Read this eye-opening column by Pete McMartin in The Vancouver Sun on the real world climate impacts of plans to turn BC into a major new carbon corridor to Asia, including up to eleven new ports designed to export coal, oil and gas. (May 18, 2013)
This week — and you may have missed it due to Christy Clark’s coming-out party — something called the Sightline Institute released a study about fossil fuels.
Sightline is a regional sustainability think-tank based in Seattle, and it focuses on regional environmental concerns for what we refer to as Cascadia.
The study was entitled Northwest Fossil Fuel Exports and its author was Eric de Place, Sightline’s policy director.
What de Place tried to do was give a numeric value to the amount of global-warming carbon dioxide that would be emitted by all the energy-exporting projects now in the planning stages in B.C., Washington and Oregon.
• Five new coal terminals.
• Two expansions of existing coal terminals.
• Three new oil pipelines.
• Six new natural gas pipelines.
Eleven of those 16 proposals are in B.C.
It’s breathtaking, that kind of industrial concentration: Cascadia has suddenly become the nexus of mining and energy companies anxious to get their products off to power-hungry Asian markets. It’s this century’s gold rush. The troubled American coal industry wants a West Coast outlet. Alberta wants pipelines to the Pacific. Our premier sees our future in liquefied natural gas.
De Place sees a different future.
“British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington each enjoy a reputation for leadership in clean energy and environmental policy,” he wrote.
“Yet the new fossil fuel infrastructure planned for the region would eclipse the region’s green reputation, transforming the Northwest from an aspiring climate leader into a carbon export hub of global consequence.”
The final figure that de Place came up with?
Collectively, these new projects, he estimated, would produce a total of 761 million tonnes of CO2.
That, de Place noted, is 12 times the total amount now emitted by B.C.
De Place recognized that all these projects might not be built. Some are in direct competition with each other. There was the danger, he admitted, of overstating his case.
But he also said, to give the study balance, he purposely understated many factors that contribute to CO2 production — factors like the mining, processing and transportation of those carbon products. He also left out the vast amounts of energy that would be needed to power projects like B.C.’s proposed LNG plants. He counted only the CO2 emitted by the final user of the fuel.
“There were folks who reviewed this who felt I was being far too conservative with the numbers because I only included the carbon inside the fuel and none of the energy used to extract it or process it. But I wanted something clear and defensible, so I went with the more modest number.”
Of special note, de Place cited research from the B.C. environment ministry showing present provincial greenhouse gas production — at least, our domestic production of GHGs, as opposed to that which we export. Many would be surprised to learn that, according to the government, GHG production fell by almost six per cent between 2000 and 2010, the latest year figures were available.
“I think there’s a lot of evidence,” de Place said, “that we can divorce GHG emissions from economic growth. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other.”
Read this column from the Tyee's political reporter Andrew MacLeod, asking whether BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix should step down following his recent surprise loss to the BC Liberals and Christy Clark. (May 20, 2013)
The British Columbia New Democratic Party should plan on holding a leadership contest in two or three years and use that momentum to build towards the 2017 election, said former MLA and strategist David Schreck.
"No one can go into an election with the expectations that were held, driven by large gaps in the polls that were maintained up until election day, and come out with hugely disappointing results and expect the chance to do it again," said Schreck.
That's a view quietly shared by many both inside and outside the party, but not universally, and so far not publicly acknowledged by leader Adrian Dix or people around him.
"What I'm going to do is continue on and meet the caucus and meet the party in the coming days and we're going to draw conclusions about where we go from here," Dix said on election night when asked if he would continue as leader.
"I'm going to respectfully meet the caucus," he said. "We're a democratic party and I have a democratic approach to leadership, so I'm not going to draw conclusions."
Despite having dropped in its share of the popular vote compared to 2009, attracting fewer total voters and losing seats while running against an unpopular premier, Dix looked on the bright side. "The election overall was fairly close. We always knew it was going to be and it was," he said.
"These are consecutive close elections," he said. "We'll have to draw conclusions as to what held us back from really the remaining five percent we needed to win in this election in order to succeed."
