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Qui bono? Follow the money

Wed, 2018-02-07 17:01
February 7, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldQui bono? Follow the moneyWho benefits from government policies? Usually just the rich and powerful.neoliberal globalizationchild poverty
Categories: News for progressives

What does Canadian xenophobic populism look like?

Tue, 2018-02-06 21:19
February 6, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsCan it happen here, of course: Canada and Trumpism A new book by pollster Michael Adams explores data to find out if Canada could succumb to xenophobic populism on a mass scale.populismright-wing populismDonald TrumpAmerican Fascism
Categories: News for progressives

Looking forward by looking back -- 1968, part two

Mon, 2018-02-05 15:54
February 5, 2018Politics in CanadaUS PoliticsWorldLooking forward by looking back -- 1968, part twoIn 1968, a U.S president was forced from office, a west African country was enflamed in civil war, and a new prime minister engendered high expectations Canada. Pierre Elliott TrudeauNigerian Civil WarVietnam War
Categories: News for progressives

The Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Fri, 2018-02-02 21:09
FeminismLGBTIQPolitics in Canada

Should taxpayers fund summer jobs for youth where they will be trained to challenge and oppose the Charter rights of others? Of course not, but it's been going on under our noses for years. Anti-choice groups have been milking the Canada Summer Jobs fund to the tune of $1.7 million since 2010.

The story began in April 2017, when the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) reported that many anti-choice groups had been getting Canada Summer Jobs funding for years -- primarily "crisis pregnancy centres" that dissuade women from abortion, but also some political groups, including Campaign Life Coalition, LifeSiteNews, and Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR). The latter group is infamous for its public display of gory signs showing alleged aborted fetuses and delivering similar graphic flyers to residences.

Last year, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills) approved a $56,695 summer jobs grant to the CCBR, which it used to train interns on how to shock and offend Canadians with its extreme anti-choice propaganda. (MPs set local priorities and allocate Canada Summer Jobs funding to groups in their ridings, while the federal government approves or rejects the applications based on various other criteria.)

New attestation requirement

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Employment Minister Patty Hajdu acted quickly, announcing that Liberal ridings would no longer award Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) funding to anti-choice groups, and that the government would look at ways to permanently change the program to prevent any MP from allocating public funds to anti-choice groups. In December, an attestation requirement was announced, asking applicants to tick a box to be eligible for funding.

Groups must attest that their "core mandate" and the job itself will respect human rights for the purposes of the summer job program, including "the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights," which include reproductive rights, LGBTQ2 rights, and equality rights generally.

It's a reasonable and constitutionally defensible requirement, especially since Canada Summer Jobs grants are discretionary, not an entitlement program, and the government is free to apply criteria in the same way they do for other granting programs (such as by Status of Women Canada). The attestation enjoys broad support from progressive society, including Egale Canada, which advocates for the rights of sexual minorities. Egale and 90 other civil society groups (so far) have signed an open letter to federal party leaders supporting the changes.

But much confusion arose, particularly among religious groups and churches -- who it turns out also get a ton of funding from the Canada Summer Jobs program. They mistakenly believed they were required to support and agree with reproductive rights and LGBTQ2 rights before they could receive funding. That's not what the attestation requirement means, but because the wording was ambiguous, Minister Hajdu clarified it on January 23, explaining that eligibility depended on a group's activities, not beliefs.

A key point, according to ARCC's previously published interpretation of the attestation requirement, is that to "respect" Charter rights means that employers agree to not use Summer Jobs funding for activities that will actively undermine or oppose any of the listed rights they may disagree with. Further, "core mandate" means the group's primary activity, not belief or value. This makes most anti-abortion groups ineligible, but not churches or religious groups with a more general mandate, even if they are against abortion.

As Daphne Gilbert, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, explains:

"All the attestation demands is that the applicants not hire students for the summer whose only function will be to work on projects that actively oppose or undermine Charter rights. A faith-based institution that wants to hire students to run faith-based summer day camps or to coordinate programming for a faith-based sponsored refugee family are able to apply for the grants.

"The CSJ grants are not open to organizations whose sole core mission is the defeat of equality rights earned by women, LGBTQ people, or the rights being actively sought now by transgender or gender-questioning Canadians. This is not discrimination on the basis of either religion or expression, for they are still allowed to carry out that anti-equality work. It should shock Canadians that they expect the government or taxpayers to fund it."

But to anti-choice groups, it was as if Canada had suddenly become a fascist country. They were livid that they had lost their "right" to government grants. Accusations thrown around included: "thought/belief control," "ideological coercion," "tyrannical," "loyalty oath," "ideological purity test," "witch hunt," "freedom under threat," "communistic" -- and last but not least: "totalitarianism."

Religious groups also hijacked the issue to complain that their freedom of expression was being violated. Such claims continued even after Minister Hajdu's clarification that the attestation only applies to a group's activities and not beliefs.

If some groups still don't feel comfortable with the attestation after the Minister's clarification, that probably means they shouldn't apply for funding. That doesn't make them victims or martyrs, as some groups have tried to paint themselves. Because what they really want is the "right" to use taxpayer money to discriminate against others under the mantle of "freedom of expression." How ironic to claim that your Charter rights are being violated just by being asked to respect the Charter rights of others.

But that's the basis of a new lawsuit against the federal government by the anti-choice Toronto Right to Life Association. The suit's prospects look dim now that the group has lost its bid for an immediate injunction to stop the attestation requirement. The judge said the group had no evidence it would be harmed by it.

It's not just religious and anti-choice groups fighting back against the attestation requirement. Outraged hyperbole abounded in the mainstream press, almost all of it from male commentators who were silent when former prime minister Stephen Harper cut funding to women's groups.

Debunking claims

Let's refute the main misunderstandings. First, organizations are not being discriminated against. Every potential grantee is being treated equally by being asked to sign the attestation. Also, it's far from certain that groups even have Charter rights -- but if they do, the attestation respects them.

No one's freedom of speech is being violated -- they can say what they want in most contexts, but this doesn't mean they're entitled to taxpayer money to do so. Also, no one is being compelled to sign the attestation, since they don't have to apply for the funding. Lawyer Karen Busby explains:

"As the new eligibility criteria for the Canada Summer Jobs program neither compels nor impedes expression or religious practices, a Charter challenge is bound to fail. The jurisprudence is also clear that the Charter does not require governments to support expressive or religious rights. Governments can, unbound by the Charter, choose the advocacy projects it wishes to support."

