Archive for the ‘Act Locally’ Category

There is no shortage of Stop Harper videos on YouTube. A recent YouTube search yielded 3,740 hits, and I’m sure one could find more with a more refined search. Ever since Brigette DePape interrupted the Speech from the Throne with her iconic stop sign, activists have been inspired to amplify the message in on placards, T-shirts and in song.

What follows is a rundown of videos I’ve shot in and around Winnipeg. I invite readers to share their favorites in the comments section.

Stop Harper . . . the musical

August 2, 2012: Stephen Harper was in Gimli to make political hay out of a pledge to commit $18 million to dealing with the environmental problems facing Lake Winnipeg. After gutting  environmental protection laws in Canada to make way for dirty oil pipeline megaprojects and cancelling funding to the Experimental Lakes Area, we doubted his sincerity.

Despite our best efforts, we never got to see Harper close-up. In fact, his security detail took great pains to ensure he did not have to engage with anyone either than party faithful and selected media. But we did come up with this great song . . .

Hey Harper #StopHarper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political motto must be “so many people to annoy – so little time.” Whether it is gutting environmental protection laws, wasting money on fighter jets that no one else wants to buy, denying health care to refugees or shutting down Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote, Harper has been a disaster for Canada.

In this clip, Winnipeg’s renowned Flaming Trolleys Marching Band provide words and the rhythms that will be appreciated by any Canadian that is marching for democracy.

National Stop Harper Day in Winnipeg

Traditionally a day of celebration, Canada Day 2012 became National Stop Harper Day for Canadians in 12 cities because of the regressive policies of the Harper government, most notably Bill C-38. In Winnipeg, citizens held a Funeral for Canada in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, a display of activist art at the St. Norbert Arts Centre and a Vigil for Canada on the outskirts of The Forks National Historic Site.

Stop Cuts to Refugee Health Care in Canada

Winnipeg, June 18, 2012: Opposition to the Harper government’s plan to cut health care for refugees reverberated across Canada. Joining in a National Day of Action Against Refugee Health Cuts, about 500 Winnipeggers rallied at The Forks to hear from health care professionals and newcomers to Canada about the threats posed by Harper’s plans.

In this clip, Dr. Michael Dillon outlines the impressive line-up of opposition to these cuts, the outcomes of which, according to Canadian Doctors for Medicare, “could range from diabetics not getting their insulin, to children not receiving immunizations, to letting people succumb to heart attacks.”

Joyce has a choice! Let her hear your voice!

Conservative MP Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre) had a choice: stand up for the democratic rights of her constituents – and all Canadians – or vote for Bill C-38 – a draconian bill that included a budget which cuts a wide range of necessary services with amendments to over 70 existing laws. She chose the latter. By cramming all of these changes into an omnibus bill and rushing it through Parliament’s Finance Committee, Harper prevented MPs from examining and debating these measures in detail. Once again Harper showed his contempt for democracy.

In this clip, marchers gathered at Bateman’s constituency office to ask her to vote against Bill C-38.

June 9, 2012: Citizens opposed to Bill C-38 pause for a moment outside of Conservative MP Joyce Bateman’s Winnipeg South Centre office before continuing to distribute literature in the constituency. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Stephen Harper’s Bill C-38 continues to generate controversy and opposition across Canada. In Winnipeg, a group of citizens have joined Lead Now’s “13 Heroes” campaign that is aimed at convincing enough Conservative MPs across the country to force the Prime Minister to back down on his budget implementation bill. The focus in Winnipeg is on Conservative MP Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre).

C-38 is an omnibus bill that combines budgetary spending and cuts with amendments to over 70 pieces of existing legislation. Among the bill’s lowlights, it

  • repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and introduces a weaker version
  • kills Canadian world-class science research centres, closing or selling the Experimental Lakes Area, The Cereal Research Centre at the University of Manitoba, marine & climate-monitoring programs
  • removes protection of endangered species and their habitat, when approving pipeline projects, by amending the Species at Risk Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act
  • guts the Fisheries Act by removing provisions for habitat protection
  • repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act
  • eliminates the National Round Table on Environment and Economy
  • repeals the Fair Wages Act
  • reforms Old Age Security by raising the age of eligibility for the program
  • forces EI users to accept work that does not correspond to their training or customary salary

While Canadians and their MPs should debate the merits of these various measures, Harper will not allow this to happen. Because they have been stuffed into one Bill, these proposals will not get the individual attention they deserve. As you read this, the package is being rushed through one Parliamentary Committee — the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee is neither mandated nor equipped to assess the impacts of these wide-ranging amendments. Once again, Harper is showing his contempt for Canadians, for Parliament and for democracy itself.

Parliament may vote on Bill C-38 as soon as June 14th. The Opposition Parties are lined up to oppose the Bill, but with his majority, Harper will prevail unless we can convince some of his backbenchers to stop acting like sheep and listen to their constituents. Thirteen, to be precise. If thirteen Conservative MPs choose democracy, Harper can choose to back down or face an election.

On June 13, expect rallies outside of Conservative MPs offices. You can find out about the one nearest you here. If you live in Winnipeg, two events are planned:

Information picket in front of Joyce Bateman’s office (611 Corydon Avenue) from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Show up at three and you can help make picket signs.

