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Failures to tackle Covid-19 are failures of capitalism



THE untimely crash on take-off of Britain’s coronavirus postcode tracker stands as a symbol that everything that might go wrong in our “failing state” will go wrong.

The national Test and Trace facility is reaching less than six out of 10 contacts.

The sensible injunction — for people who have been in contact with infection to isolate — is hobbled by the fact that in the absence of adequate financial support, many workers, especially the low-paid, cannot afford unpaid time off work.

The chaotic conduct of the coronavirus emergency by ministers and their minions is best illustrated by the bizarre story that some bloke who lived near the Minister of Health blagged a government Covid-19 test kit contract despite having no track record in this or any related field of commercial entrepreneurship or health management.

Maybe this is the “hidden hand” of the market that Tory ideologues and capitalist fundamentalists claim is the underlying logic of their “perfect” system.

Privatisation inevitably entails an unending succession of corruption and collapse.

The drive for profit results in safety margins and production processes trimmed to enhance shareholder value, with the consequence that every structure infected with the privatisation virus inevitably lacks the capacity or resilience to deal with unanticipated crises.

There is a serious debate to be had about the appropriate measures needed to reduce the kind of human interactions that allow the virus to spread.

That this should be led by epidemiologists and medical experts informed by expert opinion on how human beings modify their behaviour and what measures are necessary to produce an effective response seems bleeding obvious.

But the lessons we can draw from the experience of other countries is that this needs to be centrally organised with the state directing efforts.

Where the most marked successes are evident is in countries where national leaderships acted decisively.

There are examples in capitalist states that are worthy of study. Several south and east Asian states have been able to mobilise the human and material resources with much greater efficiency than Britain.

The three exemplary socialists states, China, Cuba and Vietnam, show that, irrespective of size or level of economic development, a state that serves its people before profit is best suited to tackle crises of this magnitude.

Where this government has failed — is failing — is in leadership. At one level this can be attributed to the flawed characters at the centre of government — forget the baleful influence of sundry special advisers now thrown on the corporate world for employment, this is a failure forced from the top.

But the failure is, in essence, a failure of the system and of ideas.

The Office of Rail and Road, the regulatory body responsible for overseeing Network Rail and the train operators, published statistics which prompted rail unions to say that the Covid-19 crisis has left the era of rail privatisation “null and void.”

It is nice to have this insight — one that millions of voters, including a majority of Tory voters, reached independently — made official.

Maybe an incoming Labour government (thoughts and prayers all round) might establish a Department of the Bleeding Obvious tasked to investigate whole era of privatisation.

Maybe a federal socialist British republic might set up a Foundation for the Study of the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie to give this criminal band of privatisers and opportunity to confess, seek forgiveness and become reconciled to a regime that puts people before profit.

In the meantime the Labour opposition has a perfect opportunity to use a forensic examination of the government’s failures in a case for fundamental change.

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How Canadian churches are helping their communities cope with the wildfires



As wildfires burn across Canada, churches are finding ways to support their members and the broader community directly impacted by the crisis.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of June 13, there are 462 active fires across Canada – and 236 of them classified as out of control fires.

Whether it’s through phone calls or donations to community members, here’s how a few churches across Canada are handling active wildfires and the aftermath in their regions.

Westwood Hills, N.S.: St. Nicholas Anglican Church

In Nova Scotia, St. Nicholas Anglican Church and other churches in the area are collecting money for grocery cards to give to families impacted by the Tantallon wildfire. 

Right outside of Halifax, N.S., the Tantallon wildfire destroyed 151 homes. More than 16,000 people evacuated the area due to the fire.

The fire is now considered contained, but Tanya Moxley, the treasurer at St. Nicholas is organizing efforts to get grocery gift cards into the hands of impacted families.

As of June 12, four churches in the area – St. Nicholas, Parish of French Village, St Margaret of Scotland and St John the Evangelist – raised nearly $3,500. The money will be split for families’ groceries between five schools in the area impacted by the wildfire.

Moxley said she felt driven to raise this money after she heard the principal of her child’s school was using his own money to buy groceries for impacted families in their area.

“[For] most of those people who were evacuated, the power was off in their subdivision for three, four or five days,” she said. “Even though they went home and their house was still standing, the power was off and they lost all their groceries.”