'You only get one kick at the cat': Schreck
The Canadian Press quoted NDP President and former cabinet minister Moe Sihota saying the party needs to figure out why it lost, but that to have a "revolving door on leadership" won't help.
That raises the question of whether a case can be made for Dix to stay.
Schreck said he believes there is no such case. Dix is intelligent and hard working, but "in this business you only get one kick at the cat when you have that kind of disappointment," he said. "That's just the way politics work."
The party will have a mandatory leadership review at its convention in the fall. Schreck said the party would be wise to change leaders in 2015 or 2016 to get a boost before the next election.
"Until then Adrian should stay on... with no expectation he's going to cling to power," said Schreck. "Anyone going through what he just went through would take some time to articulate what I've just said in his own words."
It's only two days after "the disaster" and Dix will need time to make the right decision, he said. "The pendulum swung so far you can't do it again."
Senior staff will have to change as well and the whole campaign approach will need to be rethought, he said. "The major thrust was to lower expectations," he said. "Which could be one of the reasons the base was not sufficiently energized to get out and vote."
Read more: http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/05/20/Adrian-Dix-NDP/?utm_source=mondayheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=200513
Read this story from CBC.ca on the lingering questions from its readers relating to the resignation over the weekend of Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright. (May 20, 2013)
CBC readers were left with several questions following news that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, stepped down on Sunday. His resignation followed revelations that he wrote a $90,000 cheque to repay improperly claimed housing expenses for Senator Mike Duffy.
"My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility," Wright said in a statement.
"I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy's expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact."
The announcement came as something of a surprise to many observers, as the Prime Minister's Office insisted as recently as Friday that Wright had the "full confidence" of the prime minister and would be "staying on."
Wright's resignation sparked swift reaction from Parliament Hill and, likewise, thousands of CBCNews.ca readers took time out of their long weekend to weigh in on the news.
Many felt that Wright's statement and Harper's response to it were vague at best, and evasive at worst. The questions began pouring in on Sunday.
- 'I did not advise the prime minister of the means by which Senator Duffy's expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact,' said Wright. Careful words. Exact words. Keep in mind his legal background. Who did he advise? If Wright wanted to say that Harper didn't know, he would have said so . . .There are way too many unanswered questions . . . We don't need PR or spin, we need the unvarnished truth,"- the crucible
- "I would really like to know why Nigel Wright felt the need to give Duffy a personal cheque," - mettaulysse
- "If his intention was to secure the repayment of funds in the public interest, why didn't he repay the money for all the senators involved?" - pat1959
Several expressed concern over the timing of the issue, noting that the announcement happened on the Victoria Day weekend, and that on Tuesday Harper will fly out to Peru for a trip that will last until the end of the week.
A handful even took the longer view and pushed for the issue to be resolved before the summer recess, which is currently scheduled to begin on June 21.
- "This is happening at an inconvenient time for the rest of us because soon everyone in Harper's caucus, including himself, will disappear for the summer," said Freudian's Slip
Others pointed out that the Senate expenses controversy does not only involve Conservatives.
Senator Mac Harb resigned from the Liberal caucus last week after he was ordered to repay $51,000 in housing and mileage claims by a Senate committee, and some readers feel that he hasn't been subjected to enough scrutiny.
- "When is Harb Mac paying his money back?"said guystone. "Where is his money?,"
- "It's not just CPC senators...Liberal Mac Harb is in big trouble too." said Malabar Front
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2013/05/cbc-readers-seek-answers-following-nigel-wrights-resignation.html
Read this story by the Vancouver Sun's Douglas Todd on warnings from two unlikely sources of the loss of Canada's democracy to a Chinese "oligarchy" seeking our resources. (May 15, 2013)
The University of B.C.’s Paul Evans has written a valuable piece exploring Canada’s potentially deadly competition with the People’s Republic of China.
The professor of Asian international affairs at the Institute of Asian Research and the Liu Institute for Global Issues looks at the various ways that Canada could most effectively engage with China, the world’s fastest-rising economic and military giant and Canada’s largest source of new immigrants.
