Friday, November 23, 2007

Murdering Our Closest Relative

An article in yesterday's edition of the Guardian Unlimited reminded me of an earlier shocking Guardian article about the same subject. I first read about the horrible situation the Palm Oil industry has created in a Guardian article from March 25, 2007entitled "Five Years to Save the Orang Utan." The palm oil industry is rapidly on the rise as an alternative to trans fats, and it is found in one of every ten grocery products. The demand for palm oil as a biofuel, especially in the European Union, is also a key player in the Orang Utan crisis. Compared to 1995, Britain now imports twice as much palm oil amounting to one million tonnes per year. Indonesia and Malaysia produce 83% of the world's plam oil. Unfortunately, these two countries are also home to the natural rainforest habitat of man's closest relative. Orang Utans share 96.4% of our human DNA.

According to the March 25 article, "A United Nations report has found that illegal logging and fires have been overtaken as the primary cause of deforestation by a huge expansion of oil palm plantations, which are racing to meet soaring demand from Western food manufacturers and the European Union's zeal for biofuels." The Borneo Orang Utan Survival Foundation UK warns that by 2012, orangutans in the wild could be close to extinction.

More from "Five Years to Save the Orang Utan" follows:

"But the new UN report warns: 'Today, the rapid increase in [oil palm] plantation acreage is one of the greatest threats to orang utans and the forests on which they depend. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss. The huge demand for this versatile product makes it very difficult to curb the spread of plantations.'

Displaced from their rainforest habitat, the orang utans struggle to survive in the oil palm plantations and are regarded as an agricultural pest. Mindful of the potential loss in profits, farmers have carried out a vicious extermination programme.

Michelle Desilets, director of the Borneo Orang Utan Survival Foundation UK, said: 'They are left hungry so they go in search of food in the plantations and destroy the plants. They become easy targets. Some plantation owners put a bounty of $10 or $20 on the head of orangutans, which is worth a few weeks' salary for the workers.

'Workers don't usually have guns: the orang utans that get shot are the lucky ones. We've seen them beaten to death with wood sticks or iron bars, doused in petrol and set on fire, trussed up in nets or tied up with wire which cuts through their flesh. Often a mother is killed and eaten while its baby is sold on or kept as a pet. In the local plantations where we're working, the managers have now agreed not to offer the bonus. But there's still a macho thing about bringing down an adult male.' "


We can not allow our closest relative to become extinct, especially not by an industry deemed "environmentally friendly." I felt only some relief by the article in yesterday's Guardian entitled Palm Oil Industry Signs Up To Green Labelling Scheme. Yesterday, "a certification process designed to allow palm oil producers that meet environmental standards to label their products as eco-friendly was launched." The Round table meeting that decided the criteria was attended by producers (Proctor Gamble, Unilever) and environmental groups (WWF, Friends of the Environment).

After reading the following from the article, I worry about the enforcement of this certification process:

"Launching the certification process, Malaysian commodities minister, Peter Chin, accused environmental groups of harming palm oil's image, particularly in the UK – where it is estimated that one in 10 of all products sold contains palm oil. 'Using these [emotive] arguments, they often manage to pressure the rest of the supply chain towards giving support through the adoption of negative policies, as being the case with some major retailers in the UK,' said Mr Chin."


Facing the environmental crisis we have created is not an easy path. Mistakes are being made along the way; palm oil and nuclear energy are examples of those mistakes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Sad Loss for Moose Jaw-North

Above: Glenn Hagel (Sketch by Larissa Shasko)

The final results are in. NDP Glenn Hagel has been defeated by Sask Party Warren Michelson in the riding of Moose Jaw-North. I live in the riding of Moose Jaw-Wakamow, and I ran in the provincial election for the Green Party of Saskatchewan in my home riding. Moose Jaw is a small city with a population of 35,000. It is divided into two provincial ridings. Moose Jaw North consists of the entire section of the city located north of Caribou Street, which runs east to west. Moose Jaw has only one noticeably wealthy part of town. It is an area named Sunningdale, and it is located as far north in the city as possible. Of course there is a Wal-Mart and a Tim Horton's near to Sunningdale, and the SUV's are accompanied by at least a few Hummers. Typical...