Finally, abortion is a Charter right, contrary to the claims of many. The 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision found that the law restricting access to abortion violated women's right to security of the person. Subsequent court decisions have solidified the Charter-based right to abortion, including on the basis of gender equality rights, and rights to life, liberty, and privacy. Therefore, access to abortion is a de facto Charter right because you cannot restrict it without violating Charter rights.

Obviously, the word abortion does not need to actually appear in the Charter itself -- rights are stated broadly and it's the task of judges to interpret whether a specific issue involves a Charter right. Court decisions have often expanded Charter rights, and this associated case law essentially becomes part of Charter law.

All subsequent provincial and federal court cases related to abortion have upheld women's rights and denied fetal rights on the basis that this would infringe women's established Charter rights. The evolution of Charter and abortion-rights jurisprudence means that women and transgender people now have a Charter right to abortion -- a right that is significantly more secure today than it was in 1988.

The last word goes to Sydney King, who writes that the Canada Summer Jobs issue:

"[c]uts to the heart of a much larger debate surrounding reproductive and LGBTQ rights in Canada. For decades, one's right to a safe and legal abortion has been restricted to the sphere of women's rights, separate from broader notions of human rights. The same applies to LGBTQ rights. It was easy in the past for socially conservative groups to exercise their right to free speech, while simultaneously discriminating against LGBTQ people or campaigning against reproductive rights. But, by encompassing women and the LGBTQ community—and their distinctive rights—into the concept of human rights, Trudeau reshapes the conversation."

Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of Canada's national pro-choice group, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services.

Photo: VAC | ACC/flickr

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abortion rightsreproductive rightsCanada Summer Jobs ProgramCharter RightsJoyce ArthurFebruary 2, 2018How to interpret the new attestation requirement for the Canada Summer Jobs programWhat are the changes recently announced by the Liberal government to crack down on anti-abortion groups' use of the Canada Summer Jobs program to get thousands of dollars in public funds?The Holocaust has nothing to do with abortionA video that compares abortion to the Holocaust was shown in March at a Catholic high school in Red Deer, Alberta. Yes, that's right -- women who have abortions are equivalent to genocidal Nazis.Christian doctors angry they can no longer abandon their patients A Christian doctors' group is throwing a tantrum over a new requirement that Ontario physicians must refer patients appropriately when they refuse to provide a health-care service.
Categories: News for progressives

Canada Revenue needs to tackle tax evasion

Fri, 2018-02-02 16:35
February 2, 2018Politics in CanadaCanadian governments' revenue would soar by billions if tax evasions were stopped The magnitude of this massive avoidance (if not evasion) of taxes in Canada is not yet known by most Canadians. It comes to at least $10 billion per year lost in tax revenue.tax
Categories: News for progressives

Can deregulation, privatization and subsidies revive Canada's nuclear industry?

Fri, 2018-02-02 00:29
EnvironmentPolitics in Canada

Corporate dominance of public institutions and the public purse was on full display during a licence hearing for the federal government's nuclear research and waste facilities at Chalk River, Ontario, on January 23-25. The hearing was largely a love-in between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) -- the federal regulator -- and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), owned by a consortium of U.S., U.K. and Canadian companies.

Non-industry intervenors, who were in the majority at the hearing, were highly critical of CNSC's intent to award CNL a watered-down 10-year licence for the Chalk River site. But CNSC President Michael Binder kept them on a short leash, occasionally lashing out and asking why they had bothered to attend. 

CNSC wants to replace the current 285-page Chalk River Laboratories licence handbook (which contains detailed criteria for safe site operations) with a much shorter 61-page handbook that merely lists nuclear industry-prepared standards, CNSC guidance documents, and internal CNL documents not available to the public.  

Canadian Environmental Law Association lawyer Joseph Castrilli warned that watering down the licence and its accompanying handbook would make them unenforceable. CNSC defended its deregulation initiative using terms such as "standardization," "licence improvements" and "removal of repetition." 

Long-time Renfrew County resident Jean Brereton was prevented from showing a 36-metre-long scroll of licence and handbook deletions during her presentation. She remarked, "President Binder acted like a defence lawyer trying to destroy the credibility of a hostile witness."

The Chalk River site is on unceded Algonquin territory. The Algonquins of Ontario, in their intervention, said that they were never consulted about, or compensated for, the loss of their land. They strongly objected to CNSC's contention that it has no "duty to consult" on the new 10-year licence for CNL. Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation forcefully opposed the licensing of nuclear waste transport through Anishinabek Territory and storage of nuclear waste near water bodies such as the Ottawa River. Several Indigenous intervenors offered prayers in the Algonquin language.

Privatizing nuclear energy management

The U.S., U.K. and Canada created the Chalk River facility during the Second World War  to learn how to make plutonium for atomic bombs. For decades Chalk River was a publicly run facility of the Crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). Just before the fall 2015 federal election, the Harper government shrank AECL to 40 staff, handing CNL and its  approximately 2,800 employees over to a multinational consortium, led by U.S.-based company CH2M

Although the consortium calls itself the "Canadian National Energy Alliance," four of its five members are foreign-owned. One intervenor noted that lead consortium member CH2M had criminally conspired to defraud the U.S. government at the Hanford Nuclear Site, and the Canadian member, SNC-Lavalin, was debarred by the World Bank for 10 years in April 2013 following an investigation into bribery schemes in Bangladesh. In September 2018, SNC Lavalin will face federal corruption and fraud charges related to its activities in Libya. The intervenor asked if companies might be ineligible for contracts under the federal Integrity Regime.

Under contract to AECL, the consortium operates all of the federal government's nuclear sites. However, the lands, buildings and $8 billion worth of environmental liabilities at these sites are still "owned" by AECL, and the federal government remains responsible for them.

In June 2017 the Auditor General reported that the government paid out $969 million to AECL in the 2016-17 fiscal year. In turn, AECL gave "approximately $866 million for contractual expenses" to the consortium. The Auditor General identified four areas of "weakness" in AECL's corporate governance, including that its corporate plan "did not demonstrate how the Corporation would measure the overall objectives of restructuring, which were to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, and to contain and reduce costs and risks for Canadians over time."

In 2016-17, $530 million of AECL's federal budget appropriation was earmarked for addressing environmental liabilities. These liabilities include shut-down reactors, leaking nuclear waste storage facilities, and over 100 radioactive buildings, most dating back to the Cold War era. CNL's controversial plan to reduce these liabilities is to permanently dispose of them in a giant mound one kilometre from the Ottawa River. CNL is also shipping radioactive waste from the Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba to Chalk River for disposal.