In his piece in The Literary Review of Canada, Evans offers a useful perspective on the approaches taken by both Preston Manning, former Alliance Party leader, and former Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff. The two aren’t that far apart in the way they see the relationship with China as full of pitfalls.
Evans notes Ignatieff’s concerns that China is an “oligarchy” that has no ideology other than “enrichment.” And he expresses some sympathy with Ignatieff’s belief that it’s best to engage China as an “opponent,” not an “enemy.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Behind the negativity is a growing fear that a rising China poses a profound challenge to values and institutions that Canadians hold dear. Preston Manning framed the sale as part of a “deadly serious political competition with China” that “pits the well-developed Chinese Communist ideology of state-controlled capitalism and state-directed ‘democracy’ against the older Western ideology of market-driven capitalism and citizen-directed democracy. This competition is especially keen in developing countries where the West and China compete for resources.” The West, he added, “appears to be losing the competition.”
A few months earlier, Michael Ignatieff spoke in Riga about the “decisive encounter” of liberal democracies with post-communist oligarchies in Russia and China “that have no ideology other than enrichment and are recalcitrant to global order,” that are “predatory on their own societies” and that are “attempting to demonstrate a novel proposition: that economic freedoms can be severed from political and civil freedom, and that freedom is divisible.”
As “Mao continues to glower down over Tiananmen Square,” commerce and capitalism, contracts and economic relationships have not dented China’s political system. Ignatieff called for a “defiant stance toward the new tyrannies in China and Russia,” and approaching them as “the chief strategic threat to the moral and political commitments of liberal democracies.”
But rather than seeing conflict as inevitable and eternal, he advocated responding with both curiosity and tolerance, avoiding the fixed categories of “us” and “them,” “[learning] from beliefs we cannot share,” and treating China as an opponent, not an enemy while practising politics, not war or religion.
Read more: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2013/05/15/canadas-democracy-losing-against-chinas-oligarchy-ignatieff-and-manning/
Read this story on the surprising findings of a UC Santa Barbara study in the Arctic, which suggests that ecosystems adapt to ice melt in ways that minimize the release of carbon levels. (May 16, 2013)
(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– When UC Santa Barbara doctoral student Seeta Sistla and her adviser, environmental studies professor Josh Schimel, went north not long ago to study how long-term warming in the Arctic affects carbon storage, they had made certain assumptions.
"We expected that because of the long-term warming, we would have lost carbon stored in the soil to the atmosphere," said Schimel. The gradual warming, he explained, would accelerate decomposition on the upper layers of what would have previously been frozen or near-frozen earth, releasing the greenhouse gas into the air. Because high latitudes contain nearly half of all global soil carbon in their ancient permafrost –– permanently frozen soil –– even a few degrees' rise in temperature could be enough to release massive quantities, turning a carbon repository into a carbon emitter.
"The Arctic is the most rapidly warming biome on Earth, so understanding how permafrost soils are reacting to this change is of major concern globally," Sistla said.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers visited the longest-running climate warming study in the tundra, the U.S. Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research site at Toolik Lake in northern Alaska. This ecosystem-warming greenhouse experiment was started in 1989 to observe the effects of sustained warming on the Arctic environment.
What they initially found was typical of Arctic warming: low-lying, shallow-rooted vegetation giving way to taller plants with deeper roots; greater wood shrub dominance; and increased thaw depth. What they weren't expecting was that two decades of slow and steady warming had not changed the amounts of carbon in the soil, despite changes in vegetation and even the soil food web.
The answer to that mystery, according to Sistla, might be found in the finer workings of the ecosystem: Increased plant growth appears to have facilitated stabilizing feedbacks to soil carbon loss. Their research is published in the recent edition of the journal Nature.
"We hypothesize that net soil carbon hasn't changed after 20 years because warming-accelerated decomposition has been offset by increased carbon inputs to the soil due to a combination of increased plant growth and changing soil conditions," Sistla said.
The increased plant productivity, caused by the warmer temperatures –– on average 2 degrees Celsius in the air and 1 degree in the soil to the permafrost –– has increased plant litter inputs to the soil. Unexpectedly, the soils in the greenhouse experiment developed higher winter temperatures, while the summer warming effect declined.
"These changes reflect a complicated feedback," Sistla said. "Shrubs trap more snow than the lower-lying vegetation, creating warmer winter soil temperatures that further stimulate both decomposers and plant growth. Shrubs also increase summer shading, which appears to have reduced decomposer activity in the surface soil by reducing the greenhouse effect during the summer."
The increased plant growth and deeper thaw, meanwhile, also may have enabled increased carbon availability in the deeper mineral layer that overlies the permafrost. In fact, the researchers found the strongest biological effects of warming at depth, a "biotic awakening," with mineral soil decomposers showing more activity, along with the increased carbon stock at that level. "It's a surprising counterbalance," said Schimel. "It may be that those soil systems are not quite as vulnerable to warming as initially expected."
Read more: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-05/uoc--ri051613.php
Read this story and watch video from CBC.ca on the renewed pipeline debate in BC following the re-election of the BC Liberals to the Legislature. (May 16, 2013)
The unexpected victory by Christy Clark and her Liberal Party in B.C.’s provincial election has renewed the divisive debate over pipelines.
The NDP said it would put the brakes on two pipelines from Alberta to the West Coast, saying the risks to the environment are too great and the economic benefits too small.
But Clark, speaking to reporters on Wednesday about her election win and her priorities, said one reason for her re-election was her decision to keep the door open to pipelines if conditions can be met.
“The idea that you're going to say no to economic development before you even see it — I think that was part of it, the issue of who was going to say yes to economic development,” she said.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines would bring jobs to B.C., especially during the construction phase.
But the projects also bring environmental risk on land and offshore, with a huge jump in oil tanker traffic off the province’s coast.
Federal NDP energy and natural resources critic Peter Julian said there's tremendous opposition to the pipelines within B.C.
Julian, who is the MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said Clark's re-election isn't necessarily a mandate for the projects to go ahead — despite pressure from Alberta and the federal government.
"I don't think this changes anything,” he said.
"As newly re-elected premier, she has to be cautious about public opinion. British Columbians have been very clear — they don't see this in our environmental or economic interests.”
‘A smarter discussion’
Many Albertans were rooting for the B.C. Liberals because they are seen as more friendly to Alberta's energy industry. Getting Alberta bitumen to B.C.'s coast is critical to Alberta's economy.
Rod Love, one of the organizers of a Calgary fundraiser for the B.C. Liberals earlier this year, said the premiers of B.C. and Alberta can now talk about pipelines without worrying about an election on their immediate horizons.
“With Christy Clark now getting a new mandate, I think we're able to have a smarter discussion about our common interest with respect to energy and getting product to market,” he said.
Love said more than 130 companies were at the fundraiser for the B.C. Liberals in Calgary earlier this year — a clear sign many Alberta businesses will be celebrating the Liberal win.
He wouldn't say how much was raised at that event but records show Alberta companies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the B.C. Liberals.
David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, acknowledged a Liberal government in B.C. is a good thing for Alberta.
“We know what we are working with as far as the policy environment — it’s a government that has been largely supportive of oil and gas issues, like West Coast access for oil,” he said.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/05/16/bc-election-pipelines-alberta.html
Read this story from CBC.ca on mounting evidence of Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin's use of bribery in its foreign operations - including a secret code for bribery payments. (May 15, 2013)
A division of Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has for years used a secret internal accounting code that former employees say was for bribes on projects across Africa and Asia, a joint investigation by CBC News and the Globe and Mail has found.
Former employees say some of the money was earmarked to help the company win contracts funded by international development agencies such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
CBC News and the Globe and Mail have discovered that a division called SNC-Lavalin International Inc. (SLII) that focuses on smaller contracts to design and supervise megaprojects has for years used the code words “PCC” or “CC” interchangeably to describe hidden so-called "project consultancy costs."
