Good Sunday Morning,
"RESPONSIBILITY: We believe that long-term vision is important for a sustainable society at home and abroad. We believe that social, economic and environmental issues are interconnected and that society is strengthened when we take action on all three.
REASON: We believe in making decisions based on facts and evidence. We rely on legitimate research and expertise to make rational and informed decisions in order to provide Canadians with a responsible and responsive government that addresses their needs."
These are two of the five stated Values of the Liberal Party of Canada. Integrity is another. It states that "We act according to our values and principles. We believe that ethics should govern all that we do so that the highest standards of conduct are considered and reflected when we engage in responsible representation of Canadians." It is very hard to square these promises with Jim Carr's dogged determination to stand firm in support of Kinder Morgan.
On CBC's The House midweek podcast Rachel Notley had this to say about pipelines. "At the end of the day we take our cues from the proponent... ..we hope to see shovels in the ground this fall or early spring and my hope is that they get built by 2019, 2020." She stresses that Alberta's emissions cap makes the building of the pipeline "absolutely unrelated to emissions growth."
Why then was Trans Mountain approved without an environmental assessment that took into account the down stream increase in carbon emissions from the project? Perhaps because the decision to move forward should not be jeopardized by such pesky little problems as credible environmental assessments or legal challenges.
"We're in the timelines we were expecting." Premier Notley explains. "The federal government made the decision about this time last year, we knew there would be legal challenges, we knew it would take some time for them to be heard, we hope that the decisions will come down in the next month or two, and we think at that point we'll be through pretty much most of it and the work can go forward." She goes on to point out that under decades of conservative governments no pipeline was built. "I think we're closer than we ever have been and it's a result of a decision made by our government and the federal government."
Chris Hall wonders why Rachel is a solo act as she does her cross country tour and why no one from the federal cabinet is by her side. Well guess what, Jim Car is joining her in Vancouver this coming week to speak to the Board of Trade. Even as the case is still before the courts, Alberta's NDP government has joined Kinder Morgan to ask the NEB to force Burnaby to approve the permits. Notley talks about the jobs in Alberta while resting her arguments on a federal approval that refused to hear from UNIFOR, the largest union representing oilsands workers.
There is a Bitumen Royalties in Kind (BRIK) fund that was originally set up to help finance upgrading bitumen in Alberta and support operations like North West Refining. Now the fund is used to support and promote pipelines. I've written before about this technology which has been developed in Alberta to produce Bitumen Balls. These totally inert nodules of bitumen can be transported in rail cars, using existing infrastructure, without the the risk of spills. They offer an alternative to pipelines and the potential for more responsible jobs for Albertans.
The Trans Mountain project, which Rachel Notley and Jim Carr will promote in Vancouver, is expected to create 50 permanent jobs in B.C. and make a moderate contribution to the provincial tax base. On the other side of the ledger, an oil spill in Burrard Inlet would put at risk industries, including tourism, real estate and agriculture, that together employ over 200,000 people, according to Vancouver-based CRED (Conversations for Responsible Economic Development), a non-profit research and advocacy group.
Erik Heinrich writes in Maclean's that: "If a tanker were to have a spill in Burrard Inlet or Vancouver Harbour, the vessel owner would be the responsible party. With assistance from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds and Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund, that vessel owner would be expected to muster a maximum of $1.36 billion for a single spill, according to Kinder Morgan."
He contrasts that against the 6.3 billion (in 2017 dollars) it cost to clean up the Exxon Valdez. Since current tankers are more than twice the size and carry a cargo that sinks once the volatile diluent has vaporized, he suggests the cleanup could reach into the tens of billions of dollars. "In its disclosure of responsibility, Kinder Morgan makes no mention of carrying liability insurance of any kind to cover the cost of a major spill. The likely reason is that insurers are unwilling to provide adequate coverage. The result is a permanent mismatch between potential losses by pipeline operators such as Kinder Morgan and TransCanada, and the maximum protection they can obtain from insurance policies."
Under the Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses we continue wrap into our trade agreements like a "pig in a blanket," corporations are not only allowed to claim actual losses but also seek compensation against anticipated profits. Could we sue for lost potential if our coastlines and marine life are permanently damaged?
Even if Rachel Notley would commit Alberta to compensating BC businesses for lost opportunity in case of an oil spill, and even if Alberta would underwrite the complete cost of a cleanup including vacuuming bitumen off the bottom of the ocean where it is doomed to sink the minute the volatile diluent evaporates from this toxic brew, and even if there were a way to compensate our planet for triggering the extinction of Orcas in the Salish Sea, there would be no way of collecting on these promises. Governments change and corporations declare bankruptcy.
We've watched it unfold with Nortel, a respected company that existed for over 100 years and employed almost 95,000 people world wide before it dissolved. And even if corporations don't go bankrupt, we have seen "restructuring" of corporations where they simply shed massive liabilities to survive. I've done it with one of my small corporations and it's a common accounting procedure. Air Canada and General Motors come to mind. On top of that, once they leave the dock, tankers plying the Salish Sea are not the responsibility of the pipeline company anyway.
These ships mostly fly the Flag of Convenience meaning that they can escape the stringent safety regulations of countries like Canada. Liberia, Panama and the Marshal Islands account for the registration of almost 40% of the international shipping fleet. Flag of convenience registered ships have been involved with some of the highest profile oil spills including the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. Liability shields are routinely erected around these tankers as evidenced by the final result of the Exxon Valdez spill cleanup. Even though an Alaskan court ordered Exxon to pay $5billion in punitive damages in 1994, after 14 years of lawsuits and appeals the US supreme court ruled that Exxon only owed $507 million.
