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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

TorontotheBetter receives go-ahead for first in Canada community development through sports initiative in Jane/Keeele/Finch area


The international Johan Cruyff Foundation - http://www.cruyff-foundation.org/en/ - named after Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff, has approved TorontotheBetter's proposal (through its Red Panamericana partnership with the Hispanic Development Council) to build Canada's first Cruyff soccer Court on land near Finch Avenue  and Keele Street provided by TorontotheBetter partner Toronto Azzurri youth Sports Villa - http://www.torontothebetter.net/2taysv.htm. This is a neighbourhood heavily populated by two of Toronto's core soccer-friendly communities:Latinos and Italians. Centered around the Toronto Azzurri clubhouse, The Toronto Cruyff Court is designed to be an inclusive non-elite community hub that will generate recreational, economic and cultural opportunities in an area of Toronto in many ways historically under-served. Red Panamericana has been working for approval of its proposal since receiving endorsement for a Jane/Keele/Finch corridor Cruyff Court from Jane-Finch Community Legal Services, three years ago. 

See below for the Cruyff Foundation fair play principles:
 A Cruyff Court and Schoolyard14 are meeting places, where themes such as respect  for each other, health, integration, development and playing together are central. Those themes are based on the  14 rules of Johan Cruyff.

 De 14 Regels 2012

Monday, 29 December 2014

Is Toronto's Now Magazine a Social enterprise or "Benefit Corporation"? - sex ads are not the problem

Much to do recently about Now Magazine's presumably lucrative sex business advertising trade. Whatever you think about the relative persuasiveness of Now representatives' defence of their sex ad business it's a bit of a stale and old-fashioned discussion insofar as the advertisers and their customers have voted with their money. The rest is history we may say. If we don't like it we should all do something else. The real problem with Now is not sex ads and but its ever growing attachment to consumerism. Every page screams "buy shit" whatever flavour you choose. Inevitably, then, Now is in the hands of its advertisers, whatever their take on our right to what we want with our bodies or our minds and spirits. Call it a radically mixed message. Now Magazine - a social ebusiness/B-corp (U.S. lingo)? Looks more business than social.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Fair World Project says No Thanks! to Keurig Green Mountain fair trade challenge grant

Dana Geffner, Executive Director of the Fair World Project, is highly critical of a $10 Million challenge grant to Fair Trade USA...


"Our call to potential funders of FTUSA is let's not unlock this $10 million dollar "investment." Let's instead direct funding to organizations like the Small Producer Symbol whose very mission is to promote small-scale farmer fair trade because labelers like FTUSA failed them. Or let's invest in groups fighting against more NAFTAs and promoting fair trade policies that will allow small-scale farmers to stay on their land, producing food for both their community and northern consumers."

There Is A "Whole Food" Alternative - but make sure it's not anti-worker

Whole Foods Market is not the last would-be saviour of North American consumers found to be anti-worker but founder John Mackey's "we're not anti-union, we're beyond-unions" might go down as the most arrogant and patronizing of slogans. Check  http://www.thenation.com/blog/190681/surprise-whole-foods-not-worlds-greatest-employer for the latest on Whole Foods "revolutionary" approach to their workers.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

B.C. pipeline-protest case shows how lawsuits threaten democratic voices say Globe&Mail columnists

Some recent news regarding a Canadian concern that's calling for wider debate...

"At 4:00 on November 17, the RCMP read an injunction that had been granted the previous Friday prohibiting members of the public from traversing areas of a Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.

...

As a result of the SLAPP suit filed by Kinder Morgan, we now have the RCMP acting at the behest of a foreign oil company to arrest young people, SFU faculty and Coast Salish elders, who are profoundly concerned not just about what more than doubling of the capacity of these pipelines might mean to the region but also about the effects of tar sands bitumen on global climate change more generally..."

See the full column here for more details and commentary.

1.6 Million-Member American Federation of Teachers Bans Coca-Cola

This came to our attention via Campaign to Stop Killer Coke:


- "1.6 Million-Member American Federation of Teachers Bans Coca-Cola Products Citing Child Labor and Human Rights Record," by Corporate Campaign, Inc., November 24, 2014

"Corporate Campaign, Inc. applauds the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, AFL-CIO) for its historic move to ban all Coca-Cola products from its facilities and events, based on Coke's human rights record. The Union calls on affiliates to "participate in campaigns to remove Coca-Cola products from their schools, colleges, hospitals and other places in which they work."


