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Thu, 2012-11-08 10:33Carol Linnitt
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"Stephen Harper Hates Science": Federal Scientists Muzzled to Protect Tar Sands Reputation

The Canadian government is working hard behind the scenes to cover up the negative effects that tar sands extraction is having on the local environment, wildlife, communities and the global climate. According to Access to Information documents obtained by Postmedia's Mike De Souza, the Stephen Harper government has actively suppressed the release of vital information regarding the spread of tar sands contamination by muzzling federal scientists.

The gag order, according to De Souza, came on the heels of a newly researched government report in November 2011 which confirmed the findings of University of Alberta scientists Erin N. Kelly and David Schindler. The scientists discovered concentrations of toxics such as heavy metals were higher near tar sands operations, showing a positive correlation between tar sands activity and the spread of contaminants in the local environment.

The government of Canada and the government of Alberta denied the correlation, saying local waterways tested showed no signs of toxic contamination and reports of mutated and cancerous fish downstream from the tar sands were unfounded.

Fri, 2012-11-02 15:45Carol Linnitt
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Defend Our Coast Rallies Demonstrate Diversity of Public Opposition to Tar Sands Export and FIPA

Standing within the throng of demonstrators at last month's Defend Our Coast rally it became clear to me that a palpable shift in the collective expectations of Canadians had taken place. 

It is evident we expect positive action on climate change; we expect steps to be taken towards clean energy alternatives; we expect those alternatives to be made available to us, not by corporations, but by the individuals we've selected as our leaders; we expect those leaders to respect the rights of First Nations; we expect limits to be placed on the corporate exercise of power; and we expect abuses of that power to be met with swift and strict accountability.
 
Such expectations, however, appear increasingly out of step with our current political and economic regime, showing just how backwards Canada's bitumen bottom line obsession has become.
 
Under the current Harper government, scientists have been intimidated and silenced, production of oil and gas has accelerated at an unprecedented and unhealthy rate, massive budget cuts have gutted environmental legislation which would slow the pace and scale of bitumen production and its export, and those voices calling for balance, for sobriety, in the way we manage our resources have been blacklisted as foreign-funded radicals trying to “hijack” Canada.
 
Adding to the fury, the Harper government is now trying to undemocratically strong-arm a powerful international trade deal called FIPA through the House of Commons even though it's been called unconstitutional and a threat to Canadian sovereignty.
 
But if anything, the growing and diverse chorus of public opposition - as seen at the Defend Our Coast rallies - demonstrates just how bold the Canadian populace is prepared to be in the midst of an increasingly hostile battle to preserve our rights and democracy. 
Wed, 2012-10-31 15:52Carol Linnitt
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Rush to Ratify: FIPA May Violate Constitutional Protection of First Nations Rights

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) may be ratified as soon as tomorrow, November 1. This despite a massive demonstration of Canadian opposition to the investment trade deal that will lock the federal government into a dangerously undemocratic agreement with China and Chinese investors for 31 years

The proposed agreement, signed by Stephen Harper in Russia on September 9 and kept secret until September 26, is being strong-armed through the house of commons after the required 21-day session in Parliament. Political action and environmental groups, opposition party leaders and experts in the field of international trade law are urging the Harper government to reconsider the agreement's immediate ratification, demanding an open parliamentary debate before the trade deal's future is decided.
 
So far all requests to throw out the deal, host a national debate, investigate the deal in emergency Parliamentary discussions, or indefinitely delay the deal's ratification, have gone unheeded by the Harper government.
 
Under FIPA the federal government is obliged to protect investor rights and profits, even to compensate for lost profits. That means when it comes to disputes involving Chinese investors, like the one over the future of Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Canadian government will have a duty to protect investor profits and not necessarily the jurisdictional rights of the British Columbian government, people or First Nations. 
Tue, 2012-10-30 13:39Carol Linnitt
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Supertankers, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis, Oh My: Enbridge Has No Spill-Response Plan for Northern Gateway Pipeline

Earlier this month British Columbians were surprised to hear that Enbridge, the main proponent of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, was unable to explain how the company's world-class spill prevention and clean up practices were either world-class or preventative.

