For a second time, NEB recommends approval of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Workers assess a construction site on the Trans Mountain pipeline system in an undated photo in British Columbia. Handout photo from Trans Mountain

Canada’s energy regulator has once again recommended that the federal government approve the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker expansion project.

The regulator, the Calgary-based National Energy Board, made the announcement at a news conference in Calgary on Friday as it released its recommendations in a report.

The recommendations follow a series of hearings that were needed after the Federal Court of Appeal ruled last August that the previous approval of the project should be quashed due to mistakes made by both the NEB and the Trudeau government in assessing the impacts of the project on the west coast of B.C. and a failure to adequately consult with affected First Nations in a meaningful way.

The federal government must now review the NEB’s report and decide whether to proceed with the project, and it is expected to eventually give it the green light.

If built, the Trans Mountain expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system, allowing it to ship up to 890,000 barrels of bitumen, the heavy oil derived from Alberta’s oilsands, as well as other petroleum products. MORE

Polar melting: ‘Methane time bomb’ isn’t actually a ‘bomb’

Researchers cast doubt on one of the scariest ideas in climate science.

Video screenshot

It’s not news that climate science can be alarming. But in this video, climate scientists explain that one of the scariest ideas in the literature — the methane “time bomb” — turns out to be less worrisome than some have feared. “This is a call to action, not a declaration of defeat,” says scientist Ben Abbott of Brigham Young University.

Frozen methane deposits, known as gas hydrates, are unlikely to melt down in the near future.

“It’s not a situation where we trigger breakdown, and that that breakdown is going to suddenly — like the whole deposit’s going to release its methane all of a sudden,” says geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel of the U.S. Geological Survey. “That is not a scientifically sound worry.” MORE

Why one Ontario city is soliciting donations to fight climate change

Instead of raising property taxes to fund its climate-change plans, Peterborough has gone a different route — it’s accepting voluntary donations from residents

aerial view of Peterborough, Ontario

Critics of Peterborough’s new donation model say that the cost of fighting climate change should be borne by everyone, not just those who volunteer their money. (

When Peterborough’s budget talks began in early January, a group of local environmentalists hoped to persuade council to create a special fund for climate-change-mitigation projects, paid for with a 0.8 per cent increase in property taxes.

But when it became clear that a tax increase was unlikely to happen — Mayor Diane Therrien said the approximately $32 per year increase on a typical residence would be an “insurmountable barrier” for some — the group had another suggestion: Why not ask for donations from the community?

Council supported the idea and, on January 17, unanimously passed a motion directing city staff to provide a status report on the city’s efforts and to begin accepting donations “to support the Climate Change Action Plan” — an initiative developed by the City of Peterborough (in partnership with 11 other communities in the Greater Peterborough Area) that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2011 levels by 2031 through increases in energy efficiency and reductions in consumption and waste. Since then, the fund has raised more than $12,000 from 37 donors.

“There’s something important about citizens taking the lead. It allows them to say, ‘We’re doing something’ and puts pressure on our governments to get at it themselves,” says Linda Slavin, who, along with her husband, Al Slavin, is active in the Peterborough chapter of For Our Grandchildren, an environmental advocacy group. MORE

Climate Change Class Actions

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Last fall, we wrote about the potential for climate change disclosure class actions in Canada—class actions arising from an issuer’s failure to disclosure material information related to climate change. Since then, climate change class actions having little to do with disclosure have arrived in Canada. These cases—current and contemplated—generally follow American precedents.

First, in November 2018, ENvironnement JEUnesse (“ENJEU“), a non-profit organization, filed a proposed class action against the federal government in Quebec. The claim is brought on behalf of all Quebec residents aged 35 and under and alleges that the federal government set inadequate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and failed to meet the targets it did set. ENJEU argues that the federal government thereby breached ss. 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ss.1, 10, and 46.1 of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, and various obligations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. ENJEU seeks various declarations and corrective action.

Second, in January 2019, the City of Victoria (BC) endorsed a class action on behalf of local governments in BC to recover the costs they incur as a result of climate change from “major fossil fuels corporations”. Victoria plans to raise the proposed class action—which has yet to be filed or outlined in detail—with other BC municipalities later this year. Victoria also plans to ask the provincial government to “consider legislation to support local governments” in recovering the costs of climate change. The legal framework of this proposed claim remains unknown.

