CP of Canada, PEOPLE'S VOICE - Issue of September 16-30, 2023

9/18/23 2:32 PM
  • Canada, Communist Party of Canada En North America Communist and workers' parties


PEOPLE'S VOICE - Issue of September 16-30, 2023


The following articles are from the September 16-30, 2023 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper.

  1. Capitalism is destroying the planet – the alternative is socialism
  2. The Manitoba Tories must go!
  3. Reverse the Ford Tories’ Greenbelt grift!
  4. Class struggle unions call for global shift away from militarism to fund people’s needs
  5. Towards a cross-border auto strike?
  6. Ford government deepens capacity crisis by failing to respond to huge increase in COVID inpatient days
  7. Honour the fallen, fight for their vision
  8. Queen’s University has a housing problem
  9. Quebec peace movement prepares mobilizes for October actions
  10. Anti-war banners greet fighter jets at Abbotsford air show
  11. Trudeau: Billions for Trans-Mountain, but not for housing
  12. Seven bottlenecks that need to be cleared on the path to peace in Sudan
  13. Union and feminist legends Léa Roback and Madeleine Parent would cringe at their “honour” from Canada Post
  14. September 30: a day to honour victims and survivors, and demand real action
  15. Surprise! Surprise! Tory politicos discover slums
  16. Rescuing working-class politics from liberal mystification




Capitalism is destroying the planet – the alternative is socialism

September 15-17 March to End Fossil Fuels – “Decarbonize and demilitarize!”

PV staff

As we head to press, preparations are underway for an historic global mobilization calling for a rapid, just and equitable end to fossil fuels. Across Canada and around the world, people will be in the streets from September 15-17, as part of the student-driven March to End Fossil Fuels ahead of the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York on September 17.

This summer was one of drought, record heat waves, flooding and huge storms. These events are not anomalies – rather, they are part of a disturbing trend toward more frequent and severe weather conditions, and they confirm a consensus among the scientific community that the deepening climate crisis presents a serious and imminent threat.

Clearly, we are quickly approaching a junction – either take concrete action to end carbon emissions or face disastrous consequences. “The clock is ticking loudly, but a change of direction is still possible,” stated Communist Party leader Elizabeth Rowley. “Every genuine effort to cut emissions is important – and we may yet develop useful strategies through scientific research – but we need to be decisive and move away from gimmicks like offsets, carbon capture and storage, or geoengineering which are not solutions to the climate crisis.”

Rowley also notes that militarism and war are a huge part of the problem and must be addressed by climate activists. “Waging imperialist wars to seize natural resources in other countries – like grabbing lithium to use in batteries – is a violation of climate justice.”

At the heart of the climate crisis is decades upon decades of capitalist expansion. An economic system based on the maximization of private profits is fundamentally incompatible with a safe, livable natural environment. With its roots in the exploitation of human labour and the extraction of natural resources, capitalism cannot be reformed into "green capitalism."

But Rowley insists that simply criticizing capitalism is not enough. “We have to replace this for-profit system with a socialist one that prioritizes the needs of humanity and the natural environment – and this means we need to build the class struggle,” she said. “To finance a just transition away from fossil fuels, we must slash global military spending from the current $2 trillion annual levels. So, environmental movements need to put demilitarization front and center in their demands – there is no future for life on earth without ending the arms race.”

Rowley told PV that the Communist Party has been mobilizing its membership to help build the climate justice movement, including the September 15-17 global actions. Party efforts including promoting a working-class approach to the environment that includes:

·         Public ownership of energy resources, which puts the needs of people and the environment ahead of profit and can help dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

·         An end to energy extraction and export policies which expand corporate profits and power at the expense of Indigenous rights and people’s health and safety – ending these policies means cancelling all tar sands-related pipeline projects and halting all fracking operations, while guaranteeing jobs at equivalent wages for affected energy workers.

  • Replacing cap-and-trade and carbon tax schemes, legislating strict limits for pollution and hard emissions caps toreduce them to zero by 2050, along with heavy penalties for corporations which break the law, including jail time for corporate executives.

·         Cutting Canada's military spending by 75 percent, to end the huge carbon footprint related to deployment of fighter jets, the naval fleet and other military purposes.

  • Creating an overall green jobs plan to tackle social, economic, transport and environmental priorities – this includes investing in sustainable industrial processes and expand renewable energy sources, especially solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.
  • Building and delivering free urban public transit and affordable interurban rail transit and bus services, including a much higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and a publicly owned Canadian auto industry to build affordable and fuel-efficient electric vehicles.
  • Building one million units of publicly controlled and environmentally sustainable rent-geared-to-income housing, and upgrading existing housing units to be safe, secure, affordable, accessible and environmentally sound.
  • Transitioning to a zero-waste economy, with higher standards for product design, reduced packaging, labelling and collection after use to improve waste diversion rates.

·         Reducing energy costs by promoting sustainable domestic agriculture and farmland preservation.

·         Building an east-west power grid based on publicly owned and democratically controlled provincial electrical utility systems which include production, distribution, transmission and a bulk electricity system market, to ensure an affordable, safe and reliable power supply for industrial and residential use.

Rowley says that a successful struggle to implement these kinds of policies requires a powerful coalition that includes people’s movements. “Environmentalists, unions, Indigenous peoples and all who defend the interests of people and planet need to unite to build a ‘People’s Coalition’ that can lead the fight for decarbonization and other reforms,” she stated, adding that such a coalition would have the potential to build a broader political challenge against the domination of corporations and their political parties.

“Ultimately, a People’s Coalition could win a parliamentary majority and open the door to fundamental changes including economic and social reforms to shift from private ownership of wealth and resources towards a socialist society based on democratic public ownership and working-class political power – this is the way to tackle the climate crisis and win a world of peace, freedom and social justice!”


The Manitoba Tories must go!

PV staff

Manitoba is into a provincial election campaign, and the stakes are high for working people. Seven years of majority Conservative governments – first under Brian Pallister and now under Heather Stefanson – have ground the province down through a bombardment of privatization, cuts to programs and services, low wages, and outright disdain for Indigenous rights.

It’s clear that the Manitoba Tories must go.

For much of the summer, opinion polls put the Conservatives in a virtual dead heat with WabKinew’s New Democrats, at around 40 percent support each. The Liberals and Greens have been attracting around 10 and 4 percent respectively for the same period. But, now that the writ has dropped, it’s an open field of political debate over which direction will best serve working people.

That debate will include Manitoba unions, many of whom have moved into sharp struggle against the Tory government – like the Manitoba General Employees Union (MGEU), which is currently on strike at Manitoba Public Insurance. It will also include the Communist Party of Canada (Manitoba), which has been preparing to run candidates in about 5 ridings. (People’s Voice will have more coverage of the CPC(M) campaign in our next issue.)

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of what some organizations have been saying about the Conservative record (compiled by PV staff from press releases and websites):

Manitoba Nurses Union:

Our health care system is broken. But it is salvageable. As we move towards a provincial election, the Manitoba Nurses Union is asking all Manitobans to get engaged. Continuing on the way we have been is absolutely outrageous. We need each and every one of you to vote like your life depends on it. Because it really does.