I am a strong supporter of maximum wages. I don't like seeing those with excess money flaunt it over others as the government seeks to meet their every wish. That is largely why Warren Michelson defeated Glenn Hagel; the Sask Party promised the well-off citizens of Sunningdale even more money. Forget about that $1000 tuition break and a universal drug plan that even included unemployed adults (oh, the horrors!).

Instead, we elected a change. For Moose Jaw-North, that change somehow feels very wrong. Glenn Hagel has been MLA for that riding since 1986. He is the most personable MLA that I have ever met. I was very shocked by his defeat. He is quite respected in his community. I aspire to someday be as friendly and committed to my constituents as Mr. Hagel was. I didn't get a good impression of Warren Michelson. I felt him to be rather reserved. What a mistake for the city of Moose Jaw. What a mistake for Saskatchewan.

Corporations and large scale donations from Alberta financed the Saskatchewan Party campaign (which is actually pretty ironic, but is also deceitful and unfair to Saskatchewan residents.) The Sask Party, and our province's government, is now at the mercy of those whose donations got them elected. Hasn't anyone wondered why the proposed nuclear plant on Lake Diefenbaker or at Elbow is designed to split the power evenly between both Saskatchewan and Alberta!? Yet, you can't split the risks involved with a nearby nuclear plant that our province's citizens would have to endure. Why would I put our beautiful province at risk for gas guzzling Alberta? THANKS SASK PARTY! THANKS FOR TRYING TO SCREW UP MY GENERATIONS FUTURE JUST TO WIN POWER! Thanks...

The Green Party of Saskatchewan was the only political party in the election to oppose nuclear. We were almost completely censored by the gatekeepers of the media though. Don't believe the myths. Nuclear is not green! Please seek out truthful information; don't rely on the media or the government to tell you what is green or safe.

The Green Party did well. We went from .55% of the vote in 2003 to 2% of the popular vote in 2007. In Moose Jaw-Wakamow, I received 2.27% of the votes. In 2003, the riding received 67 votes. This was my first time running in Wakamow, and the Greens received 167 votes, exactly 100 more than the last provincial election. I felt the same frustration after running for the federal riding of Palliser. I received about 3.5% of the votes. This was around 1200 votes, up from approximately 800 votes in the previous federal election. Growth in a new party takes time. I was excited to hear about the results of the latest Strategic Counsel survey (for the Globe and Mail/CTV News). Page 14 shows that the Green Party, with 13%, has overtaken both the NDP (12%) and the Bloc Quebecois (11%) ! This is the first time this has ever happened and it is quite surprising. For the Green Party of Canada, 13% is quite a growth from receiving approximately 5% of the vote in the 2006 federal election. However, I do not view public opinion polls as overly reliable. Regardless, the poll is encouraging.

The campaign was decent. It is always a unique experience. I am quite burnt-out from the high stress and constant demand of being a candidate without a large campaign team or enough donations. Although I am very tired, I am glad I took the opportunity to stand up for an alternative to rhetoric. I did have fun. I enjoy the debates, and I truly believe in Green Party policies. I do believe we are the party of the future. However, I really wish that future could start today.

Political Song of the Week:

Eve of Destruction by Barry McGuire

This song is definitely one of the greatest political protest songs. The lyrics are so full of meaning, and despite being from 1965, this song is extremely relevant to today's society.

The following lyrics are from the beginning of the song:

"The Eastern world, it tis explodin'. Violence flarin', bullets loadin'. You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'. You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'."



Sunday, November 4, 2007


Rhetoric can be defined as: Artificial eloquence; language that is showy and elaborate but largely empty of clear ideas or sincere emotion.

OR also as: Language that is elaborate, pretentious, insincere, or intellectually vacuous: His offers of compromise were mere rhetoric.

So what exactly is political rhetoric? I found this link to An English Primer. It is a glossary translating political rhetoric into plain English by Thomas Sowell. It appeared in National Review, Dec 31, 1985 v37 p17(1). Some examples from the glossary follow:

Crisis: Any situation you want to change.
Bilingual: Unable to speak English.
Non-judgmental: Blaming society.
Compassion: The use of tax money to buy votes.
Insensitivity: Objection to the use of tax money to buy votes.
Simplistic: An argument you disagree with but can't answer.
Rehabilitation: Magic words said before releasing criminals.
Demonstration: A riot by people you agree with
Mob violence: A riot by people you disagree with.
Obviously, there is humour in Sowell's glossary.

