Stephen Harper

Tue, 2012-10-23 20:00Guest
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Suzuki: Short-Term Thinking On Display in Canada-China Deal and Budget

By David Suzuki
 
Why, when so many people oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, would government and industry resort to such extreme measures to push it through?
 
The problems with the plan to run pipelines from the Alberta tar sands across northern B.C. to load unrefined, diluted bitumen onto supertankers for export to China and elsewhere are well-known: threats to streams, rivers, lakes and land from pipeline leaks; the danger of contaminated ocean ecosystems from tanker spills; rapid expansion of the tar sands; and the climate change implications of continued wasteful use of fossil fuels.
 
The benefits aren’t as apparent. Some short-term and fewer long-term jobs, possibly for foreign workers, and increased profits for the oil industry – including state-owned Chinese companies – are all we’re being offered in exchange for giving up our resources, interests and future, putting ecosystems at risk, and forfeiting due democratic process.

Wed, 2012-10-17 14:23Carol Linnitt
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China Investment Treaty "a Straitjacket" for Canada: Exclusive Interview with Trade Investment Expert Gus Van Harten

This post is the first of a series on the Canada-China Investment “Straitjacket:” Exclusive Interview with Gus Van Harten. You can access Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

I recently picked up a copy of Francis Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order. Sitting on the bedside table at the house I was staying at, the book made for some 'light' bedtime reading. I heaved the enormous tome onto my lap and, opening it to a random page, read this alarming passage: 

There is no rule of law in China today: the Chinese Communist Party does not accept the authority of any other institution in China as superior to it or able to overturn its decisions. Although the People's Republic of China has a constitution, the party makes the constitution rather than the reverse. If the current Chinese government wanted to nationalize all existing foreign investments, or renationalize the holdings of private individuals and return the country to Maoism, there is no legal framework preventing it from doing so (Pg 248)

My concerns with China's treatment of foreign investments arose in light of China's recent bid for Nexen, a Canadian company with large holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Since Canada is having trouble with the management of the tar sands now, what would it look like if we had Chinese state-owned enterprises like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in the mix?

It turns out the problem is of magnitudes greater than I had originally conceived, and concerns not only Canada's management of its resources, but its sovereignty, its democracy, and the protection of the rights and values of its citizens.

Perhaps most strikingly, Canada is embracing this threat, showing telltale signs the real culprit in this dangerous deal isn't China at all.

In order to untangle the web of an international trade deal as complex as the China-Canada Investment Treaty, which establishes the terms of the Nexen deal - the biggest overseas takeover by a Chinese company -  I spoke with Professor Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Law School, an expert on foreign investment deals of this sort.

Below is Part 1 of our interview:

Sun, 2012-07-22 06:00Andrew Nikiforuk
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Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission

This post originally appeared in The Tyee, and is re-published with permission.
 
Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa.

And they'd be righter than Job, I believe.

Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada's government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism – or what some call “evangelical religious skepticism.”

First came Canada's pull-out of the Kyoto agreement without any rational or achievable national plan to battle carbon pollution.

Next came the hysterical and unprecedented letter by Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver, an investment banker. It branded local environmentalists and First Nations as foreign radicals because they dared to question the economic and environmental impacts of a Chinese-funded pipeline.

At the same time federal security types declared Greenpeace, a civil organization originally started by Canadian journalists, to be a “multi-issue extremist group.”

Sun, 2012-06-24 11:37Guest
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1812 and All That: the Bicentenary of Dr. Charles Smallwood, Canadian Scientist (1812 - 1873)

This is a guest post by Andrew McLaren

With all the present glorification of the 1812-15 conflict being promoted by Canada’s Federal Government, another important bicentennial is being pointedly overlooked: the birth of Dr. Charles Smallwood (1812-1873), a Canadian physician and scientist who can be credited for the earliest extended research into Meteorology and Astronomy in our emergent Country. His early work included studies into snowflake formation (can any Canadian not relate to this?), many years of observations and research in atmospheric Ozone levels, later founding the Montréal Observatory at McGill University. He even established the National Astronomical Time Standard still used for over a half-century after his death!

