Thursday, January 31, 2013

What the frack is happening on the West Coast!?!

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) projects are set to begin on the west coast of Newfoundland. For background information and public documents on the (mis-ad)venture, please see C-NLOPB environmental assessment resources.

In other news, the Corner Brook city council has approved in principle a plan to drill for minerals in the community's watershed. It's an altogether rosy outlook for the environment on the West Coast.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#IdleNoMore province-wide solidarity actions Jan 27 -- St. John's

Idle No More solidarity actions are taking place today (Jan 27th) across Newfoundland and Labrador. Demonstrations are happening in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Corner Brook, Bay St. George, and in St. John's (see our previous post for more info). Below are photos and videos from the St. John's event. Please copy, download, share and help spread the solidarity around!
***Updated*** Here's a link to photos from the rally in Corner Brook via
***Updated*** Here's a link to a photo album from the St. John's rally by Jenne Nolan
***Updated*** Here's a link to photos from the Happy Valley-Goose Bay march by Denise Cole

The Occupiers have even lost Naheed Nenshi

Back in November 2011,  when the police were cracking down on Occupy camps around the world and elite opinion was working to undermine the movement, the Globe and Mail ran an editorial The Occupiers have even lost Naheed Nenshi that ticked me off enough to write the follow reply in the comments. Just wanted to share.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Population Growth and Scary Demographics

From my column in the Independent:
Last week the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the hiring of former campaign manager Ross Reid as deputy minister of population growth. Premier Dunderdale says that "our demographic is scary" and we should pursue a population growth strategy to mitigate the effects of our aging population. Time will tell whether this is a serious initiative or simply a patronage appointment as some have alleged. In any case, the issue is a serious one deserving of attention. So how scary are our demographics and how should we deal with the problem?
Read the full article here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#IdleNoMore actions planned province-wide for Jan 27th

Idle No More activists in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Corner Brook, Stephenville, and St. John's are organizing rallies and protests for Sunday, January 27th.

--Solidarity March in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (with Friends of the Grand River/Mistashipu)

--Facebook event for Corner Brook organized by 4 O'Clock Whistle (read press release here)

--Facebook event for St. John's organized by Idle No More St. John's

--Stephenville event Sacred Fire hosted by Bay St. George Cultural Circle,

Idle No More protests have been taking place in NL since early December 2012. The timeline below highlights a few of the many actions in solidarity with the INM movement. This post is intended to promote solidarity as well as to consolidate information, so please help us add to/make corrections to this list by leaving a comment or sending us an email.

Dec 10th —  Idle No More solidarity protest in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. Video here.

Dec 11th --- NunatuKavut elders arrested for trespassing

Dec 18th --- Dennis Burden arrested

Dec 21st --- Stephenville Idle No More protest

Dec 21st --- St. John's Idle No More solidarity rally

Jan 4, 2013 —The Idle No More campaign held protests in Corner Brook and Grand Falls-Windsor

Jan 11, 2013 — NunaTuKavut Community Council Idle No More solidarity protest

Jan 12, 2013 — Idle No More St. John's Round Dance at Avalon Mall

Saturday, January 12, 2013

#IdleNoMore Flashmob-Rounddance at Avalon Mall St. John's

Occupy NL stands in solidarity with Idle No More activists in St. John's on January 12th 2013. Here's some of the pictures and videos from today's event. Please copy/download/share and distribute far and wide (sharing is caring). To link up with Idle No More in St. John's, check out the facebook group.

Kicked out in the rain, but still singing and drumming!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Rent Is Too Damn High (in St. John's).

As everyone knows, housing prices in St. John's have been skyrocketing.  Between 2008 and 2012,  house prices rose 69% and rental prices rose 25% in nominal terms.

So what do we make of this?  According to this CBC story, this price surge means "the St. John's market doing almost twice as well as the Canadian average" as though rising prices are clearly a good thing. But while rising housing prices are a boon to the real estate industry and to home owners who are planning to sell their homes and move elsewhere, it is bad news for renters, bad news for people hoping to move to the city, and as I hope to persuade you, bad for the NL economy.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On the current Revolutionary Wave

One way to subvert or stifle a movement is to compartmentalize it.

