day rocketed Canadian manufacturing jobs to the "right to work States" in America as they signed the first free trade agreement in 1988.

Candidates committed to change are the ones who commit to a policy of manufacturing jobs and resource jobs in North America without the propaganda that accompanies the advocates of the global economy. They will also be recognizable by their tell tale statements similar too; "reasonable amounts of taxation and increases in taxes are necessary to pay for programs such as health and education that benefit all people not just the rich".

When election day in America hits take some advice from a Canadian and get past the morbid fear of taxation and tell the candidates that the only policy that will lead to prosperity in America and other countries is fair trade, reasonable taxation and necessary regulation.

Dave Trumble
Grey-Bruce Labour Council

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New Brunswick voters respond to public ownership issue

The electorate in New Brunswick may have finally manifested a sentiment that has been simmering in so many corners of the country for a very long time. In fairness the vehemence of the attack on the ruling Liberals in New Brunswick may have had something to do with deals on the selling of NB Power being made in secret, but it is clear that a statement has been made on the selling off of public assets. The trade-union movement has most certainly vocalized the folly of selling off public assets for a short term gain on balancing the books at any level of government and has done so for what is likely better than 20 years.

I don't want anyone to think for one minute that electing a Conservative government in New Brunswick provides any degree of solace to anyone in the trade-union movement or anyone of social conscience, but it does make it clear that the voters have seen through the facade of selling of public assets for short term gain. The voters in Ontario need to either learn this lesson or, if already understood, manifest the lesson into action when considering where to put their votes this fall or next year in the provincial election.

Public assets owned and regulated by the public for the public good belong in the hands of the public. Recognizing that the NB sale was going to Quebec does not alter the fundamentally flawed principal of selling off public assets to private interests or to another public entity. Across North America many public assets have been sold to private interests only to see the level of service drop off drastically while a narrow group of investors harvest the asset with little or interest in seeing the asset(s) flourish for the benefit of anyone other than themselves. By example, private money and investment in healthcare have created competition in healthcare where the only competing interests should be the patients and caregivers as they compete with the illness or injury with but one goal in sight; the well being and ultimate care and hopefully cure for the patients. Instead profit margins enter into the equation and the caregivers and the patients become the expendable quantity while the profiteers do what comes naturally.

The variety of public assets in such jeopardy are wide and are represented in almost facet of the public sector. In fact in numerous jurisdictions, Ontario being one, public entities such as the LCBO, Toronto Hydro and Hydro One are or have been targets of such attacks. The senselessness of this is not only the selling off of a public asset, but selling assets that actually provide revenue for the government of Ontario. Of course this promotes an entirely different letter; the selling of public assets for purely ideological reasons.

Many people will argue that for Ontario, as was likely in New Brunswick, that the books must be balanced to attract investment to the province. Funny about that; the same people that push that argument are the first at the trough when it comes buying these public assets for their own personal gain. They are not beyond making something look like it is a mess to encourage public sentiment that the "fire" sale makes sense; what a shell game! Thankfully the good people in New Brunswick finally made someone pay a price for this recklessness with public funds and fiduciary folly of selling off and possibly further deregulating public assets.

In the end public assets owned by the public, publicly regulated and staffed by well represented unionized staff is the wining formula and may well be the mantra for success at the polls.

Dave Trumble
Labour Council