Marathon Commons vote ends, but Philpott interview raises new questions about SNC-Lavalin affair

Former cabinet minister Jane Philpott says in magazine interview there’s ‘much more to the story’


Liberal MPs Salma Zahid, left to right, Nick Whalen and Geng Tan rise for the final vote at the end of a 30-hour marathon voting session that began on Wednesday and lasted until 1 a.m. on Friday in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Conservatives’ marathon vote protest in the Commons ended in the wee hours this morning, but their cause got an added boost after Maclean’s magazine ran an interview with Jane Philpott saying there’s “much more to the story” when it comes to the SNC-Lavalin controversy.

The Conservative Opposition triggered the voting marathon in Ottawa after the Liberal-dominated justice committee shut down further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair. For more than 30 hours, the House of Commons was engaged in round-the-clock voting that kept MPs close to their seats.

The voting got underway around 6 p.m. ET Wednesday and continued until almost 1 a.m. ET Friday, with members voting line by line on the Liberal government’s spending plans.

In the story, published Thursday morning, the Liberal MP said she had concerns about the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin case before the controversy became public in January. She alleged Canadians have been prevented from hearing more about what went on in government circles due to efforts by the Prime Minister’s Office to “shut down the story.”

“My sense is that Canadians would like to know the whole story,” Philpott said.

“I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth. They need to have confidence in the very basic constitutional principle of the independence of the justice system.”

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UK Labour members launch Green New Deal inspired by US activists

Grassroots group calls on party to commit to decarbonising UK economy within a decade


The US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspired Labour members to form the Green New Deal group. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Labour members have launched a grassroots campaign to push the party to adopt a radical Green New Deal to transform the UK economy, tackle inequality and address the escalating climate crisis.

The group, inspired by the success of the Sunrise Movement and the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, is calling on Labour to commit to radical action to decarbonise the UK economy within a decade.

A spokesperson for the group, called Labour for a Green New Deal, said: “Climate change is fundamentally about class, because it means chaos for the many while the few profit.

“We’re starting a campaign to put the labour movement at the forefront of a green transformation in Britain, and to build grassroots support for a Green New Deal within the Labour party.”

The campaign is calling for a region-specific green jobs guarantee, a significant expansion of public ownership and democratic control of industry, as well as mass investment in public infrastructure. MORE

AOC defends Green New Deal, says narrative being ‘manipulated’ by Trump, other critics

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., appeared on a late-night comedy talk show Thursday night but was stone-cold serious in her defense of the Green New Deal, the cornerstone of her progressive agenda.

When asked by “Late Night” host Seth Meyers if President Trump’s claims that “cows farting” and “hamburgers” would be outlawed were true, Ocasio-Cortez firmly answered “No.”

“I think it’s good to see how these narratives are manipulated,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “because they’re trying to say that the Green New Deal is about what we have to give up, what we have to cut back on, when in fact the Green New Deal itself is resolution to be more expansive.

“They’re trying to say that the Green New Deal is about what we have to give up, what we have to cut back on, when in fact the Green New Deal itself is resolution to be more expansive.”

— U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“It is to be able to generate more,” she continued, “and to make sure that we’re investing in working-class Americans so that we all can afford to have more in life, so that an affordable apartment isn’t a dream but a norm and that health care is a right and not a privilege.”

The self-described Democratic socialist stressed that the Green New Deal she introduced in February “is not a bill,” but a “resolution” that doesn’t require the president’s signature.

“If we passed a resolution in the House, it doesn’t go into the Senate and it doesn’t go to the president,” she explained. “It is a House resolution. It is a declaration. It is an intentional, vision document. … Listen, if we’re going to make progress, we need to declare our North Star, and our North Star is 100 percent renewable energy, it’s Medicare For All, it’s tuition-free public colleges, it’s investing in technology and renewable resources and electric vehicles. … The resolution of the Green New Deal is the vision of what we need to accomplish in the next ten years.” MORE

Tŝilhqot’in’s ‘spiritual war’ to protect land, water, rights

Image result for Tŝilhqot'in’s ‘spiritual war’ to protect land, water, rights

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation, not unlike other Indigenous Nations across this young country known as Canada, often prioritize their own legal systems and values over colonial legal orders that in most cases were brutally enforced on sovereign nations.

For the Tŝilhqot’in, the most important laws, Chief Alphonse explained, have to do with the protection of water.

Through oral history, Chief Alphonse learned from a young age that other crimes, like stealing, perhaps wouldn’t have traditionally been considered such a big crime. There would be consequences, he said, but they wouldn’t be severe.