As you can see in this animation of tanker traffic in the Salish Sea one of the extreme danger spots for a tanker collision resulting in a spill is just in front of Turn Point on Stuart Island. My partner Laura and I have sat on the light-keeper's front porch (now a designated historical site) overlooking the Gulf Islands and we've sailed past this point many times in our sloop. There is a steady stream of container and bulk freight traffic around that point and with its strong tidal currents and 350 meter deep waters, it's a favourite hangout for our resident Orcas.
A spill here would devastate the Gulf Islands and crush the San Juans, jewels of the Pacific Northwest. Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington State knows this and is not afraid to speak out. After being critical of this infrastructure in the face of trying to meet the 1.5 degree target last week in Bonn, Inslee came to Victoria last Tuesday on an official visit with Premier John Horgan. The Seattle Post Intelligentsia reports that "The pipeline, a project of Houston-based Kinder Morgan, has support from the Canadian federal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Trudeau government has, in essence, asked British Columbia to "take one for the team" and accept the pipeline." But it points out that an oil spill in the Salish Sea would not respect international boundaries.
Asking BC to risk its future, its beauty, its biodiversity, its culture and its neighbourly relations, not to mention accepting a liability of massive proportions to the benefit of foreign multinationals, is a little rich. And being asked by an NDP premier who seems committed to exporting jobs through a pipeline in the form of a toxic mixture that can't be cleaned up, and calling it environmentally responsible and in the national interest, makes it even more absurd.
The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a political blunder. Not in that it hurt Trudeau in the polls since the approval apparently gave him a bump nationally, but in that it exposes a level of hypocrisy that allows the Liberals to suspend their own values for politically strategic agendas. No doubt these agendas are hotly debated inside the confidentiality of cabinet but indications are that the strategists are convincing ministers that power trumps integrity.
The 'deal' that Elizabeth has repeatedly warned us about was reported in the Globe and Mail again last week. "During a visit to Ottawa this week, Ms. Notley was blunt about the connection between greater export capacity for the oil industry and Canada's national climate strategy. Without efforts to ensure a healthy oil industry, Albertans will not support her climate strategy, and without Alberta, there is no national climate plan, she said. Indeed, Alberta agreed to increase its carbon tax to $50 a tonne by 2022 only after Ottawa approved the Kinder Morgan project. Mr. Kenney has urged the NDP government to freeze the tax at its current rate of $20 a tonne until it is clear the pipeline will be built."
So the deal is to create a national climate strategy that fails to meet the woefully inadequate climate targets set on Prime Minister Harper's watch. These weak Harper targets, which will blow us way past "1.5 to stay alive" and are now entrenched by the Trudeau Liberals, require BC to be sacrificed as collateral damage to offer one more subsidy to big oil. Only this time the subsidy is in the form of an incalculable liability transferred from the oil producers to the citizens of British Columbia and our future generations. All this while Mexico accepts a 1.77 cents per KW/hr solar installation bid, South Dakota might revoke Keystone permit after a 210,000 gallon oil spill and Siemens lays off 7,000 employees as gas turbine business lags.
It's that kind of destructive deal making that undermines our faith in democracy and by extension suppresses voter engagement. In sharp contrast we saw an example this week of what integrity looks like. Greens celebrated the success of our three MLAs. This is how you keep your election promises: The Bill to Ban Big Money, passed in the BC legislature this week and will now receive Royal Ascent. Adam Olsen led the file on that and here he is in a 30 minute interview about what it's like to be part of the first elected Green caucus in North America.
These three MLAs are changing the face of democracy in British Columbia. They are helping to ensure that Premier Notley's suggestion, that it would be ok for John Horgan to weaken his campaign commitment on Kinder Morgan, falls on deaf ears. No longer can it be said that Greens don't matter or that a Green vote is a wasted vote. Yes, they are tired from working incredibly long hours but they are committed to bringing integrity back to politics. "It's not about power, it's about responsibility."
It's a song that's familiar to us. Since returning from COP last Sunday Elizabeth hasn't missed a beat. She met with the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence collaborate initiative, at GLSLDays17 in Ottawa, co-chaired the first meeting of the All-Party Mental Health Caucus, joined the Canadian nurses at the #CNAonthehill reception, and supported the Mi'kamq water protectors fundraiser to stop Alton Gas. Elizabeth gave a talk entitled "Bad Laws and Good Intentions: How and Why Harper-era Policies Resist Reform" to the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, (no doubt a riveting talk but I could not find a video record) and went to PEI to support Hannah Bell in a provincial byelection. Returning to Ottawa she participated in a #womeninhouse panel of MPs and Senators to spotlight women in governance and then was joined by Daniel Green in Ottawa, celebrating the success of the Montreal Protocol at its 30th anniversary commemoration.
Elizabeth's Week In Review, reports among other things that this week in the House of Commons Elizabeth spoke about an amazing opportunity for Canada, poised as it is to taking the chairmanship of the G7. Justin Trudeau has said that three themes will emerge and one of them is climate. "However what is discouraging is the lack of progress since Paris and the lack of leadership. The world actually needs Canada to step up and show real leadership."
Greens offer that leadership and you can help. You can share some of the articles in these Good Sunday Morning missives with friends and family. Or you can email or tweet them to a cabinet minister to let them know you are paying attention. Don't let them rely strictly on their advisors who may find it easier and safer to perpetuate the status quo.
Write letters and encourage John Horgan to stand firm and protect our coast from this insane project. Let Catherine McKenna know that it's not making promises that proves our integrity. It's keeping them.
Standing by our principles and staying true to our values is what being Green is all about. So don't forget to join us at our Solstice Party in December to celebrate being Green. Elizabeth, Adam and Sonia will share stories of our collective determination to build a better tomorrow. Get your early bird tickets now.
Until next week, take good care of each other.
"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015
This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues.