Watch David Suzuki's powerhouse speech at the 7th annual Paddle for the Peace, inspiring hundreds of people from the Peace Valley and around the province who turned out to voice their opposition to the proposed Site C Dam. Said Suzuki, "The dam at Site C is being driven by the argument we need the energy to power our society, specifically for the Liquefied Natural Gas plant that's going in at Kitimat. We need this to create jobs - this is absolutely crucial. But in elevating the economy above everything else, we fail to ask the most elementary questions: What is an economy for? How much is enough? Are there no limits?...We're not asking the critical questions."
It was a record turnout and perfect conditions for the seventh annual Paddle for the Peace on July 14, 2012. Hundreds of boats and close to a thousand people in total joined in the event - co-hosted by Treaty 8 First Nations and the Peace Valley Environment Association - to show their opposition to the proposed Site C Dam, which would flood the area the boaters traveled, between the communities of Hudson's Hope and Forth St. John. See the day's highlights here, including a rousing speech from special guest Dr. David Suzuki.
The first in a series of new public service announcement videos (see below) from Tanker Free BC - a Vancouver-based organization taking on US energy giant Kinder Morgan's proposal to twin the Trans Mountain Pipeline to Burnaby - is being launched today. The one-minute video, titled "Some Risks Are Not Worth Taking", was produced through the volunteer contributions of a group of communications and film industry professionals opposed the plan to bring 400 supertankers a year filled with Tar Sands bitumen to South Coast waters.
I was privileged to be a part of the production, as one of the video's producers and a board member of Tanker Free BC.
The campaign to draw attention to tanker traffic in Vancouver has recently heated up with the release of the "Oil Spills and Vancouver’s Stanley Park" report by the Wilderness Committee and Tanker Free BC at the first in a series of local town hall meetings. This video launch complements the growing buzz surrounding this important issue.
The video asks viewers to consider the risks posed by the almost one million barrels of tar sands crude oil that would be passing Vancouver’s beaches daily if Kinder Morgan’s expansion plans are approved. Tanker Free BC Campaign Director Sven Biggs said “people all around the inlet are not only standing up to say, no, I’m not okay with that, they are ready to do something about it.”
I look forward to working with this group on future projects for Tanker Free BC; we are already working on the follow-up to this first project as we work to raise awareness about this vital issue.
The argument we hear most frequently from the Harper Government in favour of bulldozing through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines is the major job benefits the project would carry for Canadians. But recent talk of importing foreign workers from the United States and China make a mockery of that boast.
The latest evidence to this effect - a job posting on the American website run by Veterans of Foreign Wars, which helps vets find employment - bears some claims that are so absurd as to beg the question whether it's a hoax. Some of the figures cited are highly suspect; nevertheless, on the whole, it provides telling window into an alternative narrative emerging around the Tar Sands pipelines issue. The posting reads:
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce that its partly owned veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada, that could see thousands of U.S. veterans heading north to work on their oil pipeline.
“This is a great opportunity for veterans, transitioning military, National Guard and reservists, and their family members,” said Ted Daywalt, founder and CEO of VetJobs (www.vetjobs.com), a recognized industry leader in helping veterans find work.
“Though America’s Keystone Pipeline is delayed, the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border and have an immediate need for tens of thousands of workers,” said Daywalt, whose website averages more than 55,000 daily job postings by employers strictly interested in hiring veterans. He said the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation anticipates a shortage of 114,000 workers in the Alberta area, and they want to hire American veterans to fill that shortage.
According to the development corporation, the positions being offered are long term, with many paying as much as 30 percent more than similar industry positions in the United States. Some positions will require a move to Canada, but many others will allow veterans to commute — working several weeks in Canada, then one week back home. (emphasis added)
The posting came my way via a BC-based environmental discussion listserv, Land Watch, and has provoked some interesting questions.
For starters - beyond the matter-of-fact assertion that "the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border" with our highly controversial proposed pipeline projects - there's the eyebrow-raising jobs claim. Creating 114,000 jobs would essentially mean doubling the current employment of the entire Canadian oil and gas sector, and yet the ad only mentions pipeline construction jobs specifically.
Even Enbridge (whose new ad campaign touting myriad economic benefits sputtered recently over a spoof by Province cartoonist Dan Murphy that went viral) and the project's looniest boosters acknowledge the pipeline would provide a few thousand temporary jobs at best. Once it's built, BC would see only several dozen permanent jobs. A recent study by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada suggests the workforce of the Alberta Tar Sands - which altogether employs just 20,000 people, constituting 15% of Canada's total oil and gas jobs - will rise by 73% by 2021, but that pales in comparison with the numbers being thrown around by Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The posting rings true on another front, though - the fact that both BC and Alberta are approaching full employment territory, putting paid to the argument we need new jobs at the expense of our environment. BC and Alberta are both seeing strong job growth today - with unemployment in BC falling by .8% from May to 6.6% in June (though some of BC's lower unemployment numbers derive from workers heading across the border to Alberta). Alberta lost a handful of jobs in June, but its unemployment rate remains at a paltry 4.6%.
