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Fri, 2014-09-26 12:25Sean Holman
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It's Time to Put the Spotlight on Government Secrecy

#cdnfoi, transparency in government, sean holman, freedom of information

Partisans may not believe it, but Canada’s “culture of secrecy” existed long before Stephen Harper moved into the prime minister’s office. And it’ll be around long after he moves out, unless Canadians do more than just cast their ballots in the next election.

That’s why four groups concerned about freedom of information, one of which I’m part of, are launching a campaign encouraging Canadians to take a small but vital step on social media that would raise more awareness of just how much is being hidden from us: spotlighting examples of government secrecy with the hashtag #cdnfoi.

Such secrecy has its roots in our political system, which has a tradition of strict party discipline. Because of that discipline, decisions made by the government behind closed doors – in cabinet meetings, for example – are rarely defeated in the House of Commons, making secret forums the principle arbiters of public policy.

To be sure, the Harper administration has done more than its share to cultivate a backroom state, frustrating access to government records and officials, as well as failing to fix our broken freedom of information system. But Canadian society is an especially fertile ground for the growth of policies that violate our right to know.

In part, that’s because our country doesn’t have any groups that exclusively and routinely advocate for greater freedom of information at a national level. Probably the closest we have to that is the small BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

Tue, 2014-09-23 09:17Carol Linnitt
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Stephen Harper to Skip Meeting of World Leaders at UN Climate Summit Today

stephen harper, climate change, desmog canada, un climate summit

Although the heads of 125 states are gathering at UN Headquarters in New York today to discuss global commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, Stephen Harper will be elsewhere.

Instead Canada’s prime minister will arrive in New York in two days time to attend the UN’s Every Woman, Every Child event on September 25th.

The UN Climate Summit is intended to “galvanize and catalyze climate action” in advance of the Paris COP climate talks in 2015 where countries will form binding agreements to address global warming.

President Barack Obama will announce a new executive order today that directs all federal agencies to include climate concerns in international aid and development initiatives.

China’s president Xi Jinping, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott have also announced they will not attend the summit.

China announced vice premier Zhang Gaoli will attend in the president’s place and Canada will send environment minister Leona Aglukkaq in Harper’s stead.

China is the number one emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by the U.S. and India. Canada and Australia are eighth and fourteenth, respectively, according to data released by the European Commission.

In the lead up to the summit UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “this is the time for decisive global action.”

Fri, 2014-09-19 12:30Mike De Souza
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Harper’s Timeline: Canada on Climate Change from 2006-2014

stephen harper, climate change, desmog canada, un climate summit

This article originally appeared on mikedesouza.com.

On the eve of an international climate change summit of government leaders in New York, Canada is being challenged about its own domestic record in addressing the heat-trapping pollution that contributes to global warming.

Here’s a historical timeline of some of the major climate change policies, statements and related decisions made by Canada since 2006 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected to form a government.

From a pledge to introduce a carbon tax in 2007 to internal debates about climate change science, this timeline covers the promises and the action by the Canadian government in recent years.

Thu, 2014-06-05 10:16Chris Rose
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Obama’s New Climate Regulations Could Bring More U.S. Coal to B.C. for Export

coal train, coal export, surrey fraser docks, BNSF

A new U.S. proposal to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants could result in more thermal coal being shipped to Asia through existing and planned port facilities in Metro Vancouver, people attending Port Metro Vancouver’s annual general meeting were told Tuesday.

[President Barack] Obama’s administration is changing the game,” Steven Faraher-Amidon said during a question period.

Faraher-Amidon also told the meeting that five schools in Delta and Surrey are within 700 metres of the contentious Fraser Surrey Docks coal handling proposal while medical studies in the U.S. have found that living within five kilometres of coal dust and diesel particulates presents significant health risks. A former Port Metro Vancouver environmental impact assessment that looked at the Fraser Surrey Docks terminal was criticized for being limited in scope and failing to adequately address public health concerns.