Healthcare is not a nurses' issue. This issue does not discriminate based on gender or age. This is a Manitoba issue. And sitting back and watching our system crumble is completely unacceptable.

We must do more to protect the vulnerable and prevent the few nurses that we have in this program from leaving. We need concerted efforts to retain and recruit more nurses. We need mentors staying in the system. We need ALL politicians to start listening to the front line.


Like her close friend Brian Pallister before her, Heather Stefanson is a premier who can’t be trusted to protect what matters.

In July 2023 the federal government deducted $350,000 from transfers to Manitoba after it was revealed a clinic was charging patients for medically necessary services.

Outpatient physiotherapy has been dramatically privatized for patients recovering from total hip or knee replacement. Stefanson has promised more healthcare privatization, ensuring that working people will face either chaos or higher out-of-pocket costs.

Wait times for tests has increased the length of time it takes to receive a proper diagnosis. MRI wait times are up 70 percent since August of 2022 – something the Stefanson government was forced to concede is the result of staffing shortages.

At 20.7 percent, Manitoba had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, an astounding seven percentage points above the national average (13.5 percent). Poverty is racialized – in 2021, 41.6 percent of First Nations children with single Indigenous identities in the province experienced child poverty, followed by those children identified as Arab (39.8 percent), West Asian (37.7 percent), Chinese (30.1 percent) and Black (25.0 percent).

The proportion of multiple job holders – a key measure of the prevalence of precarious work – was 7.3 percent in Manitoba in July 2023, the highest Canada.

Nearly 25 percent of wage-earners in Manitoba fell below the national wage floor for low pay. Almost one in ten wage-earners in Manitoba earned less than $15 per hour in July 2023, the second-highest percentage in Canada.

Under Heather Stefanson and Brian Pallister before her, the publicly owned Manitoba Hydro has descended into chaos. In 2018 the entire board of directors resigned to protest Pallister’s mismanagement of the utility. The mass resignation followed job cuts, consumer rate increases and wage freezes for staff at the Crown corporation that provides the second-cheapest hydroelectric rates in the country.

In March 2022, an arbitrator ruled Pallister lay-offs at Hydro were a clear violation of the collective agreement. Later in 2022, Unifor Local 681 were forced to take action with rotating strikes, simply to get a similar wage increase other workers already received under the Stefanson government.

From healthcare cuts and closures to anti-worker laws that suppress wages across the province, Heather Stefanson’s PCs are responsible for a decline in public services and good jobs.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Chiefs-in-Assembly calls for the resignation of Heather Stefanson, the leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative (PC) Party.

The resolution was passed unanimously in response to the premier’s stated position and continued refusal to support a search of the Brady Landfill and Prairie Green Landfill for MarcedesMyran, Morgan Harris, MashkodeBizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) and Tanya Nepinak. The province’s refusal to support the search for and the repatriation of human remains is contrary to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said, “All political party leaders should be committed to implementing the UNDRIP and reconciliation. This includes the search for, and repatriation of, human remains in the Brady and Prairie Green landfills. Heather Stefanson’s disregard for respecting human rights and promoting reconciliation as the Manitoba PC Party Leader means she will do the same if she is re-elected as Premier.

“It is time to make way for another party member who possesses the moral and ethical integrity and leadership aptitude to honour those who have been murdered or gone missing, listen to voices of the families and survivors, address the injustices created by colonization, and uphold a firm commitment to human rights.”

Manitoba Teachers’ Society:

For the past six years, the provincial contribution to operating funding for public education has failed to keep pace with inflation. According to published Manitoba Education FRAME reports from 2016-17 to 2020-21, the audited provincial contribution to the operation of K-12 public schools declined by 5.2 percent when adjusted for inflation (during the April 2016-April 2021 period).

“In years with inflation levels of two per cent, school divisions were already struggling to meet the needs of their students,” said Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) president James Bedford. “Record high inflation rates coupled with the increasingly diverse and complex needs of Manitoba’s student population means the situation is dire.”

Operating revenue that is below the rate of inflation means that the public education system is losing ground on a per pupil basis.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives:

Manitoba continues to have the second lowest minimum wage in Canada, keeping wages low for the lowest paid workers and forcing more households into poverty. A poverty minimum wage is bad public policy, as families who work for low wages must sacrifice necessities to make ends meet, leading to chronic stress and long-term health issues. With the potential for a recession on the horizon, a low minimum wage will increase poverty across the province.

CCPA research reveals that in Manitoba minimum wage workers are increasingly educated, established in their jobs, and older compared with ten years ago. These findings indicate that minimum wage workers more frequently support families, which contradicts assertions that minimum wage workers are teenagers working their first jobs. In 2019, almost half of minimum wage workers were over 25, nearly a third had a post-secondary degree, and another third were married or living common law. In many cases, adults in the family are working long hours at multiple jobs to make ends meet. Surviving on the minimum wage was untenable before the pandemic and is certainly unsustainable now. Given the economic pressures low-wage workers presently face, a living wage policy will help provide workers with the income required to avoid poverty. Manitoba should follow the lead of other Canadian provinces by significantly increasing its minimum wage in line with a living wage.


Reverse the Ford Tories’ Greenbelt grift!

Calls for public inquiry into corruption, public housing program to build 200,000 low-cost units in Ontario

PV Ontario Bureau

When Doug Ford’s Conservative government announced at the end of 2022 that it was removing 7,400 acres of land from Ontario’s Greenbelt protection, it claimed this was a necessary step for addressing the housing crisis. The plan, so the Tories claimed, was to use the freed-up land to build 50,000 homes.

But this was a deceit. As is now clear to all, the government removed the land from the protection in order to deliver massive profits to its developer backers – the question of actually building homes was always a lesser issue. In fact, there was never any evidence that Greenbelt land was even needed to address the housing crisis.

“The government’s real intent is now becoming clear as the ties between the Ontario Conservatives and the developers involved are being uncovered. Some of the land owners are now looking to cash out without building anything,” says Ontario Communist Party leader Drew Garvie. “This corruption, now on full display for everyone to see, highlights the root cause of the housing crisis – the privatization of housing.”

The Communist Party’s Ontario leadership has called for all lands which the government removed from Greenbelt designation to be immediately returned to that protected status, and that there be a public inquiry into how private interests have captured development and land policy.

Furthermore, the Party says that governments take swift and real action to confront the housing crisis, which is deepening and now affects millions of working people in Ontario alone. Such action would include direct government intervention to build 200,000 new units of publicly owned social housing and to extensively upgrade existing units. This building plan would need to be combined with legislation to roll back rents and bring in rent controls for all units in Ontario, to ensure that no one is compelled to pay more than 20 percent of income on housing.

The Ontario Tories have long aimed to open up Greenbelt land for development, with Premier Doug Ford being exposed during the 2018 election campaign for promising to provide developers with access to the protected area. The Greenbelt was created in 2005 as a protected area of 2 million acres of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands and watersheds, surrounding much of the province’s heavily populated Golden Horseshoe region.

Numerous studies have shown that Greenbelt land is not necessary for building housing in the Golden Horseshoe. For example, research by CBC revealed that nearly 120,000 housing units have been approved in Toronto but not built. The Neptis Foundation, an urban research organization, has determined that the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area contained some 45,000 acres of (non-Greenbelt) land which was available for development – the foundation says that this amount of land will be sufficient for the region’s housing needs until 2031 or beyond.

