transparency

Is Trudeau Quietly Turning His Back On Fixing Canada’s Environmental Laws?

Justin Trudeau Environmental Reform DeSmog Canada

Scientists and environmental groups breathed a sigh of relief when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau quickly followed through on a campaign promise to modernize Canada’s environmental laws.

Within a year of being elected, the Liberals initiated four parallel reviews of key environmental legislation weakened or eliminated under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

But now, as that review process is coming to a close, experts are back to holding their breath.

Fossil Fuel Industry Has Lobbied B.C. Government 22,000 Times Since 2010

BC Liberals Political Donations Fossil Fuel Industry Lobbying

The fossil fuel industry lobbied the B.C. government more than 22,000 times between April 2010 and October 2016, according to a report released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as part of the Corporate Mapping Project.

The report also found that 48 fossil fuel companies and associated industry groups have donated $5.2 million to B.C. political parties between 2008 and 2015 — 92 per cent of which has gone to the BC Liberals.

Tweet: 7 of the top 10 political donors from the fossil fuel industry are also BC’s most active lobbyists http://bit.ly/2mMRoAd #bcpoli #bcelxn17The analysis found seven of the top 10 political donors from the fossil fuel industry are also B.C.’s most active lobbyists.

The Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute.

Tweet: Researchers can demonstrate the extensive political influence of the fossil fuel industry in B.C. http://bit.ly/2mMRoAd #bcpoli #bcelxn17Researchers have painstakingly analyzed lobbying and political donation records to demonstrate the extensive political influence of the fossil fuel industry in B.C.

I was definitely surprised at the sheer volume of lobbying contacts that we found,” Nick Graham, lead author of the report and PhD candidate at the University of Victoria, told DeSmog Canada.

Open Science: Can Canada Turn the Tide on Transparency in Decision-Making?

It describes a framework but could just as easily be read as a request: open science.

And it’s something top of mind for Canadian scientists right now as the federal government is considering changes to the very way science is used to make major decisions about things like pipelines, oil and gas development and mines.

The ongoing federal review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is a huge opportunity to restore scientific integrity to decision-making, scientist Aerin Jacob told DeSmog Canada.

I really can’t underscore how big an opportunity this is,” Jacob, Liber Ero postdoctoral scholar at the University of Victoria, said, adding Canada could transform the very way science feeds into the environmental assessment and decision-making process.

One of the challenges being a scientist in wanting to evaluate government’s decisions is that we can’t see the evidence. We can’t see how decisions are being made.”

Tweet: “It’s like a black box of decision-making. That’s not scientifically rigorous.” http://bit.ly/2igQ9TQ #cdnpoli #environmental #assessmentsIt’s like a black box of decision-making. That’s not scientifically rigorous.”

Lobbyists Outnumber B.C. MLAs 30 to One

This is a guest post by Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC.

Last month, lobbyists gathered in Vancouver for The Future of Lobbying, a one -day conference put on by B.C.'s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, Simon Fraser Institute's Governance Studies and Public Affairs Association of Canada (B.C. Chapter).

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there does seem to be a future for the industry. In fact, if we're not careful, B.C. could be overrun by lobbyists.

Last year, there were 2,502 in-house and consultant lobbyists registered in the province, up from 1,451 four years ago. Whoever said the B.C. Jobs Plan wasn't working?

While others do get some attention — political staff, deputy ministers and the like — that works out to 30 lobbyists for every MLA.

In Ottawa, there are 3,008 lobbyists or nine per MP.

As one of 14 panelists at the Vancouver conference, it fell on me to provide a bit of insight on the public's perspective towards the industry and a few ideas on how it might be improved.

Somehow has to rain on the parade of rainmakers. Not a tough task, though. There's no shortage of material.

Why Wasn't Climate a Defining Canadian Election Issue?

This article originally appeared on Climate Access.

Those who work on climate change were both chuffed and chagrined by its role in Canada’s federal election campaign, which peaked last week with the victory of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and defeat of Conservative incumbent Stephen Harper.

The environment” — a catch-all concept that often encompasses concern about climate change — consistently ranked close to economy and healthcare on voters' list of top priorities. Oilsands and climate change issues took up nearly a quarter of the first leaders debate, commanding more than twice the airtime they did in 2011. Several media outlets ran editorials calling on all parties to take a strong stance on reducing GHG emissions or put a price on carbon.

To quote professor and commentator George Hoberg, “energy and environmental issues have become central to Canadian electoral politics.”

Despite all of this, climate change didn’t have a significant impact on the election’s outcome. Fundamentally this was a campaign about values where action on global warming was bundled into a broader set of aspirations and ideas that Canadians said yes to on October 19th. 

What Your New Liberal Majority Government Means for Climate, Environment, Science and Transparency

Holy smokes.

Polls are in and Canadians across the country are expressing surprise at the strong win for the federal Liberal party.

While there’s much ink to be spilled over former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reign, he’s likely locked in a bathroom now, so we’ll save that for another, less change-y time.

Canada, you have a new Prime Minister. I would say 'go home, you’re drunk.' But don’t, because you’re not. This is actually happening.

But wait, what is actually happening? We have a new majority government. Before the fun gets away with us, let’s do a quick reality check for what the Liberal Party and incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been promising all y’all on some of our top DeSmog Canada topics: climate, environment, science and transparency.

The Tyranny of the Talking Point

Dear government spin doctor,

I am working on a story about how the job you’re doing is helping to kill Canada’s democracy.

I know that your role, as a so-called communications professional, is to put the best spin on what the government is or isn’t doing.

That means you often don’t respond the questions I ask, you help elected officials do the same thing and you won’t let me talk to those who actually have the answers.

While this may work out very well for you, it doesn’t work out so well for my audience who, by the way, are taxpayers, voters and citizens.

So your refusal to provide me with information is actually a refusal to provide the public with information.

And if the public doesn’t know what their government is actually doing, it can continue doing things the public wouldn’t want it to do.

That just doesn’t seem very democratic to me. Does it seem democratic to you?

Canada’s Public Companies Should Disclose Political Spending: Report

Unlike the U.S., where the wellspring of cash flooding federal elections is reaching a new level of absurdity (try $5 billion), Canada has kept federal political campaigns relatively grounded by placing an outright ban on corporate donations during elections. 

Yet the influence publicly-traded corporations exercise in Canada – through lobbying, political contributions during provincial elections, think tank support, advertising and advocacy campaigns – remains hugely significant, according to a discussion paper recently released by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), an organization that provides investment services and research to institutional investors.

Concern about the effect of money on politics is perennial,” Kevin Thomas, report author and director of stakeholder engagement for SHARE, writes. “Aside from the obvious concerns about the outright corruption and/or illicit expenses and bribery, there is a broader concern about the influence of private interests on the development of policy and regulation, as well as on the content and tenor of public political debate.”

Critics Question Whether News Canada, a Federally Funded Wire Service, Disseminates Pro-Government Propaganda

Forget press releases. Forget press agents, publicists. Forget advertorials and sponsored content and native content. Forget all of it.

If what you want for your company, your government bureau, is total control of a news story, why bother with the pesky journalists who are going to check the facts and get the other side of the story?

No. Here’s what you do: write your own news story.”

That’s the sardonic strategy Jesse Brown, reporter and host of Canadaland, recently outlined on a show dedicated to News Canada, a federally-funded public relations body and news wire service which was recently awarded $1.25 million to distribute hand-out news content meant to “inform and educate Canadians on public issues.”

The story of News Canada receiving a 25 per cent increase in government funding from Public Works Canada was first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter Tom Korski.

News Canada Ltd. president Shelly Middlebrook told Korski the service provides content to media editors and that “journalists either pick it up or they don’t.”

Dear Harper, You Know the Rules: It’s Three Strikes You’re Out

This is a guest post by Michael Harris, author of Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada's Radical Makeover. It originally appeared on iPolitics

In politics, as in baseball, the rule is simple: Three strikes and you’re out.

When Stephen Harper finally shambles towards the showers, head down, bat in hand, I’ll be thinking of Mighty Casey. For much of his career, Harper has umpired his own at-bats. But that role will soon — if briefly — fall to the people of Canada. Election Day is coming to Mudville.

Strike one against this government of oligarchs and corporate shills comes down to this: They have greedily championed oil and gas while doing nothing to protect air and water. Consider the piece of legislation with the Orwellian name — the Navigable Waters Protection Act. NDP house leader Nathan Cullen said it as well as anyone could:

It means the removal of almost every lake and river we know from the Navigable Waters Protection Act. From one day to the next, we went from 2.5 million protected lakes and rivers in Canada to 159 lakes and rivers protected.”

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