Climate change lawsuits may be a fixture in Canadian class actions for years. In Canada, climate change lawsuits will likely take the form of class actions… In Canada, climate change lawsuits will likely take the form of class actions. SOURCE

Redeemable? SNC-Lavalin’s Criminal Record

And why mega-project construction so often breeds corruption.


The façade of the ‘mechanism.’ Photo by Paul Chiasson, Canadian Press.

“The misuse of public procurement processes in the construction industry, the manipulation of the rules governing the financing of political parties and the infiltration of the industry by organized crime have generated economic costs for society as a whole. They have also undermined its democratic foundations, the rule of law and confidence in public institutions.” — Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry, also known as the Charbonneau Report.

SNC-Lavalin now occupies the centre stage of a national political scandal. It’s but the latest for the engineering giant, whose list of bad behaviours is so long that the magazine L’actualité actually called Canada’s largest engineering construction firm “the shame of Quebec Inc.”

Company executives bribed officials (the code word was “project consultancy costs”) in several countries to secure contracts and also bribed local officials involving a $1.3-billion Montreal “super hospital.”

In addition, the firm made illegal political party donations to municipal, provincial and political parties on a massive scale. SNC-Lavalin still faces federal charges it bribed Libyan government officials with $48 million while defrauding Libyan organizations of another $130 million. MORE

The uncertain fate of the lower Fraser River’s last salmon island strongholds

Most of this iconic salmon river’s foreshore wetlands, marshes and islands have been logged, diked, drained and converted to farming. Only a handful of un-diked islands remain, but now three of them have been bought and logged by developers, while conservationists mount a last-minute attempt to buy them

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The tip of Carey Island in mid-February 2019. At this time of year, cutthroat trout can be found in this side-channel habitat, along with sturgeon overwintering in deep gravel holes. Winter steelhead are also moving along the Fraser main stem (in the background of this photo), which will soon see the first spring returns of chinook salmon beginning in March. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

Three of the last un-diked islands on the lower Fraser River have been bought by developers and heavily logged, threatening the most productive habitat stronghold for salmon and white sturgeon left in the entire Fraser watershed.

Fisheries scientist Marvin Rosenau, an instructor in the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s fish, wildlife and recreation program, found out about it by accident. Back in June 2017, he was driving home to Abbotsford from a fishing trip in the interior, when he turned a bend just above Bridal Falls and looked down at Herrling Island.

“The whole landscape was bereft of trees,” he said of the 780-hectare island in the main stem of the Fraser River about 20 km northeast of Chilliwack. “It just ripped my guts out to see that.”

For Rosenau, a biologist and obsessive sports fisherman who has dedicated over 30 years to protecting the river, it was just the latest calamity for the Heart of the Fraser, one of the planet’s most productive networks of fish-friendly channels, islands and wetlands stretching 80 kilometres between Mission and the town of Hope. MORE

Canada’s health organizations demand action to prevent catastrophic climate change

Photo by Kristy Faith, Flickr/Creative Commons

In an unprecedented move, five national health organizations representing doctors, nurses, medical officers, and public health professionals gathered in Ottawa to call for urgent action to prevent catastrophic climate change on Feb. 5.

“The health impacts of climate change are already devastating.”

It is an election year and all of our organizations — the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), the Urban Public Health Network (UPHN), the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) — agree that climate change is too important to the health and well-being of our children and grandchildren to be treated as a wedge issue in the upcoming federal election.

The mental and physical health of Canadians is already being harmed by climate change. Last year, tens of thousands of Canadians had their lives, homes or jobs threatened by wildfires, power outages, tornadoes and floods; millions in western Canada were forced to breath toxic air pollution as wildfire smoke blanketed their communities for days or weeks at a time; and millions in central and eastern Canada suffered through searing heat for much of the summer.

On a global scale, the health impacts of climate change are already devastating. The prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, reported in 2018 that 712 extreme weather events occurred around the world in 2017, resulting in $326-billion (U.S. dollars) in economic losses — nearly a three-fold increase in economic losses over 2015. It also found that: 157 million more people were exposed to heat waves in 2017 than were exposed in 2000; insect and water-borne diseases are increasing in some regions of the world; and agricultural yield potential is decreasing in the 30 countries for which data were available. It concluded that the “trends in climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities demonstrate an unacceptably high level of risk for the current and future health of populations across the world.” MORE

Climate change plays major role in top 10 underreported humanitarian crises of 2018: report


A scene from the 2018 typhoon in the Philippines. Photo by Dennis Amata (

The devastating impacts of climate change have worsened humanitarian crises across the world, exacerbating food shortages, malnutrition and public health, says a report by CARE.