And yet, the Conservatives continued to use the housing crisis as the pretext for de-listing land from protection. The real reason, of course, is the enormous profits to be made by corporate developers.

The Auditor General reported last month that of the 7,400 acres of land that the government removed from the Greenbelt, over 90 percent was tied to three developers who have direct access to the Housing Ministry. These land owners stand to see a combined $8.3 billion increase in property value if development restrictions are removed.

Across the province, 83 percent of the people want the government to immediately reverse its decision to open the Greenbelt to development. Environmentalists, farmers and unions are calling for all of the lands to be returned, not just a portion and not through swaps with other land in different areas.

“This scandal is another case of corporate power directly dictating public policy,” says Garvie. “Profiteering developers have accumulated capital and power, but not by building homes based on people’s need – instead, they make huge profits by treating housing as an investment or speculation which results in suburban sprawl, cities made unlivable through high housing prices, and widespread environmental damage.”

While understanding the anger focused on the Tories, Garvie warns that people need to draw more systemic conclusions from this scandal. “We need to look well-beyond Steve Clark and even Doug Ford and the Conservatives, because the roots of this crisis – of which the current scandal is just a symptom – is ultimately corporate power and the commodification of housing.”

In Ontario now, over 700,000 households are in serious need of safe, affordable housing. At the same time, most working people are seeing their living standards eroded by skyrocketing housing costs. As banks and increasingly monopolized housing corporations rake in profits from working people, they work hard to ensure that governments don’t rock their boat. Parties in the provincial legislature have typically promoted policies that talk a lot about affordable housing, but which are really just subsidies or incentives for developers and landlords – they have all either been inadequate or have contributed to the crisis.

Housing is a human right and should be treated like a public utility, provided on the basis of need. We need governments – especially those at the federal and provincial levels – to re-assume a leading role in building and providing housing on a rent-geared-to-income basis. Instead of hoping the private sector builds what people need, and then watching while it doesn’t, working people need to press governments to take direct action through an emergency construction and upgrade plan for publicly owned, social housing units across the province.

As pressure builds, right-wing interests are trying to scapegoat immigrants and international students for the problem. Garvie says it is urgent that people “fight the current reframing of the debate, by both Liberals and Conservatives, into one that blames immigration for the housing crisis.

“The truth of the matter is that housing policy is a class issue – the roots of the crisis are caused by those that profit from it. Confronting the crisis means confronting and struggling against the vested interests which want to maintain power and wealth they derive from the private provision of shelter.”


Class struggle unions call for global shift away from militarism to fund people’sneeds

September 1 International Day of Trade Union Action for Peace sees mobilizations around the world

Dave McKee

Under the leadership of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) labour unions all over the world organized actions on September 1, calling for “more expenditures for healthcare, education and social security – not for NATO weapons and imperialist interventions.”

This is a strong example of what it means for unions to engage in class struggle, especially for unions in Canada where there are currently no WFTU affiliates. While there are certainly unions here which campaign for peace, disarmament and withdrawal from NATO, the labour movement generally veers away from action on such issues and outsources that work to the NDP, BQ or even the Liberals. The result is a union membership that is disengaged from these important issues, and labour’s effective endorsement of milquetoast solutions. This is a pity, since the labour movement has generally had solid policies in these areas.

For many years, the WFTU and its members have mobilized for the International Day of Trade Union Action for Peace, marking the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939. The day was established by the global class-oriented trade union movement to remember and honour the millions of victims of fascism during World War Two, as well as the victims of imperialist war and aggression including through the expanding power and profiteering of monopoly capitalism.

In the call to this year’s day of action, the WFTU stressed the escalating danger of war. “Nowadays, the world is facing a phase of extreme intensification of political, economic and military antagonism. Imperialist forces – especially the US, NATO and European Union – aim to control and exploit our planet’s economic resources, strengthen their spheres of influence and redraw borders. Inter-imperialist antagonisms are constantly exacerbated, armed conflicts are maintained and intensified, and the dangers to world peace are grave.”

In response to the call, WFTU members and allies organized actions in their countries, calling for an immediate end to imperialist interventions, embargoes and sanctions, and demanding the dissolution of NATO and the dismantling of nuclear weapons arsenals. Many unions joined with peace organizations, particularly those affiliated with the World Peace Council, to call for an intensified struggle against current interventions and wars including the war in Ukraine, accelerated militarization of international relations, and soaring military expenditures. They also reiterated the need to fully respect the sovereignty, independence, and right of every people to freely choose the path of their economic and social development.

The WFTU drew attention to the impact that the economic aspect of war and aggression has on working people. “We denounce the exclusions, discriminations, embargoes and sanctions imposed by the US, NATO and the EU against various countries, as they negatively impact the standard of living of low-income families, workers, poor small farmers and the people in general.”

The global labour body also condemned the decision of the NATO Summit to add new Regional Plans and to push members of the military alliance to spend a minimum of 2 percent of their GDP on military spending. These actions, warned the WFTU Secretariat, “sharpen the confrontation and deepen the preparations and risk for a generalized imperialist conflict with disastrous consequences for the ordinary people who always pay the cost of imperialist antagonism through death, displacement and the deterioration of their living and working conditions.”

This year’s Day of Trade Union Action for Peace is especially important because of working people’s general experience of skyrocketing prices, high inflation and long-term austerity policies, all of which have severely diminished incomes and living standards around the world. As the WFTU noted, “In an era where all workers’ demands for education, health, social security and dignified living conditions are rejected by capitalist governments under the pretext of lack of resources, the further increase in military spending is provocative as well as revealing of their intentions.”

Do we really need a clearer statement about how capitalist priorities continually veer from the interests of working people, in order to fund the desires of profit-seeking monopolies?

In the current global dangerous situation – with the triple threat of generalized war, climate catastrophe and deep economic crisis – we might reasonably expect to see a large and growing anti-war movement with labour at its core. But this isn’t the reality today – instead, the mainstream view is that the road to peace is through war, and Ukraine is the example. Perversely, offers of a ceasefire and negotiations leading to a political solution are treated as a compromise instead of a victory, and compromise is considered an unacceptable defeat. 

Part of the problem is that the drive to war is the predominant ideology in Canada, along with most advanced capitalist countries. But this is to be expected – perhaps a larger part of the problem is that the labour movement, which should represent the organized and class-conscious element of the working class, has been steadily retreating from a class struggle approach to war, militarism and international affairs. At the very least, this is true of the bulk of the labour leadership, who tend to be guided by right-wing social democratic ideology.

So, rather than a principled and class-based position against the war in Ukraine – and specifically the actions of Canada’s government, in lockstep with the war mongers in the US and NATO, to provoke and militarily encircle Russia – the Canadian Labour Congress issued a fluffy statement which called the invasion “unprovoked” and called for opening Canada’s borders to Ukrainian refugees. Of course, support for refugees from this or any war is important, and the fact that Russia was highly provoked doesn’t mean the invasion was justified.

