Monday, December 31, 2012

Crystal Ball Gazing, 2013 Edition, Part 3: Greater Sudbury, Toronto and Ontario

In Part 1 of this blogpost, I spent some time writing about neo-liberalism, and how it will continue to effect global trends in 2013. I took a closer look at some of those trends in Part 2 of this post. Now, in Part 3, I’ll make some specific predictions about local, provincial and national political matters. And I’ll kick it off with a brief discussion of local politics in my hometown of Greater Sudbury.

Greater Sudbury

2012 was a pretty interesting year here in Greater Sudbury, politically speaking. A disunited municipal Council tried to navigate a mine-field of public issues, most of which were of their own making. Largely, they did not succeed, or at least that’s the public perception. I think it would be fair to say that there is a movement afoot in my community to discredit any and all effort made by a majority of municipal Council. And it all has to do with partisan politics playing out at the municipal level.

Here in Ontario, we don’t have a party system at the municipal level. All candidates for Council and Mayor run as indepdendents. In Greater Sudbury, we have a ward system in place (Councillors are not elected at large), and the wards themselves are geographically – well, let’s just say “strange”. Add to the mix that of party politics, largely taking place behind the scenes.

Partisan Politics

In Greater Sudbury, as in other communities, right-wing, small-government, “Taxpayers Associations” have sprung up. In the past, often these sorts of ratepayers associations were non-partisan, and actively looking out for what they perceived to be the interests of their communities. The recent wave of municipal “Taxpayers Associations” which have sprung up in North Bay, Greater Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, however, tend to be dominated by members of the federal Conservative Party. Their goal is simple: get more conservatives elected to municipal governments. The tools at their disposal are the typical tools used by old-school political partisans: spin and character assassination. In Greater Sudbury, we’ve seen ample examples of both.

Which is not to say that our municipal Council has been blameless in moving from one crisis to the next. I honestly don’t know what’s going on – the individuals on our Council are supposed to be politicians, yet they have done a poor job explaining the good decisions they’ve made (such as implementing by-laws to limit phosphorus and vehicle idling), and an even worse job of defending themselves from the growing number of accusations of incompetence over matters such as the Ombudsman’s negative reports, the handling of lost transit ticket money, and public spending initiatives.

Healthy Community Initiative - The "Slush Fund"

And finally, there’s the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), something unique in Ontario, we’re led to believe, in which each Councillor directly oversees spending of up to $50,000 a year on community initiatives, usually to groups who want to improve neighbourhoods. However, with little in the way of rules and oversight, this direct spending by individual Councillors has (quite rightly, in my opinion) been labelled by many as being a “slush fund”, which greatly assists an incumbent Councillor with greasing the wheels at election time, especially since in the past, some or all of the HCI money allotted to individual Councillors could be held over and spent in an election year. Recent changes to spending rules might help with this perception, but at the end of the day, each local Councillor gets to decide how to spend $200,000 of public money with little oversight, and no consideration of broader municipal priorities. As well as being just plain wrong, it absolutely galls me, because there are many worthy pan-municipal priorities which could be funded and developed through the HCI, but right now, it’s all going to Councillors pet projects.

I expect the HCI to continue to be on the front burner of municipal politics in 2013. 2014, after all, is an election year here, and already we’ve seen a couple of partisan efforts underway. The first out of the door was the Conservative’s Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Federation, who have been holding press conferences and issuing news releases to vilify those members of Council they want to see defeated. They seem to have a particular hate on for Budget Chief Kett (Ward 11) and Deputy Mayors Landry-Altman (Ward 12) and Dupuis (Ward 5).

Prepping for 2014

Recently, former Mayor (and NDP partisan) John Rodriguez announced that he will be seeking the Mayor’s chair again in 2014. Rodriguez is the first to publicly announce his attention, and by doing so, may deter other left-leaning Councillors (and citizens) from throwing their hats in the ring. But despite his early staking of the opposition ground, I expect there to be at least one more credible challenger for Mayor to step forward by 2014, and possibly a few more. Of course, if the centre/left becomes crowded with candidates, it’s going to be that much more difficult to defeat the incumbent.

It should be an interesting situation here in 2013, in a community where partisan politics largely flies under the radar, at least municipally.


But one emerging issue threatens to cross party lines in a big way in 2013. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming commission has told Greater Sudbury that it’s going to get a casino, likely operated by an outside operator (as the “North” has been grouped into one operational area, and whoever is chosen by the OLG will need to operate several casinos in geographically separated communities). Right now, Greater Sudburians have largely been focused on where the new casino is going to go (downtown, the Four Corners, or out in rural Rayside-Balfour, where the existing and to-be-closed slots are located). However, over the past few weeks there have been a number of emerging voices who have been calling for a review of whether Greater Sudbury should play host to a casino at all. The decision to go along for the ride with the OLG was made by Council many months ago, but at the time, it wasn’t at all clear what, exactly, Greater Sudbury was getting itself into. In 2013, I expect those opposing a casino in any location will start speaking with louder, more co-ordinated voices, and will likely convince a few Councillors of the need to revisit the earlier decision. Especially if Toronto’s municipal Council turns down a casino.

City of Toronto

And speaking of Toronto, how can I not turn my attention to the antics of their own municipal Council, particularly as they’ve made headlines across Canada this past year. As you may recall, Mayor Rob Ford was to be bounced from office for voting on a matter on which he had a conflict of interest. The judge said that his hands were tied, that the Municipal Act gave him only one option in a conflict situation, and that was to throw Ford out of office. Currently, the judge’s decision is under appeal, but I don’t think that Ford has a legal leg to stand on. The defences he offered to the original judge just didn’t hold water, and essentially Ford was hung with his own words. I believe that the appeal will thrown out, and Ford will be out of luck.

But – not out of office. You see, the original judge declared that Ford could be returned as Mayor. Now, everyone has been focussing on a by-election, but the reality is that Toronto City Council has the capacity to appoint a new Mayor, rather than hold an expensive by-election. Although Ford’s allies have been, well, “reconsidering their options”, polls continue to show that in most circumstances, Toronto’s voters would return Ford to the Mayor’s chair. Only current NDP MP Olivia Chow might find some traction with Toronto voters if there was to be a by-election.

And what better threat to those on Council with ambition for the Mayor’s chair is there than a new, intelligent, and capable Mayor, elected to a two-year half-term? Chow’s potential entrance in a by-election might be enough to spur Liberal Councillors to join with the Conservative Fordies to forego a by-election altogether, ostensibly on the grounds of it costing too much (but really as an effort to shut down the NDP and keep their own hopes alive). In this situation, who better to appoint to the Mayor’s Chair than Rob Ford?

So, along with predicting that Ford will lose his appeal, I’m predicting that the next Mayor of Toronto will be Rob Ford, as legally appointed by Council.  Ford himself will wisely not participate in the vote to appoint him Mayor.

Provincial - Ontario

Ontario’s political scene is going to be a very interesting one in 2013. With a minority government teetering on the brink of collapse, mired in controversies with former union supporters, and an angry electorate which has seen scandal after scandal, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that whoever is elected to lead the Provincial Liberals in 2013 will soon find themselves in the midst of a general election.

Ontario Liberal Party

We will know who the new Leader is later in January. My bet is that it will be Sandra Pupatello, as she seems to be building the riding-by-riding support needed to triumph in a delegated convention. She is the only non-GTA candidate in the race, and likely will benefit by support in Ontario’s rural ridings (most of which will remain lost to the Liberals for the foreseeable future). The Liberals’ delegated system of choosing a leader is really going to backfire for the Party this time, as Pupatello will no doubt want to run on a more rural-friendly, less urban campaign, as a sop to supporters. All of this at a time when Ontario’s rural hinterland has been irrevocably lost to the Liberals, thanks to their own actions. As much as Pupatello will want to distance herself from outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty, the damage has been done, and Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives already own and will continue to own rural Southern Ontario.