In a recent CBC interview sociologist Robert Brym compares Occupy and Idle No More:

"The Occupy and Idle No More movements share two characteristics. They both have relatively diffuse demands and decentralized leadership. ... The Occupy movement's demand for greater economic equality seems to have resonated with a large part of the Canadian population, which has experienced growing income disparity and slow growth in real income for decades … In contrast, I believe the public has more mixed feelings about the Idle No More movement."

Movements are often defined in terms of demands, and more rarely tactics. This is what this group is all about, what they want and specifically who they have a beef with. Characteristics are mapped out and then the thing can be known, compartmentalized, and (in some ways) caged.

A somewhat different understanding (though undoubtedly a kind of caging as well) is of the revolutionary wave. Revolutionary wave theory suggests that to understand Idle No More you first have to connect it back to Mohamed Bouazizi and the Arab Spring.

The recent freedom of information release of FBI files show that even before the Occupy movement became "official" it had been anticipated by security forces as building on a revolutionary wave:

"Various online communities and groups have dubbed 17 September 2011 the 'US Day of Rage' and are planning organized protests and assemblies throughout the United States. ... Referencing the demonstrations of the 2011 Arab Spring, the 'US Day of Rage' desires to mimic the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests which have occurred in the Arab world."

States know that revolution knows no borders. Indeed, US intelligence admitted a failure to have been caught so off guard when the revolution emerged. From the evidence of infiltration and subversion of Occupy in the FOI release, it is clear security forces took the potential of this revolutionary wave very seriously.

Other states also took preemptive actions to stem the revolution before it could take hold (legal, constitutional, censorship, subversion, repression, etc.). States try to do this in an organized and focused way because revolution means unrest and in the extreme case the collapse of the state itself. This last outcome is more terrifying for the state than losing a war.

A great number of states all over the world are experiencing unrest. Even in countries where protest is generally a bureaucratic thing (Canada) there has been significant unrest (Quebec student movement, Occupy, and now Idle No More). No one should doubt that the state has monitored and tried to subvert expressions of unrest in Canada. No one needs to have a degree in sociology to anticipate the communities that will offer the clearest expressions of unrest.

Many states have made sweeping concessions, held snap elections, installed revolutionary governments, done whatever it takes to just make unrest stop. However, even in countries where the revolution has toppled governments unrest persists. There is no reason to expect this level of unrest will subside any time in the foreseeable future, as this revolutionary wave, and its myriad if sometimes difficult to identify characteristics and demands, just so happens to be taking place against the backdrop of a particularly easy to identify pyramid scheme of capital and power.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why I Believe in Progressive Taxation

This post has been converted into a article in the Independent.

My recent appearance on NTV news to expose the premier's false statements about our tax system prompted a critical response from a viewer.  The email is a genuine and thoughtful critique of progressive taxation, and expresses a view that I think is widely held (even by some Occupiers).  I reproduce the letter below, followed by a defence of progressive taxation.

"Dear Mr. Baird.  I think you got that statement on NTV backwards.  A higher rate tax on the wealthy is "regressive" not "progressive".  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Provincial Taxes Are Still Regressive

In the previous post I made some estimates of the provincial tax burden of individuals according to income level.  I used CRA data for the income tax part, but I was forced to make some assumptions about sales, gas and tobacco taxes.  I think the assumptions were reasonable, but they were only rough guesstimates and not empirically derived.

Since then, I've found a CCPA study that estimates tax incidence for lots of different taxes in Canada.  It's not perfect for my purposes because the data is Canada-wide not Newfoundland specific, but we can try using their numbers as a check that my earlier estimates are reasonable.  

The CCPA lumps together HST, gas, and tobacco into a category they call "commodity taxes". Their estimated tax rate (see table 1) is for the whole country and includes GST. To get something appropriate for Newfoundland I scaled their rate by 0.85.  This factor was chosen to make the total tax collected about equal to revenue in recent budgets.  I end up with the following chart:

The chart is pretty similar to what I had before, except that the share of income going to taxes starts dropping off for income levels over $85K - roughly the richest 5% of tax filers. The textbook reason for this is that the wealthy save a large share of their income and there is no sales tax on money that isn't spent.