The 64-year-old retired Surrey teacher added a proper health impact assessment needs to be done before the Fraser Surrey Docks coal facility — which could eventually handle eight million tonnes annually — can be approved.

Tue, 2014-06-03 14:39Carol Linnitt
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Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

Sun, 2014-05-11 13:56Chris Rose
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Last Week was Crucial for Climate Science, Not So for Climate Politics

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This past week was, in the continually escalating climate change war, one of great disconnect, confusion and uncertainty.

While there is no doubt that humankind finds itself in the middle of a much-needed transition away from the business-as-usual model of burning fossil fuels, powerful and manipulative forces continue to resist a growing movement to use greener, cleaner energy.

Many of those sinister forces are headquartered, or operate in, the United States which boasts the world’s greatest economy while being the second worst emitter of greenhouse gasses after China.

So it came as a shock to many mainstream media outlets this week when the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report said Tuesday that climate change is already negatively affecting the United States and the future looks even more dismal if coordinated mitigation and adaptation efforts are not immediately pursued.

Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” notes the massive NCA report.

Wed, 2014-05-07 13:52Chris Rose
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Climate Change "Has Moved Firmly into the Present," Latest NCA Federal Report States

Climate change is already negatively affecting every region in the United States and the future looks even more dismal if coordinated mitigation and adaptation efforts are not immediately aggressively pursued, according to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report released Tuesday.

Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” notes the massive NCA report.

Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”

The report adds evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the nation. The report says Americans are already noticing the results of climate change, from longer and hotter summers to shorter and warmer winters. Rain falls in heavier downpours, there is more flooding, earlier snow melt, more severe wildfires and less summer sea ice in the Arctic.

Mon, 2014-04-28 12:49Andrew Leach
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Canada's Climate Incoherence is Killing Keystone XL

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This post originally appeared in Maclean's magazine and is republished here with permission.

There’s no shortage of blame being passed around in the wake of another delay in the U.S. regulatory approval process with respect to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline which, it was announced recently, will now drag on for at least another six months.

Among other reasons cited for the decision, the Calgary Herald’s Deborah Yedlin and others have cited a lack of greenhouse gas policies applied to Canada’s oil sands. Yedlin is direct, saying that, “the evidence to date suggests (that the Harper government hasn’t listened to what is being said in Washington) because the Harper government has not moved on anything resembling a policy on greenhouse gas emissions.”

I think she’s right, to a point, but I think the problem is not that we haven’t been listening, but that our governments, both in Edmonton and in Ottawa, have yet to establish a coherent vision on anything which includes the words climate change and oil sands.

Wed, 2014-02-26 09:55Russell Blinch
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Harper‘s Support for Democracy Falls Short at Home

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Do democracy and freedom begin at home for Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

Recently the Prime Minister told Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych he will be judged on his actions, not words, as violence against the country’s pro-democracy protesters steadily escalates. Harper signed a joint statement at the North American leaders summit in Toluca, Mexico, saying “[the leaders] agreed they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that actions mirror words.”

The Prime Minister also called for an emergency debate in Parliament this week, saying “we understand that this violence is occurring because the majority of the population is very worried about the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past.”

While Canadians will no doubt be relieved to see the country and its leadership take a meaningful stance against the oppression and violence of President Yanukovych’s regime, there’s sure to be some cognitive dissonance associated with Harper as a ‘democracy-for-the-people’ spokesperson here at home.

Mon, 2014-02-10 10:54Russell Blinch
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Keystone is Still in Limbo, and that’s Good for Canada

U.S. President Obama is again signaling he’s in no rush to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and that offers a sliver of hope for Canadians hoping to put the brakes on the pell-mell development of the Alberta oilsands.

Ahead of Super Bowl weekend the U.S. State department released the final environmental assessment of the pipeline project and mainstream media was quick to declare the report gave Obama the cover he needed to finally approve it.

Kate Shepherd at the Huffington Post wrote that the assessment “increases the likelihood” the pipeline, a great superhighway to deliver Alberta bitumen to thirsty U.S. Gulf coast refineries, would finally get the green light.

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