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Len Usiskin Interview Transcript

Sept. 20
Len Usiskin
Community Economic Development Manager
Quint Community Development
Room 202
230 Avenue R South
Saskatoon, SK S7M 0Z9
W Ė 306-978-4041
Fax Ė 306- 683-1957
Email Ė quint@link.ca

 

Dave Beckwith:

So, the first question is what do you do and how did you come to this?

Len Usiskin:

Well, I guess I, my title is, I manage Community First Development Corporation, which is a nonprofit, community economic development organization, and weíre serving the five core neighborhoods in Saskatoon. And weíre operating a broad base, a, grassroots driven, community economic development organization. And so a lot of that, I mean we do, just quickly, really we do work on affordable housing, and we transgenerate and spin off as much economic benefits out of a housing strategy in terms of training employment and stabilizing neighborhoods and all the rest of that. And then we also provide we have a whole mandate to provide jobs and employment and training, generally. We also help people start small businesses or coops or community enterprises and so we have a whole training program that goes on around that. And we operate a few micro-loan plans for start up capital. And then weíre also helping spin off a few other organizations like the Community First Foundation, which is going to be a major community economic development-financing arm. And thereís sort of a, for low income communities thereís always an equity gap, for even, so even if you can access loan capital, the initial equity is never in position. So, Community First Foundation is being set up to sort of overcome some of those gaps. And then, weíre also setting up a Saskatoon Housing Initiative Partnership which is sort of trying to bring some of the financial institutions to the table and evaluate, sort of facilitate the development of more housing in the city here, affordable housing. And, overcome some of the gaps and the barriers that are in that area. and then thereís another piece of organization thatís sort of part of the city, what I call setting up the infrastructure for local communities economic development. Iím working with this group in the Community University Institute for Social Research. And part of that is just sort of the academic or the research support for a lot of this work. And one of the areas off that that works on is community economic development and I think one of the first areas that theyíre looking at is how do we change how we measure the success or impact of CED programs and, for those, a lot of that is going on all over the place, general process indicators as opposed to just traditional economics indicators, right.

Outcome.

You know, start looking at wealth and income of institutions and quality of life as opposed to just dollars and cents. So, thatís generally, really in a nutshell thatís whatís going on. I mean my focus is on, looking at this marginalized community within Saskatoon and sort of creating locally controlled economic development. I guess I see that how I came here is I see this as I am doing CED as the response to whatís going on in a larger economic economy, and I see the larger economy is one where weíre moving towards more global market integration and a lack of community control over their own destinies, right? And, it all being, what happens in communities coming through by external forces and larger global external forces. I think one of the ways we can start taking, is to build a, more independent, not globally controlled economies as a response to that. People taking back ownership and control of their communities. And not being held at the whim or the mercy of the international finance market etc., etc., right? And what is the response, obviously thereís a political, and we need to be challenging things, you know, IMF and the world trade organization and and multi-lateral agreements. But at the same time we need to start to work up power, and create economic literacy and skills in marginalized communities and start actually taking control back at the local level. So, I mean, I come to this work out of, you know, my background is with the trade union movement, and with community and political organizing. Iíve worked with international solidarity work and worked with on y0ou know, all the global issues, opposition to the global trade agreements, and worked with the Council of Canadians, at the local level here. I worked with a group that worked with, you know, in Canada we have the alternative budget. I donít know if youíve heard about them yet,

Yes.

So thereís groups, when I was in Winnipeg I was working with CHOICES, we were working on federal and provincial and municipal alternative government budgets. Weíve done one now here in Saskatchewan for about four years, a provincial alternative budget, so those are, you know, clearly seen as an alternative way that people have for building people centered economic solutions. I guess, I got here, how did I get here, well, when I was doing union organizing and really seeing the impact of free trade agreements that were going to have direct impact on the issues that we were working on in terms of protecting public services, and the rights of public employees and federal and public sector unions, and seeing how all this globalization of each sector into free markets globally, it was going to undermine a lot of our ability to do that. I went, I need to take a more systematic analysis of whatís driving this whole agenda, so I went back to University and studied economics.

Where was that?

At the University of Manitoba. And so sort of, more and more seeing that we need to get back to more locally controlled solutions here, and rebuild community. And so thatís how I got into this whole area. But I do it always in the context of the larger, how this fits into the larger analysis, right? So.

Say a little bit more if you would about the preparation for the work that you do. What sort of training or what kind of background do you think helped you to become ready to do what you do?

