Trans Mountain monitoring anti-pipeline activists, labelling some as ‘persons of interest’

Trans Mountain, a Crown corporation, wouldn’t say what it does with the information it is gathering

Kanahus Manuel, centre, is the focus of many of Trans Mountain Corporation’s activity reports that were obtained by CBC News. (Courtesy of Kanahus Manuel)

The federally owned Trans Mountain Corporation is monitoring pipeline opponents and designating some as persons of interest who warrant closer scrutiny, according to internal records provided to CBC News.

The Trans Mountain documents show its security officials recorded the names of individuals who posted anti-pipeline videos and statements on social media, along with the names of those tagged in the posts or who shared the content.

Trans Mountain also singled out two individuals it considered to be persons of interest — labelled “POI” in the documents — and compiled information on their movements and their interactions with different protest groups targeting other resource projects.

A person of interest is a police term used to identify an individual who may be a witness or connected to a crime, but is not a suspect.

In one instance, outlined in the documents, a Trans Mountain security official reported the company had uncovered the legal name of an activist, labelled a “core POI” who was using an alias. The documents detailed the movements of the individual, past activist history and their relationship with other protest and Indigenous groups.

Scrutiny of Tiny House Warriors

“New information about a core POI confirms the Tiny House Warrior Camp [which refers to a protest camp in northern B.C.] is attracting some fringe and more extreme activists,” the document says.

The Tiny House Warriors set up five tiny houses last year in an area around Blue River, B.C., which is about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops. The group also has a second camp about 60 km north of Blue River, in an area around Valemount near the Moonbeam Bridge, where they have set up a yurt.

The area where both camps are set up is in the path of the pipeline project and within the territory of the Secwepemc Nation, which those in the camp say has not consented to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, though some bands in the nation have signed onto the project.

The activities of individuals connected to the Tiny House Warriors is a prime concern in the documents.​​​​​ MORE

It’s time to retire metrics like GDP. They don’t measure everything that matters

: The way we assess economic performance and social progress is fundamentally wrong, and the climate crisis has brought these concerns to the fore.

‘And it should be clear that, in spite of the increases in GDP, in spite of the 2008 crisis being well behind us, everything is not fine.’ Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

The world is facing three existential crises: a climate crisis, an inequality crisis and a crisis in democracy. Will we be able to prosper within our planetary boundaries? Can a modern economy deliver shared prosperity? And can democracies thrive if our economies fail to deliver shared prosperity? These are critical questions, yet the accepted ways by which we measure economic performance give absolutely no hint that we might be facing a problem. Each of these crises has reinforced the fact that we need better tools to assess economic performance and social progress.

The standard measure of economic performance is gross domestic product (GDP), which is the sum of the value of goods and services produced within a country over a given period. GDP was humming along nicely, rising year after year, until the 2008 global financial crisis hit. The global financial crisis was the ultimate illustration of the deficiencies in commonly used metrics. None of those metrics gave policymakers or markets adequate warning that something was amiss. Though a few astute economists had sounded the alarm, the standard measures seemed to suggest everything was fine.

Since then, according to the GDP metric, the US has been growing slightly more slowly than in earlier years, but it’s nothing to worry about. Politicians, looking at these metrics, suggest slight reforms to the economic system and, they promise, all will be well.

In Europe, the impact of 2008 was more severe, especially in countries most affected by the euro crisis. But even there, apart from high unemployment numbers, standard metrics do not fully reflect the adverse impacts of the austerity measures, either the magnitude of people’s suffering or the impacts on long-term standards of living.

Nor do our standard GDP measures provide us with the guidance we need to address the inequality crisis. So what if GDP goes up, if most citizens are worse off? In the first three years of the so-called recovery from the financial crisis, about 91% of the gains went to the top 1%. No wonder that many people doubted the claims of politicians who were then saying the economy was well on the way to a robust recovery.

For a long time I have been concerned with this problem – the gap between what our metrics show and what they need to show. During the Clinton administration, when I served as a member and then chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, I grew increasingly worried about how our main economic measures failed to take into account environmental degradation and resource depletion. If our economy seems to be growing but that growth is not sustainable because we are destroying the environment and using up scarce natural resources, our statistics should warn us. But because GDP didn’t include resource depletion and environmental degradation, we typically get an excessively rosy picture.

These concerns have now been brought to the fore with the climate crisis. It has been three decades since the threat of climate change was first widely recognized, and matters have grown worse faster than initially expected. There have been more extreme events, greater melting of glaciers and greater natural habitat destruction. 

It is clear that something is fundamentally wrong with the way we assess economic performance and social progress. Even worse, our metrics frequently give the misleading impression that there is a trade-off between the two; that, for instance, changes that enhance people’s economic security, whether through improved pensions or a better welfare state, come at the expense of national economic performance.

Getting the measure right – or at least a lot better – is crucially important, especially in our metrics- and performance-oriented society. If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing. If our measures tell us everything is fine when it really isn’t, we will be complacent.

And it should be clear that, in spite of the increases in GDP, in spite of the 2008 crisis being well behind us, everything is not fine. We see this in the political discontent rippling through so many advanced countries; we see it in the widespread support of demagogues, whose successes depend on exploiting economic discontent; and we see it in the environment around us, where fires rage and floods and droughts occur at ever-increasing intervals.

Fortunately, a variety of advances in methodology and technology have provided us with better measurement tools, and the international community has begun to embrace them. What we have accomplished so far has convinced me and many other economists of two things: first, that it is possible to construct much better measures of an economy’s health. Governments can and should go well beyond GDP. Second, that there is far more work to be done.

As Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has written: “It is only by having better metrics that truly reflect people’s lives and aspirations that we will be able to design and implement ‘better policies for better lives’.”


Bill McKibben: The New Climate Math: The Numbers Keep Getting More Frightening

Scientists keep raising ever-louder alarms about the urgency of tackling climate change, but the world’s governments aren’t listening. Yet the latest numbers don’t lie: Nations now plan to keep producing more coal, oil, and gas than the planet can endure.