See Stop Killer Coke's Breaking News page, November 2014 for much more information...

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

TorontotheBetter Calls for Solidarity with Murdered Mexican Students

"Somos todos estudiantes"


As Mexicans protest the recent murder of students at the hands of government enabled criminal gangs, social justice supporters from around the world must stand with the students and their allies within and beyond Mexico's borders. As always, our capacity to resist injustice must start with solidarity for its victims. 

TorontotheBetter calls on seekers of a better, a social, economy everywhere to stand with the Mexican people and their murdered students during this critical time. We are all students.

Public Broadcaster Fails the Public. HELLO, The Cancer Epidemic My Have Some Economic Causes

CBC’s “The National”  IGNORES COMMERCIAL ECONOMY’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE CANCER EPIDEMIC
Perhaps It should come as no surprise when the financially beleaguered, and, as a public institution that is hostage to advertising revenue, sadly politically craven, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is silent about the powerful  interests responsible when they address serious subjects like cancer on its prime-time news programme The National, as it did on Tuesday Nov.25. And it should  come as no  surprise when the increasingly avuncular and vapid Peter Mansbridge [sorry Peter, uncles don’t have to be vapid] continues his sycophantic adulation of experts by declaring the expert panel he has just presided over “a great discussion”. All the experts properly and duly acknowledged at the beginning of what is increasingly, and rightly, referred to as a “show”, that prevention, rather than treatment, is the cure for cancer, but not till deep into the programme did the newly anointed defender of  Canada’s  public healthcare, Danielle Martin of Women’s  College Hospital, suggest that public policy might be relevant to the cancer epidemic. Her main point was the somewhat anodyne, but valid one, that the language of cancer matters. Right there, Danielle.
      
However often the experts on The National’s cancer panel reiterated the superiority of  prevention to treatment  as the  approach of choice and the importance of not shaming individuals for what was not their fault, i.e. cancer, the deep message of the programme was that there is a culprit for cancer’s inexorable toll, and its called the people, stupid! – that is, stupid, or, maybe as Martin interjected, poor, people who fail to exercise enough or to eat well. OK to shame the public  victim, but not individuals, it seems. As all the expert talk flowed on, one key factor, environmental pollutants and their polluting progenitors warranted not a split second of verbal attention. FTR there are places in the world with high proportions of centenarians and they are far away from polluting industries and the interests that benefit from them, let alone the increasingly stressed workplaces that go with them. One not entirely unconnected error of fact in this regard: cancer has in fact not been with us since time immemorial, i.e. it is not as eternal and omnipresent as the weather – the programme’s clear implication.


No, it should not surprise us when the financially dependent avoid exposing the culpability of their patrons. But disappoint us it should. Where does the public go for truth when its public broadcaster deserts it? Another panel of truth in broadcasting experts won’t do it.  We are left with a handful of marginalized truth-tellers who  frighten advertisers away and will never appear in prime time in major media. No wonder more and more are dying from cancer.  It comes in so many forms.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Maquila Solidarity Network's anti-sweatshop work to end. Gone,maybe,but not forgotten

After twenty years of struggle for workers' rights in sweatshops around the world the Maquila Solidarity Network recently notified supporters including TorontotheBetter that it would be closing its doors. Thanks to MSN and its allies for the differences they have made in many workers' lives over the years. There have been some notable advances for workers over the twenty years but too bad the need for MSN type work has not disappeared, as the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh recently demonstrated. Better cities in Canada and around the world require decent conditions for all their workers. TorontotheBetter calls on people of good will to keep up the pressure on predatory employers at home and abroad.And thanks to MSB volunteer and Libra/TorontotheBetter worker Musonda Kidd for originally alerting us to MSN;s work in the early days.         

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

TorontotheBetter bike stores recognized at 2014 CycleToronto awards

Congratulations to TorontotheBetter directory colleagues Bike Sauce, the Community Bicycle Network and Featherstone Two Wheels Green Delivery who all received awards on November 13 at Cycle Toronto's Toronto Bike Awards. A better Toronto is a more bike-friendly Toronto. The full house at the Bathurst Culture and Arts Centre certainly got the point. In the picture Adrian Currie of the Community Bicycle Network recognizes IWW union member 
Jerry-Lee Miller of CBN for his commitment as a worker to a key Toronto bike-culture builder.    






Social determinants of cancer - Stopping cancer before it starts

In his new book “Stop Breast Cancer Before It Starts” (2013), Dr. Samuel Epstein does it again as he did before, most notably, perhaps, in his 1978 "Politics of Cancer". He blew a whistle on the ineffectiveness of so-called “war against cancer”.   It is fair to ask - in Toronto as elsewhere in much of the world why we are still losing the fight with this epidemic in spite of billions being spent on diagnosis and treatment and why there is so little emphasis put on preventing it from happening in the first place.
 
Making prevention a priority would mean addressing social issues rather than just advocating lifestyle changes such as diet or exercise and blaming the victims for not getting tested soon enough.  Who is ready to tackle underlining causes of poor health in general:  food and environmental injustice, poverty, inadequate working conditions and corporate irresponsibility?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Fund Raiser Book Sale - Taoist Tai Chi Society

On going book sale until Nov. 27th. Hardcovers and softcovers in great condition for you or for a gift. Fiction and non-fiction, childrens', foreign language, political, new age, novels....

1376 Bathurst St.
Toronto ON
M5R 3J1

(416) 656-7479

bathurst.street@taoist.org

Kinder Morgan Legal Defense Fund

Legal Defence Fund
 
West Vancouver, BC EMERGENCIES
$54,040 of 60k
Raised by 813 people in 16 days
Donate Now
2.9K
TOTAL
SHARES
2.4K
462
Created November 1, 2014
Gillian Johnstone
UPDATE #2
12 DAYS AGO
$40,000 in three days! We have met our initial goal of covering the legal costs for the hearing this week. Deep gratitude to all who contributed.

We are keeping the page open and setting a new goal towards the continuing legal defence needs of Adam, Lynne, Mia and Stephen in their fight against Kinder Morgan. Phase II starts next week as they begin preparing their defence against the civil suit. We will keep you posted.
A group of dedicated land defenders have been protecting Burnaby Mountain on unceded Coast Salish territories against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Kinder Morgan has served these land defenders with a $5.6 million dollar lawsuit. This legal defence fund is to support the legal costs for Stephen Collis, Adam Gold,  Mia Nissen and Lynne Quarmby as they defend their rights in the hearings to be held Weds to Friday, November 5-7 at the Supreme Court of B.C., 800 Smithe Street, Vancouver.

Please donate towards the legal costs to challenge Kinder Morgan in the courts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We have met our initial goal and costs for the injunction hearing taking place this week are now covered. We are keeping the page open with a new goal towards the continuing legal defence of Adam, Lynne, Mia and Stephen in their fight against Kinder Morgan. The first priority will be to cover expenses for their defence against the outstanding civil suit. We don't know how this will play out and what their total expenses will be. Whatever happens, we guarantee that 100% of funds donated will go to legal defense of people fighting against pipelines in B.C.

"How, in a democracy, can someone be charged for occupying public land, and for speaking their mind freely? Last I checked, Canada had a constitution. I believe I am allowed to speak freely about climate change, about our need to alter our course away from fossil fuels, and the need for a public movement against systemic threats to this planet. I do not believe corporations should be allowed to take this freedom away from me or anyone else." - Stephen Collis

“The only world in which it is okay to continue building new infrastructure for fossil fuels with no consideration for climate change is a world where we don’t care about the future, or about other places on the globe, or about disappearing species, or about ocean acidification,”
- Lynne Quarmby



Further Information:
Kinder Morgan has been working to conduct surveys to support and gather information on their Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline Project on unceded and unsurrendered Coast Salish territories. Opposition towards Kinder Morgans Trans Mountain Expansion is one that has been consistantly growing. Leading the opposition to this pipeline are the Coast First Nations.

"First Nations from the lower mainland, Vancouver Island, and Washington State have come together to sign an historic treaty to protect the Salish Sea from tar sands oil and related threats, making the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project illegal under Coast Salish Law" (Sacred Trust Initiative).

Rueben George, from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative stated that, "Kinder Morgan’s expansion project will never get built....We are signing this treaty, not just for our own nations and children, but for the future generations of everyone who makes their homes on our traditional territories,"(Sacred Trust Initiative).

