Good Sunday Morning,
“Whether you believe you can change the world, or you believe that you can’t… You are probably right.”
Last weekend's retreat was filled with hope and confidence that ordinary people can organize and mobilize to make our world a better place. Greens from all over this country want to inspire Canadians to participate in our democratic process and help bring integrity back to politics. To face the challenges of our time we need to be honest with ourselves and with each other. We need to walk away from power politics and embrace the reality that we are all in this together.
Rob Stewart, a renowned Canadian film maker, before he died last year, taught me the true magnitude of our climate threat through his film "Revolution." He said this: "This is our task. It's not about are you going to be a doctor, a lawyer, a secretary. It's about how are you going to change the world?"
On May 30th, the Sea of Life—Winner of the Cinema Verde Film Festival (2017) and of the EnviroFilm Festival (2017)— will be on the big screen. Written and directed by Toronto-based Julia Barnes, this film dives into some of the biggest threats to the oceans and searches for solutions. Oxygen supply for the planet is being disrupted by ocean acidification, and 40 percent of the plankton—that produce the oxygen that we depend on to live—are already gone…
Changes to the ocean are also taking a toll on marine life. Vancouver based journalist and screenwriter Mark Leiren-Young’s award-winning short film about the oldest-known Southern Resident killer whale, named Granny, will inspire you to protect orcas! The Hundred-Year-Old Whale shows footage of this majestic matriarch swimming in the waters of the Strait of Georgia. Watch both these fantastic films in Victoria on May 30th.
In the meantime, this short film excerpt of This Living Salish Sea brings it home: Some stuff really matters.
That's why one can only call it explosive reporting when the National Observer revealed its Trans Mountain files last week. But before we look at some excerpts, I want to draw your attention to the lack of coverage that this hard-hitting reporting has earned from mainstream media. They have dutifully stuck with the "talking points" crafted in the memos that the National Observer has uncovered. No doubt guided by new memos, they have moved on from the discussion about the pipeline and the damage it will cause to focusing on "obeying the law."
What is striking to me is the morality by convenience that shines through. By Trudeau's own public admission and by the continued, albeit feeble, effort to revamp the National Energy Board process, the current government admits that the process by which the NEB approved Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain project was flawed. But for political reasons and to protect the bottom line of a foreign multi-national, that flawed process is publicly presented as scientific and thorough, while all evidence points to the fact that it was neither.
Perhaps the core issue that Canadians need to consider is this. If someone is tried under a law that is later repealed, and with evidence that later proves to be fabricated, should that verdict be revisited. Our current government seems to stand firm: "Not if it hurts Kinder Morgan's bottom line." So they continue to work with industry and the media to whip up a frenzy around jurisdictional authority before the courts even get a chance to rule on the issue.
The thing is that governments make our laws. And people, not corporations, elect governments. There are countless examples throughout history of laws that have been repealed through democratic processes, often including organized protests and civil disobedience. The evidence is indeed compelling that the decision to approve Kinder Morgan was made in that Ottawa restaurant meeting we linked to in our GSM on corporate bullying published April 1st.
Now the Federal Court of Appeal is being asked to examine some “highly unusual” and "extremely alarming" circumstances surrounding the Trudeau government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline. While a lot of media coverage has focused on the political battle between two NDP provincial premiers, this emerging legal battle could have much deeper implications for the future of the project.
Public servants say that a high-ranking federal official instructed them to find a way to get the project approved as the government pursued its consultations with First Nations. This is significant because the government has a legal duty under Canada's Constitution to act in good faith and meaningfully consult First Nations about major decisions that affect their territory and their rights. Any evidence that they had made up their mind before they had actually consulted Indigenous people could undo the entire project approval.
According to government records, Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based energy company that operates the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, lobbied officials in the federal government more than three dozen times in 2016 before the expansion project was approved. This amazing piece by Mike De Souza provides the hard documentation in the form of memos and emails (with redacted sections of course) that track the effectiveness of those lobbying efforts and the resulting spin.
Why all this manipulation for a dying industry? Over a year ago there were reports of a "stunning drop in costs for solar and wind by the UN and Bloomberg New Energy Finance." And we have thoroughly documented the global shift of energy markets in these missives. But what we have not covered extensively is how the royalty and tax stream has dried up.
