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Thu, 2012-12-13 11:05Carol Linnitt
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Van Harten: Canada "Recklessly" Entering Trans-Pacific Partnership, FIPA

Last week Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada announced Canada had “officially joined the latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations” after more than two and a half years of talks by previously engaged nations. The 15th round of talks, involving Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, wrapped up yesterday in Auckland. 

The TPP has already been the cause of significant concern in the U.S. where citizen groups and elected leaders have argued the agreement is shrouded in secrecy, leaving the American public to speculate about its consequences. This summer, after members of Congress complained corporate access to the trade documents superseded their own, leaked portions of the agreement began to circulate online. 
 
At the time Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said, “the outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations.”
 
During those two years, while Canada was vying for a seat at the TPP table, America made arguments that seemed to anticipate the furor Canadians would soon feel after the announcement of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, or FIPA
 
Much like FIPA, the TPP grants unprecedented power to corporate entities with access to international tribunals that have the authority to overrule Canadian decisions regarding domestic policies that may apply to environmental regulation or reform, finance and labour policies and First Nations rights.
 
International investment lawyer and trade agreement expert, Gus Van Harten told DeSmog that Canada is currently on track to become “the most locked in developed country in the world in investor-state arbitration.” He added, Canada is “proceeding recklessly” into this enfeebling agreement which will give “almost all foreign corporations in the country exceptional leverage to pressure governments behind closed doors.”
 
The Harper government is selling out Canada's long term sovereignty and prosperity in what appears as a thoughtless gamble, without so much as a financial risk assessment. As Van Harten puts it below, “We do not intend to slip on the sidewalk in winter, but we still check for ice.”
 
I asked Professor Van Harten 5 questions about the TPP and its relation to the politically-contentious FIPA
Tue, 2012-12-11 17:02Carol Linnitt
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Northern Gateway Pipeline Hearing Exposes Gaps in Enbridge Evidence

It looks like islands aren't the only thing Enbridge overlooks these days.

A report released today by ForestEthics Advocacy summarizes all of the information missing from Enbridge evidence brought before the Joint Review Panel in the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing. The ongoing hearings, which began in September, address the proposed project's economics, construction plans, operations, environmental impacts, risks to marine life and First Nations' rights.
 
However ForestEthics suggests the evidence submitted by Enbridge is far from comprehensive. In fact, the company has “a frightening number of gaps in its information that won't be prepared until after approval is granted” to the project, says the report.
 
Below is an abridged version of ForestEthics' Pipelines and Promises, which outlines the evidence Enbridge has so far failed to submit to the Northern Gateway hearings:
Mon, 2012-12-10 12:31Carol Linnitt
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Documents Reveal Alberta Colludes with Industry in Pipeline Safety Review

A pipeline safety review conducted by the Alberta government last summer was done with the oil and gas industry's interests in mind, according to recent documents released to Greenpeace through Freedom of Information legislation. The documents (PDF) show the review, commissioned after a series of back-to-back pipeline incidents across Alberta raised public concern, was coordinated internally between government and industry, and appears to have required industry consent.

Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart told the Canadian Press “there's a difference between talking to industry and asking for their approval.”

Private communications suggest government officials worked behind the scenes to develop a review plan that would please industry.
 
“It looks like industry got to write the terms for this review,” said Stewart.
 
The review was commissioned by the Alberta government after a collective of more than 50 prominent environmental, land rights, First Nations and union representatives called upon Premier Alison Redford to initiate an independent review of the province's pipeline safety. The groups, including the Alberta Surface Rights Group, The Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada also launched an anonymous oil spill tipline, urging individuals to make rupture and spill information public. The Alberta government does not make such information available on a public database.
 
Between May and June the pipeline industry suffered three major incidents in Alberta. The first saw 3.5 million liters of oil leaked into muskeg near Rainbow Lake. In June, a tributary of Red Deer River, which provides drinking water to many Albertan communities, was flooded with 475,000 liters of oil from an unused pipeline. Not two weeks later, more than 230,000 liters were spilled from a leaking line near Elk Lake
 
Fri, 2012-12-07 17:21Carol Linnitt
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Harper Government Approves Foreign Acquisition of Nexen, Progress Energy, Affirms FIPA Concerns

Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the approval of two major acquisitions of Canadian energy companies by foreign state-owned enterprises. The Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) will commence the $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen Inc., a Canadian company with major holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Malaysia's Petronas will proceed with the purchase of Progress Energy Resources Corp., a Calgary company with considerable shale gas plays in British Columbia, for $5.2 billion. Petronas has plans to construct an $11 billion liquified natural gas plant in Prince Rupert to prepare gas exports for Asia. 

