Joe Oliver Again

Imagine that you and I are meeting face-to-face and you ask me, "Why are you laughing?" If I replied, "It's Joe Oliver again." Would you start laughing too? I'm betting you would. The Harper Government's Natural Resources Minister is undeniably entertaining, but only if you are able to completely dismiss the seriousness his portfolio actually deserves. This is, after all, Canada's Natural Resources Minister, but it's also the same guy who:

  • characterized environmental groups as having a "radical ideological agenda"
  • stated you'll be able to drink from tailings' ponds
  • recently appeared to dismiss climate science and global warming, but later allowed his office to issue a correction
  • just yesterday challenged the views of, perhaps, the world's best known climate scientist, James Hansen.

Given the preceding list, it might surprise you to learn that Joe Oliver didn't just fall off of a turnip truck. Joe:

  • is a lawyer
  • has an MBA from Harvard Business School
  • was CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada
  • is an elected MP and Cabinet Minister.

It would be a huge mistake to assume that Joe Oliver's word selection and sentence construction is anything other than carefully chosen. I'm convinced this gentleman knows exactly what he's doing. Although I don't believe that he's related to Glenn Beck, he has a similar penchant for absurd, but payload-laden statements. Unsurprisingly, his hyperbole, apparently excites his Conservative friends.

We're not idiots Joe, it's obvious to almost everyone that you and your Harper Government colleagues are shills for Multinational Oil. Big Oil expects to earn trillions from Canada's tar sands. Bluntly, it's not a surprise that you're doing your level best to help them.

If I was given the opportunity to offer Mr. Oliver a little advice, I would use his own words, "Quite frankly, I think that kind of exaggerated rhetoric, that kind of hyperbole, doesn’t do the cause any good at all. People are sensible. Americans and Canadians are logical people."

News flash: Mr Oliver, we really are sensible and logical. A whopping majority of Canadians have grown weary of the Harper Government's 'Jobs and Prosperity' propaganda and are increasingly concerned about Canada's:

  • environment
  • middle-class
  • reputation
  • future.

Aside: Have you ever wondered how many of the Harper Government's 'Sycophants to Big Oil' will land cushy Corporate Oil jobs when their political careers have come to an end? Just wondering…

Organic Food Questioned

Organic food

Why was the consumption of organic food questioned again today?

A recent Stanford University study compared organic foods to non-organic foods. The study’s conclusions were responsible for generating a new round of anti-organic headlines:

  • Organic food ‘not any healthier’
  • Organic Foods Not Healthier or More Nutritious
  • Is ‘organic’ a waste of money?

implying to most folks, that it’s a waste of money to buy organic products.

Q: Organic food purchases make up less than five percent of retail grocery sales, so what’s the big deal?
A: It’s not a big deal, but the media understands that a controversial headline drives page views and TV viewership. Unsurprisingly, the headlines also served the agenda of mega-corporate farms and that’s probably good for the media’s ad revenue.

Why would anyone spend more for organic food? Here are five excellent reasons:

  1. synthetic pesticides aren’t good for you, for your children or for our planet
  2. antibiotics, frequently administered to non-organic livestock, encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistent bacteria
  3. confining animals, on factory farms, has been responsible for some nasty disease outbreaks and remains a potential, pandemic threat
  4. the Earth’s groundwater has been contaminated by pesticides, antibiotics and other food additives
  5. conventional agriculture uses more energy than organic farming.

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford organic, the Stanford study reaffirms the nutritional value of conventional agriculture. That said, choose organic whenever you can, it’s always best to avoid pesticides and it’s better for our planet.

We’re Being Played

When I woke up today, my local TV, morning news was highlighting the National Energy Board’s investigation of Enbridge and specifically their pipeline safety record. That’s good news for those of us who oppose the Northern Gateway Pipelines, right? It should be good news, because Enbridge is now infamous for their pipeline leaks. Unfortunately, I had trouble accepting the good news.

Q: Why wasn’t I happy about the news?
A: The sequence and timing of recent pipeline news releases has my gut telling me that we’re being played by Big Oil, Enbridge, the Harper Government and possibly even the NEB.

A classic sales technique is the ‘Feel — Felt — Found’ approach. When a salesperson encounters resistance, referred to as an objection, they will often counter with, “I know how you feel, I felt the same way, until I found…”. Stephen Harper and his merry band of Big Oil sycophants are well aware that there are very significant objections to the planned Northern Gateway Pipelines. To assuage British Columbians, they’ve, for the moment, strategically chosen to appear reasonable, even conciliatory; after all, there’s still plenty of time for them to achieve their ultimate goal of selling tar sand’s bitumen (heavy crude oil) to China.

