Government

Alberta Energy Companies Pumping Money into Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party

Alberta companies, many involved in the oil and gas sector, contributed more than $2 million to Premier Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party between 2006 and 2015.

That’s according to a new online searchable database created by Progress Alberta, a progressive, non-profit government watchdog group, that compiles nine years worth of party donation disclosures.
 
Energy companies topped the list, including $126,923 from Crescent Point Energy, $83,347 from PennWest Petroleum and $68,108 from Cenovus Energy.
 
An additional $850,000 has flowed into the party’s coffers from other provinces, bumping the total of out-of-province donations to around $3 million since 2006 (banks and pharmaceutical companies from Ontario make up another significant chunk). Tweet: Out-of-province $$ makes up ¼ of all recent SK Party corporate donations http://bit.ly/2emrI5d @PremierBradWall #skpoli #oilmoney #cdnpoliCollectively, out-of-province corporate donations make up one-quarter of all recent corporate donations.

I’m Still Waiting for an Interview With a Government Scientist About the Diesel Spill Near Bella Bella

Oil spill near Bella Bella

I’m irritated today. Maybe it’s a case of the Mondays. Maybe it’s because B.C.’s pipeline incident webpage has been down for over a month. Or maybe it’s because the amount of oil spilled from a pipeline into an Alberta wetland, first reported on October 6, remains undetermined.

But I think the real reason is that a media request I placed with the B.C. government on Thursday last week — to speak with a scientist about the barge that ran aground on the central coast last week and its tug that’s leaking diesel into Heiltsuk territory— has yet to be fulfilled.

Not that I’ve been ignored. No, on the contrary, I’ve received helpful messages along the lines of ‘don’t lose hope, Carol! We’re going to connect you with a real, live scientist soon. Very soon!’

Yeah, um, not holding my breath.

Top 5 Questions Christy Clark is Dodging by Cancelling the Fall Sitting

Christy Clark doesn’t like Victoria. At least, she said as much in an interview with the National Post: “I try never to go over there. Because it’s sick. It’s a sick culture. All they can think about is government…”

Maybe that’s why Clark pulled the plug on this fall’s legislative session. As a bonus, that means her political opponents won’t get the opportunity to ask her any questions … well, not in the legislature at least.

Unfortunately for the powers that be, we rang up a few folks. Here are their top five questions for Clark.

National Energy Board is a Captured Regulator in Urgent Need of Overhaul

National Energy Board panel

This op-ed originally appeared on the National Observer.

After more than a year I decided to withdraw as an expert Intervenor at the National Energy Board hearing into Trans Mountain’s Expansion Project. I came to the discouraging conclusion that the Board was on a predetermined course of action to recommend approval of the Project. The Board did this by narrowly scoping its list of issues, removing cross-examination, and refusing to compel answers to information requests made by myself and most other Intervenors.

Corporations cannot regulate themselves. Their first priority is to maximize returns for their shareholders. Regulation is an accepted method in Canada to ensure private interest is not achieved at the expense of the public interest. Government steps in and establishes a regulatory framework to protect public health, safety and the environment as well as to attain objectives related to the nation’s economic and social goals.

Regulatory capture takes place when the regulator ceases to be independent and advances the commercial interests of the industry it is charged with regulating. The Board’s behaviour during the Trans Mountain hearing not only turned the process into a farce, it exposed the Board as a captured regulator.

Orange Crushed: Have the Alberta NDP Lost Their Way?

Exactly a year has passed since the centre-left New Democratic Party (NDP) rolled to a stunning win in Alberta.

Yet it’s still deeply surreal to think about that victory on May 5, 2015, which increased the party’s seat count from four to 54 in the 87-seat legislature and elevated former labour lawyer Rachel Notley to the position of premier.

After all, the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) — a union-bashing and petroleum-entrenched behemoth of a party — had governed the province without challenge since 1971.

For much of the ‘90s and 2000s, the province was led by Ralph Klein, an austerity-obsessed alcoholic who cracked jokes about human-caused climate change, berated homeless people for being unemployed and blew up a hospital to save a bit of money.

Jumbo Glacier Resort Should Be the Last Fake Municipality B.C. Creates: Andrew Weaver

A municipality should have residents — and grizzly bears and mountain goats don’t count, according to B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver who tabled a private member’s bill in the legislature Wednesday aimed squarely at the controversial Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality.
 
Weaver’s bill to amend the Local Government Amendment Act would repeal the Liberal government’s 2012 changes to legislation that made it possible for mountain resort municipalities to exist without residents.
 
The 2012 changes were designed to push through development of Jumbo Glacier Resort, a proposed 6,300 bed resort in the wilderness of the Purcell Mountains, 55 kilometres west of Invermere — a project strongly opposed by local residents and First Nations.
 
Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality was created in November 2012 and the province then appointed a mayor and two councillors. Even though the municipality had no residents or buildings, it became eligible for provincial government grants of $200,000 a year and about $50,000 in federal gas tax money.

Should Taxpayers Be On The Hook For Cleaning Up Saskatchewan's Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells?

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall announced Monday he asked the federal government for $156 million to help fund oil and gas well cleanup efforts. In a press release he said the program “will stimulate economic activity and job creation while at the same time delivering environmental benefits.”
 
But Saskatchewan already has a fund in place for dealing with so-called “orphan wells,” or wells that have been left behind by companies or individuals who are no longer financially able to pay or legally responsible. Since 2009 the province has collected payments from wells in operation, and if the well doesn’t meet a particular threshold for financial stability the province may demand a refundable deposit as a guarantee. As of last fall that fund held $11.4 million in payments, up a million dollars from the previous year, plus another $45 million in refundable deposits.
 
The Alberta NDP government said in a statement on Tuesday that the province — despite having about seven times as many orphan wells as Saskatchewan — will not seek federal money because “industry should continue covering costs related to remediating abandoned wells.”
 
So why does Saskatchewan need $156 million now?

Want Free Trade? Build a West Coast Pipeline, Says China

This article originally appeared on the Dogwood Initiative blog.

With final arguments in the Kinder Morgan pipeline review underway in Burnaby, a top Chinese official is using the moment to offer Canadians a deal. During his visit to Ottawa last Friday, Han Jun, China’s Vice-Minister of Financial and Economic Affairs, said the world’s second-largest economy would be willing to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Canada — but only if we build a pipeline to the West Coast.

Signing an FTA, Han suggested, would give Canadian agriculture and energy producers greater access to China’s domestic market. In return, Beijing also wants restrictions lifted on takeovers of Canadian companies by Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

China has been working to gain access to Canadian oil reserves for more than a decade. As Enbridge’s first partner on Northern Gateway in 2005, state-owned PetroChina pledged to purchase up to half of the pipeline’s capacity, but became frustrated by delays and eventually pulled out of the project.

In the years following, China’s SOEs invested billions into the Canadian oil patch, culminating in the 2013 purchase of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) for $15 billion. (In a tragic coincidence, hours after Han spoke in Ottawa, an explosion at Nexen’s Long Lake facility killed one worker and left another critically injured.)

Rio Tinto Alcan Allowed to Increase Sulphur Dioxide Pollution 56 Per Cent in Kitimat: Environmental Appeal Board Ruling

The Environmental Appeal Board recently ruled B.C. was in its right to grant Rio Tinto Alcan a permit to increase sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2) from its 60-year old Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

The permit, granted in 2013, allowed Rio Tinto to increase sulphur dioxide emission as part of the company’s modernization of the aging Kitimat aluminum smelter. The modernization project, which nearly doubles the plant’s production, decreases the release of greenhouse gas emissions but raises sulphur dioxide emissions by 56 per cent.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment granted Rio Tinto permission to modernize the smelter but did not require the company to install scrubbers, commonly used in smelters to remove airborne pollutants from emissions.

Two Kitimat elementary teachers, Lis Stannus and Emily Toews, challenged the permit through the B.C. Environmental Appeal Board, saying the increased pollution would negatively and unnecessarily impact Kitimat residents.

Sulphur dioxide is a pungent pollutant released from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as the petroleum coke used to smelt aluminum. It is known to irritate skin, mucous membranes and lungs. Exposure to sulphur dioxide is also known to aggravate the respiratory systems of asthmatics, children and the elderly.

Stannus said she is disappointed in the December 23 ruling.

Being a teacher of young children I see a lot of respiratory illness as it is,” Stannus told DeSmog Canada. “I will also now question whether any respiratory problems are a result of these increased emissions.”

The Case for Hope after Harper

This article originally appeared on Alternatives Journal.

What is it about activists that they can’t even be optimistic for one day after a whole decade?” 

The disgust and disappointment on my 16 year olds face is somewhat heartbreaking as he pours cereal the morning after the Canadian election and surfs the comments on my Facebook page. I can only shake my head sadly and agree with him. 

Wouldn’t it be great to be fueled by hope instead of fear as the late Jack Layton urged us in his letter to the nation? For just a minute could we not take a deep breath and focus on all the things that we know will now change?

My sons have never known a Canada that was not under Stephen Harper's thumb. For the last decade they have listened to their parents shock and outrage over the weakening of our environmental laws, the lack of transparency, the erosion of democracy, the muzzling of scientists, the attack on environmental groups, the disregard for Canada’s constitution.

Along the way we tried to keep hope alive. We painted a picture for them of a Canada that valued evidence based policy. A Canada that led on the world stage to create critical international agreements like the Montreal Protocol. We talked about how lucky we are to live in a democracy and how important it was for us to participate, to organize and to vote. 

Together we watched the election results come in from coast to coast and I watched the hope and optimism on my sons face as he listened to Justin Trudeau’s acceptance speech. “Sunny ways!” We all yelled, half-hysterical and grinning ear to ear. “To the end of the Harper Era!” We cheered as we raised a glass in jubilant toast. 

Our exuberance made the next mornings conversation all that more painful. “Is he really no different?” “Why can’t people ever be hopeful?”

Why not indeed. 

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