Concerns about proposals for Chalk River

Before the hearing CNSC told hearing participants that it would not accept any submissions related to CNL's proposed giant waste mound. CNSC also said that CNL's plan to construct and test experimental "small modular reactors" would be "out of scope" of the licence consideration. Intervenors spoke against these two proposals anyway, arguing that the mound was intended to free up space for new reactors, and that both proposals should be rejected owing to unacceptable risks to health, safety and the environment.

Intervenors also criticized the proposed 10-year licence term. The longest previous licence for Chalk River had a five-year term. CNL defended a 10-year licence as being good for business. CNL and AECL annually update a 10-year plan that is tabled in Cabinet by the Minister of Natural Resources as a basis for AECL's budget appropriations. 

A June 2017 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources, The Nuclear Sector at a Crossroads, noted that the federal government committed in 2014-15 to a 10-year, $1.2-billion investment in "revitalization" of the Chalk River site. The Committee, chaired by Liberal MP James Maloney, called for continuing nuclear subsidies and recommended that the federal government "support the development of small modular reactors." In October 2017 the Trudeau government agreed with all of the recommendations in the report.

In his appended minority opinion, the lone NDP Committee member, MP Richard Cannings  noted the absence of information in the report "about the balance between investment in new nuclear technologies and clean, renewable technologies such as solar." He added, "the current government promised to clean up government, make it more transparent and open, and to bring 'sunny ways' to our country. Unfortunately, recent controversy with the leadership of the CNSC is casting a cloud that is contrary to the government's commitments. The Minister must stop avoiding his responsibilities and address the issues affecting public trust in Canada's nuclear regulator."

Given the Trudeau government's support for continued nuclear subsidies, and the CNSC's dismissive attitude towards public intervenors, CNL will get its stripped-down licence, probably for a 10-year term. It remains to be seen whether the Liberals will pay a price for putting the wishes of the powerful nuclear lobby and multinational corporations ahead of public interests. The risks are significant, given the large sums of public funding involved and the potential consequences of a nuclear accident.

Ole Hendrickson is a retired forest ecologist and a founding member of the Ottawa River Institute, a non-profit charitable organization based in the Ottawa Valley. A version of this article was first posted on Sierra Club Canada's blog.

Photo: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories/flickr

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Nuclear industrychalk riverNUCLEAR SAFETYCanadian Nuclear Safety CommissionCanadian Nuclear LaboratoriesOle HendricksonFebruary 1, 2018Massive nuclear waste dump could be coming to Chalk RiverA multinational consortium plans to permanently abandon one million cubic metres of radioactive waste in a giant mound next to the Ottawa River.Renewables and nuclear power: Report from the World Uranium SymposiumAt the World Uranium Symposium, speakers delved deeply into the links between nuclear power, nuclear weapons, climate change and renewable energy. What does it mean for sustainable energy development?See you at the ribbon cutting? Federal panel approves nuclear dump on Lake Huron A federal environmental assessment panel has just released its report approving a proposal to bury nuclear waste on the shores of Lake Huron, next to the world's largest inland water ecosystem.
Categories: News for progressives

The Rojava revolution

Thu, 2018-02-01 15:58
February 1, 2018US PoliticsWorldThe Kurds, crags and kalashnikovs A look at the egalitarian and ecofeminist Rojava revolution in the Kurdish north of Syria.KurdsKurdish SyriaSyriaISIS
Categories: News for progressives

New study details failure of Oilsands Big Five to control emissions

Thu, 2018-02-01 13:52
David J. Climenhaga

Almost completely forgotten amid the brouhaha yesterday about Alberta's response to the B.C. government's plan to restrict the flow of diluted bitumen through its territory was the new report from the Parkland Institute that shows none of Canada's Big Five tarsands producers have even set targets to bring their emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement that Canada's federal government has signed on to.

Well, timing is everything in news, and there was no way the researchers at the University of Alberta-based research institute could have known a sensational internecine Pipeline War was going to break out yesterday along the Rocky Mountain Cordillera between the social democratic governments B.C. and Alberta. Parkland and the Corporate Mapping Project went ahead anyway and released What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta's Oil Sands Majors with its dire analysis of "the social cost of carbon."

The report's conclusion that the five giant oilsands companies are causing as much as $2 trillion in pollution is probably more significant for Alberta in the long run than the political posturing yesterday by the NDP governments of B.C. Premier John Horgan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

The report by researchers Ian Hussey and David W. Janzen argued this means the Big Five -- CNRL, Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil, and Husky Energy -- are significantly overvalued because of their "carbon liabilities," which the researchers defined as "an estimate of the social and environmental costs of carbon emissions embedded in fossil fuel reserves."

"Even under the most conservative carbon cost scenario used in the report, the carbon liabilities contained in the reserves of the Big Five outweigh the total value of the corporations themselves, and taken together are greater than the GDP of Alberta," said Hussey, the report's lead author.

"The enormous cost associated with these reserves being combusted underscores the simple reality that business as usual is not an option for these companies," he added. "Unfortunately, we're not seeing that reality reflected in their actions to date."

It needs to be noted that the problem of the social cost of carbon that is eventually going to have to be paid by someone is not exactly news to either environmentalists or the oil industry. But trying to put a number to it -- even if it's one that's too big for normal mortals to grasp -- is important work.

All of the Big Five except Imperial Oil have acknowledged the Paris Agreement, Hussey noted. But not one has set targets or implemented material action in line with emissions reductions required to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. "On the contrary, all five corporations project increases in their total emissions for years to come."

Hussey argued that "if all of the Big Five's reserves are ultimately burned, the billions of dollars in carbon liabilities will be paid by the public and governments through the cost of dealing with extreme weather events, climate change mitigation, and health impacts."

He concluded: "If some of these costs are instead reflected accurately in the bottom lines of these corporations, we'll start to see the kind of responses from the Big Five -- which has to include leaving some of their reserves in the ground -- that the reality of climate change demands."

Right now -- in Alberta generally and in oil industry circles -- the idea of leaving reserves in the ground is viewed as pure insanity. Mark my words, though, smart legal strategists in Canada and the United States are hard at work developing ways to hold fossil fuel companies liable for the costs of the environmental damage they are imposing on communities and countries around the world.

As the report says, "most of the profits accrued by the Big Five and their shareholders, who are mostly not Canadians (as of July 2017), are 'paid' by the public and the environment through coastal damage, extreme weather events, decreased food production, and negative health effects."

