The Financial Times is right – Labour’s ownership funds will transfer wealth and power

Democratising the corporation and empowering workers is an essential part of moving beyond neoliberalism.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn making a keynote speech at The Landing in MediaCityUK in Salford on 2 September. Image: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

The corporation is an extraordinary social institution. Endowed with a set of expansive legal privileges that enable it to structure external capital investment, produce profits and accumulate wealth, its productive capacity has created the world we live in. Yet in its current form the modern corporation is profoundly undemocratic, and acts as a driving force for inequality in the heart of our economy. Both the uneven wealth of society and the depth of crises confronting us are consequently inseparable from the corporation.

Any attempt to overcome the democratic neutering, economic inequality, and accelerating forms of planetary breakdown endemic to capitalism must therefore have a strategy for transforming the corporation. It is in this light that the importance of Labour’s Inclusive Ownership Fund – which a recent Financial Times analysis suggested would redistribute corporate wealth and spread share capital to workers worth up to £300bn over a decade – becomes clear. It is a part of a wider progressive policy agenda for transforming and democratising the corporation and therefore reshaping wealth and power in society.

…The Inclusive Ownership Fund is an attempt to reshape the corporation toward those ends. The policy would require large companies to issue 1% of outstanding equity annually into a locked fund, democratically controlled by the workforce, which would grant dividend and voting rights equal to the Fund’s equity share. By diluting stock, rather than expropriating existing shareholders, it would not adversely impact the working capital of the company but would broaden income and control rights within it, ensuring everyone within it had a genuine stake and a say. There are important debates over design but its direction is clear.

Instead of the governance of the firm being dominated by external investors and their managerial agents, many of whom hold important ownership stakes in their own right, the Funds would help ensure labour had a powerful voice in shaping strategic decision-making. Alongside wider corporate governance reforms and the strengthening of organised labour, it would democratise the governance of the firm. Through broadening ownership via new collective forms of property, the Funds could act as a powerful mechanism towards the redistribution of resources and power within companies and wider society. By removing a growing proportion of corporate ownership from financial intermediation – and the short-termism and poor decision-making that often occurs as a result – the ownership funds could act as a powerful steward for the sustainable creation of value, helping foster a more prosperous and inventive economy. In short, the funds could help enable a more generative and committed company form to emerge.

Reimagining patterns of income and control within the firm may appear radical. Yet the privileges ascribed to the corporation and the powerful governance and income rights assigned to shareholders – in contrast to labour – are socially assigned and politically mediated. As Katrina Pistor demonstrates in her brilliant new book, the law produces new forms of capital through the encoding power of legal instruments. How capital is produced, and for whom, is malleable and a site for political struggle. We have before and must again remake the governance of the firm and how it distributes its surplus. At the same time, it is also worth noting the existing scale of share issuance to senior management through remuneration in shares and share options. In many ways this process mimics the mechanisms of Inclusive Ownership Funds, but in ways that deepen inequality and narrow power. MORE

 

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion faces new setback as Indigenous opponents score ‘huge win’ in court

Pipes for the Trans Mountain project are unloaded in Edson, Alta. on June 18. The expansion would twin the existing 1,100-kilometre pipeline, triple the flow of diluted bitumen and other petroleum products and is expected to result in a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic through the Burrard Inlet.

VANCOUVER—In the latest setback for the Trans Mountain expansion, the Federal Court of Appeal has approved six new Indigenous legal challenges to the project, once again raising questions about the fate of the pipeline.

The Crown corporation that now owns Trans Mountain said planning and construction will move forward in the meantime, but lawyer and resource development strategist Bill Gallagher said he wouldn’t expect to see “any shovels in the ground any time soon.”

“This to me is looking like dead pipeline walking,” Gallagher said, calling the court’s decision a “huge win for First Nations.”

The decision also ensures the Liberal government will be saddled with the legal uncertainty around the project — which it spent $4.5 billion to purchase, alongside the existing pipeline — through this October’s federal election.

While the court gave the go-ahead Wednesday to half a dozen First Nations to continue their legal efforts to halt the project, it limited the challenges to the issue of the federal government’s consultation with Indigenous Peoples, particularly its latest round.

The court denied six other applications — from two other First Nations, a coalition of youth climate activists, the City of Vancouver and two environmental organizations — leave to proceed.

A lawyer representing the two environmental organizations said they may appeal the decision to Canada’s highest court. MORE

RELATED:

First Nations prepared for ‘long road ahead’ appealing Trans Mountain pipeline decision

Deliberate deforestation of Amazon rainforest exposes anti-climate capitalism

Satellite image of fires burning the Amazon rainforest on August 11 and August 13, 2019. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

The outbreak of thousands of fires in the Brazilian rainforest starkly exposes the refusal of the world’s business and political leaders to take the threat of climate change seriously. For the past 30 years, at successive climate summits, they have piously pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions, never really intending to make more than token efforts to do so.

