Canadian lawyers file $500M class-action lawsuit against makers of Roundup

Lawyers in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta have launched a $500-million class-action lawsuit against the makers of the herbicide Roundup for allegedly withholding information that the product causes cancer.

Lawyers in Vancouver, Toronto and in Edmonton announced on Wednesday the legal action against numerous manufacturers including Bayer, Monsanto and Intertek Group. The statement of claim accuses the manufacturers of concealing “studies from regulatory authorities in Canada and the world that proved Roundup was causing or materially contributing to developing cancer.”

At the news conference in Edmonton, Tony Hunter, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and his wife Brenda shared their story about how Roundup has impacted them.

Hunter, 55, said he grew up on a 1,000-acre farm where he and his father would routinely use Roundup. He started using the herbicide when he was around 16-years-old and continued to use the product until he was 18.

He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 24 years old and is currently in remission after battling the disease for the past 20 years.

“Growing up I believed Roundup was a safe product because there were no warnings that indicated otherwise,” he said in his statement. “I hope that justice will be achieved for those who also held the same belief that Roundup was a safe product and who were diagnosed with cancer like I was.”

The Hunters live in Saddle Lake and have to drive two hours to Edmonton in order to receive treatment. Hunter was in remission for several years before his cancer came back sometime in 2005. He would eventually be diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma and lupus.

Brenda said it has been a struggle.

Basil Bansal, a lawyer with Diamond and Diamond Lawyers, said his law firm launched three class-action lawsuits in the summer on behalf of 70 people. He said recent information has led them to believe the makers of Roundup “recklessly disregarded the safety of Canadians.”

“It is our belief that the defendants acted negligently in placing Roundup in the stream of commerces in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada,” he said. “We believe the defendants withheld the risks of cancer and other health risks by secretly ghostwriting scientific journals and provided those to Health Canada. Studies that were provided to regulatory authorities in relation to this product’s safety was falsified, misleading and included manipulated control groups.”

Roundup is a glyphosate-based product originally produced by Monsanto and is widely used in Canada including in Alberta. The City of Edmonton, for example, uses Roundup Transorb and Weathermax at certain sites for weed control.

In January, Health Canada found no reason to crack down on glyphosate after conducting a re-evaluation on glyphosate in 2017.

“No pesticide regulatory authority in the world currently considers glyphosate to be a cancer risk to humans at the levels at which humans are currently exposed,” Health Canada said in its statement. “We continue to monitor for new information related to glyphosate, including regulatory actions from other governments, and will take appropriate action if risks of concern to human health or the environment are identified.”

Bansal said Health Canada wasn’t included in the class-action lawsuit because the government body was tricked by the manufacturers into believing their product was safe. He wouldn’t comment on whether criminal action should be taken.

This isn’t the first lawsuit against companies that produce glyphosate-based products. In the United States, about 18,000 lawsuits have been filed against the makers. In July, a California judge awarded $86.7 million to a couple who developed cancer after using Roundup.

Bansal said that while there are currently 70 people on their class-action lawsuit he suspects once the news of the legal action is more widely known more will join.

Bayer Canada in an email statement said it stands by its product.

“Glyphosate has been extensively studied globally by scientists and regulators and results from this research confirm it is not carcinogenic,” the company said. “We firmly stand behind the safety of glyphosate-based products and as a company devoted to life sciences, assure Canadians that their health and the environment are our top priority.”

Bayer argues glyphosate-based products have been used for more than 40 years with multiple studies — more than 800 — showing them to be safe. SOURCE

Japan: Environmentalists say Fukushima water too radioactive to release

Officials in Japan have claimed that water exposed to radiation in the Fukushima nuclear disaster is now safe to dump into the Pacific. Environmentalists say the water is too contaminated. Julian Ryall reports.

Water storage tanks at Fukushima

Environmental groups are skeptical of a Japanese government declaration claiming that contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is safe to release into the ocean.

Officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry addressed a government committee Monday, and said that the health risk associated with releasing water that absorbed radionuclides in the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear accident would be “small.”

During the hearing, the officials said that releasing the water over the course of one year would cause exposure amounting to a miniscule fraction of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to annually.

The officials said that storage facilities are already close to capacity, with over 1 million tons of contaminated water being stored in steel tanks on the site in northeast Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima plant, estimates that with around 120 tons of ground water leaking into the basement levels of the three reactors that suffered meltdowns as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the storage tanks will reach capacity in the summer of 2022.

A control rod in a damaged Fukushima reactor submerged in highly radioactive water A control rod in a damaged Fukushima reactor submerged in highly radioactive water

Contamination questions

TEPCO and the government have long believed that the best way to dispose of the water is to simply release it into the ocean. They claimed until this year that contaminated water had been cleansed by a so-called advanced liquid processing system to the point that virtually all the radionuclides had been reduced to “non-detect” levels.

Leaked TEPCO documents, however, show that varying amounts of 62 radionuclides — including strontium, iodine, cesium and cobalt — have not been removed from the water.

The company has also been criticized for refusing to permit independent organizations to test the water that is being stored at the site.

Nevertheless, environmentalists fear that preparations are under way to release the water into the environment.

“Even a year ago, when the first report on options for disposing the treated water was presented to the committee, it seemed clear to me even then that the preferred option was to release it into the ocean,” said Azby Brown, the lead researcher for Tokyo-based nuclear monitoring organization Safecast Japan. Other options included evaporation and burying the water.

“My take on this is that they have already reached a decision and that all these discussions now on the options are purely theater.”

Calls for added storage capacity

Safecast, Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have called for the company to build more tanks on the site. Additionally, when the area within the plant perimeter is full, they advocate building more storage on adjacent farmland that can no longer be used because it is too highly contaminated.

Brown said TEPCO officials ruled that option out on the grounds that they want to limit the tanks to the existing site.

“Honestly, I don’t see much evidence of genuine consideration of the other options,” he said. MORE

The Trees and the Forest of New Towers

As engineered wood evolves as a construction material, the sky is becoming the limit for timber office and institutional buildings.

Image result for NY Times: The Trees and the Forest of New Towers
One of three timber construction buildings recently completed for the Swatch Group in Switzerland.Credit…Swatch Group

Michael Green has seen the future of the building industry, and that future is wood. Lots of wood. The Vancouver-based architect is among the most ardent proponents of what is known as mass timber, prefabricated structural wood components that can be used to construct buildings — even large-scale buildings — faster, with less waste and eventually with less money.

Most crucially, Mr. Green and others say, building with mass timber can ameliorate climate change because it produces less in greenhouse gas emissions than construction with concrete and steel. And wood has the benefit of storing the carbon dioxide trees absorb during their growth, keeping it out of the atmosphere indefinitely.

“Roughly 11 percent of the global carbon footprint is related to what buildings are made out of,” said Mr. Green, whose mass-timber projects include the T3 office building in Minneapolis (the name stands for timber, technology and transportation) and a pair of buildings for Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, including a research and development facility for the school’s TallWood Design Institute.

Credit…Ema Peter

While cutting down trees to make buildings may not sound environmentally sensitive, mass timber supporters argue that wood could be harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Increasing numbers of architects, developers, governments, educational institutions and corporations are embracing wood. In Biel, Switzerland, Swatch Group just completed three buildings said to be among the largest timber construction projects in the world. Designed by Shigeru Ban, an architect admired for his innovative use of wood, the complex includes a serpentine company headquarters wrapped in a spectacular latticed timber facade.

Credit: Picture Plane/Heatherwick Studio, for Sidewalk Labs

“We’re past the tipping point in the acceptance of wood,” said Thomas Robinson, founder of the Portland, Ore., firm Lever Architecture, which recently completed the Nature Conservancy’s local offices and community center using Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and is working on an expanded mass-timber headquarters for Adidas. “The people who are the innovators, looking for the next thing, a richer experience for their employees or how they live, they’re turning to mass timber.”

The benefits are aesthetic and environmentally responsible, he added. “People just connect to wood in a way that is visceral.” SOURCE



Ford’s destructive cuts will have sweeping effects on health care

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announcing plans to build new public safety radio network. Image: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr
Image: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr

It warms the soul to recall the day last June when Doug Ford was heartily booed by the enormous crowd in Nathan Phillips Square celebrating the Raptors — a crowd so big that it even dwarfed the one at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Humiliated by this stunning rebuke, the premier retreated from some of his more unpopular cutbacks.

But it would be a mistake to assume that Ford’s destructive austerity agenda has been derailed. On the contrary, it moves forward like a freight train, coming at us slowly but relentlessly, much of it under cover of darkness.

Among the premier’s sweeping cutbacks — aimed at reducing the deficit without tapping the corporate elite for more tax revenues — are a dizzying array of cuts to our public health-care system, the crown jewel of our social programs.

These cuts, totalling about $360 million, will affect everything from mental health care to cancer screening, according to Natalie Mehra, head of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Their impact will likely be profound, since Ontario’s health-care spending is already well below the Canadian average, even though Ontario is one of the richest provinces.

Indeed, Ontario’s health-care spending is only $3,903 per person — the lowest of the 10 provinces — and $487 per person lower than the Canadian average, according to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office.

