The Canadian Federal Election is October 21, 2019 and it stands to be an important one.

It’s important because for the first time the baby boomers are no longer the dominant voting block and younger people who’ve felt ignored or dismissed by the system can finally have their voices heard within it. It’s important because many politicians are realizing this and trying to cater to our needs, not the entitled uninformed whiny ones of our parents’ generation.

In my last article I tackled the four mainstream federal parties running in this election and how they fare on issues concerning voters under the age of 60. In this article I’ll be tackling two fringe parties on how they fare on similar criteria – specifically where they stand on climate change, LGBTQI2+ rights, and income inequality.

Once again, this is not to say that these issues do not concern older voters. It IS to say that these are the issues that younger people feel have been insufficiently addressed by mainstream politics in the past.

In cases where a party does not have a specific platform on the issue, I will elaborate in broader terms based on their track records and publications. Unlike the previous article, I’ll be going party by party instead of topic by topic.

For the purposes of this article, I am defining a fringe party as a party that either caters to a very specific, niche group of the population, or that expresses views far too extreme to fit within a mainstream party. I will elaborate further in my discussion of each political party.

Bloc Québécois

Many will argue that the Bloc Québécois is a mainstream party because they’ve actually succeeded in getting seats in the House of Commons more often than the Green Party and they once even formed the Official Opposition in Ottawa. I argue that the Bloc is a fringe party for though they claim to advocate not just for Quebeckers but for French speaking Canadians across Canada, all their MPs are from Quebec and their platform seems focused only on advancing Quebec interests in Federal Parliament.

The Bloc Québécois’ platform shows a clear understanding of what their base is – specifically older white French Islamophobic Canadians. Nearly a third of their platform is devoted on improving care for seniors, while younger voters are not mentioned at all.

On climate change their plan includes:

• Imposing a carbon tax on provinces with higher greenhouse gas emissions than the national average – up for revision every four years
• Funneling the proceeds of such a tax into provinces with lower emissions in order to facilitate green innovation
• Introduce a law that gives Quebec a right to consent or refuse federal construction projects involving land allocation and environmental protection
• Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies

On LGBTQI2+ rights, the Bloc does not have a specific policy, so I am evaluating them on how they address the broader issue of hate. Bloc Quebecois signs promoting a xenophobic form of state secularism have been found in Montreal within a few steps of Islamic centers and aspects of their platform include pushing this notion across Canada. Their platform includes excluding Quebec from a federal law recognizing Canadian multiculturalism.

Recently the Bloc came under fire when party leader Yves-François Blanchet tweeted that Quebeckers should vote for people that look like them – a tweet widely and appropriately criticized for being racist, despite Blanchet’s claims that that’s not what he meant. If their attitude towards visible and religious minorities is any indication, Canada’s sexual and gender minorities would be right to be worried for their own safety should the Bloc get seats.

On Income Inequality, the Bloc’s platform is focused on those not paying their fair share of taxes and making things easier for elderly Canadians. Their plan – which almost entirely excludes young people -includes:

• Having Ottawa demand that companies, especially businesses and banks, repatriate funds hidden in tax havens
• Offering a tax credit to employers to train and keep employees over the age of sixty-five
• Offering a tax credit to immigrants and recent graduates willing to work in remote areas
• Allocating Federal grants for social and affordable housing

The People’s Party of Canada

The People’s Party of Canada is a party that has received a lot of media attention, mostly negative. In Hamilton, their people clashed with protesters who have branded them Nazis, and looking at their platform and leader’s comments, it’s easy to see why.

Many of the party’s values, which include the abolition of multiculturalism in favor of a broader national identity, claiming that being called racist for saying racist things is somehow persecution, and resorting to personal attacks rather than countering arguments on their merit (see Maxime Bernier’s tweet about Greta Thunberg) are right out of the neo-Nazi playbook. But, in the interest of fairness, let’s discuss what they’re actually saying.

The People’s Party platform on climate change claims that there is no scientific consensus on the issue (fact check: there IS). Their plan includes:

• Withdrawing Canada from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
• Abolish federal subsidies for green technology
• Abolish the carbon tax so provinces can come up with their own plans to reduce emissions
• Implement practical solutions to make Canada’s air, water, and soil cleaner, including bringing clean water to remote First Nations communities

On LGBTQI2+ rights, the People’s Party platform is pure hate. Their website actually berates the Trudeau government for allegedly forcing “Canadians to express support for the existence of various gender identities beyond the biological categories of male and female, and to use pronouns demanded by those who identify with these other genders.” Fact check: Trudeau actually just amended the Criminal Code so crimes motivated by hate based on gender identity or expression would be considered hate crimes.

Their platform on LGBTQI2+ rights includes:

• “Restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to expression which explicitly advocates the use of force against identifiable groups or persons based on protected criteria such as religion, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation,” thus rolling back Trudeau reforms so people outside the gender binary and transgender people would not be protected under the legal definition of hate.
• Roll back Trudeau administration changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act that had expanded the definition of prohibited forms of discrimination to include “gender identity or expression”
• Pull federal funding from universities restricting free speech
• “Ensure that Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions” – with a specific reference in their platform to the Trudeau government’s refusal to provide funding to anti-choice groups as part of the summer jobs program

On the issue of income inequality and the economy, the People’s Party is focused on lowering taxes to boost the private sector and benefit the wealthy. There is nothing in their platform to directly address poverty and the growing housing shortage. Their plan includes:

• Gradually reducing corporate income taxes from fifteen percent to ten percent
• Over the course of one mandate eliminate the current capital gains tax by reducing the inclusion rate from 50% to 0%
• Eliminate corporate subsidies and government bailouts of failing companies

If you’re under sixty and have felt like your voice has not been heard by politicians in the past, remember that things are different now and your votes matter more than ever. On October 21st, 2019, you have a chance to finally see your choices determine the outcome of the federal election.

Take twenty minutes and go tick a box on a slip of paper. Our future is at stake.

For the first time, younger voters are set to overtake the baby boomers as the largest voting block in Canada, and it’s about time. The planet is dying due climate change, and wages have stagnated since the 1970s resulting in a wealth gap that is partly on generational lines.

While older people enjoy their golf courses and retirement nestegs, Millenials, Gen Xers, and GenYers who will never see the latter are increasingly frustrated and demanding change that helps them, not just their parents.

That said, only recently has there been a real drive to get younger people to vote, recognizing that their votes can finally make a difference. It is with this notion in mind that I write this article.

In this piece I’ll be giving a crash course on the main political parties, but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of discussing their platforms related to the economy and health care, I’m going to discuss the parties based on their plans and track records with regards to issues that concern younger voters: Climate change, LGBTQI2+ rights, and Income Inequality.

