Opinion

Mon, 2015-02-23 11:03Sean Holman
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The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Thu, 2015-02-12 09:53Scott Vrooman
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Canada Paid $180,000 for Mining Responsibility Counsellor That Doesn't Exist

The government spent over $180,000 dollars last year to run the office of a corporate social responsibility counsellor for the Canadian mining industry even though there was no counsellor. Which is actually a fitting metaphor for what this office does: nothing.

It has no power to investigate problems or issue reports. Just look at the title, it’s not corporate social responsibility enforcer, it’s counsellor. “Hey man, there’s no judgment here. Think of me as a coach. How can I help you to help yourself to not murder activists, forcibly evict people and set their homes on fire? Yeah, help yourself to the jelly beans. Those are for everyone.”

Tue, 2015-02-03 11:21Guest
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Why (and How) the PICS Divestment Report Misses the Point

divestment

This is a guest post by Cam Fenton, Canadian tar sands organizer with 350.org.

Last week the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions released a report criticizing the fossil fuel divestment movement. While the report came as a surprise, the arguments didn’t, especially given that they were based more on building a straw man to support the report’s conclusions than actually understanding the movement.

At best the report fails to accurately reflect the demands and the theory of change of fossil fuel divestment movement, and at worst it fails to understand the true role and power of organizing, action and social movements.

The report gets a lot wrong and a little bit right, but most of its problems are undercut by three assumptions at the core of its argument – assumptions which seem to have been cherry-picked by the authors to support their own conclusions rather than reflecting those articulated by the movement. In fact the divestment movement has only ever been founded on one assumption that “if it’s morally wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

Fri, 2015-01-30 05:00Guest
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Federal Leadership Critical for Climate Action

This is a guest post by Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence. It originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

It was troubling last week when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau seemed to suggest that provinces could just do their own thing on climate action without much federal involvement other than hand holding. Government action addressing climate change is evolving quickly at the provincial level but that does not absolve the federal government of its responsibility to set a level playing field and spur action.

It would have been great had the federal government implemented a pan-Canadian climate change plan eight years ago — when it promised to. Or better yet 13 years ago, when the Canadian government ratified the Kyoto Protocol. But it’s not too late for the federal government to act, especially given the big advantages to doing so: fairness and effectiveness.

Thu, 2015-01-29 07:45Guest
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Canada is Trading Away its Environmental Rights

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

In 1997, Canada restricted import and transfer of the gasoline additive MMT because it was a suspected neurotoxin that had already been banned in Europe. Ethyl Corp., the U.S. multinational that supplied the chemical, sued the government for $350 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement and won! Canada was forced to repeal the ban, apologize to the company and pay an out-of-court settlement of US$13 million.

The free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico was never designed to raise labour and environmental standards to the highest level. In fact, NAFTA and other trade agreements Canada has signed — including the recent Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China — often take labour standards to the lowest denominator while increasing environmental risk. The agreements are more about facilitating corporate flexibility and profit than creating good working conditions and protecting the air, water, land and diverse ecosystems that keep us alive and healthy.

Mon, 2015-01-26 12:59Renee Lertzman
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Permission to Care: From Anxiety to Action on Climate Change

Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to participate in discussions about climate change threats and environmental issues with people across private, public, governmental, and research sectors. Whether at an island retreat in Puget Sound, a corporate conference at a resort or in the halls of our esteemed universities, the same questions get asked: How can we get people to care more? How do we motivate people? What’s it going to take?

What if these are the wrong questions to be asking?

Let’s consider this question by first reconsidering the context.

Wed, 2015-01-21 15:00Guest
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Oil Prices Drop As Global Warming Rises

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With oil prices plunging from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, the consequences of a petro-fuelled economy are hitting home — especially in Alberta, where experts forecast a recession.

The province’s projected budget surplus has turned into a $500-million deficit on top of a $12-billion debt, with predicted revenue losses of $11 billion or more over the next three or four years if prices stay low or continue to drop as expected. Alberta’s government is talking about service reductions, public-sector wage and job cuts and even increased or new taxes on individuals. TD Bank says Canada as a whole can expect deficits over the next few years unless Ottawa takes money from its contingency fund.

Wed, 2015-01-21 09:43Guest
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Dear Harper, You Know the Rules: It’s Three Strikes You’re Out

This is a guest post by Michael Harris, author of Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada's Radical Makeover. It originally appeared on iPolitics

In politics, as in baseball, the rule is simple: Three strikes and you’re out.

When Stephen Harper finally shambles towards the showers, head down, bat in hand, I’ll be thinking of Mighty Casey. For much of his career, Harper has umpired his own at-bats. But that role will soon — if briefly — fall to the people of Canada. Election Day is coming to Mudville.

Strike one against this government of oligarchs and corporate shills comes down to this: They have greedily championed oil and gas while doing nothing to protect air and water. Consider the piece of legislation with the Orwellian name — the Navigable Waters Protection Act. NDP house leader Nathan Cullen said it as well as anyone could:

It means the removal of almost every lake and river we know from the Navigable Waters Protection Act. From one day to the next, we went from 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers in Canada to 159 lakes and rivers protected.”

Tue, 2015-01-20 12:15Scott Vrooman
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VIDEO: By Investing in Oil Companies, You're Essentially Betting on How Long They Can Fool People

One hundred and ninety-five countries, including Canada, have formally agreed that we need to limit the Earth’s temperature rise over pre-industrial levels to two degrees. It’s uncontroversial.

Because going much beyond a two degree increase would be “incompatible with an organized global community” in the words of one of the UK’s top climate scientists. And if you’re not sure what that would look like, imagine the movie Mad Max but replace Mel Gibson’s character with a pile of hot dirt.

To have a decent chance of staying below two degrees, the world can only burn around a thousand more gigatonnes of CO2. But current fossil fuel reserves in the ground are about 3000 gigatonnes.

Tue, 2015-01-20 10:40Guest
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The Oil Shock is a Climate Opportunity and We Need to Seize it

This is a guest post by Cameron Fenton, Canadian Tar Sands Organizer with 350.org.

This week, the cover of the Economist proclaimed “the fall in the price of oil and gas provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix bad energy policies.” The article teased on the cover explains how low oil prices create the space for governments to make rapid leaps to change energy policy instead of “tinkering at the edges” urging policy makers to use this moment to “inject some coherence into the world's energy policies.”

The article gets a lot of things right. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and forcing big polluters to pay for the mess they're making are crucial policy steps, but the piece also presents some more dubious proposals. The last paragraph of the Economist piece is the perfect example of the inherent dangers ahead.

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