Eating NAFTA : trade, food policies, and the destruction of Mexico

/ Alyshia Gálvez. Oakland : University of California Press, 2018. xviii, 270 pages.

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Mexican cuisine has emerged as a paradox of globalization. Food enthusiasts throughout the world celebrate the humble taco at the same time that Mexicans are eating fewer tortillas and more processed food. Today Mexico is experiencing an epidemic of diet-related chronic illness. The precipitous rise of obesity and diabetes—attributed to changes in the Mexican diet—has resulted in a public health emergency.

In her gripping new book, Alyshia Gálvez exposes how changes in policy following NAFTA have fundamentally altered one of the most basic elements of life in Mexico—sustenance. Mexicans are faced with a food system that favors food security over subsistence agriculture, development over sustainability, market participation over social welfare, and ideologies of self-care over public health. Trade agreements negotiated to improve lives have resulted in unintended consequences for people’s everyday lives.

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Ralph vs. Rachel : a tale of two Alberta premiers

/ Mark Milke ; foreword by Preston Manning. Place of publication not identified : Thomas & Black Publishing, 2018. xviii, 177 pages.

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Albertans elected two starkly unique premiers in the past 25 years. The first was Ralph Klein, a high-school dropout who, as premier, cut government spending, and taxes, and saw his popularity soar. Klein was a hard-drinking, reforming politician far more comfortable with blue-collar Albertans than bluebloods. He never lost an election and was known simply as “Ralph”.

Another premier, Rachel Notley, defied expectations and in 2015 broke up the 44-year Conservative government dynasty. Notley, presiding over Alberta’s first NDP government, soon wrenched the province in a radically new direction: with higher taxes, green-friendly policy, and activist government. The new premier entered office just as oil prices plunged, as did her chance at a balanced budget.

In Ralph vs. Rachel, Mark Milke dives into the history of both premiers. He describes how both entered office in similar fiscal crises and what that meant for unemployment lines, careers, and Albertans. In a contrarian take, Milke argues that Notley was delivered a bad hand from the start and that Klein saved health care and education, protected the Heritage Fund, and rescued Canada’s unemployed from coast to coast – and few of Klein’s successes were due to luck.

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Women in parliament in 2018.

Geneva : Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2019. Annual.

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The annual report provides an update and analysis of progress made and setbacks encountered by women in parliament further to elections and renewals held over a year. Produced every year on the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March), it presents data on women in national parliaments, regional and world trends, information on women presiding officers and women candidates. It also analyses mechanisms aimed at supporting women's access to parliament. The report is short and easy to read, providing a snapshot on the situation of women in parliaments worldwide.

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Power, prime ministers and the press : the battle for truth on Parliament Hill

/ Robert Lewis. Toronto : Dundurn, 2018. 375 pages.

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The history of the press gallery is rich in anecdotes about the people on Parliament Hill who have covered 23 prime ministers and 42 elections in the past 150 years.

Mining the archives and his own interviews, Robert Lewis turns the spotlight on the watchers, including reporters who got too close to power and others who kept their distance.

The Riel Rebellion, the Pacific Scandal, two world wars, the Depression, women's liberation, Quebec separatism, and terrorism are all part of the sweeping background to this lively account of how the news gets made, manipulated, and, sometimes mangled. Since Watergate, press gallery coverage has become more confrontational — a fact, Lewis argues, that fails Canadian democracy.

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The age of increasing inequality : the astonishing rise of Canada's 1%

/ Lars Osberg. Toronto : James Lorimer & Company Ltd., 2018. 224 pages.

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Canada is in a new era. For 35 years, the country has become vastly wealthier, but most people have not. For the top 1%, and even more for the top 0.1%, the last 35 years have been a bonanza. Canadians know very well that there's a huge problem. It's expressed in resistance to tax increases, concerns over unaffordable housing, demands for higher minimum wages, and pressure for action on the lack of good full time jobs for new graduates. This book documents the dramatic and rapid growth in inequality. It identifies the causes. And it proposes meaningful steps to halt and reverse this dangerous trend. Lars Osberg looks separately at the top, middle and bottom of Canadian incomes. He provides new data which will surprise, even shock, many readers. He explains how trade deals have contributed to putting a lid on incomes for workers. The gradual decline of unions in the private sector has also been a factor. On the other end of the scale, he explains the growing high salaries for corporate executives, managers, and some fortunate professionals. Lars Osberg believes that increasing inequality is bad for the country, and its unfairness is toxic to public life. But there is nothing inevitable about this, and he points to innovative measures that would produce a fairer distribution of wealth among all Canadians.

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1919 : a graphic history of the Winnipeg General Strike

/ The Graphic History Collective and David Lester.
Toronto : Between the Lines, 2019. xiii, 107 pages.