An oil field near McKittrick, California. DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES

limate change is many things — a moral issue, a question of intergenerational justice, an economic threat, and now a daily and terrifying reality.

But it’s also a math problem, a point I’ve been trying to make for awhile now. Let’s run some new numbers.

First: 11,000, as in the number of scientists who just signed a manifesto that declares the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society. “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” the manifesto, released earlier this month, states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

Is that straightforward enough?

These are not scientists warning about something that will happen — these are scientists rushing out of their labs in their white coats and waving their arms and trying to do what they can to bring us to our senses. “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.” Eleven thousand, by the way, is another way of saying essentially all scientists who study this field — the tiny cadre of deniers shrinks annually, and is not being replenished by young climatologists.

Sadly, governments have never made a serious attempt to restrict fossil fuel production – instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies.

Second number: 120 percent, as in the plans by the world’s governments to produce 120 percent more coal and gas and oil by 2030 than the planet can burn and have even half a hope of meeting the Paris climate targets. The new report, which emerged last week from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), is one of the most important pieces of research in years. What it means is, the world is producing endlessly more coal and oil and gas than safety allows.

Scientists have a fairly exact idea of how much carbon dioxide we can still emit and stay south of the red lines we’ve drawn (red lines, it should be pointed out, that we haven’t crossed yet even though we’ve already lost most of the sea ice in the Arctic, intensified the world’s patterns of drought and flood and fire, and turned the ocean 30 percent more acidic. We’re already in great trouble). That estimate of how much we can still sort of afford to burn represents our “carbon budget,” and it’s not very large (it’s not very large because when scientists issued their first dire warnings 30 years ago we paid no attention). Meeting that budget would require — well, it would require budgeting. That’s kind of what the world’s nations did in Paris, when they set out targets and made pledges. Sadly, the pledges didn’t meet the targets: no nation committed to cutting the use of fossil fuels fast enough to dramatically slow down the warming. If you want to use a dieting metaphor, we were unwilling to rein in our appetites in any significant way.

But of course there’s another way at this problem. Along with reducing demand, you could also work to reduce supply. If we didn’t have more coal and oil and gas than we could burn, we would, ipso facto, be more likely to stay on our diet. Sadly, the world’s governments have never made any serious attempt to restrict the production of coal and oil and gas — instead, they’ve offered endless subsidies to spur the endless overproduction of fossil fuels.

America has done this more effectively than anyone else — for the last few presidential administrations we’ve offered the industry pretty much carte blanche for drilling and fracking and mining. That’s why, during the Obama years, the United States surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s greatest supplier of hydrocarbons. And if you think Obama might be embarrassed about that, you’d be wrong. As the former president told a cheering Texas audience last year, “You wouldn’t always know it ,but it [oil and gas production] went up every year I was president,” he said. “That whole, ‘suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas,’ that was me, people.” Precisely the same scenario is playing out in the other big fossil fuel nations. In Australia last month, for instance, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government was planning to outlaw protests that seek to persuade banks to stop financing new coal mines. (He did this as one of the worst waves of bush fires in the nation’s history turned the Sydney skies gray — humans returning to the blackened forests reported being traumatized by the agonized howls of burned animals).

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained the logic most succinctly a couple of years ago, speaking to another crowd in Texas. “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there,” he said, referring to the amount of recoverable crude in Alberta’s tar sands region. “The resource will be developed.” He’s been good to his word, literally using Canadian taxpayer money to buy a pipeline to increase the flow of oil. And his statement provides us a key piece of the math: If Canada pumps that 173 billion barrels of oil, it will use up nearly a third of the world’s remaining carbon budget. By itself. To benefit a country with one half of 1 percent of the planet’s population. That math … doesn’t work.

The SEI report is the most damning documentation of our plight yet, and it powerfully makes the case that we should be working at least as hard to cap supply as to depress demand. We have plenty of tools, from limiting subsidies to just outright banning new exploration and development. As Christiana Figueres, one of the heroes of the Paris climate talks, put it, “countries such as Costa Rica, Spain, and New Zealand are already showing the way forward, with policies to constrain exploration and extraction and ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels. Others must now follow their lead.” Which is true, but Costa Rica, Spain, and New Zealand are not exactly petrostates.

The numbers, and the attitudes of leaders like Trudeau and Trump, are a kind of cryptic suicide note for the planet.

The SEI report was, I think, grounds for real dismay, even despair: the numbers, and the attitudes of leaders like Trudeau, not to mention Trump, not to mention Putin, are a kind of cryptic suicide note for the planet, one written in numerals and not letters. They are an admission that we simply can’t rein ourselves in — an immoral refusal to heed physics and chemistry. They should shame us, and they should govern our activism in the years ahead: We’ve simply got to try and stop the pipelines and LNG ports and coal mines that make this auto-da-fé our default future.

Having slogged through this sad analysis, you deserve one other set of new numbers that offer at least a little light in the hot and smoky tunnel. Ed Mazria, another hero of the climate fight, has devoted himself and his group, Architecture 2030, to solving one of the thorniest problems of the global warming era: how to rein in the emissions from the buildings that house our lives and industries. It can seem a daunting problem, with buildings accounting for about 40 percent of all U.S. energy consumption: Viewed from above, it sometimes seems there are simply too many structures to even begin to deal with in the time we have. Fly into Chicago or LA and just stare down: Man, there are a lot of buildings.

An oil sands mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. MARK RALSTON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

But that’s why the third number in this lesson — 2 percent — is so hopeful. It’s the percentage of big buildings in New York, the ones over 50,000 square feet in size. And they produce 45 percent of the city’s emissions from buildings. Which means a manageable number of structures — skyscrapers, convention centers, warehouses, huge apartments — produce roughly half the carbon. Which means, you could fix it: Indeed, New York City has embarked on a remarkable program of retrofits for its big buildings, ordering landlords to get to work. When Mazria’s crew looked at LA and Long Beach and Seattle and Minneapolis they found the same basic ratios held; this part of the problem seems more manageable than we’d thought. At least we could give it a good shot.

As for the other half of the emissions, the ones that come from millions of homes and small buildings, it’s obviously politically difficult to regulate them in the same way. But as Mazria points out, it makes sense to order their repair when they turn over: sell an apartment house and part of the deal must be that the new owner take on the task of reducing energy use (an energy- and hence money-saving job that can be rolled into the new mortgage).

We could do this same exercise around cars or factories or farms — a great many of the solutions are shelf-ready and cost-effective. But we won’t move quickly enough to use them if we’re surrounded by a sea of cheap oil. Those 11,000 scientists? They’re telling us we have to actually do the climate math. It’s not optional. SOURCE

‘Walking the walk’ matters when it comes to climate activism

The public wants to see activists practicing what they preach.

Greta on strike in Katowice, Poland
Greta on strike in Katowice, Poland/ ABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The secret to Greta Thunberg’s success lies in her ascetic lifestyle. According to new research, the fact that Thunberg eats no animal products and does not travel by airplane has played a major role in catapulting her to fame as a climate activist. When people see that she is living according to her own message of needing to curb greenhouse gas emissions, they take her more seriously.

This logical conclusion, reached in a study titled “Climate change communicators’ carbon footprints affect their audience’s policy support” and published earlier this year in the journal Climate Change, applies to any climate ‘messenger’. When scientists, journalists, companies, and individuals encourage others to simplify their lifestyles for the sake of the planet, the public looks to see how they themselves live, and then only takes them as seriously as the behavioral changes they model.

Furthermore, the study authors found that a messenger’s credibility is not the only thing that can be undermined by a lack of good personal examples; so is the public’s interest in policies for which the messenger advocates. In other words, as Forbes says, “The public is more likely to support systemic action if those advocating it have a low carbon footprint.”

One of the study authors, Elke Weber, explained in an interview with Princeton University:

“We have found that larger institutions, like the UN, play a moral coordinating role, similar to organizations at national, subnational, and corporate levels. But there is no question that mass movements by sympathetic agents, for example our sincere and scared children, focus our collective attention. The question is whether they can hold that attention when vested interests and other competing goals and objectives intervene.”

This takes us back to Greta Thunberg, who has captured global attention and respect for her astonishing and unwavering commitment to a low-carbon lifestyle, while inspiring countless others to take action. From Forbes:

“[This research] explains why Greta Thunberg has succeeded more than others at communicating the climate crisis and galvanizing social action. Thunberg has insisted on individual change — and modeled it — while advocating systemic change.”


What media misses about national rail strike by CN train crews and yard workers

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference strikers at the Alberta legislature last week. Image: David J. Climenhaga

Here in Alberta, what news coverage there has been about the strike for safer working conditions by Canadian National Railway train crews and rail yard workers has focused on the increasingly agitated calls by Conservative politicians for punitive back-to-work legislation.

There is very little reporting on the issues behind the strike by 3,000 conductors, trainpersons and yard workers that began last Tuesday, and none I have seen on why letting the collective bargaining process continue is sound policy or what the political motivations of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and others making these demands might be.

First of all, it’s important to remember that the strikers are principally concerned with work rules by their employer that literally put their lives at risk.

The train workers’ union, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, has emphasized worker safety in this round of bargaining, saying CN now requires members to operate trains alone from outside locomotives, often in rain and freezing temperatures, for distances of up to 27 kilometres. They must hang on to the locomotive with one hand and operate a remote control unit with the other.

“The union’s demands to cease these dangerous practices have fallen on deaf ears and the company has refused to come to a satisfactory agreement at the negotiations table to adjust their operating practices in the interest of safety,” TCRC said in a statement just before the strike began.

“The company also wants to make it more difficult to take time off and make employees work longer hours, in an attempt to get more work done with fewer people and to reduce staffing levels,” the union statement also said. This despite the fact the Transportation Safety Board has reported that since the early 1990s sleep-related fatigue issues have been contributing factors in more than 30 railway incidents. There have been at least nine fatigue-related fatalities among conductors in the past two years. And many conductors work 100 or more hours a week and can be called in on short notice any time.

So keep in mind that Conservatives demanding the train workers immediately return to work with no change in their collective agreement are therefore also demanding that they continue to risk their lives, and the lives of people in the communities through which CN trains run, for our convenience and economic benefit.

Second, anyone involved in labour relations will recognize a common phenomenon — an employer dragging its heels in bargaining in the reasonable expectation the economic or public impact of the strike will soon fuel calls for one-sided back-to-work legislation.

This is absolutely standard operating procedure with large public sector employers whose services impact the public. We see it in action every time there is a labour dispute at Canada Post.

And, from an unprincipled employer’s point of view, why not? They know the public will blame strikers for any inconvenience and ignore the role the employer played by failing to bargain in good faith as required by law. Lazy, overworked and ideologically motivated media are happy to play their role by reinforcing this misleading narrative.

For example, the union has said that since the company can operate reduced numbers of trains with non-striking engineers and management workers, the propane shortage in Quebec is a fabricated crisis. “We wonder if CN is choosing not to ship goods like propane in order to manufacture a crisis and force back-to-work legislation,” a union statement said Friday.

If true, that would mean the railway thinks it can avoid concessions by making Canadians feel economic pain from the strike — and politicians like Kenney are happy to cooperate.

But why should back-to-work measures only damage the workers’ cause, as demanded by Alberta’s premier and his annoying agriculture minister, Devin Dreeshen, the young man in the MAGA hat?

Obviously, the Trudeau government is on the right track sending a message to this irresponsible employer that it needs to engage in collective bargaining, not a manipulative attack on the economic wellbeing of Canadians up and down the CN line.

If the company continues with this strategy, back-to-work orders should impose proper occupational health and safety measures sought by the employees’ union in recognition of what the real problem is here, and who the party responsible for Canadians’ economic discomfort really is.

Finally, there is the matter of why Alberta’s United Conservatives sound so strident on this issue. Hint: it’s not the economy, or even all that much about Alberta’s perpetually unhappy farmers.

Rather, it’s a terrific distraction from the lousy week the UCP just had while Kenney was on the lam in Texas, going somewhere he is unknown, as he often does when the going gets tough. It is also a great way to continue the federal Conservative post-election-failure strategy of sandbagging Trudeau’s Liberals at every opportunity.

Trading barbs with Quebec Premier François Legault over pipelines is part of this strategy. Kenney knows very well that the case for a pipeline from Alberta to Canada’s East Coast was always weak.

But it lets him beat up on environmental truth tellers and federal Liberals at the same time, while saving him from admitting that the owners of the refinery and the terminus of Energy East’s planned route were never that interested in crude from Alberta’s allegedly ethical but expensive bitumen. Here’s a link to a story written back in 2016 by the person who more recently set up the UCP’s “War Room.”

Scrapping with Legault allows Kenney to perpetuate his misleading claims about how Canadian equalization payments work. Ironically, since the current equalization formula was brought in by the Harper government when Kenney was Stephen Harper’s chief lieutenant, it’s pretty obvious he knows the truth.

As for Legault, he has his own political base to tend, and so is perfectly happy to reciprocate.

When new pipelines from Alberta fail to be built — it’s the market, stupid! — Kenney will have plenty of scapegoats to blame for the economic failures his government seems determined to make worse by putting all our economic eggs in the bitumen basket.

Well, at least he now implicitly admits pipelines don’t actually create many jobs, without them being used to justify the release of more of our ethical greenhouse gases into earth’s anti-Alberta atmosphere anyway.

As he huffed at Legault from Texas last week, “we have technology that could guarantee you constant, stable access to propane and other fuels. They’re called pipelines.”

As we all understand, pipelines operate with almost no employees, so there’s far less chance of a labour dispute shutting them down. But we also understand that a new eastbound pipeline would do nothing for Prairie grain farmers, who can’t ship grain by pipe. Nor would Quebec’s propane requirements justify the multi-billion-dollar cost of building a 4,600-kilometre line to the Atlantic coast.

As for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the best thing he can do is continue to let collective bargaining work. SOURCE

Filmmaker exposes corporate capture in forestry in N.B.

Filmmaker Charles Thériault’s passion is observing. His troubling encounter with a young man in the northern rural New Brunswick community of Kedgwick made him turn his camera on the forest. The result: a popular web series documenting decades of forest mismanagement and what he calls “corporate capture” of our forest.

Thériault’s impression that all was fine in New Brunswick’s woods was shattered when he met a 26-year-old man who had tried to commit suicide. The man was $1 million in debt, a debt he had accrued from working as a contractor, cutting wood for J.D. Irving, the largest forestry player in the province. According to Thériault, the contractors are in a perpetual debt cycle of taking out loans to buy new machines.

Filmmaker Charles Theriault

Thériault spoke with several contractors who had their loans for new machines co-signed by J.D. Irving. These types of systems, in which workers have their financial affairs tied to the company they work for, are ripe for exploitation. “It’s a system of slavery-like control over the workers,” claims Thériault.

About 100 students, professors and others concerned about the state of New Brunswick’s forest filled a room at St. Thomas University (STU) in Fredericton on Oct. 16 to hear Thériault share his story.

STU professor Joan McFarland invited Thériault to speak to her New Brunswick Economy class and the public. “We are using, as class materials, the fascinating 28 videos on his blog, The videos expose the disastrous situation of the Crown forest in New Brunswick. We felt that he would have something important to say. We weren’t disappointed,” says McFarland.

New Brunswick’s land base, which has never been ceded by the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq and Passamoquoddy peoples, is carved out as 50 per cent public land (also known as Crown land), 30 per cent private land and 20 per cent freehold. The New Brunswick government is tasked with managing the public forest in a way that benefits all New Brunswickers but many like Thériault argue that private interests are largely benefiting from forestry practices today.

Forestry has been a main source of jobs and way of life in many rural communities across New Brunswick for generations. The closure of many mills across the province in the early 2000s devastated many forestry-dependent communities. However, as mills closed and people were thrown out of work, wood continued to be cut from New Brunswick’s public forest in record volumes. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick reported that timber harvested from public land reached a record high of 5.4 million cubic metres from 2006 to 2007.

Intensive industrial practices, such as clearcutting and conversion of natural forests into plantations, have also not sat well with people from across the province. In 2015, the Auditor-General of New Brunswick recommended reducing clearcutting on Crown forest. A 2008 survey of public attitudes on Crown forestry management by Nadeau and Beckley noted that participants–from both rural and urban areas of New Brunswick–wanted water protection and biodiversity protection to be the top two forest management priorities. Participants chose jobs as the third priority.

“New Brunswickers do not trust the forest industry to manage Crown Lands.” Episode 5 of Is Our Forest Really Ours. Produced by Charles Thériault.

Thériault, who has travelled the world, producing media for the National Film Board and the Discovery Channel, says that his time spent working inside government when Frank McKenna was the Premier of New Brunswick opened his eyes to “how important decisions were being made in the backroom.” He remarks, “this was not my kind of politics so I left politics for filmmaking.”

Thériault was raised in what he describes as an “Acadian ghetto in Moncton,” Georgetown. He recalls the paved roads and services ending just outside Anglophone Moncton. He eventually settled in the rural northern New Brunswick community of Kedgwick with his wife, Betty St. Pierre, who he says, “taught him how to stand up.” In 2009, St. Pierre organized a petition to stop spraying the forest after she said she and other forestry workers were sprayed.

In a story reported by the NB Media Co-op in 2009, St. Pierre said, “A man reported fish kills along a stream here after the last spraying. It is not normal to do that to the forest. We can’t prove we are sick because of the spraying but cancer and pesticides have been linked. People are starting to question why do so many people in our community, in Northern New Brunswick, have cancer and rare cancers.”

“Where were the journalists?” questions Thériault. “I approached several reporters in the province about these stories of forest mismanagement. I was told that I was too controversial. I spoke the truth. They were too afraid,” says Thériault.

“I knew I had to report on what was happening in our woods because the press was not doing it,” says Thériault. He set out to do what he calls a “social awareness raising experiment.” Supported by the New Brunswick Federation of Woodlot Owners, the filmmaker produced a number of online videos with people who had critical things to say about forestry practices in New Brunswick. The popular videos can be watched online at

Outdated forestry legislation that benefits large industrial interests is a main culprit behind forest mismanagement in the province, according to forestry experts, conservation groups and woodlot owners as reported in the Conservation Council’s 2017 Forest Report Card. However, getting the story of forest mismanagement told has been difficult in a province where J.D. Irving, Ltd. owns a large portion of the media.

The popularity of Thériault’s short videos and NB Media Co-op’s stories on spraying the forest reveal that people are hungry to hear the forest story in New Brunswick from the point of view of the small woodlot owners, forestry workers, scientists and conservationists. “After my first few videos, I started getting contacted by retired Deputy Ministers of Natural Resources who were now free to talk,” notes Thériault.

Don McCrea explains how the 1982 N.B. Crown Land and Forest Act came into being and why he refused to accept the post of Deputy Minister of Natural Resources. Episode 11 of Is Our Forest Really Ours. Produced by Charles Thériault.

Besides J.D. Irving, “other private interests are making tremendous amounts of money from our forest while we, the public, feel the pain,” says Thériault. The Auditor-General’s 2015 report affirms Thériault’s claim: Kim MacPherson’s audit of the Department of Natural Resources finances, from 2009 to 2014, revealed that the province had lost between $7 to 10 million each year on our public forests.

In perhaps his most popular video, Thériault tells the story of how forestry management was redesigned in ways that benefited companies that are associated with Bud Bird and Frank McKenna.

In Episode 9 of Is Our Forest Really Ours, Charles Thériault discusses the involvement of Frank McKenna and Bud Bird in forest management in New Brunswick. Produced by Charles Thériault. 

According to Thériault, Bud Bird, a well-known businessman and former Progressive Conservative politician, while Minister of Natural Resources under the Hatfield government, “essentially privatized the Crown forest by dividing the land into ten timber licenses in 1982.”

In response to concerns of woodlot owners, the Crown Lands and Forest Act was amended in 1982 to say that the industry’s primary source of wood fibre had to come from private woodlots. The big players in the forestry industry objected to the new power given to woodlot owners and their marketing boards but Bird was able to console the industry by consolidating 483 parcels of Crown land into ten licenses. Today, only four companies, all large, multinational corporations, control Crown forest. J.D. Irving is the largest Crown forest licensee. Theriault argues, “This system has impoverished New Brunswick.”

Frank McKenna, while Premier of New Brunswick, changed the Act by striking the woodlot owners’ guarantee of primary source of wood supply to the province’s mills. Woodlot owners have been fighting ever since 1992 to have the market advantage returned to them. They say they are not able to compete with cheap Crown wood and they point to the overcutting of the public forest as one symptom of a broken forest management regime.

McKenna and Bird entered again in Thériault’s storytelling of New Brunswick’s forest history. In 2009, Fraser Papers, that owned the mill in Edmundston, filed for bankruptcy protection with the Canadian and American governments so that it could restructure. At the time, Brookfield Asset Management was the majority shareholder of Fraser Papers. McKenna is a long-time board member of Brookfield, a company that denied 450 retired mill workers in Edmundston their full pensions.

The restructuring of Fraser Papers involved splitting the company into two new companies: Acadian Timber and Twin Rivers. Bird is a former board director of Acadian Timber. According to Acadian Timber’s website, today, the company is the “second largest timberland operator in New Brunswick and Maine.” Twin Rivers operates the Edmundston mill and is one of the companies that the Alward government signed a controversial and unprecedented contract with in 2014 that allowed the company to cut an increased amount of wood from their Crown land license every year.

Frustrated by a political system that is captured by corporations, Thériault ran in the last two provincial elections, first as an independent and more recently, in the September 2018 election, as a Green Party candidate for Restigouche West. In that election, he came in second, with 31.5 per cent of the vote.

What is Thériault’s vision for rural New Brunswick? He says that decentralization is needed to restore community involvement. Decentralization involves local decision-making bodies having more power and responsibilities over resources such as the forest as well as health care and other public services. He says rural New Brunswick also needs to grapple with climate change and that resilient forests and food security should be at the top of our collective agendas.

Sunshine Coast community braces for logging of forest at heart of park proposal

Despite a legal challenge, a broadly supported park proposal and a community gearing up for protest, the 150-year-old trees at the heart of ecologically rich Clack Creek are about to fall

Clack Creek forest felt hearts

If you were to take a walk through the Clack Creek forest, a 24-hectare hotbed of biodiversity criss-crossed by well-used trails, you’d find more than 1,000 felted hearts stapled to the bark of towering trees.

The hearts are meant to symbolize the hope of the local community that Clack Creek will remain the heart of an expanded Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park — and not a logging cutblock.

But, despite numerous objections from the Sunshine Coast Regional District, a legal challenge and predictions of a renewed war in the woods from the conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), the trees are about to fall.

Clack Creek Forest heart

Logging to cut through community plan to expand park

In May, BC Timber Sales, the provincial government agency responsible for auctioning off 20 per cent of the province’s annual allowable cut of timber to the highest bidder, awarded a logging contract to Black Mount Logging of Squamish to cut 29,500 cubic metres of timber around Clack Creek.

The contract shocked the local community. Supported by information in an ELF-commissioned report by conservation biologist Wayne McCrory, community members hoped to work with the province and Sechelt (Shishalh) and Squamish First Nations to link the three tiny disconnected islands that make up Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park.

” … the current park areas will likely become islands of extinction over time.”

The three patches of existing park cover 139 hectares, but the vision of local residents and the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan is to expand the park to 1,500 hectares. Much of that unprotected area is already used for recreation and is home to animals such as Roosevelt elk and colonies of rare plants.

“If the entire Mount Elphinstone study area is not fully protected, the current park areas will likely become islands of extinction over time,” McCrory warned  in the report.

Old-growth saved by wildfire

Clack Creek, on the Sunshine Coast above the residential area of Roberts Creek, has a fiery history that saved it from previous clearcutting and has resulted in a naturally regenerated, low-elevation mature forest that shelters endangered species such as coastal tailed and red-legged frogs and the rare native snow bramble.

“It’s a serendipitous combination of fire and logging history that left this area intact in the 1860s,” said Ross Muirhead, ELF forest campaigner, quoting from a Federation of B.C. Naturalists conservation report.

In the 1860s, after logging began in surrounding areas, a catastrophic fire destroyed the Clack Creek forest, leaving only large fire-resistant Douglas firs. But, over the years the forest naturally regenerated.

Penner Muirhead Elphinstone

Mount Elphinstone Clack Creek forest mushroom

Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park

“That’s the beauty of it. It has the whole cross-section of plants and animals,” said Muirhead, pointing to a report that identifies 165 species of mushrooms, believed to be the densest concentration of mushrooms in B.C.

The trees, which are about 150 years old, are not considered to be old-growth because they fail to meet the province’s criteria of 250 years, but McCrory’s report describes the forest as “emerging old-growth” and Muirhead noted that only nine per cent of the rare coastal western hemlock ecosystem is protected.

The same science-based rules that apply in the Great Bear Rainforest should apply in the Elphinstone area, Muirhead said.

“All the science shows this area should be protected,” he said, adding that demonstrations and blockades are almost inevitable if trees decorated with hearts are felled.

“Things can get really explosive round here,” he said.

“In particular, three elderly women have said to us directly that they’re prepared to go up there and get arrested. We don’t know if that will actually happen, but that’s the sentiment that is out there.”

‘We’ve been cheated’

Laurie Bloom, an organic farmer who has campaigned with Elphinstone Logging Focus for years to save the area, said only three per cent of the lower and upper Sunshine Coast is protected in parks and ecological reserves, whereas other forest districts in the province protect 15 per cent.

“So we’ve been cheated here,” Bloom said.

“We don’t have a lot left to protect. It’s pretty well gone at the lower elevations,” she said, pointing out that the only large parks are “mountain tops.”

McCrory’s report found the low-elevation forest is “most representative of the ecology of the Sunshine Coast” and acts as a “biodiversity corridor” for species on the move.

A statement from the province said there are 15,400 hectares available for recreation in the Sunshine Coast Regional District, including 12,200 hectares classified as provincial parks.

But Bloom countered that there is no significant lower elevation land “for our future, for our children to experience or for tourism.”

“It’s disrespectful to this community. They are ignoring the will of the public and the regional district … Really we are trying to protect tattered remnants here. It’s the best of the last,” Bloom said.

If logging goes ahead it will gut the centre of the park proposal, ending all connectivity between the protected parcels, and the community’s dream of at least one low elevation park will die, she said.

A history of protest to protect Sunshine Coast forests

In 2016, the nearby Twist and Shout Forest was the site of similar protests and blockades, with a dozen people arrested and this is a similar flashpoint, said ELF member Hans Penner.

“We all expected a different result from the province after the NDP got elected,” said Penner, who believed the protection plans were supported by local NDP MLA Nicholas Simons and Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman.

“We thought we were on the right track and then, all of a sudden, they pulled right out,” he said.

Although there are many logging contractors around the Sunshine Coast, no local outfits bid on the Clack Creek block, possibly because they knew how contentious it was likely to be, said Muirhead, who believes Black Mount Logging would be willing to swap Clack Creek for another block.

He questioned  how the province could get full value with only one bidder.

Black Mount Logging did not return calls from The Narwhal.

Groups asks province to pause logging while land use plans completed

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said there are no provincial plans to expand the existing park and the Clack Creek parcel cannot be switched.

“The province can’t offer something different than what was auctioned, even if the current licence holder agreed to it as it would violate auction and contract law,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed response to questions from The Narwhal.

“Further, if the province switched the area and provided the licensee with a different area than what was auctioned, the province would have significant exposure in terms of litigation from others that may have bid if the new area was the one that was auctioned,” she wrote.

A recent setback for Elphinstone Logging Focus was the rejection of a petition to the B.C. Supreme Court asking for an order quashing the BC Timber Sales decision and for the issue of a  timber licence to wait until completion of a land use planning process with the province and Sechelt Nation.

Reasons for the court’s decision have not yet been released.

The petition says Elphinstone Logging Focus is opposed to any logging in the proposed park expansion area during discussions about its future protection, but that the group would not object to logging in other parts of the Elphinstone area.

A ministry statement says BC Timber Sales has consistently worked with local stakeholders to meet community concerns and measures taken include adding new old-growth management areas, buffering important trails and placing additional setbacks on streams.

Locals want to minimise ‘confrontation in the woods’

But Lori Pratt, chairwoman of Sunshine Coast Regional District, said there are concerns about the lack of consultation.

The regional district has objected to the sale of Clack Creek Forest at least four times since it was referred to the board by BC Timber Sales on the grounds that there needs to be extensive land use planning for the Mount Elphinstone area with the Sechelt and Squamish Nations before logging decisions are made.

However, the province indicated there is nothing more local government can do about the Clack Creek decision, Pratt said.

The Sechelt Nation previously objected to logging at Clack Creek, but has since withdrawn the objection. Calls to the Sechelt Nation from The Narwhal were not returned.

Elphinstone protest arrests RCMP Logging

Elphinstone logging protest blockade

Pratt said another reason the regional district opposes logging in Clack Creek is the area’s proximity to the watershed.

