Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: 2007

December 27, 2007

2007 Year In Review Environment And More

This will be my last post of the year.

I'm going to share a few news pieces covering environmental stories of 2007, but before I do I'd like to reflect on my own personal experiences this year.

The year started with talk of a spring election (much like we're seeing again) and I was hard at work organizing and facilitating Green Party training sessions back in southern Alberta. In the end there was no federal election, but my wife did decide to run for the Green Party of Alberta in a provincial byelection in the late spring. I had started full time work at the Tyrrell museum again, and she resigned so she could stay at home with our son. As soon as the byelection was over Jen wanted to work again, so she got a part time job and we saved up a bit of cash. In September a job opportunity opened up for Jen here on Vancouver Island, and obviously she got the job. We made the move from Drumheller AB to Nanaimo BC in about a month. Her job here is great, our son loves the mild weather and the trees, and I'm starting to get some gigs playing around Nanaimo. I also have a part time job to make ends meet. I'm very excited about the direction our lives are moving in! Next move: selling our house back in Drumheller, and possibly buying some land and building some kind of green home. We've been looking at yurts and manufactured homes as well as small condos or townhouses, and we still don't know exactly what move to make.

I've taken up a supportive peripheral role in the local GPC electoral district assoc. We have a great candidate here and I look forward to the next federal election when I'll be door and phone canvassing during the campaign. I left a big hole back in Alberta, but I'm confident that the Crowfoot EDA, working with the provincial organizer, will be able to find a solid candidate for the next election. As of the fall council elections, Alberta has a strong and capable representative on the GPC Federal Council in Mark Taylor.

Throughout the year my blogging efforts had me exploring and learning about energy, economics and how both subjects are so very intertwined with the environment. Thanks to many visitors here on my blog who forced discussion and debate, I'm now much better informed on these subjects.

For more on specific subjects, or to see my posts over the year, please view the right hand columns listing my blog posts by subject and by month.

Here are a few news summaries of 2007 environmental news.

See you in the new year!

2007: The year in environment
22 December 2007
Catherine Brahic

The Magnificent '07
The top green stories of 2007
By David Roberts and Lisa Hymas
20 Dec 2007

Twelve Environmental Victories in 2007
Environmental Defense

ABC Australia - Year in Review - Environment
By Elaine Ford - Dec 19, 2007

News review 2007: Reality of climate change hits home
22 December 2007 - New Scientist

Elizabeth May Interview Videos

Here are some links to videos of Elizabeth May, including some national television interviews.

CTV did some year end interviews with federal party leaders. This one's with Elizabeth May.

On December 12th, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, addressed the Canadian Club of Ottawa. The title of May's speech was "The Climate Crisis: Running out of Time".
CPAC video of the event

CTV interviews Elizabeth May on the Chalk River reactor, medical isotopes and Harpers decision to override the nuclear safety regulator.

Interviews with the Leaders- December 20, 2007
CPAC's Peter Van Dusen conducts a series of interviews with the leaders of Canada's federal political parties. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, NDP leader Jack Layton and Green Party leader Elizabeth May speak candidly about their visions for the country.
Click here for interview video, and fastforward to the last quarter of the video clip (right after Layton) to see Elizabeth May.

Interview with Don Newman of CBC from Dec 21, '07.

An oldie but a goodie: Leslie MacKinnon of CBC provides an in-depth portrait of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

Seasons Greetings from Elizabeth May

Economic policies and overconsumption are chief causes of climate change

Economic policies and overconsumption are chief causes of climate change, say Canadian Nobel scientists

This isn't really new news for most of us, but this statement is worth a closer look, as the recommendations are intended to improve the sustainability of our society, among other things. They state that "Individuals, corporations, and all levels of government around the world have a duty to act as global citizens in the face of the danger posed to life on Earth and to the well-being of the human race as whole."

Obviously one must already accept that climate change is happening, that it's human caused, that the effects are negative and will continue to get worse. There are mountains of data available to back this up. Governments around the world understand the problem and are taking action. Unfortunately there are still a few people out there who are falling for the disinformation promoted by the climate change deniers. Before they can understand and accept the recommendations for action on the climate crisis, they must first understand and accept the realities of the climate crisis.

Climate change is a huge issue, and when faced with the enormity of this problem it's tempting to try to deny it's existence. For those readers who are already past this point, please read on, but for anyone reading this who still aren't on board with the international scientific community, please first read How To Beat Denial - A 12-Step Plan, and then read How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic, and then go on to the rest of this blog post.

From the news release:

The statement's twenty-seven endorsers include two Canadian members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Price jointly with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.

"In the long run, we need to focus on sustainable levels of consumption, which means finding ways to rein in our currently insatiable demand for more and more," said Professor Danny Harvey of the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, who also served as lead author of the latest IPCC assessment report.

The scientists also cast doubt on the reliance upon nuclear power and large-scale biofuels to prevent climate change. "It is no secret that humankind is already struggling to eliminate hunger and the loss of biodiversity," said Ryerson University Professor Emeritus of Physics Helmut Burkhardt. "To take land away from food production and from rainforests is, in a global perspective, not an option."

The Wasan Action Framework urges governments and international bodies to curb overconsumption, promote lower global birth rates through women's education and empowerment, focus on low-impact renewable energy sources, reduce carbon emissions and preserve forests.

Full declaration & recommendations:
Wasan Action Framework (PDF)

Outdated Nuclear Energy Technology Rest In Peace

Before the year ends I'd like to post a few links to some information and news on nuclear energy, the outdated technology that won't solve our energy needs, won't lead to sustainability, won't ever be safe, won't solve the climate crisis, and won't ever be fiscally responsible. May it continue its slow disappearing act and rest in peace for the duration of this century and beyond.

Oh, we can't just walk away from nuclear energy and be done with it? We still have spend a LOT of money to 'safely' store huge amounts of highly toxic nuclear waste for thousands of years? Hmm... maybe we should ignore that and just keep building more nuclear power plants to meet our rising energy demands.

Energy efficiency and consumption reduction measures be damned; forget about renewable energies and green technologies and reinvest heavily in nuclear energy because our energy consumption is going up, up, up, and we're going to need more nuclear energy! Hold on, I see a pattern emerging...

Seriously though, here are those items I mentioned.

Dec 10th, '07
Child Cancer Risk Higher Near Nuclear Plants - Study

"Chernobyl taught us that technical deficiencies, human failure, and at present also terrorist attacks, may lead to a
catastrophe of unforeseeable dimensions. But did we learn from the catastrophe? That’s one of the questions we try to explore in this brochure."
Women Active Against Nuclear Energy (PDF)

By Joseph J. Mangano

"It should be a sobering thought for Canadians to face the grim facts that Canadian uranium particularly from Saskatchewan, is being marketed to countries that use the "waste" from nuclear power reactors to be sold or given away to manufacturers of depleted uranium."
Full letter to editor by Oscar found here at this forum.

Nuclear Weapons and the Link to Nuclear Power

Nov '07 Opposition demands debate on joining nuclear club
"...Elizabeth May, the federal Green Party leader, said she was furious that the decision to join a pro-nuclear group occurred in silence without any public consultation..."

Dec '07 Ireland Greens: Ryan refuses uranium mining licences

Video - Helen Caldicott at Uof Regina speaking on the dangers of the nuclear industry, including nuclear power, mining, waste and weapons.

Canada’s role in depleted uranium weapons worldwide

DU weapons & war crimes
After 3 years of investigation by 60 expert witnesses and jurists at a cost of $1 million raised by Japanese citizens, the International Criminal Tribunal For Afghanistan at Tokyo on March 10, 2004 found President George W. Bush guilty of the war crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons by US forces in the 2001 war against Afghanistan.