Even more damaging may be the Ford government’s embrace of further privatization, evident in recent legislation creating a health superagency with vast new privatization powers.

Let’s quickly clarify that there are no savings to be had from such privatization. Quite the contrary.

While government spending on the public portion of health care — doctors and hospitals — has held steady at about 4 per cent of GDP for the past 40 years, the costs of the private parts of the system — drugs, physiotherapy, dentistry, home care, etc. — have risen dramatically.

But Ford seems less concerned about controlling health costs than about pleasing business interests, which have long pushed to open our health-care system to more privatization, so they can get in on the spectacular profits reaped in private health care south of the border.

The premier’s support for privatized health care adds new impetus to the well-funded, pro-privatization campaign already well underway.

The public face of this campaign has been B.C. medical entrepreneur Dr. Brian Day, who has spearheaded a 10-year legal battle to strike down Canadian medicare laws restricting private surgical clinics from collecting money through the public system while also charging patients hefty additional fees.

Behind the scenes, Day has had ample financial support from private interests who recognize that his victory would open the floodgates to private medicine in Canada. “If he wins, you can kiss goodbye to medicare as we know it,” says Colleen Fuller, a health policy researcher affiliated with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Astonishingly, much of this anti-medicare campaign appears to have been waged with tax deductible dollars.

A massive $5-million war chest to support Day’s legal challenge has been amassed by the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), a right-wing, Calgary-based organization — with charitable status.

The CCF acknowledges that its donors include some very high-net-worth individuals, including Anthony Fell, former chairman of RBC Capital Markets. Indeed, the suggested donation range on the CCF’s website goes all the way up to $250,000. And there’s a link to a form allowing donors to transfer securities from their brokerage accounts. Not your usual lemonade-stand charity.

The CCF is also registered as a U.S. charity with the IRS, suggesting it receives money from wealthy U.S. donors keen to help strike down Canadian laws that restrict their investment opportunities here.

(Might be something for Jason Kenney’s inquiry into foreign influence to investigate.)

Meanwhile, a pro-medicare group called Canadian Doctors for Medicare is denied charitable status in Canada, on the grounds that it’s an advocacy group. So, while you can get a tax deduction for a donation to fight medicare, you can’t get one for a donation to save medicare. Ironic, since most Canadians revere medicare.

Far from the boos that greeted him at Nathan Phillips Square, Ford has now moved to the backrooms where he’s quietly helping financial interests, domestic and foreign, get a chunk of our crown jewel. SOURCE

Ecojustice takes Kenney government to court over ‘anti-Alberta’ inquiry

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on May 2, 2019 about Bill C-69. (Andrew Meade)

The Alberta government’s public inquiry into “anti-Alberta energy campaigns” is facing a legal challenge by B.C.-based not-for-profit Ecojustice.

This summer the government tasked the inquiry with digging into the role of foreign organizations and funds in creating roadblocks for the energy industry and “disseminating misleading or false information” to that end.

Ecojustice responded to the inquiry by filing court documents in Calgary on Nov. 15. The documents outline allegations that the inquiry “has been called not to address a matter of pressing public interest, but to justify a predetermined intent to harm the reputations, economic viability and freedom of expression of certain organizations who have opposed the Government of Alberta’s position with respect to oil and gas development.”

The application for judicial review argues the inquiry should be stopped because it is improper use of the Public Inquiries Act, it impinges on federal jurisdiction, and because the commissioner of the inquiry is biased towards support for the United Conservative Government. MORE


Enviros Tools of Russians? The Weird Conspiracy Theory Firing up Kenney’s Inquiry


Energy efficiency is key to climate action, but which provinces are leading the way?

Energy efficiency: Canada’s ‘unsung hero’ of climate action

(Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

When it comes to action on climate change, a lot of emphasis is put on finding ways to green the power grid. One of the lesser-known strategies of reducing emissions, however, is focusing on energy efficiency — that is, building or retrofitting structures and vehicles so they use as little power as possible.

“I don’t think it’s discussed enough. It’s the unsung hero of Canada’s energy system,” said Brendan Haley, policy director of Efficiency Canada, who said that energy efficiency could represent 40 per cent of the emissions reductions needed to meet the targets of the Paris Accord.

The federal government has recognized the importance of energy efficiency, and cites it specifically in its Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. “But it’s really the provinces that are the implementers,” said Haley.

With this in mind, Efficiency Canada released a scorecard this week comparing how each province is doing across a broad list of categories, including “Energy Efficiency Programs,” “Enabling Policies,” “Buildings,” “Transportation” and “Industry.”