Shareholders and some governments may view this as crazy talk right now -- just as Big Tobacco once did -- but this message is bound to be brought home eventually to large fossil fuel companies that profit to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars while lobbying to slow down responses to climate change, to which they are contributing.

And work like that done in yesterday's Parkland report helps frame the social costs of carbon in terms that are meaningful to ordinary Canadians -- including pipeline advocates from Alberta and pipeline enemies in B.C. alike, presumably.

I don't know if it worries other Albertans that the report's lowest estimate of the five companies' total carbon liabilities, calculated at $50 per tonne, is $320 billion, higher than Alberta's total gross domestic product of $309 billion, but, by God, it should. The high estimate of nearly $2 trillion was reached by calculating the liabilities at $200 per tonne.

What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta's Oil Sands Majors calls on fossil fuel corporation shareholders and governments to demand increased transparency from the Big Five. This should start with public disclosure of how they model their emissions and creation and disclosure of robust and science-based emissions-reductions targets that in line with Canada's international commitments, it says.

For the time being, presumably, the inclination of the industry will be to put beans in its ears and continue to call for growth -- abetted by the Alberta government's friendly emissions cap, which allows dramatic industry growth between now and 2030 despite the fact that would make it impossible for Canada to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

The Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C. and Saskatchewan Offices and the Parkland Institute. It is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: kris krüg/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Lower cell phone bills are about more than affordability. They help to bridge the digital divide.

Thu, 2018-02-01 04:40

In December Canadians had a glimpse into what affordable cell phone packages could look like. The Big Three -- Bell, Telus, Rogers -- released a limited-time deal that offered people 10GB of data and unlimited talk and text for $60 a month. If anything, this "too good to be true" package demonstrated that Big Telecom can afford to charge a lot less for their services than they currently do.

But this is not just about having a cheaper cell phone bill at the end of the month. Lower pricing for cell service is one of the stepping-stones for bridging the digital divide that puts many at a disadvantage. In Canada we pay some of the highest prices for cell phone services in the industrialized world. This makes it a lot harder for low-income Canadians to access the internet and the array of socio-economic benefits it affords.

Try working, applying for jobs, accessing government services in a timely manner, looking up directions or basic information, accessing emergency services in remote areas, or coordinating your life in today's world without a cell phone or internet access -- and we're not just talking coordinating tea with your friends; we are talking coordinating who will pick up your kids from school if you are suddenly called into work or if a snowstorm hits. Without affordable access to telecom services, the barrier of difficulty for all these essential activities increases exponentially.

With the average 2GB cell plan cost in B.C. (about $85) being the equivalent to about a day's work at minimum wage ($11.35/hour) -- not counting overage fees and the cost of other services like call display or voicemail -- the sky-high prices for cell phone and internet services that Big Telecom offer are unacceptable if we are truly committed to ensure no one in Canada is left behind. The scenario looks a lot more grim if we take into account that most family households have more than one mobile phone.

What to do? At OpenMedia we are running two campaigns that tackle this issue head on. The first one concerns internet infrastructure as a whole: our campaign for a National Broadband Strategy urges Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to "implement a properly funded national broadband strategy that includes lowering costs and increasing choice by structurally separating our networks from Big Telecom's grip." The second campaign tackles cell phone prices directly: we ask Big Telecom to make their December offer permanent, not just a weekend extravaganza.

Speaking up en masse is incredibly powerful -- at the end of 2016 the government declared internet to be a basic service, largely due to nearly 50,000 Canadians who raised their voices. There's no doubt that together, we can help lower the economic barrier of access to telecom services and continue to work on making the digital divide a thing of the past.

For the latest updates visit openmedia.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter @OpenMediaOrg.

Marianela Ramos Capelo is a graphic designer and part of the communications team at OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free.

Photo: MadFishDigital/flickr

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Digital Freedom Updatedigital divideCELL PHONESinternet accessbig telecomMarianela Ramos CapeloDigital Freedom UpdateFebruary 1, 2018New Year, New Fight: 2017 in review and the battle ahead for digital rights2017 was a rollercoaster for internet advocates worldwide, filled with both exciting, hard-won victories and devastating decisions that will have ramifications as we come into the new year.Could Canadians finally get relief from high wireless prices?Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains recently ordered a new shift in policy direction, which could mean more competitive telecommunications pricing in Canada. Nearly half of Canada's lowest-income earners don't have broadband accessACORN Canada members are calling on the federal government and the CRTC to ensure home broadband prices are affordable for low-income families.
Categories: News for progressives

What would you ask the parliamentary committee reviewing Bill C-59?

Thu, 2018-02-01 02:50
Marie Aspiazu

The fight against the Harper-era, reckless Bill C-51 has been a longstanding one for Canadians since its introduction in 2015. After the Liberals finally introduced the overdue reforms last year, we are now at a point where these proposals, set out in the National Security Act 2017 or Bill C-59, are under review by parliamentary committee.

Bill C-59 brings some improvements to the table -- like a new pan-government review body for Canada's spy agencies and a narrower definition of "terrorist propaganda," so that the term no longer includes activities like peaceful protest and artistic expression.

However, C-59 still has many worrying gaps that keep it far from being the repeal of C-51 that thousands of Canadians called for. For instance, the legislation falls short of addressing concerns associated with information sharing and police powers for CSIS. It also makes no mention of measures to protect citizens from mass surveillance devices like Stingrays or measures to safeguard our right to encryption, which plays a key role in our digital and economic security.

What's worse, is that rather than trying to rein in our spy agency's already sweeping powers -- C-59 wants to grant CSE with even more powers to exploit hacking vulnerabilities, produce and spread misinformation, impersonate people online, and use malware and other hacking tools to mount attacks.

If you are thinking about things like the WannaCry ransomware that infected millions of computers (and that came from a leak of hacking tools gathered by the NSA), bringing down the U.K.'s National Health Service, or the Russian propaganda that influenced the U.S. elections -- this is precisely the kind of stuff we are looking at if these new powers are granted to CSE through C-59. Scary, right?

Luckily, we've still got time to stop this nightmare scenario from becoming reality. The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) is currently reviewing this bill and your OpenMedia team will be presenting as witnesses on February 8.

So we want to hear from you -- what would you ask or raise with the SECU committee to help fix the troubling concerns with C-59?

Drop us a comment below, post on Twitter using #TellSECU or email us at contact@openmedia.org with the subject line: Tell SECU

This is our best chance to fix this bill before it's too late and give Canadians better privacy protections -- not just a half-baked measure that the government can use to pat themselves on the back and say they "did something."

Enough is enough -- we can't let these out-of-control new spying powers we've never even been consulted on become law. Make sure to sign our petition at: https://act.openmedia.org/StopSpyPowers

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Categories: News for progressives

The revolutionary year of 1968

Wed, 2018-01-31 15:26
January 31, 2018Political ActionUS PoliticsWorldLooking forward by looking back -- 1968, a year of uprisings, part oneThere were assassinations, massacres, protests and a near-revolution in France -- 1968 was a year of drama and crisis. We still live with the consequences.Paris 19681968Hubert HumphreyQuebec
Categories: News for progressives

The bitumen hits the fan in Alberta and Ottawa as B.C. moves to restrict pipeline and rail flow

Wed, 2018-01-31 14:02
David J. Climenhaga

I'm not going to try to go all legal scholarly on you, dear readers, but I'll tell you one thing about the B.C. government's announcement yesterday on how it would control how much bitumen can flow down the pipelines and rail lines through the province and Alberta's response to it: It's about 90 per cent politics and 10 per cent law.

That is to say, I don't think British Columbia's NDP-Green coalition government has much hope in the long run of succeeding with a legal defence of its plan to implement oil transportation restrictions on increases in the amount of diluted bitumen that can be shipped by rail or pipeline, despite the sincere hopes of many people on the West Coast.

After all, we're talking about interprovincial trade, international trade, water and oceans, all of which are federal responsibilities under Canada's Constitution, as well as a resource that comes from Alberta, over which it would be hard for British Columbia to assert a legal argument for control. So from that perspective, the B.C. government's chances of success in court seem small.

In other words, Alberta's NDP premier was likely right when she responded to the plan announced by B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman yesterday by asserting it is ultra vires and therefore unconstitutional.

Rachel Notley was also certainly correct when she said in an official statement, "therefore, the action announced today by the B.C. government can only be seen for what it is: political game-playing."

But when she accused the B.C. government of "grasping at straws," she may have been ignoring the point of the British Columbians' strategy. Ms. Notley is no dummy, of course. She understands what Mr. Heyman was up to, and why. So her omission was intentional.

That's the point, though, isn't it? Politics matter. And politics matter because they get results, sometimes when the law says otherwise.

And this is a complex political fight that, while it appears to pit two NDP governments ironically against one another, actually involves a lot more players -- including the Liberal federal government, right-wing opposition parties in Ottawa, Victoria and Edmonton, large blocks of voters determined to block pipelines or push them through no matter what the costs to the country depending upon where they live, and a powerful industry that may be in a far more precarious financial position than many of us imagine.

The NDP governments in Victoria and Edmonton would both like to stay in power. They have electorates who essentially take opposite views of the question at issue. They have legislative oppositions that want to exploit their differences without tripping over the same hazards.

The B.C. Government of Premier John Horgan in particular, having just backed away from cancelling the Site C hydroelectric project on the Peace River, needs desperately to shore up its environmental credibility with voters on the Coast who feel betrayed by that decision. If they don't succeed, their precarious government's Green partners could pull the plug on their governing agreement.

And pipelines look like the B.C. Greens' hill to die on -- or perhaps the one on which they can cobble together a historic victory.

Meanwhile, if the oil industry, as some environmentalists and business analysts think, is shakier than we've been led to believe, it may not take much to make pipeline investors run away from a project like Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion project, which is extremely unpopular in the Vancouver area and is the proximate cause of Mr. Heyman's announcement yesterday.

So that's an incentive for the B.C. government to stall -- even if they know their legal case is a long-shot -- and for protesters to fight as hard as possible as long as possible.

Then there are the federal Liberals, who have 17 seats in British Columbia, more than any other party and with most of them in the Vancouver area, but only four, at least two of which are now very shaky for other reasons, in Alberta. Their electoral arithmetic is an incentive to take B.C.'s side in this fight.

They also know that Canada was turned into not much more than a big petro-state under the decade Conservative Stephen Harper was prime minister, and the national economic impact of not risking their B.C. seats, as Ms. Notley said, "could have serious consequences for the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Canadians." So that's an incentive to take Alberta's side.

What will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau do? His government will probably continue to try as long as possible, as we used to say in the days when there were still payphones on street corners, to put off having to either make a call or get out of the booth.

All three governments know there are Opposition parties salivating at their prospects -- the ones in Edmonton and Ottawa both convinced that while the tough-guy approach they advocate may not actually work, it will play well with voters. They may be right about that.

How will it end? Without a strong political strategy, British Columbia's government could still win this fight despite the weakness of its constitutional case. Or Ms. Notley could turn out to be tougher on this file than anyone anticipates. Or Mr. Trudeau could turn out to be decisive and say, "Just watch me!"

Whatever happens, expect fireworks.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: BC Gov Photos/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

They way forward for unions is together

Tue, 2018-01-30 15:52
January 30, 2018LabourAn open letter to our movement The president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council wants union leaders to work for a solution to avoid damage to the movementcanadian labour congresssolidarityUnifor
Categories: News for progressives

Public opinion research standards body to announce details of inquiry into Calgary election poll results

Tue, 2018-01-30 14:36
David J. Climenhaga

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association will announce this week the details of its promised independent inquiry into the problems with polling results in the Oct. 16, 2017, municipal elections in Calgary.

"We are going ahead with the review," Kara Mitchelmore, chief executive officer of the national standards body for public opinion research, said late last week. "We are in the process of finalizing the review panel's membership, mandate and scope of work."

On Oct. 27, MRIA issued a press release saying it would launch the inquiry "into underperforming and conflicting election polling results published during the recent municipal elections in Calgary."

"We call on the pollsters involved to submit their data and methods," MRIA said -- an important request since Mainstreet Research, the polling company responsible for polls commissioned by Postmedia's Calgary newspapers that predicted Conservative candidate Bill Smith would win by big margins over incumbent Mayor Naheed Nenshi, is not a MRIA member.

On Oct. 7, Mainstreet said Smith had a massive 17-percentage-point lead.

On Oct. 13, another Mainstreet poll said Smith was still leading the progressively minded Nenshi by 13 percentage points.

On election day, of course, Nenshi won with a lead of eight percentage points.

Mainstreet President Quito Maggi immediately took to social media to describe his "utter shock and embarrassment" as the results came in, and to admit the company's results were "completely and totally wrong."

Mitchelmore confirmed last week the MRIA panel "will look at all research companies that publicly released polls over the course of the Calgary elections."

And Maggi said he and his company "intend to co-operate with and participate in the MRIA review."

However, Maggi called on MRIA to request data from all polls done during the campaign, not just those that were publicly released.

