Canada and climate change   Leave a comment

Canada has the worst climate change record in the industrialized world

This is embarrassing.

Canada is dead last among industrialized nations in a new climate change performance index.

“Canada still shows no intention on moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all industrialized countries,” says the report released by Germanwatch, a sustainable development advocacy group.

The index takes into account a variety of indicators related to greenhouse gas emissions, development of emissions, climate policy, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Canada particularly stands out when comparing its low scores on emissions, renewable energy investments and climate policies.

 

This shouldn’t come as much surprise to Canadians.

Back in June, when U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for historic reductions in carbon emissions, Stephen Harper reversed his long-standing wait-and-see what the Americans do position on emissions, shifting to a new line that he had actually solved the problem two years ago.

That, of course, isn’t true. Earlier this month, an audit conducted by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found the federal government’s policies to reduce emissions has only gotten us 7% of the way to meeting Canada’s Copenhagen Accord targets.

On the other hand, we’re dealing with a government that believes increased fossil fuel use has a correlation with improved air and water quality.

Photo: ojbryne.

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (6)   Leave a comment

Harper tries to intimidate us into perpetual war

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

Stephen Harper insisted last week that we will not be intimidated by terrorism. He then did everything he could to ensure we will be intimidated by terrorism.

I’ve always been confused by the assertion that we won’t be intimidated by terrorism. Has anyone ever suggested that we should be intimidated by terrorism, that because a man ran into the Parliament buildings brandishing a rifle, we should abandon parliamentary democracy?

Obviously not.

But Harper wants us to be sufficiently intimidated that we will allow the fight against “terrorism” to take centre-stage and suck up all our energy — unlike, say, threats that are just as likely or more likely to kill us, like Ebola or climate change. (These threats don’t much interest Harper. He’s made only made a small contribution to fighting the Ebola epidemic; and he’s actively obstructed attempts to organize global action against climate change.)

Not so with terrorism, which dominated the political agenda all this week, with lots of hype about Canada and our institutions being under attack — even as there was growing difficulty in explaining the difference between the “terrorist” murders of two soldiers and the non-terrorist murders of three RCMP officers in Moncton. The main difference appeared to be that the Moncton murderer was not a follower of Islam, so didn’t fit into the government’s terrorist category.

The real danger is that we will be intimidated — not by terrorists or mentally ill killers, but by Stephen Harper — into accepting an aggressive “war on terror” agenda. Those who don’t jump on board will soon be reminded: if you’re not fighting terrorism, you’re with the terrorists.

Under this kind of pressure, Canadians may end up accepting an agenda that we’ve wisely resisted in the past, and that most Canadians regard as a failure.

It’s worth recalling that Stephen Harper tried to push Canadians into George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Canadians (and Americans) now overwhelmingly regard that invasion as a disaster, and believe western interventions to fight terrorism have only made the world more dangerous, according to pollster Frank Graves.

Graves points to what Canadians would like to see instead: “Overwhelmingly, Canadians want to see their leaders re-think their reliance on military and security-oriented approaches to the terrorist threat, in favour of approaches more in keeping with our core values as a nation.”

Well, we can pretty much forget about that.

Already, the Harper government has moved to beef up the surveillance and police powers of the state.

This is always worrisome, but particularly so under this government, which has aggressively used state power, including invasive tax audits to harass charities — notably  environmental charities — that have opposed government policies.

In fact, the Harper government has gone so far as to suggest some charities have terrorist links.

As the late Jim Flaherty said, “there are some terrorist organizations, there are some organized crime organizations that launder money through charities, and make donations to charities.”

What new measures then might the Harper government use to spy on or clamp down on allegedly terrorist-connected environmental groups that threaten to derail its pipeline agenda?

In the new anti-terror atmosphere, we can also expect plenty of pressure to fall in line when it’s time to extend the six-month bombing mission in Iraq; curtailing it, after all, would be giving in to terrorists, practically coddling them.

Certainly there will be little tolerance for arguments like the one advanced this week by Ron Paul, the maverick former Republican presidential candidate, who noted that Canada’s past avoidance of U.S. military interventions was wise: “staying out of other people’s wars makes a country more safe.”

Of course, risking our safety can be justified — if the war is justified and worth fighting.

But the danger is that we won’t even have a chance to properly assess our bombing mission in Iraq.

Any attempt at thoughtful evaluation will be pre-empted by the need to show resolve against terror, to remain in lock-step with our anti-terror allies. We’ll end up less safe, not because we’ve concluded that bombing Iraq is a good idea, but because we’ve been attacked by “terrorists” and need to show them we won’t be intimidated.

During the war in Afghanistan, commentators used to say that if there were a lot of casualties, Canadians would turn against the war.

But the government did its best to tar those who did, including “Taliban Jack” Layton, who dared to urge negotiations.

As the government cranked up anthems and paraded coffins down the “Highway of Heroes,” we were urged to believe that each new casualty was a reason for staying — lest the fallen soldier had died in vain.

And so Canada stayed in Afghanistan for more than a decade, even though only 16 per cent of Canadians now regard that intervention as a success.

Hopefully this time we actually won’t be intimidated — by terrorists, the mentally ill, or those trying to push us into perpetual war.

Winner of a National Newspaper Award, Linda McQuaig has been a reporter for the Globe and Mail, a columnist for the National Post and the Toronto Star and author of seven bestsellers, including Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and other Canadian Myths and It’s the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet. Her most recent book (co-written with Neil Brooks) is The Trouble with Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World, and How We Can Take It Back.

This article is reprinted (by Rabble.ca) with permission from iPolitics 

Global Frackdown   Leave a comment

GLOBAL FRACKDOWN STARTS:

Majority of Canadians want fracking moratorium, says EKOS poll

October 8, 2014 – Media Release from The Council of Canadians

Global Frackdown

Today, (Oct. 8/14) the Council of Canadians released the results of an EKOS Research poll that found most people, regardless of political affiliation, support a fracking moratorium. Seventy percent support “a national moratorium on fracking until it is scientifically proven to be safe.”

“Regardless of age, region or education, people from coast to coast are calling for an end to fracking,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “Communities understand very well the impacts that fracking has on water sources, climate and public health. With the moratoriums in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it’s clearly the way communities want governments to go.”

Significantly, this support for a moratorium cuts across party lines: nearly half of Conservative voters support a moratorium. The highest support for a moratoria came from NDP voters: 87% of them support a national moratorium as do 78% of Liberal voters. Currently, the Green Party is the only party calling for a national moratorium.

“Based on these numbers, political parties may want to rethink their positions to put them in line with what the population wants. We’re urging NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to support a moratorium as the Green Party has,” says Emma Lui, Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians.

The results are being released leading up to the Global Frackdown on October 11. The Global Frackdown is an international day of action where hundreds of communities around the world call for a ban on fracking. Local Council of Canadians chapters are organizing events across the country on that day.

Fracking is a risky technique where sand, water and chemicals are injected into the ground to break apart rock formations to extract natural gas or oil. Communities have raised a number of concerns including excessive water use, water contamination, greenhouse gas emissions and health impacts of fracking chemicals.

While the provinces issue water and drilling permits, the federal government has a responsibility to regulate fisheries, environmental assessments, pollution prevention and oil and gas in First Nation reserves.

Other results:

  • 67% of people are aware of fracking (25% are very aware; 42% are somewhat aware)

  • 70% of people support a moratorium on fracking, which is fairly consistent across age groups, regions, income groups and education

  • 78% of Liberal voters, 49% of Conservative voters and 87% of NDP voters support a moratorium

  • 53% of Liberal voters and 67% of NDP voters strongly support a moratorium

The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. Survey results are statistically reliable in all major regions of Canada.

Read the media backgrounder and see the poll data tables.

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (5)   Leave a comment

"to see with the eyes of faith"

“to see with the eyes of faith”

“Fear is so fundamental to the human condition that all the great spiritual traditions originate in an effort to overcome its effects on our lives. With different words, they all proclaim the same core message: Be not afraid.””

A quote from Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach, page 57

Good News on “clean technology”   Leave a comment

Clean-tech is good for the economy and environment

Protest with Clean Energy for us sign
Credit: Chris Yakimov via Flickr

By David Suzuki - with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

What’s the fastest-growing sector in Canada’s economy? Given what you hear from politicians and the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the resource industry, especially extraction and export of fossil fuels like oil sands bitumen and liquefied natural gas. But we’re no longer just “hewers of wood and drawers of water” — or drillers of oil, frackers of gas and miners of coal.

