British Columbians need to have a say on the provincial government’s commitment to link the province’s economic future to a very large bet on LNG. The total number of plants currently proposed for BC approach in volume the entire current global capacity. Yet, any review of the global industry reveals declining demand. When examined for its greenhouse gas implications, the LNG bet is a bet against making our targets and avoiding catastrophic climate change. The natural gas in the BC industry is not conventional; it is fracked. And fracked natural gas has the same carbon impact as coal.
It is instructive to review the rules and regulations surrounding the LNG industry in the US and compare them to those in Canada. Whether one is for or against Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to tie the economic future of BC to the LNG industry, at a minimum, British Columbians would assume that the industry will be stringently regulated for the safety of all our citizens.
But the more I dig into it, the more Canadian regulation of LNG reminds me of the way Transport Canada regulated the railcars perched on the hillside above Lac Megantic, Quebec. It did not violate any Transport Canada regulation that highly dangerous Bakken crude was left unattended without the brakes on, in an antiquated rail car on a train track on the hill above the town. We know that the railcars rolled down hill creating a fireball that destroyed the centre of the Lac Megantic, killing 47 people. Following that disaster, Transport Canada began tightening up the rules.Read more
There is catechism of the fossil fuel industry, with oft-repeated claims that seem by repetition to escape examination. Peter MacKay's recent opinion piece on pipelines was a veritable greatest hits compilation of such claims.
He writes that "pipelines are by far the safest means of transporting oil." The first muddying of facts is the notion that we are talking about shipping oil. All the current pipeline proposals, including Energy East, are primarily about shipping unprocessed bitumen. Bitumen is in a pre-crude state and can only be casually referenced as "oil" if one accepted the idea that grain should be referred to as "croissants" when discussing markets.
To read the full Huffington Post article published on February 25, 2016 click here.
To read the full article click here.
This article was published (February 11, 2016) in ‘Island Tides’, an independent, regional newspaper distributing on the Canadian Gulf Islands, on Vancouver Island and, via the internet, worldwide.’
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To see this entire edition of Island Tides click here.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May addresses a sold-out crowd at the Whistler Conference Centre last Thursday (Jan. 21). Whistler Question Photo by David Buzzard www.media-centre.ca
Elizabeth May, Sea to Sky mayors weigh in on COP21, local environmental initiatives
Sara Jennings was the first person in a sold-out crowd to pose a question to Elizabeth May after the Green Party leader and environmental activist offered Sea to Sky residents an in-depth breakdown of the recent COP21 climate talks in Paris.
“In Whistler we continue to see the number of personal vehicles increasing on the road, and snowmobiling is a very fast-growing sport in the corridor and this concerns me in a town that is considered quite green,” said Jennings, who is the past president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), the organization that put on the event. “As an individual who is passionate about the environment, what is the best way to bring that down to the individual level when trying to encourage people to take personal responsibility for change?”
For much of the evening last Thursday (Jan. 21) at the Whistler Conference Centre, May focused on the national and international implications of the global climate summit. While the aim of the event — which also included a presentation with the mayors of Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish — was to help locals understand what they could do to help curb global warming on a community level, May said the answer lies largely with government policy.
“The route to encourage every person to take personal responsibility will take us past 1.5 (degrees),” May said, referring to the cap set for global average temperature increase at the conference. “We need to increase the carbon fuel tax. It needs to cost more to ride around in a snowmobile. We need to send people the signal and we need more investment in infrastructure that makes it convenient for people. A lot of people have to drive a car… for many reasons. If we make it about the personal, it’s really hard. We have to change the structure of society so it becomes easier — for example, tax rebates to buy hybrid or electric cars. We need to encourage that behaviour while discouraging the use and waste of fossil fuels.”
Overall, May said a “very ambitious agenda” emerged from the climate talks, during which Canada punched well above its weight. It painted a future in which the countries involved committed to going off of fossil fuels in order to curb global warming before it reaches the point of no return.
