Browsing the archives for the Parliament Hill tag.

Ottawa Citizen Declares Native Protest Horse Manure!

Canadian Politics, Civil Rights, Political Reality

The National Post chose to run a highly inflammatory opinion piece written by Christie Blatchford on Dec 27.  The next day the Ottawa Citizen’s editors decided to run the same article on the front page of their newspaper in a premier headline slot.  Most reputable newspapers reserve the front page for news and choose instead to publish commentary and opinion on the interior pages, usually near the editorial page or in a Comments section of the paper.

What is disturbing about the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial decision is that this offensive opinion piece denigrates the aboriginal spiritual practices of tobacco offerings and smudging ceremonies as “hideous puffery and horse manure”.   Why would the Citizen’s editors try to present such seemingly racist views as news?  Have they lost all journalistic professionalism?

The spiritual indigenous traditions of offering tobacco to show respect, smudging with sweetgrass & sage to purify and renew the spirit, and prayer at a Sacred Fire are no more “horse manure” than the Euro-Canadian traditions of offering gifts at Christmas, taking communion to renew the spirit, or praying at an altar in a Cathedral.  So how can Blatchford’s ridiculous pronouncement even remotely be considered newsworthy?

Incredibly, Blatchford also suggests that there isn’t enough aboriginal culture left to be worth recognizing First Nation treaty rights.   Presumably by Blatchford’s perverse reasoning, Jewish people should have abandoned their culture after the Holocaust, let alone dream of an Israeli nation.

Having abandoned both common sense and logic, Blatchford concludes her piece by insinuating that the peaceful protest by Chief Spence might somehow be perceived as  an act of “intimidation, if not terrorism”.  It would seem that Blatchford is easily frightened by democratic dissent.

This perspective marks a new low in missing the point of a situation.  First of all, the suffering of Canada’s indigenous communities has finally reached a breaking point where people at a grass-roots level simply are not going to take it any longer.  To suggest that their protests are some kind of a side-show requires an Orwellian perspective in which everything is the opposite of what it actually is.

Secondly, hunger strikes, blockades, marches onto Parliament hill appear to lead to madness (by those who fear democratic dissent) only because they are a symptom of a greater underlying madness that those protesters are trying to change.

It is a sign of governmental failure when people take to the streets in protest.  Something is broken in our social contract and the protesters are visibly calling attention to that problem by exercising their democratic freedom of expression.

When a person starts a hunger strike, willing to die rather than let the status quo continue, they are telling us that something is very seriously broken.  When that person is a leader, she is telling us that only the leaders can fix the underlying madness that is causing the problem.

So who is the terrorist?  Is it the Prime Minister for knowingly perpetuating a shameful system of colonial “governance” that promotes chronic poverty, substance abuse, abnormal youth suicide rates, and other suffering within indigenous communities? Or is it the woman sitting in a wigwam asking that Harper takes responsibility as a leader and engage in meaningful dialog to find ways to end these very serious problems?

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GreenPeace Got It Wrong

Climate Change

GreenPeace Protest

GreenPeace’s recent protest of scaling the walls of Parliament Hill to protest green house gas (GHG) emissions from the tar sands was certainly well-intentioned.  GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily increasing ever since Canada signed the Kyoto Accord.  The following chart from Environment Canada makes it painfully clear that

  1. GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily climbing since 1983.
  2. GHG-Intensity is a false metric for tracking GHG emissions.
  3. There is a strong correlation between energy usage and GHG in Canada.
Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

But are is Oil Sand mining the biggest source of the problem?  Not by a long shot.

The Real Culprits

Environment Canada compiles an inventory of GHG emissions every year.  Since this takes them a while to add up, the most recent data available is for 2007.  A quick scan through this data with a calculator reveals that the top 3 sources of GHG emissions come from:

  1. Transportation (cars, trucks, planes) at 200 Mega Tonnes
  2. Mining, Oil & Gas, extraction and processing at 158 Mega Tonnes
  3. Electricity & Heat generation at 126 MegaTonnes

(1) and (3) are not surprising considering that Canada is the largest country in the world with a sparse population living in one of the coldest regions on our planet.  GreenPeace would have us believe that (2) is because of the Oil Sands, but only 18% of these emissions actually come from Oil Sands extraction and processing. 

In fact, according to Environment Canada’s GHG Inventory. over twice this amount (41% of mining, oil & gas industry emissions) comes from “fugitive” emissions that are caused by gas escaping from traditional oil & gas extraction through flaring, venting, burn-offs, leakage, etc.  Better engineering and less carelessness by roughnecks out in the bush would go twice as far in protecting our environment than targetting the oil sands industry.

Our #1 problem, transportation, breaks down almost evenly between personal use (87 Mt) and trucking-related (81 Mt) with aviation, railways and marine use mopping up the remaining (32 Mt).  More aggressive standards on fuel-related emissions and greater incentives for using electric/hybrid, clean diesel, and alternative fuel vehicles would have made it easy for Canada to live up to its Kyoto promises.

However, digging into the contributors for Electricity production reveals that there are 2 companies that EACH produce more GHG than all of the oil sands producers put together!

Top Polluters In Canada

The environmental watchdog, Corporate Knights, is a well-respected and independent publication that publishes an annual list of the best and worst companies as measured by their environmental practices.  Their most recent Carbon 50 report, reveals that two corporations,

  • TransAlta and
  • Ontario Power Generation,

EACH emit as much GHG as the entire oil sands industry.

Although both these polluters have plans to clean up their act, these plans are being measured using an Intensity-Based metric of  Total Pollution / Total Electricity Produced.

Using this metric (which was originated by the Harper & Bush administrations to avoid accountability on climate change), it is OK to increase pollution as long as you also increase the amount of electricity generated.  This enables the polluter to make faint progress, maximize public relations, and avoid accoutability.

We need to reject the intensity-based lie by refusing to allow politicians and corporations to hide behind it.  Mr. Bush is now a historical figure and Mr. Harper recently flip-flopped and is no longer using it, but we also need to hold corporate Canada accountable too.

TA

TransAlta (TA) is Canada’s largest investor owned electric power producer, producing 55% of its current 8.8 GW output from GHG-emitting, coal-fired power plants.  Despite their corporate rhetoric about investing in green replacement sources, according to their investor information, TA has more coal-fired new production (271 MW) under near-term construction than renewable wind or hydro production (153 MW). 

In fact, even after bringing a further 692 MW of renewable energy online by 2013, only 24% of TA’s electrical production will be from renewable energy sources.

One of the reasons for their wimpy plan is that TA has failed to include GHG reduction as a corporate key performance metric.  TA has adopted non-finanical key performance measures such as Availability and Safety but not GHG reduction.  Sadly, TA’s annual report measures future progress (page 58) using GHG Intensity metrics as if they are useful metrics.  As a result, their executives can pocket bonus compensation while continuing to pollute our air. 

Clearly TA’s leadership needs to hear from their green-minded investors that how they make money is just as important has how much money they make!!  Mr. Gordon Giffin is the Board member who Chairs the  Governance & Environment Committee of the Board.

OPG

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is Canada’s largest government-owned electricity producer, producing 22% of its 21.7 GW from GHG-emitting gas and coal sources.  OPG has established a target of zero production from coal by 2014 but also uses an intensity-based metric to measure progress. 

This enables OPG to crow about a 2% reduction per GWhr while pumping out 28.4 Mt of GHG in 2007 – more than the entire oil sands industry.  Under OPG’s flimsy plan, their zero-coal target can be acheived by replacing coal-sourced power with gas-sourced power.  Since fewer GHG are produced by gas than coal, their intensity-based metric will show a reduction while total GHG pollution continues to increase.

OPG’s public relations also fail to come clean on the fact that OPG’s “renewable” power sources are actually dominated by nuclear power production which is neither green nor a renewable resource.  While nuclear is “clean” from a GHG perspective, only 26% of the 21 GW produced in Ontario in August 2009 was from renewable and green sources.

OPG gets its marching orders from Mr. Gerry Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of Energy.  I’m sure he’d like to hear from you.

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