Canada: 2019 B.C. Budget: Infrastructure Pipeline

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B.C. finance minister Carole James delivers the 2019 provincial budget on February 19, 2019. Image via B.C government website/Flickr

On February 19, 2019, British Columbia issued its 2019 budget, which the provincial government stated is “the largest infrastructure investment in B.C.’s history”.

TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED CAPITAL INVESTMENT

B.C.’s 2019 budget includes new capital investment commitments in the healthcare, transportation and education sectors, with the taxpayer-supported infrastructure spending on hospitals, schools, post-secondary facilities, transit and roads forecast to be C$20.1-billion over a three-year fiscal plan. Key taxpayer-supported projects highlighted as part of the current and planned investments include:

  • Education: In the education sector, the 2019 B.C. budget forecasts to invest C$2.7-billion over the three-year fiscal plan to support major replacement, renovation, expansion and maintenance projects in K-12 facilities, and a further C$3.3-billion on capital projects for post-secondary institutions. A key highlight is the C$450-million allocated for a student housing loan program over six years to build approximately 5,000 new student housing beds for the province’s post-secondary institutions.
  • Healthcare: The 2019 B.C. budget looks to invest C$4.4-billion over the three-year fiscal plan to support major construction projects and upgraded health facilities, medical and diagnostic equipment and information management/technology systems, with investments supported by the province and other sources (including regional hospital districts and foundations). Key projects noted in the 2019 budget include:
    • Phase 1 of the Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment in relation to which construction commenced in early 2017
    • Phase 2 of the Royal Columbian Hospital Redevelopment where the procurement started in fall 2018, with construction planned to commence in 2020
    • The new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in relation to which procurement is planned to commence in fall 2019 and construction is planned to commence in fall 2020.
  • Transportation: An investment of C$6.6-billion over the three-year fiscal plan is forecast in order to “maintain the flow of people and goods” in B.C. Transportation projects highlighted in the 2019 budget include:
    • Building the Broadway subway in Vancouver
    • Replacing the Pattullo Bridge with a new four-lane bridge
    • Interim safety and reliability improvements to the George Massey Tunnel.

However, in relation to the transportation projects, the budget flags that the timing of capital spending is subject to several factors including funding from the federal government and market conditions. MORE

SNC-Lavalin: Did Justin Trudeau break the law?

Analysis: On its face, Trudeau is accused of the same malfeasance attributed to Trump — meddling in the wheels of justice for political gain

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump. CP/AP

It’s increasingly clear that Canada isn’t particularly happy with Justin Trudeau for allegedly trying to interfere with the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. As Jane Philpott said upon her resignation from cabinet on Monday, “the solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system.”

Solemn principles are one thing, but did Trudeau break the law?

Below, the National Post bothered a bunch of legal experts to find out.

MORE

Bill C-69 is our chance to level up Canada’s environmental laws, and we can’t afford to miss it

Parliament buildings (Photo: Shane Zurbrigg via Flickr)

Canadians depend on the federal government to safeguard our families, our health and the environment from pollution, toxic contamination and other potential harms. But in 2012, our environmental safety net was drastically weakened, leaving Canadians with toothless laws and flawed decision-making processes that put the environment and public at risk.

Right now, we have a chance to rebuild and strengthen these fundamental legal protections, through the legislative changes contained in Bill C-69. The Impact Assessment Act proposed in the bill will be a much-needed replacement for Canada’s existing assessment law—a law that isn’t working for the environment, communities or project proponents, as we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal group of opponents is attempting to kill Bill C-69 as it works its way through the Senate. The majority of criticism comes from groups based in Alberta or connected to the oil patch—such as the convoy that rolled into Ottawa this week spreading divisive messages about everything from pipelines to immigration. Most of the critiques aimed at Bill C-69 are misleading, and many are blatantly false.

And while detractors hint at widespread controversy over the bill, recent polling paints a very different picture. The latest nationwide poll by Abacus Data found that 63 per cent of Canadians who are aware of Bill C-69 agree that it is a step in the right direction. MORE

Generation symbiocene

Old and young must unite to form Generation S – a force to combat corporate gigantism and to shape cultural and social revolutions.