Suffering in Silence, the international aid organization’s report released Thursday, is CARE’s third annual ranking of the 10 humanitarian crises that received the least media coverage over the past year.

The most underreported crises in 2018 were in Sudan, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Philippines, Madagascar, Haiti, the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Deteriorating environments create vulnerabilities that make it harder for people to be resilient to humanitarian crises in regions such as the Lake Chad Basin and Sudan,” the report said. “This adds to the growing body of scientific evidence that the global climate crisis undermines sustainable development and causes human suffering.”

Graphic from CARE’s ‘Suffering in Silence’ 2018 report

Frequent droughts have threatened the livelihoods of people in Sudan, Chad, Madagascar and Ethiopia, the report found. In 2018, heavy rains and flash floods in Sudan affected over 200,000 people between June and early November. MORE


Today on the Justin and Jody show

Politics Insider for February 22: Canada’s top civil servant leaps to Trudeau’s defence, ‘somebody’s going to be shot’, and an impending end to steel tariffs

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus (left) and Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick make their way to the Justice Committee meeting in Ottawa, Thursday February 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Congratulations if you had “Canada’s top civil servant rides to Justin Trudeau‘s rescue against Jody Wilson-Raybould” on your SNC-Lavalin Bingo cards.

Appearing before the justice committee, Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick said there was nothing to the idea that when Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s attorney general the PMO tried to pressure her into helping SNC-Lavalin avoid criminal prosecution for fraud and corruption.  “At every opportunity, verbally and in writing in December, the prime minister made it clear that this was the decision for the minister of justice to take. She was the decision-maker,” he declared. He blasted the Globe and Mailstory that first raised the allegations of political interference, saying it “contains errors, unfounded speculation and, in some cases, is simply defamatory.” And he praised Trudeau and his staff for their integrity: “You may not like their politics or their policies or their tweets but they have always been guided by trying to do the right thing, in their own view, in the right way.” (Canadian Press)

Wernick also used his testimony to go well beyond the question of political interference in the SNC-Lavalin case, warning darkly that “somebody’s going to be shot” during the next Federal election campaign, that “trolling from the vomitorium of social media” was making its way into the “open media arena”, and without naming him he singled out Conservative Sen.David Tkachuk who urged the yellow-vested convoyers who descended on the Hill this week to get in their trucks and “roll over every Liberal left in the country. Because when they’re gone, these bills are gone.” Wernick called the Senator’s words “totally unacceptable,” given the Toronto van attack, and said “I hope that you as parliamentarians are going to condemn that.”

Also, fun fact: no one has ever used the word “vomitorium” on the Hill before, according to Hansard and the Library of Parliament.

Wernick’s statement was overtly political, coming from a civil servant, which didn’t go unnoticed. “Fine. I’ll just say it. Parts of this performance are why politicians like Stephen Harper can plausibly argue the Canadian Public Service is the Liberal Public Service,” tweeted constitutional scholar Emmett Macfarlane. “Some of the Clerk’s comments today amount to cheerleading for the current government.” (Twitter) MORE


Canada’s top public servant fears ‘someone is going to be shot’ in next election campaign

Women ‘uniquely placed’ to inspire climate action, mayors say

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Cities, which are home to over half the world’s population, must involve all residents in efforts to adapt to climate change, said mayors

PARIS, Feb 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women’s untapped communication skills make them “uniquely placed” to explain the damaging impacts of an overheating planet and spur climate action by the public, mayors said on Thursday.

From leaders to citizens, women must be at the centre of efforts to curb global warming if the world is to limit wilder weather and rising seas, said officials at a conference organised in Paris by C40, a global alliance of cities.

For Karla Rubilar, mayor of Santiago in Chile, the fight against climate change has one major problem. “The conversation by experts seems elitist, removed from reality, and people don’t always understand how it affects them,” she said.

“But women are good at listening and at communicating, which makes them uniquely placed to explain what action citizens can take,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the Women4Climate event. MORE


Women custodians of biodiversity hold key to food security