Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 14:04 • Guest

Over the past year we have seen a growing body of public opinion critiquing varied aspects of what is now termed ‘Harperism,’ for many a vexing and disturbing approach to Canadian governance.http://www.troymedia.com/wp-content/plugins/wpcopyprotectionsu/image.gif

My own criticism of the syndrome is increasingly annoying to my wife. ‘Your anger about Harperism seems to have deep emotional roots; it’s bigger than just — you need to dig deeper to discover its real cause.’

Well, I have. A key aid to my political exploration has been E. O. Wilson’s 2012 book, The Social Conquest of the Earth. The dust jacket commentary refers to it as the ‘summa work’ of his legendary career as an ecologist. Wilson is the living heir to Darwin, and a Professor Emeritus at Harvard.

He aids my political critique of Harperism in his rational analysis of eusociality — the most advanced level of social organization. Eusociality manifests as our collective ability as Homo sapiens, brought about by the evolutionary process of group selection, to empathize, to be compassionate, and perhaps most important, to be altruistic.

After reading Wilson, I was able to define my angst: I think the current Conservative government is presiding over a diminution, even a dismantling of eusociality in its many unique Canadian contexts. Simply put, we are diminishing state-wide altruism.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 15:03 • Kevin Grandia

Sabrina Zuniga, the Conservative party candidate running in the riding of Spadina-Fort York in Ontario, was caught on tape claiming that “oil is a natural substance… so spilling into the environment, the land will absorb it because that's what oil is.” Zuniga's riding is in close proximity to the route of the Enbridge Line 9B pipeline, which may soon be carrying diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through the Greater Toronto Area.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 10:40 • Guest

This is a guest post by Andy Skuce.

Volkswagen has admitted to cheating on emissions tests of some of its diesel vehicles. The full story has not yet been made public, but Volkswagen seems not to be an isolated case. There are indications of widespread gaming of emissions testing in the European automobile industry, with regulators and governments turning a blind eye to cheats and being reluctant to introduce testing procedures that would measure actual emissions in real-world conditions. 

There are some parallels with the estimation of emissions in the natural gas industry in British Columbia, where officially-sanctioned emissions rates are far lower than in other jurisdictions, compliance inspections are non-existent and methodologies do not include state-of-the art field measurements.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 12:08 • Kevin Grandia
Canada Federal Election Climate Change
Canada Federal Election Climate Change

With only a couple of weeks left in the Canadian federal election, voters are starting to ask fundamental questions about where the major parties stand on important issues like climate change. Canadians already rank climate and environment as a top issue both during and between election cycles. 

But with both the federal election on the horizon and international climate talks scheduled in Paris for late November, Canadians have a real opportunity for their votes to translate into substantial climate action on the global stage. 

Pressure is mounting for Canada to play a leadership role at these negotiations, with major trading partners like China and the United States already jointly announcing their emission reduction goals and commitments in advance of the talks.  

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 08:00 • Raphael Lopoukhine

A small, conservative movement is growing in Ontario to “reset the conversation” around carbon pricing and bring the centre-right back to an originally-conservative position, one in support of a market-based approach to fighting climate change. But the movement faces an uphill battle.

It’s very ironic — the idea of carbon pricing, came more from the right than the left originally,” Mark Cameron, executive director for Canadians for Clean Prosperity, and former policy director to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told DeSmog Canada.

There are well known conservative economists who endorsed carbon taxes for decades.”

You don’t need to feel alone, there are a number of people coming into this tent,” said Chris Ragan, chair of the Ecofiscal Commission, associate professor at McGill University and research fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute.

Those hoping for a reset will soon see how the Ontario Progressive Conservative party engages on the topic when the governing Liberals introduce a cap-and-trade plan in the near future.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 12:16 • Carol Linnitt

Starting today the federal government will face 18 separate challenges against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver.

A consolidated group of environmental organizations, one labour union and First Nations are fighting the approval of the project on the grounds that the federal government violated First Nations rights, failed to protect species at risk and did not consider the full impacts of an oil spill in its decision.

Chris Tollefson, lawyer from the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre and counsel for appellant B.C. Nature, said the case demonstrates the importance of due process when making decisions on major infrastructure projects like oil and gas pipelines.

This case has the potential to affirm how important it is to have a robust federal environmental assessment law that holds project proponents to account,” he said.

Challenges presented by First Nations appellants will be presented over the next two days, Tollefson explained, with environmental groups following. The trial will stretch over six days, the longest a case has ever been before the Federal Court of Appeals.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 10:19 • Judith Lavoie

Trees are already being felled in the Peace River Valley and site preparation is underway for the $8.8-billion Site C dam, which was given the go-ahead by the B.C. government in December, but on Wednesday MLAs spent the afternoon debating the megaproject.

The belated debate on the controversial project, which will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries creating an 83-kilometre-long reservoir, was sparked by a resolution endorsing the project put forward by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

The motion, which, as expected, sailed through with 39 votes in favour and 29  votes against, said the House supports Site C because “it represents the most affordable way to generate 1,100 megawatts of clean reliable power; and the Site C Clean Energy Project will create jobs for thousands of British Columbians; and the Site C Clean Energy Project has been the subject of a thorough environmental review process” — all points disputed by Site C critics, including First Nations, area residents and farmland advocates.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 08:59 • Judith Lavoie

When B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visited Southeast Alaska this summer, his aim was to calm critics of the province’s aggressive push to build at least 10 mines in northwest British Columbia, close to the Alaska border.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said at a Juneau news conference. “There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that.”

What led to Minister Bennett taking such a conciliatory tone? An unprecedented outpouring of concern from a powerful alliance of Alaskan politicians, tribes, fishing organizations and environmental groups perturbed by the modern-day gold rush alongside vital transboundary salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

Indeed, long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a province that values natural beauty have taken a near-fatal beating in Southeast Alaska, where many now regard Canadians as bad neighbours unilaterally making decisions that could threaten the region’s two major economic drivers — tourism and fishing.

Alaskans emphasize they are not against resource extraction, provided there are adequate environmental and financial safeguards, but believe Canada’s record — most recently illustrated by the Mount Polley mine tailings dam collapse — shows that B.C.’s regulations are not strong enough to protect downstream communities.