“We have been supportive of having a hold on logging in that area. There’s the watershed and it is quite close to homes,” she said.

The possibility of a blockade is worrying, Pratt said.

“It’s not what we would like to see. There needs to be a better balance between the economy on our Sunshine Coast and environmental needs. Both sides need to be able to listen to each other and work through this,” she said.

“Of course the safety of all of our residents in the logging and the environmental industry is of the utmost importance to us. We just want everyone to be safe and minimize confrontation in the woods,” she said.

A statement from the forests ministry states rare plants will be protected and concessions on harvest rates have already been made. Following community consultations, blocks were dropped or converted into old-growth management areas and the size of the harvest area has been reduced by 30 per cent while wildlife tree retention areas have increased by 20 per cent, the ministry said.

The ministry “continues to assess the effectiveness of our approach to managing rare plant communities and will be presenting a report to the Forest Practices Board specific to Mount Elphinstone in the fall of 2019,” the statement reads.

“In recognition of the importance this area has to local residents, BCTS has reduced the average harvest rate to about 27 hectares per year on the south-facing slope of Mount Elphinstone — a rate of harvest approximately half of the rate the area can support,” according to the statement.

The licence will support local employment and provide more than $2 million in stumpage revenue, the ministry said.

Vancouver Island old growth after

Vancouver Island old growth before

BC Timber Sales has recently been at the centre of numerous controversies after approving logging in contentious areas such as the Nahmint Valley, Schmidt Creek above Robson Bight and the Skagit Doughnut Hole beside Manning Park, leading to calls for the agency to be treated as a stand-alone Crown corporation subject to independent investigations.

Provincial amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act are likely to be tabled next spring and the provincial government has launched a new panel to gather feedback on old-growth forests.

A recent poll commissioned by Sierra Club BC showed that 92 per cent of British Columbians support taking action to save endangered old-growth forests.

Caitlyn Vernon, Sierras Club BC’s campaign director, said the climate crisis means the provincial government must put the brakes on rapid logging of endangered old-growth forests.

“We can protect big, old trees and have sustainable forest jobs into the future, but only if we act quickly to increase protection and improve forest management,” she said.

And on the Sunshine Coast, that would include recognizing the significance of emerging old-growth, Muirhead said. SOURCE

Grooming forests could be making fires worse, researchers warn

Glyphosate sprayed on forests kills slow-burning trees, leaving more flammable species vulnerable

A helicopter sprays glyphosate over crown land near Prince George, B.C. (James Steidle/CBC)

Researchers are growing increasingly critical of a common forest management practice, as studies show it may be causing fires to travel farther, faster.

“In 2017 and 2018 here in British Columbia, in both summers, we burned over 1.2 million hectares of forest,” says Lori Daniels, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia.

“Diversifying the forest … is a really effective way to create resilience in our landscape and resistance to these major fires we’ve been witnessing.”

Meanwhile, much of the Canadian forestry industry is doing the opposite, spraying thousands of hectares of public forest with glyphosate each year to promote profitable coniferous growth, and eliminate hardwood species like aspen and birch.

The primary ingredient in the Monsanto-made herbicide Roundup, glyphosate has been under scrutiny in both agriculture and forestry for years. It remains widely used, because while softwood species like pine and spruce can tolerate a certain dosage of the chemical, glyphosate can be effective in eliminating the growth of hardwood trees for decades.

It’s an efficient way for the forestry industry to streamline cut blocks so they contain the most profitable kinds of trees.

But aspen and birch burn more slowly than the glyphosate-resistant coniferous trees, and some experts say removing them is like quite literally stoking the fires that have plagued the province.

On a recent visit to the area of northern B.C. burned by the Shovel Lake wildfire this summer, James Steidle documented aspen trees that were left standing even though surrounding conifers were incinerated. (James Steidle)

Natural fire barrier

“In aspen, birch or broadleaf forests, because of that subtle change in shade, temperature and humidity, they tend to be more resistant to fire,” says Daniels. “[The fire] might burn through, but in a less intense way.”

It’s something she has seen tangibly in the remains of the historic Williams Lake fire that ripped through B.C.’s northern forest in 2017.

University of British Columbia forest ecologist Lori Daniels shows how the 2017 Williams Lake fire changed behaviour when it hit a patch of mixed forest that included aspen. 0:53

“As the fire spread closer into the aspen stand, it stops,” she says. “And if we look in the aspen stand, the trees all have survived.”

But the B.C. Council of Forest Industries says its practices meet strict criteria that make it a world leader in sustainable forest management.

“Once it has been determined that glyphosate use is appropriate, it is applied either manually or by precise aerial methods to ensure that application is limited to the target area,” the council’s manager of public affairs, Diamond Isinger, wrote in an email to CBC News. “Our forest sector is – and will continue to be – committed to responsibly managing our forests for the environment, the economy, and the communities that rely on them.”

Not a vegetable garden

More than 200 kilometres north of Williams Lake, woodworker James Steidle says he’s seen the changes the logging industry — and glyphosate use — have made to the landscape around him.

“We look at forests as some kind of farm, some kind of vegetable garden where you’re trying to grow carrots, and if it’s not a carrot you get rid of it. And I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

He is part of the Stop the Spray B.C. movement, a group working to raise awareness about the use of herbicide spraying and its consequences for the forest. The group is aggregating research and posting videos that show what the industry is doing, under rules set by the provincial government.

That’s because the province of British Columbia mandates that Crown land be nearly all coniferous on cut blocks, but that’s not how the forest tends to grow naturally.

“We have a coniferous forest industry and the government saying ‘we are going to get rid of these [deciduous] trees, they are no longer part of the forest,'” says Steidle. “That makes me furious.”

This forest near Williams Lake was decimated by fire in 2017. (Maxime Corneau/CBC)

Forest ecologist Daniels echos the sentiment, calling for a change in forest management practices.

