An Open Letter to Premier Brad Wall Regarding Connaught School

As you are aware, dear Reader, the regina mom is not impressed with the Regina Public Schools Board of Education and their decision to tear down a 100 year-old school without benefit of a second opinion.  So, the regina mom, being who she is, sent a letter to the Premier and copied it far and wide.*

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Here’s the letter:

An Open Letter to Premier Brad Wall Regarding Connaught School March 16, 2013

Dear Premier Wall:

I understand that your government has received a request from the Regina Board of Education (RBE) to replace Connaught School. For a variety of reasons, I request that you deny it.

Before you is the opportunity to make a reckless decision or to invest in an integral piece of our history as a city and a province, as housed in that building. As a 25-year resident of the area I draw on my fundamental human right, as guaranteed by the United Nations, to insist you preserve the building. The real value of Connaught has not been properly assessed. The non-market aesthetic, cultural and other values of a refurbished school have not been properly accounted for. Furthermore, the environmental, social, and economic cost-benefit analysis of alternatives requested in public consultation meetings have not been addressed – in essence, the impacts of redevelopment on our community, our property values, our local businesses, our environment and other amenities such as the Connaught library have not been properly assessed nor communicated to local residents.

As well, the RBE’s renovation options as presented to the Ministry of Education appear to be over-costed and under-researched. Some RBE documents contain basic arithmetic errors in the thousands of dollars! A recommended investigation of the building’s structure was, to my knowledge, not completed, except for a basic visual assessment. In discussions with the Heritage community, I learned that the RBE made absolutely no effort to obtain the advice of experts in the assessment and repair of older buildings. Nor has an embodied energy study been conducted. Neither has the RBE requested comparable estimates, despite the Chair’s recent statement that the consultant’s report is a second opinion to her staff’s. In effect, the RBE has one estimate, provided by a company that specializes in new construction. Hard facts, then, do not underly the cost estimates.

RBE has done a less than impressive job of assessing redevelopment. The community consultation process was seriously flawed, conducted by a private firm that will likely bid on the new build. The recommendations in no way serve the school community, my Cathedral community, the residents of Regina or the people of Saskatchewan. The community input we gave through the consultation process has been disregarded and disparaged. This is in direct contravention of our community’s right to appropriate development strategies and equitable participation in decisions affecting heritage, as guaranteed under the ICOMOS Stockholm Charter, signed by Canada.

To demolish Connaught is to miss an exceptional opportunity to preserve our history. It is a cornerstone of the Cathedral Village and holds significant cultural and aesthetic value, a source of pride to past and current students, to residents and to all who pass by or enter its halls. That it be sent to the landfill is a disgrace and should be the absolute last resort of any administration!

I therefore support the demands, as articulated by the Save Our Connaught Committee which came into being on the March 3, 2013, that your government agree to the following:

  • An independent second opinion by experts in the field on the renovation versus new build option for Connaught School, based on thorough research, recommended studies and detailed unit costs. ‘Best guesses’ are a slap to the face of our joint cultural heritage.
  • A full and independent consideration of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of redevelopment options which includes proper consideration of the relative value of a new building versus a refurbished historic school must inform the decision.
  • The Ministry of Education and the Province of Saskatchewan must apply a more fiscally responsible, community-sensitive approach to school renovation in our community.
  • The Province must understand, acknowledge and take seriously its role as Steward of a nationally recognized historic school, on behalf of citizens of Saskatchewan and Canada.

I trust you will do the right thing. Thank you for your time and immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Bernadette L. Wagner

Regina SK

cc: Ms. Katherine Gagne, Chair, Regina Public Schools Board of Education

Honourable Kevin Doherty, Minister Responsible for Parks, Culture & Sport

Honourable Russ Marchuk, Minister Responsible for Education

Mr. Cam Broten, Leader of the Opposition

Mr. David Forbes, NDP critic for Education

Ms. Danielle Chartiere, NDP critic for Culture

Hon. John Nilson, MLA for Regina Lakeview

Save Our Connaught

Real Renewal

Regina Leader-Post

Prairie Dog Magazine

Metro News

CKTV

Global News

CBC-TV

CBC Radio

Radio Canada

Rawlco Radio

MBN Radio

Accidental Deliberations

Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff

.

* Email addresses should you care to follow suit:  citydesk@leaderpost.com, ckck@ctv.ca, globalnews.reg@globaltv.com, Jacob.Zehr@globalnews.ca, Jdedekker@leaderpost.com, direction@accesscomm.ca, mwood@rawlco.com, news@620ckrm.com, news@mbcradio.com, ponops@hotmail.com, regina@metronews.ca, saskboy@gmail.com, sasknews@cbc.ca, sheila.coles@cbc.ca, tjsask@radio-canada.ca, kdoherty@mla.legassembly.sk.ca, rmarchuk@mla.legassembly.sk.ca, cbroten.mla@sasktel.net, dforbesmla@sasktel.net, saskatoonriversdale@ndpcaucus.sk.ca, gagne@accesscomm.ca, saveourconnaught@gmail.com, realrenewal@gmail.com,<j.nilson.mla@sasktel.net>, greg@gregfingas.com, <carlabeck@sasktel.net>

Save the date! #SWF13

the regina mom is so very excited! As you regulars are aware, she attended the Women’s Forum des Femmes in Ottawa in October and had a fantastic time.  So, she brought the idea home and is happy to invite you to save the date!

