Jagmeet Singh unveils NDP critic roles ahead of Parliament’s return next week

NDP leader appoints himself critic for intergovernmental affairs and Indigenous issues

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh unveiled his shadow cabinet in Ottawa this morning. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh unveiled his shadow cabinet in Ottawa this morning, giving himself two portfolios that are expected to loom large in the upcoming Parliamentary session: intergovernmental affairs and Indigenous issues.

“Because justice for Indigenous people is so important, because having access to clean drinking water is so important, among so many other basic human rights, and because this government is still continuing to appeal the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal and is effectively taking Indigenous kids to court, I have named myself as the critic for Indigenous services and Indigenous-Crown relations,” Singh told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons this morning.

“It’s so important for us that, as leader, I’m going to take on that responsibility.”

Singh has been a vocal opponent of the government’s decision to appeal a court ruling on child welfare compensation for Indigenous children, signalling that it will be one of the NDP’s key targets in the upcoming session.

As critic for intergovernmental affairs, Singh will go head-to-head with deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland during question period, which briefly resumes next week. As minister of intergovernmental affairs, Freeland is tasked with easing provincial tensions and holding the federation together in a period of deep economic anxiety in much of Western Canada.

Singh’s inner circle remains largely unchanged since the last session. The party’s lone Quebec MP, Alexandre Boulerice, will stay on as deputy leader. He’ll also be the critic for Canadian economic development for Quebec regions, and for Canadian heritage

Re-elected New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian will keep his job as House leader and will take on the role of finance critic.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has named himself as the new critic for Crown-Indigenous Relations, Indigenous Services and Intergovernmental Affairs. 1:05

Windsor West MP Brian Masse remains caucus chair and will take on the critic role for digital government, the Great Lakes, telecommunications and innovation, science and industry.

North Island-Powell River’s Rachel Blaney will continue on as whip and become the NDP critic for veterans affairs.

Singh criticized the Liberals for naming Mona Fortier as minister of “middle class prosperity” without defining her mandate.Longtime Ontario New Democrat MP Charlie Angus will take on the role of critic for income inequality and affordability, and for the federal economic development initiative for northern Ontario and Indigenous youth.

Singh also made a point of naming a critic for democratic reform, which isn’t a defined minister’s role in the Liberal cabinet anymore. The NDP has long pushed to replace Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system.

“People have been pointing out that this electoral system is fraught with injustice and it does not allow people’s voices to be heard,” he said.

The other NDP critic roles are:

  • Niki Ashton: public ownership, transport
  • Don Davies: health
  • Carol Hughes: official languages
  • Randall Garrison: defence, justice, sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Daniel Blaikie: democratic reform, employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, export promotion and international trade, western economic diversification
  • Richard Cannings: natural resources
  • Scott Duvall: the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, labour, pensions and seniors
  • Gord Johns: economic development, fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, small business, tourism
  • Jenny Kwan: housing, immigration, refugees and citizenship
  • Alistair MacGregor: agriculture and rural economic development
  • Taylor Bachrach: infrastructure and communities
  • Laurel Collins: caucus vice chair and critic for environment and climate change
  • Leah Gazan: families, children and social development
  • Matthew Green: national revenue, public services and procurement, Treasury Board
  • Jack Harris: the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, foreign affairs, public safety and emergency preparedness
  • Lindsay Mathyssen: deputy whip and critic for diversity, inclusion and youth, post-secondary education, women and gender equality
  • Heather McPherson: deputy House leader, critic for international development
  • Mumilaaq Qaqqaq: critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, northern affairs

Mysterious Group Uses ‘Made-Up Name’ and Fake Mom to Attack Teachers in Canada’s Biggest Newspapers

Who is behind the mysterious group that is shelling out big money to attack Ontario teachers in three of Canada’s biggest newspapers?


Forget fake news — Doug Ford’s big money supporters are now using fake moms too.

Over the weekend, three of Canada’s biggest newspapers ran full-page ads from a mysterious group accusing Ontario teachers of using children as “pawns.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has previously used the exact same misleading language to attack a province-wide student walk-out protesting Ford’s cuts to education.

The ads are paid for by a mystery group calling itself “Vaughan Working Families,” although the group lists no contact information, has no website and there appears to be no evidence the shadowy parents’ group exists apart from its expensive ads.

The Globe and Mail, The Sudbury Star

John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council which represents the area of Vaughan, said he has never heard of the group before.

“We represent working people from every occupation who live or work in Vaughan, and we’ve never heard of such an organization,” Cartwright told PressProgress.

The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post did not respond to requests seeking the contact information for “Vaughan Working Families.”

Nor did the three newspapers share information on what steps they generally take to guarantee advertisements that run in their newspapers meet basic standards of accuracy and transparency.

