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July 22 2012


Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission

This post originally appeared in The Tyee, and is re-published with permission.
Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa.

And they'd be righter than Job, I believe.

Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada's government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism — or what some call "evangelical religious skepticism."

First came Canada's pull-out of the Kyoto agreement without any rational or achievable national plan to battle carbon pollution.

Next came the hysterical and unprecedented letter by Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver, an investment banker. It branded local environmentalists and First Nations as foreign radicals because they dared to question the economic and environmental impacts of a Chinese-funded pipeline.

At the same time federal security types declared Greenpeace, a civil organization originally started by Canadian journalists, to be a "multi-issue extremist group."

After quietly gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Harper government now proposes to dismantle the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as well as the Fisheries Act, Canada's strongest and last remaining water safeguard.

While government and industry PR folk spin fabrications about Canada's environmental record, Scott Vaughan, Federal Environment Commissioner in the office of the Auditor General, reports that there are only 12 water quality stations for Canada's 3,000 First Nations communities and just one federal water monitoring station operating downstream from the oil sands. Until last year it was calibrated only to detect pulp mill pollution.

The data-antagonistic Harper government has so muzzled federal scientists that an editorial in the prestigious Nature magazine demanded that it was "time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free."

And now Tory senators are threatening to revoke the charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the government's environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels.

From where does the government's extreme animus towards journalists, environmental groups, First Nations and science (and I've put together but a partial list of victims here) arise? The moment demands we take a close look at Stephen Harper's evangelical beliefs.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Alliance Church holds to four foundational convictions based on the belief the Bible is without error, according to a 2007 Vancouver Sun article citing Indiana State Purdue University religious studies Prof. Philip Goff. The article says:

"The Alliance Church places an intense focus on the need for personal salvation, emphasizes the importance of leading a 'holy' life and encourages spiritual healing, says Goff.

"The denomination also stresses that Jesus Christ's return to Earth is imminent, says the evangelical specialist, who was raised in the Alliance Church.

"Alliance Church rules, like those of other evangelical denominations, strongly oppose homosexual relationships, describing them as the 'basest form of sinful conduct.'

"The Alliance Church is also tough on divorce and holds that Christians who have been adulterous do not have a right to remarry.

"The denomination's leaders, in addition, oppose abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia, the use of marijuana and ordained female clergy…"

Harper's Creed
Unknown to most Canadians, the prime minister belongs to the Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical Protestant church with two million members. Alberta, a petro state, is one of its great strongholds on the continent. The church believes that the free market is divinely inspired and that non-believers are "lost."

Now let's be clear: I am a Christian and a social conservative and a long time advocate of rural landowners and an unabashed conservationist. I have spent many pleasant hours in a variety of evangelical churches and fundamentalist communities. Faith is not the concern here.

But transparency and full disclosure has become the issue of paramount importance. To date, Harper has refused to answer media questions about his beliefs or which groups inform them. If he answered media queries about his minority creed (and fewer than 10 per cent of Canadians would call themselves evangelicals) he'd have to admit that he openly sympathizes if not endorses what's known as "evangelical climate skepticism." 

No one knows this fossil fuel friendly ideology better than Dr. David Gushee, a distinguished professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and a Holocaust scholar. The evangelical Christian is also one of the drafters of the 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative. It declared climate change a serious threat to Creation that demands an ethical Christian response.

But that's not the wing of the evangelical movement that Harper listens to. Given his government's pointed attacks on environmentalists and science of any kind, Harper would seem to take his advice from the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of right-wing scholars, economists and evangelicals. The Alliance questions mainstream science, doubts climate change, views environmentalist as a "native evil," champions fossil fuels and supports libertarian economics.

'Resisting the Green Dragon'

A recent declaration on climate change by the Cornwall Alliance denies that carbon dioxide "is a pollutant" and adds that "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming." Moreover any reduction in emissions would "greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies."

A separate Cornwall declaration describes environmental regulation as an impediment to God's will:

"We aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals."

A book published by the Alliance called Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion not Death even portrays environmental groups as "one of the greatest threats to society and the church today."

One passage reads that, "The Green Dragon must die… [There] is no excuse to become befuddled by the noxious Green odors and doctrines emanating from the foul beast…"

The Cornwall Alliance also believes that renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar are only good enough for poor or rural peoples until nuclear and fossil fuel facilities "meet the needs of large, sustained economic development."

Beware 'the new hypocrite'

In a 2010 interview, Gushee, a brilliant and passionate Christian, detailed the basic tenets of "evangelical climate skepticism." He said there were seven main points and argued that they had poisoned the Republican Party. These tenets not only explain startling developments in Canada but should raise the hair on the neck of every thinking citizen regardless of their faith:

1. Disdain for the environmental movement

2. Distrust of mainstream science in general

3. Distrust of the mainstream media

4. Loyalty to the party

5. Libertarian economics as God's will (God is opposed to government regulation or taxation

6. Misunderstanding of divine sovereignty (God won't allow us to ruin creation)

7. Unreconstructed Dominion theology (God calls on humans to subdue and rule creation)

In the end of the interview, Gushee summarized the purpose of this new evangelical Republicanism: "God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage… God established government for limited purposes and government should not intervene much in the workings of a free market economy… The media is overplaying climate change worries… The environmental movement is secular/pagan and has always been a threat to American liberties…

"Nice worldview, huh? I disagree with just about every word of it."

But that Republican religious tribalism is now Ottawa's worldview.

Readers looking for a thoughtful analysis on Harper and the rise of libertarian religious tribalism in Canada should pick up Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor.

Another touchstone might be G.K. Chesterton, a radical Catholic, who regularly questioned the wealth and power of big government and business decades ago.

He would have advised us to get to the bottom of whether our prime minister is pretending to be just a wonkish politician while pursuing an extreme Republican evangelical agenda.

"The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious," the radical Catholic once observed. "The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical."

Canada needs to have an open conversation about the virtues of democracy over theocracy.

March 04 2012


Canadian Environmentalists: Tree Hugging Terrorists or Just Concerned Citizens?

The Canadian Federal government’s new counter-terrorism strategy has been ruffling feathers in the environmental community since it was released by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on February 9.

The report says that the Federal government will be vigilant against domestic extremism “based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”

Admittedly, Blake Bromely and Syed Hussan are right to complain that the media coverage has been swamped with the report’s single mention of environmentalism, largely overshadowing concerns around the document’s actual emphasis: the threat of "violent Islamist extremism."

However, the characterization of the environmental grievances of Canadian citizens as extremist and somehow akin to the violent, hate-based ‘white supremacist’ ideology is not something that Canadians can or should take lightly.

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February 11 2012


Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment

This is a guest post by Dr. David R. Boyd, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment. Originally published at iPolitics

Is Stephen Harper the worst prime minister that Canada has ever had, from an environmental perspective? The evidence is mounting that this is indeed the case, despite some early glimmers of hope. Given the deteriorating global environment, this failure of leadership could not have happened at a worse time.

That Canada has become an international laggard in environmental policy and practice is now an incontrovertible fact. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, researchers at Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th out of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance.

Yale and Columbia ranked Canada 37th in their 2012 Environmental Performance Index, far behind green leaders such as Sweden, Norway, and Costa Rica, and trailing major industrial economies including Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. Worse yet, our performance is deteriorating, as we rank 52nd in terms of progress over the 2000-2010 period. Even Prime Minister Harper has candidly admitted, “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”

For several years, the Conservatives blamed Canada’s environmental problems on the previous Liberal government, and their own lack of progress on a fractious minority parliament. Now that it has a majority, is the Conservative government attempting to solve environmental problems with stronger laws, higher standards, larger investments, and tougher enforcement?


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February 08 2012


China Looks To Stephen Harper For Lessons In Dirty Energy Exploitation

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in China this week to meet with Chinese leaders about how both countries can profit big by exploiting China’s shale gas reserves, as well as by importing Canadian tar sands oil. Harper is scheduled to meet with both Chinese officials, as well as heads of oil and gas companies during his four-day visit to the country.

More on the specifics of who will be attending these meetings, from Reuters Canada:

During his trip Harper will meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao as well as two important regional players - Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai and Wang Yang, the chief of Guangdong province.

The Canadian mission, which will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday, is the largest of its kind since 1998. Guests include top executives from Shell Canada, Enbridge and Canadian Oil Sands as well as uranium producer Cameco Corp and mining firm Teck Resources Ltd.

Other firms include plane and train maker Bombardier Inc, Air Canada, Eldorado Gold Corp, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, Canfor Corp and West Fraser Timber Co Ltd.

After the United States’ rejection last month of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian officials are hoping to reap a profit in the world’s largest emerging market. But any energy trade deals would certainly benefit both sides, as just last week PetroChina, parent of China’s largest oil producer, purchased a 20% stake in a Canadian shale gas project being run by Royal Dutch Shell.

Chinese oil companies are hoping that their cooperation with Shell and the Canadian government will help them use these valuable resources to teach officials more about the process of extracting shale gas, mostly through fracking.

Just last year, with some financing through other Chinese oil companies, Shell invested more than $400 million in Chinese shale gas projects, which included the drilling of at least 15 different shale extraction wells.

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Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

January 17 2012


January 15 2012


Ethical Oil, the Sub-Prime Mortgage Scandal and The Next Great Generation

We are living in difficult times. The ongoing economic crisis started by the 2008 Sub-Prime Mortgage Scandal has all of us thinking about our future. We are vulnerable to unethical appeals to our anxiety in the form of quick fixes and easy profits. The promise of "Ethical Oil" is the worst of these appeals. We have to resist. Even more, we have to take decisive actions that the current leadership will not. To quote a famous man, we have an ordeal before us of the most grievous kind and we need a new generation of leadership to tackle it. We need the next Great Generation.

In 2008, world financial markets collapsed in dramatic fashion due to unethical investment practices, particularly in the previous five years. Toxic subprime mortgages had been injected like a virus into securities like Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). Investment banks around the world were in on this scam and kept pushing it far beyond the point where it was obvious something had to give. Last year, the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded:

"the crisis was avoidable and was caused by: Widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; Dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; An explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; Key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.“

How could the crisis have been avoided? People entrusted with our collective futures were warned. In 2005, economic oracle and author of the bestseller Irrational ExuberanceRobert Shiller warned the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation about a housing bubble that might lead to a worldwide recession. His advice was ignored. Also in 2005, Greg Lippmann, the head CDO trader at Deutsche Bank, called the CDO market a ponzi scheme and bet $5 billion against the housing market. He did this with full knowledge of Deutsche Bank management. All the while, the very same bank continued to sell CDOs to investors.

These are only two examples of many key moments in which the financial crisis could have been mitigated if elected officials and their appointees had acted in a responsible manner. This would have meant acting in the interest of the majority of people.

Warnings came and went, but the cash cow freight train kept hurtling toward the inevitable outcome: outright failures of some of the oldest, most established banks in the world. The impact on average people was and continues to be devastating.

It is interesting to note, however, that those who benefited from the ongoing sale of unethical securities continued to reap huge bonuses even after the collapse, paid for by consumer tax dollars. That's right. Not only did the wealthy get even wealthier from unethical behavior, they continued to do so even after being caught out. The mass of us paid for this with our savings, with our taxes, with our jobs and with our security. They are wealthier, and we are all the poorer for it. 

Fast forward three years. In May 2011, with the support of less than 25 percent of eligible voters, and with the oil-producing communities as its base of organisational and financial strength, the Conservative Party of Canada succeeded in forming a majority government. 

Backed by the evangelical Right and the heavily foreign-owned tar sands industry, and against all warnings about climate change, the Harper government is enacting an aggressive pro-Tar Sands agenda. Ring any bells?

Add to this the fact that Canada's system of government puts extreme power in the hands of the Prime Minister of a majority government, and you have a recipe for four years of disastrous policy. Indeed, the first six months has seen Canada embarassed on the world stage numerous times for its contempt for anything resembling a global warming treaty. In addition, Canada has been actively sabotaging climate policies in other countries.

I grew up in Alberta and worked on the oil fields around Edmonton in the early eighties. Those were the now vanishing days of pumping sweet, light crude from the golden wheat fields of the prairies. Alberta is now known for exploiting the world's largest deposit of tar sands, and there's nothing pretty about it. The environmental record of this project is well documented.

Unfortunately, the damage to Alberta's North is not the most serious problem. The biggest threat comes from the idea that we can get away with burning the carbon sequestered in the tar sands. We can't.

This is well documented by unprecedented scientific collaboration around the world. It is a fact that if we burn the 230 billion tons of carbon locked in Alberta's tar sands it will spike global warming to catastrophic levels. The global climate will start to change more quickly than we can manage.

The social and political upheaval resultant of rapid warming would be far worse than previous wars, famines or environmental catastrophes. It would alter the course of humanity forever. Millions, perhaps billions will be negatively affected by the changes that we invited upon ourselves.

If what I have said sounds hyperbolic, that's because we all want to believe that it is. We want to maintain our bias toward a positive outcome. Rational people, when confronted with facts over and over, eventually come around to recognize the truth. Sometimes too late, but they eventually do.

In our time, unfortunately, there are those among us who are willing to take money to cover up or blur the facts - people who consciously choose to lie about the future and attack legitimate science for their own short term benefit, or for the industries they protect. 

It is unethical beyond comprehension to rob future humans of climate stability and security for the sake of more profits for today's elites. Unfortunately, as there was leading up to the subprime scandal in the USA, there is groupthink of an unprecedented level occurring in Canada right now. 

The political and economic elite will nod gravely at the idea the Canadian economy will collapse if we don't go ahead with the tar sands expansion, when the opposite is true.

Companies line up for a chance to extract the oil and ship it anywhere they can sell it.

Pipelines crossing thousands of miles of pristine wilderness are hard-sold to communities

Supertankers sailing in narrow channels of rich coastal fishing grounds are needed, say our leaders, in spite of the risks

Communities whose livelihoods depend on the oil industry return Conservative, pro-tar sands politicians to our national government in record levels of popular support.

Politicians talk about "Nation Building" when no such plans exist.

And, yes, PR professionals like those behind the Ethical Oil campaign continue to take money and benefits today while selling our children and grandchildren down the river.

Canada is being run like a colonial outpost and our Federal and Provincial governments facilitate rapid resource extraction at the highest profit.

climate change groupthink

Certainly there is plenty of money to be made, just as there was with the toxic securities that drove the 2008 collapse. The pear-shaped outcome of burning the tar sands will be similar. Elites will be safe and the masses of the population in general will pay dearly. Even the one percent will feel the impact but the difference for the poor will be the exponentially larger scale of the disaster.

The psychology is all too familiar. Groupthink helps us go into a mode where the anonymity of the crowd absolves us of sin: "Everyone else is doing it, I should get in on it. It's not me who makes the call. I'm just going along. I owe it to myself and my family to get the best return I can."

We do it on a national level as well. The USA, like a big brother, behaves badly on the world stage, and Canada, like a little brother, accused of misdeeds, says "if the USA doesn't have to behave, we don't either."


In this time I think a lot about my grandparents' generation. We just buried a 90 year old in my family who fought in the Second World War. He was a member of the "Greatest Generation" that suffered in the Great Depression and sacrificed millions of their lives to beat back Fascism.

Elites in their generation wanted to work with fascists. Initially, there was a policy of Appeasement.

It's not that different today. The stakes are the same, or higher. Elites pushing the Carbon agenda want to stay the course. Don't upset the apple cart. Like the Subprime scandal, we appear willing to go full tilt until the last drop. We seem willing to blind ourselves to the climate catastrophe by lapping up the nonsense of industry-funded fringe climate change deniers. Mass media continues to present their nonsense as morally, ethically and scientifically equal to the results of unprecedented global scientific collaboration. In the name of "Balance"? This is a tragedy.

If my grandparents' generation was the last great generation, who will be the next? The Boomers have already checked out. The subprime scandal was a great example of how they can't be relied on. Their investments are made, the beds are feathered and the job now is to protect the nest egg. Stick a fork in them. They're done.

Will it be my generation, Generation X? Will it be Generation Y? The Millenials?

Who will step up to confront this reality headlong? Who will go down in history as the ones who made the difference?

Who will be the last generation to turn a blind eye for one more dollar?

January 13 2012


Cozy Ties: Astroturf 'Ethical Oil' and Conservative Alliance to Promote Tar Sands Expansion

As the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project Joint Review Panel begins hearing over 4,000 comments submitted by community members, First Nations, governments, and environmental groups, the tar sands front group EthicalOil.org has launched its latest PR offensive in support of the pipeline. OurDecision.ca, the new astroturf ad campaign, is another dirty PR attempt to undermine the real and growing grassroots opposition to Big Oil’s plans to ram through this destructive pipeline. 

The controversial Northern Gateway project is opposed by 70 First Nations and a majority of British Columbians, who fear the inevitable oil spills that will accompany tar sands expansion, and in particular the threat of offshore tanker accidents on BC’s coast.

Viewers of Ethical Oil’s disingenuous new ad campaign aren’t being told about the intricate web of industry influence peddlers behind the effort and their connections to the Harper government and oil interests. In the middle of this web is Hamish Marshall, a Conservative strategist deeply connected to oil interests as well as both the Conservatives and ultra-right wing Wildrose Alliance Party. In this case, the lines between politics and big business interests are so blurred, it is nearly impossible to distinguish them.

OurDecision.ca is the Ethical Oil Institute's attempt to dupe northern BC citizens into supporting the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker infrastructure, claiming that it’s “our choice” as Canadians to exploit the tar sands and pipe it to foreign export terminals. The fact that the oil boom will actually enrich foreign investors from China, Europe and the multinational oil companies with a major stake in Alberta oil patch is nowhere to be seen in Ethical Oil’s propaganda. (The hypocrisy of their arguments here is reminiscent of their previous attempt to claim the mantle of women's rights to greenwash the tar sands.)

Since the overwhelming public opposition to the project is hard to argue with directly, Ethical Oil decided to change the subject entirely by claiming a foreign conspiracy because some of the environmental organizations working to oppose tar sands expansion receive funding from U.S. foundations. 

Stephen Harper was quick to echo EthicalOil.org’s talking points by decrying the foreign influence that is “overloading” the Northern Gateway review process. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver took a page from Harper's playbook, writing that environmental groups "threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda," using funding from "foreign special interest groups."

The “foreign special interests” in question are progressive American foundations that fund a wide range of initiatives: from education and infrastructure in developing countries, to the performing arts and urban poverty in North America and around the world.

Since climate change recognizes no political borders, the foundations have supported the efforts of a wide range of Canadian and American groups to raise awareness about the consequences of expanding tar sands development. This is a global issue, no doubt about it, and that's why people from all over the world are watching Canada and weighing in on this. Tyler Mccreary covers this point well today at Rabble.

Yet, Ethical Oil's OurDecision.ca website refers to these foundations and environmental groups as “foreigners and their local puppets.”


Ethicaloil.org is a classic case of dirty energy industry astroturf. Visit OurDecision.ca’s donation page, and you’ll be linked to a PayPal account for the Ethical Oil Institute. As previously noted, the Ethical Oil Institute was incorporated to the Edmonton law firm McLennan Ross, which has many tar sands industry clients.

The Ethical Oil Institute's Board of Directors has two members, Ezra Levant (the creator of the 'Ethical Oil' myth) and Thomas Ross, Levant’s lawyer and a McLellan Ross partner. Thomas Ross is also one of ten lead partners in McLellan Ross’s OilSandsLaw.com initiative, a “slick new oilsands cross-selling strategy" and marketing campaign.

But that's just the beginning of the connection. The websites of both OurDecision.ca and EthicalOil.org are hosted on exactly the same server and IP address as strategicimperativesonline.com. Normally this wouldn’t be surprising – it's common for many websites to be hosted on the same server. But this isn't a coincidence. Strategicimperativesonline.com is registered to GoNewClear Productions, a business incorporated in British Columbia to Travis Freeman, Brendan Jones, and Hamish Marshall.


Hamish Marshall is the President and COO of GoNewClear Productions. He is a well-known strategist and activist trainer within Conservative circles, and also served as one of two British Columbia representatives on the federal Conservatives' national council between 2008 and 2010.

