Seeking a Nomination, 2013Press release || Nominator's speech || My speech
March 6, 2013
Lise Vaugeois seeking NDP Nomination for Thunder Bay Superior North Lise Vaugeois believes that we are in a critical time in the province. Liberal and conservative governments continue to push an austerity agenda while corporations make record profits. Respective liberal and conservative governments have cut corporate taxes while maintaining their subsidies leaving very little money to maintain public services-services that must continue to be based on addressing common goals and not exclusively on the need to generate profit.
A musician and educator, Lise Vaugeois has been engaged with aboriginal rights, women's rights, anti-racist and anti-poverty movements for the past 35 years. She believes that an informed and engaged public is the best defense against abuses of power and is our best hope for creating a society based on fairness, respect, sustainable economies, and an equitable distribution of resources. "Democracy requires much more than voting every four years; it requires continual, informed engagement to hold governments to account. Otherwise, we are leaving our quality of life to the interests of whoever has the deepest pockets and therefore the loudest voice."
Vaugeois believes that recognizing and respecting aboriginal title and treaty rights is a pre-requisite to long term prosperity. "We need to reimagine how we think about economic development in terms of sustainability, and quality of life. Aboriginal communities must have the right to maintain the integrity of their lands without the threat of their water, air and land becoming the dumping ground for industrial pollutants. Costly clean ups, usually paid out of public dollars, and apologies after the fact, can no longer be acceptable costs of doing business. The Ring of Fire has the potential to bring benefits to our region; however, the onus needs to be on mining operations to prove their ability to be responsible partners and stewards of the land. Otherwise, we are sentencing future generations to untenable social and environmental costs."
Vaugeois is a contract lecturer at Lakehead University and is also a self-employed musician and artist-educator. She moved to Thunder Bay in 1992 to play with the TBSO and has since chosen to make Thunder Bay her home. "Everywhere I look in this community, there are people working together to make Thunder Bay a great place to live. We live in a beautiful part of the world and there is no place I would rather be."
Hello, my name is Sally Colquhoun and I am very pleased to nominate as a candidate for the NDP in Thunder Bay Superior North, arts educator and social justice activist, Lise Vaugeois.
Lise is a long-time resident of Thunder Bay; although many of us were fortunate to be born here Lise has chosen to live here. Many of you will be familiar with Lise's involvement with local and national campaigns in the areas of Aboriginal rights, women's rights, anti-racism, anti-poverty, economic justice and the environment. Others will know her as a unionist with our local musicians union, and as an incredibly talented musician and composer. Most recently she has been a visible and passionate advocate for local media responsibility.
A long-time NDP member and campaign worker, Lise will speak tonight of her ambitions for change in Ontario - change in the political process, especially with respect to work with First Nations allies, and change in the ways Ontarians take up our places in the economy - change that is guided by metaphors of relationship, responsibility, reciprocity and sustainability. Lise is eloquent, she is enthusiastic, and she is eager to work hard for positive change. She will be an excellent candidate, and an excellent MPP.
My name is Lise Vaugeois and I would like to begin by thanking the engaged citizens of this NDP community for the opportunity to speak tonight. I also want to acknowledge Andrew Foulds and note that we are two NDP-ers, two people with similar goals, speaking about the critical issues facing Ontarians in the coming election. It is my hope that whoever moves on to represent the NDP in the next election will be better positioned to contest the riding because of the exchange of ideas here tonight.
As a candidate, I bring experience as a long-time member of the NDP, an activist, a unionist, an educator and an entrepreneur. I bring strong intellectual and analytical skills, business skills, experience with collective bargaining and experience working alongside those often shut out of the political process.
As your representative, I will not be fighting for a "piece of the pie", I will be fighting for an entirely different kind of meal; for entirely different notions of what it means to eat well, live well, and be part of sustainable, life enhancing economies.
I think we need to ground our analyses and political decisions based on clear understandings of the machinations of global capital and equally clear and vibrant commitments to an economic model premised on NDP principles of sustainability, fiscal balance, and inclusion. As a candidate, I believe it is my responsibility to identify the Liberal and Conservative messages of "austerity and competition" as neoliberal fraud and to decry the violence of an economic system for which the concept of "enough" does not exist.
Here is what we know as New Democrats: Capitalism is structured to facilitate competitive accumulation. And Neoliberalism is the agenda of the global capital.
And what is this agenda, implemented by liberal and conservative provincial and federal governments? It is the transfer of power over the conditions of public life away from the labours of the many and toward the decisions and interests of the few. It is the elimination of democratic oversight in favour of control by international conglomerates; it is the replacement of national and provincial sovereignty, with trade agreements written by and for multi-national corporate interests.
Ask the Greeks about neoliberalism. In Greece, the fruits of the labour of an entire population are being sold off at fire sale prices to the same people who contributed to the global financial crisis.
Ask Ontarians who worked at the Cat Plant in London, the Ford plant in St. Thomas or the mill in Terrace Bay about neoliberalism. In Ontario, working people have suffered as the Liberal government allowed multi-national conglomerates like CAT and FORD to take their public subsidies and run.