It has been impossible to get around the rhetoric of anwers and issues in this election. The SaskParty wins first prize for the most rhetoric.

Here is what Brad Wall had to say in a recent story about Wall's promises to young people in the Moose Jaw Times Herald:
“The NDP tends to educate and export,” he said.
“We need a plan to train and retain. We are the only party whose platform includes long-term funding for post-secondary education. It includes all post-secondary institutions, including the Palliser campus of SIAST.”

The article continued:
“There are two tight races here in Moose Jaw,” he said.
“We’ve got two great candidates here and we want to support their efforts. They are excellent representatives for our party and would make excellent MLAs.”

What does this have to do with my life, and what does it mean? RHETORIC! (language that is showy and elaborate but largely empty of clear ideas or sincere emotion)

From my week



Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nuclear Is Never Good

I just attended the non-nuclear potluck and Jim Harding's book launch for his book, "Canada's Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System." I have been insanely busy. This upcoming week is even worse. Just as I'm getting tired, Jim Harding gave me the extra drive I need to be even more passionate, more focused, and more driven in my Green Party campaign for Moose Jaw-Wakamow. I wish I could be writing about something that will put a smile on your face, but this is all too serious and all too real.

It is uranium, and we are the world's supplier. That's right! Friendly Saskatchewan, land of living skies, founder of Medicare, or supplier of ammunition being used to kill civilians in the Middle East and founder of undisposable radioactive waste that remains toxic for 800 genearations. 800 generations! Is Saskatchewan responsible for the future end of the world? This radioactive waste causes cancer, undoubtedly. We have no way to dispose of it. Saskatchewan people have a moral obligation to leave uranium in the ground. The only good that will come out of extracting it is money. Money is not worth it.

Please, get this book. Jim Harding said that the average person knows 2% about uranium and its nuclear use. He said that even he only knew 50% of what there was to know about it before writing this book, and he is an expert on the issue! There is no more important area that we as the generation of the future needs to educate ourselves on. I did get a copy. I can't wait to read it. However, I am afraid of what I will find out. I sense corruption beyond what I can imagine.

If you would like to learn more, visit the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility website. If you would like to get involved with the formation of a solid non-nuclear group in Regina, the first meeting will be this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Cathedral Community Centre. I will be there.

I have more to add, but I am falling asleep. I will add to this post tomorrow.



Monday, Oct. 29th, 2007

A few days ago, I did a google search on building a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan. I am sure Jim Harding's book will provide much more in depth info, but I did find a relevant and interesting leader-post article from October 26th, 2005. According to this article, former NDP deputy Premier, Dwain Lingenfelter, now currently a vice-president at Nexen Industries in Calgary (an Oil and Gas company) embarked on a campaign exactly two years ago to convince Saskatchewan residents that a nuclear reactor was an excellent economic venture for our province. He wants Saskatchewan to build a nuclear reactor across the border from the tar sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta. He says nuclear energy can be transmitted through super transmission lines to Alberta from Saskatchewan. His reason for the campaign? Alberta's oil and gas industry uses 30% of the oil reaped to create energy for the pumping of the heavy tar. They want Saskatchewan residents to foot the bill by building a multi billion dollar nuclear reactor. Nuclear Reactors are extremely dangerous to those living around them.

The Green Party also opposes uranium mining, which makes sense because if we continue to supply countries that have nuclear weapons and Depleted Uranium weapons with uranium mined in Saskatchewan, we are contributing to our own potential demise if that uranium gets into the wrong hands in another country. I can't believe we allow this to happen.

Anyway, back to Lingenfelter. According to the Leader-Post article from the day his campaign to build a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan embarked, he has the support of Brad Wall (Sask Party Leader) and David Karwacki (Liberal Party Leader). His former NDP colleagues are uncomfortable with nuclear energy past building a refinery in Saskatchewan, but that too is wrong.

The Green Party Policy 2007 states the following on uranium:

GPS is opposed to nuclear power for the following reasons:

-Nuclear power is fiscally unsound. The last nuclear power plant in Canada came in seven times over budget, costing $14 billion dollars. This does not include the high cost involved in decommissioning old power plants.

-Nuclear Waste cannot be stored, treated, or disposed of safely.

-A large amount of radioactive tailings accumulate as a result of uranium mining. These tailings can leak into groundwater and affect the surrounding area, leading to increased cancer rates.

-Depleted uranium ends up in weapons such as missiles, and anti-tank bullets.

-Nuclear power is NOT emissions free. Large quantities of green house gases are produced in the mining and refining of uranium as well as during the long construction period of the power plant.

*We will phase out uranium mining in Saskatchewan, compensating those affected during transition.


The above is why I had to run in this election for the Greens. I am doing all I can on my campaign. I did the first hour in a new online election concept, Electronic Grill for the Moose Jaw Times Herald website. I was actually the very first candidate to have participated in this new concept. People could post a question to a candidate and the candidate responds through a moderator (Jim Small, City Editor). Only two people asked questions, but the moderator provided me with plenty of great questions instead. It was intense, but fun.

This evening I did a debate held by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. In today's paper, the SaskParty said they'd be there. Tonight, they were a no-show. They left a letter in between two doors at the SFL office (which is not staffed or open full-time). And this was one or two days ago (I will confirm that detail). As a result, they got their ass kicked. It was offensive, undemocratic, and unwise. The PC candidate was there. It was a civil and good debate. It was wrong of the SaskParty to do a purposeful no-show. Are they getting overconfident from public opinion polls? Mayble the Sask Party should take Political Science 230-Canadian Politics!

Political Song of the Week:

Instant Karma by John Lennon

For lyrics, click here.


Larissa Shasko

Green Party Candidate Moose Jaw-Wakamow

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Green is the Colour

Above is a photo taken by my mother on a recent trip to Vietnam. She said the pollution was so horrible that you could not see anything more than a block and a half away. This is why we need the Greens. Is this how Canada could end up?

The Green Party of Saskatchewan has had a busy start to their campaign. We have nearly a full slate of candidates, and a there is a last minute flurry to achieve the goal of a full slate. I am running for Moose Jaw-Wakamow, where I live, but I am working as part of the team of Regina area candidates. Already, we have had four meetings, a press conference, and a fundraiser. I have been a slave to my computer otherwise: answering e-mails, doing interest group surveys, coordinating with the local media, etc. I will start my door knocking on Tuesday, and I am organizing a schedule for meet the candidate opportunities tomorrow. Green Party candidates do so much more work than the others. That is because we lack resources but have excess passion for our aims. We are not doing this for power, we are doing this for our future, for everybody's future!

For some odd reason a lot of people were wearing green shirts today. ( I'm just kidding; go Riders!) This link to a Leader-Post story on the Green Party of Saskatchewan press conference on Friday morning relates the growing interest in and support for the Green Party to the growing support and interest in the Riders. More people are realizing that it is now or never. In relation to Stephen Harper's Throne Speech date of 2050 for a 50% reduction in emissions, I have only one thing to say, "WAKE UP MR. HARPER!"

This is the Riders time to shine. It is also time to start supporting environmentally friendly methods of transportation and renewable energy sources. I am amazed that the other parties are fighting about what the other has done recently while ignoring what the Greens are saying about the risks of nuclear energy and why we should stop uranium mining in Saskatchewan. My next blog will be related to the subject of nuclear energy. I am frustrated how little is being said about the nuclear issue in the media. The Green Party is talking about it a lot, and it is not being passed on to all of you. Noam Chomsky, I feel for you. This is bulls**t. We have to stop the powers enshrined to the gatekeepers of society through mass media consolidation, and now!

I want to know what you think about building a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan, a nuclear refinery, and uranium mining. I want to know how much you know about nuclear energy and its problems. I need to educate people on this subject, but I need to find out what common knowledge exists. Thanks to all who answer this question!

Political Song of Last Week:

The Monkey Who Became President by Tom T. Hall.

This song was written in the 1970's. In the last line, the lyrics say, "Would you rather have a monkey up in Washington, D.C. Or have those people making monkeys out of you and me?"

Take a look at the song's lyrics to see the full message!

Political Song of This Week:

Right Wing Pigeon by The Dead Milkmen.

This song's lyrics answer my question of how anyone can be right wing. The chorus goes:

"They're just right wing pigeons from outer space
Sent here to destroy the human race
They don't give a damn about you or me
They just buy guns and watch TV
Let's go!"

Check out the rest of the lyrics of this humorous political punk song!


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Going Green!

