Thursday, March 17, 2011

Endangering Our Environment:

In 2010, global weather horrors cost an estimated $220 billion.  Yet, our government is among the leading and most active climate change deniers – but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to anti-green policies.

1a) The National Science Advisor position was dropped. As Bob McDonald, host of the CBC science radio program Quirks & Quarks, put it: “The one scientist in this country who had direct access to the Prime Minister is being dismissed. Canada’s National Science Adviser, Dr. Arthur Carty, was appointed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to provide expert advice on the government’s role in matters of science and science policy. Now, less than four years after the position was created, the Harper government feels that it’s no longer necessary. The National Science Adviser is a voice of reason to the government over actions it should take on issues such as climate change, genetically modified foods, managing fisheries, sustaining the environment - any time the politicians need to be educated on the basic science behind those often controversial issues.”

1b) A report revealed that Environment Canada scientists are being muzzled on the subject of climate change. They have been prevented from attending conferences, their websites closed down.

2) Posted by Montreal Environment in Biodiversity, Resource Development, Transport, October, 2010: “Every time one hears ‘streamline’ and ‘cutting red tape’ from a minister, you can be sure something more significant hides behind promises of government efficiency. If you are worried that the recent economic turmoil will push governments to slacken environmental regulations you can count in Canada to take the lead. Le Devoir has revealed that the Harper government is planning to pass amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act and Review Regulations by limiting EIA to projects above $10 million. Under the current EIA Act all projects with potential negative environmental impacts or receiving federal financing have to submit to the EIA process. By limiting the scope of the federal EIA, the government wants to fast-track the many infrastructure projects to be financed under the Building Canada seven year plan (2007-2014). Non-exempted projects will be undergoing the provincial EIA process that in general is much less rigorous than its federal counterpart.”

3a) The Harper Conservatives earned a reputation for heavy-handed stonewalling during climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. In Cancun, they lobbied against an extension of the Kyoto Accord, and Canada was given the fourth consecutive Fossil of the Year award (also known as the Colossal Fossil) for the fourth consecutive year. The Fossil awards are distributed by a coalition of over 500 international organizations

3b) "The budget is silent on Canada's 2011 contribution to supporting climate action in poorer countries. Even if the government does announce this support later in the year, its omission from today's budget likely means the funding would not meet the crucial test of being new and additional to Canada's aid budget." Pembina Institute reaction to 2011 federal budget.

3c) In 2008, the oil industry received $1.4 Billion in federal subsidies with $851 million of that going to the Alberta tar sands. The Harper government considers tar sands oil “ethical” – in spite of resulting CO2 emissions (100,000 tonnes daily), forest clearances the size of Florida, Athabaska River pollution, high rates of cancer among nearby native communities, deformed fish, and toxic tailing ponds.

3d) "The government could have chosen today to kick-start Canada's clean energy transformation by phasing out federal subsidies for oil companies, in line with a G20 commitment in 2009. While this budget includes a minor subsidy adjustment, it leaves more than $1 billion in tax breaks for oil companies on the table. A leaked memo from officials at the Department of Finance last year confirmed such support is no longer necessary.” Pembina Institute reaction to the 2011 federal budget.

3e) The government claims it can’t bring in “cap and trade” legislation without US co-operation – now that Obama is ready to cut emissions, we shall see.

3f) At the same time, the government allowed its main renewable energy program to run out of money. It also let the job-creating, CO2-reducing ecoENERGY home retrofit tax credit expire. This was reversed in the 2011 federal budget, which offered a one-year extension, but, as CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos put it, if it was a worthy program why was it cancelled in the first place?

3g) In the 2011 federal budget, the government ignored the NDP's call for an HST reduction for home heating fuel.

3h) Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy.  

3i) "It is disappointing … that this budget ignores opportunities to position Canada to create jobs and 
compete effectively in the rapidly growing global clean energy market. In addition to ongoing and targeted support — beyond a single year — for renewable energy and efficiency, the federal government needs to put a price on greenhouse gas pollution (or, at a minimum, impose strong regulations) to curb the growth of greenhouse gas pollution from sectors such as the oilsands. Research shows that supporting clean energy, increasing energy efficiency and implementing comprehensive climate policies could create more jobs than continuing with business as usual. From a government that prides itself on job creation and sound economic management, it's unfortunate that Minister Flaherty's budget speech failed to recognize the job-creation potential of carbon pricing and other climate policies.” Pembina Institute reaction to federal budget.

4a) Given the nuclear disasters in Japan, it is interesting to note that in 2009, Canada announced its plans to help India expand its civil nuclear energy sector. Canadian firms which would benefit from this include the federally-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Cameco Corp., and SNC-Lavalin. Canada would help build 25 to 30 reactors and supply uranium. Behind this news is the promise of more inadequately regulated uranium mining in Canada, more nuclear waste sites, more human, land, and wildlife contamination, and more material for lethal weapons. India is now reconsidering.

4b) In January, 2008, the Harper government fired Linda Keen as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada’s nuclear watchdog. This followed a month of increasingly politicized battles between the commission and Canada’s primary nuclear operator, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. The government blamed Keen for unnecessarily closing the Chalk River nuclear reactor and the resulting domestic shortage of life-saving medical isotopes for cancer and cardiac diagnosis and other treatment. Ironically, the commission was concerned that work hadn’t been adequately completed regarding the earthquake-resistant emergency power system.

5a) “Harper has not been vocal about the need to protect our oceans” and, according to Sarah King. Greenpeace, tends to only speak on behalf of industry, particularly the offshore oil industry.  “The Harper government’s environmental record on oceans is much like his record on all things environmental - grim … While he has been in power we’ve seen fisheries management remain inadequate to combat declining stocks in Canadian waters, though he did do one thing right by ordering the federal inquiry into the decline of the Fraser river sockeye salmon. The federal government did not support a call to protect the ailing Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that would ban its trade when other nations were in favour.” 

5b) King: “Also, the government’s position on its responsibilities under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), as it relates to marine species, remains weak. The feds recently appealed a ruling by a BC federal court judge who found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada wasn’t living up to its obligations under SARA when it came to protecting BC’s resident killer whales. Fisheries and Oceans Canada under Harper is more concerned about ensuring the short-term health of the fishing and farming industry than the long-term health of these industries and the species and oceans on which they depend.”

5c) The NDP wants the Harper government to be more open with Canadians about the possibility of genetically modified salmon – which grows twice as fast as normal – being approved. The NDP fisheries critic tabled Motion 648, which calls on the government to reveal when it will consider the approval of GM fish. The non-binding motion also asks the government to halt any approvals without further scientific study on the safety of such fish for human consumption. "The public has a right to know if this is really happening and to know of any risks connected to human health, and of potential impact on the fishery, marine species, habitat and ecosystems," said Donnelly. There is also an approval request at Health Canada for a pig spliced with mouse DNA – to be consumed by humans.

5d) King: “The Harper government has been supportive of offshore oil, despite the tragedy of the BP Gulf spill. Harper created the Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area, which covers approximately 1,800 square kilometres of the Mackenzie River Delta and estuary in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic, but while he has promised no drilling in Canada’s deep Beaufort Sea until at least 2014, BP and other companies have already been granted exploration licenses.”

6) An amendment to the Fisheries Act, originally designed to protect fish, was made under the Liberals in 2002 designating certain lakes as "tailings impoundment areas." At the time, it was thought that the redesignation would allow better policing of already-affected lakes.  But, since 2006, the Conservative government has used the amendment to allow the transformation of healthy, productive lakes into tailings dumps – also negatively affecting nearby human and animal populations. There are about ten lakes targetted as toxic waste dumps.  

7a) Water will be further privatized and commercialized under the Canada/EU free trade agreement (CETA)

7b) As the United Nations moved toward declaring water and sanitation a human right, Canada was one of two countries that abstained from or voted against this initiative at every opportunity. The other country was the Kingdom of Tonga.

8a) Canada has dropped from being the third-largest food exporter to the seventh.  The Conservatives back agri-business – the biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed, and grain companies – and free trade in agriculture, opening the doors to more CO2 emitting, industrial farming. 

8b) As corporations and investors – some foreign – buy up farmland, the Canada/EU trade agreement (CETA) will threaten farmers’ present rights to save, reuse, and sell seeds. It will give seed companies the power to seize crops and equipment and freeze bank accounts – if they even suspect infringement by a farmer.


  1. Journalist Ralph Surette, April 2, Halifax Chronicle-Herald: “Two years ago, the government was proposing a fishery treaty with the European Union — one drafted by the EU itself and that opened the door to the EU, the main predator of stocks off Newfoundland, possibly having a say in how fish are managed inside Canada’s 200-mile limit. Canada’s veterans of international fishery negotiations, going back to the 200-mile-limit and the UN Law of the Sea, raised the alarm, calling it a sellout. The Senate and Commons fisheries committees both agreed and called for revisions. The government pressed on. Then, on Dec. 10, 2009, the House of Commons rejected the treaty, 147 to 142. Then — note this — the very next day the government signed the treaty anyway. That such a flagrant violation of parliamentary process should not only happen, but happen unreported by the mass media (except by me in a column for this newspaper) as though it was normal business not worthy of attention makes me wonder how far we are from that notorious category of countries we usually decry as "corrupt and authoritarian."

  2. Taken from a media report: "When a federal commission investigating the collapse of Fraser River sockeye stocks heard recently that a Fisheries and Oceans scientist who has done groundbreaking research was being silenced, it gave Jeffrey Hutchings a bad case of déjà vu.
    “Your recent articles on DFO’s muzzling of Dr. Kristi Miller remind me of similar attempts by DFO to stifle the imparting of science from government scientists to other scientists and to the Canadian public,” he wrote in an e-mail.
    Prof. Hutchings, a widely respected fisheries scientist, holds the Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation & Biodiversity at Dalhousie University, in Halifax. In 1997, he, Carl Walters from the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia and Richard Haedrich, Department of Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, set off a media firestorm with a paper that ripped DFO for suppressing controversial science.
    Writing in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, they outlined two cases – the collapse of Atlantic cod stocks and the diversion of the Nechako River, in B.C. – in which they maintained research was stifled because it didn’t conform to political agendas.
    They argued that, on the East Coast, DFO silenced scientists who warned Atlantic cod stocks had been devastated not by seal predation, but from overfishing. And, in the West, they stated that DFO rejected research that showed an Alcan plan to divert the Nechako River would damage Chinook stocks.
    In both cases, they wrote, hard-working scientists had their findings suppressed by DFO managers who didn’t want to see research that clashed with political goals.:

  3. April 8, 2011

    Pembina reacts to Conservative Party platform

    Ed Whittingham, Executive Director, made the following statement in response to today's release of the Conservative Party's election platform:

    "The Conservative Party came to today's announcement with a five-year track record of failing to meaningfully tackle greenhouse gas pollution and avoiding federal responsibility for oilsands development. The result is that Canada now risks falling further behind other countries in capitalizing on the rapidly growing global clean energy market.

    "Today's platform would do nothing to reverse these trends."

    On renewable energy and efficiency
    "While it does contain one-year funding for home retrofits that was announced in this year's budget, the platform misses the opportunity to position Canada to support a stable and competitive clean energy industry.

    "It's also worth noting that the claim that the government has 'introduced regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the production of electricity' is incorrect. The government has stated that it plans to introduce such regulations, but they are not in place yet."

    On climate change
    "Heading into this election, Stephen Harper's government had not implemented the key climate policies needed to cut Canada's greenhouse gas pollution. By failing to commit to carbon pricing, sectoral regulations or other new emission-reduction policies, today's platform is a recipe for growing greenhouse gas pollution in Canada.

    "While the platform mentions Canada's national greenhouse gas emission target for 2020, it does not commit to meet it. Without new policies, Environment Canada projects that emissions will be higher in 2020 than they are today, putting Canada on track to miss its Copenhagen Accord target by nearly 30 per cent. Today's platform would not reverse that trend."

    On oilsands development
    "This platform fails to even mention the oilsands, the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada. It would allow for the continued abdication of federal responsibilities and does nothing to ensure that oilsands development occurs responsibly and in accordance with Canadians' expectations.

    "In contrast to other political parties, this platform makes no new commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies."

    On sustainable transportation
    "The Conservative platform put nothing new on the table to support public transit or sustainable transportation. Instead, it moves in the other direction by committing to invest in highway infrastructure, building new gateway corridors and completing the national highway system.

    "While the platform says it will protect the environment and improve Canadians' quality of life and the air we breathe, there is nothing tangible here to reduce pollution from transportation, relieve congestion or provide access to rapid transit for commuters. The Conservative Party also provides no new dedicated federal funding for transit, high speed rail or other clean transportation technology."