Vaughn Palmer: Science panel finds B.C. doesn’t know enough about fracking

More than 85 per cent of B.C.’s natural-gas production now comes from those unconventional sources. The New Democrats asked the panel to recommend new safeguards, not issue a stop-work order on a whole sector of the economy.

A hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, site as seen from the air near Fort St. John in April 2017.JEREMYWILLIAMS.CA / PROVINCE

VICTORIA — A scientific panel has found B.C. doesn’t know what it needs to know about the environmental, seismic and other risks of fracking, the process whereby much of the provincial natural-gas resource is extracted form the earth.

“The panel wishes to emphasize that it could not assess risks with any confidence, and therefore only potential risks are discussed herein,” wrote the three panelists in a draft version of their report. “Moreover the panel could not assess whether risk is currently being managed or not.”

This after a year spent gathering research and expert opinions on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing or fracking — the injection of water and other chemicals into targeted rock formations to release natural gas trapped deep within the earth.

However, the draft version, leaked last week to columnist Les Leyne of the Victoria Times Colonist, outlines the major unknowns facing the New Democrats, even as they promote the development of liquefied natural gas for export.

Here, for instance, were some of the concerns raised by the panel on the state of knowledge about water resources in northeastern B.C., where natural-gas development and fracking go hand-in-hand. MORE


B.C. Parks seeks public comment over plans to protect centuries-old Ancient Forest

Darwyn Coxson and his students have covered hundreds of kilometres studying the forest

Some of the trees in the forest could be up to 2,000 years old, according to B.C. Parks. (B.C. Parks)

The province is seeking British Columbians’ help to put together new management plan to protect the Ancient Forest, part of the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.

The Ancient Forest Park, or Chun T’oh Wudujut in the local Lheidli language, is located 120 kilometres east of Prince George. A portion of the area, full of giant trees that have stood for centuries, is in a protected area already.

“These are survivors of about 500 or a thousand years — they’ve weathered lightning strikes, ice storms, blizzards, but they are incredibly hardy as long as we maintain this old forest intact.”

Darwyn Coxson is a professor in the Ecosystem Science and Management Program and knows the forest intricately. ( Audrey McKinnon/CBC)


B.C. Parks is working on a plan to protect it because of both the forest’s ecological value and importance to First Nations.

The management plan is still in the initial stages and is open to public comment until the end of March. MORE

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Coming for Your Hamburgers!

Ocasio-Cortez upset a veteran of her own party in a primary race, and came to office as an unabashed idealist. Mocking her has been a constant on the right ever since. Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux for The New Yorker
Sebastian Gorka, late of the Trump Administration, stood before the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference last week and made plain the inner frenzy of a party that must place its hopes for 2020 on a President who had just been described before a congressional committee as “a racist,” “a con man,” and “a cheat.” Hence the rhetorical smoke bombs. Wild-eyed Democrats are coming! Gorka declared, “They want to take your pickup truck! They want to rebuild your home! They want to take away your hamburgers! This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved!”
The focus of this fear campaign, the nexus of all danger, is a member of Congress who has been in office for two months: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, at twenty-nine, represents parts of the Bronx and Queens. With Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, she is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. Because she questions our habits of fossil-fuel consumption and industrial agriculture, her opponents reason, she can’t possibly be trying to head off global catastrophe. She just wants to steal your Chevy Colorado and your Big Mac.

“Apparently, I am a cow dictator,” Ocasio-Cortez told me. “What’s humorous to me is that we’re finally proposing a clear, ambitious, but necessary and grounded policy on the scale of the problem. And so it’s hard for the Republicans to refute the actual policy on its substance. They resort to mythologizing it on a ludicrous level. Ted Cruz says we want to ‘kill all the cows.’ How far have we slid in our discourse? But that’s what half our political representation is up to.”

“It feels like an extra job,” she said of the attacks. “I’ve got a full-time job in Congress and then I moonlight as America’s greatest villain, or as the new hope. And it’s pretty tiring. I’m just a normal person. I knew that I was not going to be liked. I’m a Democrat. I’m a woman. I’m a young woman. A Latina. And I’m a liberal, a D.S.A. member,” she said, referring to the Democratic Socialists of America. “I believe health care is a right and people should be paid enough to live. Those are offensive values to them. But this ravenous hysteria—it’s really getting to a level that is kind of out of control. It’s dangerous and even scary. I have days when it seems some people want to stoke just enough of it to have just enough plausible deniability if something happens to me.” MORE

CMHC sets target to make housing affordable for every Canadian by 2030

A construction worker shingles the roof of a new home in a development in Ottawa on Monday, July 6, 2015. File photo by The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

A federal housing agency hopes to see every Canadian with an affordable home by 2030 and has offered up a plan full of experiments to make it happen.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Friday that meeting that target will take help from governments and the economy — hence the aspirational nature of the goal.

