First Nations renew court battle to stop Trudeau and Trans Mountain

Members of Tsleil-Waututh Nation gather around, with lawyer Merle Alexander, Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson and Skeetchestn Indian Band Kukpi7 Ron Ignace at centre front row in Vancouver, B.C., on July 9, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

First Nations have taken their first step to bring the federal government back to court over its approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.

Six First Nations, including Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band, announced today they have officially petitioned the Federal Court of Appeal to review Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s second approval of the pipeline.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of Tsleil-Waututh Nation said Canada was “not responsive” to concerns that came up during the consultation process, including those relating to the risks and costs of an oil spill, the impacts on southern resident killer whales and encroaching on Indigenous rights and title.

“Tsleil-Waututh participated in the consultation in good faith, again. But it was clear that Canada had already made up their mind as the owners of the project,” she said. “We have no choice but to appeal again, and we expect the same result: that the approval will be overturned.”

The nation will also argue that the government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the west coast pipeline system created a conflict of interest.

“Canada is biased. The federal government is in a conflict of interest as the owner, the regulator and enforcer, as well as the fiduciary for First Nations,” George-Wilson said.

Under Canada’s Constitution, federal government has a legal duty to consult First Nations on decisions that could affect their rights or way of life. But the Trudeau government failed to do this the last time it tried to approve the pipeline in November 2016.

As National Observer reported in April 2018, government insiders say senior public servants privately ordered them to find a way to approve the project before Trudeau announced his decision, despite telling Indigenous leaders the government was still consulting them. MORE

Shine On: Solar power is eclipsing coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy with rapid growth and cost reductions

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A heatwave across Europe was a reminder of the dangers of climate breakdown, but also of the enormous opportunities for tapping into the clean renewable energy that can replace the fossil fuels that drive global warming.

Ever since 2013, the installation of new renewable energy capacity has outstripped all other major energy generating sources combined, coal, oil, gas and nuclear. There are impressive figures for all renewables but the growth and fall in costs of solar power has stunned even seasoned industry observers.

Since its invention in 1954 in the United States, the photovoltaic (PV) cell has offered access to the sun’s energy for free. But it is only in the last decade that the cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically, making them not only affordable but sometimes even the cheapest form of electricity, outcompeting fossil fuels. The City of Los Angeles is negotiating a 25 year power purchase agreement that would deliver solar PV generated electricity at 2¢/kWh and battery storage at 1.3¢/kWh. In the response, the leading authority on renewable energy, Prof of civil and environmental engineering, Mark Z Jacobson, commented, “Goodnight natural gas, goodnight coal, goodnight nuclear.” According to Forbes magazine, this is half the cost of electricity generated from a new natural gas plant, often touted as the efficient, acceptable face of fossil fuels. MORE

Lessons for a rapid transition

  1. Governments play a vital part in stimulating industries that advance zero carbon technologies with tax incentives and other forms of financial support to encourage early uptake.
  2. Bringing down costs is vital for the widespread adoption of any technology, and once scaled up the fall in costs can be dramatic.
  3. Solar power offers unique opportunities to poorer energy consumers in the global South, with its high levels of sunshine and often patchy energy networks.

Ford, Scheer and Kenney deliver flapjacks and havoc at Calgary Stampede

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer flips pancakes at 2019 Cenovus Family Day Breakfast. Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr
Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

How fitting that the wrecking crew that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dubbed the “Gang of Five” met at the Calgary Stampede where they sported cowboy hats and jeans, flipped pancakes for the cameras and fumed about the federal carbon tax.

If this group, which included Ontario’s Doug Ford, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, New Brunswick’s Blaine Higgs and Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories, were a middle-aged-man band, I’d dub them The Flapjacks.

Flap because of all the ideology they spout; jack because they know — or care — nothing about the havoc they are wreaking on the planet and people in the name of “prosperity.”

And so it was apt that they gathered at Calgary’s annual yahoo and rodeo show because it is likely the cruelest entertainment and “cultural” event since all those circuses of bullwhipped lions, tigers and elephants left town for good.

Animal rights groups have complained for decades that chuckwagon races, steer wrestling, bronco riding and calf roping not only panic and terrify the animals, they have killed about 100 of them — just since 1986.

Panicking and terrifying people seem to be what the gang’s ideology — and, in particular, Ford and Kenney’s — are all about.

Obviously, having just over a year under his “Premiers Stampede Breakfast” apron, Ford is winning the race to the bottom with his education and health-care cuts, his assaults on Toronto and crony-riddled government. Among other hardship-inflicting moves, there’s also his attack on the modern sex-education curriculum, the cancellation of almost 1,000 alternative energy initiatives, and even axing a 50-million tree-planting initiative to hold back climate change.

But hey, Ontarians will now have access to alcohol anytime, anywhere — although that buck-a-beer thing turned out to be pure B.S.

Which, like H.S., is all over the Stampede grounds.

One can easily predict where Kenney’s United Conservative Party is headed now that he, like Ford, has rolled back minimum wage increases, attacked the LGBTQ community and declared war on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He has even set aside a $3-million war chest to do battle against critics of the tarsands.

(On a personal note, I was targeted right after he became premier when he responded to my tweet about National Geographic magazine calling Alberta’s tarsands “the world’s most destructive oil operation” by pointing out that I was a “former Toronto Star journalist.” Which I am. But his point was …?)

Meanwhile, Ford, whose government is on a five-month sabbatical lest it further jeopardizes federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s chances of becoming prime minister, is not lying low at his cottage. From the Stampede, he went on to Saskatchewan to attend a premier’s conference.

Mind you, Scheer is doing a pretty good job already of losing support, at least if the most recent polls are to be believed. And yes, he too turned up at the Calgary hoedown, after which Kenney posted on his Instagram account, “We are united in stopping the Trudeau-NDP agenda.”

So anyway, at the Stampede, Ford joined his fellow band members to sing from the same blue songbook of building more pipelines across Canada.

And, when he faced reporters for the first time since his MPs quit Queen’s Park, he was visibly irritated by questions about the patronage controversy back home. Dismissing queries about questionable appointments as nothing more than journalists getting “into the weeds,” he declared that voters simply don’t care. Instead, he mounted his favourite hobbyhorse to ride herd on the debt and deficit that the Liberals left behind, insisting: “that’s what the people of Ontario worry about; they don’t worry about the stuff that the media worries about.”

But they probably also care about cuts to regional libraries, supports for autistic children and their families, school class sizes, the elimination of cancer screening programs, loans to university students, improving Toronto’s transit system, allowing developers to run amok and more untrammelled ideological stampeding.

Which is why the Calgary setting was so appropriate for Scheer, Ford and Kenney.

These horseman of the climate apocalypse are, as floodwaters rise and fields and forests burn, intent on inflicting cruelty not just on their constituents but on every living being on Earth. SOURCE

Fact checks and firsthand accounts of key Ford government cuts

Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr
Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr

From the Activist Toolkit

The legislative assembly of Ontario will be returning from summer break after 144 days and after the 2019 federal election. Here is a comprehensive list of the cuts and canceled programs made by the Progressive Conservatives and Ontario Premier Doug Ford in their first year. Since firsthand accounts and fact checks are useful tools for activists, the Activist Toolkit has pulled together links to accounts and fact checks for a few of the cuts. The federal Conservatives and their leader Andrew Scheer are using Ford’s recipe of being vague on policy and making promises to find painless savings. Let’s use tools like this to make sure that they do not get away with it.

Beer Store

Cancelling the Beer Store contract will have an upfront cost of $1 billion. However, UFCW Local 12R24 also asserts that “Ontarians will pay more for beer and put 7,000 good-paying jobs at risk with the PC government’s plan to sell alcohol in corner stores, even though Premier Doug Ford promised no one would lose their job.” Let’s stop sharing the soundbite about a “buck a beer” because it is not true.

Changes to education funding

Here is a fact check of Ford’s statements about the rationale for his education changes and cuts. As you can see, it is mostly hyperbole and lies. You can find tools from Students Say NoETFO’s Building Better Schools campaign, Canadian Federation of Students OntarioOntario Secondary School Teachers Federation and Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and L’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), whose members were hit particularly hard by the cuts.

