Harper Government

Thu, 2014-10-09 11:55Carol Linnitt
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After Years of Intensive Lobbying, EU to Drop Oilsands’ Dirty Fuel Label

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The European Union will not label fuel from Alberta’s oilsands as highly polluting despite years of efforts to distinguish the crude and other unconventional fuels for their high environmental impacts.

A proposal released Tuesday by the European Commission lifts a requirement forcing refiners to identify when supplying fuel from unconventional sources such as oilsands or oil shale. The commission will lift the requirement even though internal estimates show these fuel sources contain higher carbon emissions than conventional sources.

The dropped requirement within the European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) comes after years of intense lobbying on behalf of the Canadian and Albertan government.

“The Harper government, in collaboration with the major oil companies, unleashed an unprecedented assault on clean fuels legislation in Europe even as they gutted environmental laws at home,” Keith Stewart, energy and climate campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, told DeSmog Canada. 

I think the question Canadians should ask themselves is: Do we want our diplomats to operate as a lobbying arm of Big Oil?” he said.

Stewart also noted the federal government's Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy labelled oil companies as “allies” while environmental and Aboriginal groups were listed as “adversaries.”

Thu, 2014-10-09 09:25Chris Rose
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Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

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Media policies in most Canadian government departments do not effectively encourage open communication between federal scientists and journalists, says a report released Wednesday.

Published by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the report said more than 85 per cent of the 16 departments studied were assessed a grade of C or lower in terms of openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers.

The 22-page report also said that when compared to grades for U.S. departments (scored by the Union of Concerned Scientists), all but one Canadian department performed worse than the U.S. average.

Overwhelmingly, current media policies do not meet the basic requirements for supporting open communication between federal scientists and the media,” Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author on the report, said in an accompanying media release.

These policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” Gibbs said.

Tue, 2014-10-07 13:43Chris Rose
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“No Overall Vision:” Scathing New Audit from Environment Commissioner Exposes Canada’s Utter Climate Failure

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Canada will almost certainly not meet its international greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2020 and doesn’t even have a plan showing how the nation might achieve its climate change goals, according to a blistering new report released Tuesday.

Julie Gelfand, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, said a climate change audit found current federal measures will have little effect on emissions by 2020, the year Canada committed under the Copenhagen Accord to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels.

Gelfand said in her report that the government has introduced regulations in the transportation and electricity generation sectors.

She noted, however, that regulations in the oil and gas sector — where emissions are growing the fastest — are still not in place eight years after the government first indicated it would regulate this area.

There is strong evidence that Canada will not meet its international 2020 greenhouse-gas-emission reduction target,” she said. “The federal government does not have an overall plan that maps out how Canada will achieve this target. Canadians have not been given the details about which regulations will be developed, when, nor what greenhouse gas reductions will be expected.”

“Canadians are being grossly misled if they think that this government has even the remotest intention of ever trying to achieve any greenhouse gas targets, let alone join the realm of civilized nations,” Liberal environment critic John McKay said in response to the audit.

Tue, 2014-09-23 11:54Carol Linnitt
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Critics Call Harper Government’s New Climate PR Campaign ‘Orwellian’

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Facing criticism in the lead up to today’s UN Climate Summit, which prime minister Stephen Harper is not attending, the Harper Government released a new public outreach campaign through Environment Canada, praising the country’s action on climate change.

The campaign points to four pillars of Canada’s climate progress including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, investing in climate adaptation, “world-class scientific research to inform decision-making,” and international leadership in climate action.

Already critics are pointing to the apparent disparity between the Environment Canada campaign and Canada’s waning reputation on the international stage for its climate obstruction, the muzzling of scientists, the elimination of environmental legislation and massive cuts to federal research and science programs.

Reading the Harper government’s claims about its climate efforts is like reading one of Orwell’s books,” Mark Jaccard, professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environment Management, said.

Like what you're reading? Help us bring you more. Click here to support DeSmog Canada's Kickstarter campaign to clean up the climate and energy debate in Canada.

Eliminating policy is to implement policy. Blocking and abandoning global negotiations is to lead global negotiations. Muzzling scientists is to have science inform decision-making. Working hard to increase carbon pollution is to decrease it. Black is white. Dishonesty is truth.”

Mon, 2014-09-22 13:57Chris Rose
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Report: Renewables Break into Mainstream Energy Market

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Renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies are now a successful mainstream business with investors spending $207 USD billion in the sector last year, according to a report released Monday by Clean Energy Canada.

The report — Tracking the Energy Revolution — also said that carbon-based fuels would remain an important part of the global energy system for decades but added that “for the first time in more than a century, multiple signs suggest that their dominance is beginning to wane.”

Global fossil-fuel power generation investment last year totalled $270 billion, the report said, only $63 billion more than for clean energy investments.

It is clear that falling equipment costs, strong investor interest, and government and business leadership are driving a global clean energy revolution, the 18-page report added.