Out of a score of 100, British Columbia finished first, followed by Quebec and Ontario. Here’s the overall ranking:

1.     B.C. (56 points)

2.     Quebec (48)

3.     Ontario (47)

4.     Nova Scotia (45)

5.     Manitoba (32)

6.     Alberta (30)

7.     Prince Edward Island (26)

8.     New Brunswick (24)

9.     Saskatchewan (18)

10. Newfoundland and Labrador (15)

While B.C. scored well in most categories, Haley said the western province is really ahead on the issue of buildings. That’s largely a result of B.C.’s Energy Step Code policy, which “provides a clear path” toward net-zero energy-ready building standards.

Quebec did well in the transportation category as a result of being what Efficiency Canada calls “the country’s vehicle electrification leader,” thanks to its support of electric vehicle sales and for helping develop a robust charging network.

One of Canada’s underappreciated performers is Nova Scotia, which has gone a long way in establishing provincial energy-efficiency programs, Haley said.

The province was early in recognizing the potential. In the mid-2000s, Nova Scotia looked ahead to future power demand and determined it could either meet it through traditional means, which meant building carbon-emitting power plants, or it could tackle the problem through greater efficiency.

Results showed that greater efficiency would avoid the need to build an additional coal plant, and save an estimated $1 billion. The province ended up making saving energy a focus through the creation of a utility known as Efficiency Nova Scotia, and spurred growth in green jobs in a new energy savings sector.

One of the beneficiaries of that was Dwaine MacDonald, co-founder of Trinity Energy Group in Stellarton, N.S., which works on making commercial and residential buildings more energy-efficient. Since MacDonald and his partners launched the company in 2006, Trinity has grown to 80 full-time employees. Not only is business good, but other regions have taken notice of Nova Scotia’s expertise.

“Efficiency Nova Scotia is now known as a world leader in these programs,” said MacDonald, citing Alberta and Ontario, as well as U.S. states like Maine, as some of the jurisdictions that have sought guidance. “Nobody has been able to touch what Nova Scotia has done. It’s extremely impressive.”

Given the sector’s potential, Haley fully admitted that Efficiency Canada put out the scorecard with an eye to “trying to get some friendly competition going amongst the provinces to improve energy efficiency.” SOURCE

Independent Alberta would be the world’s worst climate polluter

Alberta would overtake Saudi Arabia as the worst climate-polluter on the planet per-person if the province secedes from Canada.

Saudi Arabia currently holds the title for world’s most dangerous nation, regularly ranking dead last in analyses of climate performance.

Now, Barry Saxifrage has produced some of his signature charts which show just how badly Alberta compares even to the Arabian petro-kingdom. It’s a story that keeps getting dirtier the deeper we dig into the charts. (H/T to Emerald Bensadoun at Global News for drawing the Saudi comparison)

Triple the climate pollution

Climate pollution per capita for Alberta and Saudi Arabia

On a per-capita basis, Alberta is already three times worse than Saudi Arabia.

This gap is likely to keep getting more extreme because the province is aggressively expanding its oil and gas industry.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is campaigning for expansions that would increase GHG emissions from fossil energy by 60 per cent. Alberta is currently planning to open the biggest oilsands mine in history, Teck Resources’ Frontier project.

Note that there are some very small countries in the world that are worse than Saudi Arabia, measured purely in terms of GHG emissions per capita. Notably, Qatar — and as you can see, Alberta is almost twice as polluting as that small headland in the Persian Gulf.

It’s not just Alberta’s oil and gas industry

Climate pollution per capita for Alberta (without oil & gas) and Saudi Arabia (total)

This next chart is truly astonishing. You might think that Alberta is such a threat because of the massive expansions in the oil and gas industry, particularly the oilsands.

But it turns out that governments and industry have built an economy so dirty that it makes each Albertan almost twice as polluting as Saudis, even if you ignore emissions from Alberta’s oil and gas sector entirely.

To be more precise, as you can see on the chart, Albertans — without oil and gas industry pollution — are currently 1.7 times as polluting as Saudis (and note that the Saudi bar includes the kingdom’s oil and gas emissions). So, Alberta’s problem runs much deeper than the carbon emissions caused by clearcutting the boreal forest, removing wetlands, and extracting bitumen from the soil and muskeg below. We’ll be unpacking this more in future articles. But, in the meantime, it’s well worth following Alberta economists like Blake Shaffer (If you do, you’ll get a fascinating crash course on the economic folly of Daylight Savings Time to boot).

The ‘new currency’ — GDP v GHG

Climate pollution per $ of GDP for Alberta and Saudi Arabia

This third chart explores what may become the defining metric of our time: the carbon-intensity of the economy. It answers the question, ‘Can you make money without destroying the future?’