This is not to say these issues do not concern some older people. It IS to say that these are the issues that have not been sufficiently addressed for younger voters by politicians in the past.

For the purposes of this article, the main parties I’ll be discussing are the Liberal Party, The Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and The Green Party. Smaller fringe parties like Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party will be addressed in a future article.

Climate Change

The tail end of Montreal’s massive Climate March Friday (photo Jason C. McLean)

First, as Montreal took to the streets yesterday, let’s talk about Climate change.

The incumbent Liberal party’s Climate change platform seems to benefit primarily the wealthy, with much of their programs targeting homeowners – when most young Canadians will never be able to afford to own a home – and corporations. Their platform in this regard includes:

  • Offering a $40 000 interest-free loan to homeowners and landlords to make their homes more energy efficient, with an additional Net-zero emissions home grant available to make clean living more affordable.
  • Cut corporate taxes in half for companies that develop products and technologies that produce zero emissions
  • Protect 25% of Canada’s land and ocean habitats by 2025 and work towards increasing that to 30% by 2030
  • Set a target of zero emissions by 2050

The New Democratic Party’s Climate Change platform seems far more ambitious than that of the incumbents, with plans focusing on punishing big polluters and investing in local clean projects. Their platform includes:

  • Declaring a climate emergency
  • Rolling back tax breaks given by the Liberal government to big polluters as well as abolishing current oil and gas subsidies
  • Reaching a target of carbon-free electricity by 2030, and 100% non-emitting electricity by 2050
  • Establishing a Canadian Climate Bank to boost investment in Canadian-made renewable energy technology, community-owned clean energy projects and the transition to renewable energy

The Conservative Party’s climate change policy seems far less comprehensive compared to the other parties, and leader Andrew Scheer’s absence from today’s climate marches is also quite telling. Their policy includes:

  • Getting rid of the carbon tax (though their website claims they are still committed to meeting obligations under the Paris Agreement)
  • Launch a green tech patent tax credit for businesses
  • Offering a green public transit tax credit to alleviate costs of public transportation and incentivize its use
  • Have Canada sign agreements allowing us to get credit for helping reduce emissions internationally

True to the party’s name, The Green Party has the most comprehensive climate change platform to address the climate emergency. Their platform includes:

  • Canceling the Trans Mountain Pipeline and other subsidies to fossil fuel industries, as well as denying approval to new pipelines, coal, oil, or gas drilling
  • Ramp up renewable energy targets, with a target of making a hundred percent of Canada’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030
  • Work with provincial governments, “ideally in partnership with First Nations” to determine which former oil and gas wells are best-suited to producing geothermal energy in order to turn liabilities into income-generating renewable energy
  • Ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030

LGBTQ2+ Rights

2019 Montreal Trans Rights March (image Samantha Gold)

Though the Liberal Party has no official 2019 platform regarding LGBTQ rights, they do have an excellent track record when it comes to protecting sexual minorities in Canada. Aside from the symbolism of their leader marching in Pride Parades and raising the Pride flag on Parliament Hill, the government has made some dramatic improvements to LGBTQ rights in Canada.

This includes adding gender identity or expression to the definition of hate crimes in the Canadian Criminal Code, as well passing legislation to permanently destroy the past criminal records of people convicted for consensual sex with same sex partners if such sex would be legal today.

The New Democrats have integrated LGBTQ rights into their platform on fighting hate in Canada. Their list of the different forms of hate to be addressed include homophobia and transphobia, with their platform including better access for victims of hate crimes to services, support, as well as a say in court-related services that may impact their safety.

Their platform also includes establishing a National Working Group to fight online hate, and addressing radicalization though youth-focused community-led initiatives.

Symbolically, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been seen at Pride parades and drag shows, tipping generously at the latter.

On LGBTQ rights in Canada, it is the Conservative Party that has by far the most to answer for. Their leader, Andrew Scheer is a self-professed devout Catholic and social conservative who has criticized marriage equality on the record. He is also the only federal leader conspicuously absent from Pride marches.

When questioned about his current position on LGBTQ rights, Scheer has been extremely evasive, giving people just cause to fear that transgender and LGBTQ protections will be rolled back under a Conservative government. Also telling is the lack of a policy platform addressing this issue on the Conservative Party website.

Though the Green Party is being criticized as a greener version of the Conservatives, their LGBTQ platform is quite enlightened. It includes ending discriminatory blood donation bans, banning medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children, and banning and condemning conversion therapy – which attempts to force a more straight binary form of sexuality and gender expression on LGBTQ people, despite wide disapproval from the medical and psychiatric communities – in all its forms.

Their platform also includes ensuring access to comprehensive sexual health care and gender affirming health care including hormone treatments, blockers, and surgeries.

Income Inequality

(Image via Press Progress)

This is the one that infuriates young people the most because surrounding the issue are criticisms from baby boomers that if we just bought less coffee we wouldn’t be in so much debt when they entered the job market at a time when you could afford a home with one minimum wage job as opposed to the many we need to afford basic expenses. That said, here is what the main parties are doing to tackle the issue.

The Liberal plans seem to benefit primarily middle class families when so many young people cannot even reach a middle class income. Their plans include:

  • Lowering cell-phone bills by 25%
  • No taxes on the first $15 000 of income earned
  • Cut the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%
  • Creation of a First-Time Home Buyer Incentive that would cut 10% off the purchase price of new homes

The NDP’s plan to tackle income inequality is far more comprehensive and seems to target all Canadians, not just the middle class. Their platform includes:

  • Universal prescription drug coverage for all Canadians regardless of job, age, health, status, or income
  • Investing five billion dollars to create five hundred thousand quality affordable housing units to address the affordable housing crisis, and waiving federal GST/HST for the construction of these affordable units
  • Expand public education “from kindergarten to career”
  • Free dental coverage for families making under $70 000 a year

The Conservatives plan to address income inequality has some similarities to that of the Liberals in that it centers on cutting taxes and regulations, though the nature of these cuts does not seem to vary depending on the means of individuals. Their plan comprises of:

  • A universal tax cut for all Canadians
  • Address the housing crisis by easing building regulations to facilitate the building of new homes
  • Build pipelines to create jobs
  • Exempt home heating bills from the GST

The Green Party’s platform recognizes the increasing precariousness of work and the growing gig economy that is exacerbating unstable incomes for younger voters. It also acknowledges the ongoing poverty rates. Their platform comprises of :

  • Establishing a Guaranteed Liveable Income program to replace current income supports including disability, social assistance, and income assistance with payments set at a liveable level for different regions across Canada
  • Set the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • Design and implement a national mental health strategy to address the link between mental health and productivity
  • Enhance the use of Community Benefits Agreements to increase inclusion economic opportunities for people of color

Over the past twenty years there has been a lot of apathy among young voters who felt like their votes didn’t count. That is all about to change. For the first time in a long time, young Canadians have a chance to have their voices heard within the system, not just on the streets.

Voting day is October 21, 2019. GO VOTE!

You can also let us know who to endorse in the FTB Election Poll

Featured Image is a composite of four separate paintings by Samantha Gold

Julia Sánchez may be a first-time political candidate, but she has years of experience in highly politicized circles, tackling, for the most part, climate change. Now the former Managing Director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action is carrying the NDP banner in the Outremont by-election.

FTB’s Hannah Besseau had a chance to speak with her last week:

Featured image via NDP

The sixth mass extinction will hit harder than expected, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and the University of Mexico. 32% of all vertebrate species are steadily decreasing, even if one third of them classify as low concern species.

We already knew that animals and plants are going extinct 100 to 1 000 times faster than what is normal  (and those are the most conservative estimates). If we stay on this course, the general consensus is that around 30% of all species will be gone by 2050. The scientific community went from asking if the next mass extinction is underway to asking if it’s going to be worse than the last one – which, keep in mind, killed most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Now, researchers say that assessments based on species extinctions, alarming as they may be, might be underestimating the problem. According to the article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States:

“Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations [EN: local extinctions], which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”

This huge study is based on a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species (which is roughly half of them). All of the 177 mammal species among them have seen their natural range significantly shrink, 40% of them have seen their populations decrease by 80% or more.

The article concludes: “we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most…”

*Featured image by Robert Young under Creative Commons

Pierrefonds-Roxboro is one of the three Montreal boroughs under state of emergency, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from walking on the dry and clean parts of Pierrefonds Boulevard, where even the buses still run on time. Nothing to indicate the multiple disastrous and somewhat surreal sights that await only a couple of blocks down: entire streets flooded, picturesque houses and vehicles immersed in eerily still water, piles of sandbags scattered like battle fortifications.

Everyday, residents stop by the disaster area, anxiously appraising the situation from their cars or going as far as their rain boots allow to check on their property. For some, it’s been weeks since the water started seeping into their houses, others are still warily surveying the changing levels of the river, praying it won’t reach their doorstep.

Early Tuesday evening, the first signs that the water has – ever so slightly – receded, elicited cautious relief in many of them. However, everyone knows that even if the weather remains stable, they are still in for a long wait before the river returns to its bed and they can start to assess the actual damages.

One man, who wishes to only be identified as a “directly affected citizen of Pierrefonds” stopped to take in the striking sight of a half-drowned mailbox, which despite being a few meters away from the Gouin Boulevard, now looks as if someone made the odd choice of planting it in the middle of a lake.

“Terrible, isn’t it?” he said, his expression grim. “Everything we do to Nature, you know, there comes a point when she can’t absorb it anymore and then she sends this back.” For him, Pierrefonds’ woes trace back to a far larger issue: climate change.

“It will be necessary for people to understand the gravity of the situation. And watching a little TV, you see it’s not only Canada and Quebec that are affected. There are many countries in the world that live through the same situation, and they don’t always have the resources we do.”

The water had thankfully not reached his house yet, but, despite the first timid signs of improvement, he remained anxious. “If it rains, even one more day, I’m directly threatened,” he explained. He bought a water pump during the week-end “just in case.”

A few streets away, Maria** and her adult son were looking for their canoe to go check on their property. Originally from Poland, she and her two children had bought a brand new house here, on Vaudeville Street, only five years ago. Their beloved home has been flooded since last Friday. Like many of their neighbours, they were woken up by the army at five AM and told they had to get out, and quickly.

They are currently living in a nearby hotel with the help of the Red Cross. Last time they checked, the water was up to their chests in the basement. To say the least, stress has taken its toll. “It’s panic attacks and sometimes, you can’t sleep at night,” confided the mother.

She was not alone to breathe a sigh of relief when she noticed the few inches of wet asphalt, indicating that the water had slightly withdrawn. Still, her worry was palpable. “I look at the water and I tremble,” she admitted.

Nonetheless, just like the mailbox-watcher, they were thinking of those even less fortunate than them.“You always have to think of those who have it worse than you,” Maria said. “There are a lot of elderly people living here,” her son added.

Civilians and officials

Police officers guard the flooded streets to make sure that no one has the bad idea of trying to pass through with their car, or the heartlessness to rob the deserted homes. The firefighters, the army and many volunteers are also present to lend a hand to whomever needs it.

“[The officers] are doing what they can, but they have a different point of view because it’s their job, you know; we’re their clients,” Maria’s son observed.

His mother agreed but sighed: “This tragedy, it’s not theirs inside and when you see two policemen laughing and talking, it’s hard to welcome them.” According to her, it’s the Red Cross that is their ultimate life-saver. They provided them with a hotel room, a meal allocation, and even some money to buy clothes.

Maria found one thing to be happy about in this ordeal: a new sense of solidarity in the community: “We became like a big family with the people on the street, because everybody helps each other and we are all in the same hotel. Before that, we didn’t know each other.”

Indeed, everywhere you looked, there was a little cluster of neighbours chatting, asking for news and offering help. One man was making the rounds with his own canoe to help other people around the flooded streets whenever they needed to get something from home or just to check that it’s still standing. One of the policemen asked him to go check up on one of the rare residents who was still inside his house: “He’s been there for a while, see if he needs anything.”

Still, Maria reflected with a sad smile, “We shouldn’t need to have a tragedy to be together.”

State of emergency prolonged

By Wednesday afternoon, the water had significantly receded in the Montreal area. However the level of the Saint-Lawrence remains worrying near Quebec City and the Mauricie region. Nobody is out of the woods yet, since various amounts of rain are expected all over the province during the next few days.

The state emergency which is meant to allow the municipalities to mobilize staff and resources more efficiently is still in place in several areas including in Laval and Montreal.

As of Wednesday night, there was a total of 3301 people evacuated and 4141 houses flooded throughout Quebec. 166 municipalities were still affected.

The government has promised to deploy all the necessary staff on the field as well as financial aid for the affected citizens. However, the people of Pierrefonds and other flooded municipalities will also need all the solidarity they can get, not only form their own communities, but from all of us.

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

**Probably not her real name. Due to the engaging and organic nature of the conversation, this detail was lost. If her or her son read this and would like us to correct the record, please contact forgetthebox@forgetthebox.net and we will update the article

A young Inuit woman addressed the assembly at the UN Conference on Climate Change on Canada’s behalf this past Wednesday in Marrakesh.