“PCC, they interchangeably used the word," said former SNC-Lavalin International engineer Mohammad Ismail. "Sometimes it was 'project consultancy cost,' sometimes 'project commercial cost,' but [the] real fact is the intention is [a] bribe."
Ismail is accused of attempted bribery in Bangladesh and awaits trial in Toronto. The evidence in that case is covered by a publication ban. However, he agreed to comment on internal SLII documents obtained by CBC News and the Globe and Mail from other countries that are not before the courts.
The documents show that from 2008 until 2011, the company included these "consultancy costs" in 13 projects.
The terms “PCC” or “CC” appear as line items on eight of the projects in Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, India and Kazakhstan.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/05/14/snc-lavalin-international-pcc-payment-code-bribery.html
Watch video and read story on Canadian Minster of the Environment Peter Kent's response to mounting criticism of his government for its denial of climate science. (May 7, 2013)
Environment Minister Peter Kent said Tuesday he’s unaffected by environmentalists trying to shame the government with Fossil Awards, saying that “some of those awards are worn with honour.”
Kent was reacting to recent comments about Canada’s oilsands development by Al Gore, who suggested it treated Earth's atmosphere like an open sewer.
But as the environment minister continued to defend the government’s environmental record, he turned to the Fossil Awards.
Canada has been awarded the “Fossil of the Year” award five times for its perceived inaction on climate change. The award, which is meant to be a badge of shame, was last given to Canada at the 2011 UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa. In 2012, it shared the award with New Zealand.
“Some of these awards are worn with honour,” Kent said.
Environmentalists have long criticized the Harper government for its environmental policies. In recent years, that includes Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, and in March, for being the only country in the world to pull out of a UN convention aimed at fighting droughts in Africa.
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said that as a result, Canada is losing its standing with the rest of the world.
“We’ve lost all credibility on environmental matters generally, and other countries are starting to pay attention to it,” he said.
Critics also take issue with the Conservatives’ position on the oilsands, accusing them of bending environmental rules to exploit the resource.
“The destruction of Canadian environmental laws is making us the object of global scorn,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said.
Former U.S. vice-president and activist Al Gore told CTV News that he hoped Canada would provide more leadership in the fight to combat climate change.
“I do think it’s somewhat surprising. I and many others had hoped that Canada, like Australia, would help to provide some leadership in the world community on this issue,” Gore said.
Kent said that the government is working to address the issue and suggested Gore pay better attention.
Read this revealing critique in th Georgi Straight of Christy Clark's leadership and self-inflicted wounds, a damning indictment coming from her predecessor Gordon Campbell's longtime Chief of Staff Martyn Brown. (May 12, 2013)
Did Christy Clark actually spoil her own ballot? Yes.
No, I’m not just talking about the one in which she happily wrote down two names, before the cameras.
I mean, she’s the author of her own widely expected defeat on Tuesday, and deservedly so.
Although, like so many mistakes Clark has made, her botched advance ballot was also a classic example of her putting politics ahead of the serious task at hand, while also demonstrating how not to vote.
She was so consumed with the photo op and with putting her own name first—sigh—that she almost forgot who she was really voting for.
In writing down Margaret MacDiarmid’s name as an afterthought, she may have cost her Health Minister a vote she can ill afford to lose in a swing riding that could come to down to a single vote.
Note to all voters: if you really want to help your chosen candidate, it’s best to ensure your vote is valid.
Not that the Premier was too worried about her blown ballot. The cameras were there and they loved her, as they have the entire campaign.
In a battle of images vying for all that camera love—pearly-white teeth, irresistible smiles, passion and emotion—Adrian Dix can’t compete with Clark.
Trouble is, that’s not leadership. It’s empty imagery that is about as important to governing as the bombast and tarradiddles that are “Christy’s” defining stock-in-trade.
Campaigns are curious adventures in voter manipulation. They tend to bury substance with style and to reward those who look the best in making their opponents look worse.
