SNC-Lavalin will stand trial on criminal corruption charges, Quebec judge rules

VIDEO: The Conservatives accused the Liberals on Tuesday of “rewriting the rules” over reported illegal campaign contributions, stating they “sat on the information.”

SNC-Lavalin will stand trial on criminal corruption charges linked to its alleged business activities in Libya under former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

A Quebec judge ruled Wednesday morning that prosecutors have enough evidence to sustain a trial of the Montreal engineering giant, which stands accused of fraud and bribing Libyan officials between 2001 and 2011 to get contracts.

The evidence is under a publication ban.

READ MORE: SNC-Lavalin executives look at breaking up company ahead of potential criminal conviction

If convicted, the company could face being barred for up to 10 years from bidding on government contracts. MORE

Climate change and biodiversity should be top headline news

We are ill served by traditional media. A list of reliable sources is found here

Image: Philip Bump/Flickr

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report in October warning of how quickly we’re advancing toward irreversible climate chaos, it led the news — for a day. A massive study in May by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services about rapid wildlife extinction met a similar fate.

In Canada, issues like legalization of recreational cannabis pushed aside the climate report, and news about the birth of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s baby buried the biodiversity report everywhere.

In early April, I read front-page stories in the Vancouver Sun about Brexit and the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The third page had a single column headlined, “Grim climate report released,” about an Environment and Climate Change Canada review by 43 scientists showing Canada is warming at twice the global average rate, even faster in the North.

Why aren’t these reports dominating front pages, financial sections and newscasts, highlighting the enormous societal and economic implications? British Columbians know well that climate change is real. We’ve seen glaciers that supply much of our water retreatingmountain pine beetle outbreaks destroying billions of dollars’ worth of trees, smoke from massive wildfires darkening skies for weeks, acidified oceans killing shellfish, and rising seas threatening coastlines.

In an April speech to the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation‘s Covering Climate Now conference in New York, respected U.S. broadcaster Bill Moyers pointed to research showing, “The combined coverage of climate change by the three major networks and Fox fell from just 260 minutes in 2017 to a mere 142 minutes in 2018,” and “about 1,300 communities across the United States have totally lost news coverage, many from newspaper mergers and closures.”  MORE

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Doug Ford’s Reforestation and Conservation Cuts Show He Has Historical Amnesia

“While across Southern Ontario there is still around 26 per cent forest cover in some watersheds, in others, forest cover is still as low as the five percent that triggered flooding disasters in the past.”


Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters while inspecting flood damage in Constance Bay, near Ottawa.Wayne Cuddington/Postmedia

Reforestation and conservation cuts will only increase flooding and other environmental problems in an age when these problems are being amplified by climate change. We need to learn from past environmental mistakes if we wish to avoid repeating them.

On April 25, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced two cuts to programs that were helping to prevent environmental problems such as flooding that are becoming even more acute with the onset of climate change

Ford axed the Fifty Million Tree Program that was started in 2008. This reforestation program was about half way through its target and cost $4.7 million annually. He also announced that provincial funding for Conservation Authorities, now a meagre $7.4 million a year, would be cut in half. These programs designed   to promote reforestation are helping to control flood risks, risks made worse by climate change impacts because climate change is causing increasing precipitation in Southern Ontario in the winter and spring periods. Such programs, which help reduce flooding risks, are needed more than ever before because the forests, many of which are wooded wetlands, help soak up the increased rain and snow melt

Ford’s $12.1 million cuts for trees and flood control is especially galling in view of the small amounts of money involved in comparison with the catastrophic damage to the province that will ensue as a result of the effects of climate change and deforestation going unaddressed.

The cuts also illustrate historical amnesia, a failure to remember why these programs were developed in the first place. MORE

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High gas prices? There’s a policy for that, and it helps combat climate change

The average car built to comply with 2025 standards, for instance, will save about $383 per year on fuel

Image result for national observer: High gas prices? There’s a policy for that, and it helps combat climate change

A recent report released by federal scientists showed that Canada is getting hit harder than the rest of the world by climate change, and the effects are being felt across the country. The historic flood events impacting communities in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario this week are unfortunate examples. The results of our high-emitting behaviours are getting real.

Little surprise, then, that Canadians want to see action on climate change. And accounting for about 25 per cent of Canada’s total emissions, the transportation sector is a big part of the problem. If Canada were to follow Trump and weaken its vehicle efficiency standards, we’ll lose important ground when it comes to meeting our 2030 pollution reduction targets and international commitments under the Paris Agreement.

These standards don’t just cut pollution, they also keep money in the pockets of Canadians by making cars less expensive to fill up. While more fuel-efficient vehicles have a slightly higher sticker price, this can be recouped in a few years, beyond which drivers come out ahead. The International Council on Clean Transportation predicts that the average car built to comply with 2025 standards, for instance, will save about $383 per year on fuel. That same analysis finds that pickup trucks and SUVs built to 2025 standards would see an annual savings of $662. Trump’s rollback would lead to higher fuel bills with higher polluting, less efficient vehicles.

In a recent public opinion survey conducted by Pollara on behalf of Clean Energy Canada, two-thirds of Canadians were supportive of the current vehicle emission standards. They frequently cited cutting pollution, improving public health, improving vehicle efficiency, and spending less on gas as reasons for their support.

When asked whether the federal government should maintain, strengthen or—as Trump is doing—freeze the standards in 2020, just 14 per cent favoured a freeze (compared to 27 per cent who said strengthen, and 36 per cent who said maintain).

Canadians drive cleaner cars and pay less on gas today because these standards exist, and they’ll pay less tomorrow if we keep them in place. This one’s a no-brainer. SOURCE

Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 


The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE