November 23, 2018

English Edition, No. 10

Quebec National Assembly Begins Its Proceedings

Workers Must Warn the Government that
They Reject Its Statement that
Quebec Is "Open for Business"

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The Wrecking of Bombardier Exposes the Hopelessness
of the Oligarchs' Political Representatives

- K.C. Adams -
Construction Sector Workers Oppose Introduction of Police Regime
- Pierre Chénier -

For Your Information
First Session of New National Assembly 

News
Postal Workers Reject Government Threats and
Stand Firmly Behind their Demands

- Louis Lang -
CEGEP and University Students Demand Paid Internships
Pantry in Danger Campaign: Over 5,000 March for Our Future Food Security
- Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) -
Gatineau's Garbage Collectors Confront French Multinational Derichebourg
- Pierre Soublière -
Book Launch Highlights the Resolve of Activists
in Defence of Housing as a Right

- Serge Lachapelle -

Workers Speak Out
Housing: a Right
- Véronique Laflamme -
Resources for So-Called Underprivileged Area Schools
and the Arbitrariness of Public Education Funding

- Geneviève Royer -

Announcements
Third Commemoration Evening for the Centenary of the End of WWI
All Out to Support ABI Locked Out Workers!


Quebec National Assembly Begins Its Proceedings

Workers Must Warn the Government that
They Reject Its Statement that Quebec Is
"Open for Business"

The National Assembly elected at the October 1 general election will begin its proceedings on Tuesday, November 27. This first sitting will mark the beginning of the 1st Session of the 42nd Legislature of Quebec. It will deliberate for two weeks and then adjourn for the holidays.

The governing Coalition Avenir Québec led by François Legault is attempting to position itself from the start as the party of the economy, the party of a Quebec which is "open for business."

What that means is already fully expressed in a statement made by Minister of the Economy and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon about Bombardier following the announcement of massive layoffs. He said he is ready to inject new public funds into Bombardier despite the massive layoff of workers and the overall wrecking announced by Bombardier, despite the scandal of the dilapidation of public funds by company executive themselves, as well as without investigating the reasons for the turmoil at Bombardier. The first sitting of the National Assembly may well be monopolized by the crisis at Bombardier.

Quebec "open to business" also means the destruction of social programs and public services through privatization and of the environment through pay-the-rich schemes.

The National Assembly also resumes its work in an atmosphere of scandal, as Ethics Commissioner Ariane Mignolet has announced that she will investigate the possible conflict of interest involving the Minister of the Economy, who until recently was a director at Héroux-Devtek, a subcontractor of Bombardier, and owns a block of company shares. The parties at the National Assembly are using the occasion to resume their claim that the main issue facing the National Assembly is the lack of ethics and transparency. It is important that workers are not taken in by such propaganda that aims to divide them by aligning them behind the parties in the service of big private interests. The demand that the government act ethically and transparently diverts from the reality that government executives pay the rich in every way possible and that the crucial decisions are made secretly in the boardrooms of the monopolies alongside their government representatives.

The workers are already in action against this state of affairs, as can be seen by the struggle of the workers at the ABI aluminum smelter against such a Quebec "open for business." The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel has kept them locked out for 11 months and refuses to negotiate a collective agreement acceptable to them and is doing everything to impose its diktat. Recently, Premier Legault traveled to Boston to negotiate export contracts for "surplus hydro power" with various New England states. Why does the government not renegotiate the hydroelectric contracts between itself, Hydro-Québec and Alcoa / Rio Tinto, which the cartel is using to finance the lockout by declaring it a "force majeure," thereby freeing it of its obligation to pay for the block of hydroelectricity reserved for it? Why would ABI owners even want to negotiate with workers within circumstances so favorable to them?

Workers must send a serious warning to the government that "Quebec is not open for business." Quebec must develop a self-sufficient economy, one based on the defence of the well-being and the rights of all and on trade with others on the basis of mutual development and benefit.

Workers are entitled to demand that their rights and the rights of all be recognized, not the dictate of supranational private interests imposed upon them through government executives, while the parties in National Assembly seek to entangle them in the fraud of ethics and transparency.

Such a Quebec "open for business" must not pass!

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The Wrecking of Bombardier
Exposes the Hopelessness of the
Oligarchs' Political Representatives

The U.S. warmongers of Boeing and the Pentagon have liquidated Bombardier's Canadian commercial aircraft production. While doing so, they also seized Brazil's Embraer commercial jet production. The anti-social pro-U.S. coup government of Brazil appears to have approved Boeing's taking over control of Embraer. The former Lula Da Silva and Dilma Roussef Brazil governments, overthrown by the coup, had opposed the control of Embraer being taken over by U.S. war profiteers. The foreign takeover of both Embraer and Bombardier's commercial aircraft sectors leaves Boeing and the Pentagon in a face-off with Airbus and its European backers for control over the sector.

The billions of dollars of Quebec and Canadian public funds paid out to Bombardier to keep commercial jet production afloat in Canada have been sunk into the coffers of company executives and U.S. and European warmongers, who have seized control not only of production and markets, but also of the state-of-the-art technology involved in design and material.

In response to the debacle, the Montreal Gazette says Quebec politicians have again declared, with utmost cynicism, that Quebec is "open for business" to the very forces that destroyed Bombardier. With no shame, they said they would "not rule out" providing more state funds to those in control.

The Montreal Gazette writes that what is left of the "aerospace cluster in Quebec is of paramount importance, the [Quebec] economy minister says, and the government wants to 'avoid surprises.' The provincial government would be open to investing more in Bombardier, Quebec's economy minister said following a meeting with the company's president and CEO, Alain Bellemare, on Friday morning [November 16]."

According to the Montreal Gazette, Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy and Innovation in the Coalition Avenir Québec government, went on to say, "I made it clear to Bellemare 'that would there be a requirement, would there be an opportunity, we would be open for business.'" "Open for business" is the code name for pay-the-rich schemes and open season for oligopolies to do whatever suits their narrow private interests, without any regard for social responsibility. As a pathetic response to the crisis of unemployment and layoffs that thousands of aerospace workers are being threatened with, Minister Fitzgibbon is quoted as saying, "'I'm as -- if not more -- confident' after meeting CEO Bellemare that 'workers will be able to find new jobs in the aerospace industry.'"

Confident of what exactly, Minister? Of even more disasters, insecurity and the siphoning off of even more public funds, while the means of production are destroyed? Are we to believe that Bellemare is suddenly going to find new jobs, while all he has done over the past few years is eliminate thousands of them? Within the context of the competition taking place in the war industry, U.S. and European oligarchs are in need of CEOs and local politicians willing to compromise their conscience by not rendering account for what they do. The destruction of Canada's commercial airline sector is not something unexpected and the same can be said of the billions of dollars in state pay-the-rich schemes that were handed over to Bombardier, and the scandalous personal amounts that certain company executives have seized for themselves. The workers cannot expect cures from such gods of plague.

Adding insult to injury, reports indicate that the same Bombardier executives have been cashing in their holdings in company stock since last August 15, with Quebec's securities regulator, the Autorité des marchés financiers, saying it will be "reviewing" a Bombardier program that allows certain senior executives to sell the company shares they essentially gave themselves, on the condition that they provide information beforehand during periods when they would otherwise not be permitted to sell such shares. Workers would be completely right in demanding that the government immediately seize those shares while a criminal investigation is conducted into this sordid affair.

In the face of this crisis, the political representatives of the oligarchs in Quebec, Ontario and federally have proven themselves incapable of providing any direction whatsoever for the economy. They refuse even to analyze why Bombardier's commercial aircraft operation, in perfectly good condition, has been destroyed, or investigate the role of the warmongers at Boeing, the Pentagon and Airbus in such nation-wrecking.

Quebeckers and Canadians are sick and tired of these oligarchs who profit from betrayal and wrecking and their representatives in government who never hold anyone to account, let alone themselves. We are entitled to demand that parties with seats in the National Assembly and members of parliaments who claim to represent the people, put forward concrete claims. This must be done to demand that those who paid the rich in this sordid affair be held accountable for the direction they have set for the economy. Workers and their organizations must demand a new direction for the economy, one far removed from the domination of U.S. imperialism and its warmongering economy of violent global competition and the destruction of anything standing in the way of its race for hegemony.

The working class is clear that as their first priority, governments are duty-bound to ensure the well-being and security of the actual producers in the society. Such an economy must be equipped with a political authority that rests upon the workers themselves, so that social responsibility is established and to deprive the oligarchs of their power to wreck the nation-building projects of the people. Such power has placed the entire world into a war economy that threatens humanity's very existence.

The elaboration of a new direction begins with the demand that all those responsible for the wrecking of Bombardier and other similar crimes be held accountable.

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Construction Sector Workers Oppose
Introduction of Police Regime

On its website, the FTQ-Construction is reporting on its work to defeat the imposition of a police regime against construction workers. Under the hoax of maintaining activities without interruption and fighting intimidation on work sites, this regime is being imposed through the activities of construction contractors, the state and its agency, the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ). In its November 15 press release, the FTQ-Construction notes that recently it had to intervene on a work site to prevent a camera company hooked up to a continuous video surveillance system from filming workers while on the job.

On October 31, the union expressed its satisfaction at the acquittal of the workers who, in June 2015, had participated in a road blockade at the entrance of the Romaine River work site, near Havre-Saint-Pierre on the North Shore. The blockade was part of a series of simultaneous demonstrations staged at various points on the North Shore to denounce the fact that not many workers from the region were being hired at North Shore construction sites.


North Shore construction workers demonstrate against jobs lost to sub-contracting on work
on the Romaine River, June 13, 2015.

Following the demonstrations, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions who, on behalf of the state, is responsible for criminal and penal prosecution in Quebec, brought charges against seven workers at the request of the CCQ. The workers had been accused of resorting to intimidation, discriminatory measures, retaliation, threats or coercion to deny workers from outside the North Shore, as well as CCQ investigators, access to the site. The charges were laid under the Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry, R-20, which the CCQ is responsible for enforcing. That law criminalizes construction workers, associating their activity in defence of their rights with intimidation aimed at hindering or slowing down activity on building sites.

On October 30, a judge of the Court of Quebec declared the evidence submitted by the prosecution against the workers inadmissible, finding it contrary to Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which "provides everyone in Canada with protection against unreasonable search and seizure." The evidence submitted by the CCQ was based on information it had requested from Hydro-Québec, with the avowed aim of laying charges against various protesters. The information included photos and personal information on all the demonstrators who had participated in the actions. The CCQ had also obtained access to SAAQ (Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec) databases, which provided it access to the demonstrators' driver's license photos. The judge ruled that this constituted a search without warrant on the part of the CCQ, a violation of the protesters' privacy and right to peaceful protest. He rejected the evidence, which resulted in the acquittal of the accused.

In its statement, the FTQ-Construction pledges to firmly oppose such attacks on construction workers. "The CCQ is going beyond its mandate and violating rights and freedoms. It is conducting a witch hunt aimed at those who are defending workers' rights," wrote FTQ-Construction Director General Éric Boisjoly. "It is time for the CCQ to let union representatives do their job and focus on its own mandate to oversee the application of collective agreements," he added.

It should be noted that although construction workers only represent 5 per cent of Quebec's workforce, 25 per cent of all work-related deaths occur in that sector each year. Activities undertaken by companies, the state and its agency the CCQ to criminalize workers are aimed at preventing construction workers and their unions from defending their rights, including the right to work within safe and sanitary conditions, as well as in areas where they live. Such activities are unacceptable and must not pass.

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For Your Information

First Session of New National Assembly

Quebec's new National Assembly, comprised of those who won the October 1st general election, begins its first session on Tuesday, November 27th. It is composed of 124 elected members, as the Roberval seat remains vacant due to Philippe Couillard's resignation. A by-election is to take place there on December 10th.

Seventy-four elected members representing the Coalition Avenir Québec will sit as the parliamentary group representing the government. Twenty-nine Quebec Liberal Party deputies will represent the parliamentary group forming the official opposition. The media has reported that an agreement in principle has been reached between these two parties and the Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire, according the latter two official party status even though neither of them has 12 elected members, nor did they garner 20 per cent of the valid votes cast. Had they not agreed, the 10 elected members from each of the two parties would have had to sit as independents. The obtention of official party status comes with certain advantages, notably with regard to speaking time, participation in parliamentary committees and budgets for support staff and research. The agreement is to be ratified on Thursday, the day after the opening address. The National Assembly also includes the independent member for Chomedey, Guy Ouellette, who was elected under the Liberal banner, but was excluded from that party’s caucus.  Based on the media, he was ousted for having provided compromising information on the Liberal Party to the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The session is to begin with the election of a new president and vice presidents. This will be followed by a speech from Quebec's Lieutenant-Governor, as the representative of the Queen of Canada in Quebec, an ostentatious sign of the institution's obsolescence and anachronism.

This will be followed by an opening speech from Premier François Legault, who will introduce the program he plans to present to the Assembly during the session. The speech is to be adopted by the Assembly, following the allocation of 25 hours to debate on it. The requirement to vote on the speech is a practice that was introduced by the Charest government in 2009.

The National Assembly resumes sitting at a time when the Legault government is positioning itself as the party of the economy, the party of a Quebec "open for business." The Legault government has announced that the session will include measures to "put money back into the pockets of Quebeckers" without yet specifying what those measures will be. However, this has nothing to do with the defence and guarantee of a modern standard of living for all.

A budget update will also be presented by Finance Minister Éric Girard. The Legault government has already announced that it is questioning the Couillard government's announced $3 billion budget surplus. That statement provides it with the pretext for rejecting the claims of workers' and community organizations, who, after years of wrecking, are demanding compensation and a major investment in social programs and public services.