In fact, I don’t think that the math is going to add up for any Liberal Premier in 2013. If there is an election (and just everybody, including me, thinks that there will be), the Liberals are going to be toast, and will probably slip into third-party status (but not oblivion, as some are suggesting). The next question then is, which Party will form the next government? And that’s where things get even more interesting.

Ontario Progressive Conservatives

If polls are to be relied on (and they shouldn’t be, ever!), Tim Hudak’s PC’s look as if they’ve got what it takes to collect the popular vote. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into a majority government. This next election is going to be fought bitterly in certain ridings, as really, there are only a handful which will likely be in play, especially for the PC’s. Hudak, who has over the past few months, increasingly repositioned himself to the right of, well, himself, may very well discover that his neo-liberal, divisive policies are going to run into a wall in suburban Ontario, which is after all the only place he has any hope of picking up new seats. Instead of appearing kinder and gentler to voters (which shouldn’t have been all that hard for a guy who wanted chain-gangs to clean up local beaches), Hudak’s is instead trying to make former PC Premier Mike Harris look soft and cuddly.

Ontario NDP

So what about Andrea Horvath’s NDP? I expect the NDP will be the recipients of the Liberals’ collapse, and stand to pick up the most seats in the next general election. Certainly, the Liberal fortress of Sudbury is going to fall to the NDP in the next election (the only question here is whether or not MPP Rick Bartolucci will opt to retire before the election or very shortly thereafter), and the NDP is well-positioned to pick up other small-town rural seats from the Liberals, along with a number of Toronto ridings. Even the formerly NDP-resistant GTA suburbs can count on electing a few NDP MPP’s, especially if the Liberal vote completely collapses and a Tim Hudak majority is threatened.

One way or the other, I am predicting an Andrea Horvath NDP government in Ontario by year’s end. It may not be a majority government (probably won’t be, in fact), but I just think that Hudak is going to end up turning too many voters off, while Horvath will succeed in making herself look palatable to enough voters in those swing ridings in play that she’ll be able to form government. Note that I am not even predicting that the NDP will win the most seats. Remember that back in 1985, the PC’s won the most seats in the election, but David Peterson’s Liberals governed, thanks to the Liberal-NDP accord. In 2013, the NDP might be in a position to govern with a little help from remaining Liberals, and one or two Greens.

Green Party of Ontario

Oh yes, about those Greens. I am predicting that Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner will be elected in Guelph if the Liberal government falls in the late winter or spring. If Andrea Horvath (and it will have to be the NDP and not the PC’s) decides to prop up the new Liberal Premier instead of rolling the dice on an election, I think that the Liberals will be in better shape to fight an election in the fall, likely at the PC’s expense (but a stronger Liberal electoral fight will spell trouble for the Greens in Guelph, whereas a weakened Liberal effort under a new and untested Leader in the late winter/spring will benefit the Greens).

Mike Schreiner, the able, likable and down-to-earth Leader of the Green Party, has already received the GPO's nomination in Guelph from riding-level members.  Schreiner is going to surprise Guelph politicos and turn the heads of residents whenever an election is held.  And the Green Party will be going all-in in Guelph.  Further, I believe that one of the Green's major issues will find resonance in this election: the Green Party of Ontario is the only Party to support publicly funding only one French and English language school board. As voters throughout Ontario look around for a Party whom they can tolerate supporting, I expect to see a pretty good increase in Green votes provincially. And education reform will be a winning issue in the spring.

