1 year on, most oil-and-gas bailout money has moved, federal government says

The bailout cash has done little to soften the blow, industry says

Ottawa has offered $1.6 billion in loans to oil and gas companies struggling with prolonged low prices. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Canada’s $1.6-billion bailout for Alberta’s battered oil industry is well underway, but with little transparency about who is getting the money and for what.

Almost $1 billion of the package of loans, guarantees and government grants announced last December is in the hands of companies, but details are available for just a small fraction of the spending, and the industry says it has not helped much.

The package is rolling out as pressure mounts on Canada to fulfill its promise to end all subsidies to fossil-fuel producers, and as European banks flee the sector altogether.

Sweden’s central bank said Wednesday it had sold its Alberta-government issued bonds because it will no longer invest in assets held by governments or companies with large climate footprints. A day later, the European Investment Bank, the non-profit lending institution of the European Union, announced it will not invest in fossil-fuel projects after 2021.

Both decisions followed a warning from Norway’s central bank on Nov. 5 that climate risk must be considered in all assessments before investments are made.

Canada’s energy industry is reeling from the departure of massive amounts of capital, with $30 billion divested in the last three years, even as global demand for oil is forecast to grow. The International Energy Agency said this week that global demand will grow by about one million barrels a day over the next five years, but plateau by 2030 as the use of more efficient vehicles and electric cars begins to take hold.

Both the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Alberta government said this week that investors need to know Canadian oil and gas are produced more sustainably and with tougher environmental standards than similar products almost anywhere else in the world, and remain a good investment.

What might be most concerning to Canada’s energy workers and the economy as a whole is that natural gas is also on the Europeans’ chopping block. Liquefied natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal when burned for electricity, has been held up as an alternative fuel and Canada is responsible for more than a third of new global gas projects now in development.

‘Very difficult’

Nicholas Browne, a research director at Wood Mackenzie, a United Kingdom-based global energy consultancy group, said Friday the European bank’s decision puts natural gas on the climate hot seat beside oil.

“The EIB’s new financing criteria will make lending to gas projects very difficult,” he said in a written statement.

Climate activists, however, want Canadian investors to use their money to promote clean growth at the further expense of fossil fuels.

James Rowe, a professor of political ecology at the University of Victoria, said Canada’s lenders have been much slower to move against traditional petroleum companies than European ones.

He said while European investors believe they see the writing on the wall for fossil fuels and are walking away before they are left holding stranded assets, Canadian lenders, investment firms and pension funds are taking a lot more risk.

The Liberals unveiled the $1.6-billion aid package in December 2018 as the price of oil bottomed out amid ongoing struggles to get Canadian products to market through clogged channels.

The industry did not ask for funding as a way to solve challenges​​​​​.– Ben Brunnen

Ben Brunnen, vice-president of oilsands, fiscal and economic policy for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said Friday the funding was appreciated, but “hasn’t had a meaningful impact” to solve the biggest issue of long and complex review processes for new pipelines, and political interference in planning.

“It’s worth noting that the industry did not ask for funding as a way to solve challenges,” he said. “We asked for collaboration and support in an approach that positions the industry as the preferred fuel choice, one that can supply the world with cleaner and more regulated energy, as well as to prioritize the competitiveness of the industry to support the Canadian economy.”

There is not a lot of information from the government about where the money has gone. MORE

Confronting Myths About Indigenous Consent


Indigenous consent is increasingly part of public discourse, particularly around resource development.

The provincial government introduced legislation in October to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia. Within the UN Declaration, one finds numerous references to obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.

Image result for Dr. Roshan DaneshPublic discourse about the UN Declaration and Indigenous consent typically includes the repetition of a number of myths. Often these myths are left unchallenged with many, including some political leaders and commentators, simply taking them for granted. It is timely and important to confront some of these myths.

Myth #1 – Indigenous consent is not part of Canadian law.

The fact is that Indigenous consent is part of Canadian law. It is discussed in various ways in decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada including Haida and Tsilhqot’in. Moreso, it is actually an original, core, foundational principle of the common-law understanding of Indigenous-Crown relations. Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin explained in a speech that in Canada’s history the English acknowledged the “limited prior entitlement of indigenous peoples, which required the Crown to treat with them and obtain their consent before their lands could be occupied. In Canada…this doctrine was cast in legal terms by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which forbade settlement unless the Crown had first established treaties with the occupants.”

Myth #2 – The UN Declaration creates new rights, including Indigenous consent.