The first session is expected to last for two weeks, following which the National Assembly will adjourn its deliberations for the holiday period.

The first session is expected to last for two weeks, following which the National Assembly will adjourn its deliberations for the holiday period.

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News

Postal Workers Reject Government Threats
and Stand Firmly Behind their Demands

Note to readers

The Trudeau government has tabled a bill to force striking postal workers back to work. The bill also imposes mediation to rule on unresolved issues between the two parties and gives the mediator-arbitrator the power to impose binding arbitration on matters that are not resolved through mediation. Chantier politique firmly condemns this bill which criminalizes the struggle of postal workers in defence of their rights and contributes to the creation of a climate which permits corporations to impose their dictate by depriving the workers of their right to negotiate their conditions of work based on the issues they have identified and to take labour action to achieve this. According to news reports, this bill will be adopted this weekend by imposing closure on debate. We call on all workers to firmly denounce this anti-worker legislation and express their support for the postal workers’ just struggle.

***

As postal workers across the country carry out rotating strikes to back their just demands, Canada Post, at the direction of the Trudeau government, continues its refusal to engage in negotiations in good faith.

The union has proposed to resolve outstanding problems in health and safety and the issues  of work overburden, of Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) being paid for all hours worked, the insecurity arising from threats of precarious work with the introduction of "flex positions." The corporation has ignored these serious proposals and refuses even to discuss them. Instead, company executives have engaged in threats and ultimatums for workers to end their job actions and agree to terms of employment it knows postal workers cannot accept.

The corporation's actions have been to ignore the just demands of the workers as if they do not exist and instead use threats of a lock-out or government legislation to criminalize postal workers and force them to give up their demands and accept roll-backs.

As far as Canada Post and the Trudeau government are concerned, workers' rights and free collective bargaining simply do not exist. Following the direction of the Trudeau government, Canada Post is dismantling those parts of the existing collective agreement that contain rights the workers have won after many years of struggle and sacrifice.

The Trudeau government claims that Canada Post is acting on its own, hiding the truth that postal workers are facing the full executive powers of the federal Cabinet. By way of the executive powers of government, the government selects and maintains in power Canada Post management and policies agreeable to the ruling financial oligarchy.

The empty statements of the Prime Minister urging both sides "to resolve their differences quickly and reach a deal" are pure Liberal hypocrisy. Where has Trudeau been for the past year while Canada Post has stonewalled the workers? The issues of health and safety, overburdening, looming precarious work and unresolved problems of RSMCs not receiving proper pay are well known and documented. The corporation's latest ultimatum for workers to give up their demands and accept its dictate showed no intent whatsoever to engage in serious negotiations and "resolve differences quickly."

Although Trudeau claims to be arms-length from negotiations, he has continually threatened workers that "all options are on the table" if they do not stop their rotating strikes and give up their demands. Everyone knows this means legislation to criminalize workers' right to strike and force workers to give up negotiations and accept an arbitrator's decision.

Trudeau made pious statements during the last election saying he is committed to "respecting labour," is not "heavy handed" and prone to interfere in relations and negotiations between workers and their employers for which he criticized the Harper government. This posturing was intended to fool the gullible for when it comes to workers fighting for their rights the real ruthless character of the Liberal government is revealed.

The farce of negotiations with Canada Post has reached a climax. The corporation and the Trudeau government are conspiring and plotting to create a crisis arising from their refusal to negotiate with postal workers. Their plan from the beginning was to attack the right of postal workers to strike and have a say on their working conditions through meaningful negotiations with their employer.

The government presents workers with unacceptable choices that are in direct contradiction with their right to relations of production that uphold workers' collective right to negotiate in good faith their terms of employment with the aim to resolve problems that are widely recognized and known. Workers have been told for a year not to engage in job actions and instead accept the proposals of the corporation and have a contract imposed through binding arbitration either willingly or face Trudeau's back-to-work legislation. Canada Post and Trudeau are working to deprive postal workers of their right to negotiate their terms of employment.

Postal workers have not hesitated one second in rejecting the proposals and arrogance of the corporation and the criminalization that the government is imposing on them. The rotating strikes have continued despite all the threats from the ruling oligarchs.

In a press release on November 19, CUPW National President Mike Palacek stated, "We will not accept binding arbitration to resolve our issues with Canada Post. We have the right to collective bargaining and to settle this through negotiations."

The just demands of the workers to address the high rate of debilitating injuries, the right of RSMCs to be paid for all hours worked, to eliminate the overburdening of letter carriers and stop the corporation from increasing precarious employment for inside workers deserve the full support of all Quebeckers and Canadians.