Well, I mean we always say community economic development, or here we say, itís weíre working both as a balance of social and economic developments, right? I think you need to be really tuned into the social issues, but at the same time, you need to be in the economic realm. So I donít know, I guess thereís a lot of people who work in one or the other, and itís hard to, what is this thing that weíre doing, weíre sort of crossing both areas eh, and kind of trying to do both. But I think to me thatís it, I mean, I think my history as a political organizer and a social activist and then understanding of economics and sort of the really market theory. You know, I donít know if Iím the best person for this job or not, but weíre doing stuff, and thatís what I think, thatís what was in the whole CED movement, that was the big question. This whole movementís about, I know that thereís people talking about how do we professionalize this whole thing called a CED practitioner, right, and Iím really hesitant to go down that road, because I think first and foremost people have to come out of it with some kind of a commitment to some social social change, right? And if you start professionalizing and creating all this sort of professional associations, I think weíre just going to create a whole bunch of technocrats who donít have the commitment to the social change side of what weíre doing. So I donít know, am I answering?

Oh yah. Absolutely, I mean preparation has a bunch to do with what your passion is.

Yah. And I think thatís part of what makes us an effective organization; everybody who is working here virtually has a passion for the work thatís going on. Itís a great place to work because Iím working with folks here who all are really strong believers in the work and they all put in, I mean, I donít think this is the kind of work that you expect to get remunerated for every hour of work you put in. Itís just, you work until you run out of, or until you need to go to sleep or you run out of time or whatever, until the job is done.

How big is the organization?

Well, itís always changing a little bit, but, we have in the sort of the core project staff we have about a dozen people working here and then when we have, we always have people on in community training posts, renovating houses and learning, so there may be another ten, and that, Ö so thatís generally it.

You said that in the neighborhood development work, your goal is to be community driven and to build political literacy and economic literacy as you do development work. Say some more about how you do that and what works in that arena?

Our organization is governed by a board of directors, a volunteer board of directors. Three quarters of them are residents of the neighborhoods in which we work and then we were formed as a result of a partnership of the five community associations, representing five neighborhoods. So, it was very much a bottom up process of the five community associations coming together about a little over five years ago now. I mean, those organizations, the community associations are set up as sort of organizations within the city, and it was all about recreation. From about ten years ago they started looking at, you know, we canít just be talking about recreation in our communities, because in order for us to talk about recreation we need to talk about other issues, right? You know, people need jobs and people need poverty issues, so they started talking about broader poverty alleviation issues in the core areas of Saskatoon. So they came together to form a big three day workshop about five years ago to talk about poverty alleviation and partnership between the five community associations. Out of that, and a whole community economic development that sort of meets that goal, and so they thatís where the decisions form a community economic development organization came out of. So we have now, each community organization has a designated spot on our board as well, so they appoint a rep to the board of directors.

How are the other grassroots represented?

The other at large are just elected at our annual general meeting and through the usual nomination and election process.

How many at the annual meetings?

Well, we had about 75 people at the last at our last one in June

How many people in those five areas?

The population of the five neighborhoods I think is around 16,000 or 17,000. I think we, thereís about 6,000 households in those five neighborhoods. And so, like I said, three quarters of our work is community building and then there is about three slots that we leave open so if we want to bring in anybody that we think can provide some help to the board or whatever. Then we have some advisors and basically itís from different government departments and we do get some government core funding from the provincial government through a new program called the neighborhood development organization program. So theyíre funding organizations in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert. And although QUINT is the oldest of those organizations, and I think the whole funding structure came about because of, QUINT was formed before the funding was in place, right?

Yah. And how did the funding come into play?

Well, it was just a few key people in government who helped form QUINT and sort of are really passionate about community economic development and the potential of it and rebuilding community. And they pushed, and happened to be in key positions within government, so they sort of pushed the agenda and a few people went out on a limb to sort of add little pieces of funding out of government here and there. I think that people were seeing that we were demonstrating that there was some potential here, some genuine progress going on and so they formalized it into a government program. Now, you know, core funding is hard to find these days, itís all project based funding, so weíre really grateful for that, thatís really increased our capacity immensely. I mean, you know, thereís always a few problems with you know, core funding and governments trying to dictate about what should be the agenda and how we should function, but they, in fairness the policy has, it has left it very open. I think thereís been some very good thinking about what needs to, how can they facilitate this work but allow the communities to drive it, eh? And so itís, I could give you a copy of that.

Iíd be interested.

And if you, I could refer you to a couple of names in government, who did a lot of the ground breaking work and are still very much supportive in working in that. So, I guess, the question again,

How do you stay grassroots driven, what is the nature of the empowerment work that you do? How do you in your daily work make that a reality?

Yah. Well, I mean, weíre a nonprofit organization, I mean we run this, I try and run this place as democratically as possibility, so we run it as cooperatively and try to get as much input into decision making and then on the board we try to do as much training with our board of directors as we possibly can. We put out a newsletter 3 or 4 times a year. In there we always talk about, obviously the opportunities that Quint is providing but also, we try and put in there as much opportunity, I call it my economic literacy section in that newsletter. We just talk about issues you know, and explain, try and give people a broader economic and political context for the work weíre doing here. And again, you have to be trying to keep it so that itís successful, and thatís always a challenge. Right now weíre doing an interesting project coming up, a partnership with the health district here and the Political Action Group on Poverty, which is an informal organization in the core area and the extension division in the university, and Quint is the other partner on it. Iíll give you a copy of this; this is our latest newsletter. Understanding your economy, creating people centered budgets and so, it came about with, one of the community development workers with the Saskatoon district of health is facilitating the Political Action Group On Poverty. I think there was a recognition especially for low-income women, who when it comes time to speak out on economic issues there seems to be a really disempowered community there on that front. And so she was saying, you know, if we could do some training to make economics not such a daunting issue, right? For people to sort of attack, so thereís going to be a series of nine workshops, to learn, I guess part of it will be, whatís involved in budgets and creating alternative budgets and why itís done. But then even, workshops in, how to organize public forums and work effectively with the media and teams and public speaking and all around economic issues, eh? So then the extension division is sort of going to certify us a little bit. And so, itíll be an interesting, itís just going to start next month.

Youíve been talking about the extension of this, and the connection in public health. Iím interested in sort of who you see as your colleagues, who do you see as "us"? When you think about not just the people that work here, but who is in the enterprise together?

Well, I mean, obviously we work with the community itself very closely and thereís other non-governmental organizations that we see as partners that are very much parallel to us.

Examples?

Okay, well thereís the child hunger and education project; theyíre just down the hall here. Thereís a renterís rights organization; thereís the political action group on poverty, the community development team of the health department. Thereís the whole coop sector, itís a really large sector in Saskatchewan, so we work a lot with, we have really good partnerships with some of the credit unions, they help us a lot and weíre building partnerships with the Saskatoon coop, they operate two grocery stores and lumber yards and gas stores in the city and just the larger coop community in the province here. Well, obviously, I guess we work with government, because itís their responsibility to support this work and so various government departments. Weíve been working with schools a lot; weíre seeing a lot of issues weíre working on have a direct impact on the ability for them to teach the kids in their schools.

Both elementary and,

Elementary and high school. Weíre even working in direct partnerships with some schools right now on issues on housing for young student mothers. So a couple of the schools are actually invited on, sitting on advisory boards around some of this stuff and taking a very active role in the whole housing question with us. So weíve got a really diverse group of partnerships and itís actually, you know, right now there seems to be just a general shift in thinking. Itís very much turning towards supporting this kind of work in the city and I guess even now, I mean, working on the Saskatoon housing issues and partnerships, and weíre even bringing a lot of the finance and investment community to the table around this whole issue of housing and the role it plays in building the quality of life in the city here, eh. And so, I mean, obviously theyíre at a different level in understanding and applicable persuasion, but there seems to be, weíre finding some areas of commonality that we can work together on.

Do you have any leverage over them? In the States we have a community reinvestment act, which,

Weíre trying, I mean thatís the whole,

We pretend it gives us a legal power, forcing them to cooperate with us, it doesnít really.

But it seems to have leverage to reinvest into the community, right? No, I think right now itís purely moral persuasion that weíve and with just the big five banks itís not much of that, either because thereís not much,

Not much moral suasion.

No, and thereís not much dollars moving around, eh? Yah. And I mean the federal government operates in the Western Economic Diversification, itís sort of an arm of the federal government. And what theyíre providing now is a 20% loan loss guarantee to the Saskatoon Credit Union so that makes them more comfortable, the credit union can free up over a million dollars over five years for micro loans, loans that they otherwise wouldnít normally be able to make. The 20% loan loss guarantee fills their requirements under the credit union act or whatever you know, that they have to,

The equity requirement, Yah.

Yah. So thereís some of that going on, but you know, I mean itís a good first step, see, and, sorry so that wasnít the question,

Who are our partners, and

Yah. So weíre working with government and nonprofits, NGO sector, some of the schools, the coop sector, and even now in community first thereís one union that has become a member of that, and we would like to expand that,

Which union?