Rolling the Dice

So the question then is does Horvath benefit or lose by propping up the Liberals when provincial parliament returns? My gut says she loses, because a stronger Liberal Party will be better positioned to defend the ridings she has to take. Since Hudak has already pretty much committed to voting against the throne speech and plunging the Province into an election, the final decision on the matter likely will rest with Horvath (unless the new Liberal Premier decides to pull the plug on the government herself, something which Pupatello, who doesn’t currently have a seat, might be tempted to do, but I think that would be very unwise). Horvath may be counselled to play the sensible role in all of this, and decide that she and the NDP can gain by postponing an election. While Ontario voters may be happy with such a decision, I just don’t believe it’s politically expedient for her to do so. If that global recession I predicted earlier does appear to be taking hold in February or March, I think Ontarians will be headed to the polls.

Part 4

In Part 4 of this blogpost, I’ll take a look make some national political predictions.

(opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and should not be considered to be in keeping with those of the Green Party of Canada)

Crystal Ball Gazing, 2013 Edition, Part 2: International Trends

In Part 1 of this blogpost, I spent a little bit of time writing about why I believe the neo-liberal economic system, as formulated at Bretton-Woods in 1944, will continue to be the dominate paradigm through which world events play themselves out, at least for the next little while. In that blog, I hope that it was clear that I believe the neo-liberal paradigm is ultimately doomed, whether by the proactive actions of 99%, or because of reactive forces related to depleting resources and the inability of the system to continue to grow. I have always advocated that it makes more sense for humans as a species to make our own opportunities and plan for a better future, rather than to find ourselves in a reactive situation. However, with the global elites controlling public influence, public policy and wealth creation, it seems unlikely that we’ll escape the end of the neo-liberal paradigm on our own terms.

In 2013, there will be more people who understand that our economic system is flawed – more than flawed in fact. It’s a fossil-fueled locomotive headed over a cliff, taking us all along for the ride. A couple of more prolonged periods of negative growth (“recession”) will be enough to undo the system altogether, unless saner public policy can prevail. And since saner public policy involves a decoupling of our economic system from both the notions of unfettered growth and our dependence on non-renewable energy resources, it’s just not likely that sanity is going to prevail. Frankly, there’s too much money at stake to stop the insanity.


Thanks in part to the intransigence of American elected officials to reach a deal on the so-called “fiscal cliff”, there is a very real chance that the next global recession could be at hand in early 2013. Even with a deal by U.S. legislators, the signs of recession abound. Growth has slowed in Europe and Asia, and what modest gains have been made in the U.S. and Canada are jeopardized by political game-playing. Ultimately, confidence in the economy is a human-made commodity, meaning that if enough of us start to lose confidence in the economy, the economy is in trouble.

In 2013, I believe that we can expect to have lost confidence in the global economy yet again, and the economy will return to recession. While the recession of 2013 may not be as bad as the 2008-09 recession, it will be used as an excuse to implement austerity measures by governments around the globe. The idea of more “economic stimulus” will be a much harder sell in 2013, especially in the United States, thanks in large part to Tea Party Republicans who have never seen government spending that they like.

Having said that, though, I must confess that on the matter of stimulus spending, perhaps the Tea Party Republicans are onto something to which we should pay closer attention. If the economy is to be stimulated, we simply can’t do what we did in 2008-09: pour money into 20th Century industrial endeavours such as the auto industry, and into 20th Century public works, such as highway building. If we are going to incur additional debt (read: make our kids pay for the goods we buy today), at the very least we should be spending on our future, and not trying to prop up the past.

I, however, don’t have much confidence in governments around the world (and especially here in Canada) to invest in our future, especially when old brown economy jobs are at stake today, and when 20th Century thinking continues to prevail amongst baby-boomer decision-makers.


If there is to be any good news at all from the coming recession, it’s that commodity prices likely will fall as well, including oil. Now, that’s not good news for miners (and mining supply firms) here in Sudbury, at least not in the short term. With lower commodity prices, we can expect to see less investment, and projects which are now moving forward (like the Ring of Fire) will likely stall. Again, that’s all bad news for us here in Northern Ontario (and elsewhere, for sure), but there may be a silver lining, or at least an oily one.

