Doug Ford, the Trump of the North, is No Populist Either

New Orleans       Doug Ford, brother of the former Mayor Toronto and a former Toronto council member, became Premier of Ontario, the most populous province of Canada a shade over a month ago at the end of July 2018.  He’s no Donald Trump everyone said, but he would be the Canadian version of the Trump phenomena.

Well, our friends and members are learning that he may be closer to the Trump playbook than they wanted to believe.  He has started pushing back on immigration and trying to put the onus on the national government for the costs associated with dealing with new immigrants in the steadfastly welcoming Canada.  He has pushed back at a sex-education program.  He has force the resignation of the Hydro director and board despite having no authority over the body.  His scrapping of cap-and-trade and the revenues that come from it have led to a $100 million rollback in education.

ACORN Canada is standing firm in the Canadian resistance.  Here’s a public statement and letter to the editor from Marva Burnett, ACORN’s president in Canada, pushing back on the impact of his program on lower income families who are tenants in social housing that will give you a sense to the developing fight in the north.

Scrapping of cap and trade revenues a big loss for Ontario tenants badly in need of apartment retrofits by Marva Burnett, Chair of ACORN Canada

ACORN started door knocking in 2004 in Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton. Since then we have facilitated 20 – 40 minute house visits with over 150,000 of the lowest income tenants across these three cities. During each visit we ask, “What is the biggest issue you would like to see changed?” Undoubtedly, the most common issue we hear about is the substandard state of both public and private housing. Leaking pipes causing mice, rats, cockroaches, bedbugs, and mold; as well as poorly insulated windows leading to freezing temperatures in the winter and extreme discomfort due to heat in the summer are common issues experienced by low-income tenants.

For many vulnerable people, substandard units lead to negative health outcomes, such as asthma, stress, diseases carried by bugs, and more. In addition, it is incredibly difficult for people to even consider carbon emissions when they have no option but to heat their apartment with their oven or have faulty windows that need to be left open while running air conditioning units. In the previous government’s Climate Change Action Plan, tenants were promised $385 million to $500 million for social housing retrofits, plus $300 to $400 million in incentives for retrofits in other private apartment buildings, funded through cap and trade revenues.

The diversion of this money away from retrofits represents a huge loss for hundreds of thousands of tenants across the province. We are concerned about the ripple effect that substandard housing will have on tenants and anticipate an increase in socioeconomic and health inequality as a result of this funding cut. Research has shown that every $1 million spent on social housing retrofits generates energy savings of $1.3 million – $3.9 million, as well as additional benefits to residents, such improved wellbeing. Without this money, the province’s most vulnerable tenants will be forced to continue living in substandard units that are up to 25% less energy-efficient than houses.

 

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The Way Governments Chill the Lives of Their People

San Pedro Sula   Driving through the cities of Honduras, there are stretches that seem like fast food heaven for global companies.  It’s hard to know what to make of the many complexes that include Popeye’s, Dunkin Donuts, Subways, and Pizza Hut under the same roof virtually.  Traffic is heavy and unregulated.  Passing on the highways is random and reckless without regard to any road signage.  In short, life in the years since the coup or golpista looks and feels normal.

Talking to people in all walks of life though the new normal post-golpista reality is living in a world with a thundercloud always hovering in the sky above.

Because some radio and television stations were shutdown because they expressed opposition in the coup or allowed contrary voices and opinions to be expressed, one reporter or station owner after another told us what they did not allow on the air.  One mainly broadcast religious programming in Nicaragua because of the government there and had largely shifted that way in Honduras as well after the coup. Journalists would turn off their tape recorders or put the pen down on their pad after talking with us and then describe their interest in finding outlets for their writing outside of the country for fear that another shutdown of papers and journals expressing anything but fawning support of the government could come in the future.

Nothing any of these people had said was out of line or critical.  No new laws were cited that expressly forbade what they could broadcast or print, but everyone seemed to be internalizing the experience of the coup as a permanent warning light instructing caution, drawing lines that should not be safely crossed, things that could not be said.  Talking to lawyers who offered ACORN help in various ways there was always a warning that more care needed to be taken on all documents, because the government was hyper attentive to any nonprofit organizations with international connections.  This is what is meant when people talk about governments chilling the rights of their citizens.

One of our organizers told us a story about going with several leaders to respond to interest in organizing in a new barrio in one of our cities.  They were suddenly confronted by several individuals in police uniforms with guns drawn and pointed at them telling them they had to leave the neighborhood.  Because gangs have regularly infiltrated the police ranks and many have simply obtained uniforms for their work, organizers are unsure if they are dealing with police or worse.  In this case they kept talking so nothing got out of hand, but they kept talking while leaving the neighborhood.  Because the government cannot protect the people and seems to have little interest in doing so, despite the fact that security is on everyone’s minds, we don’t articulate security as an issue, because we never know in our own meetings whether there may be gang members or relatives, so the issues have to be framed carefully.

To say nothing is as it seems ignores the screams masked by the silence shrouded in the fear of a people unsure of their place between a government that does not protect their rights or their safety and real experiences of violence from both the government forces and the forces of even worse evil.

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