Prime Minister Harper announced the takeovers, which are steeped in controversy, in tandem with new takeover guidelines intended to address growing concerns of foreign ownership of Canada's resources by energy-hungry nations. He remained silent on the significance of the approval for FIPA, the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, also known as the China-Canada Investment Treaty.
 
“Canadians generally and investors specifically should understand that these decisions are not the beginning of a trend but rather the end of a trend,” said Mr. Harper. The full meaning of that statement, however, remains to be seen. The Harper government's decision to ratify FIPA may mean deals done with China, like today's deal with CNOOC, will carry a new significance.
 
The government previously raised the threshold for official review of foreign takeovers from $330 million to $1 billion, signaling open arms to potential foreign investors with an eye on mega projects like the Alberta tar sands. However, today that threshold was returned to $330 million for state-owned enterprises.
 
“To be blunt, Canadians have not spent years reducing ownership of sectors of the economy by our own governments only to see them bought and controlled by foreign governments instead,” Mr. Harper said
Thu, 2012-12-06 10:25Carol Linnitt
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International Forum on Globalization: Kochtopus "Carbon Billionaires" Create "Climate Deadlock"

While international cooperation to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions has never been a greater imperative, climate progress has never been more stymied, more corrupted by those who stand to gain from maintaining a beleaguered carbon-based energy system that threatens the health and well-being of the global community. 

According to a new report released this week by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), no climate culprit deserves greater blame than the carbon billion duo, brothers Charles and David Koch. The IFG's “Faces Behind a Global Crisis: US Carbon Billionaires and the UN Climate Deadlock” explains the role these oil barons play in paralyzing global efforts to combat climate change on the international level. 
 
“The Kochs cashed in by polluting our planet - economists would call them free-riders - and now they wield their wealth to rig the rules in their own favor…Leading an epic propaganda effort by the broader fossil fuel industry, global climate cooperation may face no bigger barrier blocking progress today than these two individuals of undue influence.”
 
The extent and influence of the Kochs' wealth cannot be underestimated. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Koch brothers combined constitute the world's wealthiest 'individual' with a value of $80.2 billion, beating out Mexico's Carlos Slim at $71.8 billion. 
Tue, 2012-12-04 17:46Carol Linnitt
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"Big Oil's Oily Grasp": Polaris Institute Documents Harper Government Entanglement with Tar Sands Lobby

Oil industry lobbyists in Canada have taken the country by the reins. At least, that's the implication of the Polaris Institute's new report released today. The report, “Big Oil's Oily Grasp - The Making of Canada as a Petro-State and How Oil Money is Corrupting Canadian Politics,” (pdf) documents 2,733 meetings held between the oil industry and federal government officials since 2008. That figure outstrips meetings with environmental organizations by a whopping 463 percent. 

“Canada's increasing dependence on the export of bitumen to the United States has, in effect, served to redefine this nation in the form of a petro-state,” the report opens. Lobbying activities in Ottawa may help explain why “the Canadian government has increasingly watered down or withdrawn its role and responsibilities to regulate the economic, environmental and social impacts of the tar sands industry.”
 
The report highlights the spike in lobbying activities - of six major Big Oil players including Enbridge and TransCanada - in the period between September 2011 and September 2012, right when the industry-friendly omnibus budget Bill C-38 made its infamous debut. In that same period of time, the federal government met once with Greenpeace. 
 
Since 2008, oil and gas industry groups held meetings with officials 367 percent more than the two major automotive associations in Canada, and 78 percent more than the top two mining associations. 
 
“The amount of face time the oil industry gets in Ottawa in personal meetings and other correspondence greatly exceeds the time afforded other major industries in Canada,” says the report's co-author Daniel Cayley-Daoust. “No one doubts the hold the oil industry has on this current government, but it is important Canadians are aware that such a high rater of lobbying to federal ministers has strong policy implications.”
 

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