Report on 2nd AGM with the theme What Is To Be Done About Economic Justice and Workshop on Alternative Economic Budgets and How to Develop Radical Critical Perspectives.
The AGM was held on 10th April 2014, with 35 members in attendance.
The meeting received various reports, which are published on our webpage, including the report from the 2013/2014 Board on the activities of the Co-op during the year. The most important items were to approve some amendments to our By Laws and to elect a new Board. The proposed revisions were to allow the AGM to be held within four months of the end of the fiscal year; to increase the size of the Board from 7 to 9; to increase the term of office from one to three years (on a rotating basis) and to allow for the Board to be elected en bloc and to select the officers from their number. The following were elected to the 2014 Board: Marilyn Porter and Bill Hynd (Co-chairs); Candace Simms (Secretary); Dave Hill (Treasurer); Jon Parsons, Paula Graham, Linda Cullum (Directors); Jenne Nolan and Adrian Tanner (Associate Directors until our revised ByLaws are approved, allowing a 9 member board). Lori Heath and Ken Kavanagh did not run for re-election and they were thanked for their considerable contributions over the last two years.
The actual business of the AGM was sandwiched between two inspiring speakers: Mary Shortall (President Federation of Labour): spoke on FAIRNESS WORKS, labour’s perspective on the issue of economic fairness and how we should set our priorities. Her presentation talked about the strength and contribution of the labour movement in Newfoundland and Labrador but also documented the many attacks and insidious losses that we have all experienced, especially under recent governments. Her presentation set us up perfectly to hear Mike Bradfield (Dalhousie University and a key mover in Nova Scotia’s Alternative Economic Budgets) spoke on OUR MONEY; OUR NEEDS; OUR PRIORITIES; OUR PRINCIPLES. This presentation was the opening address leading into the two day workshop that followed on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th April. Mike took us through a history of how inequality has grown in Canada, especially as a result of a taxation system that favours the rich at the expense of the poor and the aggressive attacks on social programming. He also introduced a number of themes that we would work on in the following sessions, especially in terms of understanding the importance of taxation in the struggle for greater ecomomic justice and equality.
Workshop: Alternative Economic Budgets and How to Develop Radical Critical Perspectives.
Friday evening 11th April 2014
This session focused on What is an alternative budget? What it can achieve – awareness of fiscal choices, financial literacy, empowerment, solidarity with other groups; Who should be involved; how? Mike Bradfield introduced a number of themes but it became apparent that the main focus was on building our financial literacy. Mike explored how much we knew (and didn’t) and helped us to understand the basic concepts we would need to move into an alternative budget process. In particular he de-fused the loaded concept of ‘debt’ and moved us towards more constructive approaches focusing on investment in human capital.
Saturday 12th April
The Saturday session opened with a skype presentation by Christine Saulnier (CCPA Halifax) in which she demonstrated how the Nova Scotia group had begun work on an Alternative Economic Budget and gradually extended the range and depth of their work. Her emphasis was on de-mystifying the economic process and emphasising the polical dimension – the fight against neo-liberalism and TINA (There Is No Alternative). She enunciated a workable process and encouraged our group to understand and enter the debate.Picking up from Christine’s presentation, we looked at what an Alternative Budget could help us do, in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even the beginning steps of the process would help us to articulate what kind of society we want to live in and enable us to discuss the development and implementation of public policy. It would also enable us to engage in public education so as to involve as many people as possible in understanding the basic financial processes that underlie our economy. We need to challenge the orthodoxies and be ready with workable alternatives, of which there are plenty. Mike Bradfield then led the participants through some specific parts of the budget, especially on the revenue (taxation) side that could be reformed to make them more fair. In particular he drew our attention to the possibilities of shifting the balance between tax allowances (which benefit the rich) and tax credits (which mostly benefit the poor). Other progressive taxes, such as inheritance tax, need to be re-introduced.
Bradfield emphasised how important it was to have an educated public actively engaged in discussions about budgets and the decisions arising from them. Part of the role of alternative budgets is to empower people to understand just what their governments are doing and what kinds of subjective understandings their policies are based on. We need to push back, using hard analysis and information.The discussion was wide-ranging and covered many of the specific aspects of our situation in Newfoundland and Labrador but the outcome was that the best and clearest point of first intervention would be on the revenue side, by understanding and making concrete suggestions about taxation reform. Such reforms, if implemented, would both buttress provincial revenues at the same time as decreasing inequality between the rich and the poor.
The immediate outcome of the workshop was the establishment of a Taxation Scoping Group that would examine the possibilities of campaigning around two specific tax reforms that would contribute to tax fairness, coordinated by Kerry Murray and Bill Hynd.About 25 participants attended all or part of the workshop sessions.