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CEGEP and University Students
Demand Paid Internships

Some 58,000CEGEP and university students are now on strike. Some have been on out since Monday and for the entire week to demand that compulsory internships be paid. According to the Unitary Committees on Student Work (CUTE) overseeing the campaign, over 32 student associations and around 58,000 students across Quebec are involved in the strike.

Student associations at CÉGEP Saint-Laurent, Vieux-Montreal, Marie-Victorin and Collège de Maisonneuve, as well as certain student faculty associations at several universities in Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and the Outaouais received a strike mandate for the week of November 19-23. Some were on strike for the entire week, and others only on certain days. In the Outaouais, student associations at the Université du Québec have joined the campaign. They include undergraduate students in social work as well as those in the education, social sciences and psycho-education departments. Students from the Association of Pre-Graduate Philosophy students at Laval University in Quebec City went on strike for one day. In Rimouski, University of Quebec students from the campus' General Student Association voted to strike on November 20, 21 and 22. The McGill University Medical Students' Association is also supporting the campaign to compensate interns. "The current situation, where many students are required to complete internships in order to graduate, is unfair in many ways. For example, these students are excluded from the Act respecting labour standards and are therefore not entitled to protection regarding their working conditions, which can lead to situations of precariousness and affect their safety," writes the association.


Strike Vote at CÉGEP Marie-Victorin in Montreal on November 14, 2018

On the website grevedesstages.info, the section dealing with the impact of unpaid internships on students informs that:

"The analysis of a survey conducted in 2017 by the Committee for the remuneration of internships at the University of Quebec in the Outaouais (CRIS-UQO) reveals that unpaid internships have negative impacts on students. Particularly time-consuming, internships first nibble away at a student's schedule. However, the majority of students work part-time in addition to their studies. For those who do not have the opportunity to reduce their hours or stop working during their internship, the situation quickly becomes unmanageable. Yet only half of CRIS-UQO survey respondents feel that their employer is ready to accommodate them during their internship. In addition, it should be noted that a reduction in work hours comes with a reduction in student income, which is already normally very tight. This is all the more problematic because, for the majority of interns, the internship involves additional expenses (transportation, purchase of clothing and uniforms, rental of a second dwelling or even a professional office). To compensate for the losses incurred and the increase of their expenses, the lucky ones solicit the family safety net. Others are forced into debt or to dip into their savings.

"In addition, the work overload created by unpaid internships causes a lot of pressure, which has many impacts on student health. Twenty per cent of CRIS-UQO survey respondents feel overworked and have difficulty reconciling their work, internships, studies and personal life. The same proportion is tired or lacking sleep. More importantly, 42 per cent of respondents say they have experienced stress, anxiety, isolation and psychological distress during their placement.

"Furthermore, some people may experience violence or harassment. U.S. studies reveal that interns, especially women, are more prone to being harassed than other workers. However, legally, the internship offers no protection to interns. In fact, people who complete an internship associated with a university course are not considered as employees in Quebec. Excluded from the Act respecting labour standards, they do not benefit from the protections offered in the event of a breach by their employer, wrongful dismissal or harassment. They are likewise excluded from the social protections related to employment income (Quebec Parental Insurance Plan, Employment Insurance Plan, etc.). It goes without saying that such a situation complicates the possibilities of appeal in cases of violence or abuse.

"In short, the situation faced by unpaid interns is unacceptable. Financial pressure, indebtedness, fatigue, impossible work-study-personal-life balance, stress, psychological distress, to varying degrees, constitute the reality of the majority of interns."

(Sources: www.travailetudiant.org www.grevedesstages.info)

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Pantry in Danger Campaign:
Over 5,000 March for Our Future Food Security

[On November 18th in Montreal], over 5,000 farmers, representatives of the agri-food sector, civil society participants and consumers walked together for the same cause: our future food security, which involves respect for our own agriculture as well as support for domestic food producers and food consumption.

"Quebec's farmers, agri-food industry players and consumers are fed up with Canadian concessions in trade agreements. They also demand compliance with Canadian and Quebec standards for imported food products. Our pantry's precariousness must end," declared UPA President Marcel Groleau.

Canadian concessions in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) are unprecedented. The Trudeau government has given up important parts of the market, particularly in the dairy sector (3.9 per cent of the Canadian market). It has also given the U.S. a significant say over our own dairy policies. This is unacceptable!

With all the concessions contained in the USMCA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the European Union and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPP) combined, continued and recurring annual losses imposed on Canadian dairy producers are estimated at over $450 million (8.4 per cent of the market).