Moxley said many people in the area are still “reeling” from the fires. She said the church has an important role to help community members during this time.

“We’re called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless and all that stuff, right? So this is it. This is like where the rubber hits the road.”

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Is it ever OK to steal from a grocery store?



Mythologized in the legend of Robin Hood and lyricized in Les Misérables, it’s a debate as old as time: is it ever permissible to steal food? And if so, under what conditions? Now, amid Canada’s affordability crisis, the dilemma has extended beyond theatrical debate and into grocery stores.

Although the idea that theft is wrong is both a legally enshrined and socially accepted norm, the price of groceries can also feel criminally high to some — industry data shows that grocery stores can lose between $2,000 and $5,000 a week on average from theft. According to Statistics Canada, most grocery item price increases surged by double digits between 2021 and 2022. To no one’s surprise, grocery store theft is reportedly on the rise as a result. And if recent coverage of the issue rings true, some Canadians don’t feel bad about shoplifting. But should they?

Kieran Oberman, an associate professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, coined the term “re-distributive theft” in his 2012 paper “Is Theft Wrong?” In simplest terms, redistributive theft is based on the idea that people with too little could ethically take from those who have too much.

“Everybody, when they think about it, accepts that theft is sometimes permissible if you make the case extreme enough,” Oberman tells me over Zoom. “The question is, when exactly is it permissible?”

Almost no one, Oberman argues, believes the current distribution of wealth across the world is just. We have an inkling that theft is bad, but that inequality is too. As more and more Canadians feel the pinch of inflation, grocery store heirs accumulate riches — Loblaw chair and president Galen Weston, for instance, received a 55 percent boost in compensation in 2022, taking in around $8.4 million for the year. Should someone struggling with rising prices feel guilty when they, say, “forget” to scan a bundle of zucchini?
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The homeless refugee crisis in Toronto illustrates Canada’s broken promises



UPDATE 07/18/2023: A coalition of groups arranged a bus to relocate refugees to temporarily stay at a North York church on Monday evening, according to CBC, CP24 and Toronto Star reports.

Canadians live in a time of threadbare morality. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Toronto’s entertainment district, where partygoers delight in spending disposable income while skirting refugees sleeping on sidewalks. The growing pile of luggage at the downtown corner of Peter and Richmond streets resembles the lost baggage section at Pearson airport but is the broken-hearted terminus at the centre of a cruel city.

At the crux of a refugee funding war between the municipal and federal governments are those who have fled persecution for the promise of Canada’s protection. Until June 1, asylum seekers used to arrive at the airport and be sent to Toronto’s Streets to Homes Referral Assessment Centre at 129 Peter St. in search of shelter beds. Now, Toronto’s overcrowded shelter system is closed to these newcomers, so they sleep on the street.

New mayor Olivia Chow pushed the federal government Wednesday for at least $160 million to cope with the surge of refugees in the shelter system. She rightly highlights that refugees are a federal responsibility. In response, the department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada points to hundreds of millions in dollars already allocated to cities across Canada through the Interim Housing Assistance Program, while Ontario says it has given nearly $100 million to organizations that support refugees. But these efforts are simply not enough to deliver on Canada’s benevolent promise to the world’s most vulnerable.

The lack of federal generosity and finger-pointing by the city has orchestrated a moral crisis. It’s reminiscent of the crisis south of the border, where Texas governor Greg Abbott keeps bussing migrants to cities located in northern Democratic states. Without the necessary resources, information, and sometimes the language skills needed to navigate the bureaucratic mazes, those who fled turbulent homelands for Canada have become political pawns.

But Torontonians haven’t always been this callous.

In Ireland Park, at Lake Ontario’s edge, five statues of gaunt and grateful refugees gaze at their new home: Toronto circa 1847. These statues honour a time when Toronto, with a population of only 20,000 people, welcomed 38,500 famine-stricken migrants from Ireland. It paralleled the “Come From Away” event of 9/11 in Gander, N.L., where the population doubled overnight, and the people discovered there was indeed more than enough for all. It was a time when the city lived up to its moniker as “Toronto, The Good.”

Now, as a wealthy city of three million people, the city’s residents are tasked with supporting far fewer newcomers. Can we not recognize the absurdity in claiming scarcity?

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