Green Party of Canada News
OTTAWA - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, has once again made her MP office and personal expense claims public, as she has done since being elected, hoping her fellow MPs will do the same.
May’s travel expenses both outside and within her riding, secondary residence costs, and per diems are all itemized clearly on her website.
“I am doing this because I have always believed in true transparency which is the basis of accountability,” said May. “I promised voters I would do this and I have kept my promise.”
The Green Party MP claimed $23,684.82. Of this, $18,600.00 was for her Secondary Residence costs. These she has kept low because she does not claim phone, cable, or utilities which she is allowed to claim.
The same applies to May’s riding travel costs of $834.96. This is a fraction (1%) of the allowable travel claim within the riding boundaries. Ms. May absorbs the majority of these travel costs personally.
May’s per diem claim for 2012-2013 fiscal year is $4,249.86, for the time spent in Ottawa when Parliament is in session. A Member of Parliament could claim approximately $11,000 for this same time period.
“There has been too much political game-playing over this issue,” said May. “I’m also doing this to show any colleagues who haven’t done the same how easy and painless it is.
"With the changes being made this fall to the Board of Internal Economy, my hope is that the expenses of all MPs will take on a similar degree of transparency."May Releases Personal MP Expenses; Challenges Others
OTTAWA - Despite attempts to expedite the passage of Bill S-15 before summer recess, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, has blocked a motion for unanimous consent that would have bypassed the normal legislative process and allowed for oil and gas development in the newly created Sable Island National Park Reserve.
"During negotiations and in the Environment Committee, I made it clear that I could not support this Bill as it is written; it opens the door to oil exploration on Sable Island and sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of our National Parks," said May. "I am disappointed that all other parties were apparently willing to speed this Bill through the House without proper scrutiny, but I am unwilling to take that step."
Bill S-15, an Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act 2001, would, among other things, establish Sable Island as a National Park Reserve, a move that the Green Party enthusiastically supports.
Unfortunately, Bill S-15 also enshrines the ability of Exxon-Mobil to conduct oil and gas exploration activities on Sable Island itself, in addition to drilling and fracking beneath the island using directional drilling. Further, power to make regulations regarding these activities rests solely with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an organization with an explicit mandate to promote oil and gas development.
"It is disturbing that we would hand off decision making authority over Sable Island to an organization with such an atrocious record as the CNSOPB, and I've yet to see any indication that either the government of Canada or Nova-Scotia ever even asked Exxon Mobil to forgo its oil and gas licenses above ground or underground on Sable Island," said Elizabeth May. "We can and we must do better. If that means we wait a little longer in order to get this legislation right and provide genuine protection for Sable Island, I have no choice but to try. Unless there is a prorogation, the Bill will be here for us to debate in the Fall."
Elizabeth May stands against oil exploration on Sable Island National Park Reserve
OTTAWA - Canadians have a right to know how much clandestine surveillance is being carried out on the Canadian public, said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“We first heard about the prevalence of spying on private citizens last week in the US, but it is obvious that both countries share communication infrastructure and have passed similar security-related laws,” said May. “It’s time citizens were given more information regarding the kind of spying being carried out, how, and why.”
Canadians also learned earlier this week that the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) has a metadata - data about data content - surveillance program approved by Defence Minister Peter McKay in 2011. Although McKay has stated that this was directed exclusively at foreign communications, questions still remain about CSEC’s activities, and other matters.
Who controls/regulates the surveillance of Canadians and what restrictions are they under? What is the role of Canadian telecom companies which are refusing to talk because of a gag order? How much collaboration is there with the US on both foreign and domestic communication surveillance?
“Canada used to be a country where permission had to be given before gaining access to private communications,” said May. “We have strayed dangerously far from this standard and must do everything we can to restore it.
“I understand that the world has changed since 9/11, but treating us all like potential terrorists is not the way to maintain security. From what we are hearing, there are potential threats to our Charter of Rights; the role of the Privacy Commissioner might be compromised, and even our courts. This is a direct threat to democracy.”
Greens Warn about Surveillance Threat to Democracy
Conservatives reject investigation into MPs’ possible use of taxpayer-funded travel for by-election campaigning
OTTAWA - After Question Period on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, rose in the House of Commons and moved the following:
“Mr. Speaker, following on yesterday's wonderful display of solidarity on behalf of Canadian taxpayers in adopting the motion of the Opposition House Leader, if you seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That the Board of Internal Economy investigate Members’ possible use of the Travel Points System for the purpose of participating in by-election campaigns during or immediately preceding the writ period.”
While all parties in the House agreed, the Conservatives rejected the motion to investigate possible uses of taxpayer-funded travel for partisan political purposes.
“I don’t know what possible excuse the Harper Conservatives will come up with this time to try and dodge accountability for their misuse of tax-dollars,” said May. “It’s very telling that all the Opposition Parties are willing to come together to push for greater accountability, yet the Conservatives are again offside with both transparency and with the Canadian public.”
OTTAWA - On Tuesday, June 12, 2013, at an announcement to discuss the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park from which the public was banned, Federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty caught local people, the province of Ontario, and the aviation industry all by surprise when he announced plans for an airport in Pickering."The Conservatives seems to be flailing, and we've been left at a total loss to explain this announcement," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. "There is absolutely no economic case for building a new airport in Pickering, full stop. As Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty must know this."