Read a parent of an autistic child’s account of why the cuts will hurt them, a high school teacher’s account of the looming cuts to classes, and an IBEW union steward talkabout how cuts have impacted his union’s ability to help at-risk youth. Here is a more complete list of the cruel cuts to programs which help at-risk youth. There are definitely things which need to be addressed to improve our schools but Ford’s proposed changes are based on hyperbole and misinformation.

Cuts to health care

The Ontario Health Coalition has been keeping a running list of Ford’s cuts to health care and his efforts to privatize parts of our medical care system.

Before the election this open letter from Ontario nurse members of the Canadian Federation of Nurse Unions summed up the holes in Doug Ford’s promises perfectly.

As advocates for our patients, nurses know that cutting 4 cents of every dollar spent by government will mean at least $6 billion in cuts. Because health-care funding amounts to 42 per cent of government spending and due to the absence of details about your plans, we have to assume this means your proposal to find “efficiencies” will result in $2.5 billion cut from health-care spending. Cutting $2.5 billion in health-care spending is equal to cutting 25,000 registered nurses from the bedside.

Now that he is in power, he is going back on his promise not to cut jobs, and nurses are being laid off and their jobs are not being filled. Hallway medicine is getting worse by all accounts. The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions has launched a summer campaign to raise awareness about the cuts and the impact this will have on the quality of care. Reach out to them for more information.

Cuts to programs which help poor kids and families

One of the first thing Ford cut, without waiting for the results of the pilot, was the basic income pilot project which was slated to help 4,000 people in three communities in Ontario. The Basic Income Canada Network continues to fight for basic income all. Here are some accounts from the people it helped. The government has also clawed back the transition child benefit, impacting 600 families in the Waterloo region alone. It has also eliminated the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) which targeted assistance to low-income students — here is a great breakdown of what the changes to OSAP really mean.

Cuts to programs for First Nations communities

Another cut right after Ford took power was the cancellation of the scheduled consultationwith First Nations to develop a new curriculum for Ontario schools about Indigenous people. In May, with limited consultation and no clear roll-out plan, the government released a new curriculum with many gaps as Anishinaabe educator Colinda Clyne, points out. This curriculum is for elective not mandatory classes. The government also has also slashed $5 million from the Indigenous Culture Fund and cut 70 per cent of the funding for the Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC).

Cuts to programs which protect the environment

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario just released a report revealing that over 1,300 tonnes of sewage had been dumped into Ontario waterways in 2018 and setting out ways to protect our water. Meanwhile the Progressive Conservatives announced they were eliminating three provincial watchdogs, including environment, in one short paragraph of their November 2018 fall economic statement. This is just one of many assaults on programs which protect the environment.

There are a lot more cuts. I just don’t want to exhaust you with resources. Please read this thorough compliation put together by Flare and find out about the cuts that matter to you. This summer join the people organizing against the damage Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have wrought and don’t let the Conservatives win the federal election. SOURCE

Why Not an NDP-Green-Liberal Coalition to Battle the Climate Crisis?

Polls suggest a minority government, but we need a full coalition. 


A recent EKOS poll shows a Canada that, like much of the Western world, doesn’t know quite what to do or where to go.

But it also showed a way for us to get through our current whitewater politics, if enough of us are paddling in the same direction.

The poll is dated June 17, 124 days before the federal election. If a week is an eternity in politics, over 17 eternities lie between the poll and E-day, and this is just one poll out of many. Still, its findings raise some very interesting possibilities.

EKOS finds the Liberals supported by 30.1 per cent of the electorate, with the Conservatives at 34.2. Strikingly, the New Democrats are “moribund” at 12 per cent, trailing the Greens’ 13.2 per cent. The Bloc Québécois and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party are both at 4.0.

A thought experiment

Let’s do a thought experiment. It’s after the election. Green Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hold the balance of power.

They could keep at arm’s length from the Liberals, setting conditions for their support on confidence votes just as Andrew Weaver has with John Horgan here in B.C. The Liberals could govern very cautiously while taking flak from their allies as well as Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

Or May and Singh could have a quiet word with Trudeau the day after the election: “You’ve already declared a climate emergency. If you’re willing to treat it as a real emergency, we’re prepared to form an emergency coalition government with you, and stick with you until 2023.”

It would be a high price for Trudeau: a serious program to slow the climate crisis would include writing off the oil sands and cancelling the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline. What’s more, Greens and New Democrats would be in the coalition cabinet. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his Prairie backers would erupt with threats of separatism.

