Stephen Harper

Harperism and the Decline of Altruism in Canada

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.

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.

“War on Science” Top of Mind for Candidates and Public at Science and Technology Debate

A one-of-a-kind debate in Victoria this week brought science and technology to the minds of federal candidates who all, despite their differences, agreed vociferously on one thing: Canada needs to be freed from the “war on science.”

Big Oil’s Man in the Senate

Alberta Conservative Senator Doug Black worries that Canadians are illiterate when it comes to energy and he’s on a mission to educate them.

If we don’t address the issues facing us now,” he warns, “the prosperity my generation enjoyed will not be enjoyed by the next generation.”

Black is a rarity in the Senate, one of only three senators who were elected by voters in Alberta and then appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. Given the discredit that august body has fallen into, though, he may not hold that seat for long.

During the first half of 2015, Black travelled from coast to coast in his quest to educate Canadians about “the development of our energy resources and to discuss ways in which Canada can responsibly maximize its energy resources to benefit all Canadians.”

But it’s an odd crusade. Instead of meeting Canadians where they mostly congregate, in malls, union halls, church basements and community centres, he’s meeting them in posh hotels like the Vancouver Four Seasons, Toronto’s One King West, Edmonton Westin, Montreal Hyatt Regency and Ottawa’s Shaw Centre.

Prime Minister Harper’s Inaction on Climate Killed the Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline

Stephen Harper climate change

With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.

The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”

The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.

Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.

While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.

For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.

Stephen Harper Forgets Stephen Harper’s Pledge to End Fossil Fuels

If the recent frufrah over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig’s comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground” is indicative of anything, it’s that Canada’s election cycle is in full spin. May all reasonableness and sensible dialogue and accountability be damned.

Perhaps that’s the blunt and singular reason behind the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outrage at McQuaig’s entirely non-contentious assertion that, because of our international commitments to curtail global climate change, Canada won’t exploit the entirety of its oil reserves.

Harper accused the NDP of having a “not-so hidden agenda,” saying the party “is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy.”

That’s why they…would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”

But Harper’s reaction seems conspicuously overwrought given the Prime Minister’s own pledge, along with the other G7 nations, to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2100.

At the time of signing — a whole two months ago — Harper said the plan would “require a transformation in our energy sectors.”

Will the War on Science Become an Election Issue?

Death of Evidence Rally

The number of anti-science decisions the federal government has made in recent years is staggering: axing the long-form census, trying to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, sending media relations personnel to accompany scientists at international conferences.

There are so many mindboggling instances, in fact, that the non-profit organization Evidence for Democracy has decided to create an interactive website to chronicle them all.

Even for those of us who are following the issue closely, it’s still hard to keep track of it all,” says executive director Katie Gibbs.

'Grassroots’ Canada Action Carries Deep Ties to Conservative Party, Oil and Gas Industry

Our messages are not resonating,” Natural Resource Minister Greg Rickford told a room full of oil and gas executives in a luxury Rocky Mountain resort last fall. “You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence.”

Rickford, who attended the meeting at the request of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), encouraged the executives to do more to spread the oil industry’s message to the Canadian public.

Much of the debate over energy is characterized by myth or emotion,” he said, suggesting scientists and campaigners critical of development in the Alberta oilsands were “crowding out the real facts.”

Rickford made no mention of Canada’s international climate commitments, but he did deride concerns about pollution from the oilsands — the country’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rickford’s advice, released to Greenpeace via an Access to Information request, marked the beginning of a decisive shift in industry’s public relations campaigns.

Environmental Issues in Canada

environmental issues canada

With its abundant forests, natural resources and surrounding oceans, environmental issues in Canada are a hot topic.

Interested in getting our weekly round up of the latest news on environmental issues in Canada? Click here and sign up to our newsletter!

Here is a summary of our latest news coverage on environmental issues in Canada:

Would an Oilsands Moratorium Be in Alberta’s Own Self-Interest? This Group of Over 100 Scientists Thinks So

A group of scientists from across North America are calling on the governments of Canada and Alberta to impose a moratorium on future development of the Alberta oilsands.

The recommendation is the result of a consensus document that surveys scientific literature related to the oilsands from across research fields. The clear outcome of the research — as it relates to climate, ecosystems, species protection and indigenous rights — is a need to end oilsands growth, the group states.

As scientists we recognize that no one can speak with authority to all aspects of this complex topic, which is why we came together to synthesize the science from our different fields,” Wendy Palen, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, said.

The group of scientists, which include 12 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, 22 members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, five recipients of the Order of Canada and a Nobel Prize winner, released their consensus position on a website,, Wednesday. A ful list of the scientists supporting the moratorium can be found here.

Harper Agrees to End Use of Fossil Fuels by 2100, Make Deep Cuts to Emissions by 2050 at G7 Summit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signed on to a G7 commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2100 and make significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The move will “require a transformation in our energy sectors,” Harper said at a news conference in Garmisch, Germany.

Nobody’s going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights,” he said. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing.”

According to federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May, an earlier draft of the G7 committment sought full decarbonization by 2050, but both Canada and Japan fought to weaken the declaration. 

The final version of the G7 leader’s declaration states: “We emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.”

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavour.”


Subscribe to Stephen Harper