Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NDP response to The Writers' Union questions

Dear Members,

The NDP has responded to the Union’s election questions. The response is posted to the website at as well as being attached and inserted below.

Valerie Laws

Office Administrator

The Writers' Union of Canada

200 - 90 Richmond Street East

Toronto ON M5C 1P1

416-703-8982 x 224

April 22, 2011

Kelly Duffin

Executive Director

The Writers Union of Canada

90 Richmond Street East, Suite200

Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1P1.

Dear Ms. Duffin,

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight the New Democratic Party of Canada’s position on issues and concerns you have raised in your questionnaire.

We appreciate your efforts to help voters make an informed decision on voting day.


Jack Layton,

Leader, Canada’s New Democrats

2011 Federal Election Questionnaire

Response from Canada’s New Democrats

Fair Copyright

 Would your party propose a Bill to modernize copyright that is founded on creators being compensated for the use of their works? Specifically, would you remove the over-broad exceptions that appeared in Bill C-32 (such as “fair dealing for education”) which would result in the sanctioned expropriation of writers’ property and income?


 How would you ensure that the Copyright Act protects creators’ existing and future revenue streams in the digital economy?

If elected, New Democrats will seek to introduce new copyright legislation that will ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations (such as the WIPO Internet treaties, among others) – while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights.

By consulting widely with stakeholder groups, New Democrats will develop legislation that is technology-neutral, balanced and flexible enough to ensure its adaptability to new platforms and technologies in the years to come; and address issues like Technological Protections – TPMs, or digital locks, statutory damages, private copying and reproduction for private purposes, collective licensing, broadcast mechanical licensing and fair dealing, among others.

We do not support the creation of powerful anti-circumvention rights as contained in the government’s copyright bill – C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act. In fact, we believe they pose a very real danger that consumers will be prohibited from using content for which they have already paid. We believe these new powers override not only consumers’ rights, but also creators’ and artists’ rights.

In our consultations, New Democrats will consider all sensible proposals to update or develop mechanisms to provide fair compensation for creators. We believe that, in collaboration with stakeholders, we can strike a balance between fair remuneration for creators and reasonable access for consumers.

Jack Layton and the New Democrat team value collaboration with stakeholders and concerned Canadians. A hallmark of our work in the House of Commons has been our willingness to collaborate with Members of Parliament of all political stripes on a wide range of issues – to bring about tangible results for Canadians. Our approach to developing new copyright policies and legislation will be marked by that same openness to consider varying viewpoints and interests.

Fair Taxation for Artists

 Would your party introduce a Copyright-Income Deduction for creators, modeled on that used in the province of Quebec? If so, when?

Jack Layton and the New Democrat team have committed to make efforts to address income variance among creators and ensure more stable incomes over time, and we are open to exploring prudent proposals to make this possible, including the introduction of a Copyright Income Deduction similar to the measure that already exists in Quebec.

As you are certainly aware, the deduction already in place in Quebec encompasses creators in a variety of fields, and applies to any copyrighted work that generates income. We believe such a measure would likely have a minimal effect on government revenues, and a far greater effect on creators’ revenues.

New Democrats believe that in light of the significant contribution made by the arts, culture and heritage sector to Canada’s economy – and to the cultural wealth of Canada – the federal government has a responsibility to give creators the tools and the opportunity to enjoy a stable livelihood. This is particularly important in light of vanishing revenue streams for creators.

Aside from the case of Quebec, the federal government already provides a number of tax deductions through the Canada Revenue Agency that can serve as a model for the implementation of such a deduction.

Furthermore, our party has long been committed to providing economic relief for Canadians, with specific measures targeted to small businesses and the self-employed – many of whom work in the arts, culture and heritage sector – including reducing the small business tax rate from 11 percent to 9 percent. We believe this initiative will offer concrete support to a sector of our economy that creates nearly half of all new jobs in Canada. Additionally, New Democrats will offer a Job Tax

Credit that will provide up to $4,500 per new hire (including a $1,000 non-refundable tax credit for worker retention).

 Would your party exempt from taxation subsistence grants for creators administered by the Canada Council for the Arts? If so, when?

New Democrats are open to examining the feasibility of this measure at the earliest possible opportunity. We have also committed to make tax averaging available for artists and workers in cultural and knowledge industries.

Investment in the Arts

 Would you invest in the not-for-profit arts sector by increasing the allocation to the Canada Council for the Arts and the department of Canadian Heritage, among others? If so, by how much and in what timeframe?

Our party has long been a keen supporter of the valuable work of the Canada Council for the Arts and as such, we have committed to increase the budget of the Council by $30 million in 2011-2012, $60 million in 2012-2013, and $90 million per year in both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

Jack Layton and the New Democrat team believe Canada’s thriving arts community should be able to rely on stable, long-term core funding from the federal government. Our commitment to fund the Council will place the organization on firm footing and enable it to maintain and expand its activities, which we believe are essential to Canada’s cultural heritage.