We're told ad nauseum that we need to accept the certain risk of pipeline leaks and tanker spills because we badly need the jobs that come with these projects, yet the plain fact is we don't have the workforce to provide tens of thousands of new employees for Tar Sands-related development.
One line in particular stands out in the job ad, namely that "...[the] veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada..." Secured? With whom? The Alberta Government? The Government of Canada? Has an American company signed a deal with our government(s) to provide foreign labour to Canada, and if so, why have we heard nothing of it from our elected officials? It could be this is just exaggerated salesmanship on the part of this jobs site, but these are questions that need answering.
Another question the posting raises is why would we pay these workers 30% more in Canada than south of the border? This claim seems to conflict with the other major challenge to the jobs argument - the recent revelation that state-owned energy giant PetroChina wants to build the Enbridge pipeline. The advantage to Enbridge from this proposition is a significant discount on labour, as the Harper Government recently changed our laws to allow companies operating in Canada to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than the average wage for Canadians. This hardly seems like the policy of a government concerned about creating oil and gas jobs for its citizens.
And again, these direct job-related concerns are on top of the certain environmental and economic calamities of pipeline leaks and tanker spills - which would also be a huge blow to BC's tourism and natural resource-dependent economy.
Perhaps a larger issue at hand is the matter of Canadian energy security and economic sovereignty.
The picture now emerging is of Chinese and American companies harvesting our bitumen, using Chinese and American labour to extract it, and building the pipelines to transport it back to their own countries to refine it (where the real jobs are), along with the profits from the whole operation. Moreover, we're only a trade deal away from it being illegal to stop exporting oil to China once we've started. We've already sacrificed much of our resource and economic sovereignty under NAFTA and the privately controlled American corporation, NERC, which we've empowered to regulate our public energy system. Now we're talking about recently retired American soldiers coming up here to build our oil infrastructure, which is more than a little unsettling.
Thus, when Stephen Harper and his minions declare the Enbridge pipelines would be good for "the economy", we must ask the key question: "Whose economy?" US veterans, Chinese migrant workers, China itself and the mostly-foreign shareholders of multinational corporations? Check.
Watch this new 6 min video from the Swedish Society of Nature Conservation, exposing in graphic detail the unsustainable methods of producing fish meal for both the Thai tiger prawn industry and Norwegian farmed salmon industry. Thai farms, which supply the majority of the world's commercially available prawns, are fed by meal made up of a wide variety of fish caught by illegal bottom-trawling throughout Asia. Meanwhile, the Norwegian open net pen farmed salmon industry derives much of its feed from unsustainable fishing off the coast of Peru.
Province newspaper cartoonist Dan Murphy went public on CBC yesterday to confirm suspicions that his publication had pulled a spoof he created last Friday, under pressure from Enbridge Inc.
The cartoon, which mocks Enbridge's new ad campaign designed to mollify concerns about its proposed twin pipelines from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat, was posted on TheProvince's website Friday morning, only to be pulled several hours later.
Online magazine backofthebook.ca obtained a response from Province Editor-in-Chief Wayne Moriarty on Monday, confirming the company had pushed for the removal of the cartoon:
Wayne Moriarty, The Province‘s Editor-in-Chief, says the animation was removed at the request of Enbridge “because it contains copyrighted material.” He admits that use of the material might be protected under fair use laws, but says the newspaper chose not to pursue the matter. He points out that The Province has run editorials critical of the pipeline, and insists that the decision to pull the satire has nothing to do with the $5 million campaign, which is running in his paper and The Vancouver Sun, both of which are owned by The Pacific Newspaper Group, among many other media outlets.
But Murphy contradicted parts of Moriarty's statement on CBC Tuesday evening. The cartoonist said he was called in for a meeting with Moriarty, who told Murphy that the chief revenue and digital officer for Postmedia, The Province's parent company, was upset over the parody.
Said Murphy, "The information he gave us there was Simon Jennings was very upset over this video, that Enbridge was very upset, that Enbridge was going to pull a million dollars worth of advertising out of Postmedia newspapers if it didn't come down. And also if it didn't come down that Wayne Moriarty was going to be fired."