Their duplicity was on display at the recent G7 conference, where the countries’ leaders collectively promised to donate $20 million to fight the Brazilian inferno. That’s about as effective as arming the firefighters with toy squirt guns.

Of course, even if they had increased their contribution to $20 billion, it would still have been a useless gesture. Most of the fires were deliberately ignited, and will continue to be ignited after the current blazes are extinguished, regardless of the amount ostensibly contributed for firefighting.

That’s because the big international mining, logging and farming corporations that the Brazilian government has invited to exploit the country’s jungle need thousands of acres of open land. And that requires the equivalent acreage of deforestation, which is most easily accomplished by setting the forest alight. The country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, like most of his predecessors, makes economic development a top priority, even when it involves the discharge of massive amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and methane, and the eventual depletion of indispensable oxygen.

Here is where the nub of the climate crisis is exposed. The damaging effects of these emissions are not confined to the country that emits them. They ultimately impair the well-being of everyone on the planet.

Capitalism vs. the climate

To deal with such a worldwide menace calls for worldwide unity in mounting effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, we live on a planet whose population is dispersed among 195 separate countries, with different sizes, systems of government, laws, leaders, languages, religions, and climates, as well as differing levels of poverty and inequality.

As if all these barriers to forging a global convergence were not formidable enough, there’s another one that is even more daunting. It’s the main reason why our business and political leaders have remained so adamantly inactive in confronting climate change: because the world’s predominant economic system is based on the perpetuation of economic growth, and thus inherently on the perpetuation of global warming.

Capitalism can only thrive — or even survive a few decades longer — while economic growth remains unlimited and continuous. It’s a disastrous fantasy that assumes our planet’s natural resources are inexhaustible when they clearly are not. As thousands of world scientists have pointed out many times over the past 50 years, “Earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing populations is finite.

The outbreak of thousands of fires in the Brazilian rainforest starkly exposes the refusal of the world’s business and political leaders to take the threat of climate change seriously. For the past 30 years, at successive climate summits, they have piously pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions, never really intending to make more than token efforts to do so.

Their duplicity was on display at the recent G7 conference, where the countries’ leaders collectively promised to donate $20 million to fight the Brazilian inferno. That’s about as effective as arming the firefighters with toy squirt guns.

Of course, even if they had increased their contribution to $20 billion, it would still have been a useless gesture. Most of the fires were deliberately ignited, and will continue to be ignited after the current blazes are extinguished, regardless of the amount ostensibly contributed for firefighting.

That’s because the big international mining, logging and farming corporations that the Brazilian government has invited to exploit the country’s jungle need thousands of acres of open land. And that requires the equivalent acreage of deforestation, which is most easily accomplished by setting the forest alight. The country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, like most of his predecessors, makes economic development a top priority, even when it involves the discharge of massive amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and methane, and the eventual depletion of indispensable oxygen.

Here is where the nub of the climate crisis is exposed. The damaging effects of these emissions are not confined to the country that emits them. They ultimately impair the well-being of everyone on the planet.

Capitalism vs. the climate

To deal with such a worldwide menace calls for worldwide unity in mounting effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, we live on a planet whose population is dispersed among 195 separate countries, with different sizes, systems of government, laws, leaders, languages, religions, and climates, as well as differing levels of poverty and inequality.

As if all these barriers to forging a global convergence were not formidable enough, there’s another one that is even more daunting. It’s the main reason why our business and political leaders have remained so adamantly inactive in confronting climate change: because the world’s predominant economic system is based on the perpetuation of economic growth, and thus inherently on the perpetuation of global warming.

Capitalism can only thrive — or even survive a few decades longer — while economic growth remains unlimited and continuous. It’s a disastrous fantasy that assumes our planet’s natural resources are inexhaustible when they clearly are not. As thousands of world scientists have pointed out many times over the past 50 years, “Earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing populations is finite. And we are fast approaching many of these planetary limits.” MORE

What’s necessary for good people to do nothing

When it comes to the climate emergency, Canada’s courts want people to choose between being ineffectual and doing nothing at all

Image result for https://ricochet.media: What’s necessary for good people to do nothing

If, as the maxim goes, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” we ought to ask just why it is that good people so often do nothing.

Last month, Vancouver-based educator and award-winning poet Rita Wong was sentenced to 28 days in prison for peacefully protesting the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project (she was released early). Her act was in violation of a 2018 B.C. Supreme Court injunction ruling, which threatens those blocking construction with being found in contempt of court.

