With its abundant forests, natural resources and surrounding oceans, environmental issues in Canada are a hot topic.
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Here is a summary of our latest news coverage on environmental issues 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.
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.
A one-of-a-kind debate in Victoria this week brought science and technology to the minds of federal candidates who all, despite their differences, agreed vociferously on one thing: Canada needs to be freed from the “war on science.”
Alberta Conservative Senator Doug Black worries that Canadians are illiterate when it comes to energy and he’s on a mission to educate them.
“If we don’t address the issues facing us now,” he warns, “the prosperity my generation enjoyed will not be enjoyed by the next generation.”
Black is a rarity in the Senate, one of only three senators who were elected by voters in Alberta and then appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper. Given the discredit that august body has fallen into, though, he may not hold that seat for long.
During the first half of 2015, Black travelled from coast to coast in his quest to educate Canadians about “the development of our energy resources and to discuss ways in which Canada can responsibly maximize its energy resources to benefit all Canadians.”
But it’s an odd crusade. Instead of meeting Canadians where they mostly congregate, in malls, union halls, church basements and community centres, he’s meeting them in posh hotels like the Vancouver Four Seasons, Toronto’s One King West, Edmonton Westin, Montreal Hyatt Regency and Ottawa’s Shaw Centre.
With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.
The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”
The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.
Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.
While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.
For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.
The purpose of the National Energy Board, like any regulator, is to be unprofitable. They perform unprofitable environmental assessments to make sure we have access to unprofitable clean drinking water and preserve unprofitable nature for unprofitable future generations. That’s because citizens value things beyond profits, and the National Energy Board represents citizens. In theory…
One of the last things the Harper government did before it launched the federal election was to appoint Steven Kelly, who is a consultant for Kinder Morgan, to the National Energy Board. This guy was paid to convince the government to approve the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. And now he’ll be part of the team that helps to decide if his own argument was convincing. If the pipeline review process was a cutest baby competition, we just hired the baby’s mom.
If the recent frufrah over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig’s comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground” is indicative of anything, it’s that Canada’s election cycle is in full spin. May all reasonableness and sensible dialogue and accountability be damned.
Perhaps that’s the blunt and singular reason behind the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outrage at McQuaig’s entirely non-contentious assertion that, because of our international commitments to curtail global climate change, Canada won’t exploit the entirety of its oil reserves.
Harper accused the NDP of having a “not-so hidden agenda,” saying the party “is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy.”
“That’s why they…would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”
At the time of signing — a whole two months ago — Harper said the plan would “require a transformation in our energy sectors.”
In an exclusive interview with DeSmog Canada, former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen says ratepayers will face a “devastating” increase in their electricity bills if the Site C dam is built and emphasizes there is no rush to build new sources of power generation in B.C.
“With Site C, BC Hydro ratepayers will be facing a devastating increase of anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent over the next three years,” Eliesen told DeSmog Canada in his first interview on the subject.
“There’s no rush. There’s no immediate need for Site C or any other alternative energy,” he said.
Eliesen’s comment about the lack of immediate need for the power echoes statements made by Harry Swain, the chair of the panel that reviewed the Site C hydro dam for the provincial and federal governments. In March, Swain told DeSmog Canada the B.C. government should have held off on making a decision on the dam.
The number of anti-science decisions the federal government has made in recent years is staggering: axing the long-form census, trying to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, sending media relations personnel to accompany scientists at international conferences.
“Even for those of us who are following the issue closely, it’s still hard to keep track of it all,” says executive director Katie Gibbs.
“Our messages are not resonating,” Natural Resource Minister Greg Rickford told a room full of oil and gas executives in a luxury Rocky Mountain resort last fall. “You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence.”
Rickford, who attended the meeting at the request of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), encouraged the executives to do more to spread the oil industry’s message to the Canadian public.
“Much of the debate over energy is characterized by myth or emotion,” he said, suggesting scientists and campaigners critical of development in the Alberta oilsands were “crowding out the real facts.”
Rickford made no mention of Canada’s international climate commitments, but he did deride concerns about pollution from the oilsands — the country’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Rickford’s advice, released to Greenpeace via an Access to Information request, marked the beginning of a decisive shift in industry’s public relations campaigns.
A group of scientists from across North America are calling on the governments of Canada and Alberta to impose a moratorium on future development of the Alberta oilsands.
The recommendation is the result of a consensus document that surveys scientific literature related to the oilsands from across research fields. The clear outcome of the research — as it relates to climate, ecosystems, species protection and indigenous rights — is a need to end oilsands growth, the group states.
“As scientists we recognize that no one can speak with authority to all aspects of this complex topic, which is why we came together to synthesize the science from our different fields,” Wendy Palen, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, said.
The group of scientists, which include 12 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, 22 members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, five recipients of the Order of Canada and a Nobel Prize winner, released their consensus position on a website, www.oilsandsmoratorium.org, Wednesday. A ful list of the scientists supporting the moratorium can be found here.