Archive for the ‘economic globalization’ Tag

Oil train trouble in Toronto: citizens demand answers

A Toronto neighbourhood is taking the unusual step of asking the Auditor General of Canada to get answers to the urban community’s oil train concerns.

Oil trains in Toronto - Safe Rail Communities group
Oil trains rolling past a Toronto west end homeowner’s backyard at dusk. Photo by Safe Rail Communities.

A Toronto neighbourhood group, alarmed by what appears to be a surge in oil trains rumbling past their urban backyards, is taking the unusual step of urging the Auditor General of Canada to intervene to help it get answers to safety concerns.

The group, called Safe Rail Communities, says it has been asking basic questions to CN, CP Rail and the federal government about the safety of transporting these explosive fuels, but found the responses lacking.

“We’re getting stonewalled,” said Helen Vassilakos, co-founder of Safe Rail Communities, who lives near the train tracks.

“Transport Canada is refusing to speak with us and the minister is actually refusing to send anyone out to our meetings.”

Full story from the Vancouver Observer at:


Canada and climate change

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.

Global Frackdown


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.

Can Increasing Inequality Be a Steady State? (2)

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital In The Twenty – First Century is selling very well.

Is this because people are concerned about the growing inequality of wealth (and incomes), or is it because, as Piketty writes, the current state of capitalism could be a threat to democracy as we know it?

Piketty, in the closing paragraph of his analysis, calls upon us all to be concerned. He writes:

“Yet it seems to me that all social scientists, all journalists and commentators, all activists in the unions and in politics of whatever stripe, and especially all citizens should take an interest in money, its measurement, the facts surrounding it, and its history. Those who have a lot of it never fail to defend their interests. Refusing to deal with numbers rarely serves the interests of the least well-off.”

For Christians, who believe in a Gospel message of God’s preferential option for the poor, Piketty’s words are a call to prophetic action.

Optimism about Climate Change

(Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)




Here’s Why Al Gore Is Optimistic About the Fight Against Climate Change.

A new study predicts that more than half the world’s energy will come from carbon-free sources by 2030. “The 2030 Market Outlook is Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s long-term view of how the world’s power markets will evolve to 2030. These are the findings from the global overview report, covering the major economic and technological findings.”


The full report from Bloomberg is available at:

What’s Missing from Canada’s Fracking Debate?

Andrew Nikiforuk, who has authored several books and articles on the energy industry, discusses four important questions in response to the question above. These questions are a valuable contribution to a debate that is happening across Canada, among concerned citizens.

1. How do you fix polluted groundwater or, even worse, a fracked aquifer?


2. How do you prevent regulatory capture?


3. How do you control a non-linear process?


4. What about shallow formations and the case of Jessica Ernst?

The full article from Nikiforuk can be found at:


First Nations response to Northern Gateway

IMG_1840On June 17, 2014 the Government of Canada, with the leadership of Stephen Harper,  approved Enbridge’s application to construct the Northern Gateway pipeline. This pipeline is designed to transport dilbit from the Tar Sands of Alberta, through the territories of First Nations peoples, to the west coast of Canada for export to international markets.

In immediate response to the federal government’s decision, First Nations across B.C. are uniting to defend their lands and waters from the unacceptable risks posed by Enbridge’s project. Read their response at:

What if Obama’s new emissions rule was applied in Canada?

VIEW: What if Obama’s new emissions rule was applied in Canada?

The new Environmental Protection Agency goal — a reduction in carbon emissions of 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 — applies only to emissions from electrical generating plants, power stations. The United States uses fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas for a far larger share of its power generation than hydro-blessed Canada.

As a result, that industry generates 40 per cent of the country’s total greenhouse emissions. The Canadian electricity sector’s share of this country’s GHGs is only about 12 per cent. Even a 30 per cent reduction there would only drag down total national emissions by four per cent.

Canada’s big-budget greenhouse items are transportation and the oil and gas sector. Together, they represent almost half, or 49 per cent, of our national emissions. Canada has set a new-vehicle fleet target for 2025 of releasing 50 per cent less greenhouse gasses than the 2008 model year, in line with U.S. policy.

The federal government has repeatedly promised to set emission-reduction targets for the country’s largest and fastest-rising emitter, the oil and gas industry, but has not yet done so.

In the unlikely event that Canada were to adopt the same target the U.S. just set for its power industry for its oil and gas emissions, the industry, whose emissions were one-quarter of the national total in 2012, would need to reduce them by more than 50 megatons a year by 2030. That would be roughly the emissions-cutting equivalent of idling every third car, truck, train and aircraft in Canada.