In addition, the Tsleil-Waututh are taking to court the National Energy Board over their process for review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline Project. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation says that, "the federal government and the energy board both failed to adequately consult the band before setting the terms of the review," (Keller, CTV News)

"Opposition to the pipeline expansion has been growing since the company formally filed its National Energy Board application last December, with First Nations communities and environmental groups lining up against it," (Keller, CTV News).

KM attempts to survey have been in preparation for geotechnical testing related to the possibility of boring a tunnel through the western section of mountain for their proposed tar sands pipeline. KM also intends to build a helicopter landing pad on the mountain. The City of Burnaby opposes the pipeline project and has denied the company a permit for the work. In response, KM submitted a request to the National Energy Board (NEB) to confirm their rights to access City of Burnaby public lands. The NEB ruled that federal legislation gives Kinder Morgan the power to enter and conduct surveys and tests on any Crown or private land that lies on their intended pipeline routes. The City of Burnaby has now filed with the Court of Appeals.

"In their response, the National Energy Board did not deny our assertion. Instead, they merely offered an interpretation of Section 73a of the National Energy Board Act. We will, therefore, continue to enforce our bylaws, ensuring that Kinder Morgan does not access Burnaby parkland and the Brunette Conservation area on which they want to perform deleterious actions that would contravene the laws put in place by our City and citizens to protect our parkland," Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan said. “The NEB refused to address the City of Burnaby’s constitutional question,” said Burnaby’s legal counsel, Greg McDade, QC. “By refusing to grant an access order, they ignored the question completely, meaning that Kinder Morgan still cannot access Burnaby’s land without the City’s permission.” The NEB Act does not empower the Board to make orders that override municipal jurisdiction or bylaws. Local citizens are now mobilizing to express our opposition to allowing KM access to our public lands in preparation for building their proposed pipeline expansion. The answer is "NO". Please join us!"- Stop Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mtn Facebook page

Created by Gillian Johnstone - friend, ally and supporter of Stop Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Public health partners in stores?


When governments shirk a responsibility as basic as public health, as in this period of rabid anti-tax anti-government neoliberalism what can we do?

We have been exposed to many toxins throughout our lives that effect our health in a negative way. These toxins are in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the products we buy, including our food. Therefore it makes sense for stores to educate the  public about harmful effects of many products.

We finally have stores in Mississauga that get this. Our own locally grown Good ness Me Market just opened its doors in the heart of Britannia Village (at Mavis and Bristol).

This is the fourth of the Goodness Me supermarkets (after 2 in the Hamilton-Burlington area)> Started by Janet Jackes from Hamilton, Good ness Me has proved that so-called suburbia does not have to be either a food desert or a home for mega-stores filled with mostly imported ”in-organic” processed foods.  This store is supported by local farm-friendly staff and offers prices lower than those in surrounding supermarkets.

It may be surprising to some that a progressive supermarket like Goodness Me is appearing in traditionally unfashionable suburban locations, but as communications have brought us increasingly closer in recent years  it is truer than ever that we live in one world and none are more privileged than others in making it better. Less important than where improvements come from  is that they come. Because it reaches those like supermarket shoppers, who may be outside the reach of policy messaging, market embedded social economy initiatives have a role to play that cannot be ignored.  
Quality, affordability and public health: it can be done. There is still much to do but Goodness Me makes the point.         

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

TorontoTheBetter members at 2014 EcoFair at the Barns

The 2014 6th annual EcoFair at the Barns includes several TorontoTheBetter members. Namely:

- Birds and Beans: Canada's choice for sustainable coffee, offering the freshest premium organic, shade grown and Fair Trade coffee.

- Community Bicycle Network: a non-profit organization promoting community cycling initiatives within the City of Toronto, including refurbished bicycles and space to practice and learn for bike mechanics.

- Karma Food Co-op: seeking to create a community of actively participating members fostering a healthy connection to the food we eat and the people who grow it, co-operatively educating ourselves on environmental issues, and exercising political and economic control over our food.