Maatalii Okalik, president of the Inuit Youth Council, accompanied the Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna to the 22nd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 22) where she pleaded for the world leaders to take native communities into account.

“With your continued leadership that will define our future on climate action, I am hopeful that it is done in cooperation with Indigenous peoples,” Okalik said.

Okalik’s brief allocution was showcased in Canada’s national statement. The Minister introduced her as “an incredible young leader for the Canadian Arctic and a strong voice for Inuit youth.”

The liberal government seems determined as ever to display its good intentions to include indigenous communities in its decisions, at least on social media. On Tuesday, McKenna shaed a picture of Okalik on a stage with several indigenous leaders on Snapchat. The picture was captioned “Amazing panel on Indigenous role on climate action. I want Canada to be a leader on this.”

cop22-enviro-can

According to National Post, the Canadian delegation in Marrakesh comprises around 17 representatives from various indigenous groups.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) decided to send its own delegation to Marrakesh. Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart and Elder Francois Paulette of the Dene Nation are both attending. Their mission is to ensure that First Nations have “a strong voice” in the plan for climate action.

“First Nations are in a unique position to be leaders in climate change initiatives because of our knowledge of the sacred teachings of the land. We must not be situated as passive recipients of climate change impacts. We must be agents of change in climate action,” Elder Paulette declared in a communiqué.

Chief Hart, who is also co-chair on the Chiefs Committee for Climate Change, insisted on the importance of indigenous rights and responsibilities being fully recognized.

Both he and Okalik alluded to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although the Canadian government officially supports this treaty, the Trudeau administration deemed it “unworkable” as a Canadian law.

Although Trudeau is not attending this year, Canada sent a sizable delegation. Several provincial Premiers and environment ministers are there, including Quebec’s Philippe Couillard and David Heurtel. Union representatives as well as environmental advocacy groups like Equiterre and Ecojustice Canada are also there.

Where does Canada stand in Marrakesh?

COP 22 is a two week long event that will end on Friday the 18th. Its purpose is to form strategies to reach the goals set one year ago in Paris for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In November 2015, freshly-elected Justin Trudeau arrived at the COP 21 with nothing but the timid goals set by the Harper government: bring GHG emissions down to 30% under 2005 levels before 2030. But according to the grapevine, Canada will revise its ambitions upwards. Greenpeace Canada told La Presse Canadienne that Canadian officials in Marrakesh said that the new goal was to bring GHG emissions 80% below 2005 levels before year 2050.

The measures to be deployed in that regard are vastly unknown. Last month, the federal government announced that all provinces and territories will have to implement a carbon tax of at least 10$/ton by 2018, to reach 50$/ton in 2022. Canada had already promised $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries access and create clean technologies.

On Wednesday, the government announced a contribution of $2.5 Million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network to that effect. The CTCN is an agency created by the UN to help emerging countries access and develop new technologies, both to fight climate change and to deal with its effects.

The government also promised an investment of $1.8 Billion to “mobilize” the private sector to do the same.

A more detailed national strategy is awaited in the next couple of days.

 

A panel of experts has been mandated to review Canada’s environmental assessment process. On Monday, Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna presented the four members of the committee in charge of this effort to modernize our environmental laws.

The committee is tasked with producing a report “in early 2017.” To do so, they will “engage broadly with indigenous groups, the public and a wide range of stakeholders across Canada,” according to the government’s website.

Who is on This Committee?

The chairwoman of the committee is Johanne Gélinas, a leading consultant on environmental law. She was the Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development from 2000 to 2007 and also served ten years in the Environmental Public Hearings Office (better known as BAPE) in Quebec.

Also sitting on the Panel are René Pelletier, a lawyer from the Maliseet community who specializes in Aboriginal rights and environmental law, and Rod Northey, another prominent environmental lawyer. The last member is Doug Horswill, who previously served as Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources of BC and as chairman of two Mining Associations.

What Will Happen Now?

The committee presented by McKenna will get input from Canadian citizens and organizations during September. People can already communicate their opinions via the internet. Dates for in-person hearings should be decided shortly.

By early 2017, the panel will present a summary of the input received along with its conclusions and recommendations. The Ministry of Environment will then “consider” the recommendations and “identify the next step to improve federal environmental assessment processes.”

Promises, Promises…

This is a step towards making the process more “open, transparent and inclusive,” according to a press release from Minister McKenna.

The review of the environmental assessment process is one of the three parts of the Liberal plan to improve environmental regulations that was officially launched this summer. The two other parts are modernizing the National Energy Board and restoring the protections under the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Act that were lost under the Harper government.

The Liberal environmental platform is mostly defined by two key points repeated ad-nauseam since 2015: restoring the population’s trust in the environmental assessment process and insuring that their decisions are based on “evidence, facts and science” (because redundancy sounds much more inspiring).

During and since the elections, they have advertised their intention to involve the population, and especially the aboriginal communities, more directly in the approval of projects that could be dangerous to the environment.

Indeed, they have launched and publicized many public consultations. They also announced up to $223 000 of funding for Indigenous participation to Federal Government reviews of Environmental Assessment Processes and National Energy Board Modernization.

They will hear the opinion of Canadians and they will “consider it.”

Consultation after consultation, the government is working to make the population feel more involved and to restore their trust in the system. But is it working to insure that this trust is warranted? They have yet to take any concrete action to put science and research at the base of their policies on environmental issues.

* Featured image of Squamish River by James Wheeler via Flickr Creative Commons

Fort MacMurray and large swaths of Northern Alberta have been burning for a few days. Homes and communities have been destroyed and people have died, too.

This is a time for everyone in Canada and beyond to come together and try to stop the fires and assist those who have been forced to evacuate as much as they can. That has been happening. There have been stories circulating of everyone from the people of Lac Megantic, Quebec to recent Syrian refugees pitching in.

Politically, though, there has been a fire of a different sort. At first, there were those online suggesting that the fires were directly caused by the oil being pulled out of the ground, but when it was clear that the fires did not start at the extraction site and had no specific correlation to the most prominent industry in the region, those rumblings gave way to a political argument about whether or not the wildfires were the result of climate change.

Ottawa Weighs In

Green Party leader Elizabeth May fired the first shot, so to speak, when asked if the fires were linked to climate change:

“Of course. It’s due to global emissions. Scientists will say we know with a destabilized climate, with a higher average global temperature, we will see more frequent, more extreme weather events … due to an erratic climate, due to our addiction to fossil fuels.”

Later in the same day, she walked that statement back a bit, saying there was no specific correlation and that “no credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got the question next and responded like this:

“It’s well-known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet, however any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster I think there is a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.

Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘Well this is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate. What we are focussed on right now on is giving the people of Fort McMurray, and across Alberta, the kind of support that they need.”