Bill C-38 Dialogue Event, The University of Winnipeg, Room 2M70 (515 Portage Ave), from 7:00 to 9:00 pm

If you can’t make it, or abhor crowds, you can still remind Joyce Bateman that she has a choice. Contact her at

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone:  613-992-9475
Fax:  613-992-9586


102-611 Corydon Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3L 0P3
Telephone: 204-983-1355
Fax: 204-984-3979

Finally, here’s a bit of video I recorded Saturday at Joyce Bateman’s office. But first, go to the kitchen and assemble your favorite noisemakers. Then play the video and chant:


Winnipeg, March 11, 2012: Winnipeggers rally outside of Tory MP Joyce Bateman's office demanding the federal government allow a full inquiry into the federal election robocall scandal. Photo: Paul S. Graham

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper undoubtedly wishes this issue would disappear, Canadians marched in more than two dozen cities today, demanding a full inquiry into the federal election robocall scandal. In Winnipeg, over 100 rallied at the corner of Osborne Street and River Avenue where organizer Josh Brandon expressed the sense of outrage that many Canadians feel about the undermining of Canada’s electoral system. Speakers Kevin Lamoureux (Liberal MP for Winnipeg North) and Judy Wasylycia-Leis (former NDP MP for the same riding) urged them to support an NDP-sponsored bill that would grant Elections Canada greater powers to investigate electoral fraud, including the more than 30,000 complaints filed by Canadians about the last federal election.

At the conclusion of the speeches, the demonstrators marched to the Winnipeg South Centre office of Tory MP Joyce Bateman, to present her with a petition regarding concerns about robocalls that were made to voters in that riding. In the previous election Bateman narrowly defeated the Liberal incumbent, Anita Neville.

Here is my video report.

Winnipeg’s fabled North End, long known for its contributions to the arts, popular culture and radical politics, has always had a reputation for being a tough place to grow up. These days, however, crime, violence, gangs and poverty seem to be its defining characteristics, at least in the minds of folks who do not live there.

On January 15, 2012, the United Jewish People’s Order and the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians — organizations with deep, historic roots in north Winnipeg, held a public forum entitled “The North End – the Good and the Bad.” Their intent was to engage North Enders in a discussion of challenges they face and to highlight some of the forces for progress in the neighborhood.

Moderator: Roz Usiskin, United Jewish People’s Order

Panelists (in order of appearance):

– Sel Burrows, Point Douglas community activist
– Kevin Chief, MLA, Point Douglas and Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities
– Cindy Coker, executive director, SEED Winnipeg, Inc.
– Jim Silver, co-director, University of Winnipeg Urban and Inner-City Studies Program

It was an informative and useful discussion, as far as it went. I learned a lot. Cindy Coker and Jim Silver described some of the programs they and others are providing and the encouraging results that are emerging. Kevin Chief’s account of his election campaign showed that high levels of citizen engagement are manifesting in an area more known for political apathy. I particularly enjoyed Sel Burrows’ account of how the residents of the Point Douglas neighborhood banded together to reduce the local crime rate to levels comparable with those of much more affluent neighborhoods.

Michael Champagne challenges the audience to join with the young people of the North End who are "organizing ourselves to make a difference in our community." Photo: Paul S. Graham

That said, much was left unsaid, and I hope that UJPO and AUUC, in collaboration with other community-based organizations, offer future opportunities for discussion. Glaringly absent from this forum was any radical critique that would shine a light on the inadequacy of the social work approach to community development that seems so in vogue these days. Right at the end of the question period a young man named Michael Champagne stood up and challenged the audience to join with neighborhood youth who are self-organizing to reinvigorate their community. I hope that Mr. Champagne and others like him are on the podium the next time UJPO and AUUC hold a public forum.

Despite its well established habit of electing social democratic governments, Winnipeg has claimed some dubious honors — “Murder Capital of Canada” and “Child Poverty Capital of Canada” to name two of the most disturbing. Even though we have had 11 years of NDP government to undo the damage of Gary Filmon’s Conservatives, both poverty and crime are well entrenched in Manitoba, especially in Winnipeg.

According to the 2011 Child and Family Poverty Report Card, issued by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg:

  • 92,650 children in Manitoba live in families under the poverty threshold
  • 29,000 children in Manitoba live in families with annual incomes insufficient for meeting basic needs
  • 29,563 Manitoban children use food banks each month because their families cannot afford to purchase the necessary food they require
  • 59,734 Manitobans accessed Employment and Income Assistance
  • The richest 20% of Manitoban families have more total income than the poorest 60% of the population

The Council says these statistics have not changed significantly since 1989, the year the House of Commons pledged to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.

What is to be done? According to the Manitoba Green Party, 80 per cent of all expenditures on social assistance programs are consumed by government bureaucracy. They proposed, in the last provincial election, to replace welfare benefits with a Universal Basic Income benefit, payable to all Manitobans, that would ensure no one slipped below the poverty line. The idea has merit and I hope the Greens continue to explain and promote it.