Friday, 31 October 2014

The cancer epidemic, the economic politics of cancer and other better world resources

For many years researcher and author Samuel Epstein has documented the neglect of prevention as the strategy of choice in the health professions. His first book The Politics of Cancer is still essential reading but from a TorontotheBetter supporter we have recently received a review of his latest (2013) called Stop Breast Cancer Before It Starts. The relevance to social economy is that the preventive measures Epstein recommends as the only effective method of stopping the cancer epidemic lie in the area of public regulation of pollutants and personal practices rather than in the largely financially driven interventionist therapies favoured by the mainstream cancer industries. The review and book details will follow. Remember - you can purchase any social economy book from TorontotheBetter, at a discount - just send an email to postmaster2torontotbetter.net; others may be cheaper, but we are likely the only non-profit online community bookstore you know. Please show your support for what we do for a better Toronto.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mexico on Fire! - Pan-American solidarity requested for Slain Mexican students

Hi guys! I don't know what to do with my frustration and sorrow, so I decided to email you, perhaps as a form to make justice to the 50 students found dead this weekend in Guerrero. The Normal rural students were killed after being kidnapped last week while protesting against government's cuts in rural education in the context of the October 2 aniversary. Normal students are indigenous students at under-budgeted teacher training colleges, the government's rationality behind Normal Rural universities is that the poor, should teach the poor. It has been like that for many years, and of course these students are more radical that urban teacher training colleges.  

 It's not clear who decided to kill the rural students, but we know that the kidnapping was perpetuated by police in collusion with local narco. This is not the first time Mexican government kills students in Mexico (October 68 is our landmark of violence of course) and certainly it is not the first time protesters are killed in Guerrero. Lucio CabaƱas and Genaro Vasquez Rojas, the founders of pre- EPR Guerrilla in Guerrero, were also rural teachers in the 70's. However what happened this weekend is different, we are talking about 50 young students that were tortured and killed with no apparent reason. Just as the last note I copy-pasted below suggests, all Mexico has become a clandestine grave. A couple of weeks ago in Tlataya, Estado de Mexico, Mexican army killed 20 people with no reason as well. 

The current killings in Mexico makes me think that Foucault could be re-thinked to understand some contemporary violence across the world --not all societies transited to a more subtle, self-regulated, form of exercising power.  What we are witnessing in Mexico is the re-emergence of sovereign power in hands of the narco-state, and of course, this is happening with the approval of Mexican and US politicians. At the very bottom, the life of 50 indigenous students has no value to them. 

A couple of links  

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/10/police-find-mass-grave-near-mexico-town-201410501521347719.html
with thanks to TorontotheBetter correspondent Columba 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

War Resisters Film Night, Fundraising Dinner, and NEW Online Fundraising Campaign

Posted on behalf of the:







With a federal election looming, we fear that the Harper government will step up its drive to force the remaining U.S. war resisters out of Canada. 


In the past, September has been the time of year when the Conservatives seek to deport war resisters. 

It was in September 2012 that Kimberly Rivera and her family 
were forced out of Canada. 

The War Resisters Support Campaign believes there is an imminent threat of deportations. 

We urgently need your support to build a defense fund. 

You can donate online at:

gofundme.com/letthemstay 

If you prefer to donate by cheque or money order, please make cheque payable to:

War Resisters Support Campaign

Mail to:

427 Bloor Street West 
Box 3 
Toronto, ON 
M5S 1X7 Canada


Two decades of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)...a success story?

CSR succeeds?  A TorontotheBetter update on the battle to civilize commerce. 

Setting aside for a moment fundamental questions about the essential independence of financial self-enrichment and social benefit, there is still a way to go to achieve real value  from the enterprise culture change that has become popular in recent years, at least in advertising copy. In some sense the CSR movement has succeeded. There are way more healthy food and green energy options available than there used to be, for those that can afford them. If the price in shopper confusion and greenwashing is one that has to be paid then maybe that’s a small one compared to the greater potential good. The many corporate responsibility campaigns have at least encouraged corporations to adopt a “better join them” policy rather than risk market-reductive odium in the media. Pop singers and entertainers sign on by the hundreds, young people support multiple ethical and ecological campaigns,  and public opinion solidly supports a clean environment and jobs for all, though how to get there is a seriously divisive political question. Government imposition of the values they claim to support remains a bridge too far for most corporations. And most developed economies still ration well-being through competition while economic “animal spirits” continue to devastate lives though economic busts, most recently in the still reverberating collapse of 2008.                                                                                                                                                                             
Over twenty years of ethical blaming has produced a corporate sector in which many, though by no means most, corporations have added some aspects of broader community commitment to their operational profiles, whether it be selective charities or staff benefits. Mega-capitalists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates debate, and support “creative capitalism”. But still, because of the over(?)-compensatory charities and tax write-offs that have often ensued, the line between self-interest and societal commitment is hard to define with precision and the voluntaristic nature of this whole transformation process makes mass change for all virtually impossible. The end result is, therefore, that the more sign-on virtually the same, or even less, impact, as governments continue to  withdraw under the cover of “social” corporations. Enterprises can continue their normal activities while maintaining feel- good marketing profiles, anaesthetizing the genuine interest of most in greater access to good quality goods and services that contribute to a better world.          
What we need is a social economy movement that supports the societal installation of key social determinants including democratic workplaces, ecological operational practices and management transparency. Whatever the final tools the starting point must be a movement. For all the popularity of feel-good consumerism as consumerism it inevitably inherits the brand name vacillation that characterize its origins.   

