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Inequality is one of the big issues of our time, and it will not be reversed by philanthropy.  That was one frank assessment by a Dutch historian who recently took part in a Davos panel.  Yes, at the international conference for the wealthy elite convened in Switzerland annually.  Rutger Bregman called out the bankers, politicians and tech billionaires for being all talk and only serving themselves. His remarks became a social media sensation.   Bregman's recent book is Utopia for Realists and it appears to touch a nerve with some - perhaps a Utopia for others. 

We have a system that rewards the wealthy with praise and status if the 'give back'.  But this is a sham, or even a scam.  No matter what wonderful things a few very wealthy people may support, the system is simply designed to make them all richer. Another book, Winners Take All, by Anand Giridharadas, has received great reviews because the book clearly describes the corrupt model; the shortcomings of celebrity billionaires, their foundations, and their vanity. 

The CCPA has outlined how the game is being played by Canada's billionaires

It will take more than a few outspoken voices to re-balance the tax burdens in Canada and elsewhere.  This is an issue with many faces.  Recent changes to property taxes in BC are step in the right direction.  Higher marginal income taxes for the rich and fewer tax exemptions are needed. We need to support measures that will maker our tax system fairer.  And we have to challenge the myth that the charity of the super-rich is some kind of answer.   

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Control is a complex subject.  In our increasingly centralized and corporate world, control is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  In this era of globalism we have some very large companies that have enormous influence.  Unfortunately, we then are confronted with how we can hold these billionaires and financiers accountable.  Governments even start to look small by comparison. Voting in our elections may provide leverage but big money is at play in elections too.  But beyond government, communities may assume 'ownership' directly.

Co-operative democratic ownership is a radical alternative model for organizing commerce, as is the democratic non-profit association.  It is through these models real 'DEMOCRACY' is achieved.  But these models rely on people to step up and participate, in pursuit of the common good.  The crux is for individuals to realize that a vote, every few years, is a bare minimum.  Responsible citizenship requires more of us. 

Corporate capitalism asserts that 'markets' will hold commercial enterprises accountable.  However, this has not proven to be the case; government regulation is needed to ensure transparency, safety, equitable treatment, and reasonable choice. And regulation is a constant field of struggle.  In addition, the dominant corporate model has two major shortcomings - the tendency to consolidate (create monopolies) and the tendency to place higher costs on those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (e.g. payday lenders). 

The co-operative model, like the one we have at CCEC, gives consumer members the ownership responsibilities.  Ordinary people (though their representatives) assume control.  In this community ownership model 'profit maximization' is not the primary objective.  

In BC and in Canada the co-operative model is in some stress.  While some large co-ops and credit unions appear to be successful, the role of the members-owners has been eroded.  Democracy has been diminished. Small co-ops and projects become even more important.  Participation is key - as directors, on advisory committees, and as volunteers - that ensures 'control' rests with the people, but also generates debate, innovation and social change.

Democracy relies on ordinary people taking part, stepping up, and 'seizing' control in service of the common  good.

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Big Oil

The government is once again throwing good money after bad in Alberta - https://globalnews.ca/news/4773317/alberta-oil-boost-federal-bailouts/

The above article chronicles a long and checkered history of government money flowing into private business with minimal checks and balances.

Yes, there are jobs at stake. Yes, there are livelihoods on the line. But giving money to special interests and expecting us to all be better off is naive. And deciding those in the oil industry are more deserving of support is preferential. The government is not elected to play favourites.

Especially when these types of stimuli have proven unreliable, and sometimes even counterproductive. Then again, it does a lot to illustrate the fact the government's favourites are big business.

Bombardier has benefited handsomely from bailouts while laying off employees and giving their Executive Management millions in bonuses. What is the price tag for all this loose money? Your guess is as good as mine: https://globalnews.ca/news/2624709/how-much-money-does-bombardier-owe-canadians-its-a-secret/

That is not okay. As the market has shown serious signs of sputtering in 2018, it is time to put focused pressure on real solutions that benefit those most in need - not those most in power.

It's time to spend on actual change.

- Denis Flinn
CCEC operates on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people - Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh

 Photo Courtesy of Bryant Arnold

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Image result for yellow vestsSeveral stories in the news feature angry gripes and protests.  Too often the superficial issues get the attention - a carbon tax, a luxury home tax or a pipeline.  Councillor Christine Boyle is represented in a recent piece properly identifying 'inequality', growing inequality, as the key issue.  She is right.

The BC government taxes are an attempt to re-balance taxation, but those who have homes valued in excess of $3M cry out that they are 'victims'. Entitlements, such as those we have given to homeowners and which benefit those at the upper end very handsomely, will not be given up easily.  We need to shine a light on these entrenched economic advantages if we are serious about egalitarianism,  

Many in the 'yellow vest' protests in Paris express their discontentment as added tax burdens are placed on ordinary people.  This is the core sentiment communicated by individuals on the street.  The street, in this case the Champs Élysées, is a venue for conspicuous consumption for the very wealthy, who are obviously distressed, not that the rabble are rising, but that their limo's may need to go elsewhere.  

And then we have the climate conference in Poland, where again rich nations delay action.  A sense of entitlement reigns. The recent IPCC report raised alarm, saying that warming is advancing faster than foreseen.  The BC government issued a new Climate Change Plan, but just as with the Canadian government initiatives to date, the actions are to little and even contradictory.  Vested interests, moneyed interests, such as the oil and gas industry, are not only 'entitled' but well integrated into the political apparatus that we have created. 

The discontentment that is growing may have dramatic implications.  Many, such as Chris Hedges, champion local community organizations as the key counter force to large scale capitalist machinations. 

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It's really not scary and it's not complicated. It's just progress. We can either take the next step or sit for another 50 years trying to get first-past-the-post to do what we want.

There will be a confirmation referendum after two elections with proportional representation.

The deadline to mail in your ballot is November 30, 2018!  

Click here for more information on the YES campaign. 

 
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Choose Democracy

The "No" side on Proportional Representation want you to be afraid this Halloween. And every other day.

Make no mistake; the "No" side is using the same scare tactics that got Trump elected. A disturbing irony for a group claiming Proportional Representation will usher in an era of "extreme right-wing" parties and "Nazi fascism".

Does that claim seem a little inflammatory, or hyperbolic? Maybe even irresponsible fear-mongering to divide people? Well, it is. But it's also their official stance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Tuh2bJapng

Besides being an appalling lie, the ad underscores the "No" side is not operating on facts or good faith. There are valid arguments which could be made from the "No" side, but instead they are trying to scare you. Fear is a powerful motivator, but a terrible policy. These tactics should also make you keenly aware of the fact an argument on facts favours "Yes". How better accounting for each individual vote is opening our province to views currently not even on the political radar is baffling. But it sure is scary...

And if we want a more modern example of a failure in a system, we can look to our 'partners' to the South. They use First Past the Post. Are we supposed to conclude their extreme right-wing ideology is a function of the First Past the Post system? I would say the argument is far more complicated.

But perhaps the better question we should be asking is whether we want our system to be more or less like that of the United States. The answer should be obvious.

Yet it really is not right now. The vote is too close to call, but there is hope: https://theprovince.com/news/bc-politics/mike-smyth-the-yes-side-won-the-first-week-of-the-referendum

Vote "Yes" and tell everyone you know to vote too!

- Denis Flinn

 

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Pro Rep Ballot

The municipal election has just wrapped, and the margin of victory made it very clear that every vote counts.

Which is a great reminder: the Proportional Representation referendum is now underway and your vote counts! You can expect to receive a mail-in ballot with the options laid out like you see in the picture that accompanies this blog post.

CCEC is formally standing with the "YES" option as a way to improve democratic representation, and voter engagement. First and foremost: vote!

If you are still not clear on the details, please take a look at the following links with good information into the process and your options:

VotePRBC: https://voteprbc.ca/
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/updates/debunking-myths-about-proportional-representation
Leadnow.ca: https://www.leadnow.ca/campaigns/

This is a rare opportunity to move away from a system that creates false majorities (see: 2016 Trump and 2018 Ford), and increase accountability, cooperation and engagement across the political spectrum. Do not let this opportunity pass by without ensuring your name is counted.

-Denis Flinn

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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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