Killer Whales and Supertankers

BC coastal whales

Do you ever play movies in your imagination? You know what I mean, it’s when you picture a future scenario that’s so real that you can actually visualize a colour movie in your head; a daydream if you will. The title of this movie is ‘Killer Whales and Supertankers’. Picture this:

  • the Harper Government approves the Northern Gateway Pipelines
  • supertankers, full of crude oil, begin leaving Kitimat destined for China.

I’ll bet you’re already imagining something similar to the movie ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’. I understand, because that scenario is, indeed, inevitable, but this time imagine something different. What if the tankers are sailing weekly and a killer whale washes up on the BC coastline. The whale looks perfect, absolutely beautiful, except, of course, it’s dead. Canada and the rest of the world immediately wonder if there’s a connection between the supertankers and the killer whale’s death? Hold on, there must be a CSI for marine mammals, right? Here’s the problem, the Harper Government just dismissed that guy and shut down Canada’s entire DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) contaminants program.

Peter Ross, a marine mammal toxicologist, a gentleman who has about a hundred published, scientific articles was recently informed that his services will no longer be required. Worse still, Peter is just one of seventy-five people, who study marine contamination for Canada, to be dismissed. So, what does Peter have to say?

“I cannot think of another industrialized nation that has completely excised marine pollution from its radar…”

and

“It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans…”

Q: Why did the Harper Government shut down the Department of Fisheries contaminants program?
A: Just a budget cut, or was it a targeted budget cut, because… ? Play another one of those movies in your head.

I don’t suppose your movie had anything to do with Big Oil shipping Canada’s raw natural resources to China and contamination of our air, land and water?

Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan?

Mulcair Harper Redford Wall photos

If you were paying attention to the Canadian media this last week, you might have heard that war is about to break out in Canada, there’s apparently going to be a battle that will divide our country. It’s Tom Mulcair vs Alberta and Saskatchewan and from the gist of the commentary, it’s also Mr. Mulcair versus the rest of Canada.

Stephen Harper, Alison Redford and Brad Wall, all Conservatives, felt obligated to respond to Tom Mulcair’s recent Dutch disease remarks, referencing the tar sands boom, the Canadian Dollar and lost manufacturing jobs. To be fair, the Provincial Premieres Alison Redford and Brad Wall were actually quite diplomatic when they responded, it was the Harper Government that, once again, behaved badly. I’m frequently entertained by the Harper Government and its surrogates. They relish any opportunity to besmirch an opponent by injecting their negative-keyword-laced, talking points.

Have you noticed that the Harper Government loves to act tough? Now that they have a majority government they often behave like the playground bully. What does the Harper Government want to fight about this time? What’s going to divide Canadians? Perhaps it’s:

  • tar sands’ pollution and having Big Oil pay for the contamination that they’re creating every day
  • making sure that tar sands growth is sustainable.

Surely, there can’t be any disagreement there? The vast majority of Canadians, whether from the East or the West, would agree that the polluter should pay and that development and growth of the tar sands must be sustainable.

Clearly, there isn’t going to be a war. Talk of alienation and separation is just Harper Government, keyword, nonsense. The NDP prefers reasoned discussion and consensus. Do you remember ‘discussion’? It’s something we used to do before the Harper Government majority of 2011.

Topics for discussion:

  • changes to environmental laws
  • greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil extraction
  • groundwater contamination
  • pipeline safety
  • supertankers loaded with crude oil plying the, often dangerous, waters off of the BC coastline, which by the way is another, even more precious, resource
  • exporting raw resources to China and the USA
  • manufacturing jobs
  • foreign workers
  • the green economy and why Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world in going green.

Let’s start with something simple, why does the Harper Government revere oil and gas? Oil and gas reverence must have something to do with money, right? Is Big Oil where the Harper Government’s political contributions come from? I’m serious, I’d love to know where this reverence comes from, I really don’t get it. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s something smelly about this alliance between multinational oil corporations and the fuddy-duddy Harper Government?

I’d like to thank Mr. Mulcair for getting these fresh, hopeful, very important dialogues started. It was clever, of you to get things rolling so soon after becoming the NDP’s new leader. Thank you. 🙂

Who’s Afraid of Tom Mulcair?