Liberal education policies have also been disastrous. There are extraordinary numbers of university graduates, including those with Masters and PhDs who are saddled with enormous student loans and permanent debt servitude - a situation that has served the needs of universities by increasing their student numbers; served the interests of banks by providing permanent revenue streams; served the interests of corporations, by providing an already paid for, well-educated, but desperate and compliant workforce; and it has served the interests of liberal and conservative governments by keeping students, pre-occupied with self-improvement, from organizing and fighting back.
According to the "austerity" story, we live in times of great scarcity, yet record profits are being made and private corporations are sitting on billions of dollars. Because of neoliberal tax policies, governments do not have the revenues they need to provide Public services. We are being told we can't afford to think about the common good. But I say, we can't afford NOT to think about the common good.
What we are facing today are crimes of distribution, crimes against democracy and an epidemic of magical thinking. Magical thinking pretends that economies exist separate from the conditions of their production; that there are no consequences to environmental destruction; and that climate change is just another opportunity for profit.
I also want to be very clear about taxation. It is not a dirty word. Taxation is intended to allow investments in public infrastructure and public well-being. If applied justly it is a tool to share the wealth of our shared labours and to respond to the collective duty of our common care. Thanks to the efforts of successive conservative and liberal governments, however, we do not have a progressive or fair tax system. As a New Democrat I say that it is realistic and principled thinking about taxation that we need, not corporate welfare.
Public institutions exist for very different reasons from business - they exist to share the benefits of all of our labours in the interests of a healthy society. But let me give you two examples of how the neoliberal agenda works: We had a public system for the distribution of blood plasma that we lost based on the claim that blood plasma is not in high demand. Yet, in the last month, three private companies in Southern Ontario have come forward claiming that they should be licensed because there is a HUGE market for blood plasma products. We have been lied to and betrayed, and a well-run service, with good jobs, has been shut down in order to create another source of private profit - outside the domain of public benefit and outside of public scrutiny.
Similarly, both the liberal government and the conservative opposition talk about privatizing the highly profitable Liquor Control Board, the profits from which are currently returned as public revenues. It is a magic trick, a sleight of hand, when politicians claim that it is public servants who are riding a gravy train when so much power and money are being transferred into private hands. We have alternatives but we will have to fight hard for them. As an NDP candidate, it will be my responsibly to work with community partners across the social and economic spectrum to build an economy that is for living; an economy that balances the investments of individuals, families, small and large businesses, in the infrastructures of governance, and an economy that honours the earth and its inhabitants.
We hear a lot about the need to consult with Aboriginal communities but there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to educate Canadians about the nature of our relationship with Aboriginal peoples. The agreements we need to honour originated as peace treaties - not bills of sale or hostile takeovers. Treaties saved British and Aboriginal peoples the costs of waging war. Once Canadian governments got what they wanted however, they dishonoured themselves and the agreements they'd made. The Indian Act, the Reservation system and the Residential Schools were political tactics designed to shatter aboriginal economies by tearing apart familial and social relationships, and by destroying the transference of intergenerational knowledge. The overarching political goal then, as it is today, is to destroy the possibility for land-based economies and make all lands available for unfettered resource extraction.
This dishonourable history is the context that shapes aboriginal, non-aboriginal relationships today. The fact that aboriginal peoples have survived and even thrived, in spite of relentless state violence, is a testament to their determination to maintain spiritual, cultural and political understandings of how to live well. The Idle No More movement, led by indigenous women, continues to challenge the Indian Act-imposed-leadership, as much as the current values and practices of all levels of government in Canada.
Idle no More also continues to spread the knowledge of aboriginal political thought based on balance and respect; building relationships; taking responsibility; deep reciprocity and, above all, living within the limitations of local ecologies. As indigenous activist Leanne Simpson argues, if we are forced to draw our food and water from within a 50-mile radius, then we are going to have to live with the effects of what we do. We only have to look at the communities of Grassy Narrows and White Dog, still suffering from the mercury poisoning, still unable to eat the fish from their lakes, to know the effects of industries allowed to place profit before human and environmental well-being.
Drawing on the ideas of reciprocity, respect, and sustainability, I would like to set out two positions I see as necessary, not only for respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples - but for a sustainable future we will be proud to leave to our children.
First: We must respect the right of Indigenous communities to determine the uses of their traditional lands, including the right to say no. As co-signatories, we need to demand that our governments maintain our honour by keeping to the spirit and intent of these agreements.
Second: We must respect the land. Individuals and companies, alike, must bring a standard of care that will sustain life for future generations.
We need to fight for structures that will hold executives personally responsible when companies claim bankruptcy as a tactic to avoid paying for clean-up costs, worker's pensions, damages to health, and the destruction of land-based economies. We who live in the stunning environs of Superior North know the devastation that follows in the wake of any failure to uphold this responsibility.
If I become your representative, I will be fighting for an economy grounded on the protection of clean air, water and unpolluted lands. I will be fighting for fair taxation and high quality public services. And I will be fighting to conceptualise ourselves NOT as consumers, but as human beings, Allies and Anishnaabeg, thriving in relation with one another and with the earth.
Thanks to Maureen Ford for helping me craft this speech and my press release. I would not have dared to take on this venture, on very short notice, without her support and collaboration. Thanks to Diem LaFortune (Mama D) for always being ready to share political insights and to challenge the prevailing wisdom - including my own! MamaD