Now, I, for one, am loathe to agree with Trudeau anything, let alone on environmental issues. He is, after all, the one who seems to think pipelines will lead to our green future. I also believe that most of Alberta’s oil should stay in the ground. In fact, I experienced quite the dilemma a few paragraphs back in this article. I absolutely refuse to use the term “oil sands” but thought that “tar sands” was a little too hardcore a term to use for the “coming together” point I was trying to make.

That dilemma is nothing compared to the one faced by people whose homes have recently burned to the ground. In fact, not all of those fleeing the wildfires are oil company executives, very few are. These are workers, their families, activists opposed to pipelines, First Nations communities and others who, a week ago, were fighting against the destruction the oil industry would bring to their home, and now are fleeing from their home.

With that in mind, I have to agree with Justin Trudeau. This is not the right time to be talking climate change.

Put the Fires Out First

Are these fires the result of climate change? Maybe. Could they also have been caused by inconsiderate campers? Maybe. Are wildfires a natural occurrence in the area? Yes. Do these fires have no other explanation? Maybe. These are all good questions that can be answered later.

Right now shit is burning and stopping that and helping those affected has to be our first and only concern. There will be time to talk cause and assign blame later.

When a spree killer is chasing you down the hall, you don’t stop running, turn around and pontificate on the lack of gun control or our failing mental health system, you get the hell out of there and hope the killer is stopped before he gets to you. If you survive, there will be plenty of time to talk about and hopefully stop the root causes of what happened.

Right now, metaphorically, we’re still running down the hall. The fires are still raging and we need to stop them and find a way out.

It’s fine to criticize the government at a time like this, but only on things they aren’t doing or could be doing better to deal with and hopefully end the situation (like not letting the Russians help). Linking the disaster to climate change at this point isn’t one of them.

I know that I may be annoying some people whom I otherwise agree with and may agree with on this issue, except that I don’t think this is the right time to be on a soapbox about it. I don’t really care, because, here in Montreal, I still have a roof over my head, which is more than some in Alberta, Manitoba and now Ontario can say.

When your soapbox is burning, run away.

Now that world leaders and their negotiators have left Paris following the climate change pow-wow, the focus now shifts to the work needed to make a paper agreement hold together in practice.

Greenhouse gasses, overflowing landfills and destructive chemical waste pollute our atmosphere at unsustainable rates. That is clear. But while we put this pressure on governments and corporations to clean this up, shouldn’t we also ask ourselves what we can do, as individuals, to reduce our destructive environmental impact on the planet?

But I can’t point my finger at anyone else before shining the mirror on my own lifestyle. What I saw in reflection, was a small scale environmental disaster.

Facing this need to turn a new and greener leaf, I was inspired by a UK-based blogger, Joanna Yarrow, author of Beyond Green and the eye-catching philosophy on living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

“Sustainable living is a bit like teenage sex. Few are doing it, and fewer are doing it properly.”

Sustainable living revolves around a few simple principles, according to my research. Consume less, and waste less stuff. Consume less energy and other non-renewable resources. Reduce our environmental footprint in ways that may seem indirect, such as paying attention to the way we travel and the way our food travels to us.

With that as my inspiration, I tried to kickstart a new way of life that is kinder to the planet, albeit in an incremental way. Many advise trying out these drastic changes for the manageable period of one week. That’s hardly enough effort to reverse the impact of years of damage to the environment, but enough time to test some new waters.

The water that that would be poured over my enthusiasm on day one was cold. Starting the week with a cold shower made me realize that it might be a better to attempt the energy conservation part of my plan closer to summer. Still, I knew that I would still have to cut down on the leisurely long hot showers that I normally enjoyed, drastically limiting my shower time to a maximum two minutes and reducing the eight litres of water that this part of our morning routine dumps down the drain every minute.

As for eating, I was prepared for how this passion in my life would be affected more than anything else during the week. If only keeping a keener eye for locally produced products was the only issue I’d face, I could easily breeze through this. Discovering Montreal’s burgeoning organic food market, which makes better tasting food more widely available was a bonus. But organic food, which is produced without dangerous by-products which are washed back into the water table, was also more demanding on my strict budget. So I’d have to find other ways to reduce my food budget.

Image: archinect.com
Image: archinect.com

Reducing the consumption of meat not only saves money, but it brings reported health benefits and is more sustainable for the planet due to the way that the production of meat devours more of the earth’s scarce land and resources. But cutting out meat ‘cold turkey’ was a drastic move for a carnivore like me so I found ways to merely reduce my meat intake and some delicious ways to replace it a couple of times a week.

Certainly my fast food habit had to be broken, if only to conserve the mountains of paper, cardboard and plastic produced by the fast food chains which are the biggest contributor to street litter, according to one study, and is not always successfully recycled.

Another form of recycling is a boon to those of us who hate shopping: Use it pp, Wear it out, make it do or do say anti-consumption groups who believe that most of us are buying stuff we don’t actually need. The impulse shopping habit absorbs precious resources by producing products to fill demand for new stuff while filling landfills with older stuff that’s often still usable.

I spent some of that shopping time at home mending, repairing, and patching up things I would have replaced instead, like replacing my old pair of jeans with a new pair that would probably look just as worn out and patched up.

Fruitful explorations of Montreal’s second hand stores, like Notre Dame West’s Salvation Army, turned up lots of gems among the junk, including furniture and house wares that often look as good as new, with the most significant difference being the price tag.

Avoiding these shopping trips also allows us to cut down on the use of a car for short local trips. I rekindled my latent passion for bicycle riding while visiting second hand stores. The bargain bike I picked up for $50 only needed some air and the tightening of a few bolts to get on the road. But the onset of winter is not great timing for a rider to get back on a bike. The late onset of the snow has been a blessing, but an Opus card might still soon come in handy.

But back at home there were a few things to sort out to make a more sustainable home that will last beyond this week. Turning down the thermostat one barely noticeable degree in winter saves lots of energy and more money than you might think, according to Hydro Quebec.

An audit of my water use showed that one flush of my toilet whirls more water down my toilet drain than many families in some parts of the world use in one day. I discovered the handy online tip of filling a plastic container with water and placing it in the toilet which tricks it into thinking it is full, saving some 1325 litres a year, according to the New York Times.

Useful tricks like these, along with understanding the benefits of buying less and thinking more about what I eat were all part of a very interesting experiment. But would the benefits weigh up against the inconveniences well enough to make this new lifestyle permanent?

The effect on my budget was probably neutral. The food bills went up, but utilities bills, when they arrive, should shrink. Time and money was better spent away from the mall, and I noticed my garbage containers are less than half full. But some changes were easier to implement than others. Cold showers and veggie food come quickly to mind.