Here’s what I see as the ‘Feel’ part of the Conservative’s plan:

  • “This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public.” – James Moore, Harper Government Cabinet Minister
  • “The only way governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria…” – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The ‘Felt’ and ‘Found’ parts of Harper’s plan will only become evident when the NEB report is released. I’d be willing to wager that the National Energy Board will report that the Northern Gateway Pipeline’s potential financial benefits to Canada far outweigh the potential, minuscule, environmental risks to British Columbia. When that happens, Stephen Harper will be able to say, “I share the environmental concerns of British Columbians, but today I’m reassured, because independent, scientific analysis has concluded that the Northern Gateway project will be safe and will deliver enormous benefits to all Canadians. It’s a great day for our jobs and prosperity initiative.”

Now, suppose I’m wrong and the NEB actually surprises me by not endorsing the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I imagine that, at that time, Stephen Harper will be forced to reveal his carefully orchestrated agenda. Recall that the Harper Government’s Bill C–38 gave the federal Cabinet the power to overrule the NEB’s recommendation. If this government gets ‘bad’ news from the NEB, I’m convinced they’ll endorse the Northern Gateway Pipelines anyway.

Don’t be misled by their recent statements, everything the Harper Government has done, so far, points toward an ultimate outcome that is favourable to Big Oil, Enbridge, Alberta and China. I don’t trust the Harper Government and neither should you.

The Enbridge Northern Pipeline

Enbridge Keystone Kops

My first post on this website was ‘Northern Gateway Pipelines’, but since then I’ve commented about the potential dangers of the Enbridge northern pipeline again and again.

Enbridge was obviously concerned that environmentalists opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipelines were gaining a little traction here in British Columbia, so the Enbridge PR team was tasked to launch a $5 million ($5,000,000) pro-pipeline ad campaign. If you’ve missed it, so far, you really must have been living under a rock, the ads were and still are pervasive.

Q: Has the Enbridge PR team managed to sway public opinion in favour of the Enbridge northern pipeline?
A: Probably not.

Q: Why has their impressive ad campaign failed?
A: Enbridge was making news.

Enbridge news:

  1. The USA’s National Transportation Safety Board recently referred to Enbridge as Keystone Kops/Cops. Here’s the NTSB’s Press Release regarding the 318,000,000 litre oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The ‘clean’ up* took two years and cost about $800,000,000.
  2. The recent Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak that occurred Monday, 18 June 2012.

The end result is that, right now, everyone seems to be writing off the pipeline, saying it’s dead. Whoa, stop, hold on, let’s not forget that the Harper Government devastated environmental and fisheries laws specifically to ensure approval of the Enbridge pipeline. The Cabinet can still approve this thing. Most people have a very short attention span and short memories is what Stephen Harper always relies upon. Unfortunately, we still can’t assume the Enbridge northern pipeline is dead.

Here’s the Enbridge northern pipeline parody video:

*Can diluted bitumen (heavy crude oil) be cleaned up? The following, unconfirmed, video suggests that spilled heavy crude returns to it’s original state, leaving Michigan with their own mini-version of Canada’s tar sands courtesy of Enbridge and Big Oil.

Related articles:

  1. Scathing U.S. report won’t change Ottawa’s mind on Northern Gateway
  2. It’s semi-official: The Enbridge Northern Gateway project is kaput!

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Oil Sands are for Canadians

I chose the title ‘Oils Sands are for Canadians’ because, strictly speaking, this is not just another diatribe about Canada’s oil sands, rather it outlines a very exciting paradigm shift.

My thesis is that we’ve all been viewing tar sands’ development from Big Oil’s (the Harper Government’s) perspective. Big oil:

  • doesn’t mind wasting Canada’s water and natural gas
  • has no interest in refining heavy crude oil here in Canada
  • encourages cheap foreign labour to increase their profits
  • isn’t troubled by toxic tailings ponds, CO2 emissions, pipeline leaks, oil spills and supertanker disasters.

Multinational oil and gas corporations are driven by profit and nothing more than delivering money to shareholders. They’re happy to sell Canada’s oil to the highest bidder wherever they might be. Big Oil pockets hundreds of billions of dollars from Canada’s natural resources and Canada is forced to settle for whatever is left.

Environmentalists:

  • would love to see all of our tar sands oil left in the ground

What if we decided to proceed with tar sands development in a balanced and sustainable fashion? What if we focused on the idea that our oil sands are for Canadians?

What if we decided to:

  • stop squandering our precious, raw natural resources
  • scale back bitumen production
  • treasure our fresh water because it will be the key to our future
  • make better use of our natural gas
  • refine heavy crude oil near the source, right here in Canada
  • produce just enough oil to satisfy the Canadian marketplace’s needs
  • gradually eliminate most, if not all, existing long distance pipelines
  • say no to the Northern Gateway Pipelines, Keystone XL Pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
  • invest in massive upgrades of Canada’s railways
  • develop railcars with best-in-class safety standards to transport oil
  • use rail instead of pipelines to transport our oil to all of Canada’s Provinces and Territories
  • use Canada’s oil profits to fund our transition to green technologies, to eliminate our deficits and eventually to eliminate our debt?

My suspicion is that we would:

  • create hundreds of thousands of well-paid Canadian jobs
  • vastly improve Canada’s transportation infrastructure, benefiting all Canadians
  • dramatically reduce pollution of our air, land and water
  • create a balanced Canadian economy ensuring a prosperous future for our grandchildren and future generations.

The Harper Government and their corporate backers have taken us a very long way down an exceptionally risky road in their misguided attempt to generate short term profits. Canadians need better governance. We need big ideas and those ideas rarely originate in the boardrooms of multinational oil and gas corporations.

Canada’s oil sands are for Canadians, they’re not for Big Oil’s shareholders.

The “path to our future” is not a pipeline, it’s better ideas, ideas that focus on Canadians, not corporate greed.

Related article:

  1. Senate energy committee backs sending western oil east

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Arrogant Harper Government

Arrogant Harper Government, confused Liberals and the NDP preparing for 2015

Have you played a team sport? Did you ever lose to an inferior team, a team that had no class? Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to sit as an altruistic, progressive, NDP, Liberal or Green MP facing the arrogant Harper Government majority?

Two phrases spring to my mind,

  1. “Bullshit baffles brains” and
  2. ‘Never Fight with a Pig’.

Every time the Liberals point out a problem with Conservative governance and their stewardship of Canada, the Harper Government responds with a childish taunt, “Neener, neener, neener, when you were in power you did that too”. Clearly, Stephen Harper ignored his mother when she taught him that, “two wrongs don’t make a right”. That would be number one, “Bullshit baffles brains”.

When Tom Mulcair uses his analytical mind to ask Stephen Harper a serious, foundational question, Stephen Harper’s sycophants arrogantly demean the Official Opposition by:

  • consistently failing to answer the question and then
  • muttering something about unions, communism or even Nazism.

The Harper Government obviously isn’t classy or intelligent, but they’re clearly very skilled at fighting dirty; I suspect many of the Conservative MPs have been fighting dirty from childhood right on through until the fuddy duddy, angry-old-uncle, stage of life, they’re at now. By now, it’s evident, to almost everyone, that meaningful democratic debate has gone missing under the Harper Government and it’s been replaced with condescension and disrespectful nastiness. That would be number two ‘Never Fight with a Pig’.

Stephen Harper is a relatively clever fellow, but he is a long, long way from being the smartest guy in the room. My suspicion is that China very quickly got the best of him, but they’re still letting Mr. Harper believe that he has the upper hand.

Background: First, China purchased a major stake in the tar sands and then they demanded a Pacific pipeline. The Harper Government’s 2012 Budget and Bill C–38, devastated Canadian environmental laws and granted the Conservative Cabinet dictatorial powers to ensure the Northern Gateway Pipelines’ approval. Unfortunately, China will benefit and Canada will lose.

Canada:

  • loses a chunk of our boreal forest
  • wastes our natural gas
  • wastes our fresh water
  • sells another raw natural resource (heavy crude oil)
  • pollutes our air, land and water
  • risks a pipeline and/or supertanker related environmental disaster.

China:

  • fuels their thriving economy
  • refines our heavy crude oil
  • transitions to a greener economy
  • snickers at us.

Canadians generally prefer viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Perpetual optimism led some people to ignore warnings, about Stephen Harper, from Michael Ignatief, Jack Layton and Elizabeth May. Their warnings were dismissed as “politics as usual”. The end result was that in Canada’s last federal election, a minority of voters took a chance and offered Stephen Harper an opportunity to govern. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister and Conservative MPs have arrogantly wielded Canada’s authority in unanticipated ways. Embarrassed Canadians will soon remind the Harper Government that it doesn’t have the power, the people of Canada do. Less than a year into his mandate, support for Stephen Harper and his Harper Government has already declined significantly.

It’s likely that we’re going to have to put up with inadequate, dictatorial governance for another three years. Opposition MPs won’t be able to do much within Parliament, but they will have time to educate the Canadian public about the Harper Government’s scary, Big Oil, China-focused agenda. Canadians care about our environment and our international reputation. The Harper Government isn’t just disgracing Canadian democracy, they’re degrading Canada’s reputation around the world.

Q: What’s the first step, what can we hope to accomplish with the arrogant Harper Government in power?
A: Step one: Let’s stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the richest corporations on earth. The profiteering multinational oil and gas corporations will do just fine without even more of Canada’s money.

Next step: A comprehensive, sustainable Canadian energy strategy that benefits Canada first.

>> Hopeful Canadians

Related post:

  1. Peter Van Loan, “…job done”

Related article:

  1. Harper’s ‘bullying’ ways gives opposition hope, Economist says

Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak

Enbridge, The Northern Gateway Pipelines, “Path to our future” company, experienced a new oil spill on Monday, 18 June 2012. The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak occurred when a flange-gasket gave way, near Elk Point, about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.

Background: The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline carries heavy crude oil from the Fort McMurray tar sands to Hardisty (~ 541 km).

map Elk Point Alberta

Interestingly, Enbridge referred to the two hundred and thirty thousand (230,000) litre leak as an oil “release”; as if the leak had been planned, which, of course, it had not.

Q: Did the location name, “Hardisty”, ring a bell?
A: It should, because the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines are intended to carry heavy crude oil from Hardisty, AB to Kitimat, BC.

If you live in BC, ask yourself, what’s going to happen when a future Enbridge leak and oil spill dumps heavy crude oil and chemicals into a pristine BC waterway? What happens to our water? What happens to the fish and wildlife? Did you know that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines cross at least seven hundred streams before they reach Kitimat. FYI, Fisheries and Oceans Canada previously stated the number of streams and rivers was actually over one thousand (1,000), not the seven hundred Enbridge claims.

Q: How often do Enbridge pipeline leaks and oil spills happen?
A: We don’t really know.

I found this quote from Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) disturbing, “This one (referring to this Enbridge spill) is significant enough that we issued a news release on it.” I wonder, how many leaks occur that we never hear about?

Q: Will the Harper Government approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines?
A: It certainly looks like they will. Bill C–38 was crafted to eliminate environmental obstacles and ultimately, to ensure approval. The Conservative Cabinet can, if necessary, overrule the National Energy Board’s recommendations. In the end:

  • China wants the Pacific pipelines and
  • Big Oil has already calculated their anticipated profits,

so what do you imagine Stephen Harper will do?

BTW, regarding this oil “release”, Enbridge was quick to assert that, “there is no risk to public health or safety.”

Deformed fish found swimming in the Athabasca River have been trying to tell us that Canada’s tar sands adventure hasn’t been working very well for fish and they would like to, respectfully suggest, to us, that it’s time we started giving a little more consideration to what we’re doing to the Earth’s ecosystem. 🙂

Tar sands skyline courtesy of Greenpeace
Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Northern Gateway Pipelines
  3. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related articles:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. David Suzuki: The catastrophic effects of oil pipeline spills
  3. Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety
  4. Enbridge has a best friend in Ottawa

C-38 Infamy

C–38 Infamy will mark a turning point in Canada’s democracy. My first sentence might sound overstated, but let me explain why it’s bang-on and not hyperbolic. The Harper Government’s arrogance and their dictatorial nature has now been revealed to almost all Canadians, including many within their Conservative base.

“The Harper Government’s arrogance and their dictatorial nature has now been revealed to almost all Canadians, including many within their Conservative base.”

Early in his political career, Stephen Harper was coached, by top-notch Conservative strategists. They taught him how to appear polite, all the while trash-talking his opposition. They also prepared him to simply repeat the conservative mantra:

  • lower taxes
  • more jobs

over and over and over and…

Their stategy worked; Harper defeated more intelligent, altruistic, opposition candidates.

Recall the cliché aphorism, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Well, guess what, it did.

When about thirty-nine percent of Canadians, who cast ballots in the last election, gifted the Harper Government a majority, the voters weren’t anticipating what would follow.

Most Canadians value our social democracy and our environment. Very few, if any, Canadians guessed that Stephen Harper planned to devastate our environmental laws, decimate environment-focused infrastructure, muzzle government scientists and environmentalists, so that Canada could become a Petro-State controlled by multinational oil and gas corporations.

For the Harper Government C–38 was a step too far. Most Canadians do not share Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada and I suspect a very significant number of Canadians have been dismayed by what has been happening to our democracy. It’s been embarrassing and even humiliating.

I’m convinced that C–38 has become a rallying cry for those who oppose the Harper Government’s Big Oil agenda.

I’d like to thank Elizabeth May, the Liberals, the NDP and Tom Mulcair for working as hard as they did to draw Canadians’ attention to the very undemocratic Bill C–38.