When it comes to addressing climate disruption, the countries that succeed on the world stage are those taking action at home,” Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada, said in an accompanying media release.

Like what you're reading? Help us bring you more. Click here to support DeSmog Canada's Kickstarter campaign to clean up the climate and energy debate in Canada.

Fri, 2014-08-08 15:31Carol Linnitt
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Evangeline Lilly: It’s My Job To Stand Up For Canadian Scientists

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You may know the Canadian actress for her tough-girl roles in Lost or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. But Evangeline Lilly has a battle – besides those with orcs and island smoke monsters – to fight: the battle for Canada’s scientists.

Lilly first heard about the defunding and muzzling of Canada’s federal scientists when she was reading DeSmog Canada just over a year ago. In a spate of funding cuts, the federal government eliminated some of Canada’s most prestigious scientific institutions, to the dismay of scientists and Canadians across the country. And since the Harper government has been in power, strict communications protocols have prevented scientists from speaking with the public about their research, limiting public awareness of taxpayer-funded science.

Lilly, who now lives in the U.S., said she keeps an eye out for stories about her homeland. And it always concerns her when she stumbles across something so disheartening.

I think it’s always a little bit scary and astounding when as a citizen of what you consider to be a free nation you discover one day for various reasons…that something awful has been going on under your nose and you didn’t know,” she told DeSmog Canada. “And that happens to me a little more often than I’m comfortable with nowadays.”

Lilly was dismayed to learn that “all over Canada right now scientists are having all their funding pulled,” she said, “especially scientists who are speaking about climate change.”

Wed, 2014-08-06 10:01Guest
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Canada Needs Some Serious Climate Honesty

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This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University. 

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government asked me and four other economists if we agreed with its study showing huge costs for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. We all publicly agreed, much to the chagrin of the Liberals, NDP and Greens, who argued that Kyoto was still achievable without crashing the economy. It wasn’t.

As economists, we knew that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien should have implemented effective policies right after signing Kyoto in 1997. It takes at least a decade to significantly reduce emissions via energy efficiency, switching to renewables, and perhaps capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oilsands. Each year of delay jacks up costs.

Mr. Harper’s government knew this too. Years later, when environment minister Peter Kent formally withdrew Canada from Kyoto, he charged the previous Liberal government with “incompetence” for not enacting necessary policies in time to meet their target.

Tue, 2014-07-29 10:26Guest
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"The West Wants Out" of Ottawa's Energy Superpower Plan

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This is a guest post by Will Horter, executive director of the Dogwood Initiative. It was originally published in the Toronto Star.

Earthquakes happen rarely in Canadian politics, but the fault lines are shifting again on the West Coast. As the next federal election draws closer, conditions below the surface should remind political observers of another seismic event a generation ago.

Back in the early 1990s, Stephen Harper and the insurgent Reform Party forced a tectonic shift, unleashing a powerful wave of western alienation that has realigned Canadian politics to this day. Their slogan was: “The West wants in.”

You could sum up the feeling in British Columbia lately as, “The West wants out.” Today you could get in your car in Kenora and drive clear across the Prairies to the coast without ever leaving a blue Conservative riding. But the road through the Rocky Mountains could become tricky indeed if Harper’s party doesn’t change course.

Wed, 2014-07-23 07:00Carol Linnitt
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Pen Canada, Freedom of Expression Charity Supported by Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel, to Undergo Political Activity Audit

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Pen Canada, a Canadian charity that fights for freedom of expression and represents more than 1,000 writers and supports is the latest group identified for a political-activities audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The group has been a vocal opponent of some of the Harper government’s recent policies, including the muzzling of federal scientists and the alleged surveillance of Canadian citizens as revealed through the Edward Snowden leaks.

Follow revelations of mass state surveillance, Pen Canada advocated for an adoption of “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.”

The organization also spoke out against restrictive communications protocols, implemented by the Harper government, that prevent federal scientists from speaking with the media about their research. “The federal government’s restriction on media access to publicly funded scientists have become a serious infringement on the right to freedom of expression in Canada,” the group wrote on its website.

Federal auditors appeared at Pen Canada’s offices yesterday, asking to review internal documents, the Globe and Mail reports.

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:37Carol Linnitt
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Canadians Don’t Share Federal Government Priorities on Energy and Economy, Opinion Research Shows

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The average Canadian doesn’t place the economy above other concerns like education, health care and environment according to a a public-opinion survey analysis performed by the Privy Council Office (PCO), a group of the Prime Minister’s top advisors, in January.

As the Canadian Press reports, the research suggests major federal government policies don’t line up with Canadian priorities.

The analysis followed public opinion research of 3,000 survey respondents and 12 focus groups, conducted by NRG Research Group, on behalf of the Finance Department. The PCO is not obligated to routinely make its research public.

The research showed Canadians have “little enthusiasm” for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, “even among supporters,” the January 25 PCO report on the findings states. Since then the pipeline was federally approved.

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