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Progressives need to step up to the plate

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Photo: flickr/ Márcio Cabral de Moura

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best ones. Unfortunately, though, Canada's extreme concentration of corporate power often precludes the solutions from ever seeing the light of day.

The first step towards resolution of this problem is nomenclature. We need to free corporate-fashioned words from their false meanings.

Here are some examples. Trade deals, including the so-called "free trade" deals which have crippled North American manufacturing, are more accurately described as "corporate empowerment" deals. Invariably, these deals empower transnational companies to relocate where wages are low (or in the case of prison labour, non-existent), where collective bargaining doesn't exist and where unions are impotent or non-existent.

Corporate empowerment deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the as yet unratified Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), a bilateral agreement with China, empower corporations to the extent that government legislation becomes subordinated to corporate profits.

Corporate power deals are all shrouded in secrecy, but at least NAFTA arbitrations have pretensions of transparency (and Canada has yet to win a case), but the FIPPA arbitrations will likely not even be made public. If Canada determines that its sovereignty, economic or environmental needs are more important than Chinese state-owned corporate profits, the case will be heard outside Canadian law, and in private.

The "freedom" being exercised by these deals is clearly corporate freedom from the shackles of democratically legislated rules, regulations and laws. The false notion that they are "free," or that "liberalized" trade agreements are "liberal" for anyone but the corporations, should be put to rest. Trade agreements negotiated over the last 30 years or so have been neither free, nor liberal, for the people of Canada.

"Globalization" is another corporate-engineered word that is intentionally deceiving. The globalization being described is not "democratic" globalization, nor is it the globalization of improved human rights, or a globalized respect for the environment. In fact, it is the opposite. Corporate globalization, a more accurate description, has led to top-down corporate rule, diminished respect for human rights as defined by the United Nations and reckless destruction of the world environment.

The word "capitalism" is also wearing new clothes, thanks to corporate messaging of the "free marketeers," and those who profess a love for "free enterprise." Now the term more often refers to state-subsidized "monopoly capitalism" (think Walmart, Monsanto, etc.). The new "capitalists" are the speculators who drive up world prices of food and fuel, as they trade in commodities, derivatives and hedge funds. In the world of these boom/bust/starvation-creating "capitalists," the term is divorced from production, and it is too often divorced from the notion of the "public good" as well.

The term "privatization," a hallmark of neoliberalism/neoconservatism, has also been crafted to mislead the public. Now the term more accurately describes anti-public "hyper-privatization."

In many instances, hyper-privatization means that para-private interests are making in-roads into the public sphere to the detriment of the public. One such instance would be Public Private Partnerships (P3 arrangements). Evidence clearly shows that P3 hospitals cost more and are, therefore, an unnecessary burden on the public. This, however, has not stopped them from gaining a foothold in Canada.

Another example of hyper-privatization would be health care. Once the insurance lobbies persuade the public of the false-logic that privatized healthcare is the way to "move forward," we will be stuck with a multi-tiered, inefficient and costly health care system, (similar to the U.S. system) that will be an unnecessary disservice to the public.

The deconstruction of the corporate nomenclature gives us a clearer view of what is happening, but there are still huge impediments, or firewalls, to achieving a better economy and a better world.

Some of these firewalls include self-interested lobby groups that have disproportionate influence over public discourse and legislative polities. A list of these powerful organizations, as described by award-winning investigative reporter Nick Fillmore, in  "It's high time the Liberals or NDP challenged our 'corporate elite'" includes: 

- Canadian Council Of Chief Executives
- Canadian Bankers Association
- Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Once past the nomenclature and the corporate-media supported "firewalls," the list of better alternatives reveals itself.

One (of many) glaring examples, as described by George H. Crowell in his article, 
"An Urgently Needed Change in Monetary Policy: Borrowing from Bank of Canada would make governments debt-free" is brilliant in its simplicity.

Crowell argues that we should do what we did until about 1974: instead of paying billions of dollars in interest on debts to private banks, the federal government should resume the practice of borrowing from the publicly owned Bank of Canada, interest free. The benefits that would accrue, including the elimination of government debt, would empower the government to spend money on public institutions, improve the economy and so on.

This change to monetary policy, endorsed by the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER), is self-evident, but largely ignored by corporate media, since such a policy wouldn't serve the immediate self-interests of their corporate owners.

Getting past the nomenclature and the lobby groups are the first steps to opening up the dialogue for a better Canada. Powerful special interest groups such as the ones listed above will not be our partners in the endeavour, but unearthing the seemingly simple solutions is a necessary step to rebuilding this country, and the global community.

Mark Taliano is a writer, activist and retired teacher.

Photo: flickr/Márcio Cabral de Moura

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