Plus: carbon taxes, attacks on democracy and an Amazon union

What Just Happened? | Stephen Whitworth | April 7, 2022

Rather than write an introduction I should apologize to our designer for another egregious word count violation. But rules are for writers, not editors, so I won’t.

THE ENTIRE MONTH OF MARCH AND ONGOING: GAS ATTACK Fuel prices are at record highs thanks to Putin’s evil and stupid Ukraine invasion. Bad news: It’s hurting Canadians who already have too much financial stress. Silver lining: More incentive to move past gas-fueled cars and maybe even to use public transit more, both of which need to happen since the planet is boiling. Perspective: Why aren’t all cars electric? It’s 2022 and we still use this archaic technology? Ridiculous.

MONDAY 21: AFFRONTS TO DEMOCRACY The federal Liberals and NDP announce a deal that will see the NDP support the Liberal minority government on confidence votes in exchange for Liberal action on national dental and prescription drug programs and other stuff. Considering millions of Canadians skip dentist visits because they can’t afford ’em, this is great news. It’s also great for dentists, who won’t have to turn away potential patients who don’t have a few grand lying around to spend on the root canals, caps and other major work.

The big downside is that full implementation isn’t until 2025, which seems like a lot of time for something to go sideways. But in these fallen times I’ll cling to the hope I find.

Predictably, Conservative politicians trashed the Liberal-NDP deal as undemocratic. One Saskatchewan premier whose Chevrolet Silverado was recently impounded in British Columbia after its driver (not him) failed a sobriety test even called it “an affront to democracy”. This despite the fact the Liberals (32.6%) and the NDP (17.8%) combined got more votes (50.4%) than the Conservatives (34.3%) did last election, and therefore have a mandate to work together.

As for “power grabs”, as interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen called the Liberal-NDP deal… The only reason Bergen’s federal Conservatives have any shot at forming government ever is thanks to an ACTUAL power-grabbing merger between their unelectable right-wing political predecessors: the awful Canadian Alliance and odious Progressive Conservatives.

If Conservatives want to throw baby-tantrums about political parties cooperating, they should do it in their bathroom mirrors and leave the rest of us alone.

WEDNESDAY 23: BUDGET DAY! A few lunchables: health care gets a record $6.8 billion; education spending is up with money for more educational assistants (good) and private schools (hmmm); the provincial film grant is now $10 million which is GREAT (but it’s still no tax credit); PST will be charged on sports events, movies, museums and concerts as well as gym memberships starting this fall, which, given what those sectors went through with the pandemic, is a bit of a slap in the face; and as usual there’s nowhere near enough support for people living in poverty.


THURSDAY 31: SMALLS’ VICTORY A Staten Island, New York warehouse became the first unionized Amazon workplace in the United States today when 55 per cent of its workers voted to form a union. The drive was organized by the local, independent Amazon Labor Union and led by 33-year-old fired Amazon worker Chris Smalls (described in leaked Amazon memos as “not smart”). Despite the win, observers expect the anti-union corporation — which The Huffington Post reports spent $4.3 million in 2021 on union-busting “consultants” it paid $3,200 a day — to use every crummy trick in the book to crush the ALU. But for today, the Staten Island victory is hopeful for Amazonians as well as everyone who makes a living by actually working, as opposed to just owning stuff.

FRIDAY 1: EYRE’S IRE April Fool’s Day arrived with a scheduled increase to Canada’s carbon price on fossil fuels in Saskatchewan. The federal tax, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing the planet’s temperatures to rise to dangerous levels, rose in Saskatchewan by $10 to $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions. As a result, motorists will see small increases to (spiraling out of control) gas costs. But: rebates!

If there was a joke in Friday’s news, it was the governing Saskatchewan Party’s reaction. Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Bronwyn Eyre accused the feds of hiding emissions data and threatened Saskatchewan won’t comply with federal carbon pricing. It’s not clear what form this noncompliance could take since the Sask. Party government lost its legal challenge to the carbon tax last March. It’s also worth remembering most provinces run their own carbon pricing programs. The only reason Saskatchewan has a federal carbon tax is because the Sask. Party government’s precious “Prairie Resilience Plan” flouted federal rules.

As for Minister Eyre’s complaint about sketchy federal data: that’s rich coming from someone who once wrote a StarPhoenix column accusing a Saskatchewan climate researcher of “witchcraft reasoning”, adding “there are many threats in this world. But climate change doesn’t appear to be one of them.” Well, scientists say trapped greenhouse gasses are responsible for rapidly rising global temperatures that cause severe heat waves, droughts, wildfires, chaotic weather, glacier loss and rising sea levels, and constitute an existential threat to civilization as we know it. But sure. Let’s listen to someone who calls Opposition MLAs “Goldilocks”.

(Also it’s kinda goofy to complain about carbon taxes when your own government just jumped the sales tax shark.)

POPEPOLOGY Still on April first, Pope Francis apologized for the deaths and horrific abuses at Canada’s Catholic residential schools today. It’s a start but the Roman Catholic Church still has a long way to go. Let’s see that $30 mil compensation package that replaces the one they bailed on with the Harper government’s help in 2015.

MONDAY 4: “FAST TRACK TO CLIMATE DISASTER” The latest IPCC report is out and it’s terrifying… but I really am out of space. Phew.