"Claims are being made online, as recently as yesterday, that there were accurate polls available to some," Maggi said in an email. "Surely, at this point months after the campaign it would serve everyone's interests, including the MRIA, to look at all polls and determine what frame design, methodologies or scripting worked to accurately capture voter intentions in Calgary. The MRIA's mandate is to serve the best interests of public opinion research and as such it should not limit the review to just publicly released research."

This, of course, may be easier to call for than to be made to happen since the nature of private research is that it's private.

In his email, Maggi also said that "contrary to what MRIA has publicly stated, they have not directly or indirectly communicated with us to date about their review, and noted that his company "is a member of the World Association of Public Opinion Research and follows standards that meet or exceed Canadian standards."

Reaction to the Mainstreet polls was highly critical, before Oct. 16 and after.

"We have great confidence in our internal numbers," said Chima Nkemdirim, chair of Nenshi's reelection campaign, immediately after the Oct. 7 poll was released. "We'll leave it up to the media to question the validity of the polls. We strongly believe that Calgarians will vote to move forward ... not backward."

Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt was very sharp in his criticisms of Mainstreet -- prompting what sounded very much like a threat of a lawsuit from another company official. However, Maggi later apologized to Bratt.

In its Oct. 19 report, the CBC said there had been "allegations that Mainstreet co-ordinated with its media partner, Postmedia, to influence the campaign" in favour of Smith, a former president of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

Maggi responded to the CBC: "It was suggested that we coordinated polling with the Bill Smith campaign, conducted push polling, and/or worked for the Calgary Flames organization. None of that could be further from the truth."

MRIA said in its October news release that its main concern is the results of various polls had "shaken confidence in our industry."

"It is the reality of our industry that bad election polls or the undisciplined conduct of pollsters can tarnish the industry's credibility and call into question the reliability of all survey research," the news release said.

Last week, a Mainstreet poll of Alberta voters' intentions was reported to indicate Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party has a huge lead over Premier Rachel Notley's NDP. "They also lead among every single demographic that's out there," Mainstreet Vice-President Joseph Angolano told media.

That poll also showed very strong results for both the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals, plus a high percentage of decided voters, which, if true, would signal additional difficulties for the NDP.

However, while other recent private polling has shown similar levels of support for the two major parties province-wide, it indicates far higher levels of undecided voters, continued strong support for the NDP among young voters, women and in Edmonton, and the Liberals and Alberta Party barely on the radar.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: David Climenhaga

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Categories: News for progressives

Market-fundamentalist newspaper owners primed for infusion of taxpayer cash

Tue, 2018-01-30 14:23
David J. Climenhaga

Put the Dom Perignon in the chiller!

The Trudeau government is on the verge of opening the spigots to pour public cash into our country's flagging, mismanaged newspaper industry.

This will be done in the name of serving democracy and helping out the brainiacs who drove the once flourishing industry into the ditch cope with the travails of a couple of decades of digitization.

It will do nothing for democracy, of course. There's never been much that's very democratic about the Canadian newspaper industry, notwithstanding a lot of self-serving propaganda to the contrary.

As for the digital age, as has been said here before, nobody had more warning of the extent and nature of the coming digital revolution than the Canadian newspaper industry, and it turned the wrong direction at every step along the way to its current disastrous destination.

I just hate to find myself on the same side of any issue as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, but if there was ever a time for it, this is it!

Obviously, there are appropriate ways for governments to deal with epochal disruptive technological change such as that wrought by the digital revolution. They don't involve handing over big tax-supported subsidies to obsolete industries run badly by, irony of ironies, market fundamentalist ideologues!

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a Quebec newspaper last week he was, in the CBC's words, "preoccupied" with the "financial crisis" facing Canada's incompetently run, consistently far-right mainstream media.

As a veteran of 30 years or so in the activity known as print journalism, I can't think of a worse use for our tax dollars than subsidizing an industry that has proven time and again it doesn't have a clue in a carload about how to deal with the challenges it faces.

Newspaper publishers across Canada have been engaged in a furious lobby for months to get tax-funded respite from the consequences of their own incompetence, and incompetence it is. Now it appears they have succeeded.

Newspaper owners will doubtless promise to deliver just a little bit more than their current formula of crime, crime and more crime, plus anti-NDP propaganda provided free by the shills at the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and my new pals at the CTF, but don't count on it ever actually happening.

At this juncture, we need to remind ourselves of the wise words of Shannon Rupp, writing in 2016 in The Tyee and quoted in this space before: "I don't believe there's anything worth 'saving' in for-profit publications that run bloggers-cum-floggers, plagiarists or shills for advertisers. Or the ones that do things like un-publishing journalism that offends advertisers. Or who run free articles by self-promoters. Or that promote health-threatening products -- homeopathy, for example -- because an advertiser buys editorial."

You can count on it that if newspaper owners get their hooks into this dough nothing much will change about the incompetent way they do business, except that if it ever runs out they'll ask for an extension. Postmedia will go on mismanaging its newspaper empire, paying its top executives huge bonuses and shipping cash south of the border. They'll never give up the appalling human resources practices that have bedevilled their newspapers since the Southam Family sold them off.

Likewise, don't imagine for a moment this will extend the lives of community papers in rural Alberta or similar venues. Nor will it motivate Ottawa to impose the sensible concentration-of-ownership and Canadian-ownership rules that could have saved the industry.

Never mind the rosy tales of Journalism's Role In Democracy you've been reading about online lately, often penned by former mainstream reporters who ought to know better. Nothing much except staff cuts has happened since the days in 1988 when I toiled on The Globe and Mail's copy desk, willfully defying the orders of a senior editor that we all write the pro-free-trade, pro-Brian-Mulroney headline on any story to mention the topic, no matter what it said.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her NDP government -- principal victims of Postmedia's unrelenting campaign of vilification against progressive policies and politicians -- really should pick up the phone and call Trudeau and remind him about this.

Last week, a spokesperson for Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said government funding for publications needs to be updated for the digital age.

What do you want to bet this doesn't mean any help for wee entrepreneurial bloggers and the like who have actually made a success of digitization?

It does raise an interesting question about my former employer, Canada's former national newspaper, which has been hiding more and more of its largely redundant and derivative stenography behind an impenetrable paywall.

If we taxpayers are paying the Globe's tab, will we still have to pay extra to peek behind the green curtain? (Answer: Undoubtedly yes.)