Experts agree that a substantial portion of the depleted uranium in the DU weapons used by the US in Afghanistan came from Canadian uranium. Had the Tokyo Tribunal been diligent, it could have found Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who resigned as Prime Minister on December 12, 2003, guilty as an accessory to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, for failing to enforce Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulations, and the Canada-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, both of which prohibit Canadian uranium from being used in DU weapons.

Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Montreal-based Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) says, “Canada may have the policy, but it’s not enforced. The Canadian government is taking directions and orders from the nuclear industry… “The uranium industry has a vested interest in ensuring its depleted uranium waste makes a profit and is not just left in storage. That’s why some of Canada’s depleted uranium is ending up in weapons, Edwards says. “The Canadian government can’t even think for themselves.”

"We Are Living Through Another Hiroshima," Iraq Doctor Says

Nov '07 'Safe' uranium that left a town contaminated

UPDATE: (Feb 18th '08) Out Of Commission
Story from the UK telling us how nuclear power plants will never 'rest in peace'. At least not without rapidly increasing cost to decommission them, and not without massive cleanup efforts.

From the story:
...As costs for decommissioning appear to spiral out of control - rising sharply from £56bn to £73bn over just a few years - the burden on the taxpayer grows ever more. And it doesn't end there...

UPDATE #2 (July 2008)
UK's nuclear clean-up industry in turmoil, report reveals
Chaos at the heart of Britain's nuclear clean-up industry has been laid bare by an internal audit undertaken by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR), following embarrassing cost overruns that forced the department to find £400m worth of emergency funds from other budgets to balance the books.

The department admits that there are now "inherent risks" associated with the financial affairs of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and reveals that budgetary problems were exacerbated by misunderstandings, unminuted meetings and lack of sufficiently trained staff.

Green Party at 13% - ahead of NDP in polls

From the new Strategic Council poll, the GPC is at third place with 13%. This is is the first time ever that the Green Party has polled ahead of the NDP.

The GPC is trending upwards, with many recent polls putting the Greens in the double digits. See this new Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey that has the Green Party at 12%.

- - - - -

UPDATE: (Feb 16th, 2008) For 1st time Greens within 3% of NDP according to Feb 16 Ipsos Reid Poll

"...A long list of polling companies over the last few months have put the Green Party ahead of, tied with or on a 'virtual tie' with the NDP -- Ipsos Reid, Strategic Counsel and Harris Decima among others -- so the Green Party's rise compared to the NDP can no longer be said to be a once-off occurance it's now a clearly emerging trend..."

More here: In Quebec, Green party at 11 per cent and the NDP with 10

- - -

UPDATE: (Apr 4th, 2008) Grits Tories Remain Deadlocked

The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests the Tories have 32 per cent support, with the Liberals at 30 per cent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

The NDP have 13 per cent, the Greens 12 per cent and the Bloc is at nine per cent...

...In Quebec, the latest poll suggested 37 per cent support for the Bloc, 21 per cent each for the Conservatives and Liberals, 10 per cent for the Greens and nine per cent for the NDP.

In Ontario, the survey suggested the Liberals are at 38 per cent with the Tories at 33 per cent. The Green party has 15 per cent, leading the NDP at 10 per cent...

Continued attention on homelessness, addiction and crime

...will help us solve the problems.

(this is a letter to the editor I sent to many local papers recently)

In nearly every issue of every paper I read something about our efforts to improve upon the issues of homelessness, addiction or crime. Obviously most of us take these issues very seriously. Helping those who’ve lost their way, or who’ve fallen on hard times, to become productive members of society seems to be the goal. This is a year round challenge for everyone.

Thank you for your continued demonstration of compassion and willingness to tackle and resolve these issues. I have faith that with our attention and collective efforts we will become a part of the solution, and we will find lasting solutions to these problems.

December 17, 2007

Happiness Is...

An excellent article by Bill McKibben exploring how the environment that sustains us has become very relevant to economics, and how a new shift in focus on well-being can help people understand the relationship between economic activity, our quality of life and the environment.

The Green Party already has extensive policy (also found here, and in other places throughout the federal party's website) on the interconnectedness of the environment, the economy and societal well being. And if this article isn't enough reading on the subject for you, I've blogged on it before as well.

From the article:

...we were so deeply enmeshed in the rhythms of consumer culture that challenging it in any real way seemed anathema. You could really see this attitude at work in the negotiations around the World Trade Organization. Relentless expansion of the international economy was the central business at hand – labour and environmental concerns could be discussed, but as ‘side agreements’. We were, literally, in the margins; the economic worldview loomed so large that all else was in its shadow.

But that’s begun to change – or soon will. Or could, anyway, if environmentalism begins to transform itself from a fixation on filters and light bulbs to a new fixation – on human satisfaction. For a very long time, ‘happiness’ has been considered a soft topic, something that hippies and sandal-wearers bothered themselves with and the actual world ignored as it went about the important business of More. In the past decade, however, economists, aided by psychologists and sociologists, have begun to question some of their assumptions...

...British economist Richard Layard, who has written a great deal about this work, says: ‘We now know that what people say about how they feel corresponds closely to the actual levels of activity in different parts of the brain, which can be measured in standard scientific ways.’ People who call themselves happy also seem happier to their friends, live healthier lives, and so forth.

Which allows you to start doing something interesting. It allows you to start reversing two centuries of reductionism. Instead of asking: ‘What did you buy?’, you can ask someone: ‘Is your life good?’ And once you’ve asked that, you’re in position to ask the most subversive question there could be: ‘Is “more” better?’

Because if more really is better, then environmentalism is a lost cause. There aren’t enough Powerpoint slides of calving icebergs to turn things around.

But if more isn’t necessarily better, then there are possibilities.

And so here’s the bottom line. We’ve become significantly richer, but not significantly happier...

read more | digg story

December 14, 2007

Leadership Meltdown

See Chris Tindal's blog through the 'read more' link below on the decision by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the rest of parliament to:
- allow operation of a nuclear reactor with a lack of safety mechanisms
- override the independent federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and material
- ensure solid profits and stock value of Life Sciences firm MDS

read more | digg story

Building the Green Economy

I will be posting a series here over the next few months covering different parts of the Green Party of Canada's Vision Green document. The first section I'd like to explore is called Building the Green Economy.

Economics is a subject that is tied directly into the environment. For many decades the field of economics has failed to recognize that our economy is a subset of global ecological systems. Instead, economists have traditionally looked at the environment as something to be values and consumed in the pursuit of economic prosperity; the environment, along with everything else, has been viewed as a subset of the economy.

The logical errors in that outdated model are now becoming readily apparent: as we degrade and consume ecosystems, we pay dearly for the loss of that 'natural capital'. Take the example of how New York City chose to implement a comprehensive watershed protection program to preserve and restore natural filtration services as a more cost effective means of maintaining water quality than water treatment. Here's another link to info on this example. This outside the box thinking is slowly being adopted by economists and some governments, but not many, and certainly not fast enough.

Now past the point of global sustainability, our resource consumption under an economic growth model is becoming a dangerous and obviously outdated model. It was Walter Bagehot who said, "The whole history of civilization is strewn with creeds and institutions which were invaluable at first, and deadly afterwards."

The following selected text excerpts are from the Vision Green introduction on a green economy.

The Green Party approach is to think holistically. How can we achieve the best possible economic result? What are the fiscal and regulatory impediments to economic sustainability?

With the U.S. our largest trading partner, how can we maintain a healthy economy without surrendering our sovereignty and becoming subsumed into the U.S. orbit, as contemplated by the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership?

We strive for stronger local economies with a small business focus, increased national and regional self-sufficiency, economic diversification, more “fair” trade, more value-added manufacturing of resources, more green-certified production and a rapid shift to more renewable energy to create local economic opportunities.

This generation has the potential to capitalize on the single biggest business opportunity in human history – the shift to a low-carbon economy. Whether this is driven by high energy prices, dwindling oil supplies, strategic geo-political threats to foreign oil, the climate crisis, or all of them combined, the country that mobilizes resources to develop and commercialize low carbon technologies (e.g. alternate fuels, renewable energy and energy efficiency) will survive the price shocks of fossil fuel’s last gasps and emerge with a thriving economy. Canada should be that country.