In a statement to the press, Wong explained her decision to take action:

On 24 August 2018, while BC was in a state of emergency because of wildfires caused by climate change —breaking records for the second year in a row; putting lives at risk, health at risk, and displacing thousands of people— I sang, prayed, and sat in ceremony for about half an hour in front of the Trans Mountain pipeline project’s Westridge Marine Terminal.

I did this because we’re in a climate emergency, and since the Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to protect us despite full knowledge of the emergency, it became necessary to act.

On social media Wong’s sentence was met with shock for its harshness. The judge, Kenneth Affleck, who has presided over numerous cases relating to Trans Mountain, had previously professed his belief that “a general deterrence” is now required in order to prevent people from violating the injunction (which he also issued). Wong’s imprisonment is consistent with that belief, part of a new escalation of punitive measures, which were previously limited to fines and community service, and then very brief jail time.

When we ask why good people do nothing, perhaps we should look to the decisions of authority figures like Affleck as an important case study.

As epitomized by Affleck’s rulings, the Canadian judicial system is not equal to the challenge presented by the climate emergency.

Faith v. necessity

How seriously you take climate change — what measures you are prepared to accept being taken in response to it — has a lot to do with how much you believe that reigning institutional arrangements and practices realize and maintain a decent society. If you occupy a position of authority in one of those institutions, that distorting faith might cause you to mistrust established practice rather than risk deviating from the status quo, the one you believe generally promotes positive ends. And that might make you ill-suited to making decisions on a threat like climate change, where doing as we have always done will break our world.

An unduly strong institutional faith is suggested in a couple key instances of Affleck’s reasoning. The first was the resort to the injunction itself. Its intention is to prioritize rule of law in a way that avoids having to consider the reasons people might have been acting outside the law in the first place.

The necessity defence is premised on the idea that there are circumstances in which the rule of law cannot be adhered to if injury, loss of life, or serious moral transgressions are to be prevented.

Because all the court is concerned with is whether a person was or wasn’t knowingly engaging in activities forbidden by the injunction (and not why), normal injunction proceedings would not, therefore, require the presiding judge to engage deeply with defendants’ arguments.

But something occurred that caused Affleck to lay bare his reasoning, and the flaws in it, more clearly: the decision by Wong and others to turn to the “necessity defence.”

The necessity defence is premised on the idea that there are circumstances in which the rule of law cannot be adhered to if injury, loss of life, or serious moral transgressions are to be prevented. A classic example would be a driver breaking the speed limit or operating a vehicle without a licence in order to get a dying person to a hospital when no other option was available. Therefore, people committing illegal but preventative acts should not be found guilty of actions that, technically, constitute crimes.

The climate necessity defence is a variation of that, intended to protect those who, concluding that our institutions are failing to act quickly enough to prevent climate breakdown (or are willfully contributing to its acceleration), take direct action against major fossil fuel projects or operations. But for it to work, the ruling judicial system has to proceed from an understanding that the danger posed by climate change is of a unique nature. MORE

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The Court of Law v. The Laws of Climate
Trans Mountain reapproval is Canada’s commitment to a ruined Earth

 

Student groups launch nationwide get-out-the-vote push ahead of federal campaign


The UBC sign is pictured at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, on Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward

A nationwide get-out-the-vote campaign targeting post-secondary students launches today, aiming to maintain gains in turnout at the polls among the nation’s youngest voters.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, in concert with three dozen student associations, will hold events and all-party debates and hit the streets with teams to make sure students are engaged during the campaign and plan to vote on Oct. 21.

CASA ran a similar campaign during the 2015 campaign, but this time around it has expanded efforts to include digital voting reminders through emails and text messages to students who ask for the alerts.

In its first effort, some 42,000 students told the association that they planned to vote — a number the group hopes to improve upon this time with the help of 36 campus associations.

CASA’s efforts, among others during the last election campaign, led to a boost in turnout among young voters.

Statistics Canada said in a 2016 report that the voting rates of Canadian aged 18 to 24 years old increased by 12 percentage points between the 2011 and 2015 elections — a bigger bump than that among older voters.

The message of this campaign is that the millennial generation can have significant sway in the outcome of the election and ensure parties don’t ignore their problems and needs, if only they get involved.

The association hopes that a pledge to vote, made to a peer, ensures young voters turn out on election day. MORE

‘Serengeti of the north’: the Kaska Dena’s visionary plan to protect a huge swath of B.C. wilderness

The First Nations that have lived in the north for thousands of years are out to prove that a conservation economy and extractive economy can thrive side by side — but first they need the B.C. government to get on board

Tanya Ball Taylor Rhodes Kaska Dena
Tanya Ball heads the Kaska land guardians program. Land guardians would have a greatly expanded role in the new conservancy area. Currently, eight Kaska guardians are spread out among the three B.C. Kaska communities. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Flying north from Fort Ware, an isolated community in northern British Columbia at the terminus of a rough logging road, there’s something different about the landscape below. It becomes clearly visible, through parting cumulus clouds and glinting sun, about half-way into the 50-minute flight up the Rocky Mountain Trench, known locally as the “warm wind valley.”