One version of the ad in Saturday’s Toronto Star features an image seemingly of a disappointed mother of a grade 7 or 8 student holding a “provincial report card” marked with an “F.” The report card includes a list of anti-teacher talking points echoing lines used by by Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

The ad offers misleading or debatable figures on hiring ratesaverage incomes, and holidays for Ontario teachers. It provides no sourcing for any of its purported facts.

In fact, the mother is not from Vaughan — and she’s not from North America either.

Toronto Star, National Post

Leszek Glasner, a professional photographer who lives in Poland, said the woman presented as the face of “Vaughan Working Families” is his wife.

“Actually she is my wife and she is a semi-professional model,” the photographer told PressProgress. “She is from Poland too.”

Glasner confirmed the photo used in the anti-teacher attack ad is a digitally altered copy of one he sells on Shutterstock, an online stock photo service, and made clear neither he nor his wife have any opinions on Ontario provincial politics.

“We both have nothing to do with the teacher strike in Canada,” Glasner said.

Leszek Glasner (Shutterstock)

The mother featured in the ad is not the only thing that appears inauthentic.

The “Vaughan Working Families” logo, an ominous black and white silhouette of three faceless figures, is also sold on Shutterstock as part of a “logo design template” created by an Indonesian-based graphic designer.

Titled “team of three people together icon isolated on black background,” the logo template includes a handy space to insert “company slogan here.”

Vaughan Working Families logo, HSDesain (Shuttterstock)

Even the group’s name appears to be of questionable originality.

The name “Working Families” is already associated with an existing group created by the labour movement. That group has been sharply critical of Doug Ford’s plans to eliminate thousands of teacher jobs.

In a statement Sunday, the original Working Families group expressed concern that the name of the new group is sowing confusion.

Working Families Ontario@WFOntario

Working Families is in no way, shape or form affiliated with Vaughan Working Families. The attribution is incorrectly associated with Working Families. We are taking steps to correct this. Any info abt this group wld be appreciated.

Cartwright says he thinks “Vaughan Working Families” is “obviously a made-up name created by conservative millionaires.”

“Who else could get tens of thousands of dollars to place full-page ads in The Star and The Globe?”

Cartwright noted Education Minister Stephen Lecce is also the MPP for Vaughan.

Last month, a man portrayed by the Toronto Sun as an angry father from the same riding was revealed to be a wealthy conservative activist with ties to Lecce.

Lecce’s office did not respond to multiple requests from PressProgress to clarify if he has ever communicated with “Vaughan Working Families.”

In a statement to Global News, Lecce denied having any knowledge of the ads and, although they claim to represent families in his own riding, the education minister stated he is “not familiar with the Vaughan Working Families group.”

Cartwright said the Toronto and York Region Labour Council is offering a reward for information on who is really behind “Vaughan Working Families.”

“We’re offering a $20 Tim Horton’s gift card to anybody who can determine exactly who the conservative millionaires are that are paying for these ads.” SOURCE


Ford blames union leaders again as teachers plan week of walkouts


The Future of Energy is Here — and It’s Not Renewable

If we are serious about halting carbon emissions, there is another option to go along with wind and solar

This ball has the potential to provide enough energy for the rest of your life — but is it worth overcoming the obstacles to utilize its power?

Somewhere along the line, “renewable” became synonymous with carbon-free. But solar and wind are not the only means to produce energy without CO2 emissions. Renewables are important, and they should definitely be a part of every country’s energy mix. However, they should not be the entire focus of our shared energy future. Renewables are intermittent, requiring mega battery storage and massive tracts of land or consumer responsibility to install on their own properties. The exception to this is hydro power, which may be the best overall form of energy due to its carbon-free, reliable power. Yet even hydro has its downsides, such as harmful impacts on local ecosystems and geographical limitations. The bottom line is that all energy systems should have a mix of generation — from wind, solar, hydro, and, despite much contention, nuclear.

Nuclear energy has saved millions of tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere for nearly three-quarters of a century. But that has come with many serious drawbacks, such as radioactive waste and the potential for meltdowns or other serious incidents. Clearly, this is not an ideal form of energy for the future, even if it can help dramatically reduce our carbon output. Scaling up nuclear production would mean scaling up the amount of waste and increase the chances for more Fukushima or Chernobyl-like accidents. But what if there was a way to harness the carbon-free electricity that is created from splitting atoms without the waste, meltdowns, high costs, and ominous-looking cooling towers?

Such an option is possible, though it is not operative anywhere in the world. This is because it hasn’t proved commercially viable on any scale — which, combined with a fear of the word ‘nuclear’ and the almost dogmatic belief that the only form of carbon-free energy is renewable energy, has prevented its implementation.

We should really explore if this form of energy can help us with our growing atmospheric carbon problem.