Drawing on data bases as diverse as Natural Resources Canada, DrillingInfo, BP Statistical Review of World Energy and provincial budgets, scientist David Hughes, one of the nation’s foremost energy experts, found the lucrative energy industry is putting less and less money into Canadian government coffers. This despite daily claims that its profits are paying for better schools and hospitals. Overall the statistical and fiscal evidence paints a picture of dramatic and sustained revenue shrinkage.
The report, peppered with graphs and sources, documents that royalty revenue from fossil fuels peaked in 2008 along with a large spike in oil and gas prices and has fallen ever since. Royalty revenue, usually a percentage of bitumen or gas production, has declined by 63 per cent since 2000, despite national oil production growth of 75 per cent and combined oil and gas production growth of 27 per cent.
“Canada’s non-renewable energy resources are clearly being sold off for ever-decreasing benefit,” Hughes is quoted in the article. While oil and gas production has doubled in Alberta since 1980 primarily due to expansions in the oil sands, revenue from royalties has plummeted from an 80 per cent share of government revenue in 1979 to an estimated 3.3 per cent in 2016.
I keep getting drawn into this subject because the blatant and pervasive misrepresentation of this issue simply can not be ignored. When multinationals persuade our governments and our national media outlet to do their best to pull the wool over our eyes, it's high time to mobilize the public and stand up for the truth.
The doublespeak around the Carbon tax is one example of how power politics skew our sense of fairness. The talking point about needing a national energy plan to support a weak carbon tax is simply morality by convenience. Justin Trudeau and Catherine McKenna have made it clear that while they would like the provinces to implement their own carbon tax. For those that fail to do so, they will impose a national tax and simply return all the revenue to the provinces. So why single out some provinces for appeasement and not others?
It's this kind of selective morality that is at the core of the public disdain for politics. And the sad part of it is that those most passionate about any issue can get sucked into that vortex. If my personal agenda (or financial gain) is supported by this shell game and double-speak, am I prepared to suspend my values for a while? Or do I seek a fair solution like the Carbon Fee and Dividend that Greens have been championing for some time.
Elizabeth spells it out in this debate on carbon pricing with Ed Fast and Eric Sorensen aired today. Fee and Dividend is like a tipping fee at the landfill. The polluter pays to dump their Co2 into the atmosphere. But unlike all the other schemes lumped together under carbon pricing, Fee and Dividend immediately returns ALL the money collected directly back to individual Canadians in the form of an annual per capita rebate cheque. It is then up to the individual to reduce their consumption of polluting products and pocket the savings.
It embraces conservative values because it trusts the citizens to decide how to spend the dividend. And it embraces progressive values in that it favours the less advantaged and lower income groups since they tend to spend less on polluting products and the dividend cheque will make up a larger portion of their income. And it favours small business because folks at the bottom of the income ladder tend to spend their money in the local economy. Although not yet live, Elizabeth will debate this issue on CTV’s Question Period today.
Nuclear power in Ontario is another example. Mainstream power politics justifies throwing good money after bad to extend the life of this extremely expensive, government subsidized, source of power for Ontario. Mike Schreiner is championing a cost effective alternative: Buy power for considerably less from Quebec Hydro. And then perhaps Ontario can start dealing with the long term consequences of nuclear waste. Elizabeth has sponsored this petition to do just that (closed for signatures May 11th).
Mike Schreiner is so not Doug Ford. Greens are often more conservative than Conservatives. We actually believe in conserving things. And we believe in conserving our principle, the basic Eco-systems that produce all wealth on this planet, and living off our hard work and the interest, the bounty of nature that our responsible stewardship can maintain for future generations. That's why Mike needs to be in the debates.
Finally, last week marked the 7th anniversary of our breakthrough election win – that day in 2011 when we proved to the country that the Green Party was serious and ready to start making history! Since then, we have elected six more greens to provincial legislatures. Today we are more committed than ever to ensuring Canada becomes the country Elizabeth inspires us to be – a country built on the mutual respect embedded in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a global champion on climate action and human rights, and a resilient, progressive, inclusive, and egalitarian society.
We have a long way to go, but with your help, together, as a community, as a family, we can do it.
Have a fabulous Sunday and keep sharing,
"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. And if you are on twitter please join in on this hashtag.
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