It makes no sense to subsidize the wealthiest companies on earth to make the world’s most profitable product -- a barrel of oil. These perverse subsidies must be removed. It makes sense to reduce taxes on things we want – income and employment – while increasing taxes on things we do not want, like greenhouse gases and pollution that causes smog.

Canadian businesses want two things from their government: predictability and policy coherence. The Green Party government will ensure that the rules are clear, the playing field is level and decision-making is transparent.

Our fiscal plan is straightforward: Use the tax system to help meet societal and ecological goals. Get the prices right. Allow business to pursue profit, with clear signals of environmental and societal objectives.

Canada and the world community face an environmentally linked, energy challenge of historic proportions over the next few decades. The reality of rising fossil fuel prices, increased losses due to extreme weather events caused by the worsening climate crisis, higher global temperatures and worsening pollution levels will make mitigation and adaptation responses absolutely essential. Focusing community economic development and investment towards clean technology and services is both a smart economic development strategy and a superb investment opportunity.

Green technology has been called the greatest business opportunity of this century. All levels of government need to advance this green economic approach through effective tax and policy measures and appropriate skills and trades training at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

As part of the federal government’s contribution to advancing this green economic vision, the Green Party of Canada government will gradually and progressively shift current consumption taxes onto products and services that harm people and the environment while reducing taxes on income, products and economic activities that do no harm. This "green tax shift" will be largely revenue neutral, meaning that as certain taxes increase, other taxes will decrease. In particular, income and payroll taxes will decline. And because the Green Party is committed to eliminating poverty it would ensure that this tax shift would not unfairly burden less fortunate members of our society.

By moving to "true" or "full-cost” accounting, whereby products and services are priced according to the positive or negative impacts they cause throughout their lifecycle, our society can make rational market choices that will guide the economy toward environmental sustainability.

The Green Party believes in reforming our tax system to make it fairer and more in tune with Canadians’ desire for a healthy environment, a sustainable economy and a vibrant, caring society.

It makes no sense to subsidize the wealthiest corporations on earth – the oil companies. We must remove these perverse subsidies immediately, not in the slow, “grandfathered” approach of the Conservatives’ 2007 budget.

The Green Party will reduce taxes on things we all want, like income and employment, and we will increase taxes on things we do not want – things that harm people and our environment.

Our "green tax shift" will be progressive, with a schedule that gives industry time to gear up or down. And it will be revenue neutral because a tax shift is not a tax grab. Income and payroll taxes will decline and the changes will help, not hurt, less fortunate members of our society.

To shift taxes effectively, we have to change to a "true" or "full-cost” accounting method that incorporates economic, social and environmental costs and benefits in the national accounts. Using this method, products and services are taxed, and thus priced, according to the positive or negative impacts caused throughout their lifecycle. We have already done this with tobacco products. Such taxes help consumers make more rational choices.

There are other ways to put taxes to work improving our society. Our tax system must be designed to reduce poverty, encourage environmentally beneficial activities and generate more wealth for the 90 percent of Canadian families who are currently working harder without getting further ahead.

The Green Party’s fiscal plan is straightforward: gradually reduce our debt, give clear tax signals that enable companies to pursue profits on a level playing field, and shift taxes to ensure that both revenue streams and expenditures meet social, economic and ecological goals.

For more, including specific action items, see the full text here.

Click here to see all of my blog posts related to economics.

December 13, 2007

A Carbon Tax, the Arts and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

There is a point where ideology can exceed common sense, and one might wonder if that is happening with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

One month ago Maureen Bader, BC director of the CTF, came out against arts funding stating that government subsidies to the arts should be abolished. Bader sees the arts as business activity, but it is more appropriate to compare investment in the arts with investment in things like parks and recreation. Perhaps Bader isn't aware of the difference between investments and subsidies.

According to a 2001-02 Statistics Canada report, with an investment of $6.8 billion from three levels of government, the arts and culture sector directly employed 740,000 people and generated $26 billion for the economy. I'm sure Bader doesn't want to hurt our economy, so it might be that she just doesn't understand the concept of EROI (economic return on investment).

Then Maureen Bader misrepresented carbon taxes while making fun of global warming 'theorists' <--(her term).

Poverty is a serious concern, and Bader's use of the issue to breed fear of a carbon tax is misleading. By suggesting that we imagine carbon taxes "so high that people can't afford to heat their homes in the winter" in the opening of her missive entitled The Carbon Tax Poverty Effect, she tries to scare us out of using critical thinking to examine the situation. By listing "global warming theorists" as beneficiaries of a carbon tax, Bader manages to question the reality of climate change while suggesting that public concerns about climate change are somehow preyed upon by scientists for financial gain. Ridiculous! This suggestion seems more like a call from Bader to question the science of climate change than a sincere concern for Canadians living in poverty.

It is irresponsible of Bader to haphazardly dismiss the seriousness of climate change, and by conflating the subject with poverty she leads the reader to conclude that action on climate change in the form of a carbon tax will invariably lead to widespread poverty. It's also irresponsible to dismiss the concept of a carbon tax without first investigating how it could be implemented correctly, or why many respected economists support the idea.

Only one national political party is calling for a carbon tax and suggesting that the revenue be used in part to reduce income and payroll taxes, as well as kick start green energy industries. This tax shift can be as close to revenue neutral as we want, and Canadians can decide for themselves if they wish to spend their tax savings in ways that reduce or increase carbon emissions and climate change.

In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would likely impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances. The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship. We cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes, and using tax shifting to achieve fairness is a way to make it work.

More reading:

Arts ire for canadian taxpayers federation

Is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Right-Wing?

Canadian Taxpayer Federation being Dishonest with Canadians

Get The Prices Right (on tax shifting and GPC policy)

Green Tax Shift will protect Canadians against gas price shocks, says Green Party

Video: Dr. Mark Jaccard talks about carbon taxes

Carbon Tax FAQ

from the link above:
Q: Won’t low income and rural people be hardest hit by a carbon tax?

* In the absence of tax shifting, a carbon tax would impose a higher cost on some people than on others, in particular those who cannot afford to upgrade their energy efficiency or who have no alternative to driving long distances.
* The Green Party would use tax shifting in a way that provides equivalent tax breaks to such people, so that they would not suffer economic hardship.
* We as a society cannot afford to dismiss the use of carbon taxes. It’s much better to use tax shifting to achieve fairness.

- - -

UPDATE (Feb 21st, 2008) Click here for a good blog post on the new BC carbon tax by Vancouver Island federal Green Party candidate Brian Gordon.

November 8, 2007

Harper not fiscally responsible, yet tax cuts only for show

In response to the recent announcement on budget surplus and tax cuts by the federal government, I've written the following as a letter to the editor. I grabbed a few points from comments and articles on the internet over the last week. This was printed in at least one local paper, and you may use it or modify it as you see fit.

- - -

Letter to the Editor: Harper not fiscally responsible, yet tax cuts only for show

For years the Conservatives condemned Liberal surpluses as phony surprises. The irony of Harper bringing in a surprise surplus is not lost on me.

I don't disagree with the cuts to income tax and corporate taxes. I actually support a tax shift – reducing income and business taxes while phasing in a carbon tax to replace lost revenue. Most economist agree with this approach.

Unfortunately this ‘surprise surplus’ means that social and environmental priorities, like fighting poverty and homelessness, or meeting the challenge of climate change, have been left off the table by deliberate understatement of available surpluses. That money could fund capital projects such as social housing or transportation infrastructure.

One reason Harper cut taxes is to cut social services, to which his party is ideologically opposed. Harper also doesn’t seem to mind the infrastructure deficit worsening in Canada. The country-wide municipal infrastructure deficit has now grown to about $100 billion.

I keep hearing that the Harper government is offering handouts and tax giveaways (hardly a fiscally responsible practice) but all I’ve noticed is my child tax benefit, much of which will be taxed back by the government. The income trust flip flop was a major campaign promise that Harper didn’t make good on. No tax break there. This federal income tax cut offers savings per taxpayer at about $35. This is only for show.

Lastly, announcing a GST cut before shopping season is going to create purchasing doubt in shoppers minds. Couple that with the strong Canadian dollar and Mr Flaherty’s call for retailers to lower prices, and you have shoppers holding out for better deals.

- - -

Tip: When sending letters to the editor, always include you full name, phone number and address so the papers can verify that you're a real person.

October 15, 2007

Green Party of Canada releases 'Vision Green'

PDF version

About the Green Party of Canada and Vision Green

From the GPC website:
Vision Green presents leading-edge thinking and rational, realistic solutions for all the issues facing Canadians. It was developed by a 31-member Green Shadow Cabinet and was informed by experts, activists and citizens who participated in policy workshops held across Canada. All the proposals are based on policies approved by the membership of the Green Party.

Green Party solutions are rational because the Green Party, unlike other parties, understands the scientifically verified limits to growth set by the carrying capacity of our planet. We must work within these limits. Otherwise, we will exhaust resources, degrade our environment and put our economy, health and children’s future at risk.

Our solutions are realistic because they follow “best practices” already in place in parts of Canada or other countries. These practices are cost-effective, deliver results and benefit people, the economy and the environment.

The Green Party’s down-to-earth solutions will work in Canada because they have worked around the world. Many have been successfully applied in Europe, where Greens are elected at all political levels, including the European Union and national parliaments. Countries where Greens have served in government are the countries creating new high-paying jobs while simultaneously meeting targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are the countries where the gap between rich and poor is small and the standard of living is high. These countries don’t trade off the environment for the economy. Their economies and environmental laws are both strong.

Many people find it hard to position the Green Party on the old political spectrum. We believe in sound fiscal management and strengthening our economy while ensuring that it is sustainable. Does that mean we are “right wing”? We believe that government must provide needed social services while protecting our environment and the rights of women, minorities and disadvantaged people. Does that make us “left wing”? We don’t think so. More and more people are simply thinking of the Green Party as the party of the future.

The Green Party is different from other parties in another important way. We will never place the pursuit of power above principle. We will not allow partisan politics to get in the way of good ideas and needed action. We agree with Canadians who say it’s time for parties in parliament to stop bickering and get on with the job of combating climate change and taking better care of our environment, our health and our economy.

The Green Party of Canada, founded in 1983, is now a major force in Canadians politics. Over 660,000 Canadians voted Green in the 2006 federal election. More than one in ten Canadians are now saying they plan to vote Green.

There is only one true Green Party. We are not like the old line parties who talk green when seeking your vote but sideline green action once elected. You can trust us to stay true to our promises and champion the issues you care about. If you share our vision and agree with our solutions, VOTE GREEN.

Change the climate in Parliament.

October 13, 2007

Harper’s “war on drugs” regressive and irresponsible: Green Party

Harper’s “war on drugs” regressive and irresponsible: Green Party

OTTAWA – The Green Party today denounced Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposed drug strategy as an ideologically-driven step in the wrong direction and ignorant of evidence-based research. Last week, Mr. Harper announced his intent to spend $64 million in a war on drugs, focusing on punishment and enforcement – not prevention.

“Mr. Harper is far too eager to sign Canada on to a Bush-style war on drugs that has spent billions and achieved nothing,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “An overwhelming body of evidence supports the notion that an effective drug strategy would focus on prevention, treatment facilities and harm reduction programs.

“Mr. Harper preaches prevention, yet spends many times the funds allocated to prevention on enforcing antiquated drug laws and punishing drug users. This approach is akin to simply burning tax dollars and is severely damaging to society. Instead of listening to the facts, Mr. Harper is trying to appear tough on crime in a desperate attempt to grab votes.”

Jared Giesbrecht, Justice Critic for the Green Party, added that the 2002 Senate Special Committee on Drugs and examples from European countries have led the Green Party to the conclusion that it is time to legalize the adult use of marijuana, developing a taxation rate for the substance similar to that of tobacco.

“Mr. Harper’s plan to impose tougher penalties on users of marijuana and other drugs is a misguided approach. Substance abuse is a medical issue, not a criminal issue. Simply spending more tax dollars on drug law enforcement is not the answer. Canadians want to see a comprehensive anti-drug strategy that gets to the root of the problem, not Harper’s patch-work agenda that seeks the quick fix.”

Mr. Giesbrecht added that the Green Party would fund and expand safe injection sites, like the Insite clinic in Vancouver, that are proven to save lives.

October 12, 2007

Green Party demands federal action on cell phones and wireless networks

I wish it wasn't so, but the latest research is pointing to a very likely reality that radiation poisoning from cell phones and wireless networks is a serious problem. It is very likely that Canada's government will do little that would be considered significant in the face of mounting evidence that many people are getting sick when exposed to electromagnetic radiation. Some 'official' studies done in the recent past on a link to leukemia or cancer say there's no proof of causation, or even correlation, but newer 'official' studies show that there is a link between electromagnetic radiation and other illnesses. Like most things, it depends on which 'official studies' one wants to believe.

I said that I wish it wasn't so. That's because a lot of people are unknowingly exposing themselves to possibly dangerous levels of this type of radiation. It's also because I like my wireless gadgets. Cordless phones & cell phones are obviously very handy, and my recent purchase of a wireless optical mouse has made it fun to use a mouse. Still, I've already made a few changes in my lifestyle in order to ensure that exposure to electromagnetic radiation is limited. My wife and I got rid of our microwave oven two years ago and we don't miss it. Actually it blew up and we never bothered to replace it.

I've seen enough to know that keeping my alarm clock beside my head on the night stand could disrupt my sleep. I know that I don't want to live near a high voltage transmission line. I try to limit my cell and cordless phone use, and when I am on a cordless phone for any length of time I use a headset. In exercising the precautionary principle when it comes to this stuff, I actually don't notice any 'sacrifice' to my lifestyle.

I can play it safe by adjusting a few things in my life - it's no biggie - and I know that even though some 'experts' are telling us not to worry, my decision to listen to the advice of other experts is one more way that I can take care of the health of my whole family.

- - - - -

Green Party demands federal action on cell phones and wireless networks

OTTAWA - Green Party leader Elizabeth May today called on Health Minister Tony Clement to issue an immediate warning on the potential danger posed by radiation from cell phones and wireless networks in Canada.

Germany recently warned its citizens to avoid wireless technology whenever possible and the EU’s European Environment Agency (EEA) followed suit with a call for immediate reduction in exposure to radiation from phones and wireless networks. The EEA suggested that a delay could precipitate a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos exposure and smoking.

"There is growing scientific evidence that exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from cell phones and wireless networks can cause significant harm to people, especially children,” said Ms. May. “Until all the facts are in, it is foolish to turn a blind eye to the potential health effects of EMR. The Green Party urges the federal government to apply the precautionary principle and warn citizens of these risks now.”

Citing several studies that link cell phone use to cancer, the Green Party’s Health Promotion critic, Jake Cole, demanded rapid action from Mr. Clement.

“More and more Canadians are being exposed to EMR through wireless networks at work and at home,” said Mr. Cole. “The long-term effects of exposure aren’t known with certainty, but evidence suggests that health impacts can occur at extremely low levels of radiation, far below public safety limits.

"Canada must quickly issue some sensible public warnings on this matter, following the lead of other jurisdictions like Germany and the EU, and develop principles and regulations to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.”

