Where did your last meal come from? Food, farming and public policy
“Local food” is a trendy phrase, but without Canadian farmers to provide food to our cities, food security is off the table. We “get” this as Canadians, but do we really understand what it means? Treating farmers like dirt undermines our future. It will take years to fully understand the effects of Ottawa’s dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board. In the media today, right wing pundits with more ink than think are quick to offer up Canada’s supply management policies on the alter of yet another trade “deal” (Trans Pacific Partnership). Meanwhile, foreign investors are buying up vast tracts of Canadian farmland. What does this all mean to issues of food sovereignty, food security, food safety and food sustainability? How can communities meaningfully engage in this discussion before it is too late? Through story and example, why food security and food sovereignty are essential components of a sustainable future for Canada, and what policy respect for our farmers and our communities really looks like.
The taking of Canada’s Water – Now what?
Back in 1988, I and 13 other Canadians – Mel Clark, Don Gamble, David Crane, Kenneth Wardroper, Anthony Scott, Owen Saunders, Sarah Miller, Richard Bocking, Wayne Bradbury, Andy Russell, Timothy Danson, James Laxer and Abraham Rotstein – wrote the book Water and Free Trade: The Mulroney Agenda for Canada’s Most Precious Resource. We pulled this together in 6 weeks because a massive disinformation campaign was confusing Canadians. We hoped this would set the record straight. In the end, Canadians couldn’t quite accept that politicians would outright lie, and so believed them when they said “water is not in the deal”. Of course it is… Today, twenty-four years on, the situation has become critical. Originally framed as an export concern, the issue today is water use in Canada. Whether used for fracking, deep steam injection or water flooding, the enormous quantities of water pumped underground in oil and gas exploration have NAFTA rights attached if the license holder is American or has American investors. Yet government continues to issue new water licenses. Find out, in simple terms, why water is in, why it’s a problem, and what Canadians can do about it.
On the street where Adam lives… Challenging capitalism in a global world
The quaint world of Adam Smith was populated by 2 nations that exchanged goods in competitive markets. In his theoretical world, markets moved to equilibrium and Smith’s invisible hand – regular as the milkman – delivered the interests of community. What Adam didn’t contemplate was a world in which government vacates their watch on competitiveness and where not only goods but also capital and labour dance internationally to the rhythm of foreign investors. Under such conditions, firms consolidate to harness market power, reducing competitiveness. Add fossil fuel depletion, climate change, population growth and political instability and the only trick left in the neoclassic basket is GROWTH: MORE… FASTER… CHEAPER… What does this mean for communities? For Canada? How can we begin to reframe the discussion?
Governing the Commons – Democracy in a people-centered economy
A resource-rich nation, care of our Canadian “commons” is critical to our sustainable future. Good governance is about democracy, strong public policy and respect for community. How can we better govern the commons? From urban food co-ops to Quebec’s solidarity co-ops to the large industrial, consumer and social co-ops of Finland, Italy and Spain, well-run co-operatives offer a fair, sustaining, democratic and people-centered governance alternative. In the midst of this global economic crisis, are there co-operative alternatives to private sector capitalism that produce more robust economic benefits? Benefits that build sustaining social capital that respects and upholds the dignity of the community and her people? In this International Year of Co-operatives, learn how we can encourage and support the growth of co-ops in our community to reclaim economic and social sustainability.
Greed, community and the power of networks
In this age of globalism — where rivers of capital move silently through borderless economies, sourcing at the lowest cost and charging back to society its costly externalities – we are adrift on a raft of our own making. Firms today excel at what neo-classical economists and governments have been cheering them on to do since the mid 30’s: make investors rich and the economy will be better for it. Somewhere along the way, communities got left behind. Economic bullies have captured the flag. The question now is: how do communities take it back? Theory suggests that stakeholders, unfettered by hierarchical systems and supported by a cooperative infrastructure, have a natural instinct to cooperate. This fosters relationships that, in the presence of common purpose, create networks. When networks are complex — bringing together differing perspectives and resources — and when systems are democratic and open-ended, the potential exists for unplanned adaptation, innovation and entrepreneurship. Under these unique circumstances, innovation blooms like wildflowers in a meadow – with unexpected bursts of colour and in unanticipated places. And, like the wings of a butterfly, many small actions have resonance on a much wider scale, creating the framework for an adaptive, community-focused process that – properly harnessed – can deliver the dignity and security of a sustainable future.
Bullies in the boardroom – Governance and the failure of agency
The 2008 financial collapse was driven by greed and a lack of regulation. Overlooked in this discussion is the failure of agency: why did those elected to safely skipper the ship instead dash it against the rocks? Why did/does governance fail? Does the invisible hand perform sleight of hand in the boardroom? What does this mean for the economy? Do firms do enough to ensure directors understand the governance mandate? Is there a difference between private and co-operative firms? How can governance be measured? Post 2008, are new trends emerging in governance and regulation? What are the implications? Using examples taken from personal experience and drawing on best practices, Holm will challenge your thinking about the role of the Board and the care and feeding of its directors.
Wendy Holm is happy to prepare a custom presentation based on the needs of your group or on any of her columns or writings. She is also available for workshops.
Canadian Farm Writers Federation | Gold Award, Press Editorial
Farm Credit Canada | Rosemary Davis Award
2002 & 1993
BC Agrologist of the Year