Democracy over Poetry, for today, anyway

the regina mom is currently on retreat at her favourite Catholic monastery in rural Saskatchewan.  Try as she might, she is unable to fully concentrate on the poetry while the current attack to Canadian democracy is underway.

It’s become pretty clear that the Harper regime will stop at no end to promote the greed of the corporations, particularly those into resource extraction.  The environment and environmental groups, science and scientists and scientific libraries — all are game, fair or otherwise, for him.  As are the people of our First Nations, women, veterans, unionized workers and anything else that gets in his way — including the Canada Elections Act.

Last week, his government introduced what they mistakenly called the Fair Elections Act, about which political columnist, Andrew Coyne, says,

It’s a bizarre bill. But the government is plainly proud of it: so proud that it refused to consult with the chief electoral officer on its contents; so proud that it is now being rushed through Parliament with a bare minimum of debate, using the government’s power of time allocation. And what problem was that intended to solve?

trm is not sure she agrees on the pride angle, thinking perhaps it’s more like arrogance, a “nyah-nyah” to the forces of democracy in Canada, the thousands and thousands of activists who have been tireless in their campaigns to raise awareness about the attacks on our freedoms and our long-standing traditions.

Marc Mayrand, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, expressed deep concern about the new Bill in this interview on CBC Radio’s, The House, which everyone should listen to.

He is right to be concerned.  After Vic Toews’ nasty letter calling out environmentalists as terrorists, trm took a look at Naomi Wolf’s blueprint for how open societies become closed societies.   trm examined Canada in that light and found it frightening then.  That was two years ago!  Much more has happened since, and only some of it referenced in the links above. The window is closing, and closing quickly.

Hold the window open, Canada!  Sign the Council of Canadians petition which will be presented in the House of Commons tomorrow.  Also consider participating in the Hold the Phone: Call for Democracy campaign tomorrow, Monday, February 10.  There are, apparently, some Conservative backbenchers who aren’t strongly supportive of this recent attack on democracy.  The calls may sway them enough to make a difference to our future as a democratic state.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.  –Jack Layton

Pipelines: Which side are you on, planet or profit?

Since the Northern Gateway pipeline hit the news, the regina mom has read more posts about science than ever before.  And it’s not because science claims a place in her higher reading order.  Rather, it’s because the HarperCon response to public outrage about the pipeline has forced her to know wtf she’s talking about.  Or try to, anyway.

 

David Suzuki says that’s a good thing, that “science literacy is good for society.”  So there.  trm is doing it for the good of society!  Suzuki also says,

 

In an open society, leaders who have nothing to hide and who base their decisions on the best available evidence should have no reason to muzzle scientists, or anyone else. Just as parents should help children find relevant facts and encourage exploration, governments have a responsibility to make sure we have access to good information.

 

Having answers to our children’s questions is not enough. If we want societies that provide the maximum benefit for the most people over the longest time, and if we want to find solutions to the challenges and problems we’ve created, we must teach our children and ourselves how to find and evaluate answers objectively. Making science education a priority is an important part of that.

 

Did the HarperCons have poor science education?  Because it’s clear they’re not responding to science or the very real dangers this project would create, unless to twist it for political points.  What interest, then, does it serve the HarperCon government in ignoring all this?  That question was answered when trm read US environmentalist and Distinguished Scholar, Bill McKibbon’s dispatch:

 

The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.

 

Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

 

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

 

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

 

And that’s it, isn’t it?  The HarperCons are the party of big business, of the corporate sect that lined the Conservative Party coffers for the last election and they now have the ear of government.  Why, the CEO of Enbridge accompanied the PM on the trip to China!  That certainly doesn’t make the HarperCons look impartial to the pipeline now, does it?  Enbridge’s big  boss seems emboldened by the gesture, asserting that he has already offered enough to First Nations who would be impacted by his pipeline. “We think the financial package we’re offering is very, very strong, so we don’t have any intent (or) consideration on changing that,” is what he told the Reuters news agency.

 

No doubt he’s been crunching numbers.  He couldn’t offer more; it’d cut into his bottom line.  Make no mistake, that’s what this is all about, the bottom line.  Back to McKibbon for a moment.  He reminds trm that oil is a finite resource.  Oil execs and their minions, aka our governments, are racing to beat the pending disaster  inherent in continued GHG production, the distaster science is telling us we must avoid.  But keeping oil reserves in the ground, he says, would impact the oil industry’s bottom line by $20 trillion.  And that, in McKibbon’s words,

 

…would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela). If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality.

 

NDP Member of Parliament Megan Leslie gets it.  She is not afraid to look at the reality of the situation and look to a solution.

 

We must recognize our fossil fuel stock as a precious resource that we can use strategically to provide jobs today, but also ensure longer-term job security by using the short-term wealth they create to transition us towards new industries. We need to stop denying the writing on the wall, and develop prudent strategies to find ways to transfer the skills and knowledge that the workers in the oilsands have toward green energy industries.

 

A green jobs strategy would include extending the ecoENERGY home retrofit program, which the Conservatives have just cancelled, because it has created economic spinoffs of $10 for every $1 invested by the government while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint. Jobs can be created through investing in green infrastructure projects, enhanced public transit and green research and development, all of which will spur economic development in every community in Canada.

But the HarperCons aren’t set on taking us there.  So, what do we do?  McKibbon:

 

 

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game.

 

We’ve started, that’s for sure.  But we need to pump it up a few notches if we want the attention of the HarperCons.  Make no mistake about it, we can do it!

 

 

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!

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.

 

A long story and an action item

First Nations leaders are justifiably angered by the HarperCon government’s blatant support for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

“The First Nations Leadership Council is greatly troubled by recent comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver advocating for the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline to proceed even before the Joint Review Panel’s environmental review has begun,” the First Nations Leadership Council said in a commentary published in the Rossland Telegraph.

“We are not going to allow an oil culture to overtake the culture of the coast of British Columbia,” Sterritt said. “That’s what they [pipelines] do. That’s what they did in Alaska and that’s what they did in the Gulf of Mexico. They are just not welcome to do that here. There’s just no reason for it.”

But that doesn’t stop the HarperCons and their greedy oilbuds.  It makes some folks worry that the HarperCons are using psychological warfare to raise the ire of First Nations and their allies and thus provoke violent confrontation.

About the only thing they can do now is escalate the psychological war that is already well underway.

Enter Ethical Oil. A friend and colleague of mine at the Public Good Project, Jay Taber, hinted at the effects of the psychological war in his recent analysis of the Ethical Oil ad, which first appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network in August 2011.

“My main concern is … that the Harper administration and the extraction companies he works for might be able to mobilize resentment against indigenous peoples and thus foment violence. Secondarily, I am concerned that neutralized liberals might let it happen.”

The relationship between Enbridge and First Nations communities has not, historically, been a good one.  A few years ago, Enbridge’s sub-contractors cut down 14 culturally-relevant trees.

Worse yet was that Haisla leaders didn’t know their territory was being surveyed at all until Enbridge got in contact to make amends.

“We compared it to a thief breaking into your house and destroying one of your prized possessions, and then calling you later to apologize for it,” Haisla councillor Russell Ross Jr. told The Tyee.

What followed over the next five years was a blueprint for how not to engage with native communities, an incident that to this day remains unresolved.

That, according to financial observers indicates that the Enbridge pipedream will likely not materialize:

At least three major stumbling blocks surfaced repeatedly in the review’s important first days that are likely to dog the $5.5-billion pipeline, which would carry product from the Alberta oil sands to this community on the northern West Coast, throughout the two-year review process: aboriginal opposition, little community buy-in and lack of trust that it can be built safely.

A former oil man who tried to gain support for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline wonders why the tarsands are being developed so quickly and without real dialogue.  He talks about his experience and how his support for it changed because of conversations with First Nations concerned about the risks and with co-workers — experts in the field — who could not guarantee that the technology was there to clean up a spill in Hecate Strait.

Perhaps the hard-sell then comes as a result of 194 nations agreeing to significantly reducing carbon emissions.  In an open letter to the Governor of the Bank of England, prominent political personalities in the UK raise concerns about a possible “carbon bubble,” noting that fossil fuels are sub-prime assets:

The letter is also signed by the government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King, Zac Goldsmith MP, former environment minister John Gummer and 17 others. It urges action to investigate the risk of the “carbon bubble”.

Mervyn King chairs the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) set up in 2011 to “identify and take action to remove or reduce systemic risks to protect and enhance the resilience of the UK financial system.” The letter’s authors point out that “five of the top 10 FTSE 100 companies are almost exclusively high-carbon and alone account for 25% of the index’s entire market capitalisation” and that this risk will exist in other indices and in bank loan books.

The HarperCons must know this; the PM is an economist.  He must want to help those who helped him get to power get more profits before the bubble bursts.

We won’t let that happen!

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