Mike de Souza

Canadian Government: This Reporter's Question About ALEC 'Undeserving of Response'

ALEC light brigading

This article is re-published with permission from mikedesouza.com

As some of you may know, I’ll be starting a new role in January 2015 as an investigative resources correspondent for Reuters.

Getting access to records about government decisions and policies has long played a key role in the work of many journalists around the world. It will also be a key element for me in the weeks, months and years to come.

So to end off 2014, here are a few examples of some of my recent experiences with government efforts to either release or hide information.

Canada’s information watchdog has noted that the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes access to information as a quasi-constitutional right of all Canadians.

Obtaining access to information is an extension of freedom of expression since it allows the population to be informed and speak about government policies and decisions on how these governments spend public money.

Harper Government Evades Questions After Quietly Dissolving Oil and Gas Pollution Group

tar sands, oilsands, carbon pollution, kris krug

This article originally appeared on mikedesouza.com.

You may have seen this report in the Toronto Star about a mysterious end to a secretive group [an oil and gas pollution committee] that was created to draft new rules to reduce carbon pollution from oil and gas companies.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq was asked about the long-delayed rules for oil companies on Tuesday in the House of Commons by NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.

Aglukkaq responded by changing the topic.

We have taken action on some of the largest sources of emissions in this country, the transportation and the electricity-generation sector,” said Aglukkaq in the Commons. “I’m also looking forward to taking part in the UN climate summit in New York next week to speak to Canada’s record in taking action on climate change.”

Leslie recommended that the federal government should “quit stalling” in addressing climate change.

300 Scientists Urge Harper to Reject Panel's "Flawed" Findings on Enbridge Northern Gateway

Joint review panel report on Enbridge Northern Gateway

This post originally appeared on MikeDeSouza.com and is republished here with permission.

Some 300 scientists are urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject a report that recommended approval of a major oil pipeline to the west coast of British Columbia, describing it as a “flawed analysis” that downplayed key environmental impacts.

Following lengthy hearings, a review panel last December recommended approving Enbridge's Northern Gateway project – a 1,177 pipeline network that would send 525,000 barrels per day of bitumen, the heavy oil from Alberta’s oilsands, to Kitimat, B.C. The panel recommended 209 conditions be attached to the project approval.

But the scientists, led by Kai Chan, an associate professor and principal investigator at the University of British Columbia’s Connecting Human and Natural Systems Lab, sent Harper a letter on Monday concluding that the review’s final report wasn’t balanced and had five major flaws that made it “indefensible.”

We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reject this report,” wrote the scientists, who are mainly from Canada and the United States.

Mike De Souza's 20 Most Important Articles for Postmedia

mike de souza

Last week, journalist Mike De Souza published his final article for Postmedia News. The outlet closed its Parliamentary Bureau dismissing De Souza and four other employees amid a scandalous revelation that senior staff are colluding with Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), to shift the national conversation to more positively reflect on the energy industry, particularly Alberta's oilsands.

De Souza’s final piece fittingly covered an internal memo that showed the Harper government was warned back in 2011 that a massive increase in oil-by-rail transport was impending, given the rate of oil production in the oilsands outstripped Canada’s pipeline capacity. The Harper government, despite such cautions, failed to address the safety concerns associated with such sharp growth in oil tanker train traffic. Two years later, the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic killed 47 people.

There’s no question that Mike De Souza has been crucial to the survival of investigative journalism on energy and environment in Canada over the last several years. His work has exposed government and industry collusion, shining a light behind closed doors and serving the public interest. He has detailed high-level climate change denial, suppression of scientists and environmental regulations and the high level of orchestration between the Harper government and the oil, gas and pipeline industries in the creation of the infamous Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Ultimately, De Souza’s reporting has provided Canadians with a critical counter-narrative to Harper government spin when it comes to climate, energy and the environment.

Here’s a list of just 20 stories worth highlighting and remembering from De Souza’s career with Postmedia News:

Environment Minister Scrapped Public Statement Saying Climate Change is Human-Caused and “Serious,” Internal Documents Show

A proposed public statement that acknowledged humans were “mostly responsible for climate change” and that Environment Canada took this threat “seriously” was dropped by environment minister Leona Aglukkaq in favour of a watered-down partisan message that made no meaningful mention of the issue of climate change, new documents show. The proposed statement, drafted for the release of the 2013 assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was released to Postmedia’s Mike De Souza through access to information legislation.

The internal documents were a part of a larger Environment Canada communications strategy designed to raise awareness about climate change and the link between fossil fuel consumption and global warming, reports De Souza.