But an emergency coalition government could spike Kenney’s cannons and win over key Conservative groups. For example, the EKOS poll finds 42 per cent of those over 65 are Conservative supporters. Bring in pharmacare and other senior-support programs and woo them away. MORE

Predicting federal election results may be dicey, but discerning the best outcome is not

Green Party canvasser in B.C. Photo: Vancouver Ghost/Wikimedia Commons


The case for going green

…And that, at last, brings us to the crux of this pre-election colloquy, which is to consider the compelling reasons for voting Green on October 21.

1. The soaring frequency and intensity of tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, floods, droughts, and other destructive weather events starkly expose the folly of further neglecting the ominous threat of climate change.

2. Climatologists have warned world governments they have only another 15 years at most to stop global warming from rising to a catastrophic level that could devastate and even destroy human civilization.

3. Of all the federal political parties in Canada, only the Green Party has steadfastly targeted global warming as the pre-eminent issue that all governments should prioritize. The other parties put it further down their priority list until recently, when the noticeably sharp rise in public concern about climate change finally impelled them to raise it to at least the election promise level. Even the Liberals’ skimpy carbon tax lacks the requisite urgency, falling far short of the level that Canada pledged to attain at the UN’s Paris climate conference.

4. More and more young Canadians have come to be alarmed by the frightful extent that global warming — and the older generation’s inaction and apathy — now pose to their future security. They are joining the ranks of the climate activists, and many of voting age will be casting their first ballots for the Greens in October.

5. Support for the Green Party led by Elizabeth May has surged over the past few years. With 17 elected members provincially and federally, holding the balance of power in British Columbia, forming the opposition in P.E.I., and gaining party status in New Brunswick, the Greens are on the march.

Many Canadians, although favouring the Green Party’s valiant efforts, may be reluctant to vote for a minority party that has no chance of forming the government. They may regard it as a wasted vote. They should keep in mind, however, that even the election of another six or seven Green MPs will serve to send a strong message to the other parties that failing to take climate change seriously is now a politically ill-advised blunder.

Even more crucial is the likelihood that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives will win a majority in this election. The Liberals will certainly lose a lot of seats, and many of the party’s erstwhile supporters may decide to “go Green” instead of voting for the struggling NDP or the right-wing Conservatives.

That could result in a Liberal minority government, with the Greens holding the balance of power, as they have been doing provincially in B.C for the past few years. Such an outcome would surely enable the Greens to prevent Trudeau from repeating the breaches of propriety that marred his first four years in office. It would also ensure that in his second term the environment would receive the treatment that the climate crisis so urgently demands.

The Greens are not a one-issue party, as they have sometimes been unfairly painted. In a minority government where they can exert strong pressure on a re-elected Liberal party, they can be expected to press for the same expansion of public health care as the NDP. Health care could likely be a high priority for them, superseded only by their dedication to tackling climate change.

Admittedly, my speculation about the results of the October 21 election falls short of reaching a prediction. But, although it is based more on hope than calculation, I would argue that my anticipation of a minority government with the Greens wielding positive legislative pressure is not entirely without merit. MORE


To PEC Council: “Don’t make life miserable for my son.”

Don’t destroy my children’s future

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Three wind turbines sit stagnant at the White Pines Wind Farm nearly a year after the province cancelled the contract for the project. Picture provided by Don Ross.

Jennifer Ackerman: I am here today with my son Liam. Liam just graduated grade eight three weeks ago. Because of Liam I continue to fight to help slow down the effects of global warming, because  unlike those of you here that are fighting to destroy our wind farm, I will not be any part of making life miserable for my son.

Taking away hope causes depression;  with depression comes more suicides . We now have a medical term called climate depression. Greta Thunburg, the teenager from Sweeden, has said, “Why go to school to educate ourselves for a beter future, if there will be no future ?”

Greta Thunberg Photo: The Guardian

That is how many of our young people are feeling today.

As a landowner for turbine nine, I have private property that accesses  also to # 8 and # 10, as well as # 9. I am NOT agreeing to any contract allowing anyone on my property with the intention of dismantling and devastating our hope, which will in part  destroy my children’s future.

Most of you on council will be dead before the full impact of climate change hits, so you don’t care. You continue to see only your own wealth and selfish future. Well I don’t. I see Liam.

Leo Hynes falls behind Liam Ackerman in their race down the hill Saturday. (Chad Ibbotson/Gazette staff)

The best thing that the people of the County can do to prove to the world that we are not just a money hungry tourist trap destination, and that we really do care about the future of all life on Earth — and we want to do our part to help slow down the effects of climate change — is to get our wind farm project back on track. It needs to be completed and allowed to start generating clean energy! We need to show our intelligence and set an example to all of Canada. We are not as backwards-thinking as it appears we are, from past mistakes.

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Wpd’s White Pines project was due to feature nine Senvion MM92 2MW models

There were a few South Marysburgh residents who thought they had some kind of special rights to decide for all the people in the area that a wind farm was a bad idea. Many of those people have now moved out of Milford, or have died.

This outdated mistake needs to be changed to willing host, now. There isn’t much time to waste. If there is an agreewment reached soon that forces WPD to tear down our wind farm, we will pay an unacceptable environmental price plus a ridiculous 100 million dollars. There will be many months upon months of exhaust pollution from approximately 1000 dump truck loads carrying tons upon tons of smashed up rebar and cement and dumping it in some landfill. There will be months of exhaust fumes from huge ram hoes, cranes, dozers, adding carbon pollution, noise, vibrations, road damage, squishing all those endangered Blanding’s turtles, disrupting the habitat that has adjusted to the turbine sites, and appalling the tourists and majority of County residents!

The news of this disaster will hit all the media because it does not only effect one little area like the County. This is a world wide problem, and every decision made here or anywhere else in the world effects all life. Cutting down rainforests in Brazil effects us in Canada. Shutting down a wind farm in the County negatively effects everyone everywhere. County leaders that plan to sit back and turn a blind eye to this wind farm will be ridiculed and attacked from environmentalists,the Green Party,the media, the general public, the Fridays for Futures kids, and eventually your own children as their future happiness and health disintegrates.

The negative effect of the cancellation of White Pines goes beyond just energy creation. The creation of a beautiful meadow, 74 hectares of bird and pollinator habitat will be plowed underground and turned into a hay field. This thriving bird paradise was planted in in 2015, and has been paid for and maintained by WPD.

To establish such a spectacular meadow, composed of millions of wild flowers and a selection carefully chosen special grasses, is a move in the right direction. This habitat was intentionally created and planted to encourage and increase the population of threatened species such as bobolinks and whippoorwills. Also, it was designed to attract and feed our dwindling numbers of butterflies and bees which we all know have been put at risk due to humans destroying their habitat. The Blanding’s turtle, which has been highly overused as leverage to stop the wind farm would have had a chance to be removed from the threatened species list, if WPD was allowed to build the turtle nursery and education area at the Toronto zoo as they had offered to do at a cost to them of over two million dollars; but like all their offers, the County turned it down.Turtles can not fly, so how would a turbine kill a turtle anyways? The turbines are already built, so they won’t get run over by WPD workers’ trucks.

Now I would like to present the County councilors with an offer.

Since I have been endlessly accused of only wanting a wind farm because I am a landowner to turbine nine and would be making money because of the project, I would like to prove that my passion for wind farms has nothing to do with money. I am offering my entire 20 year lease money to the County which would be approximately $20,000  a year, to be used only for the purpose of helping the many environmental issues we face here. The money would be spent on such things as wetland protection and rehabilitation, bird and pollinator habitat creation, educational programs in schools, injured wildlife rescue and release, tree planting programs, shoreline protection, garbage cleanup to name a few. This offer is ONLY if this White Pines wind farm cancellation decision is reversed and the blades start spinning.

Consider also, how far 100 million dollars would go if put towards fighting climate change instead of being taken from Ontario residents, including you,to pay the dept owed to WPD.

I am here asking you today to commit to doing more than just giving up plastic drinking straws as a solution to the climate emergency problem, but to do the right thing.

I am asking this new council to reverse this insane decision handed down from the past council, and lets proudly boast a willing host status in support of clean energy. Lets be a place where we are proud to say, we are doing our part,and helping our children, and all living creatures.