“If we take them at their word, the leaders of 195 countries have just committed our society, our economies, all nations to go off fossil fuels completely as soon as possible,” May said. “We’ve committed to ensure that the global peak of greenhouse gas emissions is as soon as possible. There is speculation we may (have) hit it in 2015 and (will) go down from there.”
For its part, the provincial government is in the midst of seeking input from residents for its new Climate Leadership Plan, Jordan Sturdy, MLA for the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding, told the crowd. “A strong leadership plan will help us take advantage of a low-carbon economy, a future and green jobs,” he said.
While almost 6,000 people completed a survey released in the plan’s first phase, the second phase of consultation was launched on Monday (Jan. 25) on the Climate Leadership Plan website focusing on options and time frames for greenhouse gas reductions in B.C.
Meanwhile, the mayors also shared their community’s environmental initiatives. “Whistler has been interested in climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption for a long time,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “We’ve got targets built into our OCP (official community plan), we want to reduce GHGs from 2007 levels by 33 per cent by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050 and 90 per cent by 2060. Between 2007 and 2012 we reduced our GHGs by 17 per cent. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can’t kid ourselves, but we’ve paid attention to these issues and we’ve done some very good work so far and I have every confidence we will carry on doing so.”- See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/news/local-news/corridor-talks-climate-change-1.2158339#sthash.LWFtp5vD.dpuf
When is a Trade Agreement not a Trade Agreement (Embassy News)
The Achievement of the Paris Agreement (Policy Magazine)
As the Dust Settles from COP21 (Island Tides)
What Harper Broke To Do List [an action list for the new federal government]
Why A Gender-Balanced Cabinet Matters
Elizabeth May - Blog for Huffington Post, November 2015
I don't know about you, but I have been astonished at the many media pundits who question Justin Trudeau's decision to appoint a cabinet with gender parity. The CBC panel on Nov. 1 with The Walrus editor Jonathan Kay was a real low point. Suddenly a hue and cry is raised that having 50 per cent women will entail incompetent appointments. Kay even kidded that it was unfair to his "people." It reminded me of the Parks and Recreation episode where men rallied for their rights crying out "we have not been treated fairly -- really recently."
I do not recall anyone questioning the merits of male ministers being appointed as the vast majority of cabinets -- forever. Were all those stellar choices under Stephen Harper (Julian Fantino, Vic Toews, and Pierre Poilievre to name a few) just so unquestionably well-prepared for the job that the matter never came up? Or is it beyond obvious that questions of merit never surfaced when the expected men were put in their usual spots -- known as positions of power?
The satirical publication The Beaverton skewered the response in a brilliant little column: "50 per cent female cabinet appointments lead to 5000 per cent increase in guys who suddenly care about merit in cabinet."
With Prime Minister designate Justin Trudeau preparing to announce a cabinet that is 50 per cent women, researchers have discovered a sharp 5000 per cent increase in the number of men who suddenly have strong opinions about how cabinet appointments should be a "meritocracy."
Across the nation statisticians are at a loss to explain a recent and drastic jump in the number of men who have spontaneously developed hard opinions about the qualifications of Federal Cabinet Ministers.
"This is affirmative action, and even though it has been statistically shown to improve working conditions over time, I don't like it," said longtime man Thomas Fielding.
Several noted political scientists agree that Trudeau's female quota is a controversial move. "I suddenly and inexplicably find myself very concerned about this issue," added Dr. William Harkin of the University of Calgary, also a lifelong male. "Unlike Trudeau, Prime Minister Harper only chose the most qualified people for his cabinet posts, like a climate change denier [Peter Kent] as his Minister of the Environment. Or his numerous Ministers of Defense who never once held military positions."