The Grain Services Union is a member of the community first foundation and has actually made, they were the first ones to come to the table out of all the partners within that, to make an investment into the social reinvestment fund. So, thatís really interesting. And they were the ones who greased the wheel so that the people at the credit union and the coops could would then, they then,

A comfort level, yah,

A comfort level, so it was like, it was good. And that you know, that partnership there with the green services itís interesting because, well, Don was involved, Don Kossick and the only reason that the Grain Services Union felt that comfort to be part of this community first foundation was the partnership, the solidarity that had been built with them over years of organizing. We felt that they knew who was involved in community first and they knew that there was some solidarity there, right? And that this was a legitimate organization for them to be partnering up with.

That history, and some of the people in the community first, I think, I donít think still appreciate or understand thatÖ

Cause they havenít been around that long.

You know, thatís 15-20 years of being around that theyíve been around, but theyíve been working in church communities or in other areas, but they need to understand, you know, that the reason that Grain Services came to be a part of this organization is because of the solidarity work thatís been going on with them and us in other capacities over this,

A long relationship

Yah, a long relationship. So I think that what I started saying is that I think weíre finding a great deal of support work in our community right now and I think we look to other Canadian cities and some U.S. cities and say, this is going to be the cost of not paying attention to issues in the core area. I guess that the other partner that I would list is the aboriginal community, because I think that itís important to recognize that Saskatoon has a large Aboriginal population and the core communities

The five neighborhoods,

The five neighborhoods is an even larger percentage of the membership is aboriginal background and

And how is the relationship with the community structured? Are there organizations? Is that,

Well we do some work with the Saskatoon tribal council and weíre starting to do some work with the Metis communities, but they donít have representative positions on our board of directors but you know, our board is even looking at how do we restructure our organization to build even more fundamental links with the community. And maybe there are different organizations that should be represented on our board of directors. So thatís the debate thatís going on right now. And weíre sort of at a point in this work where weíre sort of taking stock of what weíve done over the last five years and trying to set up a strategic plan for the future, like where we want to be going. And itís also, I mean, weíre kind of going oh, man, Ö

How did we get into this?!

Yah! So, It seems that we just sort of continue on, but I think itís really critical to sort of to not just let inertia carry, but that we actually take some leadership on the whole thing.

What is it that really sustains you in the work, what keeps you getting up in the morning and coming to work here.

Well, I mean, here is a job where I can do, I think what is my passion. I mean, you can do a combination of what is a social and a political job, community organizing, and combine that and create a lot of really concrete opportunities for community residents through whatever, through housing, or through employment, or helping them set up their own enterprise or coop. And I think through that process, you know, just empowering, and mobilizing community, right? So itís got all that, to me itís just exciting every day. Itís sometimes overwhelming sometimes, and you feel swamped most of the time. And part of it is that yah, sometimes I think weíre just so busy that Iím afraid sometimes that maybe weíre not giving enough attention to detail but, but then again, thatís why I work with all these great people helping, and thatís what their jobs are to do. And itís the people we work with too. I work with these people that are just passionate, and so coming to work here everyday is really, everybody whatís the word Iím thinking of, when, when somebody talks up the work that youíre doing, supports you in your beliefs and your work. Iíve worked in worse places in my life where if you work, your political and social orientation is not appreciated, itís always an argument, right? So itís great to work in a place where weíre all sort of thinking and we can all support one another in a common direction. And then this building is an incredible building because, itís owned by the health district at St. Paulís hospital, an old nurses residence but itís not used anymore, there arenít nurses training anymore. So theyíve opened it up, a vacant space, theyíve opened it up to community organizations, at really low costs and itís become almost sort of a community unto ourselves here because thereís a lot of interesting community organizations based out of here, so itís just a whole, a synergy happening in this building as well, you know.

Could you describe some of the other people that work here?

Well, thereís child hunger and education project are down the hall, and thereís the community development team of the health district one floor below, and thereís the Elizabeth Fry Society, thereís immigrant women of Saskatchewan, thereís the inter church uranium committee in the building, thereís equal justice for all, which is a welfare activist organization in Saskatoon. So you know, thereís just all of these organizations, you know, and thereís a lot of just you know people hopping up to our office, or weíll pop down to their office just to, if thereís something going on, you know, we can share information. Once in a while weíll just have a potluck where people can meet one another and tell each other whatís going on at their work. So itís just a good environment to work in. And weíre situated right in the centrally, right in the heart of the neighborhood. SO itís really accessible space for the community as well. I guess one of the things, you know, it could be physically laid out a little bit better, Iíd like to set up a resource center for you know, just a place where people could come and do their own reading and work, and we just donít have that space here, but, thatís a small price for,

Blow out a couple of walls!