In accordance with the precautionary principle, the Green Party recommends:

• Children under the age of 12 should not use cell phones, except in emergencies.
• Cell phones should not be used in schools, except in emergencies.
• A moratorium on the installation of all wireless equipment and cell phone masts within 300 metres of a home or school
• Turning off all electronic equipment when not in use

To read A Rationale for a Biologically-based Public Exposure Standard for Electromagnetic Fields (ELF and RF), the international scientific review on wireless radiation and health cited by the European Environment Agency, please see

- - - - -

More links:
The Radiation Poisoning Of America

Death by Blackberry?

Electromagnetic Pollution

Wi-fi: should we be worried?

Electromagnetic smog fears grow

Green Economics - Stephen Leahy

I'd like to share with you a few articles on the economics of going green by Stephen Leahy.


Like Enron, Earth Inc. Sliding Into Bankruptcy

All economies depend on the natural capital lying within nature’s lands, waters, forests, and reefs, but humans have often treated them as if they had little value or were inexhaustible.

Global Warming Is Real But I Didn’t Do It

The vast majority of North Americans now declare that they want action on climate change. But whether people are truly willing to embrace “carbon-neutral” lifestyles — including giving up their gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles — remains an open question, say experts.

How to Kick-Start the 21st Century Eco-Economy

Farming and forestry in nearly all countries is only about maximising food or lumber production, but that has to start including maximising the ecological goods and service those ecosystems also offer. And since they are extremely important services, the stewards of these lands to ought to [be] compensated so these services will be preserved and enhanced.

57 Tips On Going Green and Saving Money

The reason I spotted Stephen Leahy is that I read Adbusters magazine, and there is a great article in the latest issue called 'Earth Inc. - Staying in the black now means going green'. For more on this subject, as explained by Adbusters, click here.

October 11, 2007

No seats, but Greens up in support

Last night the Ontario provincial election came to an end, and the Green Party of Ontario made huge gains in support. Shane Jolley finished a very close second, with the highest support for a Green candidate ever in Canada. Here are a few news stories covering the rise in Green Party support.

'Part of the landscape,' but not the Legislature

The Greens did come closer than ever: Their best hope, bike shop owner Shane Jolley in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, finished a strong second behind Conservative Bill Murdoch, a 17-year MPP.

Win or lose, "it's a huge victory," Jolley said last night. "This is the strongest Green campaign ever run in Canada."

Green's great hope
The Mark Messier look-a-like – complete with drop-the-gloves stare – and former high school star athlete in football and track is now a star on another field, regardless of outcome. In the last federal election, he had the best vote percentage (12.9 per cent) of any Green candidate in the county. In this election, he came within a few polls of winning.

Second best still a victory, Jolley says; Candidate calls run most successful Green campaign in Canadian history
"It's a success because we've brought a lot of issues to the table that otherwise wouldn't have made it," Jolley said in an interview. The Green candidate's surprising run also moved the Greens from marginal support here four years ago to what looked late Wednesday night to be a clear second-place finish behind veteran Progressive Conservative campaigner Bill Murdoch.

It was also by far the best result yet posted in Canada by a Green candidate, Ontario deputy party leader Victoria Serda said.

"For Shane to come in a relatively close second is amazing," Serda said at Meaford Hall. "It shows we're electable. This is going to change politics across Canada."

Ont. Green party scores 8 per cent of vote
No Green party candidates made it to the Ontario legislature in Wednesday's election, but that defeat was sweetened by a swell in their share of the popular vote, which more than doubled.

October 8, 2007

Harpers Drug Policy For Getting Votes

Harpers Drug Policy For Getting Votes - Not Saving Lives Or Making Canada Safer

A friend pointed out this article in Le Devoir by Gil Courtemanche commenting on Harpers doomed War on Drugs. The original publication is in French, and this link will take you to the English translation of the article. Here are a few paragraphs.

...We also learned Thursday that Stephen Harper will keep his old Beatles records even if his children wonder about certain lyrics that sing the praises of forbidden substances. Here's a wonderful example of the Prime Minister's openness of mind, a tolerance that extends only as far as the words to songs. For the poor teens who might be tempted to follow the smoking trails of the Fab Four, it will be zero tolerance. We're far from the time when the Chrétien and Martin governments pondered decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana. The times have changed and the police have clearly felt it. In 2006, in Canada's principal cities, including Montréal, arrests for simple possession of cannabis have increased 20 to 50%, depending on the city. At the same time, a UNICEF study discovered that Québec is the champion of cannabis consumption among industrialized countries. According to that study, 40% of youth aged 11 to 15 consume some cannabis from time to time. These are not addicts, but occasional consumers. Nonetheless, under Mr. Harper's ferule, they will be considered veritable criminals. That's almost half our adolescents who run the risk of finding themselves with a criminal record. Mr. Harper also announced that we will establish minimum sentences for dealers. The teen who buys five joints and sells three to his pals will become a dealer just like some Hell's Angel.

In its fight against drugs, in its fight against juvenile crime, in its approach to border security, the Conservative government has resolutely adopted the American approach of repression and ever-longer prison sentences. In the United States, this policy has not changed the crime rate and has had the effect of growing the prison population at a vertiginous rate. The United States is the country with the highest rate of incarceration among all industrialized countries. And, of course, the majority of that population is constituted of minority citizens and poor people who can't pay for competent lawyers. That's the road down which the Conservative minority government wants to take Canada. And meanwhile, in Ottawa, the opposition is desperately looking for a gimmick so that elections can be avoided and Stephen Harper allowed to pursue his Americanization of Canada.

Here is a first draft of a letter to the editor I'll be sending off to the Nanaimo News Bulletin:

Letter to Editor Re: War On Drugs Doomed Again (Nanaimo News Bulletin Oct 6th)

I’d like to give thanks to the Harper government for a new ‘war’.

Like in the USA where the ‘war on drugs’ has been ongoing for decades, this Canadian effort will likely create many jobs in the areas of law enforcement. We will, over the long term, likely need to build more jails (as they have needed to do in the USA) in order to house non-violent offenders, and our recently announced federal tax surplus will surely help to pay for this ongoing cost. Never mind that incarceration will cost more than rehabilitation; Mr. Harper clearly believes that the jobs created are more important than the negative costs to our society. These fellow Canadians – these neighbours, coworkers, family and friends of ours – they’re only addicts after all, right? Mr. Harper says lock ‘em up!

Treatment and rehabilitation sounds too ‘nice’ for Harper government’s ‘every man for himself’ ideology. Although treatment and rehabilitation are proven to be effective, long term incarceration sounds braver & more prideful. Thank you Mr Harper for choosing to create a job for our country which the USA has already proven we will never be able to complete.

I am a recovered addict with seven years clean & sober. I’ve just brought my family to Nanaimo, and soon we’ll be purchasing a house. After using drugs for nearly a decade, I managed to make it out of active addiction disease free and with no criminal record, and this is largely due to the community support and addiction recovery services that were available to me prior to getting clean. I’m not shy about this fact; I’m proud of the man I am, and I’m grateful to be living in this country with a history of giving and sharing that shows we take care of ours.

Thank you Mr Harper for trying to take these opportunities away from other Canadians.

Cameron Wigmore
Nanaimo, B.C.

From the 2006 Green Party of Canada Platform:
Green MPs will work to:
- Support a public health framework to reduce the use of psychoactive drugs through rehabilitation and prevention especially for children.
- Assist provinces to increase the number of detox and treatment beds for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, create safe injection clinics, needle exchange programs and access for certified addicts to prescriptions for safe doses.

More background on me and the GPC policy on addiction & drugs here.

A few more links on this...

U.S.-style war on drugs will fail

What's Harper Smoking? (<---this is a great article!)

PM's Anti-drug Drive 'Uninformed'

Minimum sentences for pushers called repugnant READ THIS STORY!

Harper drug strategy `depressing,' Insite head says

September 20, 2007

Green Cat Goes West

My wife has decided to pursue her career in Theatre Arts Administration, and she's landed a job at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo B.C. This has happened very suddenly, although we've been preparing and planning an eventual move out of Drumheller for a few years now.