Murphy said Moriarty later told him, "Enbridge was mostly upset because we had taken their material and turned it into a parody."
The CBC story included reaction from Langara University journalism professor Ross Howard, who dismissed Enbridge's alleged concerns under the principle of "fair comment", noting, "When you're commenting about what that corporation is doing, what it stands for, it's the same as using their own name and putting their symbol on it. That's why they have logos and symbols."
Enbridge released a statement yesterday denying it had demanded the removal of the video or threatened to pull a portion of its $5 million ad campaign from Postmedia papers. According to company spokesperson Todd Nogier, "Enbridge Inc. did not request the Province or Post Media pull the video...Enbridge has not discontinued this campaign, nor its investments as a part of that campaign, nor did Enbridge threaten to discontinue that campaign."
And yet, the company later confirmed in a conversation with CBC that "...the company had a conversation with Postmedia and they apologized for the parody...any further conversation would be inappropriate."
Regardless of Enbridge's claims, the controversy over the cartoon has only served to increase the attention it has received. The video was promptly reposted by citizen journalists on youtube, with one posting generating over 12,000 hits as of this writing. A story The Common Sense Canadian ran yesterday on the subject was picked up by several other online publications and has generated over 1,600 "likes" on facebook in a day and close to 10,000 hits on our website. Blogger Laila Yuile has generated significant traction covering the story on her website as well, as the story has been all over the blogosphere and social media since Friday.
The fallout over Enbridge's alleged actions is indicative of the clash of old and new media. Clearly the company believes it is still operating in an old media world, wherein a company can control a story by way of advertising dollars and corporate heft. But in today's increasingly online media world, these heavy-handed tactics pose a real risk of backfiring, as they plainly have here.
As one commenter noted on the youtube page where the video has been reposted, "It's on youtube now. It's not going away."
Read this blog from the Huffington Post Canada on today's announcement from the Clark Government that it will be adding natural gas to its list of acceptable "clean" energy sources to enable proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plants in Kitimat to use natural gas to power their facilities. (June 22, 2012)
VANCOUVER - Premier Christy Clark has tweaked regulations to ensure her job creation plan that includes building three liquefied natural gas plants in northern British Columbia squares with the government's aggressive plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Clark has previously acknowledged the plants — which are known energy hogs — could be at odds with the provincial Clean Energy Act, but she's relying on them to create employment.
On Thursday, Clark announced she will be redefining only natural gas that's used to power the northern LNG plants as "clean energy," while keeping the classification of all other natural gas in the province as is.
The province's Clean Energy Act already included cases in which burning natural gas could be considered clean, and so the altered regulation effectively brings the natural gas used to fuel the LNG plants in line.
"To make sure that B.C. can win in the global marketplace, while also doing our best to make sure we're protecting our environment, we'll be announcing a new regulation," she told a conference of energy sector companies in Vancouver.
Clark added the designation will only apply to power generation that meets a set of environmental emissions standards.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced earlier this week that it is terminating the environmental assessment of the massive proposed Bute Inlet private river diversion project.
The Agency explained the decision in a short media release:
Bute Hydro Inc. had proposed to construct 17 run-of-river hydroelectric facilities in the vicinity of Bute Inlet. The project was referred to a panel review in May 2009 and the Panel appointed in the summer of 2009. In March 2011, as Bute Hydro Inc. did not intend to move forward with the environmental assessment process, the Minister of the Environment disbanded the Panel and released the Panel members from their obligations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Given that the proponent (currently Alterra Power Corp.) has indicated that it does not plan to proceed with the environmental assessment process in the near future, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the responsible authorities, have confirmed that they will not exercise a power or perform a duty or function in relation to the project.
The proponent may apply to commence a new environmental assessment process if and when it determines that it wants to proceed with the project proposal.
The news is somewhat surprising, given the announcement by proponent Alterra Power earlier this month that it has signed a deal with the local Sliammon First Nation to build transmission lines for the project through its traditional territory.
It is not clear whether the withdrawal of the project from the environmental process is connected to a recent announcement by the Harper Government to eliminate thousands of environmental assessments and to "streamline" the assessment process via changes enacted through the government's omnibus budget bill.
As the above statement from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency notes, "the proponent may apply to commence a new environmental assessment process if and when it determines that it wants to proceed with the project proposal."
The Bute project proposal has lingered at the environmental assessment stage for 3 years, held up in part due questions about impacts on fish - concerns which are heightened in light of the above new evidence of fish kills from similar projects.
Given the size of the anticipated purchase contract the project would require - more than double Hydro's current plan to purchase an additional 2,000 Gigawatt hours a year of private power - and the NDP's repeated vow to put a moratorium on new projects, it is difficult to conceive how the project could be revived at this stage, even if the Harper Government were to waive its environmental assessment requirements.