 Would your party return funding to the PromArt program? If so, when? If not, what would your party propose to do for the development of foreign markets for Canadian cultural products?

The New Democratic Party recognizes the significance of developing new markets for Canadian artists and their works abroad, as well as providing support including market research, assisting creators in finalizing export plans and helping them to bring their products to market.

We opposed the Harper government’s decision to abruptly shutter two key cultural funding programs that facilitated the promotion of Canadian art and culture outside of Canada – Trade Routes and PromArt – and we have made a commitment to explore the reinstatement of those programs to resume the competitive export of Canadian cultural products.

 Would your party return the Public Lending Right Commission’s hit rate to the original $40 and commit to indexing it to inflation going forward? Would you push for PLR compensation to cover e-books as well as print books?

New Democrats recognize that the time has come to re-examine this issue and we are open to explore an adjustment of the so-called hit rate and the possibility of extending it to cover e-books.

 What investments does your party propose to make in art and culture as a component of a National Strategy for the Knowledge/Digital Economy?

Jack Layton and the New Democrat team will:

§ Refocus the mandate of the CRTC to promote and protect Canadian cultural industries; we will also ensure it better reflects Quebec’s cultural and linguistic reality and that of Canada’s francophone communities;

§ Strengthen public broadcasting with long-term stable funding for CBC, Radio-Canada and other public broadcasters, including the capacity to deliver superior regional production and Internet services;

§ Provide sustained funding for the Canada Media Fund and Telefilm Canada, enhancing federal film incentives and developing a targeted strategy for the promotion of domestic films and online content in Canada; and

§ Develop a digital online culture service to broaden access to Canadian content.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A great book about old age

Throughout the Canadian federal election campaign we have been seeing all parties trying to get the seniors' vote. In my view, the promises we have heard have all been piecemeal, each idea good as far as it goes - which isn't far enough.

Last winter I read an excellent book on aging, entitled Contesting Aging and Loss, and reviewed it for Forever Young Magazine in my book report column. I thought of it a few days ago when musing about some medical adventures I have had recently. I admire the book for its spirit of respect for older adults. I entitled the review, "Not a Disease" and have posted it below. It should be compulsory reading for anyone in a health care related occupation and anyone running for public office.


by Ruth Latta

Is aging all about loss? No, say Janice Graham and Peter H. Stephenson. That's the wrong way to look at growing old. Graham, a bio-ethicist, and Stephenson, an anthropologist, are specialists in gerontology. The idea that growing old is like a disease should be contested, they say - thus the title of their book, Contesting Aging and Loss, University of Toronto Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-44260-100-0,
"A linear model of 'losses', leading eventually to the loss of life, that is so common to studies in biomedicine and some areas of gerontology, is soundly contested by the rich and varied experiences that people live through their life," writes Stephenson. Aging is highly variable, and depends on factors like nutrition and genetic heritage.
Because North American culture values the new over the old, older people are marginalized as irrelevant, or worse, "seen as a dangerous demographic surplus." Successful aging is defined in our culture as being outgoing rather than introspective, living independently and looking young. The authors consider wisdom to be the hallmark of successful and healthy aging, not retention of youthful characteristics.
Certainly there are losses associated with aging, but growing old also includes "fulfilments, gains" - such as wisdom - and ongoing efforts. "Growing old without being destroyed by the losses one may have had to endure is an achievement that many people may fail to recognize," the authors write.
One of the essays in Contesting Aging and Loss is a study of a group of Netherlanders, over eighty years old, who define successful aging as keeping up a social network of friends and relatives. Like many of their North American counterparts, these seniors practise "impression management"; that is, they made an effort not to complain about their situations, to keep up their own spirits and to be good company. The desire to enjoy their social contacts was their reason for keeping active physically and mentally.
But what of Alzheimers Disease? Isn't it the biggest loss of all? According to Janice Graham and Pia Kontos, who have written the chapters on this subject, the prevailing view that dementia leads to loss of self is a dangerous way of looking at the condition. "Assumptions about the diminishing humanness of individuals with Alzheimers Disease foster interactions that depersonalize the sufferer," writes Graham. One must remember that Alzheimers sufferers are not objects, but people.
In Chai Village, an Jewish long term-care facility located in Ontario, and the subject of Kontos's study, the emphasis is on what Alzheimers residents can do, not on what they can't. Efforts are made to enhance the residents' expressions of personality. They show their unique selves in their clothing choices, their food preferences, their greetings and responses to staff and fellow residents, their sudden surprising flashes of memory, and their acts of kindness to each other. During activities, staff members take the attitude: "You don't need to know how to do this, but we'd like you to try", and the results are often surprisingly good.
Christina Holmes and Peter Stephenson studied seniors' experiences in hospital. Their findings are troubling. Merely getting to and from hospital is fraught with difficulty and needs to be addressed. "While many seniors felt the need to stick up for themselves when hospitalized, they also did not want to be perceived as difficult patients and consequently they were silenced," the authors found. Psychological stress, the authors remind us, has a negative effect on healing.
The authors refer to the "aging industry" in which the old are targets of commerce and clients of a "vast system of health care practises." Policy makers, say the authors, should listen to older adults, not special interests engaged in marketing. Graham and Stephenson believe that the situation of the elderly would be improved by more and better basic health care and community social services, including more home care, and on training front-line caregiving staff to be empathetic. Most of all, Stephenson and Graham would like experts and the general public to quit thinking of aging as a malaise.
Contesting Aging and Loss is constructive yet disturbing. My only wish is that the authors had chosen a clearer, catchier title that would attract more readers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cicero, on Old Age

