Today being National Housing Day, Anti-Poverty NL is hosting a screening of “This is Parkdale,” a short documentary about a rent strike that succeeded in stopping a wave of rent-increases in a working class Toronto neighbourhood.
The film will be followed by a videoconference with a member of Parkdale Organize, the group who coordinated the strike and co-created the documentary. Anti-Poverty NL plans to use Parkdale Organize’s victory to start a conversation about strategies for addressing the rising price of electricity in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Anti-Poverty NL formed in the fall of 2016, during the surge of protests against the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project and the Liberal Government’s 2016 Provincial Budget.
Frustrated by the government’s response to the protests and inspired by the work of the Labrador Land Protectors, the organization was founded with the goal of using direct action to resist austerity and improve the quality of life of un- and under-employed people in the province.
“We want to be an organization that is led by poor and working class people in the province, that is building community power through organizing,” said Elise Thorbeast, a member of Anti-Poverty NL. “…an organization that is less interested in changing the people in power and more interested in changing the structures of power.”
One of Anti-Poverty NL’s major concerns is the rising cost of electricity in the province. On July 1st 2017, electricity rates in the province increased by an overall average of approximately 8.5 % and they are forecasted to continue to rise between 6 and 6.6% in both 2018 and 2019.
“We’re facing people really being squeezed in terms of what they have to pay for their home heating and electricity costs. The appeals to the Public Utilities Board and to the government to not increase the rates have largely gone unheeded…” Thorbeast said. “So I thought it would be interesting to talk about what has worked in Toronto and what might work for us here.”
Thorbeast doesn’t think Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are ready to pull off a rate strike in the very near future, but she believes there are applicable lessons to be learned from the strikers in Parkdale.
“I think it’s always important to be learning from people who’ve been successful in similar struggles and in similar movements elsewhere,” Thorbeast said. “… this is a really valuable opportunity to hear from someone who’s fought to improve their own and other people’s lives and been successful at it…this is a chance to get a bit of optimism and maybe some advice.”
Anti-Poverty NL would love for anyone who is concerned about how they will cope with the rising cost of home heating to come to the screening and join the conversation. The organization believes it’s important to connect the fight against rate hikes with the resistance to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador so they also want to invite people opposed to the hydro-dam to attend and share their perspectives.
The screening and discussion is happening at Memorial University in room SN 40-78, on Wednesday November 22nd. The event is free and there will be some snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Organizers will try to make rides available to anyone who would like to attend, to coordinate a ride contact Elise Thorbeast before noon on the day of the event. To organize a ride or learn more about Anti-Poverty NL email: antipovertyNL@gmail.com