The world witnessed the rise of the Greta Thunberg-led revolt against the climate crisis by school-age teenagers across the world in 2018. From within what popular media call Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) a young woman has emerged as a global leader.

Now, hundreds of thousands within Gen Z have responded to Greta’s leadership and have created a global social movement, School Strike 4 Climate.

It is no exaggeration to say that within Gen Z there is now the vanguard of a global movement challenging all the forces that are causing humans to commit climacide and ecocide. In addition, our wise teenagers now know that the climate crisis is an integral part of a much bigger crisis.

The symbiocene

In my forthcoming book, Earth Emotions, I make the case for a generational change where the post-baby boomer generations unite to form a new social movement.

I call this united movement, Generation Symbiocene or Gen S. Gen S will lead the rest of humanity into the Symbiocene.

In the essay, After the Anthropocene, recently published in this journal, I made the case for a new epoch in human history: the Symbiocene. The Symbiocene is a meme that represents the very opposite of the period of human dominance known as the Anthropocene.

The new meme has been created to achieve nothing less than complete change of the biophysical and emotional foundations of society from the ecocidal to the symbiotic, from the destructive to the nurturing.

While the Anthropocene is generating despair and desolation, the Symbiocene gives generously of hope and optimism.

The most urgent tasks for Gen S will be to protest and fight against gigantism. By gigantism, I mean the dictatorial governments of nation states and corporate rulers that exercise authoritarian and totalitarian control over almost all aspects of our lives. MORE

On March 15, the Climate Kids Are Coming

A massive, international, youth-led mobilization will demand action on the climate crisis.

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Mad as hell: Greta Thunberg is not letting leaders get away with inaction on the climate crisis. (Christian Charisius / Picture-Alliance / dpa / AP Images)

Beware the Ides of March, all you climate wreckers out there. The Climate Kids are coming, in massive and growing numbers, and they are not in the mood to negotiate. They know that you—whether you’re a fossil-fuel executive, a politician who takes fossil-fuel money, or a Fox News hack who recycles fossil-fuel lies—have put their future in grave danger, and they are rising up to take it back.

On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is. Shakespeare made the Ides of March famous with his soothsayer’s warning in Julius Caesar, but ancient Romans actually saw it as a day for settling debts. What bigger debt is there than the theft of a livable future? At the March 15 School Strike 4 Climate, young people will call in that debt and, in the United States at least, demand real solutions in the form of the Green New Deal championed by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. MORE

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Global #ClimateStrike: March 15

Fracking and the major role it plays in causing earthquakes in Alberta

https://globalnews.ca/video/embed/5021425/WATCH: When we think of the wide open prairies, we don’t usually think of earthquakes — but they are more common than you may believe. Tiffany Lizée explains.

Earthquakes in the prairies are more common than you think.

READ MORE: 4.6 magnitude earthquake hits central Alberta near Red Deer

Of the roughly 2,800 earthquakes recorded in Alberta over the past three decades, almost half of those have occurred on prairie land. Shifting tectonic plates have caused earthquakes on the prairies, however, scientists are finding human activity may also be a major factor.

Eaton’s research suggests there is increasing evidence that earthquakes can be induced by injecting fluids from oil and gas operations deep into the earth.

“What we’ve seen, starting at about 2013, in Western Canada is that we have more frequent earthquakes of [significant] magnitude and they’re related to oil and gas activities,” said Eaton.

Hydraulic fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground under extreme pressure, which cracks the rocks and minerals and then releases the oil and gas trapped inside. MORE

David Suzuki: Carbon, climate, and corruption coalesce in concrete


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The recent scandal facing Canada’s government has concrete at its base. As one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction companies—employing 50,000 people through offices in more than 50 countries and operations in more than 160 countries—SNC-Lavalin uses a lot of concrete. Infrastructure projects are important to industry and governments. They provide employment, keep GDP and the economy growing, and offer “concrete” proof that progress is being made.

But, as the Guardian points out: “As well as being the primary vehicle for super-charged national building, the construction industry is also the widest channel for bribes. In many countries, the correlation is so strong, people see it as an index: the more concrete, the more corruption.”