"Our citizens' food should no longer serve as a bargaining chip. Sanitation and social and environmental standards in Quebec and Canada are amongst the strictest in the world. Our producers are happy to meet these societal expectations and comply with them, however many imported foods on our grocery shelves are not subject to the same regulations," Mr. Groleau added.

Paradoxically, Quebec and Canadian products exported abroad to the United States or Europe must comply with the rules in force there. This inconsistency places our farmers and agri-food industry at a major disadvantage with respect to imported products. For example, raw milk cheeses imported from Europe are not subject to the same quality standards. They still have access to our market.

Advocating for Our Own Pantry

For a third consecutive commercial agreement, Quebec and Canadian agriculture have borne the cost of negotiations.

In the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), concessions in the Canadian dairy sector are unprecedented. The signing of the USMCA is the straw that broke the camel's back.

As in previous other trade agreements, the Canadian government has not imposed any requirements on imported foods, even though sanitation, social and environmental standards in Quebec and Canada are amongst the highest in the world. This inconsistency greatly disadvantages our farmers and our agri-food industry, as concerns field to table production. It also runs counter to consumer will at home, for whom such standards are important.

Thousands of farmers, representatives of the agri-food sector, civil society participants and consumers are demanding that the Canadian and Quebec governments:

Ensure our future food security by supporting local agriculture and encouraging the consumption of local foods produced by Quebec companies;

Stop using our agriculture as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations;

Subject imported foods to the same sanitary, social and environmental standards as Quebec and Canadian foods;

Allow consumers to easily identify the origin and content of food products;

Prioritize local purchasing in all Quebec and Canadian public institutions;

Further protect Quebec agricultural lands from urban sprawl, speculation and their use for purposes other than agriculture;

Adopt a green agricultural plan in Quebec by improving agro-environmental budgets, enhancing support of the organic sector, focusing further on supporting businesses and ensuring that a sensible regulatory environment is maintained and updated;

Support Quebec and Canadian agriculture through budgets and risk-sharing programs adapted to the reality of climate change and adjusted to each region and production sector.





Translated from original French by Chantier politique

(November 18, 2018 Photos: UPA)

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Gatineau's Garbage Collectors Confront
French Multinational Derichebourg

Gatineau's 70 waste collection workers are currently negotiating their working conditions and salaries. When Derichebourg obtained the garbage collection contract from the city of Gatineau, the company hired several people who had worked for the former contract holder, Waste Management. However, it offered them $13 per hour, while the salary set by Waste Management had been $15 and was to increase to $16.10 in 2019. Furthermore, Derichebourg had announced it would hire a hundred employees, while there are only 70 people employed. According to the union the working conditions are such that the turnover rate is as high as 200 per cent!

In Europe, Derichebourg is a giant in the waste management field and has been awarded the $45 million contract for the collection of waste, recycling and compost materials in Gatineau for at least the next four years. In 2014, the French company's sales revenues exceeded 2.5 billion euros and it is active in Morocco, Belgium, Germany and Portugal, as well as in eight Montreal boroughs.

The union affiliated with Unifor has received a strike mandate. Since garbage collection is, to some extent, subject to legislation regarding essential services, it may not be possible to completely disrupt service, prompting an employer spokesperson to say, "A total strike is not possible, so that's rather reassuring."

As with any other essential social service, the political elites are primarily concerned with the possibility of a disruption in service. They do not take into account the extremely difficult conditions and wages that fall far below what is required as a modern standard.

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Book Launch Highlights the Resolve of Activists in Defence of Housing as a Right

About 100 people participated in the launch of the book authored by François Saillant, coordinator of the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) for 35 years. The book's title is "The Fight for a Roof -- Twelve Housing Struggles in Quebec." Enthusiasm exuded from that full room. Lively discussion and lots of laughing conveyed the satisfaction of a job well-done, ever since the group's formation in 1978.

Right from the evening’s outset, those who took the floor highlighted the fact that rather than this being about a particular individual, it was an entire movement in defence of housing as a right that was being celebrated. Everyone noted that our victories were the result of collective work where each individual makes her or his contribution. Véronique Laflamme, who has been spokesperson since François Saillant stepped down, said amongst other things that, "This is an ongoing fight that is never over," and that "our struggles change the course of history."

Under sustained applause and calls for the recognition of housing as a right, François Saillant took the floor. He saluted the courage and determination of activists that have brought us to where we are today. As the author notes in his book, "In October of 1946, housing applications received by Wartime Housing Limited numbered 6,235 in the Montreal area alone." It was within that context that the League of Veterans Without Housing was born, in September of 1946.

Despite the fact that activists with the League were forced to deal with a virulent anti-communist campaign and attacks from former premier Maurice Duplessis, who threatened to use the Padlock Law, many victories were won.