Most important, perhaps, enterprise and its users (that’s all of us, of course) must come together to support intervention to this end, rather than opposing it at all costs, in the name of lower taxes, the current norm.  If you agree, join our Alliance for Toronto’s Social Economy at  www.TorontotheBetter.net/atse_signup.html. There is a way forward for society and it will take more than piecemeal marketing make-overs to get there.       


The Pan-Am Games are coming! Help us build the social economy

Another world is more than possible. It's actual. 
[thanks  to TorontotheBetter's Marc Young for this submission] 

            International sporting events, like the July 2015 Pan-American Games in the GTA and Hamilton, are exciting for hosts and visitors alike. Not just opportunities to watch races and games, they offer everyone something of a cultural rush.
            This coming summer, thousands from the New World's South will head north, not to elude oppressive regimes or find a job in Canada's service sector but to have an innocent adventure – and enjoy a taste of a society not entirely foreign to them in this globalizing world but one that still offers contrasts and novelties. Panamanians, Brazilians, Paraguayans and others will come to see who we are... and take their impressions home.
                       So what impression do we want to give? At the Alliance for Toronto’s Social Economy, we don't reject the usual answer given by Ontario's city halls and tourism offices: that here visitors find a microcosm of the world, a place where citizens who trace their origins to all the globe's corners work in friendship and relative harmony. That is true and a fine feature of our communities. But we want to say something else too.
            It would be dishonest, even in times of celebration, to deny that all is not well. Citizens and workers throughout the Americas, from Toronto to Buenos Aires, still struggle with the effects of the global economic crisis that rocked us seven years ago and gave birth to movements like Occupy, an initiative by citizens acutely aware of how current practice tends to generate great wealth for some and hard times – even misery – for many. Unemployment remains high, especially among youth and other vulnerable sections of the population. Governments mortgaged to the hilt are reducing services while continuing to hand out corporate welfare. People are uneasy.
            Certainly, protest against injustice is honourable and necessary. But at the Alliance for a Social Economy, we don't just think that an alternative is possible, that one might emerge if citizens get  sufficiently angry about crony capitalism and policies designed in the boardrooms of TD Bank. We think that a better world is emerging right now. And we want to put that world, as it is taking shape in the Greater Toronto Area, on display for our friends flying up to see the Pan-Am Games in 2015.
           
Sketching the alternative
            What is this emergent world? We think it resides in that large and growing network of solidarity and opportunity offered by social enterprise. Worker cooperatives, credit unions, organic dairy farms, small businesses conscious of their ecological responsibility, non-profit companies ready to give their workers a meaningful say in how their businesses are run, churches and other faith communities that offer shelter and human warmth to those left behind and on the street – all these and more constitute social enterprise. Those building a new world in the shell of the old.
            We want to tell our friends from the South, when they visit, that Wal Mart and McDonald's aren't the only places to shop and eat. That they can buy clothing, enjoy fantastic meals, read, watch and be entertained in places and by businesses where the common good is taken into account. Where a dollar has to be made, to be sure, since there is no free lunch, but where the needs of employees, the neighbourhood and the Earth are all key.
            The Alliance also wants to stress our desire to make this “alternative” sector anything but unusual and exotic. Social enterprises cannot be a sector merely for the trendy affluent who can afford to indulge their progressive tastes. We understand that workers and poor people shop at big box stores because they live on budgets and need affordable things. Who would begrudge them that choice? But this reality leads to several thoughts. When we shop, do we become consumers only, or are we not still whole human beings who have to take into account the experience and needs of those who produce the goods and services we buy? Is the price of the thing we purchase the only consideration at work in our heads? Wal-Mart, a massive buyer of organic produce, knows for instance that this is not the case. That chain's owners are aware that while shoppers want decent prices, they pursue other ends too as they wheel a shopping cart through the aisles. Indeed, a Wal-Mart not only full of organic goods but also a place where workers were empowered would belong to the social economy, as we understand it!
            We see an expanding social economy, enterprises big and small, as a “new normal,” as part of a “lifestyle” for working families throughout the GTA and beyond. And one that we invite visitors to explore and experience.

