by David Halperin, crossposted from Republic Report
When it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks a really good talk. A close look at new laws that will dictate how major resource projects are reviewed, however, suggest he wants to leave himself a lot of wiggle room when it comes to walking the walk.
The week before Trudeau was lauded for a speech in the House of Commons that promised of a new legal framework for Indigenous people, his government released two long-awaited pieces of environmental legislation.
Initial reactions were cautiously optimistic. But now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that matching words to action is often an exercise in optimistic romanticism.
Despite widespread condemnation from conservation groups and scientists, the B.C. government is set to continue shooting wolves from helicopters in an attempt to save endangered mountain caribou herds from local extinction in the South Selkirk, South Peace and North Columbia herd areas.
The wolf cull is happening in conjunction with other measures to try and stem the decline of mountain caribou herds, including maternity penning projects and restricting snowmobiles in some critical habitat.
“The wolf cull, maternity pens, it’s all part of the talk-and-log process that’s going on,” says Craig Pettitt of the Valhalla Wilderness Society. “We know damn well that the caribou need habitat and, as we talk, they are logging their habitat.”
On Friday, the federal government released its long-awaited draft regulations for the phase-out of coal-fired power in Canada. It was a huge move — the first step to fulfilling a central piece of the government’s pledge to “transition to a low-carbon economy” via the Pan-Canadian Framework.
But another draft regulation was also released on Friday, albeit with a lot less fanfare: performance standards for natural gas electricity generation. Basically, it proposes establishing maximum carbon intensities for different kinds of gas plants. Importantly, it won’t apply to facilities that already exist, converted from burning coal or those operating as “peaker” plants.
Doesn’t sound awful, right? Except one big catch: the regulation effectively gives the go-ahead for provinces transitioning away from coal — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia — to replace a lot of their lost generation capacity with natural gas. And that seriously undermines the country’s ability to decarbonize its electricity system anytime soon.
It all started with the Asti Trattoria Italiana restaurant in Fort McMurray, whose slogan is “Live, Love, Eat.”
But there was no love lost for restaurant owner Karen Collins two weeks ago when the B.C. government announced it will set up an independent scientific advisory panel to examine how diluted bitumen can be safely transported and cleaned up, if spilled.
Pending the review, B.C. said it would restrict increases in the transport of the substance — a mixture of thick unrefined oil from the oilsands and highly flammable gas condensate — through the province, a move widely seen as an attempt to stall the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
B.C. is woefully unprepared to deal with climate change catastrophes, despite recent floods, droughts and forest fires, and the province is not dealing effectively with the root cause of climate change, meaning it is unlikely to meet its 2020 or 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets, says a highly critical report by the province’s Auditor General Carol Bellringer.
“Overall we found the B.C government is not adequately managing the risks posed by climate change,” Bellringer said.
Both adaptation, reducing potential harm from climate change, and mitigation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are needed to create climate resilience and B.C. is failing on both counts, according to the report.
When the winning bids for Alberta’s renewable power auction were announced in December, jaws dropped.
The winning projects were approved at a record-breaking low price of 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour — the lowest price for electricity anywhere in Canada.
“This is a game changer. Even the most optimistic observers were shocked at how low the price turned out to be,” said Binnu Jeyakumar, electricity program director at the Pembina Institute.
My, how the times have changed.
The B.C. government tried to steer clear of controversy over liquefied natural gas exports, the Site C dam and fish farms in the Speech from the Throne Tuesday. The speech laid out the NDP’s “affordability” agenda and unveiled plans to revitalize the environment assessment process and address fugitive emissions in the oil and gas sector.
“As B.C. develops its abundant natural resources, we must do so in a way that meets our obligations to the environment, First Nations and the public interest,” read the speech, presented by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to mark the start of a new legislative session.
“This year, government is taking important steps to restore public trust in B.C.’s environmental stewardship.”
Lighthouse Beach, a white sand crescent on the north coast of Nova Scotia, was once considered the jewel of the region. People would flock there from New Glasgow and Pictou on summer weekends, visiting the lobster bar and swimming in the clear waters of the Northumberland Strait.
There had been plans for a twice-daily train that would carry visitors between the seaside, a hotel and a local yacht club. Dreams began of a destination national park. But all of these plans were choked off by the introduction of a giant pulp and paper mill in 1967 that literally transformed a large part of Pictou Landing into a toxic dump.
You can smell it usually before you can see it: clouds of sulphur belching from the Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper Mill smokestacks. For decades, the plant pumped contaminated water into the strait, using Boat Harbour, once an idyllic tidal lagoon used for fishing and clam digging, as a settling pond for highly toxic effluent.