But for the labour leadership to cast Russia as the sole aggressor, to ignore the years of provocation and aggression from the US-EU-NATO cartel, and to paint Ukraine’s far-right and murderous regime as the victim – this is an absolute abdication of working-class solidarity and internationalism. It is the highest union body, presenting to millions of workers a simplistic narrative with naïve black-and-white conclusions, that is larded with morality instead of even a basic class analysis. It suits the interests of the warmongers and severely hampers efforts to achieve peace and justice.

Labour in Canada needs to understand that the war, while seemingly far off in Ukraine, is seated on our doorstep right beside the more obviously immediate issues of falling wages, soaring prices, mass layoffs, climate crisis, privatization of health and social services, and many others. They’re all seated together precisely because they are all inter-related aspects of the contradictions of the capitalist society in which we live.

Labour in Canada needs to take a lead from the WFTU and directly link war and militarism with cuts to programs that serve working people’s needs – healthcare, education, childcare, climate and environmental justice, job creation, higher wages and living standards, social housing and more. By linking these issues, the labour leadership can put them back into the hands of working people and engage the incredible power of the working class to fight for their resolution. 

It is illusory to believe that we can resolve these issues under capitalism – that can only occur with socialism, which replaces the logic of profit with a planned, democratic economy based on meeting human and environmental need. But at the same time, the threats are great, and the clock is ticking – we cannot wait for socialism but need to build the class struggle now to confront these dangers. Such a struggle can become a force for the fundamental change that is needed.

But labour needs to act. As the World Federation of Trade Unions clearly indicated on September 1, working people cannot choose between prosperity at home and peace at home – these are two parts of the same struggle.


Towards a cross-border auto strike?

Stéphane Doucet

Workers from the Big Three automakers (Ford, Stellantis and GM) on both sides of the border have voted in favour of strike mandates as their collective agreements expire in mid-September. In Canada, 18,000 UNIFOR members have joined forces with 150,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) members in the US to considerably strengthen their position against these powerful employers.

In Canada, the votes were almost unanimous (ranging from 98 percent to 99 percent), suggesting that a real battle is brewing between these workers and the US auto giants.

Wages, pensions and job security are at the heart of the struggle. As the auto monopolies move towards electric vehicles, workers fear that the corporations will take advantage of the introduction of this new technology (which requires less labour on the assembly lines) to impose layoffs and put downward pressure on wages and working conditions.

It’s important to remember that in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the workers (who were at the time with the Canadian Auto Workers) agreed to major wage concessions totalling $900 million over 3 years, as the companies claimed to be in danger.

Last year, GM posted a profit of $20 billion, Ford $23 billion and Stellantis almost $18 billion. Additionally, the federal government as well as the Ontario and Quebec governments recently concluded agreements to provide subsidies and advantageous loans to the corporations – up to $15 billion for Stellantis and over $600 million for Ford.

Should this strike go ahead, it would be one of the most important battles to be waged in the auto sector – indeed, in the entire value-added industry – in Canada for decades. This is also true for the US, since the aim is to strike on both sides of the border at the same time.

Given the critical nature of the auto industry, there's no doubt that this strike will quickly become politicized. As such, its outcome will be of the utmost importance to the whole working class.


Ford government deepens capacity crisis by failing to respond to huge increase in COVID inpatient days

Doug Allan

COVID infections continue to drive up hospital costs and inpatient hospitalizations in Ontario. For the most recent fiscal year (April 1, 2022 – March 31, 2023) hospital stays related to COVID cost $1.221 billion, according to new Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data. 

This is about 4 percent of total hospital spending, creating a very significant new cost pressure beyond the usual pressures of population growth, aging, inflation and rising utilization. 

Costs for COVID-related hospitalizations increased 22.2 percent in Ontario in 2022-23 from the previous fiscal year, rising from $999 million to $1.221 billion. That rise is particularly notable as the Omicron variant spike of late 2021 and early 2022 had passed by the 2022-23 fiscal year. 

The $222 million increase in COVID hospitalization costs came in the same year as the Ford government cut special COVID funding and, in fact, cut total hospital funding by $156 million.   

In total, there were 60,653 COVID hospitalizations in Ontario in 2022-23, up from 47,543 in 2021-22. That is an increase of 13,110 inpatients, or 27.6 percent.

The average COVID length of stay in Ontario hospitals also increased – from 12.9 days in 2021-22 to 17.4 days in 2022-23. As a result, over 1 million hospital bed days were taken up by COVID-infected patients in 2022-23. The increase in COVID inpatients and their increased length of stay results in over 430,000 extra COVID inpatient days, a 72 percent increase in 2022-23. That increase alone requires 1,178 beds – occupied 365 days per year.

Despite the increase in length of stay, costs per inpatient actually went down from $21,021 in 2021-22 to $20,0352 in 2022-23. 

Likely, this is due to a large drop in the number of patients treated in intensive care beds, which run at more than twice the cost of ordinary medical beds. In 2022-23 there were 9,065 COVID patients in ICU versus 10,977 in 2021-22, a 17 percent decrease. 

Even with this reduction in ICU usage, the costs per COVID inpatient is over three times the cost for non-COVID inpatients and the length of stay is well over two times more.

As is the case for all types of Ontario inpatients, Ontario COVID patients are discharged more quickly than the Canadian average: 17.4 days versus 19.8 days for all of Canada (excluding Quebec). That's 12 percent less. Likewise, the cost of hospitalization is lower in Ontario: $20,135 versus $24,369 in all of Canada (excluding Quebec) – 17 percent less.

This fits the general trend: Ontario pushes all inpatients out 5.6 percent quicker and 15 percent cheaper than the Canadian average.

Finally, while the number of Ontario COVID-infected patients going to ERs fell from 133,233 to 118,130, the wait times for these patients increased dramatically. The 90th percentile of the COVID ER patients waited 14.9 hours in 2021-22 but 24.1 hours in 2022-23.

The COVID world requires extra hospital resources. So far there is little recognition of that from a Conservative government focused on bringing back austerity and budgeting a hospital funding increase of 0.5 percent this year. This continues their indifference to hospital pressures arising from population growth, aging, inflation and increased utilization. 

Ford (falsely) uses rapid population growth to justify his draconian greenbelt "housing" plans – but ignores that and so many other factors requiring growth of hospital capacity.

And so, the capacity crisis continues – the big increase in wait times for surgeries, the 107,000 people waiting longer for surgeries than the maximum clinical guideline, the long ER waits, the ambulance offload delays, the unprecedented closures, the lack of hospital beds, the new high in the number of patients being treated in hallways.


50th Anniversary of the Fascist Coup in Chile:

Honour the fallen, fight for their vision

The 50th anniversary of September 11, 1973 brings somber memories of one of the most infamous acts of imperialist terror and violence. Three years after the historic victory of September 1970, democratically elected president Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity government were overthrown by a traitorous military junta backed by US imperialism.

Thousands of the best fighters for the working class of Chile were murdered, including Nobel prize winning poet Pablo Neruda [who was recently found to have been poisoned by the fascist regime] and folksinger Victor Jara. The junta filled concentration camps with trade unionists, communists, socialists and others; hundreds of thousands fled into exile to escape the regime's death squads and torture.

The coup was carried out to strangle the heroic struggle by the Chilean working class to build a new, free, socialist society. Decades of hard-won gains towards social justice and equality were ruthlessly dismantled, as the country was turned into a laboratory for neoliberal policies designed by the "Chicago boys" [a group of Chilean economists who were proponents of the Chicago school of neoliberalismespoused by Milton Friedman and others].

Even before the coup began, it was widely known that US imperialism was plotting to drown Chilean democracy in blood. The world will never forgive Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger for their crimes against Chile, which set the stage for similar events in other Latin American countries where democracy and human rights were smashed by fascist and military regimes.

But the dream of a socialist future embodied in the Popular Unity coalition can never be erased by fascist terror. In today's world, at a time of imperialist wars, unparalleled economic inequality and environmental disasters, the ideals of socialism are flourishing. As President Allende said in his final speech from La Moneda after the coup was launched, "sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again, and free people will walk through them to construct a better society." Despite many setbacks and contradictions, Allende's words have been validated in recent years. The time of the fascist dictators and US hegemony over Latin America is ending, and socialist Cuba continues to defy Washington's threats and blockades, winning new friends every day.

On this occasion, we salute the memory of Allende and his comrades, and we pledge to continue our decades of solidarity with the workers of Chile, who have given the world so much through their contributions to the working class and people's movements. On September 11, 2023 we join with others to commemorate this date, and we vow to redouble our efforts to win a socialist future.

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada


Queen’s University has a housing problem

Zak Lambe

The housing situation at Queen’s University is dire. Last September, the university opened its newest 334 room student residence on Albert St. The additional student capacity does not change the fact that a room in residence and meal plan costs over $17,000 for only 8 months, which is completely unaffordable for anyone who does not come from a privileged, wealthy background.

This year, Queen’s is boasting about increasing acceptances by 17 percent compared to last year. If they continue increasing acceptances, incoming students will have to join upper year students in the search for off campus housing. Students living off campus will find that their options for accommodation range between houses owned by slumlords and recent developments owned by corporate property managers and without rent control. Students are often paying over $700 per month for a room and over $1400 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in Kingston.

These prices are a result of a shortage of affordable housing that has gone unaddressed by the City of Kingston or Queen’s. Kingston has the second lowest vacancy rate in the province at 1.4 percent. Slumlords, who neglect their properties and exploit their tenants – many of whom are Queen’s students – face no repercussions for their actions. The university is certainly aware of the conditions in the student ghetto but has chosen to do nothing about it. 

Graduate students are also suffering from the cost of living and housing crisis in Kingston. They conduct research, teach classes, and lead tutorials and labs, all while being paid effectively below the minimum wage. Queen’s guarantees a minimum funding package of $18,000 a year over four years for full-time doctoral students and does not guarantee anything for master’s students. The university acknowledges in its own estimates that the cost of living and attending university is well above what they offer as compensation.

Graduate students who do not receive enough funding to survive are then forced to find additional employment. In 2021, Queen’s Food Insecurity Report found that 52 percent of users of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) food bank were graduate or professional students. Earlier this year, PSAC Local 901 ran an emergency food relief program for graduate students experiencing food insecurity for 15 weeks, dispersing over $30,000 to over 450 applicants. It is unacceptable that Queen’s has hundreds of its employees relying on a food bank to survive because they refuse to pay their workers a living wage.

Graduate students have also felt the consequences of the housing shortage. In May 2022, Queen’s received over 300 applications for 60 units in John Orr Tower and the Al Clachan Complex in under half an hour. There is a clear demand for affordable graduate housing, but how can graduate students expect the university to provide them with affordable housing when they cannot even rely on it for funding?

Queen’s claims to foster a welcoming and safe environment to students of all backgrounds, but that is not true. How can they claim to give equal opportunity to low income students when they lobby the government to end the tuition freeze? Or to international students, who are exploited for profit by being subjected to ridiculous tuition fees in the tens of thousands per year? Are they guaranteeing equal opportunity to their graduate students when they pay them starvation wages? No!

Queen’s clearly serves a privileged class, as evidenced by the lobbying efforts of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane to end the tuition freeze. A tuition hike may not affect wealthy students, but it will significantly impact low-income students who can barely afford to survive.

A recent Queen’s report projected a $62 million deficit and highlighted the impact that the provincial government’s tuition freeze has had on university finances. Instead of blaming the government’s tuition freeze that is necessary for many of their students to survive, Patrick Deane, with his over $400,000 salary, should redirect his lobbying efforts to increase government funding to the university. Queen’s could use the additional government funding to lower tuition, guarantee affordable housing and pay their graduate students a living wage.

Even without additional government funding, the university has an over $1.4 billion endowment fund that sits idle, showing that Queen’s would rather watch its investment portfolio grow for the sake of greed than invest in their students and faculty who are clearly in need of support.

Only through student organization and activism can Queen’s be held accountable for its actions.


Quebec peace movement prepares mobilizes for October actions

MQP rallying for peace, against nuclear weapons and for Canada's exit from NATO

The geopolitical situation has dramatically worsened over the past few years. Never before have we been so close to a global, nuclearized conflict between great powers. But far from advocating peace, Canada is actively participating in geopolitical tensions, whether in the China Sea, in its confrontations with Russia or across Latin America, putting the interests of Western imperialist monopolies first.

The Mouvementquébécois pour la paix (MQP) points out clearly that the primary source of these tensions is NATO and the imperialist actions of its member states. The omnipresent war propaganda, however, would have people in Quebec and throughout Canada believe that the enemy lies elsewhere, be it China, Russia or any other foreign force.

While the bosses and merchants of war make huge profits and as arms sales, which fuel deadly imperialist conflicts, reach record levels, working people in Quebec are facing a social, economic and health crisis. Social services are deteriorating, rents are rising, and wages are lagging far behind galloping inflation. What's more, the provincial and federal governments have launched an offensive against working people, with the aim of destroying the social and economic gains we still have – through privatizing public services, unreasonably high interest rates, attacking tenant rights and, of course, reforms which undermine labour rights.

Progressive forces urgently need to organize against imperialist wars, as well as in response to the social war waged by the bosses and the government. We need to invest in wages, social services and housing, not in armaments and war. Working people’s interests are clear: peace and solidarity between peoples. It's high time we made them heard.

To that end, MQP is organizing a major demonstration for peace, against NATO and against all-out military spending, on Sunday, October 8 at Place du Canada in Montreal. All progressive forces – from trade unions to international solidarity groups, from community groups to the student movement – are invited to participate.

Canada out of NATO! No to nuclear weapons! Yes to peace!



Anti-war banners greet fighter jets at Abbotsford air show

Brooke Ratzlaff

During the early morning of August 12, peace activists set up banners over the edge of a bridge overpassing the main highway heading towards the air show in Abbotsford, BC. With rising military and political tensions towards China and the very real possibility that the war in Ukraine will escalate to more than just a proxy war between Russia and NATO, air shows like Abbotsford serve an important role in promoting US and NATO imperialism and militarism to the general public.

Along with being a longstanding event in the Fraser Valley that celebrates war itself, the Abbotsford air show also contributes to the image of the Canadian and United States militaries working together to impose their authority across the globe.