Yet another group of Manitobans proposes a package of measures they call a “Justice Charter to End Poverty in Manitoba.” I’ve included it at the end of this piece.

They also hold an annual event called the Four Directions Walk to End Poverty in which four contingents begin their walk on the outskirts of town and converge on the Manitoba Legislature. They held their fourth such walk on Saturday, Oct. 22. Naturally, I brought my video camera.

Justice Charter to End Poverty in Manitoba

We the people of Manitoba, seeing the growing gap between the wealthy and people in need, the working poor, and discriminated groups want to act in a timely manner to reverse the situation, to provide for people with needs and support the right for everyone to contribute to society to the best of their ability. To this end we make these demands and will work to make them a reality:

Housing must be a right and a comfort, not a constant crisis!

  • End subsidies to private landlords.
  • Establish stricter rent controls.
  • Enact a Tenant Bill of Rights.
  • Build and maintain public housing to the standard building code.
  • No utility cut-offs; establish a panel with legal power to require landlords to pay.

Universal health care for all, for every need!

  • Expand medicare into a comprehensive health care system focusing on prevention.
  • Extend medicare to cover all essential needs such as eye, drug, dental, ambulance and prosthetics.
  • Reduce pollution from mining and manufacturing, especially next to low income neighborhoods.

Jobs are a human right. Create good-paying jobs for all!

  • Create jobs through a massive investment in public housing, a public child care program, and conversion to a “green” economy.
  • Increase the minimum wage to $14 an hour.
  • Quality job creation by ensuring access to education, ending tuition fees, free student housing, education in Aboriginal and any other language where numbers warrant.
  • Access to better jobs – reduce the work week with no loss in pay, add paid vacation days and reduce the pension age for women to age 60.
  • End the Foreign Temporary Worker program, give these workers full labour rights and make them immigrants to Canada, if they so choose.

Provide for those in need!

  • Introduce a Guaranteed Liveable Income, above the poverty line and indexed to inflation.
  • Improve special needs benefits and introduce a fast appeals process with free advocacy services.
  • A public, high quality, free child care program employing well-paid early childhood development professionals.
  • Establish a hot breakfast program for children in schools.
  • For injured workers, establish a fast and free appeals process independent of the Workers Compensation Board. Provide free legal services and always respect the right to appeal.
  • Establish a Manitoba pension credit plan funded by payroll deductions, a surtax on corporate income to top up pensions above the poverty line and an inheritance wealth tax.
  • Establish a federally-chartered, publicly-owned bank that does not discriminate against people in poverty, is located in low-income areas, and provides free or nonprofit cheque cashing services and international fund transmittals.
  • Establish a province-wide, free and publicly-owned handi-transit service for people with disabilities.
  • Establish price controls for essential foods throughout Manitoba.

End racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms!

  • Support immediate settlement of Aboriginal land claims and emergency action to end housing, health care and education inequality.
  • Take steps to recognize Aboriginal nations on a new basis in Canada, including full national rights and equal nation to nation relations.
  • Introduce immediately affirmative action hiring with mandatory quotas for Aboriginal people, people of colour, women and people with disabilities in both the public and private sector.
  • Job pay equity for all workplaces.
  • Replace the present legal system of retribution and punishment with principles of restorative justice – restitution and reconciliation; include “ability to pay” as a consideration for sentencing people to jail for nonpayment of fines.
  • Ban discrimination based on social or mental health conditions in the Human Rights Code.
  • Introduce a Manitoba Bill of Rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), adding protections against all forms of sexism.

Reform the democratic system

  • Establish proportional representation so that people will vote for what they want and so that every person’s vote will count.
  • Pay Legislators the average worker’s wage and benefits in Manitoba.

The Justice Charter is for discussion by all Manitobans. The annual Four Directions Walk is Winnipeg’s largest annual anti-poverty activity. It is organized to encourage discussion of the ideas in this Charter. We invite groups representing Aboriginal peoples, women, workers, youth and students, people of colour, people with disabilities, injured workers, the working poor, people living in poverty, people of all faiths and nonbelievers – all supportive groups:

  • To establish a Four Directions Walk in other Manitoba communities.
  • To discuss the Charter and send us your ideas.

Contact us if you would like to receive information on the annual Walk, held on a Saturday close to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17).

Four Directions Walk Committee
Phone (204) 792-3371.

Manitoba citizens will elect a new provincial government Oct. 4, 2011 and environmental issues will play an important role in determining which political party forms that government.

Where should Manitoba Hydro construct its planned Bipole 3 transmission line – or should it be built at all?

How should we save Lake Winnipeg from choking to death on toxic algae?

How best can Manitobans respond to rising energy costs and climate change?

These are only some of the issues that representatives of four political parties debated in this two-and-a-half hour public forum held Sept. 14., 2011 in Winnipeg. Naturally, I brought my video camera.

Moderator: Terry MacLeod, CBC Information Radio

– James Beddome, Green Party of Manitoba
– Paul Hesse: Liberal Party of Manitoba
– Jennifer Howard: New Democratic Party of Manitoba
– Heather Stephanson: Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba

Manitoba Eco-Network
Green Action Centre
Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba
Green Action Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg