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.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.

Silencing Scientists Threatens Evidence-based Decision Making

    This is a guest post by Michael Rennie, assistant professor at Lakehead University and former research scientists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This piece originally appeared on the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression website.

    Decision makers need information to help them make decisions. And those decisions can be best evaluated when all the facts are in. But who supplies “the facts,” and how can we trust that they are unbiased?

The traditional role of government scientists has been to provide those “facts”; as a former government scientist, it was part of my job to provide unbiased advice to decision makers in forming policy. This has become more difficult given recent legislative changes and budget cuts, as well as a shift in emphasis away from basic science and towards advancing the intellectual property interests of private industry.

These changes have made both the “doing” of government science and the communication of scientific findings from government scientists to the public far more challenging than they need to be.

Objectivity is the cornerstone of scientific investigation. Scientists seek answers to how the world works by co

Trust, Social Licence and Spin: A Tale of Two Countries

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.

Canada’s Election is a Painful Race to the Middle

The latest leaders debate was an unwatchable mess that resembled a malfunctioning Chuck E Cheese animatronic puppet show. But what made it truly sad was that the three men competing to lead our country had a verbal pissing match over who could build climate-torching pipelines the fastest. It epitomized the race to the middle that this campaign has become. Just look at a graph of how party popularity has changed over the year. It looks like snakes in a feeding frenzy.

It was a helpful reminder that voting is important, but not enough. Leadership isn’t going to come from the top down on climate. And that leadership vacuum is what the newly released Leap Manifesto is meant to fill. But it’s been fascinating to watch the media react to this thing by dusting off their cold war rhetoric. “Know who else has manifestos? The Reds. Know who else leaps? Chairman Mao. And frogs…”

It's Time to Talk About a New Vision for the Canadian Economy

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

The federal leaders’ debate on the economy focused on important issues — jobs, deficits, infrastructure spending, pipelines, climate change — but no one talked about a different vision for Canada’s economy.

What if we challenged our leaders to answer the dilemma posed by American journalist Charles Bowden: “Imagine the problem is that we cannot imagine a future where we possess less but are more”?

Not being able to even imagine an economy without continual growth is a profound failure.

A better economic vision would support the right of all Canadians to live in a healthy environment, with access to clean air and water and healthy food. It would respect planetary boundaries and provide the moral imperative to decrease growing income disparities.

Climate Summit Marks Attitude Shift in Alberta

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips

This article is authored by Binnu Jeyakumar and originally appeared on the Pembina Institute's blog.

The days of denial are over,” said Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, kicking off the 2015 Alberta Climate Summit held last week in Edmonton. She was sending a message that Alberta’s attitude and commitments around climate change are changing.

The summit focused on exploring viable options for progress on climate change, with the participation of stakeholders from across the spectrum. More than 300 people filled the room, representing the oil and gas industry, the electricity sector, First Nations, unions, environmental groups, municipalities and the provincial government. The excitement was palpable as participants discussed both the reasons to take action and the opportunities now available.

The summit explored policy solutions in several areas, including carbon pricing, renewable electricity and energy efficiency. If you want more context on climate policy in Alberta, Pembina’s backgrounder from August is worth a look.

Dasiqox Headwaters in Tsilhqot’in Territory Threatened by Amarc Mine Exploration

This is a guest column by Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in Government, and lead organizer in the development of the Dasiqox Tribal Park, supported by the Friends of Nemaiah Valley.

Amarc Resources (TSX-V: AHR) will commence drilling this week at a site inside the Dasiqox Tribal Park in central British Columbia — despite not having the consent of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

The drilling, located in a high-altitude, ecologically sensitive area, is scheduled to start without the consent of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and Yunesit’in Government — two Tsilhqot’in First Nation communities that have launched a land-based project called “Nexwagwez?an,” meaning “There for us” in the Tsilhqot’in language. Nexwagwez?an, or the Dasiqox Tribal Park, was announced on Oct. 4, 2014, and consultation remains ongoing.

Amarc, a B.C.-based mineral exploration company, is focused on developing one site in particular for a copper mine. Amarc says the IKE site is located in “the heartland of the province’s producing porphyry copper mines.” 

It just so happens that this exploration site is also located at the Dasiqox headwaters — at the heart of the Tsilhqot’in’s traditional and ancestral territory. The IKE site’s glacial waterways feed into the Dasiqox (Taseko) salmon-bearing river.   

Vote for a Better, Cleaner Canada: David Suzuki

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

No matter what anyone says during this long federal election campaign, climate change is the biggest threat to Canadians’ health, security and economy. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible, the research wide-ranging and overwhelming.

Wastefully burning fossil fuels at such a rapid rate is jeopardizing the planet’s life-support systems — harming human health, destroying landscapes and habitat, causing widespread extreme weather events and contributing less to the economy and job-creation than clean energy development. Not only that, our rate of using and exporting these fuels means reserves will be depleted before long. In the meantime, as easily accessible sources run out, fossil fuels have become more difficult, dangerous, expensive and environmentally damaging to exploit.

Canada has a long history of extracting and exporting raw resources to fuel its economy. But that’s no longer a sensible long-term plan, especially with non-renewable resources. It’s incomprehensible that a country with such a diverse, educated, innovative and caring population can’t get beyond this outdated way of doing things. The recent oil price plunge illustrates the folly of putting all our eggs in one fossil fuel basket.

David Suzuki: Climate Deniers All Over the Map

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Heartland Institute conference in Las Vegas where climate change deniers engaged in a failed attempt to poke holes in the massive body of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. I quoted Bloomberg News: “Heartland's strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.”

A recent study came to a similar conclusion about contrarian “scientific” efforts to do the same. “Learning from mistakes in climate research,” published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, examined some of the tiny percentage of scientific papers that reject anthropogenic climate change, attempting to replicate their results.

In a Guardian article, co-author Dana Nuccitelli said their study found “no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming.” Instead, “Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on.”

Hello, CSIS!

This post originally appeared on the Dogwood Initiative blog.

I should confess: I talk to lamp fixtures.

I wink at ceiling vents, sing to the dashboard in my car, apologize to the people eavesdropping on my phone calls for how boring my conversations are.

I can’t pinpoint when this running joke began, but it was sometime after I left television journalism and began to publicly criticize the government. Now that I work at Dogwood Initiative — where we’ve actually been the target of homeland surveillance — the joke is less funny.

Last week Dogwood organizers testified at a secret hearing of the Security Intelligence Review Committee — the “watchdog” tasked with keeping CSIS on a leash. We allege not only that Canada’s spy service broke the law by gathering information on peaceful civilians inside Canada, but that government spying has put a chill on democratic participation.

Do you know that feeling, that you’re being watched? It’s like when you park your vehicle in a bad spot and have to walk there after dark. Or you come home after a trip and the door is unlocked. Or you peer into the webcam on your phone or computer and wonder, is anyone there?


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