“I think that some of those concepts are outdated,” she says.

“When glyphosate is used to kill aspen and competitive vegetation, the word competitive is crucial. These plants compete with conifers that we want to grow to have a strong forest industry. It means that we put only one value, the financial value, before all the other values.”

The value of diverse forests extends to mitigating disease, limiting insect infestations, and sequestering carbon dioxide.

“There as been great research in the last 10 to 15 years that shows that there are tremendous benefits, even to those conifer seedlings, by having other species around them,” says Daniels.

Deformed vegetation

University of Northern British Columbia researcher Lisa Wood has been doing controlled experiments with glyphosate to determine how long traces of the herbicide remain in surviving plants. (Maxime Corneau/CBC)


Newer research also indicates glyphosates may have an impact on the plants that survive the sprays.

“Toxicity, the immediate death of plants, these aspects have been studied extensively,” says Lisa Wood, a plant biologist at University of Northern British Columbia.

“But the small nuances … the nuances that you do not see at first glance, these require more time for one to really understand what is happening.”

Her team has shown that glyphosate is present in the surviving plants for at least a year after it is sprayed, a finding that surprised the scientific community.

The maximum amount of time the chemical may be present in plants has yet to be determined.

A University of Northern British Columbia researcher examines a plant sprayed by glyphosate. (Maxime Corneau/CBC)

The B.C. Ministry of Forests declined a CBC News request for an interview, saying in writing that the use of glyphosate is declining in the province and that it is used under regulation, as it is in almost every other province.

“B.C.’s reforestation practices are updated when new scientific research and information becomes available,” ministry spokesperson Dawn Makarowski wrote. “Aspen and deciduous will not disappear from our regeneration forests.”

WATCH | The National’s story on glyphosate spraying and its effects on forests:

Many Canadian forests are managed through the use of the herbicide glyphosate — which has now been linked to forest fires. The herbicide shapes the way forests grow, which can maximize profits — but not without unforeseen costs. 10:02

Many Canadian forests are managed through the use of the herbicide glyphosate — which has now been linked to forest fires. The herbicide shapes the way forests grow, which can maximize profits — but not without unforeseen costs. 10:02

The developing world has hit the brakes on clean energy

Wind turbines in China.

Clean-energy investments in the developing world plummeted last year while coal use reached a record high.

Those are very bad signs for the climate. Most of the world’s economic expansion in the coming decades will be in nations like China, India, and other emerging markets. So powering that growth with fossil fuels, rather than renewables, threatens to lock in soaring levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The numbers: Investments in solar, wind, and similar projects fell to $133 billion in 2018, down from $169 billion the prior year, according to BloombergNEF’s annual survey of more than 100 emerging markets.

China’s role: China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, accounted for most of the decline. The nation put $86 billion into clean-energy projects last year, down from $122 billion in 2017, as it cut renewables subsidy programs to get soaring costs under control.

Elsewhere: Clean-energy investments fell by $2.4 billion in India and $2.7 billion in Brazil, the report found. One bit of good news is that investments did rise outside of those three nations, ticking up by $4 billion, with Vietnam, South Africa, Mexico, and Morocco putting in the most resources, BloombergNEF found.

Fossil fuels: The other good news is that the capacity of new coal plants did decline to its lowest level in a decade last year, at just under 40 gigawatts. Indeed, overall, more clean-energy capacity than fossil-fuel capacity was added in 2018.

But the bet on every additional coal plant that gets built is that it will still be operating and pumping out climate emissions decades from now, making it increasingly difficult to achieve the cuts necessary to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

The really bad news: It now appears that China has kicked off a new coal building boom.

Last week, nonprofit Global Energy Monitor reported that the nation expanded its coal fleet by nearly 43 gigawatts between January 2018 and June 2019, far outpacing a roughly 8-gigawatt decline across the rest of the world in that period. And it has nearly 150 gigawatts under construction or likely to be revived—roughly equal to all the European Union’s coal plants.

“An increase in China’s coal power capacity is not compatible with the Paris climate agreement to hold warming well below 2 °C,” the report concluded. SOURCE


Greenhouse gases accelerated to new peak in 2018, UN says

‘Beyond disturbing’ that Ford government remained silent for a year on massive sewage spill

Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford (left) and Environment Minister Jeff Yurek. Rickford photo by Tijana Martin. Yurek photo by Alex Tétreault

Doug Ford’s Ontario government knew about a massive leak of sewage in Hamilton more than a year ago, and the Opposition NDP wants to know why it didn’t think to tell anyone.

Some 24 billion litres of untreated sewage leaked into waterways in and around the industrial city between early 2014 and July 18, 2018, when it was discovered and reported to the province, the City of Hamilton said Wednesday.

The New Democrats’ Sandy Shaw said it was “beyond disturbing” that the Progressive Conservatives “refused to make (the leak) public” and “refused to step in and help the city with this emergency cleanup.”

“Minister, my constituents would like an answer as to why the ministry did not immediately tell the people of Hamilton when they learned of this incident that posed not only environmental risk but significant risk to human health,” the MPP for the riding of Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas wrote in a letter to Jeff Yurek, the environment minister.

Yurek was not at Queen’s Park due to a loss in the family and the premier deferred to Greg Rickford, the Progressive Conservatives’ energy minister, on the question of when the government first got word of the spill.

“The city reported the discharge to the ministry’s Spills Action Centre on July 18, 2018,” he said during question period at the legislature, adding that soon after the government learned of the leak, it asked the city for an assessment of the damage done and its plan to fix things.

Canada’s National Observer

“Shortly thereafter, the city was ordered to, among other things, to quantify the amount of sewage and what was in the sewage discharged to the creek, evaluate the impacts to the creek, assess the need for remediation and/or mitigation, provide the most effective method, including timelines, and submit that spill report with the cleanup efforts to date,” he said.

Shaw responded with the same question she had for Yurek, now directed at Rickford: why didn’t you tell us then? MORE