Wendy Holm: Connecting the dots—SNC Lavalin, the Site C Dam, and continental water-sharing

The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.
The proposed Site C Dam, southwest of Fort St. John on the Peace River in northwest B.C.GOVERNMENT OF B.C.

Water has no substitutes. When you need water—for crops, for
households, for industry, for fish and wildlife habitat, for tourism—nothing but water will do. Its value is limitless, and this writing has been on this wall for generations.

Follow the money.  If the value of water is limitless, the incentives to stay in the game are huge. In February 2015, the RCMP laid fraud and corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. for massive fraud ($48 million) and corruption ($130 million) in its procurement of contracts in Libya.

This month, former Canadian attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet following alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to shelter SNC-Lavalin by allowing it to enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreementa “pay the fine, don’t do the time” manoeuvre that would rescue SNCL from a 10-year ban on Canadian government work if found criminally guilty.

SNC-Lavalin has been one of the principal engineering firms behind the Site C Dam from the outset—the dam that sound economics, science, logic, communities, professionals, First Nations, scholars, international organizations (UN), and good public policy seem incapable of even slowing down.

You’ve got to ask yourself whyMORE

How Removing Asphalt Is Softening Our Cities

Greening alleys reclaims public space, reconnects urban dwellers to one another, and invites nature deep into cities.


Portland alley advocates estimate there are 76 miles of alleys in their city—all potential green public spaces. This northeast Portland neighborhood is one of many projects reclaiming forgotten concrete pathways for nature and people. Photo by Derek Dauphin

The kids wanted something different for the Inukai Family Boys and Girls Club’s 5,000 square feet of alleyside space. They talked about a soccer field or a traditional playground—but surprised Schutz by choosing a nature park. They imagined dirt, logs, and boulders to climb on, raised beds to grow flowers and veggies, and hundreds of trees and plants throughout.

Schutz just had to figure out how to remove the pavement.

Doing so introduced her to a soften-our-cities movement in which cities such as Nashville, Tennessee, Montreal, and Detroit are rethinking all that cement. Alleys and alleysides in particular are being effectively reimagined as people-friendly pathways, parks, and lushly planted urban habitat.

Schutz and the kids she serves understand why the idea has been spreading. The day before they strong-armed the asphalt up, one girl asked her, “Miss Rachel, does this mean we get real grass we can touch?” MORE

Quebec adds another $215M to coffers thanks to carbon market envied by Europe

But as province enjoys cap-and-trade windfall, some ask whether polluting shouldn’t cost more

An environmental activist pushes a giant ball emblazoned with the words ‘toxic tonnes’ during climate protests in Europe. Under Quebec’s carbon market, emitting one tonne of carbon dioxide costs $20.82. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

As some conservative-led provinces try to avoid the federal carbon tax, Quebec has quietly passed the $3-billion mark in total revenues from its own approach to pricing pollution.

The province announced Wednesday it raised $215 million at last week’s auction of greenhouse gas emission credits, the main currency of its carbon market, which is linked to California’s.

In all, around 80.9 million vintage credits were sold at $20.82 each, and around $6 million in future credits were sold at $20.68 each.

On the Quebec side, most of the buying was done by the roughly 150 companies required by provincial law to purchase one credit for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

All the vintage units sold out, as they have for several consecutive auctions, and the cost of each unit continues to rise steadily, impressing observers of the market. MORE

Canadian government plans to award millions of dollars for group to create climate watchdog

File photo of Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is planning to award a multimillion dollar grant to a non-profit organization that will take on a watchdog role, holding the federal government to account for its climate change commitments and policies, says a spokeswoman from her office.

The minister’s office confirmed the plans after McKenna’s staff met with the chief executive of the U.K.’s climate watchdog, who was visiting Ottawa this week.

McKenna’s office said that such an institute could help fill the void created by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper when it cancelled funding for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, or NRTEE, forcing the independent organization to close its doors in 2013. MORE

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Just Expertly Laid a Trap to Get Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

Her line of questioning during Michael Cohen’s hearing was praised for its clarity and deftness.

Image result for . Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,
Alex Brandon/AP

While Republicans on Wednesday repeatedly hammered Michael Cohen over his efforts to secure a lucrative media deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used her time to focus on one of the most consequential topics concerning investigations into President Donald Trump: his ever-elusive tax returns.

It was one of the more anticipated appearances by a lawmaker on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Her clear and purposeful line of questioning, which appeared to lay the groundwork for the committee to subpoena the president’s tax returns while capturing the names of those in Trump’s inner circle who may know details of his financials, was widely praised:


The Green New Deal and the Strength of Ambiguity

The proposal is forcing Democrats to pick a side and propelling the environment into a top 2020 

Image result for The Green New Deal and the Strength of Ambiguity
New vegetation sprouts in an area damaged by the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California. (MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES)

WHEN SEN. DIANNE Feinstein, one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill, was confronted last week in her California office by school children and teenagers demanding that she vote for the Green New Deal, it became perhaps the clearest signal yet that questions about the sweeping climate proposal by a first-term lawmaker will continue to dog Democrats as the country hurdles into the 2020 election cycle.

