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Worker cooperatives: More resilience, productivity, and equality

in Business/Community/Opinion by
Kawartha Credit Union began in 1952 by General Electric employees, an example of a successful cooperative.

Quickly. Can you name five cooperatives? La Siembra Cooperative sells delicious Fair Trade chocolate bars, my bank is the Waterloo Education Credit Union and I buy outdoor equipment at Mountain Equipment Co-op. Over 20 organizations are part of the Haliburton County Community Co-operative and Huntsville recently launched the Muskoka North Good Food Co-op. How did you do with your list?

In Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy, author Nathan Schneider describes a key development in the cooperative movement. In 1843 in Rochdale, England, a group of textile workers established a small store where they could buy groceries, clothing and other goods at reasonable prices.

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Problems are solved by ideas, not memes

in Opinion by
A federal election is looming in the fall.

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield once quipped “The way my luck is going, if I were a politician I would be honest.”

Dangerfield was following a long tradition of commentators using humour or satire or even political theatre to challenge the ruling class, a tradition that goes back past Plato, who said “one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

We are supposed to doubt, challenge and question our politicians. It’s part of our democratic DNA, every bit as essential as a vibrant free press and open access to the information that the state uses to rule us. We are often wise to be cynical of the powers that be.

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Happy Canada Day, my imperfect country

in Opinion by

My father was a drifter before he met my mother. From the age of 15 when he left home, he spent the next 14 years exploring Canada as few do – by riding freight trains and hitchhiking. He was a great storyteller and he was a Canadian patriot. He could have been a great dad but his problems with alcohol precluded this.

Dad had a particular love for Canada’s west. A few years ago, over the course of more than one full month, we drove all the way to Whitehorse, Yukon, to spend a week in the land of the midnight sun. It was an epic road journey and along the way, I hope, an appreciation for our country was passed on to my kids, just as my father once did for me through his storytelling.

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Newfoundland cod, community gardens, and our fading social memory

in Opinion by
The fisheries is still a genuine way of life, socially and economically. Photo: Roderick Benns.

A stinging, light rain is in the air in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. The fishing trawler edges to the dock and there is a bustle of activity. One man is below deck organizing the day’s catch while another man, above, eases a basket of cod from the belly of the boat. Two other men are on the dock, swapping stories. I’m there, too, out of place and taking some photos at their invitation.

Here in one of the oldest communities in all of North America, just four miles away from Cape Spear, I am in awe of this traditional way of life.

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Going green: Momentum builds for environmental action

in Environment/Opinion by

Earth Hour was on March 30. Earth Day was April 22. Earth Week was April 21-27. But ask Pat Warren, chair of the Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee (KLEAC), and she’ll have this to say: “Every day is Earth Day.”

She’s not alone in this belief. Momentum is building for environmental action. Over the past six months Council, City staff, and environmental heroes of all ages have been stepping up.

Here are 10 environmental initiatives worth celebrating.

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Putting the carbon tax through the spin cycle

in Opinion by

In 1946 George Orwell, the writer of 1984 wrote in his seminal Politics and the English Language that, “When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases … one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy, the appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain his not involved.”

But who is this Orwell? He probably took courses at university that were not tied to ‘performance outcomes’! He merely warned generations of the dangers of totalitarianism. Clearly not a man who was ‘open for business.’

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Teachers: For the people

in Opinion by

In the mid 1990s, while working at a newspaper as a young scribe, I wrote what I thought was a great story about a teacher who was taking a sabbatical. He was going to visit an overseas country and increase his learning and experience. He would inevitably accumulate new wisdom to bring back to future students one day.

Except that particular story never ran. I was told to get the ‘real’ story. How much was this going to cost? What sort of burden would this be to ‘taxpayers?’ The headline was altered, the focus shifted. In the end, the teacher and board of education were meant to feel shame for allowing such a thing to happen. I was embarrassed to see my name on that byline.

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“Who from their labours rest:” Lindsay factory workers reminisce

in Just in Time/Opinion by
“Who from their labours rest:” Lindsay factory workers reminisce

Picture it. It’s mid-May of 1919, and you’re a 12 or 13-year-old frolicking in the waters of the Scugog River at the foot of Georgian Street – not too far from where William Purdy and his sons constructed a dam some nine decades before. A little to the west, the tall stone edifice of a flour and feed mill constructed in 1869 casts a shadow over the locks. It’s one of many manufacturing facilities which have sprouted along both banks of the river and beyond in the half century that Lindsay has been called a Town.

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Dandelion days: What will you have to drink?

in Environment/Opinion by

It was a warm spring day at our food co-op as we ran the annual plant exchange. Gardeners with overflowing yards had dropped off excess plants and cuttings, and now those in need of greenery were choosing which plants they would like to take home.

“Excuse me,” said a hesitant voice, “I’m looking for some help with dandelions.” It was one of the neighbours from down the block. “I really need to find a way to deal with all the dandelions in my grass.”

My colleague and I shared a glance. “Well,” I said, “You could always leave them. They are one of the earliest sources of pollen for bees, and they are fun for the kids to pick. You could also eat their leaves.”

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Water in plastic: Who’s most responsible in the drive for endless growth?

in Environment/Opinion by
Water in plastic: Who’s most responsible in the drive for endless growth?

It was a peaceful climate justice protest organized by a high school student inspired by activist Greta Thunberg. A man approached us to say he fully supported what we were doing; and in the next breath said he hoped we didn’t think the carbon tax was going to make a difference. A fellow protester asked him what approach we should take: “Reduce, reuse and recycle. Just like we’ve always done.” Our visitor then jumped into his car and drove away.

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