“But you come and do damage to the quality of water,” he said, his face suddenly serious, “or you damage the highest elevation spawning grounds in North America… You do damage to the quality of water, in some cases, that was considered one of the biggest crimes you could commit.

“You’re talking about our livelihood and our dependence on the sockeye run, you’re talking about the starvation of a whole nation. To maintain a healthy run you have to have clean water. Water is the most precious thing for our people.” MORE

Liberal budget leaves behind Indigenous women and children — again

Prime Minister Trudeau attends the budget speech delivered by Minister of Finance Bill Morneau in the House of Commons. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO
At every turn, First Nations women and children are forced to wait for justice and are denied their basic human rights and access to the same programs and services available to their fathers, brothers and uncles.

As expected, the Assembly of First Nations was first out of the gate offering glowing praise for this Liberal government’s federal budget, followed shortly thereafter by the Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami — the three male-dominated national Aboriginal organizations. Their organizations have seen substantial increases in funding for their political organizations in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Native Women’s Association of Canada — the only political organization representing Indigenous women at the national level — issued its own press release criticizing the government for failing Indigenous women. They accused the federal government of, once again, ignoring the pressing needs of Indigenous women and in so doing, not only hampering reconciliation but breaching their core human rights. NWAC is especially aggrieved about this lack of funding for Indigenous women and families, given the urgent need to address murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

The exclusion of Indigenous women and girls as a priority in this federal budget is a glaring example of the ongoing racism and sexism that is so deeply embedded in Canada’s laws, policies, practices and institutions — the very same racism and sexism the Liberal government claims to be against. MORE

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Fracking-induced earthquakes prompt call for buffer zones around Site C dam

In November, two wells being fracked caused an earthquake so severe it halted construction at Site C, 20 kilometres away. The incident is prompting locals to question how B.C. regulates the region’s abundant oil and gas activity near schools, hospitals and farms

Image result for fracking earthquakes bc

BC Hydro officials were so alarmed by an earthquake that shook the ground at its sprawling Site C dam construction project in late November, they ordered a halt to all work and got on the phone to British Columbia’s Oil and Gas Commission (OCG).

The 4.5 magnitude earthquake was linked to natural gas company fracking operations and was among the most powerful to rock the region in recent years.

And it raises questions about what other infrastructure — bridges, schools, hospitals, to say nothing of homes — may be at risk from fracking operations.

Two wells ‘in the process’ of being fracked shook Site C dam

Site C is the most expensive public infrastructure project in British Columbia’s history.

Its estimated costs have ballooned to $10.7 billion partly due to delays during early work phases when “tension cracks” opened on the partially excavated slopes along the river. The slopes are notoriously unstable as underscored by a spectacular landslide last fall that threatened the community of Old Fort, just downstream from the dam construction site.

The earthquake began at dusk on November 29 and was felt throughout the Peace region. It shook residents at their dinner tables in communities from Charlie Lake to Pouce Coupe nearly 100 kilometres southeast and points in between including Hudson’s Hope, Fort St. John, Taylor, Dawson Creek, Farmington and Chetwynd.

BC Hydro told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) that it ordered workers at Site C to down tools when the quake began and that a conference call took place early the next morning between BC Hydro and Oil and Gas Commission officials. MORE

Canada clearcuts one million acres of boreal forest every year. A lot of it for toilet paper.

It’s the International Day of Forests, the perfect time to talk about flushing vital forests and caribou habitat down the drain

Boreal forest Canada
Canada’s boreal forest, often called “The Amazon of the North,” is clearcut at a rate of one million acres per year, the equivalent of seven NHL hockey rinks per second. Photo: Stand.earth

Canadians want the Trudeau government to enforce its forest protection laws and protect the threatened boreal caribou. But it’s been fairly easy for federal and provincial governments to maintain a status quo of inaction. They can turn a blind eye simply because the demand for trees clearcut from the Canadian boreal is driven largely by the United States, and in recent years there has been little pressure to change, especially from U.S. brands that rely upon the boreal to make their products.

But no longer. The “Issue with Tissue” report shines a spotlight on these challenges, and it’s time to demand real solutions.

It’s time for large toilet paper manufacturers like Procter & Gamble to start making toilet paper from recycled and alternative fibres to reduce pressure on Canada’s boreal forest, and it’s time for the Canadian government to protect the boreal forest and threatened boreal caribou — before it’s too late.

As Canada and the rest of the world confront the necessity of rapidly innovating across industries in order to tackle the most threatening challenge of our lifetime — climate change — we simply can’t keep flushing forests down the toilet. MORE

Agreements mark ‘turning point’ for six B.C. caribou herds, but leave most herds hanging

Caribou maternity penCaribou cows and their calves from the Klinse-Za herd in a maternity pen in northeastern B.C. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

A new southern mountain caribou protection agreement is being heralded as a landmark measure to protect six highly endangered herds in Treaty 8 traditional territory in B.C.’s northeast.

But scientists say a second, new conservation agreement aimed at protecting the rest of B.C.’s imperilled southern mountain caribou herds is “vague,” and some conservation groups are calling it a roadmap for the potential local extinction of herds already in sharp decline.

Both long-awaited draft agreements were announced Thursday by the B.C. government. The B.C. press gallery was given 30 minutes notice of a lunchtime technical briefing and news conference, and the government did not issue a press release.

A widely praised caribou partnership agreement for B.C.’s Peace region — forged among Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations and the federal and provincial governments — features habitat protection, including the designation of a new protected area for caribou and areas that would have interim moratoriums on industrial development such as logging.

It also includes an Indigenous guardian program, building on complex efforts by the two First Nations to save the spiritually important Klinse-za caribou herd — part of the Pine River caribou population unit — through a five-year-old maternal penning project. Details about the program, which West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations will take the lead in planning, have not yet been released.

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Oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion undermining climate action since 2015, report says


A Esso gas station in Ottawa is seen in this file photo taken on Oct. 26, 2018. Esso retail outlets are operated by Imperial Oil, which is majority-owned by ExxonMobil. Photo by Alex Tetréault

In the three years since world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s five largest oil and gas companies have spent more than $1 billion on misleading branding and lobbying related to climate change, according to a new report.

While the oil majors — ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total — have publicly supported carbon pricing and other efforts to mitigate climate change, they have also lobbied against effective policy, the report from London-based think tank InfluenceMap says.

“The overriding intention and net result of these efforts has been to slow down binding and increasingly crucial policy” while the companies also overplay their own green initiatives, it said in a report released late on Thursday.

In the three years since world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s five largest oil and gas companies have spent more than $1 billion on misleading branding and lobbying related to climate change, according to a new report.

While the oil majors — ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total — have publicly supported carbon pricing and other efforts to mitigate climate change, they have also lobbied against effective policy, the report from London-based think tank InfluenceMap says.

“The overriding intention and net result of these efforts has been to slow down binding and increasingly crucial policy” while the companies also overplay their own green initiatives, it said in a report released late on Thursday.

In the month before last November’s U.S. midterm elections, for example, the five companies and related trade associations spent $2 million on targeted social media campaigns in five states where energy policy was in play.

Three-quarters of that spending went to Washington state, where a ballot initiative to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions was defeated. Smaller amounts successfully sought to defeat green initiatives in Alaska and Colorado and helped re-elect Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas. Cruz rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden
Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden participates in an event to promote the Quest carbon capture and storage project in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta on Nov. 6, 2015. File photo by Mike De Souza

 

The report noted three emerging trends in how the majors deal with their public perception related to climate change:

  1. Draw attention to their low-carbon initiatives (and away from the fossil fuels they still primarily peddle);
  2. Position the company as a climate expert,
  3. Stress their climate concern while ignoring key parts of the solution.

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Fired Quebec scientist blew the whistle on pesticide lobby influence


Quebec government scientist Louis Robert was fired from his job after a 32-year career for exposing industry influence in public research on pesticides. Image courtesy Radio-Canada.ca

In May 2009, Quebec government scientist Louis Robert was 15 minutes away from entering a conference room to give a lecture about phosphorus when he got a phone call from his boss ordering him to call it off.

His boss threatened to move Robert into another office to perform administrative tasks if he dared to proceed with the lecture.

A year earlier, a senior public servant summoned Robert to a meeting at a restaurant with his boss, in which the scientist was told to cancel an on-camera appearance with journalists to talk about the management of fertilizers.

The interview was scheduled to be four days away, but it was cancelled and the journalists were then forced to send their questions to the ministry to proceed with their reporting.

Both incidents were recounted in an email sent to National Observer by Robert’s public sector union.

Throughout this period, the union said he was trying to alert his superiors about attempts by industry to suppress publicly-funded science on the health effects of pesticides.

Robert was previously employed at Quebec’s Agriculture Department for three decades.

All in all, the scientist was personally ordered to cancel these types of appearances “five to six” other times over the past few years, according to his union. MORE