The Green Party- Not the Same Old Hippo Shit!
Above drawing by Larissa Shasko

Hi everyone! I have decided that the best way to have a voice in the upcoming provincial election is to renew my commitment to the Green Party, and to run as a Green Party of Saskatchewan candidate for the riding of Moose Jaw-Wakamow. Otherwise, I'll have no one to vote for!

My ultimate goal of revolution through solution can be best achieved within the Green Party as part of a team.
Stay tuned for a different kind of political campaign!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Political Song of the Week

The average age of a Canadian voter is 59. The low voter turnout of our youth is a threat to Canadian democracy. Considering less than 3 percent of the members of Canadian political parties are under the age of 25, other methods of sparking political interest among youth are needed. Music has been used as a political tool by many musicians and bands. It is an effective method of rebelling against the dominant norm of society. Music is also more appealing to most youth than joining a political party is.

Many political messages about real change have been recorded in songs over the years. Sometimes, their original meaning is even more relevant today. Every week I will recommend a song with an important political message. If you have songs to suggest, please share them!

My first recommended Political Song of the Week is "War" by Bob Marley.

On the Oct. 3, 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, Sinead O'Connor sings a unique version of Bob Marley's "War" ending with her ripping up a picture of the Pope.

Click here for the link to the youtube video of that performance.

Saskatchewan Needs Change, Not "A" Change

When the Premier has lunch at the U of R to chat with students, an election call must be near. I hope there were many who took the opportunity to speak with him. I did not attend the lunch, but I did make a point of stopping in at the tail's end of the event to see what was going on. I was slightly surprised to see Premier Calvert talking with a few students in a very casual manner. He showed a great sense of humour and sincerely engaged in conversation with the students. His experience as Premier does show. He managed to stay on message, to be personable, and to be open to critique.

I plan on doing some public speaking during the upcoming provincial election. I am hoping to encourage people, especially youth, to use their right to vote. I was able to ask the Premier for an important message that I could speak about that he would like to share with the public. He was more than willing to answer, and he encouraged my public speaking as an effective method of increasing young voter turnout. In addition to increasing the youth vote, I am also hoping to encourage voters to be informed voters. I would like to lessen the media's control of the election agenda by raising real issues. I want to create change.

One important point Premier Calvert raised in discussion is that he recognizes change is very necessary for society. However, he said that change just for the sake of change is not always good. "A" change doesn't necessarily mean a change for the better. I commend the Premier for recognizing the need for change. The type of real change needed in this province is not one that will be fixed by a Sask Party government. Will the Saskatchewan Party address poverty? Their leader's background does not convince me that poverty will be high on the agenda.

After earning his degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall moved to Ottawa and worked for a backbench M.P. in Brian Mulroney's PC government. Upon returning to Saskatchewan, Wall worked as a ministerial assistant during the final years of the Grant Devine Tory government. He ran and lost as the conservative candidate for Swift Current MLA in the 1991 provincial election. When the Saskatchewan Party formed in 1997, Wall was Director of Business Development for the city of Swift Current. He ran for the Sask Party in the 1999 provincial election, and he won the Swift Current riding. As MLA, he served as the Sask Party's Justice Critic and was later appointed as Critic of the Crown Corporations. Brad Wall was re-elected in 2003, and he became leader of the Saskatchewan Party in 2004.

I do not feel confident in electing a Premier who once worked for both Brian Mulroney and Grant Devine. I don't think ending poverty is a priority of a former Director of Business Development. I do not think the Sask Party will do a better job than the NDP has. I am not agreeing with what the NDP government has done and would do if elected again, but they are closer than the Sask Party is to being able to achieve government change that benefits society as a whole.

The Green Party of Saskatchewan has the best action plan for reducing poverty. Their platform statement on poverty actually calls for REAL action, much more than the NDP's minimum wage increase will do. It is unfortunate that our "first past the post" electoral system does not allow the Greens to win a voice in the legislature. Our current system allows many Canadian elections to be won by parties who received less than 50% of the votes cast. It only matters that they have the most votes over the other parties. There may be more votes cast against them than for them. Those who didn't vote for the winner do not matter at all; they are not represented in the government. Proportional Representation could change this. The Sask Green Party has an excellent position on the Saskatchewan Elections Act. They favour proportional representation and other changes to the act to make elections more democratic and fair.