Read this blog from salmon biologist Alexandra Morton, claiming her team has discovered salmon alphavirus for the first time in BC. (June 21, 2012)
On March 25, 2012 we purchased 11 farmed steelhead and 3 Arctic Char heads from the Fairway Market in Victoria, BC and sent samples from them for testing for three European farm salmon viruses.
8 came back positive for the salmon heart virus (piscine reovirus)
7 came back positive for Salmon Alphavirus.
7 tested positive for both
This is the first-ever report of Salmon Alpha virus in BC although there is a single report by Dr. Michael Kent, of the disease it causes, Pancreas Disease, in Atlantic farm salmon being raised in BC in 1987. The reason I asked the lab to test for these European viruses is because Dr. Gary Marty, the BC farm salmon vet, reported lesions in farm salmon that caused him to include Salmon Alphavirus in his reports to Mainstream and Marine Harvest on at a least 6 occasions from 2007-2009...
...First recognized in Scotland in 1984, SAV was subsequently detected in Ireland and Norway. There are three closely related viruses in this viral family and they are recognized as serious pathogens of farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout in Europe. SAV 1 is the causative agent of pancreas disease (PD). SAV2 is the causative agent of sleeping disease of rainbow trout. SAV 3 has only been detected in Norway (as of 2007) causing Pancreas Disease in Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout.
Pancreas Disease is spreading in salmon farms the length of Norway. Marine Harvest was recently instructed to slaughter an entire farm in Norway by June 20th (Intrafish June 8). There were 90 cases in 2011 and the virus has spread to 8 farms in northern Norway this year (Intrafish May 31, 2012). Salmon Alpha virus survives well outside the fish drifting through the water spreading the infection. Chile became extremely alarmed when rumours of Salmon Alphavirus popped up there in 2008.
This spill, from Enbridge's 541-kilometre Athabasca Pipeline - which officials are pegging at 230,000 litres of diluted bitumen - comes on the heels of two others in less than a month, including the Plains Midstream spill just last week near Sundre and Pace Oil and Gas' well leak near Rainbow Lake in late May. Of course, that was Plains Midstream's second disaster since April, when its Rainbow pipeline produced the province's largest leak in 36 years.
In other words, it's been a bad couple of months for an industry trying to win over public opinion for two major bitumen pipelines proposed to traverse British Columbia (Enbridge and Kinder Morgan). This dizzying succession of spills has seriously complicated what was a tough sell to begin with.
But you wouldn't know it from the stream of public relations bs flowing from Alberta politicians and industry reps in yesterday's Journal story.
Here's Darin Barter, spokesman for the Energy Resources Conservation Board:
Having the incidents so close together is unusual and “not indicative of Alberta’s level of safety,” Barter said.
“Given the enormous amount of oil and gas infrastructure in this province, it’s a very safe system.”
He said the recent spills are “very different incidents.”
Phew! One's a well leak, another a burst pipeline, this one a leaky pump station. So the sheer variety of ways these things can screw up is reassuring, if I understand you correctly, Darin?
Or how about Enbridge's official comment on the subject, from spokesman Graham White via email Wednesday:“The vast majority of the spill is on the site and there is no impact to waterways or wildlife.” No impact to waterways...really? That's right. Because, you see, “The area affected is our pump station site, some area along the pipeline right-of-way that is also (owned by) Enbridge and part of a local field.” (A field not owned by Enbridge, incidentally).
And fields don't have water tables beneath them, which in turn don't connect with nearby rivers and streams. So Mr. White must be right. Nothing to see here folks.
Mike Diesling, press secretary for Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes, feels the same way. According to him, Alberta has a “good” pipeline system. “The problem is we have 400,000 kilometres of pipeline and occasionally, we will have a spill,” Deising said.
According to the Journal, the province's premier isn't too concerned either:
Premier Alison Redford said pipeline spills “happen sometimes” and are part of balancing social and economic factors.
“I think people have a pretty good appreciation of the fact that there does need to be a balance and it is unfortunate when these things happen,” Redford said.
Yes, we do understand that it is terribly unfortunate when these things happen, Madame Premier, but what "balance"? Balance between oil spilling and not spilling?
So, if I have this straight, when you have a whole lot of pipelines carrying a whole lot of oil, you are bound to get spills. Check. And when these spills happen, they're not a big problem, because...well, spills happen.
The message from Alberta's oil intelligentsia is, then: "Oil spills happen, but don't worry, because oil spills happen."
Are we clear? About as clear as the black sludge the keep spilling all over the place.