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After suffering the hardships and horrors of the First World War, workers and soldiers faced the agony of the post-war Canadian economy. With rising inflation, unprecedented unemployment, and an increasingly repressive state, the atmosphere was ripe for revolt. The Russian Czar had been overthrown just eighteen months ago and workers had revolution on their minds. On May 15, 1919 more than 30,000 workers in Winnipeg, Manitoba walked off the job and began a general strike that would last six weeks and change the course of Canadian history.

The strikers' demands began with higher wages, collective bargaining rights, and more power for working people. As sympathy strikes broke out and more workers joined the call, the Winnipeg Strike Committee became a de-facto government Like so many labour actions before and since, the strikers were met with a violent end . On "Bloody Saturday" the Royal North-West Mounted Police charged into the crowd, killing two workers and injuring dozens more.

One hundred years later, the Winnipeg General Strike continues to be a poignant reminder of the power of the state and capital over workers' lives and the brutal ends governments and bosses have and will use to crush workers' movements, and an inspirational example of the possibilities of class struggle and solidarity.

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City on strike : a novel

/ Harriet Zaidman.
Markham : Red Deer Press, 2019. 200 pages.

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The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike was a key moment in Canadian history, when demands of workers and returning soldiers all played out in the bloody streets of Winnipeg. The governing elite condemned the strike organizers as "Bolsheviks" and unleashed waves of violence. The country hasn't fully healed since.

City on Strike is a riveting middle grade-fiction focusing on a 13-year-old boy and his younger sister, part of a poor but hardworking immigrant family in Winnipeg's North End. And like so many others, it's a family that gets drawn into the chaos that terrible spring.

"History often repeats itself," author Harriet Zaidman says.

"In 1919 more than 30,000 people in Winnipeg went on strike. Those in authority wanted to maintain their power and profits, so they spread lies and stirred up racism to create divisions in society. Today there are still those who make harmful statements about different groups. These negative comments prevent society from being united and making advances."

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Magnificent fight : the Winnipeg General Strike

/ Dennis Lewycky. Winnipeg : Fernwood Publishing, 2019. 176 pages.

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In May 1919, 30,000 Winnipeg workers walked away from their jobs, shutting down large factories, forcing businesses to close and bringing major industries to a halt. Mounted police and hired security, at the behest of the ruling class, violently ended the protest after six weeks. Two men were killed. What started as trade union revolt, the Winnipeg General Strike became a mass protest and was branded as a revolution.

In Magnificent Fight, Dennis Lewycky lays out the history of this iconic event, which remains the biggest and longest strike in Canadian history. He analyzes the social, political and economic conditions leading up to the strike. He also illustrates the effects the strike had on workers, unions and all three levels of government in the following decades.

Far from a simple retelling of the General Strike, Magnificent Fight speaks to the power of workers’ solidarity and social organization. And Lewycky reveals the length the capitalist class and the state went to in protecting the status quo. By retelling the story of the Strike through the eyes of those who witnessed it, Lewycky’s account is both educational and entertaining.

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Papergirl

/ Melinda McCracken, with Penelope Jackson. Winnipeg : Roseway, 2019. 134 pages.

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Ten-year-old Cassie lives with her working-class family in 1919 Winnipeg. The Great War and Spanish Influenza have taken their toll, and workers in the city are frustrated with low wages and long hours. When they orchestrate a general strike, Cassie — bright, determined and very bored at school — desperately wants to help.

She begins volunteering for the strike committee as a papergirl, distributing the strike bulletin at Portage and Main, and from her corner, she sees the strike take shape. Threatened and taunted by upper-class kids, and getting hungrier by the day, Cassie soon realizes that the strike isn’t just a lark — it’s a risky and brave movement.

With her impoverished best friend, Mary, volunteering in the nearby Labour Café, and Cassie’s police officer brother in the strike committee’s inner circle, Cassie becomes increasingly furious about the conditions that led workers to strike.

When an enormous but peaceful demonstration turns into a violent assault on Bloody Saturday, Cassie is changed forever.

Lively and engaging, this novel is a celebration of solidarity, justice and one brave papergirl.

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The magpie

/ Douglas Durkin ; with a new introduction by Bart Vautour. Halifax : Invisible Publishing, 2018. 343 pages.

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Craig Forrester is newly home following World War I, newly married, and newly mired in social upheaval. Will he choose complacency alongside his peers, or his personal moral code? Originally published in 1923, The Magpie is a social commentary turned novel about the disillusionment that developed after the war. Set against the backdrop of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, The Magpie offers an articulate and perceptive examination of the greed, hypocrisy, and intolerance of the 'decent' classes, the agrarian myth, the role of women in post-war society, and the evolution of moral codes.


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