Why SMR Nuclear is Ideal

Thorium is number 90 on the periodic table of elements, two behind uranium. It is a weakly radioactive substance that is much more abundant than naturally-occurring uranium — and there are numerous advantages to using it as a fuel over the latter. No, it is not renewable, but a golf ball of thorium could, in theory, power a small city for decades. And the fact that it isn’t renewable shouldn’t be a negative trait. Renewables are, with the exception of hydro, intermittent; LFTRs would provide baseload power to the grid to backup increased solar and wind power. It becomes even more essential to have a new, scalable form of carbon-free energy if we follow the route of electrifying everything to cut fossil fuel usage. This is because electricity grids will have to expand to triple or quadruple their current capacity (or more) to accommodate the influx in electricity-dependent practices, such as driving and manufacturing. LFTRs are carbon-free, nearly waste-free, reliable, efficient, and theoretically safe. Sameer Surampalli from Power Engineering does a great job of describing some of the more technical details of thorium power:

A typical arrangement for a modern thorium-based reactor resembles a conventional reactor, albeit with notable differences. First, thorium-232 and uranium-233 are added to fluoride salts in the reactor core. As fission occurs, heat and neutrons are released from the core and absorbed by the surrounding salt. This creates a uranium-233 isotope, as the thorium-232 takes on an additional neutron. The salt melts into a molten state, which runs a heat exchanger, heating an inert gas such as helium, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. The radiated salt flows into a post-processing plant, which separates the uranium from the salt. The uranium is then sent back to the core to start the fission process again.

There are also cost benefits that would come into play if thorium reactors were commissioned, with LFTRs needing less money to operate than solid-fuel reactors (once operational, the salts would cost roughly $150/kg and the thorium would cost about $30/kg). Surampalli also states:

If thorium becomes popular, this cost will only decrease as thorium is widely available anywhere in the earth’s crust. Thorium is found in a concentration over 500 times greater than fissile uranium-235. Historically, thorium was tossed aside as a byproduct of rare-earth metal mining. With extraction, enough thorium could be obtained to power LFTRs for thousands of years. For a 1 GW facility, material cost for fuel would be around $5 million. Since LFTRs use thorium in its natural state, no expensive fuel enrichment processes or fabrication for solid fuel rods are required, meaning the fuel costs are significantly lower than a comparable solid-fuel reactor. In an ideally working reactor, the post chemical reprocessing would allow a LFTR to efficiently consume nearly all of its fuel, leaving little waste or byproduct unlike a conventional reactor.

These benefits should not be taken lightly. If we are serious about halting CO2 emissions — which we all should be — then this technology should be given a fair chance to see if it can provide baseload power to electricity grids worldwide.

Why SMR Nuclear is Safer than Traditional

LFTRs generate significantly less radioactive waste than generation III reactors and can re-use separated uranium, making the SMR reactor nearly self-sufficient once started. Unlike traditional high-pressure nuclear systems, LFTRs are designed to operate as low-pressure systems, which are much more stable, and the fluoride salts have very high boiling points, making them resistant to large or sudden increases in pressure.

The combination of a low-pressure system and a high boiling point greatly limits the chance of a containment explosion. LFTRs don’t require massive cooling — they can be placed anywhere and can be air-cooled, which is why they are considered small modular reactors. These particular SMRs also have the best safety feature of all: if the core were to overheat, a gravity-enabled passive shutdown system would send the heated, radiated salt into an underground containment chamber and turn off the reactor. And if there is one thing that can be relied upon in this universe, it’s gravity.

The Downsides

LFTRs do present a few challenges. There are significant gaps in the research and necessary materials for LFTRs. The post-processing chemical facilities, which would separate uranium from the molten salts for re-use, haven’t been viably constructed yet. Each reactor would require some highly enriched uranium (such as uranium-235) to start the reactor, which is very expensive.

He also states that “Any leftover radioactive waste cannot be used to create weaponry,” but this is a debated assertion. Some scientists claim that the U-233 created in thorium reactors could be used to create atomic weapons if done the right way. Others claim this is not possible. Either way, it would be a good idea to secure LFTRs from outside interference, regardless of their proliferation capabilities. A Guardian article from nearly a decade ago outlines why thorium isn’t as “green” as it seems to be, and some of the points made in it are fair.

What’s Next?

Do we care more about sticking to ideology than implementing the best available options to cut carbon emissions?

I worry it’s the former. ‘

I hope I’m wrong. SOURCE



Trudeau must not ignore bold report on media in internet age

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The time has come for Canada to take the new media environment made possible by the internet seriously.

The government must rewrite its regulations for media and telecommunications and radically reform the institutions — notably the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) — tasked with carrying out the regulations.

It must give a new mandate to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) — accompanied by much increased, long-term funding — and should get the public broadcaster out of advertising.

At the same time, the government should start treating Netflix and other online curators of content more or less like broadcasters, by obliging them to fund a significant volume of Canadian programming. (And Canadian programming means written, directed and acted by Canadians. It does not mean films or TV shows shot in Toronto or Vancouver dressed up to look like New York or Los Angeles.)

Those are some of the key recommendations of a special advisory group the Trudeau government named in 2018, the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.

The panel’s main job was to bring Canada’s antiquated laws governing all aspects of media, including the mandate and role of the CBC, into the contemporary era of the internet and mobile communication. The main federal legislation governing all forms of media and electronic communications goes back decades, to the pre-internet days.

The panel was chaired by Janet Yale, who has had a long career in both the public and private sectors. She held senior roles at, among others, the CRTC and telecommunications and broadcasting giant Telus.

The rest of the panel was made up of three lawyers who specialize in technology communications, and Monique Simard, who has been a labour leader, head of French production at the National Film Board and CEO of Quebec’s funding agency for cultural industries.

‘Netflix tax’ a red herring

The panel’s recommendations are thorough, well-researched and detailed. The members did their homework and their recommendations are reasonable and practical.

There will be a lot of chatter about the fact that they recommend a Netflix tax. That — as Simard explained at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, January 29 — would be nonsense. The panel only recommends that the HST, which applies to other communications services in Canada such as cable fees, also apply to fees paid to Netflix and similar companies.

More important, the panel wants the new, internet-based media giants such as Netflix to fulfill Canadian production and content requirements analogous to those that apply to broadcasters.

Historically, the law has required broadcasters licensed in Canada to devote a certain proportion of air time to Canadian content and to invest in Canadian productions. In the case of Netflix and similar entities there is no way to allocate air time to Canadian productions.

Instead, the panel talks about “discoverability.”

That means the media giants of the internet age should make sure they promote Canadian shows that tell Canadian stories, and organize their online offerings in such a way that viewers can easily find them.

As for Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC, Yale points out that on a per capita basis Canada underfunds it, compared to other, similar economically advanced countries.

In fact, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting have pointed out that Canada spends far less than half the OECD average of $87 per person on public broadcasting. Canada stands third from the bottom on a list of 19 advanced economies on that score. Only New Zealand and the U.S., rank lower than us.

Over the many years since its creation in the 1930s, a bugaboo for the CBC has been that its funds are allocated annually in each year’s federal budget.

It is very difficult to plan and schedule productions if you do not know how much cash you will have from year to year. As a remedy, the panel recommends that the government give the CBC guaranteed funding on a five-year basis. It also suggests that the public broadcaster needs more money than it gets now to properly fulfill its mandate, which would include a huge increase in local and regional news and information programming.

For decades, tight budgets have forced the CBC to seek economies of scale and continuously cut back on local production. When the government appointed Catherine Tait as CBC president in 2018, she promised to start reversing that trend. To date she has made little progress.

The panel now wants the government to allocate sufficient resources to the CBC so that Tait and those who follow her can fulfill that promise.

Lots of resistance to any new regulatory measures

There is much more in the report, all of it worth considering. But politicians and polemicists of the right have already started taking whacks at it.

They say that Netflix already invests in lots of production in Canada — an argument Netflix’s own people make. All is good, they say, we don’t need regulations.

The fact is that a lot of the activity in Canada is what they call industrial production. The producers use Canadian technical services, which are often cheaper than south of the border, to make what are, essentially, American movies and TV series — written, directed and acted by (mostly) Americans. There is no effort whatsoever to tell Canadian stories.

When it comes for the need to regulate broadcasting activity that has migrated to the internet, the panel is pretty specific, and its main recommendations have already attracted some fire.

The panel recommends the licenses now awarded to broadcasters be mirrored by what it calls a “registration regime” for the folks who broadcast media content via the internet.

A new body that the panel recommends should replace the CRTC would regulate both broadcasting licenses and the new registrations for the online world.

There is an important caveat — which is that registration would only be for the big guys, the true online broadcasters, not the many little guys, such as rabble. But there are already howls of protest from some of the little guys. At the news conference one gruff questioner even raised the spectre of North Korean-style control.

That was over-the-top. However, in determining what it will implement from the report — and how — the government will need to do a better job of explaining and justifying such touchy issues as a new registration regime for internet players than the panel has done so far.

Overall, the task before this panel was monumental.

It has been a long time since the Canadian government did a root and branch examination of the entire media universe. In this age of declining real news generated by qualified journalists, and rapidly increasing false news aided and abetted by social media, the work of the panel is long past due.

And before naysayers nickel and dime the whole exercise to death, it might be worth considering the panel’s statement of the values which motivated its efforts.

“Our work is firmly rooted in an overarching vision for the legislative framework,” the report states, “one that reaffirms Canada’s sovereignty, supports our democratic values and inclusivity, and aims to realize the promise of advanced technologies for the benefit of Canada’s economy … and Canadians as citizens, users, and creators.”

This is one report that must not be consigned to the Trudeau government’s “failure-to-act” file. SOURCE


Indigenous community rejects nuclear waste bunker near Lake Huron

Ontario Power Generation signage is seen facility at the Darlington Power Complex, in Bowmanville, Ont., on May 31, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Cole Burston

An Indigenous community has overwhelmingly rejected a proposed underground storage facility for nuclear waste near Lake Huron, likely spelling the end for a multibillion-dollar, politically fraught project years in the making.

After a year of consultations and days of voting, the 4,500-member Saugeen Ojibway Nation announced late Friday that 85 per cent of those casting ballots had said no to accepting a deep geologic repository at the Bruce nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ont.

“We were not consulted when the nuclear industry was established in our territory,” SON said in a statement. “Over the past 40 years, nuclear power generation in Anishnaabekiing has had many impacts on our communities, and our land and waters.”

The province’s giant utility, Ontario Power Generation, had wanted to build the repository 680 metres underground about 1.2 kilometres from Lake Huron as permanent storage for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The project was tentatively approved in May 2015.

While Kincardine was a “willing host,” the relative proximity of the proposed bunker to the lake sparked a backlash elsewhere in Canada and the United States. Politicians, environmentalists and scores of communities expressed opposition.

Successive federal governments have withheld final approval. In August 2017, then-environment minister Catherine McKenna paused the process — the last in a string of delays for the project — to ensure buy-in from Indigenous people in the area.

The generating company, which insisted the stable bedrock would safely contain the waste, items such as contaminated reactor components and mops, said it respected SON’s decision.

“OPG will explore other options and will engage with key stakeholders to develop an alternate site-selection process,” Ken Hartwick, head of OPG, said in a statement shortly after the vote was announced. “Any new process would include engagement with Indigenous peoples as well as interested municipalities.”

The apparent end of the road for the project comes shortly after the federally-mandated Nuclear Waste Management Organization said it was making progress toward choosing a site for storing millions of far more toxic spent nuclear fuel bundles.

The organization, comprising several nuclear plant operators, said it had struck deals with landowners in South Bruce — about 30 minutes east of Kincardine — that will allow it to begin site tests. The only other site under consideration for high-level waste storage is in Ignace in northern Ontario.

Despite the rejection of OPG’s proposal, the utility said it planned to continue a relationship “based on mutual respect, collaboration and trust” with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which comprises the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation.

Chippewas of Saugeen Chief Lester Anoquot called the vote — 170 for and 1,058 against — a “historic milestone and momentous victory” for the community.

“We worked for many years for our right to exercise jurisdiction in our territory and the free, prior and informed consent of our people to be recognized,” Anoquot said. “We didn’t ask for this waste to be created and stored in our territory.”

At the same time, Anoquot said, the vote showed the need for a new solution for the hazardous waste, a process he said could take many years.

Ontario depends heavily on nuclear power for its electricity but a permanent storage solution for the increasing amounts of waste now stored above ground has proven elusive. The radioactive material, particular from used fuel, remains highly toxic for centuries.

The utility insists exhaustive science shows a repository in stable and impermeable rock offers the best solution.

“Permanent and safe disposal is the right thing to do for future generations,” Hartwick said. SOURCE

LNG BC ferries don’t deliver environmental promise

This fully electric ferry, the E-Ferry Ellen in Denmark, has a 22 nautical mile range. Photograph by Erik Christensen.

BC Ferries has made a big promise. To operate the environmentally cleanest possible ferries. In the words of BC Ferries’ President and CEO, Mark Collins, “It is our privilege to operate in one of the most pristine environments in the world and it is our objective to be a leader in environmental and social governance”.

That promise is in black and white in the BC Ferries’ Clean Futures Plan, Summer 2019. But the promise and the prescribed actions don’t add up.

The Clean Futures Plan objective is to reduce GHG emissions by “continually seeking among available energy sources the cleanest, lowest carbon-intensity option that can displace non-renewable diesel”. And by that they mean liquefied natural gas (LNG).

But LNG fueled ferries result in little or no net GHG reduction.

To make the claim that “we currently have five LNG-fueled vessels in our fleet that substantially outperform diesel fueled vessels for emissions and costs” the Plan relies on a common deception that natural gas (aka fracked gas, LNG or methane) is a “clean” fossil fuel because it releases less CO2 than other fossil fuels at point of burning.

While LNG does burn cleaner than fossil fuel there are other factors that have to be considered.

The most recent research shows that LNG ferries have no climate benefit over ferries using marine diesel fuel. In fact, they are slightly worse. Mark Collins, BC Ferries CEO, states in the BC Ferries Authority’s 2018-19 Annual Report, “We have expanded the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which emits significantly lower GHGs compared to ultra low-sulphur diesel.” It would be more accurate to say that LNG is cheaper than diesel, promoted by the Province of BC and has a reputation burnished by decades of industry disinformation.

The myth of methane as a clean fossil fuel rests on several untruths. First, it counts only CO2 at point of burning, not methane itself (CH4), an extremely potent GHG.

And then there is this: methane leaks at every stage of natural gas production, storage and use. Methane is known to leak from marine engines in particular, a thing called “methane slip”.

This infrared camera of Texas gas fields shows the potential intensity of invisible methane leaks. It’s hard to measure the escape of an invisible gas but, where careful monitoring has occurred, research established years ago that natural gas is a dead end for climate stability. Methane gas is 85 times more potent than CO2 in the short term.

LNG fueled ferries result in little or no net greenhouse gas reduction. But that hasn’t stopped BC Ferries from buying them.

And in the world of GHG emissions “short term” is defined as 20 years. That short term just happens to encompass the (now) eleven year timeframe in which we will prevent – or trigger – the runaway feedback loops that threaten the fate of Earth.

BC Ferries has acquired five LNG-fueled vessels. That’s thanks to hundreds of millions of BC taxpayer dollars and the $16 million dollars chipped in by FortisBC, a subsidiary of Canada’s largest private utility company, Fortis Inc. The Fortis deal locks BC Ferries into a ten-year contract for LNG fuel with the electric and natural gas distribution utility,

The BC Liberals in 2012 put their thumb on the LNG ferry scale by passing a Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation which allows a utility (such as FortisBC) to make grants of up to $6 million to other entities toward the purchase of a natural gas vehicle (such as a ferry). Grantors can favor a person whose machine uses natural gas from the utility’s pipelines. The NDP is completely bought in to the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Which helps explain how and why FortisBC funded BC Ferries to a total of $10 million for infrastructure for the new LNG ferries and locked it into a contract to buy 13 million gigajoules of LNG. Doug Stout, FortisBC’s vice president of market development and external relations, celebrated the deal with the unsupported claim: “This abundant, made-in-BC energy source can reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 15 to 25%….”


The fundamental problem of LNG as a fuel for ferries is “methane slip” – the escape of unburned methane escapes from ferry engines. According to a report from UBC’s Clean Energy Research Centre, the engine model used by BC Ferries’ new LNG ferries doesn’t reliably reduce GHG emissions at all and, in fact, increases GHG emissions when production emissions are included. And that increase isn’t insignificant – from two to seven percent compared to a medium or high speed diesel engine. UBC’s result confirms earlier studies and findings by other scientists.

LNG has benefits. It can reduce oxides of sulphur and nitrogen and particulates (although running engines for reduction can result in more GHGs). It can cost less than marine diesel. It has political support. But it isn’t a climate solution. It’s not even a climate solution for ocean-going vessels on long runs because its climate benefits are so minimal and because running LNG engines for low emissions comes at a much higher operational cost.


LNG’s climate damage begins during production, “upstream” of the methane slip from marine engines. Methane, being lighter than air, can float away at every point between extraction and delivery in the form of fugitive emissions. It’s hard to measure the escape of an invisible gas. BC’s estimates are far out of line with those where data has been gathered from “the top down” (atmospheric concentrations in operational areas rather than estimates based on the industry’s inventories). Years ago, research established that natural gas is a dead end for climate stability in those locations where careful monitoring has occurred.

In a recent BC study, the discrepancy between industry reports and measured emissions was 30%. Based on field measurements, the David Suzuki Foundation found that 35% of inactive wells and 85% of active wells in one part of Northern BC are leaking methane. A leaked Oil and Gas Commission document showed that nearly 50 of fracked gas wells, the process of using high-pressure water drilling to release gas inside rock, were leaking methane and that up to 900 gas wells in BC could be leaking. (This estimate applies only to one portion of northeast BC where fracking companies operate.) Another escape route for methane is the venting required to maintain storage tank pressure.

Worldwide, the climate impact of this escaped methane is minimized because the International Panel on Climate Change and the Province of BC attribute a warming factor of 25 to methane for climate reporting. That number, the global warming potential (GWP) for methane, means that methane is 25 times more warming than CO2 when it is in the atmosphere. But methane’s GWP of 25 averages the warming effect of this gas over a century time frame even though methane has a much greater warming potential during the first twenty years after release – 85 times more warming than CO2. The UN warns that in the next eleven years in we will either sharply swerve away from the runaway emissions loops that will entirely change life on Earth – or trigger them. For this reason, a GWP of 85 for methane most precisely reflects the impact of methane on climate outcomes. But whether 25 or 85 is used to determine methane’s global warming potential, LNG developments are going to render impossible the goals of the CleanBC Climate Plan. Methane escape is the reason why, worldwide, natural gas is being rejected as a climate solution.


BC Ferries doesn’t quantify or even mention methane slip in its Clean Futures Plan, website or annual reports. In response to an email inquiry, it did not explain, admit or deny the problem. It referred me back to the Plan. It’s website uses LNG trucks for comparison purposes rather than marine engines. While LNG trucks have their own overstated claims, they do not have methane slip. The LNG engines purchased by BC Ferries, 34DF Wartsila engines, do have methane slip. BC Ferries’ claim of “important climate progress” appears to rely on ignoring methane slip. If so, LNG ferries are a huge investment in climate failing infrastructure

Governments and businesses track their changes from a baseline year in which they inventory their year’s emissions. Problematically, BC Ferries won’t publish its first baseline inventory until 2021 while BC and Canada climate targets use 2005 and 2007 respectively as climate baseline years. Using 2021 will make it difficult to compare BC Ferries’ claimed reductions with the Province’s goals. At a minimum, BC Ferries should publish past ship fuel usage for each year since the 2005/2007 climate baseline years to allow others to make the necessary calculations.