Jason Kenney sworn in, Rob Ford eyes run for two jobs at once; chutzpah defined

In other political news yesterday, Jason Kenney, principal beneficiary of Postmedia's unrelenting anti-NDP campaigning and hero of the Western Canadian branch of the right-wing rage machine, was sworn in as the Honourable Member for Calgary-Lougheed at the Alberta Legislature.

At a speech to supporters soon thereafter, the United Conservative Party leader drew on his vast reserve of chutzpah to attack the deferential and occasionally timorous NDP Government of Premier Rachel Notley for its supposed "anger machine." He promised a new era of "civility and respect for our democratic institution -- including our opponents."

Your blogger wasn't there, seeing as he was wearing blue jeans yesterday, and neither was former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, the only missing UCP MLA. Kenney's mom and Bernard the Roughneck, however, were.

Speaking of this same quality of sheer effrontery and impudence, in Ontario former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford has announced he will be running for the suddenly vacant position of Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader. Ford is also running to follow in his late brother Rob's footsteps into the office of mayor of Toronto. I for one see no reason why he shouldn't occupy both much diminished offices at once!

In The Joys of Yiddish, author Leo Rosten (1908-1997) defined chutzpah as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Unai Telleria/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Vigils, rallies, film screenings across Canada will commemorate those killed a year ago in the attack on Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City

Mon, 2018-01-29 17:01
January 29, 2018Anti-RacismRest in power: commemorating Muslim lives lost last January 29#RememberJan29 was created as a forum to support people in building a web of common experience, connecting the public to the moment of the attack and to each other.quebec mosque attackracismislamophobiaislammass shooting
Categories: News for progressives

'No Foreigners' makes the Chinese mall a multimedia cultural experience

Fri, 2018-01-26 20:48
Anti-RacismArts & Culture

A mysterious door at a Chinese mall in Vancouver became the gateway into a project for Toronto playwright David Yee, whose latest production examines the racialized spaces of those malls and the Chinese diaspora.

No Foreigners is a collaboration between Vancouver interdisciplinary group Hong Kong Exile and Yee's Toronto-based company fu-GEN Theatre. No Foreigners launches in Vancouver February 7 - 17 (the Cultch) and then moves to Toronto Feb. 21 - 25 (Theatre Centre).

"We decided to investigate the Chinese mall […] these malls were created for the community, they have been a hub for the diaspora coming to Canada. It's where culture and commerce collide," Yee told rabble.ca in a Skype interview from Vancouver.

It began with Yee and the collective seeking to explore the debate around signage. In Richmond, B.C., there were protests about the number of Chinese signs popping up and pressure to impose bylaws to require English as well. A similar controversy occurred in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto, about a decade prior.

The group visited the Aberdeen Mall in Richmond to soak in the flavour of the place. They spotted store frontage, "Rome Station," with MTR insignia (which stands for "mass transit railway" and refers to Hong Kong's subway system) and luxury handbags in the display window. The sign read: "Members Only."

Yee decided he would pretend to be a rich business guy.

"I rang the bell and a woman answered. I told her I had just moved to Vancouver after getting a job in finance and I wanted to buy a bag for my girlfriend and I wanted to become a member," Yee says.  "She said, 'Sorry, no foreigners,' and closed the door!"

Yee had the start of the play, which doesn't follow a traditional narrative.

"The play starts exactly like that but our guy stays in the mall for three years and learns to be Chinese," Yee explains. "He goes to a DVD store and the girl there says, 'I will train you to be Chinese' and gives him Chinese dramas to watch and then all the way to karaoke videos. He also watches Bruce Lee movies and others, like Jet Li. Learns Kung fu and there's even a fight in the food court."

At the end, the main character goes back to the Members Only door and goes through a series of tests to prove he is Chinese. Throughout the play other characters are given the limelight. And, half the play is in Cantonese and translated into English onto screens onstage.

"We have an older Chinese couple operating an electronics store but with [more people buying through] the internet, they've seen all the stores around them close," says Yee. "They are trying to survive and it's also affecting their marriage. These stores are so interwoven into the fabric of all the relationships of the [store owners]."

There's also an elderly man by the koi pond who talks about how the fish are culled and sent to Chinese malls -- a metaphorical story. Here's a line from one of the man's musings:

"[S]ome young koi fish who do not live up to their parents' expectations and are not good enough for rich men in Kowloon are sent to shopping malls…"

Since it is an interdisciplinary performance, the play utilizes miniatures which are projected onto five screens in addition to the one main screen throughout the play. The miniatures are mostly projected as shadows.

Governor-General's Award

Yee, who is used to sitting at a computer and punching out script, says he appreciates having projects that push his artistic abilities.

Not one to shy away from challenges, Yee has been the artistic director of fu-Gen since 2010 and is currently playwright-in-residence at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. He is an accomplished actor and his plays include Lady in the Red Dress (2008), Paper Series (2011) and the Governor General's Award-winner Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave (2013), based on survivor interviews about the catastrophic 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. In October 2016, fu-GEN and Factory Theatre mounted his new play, Acquiesce.

Fu-GEN and Yee -- who is of Chinese-Scottish background and graduated from the University of Toronto's drama and theatre program in 2000 -- have come a long way.

"When we started [back in 2002] we didn't know how it would 'play' to the white and the Asian communities. We wanted to tell stories differently and not just the identity story," recalls Yee.

"In the Lady in the Red Dress, I use a lot of Yeats' poetry and people were asking ' Why Yeats?  This is a Chinese play.' But it's f**king poetry!" exclaims Yee, a lover of poetry. "People will always find something to criticize… but they also find something to love. We've created a rich, artistic community that engages with narrative and performance in a myriad of different ways, we just want to keep embracing that."

Looking at the current landscape of entertainment and media, I ask Yee if he thinks there's been a sea change in how Asians are portrayed. He shakes his head.

"The changes are subtle, not big. I see them checking some quota box but the Asian character is still always the cleaning lady, doctor or best friend," says Yee. "What I'm seeing now at least, is more Asian creators in Canada and the U.S., so writers and directors."

Although Yee won the Governor-General's Award for his play in 2015, he hasn't seen it mounted as much as the works of other GG winners and that is somewhat disturbing.

"Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave involves eight countries and people speaking different languages and I believe, it's because these companies just don't have the possibilities within their organizations to stage it," says Yee, referring to the fact many theatre companies still aren't diverse enough.

As for the future of seeing more fully realized Asian characters in the mainstream?

"I remain cautiously optimistic."

No Foreigners in Vancouver

No Foreigners in Toronto

fu-GEN Theatre Company

June Chua is a Berlin-based journalist who regularly writes about the arts for rabble.ca.