Smallwood’s research in Ozone, particularly as relating to atmospheric humidity, was published in Montréal in 1857.  It is sad to note over a century and a half since, present-day Ozone monitoring in the Canadian North has been subjected to terminal funding cuts, even with the shocking discovery of a Polar Ozone Hole for the first time in recorded history (2011). This bears an unfortunate testimony to our current Federal Government’s politically motivated attacks on Science and scientists, particularly those studying the environment. In spite of this “War of 2012” against climate, water, and other environmental scientists, we should commemorate the life and work of Charles Smallwood, and celebrate his massive contribution to science here in Canada and internationally on the occasion of his 200th Birthday.


Tue, 2012-06-05 05:54Jeff Gailus
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Time to Audit the Fraser Institute

On March 25, 2012, the Compliance Division of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) received a letter from Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP (aka JSS Barristers). In 11 detailed pages, JSS Barristers lodged a complaint against Environmental Defence, a charity registered with the CRA, on behalf of Ezra Levant’s brainchild, the Ethical Oil Institute. A month later, on April 24, the JSS-Ethical Oil team sent the CRA a second, similar letter, this one a 44-page imputation that the David Suzuki Foundation, like Environmental Defence, was “in contravention of the CRA rules surrounding registered charities and political activity.”

According to the CRA, and as echoed in the Ethical Oil Institute’s complaints against Environmental Defence and the Suzuki Foundation, a charity may not be created for a political purpose, and it can't “take part in an illegal activity or a partisan political activity.” Specifically, the CRA states that charitable organizations must devote “substantially all” (i.e. 90%) of their resources to charitable activities, and that any political activity is “subordinate” to its stated purpose.

That's not to say that charities can't promote their work and educate the public about issues that have political implications. But in doing so they must ensure that public awareness campaigns aren't their “primary activity, and their information must be “well-reasoned.” It goes without saying that they don't connect their views to specific political parties or candidates.

As an example, the CRA states that “a purpose such as improving the environment by reducing the sulphur content of gasoline would very likely require changes in government regulations. Generally, any purpose that suggests convincing or needing people to act in a certain way and which is contingent upon a change to law or government policy (e.g., “the abolition of” or “the total suppression of animal experimentation”) is a political purpose.”

Given all of this, and given the Ethical Oil Institute’s obvious concern about registered charities flouting CRA rules — namely, engaging in partisan political activity, or spending too much time and money influencing public opinion about laws, policies, or government decisions — it’s surprising that Ethical Oil didn’t send a third letter complaining about perhaps the most politically partisan of all Canadian charities — the infamous Fraser Institute.

Thu, 2012-05-31 09:37Guest
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What is Harper Afraid Of?

Sat, 2012-04-28 19:16Guest
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U.S. Republican Koch oil billionaires help fund the Fraser Institute. Why the Fraser Institute?

Authored by Jenny Uechi, originally published at Vancouver Observer. Re-posted with permisison. 

U.S. libertarian oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have poured at least half a million dollars into The Fraser Institute over the last few years. In case you haven't been following their trail, here's a bit about them: 

If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits. 

– Rolling Stone Magazine

The Koch brothers are the funders of the Americans for Prosperity group that just launched a $6.1 million television ad targeting President Barack Obama in eight states. Based in Witchita, Kansas, they own the second largest privately held company in America. Their father, Fred Koch, was a member of the radical right-wing John Birch Society.  

According to The New Yorker, “The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.”  

Fri, 2012-02-10 19:16Guest
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Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment

This is a guest post by Dr. David R. Boyd, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University and author of The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment. Originally published at iPolitics

Is Stephen Harper the worst prime minister that Canada has ever had, from an environmental perspective? The evidence is mounting that this is indeed the case, despite some early glimmers of hope. Given the deteriorating global environment, this failure of leadership could not have happened at a worse time.

That Canada has become an international laggard in environmental policy and practice is now an incontrovertible fact. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, researchers at Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th out of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance.

Yale and Columbia ranked Canada 37th in their 2012 Environmental Performance Index, far behind green leaders such as Sweden, Norway, and Costa Rica, and trailing major industrial economies including Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. Worse yet, our performance is deteriorating, as we rank 52nd in terms of progress over the 2000-2010 period. Even Prime Minister Harper has candidly admitted, “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”

For several years, the Conservatives blamed Canada’s environmental problems on the previous Liberal government, and their own lack of progress on a fractious minority parliament. Now that it has a majority, is the Conservative government attempting to solve environmental problems with stronger laws, higher standards, larger investments, and tougher enforcement?

No.

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