Who made these decisions? Organizational responsibility within BC Ferries’ labyrinthine administration makes this hard to pin down. In 2002, the Liberals took an indebted Crown Corporation and transformed it into a private company which could solicit private investments. BC Ferries Services Inc. is owned by the BC Ferry Authority, which holds the single voting share and appoints its Board of Directors. The BC government holds all the preferred shares of BC Ferries Services Inc. According to Clare Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, her Ministry has no authority to direct the decisions of BC Ferries Services.

The BC Ferry Commission, an independent regulator, is tasked with protecting the public interest. For the most part, this means keeping fares down. The Commission’s mandate has recently expanded to include reducing GHG emissions under a Section of the Coastal Ferry Act which states that ferry operators are to be “encouraged” to meet provincial greenhouse gas emission targets. The Commission has veto power over capital expenditures of over $50 million for vessels and $25 million for other infrastructure. But, according to Commissioner Eva Hage, this veto power does not mean the Commission can direct what a capital project can be. This is too bad, given that BC Ferries has invested close to $400 million in vessel technology in the last five years, much of it for climate-destabilizing LNG ferries.

So, who to ask about the problem of methane slip and why it doesn’t appear in any of the BC Ferries public reports and literature?

The Coastal Ferries Act authorizes the Commission to inspect a report which is incomplete or incorrect. When I reached out for answers, Commissioner Hage suggested that I direct questions to BC Ferries Service Inc. regarding methane slip, upstream LNG emissions and GHG accounting. BC Ferries Services referred me back to its Clean Futures Plan, an incomplete and incorrect report with regard to methane slip, upstream methane emissions and GHG emissions, matters within the purview of the Commission. So, no answers, no clear accountability.

In a CBC interview, Minister Trevena noted that BC Ferries Services is on track to replicate the vessel services of the last 50 years even thought the future needs of coastal communities are likely to be quite different. In visioning meetings through the winter, she will encourage stakeholders to re-imagine the whole system. What about passenger ferries? Electric ferries? Different routes? Ferries integrated into other forms of transportation? How do we get from A to B with the lowest emissions possible? What if there was seamless public transport between Campbell River and Hope?

According to a statement from Minister Trevena’s, the results of her stakeholer consultation will be advisory: “…to provide information to help guide all parties involved in transportation planning, including the BC Ferries Commissioner, and BC Ferries shareholder, the BC Ferry Authority.”


Meanwhile, BC Ferries has the capacity to service the majority of its runs with electric ferries. It’s infrastructure funding could be better used to convert short run ferries to electricity. CEO Mark Collins seems behind this curve with statements such as, “There is no standard way of connecting the ship to grid,” and “You’re talking a lot of electricity and you’re around saltwater which is conductive so you’ve got to be very careful.” By contrast, Max von Ruden, director of vessel engineering and maintenance for the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division, has stated, “This is not new or high-risk technology.” Washington State plans to have plug in capability at every port by 2023.

The range for electric ferries is now 22 nautical miles, thanks to Denmark’s new E-Ferry EllenNorway is adding 60 electric ferries to its fleet over the next three years. Ironically, many of them will be powered by batteries manufactured by a company founded in BC. Electric ferries run in many countries, including CanadaChinaIcelandUS and Sweden.


By 2022, BC Ferries plans to operate 6 “electric ready” ferries with hybrid diesel engines but does not plan to use onshore charging until some time in the future. This is unreasonable delay. In Scandinavia, ferries are rapidly being switched over to electricity. According to industry analysts, even a weak grid can charge batteries overnight. For example, Denmark’s E-Ferry Ellen gets fully charged overnight and topped up through the day at its home harbor in the time it takes cars to load and unload.

And it’s cost effective. The E-Ferry Ellen cost approximately 40% more than traditional vessels but fuel costs are anticipated to be 40% less. According to Siemens, on average an electric vessel will pay for itself in five and a half years. After that, it increases profitability. Another recent study puts the payback period for an electric ferry at under 7 years with operational savings of 51.3% over the diesel-electric alternative. The Pacific Northwest’s reliance on cheap hydro power improves the case.


There’s still the problem of long runs which require molecular fuel – something you can put in the tank. So far, hydrogen is the most likely zero carbon solution for industries which require a supply of energy far from the electrical grid. To make hydrogen fuel, renewable energy which would other be spilled is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Zero carbon hydrogen fuel (not to be confused with hydrogen fuel made from LNG) can be used for long range marine transport. Biofuels also show potential, but finding adequate supplies from sustainable non-food sources would be a challenge.