Plans to build an international airport in Pickering were first floated in 1970, but have remained shelved due to both community opposition and the lack of any credible economic rationale for its construction.
"From energy to crime to environment, the Harper Conservatives have consistently demonstrated an aptitude for short-sighted policy decisions, so I find it very odd that they have now unilaterally decided that Pickering must have a new airport that even Jim Flaherty thinks won't be needed for 25 years," said May.
"As if we needed one more bit of evidence that the Harper Conservatives are stuck in the last century, while the other countries of the world are building new networks of high speed rail to move their citizens, the Harper Conservatives have attempted to commit to a new unneeded, unwanted, and uneconomic legacy project."
Greens condemn Minister Flaherty's uneconomic airport surprise
Independent MP Bruce Hyer and Green Party Leader and MP Elizabeth May are calling for immediate government action to reverse the decline of passenger rail across Canada in the wake of Hyer’s Independent Members’ Report chronicling the decline of basic service in Canada. The report, A Wedding Band of Confederation: Restoring Rail Passenger Service to Ontario’s North Shore and Across Canada, commissioned by Hyer, also lays out solutions for getting passenger rail back on track.
“VIA Rail’s latest filings reveal that it is in big trouble,” said Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North). “VIA Rail announced service cuts a year ago and tooted about how ridership and revenues would be boosted, but VIA’s plan has gone off the rails. Its annual report shows operating expenses up and ridership down. There are fewer trains…and they are emptier and later. Clearly, VIA intends to abandon Canada, except for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.”
The report noted the main problems for passenger rail in Canada include:
- Lack of a federal vision, national strategy, legislation, and funding (contrasted with Australia and the US)
- Resistance by CN and CP to prioritizing passenger rail on existing lines
- VIA Board of Directors reticence to a truly national passenger rail network
“I raised my concerns with the deteriorating state of VIA rail in January,” said May. “I am grateful that Bruce Hyer has commissioned this in-depth report. Canada’s passenger rail system is in crisis and those of us who care about it need to speak out.”
“One or two MPs alone cannot win the battle to restore passenger rail in Canada,” said Transport Action’s Greg Gormick, co-author of the report. “Hyer’s initiative must be accompanied by a public campaign to reinvigorate VIA rail and passenger train travel in Canada. This report provides a clear analysis of the failures of successive governments to support passenger rail, and lays out a clear plan to reinvigorate train transportation in this country. Equally important, it requires political will and renewed national commitment in the form of a federal strategy for passenger rail.”Independent Report: Canadian Passenger Rail Coming Off Track
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, and Deputy Leader Georges Laraque will kick off the weekend-long 2013 AGM for the Quebec wing of the Green Party of Canada by speaking at its annual cocktail party.
The opening evening will focus on sustainable development and the exploitation of natural resources. It will feature a presentation by Steven Guilbeault, co-founder and deputy-director of Équiterre, and take place in Équiterre’s LEED Platinum head office.
When: Friday, June 14th, 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Where: Maison du Développement Durable, 50, Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Montréal
Today is World Oceans Day. As Green Party Leader Elizabeth May wrote in Embassy News recently, it is “a rare time when we actually turn our attention to the source of life on earth. As terrestrial creatures, we tend to forget that life on dry land is not possible without life in our oceans. Our survival is intimately connected to the oceans for the protein we consume from the fisheries, for the role played by oceans in carbon sequestration and moderating climate, among other essential functions.” May warns that “The threats to the health of our oceans are growing as never before.” These threats stem from land-based sources of pollution, over-fishing, aquaculture operations, loss of habitat, and more. The most serious threat is climate change and the rising of ocean temperatures. This has resulted in the bleaching of coral reefs in the tropics and the destruction of cool-water habitats for salmon in Canada. It is also causing the dangerous loss of Arctic ice, threatening the survival of polar bears, who can’t hunt without ice, and the traditional Inuit way of life. Globally, we are seeing new weather extremes, including life-threatening storms, heat waves, and droughts.
As May puts it: “Perhaps the most devastating threat created by our collective failure to effectively limit the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is that of ocean acidification. The increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is transferring carbon to our oceans. The gases in the atmosphere and water mix. Carbon moves from atmosphere to ocean … Over the last 200 years, it is estimated that the oceans have absorbed about one-third of all the greenhouse gases released through human activity. Certainly, the climate crisis would be more aggressive and dangerous if the oceans had not been providing this key ‘netting out’ effect. However, as that carbon loading has continued unabated, the carbon in the ocean is changing the chemistry of ocean water. Generally, ocean water is alkaline (or basic). However, as carbon mixes and changes in its chemistry, it becomes carbonic acid.
Over time, the ocean is becoming acidified. The impact of ocean acidification is already having measurable impacts in weakening the shells of crustaceans. All crustaceans need carbonate in order to build shells, but carbonic acid is corrosive to crustacean shells. The potential assault on all crustaceans would have a devastating impact on the food chain ultimately threatening all life in the ocean …” Awareness of what is going on in those vast areas of water is the first step to acting on their behalf.Threats to Oceans Growing “As Never Before”
You cannot solve a puzzle without seeing the big picture. And in Canada’s current energy debate, sadly, the family cat got on the table, knocking most of the pieces to the floor, while toddlers argue over the three remaining pieces shouting “Mine!” Those pieces are the oil sands and while we maintain an obsessive focus on them, other elements crucial to our energy security, economic prosperity and our future as a planet are being neglected at Canada’s cost and peril.
If all the key pieces of Canada’s energy future – the climate crisis, a prosperous economy, labour issues, east-west connectivity, energy efficiency, technological innovation, federal-provincial relations – were jigsaw pieces on our collective family table, it would be worthwhile to find the picture on the box the pieces came in.
The cover of the box, a glorious sustainable energy roadmap, would depict where we want to be, with: a meaningful carbon reduction plan; phasing out coal across the land; bringing in energy conservation and efficiency standards; producing far more energy from renewable sources; applying cleantech solutions broadly; paying attention to energy security; and shifting from a strategy of rapid export of unprocessed product to managed production at a steady rate of upgraded and refined product, with value-added creating far more employment in oil production while energy efficiency targets create jobs everywhere in overhauling our built infrastructure.
You cannot solve a puzzle when you do not see how the pieces fit together.
In the case of the current energy debate, the dialogue is so devoid of content that one cannot dignify the noise by calling it debate. Back to that Canadian family table with all the jigsaw pieces we need to fit together, sadly, the family cat got on the table knocking most of the pieces to the floor, while toddlers argue over the three remaining pieces shouting “Mine!”
A grown-up discussion starts with acknowledging that Canada needs an energy strategy. Federal and provincial jurisdictions respected, we need to think like a country. Rather than pit one region against another, we should start the conversation by setting out some over-arching goals.
Energy touches everything. A discussion about an energy strategy is not fundamentally about the oil sands. The oil sands are part of the conversation, but, back to our puzzle metaphor, those toddlers are fighting over the oil sands pieces of the puzzle. Nothing gets solved that way.
National goals should include:
- Energy security
- Energy pricing
- An effective greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction plan for the needed transition to a post-carbon economy
- Full employment goals
- The promotion of innovation and competitiveness in Canada
- Social justice; ending energy poverty
- Energy strategies for a resourceful and resilient Canada
Taken separately, we could be fighting over these individual elements without resolution. Taken together in a grown-up conversation, they all fit together.
Starting with energy security. Right now, if there were a disruption of supply from OPEC nations, most Canadians would have no home heating oil, no gas, and eastern refineries would be in crisis. While debating how best to export as quickly as possible, as much as possible, raw, virtually unprocessed bitumen, more than half of Canada is dependent on imports of foreign oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Norway. As Gordon Laxer of the Parkland Institute identified, Canada has no energy security. Unlike the US, we have no Strategic Petroleum Reserves. If there was a blockade of foreign oil or economic embargo, those in Eastern Canada would have to wait for tankers to bring them bitumen for processing through the Panama Canal and up the eastern seaboard. As bizarre as that sounds, it was the solution offered by a Suncor executive when asked in Natural Resources Committee about the vulnerability of Eastern Canada to embargos.
While debating how best to export as quickly as possible, as much as possible, raw, virtually unprocessed bitumen, more than half of Canada is dependent on imports of foreign oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Norway.
The irony is that the dividing line of foreign oil to the east and Alberta oil for the west was the result of deliberate government policy – aimed at helping the Alberta oil and gas sector. Back in 1961, the National Oil Policy decreed that eastern Canadians (east of the Ottawa River) would only receive imported oil while those in the West had to purchase Alberta product. By deliberate policy, Eastern Canadians became dependent on foreign oil, while Alberta oil was consumed by those in western provinces and exported to the US. Now it is time to think like a country.
The carbon reduction plan would have the benefit of diversifying our energy sector with the commercialization of renewable energy – from wind, sun, geo-thermal, tidal.
We also need to improve our east-west electricity grid to allow renewable-rich provinces to export to provinces with less.
The current proposal to link us east-west also makes no sense. Former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna has proposed shipping unprocessed bitumen to Saint John, NB, to put it in tankers and export it from there.
Energy security would start by establishing the principle that we only export once domestic needs are met.
That brings us to the importance of maximizing employment opportunities. It makes much more sense for Canada to upgrade the bitumen, before trying to make it sufficiently fluid to flow in pipelines. Bitumen is not crude oil. And it isn’t even oil at all. It is thick and solid, described as being the consistency of peanut butter. (Before mining, bitumen is 10 percent of the volume of soils, then described as being the consistency of molasses. Oil-like analogies seem to run to food.)
To make it flow, a naphtha-like fossil fuel substance, called a diluent, is added. All the controversial pipelines now under debate (Keystone XL, Enbridge’s Line 9 and Northern Gateway), are intended to carry a 70-30 mixture of bitumen and diluents – brilliantly described as “dilbit.” According to Enbridge’s evidence in the NEB hearings, its twinned pipeline will carry imported diluents from Kitimat to Alberta to be mixed with the bitumen. And the diluents will be purchased from the Middle East, and put in tankers to Canada. So much for being a domestic source of oil.