            But the reader might still ask, “So what is a social enterprise?”  You have given a few examples but a definition is far from clear. What is the common characteristic of these businesses you consider social enterprises, and what excludes others from the group? And the truth is that there is no neat suit to fit all. We don't prepare a list of criteria all of which have to be met in order to place a firm in the category. What we begin with is a recognition that our economic system has developed in a certain direction, one in which large corporations have used a huge and active state to benefit their own shareholders and their own top managers to the detriment of the great majority of citizens. Meanwhile, that same state has become more corrupt than ever, with governing political parties handing lucrative jobs to their frequently under-talented friends. Think of the Ornge scandal, and the provincial lottery corporation, and the fashion in which top hospital executives are remunerated...even as personal care workers who look after the elderly and infirm earn wages not much in excess of the provincial minimum. What is the salary of the head of charitable, state-funded organizations like the YWCA? Remember the bailout of the big auto companies. What do their top executives take home, even as the province of Ontario retains shares in that sector?
            The Alliance sketches an alternative economy. Not a utopian one in which no one has to struggle or work, but one in which private gain, never eliminated as a factor in human activity, is less at odds with the common good. An economy of enterprises that address the environmental costs of their own activities, that don't dine at the public trough because their founder is the brother-in-law of a cabinet minister, that understand the importance of their own workers' voices. An economy that includes more employee-owned businesses as well as socially-funded agencies whose reason-for-being is the general good and not, even in part, big salaries for their managing directors. Cultural organizations run by volunteers. Sports clubs that don't charge the viewing public an arm and a leg to watch them and, while we're on the subject of sports, municipal agencies that ensure the maintenance of a decent network of parks and courts and pools so that all may continue to play and stay healthy. Sole proprietorships whose dynamism continues to hatch ideas and furnish jobs. Credit Unions where democratic pools of capital are gathered and invested.
           
A genuine populism


Our agenda is, in short, a democratic agenda that can steal the thunder from the so-called populists on the right who have taken advantage of people's frustration with the system in order to grab office. Torontonians, as well as anyone, know what can happen when political candidates come along merely saying that they're against the system, that they've arrived to clean out the fat cats – and turn out to be members of precisely that species. The Alliance is about promoting an approach that really offers a different direction, one already sketched by numerous enterprises functioning today. Architects of that other world that is not only possible, but actual.

Be part of the economic struggle: 
JOIN THE ALLIANCE FOR TORONTO'S SOCIAL ECONOMY [it's free]               AT www.torontothebetter.net/atse_signup.html

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Support call to aid victims of the Rana Plaza disaster

Long time partner the Maquila Solidarity network recently alerted us to this petition calling on Canada to act on one of the world's worst commercial disasters, resulting in the death of hundreds of Bangladeshi factory workers. Canadian companies were involved through their subcontractors, making it at least in part a hoimegrown tragedy.As is sadly the norm in these times Canada distinguishes itself by its failure to act when humanity calls. See  and please share this link: www.en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1223.

  

Friday, 5 September 2014

Community Bicycle Network membership provides bike self-care workshops

Membership in the Community Bicycle Network, Toronto's original Yellow Bike bikeshare programme, and long-time Torontothebetter participant offers basic bike maintenance knowledge in an informal one-on-one setting. At a recent workshop, pictured here, TorontotheBetter found CBN mechanic Jerry-Lee taking a new CBN member through the basics.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Canadian Corporation Plans Tar Sands Strip Mining in Trinidad and Tobago

See: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/caribbean-archives-45/4791-canadian-corporation-plans-tar-sands-strip-mining-in-trinidad-and-tobago. [Courtesy of www.upsidedownworld.org]