Perhaps the greatest ongoing effect of the week was the level of consciousness brought to the impact of almost everything that I do, and how that is related to a sustainable future on this planet. Even if my contribution is only a little bit for a little time. That’s a little bit that helps.

* Featured image by Andrew Seaman (Flickr/Creative Commons)

In the days following 9/11, then-US President George W. Bush urged Americans to go out and shop. If not, then the terrorists win.

His premise was that the goal of terrorists is to disrupt a culture they hate. It’s simplistic and ignores several mitigating factors and reinforces the Us Versus Them narrative. It was also clearly a pitch to keep American capitalism from falling in the toilet.

However, if you accept his premise and ignore his motivations, then his logic is sound. That is probably the only time I will say that about the most duplicitous and ridiculous President in American history, but if the shoe fits…

(sorry, had to)
(sorry, had to)

If you accept that the goal of terrorists is to disrupt Western culture, then shying away from a key aspect of it does, in fact, mean that they accomplished their goal or that they won.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bringing this up to justify or agree with anything Dubya did or said. Instead I’m trying to point out that his simplistic logic may give progressives a way to preserve the fundamental right to protest in a time of increased political repression operating under the guise of security.

Paris Attacks and the Climate Change Summit

Fourteen years and a few months after Bush urged Americans to shop, the Western World was rocked by another major terrorist attack. The assault on Paris last Friday, while not near the bodycount of 9/11, had a similar jarring effect on the culture in France and around the world.

Now that we are in the initial stages of rebounding from such a tragic assault, we’re getting images of Parisians going out to cafes and other public places, determined to show that their lifestyle, the Western lifestyle, will not be interrupted. Also, the Paris International Climate Summit, or COP21, will go on as scheduled.

Well, not all of it will. The heads of state and their entourages will show up. They will talk, form panels and talk some more and, of course, talk to the press. What we won’t get will be the marches, protests and other “outdoor activities” that usually accompany such global events. The French Government said that such events will not be authorized out of security concerns.

Outrage and Strong Arguments Preached to the Choir

This decision by the Hollande Government, understandably, wasn’t well received by pretty much everyone on the left of the political spectrum. There were social media comments on how this was nothing more than an opportunistic police state taking advantage of a horrible event. There were very intelligent op-ed pieces from people like Naomi Klein on how this would muzzle those most affected by climate change.

paris riot squad

I agree with all of it. The problem is, me and people who think like me or close to how I think aren’t the people that need to be reached. Shouting in the echo chamber that is the political left just won’t cut it this time, no matter how well-formulated and reasonable the arguments are.

When terrorists strike, quite a few otherwise reasonable and intelligent people are, understandably, scared shitless. Nuanced arguments don’t hold the way they do in normal times. Those hoping to establish a police state know this and are always ready.

Time to Dumb it Down, Bush-Style

It’s time for a new tactic. A new argument. One that will stick even with those temporarily thinking with their gut or their fear. The good news is we already have one.

If you want to know why blocking the right to protest at the Paris Climate Summit is terribly wrong, read Naomi Klein. If you want to convince pretty much everyone of this fact, even those on the right or the far right of the political spectrum, look to George W. Bush for inspiration.

The best part is, in this case, it is not just strategy, but the absolute truth. What is more fundamental to our culture than the right to free expression, the right to assembly and the right to dissent from and express your displeasure with the powers that be?

If the terrorists hate “our way of life” then they surely hate our rallies, our solidarity with fellow activists, our ability to protest the government (or multiple governments) in a very vocal and public way and our “freedom” to dissent loud and proud.

The right to protest is far too important to let slide in the face of so-called security concerns. While your anger, and my anger, may be currently directed at those who choose to use public fear to stifle dissent, making them the proverbial bad guy in this case doesn’t help.

It is a far more effective tactic to look beyond and remind those who would seek to cut off protest just who will ultimately benefit from such an action. The right to public dissent is, after all, far more integral to open and democratic culture than people shopping.

If you agree and want to make sure that everyone gets the message, then push aside your loathing for simplistic arguments and repeat after me:

“If we can’t assemble in opposition to the government, then the terrorists win!”

“If we lose our freedom of expression, then the terrorists win!”

“If we can’t protest, then the terrorists win!”

I have to admit, this is not the film I was expecting. When I heard the title The Yes Men are Revolting, I thought, great, this film will be chock full of some of the best culture-jamming stunts the duo of Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno and their team of activists pulled off over the last few years. It was, but that wasn’t all.

Having done some guerilla theatre myself back in the day, I was happy to see what arguably the most successful shit disturbers for a cause on the planet had pulled off. The movie delivered. From impersonating Environment Canada at the Copenhagen Climate Conference to really stirring the pot and getting the room dancing at the Homeland Security Congress on Capitol Hill alongside Canadian anti-tar sands activist Gitz Crazyboy, I was impressed.

It was entertaining; they got their point across and presented fake propositions that were much better than what we actually get from governments and companies. But the film really got interesting when it delved into the Yes Men’s actual day-to-day reality.

We learn, or at least I learned, that Bichlbaum and Bonanno are actually Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos. They have lives outside of the Yes Men and even have day jobs. Trying to save the world, believe it or not, does not always pay the bills.
This is a documentary in every sense of the word. Co-director (along with The Yes Men) Laura Nix follows the pair around as they deal with family, relationships and take part in some of the major events of the past few years, from Occupy Wall Street to Hurricane Sandy relief. We even get glimpse of how that particular natural disaster affected them personally.

We get a behind-the-scenes look at some truly great stunts and learn that, no, not every jam goes off as planned. What happens when things don’t go right? What happens when they come off as planned but the desired effect is not produced? What keeps you going?

For The Yes Men, it is their desire to fight climate change and leave a better world for future generations. From New York, to Alberta’s Tar Sands, to Uganda, to Denmark and eventually to Washington, DC, we follow The Yes Men through culture jams, lawsuits and the re-discovery that it is all worth while.

It’s a fun and interesting film on its own, but even more important if you’re interested in guerilla activism or want to fight climate change.

Watch this trailer and then come meet the Yes Men in person when the film screens at Cinema Politica tonight:

The Yes Men are Revolting screens tonight, Monday, March 16th at 7pm at Cinema Politica Concordia, H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest, Metro Guy-Concordia

It was new year’s eve 1994, through the rainforest that covers the majority of the Chiapas region of south western Mexico, a movement under the name of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) was in its embryonic stage. In 1984, thirty years ago, another movement was also was forming, uniting landless peasants from throughout Brazil, occupying fazendas (large properties owned by the affluent Brazilian landowners), setting-up up cooperative farms and building community gardens which allowed the resilient communities to be self-sufficient in many ways.

