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Get out and VOTE in the upcoming municipal elections.  Voting day is October 20th.

Affordable housing is the biggest issue.  CCEC promotes non-market housing development.  Several of the people standing for office (mayors and councilors) have taken supportive positions.  The solution is not to build more high-cost condos and homes. 

Housing Central has assembled a wonderful website with resources for each community.  Check it out.

Community-based housing - co-op, non-profit, and other - takes housing out of the speculative markets and commits the housing stock to ordinary people.  Community-based housing provides affordable housing into the indefinite future.  In some cities over 50% of the housing stock is community owned.  In Vancouver and adjacent municipalities it is under 5%. 

The housing problem is not a 'supply problem', as developers assert.  It is a public policy problem.  It is a housing strategy problem, as Patrick Condon outlines in the Tyee.   Make your vote count on October 20th.     

 

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Hello, everyone,

Meet Poverty Reduction Bill. 39 in 2018, democratic, and personable.

Most specifically; Poverty Reduction Bill likes helping people in need, and is looking to do the best job possible given the circumstances. Many people like Poverty Reduction Bill very much, and have been waiting a long time for someone like this to come along and sweep them off their feet.

But no one is perfect. Like many fellow Bills, Poverty Reduction Bill has some vision issues - mainly in depth perception. Understanding the depth of the issue and taking into account those in the most desperate need of help is not natural for this Bill.

What we can truly be grateful for is the fact Poverty Reduction Bill is willing to listen, and change. Vision correction is not as simple as getting glasses, though. In fact, this is where we can actually be the guide and help ensure the landscape becomes clearer for Poverty Reduction Bill to navigate.

"How?" you might ask. Take it back to the ABC's - tell your MLA, tell mayoral candidates, tell your neighbour. Tell your cat if you must. But get involved!

Do your part for Poverty Reduction Bill, and write in today!

- Denis Flinn

(image courtesy of cnn.com)

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Gambling on Real Estate

Gambling Institutions need the same oversight as Financial Institutions - or more. As BC continues to look into the extent of the impact of money laundering into our province - now focusing on the real estate market - the obvious systemic issue is being overlooked.

The province is assigning Peter German once again to head the investigation. You'll remember him for looking into the casinos and concluding "only" $100 million was laundered over 10 years, and refusing to back down after it was brought to light he might be at least a little conflicted. In case you don't want to follow that link; it was uncovered he sits on a Board with a Casino executive at one of the primary targets of the investigation. And his 247 page report seems impressive until you realize a document of that size is purposefully designed to be unreadable.

How can British Columbians be confident anything helpful will come of this additional, expensive review? If the investigation into the casinos revealed anything, it's that even if the issue becomes the focus of a media news cycle or two no one will ultimately be held accountable. BC Lottery - the group tasked with monitoring casinos - vaguely committed to incorporating Peter German's report findings into future oversight.

What were they doing before?

The answer is patently obvious: profiting from the proceeds of crime.

There are some pretty strict laws against allowing yourself to contribute to criminal activity, and negligence is not grounds for pardon. The Big Banks of Canada are watched vigilantly by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), while BC Credit Unions are overseen by the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM). Despite their shortcomings (which I will surely write about at some point), both of these regulators are part of banking systems considered to be among the best in the world at protecting consumers.

So perhaps it's finally time we treat gambling establishments as financial institutions and start holding them to AT LEAST the standards we expect everywhere else large sums of money are changing hands. Or we can continue to allow criminal enterprises to decimate our economic well-being.

- Denis Flinn

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In what world does 40% represent over 50%, and 18% actually mean 5%? The answer: BC elections.

Starting October 22, 2018, British Columbians will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum that presents two primary options: 1) continue to undermine democracy and stoke voter apathy with a manipulated system, or 2) allow every vote to count equally with Proportional Representation.

Is BC's electoral system really that broken? Let's review some recent elections:

In 2017, Christy Clark's Liberals very narrowly missed creating a fourth consecutive majority government with under 50% of the popular vote.

Before that? In 2001, the Liberals won 97.5% of seats with 57.6% of the popular vote. Totally democratic, right?

