Antoni's Wire Service

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 17:50:09 -0300 (ADT)
From: Antoni Wysocki
To: Antoni's Wire Service
Subject: towards a CCPA branch in Nova Scotia

Hey folks,

On Friday, April 16 approximately 40 people gathered in Dartmouth to investigate the possibility of establishing a Nova Scotian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA.) The CCPA is an independent, non-profit institute which disseminates the research of progressives on a broad range of socio-economic issues. In particular the CCPA is committed to promoting analysis informed by the perspectives and concerns of people who are typically marginalized in work produced by commercial or government sources (which is to say, just about everyone except for rich, white, heterosexual men.)

The CCPA is perhaps best known as the principal sponsor of the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB.) The AFB annually adumbrates a blueprint for the use of fiscal and monetary policy by the Canadian government to promote full employment and enhanced social programs (rather than the debilitated programs and high unemployment which Ottawa perennially opts for.) In so doing the AFB at once puts the lie to the claim that "there is no alternative" to the poor conditions cited above and shows how better outcomes can be achieved.

In addition to the AFB the Centre publishes books and shorter papers. Eight times yearly CCPA produces a journal (the _Monitor_) which mainly deals with economic topics such as globalisation or the "fair trade" movement. The CCPA also facilitates workshops, conferences and other public education events and provides briefings upon request. More information is available online about the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

An important point about the CCPA is that it has charitable status which allows it to provide receipts for tax credits in return for donations. It is able to do this because its work is classified as education, not advocacy. At the Dartmouth meeting some people seemed to grasp this principle imperfectly and wrongly supposed that the CCPA could take on a coordinating role for the activist community in Nova Scotia. It is essential to understand that mission of the CCPA is to produce material with which activists can properly inform themselves and the broader public on matters of consequence - and that in the light of this knowledge people will take appropriate action. However, the Centre is legally bound to remain aloof from the political activies pursued by those who moved to action by CCPA research.

For most of the nineteen years of existence the CCPA operated exclusively from Ottawa, but more recently provincial offices have been established in BC and Manitoba. According to Larry Brown, the chair of the CCPA's Board of Directors, this outreach has been very successful. Addressing those assembled in Dartmouth to consider a Nova Scotia chapter, Brown reported that the combination of the depth of understanding of vicinal issues realized through local input with the prestige and institutional resources of a national organization has produced dramatic results.

As one measure Brown pointed to the number of occasions on which newsmedia sought comment from the CCPA compared to how often the rabidly pro-corporate Fraser Institute was consulted : prior to the establishment of the BC office CCPA was cited only once for every 30 times the Fraser Institute was quoted; now the ratio is approaching parity! Obviously a quick comment from the CCPA cannot properly balance the wall-to-wall propaganda with which big business blankets our society - and the "sound bite" approach to reportage is an odious one - but surely this is an improvement on the previous state of affairs.

Another perhaps more dramatic example concerns the release of a 1997 report prepared by the Manitoba chapter of the CCPA on privatised home care. Here, no sooner had the damning findings of the publication been released than the Manitoba provincial government renounced its previous support for the stripping of health care delivery from the public sector.

Perhaps spurred on by news of these successes a motion to take steps towards the creation of a CCPA adjunct in Nova Scotia proved consentaneous to the Dartmouth plenum. To realize this a steering committee was formed which will work to canvass supporters for the project.

As it stands the first major hurdle is mustering sufficient funds. The CCPA will, during the start-up period, make available to the Nova Scotia chapter all revenues raised within the province; accordingly an initial goal of doubling the membership of the CCPA within Nova Scotia has been proposed. While this will not in itself raise all the money required it is seen as a necessary step towards proving the viability of the project to institutional sponsors (i.e., unions and faculty associations.) It may seem that a twofold increase in membership is too ambitious but consider that participation in the CCPA went up by a factor of six (!) in Manitoba in the course of the inauguration of that province's chapter.