Our copy of the CCPA Monitor arrived in the mail yesterday. Among the many worthwhile articles was a quote from Cicero on Old Age. I am including it here without fear of violating copyright, for Marcus Tullus Cicero, great orator of the Roman Republic, lived from 106 B.C. to 43 B.C.

In this excerpt on Old Age, Cicero refers to "old men", and uses the pronoun "he" throughout. It would be inaccurate to say, in this instance, that "men" implies the inclusion of women and that Cicero is really writing about "human beings", since women in the Roman Republic had no civil rights.

We in the 20th century, however, can take his positive comments about old men and think "old people."

"Those who say that old men can do nothing useful completely miss the point - for all the world like those who think the pilot has no part in the sailing of the ship. For he sits quietly in the stern, merely holding the tiller, while other men are climbing the masts, running about the gangways or manning the pumps. He may not be doing the work of the young men, but what he does is more important. The big things are not done by muscle or speed or physical dexterity but by careful thought, force of character and sound judgment. In thse qualities old age is usually not only not lacking but even better equipped.

"Old men retain their mental faculties provided their interest and application continue, and this is true not only of men in exalted public stations, but also of those in the quiet of private life. I can point out to you Roman farmers in the Sabine country,friends and neighbours of my own, who are hardly ever absent from the fields when the farming operations are going on, such as sowing, reaping and harvesting the crops. Although their interest in the annual crops is less remarkable, for no one is so old as to think he cannot live one more year - yet these same men labour at things which they know will never bring any profit to them.

"Life's course is fixed. Nature has but one simple path and that path is run but once. To every part of life is given that which is fitting, and thus the weakness of the little child, the untamed courage of the young man, the seriousness of middle age, and the maturity of old age, all bear some of Nature's fruit, which must be garnered in its own season."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A good movie is hard to find

A good movie is hard to find, but recently we found one we liked. Made in Dagenham is about a 1968 strike of Ford seamsters - no, not Teamsters - that led to pay equity legislation in Great Britain. The women machinists, who sewed the upholstery for automobiles, were classified as "unskilled" workers. These women fought a double battle, against both management and male officials and leaders in the trade union movement who were as much against equal pay for work of equal value as Ford (then) was.

This well-written, well-acted movie educates viewers gently while making them laugh. (I had a little trouble with their accent at first, oddly enough, because I had no difficulty with the Yorkshire accent in The Full Monty.) The fashions and music of the late 1960s took me back to my youth. The central character, Rita O'Grady, is fictional, not based on a real person. (Norma Rae, the lead character of a similar movie also well worth seeing, was based on an actual American textile factory worker.) Rita O'Grady, played by Sally Hawkins, is a composite character.

Bob Hoskins plays a union representative in the factory. It is touching to hear him tell Rita that he supports her and the other women because of personal experience. His mother was the sole support of her family in a factory job where she got half what men earned for the same work.

Barbara Castle, the minister of labour in Harold Wilson's administration, is amusingly portrayed by Miranda Richardson. Her meeting with the strike leaders is one of the best parts.

Also amusing is the bit where a union leader, opposed to pay equity, quotes something that Marx said about "Man..." Marx was a product of his time, as we all are, and, writing in the 19th century, used "man" as a synonym for "person", but the union leader took the term literally to mean man but not woman. (Inclusive language does matter!) The Bob Hoskins character quotes Marx right back at him, to the effect that the progress of a society can be measured by the progress of its women.

The movie doesn't make light of the short term sacrifices involved in winning long term objectives. It excels in showing how ordinary people without much self-confidence can take on a challenge and grow into effective leaders.

It's a treat to find a movie that is about something.