Image result for . Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,The plan, put forward by firebrand freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., shortly after she took office last month, has achieved a saliency that other climate measures like cap-and-trade and carbon pricing never came close to achieving. Outlined in a 14-page resolution introduced Feb. 7 in the House and Senate, its name has been invoked everywhere from rallies in Colorado and California to a pipeline protest in New York – even as it remains, in many ways, more a catchphrase for most voters than a fully articulated proposal.

The Green New Deal is not yet a litmus test for Democrats, like access to abortion services or, perhaps, universal health care. But a growing share of voters and environmental groups are calling on the party’s presidential candidates to support it in a way they haven’t done for previous environmental proposals – elevating the status of the issue in the 2020 race.

A poll conducted last month by the League of Conservation Voters, for example, foundthat 83 percent of Democratic primary voters in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire back the Green New Deal – the same share that support moving to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. And the League now says it is pushing Democrats to rally behind the plan – whose popularity may well vault climate and the environment into the gold circle of election topics like the economy and national security. MORE


Senate Democrats introduce ‘Green New Deal’ alternative

Jody Wilson-Raybould and the paradox of reconciliation in Canada

Image result for hayden king

Hayden King is Anishinaabe from Beausoleil First Nation on Gchi’mnissing in Huronia, Ontario. He is the Executive Director of Yellowhead Institute, based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University.

…At the end of her meticulous recounting of what she called “inappropriate” pressure her colleagues applied in an effort to defer SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution, Ms. Wilson-Raybould linked these two threads: “my understanding of the rule of law has been shaped by my experience as an Indigenous person and leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected … And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.”

Knowing these dynamics better than most, and despite any of her efforts, Ms. Wilson-Raybould has been a part of a government responsible for perpetuating lack of respect for the rule of law, in this case in relation to Indigenous issues. How can all of this be reconciled? MORE

Earlier this year, in response to widespread outrage, “rule of law” was official government messaging when the RCMP served a pipeline company’s injunction in Uni’stot’en territory, on lands the clan has not agreed to share in a treaty (what the Supreme Court calls “title” lands). From Oka, through Ipperwash, Caledonia, Elsipogtog, and two dozen other examples of conflict over land, the rule of law is a prime-ministerial invocation that twists the law.

On criminal justice, the Supreme Court has demanded that the over-incarceration of Indigenous peoples be addressed with unique sentencing protocols known as the Gladue Principle. The directive is overwhelmingly ignored by lower courts, provincial and federal officials, and incarceration rates continue to rise.

Law after law dating back to the Gradual Civilization Act in the mid-1850s have discriminated against Indigenous women. Canada has argued in court that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t apply to First Nation women. Indeed, there is still gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

Indigenous children are somehow invisible to the rule of law, too. Last week the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued its seventh non-compliance order against Canada for failing to fully and completely end discriminatory policies.

Late last year, in a speech to First Nation leaders in B.C., and on the eve of her demotion to Veterans Affairs, Ms. Wilson-Raybould called out those among us who have little faith in Canadian institutions and laws. These individuals, she said, “in the name of upholding Indigenous rights, critically oppose almost any effort to change [within the Canadian constitutional framework].” This is an apt characterization, though to be fair, the heretics have ample evidence of corrupt institutions on their side. MORE


Wilson-Raybould’s place in Liberal party at risk after SNC-Lavalin testimony

Renewable energy brings renewal to Indigenous communities

mountain silhouettes during golden hour

Energy is inextricably linked to a range of community issues, from health to housing. That was one message that emerged from a four-day gathering in Calgary of more than 200 young Indigenous leaders from every province and territory, organized by Disa Crow Chief of the Siksika Nation and Cory Beaver of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

Participants came to the SevenGen gathering in January to learn about opportunities in Canada’s energy transition from an Indigenous youth perspective. Beaver and Crow Chief are keen to engage young people in Indigenous-led energy solutions and find them ongoing mentorship opportunities.

SevenGen’s website explains, “As youth of the seventh generation, we feel a renewed responsibility to protect our environment, as water protectors and guardians of all creation. Through SevenGen, we hope to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from diverse backgrounds, share knowledge across cultures, and ensure that the wellbeing of land, water, and all the life within it remains at the forefront of discussions about energy.”

For non-Indigenous participants, the notion that many issues we often consider separately are interconnected was striking. Ideas around energy were closely entwined with language, food self-sufficiency and improved housing, health and well-being. All were grounded in a perspective that emphasizes a deep connection to the land and a responsibility to it and the life it holds.

If we continue to elevate only voices of those who have traditionally held power, we won’t likely discover meaningful solutions to the problems we collectively face. Listening to people with different world views is essential to finding new ways forward.

If we continue to elevate only voices of those who have traditionally held power, we won’t likely discover meaningful solutions to the problems we collectively face. Listening to people with different world views is essential to finding new ways forward