It’s funny to think that Dix should have lost some support for looking too serious, too cerebral, and too bookish for a job that demands those attributes. It’s not so funny that anyone would somehow misconstrue him as a “weak” leader, when his performance in contrast to Clark’s over the last two years has demonstrated anything but.
Dix has pursued a thoughtful, transparent, and laudable course that is still short on vision, but that is long on realism, moderation and conciliation. That should serve his government well in building new relationships that can begin to transcend the ideological divide that all parties have historically fostered for partisan advantage.
Meanwhile, Clark has gained a few points in recent opinion polls by simply being a better-animated version of her passionately partisan self. Like Seinfeld’s Bizarro World, through the magic of television, she has flipped her own image on its head.
The person whose weak leadership was only a few weeks ago her campaign’s Achilles’ heel has made her strength of leadership a vote-winning issue. Go figure. She is a born campaigner.
Be that as it may, through a series of successive mistakes made by her own hand, Premier Clark has also spoiled her party’s reelection chances.
Read more: http://www.straight.com/news/381096/martyn-brown-vote-once-think-twice
Read this column by Gary Mason in The Globe and Mail on new polls showing the NDP poised to ushered in a new political era in Victoria on Tuesday. (May 11, 2013)
With just a few days remaining before British Columbians vote, the New Democrats’ appeal for change appears to be winning the day.
Two polls released on Friday show that while the B.C. Liberals continue to expand their support, the rate of growth has slowed. What it means is that, absent a momentous surge over the weekend, the long-time governing party will run out of time to persuade a majority of voters to give it another shot at power.
A new The Globe and Mail-CTV poll conducted by Angus Reid this week shows the spread between the two main parties is still significant. The pollster has the NDP at 45 per cent – up four from a week ago – and the Liberals at 36, which is up two. Overall, the nine point difference is two points higher than last week. The recent survey has the Greens at nine per cent (down three) and the Conservatives at a weakening six per cent (down four).
The poll is not dissimilar to another one published on Friday, by Ipsos-Reid. It shows the New Democrats holding a six-point advantage over the Liberals, which was down from the 10-point lead the same pollster had the NDP holding a week before.
Any poll is just a snap-shot. Many have been reported in the past week or so, some with the Liberals a lot closer than either Angus Reid or Ipsos has them. Still, one irrefutable fact must buoy New Democrats the most: the support all polls show the party has is in populous Metro Vancouver.
That is where this election will turn, not in the North or the Interior – both areas where the Liberals have made inroads in recent weeks, but where the New Democrats still have an edge. It will be decided in the Lower Mainland where the Angus Reid survey shows the NDP has a six-point advantage over the Liberals. On top of that, the NDP’s support has always been regarded as more efficient than that of its main opponent – meaning it’s more evenly spread throughout the province. This is a distinct benefit as well.
There is little question that the Liberals have run an effective, albeit highly negative campaign. Liberal Leader Christy Clark has done a good job of making the economy her major issue. The economy is ranked as the No. 1 topic on the minds of voters in B.C. Ms. Clark is seen as best able to deal with that area. That would explain some of the shift in momentum her way. The continual erosion of support for the B.C. Conservatives has helped her immensely as well.
Still, it is not enough to overcome the desire for change that seems to exist among the electorate. Maybe the Liberals’ highly negative campaign has begun to wear on people. (Although it must be said the NDP has recently veered off the high road it was on for most of the campaign). Ms. Clark’s disapproval rating in the Angus Reid poll is 61 per cent. That is an awfully big number. One can’t fathom a leader getting elected with that level of antipathy.
The New Democrats waited until this last week to start reminding voters of a litany of Liberal sins amassed over 12 years in office, chief among them the ever-resented harmonized sales tax. But there were other gaffes and scandals that the NDP was only happy to dredge up, perhaps causing more than one person to shake their head at the sheer volume of screw-ups and dreadful decisions for which the Liberals were responsible. It’s a directory of blunders that all governments of a certain age compile.
Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/polls-suggest-change-is-in-the-air-for-bc/article11876389/