The highway that day was packed with commuters heading east out of the city, and the air show definitely added to that congestion. Despite the occasional insult or display of disagreement, the majority of commuters’ responses to the banners and signs was positive. There was plenty of hand waving, thumbs ups and peace signs from semi-truck drivers, workers driving company vehicles and general motorists.

Displays of support like this show that there are people in Canada who oppose the government’s policies of escalating global military tensions in support of NATO and the military-industrial complex.

Peace, anti-war and anti-NATO actions such as these are needed across Canada, as the government spends billions on sending fighter jets and war material to Ukraine and other countries who oppose US imperialist hegemony without consequence or push back. Although the working class in Canada is sold the idea that everyone is on board with the current path to war, this action and the response to it show this isn't the case. They also indicate that an even larger and stronger peace and anti-war movement can be built.


Trudeau has billions for Trans-Mountain, but not for housing

Stéphane Doucet

Justin Trudeau is having a hard time managing the crises bombarding him from all sides: housing, inflation, "foreign interference" and more. We generally understand this as indicative of the crisis of capitalism, but that view isn’t quite shared by the ruling class that gave us Trudeau.

In recent weeks, Immigration Minister Marc Miller said he wants to "explore the links between immigration and the housing crisis." Justin Trudeau, however, came right back to warn that "there's no point in blaming one person or one group of people for a problem that's been developing for decades in Canada." As far as immigrants are concerned, that's absolutely right. But in truth, there is one group of people responsible for the housing crisis – capitalists!

Following the end of federal subsidies for social housing construction in 1994, almost none is being built any longer. In Quebec, the Coalition Avenir Québec government recently abolished Accès-Logis, the only program that built social housing with rent calculated according to income. Clearly, there is a consensus among monopoly capitalist that housing should not be paid for by society, and that any obstacle to speculation and profit in this area must be removed.

For proof, we can look at an area where the federal government has not hesitated to pull out all the stops to support construction – the Trans-Mountain oil pipeline. Ottawa purchased this pipeline in 2018 from the Kinder Morgan company for $4.5 billion. Trudeau was completely clear on the reasoning: "We bought this pipeline to ensure that it would be built because it was in the national interest."

Well, the cost of expanding the pipeline has risen from $7.4 billion to over $30 billion in less than 5 years. Although Trudeau insists that the pipeline be sold to the private sector, a team of researchers estimates that taxpayers will have lost around $18 billion in the end. Yet the government persists.

So, not a penny goes to social housing at a time when the housing crisis is hitting the working class hard with skyrocketing mortgages and rents, impossibility of relocation because of a lack of adequate housing, and so on. On the other hand, there are pockets full of money for an oil pipeline that a large part of the population objects to, in the midst of the climate crisis. Trudeau makes it clear that the “national interest” boils down to the interests of the monopolies.

Capital’s choice is made. It's up to us to organize a response to their crisis.


Seven bottlenecks that need to be cleared on the path to peace in Sudan

Part two of a two-part commentary on the crisis in Sudan

ElfadilElsharief Elhashmi

The war that has been raging in Sudan since April erupted as the result of several ticking time bombs which combined to impose and maintain a completely lopsided distribution of resources, wealth and power in the country. Unless they are carefully addressed and resolutely confronted, these seven factors will remain as bottlenecks on the path to peace.

  1. Extreme kleptocracy upheld by extreme ideology:

The military regime, dominated and controlled for over three decades by the Muslim Brotherhood, is profoundly kleptocratic and parasitic to the country’s economy. To maintain this, it has to be ideologically fanatic and brutal in its strategies and actions against civilian dissent. The naked looting, bribery, corruption and exploitation could not practically continue without an extremist (and fascistic) ideology which justifies it.

The material form of this was the “Civilization Project” which longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir implemented beginning in 1989. This project involved the fundamentalist Islamization of all socio-political and economic spaces in Sudan including banking, taxation, health and education.

Militarism and fascism framed the vision and provided the mechanisms for the Civilization Project, along with a few self-appointed religious intellectuals, sheikhs in the Native Administration (a localized system of governance and control which was initially instituted by British colonial authorities) and partisans who promoted a power sharing partnership with the warlords. 

This explains how, during transitional rule, the old regime’s vital economic structure has been left intact. Through this structure, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has privatized, looted and controlled more than 80 percent of public economic resources including agricultural, livestock and industrial factories, as well as war and weapon industries whose exports and revenues have been kept outside the control and reach of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank. Furthermore, these industries have been maintained by the SAF on a tax-exempt basis.

Additionally, both the SAF and the militias (Rapid Support Forces – RSFs) have been milking more than 70 percent of the government’s annual budget through heavy informal levies and indirect taxes on the 95 percent of the population who are below the poverty line.

How can a transitional process succeed or even survive with such huge economic distortions, while the tiny ruling circles have private hospitals, private universities, private planes, malls and rationing units providing them with bread, sugar, gas, medicine and clothing?

This war is more than a fight between two generals. The conflict involves the new emerging power of the RSF militias, who are supported by rich Gulf forces and Russia, versus the SAF generals who are dominated and led by the Muslim Brotherhood and supported by the US, EU, African Union and Egypt. Both sides seek control of mineral resources, land-grabbing contracts and gold smuggling, and neither has any interest beyond inheriting the old regime and liquidating the demands of the December 2018 Revolution.

The revolutionary Sudanese people are opposed to them both.

  1. “Militia-ization” of political space:

Ironically, the “militia-ization” (or paramilitarization) of political space was introduced by the colonial rulers to fight dissent, whether civilian or military. But there are many examples of how this continued into the current period.

Jaafar Nimeiry’s military regime created the “Friendly Forces” paramilitary in the mid-1980s to fight rebels in the south on behalf of the SAF. After Nimeiry was deposed by a civilian uprising in 1985, the transitional government armed the Red Missarya tribe in South Kordofan, near the South Sudan border, to fight the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels. In 1986, democratically elected Prime Minister ElsadigElmahdi officially formed the El-Maraheel militia out of the Red Missarya, to fight with and on behalf of the SAF.

In November 1989, the Muslim Brotherhood regime created the Popular Defence Forces militia. This was the first time that the war against southern rebels was disguised in a “jihadist” religious veil, as a war against the infidels. The regime also referred to the militia as “mujahideen,” which extended the Civilization Project’s aim of Islamizing all public spaces.

After the 2003 Darfur rebellion, the regime formed the “Border Guards” militia. One of the leaders was Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (“Hemedti”) who was also, and still is a leader of the Janjaweed militia. Hemedti and another Border Guards-Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, both challenged the central government and confiscated the Jebel Amir gold mines as part of their own export and smuggling businesses.

When the ruling party’s internal struggles intensified, Omar al-Bashir in 2013 bestowed huge legal powers on the RSF and Hemedti. Following that, the RSF was considered a military entity separate from the Sudanese Armed Forces, whose orders and directions came from the president.

The economic and ethnic aspects of the militia-ization of public space became especially clear to a global audience during the Darfur war in western Sudan.