As Greta Thunberg put it, speaking to the U.K Parliament in April: “That should and must become the centre of our new currency.”

Carbon intensity of the economy is usually measured in climate pollution per dollar of GDP. And, as you can see from this chart, Alberta is more than twice as expensive as Saudi Arabia. It costs 2.4 times as much CO2 for Alberta to make a buck as Saudi Arabia.

Such poor performance on this measure of economic efficiency has already become a major problem for Alberta.

Sweden’s central bank dumped Australian and Alberta bonds just last week because of excessive carbon dioxide emissions. Reporting on the bank’s decision, BNN Bloomberg said that “central banks, pension funds and other global investors are increasingly factoring climate change into their portfolio calculations.”

Canada’s Mark Carney, now head of the Bank of England, warned last month that investors are now “punishing” laggard companies that aren’t moving quickly to zero carbon. Carney predicts that “companies that don’t adapt will go bankrupt without question.”

Alberta: a burden on Canada

If Alberta doesn’t secede, then Alberta’s dirty economy will remain Canada’s problem, creating a significant burden on other Canadians. Right now, the Alberta burden is indirect — the rest of Canada has to do more than its fair share in cutting carbon, and put up with breaking pledges to the international community. But the new EU president is already promising to impose border tariffs against high carbon jurisdictions, and the idea is gaining steam around the world. In a carbon-constrained world, Canadian farmers and manufacturers would pay the price directly, out of their pockets, for Alberta’s refusal to control carbon emissions.

Canada's climate pollution changes from 2005 to 2017Alberta’s carbon pollution and excessively dirty economy are already overwhelming the progress Canadians make against climate change.

We’ll be unpacking the burden Alberta is imposing on other Canadians in upcoming articles. But for the time being, we’ll leave you with Barry’s chart showing that Canadians would actually be on track to meet our climate promises to the world, if only Alberta (and Saskatchewan) weren’t torquing the national ledger. SOURCE


Foundations of Alberta’s ‘Firewall’

Bank of Canada announces a plan to prepare for climate shocks

File photo of Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn A. Wilkins in July 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The Bank of Canada says it wants to develop ways to stress-test how the country’s financial system will hold up against the possibility of punishing future scenarios borne by the climate emergency.

The initiative is part of a broader research agenda on climate change, announced this week by Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn A. Wilkins during a speech in Montreal.

“The Bank is devoting analytical firepower to understanding how climate risks are shaping the macroeconomy and financial system,” Wilkins said.

The Crown corporation, which sets the key interest rate, promotes economic and financial welfare and manages the government’s foreign exchange reserves and public debt programs, first committed in March 2019 to publishing such a research plan.

An “ultimate goal” of the Bank’s research would be to “develop climate stress-testing frameworks to assess the resilience of the financial system to hypothetical extreme but plausible scenarios,” Miguel Molico, senior research director of the Bank’s financial stability department, wrote in the document.

As a first step, Molico wrote, the Bank will evaluate the exposure of Canadian financial institutions to climate-related risks, based on what data is already available.

Last week, Scotiabank announced it was training its staff to assess the climate risks of commercial and corporate clients. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board said in a sustainability report this week it was focused on understanding the risks climate change presents.

Wilkins said the Bank of Canada’s work will focus on two main areas: the impact on the economy of more frequent and severe weather — such as the spring flooding that ravaged Central Canada — climate change is fostering, and the consequences of this more extreme weather for financial stability, such as mounting insurance claims for property damage.

As part of this, the Bank of Canada is looking at how the natural resources sector, and the jobs connected with it, will change during a transition to a low-carbon economy, and how this might affect economic output and the central bank’s assessments surrounding the key interest rate.

Some work on this issue — at least when it comes to the fate of thousands of workers in coal mines and coal-fired power plants — was started during the Trudeau government’s first term by a task force launched in April 2018 by former environment minister Catherine McKenna.

The central bank is also examining the risk that the low-carbon transition “doesn’t happen smoothly,” Wilkins said, as investors “reduce their exposures to climate-related risks” and high-carbon assets, like those connected with coal, oil or gas, start to become repriced.

That is one area where the central bank has already raised red flags, when it warned in May 2019 “rapid repricing” of high-carbon assets like oil “might cause fire sales and interact with other vulnerabilities — like excessive leverage — destabilizing the financial system.”

That was two months after the Bank of Canada announced it had joined the Central Banks and Supervisors Network for Greening the Financial System, which was established a couple years earlier to push for a strong global response to the Paris accord.  SOURCE