My enthusiasm largely stems from knowing how much a gender-balanced cabinet changed -- for decades -- the political role of women in Norway. The first woman prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Bruntdland, may be best known to Island Tides readers for her chairing of the World Commission on Environment and Development. The landmark report "Our Common Future" is often just known as the "Brundtland report." It was in that period that I had the great honour of working with her. She also made dramatic changes to Norwegian society when she appointed 40 per cent women to her government in 1986. It was not an easy move to make. One of my friends who worked most closely with Gro Brundtland said she had to consciously sacrifice a generation of strong male leaders to take a meaningful step for women's rights.
By Elizabeth May
I imagine that you just read that headline as “an economic nightmare impacting Stephen Harper’s economic plans.” But my intention was not that Stephen Harper faces an economic nightmare; it is that his policies are an economic nightmare.
True, Canada rode out the 2008 financial melt-down better than most. Our prime minister was quick to take credit, but the credit should have gone to the previous administration that rejected the banking industry’s demands for de-regulation. Ironically, had Harper’s party succeeded in persuading the government of the day to accede in the banks’ demands, he would have had a much rougher ride. He was lucky; lucky that our banks were regulated and unable to join in the high-risk global derivatives market -- and lucky that he had inherited large surpluses. Even before the financial crisis hit, Harper shifted our budget from surplus to deficit. That’s bound to happen if you slash revenues and spend more. Our first quarter in deficit was before we had spent a cent in the stimulus investments forced by the economic melt-down.
While the media, pundits and politicians now focus on the relatively minor question of whether we will have a small surplus or small budgetary deficit, the national debt is ignored. Stephen Harper, self- described as a fiscal conservative, has increased the national debt to its highest level ever. Our debt is now over $600 billion. Twenty-four per cent of that debt was accumulated by Stephen Harper as he borrowed money to give out economically foolish boutique tax cuts. It’s one thing to bribe voters with their own money. It’s a step more shameless to borrow money to do it. The interest payments on the debt will cost Canadians $29 billion this year.
One might imagine that Harper’s high-spending ways came to an end in tough times. But not so. The current size of the federal civil service is larger than it’s ever been before. While spending for environmental science and support for veterans were slashed, more bureaucrats were hired to audit environmental groups, work in Corrections Canada and Canadian Border Services. A big winner for federal government job opportunities has been for Information Officers. They are up by 15% as they work to control and limit our access to information.
Since Harper became prime minister, productivity is falling, innovation is stagnant and our exports have tilted back to what previous industrial strategies sought to avoid. For years successive governments sought to move us away from relying on raw resource exports, to create wealth through value-added production. To use a Conservative branded turn of phrase, his “laser-like focus” on putting all our eggs in the bitumen basket did not include processing the bitumen before shipping it out. And now, it seems his luck has run out.
Maybe he didn’t see Saudi Arabia coming. The OPEC oil shock of the early ‘70’s was not that long ago. Of all global commodities, oil is the one that is most open to manipulation, creates the most security threats and launches the most wars.
Anyone who understands an economy knows it is more resilient to nasty shocks when it is diversified.
Truth is Canada was never all that dependent on the oil sands. It is only 2% of GDP. It is not that large a contributor to our national revenue. And many sectors of the Canadian economy will benefit from the lower dollar.
If I were prime minister right now, I would be finding every policy tool available to give those sectors that benefit from an 80 cent dollar a boost for rapid ramping up to expand their workforces. One prime example is tourism. For some inexplicable reason, Harper appears to hate tourism. Policy after policy has hurt the sector – from eliminating the GST-HST rebate for foreign visitors (a cheap goodwill gesture) to more visa requirements, to slashing the budget for tourism ads, to undermining seasonal employment through the EI system. For the last few years, not one penny was spent to promote Canada as a dream vacation in the US market. Where ten years ago Canada was in the top seven of world tourism destinations, we are now 18th.
The only spectacular photographs of Canadian wilderness paid for by the Government of Canada in the US were to promote the Keystone pipeline. One single Keystone ad in the New Yorker last year cost over $200,000. Still, tourism employs over 600,000 Canadians and contributes over $30 billion to our economy.
It was recently announced that Harper is prepared to spend over $20 million for a major ad campaign targeting Europe, the US and Asia. The international PR firm FleishmanHillard has won the contract.
And the ads will promote the oil sands.
When will someone stand up to say “the economist is naked?”
Green leader fires back at Tyee piece that argued her party will help Harper's chances.
Published in The Tyee June 27, 2015
George Ehring is not original in the tired rant that if Greens wanted to stop Harper, we would just go away. The truth is we are the only party committed to cooperation and have repeatedly appealed for cooperation, having been firmly rebuffed by Mulcair's NDP.
Had Greens been elected into the 2006 or 2008 parliament, we would never have stood by -- as both the NDP and Liberals did -- allowing a Conservative minority that made Stephen Harper prime minister. We would have reminded Canadians (including our national media) that we do not elect prime ministers in Canada; we elect members of parliament.party or group of parties can best hold the confidence of the House can form government. Stepping back, waiting for the next election when more money is raised to do battle again, and letting Harper become prime minister is something Greens would never do.
Whichever party or group of parties can best hold the confidence of the House can form government. Stepping back, waiting for the next election when more money is raised to do battle again, and letting Harper become prime minister is something Greens would never do.
It should be obvious that Stephen Harper does not agree with Ehring. In fact, Harper is doing everything possible to shut me out of the debates -- as he tried to do in 2008 and as he succeeded in doing in 2011. Now that the national televised leaders debate consortium of networks -- CBC, Radio Canada, CTV, and Global -- has accepted that the Green Party meets every rule and criteria to be included in the national debate, Harper is boycotting them.
Conservative Party spokesmen say Harper will appear in five smaller debates instead. Of those, Greens are only included in one. Knowing Harper to be a master strategist, if there was any truth in Ehring's thesis, Harper would be pushing Greens forward in debates.
Ehring's arguments rely on a fallacious, yet surprisingly persuasive, appeal to fear which can be summarized as ''Look what happened last time!''
But second place finishes in a previous election are entirely unreliable as predictors, especially where Green support is strongest.
Look at these results:
Conservative incumbent won last time with 43 per cent of the vote. The Liberal had 39 per cent. And the Green Party had 10 per cent. Ehring would urge, ''Greens should not run here at all!''
Those are the numbers from 2008 in Saanich-Gulf Islands.
2011 results in Saanich-Gulf Islands: I won with 46 per cent of the vote, Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn 35 per cent, NDP 12 per cent, Liberals 6 per cent. (Note in 2008, NDP candidate dropped out of the race.)Read more
Published in the Hill Times June 10, 2015
Years ago, when Maude Barlow and I were writing a book about the toxic contamination of the Sydney Tar Ponds on Cape Breton Island, I interviewed friends with whom I had been working for years. The tar ponds were the single largest toxic waste site in Canada. The local community was rich in its multi—cultural diversity and so too was the citizens’ movement for clean-up -- descendents of the original Acadian and Scottish settlers and the new recruits drawn to work at the mill in the early 1900s -- Ukrainian, Caribbean, and Polish. I also interviewed members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation who had been removed from their summer fishing camp, the mouth of a fertile creek and a productive fishing ground... a creek that was to become the tar ponds. Moved inland to a swampy back-water, the contaminated coking materials were used for building materials. Those interviews led me to my first sense of close encounters with the horrors of the residential school system.Read more
Published in Island Tides May 4, 2015
The tawdry affair of Mike Duffy -- once sought-after Canadian media celebrity; now disgraced former Senator facing criminal charges -- will drag on through our courts for the next few months.
The bare facts of the matter are clear: Stephen Harper appointed a man who famously did not live in Prince Edward Island as a senator for that province, ignoring the residency requirements of our Constitution and relying on the convenient excuse that Duffy had been born there. Harper repeated the offence, that same day, in appointing Pamela Wallin as a Senator for Saskatchewan. The attraction of a Senator Duffy and Senator Wallin lay in their crowd-pleasing, wallet-emptying allure to the Conservative Party.Read more