The UN Declaration does not create new rights. What the UN Declaration does is affirm and express long-established human rights norms in the context of Indigenous peoples.

These are human rights norms that are reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and which Canada and Canadians have supported and advocated for over generations. These are the same norms that have influenced progressive human rights regimes across the globe, including our Charter.

Myth #3 – Consent is a veto over resource development.

Consent and veto are not the same things, and consent is not a veto over resource development. First, no rights are absolute.

This is true in our Charter, section 35 of our Constitution, and in the UN Declaration. Article 46(2) of the UN Declaration makes this explicit in stating how the exercise of rights, including consent, may be limited: “The exercise of the rights outlined in this Declaration shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law and in accordance with international human rights obligations. Any such limitations shall be non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.” Second, countless officials, as well as leading experts, have explained in detail and with clarity how ‘consent’ and ‘veto’ are different.

For example, James Anaya, the former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, has explained that the free, prior, and informed consent standard is meant to ensure that all parties work together in good faith and make every effort to achieve mutually acceptable arrangements, and that a focus should be on building consensus. This is quite different than a ‘veto’.

Myth #4 – Consent will lead to uncertainty.

This is perhaps the greatest myth of them all. To assert this myth ignores the massive, and increasing, uncertainty about resource development that British Columbians are confronted with every day. To the degree such uncertainty is a product of relations with Indigenous peoples, the challenge has not arisen from respecting Indigenous rights – including consent – but from denying and ignoring them. The lack of recognition and implementation of Indigenous title and rights – and demanding that they be ‘proved’ in court despite them already being affirmed as existing in section 35 of the Constitution – has resulted in a culture of conflict, with over-reliance on long and expensive court processes, that rarely results in clear outcomes. In such, climate partnerships are hard to forge, the rules are unclear, and the pathways one has to follow murky. Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould made this clear in a talk to the Business Council of BC in 2018 where she explained that “the uncertainty that we all experience today — Indigenous peoples, Industry, governments and the Crown — whether…in relation to pipelines or any of a number of projects, has its roots directly in this history of denial and division” and further went on to explain how consent can be a path to certainty.

Undoubtedly the issue of Indigenous consent, and how to implement the UN Declaration, are complicated public policy issues, that have a historical and contemporary context that is often quite challenging to capture in the soundbite and tweet culture of today’s social and political discourses.

This does not mean, however, that we should accept myths overruling facts, or allow misunderstandings to be treated as valid information. As these matters continue to be topics of focus in British Columbia, the better path, always, will be to seek out the best, and most informed, understandings possible. SOURCE

Is it time for Canada and the world to create carbon parks?

Dan Kraus argues that peatlands like these seen in northern Ontario should be protected because they store carbon and can be a major contributor to Canada’s climate change mitigation efforts.

Over the last 134 years, more than 8,300 parks and protected areas have been established across Canada that protect wildlife, examples of different habitats, spectacular scenery, recreational areas and places of cultural importance.

In a world where rapid climate change is impacting the stability of our planet’s health and threatening the well-being of future generations, we need a new type of protected area.

Nature plays an important role in carbon storage and reducing carbon pollution. When we lose forests, wetlands and grasslands, we lose species and habitats. But we also lose the carbon that these lands store in soil, roots and stems.

Carbon parks and reserves would support Canada’s internationally agreed upon Target 1 commitment to protect 17 per cent of land and inland waters by 2020. Target 1 also includes conserving areas that are of particular importance for ecological services, meaning places that conserve nature’s benefits to people. In a world that is quickly warming and shifting to a new abnormal, carbon storage is a service that we desperately need.

There are few other places on the planet that have as much carbon stored as Canada. It’s been estimated that our northern lands hold an amount of carbon that is equivalent to one-fifth of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today. The release of this carbon would be like a carbon bomb going off. It would move the Earth into uncharted levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Much of our Canadian carbon is stored in peatlands, a type of wetland often referred to by its Cree name: muskeg. Peatlands cover only three per cent of the planet’s surface, but store more carbon than all of the world’s forests combined. Canada has more peatlands than any other nation, and most of these are still intact. Protecting our peatland along with forests and grasslands that hold carbon can be Canada’s most important global contribution to climate change.

Carbon parks in Canada could play a critical two-for-one role in climate change. Wetlands, forests and grasslands store carbon, but also help to buffer nature and people from the increasing number of extreme weather events, such as floods and drought. The protection of these places also protects the quality of our drinking water and provides places for recreation.

We are a big country blessed with a rich endowment of nature, but it could slip away without our action.

Climate change brings a new urgency to expand our protected areas system with new parks and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, and by working with private landowners through organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

By incorporating carbon storage and climate change adaptation into protected areas, we can accelerate the conservation of our lands and waters, and reduce climate uncertainty for our children. SOURCE

VIDEO: Jason Kenney claims Canadian schools “hard-wire” youths with anti-conservative beliefs

SOURCE: Rebel Media

Ever thought there was something fishy about the words your first grade teacher asked you to spell?

If so, you might want to have a chat with Jason Kenney.

Speaking with Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant at the Conservative’s bizarre National Convention last weekend, the potential Conservative leadership candidate had an interesting explanation as to why Canadians under 30 do not identify with conservative values.

According to Kenney, that’s because millennials are “the first generation to come through a schooling system where many of them have been hard-wired with collectivist ideas,” a process he suggests begins in primary school:

“I think it’s the first generation to come through a schooling system where many of them have been hard-wired with collectivist ideas, with watching Michael Moore documentaries, with identity politics from their primary and secondary schools to universities. That’s kind of a cultural challenge for any conservative party, any party of the centre-right, and we’ve got to figure out how to break that nut.”

You might think Kenney’s imagination has gotten the better of him considering he seems to worry elementary school teachers are running their classrooms like Maoist prison camps.

On the other hand, Kenney has never really trusted schools in the first place.

As he once told in the House of Commons:

“I, and I believe the vast majority of Canadian parents, believe that the first and best school is at home and that the first and best teachers are parents and not the state.”

Kenney also has worries about what he thinks goes on in universities.

In 2012, he told a Catholic conference in Italy that certain “Marxist” academics are working to “suppress” Canada’s “Christian patrimony,” an idea connected to conspiracy theories on the far-right.

Kenney says he will decide whether or not to run for Conservative leader by the end of the summer. SOURCE

B.C. zooms past rest of Canada in sales of zero emission vehicles

New data shows 10% of all new passenger vehicle sold in B.C. are ZEVs, well above the national average of 3.5%

B.C. leads the country when it comes to the sale of new zero emission vehicles. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

B.C. continues to be the national leader by a long shot when it come to the adoption of zero emission vehicles including electric, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars.

New numbers released by Electric Mobility Canada show that a full 10 per cent of all new passenger vehicles sold in the province fall into the the ZEV category, well above the national average of 3.5 per cent. Quebec is the next closest province at seven per cent.

Al Cormier, founding president of Electric Mobility Canada, said B.C.’s unique combination of incentive programs, policies and legislation around ZEVs has been effective.

“All that has provided incentives and encouragements to buyers of vehicles in B.C., to researchers, to companies. So generally there are great conditions to promote electric vehicle sales and it’s working,” said Cormier.

The province currently offers a rebate of up to $3,000 on the purchase of a new electric vehicle, which can be stacked with the $5,000 federal government rebate that was launched in March.

There’s also a maximum $6,000 rebate available through the B.C. Scrap-It program for buyers trading an old gas guzzler for a new electric. Additionally, there are incentive programs to help people install charging stations at home.

Ten per cent of new car sales in B.C. are zero emission vehicles including electric cars with batteries, plug-in hybrids and cars powered by fuel cells. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The data from Electric Mobility Canada suggests B.C. is well ahead of its own targets set in the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act (ZEVA) which was passed earlier this year. ZEVA calls for 2025 as the deadline to reach 10 per cent ZEV sales, and 2040 as date for all vehicles sold in B.C to be emissions free.

‘Strong green culture’

But Matthew Klippenstein, an electric vehicle market analyst who helped produce the report, says there’s a lot more driving the ZEV uptake in B.C. than incentives and policies.

“If gas was half the existing price, there would be fewer people purchasing EVs,” he said. “And I do think there has been a strong ethos, a strong green culture in the province of British Columbia for many years.”

Klippenstein believes as more varieties of electric SUV’s — and soon, trucks — come onto the market, the ZEV trend will grow even faster.

“It is very promising because now suddenly you have these options that are more suitable for more people’s lifestyles, which is fantastic,” he said.

According to Klippenstein, there are about 30,000 ZEVs on the road in B.C., representing one per cent of all passenger vehicles in the province.

According to its website, Electric Mobility Canada is a national not-for-profit members-based organization dedicated to the advancement of electric mobility options as a way to fight climate change and support the Canadian economy. SOURCE

Trudeau’s Climate Change Math Is Incomplete

Emissions from Canada exports have tripled since 1992’s UN pact. But who’s counting?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiling his climate plan in 2016. It fails to account for the global impact of fossil fuels shipped outside our borders.

Throughout the recent federal election — and for months before — Canada’s prime minister repeatedly asserted, “We need returns from a pipeline to pay for green energy.”

The gut sense of anyone worried about climate change is that this proposition is wrong. Why would we build a pipeline to convey and then burn fossil fuels, as a way to — get this — avoid burning fossil fuels? The logic seems twisted.

The deeper question of concern to me is whether Trudeau’s position is a political calculation, or one based on some form of economics?

By political calculation, I don’t mean an attempt to appease western voters; that clearly has failed. Rather, is Canada playing a high stakes political game that exploits a weakness in international carbon accounting to shift blame on to other countries. Let me explain…

As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Canada has agreed to “protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind.”

Under the UN Convention, developed countries are required to report their greenhouse gas emissions every year. They only account, however, for emissions physically occurring within their national boundaries.

This means that Canada does not count more than 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that comes from others burning our fossil fuel exports each year. This amount far exceeds our own territorial emissions that are just over 700 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

Canada completely washes its hands of any responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions that result from our massive fossil fuel exports. Yet, we know full well that the impacts of carbon emissions are shared globally. To put it crudely: not only are we screwing future generations ourselves, we are aiding and abetting other countries in doing so too.

Since Canada committed to the UN Convention on Climate Change in 1992, our territorial carbon emissions have gone up by an embarrassing 17 per cent. But this is nothing compared to the emissions from our fossil fuel exports that have almost tripled!

851px version of CarbonEmissionsChart.png

Since Canada committed to the UN Convention on Climate Change in 1992, emissions from our fossil fuel exports have nearly tripled. Chart via Chris Kennedy

An even greater problem with Canada’s massive oil and gas sector is that it undermines our ability to transform to a low-carbon economy by crowding out other potential forms of capital. Building new pipelines hinders a potential green economy because it uses resources that we need to construct further renewable energy supplies, renovate our building stock and electrify transportation.

The $4.5-billion-dollar Trans Mountain pipeline has been the key battleground between Canadians who care about climate change and those who pretend to. It may become the defining issue that describes Trudeau’s legacy in history books.

But the Trans Mountain pipeline is just a drop in the bucket. Canada’s oil and gas industry has grown so massive that it now has over $500 billion of assets. This is more than 20 per cent of Canada’s capital stock, excluding residential homes.

And here’s the kicker. Any plan to seriously address Canada’s carbon emissions needs to give up on these fossil fuel assets — and construct a new green capital base.

Writing off the old Trans Mountain pipeline would be a historic first step to Canada’s prosperous low-carbon future. SOURCE

MEC’s Anti-Union Campaign Shows Deck Stacked against BC Workers, Says Organizer

Outdoor equipment co-op accused of using weaknesses in province’s labour code to fight employees’ union drive.

Alexandre Charron, right, stands with other staff outside the Victoria MEC store. Photo submitted by Alexandre Charron.

Despite presenting itself as a progressive organization, Mountain Equipment Co-op has fought hard to prevent staff in its Victoria store from joining a union, says an employee involved in the organizing drive.

Alexandre Charron, who has been a frontline worker in the Victoria outdoor equipment and clothing store for more than a year, says the employees’ experience shows why the province’s rule requiring a secret ballot vote before workers can join a union needs to change.

The requirement gives management an opportunity to use scare tactics to keep employees from unionizing, he said.

“A lot of people shop at MEC… and they have this idea that MEC is better, that MEC is a very progressive organization, it is a co-op after all,” Charron said.

“They’re surprised to learn that no, we basically have the conditions that prevail at any other corporate retailer in terms of pay, scheduling and other working conditions. Many assume we’re already unionized in fact.”

Several permanent part-time and full-time jobs offer benefits and better pay at the store, but they are difficult to move into, he said.

“Many people have worked years there without being able to access those status positions and remain casual staff with no guarantee on their part in terms of hours and scheduling.”

By the end of October about 70 per cent of MEC Victoria employees had signed cards certifying they wanted to join UFCW 1518.

But in B.C., there is a two-step process. If enough workers sign cards saying they want to join a union, a secret ballot vote is held to confirm the decision.

The certification vote was held Nov. 2. MEC filed an appeal arguing the vote count should not go ahead. A UFCW official said Friday that the votes had now been counted and MEC employees had voted with a strong majority to join the union.

Earlier this year the provincial government considered ending the requirement for a vote, but abandoned the change after it became clear the Green Party MLAs it relies on for support in the legislature wouldn’t back the change. Only three other provinces require secret ballot votes in all unionization drives. MORE

Putting ‘Health of All Species’ in Danger, Trump EPA Proposal Guts Restrictions on Toxic Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects

“The pro-industry zealots now running the EPA’s pesticide office are making a mockery of science and eliminating key safety measures, all for company profits.”

Trump's EPA proposed Thursday increasing the allowable levels of atrazine in waterways.
A red-legged frog sits in a backyard pond in Washington state. Trump’s EPA proposed Thursday increasing the allowable levels of atrazine in waterways. (Photo: Dan Dzurisin/flickr/cc)

Environmental and public health advocacy groups expressed alarm Friday after the Trump administration moved to increase the allowable level in U.S. waterways of a common herbicide linked to hermaphroditic amphibians and birth defects, cancer, and other harmful health effects in humans.

At issue in the proposal posted yesterday by the EPA is the threshold level of atrazine, the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S. Manufactured by Syngenta, atrazine is primarily used in agriculture as a weedkiller on crops. It is not authorized for use in the European Union, as the body said there wasn’t enough data to prove it wouldn’t have a harmful effect on groundwater.

“Human exposure to atrazine is linked to a number of serious health effects,” according to a factsheet from Pesticide Action Network. “A potent endocrine disrupter, atrazine interferes with hormonal activity of animals and humans at extremely low doses.”

The proposed change, said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, “will likely lead to an increase in atrazine in drinking water, particularly in the Midwest.”

As Donley’s group and Environmental Working Group (EWG) explain in a press statement, the proposal regards what the EPA calls the Concentration Equivalent Level of Concern (CELOC).

“Atrazine levels above this threshold require mitigations to bring the water body back into compliance. Below, this level, no action is required,” as Donley said in tweet.

Trump’s EPA is proposing bumping up the level to a 60-day average concentration of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine, 50% higher than the current level of 10 ppb. In 2016 the agency proposed a level of just 3.4 ppb, but hat Obama-era assessment, according to Trump’s EPA, was “fundamentally flawed” and failed to take into consideration “the relevance of the individual studies.”

Driving the push towards higher acceptable levels of atrazine, according to EWG and the Center, is the administration’s goal of appeasing Big Ag and the pesticide industry.

“To please Syngenta, the Trump EPA has rejected decades of independent research showing atrazine can’t be safely used at any level,” said Donley. “The pro-industry zealots now running the EPA’s pesticide office are making a mockery of science and eliminating key safety measures, all for company profits.”

Olga Naidenko, EWG’s vice president for science investigations, warned of the possible impacts to children.

“Atrazine sprayed on the fields ends up in our drinking water and affects the development of the fetus,” said Naidenko. Thus, she said, the proposal should provoke “outrage” as it “will lead to more children being exposed to this toxic chemical.” MORE

U.S. Suspends More Oil and Gas Leases Over What Could Be a Widespread Problem

Fossil Fuel leases totaling hundreds of thousands of acres have been suspended as courts rule against the BLM for ignoring climate impact.

Pump-jacks on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Credit: BLM
Nearly a quarter of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuels developed on federal lands, according to a government report. Credit: Bureau of Land Management

The Trump administration’s relentless push to expand fossil fuel production on federal lands is hitting a new snag: its own refusal to consider the climate impacts of development.

The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases after advocacy groups sued, arguing that BLM hadn’t adequately assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling and extraction on those leases as required by law.

The move was unusual because BLM suspended the leases on its own, without waiting for a court to rule.

Some environmental advocates say it could indicate a larger problem for the bureau.

“It is potentially a BLM-wide issue,” said Jayni Hein, natural resources director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, which has been involved in similar litigation in other states. “It could have the effect of suspending even more leases across the West, and not just for oil and gas, for coal as well.”

Officials in Utah had already pulled back several other lease sales earlier this year. In effect, BLM appears to be trying to get ahead of potential court rulings, advocates say.

A series of court rulings have established that BLM must conduct a thorough analysis of the climate impacts of drilling before it allows development in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). MORE