These two movements have been under the stoplight, capturing the international media’s attention through a combination of headline catching actions and an intelligent media blueprint. But the question of land reform is of utmost importance especially within an age of relentless inequality and climate change. Answers to some of the most important interrogations on the limits of capitalism and sensible solutions to the threat of climate change are enclosed within this quintessential question of land ownership.

zapatista sign

Since the start of time, the problematic of land ownership has always been central to the development of human societies. The struggle between the ‘owners’ of land and the ‘dispossessed’ was at the origin of the fall of the Roman Republic (see Lex Sempronia Agraria). Many historians also link the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire to the over concentration of wealth and power within the hands of a landed elite.

Such a string of events is far from being relative to political development within Latium. In many ways land control has influenced the trajectory of societal development throughout the world.

The development of capitalism as we know it, is inherently linked to the development of a coercive notion of private property, where private property is hereditary. In this skewed ideological development, private has become linked to the notion of freedom.

This system of ownership of the land is the foundation of every caste system within the history of mankind, the distinction between those that have and the have-nots, the dispossessed. Parallel to this ‘land-grab’ is a reaction of resistance of the landless peasants, of the serfs, of indigenous communities against the landed elite, the power structure or the colonial state.

The development of neo-liberal capitalism has altered in many ways the structure of this relationship. Two elements have been the motors behind these changes: first of all the construction of the insane notion of the ‘corporate individual’ and on the other hand the continued erosion of regulations.

Corporations now, in many ways, are the new landed elite and the biggest obstacles on the road to fighting climate change. But also tied to the question of the corporate ownership of land is the corporate ownership of natural resources and the problem of redistribution of the wealth generated by the extraction of those same natural resources. Also included within the problematic of land ownership is the growing crisis of food security and frantic rise in food prices throughout the world.

In the end, the corporate land-grab is an essential question in the burgeoning of the 21st century. Movements such as the EZLN and Sem Terra have shown guidance in offering an alternative perspective with regards to the way we conceive the ownership of land, the role of land within our societies and the importance of communal and local agriculture. Both movements have understood one important thing: that climate deregulation is a direct consequence of the deregulation of the world’s markets and no solution will be found to counter climate change within this system of wild, wild, west capitalism.

On January 1st 1994, EZLN took up arms against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which took away from the Mexican people their undeniable right to the land underneath their feet. This right to the land was the most important accomplishment of the Mexican Revolution and had since been enshrined in the Mexican constitution.

The revolt of the Zapatistas was directly against this globalized system of dispossession of small farmers and indigenous communities on one hand and the subsequent repossession of that land by private interests on the other. Those interests were motivated by  making the land ‘profitable’, by any means necessary. This is the attitude that turned the greatest delta in the world (the delta of Niger) into a massive oil spill.

brazil sem terra
The Sem Terra in Brazil (image waronwant.org)

The Brazilian Sem Terra sprouted out of the inhumane conditions that landless peasants were facing within Brazil, wandering from one agricultural tyrant to another on a regular basis, enslaved by one agro-alimentary multinational after another. The Sem Terra movement understood that the root of inequality is this disproportionate gap between those that control the land and those that work the land. The only way to counter this was to create communities in which each man had his plot of land to cultivate to provide for the wellbeing of his family without an inch of that land being privately owned.

This communal vision of land ownership thus entails the construction of an inclusive and participatory decision making system. Not only did these alternative visions of land ownership empower the ‘dispossessed’ and enable the development and reproduction of traditional modes of agricultural protection (read here biological and respectful of the environment), it also planted the seeds of a stronger strain of democracy.

Both movements know that land is power, the power to determine the future of generations, to draw the outlines of a distinct society, the power to hold the keys to a better world. In this age of globalized free-trade agreements, that relentlessly breakdown the ‘barriers to trade’ with the purpose of ‘opening up’ new markets such as the markets of land and of natural resources, in an age of growing inequality and destabilizing climate deregulation, the seeds have been sown, amidst the tempest, for an alternative future.

In one of the most famous Sem Terra occupations in July of 1996, thousands of landless peasants occupied one of the most important fazendas in Brazil-which they still occupy to this day and have turned it into one of the most important agricultural communes in the world. First thing they did once they had occupied the fazenda was to take down the Brazilian flag and put the red one of the MST with words that read “The struggle for all.”

* This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

It’s amazing how Canadians elect politicians who refuse to analyze the country’s problems, but that’s what we did when we handed Stephen Harper and his Tories a majority government. The Conservatives try and pride themselves as being the party of action (just look at those tiresome action plan ads), but the Conservative Party of Canada could better be described as the party of reaction.

Every so called action they’ve taken in the past two years has been a quick, but simple reaction to an otherwise complicated problem. Not once have they stopped to analyze the situation in order to address the core of an issue.

Last week, following the arrests of two terrorist suspects, newly elected Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said “There is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded, completely at war with innocents, at war with a society. Our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?”

The-root-causes-of-terrorism-is-terrorists

Trudeau’s comments were perfectly reasonable. We shouldn’t be satisfied by humbly thwarting a terrorist attack, we need to get to the crux of why they want to attack us in the first place. The best way to fight terrorism is through understanding their motives. If we merely cut off the head of the hydra, more heads will keep taking its place.

Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives weren’t having any of this. Harper said “This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression.” That statement was dumbed down even further a few days later when Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said that “the root causes of terrorism is terrorists.” Poilievre even repeated the declaration to make it abundantly clear that this is what the party believes.

At the time, I remember thinking to myself that it was as if George Bush’s brain had somehow been embedded into Poilievre’s skull. I realized soon after that this kind of nonsense was nothing new, their conservative views were just never explained so bluntly before.

No one has ever accused the Conservatives of being the party of intellectuals, but taking a look at their policy decisions over the last few years, one has to wonder if they think at all. They rule in the present without consideration for our future; you would think they don’t plan on staying in power for long.

They believe the root cause of crime is criminals. Instead of investing in crime’s source, such as poverty and drug addiction, the Tories decided to dish out harsher sentences to criminals and drug offenders. It won’t be long until we need more prisons.

They believe the root cause of global warming is the globe. The earth is warming itself so why try and fight it.

Instead of investing in green energy and technology, Harper gutted Canada’s environmental assessment laws, expanded oil sands development and now plans are in the works to have an equal sized mining project near Thunder Bay. The media has already taken to calling it “Tar Sands 2.0”

They believe the root cause of unemployment is unemployment. With the jobless rate still hovering around 7.5%, the Conservative government decided to revamp the unemployment system. Under the new rules, even seasonal workers will have to prove they are actively looking for work. Forcing seasonal laborers to take menial jobs a few months in the summer or winter will take jobs away from students trying to pay for school.

harper+poilievre
Harper and his pet Pierre

I’m sure there are other tautologies I could find to illustrate my point, but you get the idea. Quick fixes and short sighted thinking is no way to run a government.

It’s why they try and silence everyone from scientists to members of their own party. God forbid the word should get out about how thoughtless and unproductive their policies really are. I always thought Conservatives wanted a smaller government not a more foolish one.

Future generations are going to have to live with this government’s decisions, making statements a five year old child can make and holding to them doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

The root cause of the Conservative Party of Canada has clearly become stupidity.

This post originally appeared on QuietMike.org, republished with permission from the author

canada_harper_3_14_2012It’s bad enough with all the scientific proof to the contrary that we still have climate change deniers in Canada, but I would argue having one of them as our Prime Minister makes it exponentially worse.

Now, I know Stephen Harper has never come out publicly and denied the existence of climate change; he doesn’t need to, his actions have spoken for him. After playing the common Canadian voter for fools for five years as a minority government, the veil has come off to reveal what Harper really thinks of the environment we all share.

Canadian voters who didn’t know any better might not have clued in to the big picture, but the signs were there. During his first minority run starting in 2006, Harper pretended to give a damn, albeit very little.

In 2006 the Conservatives introduced the Clean Air Act. The act was supposed to cut greenhouse gasses by about half of the 2003 levels by 2050. Environmentalists claimed these targets were inefficient, but the Prime Minister convinced Canadians that these targets were a more realistic than the ones set out in the Kyoto Protocol.

With the exception of Rona Ambrose, the Prime Minister appointed seemingly competent MPs to the Environment Minister post. By competent, I mean John Baird and Jim Prentice kept their mouths shut as much as possible.

For the following five years the Tories were kept in check by the Liberals and NDP and remained fairly silent on the issues of climate change. Some comments were made accidentally with the slipping of some Tory tongues and Harper himself called Kyoto a “socialist scheme” but by the time the election of 2011 came around they were all long forgotten.

Harpers-Habitat1

When Harper gained his majority (with less than 40% of the vote), the curtain came down and the assault began. In the last two years Harper has been doing everything he can to reverse environmental protections and hide climate science.

No one was really surprised when he started by withdrawing Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, but the Prime Minister didn’t replace it with anything. The Clean Air Act Conservatives introduced in his first term was reduced to nothing as they lowered its targets by as much as 90%.

Harper named ex-journalist Peter Kent as the new environment minister. Kent seemed to care about the environment thirty years ago, but these days his decisions have come from an economic view rather than an environmental one.

The first Conservative Budget under a majority slashed Environment Canada’s budget by $53.8 million a year. The Conservatives scrapped the National Round-table on the Environment and Economy, a group that provides advice on the environment.

At the same time, they moved to fast track the current process for the environmental assessment of resource-based projects. In addition, they have made it more difficult for charities, such as environmental groups, to engage in so-called political activities. To sum it up: no talking, no protesting and more digging.

Harper has also started to silence Canadian scientists. He has instructed Environment Canada to forbid federal scientists from speaking to the media and has defunded or threatened to defund those who do. It wasn’t long ago when we encouraged our scientists to speak out in order to know where the problems were.

Muzzle

Last year, the Prime Minister stopped funding the Environmental Lakes Area, the famous fresh water research facility. The pioneering Canadian contribution to global environmental science was instrumental in the fight against acid rain and has studied water pollution for 40 years. The funding was expected to run dry on March 31st 2013. The savings to Canadians is a mere $2 million, a tiny drop of clean water in the bucket.

Lately you may have heard about the 194 countries around the world that supports the United Nations anti-drought convention. Well that number has been reduced by one as the Conservative government of Canada has decided to withdraw from it. Conservatives claimed only 18% of funds go toward drought research and called the process a “talk fest.” Canada spent $291 000 on the convention last year, a grain of sand in the desert.

In the meantime, while Harper has turned his back on global warming and environmental science, he has continued to expand fossil fuel development across the country. “Over the next decade, more than 500 large new development projects will be proposed across the country, representing investments worth more than $500 billion” Harper said. I would imagine they’ll still be getting the same tax breaks they receive now.

The Prime Minister’s disdain for the environment is now known worldwide and he may end up shooting himself in the foot with his policies. Harper has been pressing US President Barack Obama to OK the Keystone XL Pipeline for years now and it’s not crazy to think Obama may reject it again for not wanting to be associated with him. After all, the US is awash with oil and gas these days.

Harper’s policies were adopted from the American conservative philosophy that small government is what’s best for the people. He believes the environment is not the responsibility of the federal government. However, by not taking steps to protect it, they are helping to destroy it instead.

The Prime Minister and his Conservative Party have been exposed as the anti-climate change party they are and it’s showing in the polls. Let’s hope that when Canadians vote again in a couple years that Idle No More, Canadian scientists and environmentalists don’t let the people forget.

Doing nothing to prevent climate change is the same as not believing in it.

It probably comes as no big surprise, but Canada may be drastically off its emission targets, despite contrary promises from the government.

Though the Harper government says Canada is halfway to reaching its 17 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020, critics say the country has only cut emissions by as little as 3 per cent.

The devil, it seems, is in the details, according to CTV.  The Montreal based environmentalist group Équiterre says the government is skewing the data to make it look more palatable.

Canada’s 2020 emissions target of 607 megatonnes is based on the projection that 850 megatonnes of harmful gases would have been released into the atmosphere had the federal government done nothing to reduce emissions.

By using that projection as a starting point, instead of the roughly 750 megatonnes of greenhouse gases Canada emitted in 2005, the government can say it’s halfway toward reaching the goal. However, emissions are currently down only three per cent from 2005 levels, at 720 megatonnes.

Other projections have placed Canada’s 2020 emissions as much as 19 per cent higher than its goal. This is good news, though, according to The Province, but only because its emissions targets have been so bleak.

Environment Canada’s previous estimates from 2011 projected the country’s annual emissions would be 29 per cent above Harper’s 2020 target, set under the 2009 Copenhagen climate change agreement.

Perhaps the contributing factor is the government’s lax stance on emissions from the tar sands. The Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government doesn’t want to inhibit job growth. This winter Canada also earned some well-deserved international ire when the country pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, joining the United States, Afghanistan, Andorra, and South Sudan.

However, with global warming in full swing, Alberta can expect to be scorched anyway by 2100. Maybe the seat of the Conservative Party will have to acknowledge the “climate change” problem by then?

*Photo by Guy Gorek (Creative Commons)