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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

Justin Trudeau photo

Seriously, are the Grits really encouraging Justin Trudeau to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada? Justin’s last-name recognition is certainly a plus for the Liberals and it would definitely draw attention to their leadership race and convention, but…

Q: So, what’s the problem?
A: Becoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau simply isn’t plausible in this decade.

I hope Justin doesn’t get sucked in by the attention they’re paying to him; it’s pretty obvious the Liberals are just hoping to use the “Trudeau” name to garner media attention. That said, there’s a chance that becoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might be possible later, when he has further developed his resumé and if the Liberals are able to regain a little credibility in Quebec and Ontario.

I was a University of Ottawa medical student assigned to the Ottawa Civic Hospital’s maternity suite when Dr. Manuel (Manny) Gluck delivered Justin. I was an early supporter of Justin’s dad. I’ve always voted Liberal. I was moved by the eulogy Justin gave at his father’s funeral. Hey, I was even amused when he won his boxing match. That said, I don’t believe he’s ready to be the Liberal leader and he’s certainly not ready to be the Prime Minister of Canada.

My suspicion is that Stephen Harper and the press would love to orchestrate a showdown between Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau. The media would generate the attention they crave and need. The Harper Government would cruise to another majority.

Q: How could Justin Trudeau increase his leadership credentials?
A: Unlike his Liberal colleagues, Justin could extend a statesman’s hand to Tom Mulcair and the NDP. It’s way past time someone in the Liberal Party seriously considered Jean Chrétien’s suggestion that the Liberals and the NDP begin working more closely. Bringing the Liberals and the NDP together and then defeating the Harper Government would be a very impressive leadership coup and, most significantly, it would be a wonderful gift, the majority of Canadians would long remember.

After the Harper Government is defeated in the next election, Justin’s era will begin. At that time, reading the words Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, won’t be nearly as unlikely as it is today.

Related article:

Andrew Coyne: Trudeau fils is not Trudeau père

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

What’s Happened to Canada?

An Internet friend recently asked me, “What’s happened to Canada?”. After a little back and forth discussion, my British friend’s opinion was crystal clear.

“From here (UK), it looks like you folks are becoming a little arrogant, as though you’re trying to become mini-Americans.”

Summarizing his perspective of the new Conservative Canada:

  • we bloviate about our economy and our banks
  • we bully the EU with our economic ideas
  • our new focus on guns and military power doesn’t seem worthy of a peacekeeping-focused country whose former Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • our vast oil riches have made us lose sight of the environment and global warming.

He even asked “Will we be banning gay marriage and bringing back the death penalty?” I responded, “Any other thoughts?” and he replied, “I think I’ve already said too much.” I chuckled and let him know that I share all of his views and I even emailed him a link to a blog post I wrote in early March of this year.

I concluded by telling him that I remain hopeful that a majority of Canadians will rectify their mistake in our next federal election.

My viewpoint today is that the Harper Government is arrogant and is an embarrassment to many Canadians, myself included.

>> there is something to hope for…

Related article:

  1. Oh Canada: the government’s broad assault on the environment

Tar Sands Repugnance

Multinational oil and gas corporations need to minimize Canada’s tar sands repugnance every day. If big oil hopes to continue earning hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, they have to make sure consumers, like us, don’t get a bad taste in our mouths. How do you prevent people from thinking about:

  • destruction of boreal forest
  • massive natural gas and water consumption
  • smokestacks
  • and watershed pollution?

It’s not dissimilar to the dilemma the tobacco companies faced with the association between cigarettes and death.

One of big oils’ simplest but most clever PR strategies is to use words that misrepresent what’s actually going on. Examples:

  • Oil Sands: Historically they were the Canada’s tar sands because the stuff looks and feels more like tar than oil; today you’re branded a radical if you say or write tar sands
  • Tailings Pond: A pond is something you have on your hobby farm, it’s certainly not toxic dumpsites that are so large that they can be seen from space
  • Oil Spill: You spill your coffee, you don’t spill hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.

Wordsmiths writing for traditional media can do better than “pond” and “spill”.

I miss George Carlin. Remember his oxymoron, “Military Intelligence”? He could have performed a hilarious, routine about minimizing the tar sands’ repugnance that would have garnered a lot of attention.

Speaking of tar sands’ repugnance, have you watched ‘Petropolis’?

The Enbridge Conundrum

Q: What is the Enbridge conundrum?
A: How can a corporation once named one of Canada’s greenest companies be responsible for delivering about 318,000,000 litres (84,000,000 gallons) of crude oil per day? Yes, I know about their CO2 sequestration, solar power, waste heat recovery and wind farm initiatives, but they’re still a major player in the fossil fuels marketplace. How is that green? To be fair, Enbridge is doing exactly what I think we should be doing with the tar sands, they’re using profits from oil and gas to transition to green technologies. Unfortunately, they’re also promoting a really bad plan that will inevitably lead to an environmental catastrophe.

I first became aware of Enbridge™, years ago, when I watched a newscast referencing an oil spill from one of their many pipelines (they have over 13,000 kilometres of pipeline). Recently, like all other residents of British Columbia Canada, I’ve been bombarded by their public relations blitz for their Northern Gateway Pipelines. Enbridge is currently investing up to five million dollars ($5,000,000) to convince BC residents that their planned pipeline is “a path to our future”. I suspect Big Oil is contributing additional funds to ensure the pipeline becomes a reality as soon as possible.

Q: “What kind of PR campaign can you buy for about $5,000,000?”
A: You can hire a team of designers and copywriters whose job it is to brand a heavy crude oil pipeline and oil port as something magical, wonderful and hopeful.

Ask yourself, does the combination of the designer’s beautiful artwork, pretty colours and the copywriter’s cleverly crafted story alter the fact that multinational oil and gas corporations have asked Enbridge to build a pipeline through BC’s pristine wilderness? Does it change the fact that when the heavy crude oil arrives in Kitimat, it will be pumped into enormous supertankers that will then travel along BC’s world-renowned, Pacific coastline, loaded with heavy crude oil?

Q: Do Enbridge pipelines ever leak?
A: Yes, according to Enbridge’s own data (via the Polaris Institute), they’ve had at least eight hundred and four (804) spills. The USA’s EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reported that a recent spill, from a 30-inch pipeline rupture, dumped 819,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into the Talmadge Creek and some oil travelled about 30 miles downstream in the Kalamazoo River (Michigan USA). The Kalamazoo spill occurred a couple of years ago and they’re still cleaning up the mess.

Q: Do supertankers loaded with oil pose a danger to BC’s coastline and the Pacific ecosystem?
A: Have you watched ‘Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster’? If you haven’t already watched it, look for it on HBO Canada.

Over six thousand (6,000) well-intentioned, well-motivated people work for Enbridge and I have absolutely no doubt that they are doing everything possible to prevent and mitigate an environmental disaster. That said, Enbridge exists to make money for their shareholders and it does so by working hand in hand with multinational oil and gas corporations.

Questions:

  • do you think the Northern Gateway Pipelines will experience spills
  • do you think we’ll see 270 and 350 meter long supertankers leaking massive volumes of heavy crude oil just off the BC coastline
  • why isn’t more money from oil sands profits being channeled into green technologies here in Canada
  • why aren’t we refining heavy crude here in Canada
  • why is Canada still importing over forty percent (40%) of the oil we use
  • and finally, why are we squandering Canada’s bountiful natural resources to fuel the development of Pacific nations who see us as their competition?

“First, we outsourced our manufacturing jobs and helped to make China rich. Now were planning to send China more and more of our natural resources. The Chinese must think we’re idiots.”

It certainly appears that the Harper Government imagines that its mandate is to do the bidding of Big Oil. Their pro-oil, anti-environment playbook makes me shudder.

I’m convinced that Tom Mulcair and the NDP are on the right track, so there is hope.

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Northern Pipeline
  2. Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak
  3. Red Deer River Oil Deluge
  4. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related article:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. It’s More than a Pipeline
  3. Enbridge faces $3.7-million penalty for Michigan oil spill

Oil Sands Boosterism

oil sands boosterism

The Harper Government is both famous for and infamous for its oil sands boosterism. It certainly feels like their attitude is, “Damn environmental science and global warming, let’s make money.”

It’s not at all surprising that most scientists think that the Harper Government has an anti-science approach to environmental policy. The Harper Government doesn’t want scientific fact to interfere with their oil sands boosterism.

Unsurprisingly, the Harper Government’s biggest supporters are:

  • big businesses
  • multinational oil and gas corporations
  • pipeline corporations
  • the one percenters (1%)

Is the commonality in this list short-term profit and possibly even greed?

Equally interesting is that the Harper Government’s biggest detractors are:

  • environmentalists, both Canadian and international
  • scientists, both Canadian and international
  • most Canadians
  • the ninety-nine percenters (99%)

The commonality here is logical thinking.

“Using carbon based fuel creates global warming and pollution. We’re all in this together, so let’s transition to greener technologies.”

>> I’m a ninety-nine percenter and, like most Canadians, I’m hopeful. We have a choice…

Let’s use our oil sands sensibly, to help us transition to green technologies.

Canada Can Prosper and Still Protect Our Environment.

Tom’s Tar Sands Trip

Tom Mulcair Visits Oil Sands

Tom’s tar sands trip, or why Tom Mulcair’s visit to the Alberta oil sands has garnered attention from coast to coast. From the time Mr. Mulcair first mentioned Dutch disease, the overvalued Canadian Dollar, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the threat to Canada’s balanced economy and the absence of sustainable development, folks of all political persuasions have been transfixed.

BTW, before I discuss Mr. Mulcair’s Alberta visit, did you happen to notice that the just released Pembina Institute’s report suggests that Canada has actually come down with a unique strain of Dutch disease they call “oilsands fever.”

There’s no denying that Canada’s oil reserves are a very big deal. An even bigger deal is the question of how best to manage their development in an environmentally friendly, sustainable manner. Frankly, the Harper Government’s oil sands eagerness makes them look like a bunch of old, fuddy duddy, gold-rush characters, flushed with excitement, sweaty palms and all, staring at each other exclaiming, “We’re going to be rich! They’ve told us we’re going to be rich.” In stark contrast, Mr. Mulcair looks like the grown-up in the room telling the kids (paraphrased), “Hold on guys, let’s not get too excited, no matter what they’ve told you, there are some very serious questions that need to be addressed and answered.”

Watch this, oil sands related, CBC video and pay close attention to when Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, says, “What I am told, I’ve been told…” (about 3 min 50 sec into the clip).

Now ask yourself, who told Mr. Oliver that you will be able to drink from tailings ponds? Did the multinational oil and gas corporations actually tell him this whopper? If that’s the case, picture an oil and gas guy, who looks a little like John Lovitz (video below), saying, “You’ll be able to drink from it, yeah, that’s the ticket, you’ll be able to drink from it and fish from it.” 🙂

Tom Mulcair Visits Oil Sands

Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, was at a conference the day Tom Mulcair visited the oil sands, but she recorded a video statement ahead of time and said, “Recent comments by the federal leader of the opposition serve to divide our nation by stating baseless allegations and mistruths. Following Mr. Mulcair’s visit to Alberta’s oil sands, I hope that going forward he recognizes the value of our natural resources to the Canadian economy, and the continued commitment of my government to develop those resources in an environmentally sustainable way.”

Was Ms. Redford’s unnaturally aggressive posture nothing more than a recently re-elected politician playing to her base or did her comments actually reveal considerable underlying defensiveness; you know, the old, “the best defence is a strong offence” posturing. I was just delighted to hear her words “environmentally sustainable”.

For his part Mr. Mulcair was a very polite and respectful, visiting gentleman. Here are a couple of Tom Mulcair’s comments after flying over Alberta’s oil sands in a helicopter:

  • “extraordinary undertakings on a human scale. I mean, they’re massive”
  • “It’s extraordinarily impressive, but it also brings with it real challenges. Real challenges that if we don’t assume in this generation, we’re going to bear in future generations”

He also restated his view that oil companies were getting, “a bit of a free ride in terms of using the air, the soil or the water, in an unlimited way and in an almost free way”, but he made clear “My debate is with Stephen Harper, it’s not with the representatives of one of the companies".

>> click here to watch a short Canadian Press video

Canadian Conservative Think Tanks

Think Tank image

The tar sands boom: When you read an article, listen to radio or watch TV have you noticed that traditional media often references studies produced by Canadian conservative think tanks? What do you know about these folks? Have you ever wondered if these think tanks are as independent as they claim to be? Who funds their studies?

Unfortunately, Canada does not require think tanks to disclose their donors and I’m not aware of any conservative think tanks that have voluntarily disclosed their donors.

My suspicion is that resource corporations like:

  • multinational oil and gas corporations
  • pipeline corporations
  • other energy corporations
  • forestry corporations
  • mining corporations

and their owners, many of whom have earned hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, are the think tank’s largest, individual donors.

Although most think tanks claim to be non-partisan or politically independent, the following organizations are widely acknowledged to be promoters of conservative paradigms (example organizations, listed alphabetically):

Q: Why am I concerned?

Example: In the USA, the Koch brothers are major donors to and funders of conservative think tanks.

I wonder, have the Koch brothers funded any of the Canadian conservative think tanks that have produced studies supporting our tar sands economy?

The big question I’m left with is, “Can we trust studies produced by Canadian conservative think tanks?”