Tom Mulcair

If you don’t already know who Tom Mulcair is, you may not understand why I’m asking, “Who’s Afraid of Tom Mulcair?”

OK, going forward, I’ll assume everyone is up to speed, Mr. Mulcair is the new leader of Canada’s Federal NDP.

Not long ago, Mr. Mulcair got out his paddle and stirred up the Harper Government’s status quo, by questioning tar sands development. Paraphrasing, he asked:

  • why isn’t tar sands development following a sustainable growth model
  • why are we allowing multinational oil and gas corporations to, “use our air, our soil and our water as an unlimited, free dumping ground”
  • why have we allowed the tar sands’s economy to artificially inflate our dollar, destroying thousands of manufacturing jobs and jeopardizing many more
  • why are we allowing Canada’s balanced economy to come under threat?

Since Mr. Mulcair asked his questions, you can’t open a paper or a political website without seeing an article about Dutch disease. I love it, and I enjoy the dialogues that his questions have generated. Bluntly it’s about time, there was some serious discussion. Prior to asking his questions, the multinational oil and gas corporations were having their way with Canada:

  • multiple tar sands developments proceeding at full speed
  • new pipelines planned or underway
  • environmental laws changing or changed
  • significant threats to environmentalists
  • muzzling scientists with views unfavourable to Big Oil
  • more foreign, cheap-labour, workers on their way to Canada

Now back to my question,
Q: Who’s afraid of Tom Mulcair?
A: Federal and Provincial Liberals and perhaps the Harper Government

The Federal Liberals have been humiliating themselves by taking every opportunity to denigrate and minimize the NDP. When I worked as a Medical Doctor, I always tried to remember,

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Sadly, the Liberals are currently perceived, as neglecting Canadians, while pursuing their own self-interests. It doesn’t look like they care.

Provincially, the Liberal Premiere of BC, went so far as to call Tom Mulcair’s ideas “Goofy”. Although she succeeded in getting herself a lot of press attention, that scrutiny only directed consideration to her precarious position in the upcoming election. I’m betting Adrian Dix, the provincial NDP leader is going to win that one.

Finally, the Harper Government is expecting Tom Mulcair’s popularity to wane, the same way Michael Ignatief’s did, so they’re not nervous yet, but it won’t be much longer until their nerves begin to fray. They’re definitely not as confident as they pretend they are. They’re well aware that a very significant majority of Canadians did not vote for them in the last election or, for that matter, ever.

I’m betting Tom Mulcair’s popularity will grow as Canadians discover how much he cares about Canada.

Afterthought: My hunch is that multinational oil and gas corporations aren’t afraid of anyone (any individual), but they’re understandably afraid of everyone (a majority of us). Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the verge of a populist breakthrough across Canada and I’m sure that’s causing the corporations, more than a little, concern. What if they actually had to dig into their massive profits to fund the ‘polluter pays’ model that the NDP champions?

Canada and the UN Food Envoy

Olivier De Schutter UN Special Rapporteur image

I often find the actions the Harper Government’s takes on behalf of Canada embarrassing, the latest chapter is ‘Canada and the UN Food Envoy’.

After an eleven day visit to Canada, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stated that Canada was “in violation of international obligations” because nine hundred thousand Canadian households and as many as two and a half million people can’t afford adequate diets.

“What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.”

Q: How did Canada respond to this shocking statement?
A: Jason Kenney, the Harper Government’s Immigration Minister, said the United Nations “should focus its efforts on those countries where there is widespread hunger, widespread material poverty and not get into political exercises in developed democracies like Canada.” Mr. Kenney added, “I think this is completely ridiculous. Canada is one of the wealthiest, most democratic countries in the world.”

Well OK, let’s see, so, over seven percent of our population, one of the wealthiest, most democratic, countries in the world can’t afford an adequate diet and Canada officially responds by demeaning and figuratively shooting the United Nations messenger; unbelievable, but all too true.

Wouldn’t an appropriate reaction to this embarrassing evaluation have been to ask Dr. De Schutter, “What can we do?” or perhaps, to state, “We will begin to address this problem immediately.”

Unfortunately, this is just one more example of the “politics of mean”, it’s classic Harper Government arrogance and self-righteousness. Hey, it’s simply not part of their Oil and Gas agenda and they’re too busy planning to expand tar sands development by bringing in 150,000 foreign workers. They apparently don’t have time for 2,500,000 Canadian citizens who cannot afford an adequate diet. This government certainly doesn’t speak for me. I apologize Dr. De Schutter.

>> Fortunately, there’s something to hope for…

Tom Mulcair’s Two Words

Dutch windmill

Tom Mulcair’s two words have generated discussion across Canada. Everyone is talking about ‘Dutch disease.’

Whether, or not, you believe that Dutch disease exists in Canada, is, in my opinion, beside the point, because the conversation has afforded Mr. Mulcair an opportunity to introduce himself to Canadians and to share other less catchy, but equally, or more, important, two-word pairings:

  • sustainable development
  • fair trade
  • balanced economy
  • manufacturing jobs
  • better world.

My favourite part of this conversation has been Mr. Mulcair’s statement that we’re allowing multinational oil and gas corporations to, “use our air, our soil and our water as an unlimited, free dumping ground.”

Northern Gateway Pipelines

Northern Gateway Pipelines route

The proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines will travel all the way from Alberta’s tar sands to Kitimat, BC (~ 1,200 km long, crossing more than 750 streams). Heavy crude will then be pumped into supertankers that will then transport the oil to China for processing and consumption.

Important: Contrast Enbridge’s PR website, the one I linked to in my first paragraph, to this one from the Sierra Club.

If you listen to the Harper Government or the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan the pipelines will usher in a new income stream, new jobs and lead to a booming Canadian economy.

The tar sands are a precious Canadian resource, but they’re less precious than the multinational oil and gas corporations would have us believe; there are immense environmental costs. That said, if they’re developed in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive fashion they could help Canada pay for our transition to a green economy.

Problems:

  1. Extracting oil from the tar sands is currently devastating Alberta’s boreal forest and undoubtedly contaminating the watershed. Have you watched the film Petropolis? If not, it’s currently available for viewing on Netflix.
  2. Do you know what a tailings pond is? If not, click here.
  3. It doesn’t make economic sense to export raw natural resources. Why isn’t Canada refining the bitumen (heavy crude oil) here?
  4. What happens when the pipelines leak?
  5. What happens when one or more of the supertankers has a spill. Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster.’ HBO often shows reruns. Check out the pathway a supertanker has to travel before it reaches open ocean. Launch Google Earth and search for Kitimat, BC Canada and drill down for a closer look at the route the tankers will have to travel.
  6. Kitimat to the ocean

  7. If Canada really has the second largest oil reserves in the world, why are we still importing over forty percent of the oil we consume? My suspicion is that this has something to do with multinational oil and gas corporate profits.
  8. Why is the Canadian taxpayer subsidizing the richest, most powerful, corporations on earth?
  9. How much is the massive, Harper Government’s, pro-oil, PR campaign costing us?
  10. Has Canada forgotten about Global Warming?

Alberta and Saskatchewan’s tar sands have been there for thousands of years. What’s the rush? Conservatives would have us believe extracting the oil and building pipelines has to be done immediately.

I’ve always wondered why Alberta didn’t select a single tar sands location and use it as a proof of concept to demonstrate to environmentalists world-wide that tar sands’ oil could be delivered in as friendly a way as any other oil that is currently produced. Alberta’s government chose not to do that, likely because it was impossible, with current technology. The unfortunate result is that Canada is viewed as a source of ‘Dirty Oil’ around the world. Once again, I suspect Big Oil exerted their influence and made more than one location an urgent priority for Conservative governments.

Q: Why is Big Oil in such a hurry?
A: My understanding is that, over ninety-percent of all the income earned goes directly to multinational oil and gas corporations.

Update (20120530) – Enbridge™ will spend up to $5 million (5,000,000) on a multimedia ad and PR blitz for the Northern Gateway Pipelines. >> Vancouver Sun

Related Posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related website:

  1. Radicals for Our Coast