I'll be staying involved with the Green Party at the Provincial and Federal level. I have found it very rewarding to run as a candidate for the Green Party here in Crowfoot, serve as the Alberta Representative on the GPC Federal Council for the past year, and sit as CEO of the Crowfoot Green Party Association. All of these positions will be filled by other active volunteers, and I'm sure they'll find the experience as wonderful as I did.

I'm going to miss the crew at the Tyrrell Museum! What a great place to work. As a Gallery Interpreter & Security staff I was right in the thick of the tourist season there year after year. I had a lot of fun sharing information about palaeontology and the Drumheller Valley with many thousands of tourists. The staff there were the best co-workers a person could hope for! If anyone reading this has not been to the Tyrrell Museum, you really have to consider visiting soon. It's an amazing museum!

The Badlands Drug Coalition was a great way for me to get involved in the community. Thanks everyone for your goodbye emails! Do keep up the fantastic work to raise awareness about drugs, addiction & recovery in Drumheller and the surrounding areas. I'm sure you'll all be busy during the National Addictions Awareness Week coming up in November.

I'll likely be very busy gigging and teaching music once I'm settled on the West Coast. Regardless of how busy I'll be, I'm going to miss everyone in the Band-O-Coots very much! You've all been very good friends, and our shows over the years will be some of my best memories of my time in Drumheller. I never thought I'd be adding R&B and classic rock to my repertoire, but building the set lists with you all has been a super fun time! If anyone asks where the sax player is at your next show, tell them that 'those unreliable sax players just can't be trusted to show up to gigs!'

To everyone in Alberta, please continue to fight the good fight. Make use of your new Alberta Rep for the Green Party. Hold the provincial government accountable for their actions. Write letters to your local papers.


September 3, 2007

GPC Media Release: Labour Rights Are Human Rights

The following media release is a reminder that the Greens are a Federal Political Party that exists to promote policies regarding social justice, in addition to the obvious focus on the environment and sustainability. The credibility of the GPC in this area has been steadily increasing, with extensive policy on issues related to social justice, the distinction of being the only federal party with a set of key values - one of which is Social Justice - and the recent appointment of John Fryer, an internationally respected former union leader and authority on labour relations and human resource issues, as labour critic on the party's Shadow Cabinet.

- - -

Labour Rights Are Human Rights


The Green Party today called on the federal government to take immediate action to guarantee that all workers in Canada have the right to organize and participate in the free collective-bargaining process.

"On Labour Day and throughout the year, the Green Party supports workers," said federal party leader Elizabeth May. "We believe in pay equity and in every worker's right to fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions as well as working hours compatible with a good quality of life.

"Labour rights are human rights," said Ms. May, "and we strongly endorse the Supreme Court's June 8 decision that the right to collective bargaining is a constitutional right guaranteed and protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Green Party labour critic John Fryer said that the federal government must now take action in three areas to guarantee these rights for Canada's workers. "Firstly, all federal labour statutes should be updated to expressly guarantee the right to collective bargaining for all covered employees," he said.

"The Harper government also must find a way to ensure compliance with International Labour Standards, not only by the federal government but also by all provincial and territorial governments. Canada's disgraceful International Labour Organization record of violating these standards must end. The shocking fact is that our country has no formal mechanism for ratifying international treaties and obligations and this needs immediate remedy.

"Finally, we call upon the Prime Minister to demonstrate his support for Canadian workers by signing the Worker's Bill of Rights that has already been endorsed by all other party leaders."

Said Elizabeth May, "This Labour Day, the Green Party of Canada calls upon our government to give labour rights issues much greater priority in both its policy and its action agendas. After all, our own Supreme Court has made it clear that labour rights are guaranteed under Canada's Constitution."


John Chenery - 613-562-4916 ext. 227


- - -

Update from GPC Alberta Representative

As your Provincial Representative over the last year I've worked hard to bring your thoughts, opinions and concerns to Federal Council. The other goal of mine has been to make information about the activities of our Federal Council available to GPC members in Alberta.

Through email, phone and my blog I've enjoyed regular contact with many members and I want to thank you for making my term as Alberta Representative an exciting and rewarding one. Serving on Federal Council has been a very memorable experience!

You're probably aware of the current GPC Federal Council election. We have two great people running for the position of Alberta Representative, and I think either of them would be a great addition to our Federal Council. They are Mark Taylor and Peter Johnston. Don't forget to vote!

While I will no longer be serving the party in the role of Provincial Representative, I will continue to stay active in the Crowfoot riding, as CEO of the Electoral District Association and currently nominated candidate in Crowfoot for the next federal election. Volunteering with the Green Party is a lot of fun and a great way to make a difference in your community. To get involved, go to 'find your riding' Click on your riding, and contact your local representative via email or phone.

Thank you to everyone for your support. I strongly believe that the Green Party of Canada is an important part of the positive change we need in our country. While I will no longer be your Alberta Representative, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concern or comments, or would just like to talk with another Green Party member. :-)


Cameron Wigmore
Alberta Representative, Federal Council (outgoing)
Crowfoot Candidate, '06 election & current
CEO, Crowfoot EDA
Drumheller, AB

August 8, 2007

Albertans Or Industry Alberta Government Must Choose

In September of '06 I wrote a submission to the Oilsands Consultation Committee and posted it on my blog. Now the committee has released their final report. You can download it as a 2.5 MB PDF file here.

Make your way to section 3, starting on page 33, for a list of non-consensus actions that were recommended but will very likely not be implemented. Observe how the industry and government representatives often side against the majority of the other panel members.

The general feeling is that we need to slow down. Infrastructure and services are lagging behind the huge increases in population & industrial activity, among other problems, but Premiere Stelmach says that he won't 'tap the brakes'. Yes, Alberta is in a speeding car and the driver won't use the brakes, even when it's apparent that we're heading towards a brick wall.

The Council of Canadians suggested a few things to the committee that make sense.

The Council of Canadians is demanding a National Energy Security Strategy that would:

1. Restrict foreign ownership of our energy sector, regulate the energy industry and renegotiate or scrap NAFTA so that Ottawa can limit fuel exports and reclaim our energy sovereignty.

Over 50 per cent of Alberta's Athabasca tar sands production is already U.S.-owned. These companies pay a 1 per cent royalty to the Alberta government for the right to extract oil - one of the lowest rates paid anywhere in the world for similar privileges.

Canada exports 65 per cent of our oil to the U.S. and yet we have to import 55 per cent of the oil that Canada needs from Algeria, Venezuela and Norway. The proportionality clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ties us to these export levels so that even in the event of energy shortages, we would have to continue piping oil and gas south at the same rate as we do now.

2. Put a moratorium on new tar sands developments and environmentally catastrophic resource extraction projects like the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Athabasca tar sands expansion.

As reported by the Globe and Mail on March 16, 2007, "Alberta's production of heavy crude...from its oil sands reserves will more than quadruple by 2025...Alberta will produce 1.7 billion barrels of bitumen in 2025, or 4.65 million barrels of crude a day, well up from current output of just over one million barrels a day, said Neil McCrank, chairman of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board...While there's been plenty of conjecture over the possible extent of oil sands output growth, the figures given by Mr. McCrank are the first officially made by a regulator that estimate the scale of Alberta's development by 2025."

On January 18, 2007 CBC News reported that, U.S. and Canadian oil executives and government officials met for a two-day oil summit in Houston in January 2006 and made plans for a "fivefold expansion" in oilsands production in a relatively "short time span," according to minutes of the meeting obtained by the CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada. That media report also noted, "A fivefold increase would mean the exportation of five million barrels a day, which would supply a quarter of current American consumption and add up to almost half of all U.S. imports." The CBC also reported, as noted in the minutes of the January meeting, the proposed expansion would require Canada to "streamline" its environmental regulations.