The Janjaweed fighters are Afro-Arab nomadic people who mainly identify as Arab and whose roots extend from western Sudan to Chad, Niger and Mali. Such nomads have historical conflicts and tensions with their settled neighbours in southern Africa, due to their southward movement in summer to graze their camels. Such tensions over natural resources used to be resolved by local administration and wisdom.

The west of Sudan – including the large Darfur region – has been historically neglected by the central government, with a lack of development projects and infrastructure including roads, health and education services. In response to the resulting discontent, the military regime framed the problem as one of herders against settled people, and in the process transformed a conflict over natural resources and development into an “Arabs versus Africans” identity struggle.

Using the Janjaweed militia, the regime organized a genocidal mass killing war in Darfur beginning in 2003. Using scorched earth policies, the SAF bombarded villages by air and the Janjaweed attacked by land – burning farms and villages, raping and killing non-Arab people, and stealing their livestock.

  1. The RSF as an integral part of the economic and political power structure:

The RSF has accumulated financial wealth by occupying gold mines, smuggling and exporting gold and meat, and by contracting its soldiers to fight as mercenaries in the Yemen war. It also benefited from imperialist intervention, in the form of a European Union contract to guard the Sudan-Libya border against Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian migrants potentially heading to Europe.

One of the transitional government’s fatal mistakes was to further boost the RSF by appointing Hemedti as head of the Higher Committee for Economic Emergency and by empowering him to lead the Juba Peace process. In part, this reflects the material and moral nurturing of Hemedti by corrupt local, regional and international stakeholders, as well as his $1 billion “donation” (read bribe) to the Central Bank in April 2019 to support the transitional government’s crippled economic system.

But this situation is also a result of then Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s serious error of naively adopting a political power sharing model with the warlords and generals. This model was shortsightedly initiated and pushed by the UN, US, EU, African Union and Arab states. In fact, all the external players (especially the UN mission) treated the RSF as a peer to the SAF when addressing the militia’s merger into the army.

The RSF does not want to lay down its weapons and return to civilian life, as the UN’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process prescribes. Rather, the militia wants to be incorporated into the official armed forces, according to its own terms and using a time frame of a decade or more. The RSF has already been incorporated into the official intelligence and security forces.

  1. The alliance between local elites, regional and international stakeholders:

Sudan’s exploitative political and economic system rests on a carefully constructed alliance between local agents, states in the region and throughout the world, and multinationals. These stakeholders make effective use of global neoliberal institutions to facilitate lucrative long-term projects which include land-grabbing contracts and investments in gold, uranium, agriculture, livestock and water resources.

The international community and regional states engineered and blessed this alliance as the status quo and pushed for the military-civilian partnership and power sharing model as the only doable and practical path in the transitional period after al-Bashir’s overthrow by the December 2018 Revolution. The alliance between local agents and imperialist forces was facilitated by the complicity and complacency of civilian political leaders, who set low ethical and intellectual standards and who responded irresponsibly to the people’s realistic dreams which were clearly stated in the slogan, “Freedom, Peace and Justice.”

The transitional government, particularly the prime minister, naively ignored the revolutionary demands. They carelessly addressed serious issues when dealing with corrupt kleptocrats and bloody military fascists, not treating them as real enemies of progress, national and radical democratic change. Just a few generals from the previous regime were imprisoned, and their second-rank generals took over while only pretending to support the revolution’s demands.

  1. The generals insist on impunity:

Both warlords – General Abdel Fattah Burhan of the SAF and the RSF’s Hemedti – have challenged the transitional democratic process. Specifically, they have imposed their plans to not be subjected to questioning or judicial prosecution for their roles in the Khartoum Massacre of June 3, 2019 – during which over a hundred protesters were killed while occupying a military headquarters, and hundreds more were injured, assaulted and arrested – as well as mass killings in Darfur between 2003 and 2007.

Fighting warlords and high-ranking generals want immunity and impunity from these crimes, showing they do not want to be subjected to genuine civilian rule and the scrutiny of genuine justice.

  1. Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the armed forces:

The Sudanese Armed Forces have been deeply infiltrated and ideologically engineered since the 1989 coup by the Muslim Brotherhood. Party members were recruited to the army and promoted to the highest ranks. All non-Muslim Brotherhood army officers were fired.

This distortion and engineering of the SAF must be confronted urgently and reversed before forcing the army back to the barracks. Otherwise, no genuine progress towards peoples’ democracy can materialize.

  1. “Peace agreement” caters to the generals rather than the people:

The Juba Peace Agreement signed on August 31, 2020 was a devastating blow to justice and transition. The model of splitting power and wealth among a few generals of a few armies does nothing for locally displaced refugees. The refugee camp leaders were not even involved in this fake peace and justice process – the Juba Agreement was adopted and supported by the transitional government, the US, UN, the African Union and the regional Arab states. Those entities, not the people, are complicit in its design, planning and implementation.

The agreement essentially provides the generals of some armed movements with economic privileges like financial and ministerial quotas. It is not a peace deal that aims to abolish marginalization and unbalanced development in the war-affected areas. Nor does it provide transitional justice for internally displaced people in Darfur, the NubaMountains and the Blue Nile areas.

Effort to abort the revolution

The above factors – and unethical, irrational and inhumane set of local, regional and international structural policies and conspiracies – have been pursued to abort the December 2018 Revolution. All of them resist the genuine revolutionary demands and slogans of Freedom, Peace and Justice.

Sudan is experiencing a barbaric, imperialist crusade launched by a Euro-American alliance employing local and regional players. Imperialist forces are trying to manufacture a Sudan which is ready for sale. They want a Sudan whose rich minerals, water and agricultural resources are poised for auction, an “enclave” with already signed cheap land-grabbing deals that are blessed by the UN, US, EU and African Union. 


Union and feminist legendsLéa Roback and Madeleine Parent would cringe at their “honour” from Canada Post

Adrien Welsh and Greg Beaune

On August 28, Canada Post unveiled a series of stamps with the images of Léa Roback, Madeleine Parent and Simone Monet-Chartrand. Entitled “Hommage à trois féministesquébécoises” (“Tribute to three Quebec feminists”) the series distorts the struggle of these three women who, before being called "feminists" (a term somewhat appropriated by the ruling class) were trade unionists. Furthermore, the involvement of the first two women in the labour movement was a reflection of their communist politics.

But of course, Canada Post says nothing about that.

This is to be expected, given the anti-union history of this crown corporation. We can only wonder what these women would they have said in 2018, in response to legislation that forced a return to work and imposed a “collective” agreement on Canada Post employees? No doubt they would have moved heaven and earth to mobilize and organize against such an injustice.

Even in the context of the struggle for women's rights, Canada Post’s “honouring” of these women is beyond ham-fisted considering that Canadian Union of Postal Workers President Jean-Claude Parrot was imprisoned during the union’s fight for to win maternity leave for the company's women workers. Even today, pay equity is far from being reality at Canada Post, whose rural and suburban letter carriers – the majority of whom are women – are still fighting for equal pay and working conditions with urban carriers.

If there is one positive aspect to these stamps, it is the hope that the figures of Léa Roback, Madeleine Parent and Simone Monet-Chartrand will inspire Canada Post workers when it comes time to renegotiate their collective agreement, due to expire next spring.