Natural Resources Canada Makes Huge Fuss to Suppress Release of Emissions Story - For One Hour

mike de souza silenced by natural resources canada
Today Postmedia News journalist Mike De Souza released an article on Environment Canada's missing annual emissions report
He writes “the federal government ins't answering questions about what's holding up the release of an annual report on Canada's progress in fighting climate change - an analysis normally released in mid-summer.” 
The annual inventory of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions is the definitive measure of the nation's carbon footprint and emissions trajectory based on previously reported years.
Environment Canada, the federal body responsible for the report, told De Souza “no release date had been set.” 
De Souza's article, published on www.canada.com this afternoon was forced offline by Natural Resources Canada, however, because it was reportedly published too early. The debacle, made public on twitter by David Provencher, Press Secretary to Canada's Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, was resolved when the article resurfaced online around 2:20pm EST.

Internal Documents: CAPP Hesitant to Admit Its Request for 'Holistic' Overhaul of Environmental Legislation that Influenced Omnibus

Postmedia's Mike De Souza reported today on a newly released internal document from Environment Canada that shows the federal government was concerned with the preference of Canada's largest oil and gas lobby body, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), when crafting last year's 2012 Omnibus budget bill that overhauled or eliminated some of the nation's most significant environmental laws.

A briefing document drafted for Environment Canada's associate deputy minister, Andrea Lyon, in preparation for a CAPP gala event in Alberta noted the lobby group's preference for a legislative overhaul, rather than a formal piecemeal examination of environmental laws in Parliament.

As De Souza explains, “the briefing scenario…suggested that oil and gas companies didn't want a series of separate legislative changes, but rather an 'omnibus' approach.”

In email correspondence obtained by DeSmog, De Souza asked CAPP to declare the organization's position on the legislative changes.

Mixed Messages: Harper Government Misrepresents Policy Reform in Meeting with First Nations

Documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act indicate that Environment Canada was telling the Assembly of First Nations one story and industry groups another in the run-up to the introduction of last year’s controversial Bill C-38, purposefully working to dispel First Nations’ fears regarding changes to the environmental reviews, even as it was seeking support from industry to make huge revisions to that process. 

A brief for a January 24th meeting with National Chief Shaun Atleo and a delegation of chiefs from across Canada encouraged the ministers in attendance, including Minister of Environment Peter Kent, to play up the government’s willingness to work with First Nations on environmental concerns and downplay fears of sweeping changes to legislation.

It stated, “Any changes to the government’s environmental assessment or project approvals regime that you may have heard of through the media are (i) speculative at this point as legislation has not been introduced to the House of Commons; (ii) will respect our duties toward Aboriginal peoples.”

This message is a stark contrast to the scenario brief for a February 2nd meeting between Environment Canada representative Michelle Rempel and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) VP Bill Clapperton, which indicated the Ministry of Environment was already working toward the sweeping changes to the environmental assessment process.

Tar Sands Monitoring a Mystery One Year In

One year after plans were announced for a new system to monitor the environmental effects of the Alberta tar sands, there is still no sign of any formal data.

In February of 2012, the federal government, in partnership with the government of Alberta, announced plans for a new three-year environmental monitoring system to collect information on the Alberta tar sands. Touted as world-class by environment ministers at both the federal and provincial levels, the three-year plan is meant to track data on water, air, land and wildlife, and provide annual reports for the first three years, followed by a comprehensive peer review in 2015.

“We will make the system highly transparent. We will ensure that the scientific data that is collected from our monitoring and analysis is publicly available with common quality assurances and common practices in place,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said a year ago, at a joint news conference with Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen. 

The plans indicated that scientists would release information on an ongoing basis in some cases, and on three and six-month schedules in others. Officials anticipated the first round of information would be released before the end of last year.

Tar Sands Tailings Contaminate Alberta Groundwater

The massive tailings ponds holding billions of litres of tar sands waste are leaking into Alberta's groundwater, according to internal documents obtained by Postmedia's Mike De Souza.

An internal memorandum prepared for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and obtained through Access to Information legislation says evidence confirms groundwater toxins related to bitumen mining and upgrading are migrating from tailings ponds and are not naturally occurring as government and industry have previously stated.

“The studies have, for the first time, detected potentially harmful, mining-related organic acid contaminants in groundwater outside a long-established out-of-pit tailings pond,” the memo reads. “This finding is consistent with publicly available technical reports of seepage (both projected in theory, and detected in practice).”

This newly released document shows the federal government has been aware of the problem since June 2012 without publicly addressing the information. The study, made available online by Natural Resources Canada in December 2012, was still “pending release” at the time Minister Oliver was briefed of its contents in June.


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