3. Support cleaner, renewable sources of energy and reduce consumption.

Tar sands production is destroying the environment at an alarming rate. Alberta is poised to become one of the world's main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands development destroys vast tracts of land and clears forests. It takes up to six barrels of water to extract just one barrel of oil. The resulting toxic wastewater cannot be put back into circulation.

As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press on January 24, 2007, "Projects now on the drawing board will produce 4.8 million barrels a day by 2020, almost five times current output. At that level, says Pembina's Dr. Matthew Bramley, the tar sands' annual greenhouse gas emissions will skyrocket from 25.2 megatonnes to as much as 141.6 megatonnes, almost double that now created by all the nation's cars and trucks." And as reported by the Globe and Mail on February 17, 2007, "Based on 2000 emissions data, collected by the U.S.-based World Resources Institute, the tar sands could soon match the CO2 output of the Czech Republic, while producing twice as much as Peru, three times as much as Qatar and 10 times as much as Costa Rica."

4. Return to Canada's previous policy of maintaining multi-year reserves for use by Canadians in hard times and to assist in the transition to greener energy alternatives.

On January 24, 2007, the Calgary Herald reported that, "The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday it plans to increase the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion barrels from 691 million barrels...The U.S. government this spring will start buying 100,000 barrels of oil a day to fill the stockpile to its current capacity of 727 million barrels...The expanded reserve, stored in salt caverns along the U.S. Gulf Coast, would be equal to about 97 days of U.S. oil imports."

In short, the U.S. currently has a strategic petroleum reserve capacity of 727 million barrels which would theoretically replace about 60 days of oil imports for them. The U.S. Energy Secretary is now saying that it is a "wise and prudent policy decision" to expand this reserve to 1.5 billion barrels, which would be equal to about 97 days of oil imports.

Canada does not have a strategic petroleum reserve. If expanding the strategic petroleum reserve in the United States is "a wise and prudent policy decision to provide additional layer of protection" as their energy secretary says, what does it say about the Harper government that has not set aside a single barrel of oil for ourselves, wants to export a "fivefold" increase in oil from the northern Alberta oil sands, and wants to further entrench a trade agreement that prohibits us from cutting back these exports even in times when we run short?

5. Implement a distribution system which would ensure a west-east energy sharing arrangement, so that Canadians rely more on our own energy and less on off-shore imports.

In Canada, most of the oil we consume is imported. Overall Canada imports 58 percent of the oil we consume. About 40 percent of the oil used in Ontario is imported, while about 90 percent of the oil used in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces is imported. 25 percent of the oil Canada consumes comes from the unstable regions of the Middle East or North Africa. (This is a higher percentage than U.S. dependence which is at about 23 percent of their consumption from these regions.)

Straight Goods also reviews the situation and has some interesting things to say.

Last week, the Alberta Government released the much anticipated final report and recommendations of the Oil Sands Multi-Stakeholder Committee — the committee charged with carrying out a broad-based consultation with Albertans and making recommendations on the future of the Alberta tar sands.The report includes 120 different recommendations for action, all based on what was heard in public meetings, in written submissions and from expert symposiums over the course of the last 12 months.

Of those recommendations, 96 were presented as items on which there was consensus. These include some important and valuable recommendations on questions of reclamation of tar sands areas and community infrastructure.

The remaining 24 recommendations were items on which there was not consensus, but that were included in the report nonetheless in order that the government might consider them along with the others.

The problem is that among those 24 recommendations lie the key issues requiring government attention. These include questions about slowing the pace of development (or an outright moratorium); setting hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions; increasing royalty rates; and looking closely at both the health impacts on local populations and the long-term investment of resource revenues.

The fact that these are listed, as "non-consensus" items should not be taken to mean that the public submissions on these topics were evenly split. In fact, in some cases, quite the opposite is true.

On the question of the pace of development, for example, most of the submissions made called for a drastic slow-down and many went as far as to call for a moratorium on new leases and permits. Likewise, with the amount of support shown in the submissions for hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions and for increasing royalty rates.

The reason that these are listed as "non-consensus" items is that some of the members of the Multi-Stakeholder Committee did not agree with the recommendations. In other words, even though the committee was charged with carrying out a public consultation, and reporting back on the public's wishes, these members determined that their own personal opinions should override public input.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that industry representatives lined up squarely against consensus on the issues above. Clearly, these folks were on the committee to protect their bottom lines from what they saw as unreasonable public interest demands.

For them to actually agree to recommendations of slower development, emissions caps and higher royalties would be completely contradictory to their reason for participating in the process in the first place.

What is more disconcerting, however, is the fact that the Government of Alberta reps on the committee lined up shoulder to shoulder with industry and against the public interest on every one of the issues above. In other words, the government reps on the committee chose to disregard the expressed wishes of Albertans and sided instead with industry.

Now the Pembina Institute has reviewed the recommendations, and points out that the committee has fallen short of what the people of Alberta & those who submitted recommendations were calling for.

Jul 25, 2007

Oil Sands Multistakeholder Committee Recommendations Fail to Address Runaway Pace of Oil Sands DevelopmentResponsibility Now Rests With Premier Stelmach's Government

The recommendations of the Oil Sands Multistakeholder Committee released today by the Government of Alberta fail to address the main concerns of Albertans, according to the Pembina Institute. The final report was submitted to the Government of Alberta on June 30, 2007, and is currently being reviewed by the Ministers of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. The Ministers have not yet responded to either the consensus or non-consensus recommendations of the committee.

"The consensus recommendations of the committee fail to address Albertans' number one concern: the runaway pace of oil sands development. Now it's up to Premier Stelmach to tackle this concern head-on and make a decision about slowing the pace of development," noted Dan Woynillowicz, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute and one of three environmentalists on the committee. "Unfortunately some members of the committee were more interested in defending the status quo than in addressing the growing concerns that Albertans have about how oil sands development is occurring."

Joan Russow through the PEJ News site contributed to a recent piece on the oilsands.

So what will the Alberta Government do? Side with industry or the people of Alberta? See this post of mine for a clue to the likely answer. If we don't do anything, there's no reason why Stelmach should consider our collective needs or concerns. It seems to me that the Industry shouldn't need handouts or extra help from the government, but apparently land owners and municipalities aren't as good at lobbying the government as the oil & gas industry, so the industry has continued to get and do pretty much what it wants.

I'm a reasonable man, and all I'm asking for is that the government respect the wishes of and stand up for the people in this province. I don't want to shut down oil & gas operations. That would cause more problems than it would solve, and it would put many of my friends and family members out of work.

An interesting thing to note is that Alberta is unique in that it sees fit to cap wind power production. Think about that: no brakes for oil & gas, but the Alberta government is aggressively interfering with the renewable energy industry.

Steady Eddie needs to 'tap the brakes' and live up to his reputation, rather than speed ahead haphazardly and allow the industry to walk all over him and his government. Make the decision to proceed wisely. The people will support you, and the industry will get along just fine.


July 18, 2007

Nuclear Energy Not Needed Not Wanted

I thought I was done for now with posts on nuclear energy, but before I move on to other subjects on my blog, here are a few more recent news stories and some more thoughts on the subject. I don't have much to add here. I think these stories and the information at the links below speak for themselves.

Japanese nuclear leak bigger than first reported
cbc news July 18, 2007

A leak of radioactive water from a Japanese nuclear power plant was 50 per cent larger than first reported...

...The tremor initially triggered a small fire at an electrical transformer in the sprawling plant. It was announced 12 hours later that the quake also caused a leak of water containing radioactive material.

The company also said a small amount of the radioactive materials cobalt-60 and chromium-51 had been emitted into the atmosphere from an exhaust stack...

More about this here, here and here.

Strangely, there are some serious problems with the nuclear energy industry in Germany occurring at about the same time.

