Carol Linnitt's blog

Trudeau Instructs Minister of National Revenue to Free Charities from Political Harassment

Environmental and left-leaning charities can breath a sigh of relief now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier to modernize Canada’s archaic charity law and clarify rules around allowable “political activity.”

The ministry should “allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment,” Trudeau wrote in a ministerial mandate letter Friday, “with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy.”

The new mandate signals a remarkable change in tone from the at times aggressive stance of the former government.

In 2012 the Harper government allocated $13.4 million to the Canada Revenue Agency for the audit of charities to determine if groups were in violation of rules that limit their spending on “political activity” to 10 per cent of resources. The program also instituted new reporting for charities receiving foreign funding.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Review to Continue Under Flawed Review Process, According to Natural Resources Minister

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters Wednesday that ongoing oil pipeline reviews will continue on as usual, despite a promise by the Liberal government to make the environmental assessment process more robust.

They have not stopped,” Carr said. “The process continues.”

Ongoing National Energy Board reviews will continue for projects like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion even though the Liberal party platform promised an immediate review of the process, saying the renewed assessments will “restore robust oversight and thorough environmental assessments” and “restore lost protections” resulting from weakened environmental laws under the Stephen Harper government.

Minister Carr indicated the National Energy Board review process will undergo a transition but until that time, project reviews will remain unchanged.

There will be a transition as we amend the ways in which the National Energy Board goes about the process of evaluating these projects,” Minister Carr said, “and we will announce those changes as soon as we can, but the process continues.”

The announcement has some wondering what to make of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that a more robust process would apply to the to Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

In August, Dogwood Initiative’s Energy and Democracy Director Kai Nagata pressed Trudeau to confirm if an NEB overhaul would apply to the Kinder Morgan project.

Yes. Yes,” Trudeau said. “It applies to existing projects, existing pipelines as well.”

Canada’s Implementation of UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights Raises Questions About Oilsands, Resource Extraction

After years of refusal by the Conservative government, Canada is preparing to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) — a decision that could herald the beginning of a new era in relations between First Nations and the federal government.

In a mandate letter addressed to Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requested the minister “renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.”

The first item on Bennett’s long list of to-dos is to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting first with the implementation of the UN declaration.

Implementing the declaration is a big deal for Canada, one of only four countries to not only abstain from voting on the declaration, but to actually vote against it. (The other three are the U.S., which has signaled its intention to revise its position, and New Zealand and Australia, both of which reversed their positions in 2009.)

The declaration, first adopted by the UN in 2007 after 25 years of consultation and deliberation, is meant to “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”

Canada Subsidizes the Fossil Fuel Industry by $2.7 Billion Every Year. Where Does That Money Go?

Canada’s fossil fuel industries are the recipients of $2.7 billion US ($3.6 billion CDN)  in handouts each year, despite a promise from all G20 nations, including Canada, to eliminate subsidies in 2009.

About $1.6 billion US of those subsidies came from the federal government with the rest distributed by the provinces, according to a new report from Oil Change International.

The report finds G20 countries spend about $452 billion US each year to prop up their oil, gas and coal industries.

The Liberals promised to “fulfill Canada’s G20 commitment to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry,” in their election platform. The party singled out the Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction as too generous to industry, saying the tax break should only kick in if companies are completely unsuccessful in their resource exploration.

The saving will be redirected to investments in new and clean technologies,” the party platform says.

But the Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction isn’t the only place where companies can take advantage of a generous subsidy system.

So were else is the money coming from and going to?

Fossil Fuel Industry’s Bad Behaviour in Spotlight During Run-up to Paris Climate Negotiations

As leaders from around the world head to Paris in December for the COP21 UN climate negotiations, they do so with the burdensome knowledge that this is it: the big year. More than 190 nations will try to reach an internationally binding climate agreement to prevent the globe from warming to catastrophic levels.

Such high stakes haven’t pressed upon the negotiations since 2009’s Copenhagen climate summit, widely regarded as a failure after wearied countries fled the conference without producing a strong international agreement.

Perhaps that’s why this year there is little patience for the influence peddling of the world’s major fossil fuel companies, all of which are eager to play a role in the conversation.

Nearly 400,000 people have signed a petition to bar “big polluters” from the talks.

The petition, organized by Corporate Accountability International, argues the summit should be protected from corporate interests and becoming a platform for companies intending to “block progress, push false solutions and continue the disastrous status quo.”

The petition is just one of a number of public efforts designed to showcase the negative influence of industry groups on climate talks, their historic bad behaviour and a growing international impatience for meaningful climate action.

Canada's New Climate Change Minister 'Excited' To Tackle Emissions. Is this For Real?!

It’s already big news that Canada now has a Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

But it might be even more newsworthy that McKenna is promising that Canada will be a constructive player at the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris next month.

After years of international scrutiny for playing an obstructive role in international climate negotiations and a former environment minister who performed awkward linguistic gymnastics to avoid using the words “climate change,” McKenna’s enthusiasm signals a new era for Canada’s role on the global climate stage.  

Speaking outside Parliament Wednesday after her first day in office, McKenna said she is “really excited” to get down to work on Canada’s climate file.

It’s going to be a lot of hard work. This is a really important file. It’s a really important file to Canadians — both the environment but also tackling climate change. We need to be ambitious and I’m ready to work hard and get down to action,” McKenna told the CBC. “This is why I got into politics: to make a difference. I have three kids and this portfolio could not be more important to their future.”


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