The choice is clear. The current system is broken, and this is a rare chance to fix it.  This is not a matter of party politics, this is a crucial moment for a more democratic voting process to be implemented. Anyone who tells you differently is not representing the interests of a democratic process.

But because we have lived under a First Past the Post regime for so long, voter turnout is expected to be low and apathy is expected to be high. Every vote counts a great deal. And since votes will be tallied on a proportional basis (which should hint strongly at which system is inherently better), your participation is of the utmost importance.

There are three options for proportional representation to be ranked - each with benefits and shortcomings - all of which an improvement on the current system. Educate yourself on the option for you, and make sure you vote!

- Denis Flinn

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A Thin Green Line

As pot hurtles toward legalization, we are setting up a scenario that carries echoes of the last time we put into law a long overdue advance, and did so in a wholly haphazard and inadequate fashion.

While the discrimination and human rights violations against the LGBTQ+ community are far more egregious than pot laws and still persist in some fairly overt forms to this day; the potential for a disturbing parallel in miscarriage of justice exists between the legalization of same-sex union and legal cannabis in Canada. What parallel? While same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada July 20, 2005, it took until June 2018 for criminal charges related to consensual same-sex acts to be expunged. 13 years.

Why are we not looking to the past to inform ourselves in the present? Why is outright expunging cannabis convictions not considered a bare minimum first step in our legalization legislation given our very recent history of embarrassing responses to basic human rights protection?

This time the delays and conversations in Ottawa have been marketed in a lens of "getting things right". But these conversations have revolved around distribution and supply channels, pricing the black market out, and spending millions on more enforcement. But if justice is not considered, they are missing the mark.

This is - more than any other time - the time to address the legalization question in all of its facets before the bureaucratic dogma of law makes amendments nearly impossible, and historic discrimination fully entrenched.

Criminal records are nearly unshakable shadows. In today's economy they can render a person "unemployable" long after finishing serving their debt to society. While steps continue to be made to understand the landscape for members of our society re-integrating after a prison sentence, the data is currently not clear. As of December 2016, we really have no idea if our system is working - which strongly suggests that it isn't. One thing is clear: coming out of jail only to find yourself unemployable is a sentence in and of itself, and one that puts people on a path to re-offend.

The fact that cannabis activists and users are being denied dispensary licenses for low-level possession charges is a Kafkaesque twist of dark, tragic humour. This is all too real and it's not funny.

To compound the issue, possession  may also permanently affect your ability to move across the border with our 'friends' to the South. The border has become a minefield for anyone caught up in cannabis - legal or not. Why would we put so many people at risk of a lifetime ban by placing someone's possession charge on the screens of a border patrol agent? As a nation, are we not tasked with looking out for each other and combating injustice? Are we not moving forward on the understanding cannabis is legal?

Sure, you can apply to be pardoned, but the process is currently slow, inconsistent, and expensive. In short; it favours the people least likely to get caught on a pot charge. So on October 17, 2018, some will celebrate a significant moment and victory in the fight for freedom, while some will have court dates.

Many others will continue to sit in a prison cell awaiting their release date. These people will be disproportionately visible minorities, and the under-educated. What their fate will be is being left to chance at this point, as Mr. Goodale continues to put off giving people currently caught in the system any answers. For the foreseeable future, systemic oppression will be masked by a corporatized veneer as the illusion of progress is trotted out for the eager consumer.

Cannabis legalization is a step in the right direction on many levels. But make no mistake, it is not true progress if a large - disproportionately visible minority and underprivileged - group of people continue to suffer consequences under a law that no longer exists.

Until low level cannabis "criminals" are released from prison and possession charges are expunged from the record, cannabis legalization will only represent a coup for those in our society least in need of a break. Unconditional pardons and reparations, like the ones being enacted in Oakland are a must.

- Denis Flinn
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Today the CCPA published a great blog post on the land wealth inequality. Using publicly available data from Stats Canada and the Canadian Revenue Authority, Alex Hemingway documents how the rich get richer. This is a BC based analysis of how the boom times have enriched the top 20%, or the top 5% even more.

The concentration of wealth in relatively few hands is difficult to swallow in an allegedly 'democratic', egalitarian country.  The top 20% by net worth own 62% by value of all the real estate designated principal residences; and 80% of all the other real estate (presumably rental, commercial, and industrial). 