Unlike flights over most of B.C., Van Somer doesn’t see a single clear-cut. There are no mines, no oil and gas development, no hydro reservoirs, no settlements and not a single road. He could walk for weeks on the land below and not meet a soul in the tapestry of boreal forest, sapphire lakes, rivers and snow-crested mountains that stitch together one of North America’s last intact major landscapes.

Donny Van Somer Taylor Roades Kaska Dena

Donny Van Somer, chief of the Kwadacha Nation, at the Kaska annual general assembly in Lower Post, B.C. Van Somer, who lives in Fort Ware, is working to permanently protect part of his people’s traditional territory in a new conservancy. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

“We have an area that’s very pristine and very beautiful, one of the most beautiful places, I think, in the world,” Van Somer, a grandfather of 12, tells The Narwhal.

“We call it the Serengeti of the north. There’s an abundance of wild animals. It’s untouched, no roads, just the ancestral trails that we use for getting back and forth.”

New conservancy would be larger than Vancouver Island

The Kaska Dena call this land Dene Kayeh, which translates as “the people’s country.” The Kaska, a nomadic people who followed the seasonal rounds, producing food, shelter, clothing and medicine from forested landscapes, have occupied this region continuously for at least 4,500 years.

Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area Maureen Garrity Kaska Dena

The proposed Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in Kaska Dena traditional territory. Scientists say species will more easily adapt to climate change in areas such as this, where they can move from valley bottom to mountain top. Photo: Maureen Garrity

In recent times, they have politely declined to put the proposed Eagle Spirit pipeline through their territory, insisted there be no logging north of Fort Ware, negotiated with a Vancouver company that wants to explore for zinc deposits and declined to use their guide outfitting licence because the area has been over-hunted and needs time to recover.

“Now we’ve decided we don’t want to see much development there,” says Van Somer, who is mustached and wears a leaf-patterned shirt in camouflage colours.

“I think it’s very important for us, being First Nations stewards of the land, to protect a piece of the land we can enjoy in its natural state.” MORE

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Meet the Kaska land guardians

Trudeau vs. Scheer: The Great Unpopularity Contest

Most voters like neither, many feel scorned. Ask Hillary Clinton how that went.

NationalPollsRace.jpg

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Whatever Election 2019 turns into (my guess is mudwrestling), it will never be a beauty contest.

What else can the conclusion be when the leaders of both mainstream parties are so disliked?

Which means this election may boil down to which leading candidate most confirms voters’ worst impressions of him.

Last week Andrew Scheer did just that, handing Justin Trudeau a gift by summoning Stephen Harper’s endorsement in a political ad. More, in a bit, about why that was so monumentally dumb.

First, ponder a recent Angus Reid poll, reported in the Globe and Mail, that indicates Trudeau and Scheer should probably be considering a new line of work.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents don’t believe Andy is dandy. A whopping 63 per cent have an unfavourable impression of Justin the Sock D

The Angus Reid Institute recently put the same information in a different way. Only one out of three respondents think Scheer would be the best PM. That should have the Conservatives biting their fingernails.

But the Liberals have zero reason to be smug. Even fewer, one in four, thought that Trudeau would be the best PM. It wasn’t that long ago that Trudeau could walk on water, with an approval rating in June 2016 of 65 per cent. Now he’s stumbling on terra firma.

One reason the Grits are still in the game is because a lot of people think under Scheer’s smiling, dimpled mask is one Stephen J. Harper.

Right on cue, in one of the party’s new ads, the starring role was given to Harper, or some Harper-like embalmed version of the former PM.

There is Harper telling people to elect Scheer and save the country. There is Harper dunning the audience for money like a televangelist newly converted to the Republican Party. And oh yes, there in the stock footage accompanying Harper’s pitch is a guy named Andrew Scheer. Apparently, he can’t make his own case for replacing Trudeau.

This was a monumental faceplant, no matter what the backroom smarty pants of the Conservative party may think about galvanizing the base. What Scheer has done by agreeing to this ad is to confirm what a lot of people have suspected all along: he is not his own man, but a creature of Stephen Harper, a grinning puppet.

Anyone paying attention would have noticed two things by now about Scheer.

First, as leader he never disavowed the ruinous policies of his predecessor, never declared that the party was striking out in a new direction, and never came up with an idea that would have put a frown on Harper’s face.

Second, Scheer is not a leader guy, rather a follow-the-leader guy. From tax cuts to family values, from foreign policy to the environment, from corporate handouts to barely disguised homophobia, the Scheer agenda is the Harper agenda.

Trouble with that? MORE