Yah! Those are plans for a down the road. Yah.

Can you give me some examples of what itís like when it really works? Just so that other organizers when theyíre reading this can get a sense of what are the challenges and what are the successes in your work?

Well weíve had, our housing work is a good example of a success, the problem we were trying to overcome was a really high proportion of rental housing verses home ownership in this area and all the destabilization that occurs with that situation.

Weíre talking about wood frame houses,

And a lot of apartments, and yah. The single family dwellings that are, a lot of them could be subdivided into two or three or four

Two stories, three story,

Yah. And the people, the schools are telling us the high turnover rates among the kids because people were moving all the time, right? And so that part weíve seen setting up home ownership coops. Weíve set up seven of those with ten families in each one, so with seventy families. And basically for the first five years itís owned by the coop and then if theyíre in good standing, then the coop will transfer the title over to the house, directly to the,

So itís a coop ownership of houses?

Yah. And what weíre trying to do is create more stable home ownership opportunities, and affordable costs for families, and we seem to be doing that, and we seem to be doing that more affordably even than what they were paying on their rent. So, I mean, there is some government subsidies on that program, which help, obviously. A good evidence of that was that we had a social with all the coop members and Quint staff and, it could have been over 250 people with kids and anyways, it turned out to be about 100 people there from really diverse backgrounds and we just sort of had the sense that this is really, weíre starting to make an impact into the community here. So it was really rewarding just to see that, it hasnít been that long, you know, itís been three years work, eh? And I guess some of the struggles we face, you know, there are policy road blocks for low income people that the government has put up and weíre trying to say, look, youíre always talking about wanting to move people towards more self reliance and yet, thereís all these disincentives and actual physical road blocks that they create and policies, and weíre always struggling with that and banging our heads, right? But we are chipping away at it, too, and I think if I step back and take a bit of a longer-range approach we are making progress. So those are some of the struggles but also some of the successes that are going on.

Would you characterize yourself as hopeful?

Oh yah. Iím hopeful. And I would say weíre working in a political environment in Sask. thatís you know, weíre not, I donít know if you know the Canadian political scene much, but weíre not in a political environment here like in Ontario, where thereís a really neoconservative government, or Alberta which is the same you know, even though we have a lot of issues with provincial policy thereís still a lot more room to maneuver there? Which helps us, you know. So weíre hopeful, but thereís a long way to go.

Yah.

And I donít think we, if poverty alleviation is our ultimate goal and building a healthy social, improving the social and economic well being, weíre having, you know, sort of a long way to go. But we have made a lot of differences in a lot of peopleís lives, and,

The nature of what this is all about is really a conversation among organizers; Iím trying to create opportunities to learn from one anotherís work. Do you have questions for other people or about what other people are doing that you sort of want to add to the mix?

Well, I could think about that one, and if thereís a way that I could get that back to you. I think itís, yah, let me think about that.

Sure.

Nothing is popping into my mind that I can,

Yah, yah. In sort of a characterization with firebrand activist, change agent, with picket signs on one end of the continuum and accountant on the other, where would you place yourself, and where do you want to be?

Well, I mean, I guess thatís the peculiar nature of economic development, weíre trying to do the very detailed work of, the financial work of the economic field, creating opportunities, community based opportunities, so we need the bean counters and we have a number of them working here. But weíre really fortunate that we have people with those technical skills, but also have that social understanding and commitment. I think weíre trying to combine that social activism with doing the sort of nitty-gritty, what you need to do to conduct business sort of, and so, we spend a lot of our time just sort of doing that technical work, but then, I make sure that thereís time there, and the boardís time there to do the community organizing work that needs to go on in conjunction with it. And I make sure even that the people that are involved even in the technical day to day that they have an opportunity to be part of that, too, so that they never lose sight of why theyíre doing that work. Because you need to be empowered once in a while or energized, right? By seeing that, I donít know how to answer that question, weíre trying to build a cross over between those two worlds, because, I think you know, weíre trying to build a new economy and we need to be combining all those elements into how that works.

And I donít mean to value one or the other. I mean, a lot of my work, with the center for community change is just working with folks to make sure the business is done in a business like way, because thatís a political vulnerability. If the books donít balance at the end of the year, youíre in trouble!

We go to really great pains to do really serious accountability, eh? And sometimes more then I care to, we have a debate about that, whether we should, but, no, my identity is totally at the other end, of, thatís where I come from, and even my family roots come out of that activism side of it.

Whatís that about?

Well, my family is immigrants, from Russia and Ukraine and we came here, my grandparents, my grandfather on my fatherís side came here to set up an agricultural commune in the early 1900ís.

Where, in Saskatchewan?

Yah, in northern Saskatchewan, and didnít last that long. And then he moved to Winnipeg. And on my momís side, my grandfather was a union organizer who was active in the, I donít know if youíve heard of the Winnipeg general strike of 1919, but he was active in the sheet metal workers, and my mom was a, my mom has been very much an activist throughout her life, so you know, I guess I come by my work honestly. So,

Well, and thatís sort of just the environment that I grew up in, and thatís sort of part of who I am. I come from that, my background is organizing, and human rights, and environment, and unions, trade union sector and then sort of an evolution of wanting to get more understanding of what were the driving forces here and a much deeper analysis of what it was that was driving this whole agenda and then moving on toÖ I mean aside from letís say, advocating for a socialist state, what are some real doable alternatives that we can work on here, and thatís how I moved into the community economic development field, eh. Hopefully to create some democratic community economic development.

What do you think itís going to take to advance community organizing? You know, what are the obstacles, or what are the big opportunities, or, or what?

Advance community organizing, hmm. Well, Iím really encouraged about, I donít know if I have an answer for that, but what I am encouraged about is when I see what is going on in Seattle, the battle in Seattle and all the demonstrations going on about the free trade agreements, and the number of young people that seem to be heading it up, I donít know how to, Iím trying to still, I mean, Iím glad of it, I just donít know how to analyze it or why thatís coming about. I guess itís the sense of the lack of control that people are feeling over their own destinies and that itís all being taken away, you know, undermining our own democratic institutions and systems. Iíve been in the past doing some work with the Council of Canadians, I donít know if you know about that organization, which is a grassroots organization, I think theyíve got, I forget how many members, but I think 100,000 members and a really strong political force in this country to be reckoned with. So I see those kinds of organizations as being really critical. I think IĎd like to see the credit union movement play a stronger role in tackling some of those larger questions. Those are big questions about how do we move forward the agenda and how do we create more organizers. I guess my only observation is that Iím really encouraged, it seems to me that the tide seems to be turning in terms of young people taking a real radical response to a lot of this global market agenda.

I think that is very exciting.

Yah.

And I think weíre creating, weíre seeing a whole generation of veterans being created. Were you there, do you remember, hereís where you learned the hard lessons ofÖ

Yah, And Iím still trying to understand why, what has mobilized, what is this critical factor that has causes them to be mobilized. I donít know if in your travels anyone can give a good reason of that, Iíd be interested to know. Because I know Don was down in Seattle, and thatís what they were feeding back to me is that there were mostly young people there. In Washington a few months ago, and Ontario, and all around these things there are very large questions which normally you would think would be very removed from people. The people wouldnít be able to see the link to their daily reality, you know, of global trade agreements, right, but people are being able to, they understand it.

Thereís an interesting controversy right now in community organizing Ö about whether this represents positive organizing or whether itís just a,

A blip or something?

Well, sort of as advocates just crusading a cause, itís not organizing people for their own interests, itís a cause that people are taking onÖ

And I guess the question would be, are there long term organizations being built around this or is it justÖ because, I think thatís the question, you know, are they really rooted, I guess, or that would be a question. Thatís one thing about the Council of Canadians is that it seems to be able to sustain itself. And setting up locals or factions across the country, right? I donít know if thereís a similar movement in the United States or Australia like the council of Canadians. It seems to be that thereís a lot of talk, you know, I check e-mails and there's a lot of stuff going on, more then I can keep up with thatís for sure. I mean when we were fighting the MAI thing about 3 or 4 years ago. I was on the MAI-NOT list, and I was getting from around the world about 60 or 70 e-mails a day and really long long well thought out essays, you know. And I just thought, you know, we canít keep up with it, itís just overwhelming. But itís interesting to see that that is happening.

Well,

One of the questions that have always come up is what role is the Internet playing and e-mail. People are claiming that the whole MAI thing was defeated by the role rapid communication that e-mail and the Internet played in that, so thatís an interesting question, you know, it sure is an effective tool for organizing.