Below are biographical portraits of Roback and Parent – two communist women whose lives are intertwined with the working-class struggles in Quebec and throughout Canada. The texts were prepared by Greg Beaune for the Montreal celebration of the Communist Party’s centenary in May 2021.

Léa Roback

Léa Roback was a member of the Communist Party in Montreal, where she worked in a theatre box office. Scarce means of food and shelter were the lot of uneducated working-class women in the 1920s – Roback became aware of the difficulties faced by working-class women during those years of economic crisis.

Her radicalization toward communism came via a trip to Germany between 1929 and 1932, where she fought alongside members of the German Communist Party against the rise of Nazism. She returned to Canada in 1932, as the situation in Germany had become too dangerous for a Jewish woman and communist.

Back in Montreal, she founded the city's first Marxist bookshop, and struggled within the feminist movement for women's suffrage and against poverty. In 1937, she helped organize the "midinettes" strike of over 5,000 textile workers, the catalyst of which was the Duplessis government’s adoption of the Padlock Law. She organized the election campaigns which twice brought communist Fred Rose to Parliament in Ottawa.

Roback was particularly targeted during the Duplessis regime, both by the police and the fascist movement, due to her political involvement and Jewish background. Throughout her life, she was a comrade deeply dedicated to the struggle against racism, exclusion and injustice.

Madeleine Parent

Madeleine Parent is a central figure in Quebec’s labour and feminist movements. In 1942, at just 24 years of age, she led major strikes in the textile sector in Saint-Henri and Hochelaga. This was an industry which was mainly made up of underpaid women workers. That same year she met Kent Rowley, who became her husband and her comrade in struggle.

In 1946, she led another strike against Dominion Textile, which stubbornly refused to recognize the union. The strike lasted 100 days and was broken by Duplessis, who declared it illegal. Parent was promptly arrested along with other union leaders, but the struggling workers won their case, and the strike was victorious.

Parent again played a central role in the 1947 wool workers' strike and was again arrested. Due to Duplessis' intense repression, she left Quebec and settled in Ontario. As a result of anti-communism, she was expelled from the United Textile Workers of America.

Madeleine Parent also played a role in forming the National Action Committee for the Status of Women, and she fought for equal rights and equal pay, particularly for Indigenous women.

Returning to Quebec in 1978, she continued her union and feminist work, playing a role in the Fédération des femmes du Québec and participating in numerous strikes, even after her retirement. She was active in the struggles against war and imperialism, fiercely opposing the two wars in Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan.



September 30: a day to honour victims and survivors, and demand real action

PV editorial

The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 (often called Orange Shirt Day) is an occasion for all people in Canada to honour the victims and survivors of the so-called “residential school system.”

In reality, these institutions were a crucial piece of the genocidal white supremacist drive to assimilate Indigenous peoples by destroying languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

The origins of the Canadian state – an imperialist state – lie in the colonial seizure of Indigenous lands and the capitalist exploitation of the working class. These actions have brought vast wealth to a handful of billionaires, while bringing death and destruction to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that thousands of Indigenous children were known to have died in the residential schools, but that the actual total would be much higher. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls reported similar findings. And as the entire world knows, the tragic discovery in recent years of hundreds of unmarked graves, at the sites of former residential schools, has shone a bright light on the impact of these genocidal institutions.

Justin Trudeau promised to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, but most these have not been carried out. At the same time, the government manages to find billions of dollars to spend on supporting the fossil fuel industry (including by sending armed police into Indigenous territory), on fighter bombers and other weapons of war, and on fighting the Canadian Human Rights ruling that Ottawa must equitably fund First Nations child and family services.

Having September 30 designated a statutory federal holiday is important, just as displaying an orange shirt is important. But so far, only a small number of provincial governments have made similar declarations, and this must change.

Furthermore, governments at all levels must be pressed to make the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation into an annual day that truly remembers and confronts the racist legacies of colonialism and capitalism in this country. It needs to be a day that helps mobilize united, mass actions to struggle for peace and justice.

September 30 should be a day when we all commit to the genuine equality of all nations within Canada and recognize the right of each to self-determination up to and including secession.

It should be a day when we press hardest for governments to recognize and implement the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We cannot stand idle as political and corporate leaders pay lip service to Truth and Reconciliation, while at the same time they impose new fossil fuel pipelines, mines, logging and other resource extraction projects on Indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands and waters.

People’s Voice urges all our readers to take part events which are being organized by Indigenous peoples for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and to renew our commitment to see the implementation of all 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the 231 Calls for Justice in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.


Pages from our past…

Surprise! Surprise! Tory politicos discover slums

Canadian Tribune Vol 28 No 1357 ~ September 16, 1963

Phyllis Clarke

Suddenly it has become fashionable in Toronto to find slums.

It all started with the town planners. Now the newspapers and Tory politicians are getting into the act too. It seems that what the workers have known for a long time – that not all homes in Toronto are completely modern and new – has been discovered by others.

A recent Dominion Bureau of Statistics release on housing facilities pointed out that one out of every 10 dwellings in Toronto has no flush toilet, close to 40,000 have no bath or shower, more than 13,000 have no central heating and 2,105 have no running water. Some 10,747 are “in need of major repairs.”

One of the areas that has been publicized consists of 10 homes on Widmer Street in the heart of the city, just six blocks from city hall. These houses are all owned by Widmer Investments Ltd., and 50-60 people live in them.

Three of the houses have no furnaces and tenants must pay for their own water, electricity and gas. Rent runs from $60 for houses with no furnaces to $90 a month. [These amounts are equal to about $600 and $900 now]

The houses are damp, gloomy and badly in need of paint. According to one report some are infested with vermin and two teen-aged daughters in one home moved out of their beds and slept on the floor because “the bed bugs were eating us alive.”

In another house the cockroaches were so thick, “they were falling into our soup when we came here.”

By chance this area has also been found by the Tory MPP for the district. First elected in 1943, and having served 20 years in the Ontario Legislature, former Attorney-General Kelso Roberts has announced now that something must be done about such areas as Widmer Street.

“How can anyone believe him,” asked Rae Murphy, Communist candidate in St. Patrick, “when for 20 years he hasn’t cared about the working people in this riding?

“Only a proper utilization of public funds to build good, low-rental housing and opportunities for jobs at decent wages can solve this problem. The Tory record is one of helping big business. The story of Widmer Street fits in well with the stories of corruption of this Tory government.”

Charles Weir, Communist candidate in St. David, said:

“In my riding we have the Regent Housing Project, which was built as a result of considerable pressure from the working people of Toronto and the work of labor’s representatives on the Toronto city council.”

He added: “There are still large pockets here in the east end of poor housing, out of which absentee landlords are making a pretty penny. What is needed is to strengthen labor’s representation at Queen’s Park and introduce measures for better living in our province. We need the $1.25 minimum wage now [approximately $12.50 per hour in 2023] and a 40-hour work week by law.”

Some of the proposals for tax cuts for those who build according to the city plan, which the Toronto city council has discussed, obviously couldn’t interest the owners of Widmer Investments. They are doing just fine as it is.

Neither have the municipal or provincial law so far attacked the problem of gouging in rent.

Slums will not disappear by pious words but through government action which must include curbs on the landlords.