But until a system of proportional representation can be achieved (if ever), the reality is one of two outcomes in the provincial election: NDP or Sask Party. The recent announcement of the NDP's planned increase in the minimum wage will enable a full time minimum wage worker to meet the poverty line. This is a step, albeit a small step.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Immigration Marriage Fraud

Canada's Department of Immigration is not doing its job. Immigration marriage fraud is not just a movie plot, is happens in reality to many Canadians.

When a Canadian citizen marries a foreign resident, they must sponsor their new spouse (and children) for three to ten years and pay their plane ticket(s) over here. Unfortunately, some are abandoned by their new spouse and family once a permanent resident card is received, which unlike the U.S. with a mandatory three year waiting period including visits to ensure legitimacy, is issued almost immediately upon arrival with no visits or investigations. The Canadian sponsors are oblivious to the scam being pulled over on them because they truly believe they are in love. To make matters worse, once the immigrant has their permanent residency card and leaves their sponsor, this sponsor is still responsible for supporting them for three to ten years. If the immigrant and their children access the welfare system, the heart-broken sponsor has to pay Canada back for all welfare received. Immigration fraud is illegal in this country, but unfortunately it is not enforced. Why is that? I encourage you to learn more about immigration marriage fraud in Canada here.

Is inadequate staffing within the immigration department to blame? Changes must be made to ensure that immigration laws are enforced, especially when Canadian citizens are so obviously victimized. In many ways, our system allows immigration marriage fraud to happen. I find it hard to believe that Canada's immigration department is on the right track.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

U of R Free Knowledge Day

It took little guessing which room Free Knowledge Day was being held in. A paper 'carpet' with the words Free Knowledge brightly painted on it stretched out into the halls at the U of R Ridell Centre. The room was not as full as I expected it would be, but it was lunch time. The speaker for the What is R.P.I.R.G.? workshop was still setting up. I took the opportunity to look at the various booths around the room.

A lady from the Tetra Society of North America explained how they built custom designed assistive devices for people with disabilities. These products are not available commercially. Volunteer engineers and technicians make the devices to suit the specific needs of those with disabilities. Their representative at Free Knowledge Day, Terri Sleeva, is having a page turner built for her because she does not have use of her hands. What an innovative and useful organization! Terri is trying to get a Regina Chapter established, but she needs volunteers. If you are interested, please contact her, or if you happen to know anyone with a disability that could benefit from their services, please pass on Terri's contact info:
Terri Sleeva
Regina Chapter Coordinator
I continued around the room and picked up a pile of handouts on nuclear energy, The Council of Canadians, and Fair Trade. It will take me a while to read through my trip to this 'political candy shop'. The Fair Trade booklet was made by a Grade 8 classroom, and it is surprisingly loaded with great info on our local Fair Trade scene. The handouts definitely made Free Knowledge Day worthwhile for me.
But wait! The speaker hadn't even started yet! I saw a familiar political science face in the crowd and took a seat. The sound system had more echos than perhaps it should have, and the speaker could have pulled the audience into his presentation a bit more, but the essential info I came for was certainly delivered.
P.I.R.G.'s started in 1970 with Ralph Nader advocating students to take a more involved role in public affairs. The initials stand for Public Interest Research Group, and the first R in What is R.P.I.R.G.? stands for Regina. The Regina group is the first in Saskatchewan and are new as of last spring. They are looking for volunteers who are interested in making a difference in their community. They have funding available for research projects. This would be a great group for students interested in positive social change in the environment, labour, human rights, equality, and democracy.
The R.P.I.R.G. also needs students interested in being on their Board of Directors. Elections will be held mid-October. Since last spring, they have lost four of their eight board members. They have also changed their name form S.P.I.R.G. to R.P.I.R.G. with Saskatchewan changing to Regina. They are now seeking a new logo. There is a contest, and if you are good at graphic design, you might be the lucky winner of a gigantic compost box! This is certainly a unique prize!
If you are interested in learning more about the R.P.I.R.G., there is a meeting at the U of R at 4:30 p.m. this Monday. As a political activist, I would love to get involved. I hope many others do.
Free Knowledge Day is a worthwhile event at the U of R. I wish more students would take a half hour out of their busy days to take part. I was glad I had the chance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Good Deed by Conservatives for Rural Communities

The Conservative federal government is on the right path with an effort to increase rural sustainability in Saskatchewan. They announced $27.3 million in funding for the Regional Rural Water Supply Systems (RRWS) project. The funding was supplied through the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF). Palliser M.P., Dave Batters, made this statement in a recent news report, “Funding for these regional infrastructure projects proves our Conservative government’s commitment to the sustainability of Canada’s rural communities. We want to ensure a healthy and vibrant rural sector for generations to come.” The article can be seen here.