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Saskatchewan Women’s Forum 2013

 

If you are interested in women’s rights, in connecting with individuals and organizations who have been working on women’s issues recently and through the decades, and in spending a weekend learning, having fun, and moving a women’s agenda forward in our province, then:

 

Please set aside Friday, January 18 (evening) and Saturday, January 19, 2013!

 

We are a coalition of women and organizations who have come together to plan a Saskatchewan Women’s Forum taking place at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon. For too long, we have been having conversations in isolation from each other about the current context that women and women’s organizations find themselves in. So we are creating this opportunity to collectively develop how we can move forward on the issues that we care about.

 

We are currently finalizing our program, which will be centered on women’s stories and respectful of intergenerational, intercultural and diverse experiences. If you are interested in attending, please respond back to us (at michelle.beveridge@oxfam.ca, 306.242.4097)) and we will ensure you receive the program and registration package by mid-December.

 

In the meantime, please save the date! And get in touch with us if you would like to be part of the planning, to volunteer at the forum in any number of capacities, or have other ideas for us.

 

Registration is $50/person. (Please let us know if you are in a situation where you would only be able to attend with a reduced rate, or conversely, if you are able and willing to donate  money to assist in covering a portion of registration for others.)

 

Sincerely,

Michelle Beveridge and Katelyn Jones, Oxfam Canada, Saskatoon

Sue Delanoy, Elizabeth Fry Society, Saskatoon

Diane Fletcher, Vadis Group, Saskatoon

Lori Hanson, U of S, Community Health and Epidemiology, Saskatoon

Laura Hopkins, Saskatoon Women’s Community Coalition

Lori Johb, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Regina

Audra Krueger, U of S, Centre for the Study of Co-ops, Saskatoon

Darla Leard, Canadian Labour Congress, Saskatoon

Barb Macpherson, YWCA Saskatoon

Adriane Paavo, Prairie Lily Feminist Society, Regina

Priscilla Settee, U of S, Native Studies, Saskatoon

Lenore Swystun and Samantha Mark, Prairie Wild Consulting, Saskatoon

Laura Westman, Saskatoon

Bernadette Wagner, Regina

 

“Fifty Shades of Green”

Earlier this week the regina mom and her friend, Cherie Westmoreland, had a conversation about the prairie grasslands in anticipation of tonight’s talk, Grasslands in Peril, by Candace Savage*.  Cherie said that for her, the grasslands are “a quantity of grief that’s difficult to hold.”  And tonight, after having spent almost two hours listening to Candace’s presentation, “Fifty Shades of Green,” the regina mom has a deeper understanding of that grief.

Candace opened her lecture with a reference to her friend, Lille, who lives on a First Nations reserve south of Maple Creek.  Lille once told her that in order to get to know someone you ought to ask, “Who is your grandmother?” and “Who is your grandfather?”

When we talk about land on the prairies we are talking about the people… When we talk about people on the prairies we are talking about the land… The prairie land and people are part of the same thing.

Candace then offered us stories about her grandparents and the lands they “settled,” some of which, she said, should never have been turned. She cited Vernon Fowke and his assessment of the Dominion Lands Act, that being “a colossal failure of public policy.”

From there, she launched into details about the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), established in 1935, in the midst of the Dirty Thirties, and given five years to address emergency water issues.  In 1937, the Act which established PFRA was amended to allow for the permanent management of lands.  The community pastures program, 85 federal pastures consisting of 2.3 million acres of lands  were set up across the prairie provinces as means to arrest soil drifting on the prairies.

Of these pastures, or public ranches, 60 exist in Saskatchewan.  That’s 1.8 million acres, 2,800 sections of land, an area larger than Prince Edward Island.  The vast majority of this land is ancient land which has never been tilled. It comprises part of the less than 20% of the original grasslands that once existed in North America.

The community pastures were established for management of local economies, i.e. to assist farmers and communities, as well as for conservation management, “to manage a productive, biodiverse rangeland.” The practices in the pastures are state-of-the-art and include considerations for “all the creatures that make a living prairie.”  But with the federal government pulling out its commitment, the living laboratories may be lost.  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has said that the job of PFRA is done, the community pastures have achieved their goal.

Candace Savage disagrees. She noted that for an eight million dollar investment the pasture program created $58 million in benefits to local rural communities, “a darn good deal.”  She also noted that despite all the community pasture program has achieved, the prairie ecosystem is dying all around us — plants, animals and birds special to our piece of the northern grasslands are dying off.  31 endangered and threatened species live on the community pastures.

Citing a national report, The State of Canada’s Birds, which draws on 40 years of research, Candace said that no one knows why these insectivore birds are dying off.  It could be because of climate change or the loss of grassland habitat.  She spoke of the whooping cranes that used to nest at Shallow Lake, near Luseland in RM 351 and RM 350, in what is now a community pasture.  The community wants to bring the cranes back but if the land is sold, “the whooping crane will not be re-introduced to the Luseland/Kerrobert area.”  The community needs the expertise of PFRA to do it.

Candace also noted some positive developments since the federal government’s announcement.  Communities of interest are coming together.  Protect the Prairie began a petition campaign which more than 8,500 individuals from Saskatchewan and beyond have signed. The provincial government has vowed to place conservation easements on the pastures if they are sold. A ranchers/stewards alliance has formed to create a new management team for the pastures in southwestern Saskatchewan.  The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) passed a resolution calling on the province to “retain ownership” of the pasture lands.

Still, it all seems too little to hold the grief.  As Candace concluded, “There is wonderful life all around us, and we are its last best hope.” the regina mom hopes we are up to the task.

Tomorrow, communities of interest are gathering at the Orr Centre, 4400 4th Ave in Regina from 8:30 to 4:30 pm to assess the situation and develop a plan of action. The event will be recorded and placed online. the regina mom will provide that link when it is available.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations also released an excellent backgrounder on the community pasture lands.

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Candace Savage is the best-selling author of Prairie: A Natural History and  the 2012 recipient of the Hilary Weston Writers Trust Prize for Nonfiction for her latest book, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory in a Prairie Landscape.

With thanks to John Klein for his live-tweeting of the event which helped trm with this post.

Women have always been workers

The following piece appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine. Sadly, the situation for women and unpaid work has become worse, not better. Right wing governments in Saskatchewan and Canada continue to dump unpaid work on communities and families and women in an attempt to rationalize cuts on social spending.

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Women’s” Work: Unnoticed, Unrecognized, Unpaid

A discussion about labour is incomplete without some acknowledgment of the unpaid work performed by women. The traditional work women do, the three Cs – cooking, cleaning, caring – continue to be largely ignored thanks to long-standing sexist definitions of work. It’s almost as though the work women do to keep families healthy and functional, to move the economy through its cycles, and to make the world a somewhat caring and nurturing place really doesn’t matter. Capital, after more than three centuries of greed continues to pressure governments to create conditions for increased profitmaking, conditions which do not benefit women and which increase women’s unpaid work. Even the small gains of recent years are under constant attack by both capital and governments. Women’s groups know that if women are to reach a point of equality with men in this country, or anywhere in the world for that matter, then women’s unpaid work must be honoured in very real ways. Women carry on.

Defining Work

Societal definitions of paid work are based on sexist definitions established centuries ago. When our monetary system developed women were chattel; the work women performed preparing meals, cleaning homes, and raising children was not remunerated. As a result, it was excluded from economic records and, as the economic system developed, their work continued — and continues — to be excluded.

The economic value of the unpaid work women do is huge and must be acknowledged. According to Manitoba’s United Nations Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC) Canadian women’s unpaid work is an amount equivalent to as much as 41% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product. The time women spend doing voluntary/community labour and household labour in Canada, according to a pilot study in Nova Scotia, is the equivalent of 571,000 full-year, full-time jobs. Even Statistics Canada (StatsCan) suggests a number anywhere from $234 to $374 billion worth of unpaid work is performed by women each year. Globally, the amount skyrockets to 11 trillion dollars, just a fraction more than what we know the US has spent on its illegal invasion of Iraq.

Decades of research and lobbying by women’s equality-seeking groups and others has had minimal impact. Governments are loathe to address the issue. Only recently did StatsCan begin gathering information about women’s unpaid work and that gathering is not thorough. The research documents only three areas of unpaid work: housework, childcare, and senior care. The time women spend building their communities — serving meals at a fowl supper, serving as a board member at the childcare centre, or volunteering at the women’s shelter — is not included in the numbers. Still, all is not lost. Researchers have developed ways to use the data that is gathered to make points about what is not. The gaps and absenses have proven useful in critiquing policy and for envisioning new policies.

Global Capital at Work

It is global capital that benefits from women’s unpaid work. As capital seeks increased profits, governments increasingly bend to the corporate lobby, adhering to neo-liberal and neo-conservative economic policies, downsizing or privatizing programs that seek to re-dress imbalances. Women bear the brunt of this greed.

Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government, when it took power in BC, almost immediately dismantled one of the most progressive elements of the its provincial government, the Women’s Department. What little remained of it was rolled into the Community Services Department. In effect, all funding to all of B.C.’s women’s shelters ceased and the amount unpaid work by women as well as the incidents of poverty among women increased.

In Saskatchewan, Calvert’s NDP government almost annihilated the Women’s Secretariat in its purge of policy analysts a few years ago. An immediate public outcry from Saskatchewan women forced the creation of a Status of Women Office (SWO). It was placed within the Department of Labour which, according to the Assistant Deputy Minister at the time, was “completely unable to absorb” it. The strategy moved many feminist researchers and analysts out of policy areas and, in some cases, out of government completely which could be part of a ploy to remove the last of Keynesian analysis from the bureaucracy. Indeed, in January 2007 the Saskatchewan government received great praise and front page headlines courtesy the Fraser Institute for completely reversing 50 years of economic policy. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that programs to enhance the lives of women in Saskatchewan ended or that the province’s child poverty rate is among the highest in the country.

Similarly, Status of Women Canada (SWC), recently attacked by the New Conservative Government of Canada impacts women’s unpaid work. The job cuts, funding restrictions, and removal of the word equality from funding guidelines will mean that research work formerly conducted by paid staff within SWC and within SWC-funded organizations will either not be conducted or will be done by volunteers. Without the research and lobbying the door is open for global capital to gain more ground.

It’s as though governments of the day believe that cutting funding and support makes the need for the service nonexistent. But smaller communities of people – women – fill the gaps..

A Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) report about the privatization of public services urges that women “not be made to bear the greatest costs of declining labour market conditions — less unionization, lower wages, fewer benefits, weaker workplace rights, more precarious employment, uncertain work hours.” Women should not be forced to take on more unpaid work when public services erode and men must “take more responsibility in the home.” This would have the effect of allowing women to “become more engaged in community organizing and political action in order to lobby for more and better public services.” Trade unions could play an important role alongside women’s and social justice groups in “building broad community-based coalitions” in opposition to privatization and in actively promoting “the improvement of public services in order to promote greater social and economic equality.”

The obvious economic impact on women – the continued cycle of poverty – is compounded by psycho-social implications on women and their children which result in chronic illness, early death, poor children, poor school performance. That means higher societal costs for healthcare. The National Crime Prevention Council of Canada suggests that poor school performance is the “best and most stable predictor of adult involvement in criminal activity.” And that means higher educational and criminal justice costs.

Women’s Response

All the attacks on women’s lives and the double-duty days haven’t stopped women from organizing for change. Over the past decade or more, women’s response has been building locally and globally. Organizations such as UNPAC, the Feminist Alliance For International Action (FAFIA) and the Global Women’s Strike (GWS) have come into being to demand accountability from the governments on the commitments made to women under international human rights treaties and agreements, including the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The World Women’s March in 2000 brought forth The Feminist Dozen, 13 items that the federal government must address to reduce women’s poverty in this country.

The World Women’s March Feminist Dozen

Women in Canada Call on the Federal Government to:

  1. Restore federal funding to health care and enforce the rules against the privatization of our health care system, beginning with Alberta.
  2. Spend an additional 1% of the budget on social housing.
  3. Set up the promised national child-care fund, starting with an immediate contribution of $2 billion.
  4. Increase Old Age Security payments to provide older women with a decent standard of living.
  5. Use the surplus from the Employment Insurance Fund to increase benefits, provide longer payment periods and improve access, as well as improve maternity and family benefits.
  6. Support women’s organizing for equality and democracy by:
    • allocating $50 million to front-line, independent, feminist, women-controlled groups committed to ending violence against women, such as women’s centres, rape crisis centres and women’s shelters;
    • recognizing and funding the three autonomous national Aboriginal women’s organisations to ensure full participation in all significant public policy decisions as well as providing adequate funding to Aboriginal women’s services, including shelters, in all rural, remote and urban Aboriginal communities;
    • funding a national meeting of lesbians to discuss and prioritise areas for legislative and public policy reform;
    • providing $30 million in core funding for equality-seeking women’s organizations, which represents only $2.00 for every woman and girl child in Canada – our Fair Share
  7. Fund consultations with a wide range of women’s equality-seeking organizations prior to all legislative reform of relevance to women’s security and equality rights, beginning with the Criminal Code and ensure access for women from marginalized communities.
  8. Implement a progressive immigration reform to provide domestic workers with full immigration status on arrival, abolish the “head tax” on all immigrants and include persecution on the basis of gender and sexual orientation as grounds for claiming refugee status.
  9. Contribute to the elimination of poverty around the world by supporting the cancellation of the debts of the 53 poorest countries and increasing Canada’s international development aid to 0.7% of the Gross National Product
  10. Adopt national standards which guarantee the right to welfare for everyone in need and ban workfare.
  11. Recognize the ongoing exclusion of women with disabilities from economic, political and social life and take the essential first step of ensuring and funding full access for women with disabilities to all consultations on issues of relevance to women.
  12. Establish a national system of grants based on need, not merit, to enable access to post-secondary education and reduce student debt.
  13. Adopt proactive pay equity legislation.

 

To date, not one of the recommendations has been fully implemented.

GWS is an organization of women from more than 60 countries, working to improve conditions for women, worldwide. Their first stated demand is “Payment for all caring work – in wages, pensions, land & other resources. What is more valuable than raising children & caring for others? Invest in life & welfare, not military budgets or prisons.”

Nearly 1.2 billion hours of women’s time each year is spent on fundamental work that goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and undervalued, thanks to archaic definitions of paid work. Public programs and services that seek to redress imbalances are under constant attack by global capital. Programs that support necessary public services for women and children are dismantled, never to appear again, or reappear as watered-down versions of what they once were. Women work harder and suffer greater hardships as a result. Still, women carry on with their work and with resisting oppression. Only constant and continued pressure from all sectors of society will ensure equity is reached.

Monday Night Movies: Pipeline Edition

With the Superbowl over and done with and football fans looking for something to watch the regina mom thought she’d share some great short vids for your viewing pleasure .

The first is actually a series of clips from the documentary, On the Line, an award-winning film that shows what, exactly, is on the line with the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. (These are not embedded here, but rather linked out to their site.)

In the summer of 2010, filmmaker Frank Wolf and his friend Todd McGowan biked, hiked, rafted and kayaked the GPS track of the pipeline in order to uncover the truth about the proposal. Through the voices of people they meet along the way, their rough and tumble journey reveals the severe risks and consequences associated with this 5.5 billion dollar mega-project.

The scheduled screenings are listed on their website as is contact info for broadcast and distribution.  [With gratitude to 350 or bust for the heads’ up!]  Here’s hoping that trm hasn’t missed the Regina run.

Next up is also an outside link, this time to a hilarious “public service announcement” from Natural Resources Minister Joe (McCarthy) Oilver, courtesy of Dan Murphy, the editorial cartoonist at The Province newspaper. [With gratitude to the Twitterverse.]

Finally, Rethink Alberta, (below) a shorty edited to contrast what is with what’s happening in Alberta. [trm hasn’t a clue how she found it!]

 

Pop some popcorn and enjoy!

Protests, Facts & Bedfellows: Northern Gateway Pipeline Actions, Science & Money

They expected 2,000 to attend and, according to police reports, 2,000 people demonstrated their opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and shut down the main street of the small northern city of Prince Rupert, BC.  When 15% of the 13,000 who live in any city are marching on the street, it’s significant.  Also significant is that CBC reported only 600.  The lesson?  Never trust the media to count your crowd.

CBC also reported that First Nations’ leaders are worried about their relationship with Ottawa as a result of their opposition to the pipeline.

Dallas Smith, the president of the Nanwakolas Council, said that even though he is not from the territory that will be directly affected by the pipeline, he’s been working in support of the concerns of his fellow First Nations.

“I think the opposition is based on the risk,” Smith said. “But there’s more at hand, there’s a relationship that needs to be built with the federal government right now and this is going to be really tricky to manoeuvre around, making sure that the whole relationship doesn’t get caught up in this issue.”

“We’re really concerned… about the ripple effect of this project and what it’s going to do to our already non-existent relationship with the federal government,” Smith said, later clarifying that the relationship is not really “non-existent” but is definitely “not as genuine” as the First Nations relationship with the B.C. government. [Video link here.]

How could anyone possibly have a “genuine” relationship with the HarperCon government, especially when said government hides Environment Canada documents about the impact of the tarsands on local communities, economies and environments until it suits them?

The latest document singles out the oilsands sector as the main obstacle in Canada’s efforts to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere and cause climate change.

“The oilsands are Canada’s fastest growing source of GHGs,” said the document.

It estimated that the industry’s annual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by nearly 900 per cent from 1990 to 2020. By the end of that period, the oilsands — with an estimated annual footprint of 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2020 — would exceed the carbon footprint of all cars and SUVs on Canadian roads from 2008, according to the Environment Canada document.

There is no doubt in the regina mom‘s mind that this is why 60 scientists at Environment Canada were fired by the HarperCon government last month.  Harperites don’t need pesky facts getting in the way of their agenda!

Sixty scientists with Environment Canada received notice that their jobs are “surplus” as of Jan. 11, confirming Minister Peter Kent’s announcement last August that 776 department positions would meet the chopping block due to the Conservative government’s belt-tightening.
Though the department is under “strict orders” not to reveal what work the surplus scientists are doing, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) – the union representing them – said the 60 employees include “senior engineers, environmental compliance officers, biologists, climatologists and others” responsible for reporting on pollution, monitoring water quality and climate research.

We can be certain that those currently running the government of Canada would rather not believe the facts when it comes to climate change.  They’d much rather believe the pseudo-science of paid deniers over the real science of professional scientists.   And they’ll cherry-pick data on an as-needed basis, thank you very much. Things like this graph, clearly showing the upward curve of global temperature changes over the past 130 years, just don’t work with their plan to expand the tarsands.

graph of 130 years of global climate change

Pressure from those radical environmental groups with their radical agendas – you know the type — those using fact-based research now seem to have forced the hand of evangeliCons and their buddies in the big-ass oil industry.  The HarperCons have announced, for the second time in as many years, that they are going to monitor the effects of the tarsands.  At least, it appears that they will.  As trm mentioned last week, Halifax MP Megan Leslie dismissed it as a PR stunt.

“The announcement was a public relations stunt,” says Leslie. “The Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel said any monitoring that’s done has to be arm’s-length; it has to be separate from government and we heard the environment minister say today it’s still going to be government run.”

But that Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel consisted of independent experts in the field — you know, real scientists.  So, a government-run monitoring system would be better for the HarperCons.  It would easily allow for the aforementioned cherry-picking. And it’s what the industry likes, too!  trm supposes it’s in their best interests to like it, given the $1 billion in tax cuts, subsidies and incentives it receives from government. [Note 1:  This links to a large PDF; See p. 18 for the detailed list.  Note 2: The data is based on 2002 numbers; it’s unlikely subsidies et al have decreased during the tenures of oil-friendly governments of the intervening decade.]

And so, as the HarperCon Prime Minister heads to China to visit with his old buddy David Emerson who’s there working our more ways to sell-out our country to the China Investment Corporation and Sinopec and who knows who else, the PM would certainly like to believe he’s quelled the voices of the so-called radicals.  trm has kept quiet for a couple of days, yes, but she’s no where near finished with making noise about Canada’s dirty oil!

Oh, Those ‘Radicals’!

Today the HarperCons stepped into the cesspool polluted waters tarsands issue to announce a water monitoring project which will take 3 years and $50 million to fully implement.  the regina mom agrees with Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie; this is a PR stunt.  And, trm shares Edmonton MP Linda Duncan’s concerns that First Nations’ communities were not adequately consulted and that many more tarsands projects could be approved before this monitoring begins. trm considers this announcement to be a reflection of the great work the ecojustice community “radical groups” are doing to educate citizens on the issues.  Well done, radicals!

One radical, Andrew Nikiforuk, declared a political emergency regarding the tarsands years ago.  His latest piece at The Tyee cites a “detailed analysis” submitted to the National Energy Board by Robyn Allan who is the former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  Ms Allan’s report “concludes that “Northern Gateway is neither needed nor is in the public interest.

“I assumed that it would be a wealth generating project,” the 56-year-old retired investment and financial affairs economist told the Tyee. “But when I started digging none of those assumptions held. The project is an inflationary price shock to the economy.”

Allan, once rated by the National Post as one of Canada’s top 200 CEOs, says she started to study the economic case for the project after a query by her son. That was when she discovered that Enbridge’s economic benefit models were based on “misleading information, faulty methodology, numerous errors and presentation bias.”

trm‘s readers can download Allan’s full report, “An Economic Assessment of Northern Gateway” at the Alberta Federation of Labour’s website. Note that, according to Nikiforuk, “Allan’s report supports the findings of Dave Hughes, a retired senior analyst with Natural Resources Canada. He described the pipeline as a risk to Canada’s economic and energy security” a report to which trm has previously linked.

Further commentary comes from the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada which also says that the Gateway pipeline is unsustainable, based on a report they commissioned from Informetrica Inc.

The brief points out that two major refinery closures in Ontario and Quebec have created even more of a dependency on foreign suppliers for refined petroleum products: gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil.

“Canadians should also be alarmed that, while Canada exports most of its bitumen to foreign sources, Atlantic Canada and Quebec import 90% of their oil, and Ontario imports 30%,” says Coles.

“Without access to the increased supply of Western Canadian crude, Eastern Canada has suffered a loss of refining capacity, a loss of jobs and gasoline supply problems. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers where thrown out of high-skill, well paying jobs and many additional direct and indirect jobs have been lost.

The primary CEP document is here.

Andrew Frank, the former ForestEthics employee fired for his whistleblowing and about whom trm has previously reported, now suggests a “middle way” to avoid the polarization the Gateway debate has created. Though his suggestions are valid, trm has concerns that they are premised on the continued operation of the tarsands.  trm does not necessarily agree that they must continue.  Still, she also wants to encourage dialogue among Canadians and so, presents his points in abbreviated form:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built.
  2. Regulation needs to catch up with production.
  3. Oil sands production should match a rate that climate change scientists say is safe.
  4. Slowdown production to extract the maximum value and develop a royalties system that will look after Canadians long after the oil sands are gone.

Related to the Frank matter was the Notice of Motion filed by Ecojustice on behalf of four so-called radical groups. If you recall, dear Reader, it was the prelude to the HarperCons’ knickers-in-a-knot InfoAlert last Friday. Earlier this week, Ecojustice reported that their motion was denied, but welcomed the “declaration of independence” from the Joint Review Panel. They go on to say that,

Given the impact the proposed pipeline would have on our country, Ecojustice and our clients believe it’s absolutely critical that this review process remain objective, representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness. This isn’t just an ethical issue — it’s about the legal principles of due process.

In its response, the Panel is making a promise to all Canadians to evaluate the Northern Gateway project based on evidence provided by all sides of the issue. This includes evidence that the pipeline and the risk of an oil spill it brings could irreversibly damage our forests and coasts — and all the species that depend on them.

An oil spill wouldn’t just devastate the environment. Our coastal economies like fishing and ecotourism are at risk, too. Is that a fair trade-off for short-term jobs?

Furthermore, the devastation of that environment would also devastate First Nations who have lived on the coast for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Still, Enbridge says it has agreements with 20 First Nations communities.  But Enbridge has not produced names or evidence to that effect.  First Nations spokespeople suggest Enbridge is stretching the truth, or worse, lying.  They accuse Enbridge of a lack of due diligence.

The theme of lack of due diligence and/or misrepresentation by Enbridge recurs among members of northern First Nations when speaking about Enbridge. Members the Haisla, the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en and the Haida gave no credence to Stanway’s claim that “more than 20 groups who in recent weeks have fully executed and endorsed equity participation agreements deals with Enbridge.”

As trm suggested earlier this week, Enbridge doesn’t necessarily tell the truth, but she’ll let you, dear Reader, be the judge.

Finally, an item for which trm is sure to be lambasted by a certain regular reader.  Amnesty International has released an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him “to take a strong stand for human rights in China” during his visit there.  As trm has stated numerous times over the years, Canada should not be trading with any nation whose human rights record is so very sketchy.  And, Canada should also be cleaning up in her own back yard!

Opposing the Enbridge Pipeline: Saying No to Corptocracy

According to the Earth Policy Institute direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry world-wide amount to half a trillion dollars ($500,000,000,000) annually.  That’s a lot of zeroes for an industry that is killing people, plants, animals and whole ecosystems. That’s more than $1.4 billion per day impacting the climate.  Fortunately, Canada is not in the top 10, not even the top 25 of the countries most generous to the fossil fuel industry.  But given the Davos outing of the real HarperCon corptocratic agenda to “remake Canadathe regina mom shall be ever-vigilant.

If Americans are asking what has happened to their northern neighbour, it’s a sign.  Chris Hedges, in an Op-Ed published at Truthdig, asks outright, “What has happened to Canada?”  He goes on to answer:

I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.

The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

And the new Canada Inc. will stop at nothing to get what it wants.  The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal is a case in point.  Citing the economy as the reason for the vast devastation which will occur if the pipeline is allowed to proceed, Enbridge has charged ahead.  Geoff Dembicki offers up a detailed explanation of just what Enbridge has done in B.C. as it tried to gain the support of First Nations and small communities.  The Haisla Peoples do not believe they have been consulted, as is required.  Enbridge has walked all over them and not heard their views, despite promising — twice — to listen.

With the government of Canada’s charge forward on the Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the Enbridge pipeline proposal despite the concerns and reservations of the Haisla People came a sense of distrust.  There is now real concern that the HarperCon government will inappropriately use the Aboriginal Consultation Framework piece of the JRP as its “duty to consult” regarding development on unceded lands. First Nations leaders are not, however, standing idly by.

Blogger 350 or bust has reprinted, with permission, an open letter to Harper and Oliver by a former Chief Councillor of the Haisla People, Gerald Amos.  He says,

Now we face Enbridge and their proposal to bring dirty oil from the tarsands through our territory via a pipeline, and ship it through our waters via super tankers.

This is the largest and most insidious threat to our culture that has ever existed, with the possible exception of the Canadian governments violent imposition of the residential school system.

trm doesn’t see these folks backing down.

 

The same goes for the Dene people.  Saik’uz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas said, “We will be the wall that Enbridge cannot break through.” This came after signing the Save the Fraser Declaration, “a formal legal declaration that protects the world’s most critical salmon rivers, and the Pacific North Coast, from the threat of oil spills posed by the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline and supertankers.”

 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said that First Nations have a right to say no to pipeline development on their territories, based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is not a signatory.  It would ensure Canada’s First Nations “right to free, prior and informed consent” in all matters, be they political, social or economic.

 

Given that Canada has not signed onto that Declaration, the regina mom will not hold forth much hope that the HarperCons will keep to their word.  And, like Chief Thomas, she is prepared to lay her body down in front of the bulldozers to stop this insanity, should need be.

 

Catching Up on Pipeline News and Actions

the regina mom has many links open in her browser window right now so this post could get long.  Each relates to the Northern Gateway pipeline.  The story, obviously, has legs and is running hard.  There’s this bit about the HarperCons determining that there are two types in Canada, those who are allies and those who are threats.  CBC covers the story, as well, going more in depth about the HarperCon strategy to make the tarsands look good to Europeans:

The strategy plan contains a chart where it lists its targets, influencers, allies and adversaries. First Nations are characterized as influencers, along with energy companies, academics and think tanks, and media and government.

Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs and the Privy Council Office, CAPP, and energy industry associations are all listed as allies while European NGOs, media and competing industries are listed as “adversaries.”

Environmental NGOs and aboriginal groups are identified as Canadian adversaries.

The documents released by Greenpeace are reproduced here.

It appears the HarperCons have decided that some organizations are threats.  In an Affadavit, former ForestEthics employee Andrew Frank describes what he learned about the Prime Minister’s Office threat to cut funding for their funder, Tides Canada, because of ForestEthic’s work around the proposed pipeline project. The co-founder of ForestEthics has corroborated Frank’s story and a campaign to get to the truth of the matter, Canadians Want the Truth, and We’re Going To Get It,  has begun on the popular “Causes” site. Please join it.

The revelation by Frank is simply confirmation that Harper’s bullying tactics continue.  As this Globe & Mail headline says, the “Environmentalist’s departure sheds light on tension felt by green groups.”

The departure of Mr. Frank reflects the fear that has been created among environmental groups nervous about federal scrutiny of their practices.

One of the groups that has received the most attention is Tides Canada, a wide-reaching foundation that supports nearly 40 organizations, including ForestEthics, an environmental organization with roots in the mid-1990s fight against clear-cut logging.

John Bennet, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada, says it’s “a scary time for Canadian democracy

Bennett says it calls Canada’s whole history of public debate into question—before now, he says citizens could expect the government to listen to the opposing views on a subject before making a decision.

“Instead, what we have is a government that makes ideological decisions and then goes out and attempts to stifle public debate. So this is a scary time for Canadian democracy,” said Bennett.

His fear is that the HarperCons are trying to create a justification for shutting down the National Energy Board hearings and ram through the pipeline.  It’s a realistic concern.

Carol Linnit at deSmog blog concurs:

But the hearings are built to fail. The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal body tasked with overseeing the Enbridge hearing, issued a general directive one year ago designed to exclude input from prominent environmental groups critical of the astonishingly rapid expansion of the tar sands – an expansion that only stands to increase with the proposed pipeline.

According to the NEB, information regarding the cumulative environmental impacts of the tar sands – including climate change impacts – is irrelevant to the hearing, which is intended to consider information regarding the pipeline alone.

And that’s just plain stupid!  The tarsands are directly tied to the pipeline project.  The Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal wouldn’t exist otherwise.  Even Enbridge says so!  Oh, go read the deSmog blog post in its entirety!

The economics of the project is also under question because it not only jeopardizes the environment with continued tarsands expansion but also the future of Canada’s energy security.  (trm previously made mention of the report, The Northern Gateway Pipeline: An Affront to the Public Interest and Long Term Energy Security of Canadians by David Hughes.) It is worth looking at this piece, too.

Hughes argues that such unprecedented growth is impossible given the enormous social and environmental impacts already evident from a decade of oilsands expansion.

In the event that such a high rate of expansion is achieved, it will mean that Canada will export billions of barrels of it highest quality bitumen to Asia at a time when we are running out of conventional oil, he says in his report on the pipeline.

Huge tankers filled with bitumen, an extremely corrosive substance will navigate a dangerous body of water, the Hecate Strait.  Hecate was the goddess of the underworld, of death, and the strait is named for her.  Do you think it might be named that for a reason?  So, the tankers issue is a big one for those along the BC coastline, and it should be for us all.  One spill and pfft!  We will a mess that will never be entirely cleaned up.  Take a look at this.  Then go here and sign the petition.  As many have already stated, a spill is a mathematical certainty.   Read this.

1. A rupture of the Enbridge is inevitable. We must stop calling these ruptures “risks” — they are mathematical certainties. The consequences will be calamitous.

2. A tanker catastrophe is also a certainty and the consequences unthinkable.

3. There is no way these “accidents” can be effectively managed.

And the economics of expanding the tarsands just don’t make sense when the real costs of carbon expansion are added in.  How can we ignore the environmental costs when we know a spill will happen, when mathematics tells us one will happen?  And then there’s the carbon costs, to boot!

The proposed Enbridge pipeline across B.C. would open the door for more than a billion additional tonnes of carbon to be pulled out of the tar sands and vaporized into our climate system. Whether this carbon is vaporized from a pipeline accident […] or when burned later in China, the resulting climate pollution would be the same.

Estimates of the economic damages caused by this climate pollution range from tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Every tonne of CO2 that humans spill into the atmosphere further destabilizes our climate and acidifies our oceans. These changes cost human society, both now and into the future. Economists call the economic damages from these changes the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC).

A recent survey published by the Canadian think tank Sustainable Prosperity looked at over two hundred estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon by economists worldwide. The middle third of estimates ranged from $6 to $27 in economic damages per tonne of CO2. The mathematical mean was $42 per tonne. Ten percent of these estimates topped $95 per tonne. Environment Canada estimated $27 a few years ago. The UK government’s famous Stern Review on climate change used $25. This is similar to the current BC Carbon Tax rate of $25 that Gordon Campbell’s government legislated for BC residents and businesses. (Note: all monetary values in this article are in 2011 dollars).

Applying these values to the 8.5 billion barrels of tar sands that the proposed Enbridge “Northern Gateway Pipeline to our Atmosphere” could pump out, yields economic damages ranging from $28 billion to over $400 billion.

All this is to say that we need the world to stand up to Stephen Harper.  We need the world to Boycott Canada.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Oh, the regina mom‘s been a busy woman this past year! Marketing a book takes time and energy in the planning and carrying out. Needless to say, this blog has fallen by the wayside.

However, I could not miss the opportunity to wish my readers a happy International Women’s Day and to share a piece I was asked to write for the Equity Issue the Prairie Dog published last week. The editor contacted me, requesting a rant and, of course, I could not say no. But, later that day, when I attended my meditation class and we talked about “wise speech” and were invited to practice it over the upcoming week I realized that I could not write this rant in my usual way.

It was a challenge, indeed, to say what needed to be said in a wise way. And so, I’m curious what you, dear reader, think.

And here’s the rant, as published in The Dog:

Beyond Despair

Women survive, against all odds.

Even though we women make up 52 per cent of the global population and we own only one per cent of the land, we survive.

Even though climate change impacts women around the world more harshly (try gathering wood, food, water in a drought zone or flood zone every day), we survive.

Even though we earn 73 per cent the wages of men and are over-represented in part-time, low-pay jobs, and even though the world economies once counted us as chattel and told us our work was not work, we survive.

Even though cooking, cleaning and caregiving, the three Cs of women’s work, are worth between $234 and $374 billion in labour that remains unpaid, and even though we never received the national childcare program we were promised and yet we still find time to fill the gaps when governments offload services onto communities and families, we survive.

Even though, right here in Saskatchewan, one child in five – a full 20 per cent – live without adequate food, shelter and clothing, and even though more than 43,000 of our children live in poverty and 60 per cent of children living in households headed by a lone woman live in poverty, and children around the world continue to live in deep poverty, we survive.

Even though governments dismally fail to acknowledge our inequality, respect our issues – or even hear our voices – and instead, privatize economic decision-making, grant corporations more rights and less taxes, doctor documents, cut funding to programs, close doors to our organizations, oppose same sex marriages, peel back our reproductive rights, ignore our human rights, spurn and deride us, tell us to “go slowly,” that we’re “too radical” and dismiss us as “dumb bitches” or “Feminazis,” we survive.

Even though violence against us is epidemic the world over – we are assaulted emotionally, psychologically, physically, sexually – even though 50 per cent of us will experience violence to our person in our lifetime and we have sisters, daughters, grand-daughters who are treated as illegal goods to be trafficked and sold into sexual slavery, and even though we are stoned to death, gunned down, disappeared or murdered, we survive.

Even though we live our lives in the global war waged against us right here and right now, as it has for centuries – even though we die daily, we survive.

We survive because we are strong.

We are strong because we are one community. We are one community with a diverse population: women of colour, Indigenous, Métis women, who have immigrated, emigrated, who are refugees, who are urban, rural, peasant, homeless women, are mothers, grandmothers, child-free, who are sex workers, waged workers, volunteer workers, who are lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, are religious, atheist, agnostic, spiritual, women with disabilities, healing powers, visions, who are older, younger, middle-aged…

We survive because we are coming to know the power of diversity, to know our power as women. And we know that our time to wield power is at hand.

c. 2011 Bernadette L. Wagner

Happy IWD!

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