He started his political career working for Canadian Alliance MP Joe Peschisolido from 2001-2002, and for the Conservative Party doing outreach for the Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition from 2002-2003. He then left his position at the Conservative-Party connected NaiKun Energy in 2006 to work in the Prime Minister's Office as Harper's Manager of Strategic Planning until September 2007. In 2008, he managed polling for the Conservative re-election campaign.

The Ethical Oil-Harper government revolving door doesn’t end there. Hamish Marshall is married to EthicalOil spokeswoman Kathryn Marshall, who took over last fall when her predecessor Alykhan Velshi moved into the Prime Minister’s Office as the director of planning.

Hamish Marshall, through strategicimperativesonline, has registered 32 websites. Nearly all are connected to EthicalOil.org, the Conservative Party of Canada, and the right wing Alberta Wildrose Alliance Party.

Both ethicaloil.org's americans4opec.com and chiquitaconflict.com are hosted on the server, as is Kathryn Marshall’s personal website, kathrynmarshall.ca.


The web gets really interesting when you look at the other sites registered on Marshall's server.

Conservative Party candidates with websites hosted on Hamish Marshall’s server include Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, one of the most vocal proponents of the tar sands. Oliver's open letter last week refers to the "environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade". See the WhoIs profile for www.JoeOliver.ca.

Pierre Poilievre's www.ResultsForYou.ca website is hosted on the strategicimperativesonline server as well. A Calgary-school graduate, Poilievre is Harper's former Parliamentary Secretary, and is currently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Poilievre also worked for Jason Kenney, whose site www.JasonKenney.com is hosted on the same server. 

Former EthicalOil.org spokesman Alykhan Velshi used to serve as the Director of Communications for Kenney. And Velshi's mother, Rumina Velshi, was just appointed by John Oliver to the national nuclear safety commission, raising ethics questions among critics. 

For the pro-tarsands Wildrose Alliance Party, Hamish Marshall hosts both the official party websites, wildroseallancecaucus.ca and wildrosecaucus.ca, as well as numerous Wildrose Party candidate websites. This includes former leader Paul Hinman, and candidates Doug Cooper, Corrie AdolphDave Yager, Heather Forsyth, and Richard Dur. Dur is also the Chairman of Policy for Jason Kenney’s Conservative Party constituency association.

Toronto City Councillor John Parker's website is also hosted on Marshall's server. 

Back in BC, Marshall hosts the website of former BC Liberal candidate Kevin Falcon. After working on Falcon’s unsuccessful run for BC Premier, Marshall went to work for BC Conservative leader hopeful John Cummins as his campaign manager. His website is also registered on Marshall’s server. Hamish Marshall is now one of the directors of the BC Conservative party

Finally, Marshall’s server hosts a website that makes campaign signs for Conservative MPs, as well as the website of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Association (OPCCA), the campus youth wing of the PC Party of Ontario is hosted on this server (campuspc.ca).

This is certainly only the beginning of an expansive web of connections between EthicalOil.org and the Conservative Party. The dizzying connections between them suggest that EthicalOil.org and the Ethical Oil Institute are acting as shadow arms of the Harper government and its desire to protect tar sands interests ahead of the public interest.

(Update: See DeepClimate's extensive look at this entangled web.)

What is most disingenuous about EthicalOil.org’s campaign is its work to systematically discredit the hard-working individuals in the Canadian environmental movement who work to protect public health, robust ecosystems and the global climate from the tar sands threat. The real threat to Canadian sovereignty is the greedy foreign corporations and governments buying up financial stakes in the Alberta oil patch, and EthicalOil.org’s support of them.

Ask yourself: who are the real patriots in this scenario?

Will the Harper government and ethicaloil.org own up to their cozy connections and finally recognize the importance of a rapid transition away from an oil-addicted economy towards a clean energy economy that relies on the robust, renewable resource of Canadian ingenuity and sustainability know-how? The clock is ticking.

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December 21 2011


NCC: Not Much Blood on Canada's Hands!

It's Christmastime in Canada - when all self-satisfied ideologues take a moment to lift the finger of blame and point it at somebody else.

"Credit" for outstanding performance in this regard must go to National Citizens Coalition President andf CEO Peter Coleman. In ringing defence of the former NCC president (and now Canadian Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, Coleman offers a cheery Christmas message that celebrates Canada's reneging on its legal commitment to the Kyoto Accord and dodges Canadian responsibility for contributing to the climate crisis.

Specifically, Coleman talks about appearing before a group of University of Windsor law students, who asked him about Kyoto:

When I responded that Canada emits 2% of the world's greenhouse gases they were surprised to hear that it is that low. When I told them that Alberta's oil sands contribute just 5% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions they were again surprised as they expected it would be a lot more.

Coleman is actually wrong on the numbers. The latest tally (2008) puts Canada's GHG emissions at "only" 1.8 per cent, which is swell as long as you don't think about Canada's population amounting to just 0.004 per cent of the world's total. That makes Canada the fourth worst polluter per capita. It also makes our 34 million inhabitants the seventh largest source of CO2 among all the countries in the world - that's seventh from a list of 216 countries and jurisdictions.

And what of the tar sands supposedly tiny contribution? If it was a country, the tar sands 0.09 per cent share of global GHG emissions would put it in a tie with Ecuador in 76th place. The tar sands alone emit more CO2 than the bottom 60 countries and jurisdictions COMBINED. Canada as a country produces more than the bottom 135 countries - combined.

This somehow makes Coleman proud. It gives him courage to deride China, which "gets a free pass even though they contribute over 20 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases." Yes, and that at a rate of less than half of Canada's on a per capita basis - and despite the amount of CO2 that is derived from the production of goods that are, in fact, consumed in Canada.

Coleman makes one point worth acknowledging: he criticizes the Liberal government of Jean Chretien for having signed the Kyoto Accord without making any attempt to comply with it. Too right. Canada's humiliation began under the Chretien Liberals, but it took the self-righteous determination of the Harper Conservatives to make it complete.

It remains a mystery, however, as to why this should leave Peter Coleman feeling smug.

July 29 2011


Artist Franke James has Harper quaking in fear

If Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is this frightened, then we can only assume that the visual artist from Toronto, Franke James, is THAT scary!

As reported most recently in the Toronto Star, the Canadian government - so often now referred to as the "Harper government" - stands accused of trying to block a presentation of James's art in capitals across Europe. And in a way, who can blame them? The official Canadian position these days is that toxic stuff is good for you (or good for us - and who really cares about you?). Whether it's "ethical oil" dredged out of the tar sands in one of the most environmentally damaging variations of any oil exploitation, or asbestos, peddled to any impoverished nation still so desperate as to use it, Canada is officially in the poison-for-profit business. When some lippy woman stands up and suggests that this is a bad thing, it makes the government look - well, like shills for dirty industries - and it compromises the chances that those dirty industries have of enjoying even greater profit. No wonder Stephen Harper's henchpeople refer to James as "that woman!"

The funny part about all this is that Franke James is anything but a conventional rabble rouser. It's hard to call someone "girlish" these days without courting an anti-feminist image, but Franke James, personally and in her bright, brilliant, quirky and sometimes childlike art, is brimming with the kind of naive optimism that prompts certain 14-year-old females to dot their 'i's with little hearts. She's the kind of person who could ask, with complete sincerity and no hint whatever of sarcasm, why everyone can't just be nice to one another.

She has asked - pointedly and repeatedly - why the "Harper government" can't be nice, or at the very least passingly responsible, to the Canadian and global environment. And while Harper's minions would like to pass this off as a "silly" question, it's a silly question that they can't answer. More, it's a question they plainly fear.

So Canadian embassies across Europe are declining what would be garden-variety support otherwise due to any artist that had attracted enough attention to win a tour across the contientn. More insidiously, it appears that they may have been bluntly interfering, making intimidating/compromising approaches to the Nektarina Non-Profit that had tried to mount the James tour and discouraging private-sector funders from underwriting the show.

The scoop on Stephen Harper, even among those who find his politcs abhorent, is that he is an incredibly smart guy. He works hard. He remembers everything he reads. And he has a political instinct that has enabled him to consolidate the top spot in Canadian government - for what may turn out to be four very long years. So, again, if Stephen Harper is afraid of Franke James, she must be doing something powerful - something that the smartest politician thinks he can't manage if it moves into the public and international realm.

So, the only thing to do is to click on Franke James's website and entertain yourself with one or several of her fabulous visual essays. Go back and read the story about what happened when she asked another, now famously silly question: Why can't I dig up my driveway and plant flowers? Then send links of those essays to everyone in your address book.

And if you know someone with a budget, let's try to round up support for a Franke James tour in Canada and the U.S., as well. About this issue, Stephen Harper can't be wrong. And on every other issue, Franke James looks suspiciously right.

June 30 2011


Canada Causes Cancer: Government & Industry Collude to Keep Asbestos Off UN Hazardous Chemical List

Last week, the Canadian government successfully and unilaterally stonewalled efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical at a United Nations conference in Switzerland. 

According to Michael Stanley-Jones of the UN Environment Program, “[Canada] intervened in the chemicals contact group meeting ... and opposed listing". This is the third time that Canada has derailed efforts to list the deadly mineral under the Rotterdam Convention.

Following Canada's lead, the only countries that opposed listing asbestos under the convention were Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam. Even India, one of Canada's largest asbestos customers and the leader behind efforts at COP 4 against listing, changed its stance.

Asbestos is a potent carcinogen, and is known to cause pleural plaques, asbestosis, mesothelioma, as well as cancers of the lung, esophagus, and colon. For over 100 years, scientific evidence has demonstrated the dangers of asbestos.

Canada is the only advanced industrialized country that exports asbestos, and does so predominantly to the developing world where there are few health and safety standards. The Canadian position is widely considered hypocritical because the country exports a mineral banned in domestic construction, and have spent millions ridding parliamentary buildings in Ottawa of the toxic substance, all while lobbying extensively to ensure that asbestos remains unregulated. 

The centre of controversy currently is a new asbestos mine proposed in Quebec that would export 5 million pounds of asbestos to Asia.

How can Canada conscionably export cancer-causing asbestos to the developing world given the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating that asbestos is carcinogenic? The key to that question lies in an extensive government and industry-backed lobbying and misinformation campaign that operates on an international scale, with Canada at its centre.

Like Big Tobacco did years before with the Council for Tobacco Research, the Montreal-based Asbestos Institute was founded in 1984 amidst growing opposition to the industry and its health implications. Asbestos had such a bad rap that the industry chose to fight tooth and nail to salvage its profits by spending millions on misinformation and to fight bans. The asbestos industry colluded with the Canadian government in an effort to use various means to pressure, threaten, and intimidate Brazil, Chile, France, Lebanon, South Africa and South Korea not to regulate or label asbestos as hazardous. 

In 2003, recognizing that it was increasingly difficult to peddle a known carcinogen, the Asbestos Institute was rebranded to drop the key word that the public recognized as dangerous and deadly.  The Chrysotile Institute (CI) was born with a mandate to market chrysotile asbestos as safer, and to suggest that it was not carcinogenic like amphibole asbestos. Though 95% of the world's asbestos is chrysotile, industry figured the name sounded safer - sort of like Big Tobacco did with "light" cigarettes. Still deadly, just slightly less so, and the profits keep flowing. Instead of recognizing that the product is too dangerous, the industry and government simply engaged in image control.

The Chrysotile Institute alleges that chrysotile asbestos can be used safely and responsibily, and that it can be broken down and eradicated from the body. Industry-backed lab rat studies allege that chrysotile asbestos does not cause cancer. This directly contravenes prevailing scientific literature from the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society, all of which argue there is no way to use asbestos safely.

The Chrysotile Institute's go-to "expert" is David Bernstein, who has received funding from the Canadian government, Chrysotile Institute, Union Carbide and Georgia Pacific in addition to the Brazilian asbestos institute. In fact, Bernstein has been accused of mispresenting his credentials, and is apparently not qualified as an epidemiologist, industrial hygienist, medical doctor, or pathologist, and not a single scientific body anywhere agrees with his views.

Despite these inconvenient facts about the industry's favorite expert for hire, his talking points are parroted widely as fact. Even Dimitri Soudas, Harper's communications director, argues that "All scientific reviews clearly confirm that chrysotile fibres can be used safely under controlled conditions”.

In reality, only industry-funded studies suggest that chrysotile asbestos does not cause cancer. The Chrysotile Institute's stance reads like a page out of the big tobacco playbook: defer responsibility, create doubt, and encourage inaction. Doubt truly is their product, only in this case, it is developing and poor countries that will bear the true costs of the misery that is being exported by Canada.

The federal government funds the Chrysotile Institute to the tune of $250,000 annually to lobby on behalf of the asbestos industry, and the Quebec government matches that.  Since its inception, it has received over $50 million in public funds. The group maintains that they promote the safe use of asbestos, and work to track regulatory developments relating to asbestos around the world.

Rather than promoting the safe use of asbestos abroad, the Chrysotile Institute is at the centre of the global lobbying effort of the asbestos industry. According to a report from International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the institute funds a dozen sister organizations around the world. These organizations then influence science and policy in their own countries. ICIJ tracked $100 million in public and private money spent since the mid 1980s in Brazil, Canada, and India, all to keep asbestos on the market.

The Chrysotile Institute also insist that they promote the “controlled” use of asbestos and the adoption of appropriate safety measures. But it’s not an accurate picture of the industry by any means. Reporting by the Globe and Mail and ICIJ found inadequate protection measures and widespread exposure to asbestos dust.

Now, to return to the question of the new asbestos mine that would export 5 million tonnes of asbestos to Asia. Quebec’s Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac is championing the government’s decision to expand the mine. A 2004 Institut National de Santé Publique (INSPQ) report found rates of mesothelioma among men in Quebec nearly 10 times greater than for the rest of Canada and the rate for women to be among the highest in the world. It is also believed that asbestos disease is under-reported.

Not only is Canada's asbestos killing Canadians, it is killing people in the developing world. For the 400 jobs that the asbestos industry creates, why is Canada risking its international reputation and the health of millions to export cancer to the developing world? Will it move forward with a toxic mine, or follow the prevailing scientific evidence and help curb a worldwide epidemic of painful lung diseases and cancers?

May 30 2011


Canada Hides 20 Percent Tar Sands Annual Pollution Increase from UN

The Canadian federal government deliberately excluded data documenting a 20 percent increase in annual pollution from Alberta's tar sands industry in 2009. That detail was missing from a recent 567-page report on climate change that Canada was required to submit to the United Nations.

According to Postmedia News, Canada left the most recent numbers out of the report, a national inventory on Canada’s greenhouse gas pollution. The numbers are used to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastropic climate change. It is certainly not the first time that Canada has dragged its feet on its international climate obligations, but omission of vital information is a new low, even for them.<!--break-->

While Canada's report reveals a six percent drop in annual emissions for the entire economy from 2008 to 2009, it fails to account for the extent of pollution from tar sands production, which is greater than the greenhouse gas emissions of all the cars driven on Canadian roads.

Canada's attempts to greenwash Alberta's tar sands are increasingly brazen. Last week we reported that the Canadian government was complicit with industry in the creation of an "Oil Sands Team" to lobby abroad to aggressively undermine European environmental standards.

Emissions per barrel of oil produced by tar sands developers are increasing, despite claims to the contrary made by industry in an advertising campaign.

Overall, Environment Canada said that the tar sands industry accounts for about 6.5 percent of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, up from five percent in 2008. Pollution from the tar sands has skyrocketed 300 percent since 1990, cancelling out many pollution reduction efforts in other sectors of the Canadian economy.

Industry claims that its figures do not show any significant growth in emissions per barrel of oil produced, yet the full report noted an intensity increase of 14.5 per cent from 2008 to 2009.

In the report, emissions from a mining category, which includes tar sands extraction, saw a whopping 371 per cent increase in greenhouse gas pollution.

To make matters worse, Canada was the last country to file its report to the UNFCCC. It submitted its report even after earthquake-struck Japan, and was unable to explain in detail why its report was late.

Evidence is mounting that the Harper government is deliberately trying to scuttle international action to fight climate change.

Head over to the Montreal Gazette to read more.

May 04 2011


Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Earlier this week, Canadians flocked to the polls for the fourth time in 7 years. This time around, the election was triggered when the minority government led by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was found in contempt of parliament in March for failing to release information related to the costs of proposed crime legislation and the purchase of stealth fighter jets.

From the moment the election was announced, Harper derided it as ‘unnecessary’, and ‘unwanted’ even though public polling clearly indicated widespread displeasure with his handling of the economy, public programming including programs for women, the environment, and for proroguing parliament twice. After the 2008 election, when voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history (59% overall, and a dismal youth turnout of 37%), people wondered if this so-called ‘unwanted’ election would fail to motivate voters to the polls.

While pundits and pollsters made their best guesses leading up to election day, no one correctly anticipated the outcome. With just under 40% of the vote, the Conservatives finally won the majority they have coveted since ascending in 2006. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 102 seats and formed the official opposition for the first time in history. The Liberal Party was reduced to a mere 34 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois lost 90% of its seats to end up with 4. On the positive side, Green Party candidate Elizabeth May won her party’s first seat in North American history.

Of the 14 closest ridings that Conservatives won seats, the combined margin of victory in all those ridings was 6,201 votes. That means the real difference between a Harper minority and majority was just over 6,000 votes. While 5.8 million people voted for Stephen Harper, another 9 million – the ‘real majority’ – voted for change. But, with his new majority, Harper no longer has to worry about impediments to his extreme ideology; he can ram his anti-science, pro-polluter agenda down the throats of the Canadian public. That spells trouble for Canada's environment, and it's especially bad news for the global climate.


Despite the news headlines of Harper’s ‘victory,’ sixty percent of Canadians still don't support his economic policy. Harper will likely table the same budget that he presented before the election. It focused on the economy and jobs - and no, I don't mean green jobs. Instead, Harper continues to promote and prioritize policies that hold Canada back from a prosperous clean energy future.

The Harper budget proposes to slash funding for clean energy programs and efficiency incentives – all significant job-creation vehicles that happen to protect rather than harm the global climate system.

The Conservatives have yet to introduce climate legislation to meet science-based international commitments to rapidly curtail global warming pollution. Harper’s position isn’t expected to improve over his last 5 years of inaction and obstruction, during which he failed to put in place any meaningful policy to meet his own weak pollution reduction targets (that aren’t even science-based). These policies made Canada a laughing stock in Copenhagen and Cancun. Now, with four years of unchecked Harper power, we’ll likely see more of Harper’s embarrassing stonewalling at international climate change summits including this fall in Durban.

What else have we to look forward to?  Will the government continue to muzzle scientists, who are required to seek ‘pre-approval’ before speaking with journalists?  

Will Harper even end the wasteful stream of $1.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to incredibly profitable oil and gas companies? Will he even continue to pay lip service by calling for a gradual phase-out of a small portion of these polluter subsidies? 

The world’s scientists have cautioned that climate disruption won’t wait four more years for a real Canadian action plan to materialize – if it does then – so we must act now, with or without Harper.

Even though we have our work cut out for us, this election caused a noticeable shift in Canadian politics, one that not only felt inspiring during the run-up to the election, but also one that produced a tangible outcome. The feeling that I have is like nothing I've ever experienced, and I know I’m not the only one who feels it.

A movement was born over the past few weeks, when Canadian youth woke up and engaged in politics. They are organizing. 

In my free time outside work obligations, I am one of those organizers. Some friends and I recently staged an action outside of a Harper press conference in Victoria. We criticized Harper’s campaign for failing to mention the issues that really mattered to young people – including climate and the environment.

Because of recent pressure on the Conservatives for kicking a student out of a rally and attempting to nix a special ballot on a university campus, a group of us were invited in (with no media present) to speak with the Prime Minister. In typical Harper fashion, we were allowed to ask 2 questions, the first about post-secondary education, the second about Canada’s horrible reputation for climate change inaction.

Demonstrating how out of touch he is with the most pressing challenge facing humanity, Mr. Harper seemed unfamiliar about the upcoming UN climate talks in Durban, and when he talked about Canada’s representative at the most recent climate talks, he referred to “Minister Prentice” (wrong guy, it was John Baird). At that moment, I worried for the future of my country.  

