It's Time to Talk About a New Vision for the Canadian Economy

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

The federal leaders’ debate on the economy focused on important issues — jobs, deficits, infrastructure spending, pipelines, climate change — but no one talked about a different vision for Canada’s economy.

What if we challenged our leaders to answer the dilemma posed by American journalist Charles Bowden: “Imagine the problem is that we cannot imagine a future where we possess less but are more”?

Not being able to even imagine an economy without continual growth is a profound failure.

A better economic vision would support the right of all Canadians to live in a healthy environment, with access to clean air and water and healthy food. It would respect planetary boundaries and provide the moral imperative to decrease growing income disparities.

Canada’s Highest Court Gives Ecuadorians Green Light To Pursue Chevron Assets

Chevron lost a high-profile pollution case in Ecuador in 2011 and was ordered to pay $9.5 billion for cleanup of billions of gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon rainforest. So far, the company hasn’t paid a dime — but a recent ruling in Canada might finally force Chevron to pay up.

Countries Like Canada Planning Dangerously Weak Commitments for Paris Climate Summit: New Analysis

Promises made by governments across the globe to limit their national greenhouse gas emissions in advance of December’s UN Climate Summit in Paris, where a binding post-2020 international climate treaty is to be struck, are insufficient to limit warming to the 2˚C threshold.

That’s the conclusion of a new analysis released last week during the final round of pre-Paris negotiations in Bonn, Germany, by a consortium of climate research organizations called Climate Action Tracker. The consortium includes Ecofys, Climate Analytics, NewClimate Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

In the lead-up to the summit, 29 governments have released their “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), the vast majority of which are too weak to limit global warming to scientifically advisable levels.

According to Climate Action Tracker, the current plans address about 65 per cent of global emissions.

The group analyzed 15 of the 29 contribution promises and rated seven as “inadequate” (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Russia) and six “medium” (China, the EU, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S.).

Only two of the plans — from Ethiopia and Morocco — were considered “sufficient.”

Vote for a Better, Cleaner Canada: David Suzuki

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

No matter what anyone says during this long federal election campaign, climate change is the biggest threat to Canadians’ health, security and economy. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible, the research wide-ranging and overwhelming.

Wastefully burning fossil fuels at such a rapid rate is jeopardizing the planet’s life-support systems — harming human health, destroying landscapes and habitat, causing widespread extreme weather events and contributing less to the economy and job-creation than clean energy development. Not only that, our rate of using and exporting these fuels means reserves will be depleted before long. In the meantime, as easily accessible sources run out, fossil fuels have become more difficult, dangerous, expensive and environmentally damaging to exploit.

Canada has a long history of extracting and exporting raw resources to fuel its economy. But that’s no longer a sensible long-term plan, especially with non-renewable resources. It’s incomprehensible that a country with such a diverse, educated, innovative and caring population can’t get beyond this outdated way of doing things. The recent oil price plunge illustrates the folly of putting all our eggs in one fossil fuel basket.

Federal Leaders Have Never Been Asked About Science Policy in an Election Debate. Ever.

This is a guest post by Katie Gibbs, PhD, a biologist and the Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy and Alana Westwood, a PhD Candidate at Dalhousie University and research coordinator for Evidence for Democracy. Evidence for Democracy is a not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada.

Science, unquestionably, improves our everyday lives.

The work of scientists is everywhere; their efforts are reflected in everything from the cleanliness of our water to the success of medical treatments to the smartphones glued to our hands.

Agriculture, not Energy, Will Fuel Canada’s Economy in Coming Decades: Experts

The agriculture sector will rise in importance in coming decades as the world warms and moves away from fossil fuels.

That’s the most recent prediction from Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, whose latest book, The Carbon Bubble, forecasts a not-so-distant future in which climate change will open up the possibility for cultivating crops, historically grown in places like Kansas and Iowa, much further north. At the same time, Rubin argues, global dependence on fossil fuels will drop, freeing up capital to migrate to crops like corn and soy.

There could be some tremendous opportunity for Western Canada, in the same provinces that are likely to be victims of the carbon bubble,” Rubin told DeSmog Canada. “Food is the only real sector in the commodity field that has been resilient, that’s kept its pricing power. You could argue that just that alone is sufficient.”

Agriculture has always played a major role in Canada’s economy. Rod MacRae, associate professor of environmental studies at York University and national food policy expert, notes the food sector trails directly behind energy and automobile manufacturing, employing one in every eight Canadians.

David Suzuki: Premiers' Energy Strategy Falls Short

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

On July 15, a state-of-the-art new pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alberta, ruptured, spilling five million litres of bitumen, sand and waste water over 16,000 square metres — one of the largest pipeline oil spills in Canadian history. Two days later, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Montana, spilling 160,000 litres and forcing evacuation of nearby homes.

At the same time, while forest fires raged across large swathes of Western Canada — thanks to hotter, dryer conditions and longer fire seasons driven in part by climate change — Canadian premiers met in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to release their national energy strategy.

The premiers’ Canadian Energy Strategy focuses on energy conservation and efficiency, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. But details are vague and there’s no sense of urgency. We need a response like the U.S. reaction to Pearl Harbor or the Soviet Sputnik launch!

Facing the Simple but Hard Truths of the Alberta Oilsands

This is a guest post by Tzeporah Berman, Adjunct Professor York University Faculty of Environmental Studies and longtime environmental advocate. A shorter version of this piece originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

The debate over energy, oilsands and pipelines in Canada is at best dysfunctional and at worst a twisted game that is making public relations professionals and consultants on all sides enormous amounts of money.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information routinely show our own government hiding scientific reports or meeting secretly to craft PR strategies with the companies they are supposed to regulate, while millions of dollars are spent on ads trying to convince Canadians that the oilsands are like peanut butter and that without them our hospitals will close. *(See change notice at end of article.)

On the other side we march, we rally and we point fingers creating a narrative of exclusion and moral high-ground while acting as though a low carbon transition is going to be a walk in the park.


Nexen’s Brand New, Double-Layered Pipeline Just Ruptured, Causing One of the Biggest Oil Spills Ever in Alberta

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about five million liters (32,000 barrels or some 1.32 million gallons) of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters (almost 4 acres). The emulsion leaked from a “feeder” pipe that connects a wellhead to a processing plant.

At a press conference Thursday, Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologize[d] for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen's new system and that the line's emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection. 

Ongoing Audits of Canada’s Charities a Violation of Human Rights, United Nations Hears

Canada Without Poverty, an Ottawa-based charity, is arguing the sweeping audits of charities by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are a violation of human rights before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva this week.

Harriett McLachlan, president of Canada Without Poverty, told the CBC she will argue the contentious audits violate Canada’s international commitments.

The Canada Revenue Agency has targeted 60 Canadian charities in a $13.4 million audit program to determine if the groups are violating rules that limit their spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources.

McLachlan told the CBC the political activity rules silence groups like Canada Without Poverty that advocate for increased government accountability. Charities in Canada are prevented from engaging in any partisan activity.

“If we want to write a petition, or be part of some kind of gathering, a protest, there's a fear there that we are stepping over the bounds,” she told the CBC.


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