The squatters' movement contributed to convincing the federal government to increase investments in housing. The movement was also instrumental in influencing the federal decision to fund, beginning in 1949, a program for the construction of public housing units destined for lower income families. As well, it forced the federal government to maintain a certain control over rents until 1951.

More recently, within extremely difficult conditions such as the federal government's disengagement in social housing since 1994, other battles were won. François Saillant gave the example of Milton Park, where heritage housing was torn down by a land developer. That battle lasted twenty years. "People could have become discouraged, however they succeeded in saving part of the community that had not been demolished and in turning it into Canada's largest cooperative housing complex," he added.

He also gave the example of Châteauguay where in the 1970s, not a single social housing unit was to be found. Today, it comprises some 20 per cent of all rented housing.

Saillant concluded by explaining why he had decided to write the book: so that new activists appropriate the history of the movement; so that the way in which cities are developed can be examined; to demonstrate that citizen struggles can reverse the trend.

"One issue however has withstood the test of time," he noted, adding that it was "the absence of the recognition of housing as a right, but history is not over. Many more chapters have yet to be written."

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Workers Speak Out

Housing: a Right

Our main concern right now at FRAPRU, which has been the same since the creation of our organization 40 years ago, is for tenants, especially those with low incomes, to be able to remain in their communities. At the time when FRAPRU was created, the working-class neighbourhoods were partly demolished because of urban renewal operations. Today, we can see that in the neighbourhoods of Montreal and elsewhere, people who have been living there for years can no longer stay there and are even being evicted from their homes under all sorts of pretexts.

This happens because their housing is a commodity. Tenants are seen as undesirable by landlords who want to make more profit. For us at FRAPRU, housing is first and foremost a right. Even though our governments have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and pledged to honour their commitments, this right is still not a reality.

Our concern right now is very similar to the one we have had since the beginning, respect for the right to housing and the opportunity for people to remain in their home environment. This problem exists in both large cities and rural areas where, even though the issues are not exactly the same, there are people who cannot stay in their communities. Think of seniors who can no longer afford their homes and who no longer have the income in retirement to afford housing and for whom there is not enough public and low-income housing. This was really evident during the march that FRAPRU organized from Ottawa to Quebec City in September.

We demand social housing. In our opinion, this is the only way to ensure that the right to housing for all is respected. There is no other solution. We cannot rely on the private sector to do it, because the private market does not have the mission of meeting peoples' needs. Its aim is profit and that is the reason why what is currently being built are condos, and one- and two-bedroom rental units, because building large homes for families is not profitable, although there is a crying need for such housing.

We need different forms of social housing. The problem is that social housing represents barely 10 per cent of rental housing in Quebec. There is no real alternative for all those who cannot afford decent housing. According to the latest statistics, reported in our "Black File: Housing and Poverty" launched in July, we see that 195,000 tenant households in Quebec spend more than half of their income on housing when the norm is 30 per cent. These people, every day, experience turmoil because they have to make difficult choices. As we know, at the Rental Board, if someone doesn’t pay the rent, it is automatic eviction. These people have to choose between buying groceries, eating well, feeding their families, paying Hydro-Québec bills, getting around, and paying the rent.

That's why we demand social housing. Unfortunately, since the federal government's withdrawal, thousands of homes were never built. The federal government withdrew its funding for social housing in 1994. They returned to social housing funding in the early 2000s, but the damage was done: we are talking about 80,000 units that were not built because of the federal withdrawal. Quebec, for its part, currently finances 3,000 social housing units a year. When we look at urgent needs, we can see that the financing of social housing is largely inadequate.

This concerns us even more because even what is officially funded by the Quebec government is not executed. The programs are actually underfunded. This makes it very difficult to carry out these projects. As an example, last year, only 700 social housing units were built across Quebec.

The Trudeau government promised that the federal government would be fully back into the housing sector and on November 22, 2017 adopted the first Canadian Housing Strategy. The program, however, does not provide any amount directly allocated to social housing. They talk about affordable housing, which can mean anything.

There are many issues at stake and our demand, our campaign is entitled "Housing: A right." There are two levels of government involved. The investments must be made. Social housing must be financed to meet the needs. FRAPRU is keeping up the mobilization year by year and that's why we held a big march in September to give a voice to poorly housed people, highlighting their realities and asking governments for sufficient investment. Unfortunately, the Party that was elected in the Quebec election did not make a clear commitment to continue building new social housing.

On November 22, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the presentation of the Canadian Housing Strategy, we will be demonstrating in Quebec City in front of the offices of Minister Duclos, the federal minister responsible for housing, to make our disappointment and dissatisfaction heard. Next February, we will be holding a demonstration directed at Mr. Legault's government. We are continuing the work and we will respond according to the government's budgets. We also have mobilizations on more concrete issues such as improvements to the Accès Logis program or the lands that the federal government has committed to reserve for social housing and for which there is still nothing concrete.

We have a lot of work to do, but past struggles tell us that victories are possible and when we win, it makes a big difference in people's lives. We only have to think about the Accès Logis program, which allowed the Government of Quebec to invest in social housing. We can see that our movement is able to win victories and we invite people, and obviously your readers, to join the mobilization.

The right to housing, like all other rights, does not concern only those who are most directly affected by the denial of these rights. Anyone, overnight, may have a need for housing because people lose their jobs or end up with a drop in income. When we fight for housing, we fight for everyone.

Véronique Laflamme is the spokesperson for FRAPRU.

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Resources for So-Called Underprivileged
Area Schools and the Arbitrariness of
Public Education Funding

On November 15, Le Devoir reported that the Ministry of Education will be changing its method of funding primary and secondary schools in what are referred to as underprivileged areas. For the Commission scolaire de Montréal alone, this translates into a loss of close to $3 million. For students and school staff, it means reductions in or the disappearance of speech and language therapy time, specialized education, etc., in food assistance, such as the distribution of milk cartons in classrooms.

In order for a school to be designated as qualifying for funding for students living in the most vulnerable areas, the Ministry of Education bases itself on the Socio-Economic Background Index (IMSE). The IMSE, the main emphasis of which is on the low level of education of students' mothers (a full two thirds of the index) and parent inactivity, was elaborated for the first time during the late 1990s, guided by the 1996 census data.

That period followed close upon the heels of the Bouchard government's 1996 "social partnership" and Socio-Economic Summit, which adopted the zero deficit policy. At that time, one of the consequences to education was the loss of 6,000 workers as a result of recurring cuts of close to $1 billion in the sector. That change in state arrangements, where governance is usurped by large private interests, has been pursued by successive governments ever since, which perpetuates the crisis in education.

The sums of money transmitted to schools via the IMSE are therefore a very paltry remittance compared with the millions of dollars that have been taken out of education. The fact that this is being promoted as an investment in the sector exposes the arbitrary way in which education is funded.

The Ministry of Education, now being led by Jean-François Roberge, is raising the issue of the 2016 census, which should see an increase in the level of education of mothers and parent participation in the workforce, as a pretext for reducing funding in so-called underprivileged areas. However, the data is not being investigated to look into what it actually represents. Thus, a student with a mother of immigrant background with a post-secondary diploma will be considered as being part of a non-vulnerable family, irrespective of whether or not that diploma is recognized in Quebec. Furthermore, parents with part-time or low paying jobs will become part of the "active worker" category, whether or not they are able to meet their family needs. For those working in Quebec schools, already exhausted as a result of twenty years of cuts and reductions, the news is devastating and is creating a significant amount of insecurity. Michel Mayrand, President of the Union of Education Professionals in Montreal (SPPMEM), is cited in Le Devoir as saying, "I find it disturbing. In the short term, students will have the same needs, but less services."

This method of allocating or not allocating additional resources to schools should simply be abolished. A census cannot be the criteria for the funding of such an important a sector as education. Teachers work no differently with children who are more vulnerable. They respond to the needs of students that they deal with each and every day, period. This method once again highlights the crisis being maintained in education, because the starting point for calculating school budgets does not have as a basis the needs that have been identified over the years by education workers. Those are the needs that must be looked into in order to evaluate the financial resources to be invested in education. Citing a census to justify the removal of millions of dollars from a sector only further exposes the direction of the economy of paying the rich. It must be reversed in favour of a pro-social direction that defends the rights of all and in which decision-making rests with the people themselves.

What this means for education is that those who take up the social responsibility of educating the younger generations must be at the centre of all the decisions taken in that domain.

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Announcements

Third Commemoration Evening for the
Centenary of the End of WWI

Montreal
A tribute to the historic role of the Russian people and the Great October Socialist Revolution to provide the peoples of the world with an alternative to imperialist war
Program: songs and historical texts of the revolution and the presentation of the 1933 Soviet film Outskirt
Friday, November 23 -- 7:00 pm
1360 Ontario Street East
Organized by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec 514-522-5872, permanence@pmlq.qc.ca

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All Out to Support ABI Locked Out Workers!

Montreal
Wednesday, November 28 -- 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Hydro-Québec headquarters, 75 boul. René-Lévesque West

Organized by United Steelworkers Local 9700
Facebook

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