Although extraction, use and export of natural resources are economically important and will remain so for some time, we’re starting to diversify. According to Ottawa-based consultants Analytica Advisors, clean technology, or clean-tech, is the country’s fastest-growing industry.

The firm’s “2014 Canadian Clean Technology Report“, found direct employment by clean-tech companies rose six per cent from 2011 to 2012, from 38,800 people to 41,000, with revenues increasing nine per cent to $11.3-billion. According to Industry Canada, mining and oil and gas sector revenues grew just 0.3 per cent in the same period, manufacturing 1.9 per cent and the construction industry 3.9 per cent.

At the current growth rate, Analytica estimates Canada’s clean-tech industry will be worth $28 billion by 2022. But with the global market expected to triple to $2.5 trillion over the next six years, Canada hasn’t come close to reaching its potential. It’s our choice to seize the opportunity. With just two per cent of the global market (matching our share of population), we could have a $50 billion clean-tech industry by 2020 — double the size of today’s aerospace industry.

Clean-tech also outshines other sectors on research and development investment, with $1 billion invested in 2012 and $5 billion from 2008 to 2012. That’s more than the combined R&D investments of natural resource industries (oil and gas extraction, mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing), and only $200 million less than the aerospace sector.

“If you look at the sum of the investments and revenues of all these companies, we have a significant industry today, Analytica president Céline Bak told the Hill Times. “Given the growth in investments today, it will continue to be significant and can grow into an industry comparable in size to other significant industries, like aerospace for example.”

The clean-tech sector is broad. “These companies are working on problems that we all care about, like how to use the constant temperature from the ground under our offices buildings for heating and cooling and how to replace expensive and polluting diesel power in our remote communities with clean affordable energy or transforming greenhouse gases into stronger concrete to build greener buildings,” Bak said in a Vancouver Sun article. Clean-tech comprises about 700 companies in 10 sectors across Canada, including renewable energy, water treatment, green building and development of environmentally friendly consumer products.

Many experts argue that putting a price on carbon, through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade, is a good way to stimulate clean-tech, by targeting greenhouse gas emitters and encouraging technologies and measures aimed at energy conservation and renewables.

But we could lose out if we take the industry for granted — especially because 74 per cent of clean-tech companies here sell products and services outside Canada, with export revenues of about $5.8 billion in 2012 and 42 per cent going to markets other than the U.S. “High-performing companies are often bought by international players that take the intellectual property, manufacturing and jobs to other countries,” Bak cautioned, adding, “The world already looks to Canada for our clean technology solutions. Isn’t it time that we did too?”

And, while the federal government has strategies to track and promote the fossil fuel and aerospace industries, it has yet to do this for clean-tech.

Diversity in nature is important — ensuring ecosystems remain resilient in the face of threats. So, too, for the economy. It’s folly to rely too heavily on extracting and selling finite resources, especially those that cause pollution and contribute to climate change and other threats to the environment and human health and survival. Canada’s economic growth potential through clean energy is huge, but it needs to be given the same priority government gives other industries.

Clean-tech may not be the answer to all our problems, but it’s a sector that offers a lot of promise for our economy and environment.

For more information, please watch this video.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (4)   Leave a comment

The Enemy Is Neglect of Mental Illness

The Ottawa shooter hardly fits the mould of sleeper cell terrorist.

By Mitchell Anderson, October 25, 2014, TheTyee.ca

Zehaf-Bibeau

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was a homeless, mentally ill drug addict and not part of a well-resourced terrorist cell.

Related

Canada and the world were shocked this week by the brazen shooting of a Canadian soldier at our National War Memorial and an armed assault on our seat of government. These tragic events cry out for immediate and drastic action to ensure this never happens again. And based on what we know so far, the most effective intervention would be to invest in support for those dealing with mental illness, addiction and poverty.

The gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was not part of a well-resourced terrorist organization or Islamic sleeper cell. Immediately before the shooting, he was living in an Ottawa homeless shelter. He apparently had a long history of addiction and mental illness. In 2012 he asked a B.C. judge to send him to jail so that he could try and deal with his addiction to crack cocaine.

“I went to see the RCMP, I told them, ‘Just put me in so I could do my time for what I confessed.’ They couldn’t. So, I warned them, ‘If you can’t keep me in, I’m going to do something right now just to be put in.’ So I went to do another robbery just so I could come to jail,” Zehaf-Bibeau said he told the court in 2011.

On Dec. 15, 2011, Zehaf-Bibeau walked into a Burnaby RCMP detachment and asked to be arrested for a robbery he claimed to have committed 10 years earlier. He was briefly detained under B.C.’s Mental Health Act but later released. Hours later he attempted to rob a local McDonalds restaurant with a sharpened stick — an act so bizarre the fast food employee thought he was joking.

His case was swallowed by the yawning cracks in our broken mental health system. The court psychiatrist determined that “although he seems to be making an unusual choice, this is insufficient basis for a diagnosis of mental disorder.” In order to be admitted to a treatment facility under the Act, Zehaf-Bibeau would legally require a condition that “seriously impairs the person’s ability to react appropriately to the person’s environment, or to associate with others.”

Instead, the judge indulged him with a brief jail term over the Christmas holidays. “Perfect,” said Zehaf-Bibeau on hearing of his incarceration. He likely found that Canada’s prison system is woefully under-resourced to deal with addiction and mental health issues.

Warehousing the mentally ill

This year the Correctional Investigator for Canada, Howard Sapers, called prison conditions for the mentally ill “grossly inadequate.” Increasingly these prisoners are being warehoused in solitary confinement due to lack of proper facilities or personnel.

Sapers told The Tyee last February that retention of qualified treatment staff is one of the most pressing concerns. “Many of the psychology positions are currently filled with individuals who do not have the qualifications to be licensed psychologists and this really has a very negative impact on the treatment that offenders with mental health issues have in federal penitentiaries.”

In his most recent report to Parliament, Sapers found, “More offenders are presenting with complex mental health, substance abuse and addictions issues. For example, upon admission, 80 per cent of federally sentenced male offenders have a substance abuse problem and nearly two-thirds reported that they were under the influence of substances during the commission of their offence.”

In spite of HIV and hepatitis C infection being rates 10 and 30 times higher in prisons than in the general population, Canada still does not have a needle exchange program within federal penitentiaries.

Outside of prisons, Canada is faring little better regarding a national commitment to deal with addiction and mental health. The Harper government fought the Insite Safe Injection facility all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in spite of a decade of evidence showing how much it is needed in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood.

Ten years after this facility opened, Dr. Julio Montaner of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS reported that “More than 30 peer-reviewed studies show that Insite saves lives and health care dollars, reduces disease transmission, and promotes entry into addiction treatment.”

One in five Canadians is coping (or not) with a problem involving mental health or addiction — a situation that is growing worse. Within a generation, 8.9 million Canadians will be living with a mental illness.

There is also a clear link between poverty and mental health. People in Canada’s lowest income group are up to four times as likely to report poor mental health than wealthy Canadians. As many as two thirds of homeless people report also dealing with a mental illness. It remains a national disgrace that in virtually any Canadian city, the neglected and disgorged mentally ill of our society continue to sleep outside for lack of any better alternative.

Paying in lives and dollars

Mental illness also costs Canada billions. Recent research itemized the economic burden at more than $50 billion per year. In Ontario, the disease burden of mental illness and addiction is one and a half times greater than all cancers put together and seven times more than all infectious diseases.

Poverty affects three million Canadians and one in five children, one of the worst rankings in the OECD. More and more physicians are drawing a direct link between poverty and poor public health outcomes. Health care remains the biggest line item in any provincial budget and collectively costs Canada $211 billion each year. Perhaps the most effective long-term strategy in controlling those costs may involve making sure that Canadians are not getting sick simply because they are poor.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the externalized costs of ignoring addiction, mental health and poverty in Canada will be borne by someone. Increasingly the professionals on the front lines of this battle are not trained psychologists or social workers but police, prison guards and physicians. Last week the gifted young soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo tragically lost his life to someone who was mentally ill.

We need to learn what we can from the tragic events on Parliament Hill and not draw conclusions based on mere ideology. It seems doubtful that this senseless act of violence would have been prevented by devoting more powers and funding to the “war on terror” or increased public surveillance — something the Harper government is clearly committed to doing, regardless of the facts we have learned so far about the shooter.

Rather than trying to turn our country into a fortress — a staggeringly expensive strategy with virtually no real world evidence of preventing terrorism — we should instead invest our efforts in making Canada a more humane, healthy (and safe) place to live. That would be a more noble and Canadian response to this ignoble and tragic act.   [Tyee]

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (3)   Leave a comment

DISTORTED STATISTICS FOMENT HATRED

By Jim Taylor – Sunday October 26, 2014

Wednesday morning, a man with a gun killed a soldier on ceremonial duty at the national cenotaph in Ottawa. Minutes later, the man ran into the parliament buildings. Where, in a flurry of gunshots, he died. A recording by a Globe and Mail reporter caught the gunfire. It was over in seconds. But the sounds echoed through parliament’s old stone hallways much longer.

Echoes do that.

A thunderclap actually lasts only as long as the lightning flash; the echoes rumble around the hills for minutes. Echoes reverberate even longer in memory. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is, basically, an echo that refuses to fade away.

Listening to eight hours of news coverage from Ottawa, I felt that I was hearing more echoes than insight.
Apparently no one saw it coming. Not CSIS, the Canadian security Intelligence Service. Not the police. Not the government.

The government had planned to introduce new anti-terrorist legislation in parliament that same day.
CSIS told a parliamentary committee that it had some 130 “radicalized” young men under surveillance, including the driver who ran down two armed forces personnel on Monday in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. But it lacked funds to track every potential terrorist.

Echoes… after the act….

VENOMOUS E-MAIL
By some coincidence, the day before the Ottawa attack, I received an e-mail that seemed to anticipate events. It listed 16 violent acts, from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968, through both bombings of the World Trade Centre, to the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year. All committed by Muslim males.

I suspect that e-mail had circulated on the Internet for some time, because it didn’t include the ritual beheadings in Iraq.

The unidentified writer — like the assassins in the desert, such persons prefer to hide behind the balaclava of anonymity – thought his litany justified racial profiling. To solve the problem; go after young male Muslims.
Statistics can be so easily distorted to suit one’s own prejudices.

One could equally argue that 80 per cent of all U.S. murders, about 12,000 a year, are committed by Christians. That 100 per cent of institutional torture in the U.S. was done by federal employees. That most U.S. neonaticides – killing or abandoning babies during their first 24 hours after birth – come from mothers under the age of 25.

Would those statistics justify surveillance of all Christians? Monitoring all federal employees? Banning pregnancies in women under 25?

The writer of the anti-Muslim e-mail also chose not to mention 190 incidents of violence during the 1990s by right-wing militias like Timothy McVeigh’s. Or that lynch mobs such as the Ku Klux Klan were 100 per cent non-Muslim.

Because that wouldn’t suit his biases.

Essentially, the e-mail invited security services to treat young Muslim males the way many U.S. police forces have treated young black males. And we know how well that has worked to reduce tensions. Even President Obama has told of experiencing harassment simply because he was black and male.

THUGS WHO SHOOT EACH OTHER
I am very much afraid that anti-Muslim sentiments will flourish in the aftermath of last week’s attacks. Both men were described as recent converts to Islam, and therefore suspect. I think Crawford Killian described them more accurately, in The Tyee, as “nutcases, choosing Islam as a flag of convenience for their internal demons…alienated for whatever reason from their society, with no more political significance than the thugs who shoot each other for control of the B.C. drug trade.”

Indeed, these deaths appear to be just as targeted as gangland killings. The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu driver waited two hours for his victims to come out. The Ottawa gunman picked a reservist at a symbolic site, the War Memorial.

Perhaps there’s a reason soldiers were picked. As international journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, “If you want to be a country that spends more than a decade proclaiming itself at war and bringing violence to others, then you should expect that violence will sometimes be directed at you as well.”

I’m afraid Stephen Harper will toughen his proposed anti-terrorist legislation to permit, even encourage, intelligence forces to set up databases and sting operations to trap “radicalized” Muslims. Police will start shooting Muslims on sight, as they have young blacks. CSIS agents will lurk in grocery stores to observe who buys Halal foods – an actual suggestion from a “radicalization” conference a few years ago.

And we, the citizens of Canada, will find ourselves giving up more and more of our rights and freedoms – of speech, of religion, of movement – as we chase the U.S. into the Homeland Security quagmire.

As Green party leader Elizabeth May wrote, while still locked-down in the parliament buildings, “We must ensure that this appalling act of violence is not used to justify a disproportionate response. … These kinds of events open the door to a loss of democracy. … Once we surrender rights it is very difficult to restore them.”
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Copyright © 2014 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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