I would not say this proves their commitment, but it is a good first step. What rural Saskatchewan needs badly is a high speed passenger train system that would link our towns and cities province wide. My home city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan would benefit greatly considering our unemployment rate has gone up by a whole percentage point due to Worldwide Pork Packers and Raider Industries shutting down. Saskatchewan workers would not be the only ones to benefit. Many more post-secondary students would be able to live at home and commute to school. Maybe more of our young people would chose to make Saskatchewan their home. Keeping our youth in the towns and cities they grew up in, instead of handing them to Alberta on a silver platter is important to the rural sector for generations to come.

The Florida Bullet Train Project demonstrates the benefits on their website. High speed trains are not only better for the environment, but they can travel from 200 to 320 kilometres per hour. In a province as geographically spread out as Saskatchewan, this couldn't make more sense. This is a project I would like to see built across all of Canada. Yes, it would be an expensive one, but I stand for maximum wages. And the excess money our wealthy people make (and I mean wealthy which is far worse than rich), would be able to be put directly into projects like this one, benefiting everyone.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We Need More Jellos

It has only been three years since I first heard Jello Biafra speak on one of his political spoken word albums. He is a political activist whose message touches and inspires many to get involved and take action, including Canadians. He has spoken at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan a few years ago, where I am currently a student. At 49 years of age, Jello has come a long way since the start of his musical career, and his political career as the lead singer of the 1978-1986 punk band, the Dead Kennedys. He has stayed involved in the music scene by collaborating with many talented artists and bands. Jello is founder and owner of perhaps the longest running underground record label that is still active, Alternative Tentacles. Since 1986, he has released many political spoken word albums. His latest album In The Grip Of Official Treason, released in 2006, goes in depth about Iraq, the New Orleans flood, voter fraud and so much more. Jello Biafra reminds me as a Canadian that in the current day corrupt U.S.A., there are still many Americans who are unwilling to tolerate what is becoming of their home and unwilling to give up the fight for ultimate justice. His message on corporations is also quite relevant in Canada where many of our retail outlets are mass conglomerates and are often owned by Americans.

Jello Biafra was born in Boulder, Colorado. His real name is Eric Boucher. When he was five, J.F.K. was assassinated and Jello saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot live on T.V. The Vietnam War was amongst other events that convinced him to fight against corrupt governments and corporations during 1969-1972. His stage name came from the Jell-O brand name and the country of Biafra which existed for less than three years before failing its attempt to secede from Nigeria in 1970. His stage name represents the brand of mass produced food products with little nutritional value and how hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people died of starvation when Nigeria blocked supplies from entering Biafra.

In the fall of 1979 at the age of 21, Jello ran for mayor of San Fransisco. He finished fourth out of ten candidates with 3.5% of the vote. His platform included both prank-like points such as forcing businessmen to wear clown suits, and serious points such as having police officers run for re-election with voters being residents in the neighbourhoods they patrol. He wore T-shirts to campaign in from a competing candidate's previous election. His supporters rallied with two memorable signs that said"If he doesn't win I'll kill myself" and "What if he does win?". In the 2002 DVD Dead Kennedys: The Early Years, Jello makes the following statement about his campaign for mayor of San Francisco, "For those of them who have seen my candidacy as a publicity stunt or a joke, they should keep in mind that it is no more of a joke, and no less of a joke, than anyone else they care to name." With Saskatchewan on the verge of an election call, Jello carries an important message about the issues that are focused on during an election and the publicity stunts involved in campaigning.

His political career has included many challenges. He was on trial in 1986 for "distributing harmful matter" due to complaints by the Parents Music Resource Center for including a poster by Swiss surreal artist H.R. Giger entitled Landscape #XX (or Penis Landscape) with the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist. The case was not about the lyrics of the album. The focus was a poster that they deemed "harmful matter". The case ended in a mistrial. Jello believes the ordeal was politically motivated and that he was used as a warning to other musicians about offensive content.