And I'm not alone. Many people fear what a Conservative majority will mean for the issues that many Canadians care about: banning dangerous tanker traffic on the west coast, ending dirty energy subsidies, and creating binding legislation for global warming pollution reductions. We are faced with an uncertain future, while scientists continue to alert us that there is no time to waste. 

We must work together to hold this government accountable. We need to work together for our First Nations communities that are suffering environmental anguish, for the accountability and oversight necessary to rein in the dirty tar sands boom, and for investment in a renewable energy future. We must demand a clean future, and a world that is safe for our children. 

Over the coming months and years, we must be vigilant, and work with an urgency and sense of purpose. We don't have time to wait for a new government to respond to the environmental crisis. We must respond now.

We must lead now. To the 'real majority' of Canadians out there, are you ready?

March 02 2011


Major Cuts To Pollution Control Spending On The Horizon In Canada

A number of Canadian environmental policies and programs are facing significant budget cuts during the next year. Not surprisingly, reducing carbon emissions and air pollution are two of the areas facing the budget axe from Stephen Harper's anti-science administration.

Environment Canada will endure a 14% reduction in funding (or $222 million) and the budget to combat global warming emissions and other air pollution will drop a massive 59% (from $240 million to below $100). <!--break-->Previously, global warming and clean-air funding:

"served to inform Canada's domestic regulatory approach to greenhouse gas emissions, provide a platform to deepen engagement with the U.S. on climate change issues and enhance Canada's visibility as an international leader in clean energy technology."

Environmental and public health protection initiatives have long been targeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has firmly opposed acting to regulate carbon emissions, despite the many high-level recommendations from his own advisors and in the Canadian Parliament to the contrary.

Since Natural Resource Canada will face a 21% reduction (nearly $1 billion), the extremely popular and highly effective home retrofit program (previously funded with $390 million) to pay for energy efficient upgrades will also be axed.

Gillian McEachern, the program manager for climate and energy at Environmental Defence said that the scale of these cuts severely undermines any possibility that industrial emissions of carbon will be regulated this year, or any time in the future:


"If they're cutting the departmental budget by 60 per cent, we have to question who's going to be around to write the regulations."

Such cuts are not reflective of the scientific evidence documenting the need to curb carbon emissions and other pollutants that threaten public health. The Harper administration seems determined to ignore science, and that doesn't bode well for the Canadian people or the climate that sustains all life.

January 17 2011


Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than "ethical oil".  Since Ezra Levant's 2010 book "Ethical Oil" hit the scene, it's become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant's book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant's book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as "dirty" and "controversial" - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the at of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term "ethical oil" in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to sell the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren't resonating with people. 


Levant calls his term a "debate changer". I would go further, and call it a debate stopper.  Deploying the terminology of ethics in this controversial environmental issue evokes an emotional response in people.  It makes people forget about the environmental impacts and devastation it has caused and makes people focus on despotic regimes in other countries.  Psychologically, people forget the environmental problem when this type of argument is used.  That is why it is so dangerous.

Sure, Canadians love to be considered ethical - historically we have been peacemakers, peacekeepers, and are generally well-perceived in the world.  The stain on our reputation recently has consistently been due to the controversy over Alberta's tar sands.  In reframing the debate in 'ethical' terms, Levant has enabled our government to shirk the environmental embarrassment at Copenhagen and Cancun, and enabled them to evade responsibility to take measures to halt climate change and invest in a clean energy future.  The term is certainly effective for that reason.  And that is exactly why we must stop calling tar sands oil "ethical oil". 

Tar sands oil is not ethical.  The acid content of tar sands oil is 15 to 20 times higher than typical oil products, and contains 5 to 10 times as much sulphur.  In Northern Communities and First Nations communities, residents have begun to see the health impacts of tar sands oil, and are witnessing that the tar sands are having an irreversible impact on indigenous culture

You can no more argue the tar sands are ethical to First Nations communities than you can to the people of Michigan, ravaged by the Michigan Kalamazoo spill.  The 400,000 watershed residents across 19 cities, 11 villages and 107 townships are still dealing with the after-effects of the spill. It's estimated that roughly 1 million litres of oil have yet to be cleaned up from the environment. 

Perhaps we "don't kill gays" or "stone women to death" as Levant emotionally argues.  So we're not buying (as much) oil from Saudi Arabia or Iraq where there are human rights abuses.  That's beside the point.  Gitz Crazyboy, a member of the Blackfoot/Dene First Nation vehemently disagrees that tar sands oil is ethical.  According to him, the environmental impacts of dirty oil are damaging his people's health, and are causing increased cancer incidences and even death. 

Calling the oil "ethical" is damaging to the debate because it shuts off debate.  It creates a space where those who argue against tar sands oil are unethical, or hate freedom and democracy.  Reframing the debate in this way fails to get at the true crux of the problem: we have a dirty oil addiction, and the oil industry is inadequately regulated to the detriment of people's health.  Alberta's "Ethical oil" fails to get us out of this paradigm.  It's still oil at the end of the day, and dirty oil at that. 

Ezra, I think it's time we dropped the "ethical oil" language. For everyone's sake.

December 14 2010


Legislation Introduced To Ban Oil Tanker Traffic On B.C.’s North Coast

Today, Liberal MP Joyce Murray introduced legislation to Canada's House of Commons to formally ban oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s North Coast. This comes days after a successful House of Commons motion demonstrated support for a legislated ban on oil tankers.

Despite last week's victory, the motion is not binding, and formal legislation such as the one proposed today will have to be passed to legislate a formal ban.  The Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tankers has been in effect since 1972.  Without a legislated ban, however, opposition parties fear the Tory government could allow tanker traffic in order to profit from growing Asian energy markets.<!--break-->

A 2010 Mustel poll for Forest Ethics demonstrated that 80 percent of British Columbians support a ban on crude oil tankers in B.C.’s coastal waters.  51 percent of Canadians oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and those who strongly oppose the ban far outnumber proponents.  Support for a ban has been growing since 2008 when 72 percent supported a ban.

The proposed legislation will be debated and voted on in Canada's House of Commons in 2011.  It would amend Part 9 of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to prohibit the transportation of oil by oil tankers in the areas of the sea adjacent to Canada’s Pacific North Coast known as Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance.  It also allows the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to designate other areas of the sea in which the transportation of oil by oil tankers is prohibited. 

Any formal legislation would put a lid on Enbridge's plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry tar sands bitumen from Alberta's tar sands to Kitimat, B.C., to be loaded onto supertankers destined for hungry energy markets in Asia.

There has already been widespread criticism for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project including the 61 First Nations groups from the Fraser Watershed who issued a declaration banning oil pipelines and tankers.  To date, no First Nations group has publicly declared support for the project. 

According to Enbridge’s own Corporate Social Responsibility Report, they have a glowing record of environmental performance, safety and fairness, and public disclosure.  This record is somewhat fulsome if you consider their spill record.  According to the Polaris Institute, Enbridge caused 713 spills between 1999 and 2009.  These spills released approximately 21.3 million litres (133,856 barrels) of hydrocarbons into the environment.

Perhaps as a consequence of their spill record, Enbridge has been hard at work in B.C. to build 'grassroots' support for their pipeline project.  According to information secured by the Prince George Citizen, Enbridge has been footing the bill for a Astroturf front group to build support for their pipeline project.  The Northern Gateway Alliance is the work of Enbridge who fears opposition to their profitable pipeline.  Former Prince George mayor Colin Kinsley is he chair of the Astroturf Alliance and on Enbridge's payroll. 

Will the House of Commons legislate a formal ban on oil tanker traffic in B.C.'s North Coast? Review the legislation introduced today here [PDF]. 

Image Credits: Dogwood Initiative

December 08 2010


Canada Votes to Ban Tar Sands Oil Tankers off BC Coast; Enbridge Front Group Exposed

Today, Canada's House of Commons approved a motion calling for a permanent ban on oil tankers off British Columbia's coast.  The passed NDP motion introduced by MP Nathan Cullen urges the government to immediately propose legislation to "ban bulk oil tanker traffic" through the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, off the north coast of B.C.  The bill received Parliamentary support in a tight a vote of 143-138, with all opposition parties supporting it and Conservatives opposed.

British Columbia is now one step closer to having a full legislated ban on supertankers off its north and central coasts. The opposition is sending a clear message to the Conservatives to legislate a formal moratorium. 

Today's ban could seriously impact Enbridge, who has plans to develop a $5.5 billion 1,170-kilometre pipeline to carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.<!--break-->

Enbridge has already been hard at work to ensure that the ban did not succeed today. According to information secured by the Prince George Citizen, Enbridge is footing the bill for a northern front group to create community support for its pipeline project.   The Northern Gateway Alliance is the brainchild of Enbridge who fear opposition to their profitable pipeline project.   The chair of the astroturf Alliance, former Prince George mayor Colin Kinsley, is even on Enbridge's payroll. 

According to estimates by Environment Canada, 100 small, 10 moderate and 1 major spill is predicted every year based on current levels of tanker traffic in Canada.  In addition, one catastrophic spill is predicted every 15 years.  If the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proceeds, oil tanker traffic on the BC coast will increase from only a few tankers per year to as many as 220.  That will significantly impact the possibility of oil spills off BC's coast.  Each supertanker is longer than the Eiffel Tower and holds hundreds of millions of litres of oil. 

An oil spill of any size is devastating environmentally, and an supertanker spill of this magnitude could spell game over for fragile coastal communities, First Nations communities, and the 20 species of marine mammals, 120 species of marine birds, and many species of fish that call B.C.'s coast home.

If Enbridge's track record is any indication, we have serious cause for concern. They are responsible for the recent Michigan Kalamazoo spill which spilled over three million litres of tar sands crude into Michigan waterways (nearly 4 million litres, according to the EPA).  Enbridge tried to conceal the fact that the spill was tar sands crude. Compared to traditional oil products, tar sands crude is infused with more heavy metals, sulfur and pollutants. 

Though the propaganda pipeline has hit a potential hurdle today, the motion is not binding, and the Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tankers off B.C.'s coast has already been in effect since 1972.  Without a legislated ban, however, the Tory government could allow tanker traffic in order to profit from new Asian markets for Alberta crude.

The National Energy Board is currently assessing the environmental impacts of the proposal.  Only once have they rejected a major project under their review -- that being the Sumas 2 energy plant near the B.C.-Washington border.  Despite this, there is no doubt that the Enbridge-funded Astroturf will ramp up their efforts to ensure the pipeline  project is successful.  Though the will of Canadians and and House has been articulated today, now we must play the waiting game to see if a bill will be introduced.  And of course, despite today's decision by the lower house, we can never discount the ability of our unelected Senate to employ its infinite wisdom and strike down environmental legislation in the name of progress. 

August 06 2010


Regina Newspaper Calls on Skeptics to Put Their Money Where There Mouth Is

Local Regina publication, Prairie Dog Magazine, is laying down the gauntlet by asking climate change skeptics to record their doubts on paper.

The magazine has created a declaration that outlines various scenarios for rejecting scientific consensus and has mailed it to several public figures who have openly expressed skepticism on the issue of global warming, including Stephen Harper, Margaret Wente, Rex Murphy, Tim Ball and Ross McKitrick amongst others. 

The plan to check in with the skeptics in 10 years is all about "accountability" and the magazine states that should they be wrong they will give credit where credit is due. And if they're right.....it's a sad bet to win.


March 15 2010


Is Canadian Government Muzzling the Messengers?

A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of the Harper government introducing new rules in 2007 to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, says a newly released federal document.  "Scientists have noticed a major reduction in the number of requests, particularly from high profile media, who often have same-day deadlines," said the Environment Canada document. "Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent." <!--break-->

February 12 2010


China gets it: The future belongs to low carbon industries

The international fight on climate change is a contest for economic development space, China's chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua said recently.

Xie, who is also China's vice-minister for the National Development and Reform commission, said:

"Countries with low-carbon industries will have a developmental advantage. Some people believe this is a global competition as significant as the space race in the cold war. "

This, woefully, is a message lost on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is fighting to keep Canada "an emerging energy superpower" devoted to one of the most carbon-intensive energy industries on earth.

Hmmm? I wonder who's going to come out ahead here?<!--break-->

December 19 2009


Canada Demoted from "Honest Broker" to "Lunch Date"

There was a time - hell, there was half a century, beginning with the Nobel Prize-winning work of later-to-be-Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 1956 - when Canada could be counted upon as an honest broker on the world stage. It was a country that you wanted at the negotiating table, because it could be relied upon to take a prinicpled position and because it had the capacity to exercise a little influence in the North American sphere. Uncle Sam has never had the capcity to listen closely but when Canada spoke, at least they listened.

Alas, apparently no longer. Regardless that Canada can surely claim status as a fossil fuel "super-polluter," we Canada didn't make the short list of five countries that actually negotiated the Copenhagen Accord. Canada didn't even make the long list of 17 countries that U.S. President Barack Obama gathered around him when he first arrived at COP15.

But there was one list that Harper topped: a group of mostly second-and third tier nations whose leaders were just bursting to tell the folks back home that they'd met the U.S. President. Admittedly, Harper and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres had met Obama before. But they were reduced to rubbing shoulders with former East Block "giants" like the presidents of Georgia and Montenegro.<!--break-->

A full listof lunch guests appears below, courtesy of U.S. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Prime Minister Harper must be so proud.

Update - President Obama greeted and talked to the he following leaders during a lunch here in Copenhagen.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Israeli President Shimon Peres

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

Ghana President John Mills

Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Dukanovi

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

Czech Republic Prime Minister Jan Fischer

Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili

Serbian President Boris Tardic

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning


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