C–38 has focused everyone’s attention on the arrogant, dictatorial nature of the Harper Government. Canada is a democracy and Canada will not become Harper’s Petro-State. Stephen Harper will not be given the benefit of the doubt next time.

Canada is a Democracy and
Canada Will Not Become Harper’s Petro-State.

Red Deer River Oil Deluge

Other than “tragic”, what is the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?

Q: First, why use the word “deluge” and not “spill”?
A: You “spill” a cup of coffee, hundreds of thousands of litres of oil is a deluge, not a spill. Interestingly, it could have been even worse, the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time.

“I have 57 acres and it has come right through all of it… It’s complete and sheer devastation… They came into my place, my shop, my ecosystem, and they destroyed it… This is my world. I didn’t break it, they broke it… There are not words to describe this.”
– Gord Johnston

Background: Thursday, 7 June 2012, a 1966 era, Plains Midstream Canada, oil pipeline burst into the Red Deer River, and oil flowed into Gleniffer Lake, north of Sundre, Alberta. Alberta’s 724 km (450 mi) long Red Deer River is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River.

Re: “north of Sundre”: The Mayor of Sundre wants everyone to know that no oil spilled in the backcountry, or along the river, so all activities associated with the river, such as whitewater rafting and camping are open and ready for business.

Red Deer River oil and Gleniffer Lake

Q: OK, now back to my original question, what’s the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?
A: Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, chose the word “exception” in her attempt to convince Canadians that this spill isn’t the norm for oil pipelines, instead she suggested, it was an exception, it was not the rule. I disagree, my suspicion is that, where there is an oil pipeline there will be “spills”; not every day, month or even every year, but sooner or later. I suggest that a better word to describe this oil deluge is “awkward”, because the oil pipe bursting was very awkwardly timed for:

  • Enbridge and their planned, much hyped, $5.5 Billion Northern Gateway Pipelines (you know, “The path to our future…”)
  • the Harper Government’s oil agenda
  • most of all, it’s very awkward for the multinational oil and gas corporations who would have us believe that mining our tar sands and delivering heavy crude oil to Pacific markets can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace
Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace

A tar sands’ dump truck pictured below will give you a better perspective of the tar sands’ mining shown above.

Tar sands truck

The bottom line is that oil pipelines leak, it happens more often than you might imagine (watch this video).

The Red River oil deluge was tragedy for Gord Johnston and other Albertans living near the burst pipe and it should act as a warning to residents of British Columbia.

Update (20120614): According to York University Professor, Sean Kheraj, pipelines in Alberta carrying either oil or some combination of oil, gas or distillates failed on average every 1.4 days. Since 2006, the province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil. A single litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater. >> Vancouver Sun article

Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

The National Sierra Club (USA) has just released a new video titled, ‘Tar Sands Pipelines: The Dirtiest Oil on Earth’


Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

What should Canada do with the one of the largest crude oil deposits on Earth (it’s either the 2nd or 3rd largest)? The Sierra Club’s position is even more extreme than my own; they want us to leave all of our heavy crude oil in the ground. I advocate leaving the vast majority of it in the ground, for future technologies and future generations, but I would like to see Canada use our resource today, in a limited way, right here in Canada. Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the United States, but we still import over forty percent (40%) of the oil we consume domestically. Using our own oil today, will pay for our transition to green technologies. We don’t need or want the Northern Gateway Pipelines that will service China and India.

I suspect Big Oil and foreign ownership are demanding that Canada’s Government streamline approval of pipelines to ports, here in Canada and to the United States. Heavy crude oil delivered to Canadian ports will be shipped as is, crude delivered to the USA will be refined before delivery. Multinational oil and gas corporations can earn the biggest profit by selling Canadian oil to countries like China, India and Japan.

Did you know that multinational oil and gas corporations and their shareholders pocket the vast majority of the profits generated from our tar sands?

“In the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute study, completed in mid-March (2012), the Edmonton-based think-tank concluded the oil and gas industry has raked in $260-billion in pre-tax profits since 1986, while the public received less than $25-billion — less than 6% of the total value.”
– according to The Toronto Sun 20120409 (VINCENT MCDERMOTT, QMI AGENCY)

The Harper Government gets a failing grade for their stewardship of Canada’s environment. Canada needs new leadership that will stand up to Big Oil. As it stands today, the oil companies are taking the money and leaving Canada and the world with a mess that they tell us will be cleaned up. Can it be cleaned up? Will it be?

>> there’s something to hope for…

Cleanup Update (20120609): Still no decision on who pays for oil sands monitoring