Should recession hit, the price of oil will have no choice but to go down, as the market is already artificially high. Lower oil prices will assist in making this recession less severe, and less lengthy, than it might otherwise be, and it’s quite possible that we could be back in recovery mode by the end of the year. Of course, there may be a few wildcards which keep oil prices at their current levels, exacerbating recovery, which I’ll look at later.

Food Shortages

Some experts are predicting a global food shortage to occur in 2013, and I believe that the evidence suggests that those experts might be right. Globally, food prices have risen significantly over the past few years, and the price of grains was one of the factors which fuelled both the economic collapse of 2008-09, and the Arab Spring movement in the Middle East and North Africa. Food prices have been rising for a number of reasons, including extreme weather events related to climate change. One of the biggest factors, however, has to do with the rising price of oil. The fact is, that we consume oil in many ways, making it one of the most versatile (and therefore valuable) commodities on the market. We burn it for personal transportation, and for heating. We also eat it – or more correctly, we rely on petroleum-based fertilizers to provide us with the bumper crops we need to fuel our bellies (or the bellies of the animals which we in turn consume to fuel our bellies).

Our industrialized agricultural sector needs oil to make food. As oil prices rise, as they have done now for the past few years, the prices of grains and meat in turn rise, and the availability of food becomes more limited. We here in North America are relatively insulated from these fluctuations at the moment, as we have options to substitute (relatively) less expensive vegetable produce for more expensive meat products. Further, westerners already spend the lowest percentage of earned income on food products (somewhere between 5-12%); those in the developing world must devote a greater share of their economic resources towards food, between 30-45%, and in some places, more than 50%. With high oil costs, and potential price-spikes from climate-change enhanced extreme weather events, people spending a significant portion of their income on food will have much fewer opportunities to absorb higher prices.

Globally, we produce enough food for everyone to experience a healthy diet, so the notion of a “food shortage” isn’t really accurate. Even in those years where less food is actually being produced, the fact is that if we had made it a global priority to do so, no one on this planet would ever need to go hungry. But of course, solving world hunger has never been a big money-maker, so the idea just hasn’t caught on.

Of course, what’s interesting about that is that a global food shortage actually threatens the well-being of nations and citizens who continue to have enough to eat. One of the problems with food shortages has to do with the idea that they tend to foment civil unrest, armed conflicts, and mass migration. Should the global south begin to starve, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what might happen to the more affluent global north. And let’s face it: that kind of scenario isn’t good for the economic growth, either!

Corporate Tax Cuts – No Longer a Prescription for Prosperity

And on a related note about “what’s not good for economic growth”, I think that 2013 might actually prove to be a watershed year in which the right-wing mantra of corporate tax cuts facilitating economic growth might finally be discarded by more mainstream conservatives. We now have decades worth of data at our disposal, and the verdict has been clearly in for some time now: lowering corporate taxes on their own does not lead to job creation or economic prosperity. It’s not an “all or nothing” game, but it’s been a good game for corporations, as they’ve increasingly been picking up less than their fair share of the tab.

Cutting taxes for job-creators may make sense in many cases, but across-the-board cuts have not brought the economic benefits which trickle-down economists and legislators have insisted we would accrue. In Canada, both Conservative and Liberal governments have bought into the notion that lowering corporate taxes will prove to be a boon for economic growth, and will assist with recovery. Only the Greens and the NDP have been making the case for targeted reductions, and returning corporate tax rates to more sustainable levels.

Already, over the last few years, there’s been a general acceptance that corporate welfare should be ended for profitable firms, particularly those involved with fossil fuel extraction. In 2008, our Conservative government made a pledge at the G-20 to end corporate subsidies to fossil fuel companies. In 2012, Canadian taxpayers subsidized fossil fuel industries to the tune of $1.4 billion dollars. Canada is in good company, however: globally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that we continue to subsidize the poor and impoverished fossil fuel industry to the tune of $520 billion of public money annually, an increase of 30% between the years 2010 and 2011. Interestingly, the IEA estimates that the global subsidy for renewable energy resources is at only $88 billion annually.

At least, though, when it comes to corporate welfare, there’s a general acceptance amongst decision-makers that we probably ought to stop doing so. In 2013, it’s going to be the same for corporate tax cuts.


Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2011 was the Protester. They may be awarding their honour to the same person again at the end of 2013. Globally, protest movements aren’t going to recede, although in certain nations, they may be wound down (and here I’m thinking specifically of Egypt). In the last few years, we’ve seen anti-austerity protests in Europe, and pro-democracy protests in the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and Ukraine (and to a lesser extent, in Canada and the U.S. as well). Expect these protests to continue, and expect a more significant response from all governments. In Russia, pro-democracy protesters will increasingly be at risk of physical violence. In Canada and the United States, expect protesters to be increasingly labelled “terrorists” or other such terms which attempt to dehumanize and set protesters apart from “average citizens”. The divide-and-conquer strategy is a good one, as public opinion has generally not shifted in favour of protesters yet.

Of course, protests can have profound effects, as we witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, and also in Quebec in 2012. We cannot forget the almost complete success of the Quebec secondary students demonstrations to create the change they sought: a change in government, as the Jean Charest’s Liberal government gave way to Pauline Marois’ Parti-Quebecois.

Part 3

In Part 3 of this post, I’ll make some predictions which are locally and provincially (Ontario) focussed.

(opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and should not be considered to be in keeping with those of the Green Party of Canada)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crystal Ball Gazing, 2013 Edition, Part 1: The Paradigm

2012 has come to an end, and it’s time for me to turn my attention to 2013. Gazing into my crystal ball, I’m first going to share with you a little bit of information about the lens through which I’m viewing potential future events, and then I’m going to make a few predictions – some of which will be easy (Justin Trudeau becomes the next federal Liberal Leader), and others, well, not so much. Suffice it to say that 2013 won’t be pretty, but it won’t be the end of the world either, as many thought 2012 would be!

Paradigm Shift

Before I get going, however, let’s turn to the lens through which I typically use to view the world, and which my predictions for 2013 will be considered. The fact is that we all have unique lenses for viewing the events of our lives, be they personal events or global. Most of the time we don’t question the assumptions built into our world-view. Every now and then, however, something might happen which forces us to reconsider our understanding of those assumptions, and adjust our lens accordingly. Usually, such adjustments are relatively minor, if a little disruptive. Every now and then, though, they can be cataclysmic. Eventually, through a combination of small adjustments and cataclysmic shifts, our worldview can change over time.

The same is true on a global scale, as new ideas, technology and understanding are introduced. The rate of acceptance of the “new” is often determinative of whether there is to be a global paradigm shift. For example, the notion that the Earth revolves around the Sun has been around for thousands of years, yet it took Copernicus, Kepler, Gallileo and others (and thanks to the Scientific Method) to introduce the idea to the world in such a way that a solar-centred universe gradually became the paradigm in which we understand our place in the cosmos. And even then, it was literally hundreds of years before the paradigm shifted completely for the general public.

Neo-Liberal Economics

Will 2013 finally be the year in which our socio-political and economic paradigm actually begins to shift, as so many have hoped for and many more have feared? I don’t think so, despite the a growing mass of evidence which suggests that we must be ready to accommodate a new paradigm, as the old one hasn’t been working out too well for most of us for quite a while now. But it’s not going to happen in 2013. The powers which are arrayed against the coming of a new, scientifically-based world view to replace our neo-liberal economic and political systems (hatched in 1944 from the Bretton-Woods agreements back at the end of the Colonial Age) will continue to exert too much control.

It’s important to make this point, I believe, because while so many of us have moved on from the old “Left vs. Right” political dichotomy and from rapturously embracing the mantra of “economic growth at all cost”, most of us aren’t there yet. In fact, at the end of 2012, science-based sustainable economics continues to be debased by a majority of western citizens and all of our governments, despite the economic collapse of 2008 having happened over four years ago now. That collapse, of course, was widely seen as a normal hiccup, from which recovery has occurred (albeit anaemic recovery), thanks to stimulus spending. Too many continue to believe that the collapse happened in isolation, or perhaps was brought about by the U.S. housing market bubble burst. That there were a number of interconnected reasons for the collapse, having everything to do with the failure of our neo-liberal economic system known as “free market capitalism” hasn’t come to be as well understood as it otherwise probably should be. Or, more likely, there are many who understand the reasons why the Great Recession happened, but most of them have an interest in pointing causal fingers in other directions.

Vested Interests

Of course, the powers that have a vested interest in maintaining our failing economic system continue to have a lot of influence on all of the levers of power which could otherwise be used to actually bring about change. Even with the rise of social media, the mainstream media remains extremely influential for the creation of public opinion (and will for some time). And although more people are clamouring for transparent democracy, governments around the world are moving in the opposite direction, towards corporatism and secrecy). And while we continue to aspire for the economic independence to find our own ways in the world, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and debt, accrued by both individuals and the governments which collect taxes and provide services, continues to shackle those dreams.

Indeed, the levers of power wielded by the neo-liberal interests in the form of public opinion, public policy and economic slavery, will remain powerful tools for the status quo for the foreseeable future, in my opinion. While sops might be thrown to those asking for social and political reform, the neo-liberal system will remain the dominant ideology until a critical mass of opponents is finally motivated to do something about it. And since “doing something about it” will likely require a certain degree of economic and physical risk to one’s well-being (and the well-being of one’s family), the emergence of a new paradigm isn’t going to occur until the old one buckles under its own weight.

Austerity and the Long Emergency

When will the new paradigm (the “Sustainability Paradigm”) begin to be implemented? I’m increasingly doubtful that it ever will be, due to the powers which are arrayed against it and the money they command. In short, the 1% (or more correctly, the 1% of the 1%) can continue to hold the rest of us hostage to their expanded free-market economic system by controlling the levers of power. While some reform may happen (example: changing the way in which First Nations are treated; imposition of carbon pricing), the paradigm itself as expressed through Bretton-Woods is not at risk of falling.

The failing neo-liberal paradigm will remain even as the world continues to find its way through the beginning years of the long emergency, which started in 2008 because our economic system is not sustainable in the long term. The free-market system must be fuelled by economic growth, and on a planet of finite resources, it simply can’t happen. That we’ve come to rely on non-renewable fossil fuels for the majority of our energy needs will just hasten the collapse of the system – at least until we get serious about moving to non-renewables. And we are far from getting serious about replacing a failing paradigm with a sustainable one.

The paradigm shift will inevitably come, but it won’t be this year, or soon. People around the globe have already started to notice, and protests which may appear to be about a diversity of issues, such as Occupy, Arab Spring, democracy protests in Russia, Ukraine, China, and anti-austerity protests in Europe – are actually about how power to decide our collective future isn’t meted out fairly. The democratic deficit, income inequality (and the economic system which creates and sustains inequality), and the end of inexpensive energy will only exacerbate the need for austerity measures in coming years. Remember, if economic growth can’t be found through wealth creation, it will need to be found somewhere else. Corporations will continue to dial-back wages to turn a profit for shareholders. To do so, Unions must be broken and the public must be pitted against itself in a race for the bottom. There is, for the most part, no other way to ensure growth.

Should another global recession strike, austerity will be the only way to grow the economy, as stimulus money just simply won’t be there (it wasn’t really there in 2008-09 either. It was created as debt – which is to say we borrowed it from our children. Next time, though, more people will be paying attention to government spending thanks to debtloads already being at an all-time high – there is no more room for debt). In the current neo-liberal economic paradigm, we have no further outs we can use, other than austerity.

We should fear the coming economic recession, but not as much as we should fear the one after it.

Against this backdrop, Part 2 of by blog will explore how some of the larger trends of 2013 may play themselves out.

(opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and should not be considered to be in keeping with those of the Green Party of Canada)