Images courtesy of "No Foreigners" by Hong Kong Exile & fu-GEN Theatre

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racialized communitiesChinese communityshopping mallsDiasporaJune ChuaJanuary 26, 2018Ramen gets dunked in decolonization in CBC animation shortInterview with "Marco's Oriental Noodles" filmmaker Howie Shia on using a story to show cultural appropriation through food.Calgary artist explores public space, cultural interactionsArtist Hye-Seung Jung's work on the dynamics of culture and public space spans Canada, Europe and Asia, bringing together cultures, ideas and urban muckraking.Canadian curator's groundbreaking slavery 'Republik Repair' festival in BerlinKarina Griffith uses film, music, theatre, panel discussions and storytelling to address the 10-point Plan for Reparatory Justice produced by CARICOM in 2014.
Categories: News for progressives

Corporate subsidies make everything else about Canada poorer

Fri, 2018-01-26 15:47
January 26, 2018Politics in CanadaHuge wasteful subsidies to corporations deplete funds for social programsIf the national income were more equitably allocated –- as it is in truly progressive countries –- much of the prevailing social distress in Canada could be alleviated.Corporate subsidiescorporate welfare
Categories: News for progressives

Albertans lose money while energy companies continue to let escaping methane make climate change worse

Fri, 2018-01-26 00:24
David J. Climenhaga

Methane released from oil and gas operations in Alberta represents lost natural gas royalties of up to $21 million a year and lost Alberta carbon tax revenues of as much as $2.3 billion yearly, according to a briefing note released yesterday by the Pembina Institute.

On their own, the foregone royalties, lost when oil and gas companies allow natural gas to escape through undetected leaks or intentional venting, would be enough to pay the annual salaries of 180 newly employed nurses, build 25 new schools, or construct 420 new playgrounds, the advocacy organization Progress Alberta said this morning.

According to the note from the Pembina Institute -- an energy issues think-tank founded in Alberta in 1985 -- recent research by Carleton University using measuring instruments on aircraft indicates that Alberta releases of methane are likely 25 to 50 per cent higher than currently reported. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas. Other studies elsewhere in the world have made similar findings.

Since the industry reported emitting approximately 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, that would mean 38 to 45 million tonnes were actually emitted by the Alberta oil and gas industry. So right off the top, the Pembina briefing note argues, "wasted methane represents lost value to oil and gas operators due to lost sales volumes of natural gas, and lost value to the government through lost royalty collection."

"Based on the Carlton University research, annual lost sales from all methane releases in the Alberta oil and gas sector are roughly between $213 million and $253 million, with lost royalty estimated at between $17 million and $21 million," the briefing note concluded.

Since Alberta's carbon levy doesn't apply to wasted natural gas under the NDP government's Climate Leadership Plan, no tax is applied to these releases. If the carbon levy were applied, they would generate up to $1.4 billion at $30 a tonne and up to $2.3 billion at $50 a tonne, Pembina's note said.

Under the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan, oil and gas companies were excused from the carbon tax because they made a commitment to curb methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025. However, according to Progress Alberta Executive Director Duncan Kinney, "as a result of industry foot dragging, those regulations are still not in place."

Reports in the business press last fall suggest this interpretation is correct. The Financial Post reported in November that negotiations among the Alberta government, industry and environmental groups broke down last summer. "Central to the dispute was industry's claim that government should not prescribe which sources of methane emissions it should be forced to measure and reduce."

According to Progress Alberta's statement this morning, "Albertans are losing money and the oil companies continue to put what is convenient to them ahead of what is good for Alberta." The group called for industry to have to pay the carbon tax on such emissions, "like every citizen in Alberta does on their home heating natural gas, gasoline or diesel."

In May last year, in an announcement of new regulations to reduce methane emissions and air pollution across Canada by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the Canadian government said "reducing methane emissions is one of the lowest-cost actions Canada can take to reduce greenhouse gases."

McKenna said Ottawa's intention was to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2025, aiming "to catch up on the action taken by such U.S. states as California, Colorado, and North Dakota."

The federal Liberal government's plan announced by McKenna allowed provinces and territories to develop their own regulations to replace the federal ones if they can achieve similar outcomes.

While natural gas is a valuable natural resource that all Albertans own, "the only time that Albertans get paid for this resource is when oil and gas companies pay royalties to the provincial government," Kinney observed.

"Without regulations, there's little incentive for companies to restrict the venting and leaking of natural gas and money that could be going to schools, playgrounds and nurses is instead just floating away into the atmosphere making climate change even worse," he concluded.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Who marched and why? The Women's March 2018

Fri, 2018-01-26 00:12
Maya Bhullar

The 2017 Women's March brought hundreds of thousands of people out into the street. When the 2018 Women's March rolled around, rabble.ca contacted organizers and friends across Canada and scoured social media to learn about their experiences. Officially, 38 communities across Canada organized marches. In reality, there were more marches, some of which were under a different banner.

Two of the important critiques of the 2017 Women's March were about inclusivity and the failure to channel the energy into local fights. The march in Vancouver made headlines when it became one of the marches boycotted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and trans activists in 2017. Many of my friends from the BLM movement, or who were working on immigrant rights, or on prison reform, were disappointed when protests organized against deportations or police violence in the following months had very few new faces.

In Vancouver, representatives of BLM Vancouver and from the trans community were part of the organizing committee and participated. This time the conflict around inclusivity arose on the other end of the country, in Halifax, where a separate "Walking the Talk" march was organized by two spirit, queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and women of colour activists who did not feel enough was done to represent intersectional feminist perspectives. Photos from Whitehorse, where it was -13 degrees C, and Sandy Cove, N.S., where more than half the town came out, made the rounds on social media around the world.  

Did the marches address the concerns of all people who identify as women? The speakers' lists, the signs many marchers carried, the Walking the Talk march, showed that the critique had raised awareness and pushed the discussion about inclusivity forward. 

The question for me will be in how many of the people who marched on January 20 will turn out when another person of colour is killed by police, another person is being deported, or when workers are standing up for their rights. That is where the change is made. If you only go to the Women's Marches each year, that is a social activity. Getting involved in community struggles is where your participation really matters. That is where intersectionalism comes in, in supporting each other's struggles.

One of the best innovations I read about was the living library. In Lethbridge, the organizers decided to help the marchers get involved in local campaigns and struggles by organizing a living library, a space where local organizers set up booths explaining their initiatives and how to get involved. 

Click here to see photos and accounts. 

Read more about the Women's March:

Image by Abdul Malik

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Categories: News for progressives



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