Chris Wood, author of Down the Drain: How We Are Failing to Protect Our Water Resources and Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America, is a freelance writer living in Mexico. Wood is also editor for Tyee Solutions Society.

– See more at:

The Religion of Growth

IMG_1384Sunday December 29, 2013


By Jim Taylor

Two pipeline debates wrack North America these days. Both start in what Alberta euphemistically calls its “oil sands.”

One projected pipeline heads south, to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast — the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The other, the Northern Gateway pipeline, heads west to the Pacific Ocean and the burgeoning Asian markets.
I had a premonition that the Joint Review Panel studying the Northern Gateway line would came out in favour of it. On December 19, they did.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, 1159 people spoke to the panel against the pipeline, including the representatives for 130 First Nations. Only two spoke for it.

The sheer volume of public opinion might suggest that the pipeline’s opponents should win. But in cases like this, majorities do not necessarily rule.
Because the two who supported the pipeline had powerful allies — money and mindset.
They had the entire oil industry behind them. That’s about 25 per cent of the value of the Toronto Stock Exchange, and almost ten per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product.
Back in the 1970s, when Pierre Trudeau tried to impose his National Energy Plan on the oil producing provinces in western Canada, bumper stickers in Alberta read, “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.”
The threat of the slogan is lessened now that provinces east of Ontario’s financial towers also produce oil. But the implied threat is still there. If Canada’s oil companies ever locked out consumers as a bargaining tactic, more than just “eastern bastards” would be freezing. And not driving. And doing without plastics of all kinds.
The Joint Review Panel found that “opening Pacific Basin markets is important to the Canadian economy and society.” Also that “the project would bring significant local, regional, and national economic and social benefits.”
Money talks.

Even more significantly, the two in favour of the Northern Gateway pipeline had on their side a prevailing mindset — the gospel of growth, growth, growth.
Its defenders cite economics — you must have growth to provide jobs.
Or demographics — you need a growing economy to provide continuing income for the people who are already there and retiring.
Or biology — any organism that stops growing is beginning to die.
Or even theology — the biblical mandate that God made the earth for humans to have dominion over it.
Against that mindset, it’s heresy, anathema, blasphemy, to argue that half of the province of B.C. should be preserved as is.
For four years, I covered news for the sweep of Highway 16 across northern B.C. And for one glorious summer, I worked in the woods that the pipeline will pass through on its way to Kitimat. It is a spectacularly beautiful region, barely damaged by the urban obsession with parking lots, freeways, and big box stores.
I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want my grandchildren to have to experience nature in a make-believe Disney theme park. Neither do the 1159 people who spoke against the pipeline.
They weren’t completely ignored. The review panel issued 209 recommendations to address their concerns.
But the panel also found that “after mitigation, the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects resulting from project malfunctions or accidents is very low…. After weighing all of the oral and written evidence, the Panel found that Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Enbridge Northern Gateway project than without it.”

Still, I guess that few of the pipeline’s opponents would want to freeze the clock where it is, let alone turn it backward. I doubt if they’re satisfied with the present quality of education for their children, medical care in their hospitals and medical clinics, and availability of road, air, and rail travel to larger centres outside the north.
In that sense, they too believe in growth — but at their pace, their timing. Not sudden massive growth where a single accident could destroy much of what they value about living in the north.
The pipeline itself may be the least of their worries. Pipelines can be monitored. Spills can be contained.
Tankers, that’s another matter. A tanker that runs aground, the way that B.C. Ferries flagship Queen of the North did, because of a short lapse of attention, despite all navigational aids, could have massive consequences.
And there will be an accident. I don’t know when. It may be decades away. But there will be an accident, eventually. The owners of the pipeline, the owners of the ships, will cut a dollar here and a dollar there to reduce costs. Safety will take second place to profit. Maintenance will become a chore rather than a commitment.
Now it’s up to the federal government to approve or reject the pipeline.
Given Stephen Harper’s support for private industry, his conservative economic leanings, his conviction that resources exist to be exploited, I don’t see him rejecting a development that could produce hundreds of jobs and billions of dollars of revenue.

As I expected, Northern Gateway will go ahead.
Copyright © 2013 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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Jim Wallis writes about Pope Francis

Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C. has written a commentary about Pope Francis. Part of that commentary is:

The remarkable acts of kindness and grace we see with Pope Francis are the natural response from a disciple who has known the kindness and grace of Christ in his own life. The pope’s moments of Christ-like compassion and love point not to “a great man,” but rather point to Jesus. He is not asking us to follow him, but inviting us to follow Christ.

Pope Francis in March 2013.jpg

Pope Francis in March 2013 – Wikipedia

The whole column by Jim Wallis is available at: