Re: Barlow and friends.
I've had good experience and feedback from the CoC - I was even a member for a short time durning my undergrad days. Their primary focus, when I was a member, was against free trade. Now, their concern is social programs. I wouldn't say they were radical (by any stretch) ... but they're out there protecting some worthwhile social interests - esp. universality - health care, education... the usual suspects. Their leadership tends to be a bit top down, as Doug notes, but from what I understand - most of them are overworked as it is - trying to hold a wide variety of interests and organizations together. Their annual meetings are faily accessible and many of the people involved take all suggestions rather seriously. Just to note one, there is an organization in Toronto concerned about monetary reform - basically - they're arguing that instead of borrowing $$$ from private institutions, like the Bank of Montreal, the government should borrow $$$ from the Bank of Canada (which is legal). Any interest paid on the loan would then be going back into public coffers - and the Bank of Canada could set whatever loan rates they wanted. There are a series of arguments to follow about inflation and such. I believe the same kind of program is being promoted in the US - under the name of Sovereignty. I'm not an economist, but it sounds like the idea is worth talking about. Essentially, this is a response to arguments that we need cut backs to eliminate the national debt. This exact plan was implemented in Canada after WWII - when the debt was 3 times what it was now. Inflation was kept to a minimum afterward and the debt was paid off, in full, in something like 10 years. BTW - I'm also not much of a Canadian historian. Several books hae been written on the subject, I can check the ref's if anyone is interested. The monetary reform group also has a website which I can hunt around in my bookmarks for. Anyway, I'm only mentioning this because this idea was brought to the CoC (by George Crowell), who didn't like it at all - but dedicated a couple people to research it. Shorty afterward they adopted it as a backburner issue - something in process but not on the forefront of their platform. They've provided good opportunities for networking between unions and are often the only solid opposition to the more right-wing tendencies on a national level. Just a couple of thoughts (memories?) from a rather uninformed former member.