Back to energy security, jobs and minimizing environmental risks, if the bitumen was upgraded to synthetic crude in Alberta we wouldn’t be talking about moving the most hazardous of all spillable fossil fuels. Check out the US government reports on the findings about the Enbridge spill in the Kalamazoo River to understand how much more damaging dilbit is in the natural environment than any other pre-crude, as well as how much more challenging and expensive it is to clean up a spill. The summer 2010 Kalamazoo spill is still not completely cleaned up.
Prior to the 2008 recession, several upgraders were planned for northern Alberta. Once the recession ended, the multinationals with under-capacity refineries for unconventional oil looked south to the refineries already built and sitting on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The Alberta upgraders were cancelled and replaced with a pipeline proposal to move dilbit to US refineries. No wonder the Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union, representing most of the energy patch workforce, is against the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s taking jobs previously slated for Alberta.
One reason the upgraders were cancelled is that what the late Peter Lougheed used to call “the traffic jam.” The hyper-inflationary bubble over northern Alberta is created by the push for constantly expanding production targets. Labour and capital are both scarce and pricey. (This is the explanation for Stephen Harper’s remarkable transformation regarding China. From his holier than thou treatment of the People’s Republic of China over the Beijing Olympics to the compliant, “Where do I sign?” greeting to President Hu in Vladivostok last September, when he penned the Canada-China Investment Treaty. There just isn’t enough capital from profit-oriented private sector oil multinationals to keep building new, and potentially unprofitable, oil sands mines without China).
We could with a bit of the planned approach, once advocated by Peter Lougheed, produce a steady amount of oil, upgraded and refined in Canada. Without the “traffic jam,” the industry could afford to build the ancillary infrastructure of upgrading and refining. We could do so within a plan for dramatically reduced GHG from Canada, by shutting down all coal-fired power plants, following the lead of another former premier, Dalton McGuinty. The carbon reduction plan would have the benefit of diversifying our energy sector with the commercialization of renewable energy – from wind, sun, geo-thermal, tidal. We also need to improve our east-west electricity grid to allow renewable-rich provinces to export to provinces with less.
It would create jobs in all parts of Canada through the retrofitting of buildings – commercial, institutional, residential – from energy wasters to energy misers, as well as through investments in modern, convenient mass transit.
The cleantech sector has the potential of becoming a $60 billion contributor to the Canadian economy within only seven years, according to a study by the Pembina Institute. Our myopic focus on the oil sands, as if it were the only part of Canadian economy that mattered, is blinding us to other and better opportunities. As the World Energy Outlook, reproduced by the International Energy Agency, pointed out, the world is coming to the realization that we must keep at least two-thirds of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avoid such catastrophic levels of climate change that we put our very survival as organized societies and successful economies at risk.
A major new report from the UK, “Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets,” engaged the talents and expertise of Sir Nicholas Stern through a collaborative research project involving Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The result is a new concept – the “carbon bubble.” The essence of their work is this – a great deal of the stated value of stock exchanges around
the world is in unburnable fossil fuels. The level of capital expenditure in developing those reserves over the next decade would amount to $6.74 trillion in wasted capital – developing reserves that simply cannot be burned.
This new realization of the “carbon bubble” means that fossil fuel investments could very rapidly become stranded investments leading to financial ruin.
No harm can ever come from diversifying an economy. And that diversification and embrace of clean tech will help address our growing productivity gap with the US through innovation and R&D.
Sustainable energy is attainable. Stopping the waste of energy, noting that more than one half of all the energy Canada uses is lost as waste, is essential. There is no excuse for not getting it done.
Originally published in Policy Magazine.Time to Put the Pieces of the Puzzle in Place
In a Global interview with Laura Stone, I am quoted as saying that Stephen Harper is "not Canadian."
Having lunch with a reporter on virtually no sleep is a high risk proposition, but I didn't say anything I didn't mean. I did make it clear that I was not saying Mr. Harper is "not Canadian." What I did say was that Stephen Harper's political orientation was informed by an American/ Republican approach to politics. In other words, I am not, like the crazed anti-Obama crowd asking him to produce his birth certificate. The issue is this: unlike any prime minister in our history -- Liberal or Conservative -- Mr. Harper reflects a political culture foreign to Canada.
Before my interview, I don't think anyone had mentioned publicly Harper's participation as a university student in Young Republican summer camp south of the border. (Tom Flanagan escorted a group of his students to the political training ground for Republican campaigners.) Coupled with stories shared by one of his grade school classmates, who told me they had had a very persuasive history teacher who preached the notion that Canada would be better off as a state within the United States, I have observed his political sensibilities with a concern that he was drawn to a different system.
I admit freely that I have no idea how much these influences have shaped his political thinking. To make the statement I did, I was relying on close observation of his behaviour and actions in showing disrespect for Parliament. Stephen Harper as Prime Minister has been steadily undercutting core principles of the traditions of Westminster Parliamentary democracy.
It is a bit ironic, as some tweets have highlighted (some in unprintable abuse), that I was born in the U.S. I grew up in the middle of a constant state of political awareness, informed by both cultures. My U.S.-born mum and my British dad had lively dinner conversations about the nature of democracy. When I'd come home from school full of hopelessly wrong notions imparted by my teachers (such as that the USA was the only democracy in the world), my dad would set me straight. I remember my father explaining the differences in the respective systems -- often saying that if only the U.S. Congress had the ability to vote non-confidence in the government, a sitting President could be removed. Once the family moved to Canada, I soaked up the essence of the Westminster Parliamentary system. I loved that we have a system of government premised on respect for traditions. If not for self-restraint in the exercise of powers, a prime minister could become a virtual dictator.
Fundamental notions of the supremacy of Parliament, constitutional monarchy, representative democracy in which every MP is the equal of the other and the prime minister is merely "first among equals" made for a very different approach to governance than the U.S. Constitutional separation of powers and its checks and balances.
In many ways, the two Constitutional documents expressed the differences between the national systems in the inspirational goals of the U.S. foundational document calling for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," contrasted with the stolid, workmanlike Canadian commitment to "peace, order and good government." I choose "peace, order and good government," along with the traditional Canadian communitarian values, set against the individualism that is so typical of U.S. ideals.
What makes me say Mr. Harper has strayed from those traditional Canadian values and style of governance? Well, here's a short list:
- First prime minister of Canada to prorogue to avoid political difficulties since Sir John A Macdonald, and Macdonald, on return, immediately went to an election.
- First Canadian prime minister to prorogue twice to avoid political difficulties.
- Only prime minister in the entire Commonwealth in the last 100 years to prorogue to avoid a political difficulty. (The prime minister of Sri Lanka tried once, but the Governor General refused).
- First prime minister to run a system of rigid party discipline in parliamentary committees, rejecting any and all amendments to legislation. Previously legislative committee worked quite collaboratively and legislation was nearly always amended prior to Royal Assent.
- Prime minister Harper was found guilty of contempt of parliament in refusing to turn over the documents in the Afghan detainee matter. The documents have not been tabled to this day.
- First prime minister to visibly chafe at the reality that he is not head of state. In Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill one year, he insisted on accepting the Royal Salute ahead of the former Governor General. The use of Centre Block as a stage for pomp and ceremony for visiting presidents is contrary to our constitution. Heads of state should be greeted at Rideau Hall. The red carpets and flags in the main hall of Parliament are completely contrary to our traditions.
- He acts as though he is in charge of Parliament, instead of acknowledging the supremacy of Parliament. This attitude is reflected in telling civil servants they should refer to the Government of Canada, as the "Harper Government."
- Understanding Canadian parliamentary democracy includes understanding that every MP is part of the Government of Canada. The Conservative executive is comprised of the PM and his Cabinet (or Privy Council). Mr. Harper is the first prime minister to insist on treating Opposition MPs as though they are not part of the government. This is demonstrated in the systematic exclusion of local Opposition MPs from announcements in their ridings. The Harper approach is to tell local groups they cannot hold events at which federal dollars are involved with their own MP, unless that MP is Conservative. So, local MPs are not given the courtesy of even a chance to sit in the back row, while Conservative MPs from other areas make local announcements.
- Mr. Harper rejects the role of Parliament as having control of the public purse. MPs are not given enough fiscal background to make wise choices. The former Parliamentary Budget Officer went to court to gain access to such information for MPs. Despite gaining court approval for our right to that information, the new PBO has still not successfully wrested it from the executive.
- Add to all this the consistent application of U.S.-style attack ads, even outside of writ periods. Stephen Harper is the first political leader in Canadian history to run television advertising more than a year before the election.
Now, none of this is illegal. Any prime minister could have done these things. Think back to the days leading up to November 28, 2005 (the day selected for the non-confidence vote announced in advance by the NDP, Bloc, and Conservative leaders to bring down the Liberal minority government.) Former prime minister Paul Martin could have prorogued. Why didn't he?
The reality is (I am sure) that it never occurred to him, because it was simply not done. Respect for tradition has protected Canadians from abusive use of the potential all-powerful role of the Prime Minister's Office. A prime minister who does not respect these traditions falls outside the normal spectrum of Canadian political thought.
There are other abuses. The centralization of power in the PMO (not an institution even mentioned in the constitution, but created first by Trudeau and now morphed into a seriously bloated unaccountable $10 million/year partisan fortress) is the most troubling change. There really is no Cabinet government anymore.
Everything is controlled through the PMO. Respect for an independent and professional civil service has been replaced by political interference in departments and civil servants on a routine basis. Westminster parliamentary democracy was never about one man rule. Democracy is being stolen in plain sight, but no one seems to notice.
Originally published in the Huffington Post.10 Reasons Why Harper Isn't Really Canadian
The news out of Detroit is pretty shocking. The only thing more shocking is that it is not making headlines in Canada.
The New York Times has been reporting that a mountain of coke, waste from refining Alberta bitumen, is towering over the streets of Detroit. An entire city block is buried in the waste that looms three stories above city streets. The pile is occupying precious waterfront, prime for local use. And it threatens the water quality of the Detroit River.
The source of the waste is a refinery on the Detroit River. And the mountain of waste is now owned by those billionaire brothers, key funders of climate-denier propaganda, David and Charles Koch. Just as they own the refineries for which the Keystone XL pipeline is being promoted, they own and operate Koch Carbon. Although the plant has been in operation for more than 70 years, just this last November it began to process the bitumen-diluent material, as I described in Island Tides in the April 25 edition, ‘Pipelines to the East.’ The mountain of coke has accumulated in just that amount of time.