German Mishaps Put Nuclear Power under Scrutiny
Spiegel Online July 16 '07

The company at first said it was just a small fire. But the blaze at Vattenfall's Krümmel reactor has since become a political wildfire. Now, Germany's pro-nuclear energy politicians have gone into hiding.


Nuclear power has received a tremendous boost since climate change has made Germans suddenly fearful about the future. Regional politicians like Oettinger, Roland Koch of Hesse and Edmund Stoiber of Bavaria, as well as CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla, have become increasingly vocal proponents of extending the shelf life of nuclear power plants. But during the last two weeks or so, amid thick clouds of smoke enveloping a nuclear power plant in Krümmel and reports of technical failures, human error and corporate incompetence, opponents of nuclear power see their arguments gaining credence once again. Suddenly the Social Democrats, especially Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, see themselves justified in taking the position that nuclear energy is a "risky technology." "German nuclear power plants are the safest worldwide," Gabriel said acerbically last week, "aside from the occasional explosion or fire."


The reason for the change in thinking is clear. Whereas most of the some 130 reactor incidents reported annually in Germany are minor and go unnoticed, smoke pouring out of a transformer as happened in Krümmel tends to attract attention. It took the fire department hours to extinguish the blaze. Even worse, the plant operator's claim that a fire in the transformer had no effect on the reactor itself proved to be a lie.

In short, the incident has made it clear that nuclear energy is by no means the modern, well-organized high-tech sector portrayed until recently by politicians and industry advocates. Indeed, the frequency of problems occurring at Germany's aging reactors is on the rise. Just as old cars will eventually succumb to rust, the country's nuclear power plants, built in the 1970s and 80s, are undergoing a natural aging process.

The problems are complicated by maintenance and supervision issues among aging and unmotivated employees. A dangerously lackadaisical attitude has taken hold that is making Germany's nuclear power plants increasingly unsafe. Most incidents to date have proven to be relatively minor, and yet each new incident becomes yet another link in a chain of problems with the potential to end in a serious accident.


Vattenfall has now come under increased scrutiny. "We are taking a careful look at what's happening in Germany," says Peter Rickwood, a spokesman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). After an incident at the Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden last year, in which two backup generators broke down and the reactor had to be operated "flying blind" for 20 minutes, Vattenfall submitted a report to the IAEA that clearly glossed over the seriousness of the situation. The same pattern seems to have emerged in the Krümmel incident, as well as at the Brunsbüttel plant, where the reactor was temporarily shut down because of a "network problem." In both cases Vattenfall's report assigns the lowest problem classification -- "N" for normal -- to the incidents.

This blatant effort to downplay problems at the reactors has even led to ill will against Vattenfall management among employees. "Our people working in the nuclear power plant are not permitted to say anything, but they are furious," says Uwe Martens, the managing director of the Hamburg branch of the services union Ver.di. Indeed, Thomauske chose to blame others at the lower end of the hierarchy for the Krümmel incident. According to Thomauske, a "misunderstanding" between the reactor manager and the shift manager led to the inadvertent opening of valves. Another unanswered question is why up to 25 people were congregated in the reactor's operating room at the time of the accident.


Some of these problems are attributable to constant repairs at the plants, repairs that are also long overdue at German nuclear power plants. In a 55-page report, Germany's Reactor Safety Commission (RSC), which advises Gabriel's environment ministry, writes about "containing the aging processes" and that some age-related problems are only being discovered by chance. According to the RSC, these problems are difficult to correct, partly because "suppliers and manufacturers are no longer in business."

The 31-year-old Neckarwestheim I reactor -- along with the Biblis A reactor, Germany's oldest reactor still in operation -- is one of a group of nuclear dinosaurs where problems have become the rule rather than the exception. When a fire broke out in a major incident in October 2005, the reactor had to be shut down manually. The state environment ministry in Stuttgart had imposed a €25,000 fine on the plant's operator shortly before the incident. It had taken the operator, EnBW, about 20 days to discover a leak of radioactively contaminated water into the Neckar River, and another nine days to report the problem.

More on this story here & here.

The following are some bits of information relevant to my recent discussions with some nuclear energy advocates. Some pro-nuclear lobbyists prefer to avoid issues of social justice relating to DU weapons and Canada's role. Others have argued that we simply 'need nuclear energy', which is a false statement, unless we collectively avoid renewable technologies and efficiency/conservation measures, and we assume that our consumption rates will increase evermore unsustainably. Other nuclear advocates have tried to say that nuclear energy is cheap and safe, but both points are relative, meaning we have to decide for ourselves if continued government subsidies of taxpayer dollars and frequent accidents qualify as 'cheap' or 'safe'. Don't believe the hype if you're told that nuclear is a solution to climate change. One can easily dig up articles and studies on why nuclear is not a solution to climate change.

If the stories in this post leave you wanting more, please see my previous posts on nuclear energy.

An interesting article by Tom Adams (executive director of Energy Probe) carried in the Globe & Mail July 16 '07 called The Nuclear Shield states that "acts of gross negligence by suppliers of nuclear goods and services – the kind of mistakes that might cause nuclear reactors to explode – will no longer be protected from liability under a proposed law that passed first reading in the House of Commons last month."

This story goes on to state the following:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new law will also provide more time for victims of radiation poisoning to claim compensation. Under existing law, any cancers that turn up more than 10 years after an accident cannot be compensated; the new version would give victims 30 years. However, research on survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki shows radiation-induced cancers even 60 years after their exposure.

Mr. Harper's generosity with nuclear accident victims knows other bounds, too. When the original Nuclear Liability Act was passed in 1970, damage compensation was limited to $75-million – about $415-million in today's currency. The new liability limit is $650-million. But in the 1970s, Canada's nuclear neighbourhoods had many fewer inhabitants. For example, Pickering, which now hosts six working reactors and two retired ones, had a population of 24,800 when its municipal boundaries were set in 1974. It was 94,700 last year. Each Pickering resident's liability coverage has shrunk to about 40 per cent of what it was in 1974 – if their community was contaminated by an accident, the new liability limit would be exhausted after paying out 10 cents per dollar of dwelling value, leaving no coverage for household contents, commercial property, disruption, lost income, injuries or death.

Nor would nuclear neighbours get any help from their own insurance, since all homeowner's and renter's policies contain a nuclear exclusion clause. There is no disagreement among professional risk experts on this one issue – the insurance and nuclear industries agree that the risk of a reactor accident is just too scary to bear without special protection.

Will CANDU Do? by Paul Webster Published in the September 2006 issue

According to a recent article, the Tar Sands will Need 20 Candu Nuclear Plants in Northern Alberta.
Wayne Henuset, head of Energy Alberta, could not be reached for comment.

Nuclear reactor a rerun, according to research team Whitecourt Star May 16/2007
(I find this story interesting because
Wayne Henuset, President of Energy Alberta, tries to defend his choice to pursue a CANDU nuclear reactor.)

Here's an interesting exploration of the economics of CANDU reactors from Wikipedia, a site where information is usually fairly reliable but always deserves a further fact checking.

More about CANDU reactors from the Energy Probe site.

Here's a long list of problems with CANDU reactors and nuclear energy.

An article, archived in The Canadian Encyclopedia from Maclean's magazine, called CANDU Flawed shows a snapshot of problems from ten years ago.

Harper embraces the nuclear future ( May '07)

REALITY CHECK: Robert Sheppard
Is a Candu really the answer for Alberta's oilsands?
( January 11, 2007)
Check out the comments after the article.

Towards a Nuclear-Free Canada (Sierra Club of Canada)

All Levels of Radiation Confirmed to Cause Cancer (Sierra Club of Canada)

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

OUR DEADLY SECRET: Tracing Saskatchewan's Role in the Proliferation of Nuclear WMD By Jim Harding, Ph.D.

Canada's Role in Depleted Uranium (DU) Weapons worldwide

Depleted Uranium and Canada's Role

US Forces' Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons is 'Illegal'