On the flip side, the 60% with lowest incomes own only own only 13% of the value in principle residences.

When property values escalate it is clear who gains.  In 2016, Hemingway notes, Vancouver single family properties jumped $47B in market value, roughly equal to the entire provincial budget in that year.  We can estimate that 62% of that or $29B went to the wealthiest 20% of households - and most of it 'tax free'. (@$6B went to the bottom 60% of households!)

The post notes that this inequality is the result of tax treatment, and Hemingway endorses the new speculation tax and new school tax that will require higher value landowners to pay more.  He suggests implementation of a progressive property tax.  Yes, these are good measures, but we should also place a cap on the capital gains tax exemption for principal residences.

The existing tax regime benefits the wealthy because they pay attention and lobby.  Ordinary people have to push for a fairer system.  It is possible to get this tax question on the table for the next Federal election.  It did come up last year

This item from policynote.ca is a call to action for those of us who want to challenge the status quo.  The Provincial government has done the right things so far, but there is more to do. 

 

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Which welfare model should we trial or adopt in BC? How are other countries addressing the welfare needs of their citizens? Here are a few recent announcements:   

  • Finland announced that it is stopping their trial of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) program at the end of 2018.  They are looking into alternative welfare schemes including the Universal Credit model.  
  • Read how the current Universal Basic Income trials are falling short of holding society-changing potential. Is Basic Income being setup to fail? 
  • The United Kingdom introduced a Universal Credit program in 2013,  However, a recent article in the Economist suggests that the roll-out is not going well.  

  What do you think we should be doing in BC?  Add Your Comments...

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Make good on housing commitment!   

The federal Liberal government needs to make good on its promise to declare housing a "fundamental human right" under Canadian law as part of its forthcoming national housing strategy.  Sign the open letter to the Prime Minister calling for a legislated right to housing in Canada.  

Today, over 1.7 million Canadian households are living in unsafe, unsuitable or unaffordable housing without better options available to them.   Widespread homelessness and lack of access to adequate housing, in so affluent a country as Canada is a critical human rights issue facing all levels of government.  Did you know that  Canada made a commitment under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to eliminate homelessness by 2030?  Also, what we heard from the federal government's consultation process over the past few months indicates consensus that legislation must explicitly recognize the right to housing. Draft legislation has been developed by civil society and experts outlining key points for the legislation.  This is the first time that legislation implementing the right to housing has been contemplated in Canada and it is critical that it be done right.  Let us know what you think. Please comment.  Read more.

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Wealth inequality is growing in Canada and in the US.  But our political parties seem not to notice, are they on the take?

Last week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a great analysis of the wealth concentration in Canada.  In BORN TO WIN,  David Macdonald reviews the census data to clearly show how our tax system, public investment strategies, and regulatory efforts serve the rich very well.  He note in the introduction that over the 17 year period ending in 2016 the 87 wealthiest families in Canada saw their wealth grow by 37%, more than twice the rate at which was experienced for middle class families.

American academic Karen Petrou is raising the same issues south of the border, this interview in Bloomberg is great, laying the groundwork for her new book to be published early next year.  She is a harsh critic of both the way banks have been regulated and monetary policies - to the disadvantage of the many.

Both of these arguments clearly outline a problem that is bigger than 'windfalls' that benefit some home owners.  Housing affordability and precarious employment are a consequence of public policy decisions, that systemically favour the wealthy.  As Macdonald states, "... in general Canada’s tax system is set up to encourage concentration of wealth at the very top." 

 

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Check out this video from the Tyee as they explain the three proportional representation voting systems proposed by Attorney General David Eby. This fall in the electoral reform referendum, British Columbians will be asked whether they wish to switch from first-past-the-post to an electoral system of proportional representation. They will then be asked to rank three different proportional representation systems:

  • Mixed-member proportional
  • Rural-urban proportional
  • dual-member proportional.

If this referendum moves forward, the ballots will be mail-in.

An informed vote will require a comprehensive understanding of our current system in addition to the proposed alternatives. Be sure to follow The Tyee as they explore the issues.

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