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, hydrogen is the inevitable solution for “hard-to-abate” industry sectors (responsible for 40 percent of GHGs) where clean molecular energy can work in coordination with batteries. In plans to decarbonize marine industries enough to meet the Paris Accord, the Energy Transitions Commission relies on fuel cells using hydrogen and ammonia as fuel. It warns against overinvestment in LNG infrastructure because LNG cannot deliver complete decarbonization of shipping. Shell and the International Energy Agency also rely on hydrogen for decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sectors.


BC Ferries needs a plan based on data, not on gas industry disinformation. Rather than spend more taxpayer dollars on climate-harming LNG, BC Ferries could keep pace with other jurisdictions which are electrifying their ferries. In the longer term, hydrogen promises to be a truly zero carbon molecular fuel. It won’t be a long wait: it will be implemented in Norway by 2021. Scotland is assessing its feasibility as well.

But it seems BC Ferries isn’t going to let scientific fact get in the way of LNG ferry expansion. Four more LNG ferries are under consideration.

To its credit, BC Ferries has implemented efficiencies such as low friction coatings to reduce hull resistance and modifications to hulls, rudders and propellers. In the MV Tanaka, braking charges batteries that power the thrusters. It has the world’s longest cable ferry. And it acknowledges the future for most of its ferries is electric.

The promotion of LNG as a climate solution by industry, and the embrace of LNG by governments, is a form of predatory delay: these institutions don’t deny the need for change but they claim it is more prudent to invest a “cleaner” fossil fuel. But the research is in: LNG is more destructive to the climate than current marine fuels. This predatory delay has trickled down to BC Ferries’ infrastructure decisions, causing it to prioritize LNG long-run ferries over electrification of short-run ferries. This is cheap in the short term but will require an expensive retool should BC Ferries get serious about climate mitigation. When tax money and ferry fares go to infrastructure which locks in climate damage, we all fund the remedy or suffer the consequences. The Province of BC needs to get real about carbon mitigation and stop promoting LNG, a known climate-failing fuel. If we sincerely want to beat climate change, the moment for on-shore charged electric ferries is now.  SOURCE

LETTER: Danny Celovsky: Two Faces of Leadership in PEC

Image result for wind turbine

One of nine wind turbines at White Pines Wind Project in Prince Edward County. Mike Postovit / Global News

Dear Editor/Publisher,

I read the op-ed by Alan Whiteley entitled “The Two Faces of Government” in the January 22 edition of the Wellington Times and am compelled to respond.

It’s underlying premise is that wind energy is unnecessary as we in Ontario have more energy than we need. This completely fails to square with not only the facts but with common sense.

We are in a Climate Emergency. Our own Council declared it last May 16. Since then our carbon emissions continue to go up when acting on this Climate Emergency clearly and without compromise demands they go down.

To solve this we need a massive transition from our fossil-fuel driven economy and way of life to one that emits no carbon whatsoever. The scientists have presented this to be fact. To make this transition, all vehicles and all homes (just for starters) will have to move to clean energy alternatives. Every vehicle electric. Every building electric. I would think that such a large-scale transition to clean energy is going to require a lot more power-generation that we currently have. We do not have on oversupply or abundance of electric energy. Not when we actually act on the Climate Emergency. We will need all we can get.

The nine wind turbines constructed (and now dismantled) in the County were able to generate enough energy to power half the households in the County. And were doing so all with private investment – saving the Ontario taxpayer in the process. The dismantling cancelled clean energy we will need to solve the Climate Emergency and put the Ontario taxpayer on the hook for $141-million and counting to take them down.

But it gets worse when the argument for the dismantling is based on the NIMBY effect (Not In My Back Yard). Time for us to get real: The solutions to the Climate Emergency will require adjustment and inconveniences. Wars typically do. The underlying NIMBY argument is killing us all because it fails to recognize that we are in a war for our lives. The interests of the few do not outweigh the interests of the majority of us who want a future for all life on this planet.

A January 3 Abacus Data Poll showed that three-quarters of all Canadians recognize that Climate action is a priority; wants Government to work on it; and wants Government to not work against it.. Three-quarters. That is a majority of us. The dismantling of the nine turbines squarely is Government working against Climate Action.

This action to dismantle the White Pines wind energy project – and other clean energy projects – is clearly Government working against Climate Change action. It is not leadership. And we need leadership now more than ever.

The majority of us want and need our elected leaders to show the courage to act and to take the responsibility of informing us of what we need to do. How can you fight a war without courageous and responsible leadership? You can’t. Not if you expect to win it.

The debate should not be focused on taking these nine wind turbines down; but to double it – put eighteen wind turbines up. That would demonstrate the leadership we need and Canadians are clearly looking for.

Danny Celovsky

Picton Ontario