Stephen Harper

Mon, 2014-01-27 09:03Kai Nagata
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Peak Harper?

stephen harper

It turns out we have yet to reach peak oil, after all. And in this topsy-turvy world where the U.S. now produces more oil than it needs to import, it may be Prime Minister Stephen Harper's power that has peaked instead. Why? Because in his quest to build an “energy superpower,” Harper tied his political fate to the price of Canadian crude.

Harper won his long-coveted majority in May 2011, with a simple promise to energy producers: he would do whatever necessary to get their wares to market. Higher export prices would unlock deeper, more marginal reserves. And for the Tories, the resulting spurt of growth could pay for tax cuts, helping to paper over voters' concerns about environmental tradeoffs. But Harper's plan, like a runaway oil train, is going off the rails.

The day before the last federal election, Canadian heavy crude was trading at $82.87 a barrel. Since then the price has gone up and down, only to end up right back where it started. Thanks to fixed-date election laws he himself brought in, Harper has at most 20 months to fulfill his promise to energy producers — or they will find someone else who can.

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Fri, 2014-01-17 14:08Guest
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The Takehome Lesson From Neil Young: Read the Jackpine Mine Decision For Yourself

Neil Young Waging Heavy Peace Book Cover

This is a guest post by energy economist Andrew Leach.

Neil Young and the Honour the Treaties Tour is crossing the country in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s court challenge against Shell’s proposal to expand its mining operations north of Fort McMurray.

The biggest risk I see from this tour is not that Neil Young says things which are wrong (there have been a few), that he blames Prime Minister Harper for promoting an industry that has played an important role in the policies of pretty well every Prime Minister to precede him in the past four decades (that part was pretty clear), or, least of all, that he’s a famous musician who hasn’t spent his life working on energy policy.

The biggest risk I see is that all of the heat and light around the Neil Young tour will distract you from what you should do, which is to sit down, read the mine approval, and decide for yourself what you think.

Wed, 2014-01-15 10:37Emma Gilchrist
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Neil Young: Productive or Polarizing?

Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties tour kicked off with a bang on Sunday when the ex-pat Canadian rocker ripped into the Conservative government’s management of the oilsands.

Calling the oilsands a “disaster” and a “devastating environmental catastrophe” at a press conference at Massey Hall in Toronto, Young stood by his earlier statement that the oilsands region resembles Hiroshima.

It wasn’t long before a war of words with the Prime Minister’s Office broke out. Young’s comments provoked a particularly fierce reaction in Calgary, the corporate headquarters of Canada’s oilpatch.

By Tuesday, the Globe and Mail had posted a cartoon depicting the House of Commons divided into two camps: “pro Neil Young” and “anti Neil Young.”

Talk about turning a complex issue into black and white. The more important question here is whether celebrity awareness-raising efforts like this one serve a valuable role in generating discussion or whether Young’s inflammatory language further divides the country into two opposite camps — moving Canadians further away from the solutions we so desperately need on the energy and climate file.

Wed, 2014-01-15 09:41Kevin Grandia
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We Can Disagree, Mr. Harper and That's Okay

Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to figure out that not everyone is going to agree with him and his government's policies and that's okay.

Rock legend Neil Young is making his way across Canada this week on a high-profile concert series in support of First Nations who oppose further expansion of oilsands within their lands. Prime Minister Harper, through his spokesperson, responded to Young's concerns with empty talking points, reiterating that the natural resource sector remains a “fundamental part of our country's economy.”

Okay. Thanks Captain Obvious.

How exactly is that responding to the legitimate concerns around treaty violations and the undeniable damage by tar sands extraction to the land, air and water that has Neil Young and First Nations' communities speaking up?

Thu, 2013-12-05 12:23Russell Blinch
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The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Review by Russell Blinch

Paul Wells "The Longer I'm Prime Minister" book cover

It was April, 2011 and Michael Ignatieff, then leader of Canada's opposition Liberal Party, was addressing an election rally in Sudbury, Ontario. “Why do we have to put up with this? Rise up! Rise up! … This goes beyond partisan politics! This goes beyond the Liberal Party! This is about our country! This is about our democracy! Rise up! Rise up!”

The scene, as penned by Paul Wells in his new book, “The Longer I'm Prime Minister,” captures all the futility of battling the quiet juggernaut of Stephen Harper, possibly one of the most confounding prime ministers ever to inhabit the dull, grey landscape of Ottawa. Ignatieff led the Liberals to the party's biggest ever defeat that year while the Conservatives under Harper secured its first majority government.

It's easy to underestimate Harper, or resort to caricature as Wells notes in his book. It is obvious Harper is deeply conservative, loves the oil industry and all things oilsands. He doesn't seem to give a fig about the environment. Harper is all that, but in his book Wells, a veteran journalist, brings clarity to the 'why' of it all.

Mon, 2013-11-11 11:15Kevin Grandia
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Will Canada Continue to Fail on Climate at International Talks in Poland?

oilsands pollution in Canada

With another round of international climate negotiations opening this week in Warsaw, Poland, and a new poll finding Canadians wanting leadership on the issue, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government have an opportunity to turn the tides on what has been so far a policy trend in the wrong direction.

Since taking the helm, the majority Harper government has floundered at United Nations climate events, relegating Canada to perpetual fossil of the day and year awards.

As someone who has been working in and around these international climate talks and other such global negotiations for many years now, I have witnessed first hand Canada's fall from grace. Our small country (population-wise) has historically hit well above its weight in many international forums, with a reputation for neutrality and expert diplomacy. Now, we are called a “petrostate” and a “climate obstructionist” at such talks. 

Wed, 2013-10-16 19:35Kevin Grandia
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Greenpeace Comes "Home" to Protest a Short-Sighted Pipeline Project

Members of Greenpeace were back in Vancouver today where the famed (infamous?) organization started more than 40 years ago as a small ragtag group of people trying to stop nuclear testing in the North Sea.

Today, in regular Greenpeace-style, sixteen members occupied and hung banners at the Kinder Morgan oil storage and shipping facility on Vancouver's Burrard inlet. This is the same company and facility that is currently pushing Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Harper to approve the construction of a new pipeline to pump more tar sands oil from Alberta to our coast and off to foreign markets.

Wed, 2013-08-07 09:44Derek Leahy
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Energy East: The Tar Sands Nation Building Pipeline

Energy East pipeline TransCanada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared it will enhance Canada's “energy security.” The premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick call it a “nation builder.” Even the Toronto Star agrees: “this project appears to be in the national interest.”

Those are just some of the reactions to what sounds like the rebuilding of Canada's transcontinental railway but was in fact the announcement of a proposed oil pipeline from Alberta to Canada's east coast. Last week TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. announced it will seek regulatory approval for its Energy East pipeline project, expected to ship 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil and tar sands bitumen from Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick, crossing through six provinces on its way.

“Energy East and other tar sands pipeline projects will build a nation dependent on exporting tar sands oil overseas,” says Ben Powless, a tar sands community outreach coordinator for Ecology Ottawa.

“A true nation building project would decrease or eliminate Canada's dependence on fossil fuels,” Powless told DeSmog.  

Fri, 2013-07-12 09:00Nathanael Baker
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Harper's $16 Million Question: What's Our Legacy?

The amazing thing about satire is it makes us laugh, while simultaneously asking us to dig a little bit deeper. That is why when I watch these Greenpeace Canada ads, the first thing that comes to my mind in the midst of laughter is legacy.

Legacy: something left or handed down by a predecessor.

Throughout my years of working on the front-lines of the climate change PR battle, one question is consistently asked of me: how do you manage to stay motivated and energized while fighting such an uphill battle?

Mon, 2013-06-17 08:57Indra Das
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Harper’s Speech To British Parliament Draws Multiple Tar Sands Protests

Protesters outside the UK Parliament to meet Harper on DeSmog Canada

As promised, multiple protests against the tar sands greeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper Thursday in London, where he became the first Canadian prime minister to address British Parliament since 1944. Harper has been using his UK trip to lobby against the proposed European Union (EU) fuel quality directive, which would label oil from the Albertan tar sands as 'highly polluting' to deter imports into Europe.

Linda Solomon writes for the Vancouver Observer, that “50 campaigners representing 30 environmental groups gathered outside the UK Parliament [to] greet Prime Minister Stephen Harper's car with anti-tar sands banners, placards and chants.” One of them, Suzanne Dhaliwal, was dressed as Bridgette DePape, the Senate Page who was fired in 2011 for holding up a “Stop Harper” sign on the Canadian Senate floor.

The group protest outside Parliament was organized by the UK Tar Sands Network (TSN). Jess Worth of the TSN is quoted as saying that Thursday's protests “demonstrate just how strongly people in the UK feel about the Harper government's attempts to force their dirty tar sands oil onto Europe.”


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