Canadians want real security, not $18 billion fighter jets
 
By Peter G Prontzos
 
The recent unilateral decision by the federal government to spend up to $16 billion on the purchase and maintenance of new fighter jets is both wasteful and dangerous.
 
It’s wasteful because our military doesn’t need such extravagant and costly equipment. The arguments for such military aircraft became obsolete with the end of the Cold War over twenty years ago.
 
SecurityIt’s significant that the Tories have not even bothered to convene the House of Commons defense committee. Could it be that they’re afraid of having a public debate on one of the costliest military purchases in Canadian history?
 
Is that why the announcement was made on a Friday afternoon, when fewer people are paying attention?
 
The question remains: why should Canadians be forced to pay so much for this aircraft when the government has not made a credible case to justify this extravagant expenditure?
 
Moreover, the members of our armed forces deserve a serious examination of the threats that they will be dealing with in the next decade or two. The government has not presented a compelling case that spending billions on these jets is the best way to equip our troops.
 
What’s more, they made an agreement to buy the jets from the giant American military contractor Lockheed Martin, without inviting a single competing bid. Had they done so, the Conservatives would probably have been able to save the taxpayers billions of dollars. That’s not a very smart strategy if they’re really concerned about reducing unnecessary government spending.
 
If this waste of public resources wasn’t bad enough, the Tories plan to spend about a half a trillion dollars on the military in the next two decades.
 
Worse, these foolish handouts to the U.S. and Canadian military-industrial complex will in fact make Canadians less safe in the years to come.
 
The biggest threats that we face are not from invading armies or fleets of enemy aircraft. Above all, we are in danger from the many ways that we are destroying our environment: global warming, loss of farmland, water shortages, loss of fisheries, and so on.
 
While the worst impacts are still to come, we are already paying a terrible price for ignoring environmental issues. For example, an estimated 700,000 Canadians will die over the next two decades because of illnesses caused by poor air quality, according to the Canadian Medical Association. That’s an average of 35,000 people dying needlessly every year.

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KIDS AND WOBBLIES AND QUEERS FIGHT BACK

Part 3 of a three-part series on suppression of free speech
By Mordecai Briemberg

Evie Freedman, 10 years old and a grade five student, was the first child to be honoured by the Writers’ Union of Canada with the Freedom to Read Award in 2007. She received the award for her spirited defence of children’s right to read the book “Three Wishes”. Reading that book became controversial when the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) demanded Ontario school boards withdraw it from their libraries because, claimed the CJC, it was “inappropriate” for children.

The CJC, devoted to defending Israel above all, appointed themselves the best judges of what is “appropriate” for children to read, just like Christian fundamentalists, devoted to defending their vision of “family”, appointed themselves the best judges of what was “appropriate” for children in Surrey schools, and it definitely didn’t include books about families with same sex parents.

“Three Wishes”, written by Deborah Ellis, a renowned Canadian writer of children’s books, was included in the 2006 list of books the Ontario Library Association circulated for school children to read. The OLA, experts on age-appropriate literature, each year ask Ontario school children to choose from the list of books they circulate the ones they think should win the “Silver Birch” award.

What the CJC clearly objected to was Canadian children reading what   Palestinian and Jewish-Israeli children say, in their own words, about the situations they experience. That is what “Three Wishes” is about, and that is the information the CJC wanted to prevent children from reading.

Evie Freedman spoke her mind to the Toronto Star newspaper, saying that adults always underestimate what kids can understand. She made clear she didn't need anyone to tell her what she could read. She said that during the controversy, she particularly was impressed when Deborah Ellis said: "If children are tough enough to be bombed and starved, they're tough enough to read about it."

Evie Freedman’s voice, joined to the voice of PEN Canada – an association of writers “for debate and against silence” -- challenged the pro-Israel effort to censor. Their voices made this a public debate, and with that debate public, the initiative to suppress back-fired.

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Better care for B.C. seniors

By Judy Darcy

On Labour Day, we mark the contributions that working people have made towards building a more just and equitable society.

Pensions, medicare, unemployment insurance, and quality education for our kids are part of the legacy that our parents and grandparents established for us. Their desire to build a better society for future generations created a range of important social programs that would be accessible to all regardless of income.

Along with these, workers and their unions fought for fair, family-supporting wages and benefits, and working conditions that addressed issues like occupational health and safety and equality.

Today’s seniors were looking out for us. Now we need to look out for them.

The Hospital Employees’ Union has a tradition of caring for seniors, with efforts to improve standards in seniors’ care dating back to the 1970s. As the union organized workers in B.C. nursing homes, the critical link between poor working conditions for staff and substandard caring conditions for residents became clear.

Over the next 20 years, improvements were made for the seniors living in residential care facilities and for the health care workers who cared for and supported them.

But in the last nine years, things have changed dramatically.

The provincial government closed 2,400 long-term care beds – most of them in not-for-profit facilities – and passed legislation to enable privatization and contracting out in both direct care and support services.

Consequently, direct resident care provided by care aides, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, and support services like dietary, housekeeping and laundry have been contracted out in facilities across the province.

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