At a public hearing in Prince George, Enbridge failed to instill confidence in the audience, admitting the company had no land-based spill prevention plan at all. During cross-examination the company admitted they will not have a spill-response plan until six months before the proposed pipeline would begin operation.

The company was unable to explain how they would respond to land-based spills from a pipeline designed to cover 1,172 km, crossing more than 770 of British Columbia's pristine watercourses. 
 
BC Environment Minister Terry Lake said “the responses that Enbridge/Northern Gateway representatives are giving our legal counsel are long on promises, but short on solid evidence and action to date,” adding, “the company needs to show British Columbians that they have practical solutions to the environmental risks and concerns that have been raised. So far, they have not done that.”
 
Enbridge will be cross-examined regarding maritime spill prevention in Prince Rupert on November 22, less than one month after the town was on high emergency alert after the second largest earthquake in Canada's history threatened coastal towns with tsunami warnings. The 7.7 magnitude quake put the entire Pacific Northwest on tusnami alert, with late-night sirens prompting regional evacuations from Alaska to Hawaii.
Mon, 2012-10-29 12:25Carol Linnitt
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Conference Board of Canada: Economic Benefits of Tar Sands Hinge On Climate Inaction

By 2035 operators in Alberta's tar sands expect to produce 5 million barrels of the world's most environmentally dirty and energy intensive oil per day. Current daily production hovers around 2 million barrels. According to a recent Conference Board of Canada report, projected expansion of the tar sands will require roughly $364 billion in investment over the next 25 years and will create significant economic benefits for both Canada and the US.

However, the report, commissioned by the Canadian federal and Alberta provincial governments, acknowledges that the economic benefits of oil production in the tar sands hinges on continued global climate inaction.
 
Based on the 'New Policies Scenario' from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Conference Board report, “Fuel for Thought: The Economic Benefits of Oil Sands Investment for Canada's Regions,” anticipates Canada and other participating countries will not achieve their 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Projected growth in the tar sands is consistent with at least 3.5 degrees of warming.
Fri, 2012-10-26 05:00Carol Linnitt
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No Herd Left Behind: Federal Caribou Recovery Strategy On "Collision Course with Industry," Leads to Caribou "Zoos"

This post is a part of DeSmog's investigative series: Cry Wolf.

Five years overdue in a legal sense and ten years after caribou were officially listed as 'threatened' according to the Species at Risk Act, the Canadian government has finally released its controversial Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou. The report, originally released in draft form in August 2011, ignited severe public criticism for emphasizing 'predator control' options like a provincial-wide wolf cull in order to artificially support flagging caribou populations in Alberta. 

The wolf cull garnered wide-spread condemnation from the scientific community, environmental organizations and First Nations who said the province's wolves were not the cause of caribou declines. Instead, Alberta's reckless industrial development in caribou habitat was to be blamed for the near-decimation of one of Canada's most iconic species. The caribou famously adorns the Canadian quarter.
 
The new and improved federal recovery strategy seems poised to remedy that, however, with dramatic improvements made to habitat protection and restoration legislation. Under the current strategy, the oil and gas industry, and the government of Alberta must work together to ensure a minimum of 65 per cent of caribou habitat is left undisturbed for the species to survive.

At least 65 per cent of caribou habitat must be left undisturbed for caribou herds to have a 60 per cent chance of being self-sustaining. Government and industry must make immediate arrangements to remediate caribou ranges that currently do not meet that 65 per cent benchmark within the next five years.
 
But the recovery strategy does not outline how Alberta must accomplish that task, leaving the 'immediate' ground work necessary for such accomplishments undefined. And given the rate at which the tar sands are currently experiencing expansion, Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute described the strategy as “on a collision course with industry.” 

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