While at a club in Berkeley, California in 1994, Jello was almost beaten to death by people who believed he was a sell out. The man who initially started the incident shouted, "Sellout rockstar, kick him." He spent much time in a hospital recovering. His plans for a Canadian spoken word tour and album had to be cancelled.

In 1998, Jello was sued by fellow former members of the Dead Kennedys for refusing to allow perhaps their most well known song, "Holiday in Cambodia", to be used in a Levi's Dockers commercial. He strongly disagreed with the sweatshop labour and corrupt ways of doing business of the Levi's corporation. Staying committed to his values cost him $200,000 which his other band-members took without shame.

However, the obstacles along the way seemed to have only strengthened his fight in the political world. In 2000, Jello Biafra was drafted for the Green Party presidential nomination. He lost to Ralph Nader, who will be speaking at the University of Regina on September 19, 2007 in the Education Auditorium at 7:00 pm (tickets are $15 and available at the Conexus Arts Centre). Jello has continued to be a member of the Green Party and encourages people to use their right to vote. He focuses on real issues and spreads the truth. He encourages us not to hate the media, but to become the media.

Jello Biafra is an excellent mentor for anyone interested in political activism. It has not been an easy path for him, nor is it for anyone. I hope there are others out there who will justify his injustices in the fight against corrupt governments and corporations by taking action of their own. This world would be a much better place if we had more Jellos.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sask Labour Allowing Slave Labour?

I was born and raised in this beautiful prairie province, and I made the decision some time ago to build my future here. Perhaps that is why I am drawn into the political culture of Saskatchewan and Canada as strongly as I am. When I see obvious shortcomings in government policies, I want to see them changed. This is particularly relevant in regards to the policies and standards of Saskatchewan Labour.

I believe that a Labour Board should be there to protect the rights of workers not covered by unions. In some cases Sask Labour does this, and in others they simply don't, choosing to represent the employer's needs and wants. Our province's apparent economic boom can only worsen the problem.

According to the Saskatchewan NDP, Sask job numbers are at a record high. This next paragraph is from their website's Issues section. The full story can be seen here.

More people are now working in Saskatchewan than ever before. Our unemployment rate is consistently among the lowest in the country. Youth employment numbers are way up and more and more young people are choosing to pursue their careers and build their futures right here at home.

In contrast to the NDP website which represents that our workers have never been in a better situation, the Green Party of Saskatchewan represents this issue differently in their platform. They seek improvements to the Labour Standards Act. More in depth information on their policy can be found here.

The Sask Party's Guiding Principles include Economic growth and job creation through the private sector, not government, as the engine of the economy. I feel their party policy demands stronger protection for Saskatchewan employees since private businesses, not government, will be in the driving seat.

Many of us are lucky enough to never have a complaint against the labour practices of our employer. The subject for this post was brought to light in my eyes when a friend of mine who works in the retail sector made the brave step to stand up for his rights. His employer refused to give him two consecutive days off in a week, changed his schedule almost daily without the required one week notice of a change to schedule, refused to pay him overtime after eight hours, did not allow lunch or rest breaks, and threatened employees that if they should quit they will not get another job because he 'knows' everyone in the industry. He does not provide safety equipment, and does not follow food safety regulations for there is mold covering the walls and some of the ingredients used! I was sure that once the Labour Board was called in to investigate that action would ensue. I was shocked to hear that his employer was issued a permit allowing him not to pay overtime unless the employer has worked more than 44 hours in a week (nevermind the 5 am to 6 pm shift). He also seemed to find ways around every labour standard within our current system that he wasn't following. And as a final insult, my friend's hours were cut back because he refused to sign the Averaging of Hours Permit. Sask Labour states that no employee can be punished for filing a complaint. Obviously this is not true, at this point why would he even try to file another complaint? What good would it do?

Businesses with less than ten employees are not required to follow many of the labour standards. Employees in certain careers up North are not protected by labour standards. And there are permits, licences and variances available from Sask Labour for businesses that are not exempt. It appears that our government's labour policies are ultimately aimed at protecting the employer over the employee. Perhaps the Sask Party's guiding principle on economic growth and job creation will fit in perfectly with the NDP Government's current legislation.

On this issue I strongly agree with the Saskatchewan Green Party that our worker's rights must be protected and must come first. Until changes to the Labour Standards Act are made, do you think Saskatchewan is a great place to live, work, and raise a family, for all?