SNC-Lavalin, which has already been sanctioned by the World Bank for bribery and corruption, faces similar charges at home. But as a major Quebec-based employer with its hand in some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, it’s seen by provincial and federal governments as too important to fail. MORE

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SNC-Lavalin loses court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal prosecution

Biodiversity is more than just the forests

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Forest. Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy / Fotolia

TOO often when we talk about biodiversity, it evokes a notion of forest destruction or species extinction. To many, it is just about the environment. Little do we realise, however, that in fact biodiversity is the foundation for human health. It underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food and fresh water. It contributes to local livelihoods, to traditional and modern medicines, and to economic development. It aids in regulating climate, floods and disease. It provides recreational benefits, and aesthetic and spiritual enrichment, supporting mental health.

The World Health Organisation offers an insightful analysis of the link between health and biodiversity, beginning with a definition of a healthy person as someone not simply free from illness but in a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Knowledge of plant and animal diversity provides major benefits, including drugs. When we lose diversity, we limit our future discovery of potential treatments for our health problems. Traditional medicines are used by an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s people. And in some countries they are incorporated into the public health system extensively. Medicinal plants are the most common element of traditional medicine, collected from the wild or cultivated. MORE

Find the dumped mercury barrels

Please take a moment to send an email to the federal and provincial governments in support of the people of Grassy Narrows.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am by reading today’s Toronto Star report that the Ontario government is dragging its feet on commitments to search for mercury at the infamous Dryden mill site – mercury that may still be contaminating the waters of Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation.

n the 1960s and early 1970s, the Reed Paper plant dumped 10 tonnes of mercury waste into the adjacent Wabigoon River upstream from Grassy Narrows. The property is now known to harbour significant amounts of mercury, including some that was illegally buried in steel drums decades ago.

A retired plant worker blew the whistle on this, saying he was ordered to haphazardly bury dozens of barrels of mercury waste in the 1970s. Recent soil samples from the property show unnaturally high levels of mercury, indicating that the barrels may have rusted away and released their toxic contents.

The people of Grassy Narrows deserve justice – they deserve clean land and water and for these illegally dumped contaminants to be fully removed and the area restored. Will you take a moment of your time to write to the Ontario government and demand that it fulfill the commitment to remediate this site? SOURCE

ANALYSIS: Despite protests from top Trudeau aide, Wilson-Raybould was right — SNC-Lavalin is about politics, not jobs

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But it’s a mystery, still unexplained despite nearly five hours of new testimony Wednesday from Butts and Wernick, why they thought McLachlin could help turn Wilson-Raybould around.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould was standing firm in her position that she would not overrule an independent prosecutor to cut a special deal with SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his inner circle all argued she should seek outside counsel, get a second opinion.

“Someone like Beverley McLachlin,” Gerald Butts told the House of Commons Justice Committee Wednesday. Butts, the former principal secretary to Trudeau and one of his best friends for 30 years, was a ‘rebuttal witness’ to testimony Wilson-Raybould gave last week.

On Wednesday, he told the justice committee over and over and over again that he and the others who were pressing Wilson-Raybould were motivated by one thing — the imminent loss of 9,000 jobs if SNC-Lavalin should be found guilty at a criminal trial in of what amounts to fraud and bribery.

“It was, and is, the attorney general’s decision to make,” Butts said (Wilson-Raybould was then attorney general and justice minister but resigned from cabinet last month.). “It would, however, be Canadians’ decision to live with — specifically, the 9,000-plus people who could lose their jobs, as well as the many thousands more who work on the company’s supply chain.We did what those 9,000 people would have every right to expect of their prime minister….What we needed to do in order to look people in the eye who stood to lose their jobs was to make sure we had a good reason and to build process around that, and the absolutely bare minimum was to get the best advice you can when a decision affects that many people.”

And that’s why they needed someone like a Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. You don’t need a Supreme Court chief justice for that. You need someone who knows Bay Street, Wall Street, trading floors, deal-makers, financiers. Tundra, even. But definitely not jurists.
https://globalnews.ca/video/embed/5029163/

In any event, Butts could not point to a single report, document, statistic, prognostication, or written record where someone said “a minimum of 9,000 jobs” was out the window if Wilson-Raybould did not do as encouraged. MORE

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What would a 10-year ban on federal contract bids mean for SNC-Lavalin?