“We believe that everyone in Canada deserves a home that they can afford and that meets their needs. We also believe that we are in the best position to make that happen,” Evan Siddall, the corporation’s president, writes in an opening message in the document. “We are single-minded in striving toward this goal and it will guide our work in the coming years.”

An estimated 1.6 million Canadian households are considered in “core housing need,” meaning that people live in places that are too expensive for them or that aren’t really suitable for them. MORE

Ten things you need to know about a ‘political interference’ scandal involving Doug Ford and the police

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney take questions from reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Nov. 19, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston

Allegations of political interference that could damage the independence of the Ontario Provincial Police have exploded in a series of stunning headlines.

The allegations were raised in a nine-page letter that was signed by Brad Blair, the interim commissioner of the police force.

Ontario’s interim police chief says “Canadian democracy depends on” an independent review of process to appoint successor, amid complaints of political meddling.

Here are ten of the most compelling arguments and insinuations contained in the letter:

  1. That Blair was viewed as a “front runner candidate” for the job, based on his qualifications and experience.
  2. That key requirements for the job were modified two days after it was posted, removing the need for a candidate to hold a certain level of rank in a major police service. Taverner would not have met the initial requirements. This revelation was originally reported by iPolitics.
  3. That Sal Badali, a partner at headhunting firm Odgers Berdtson, told Blair “on numerous occasions that he had no influence on either the process or the outcome of the interviews.” Badali’s fellow panel members were a deputy minister and the deputy attorney general.
  4. That the hiring panel members “changed at the last minute.” Doug Ford’s chief of staff Dean French was due to take part in Blair’s second round interview but Blair saw him leave the building. Ten minutes before Blair’s interview was due to start, he was told that French would not attend.
  5. That Badali had told Blair that a hiring decision would be made following one of two scheduled cabinet meetings, but that it was in fact made before either meeting took place. In addition, Taverner was seen leaving the premier’s office on the day the decision was made.
  6. That French (Ford’s chief of staff) had requested the OPP purchase a large vehicle to be modified to Ford’s specifications, and asked for a sole source provider’s costs to be kept off the books during the command of his predecessor, Commissioner Vince Hawkes, who retired in November.
  7. That Blair met with Taverner at a Swiss Chalet after Taverner had been named to the job and that Taverner told him that he had run into a reporter after his second-round interview, and that the reporter accused him of leaving Ford’s office. He said Taverner told him he asked the reporter to “hold off on any story in exchange for providing this reporter with a first interview in the near future,” suggesting that Taverner knew he would be named to the job.
  8. That Premier Ford had made requests for specific officers to serve on his security detail so that he “would feel comfortable” — disrupting the chain of command within the OPP and a dedicated unit responsible for the security of the premier and the lieutenant-governor.
  9. That Premier Ford told the previous commissioner, J.V.N. “Vince” Hawkes that if the top cop would not address Ford’s security requests, that perhaps a new commissioner would.
  10. That the “perception of political interference in the hiring process has deeply affected the morale of the rank and file” at the OPP, Blair wrote. “OPP officers have shared with me their concerns that the process was unfair and their feeling that the independence of the OPP is now called into question.” They believe that this will affect public confidence in the police, which runs counter to principles of a democratic society as well as running counter to fully effective policing, Blair added. MORE


Ben Parfitt: Site C dam to electrify LNG industry is far from clean

In April 2010, when then-premier Gordon Campbell announced that B.C. was resurrecting plans to build the Site C dam, atmospheric scientist Andrew Weaver was along to lend support.

All energy has environmental costs. Hydroelectric power may be clean in the extremely narrow sense that the energy carried in transmission lines does not emit greenhouse gases. But it is dirty in countless ways. Consider just three: flooded farmlands and uprooted farming families, destroyed Indigenous hunting and gathering sites, and mercury-contaminated fish in reservoirs that are themselves sources of greenhouse gasses.

Weaver later became sharply critical of Site C. But unfortunately, his earlier arguments in favour of the project were co-opted by the government to justify providing more allegedly green energy to an expanding natural-gas industry that includes a major liquefied natural gas plant on B.C.’s north coast and a new 670-kilometre pipeline linking the plant to the Peace region where companies drill and frack for natural gas. MORE


Re: article Site C is not a project that support. We worked to convince the NDP that small scale renewables would be cheaper & provide more economic opportunities across BC but they chose to continue with Site C. 1/6 4:53 PM – 4 Mar 2019

Electric, driverless vehicles key to survival of Canada’s auto industry

If Canada’s auto industry is to have a successful future, governments need to focus on supporting electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as fuel-efficient gas vehicles, according to a new report issued Tuesday.

The report produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a progressive think tank, says auto companies might be attracted here by a skilled, educated and experienced labour force, but that is simply not enough.

Electric vehicles currently account for just one per cent of the market in North America, according to some reports.  (AP FILE PHOTO)

“A high-skill labour strategy only works if we have cars to build,” wrote the report’s authors, Charlotte Yates and John Holmes.

And that means electric vehicles and autonomous cars, because they play to Canada’s strengths in technology, and more importantly, because they are where the market is headed.

“They’re areas where we’ve got a proven track record. And they’re higher value for the companies,” said Yates, provost and vice-president at the University of Guelph MORE


The Future of the Canadian Auto Industry

There is hope! Five recent developments which might actually help fight climate change

In October 2018 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, which provided a sobering update on the state of the environment. According to the report, “unprecedented changes” are needed to achieve the target of keeping global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C, after which the risk of extreme weather conditions – such as droughts, floods and forest fires – will significantly increase.

It’s not all bad news though. In need of hope, I turned to Lexology to see how lawmakers are responding to global calls for action and found that many countries are taking positive steps in this regard. Here are five recent developments from around the world which may actually help to mitigate the risks of climate change.

1. US Green New Deal

As the second highest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, many of us have a vested interest in what action the United States takes to mitigate global warming. One positive step in this regard may be Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, the outline for which was made public on 7 February 2019. According to Bergeson & Campbell PC, the policy package aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the transformation of the US economy. Among other things, the deal calls for:

  • a transition to 100% renewable energy;
  • investment in infrastructure and industry; and
  • a commitment to clean air and a sustainable environment.

Of course, the proposed package is just that – a proposal. As Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP has pointed out, Cortez’s deal calls for action on issues well beyond the environment, and broad proposals such as these often struggle to attract sufficient consensus to gain approval. MORE

What is the Green New Deal — and why do Americans seem so obsessed with it?

Republicans warn of hamburger bans as they fixate on the climate plan splitting Democrats

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, has become of the face of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to tackle climate change and reshape the entire U.S. economy. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has dismissed the plan as ‘kooky’ and claims it would ban cows. (Caitlin Ochs, Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

What does the Green New Deal propose? Big picture, it aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and wean the U.S. off fossil fuels, though it stops short of calling for the all-out elimination of fossil fuels.

It aims to fix what the text of a 14-page resolution calls “systemic injustices” — deeply entrenched conditions that disproportionately affect low-income communities, people of colour, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The economic stimulus plan is co-sponsored by two Democrats: The social media savvy New York congressional freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.

A Green New Deal would bring universal “high-quality health care” to all Americans. It calls for a guaranteed job “with a family-sustaining wage” to anyone, as well as tuition-free public education. In addition, it would clean up environmentally hazardous areas that have been shown to disproportionately affect communities of colour and low-income families. MORE



Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson explains why “green growth” isn’t enough to save the planet.

Bees pollinate pollinating honeybees
(Photo: Ron Whitaker/Unsplash)

“Indigenous peoples have witnessed continual ecosystem and species collapse since the early days of colonial occupation,” says Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, an activist/scholar from the Nishnaabeg nation and author most recently of the book As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance. “We should be thinking of climate change as part of a much longer series of ecological catastrophes caused by colonialism and accumulation-based society.”

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (Photo: Courtesy of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson)

The mass death of insects is an observable and measurable disrespect for the diversity of life on Earth, to which we can and should compare other patterns of human practice.

“Indigenous knowledge systems are rigorous, they pursue excellence, they are critical and comprehensive,” Simpson says. “The global roots of the climatic crisis and the exploitation of natural resources are issues indigenous peoples have been speaking out against for hundreds of years.” The proof is in the pudding: Colonists were warned by word and weapon  that a system of individual land ownership would lead to ecological apocalypse, and here we are. What more could you ask from a system of truth and analysis than to alert you to a phenomenon like climate change before it occurs, with enough time to prevent it? That is significantly more than colonial science has offered.

The devaluation of indigenous political thought has nothing to do with its predictive ability. The ruling class produced by accumulation society simply will not put its own system up for debate. Thus the climate change policies we discuss—even and perhaps in particular the Green New Deal—take for granted not just the persistence of commodity accumulation, but its continued growth. MORE


Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?