While the coke is a local pollution concern, it poses a much more serious risk in terms of global warming. It turns out that petroleum coke—or ‘petcoke’ as it is known—is actually used as fuel in parts of the world. (Parenthetically, note the techno-jargon of the business of bitumen. Bitumen mixed with diluents is ‘dilbit’; petroleum coke is ‘petcoke.’ Why the love of cute abbreviation?)
It turns out that one of the major (if not the major) sellers of petcoke in the world is Oxbow Carbon, owned by the third Koch brother, William Koch. If you like reading the reports of fundraising highlights of the US Republican Party, you’ll know that Oxbow donated $4.25 million to the GOP in 2012. And, for extra measure, used over $1 million in lobbying fees over the same period.
Oxbow currently sells over 11 million tons of petcoke globally.If the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, the mountains of petcoke will line the Gulf of Mexico awaiting Koch customers to ship it to countries where its use is still legal.
Of course, the cheapest and most efficient way to get petcoke sold as a fuel is if the refineries processing the bitumen are situated in countries where its use is legal, like China.
Petcoke is the most monstrous of carbon-based fuels. It has 10% more carbon than coal and is 25% cheaper. Its use as fuel is illegal in Canada and the United States.
However, it looks as though growth in its use is being promoted. While researching petcoke, I came across the promotional materials for a petcoke conference that took place in San Antonio, Texas this spring. Sorry, folks, but this is chilling:
‘Ever since petroleum coke was first produced over 150 years ago, its value has increased from a waste product to a viable commodity—from shadowed trash to enlightening treasure! Originally considered as a material to be disposed of and buried, petcoke has grown into an industry that has spiraled into a global market. Join us for Jacobs Consultancy’s 12th Annual Petcoke Conference to explore world-class advancements that no longer consider ‘petcoke’ to be a dirty word, but instead a rising star as a premier fuel and carbon feedstock.’
This adds an entirely new dimension to the oilsands debate. Current calculations of the carbon footprint of bitumen-based crude may not include the impact of using this waste by-product as a fuel. Certainly, within Canada, the use of petcoke is precluded. What impact does it have on overall calculations when burning petcoke is added to the already high carbon-footprint of unconventional oil sands bitumen crude?
If burning petcoke were to be included, the already enormous carbon footprint of oil sands jumps up another notch. Here are some back of the envelope calculations:
- Alberta oil sands = 1.3 million barrels/day
- Amount of carbon in petcoke per barrel = 15 kg of carbon
- Amount of petcoke carbon produced per day = 20 million kg of carbon.
Now, convert 20 million kg of carbon to kilogrammes of carbon dioxide (times 44/12) = 70 million kg CO2/day in petcoke, which translates to 26 megatonnes of CO2/year).
So, while the Koch brothers run a propaganda mill to deny climate science, the Canadian government does their bidding, shilling for the XL pipeline to deliver both bitumen and petcoke to their ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Yet another reason to say ‘No’ to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Originally published in Island Tides.It just keeps getting worse—under-estimating the GHG impacts of bitumen
Elizabeth May Questions Harper on Enbridge Pipeline
OTTAWA - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, today marks the anniversary of D-Day, the allied landings in Normandy, France, designed to establish a bridgehead on the western flank of the Axis powers. This successful military assault eventually led to the liberation of France and
“Canadians played an enormous role in the D-Day landings, which we should never forget and always be proud of,” said May. “So many gave their lives to fight against Nazi dictatorship and aggression. We owe it to them to protect the values and traditions they fought for, including our democracy, and build a more peaceful world.”
Fourteen thousand young Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day. The battle cost 340 Canadian lives with another 574 wounded. John Keegan, the eminent British historian and author of Six Armies in Normandy, had this to say about the Canadian 3rd Division on D-Day: “At the end of the day, its forward elements stood deeper into France than those of any other division. The opposition the Canadians faced was stronger than that of any other beach save Omaha. That was an accomplishment in which the whole nation could take considerable pride.”
More than a million Canadian men and women were in uniform during the war. Most of them went to war voluntarily even though Canada was in little imminent danger from Nazi Germany, Italy, or Japan. The D-Day landings were the clearest sign of Canadians’ commitment to and engagement with the rest of the world.
"Martin Luther King said that a man who is not willing to die for something is not fit to live," said John Percy, Green Party Veterans Affairs Critic. "Our freedom was not free. It was paid for in the blood of a generation that we could scarcely afford to lose, that of our nation’s children.”
Greens Mark D-Day Sacrifices for Democracy
The Green Party of Canada celebrates the UN’s World Environment Day (WED) today along with nations and citizens around the globe. Founded in 1972, this annual event is designed to promote positive environmental action among governments and individuals alike. It is now one of the main mechanisms the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) uses to expand environmental attention and awareness, and inspire individuals and their political representatives to think and go green. WED promotes actions such as neighborhood clean-ups, switching from plastic bags to reusables and getting friends and family to do the same, ending food waste, walking to work, and much more. As the UN notes “the possibilities are endless” and the agency would like you to post your activities on its website.
UN World Environment Day More Relevant Than Ever
This is also a day when we must, more than ever, raise our voices and our concerns about the future of the planet. Just weeks ago, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million. This is the highest concentration of CO2 in approximately three million years. At that time, the planet was at least 2-3 degrees warmer and sea levels were 25 metres higher. For this reason, scientists have been defining 400 ppm as a frightening and dangerous turning point for the planet - and those living on it. Therefore, although the Green Party is happy to mark UN World Environment Day, we think every day can and must be used to make our planet more sustainable. The time is now.
Today, June 5, is World Environment Day, and June 8 is World Oceans Day, with the full week marked in Canada by legislation as Environment Week.
Under other prime ministers, Environment Week was a big deal. When I worked for Tom McMillan, environment minister under former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Environment Canada distributed $1 million in funding to community and environmental groups across Canada for community awareness-raising activities during Environment Week. This effort to give very small grants to groups across Canada for Environment Week continued under prime ministers Chrétien and Martin. No more.
The focus on June 8 on our oceans is a rare time when we actually turn our attention to the source of life on earth. As terrestrial creatures, we tend to forget that life on dry land is not possible without life in our oceans. Our survival is intimately connected to the oceansfor the protein we consume from the fisheries, for the role played by oceans in carbon sequestration and moderating climate, among other essential functions.
The threats to the health of our oceans are growing as never before. As the excellent report from Justice Bruce Cohen on the fate of the wild British Columbia salmon pointed out, the threats are multiple and complex. The Cohen report enumerated the threats to salmon, closely mirroring the threats throughout the oceans: land-based sources of marine pollution, over-fishing, climate change, aquaculture operations, loss of habitat, to name a few. The fact that the federal fisheries minister has still not responded to this landmark report does not bode well.Warming waters
Among the many threats, as Justice Cohen noted, the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the greatest threat of all. The impacts of climate change on the ocean are as complex as the myriad interconnected threats from all the other reckless actions of humanity.
Warmer water has immediate negative impacts on some critical ecosystems. In the tropics, warmer water triggers bleaching of coral reefsending the life in those extraordinarily biologically diverse bits of paradise.
In Canada, warmer inland waters, particularly in critical salmon habitat in rivers and streams, essentially eliminate salmon habitat. Salmon are entirely dependent on cool waters for spawning and for the new fry to travel safely out to sea.
And, of course, in our Arctic waters, global warming is causing dramatic and dangerous loss of Arctic ice. The impacts on ecosystems are profound. The loss of ice has local effects, such as threatening the survival of polar bears and the Inuit traditional way of life. It also has global effects, such as driving the climate into new extremes of life-threatening intense storms, heat waves, and droughts.Ocean acidification
Perhaps the most devastating threat created by our collective failure to effectively limit the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is that of ocean acidification. The increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is transferring carbon to our oceans. The gases in the atmosphere and water mix. Carbon moves from atmosphere to ocean. Most of this transfer has been beneficial in playing a critical role in pulling carbon from the atmosphere.
Over the last 200 years, it is estimated that the oceans have absorbed about one-third of all the greenhouse gases released through human activity. Certainly, the climate crisis would be more aggressive and dangerous if the oceans had not been providing this key “netting out” effect.
However, as that carbon loading has continued unabated, the carbon in the ocean is changing the chemistry of ocean water. Generally, ocean water is alkaline (or basic). However, as carbon mixes and changes in its chemistry, it becomes carbonic acid. Over time, the ocean is becoming acidified.
The impact of ocean acidification is already having measurable impacts in weakening the shells of crustaceans. All crustaceans need carbonate in order to build shells, but carbonic acid is corrosive to crustacean shells.
The potential assault on all crustaceans would have a devastating impact on the food chainultimately threatening all life in the ocean. As the head of the NOAA (the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Jane Lubchenco, told the National Geographic, ocean acidification is the “equally evil twin” of the climate crisis.
As a society, we are failing to confront even those manageable and local impacts of treating the oceans as a resource so abundant that we make the mistake of assuming it to be infinite. As we cannot manage the conventional threats, little wonder we turn a blind eye to the threat posed by our use of the atmosphere as a free dump for fossil fuel pollution to the life in our oceans.
Originally published in Embassy News.Oceans at risk like never before
OTTAWA - The Green Party continues to throw its full support behind the British-Columbia-based Hupacasath as the First Nation prepares to appear in federal court Wednesday to Friday.
The Hupacasath have taken Prime Minister Stephen Harper to court over his failure to consult with them on the Canada-China Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), contrary to their constitutionally protected legal right.
“Stephen Harper planned to quietly table the treaty, hoping no one would notice, and then ratify it through Cabinet when Canadians weren’t looking,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. “Fortunately, the Hupacasath have challenged his right to act unilaterally on an agreement which will have a huge and destructive impact on Canada for at least 31 years.”
The Green Party called on its members and all concerned Canadians to join the Hupacasath, Idle No More, and others for a rally in support of the FIPA court challenge.
Where: Vancouver Federal Courthouse, 701 West Georgia, Pacific Centre
When: 12:30 pm, June 5 (6&7)
OTTAWA - Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, today expressed her dismay at the deafening silence from the Harper Conservatives to the deteriorating political situation in Turkey, resulting from a harsh police clamp down on peaceful protesters.
The protesters had initially been seeking to prevent the destruction of the last treed green space in central Istanbul - Gezi Park - that was slated be covered over by a shopping mall development. Heavily armoured Turkish police using tear gas and rubber bullets over-reacted, injuring and hospitalizing many of the protesters. This in turn triggered a much larger series of protests across the country over the continuing deterioration of civil liberties and freedom of the press under the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey currently has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of reporters in jail of any other country and its mainstream media organizations have mainly ignored four days of widespread civilian protests which have now claimed their first fatality. The public information gap has consequently been filled by social media organs that Prime Minister Erdogan attacked as a "social menace.” President of Turkey Abdullah Gul has taken a more conciliatory approach calling peaceful protest a democratic right.
"Social media is not the menace in Turkey or elsewhere," commented May. "It is governments that think that, just because they have majority power, they try to get away with whatever they can between and during elections."
International Affairs Critic Eric Walton called on the Turkish government to demonstrate why they deserve a place in the European Union by listening and learning from democratic voices - because this will be expected if their goal to join the E.U is eventually successful.
One of my favourite political satirical works is Terry Fallis’s The High Road. It should be assigned reading for policy studies on infrastructure. It does a brilliant job of explaining the perils of transferring a fiscal deficit over to an infrastructure deficit. In Fallis’s fictional Ottawa, the Alexandra Bridge collapses, and our hero, MP Angus McLintock, uncovers the truth. The deficit had been moved from the books of Canada to the infrastructure of Canada. Successive governments had “saved” money by reducing the maintenance and investment in infrastructure.
Well, of course, that isn’t true in real life. In real life, we have both a fiscal deficit and an infrastructure deficit (not to mention the more pressing ecological deficit), and none of them are subject to a plausible plan leading to elimination.
In Montreal, some of the water pipes that run under the city are so old that they are made of wood. Across Canada, water works are antiquated and designed for a climate we no longer haveas increased and more intense deluges lead to raw sewage bypassing treatment to enter rivers and seas, untreated. We have bridges that are shut down for repairs, in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
In six Western Canadian cities alone, (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg), the Canada West Foundation puts the infrastructure deficit in 2003 at $543-million. That critical weakness in infrastructure is in roads and bridges, water-works, lack of efficient public transit, lighting, waste disposal and on and on.
The most recent figures I could find come from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in its January 2013 report. According to the CCPA, the extent of gap between safe and modern infrastructure and our current situation is $145-billion worth of missing investment. To address the threat posed by crumbling infrastructure, CCPA says we need an additional $20-billion to $30-billion a year.
We know that kind of money is not going to come from the coffers of municipal governments. Of every dollar paid in taxes, only eight cents goes to municipal governments. Yet it is in municipalities that we experience our closest relationship with any level of government.
The current Conservative administration has done some good things in this area. The gas tax fund is now specifically tied to municipal infrastructure funding, but that is only approximately $3-billion per year. The overblown announcement, particularly in the leaks in advance of the 2013 budget, claimed that the Harper administration had committed a new high in commitment to infrastructure of $53-billion. Why not call it a $530-billion announcement? The big number comes from taking virtually status quo spending and multiplying it out by 10 years? Why not 100 years? It is no more helpful to municipalities. Worse, the spending, ($32.2-billion existing from gas tax fund and the implementation of the GST tax rebate, $14-billion in support of major infrastructure, including $4-billion for federal infrastructure spending, and $1.25-billion to renew the P3 Canada Fund) will not kick in with any funding increases until after the next election and the 2015 due date for getting to balanced budgets.
While the infrastructure deficit that exists today presents a $20-billion to 30-billion annual shortfall, the climate crisis will raise the stakes considerably. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has recommended that the federal government increase support for municipal infrastructure in response to the increased risk to assets due to the manmade destabilization of climate. Global warming is leading to increased severity and increased frequency of extreme weather events.
The U.S. General Accounting Office has determined that the threat to U.S. federal assets qualifies climate change as “high risk” to the health of U.S. government finances. Yet, here in Canada, we have no carbon reduction plan and no adaptation plan. Without both we are headed for new and unprecedented threats to our future, our economy and our infrastructure.
If anyone doubts that profound impacts of the changes brought on by global warming, review the costs of the brief burst of heavy rainfall that caused the collapse of Finch Avenue in Toronto in July 2009. This one event cost Toronto millions of dollars to repair. Warmer atmosphere contains more moisture than colder air and, as a result of global warming, Canada’s rainfall patterns have already changed. The impact is severe on infrastructure built for a different climate. This applies to roads, waterworks, and developments in floodplains.
Meanwhile, northern infrastructure is severely impacted by melting permafrost and buildings along tornado alleys requires significant adaptation investment. None of this is currently budgeted within announced funds.
Let’s agree it is time to take The High Road, make like a group of Angus McLintocks, and start funding our shared, common and public servicesroads, bridges, water-works, public transit, common spaces. It is time dedicate the resolve and funds necessary to eliminate the infrastructure deficit.
Originally published in the Hill Times.U.S. says climate change high risk’ to federal assets, Canada has no infrastructure adaptation plan