Attention Contractors! A sustainable city is not more expensive to build in!

We spent an amazing day at the Sustainable City, a housing development in Dubai with 3,500 people already living there and it’s still not quite finished.

This truly is a remarkable achievement, a stark lesson to building contractors the world over. It’s not more expensive to build and it’s hugely cheaper and more efficient to live in. Inspiring sustainable city planning!

Spread the word if you know any builders!

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The Big Debate: Should we fear nuclear energy?

pickering_nuclear_power_plant.jpg (1086×1740)

In January, an erroneous emergency alert about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station frightened many Ontarians. But should we fear the nuclear power? Angela Bischoff the Ontario Clean Air Alliance says yes, while nuclear scientist Michael Ivanco argues no.


Angela Bischoff

Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Ask yourself: Would we build a massive nuclear power station in the middle of Canada’s largest urban area today? The answer, of course, is a common sense “no.”

It’s common sense because nuclear energy, despite its boosters’ assurances, is not without risk. And while the risk of something going wrong may be small, the consequences could be catastrophic. Just ask the people of Japan.

There is a persistent myth that there is something “special” about CANDU (Canada’s nuclear) technology. But that’s just wishful thinking. CANDU’s are just as prone to risk as any other type of system for splitting atoms.

In fact, the inability of nuclear engineers to address some of the risks built into the CANDU process led to the shelving of both the CANDU 6 “advanced” reactor design and the Maple small reactors that were to supply medical isotopes (a role that is now being increasingly filled by non-nuclear technologies). Those failures cost us billions in wasted taxpayer dollars.

Furthermore, with their miles and miles of corrosion-prone piping and complex designs, CANDUs are notoriously hard to maintain, and all our reactors have had to undergo significant rebuilding well before reaching the end of their promised lifetimes.

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Accident experts know there is one leading cause of mega-mishaps — human error. It was a major contributor in both the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters. We are in no way special when it comes to avoiding mistakes: a serious leak was discovered in the Pickering plant’s unusual (and dangerous) shared containment structure, heavy water valves have been left open, and employees have been accidentally exposed to radiation. Meanwhile, the whole station is controlled with computer systems designed in the ’70s.

This very newspaper documented the alarming findings of a safety review at Ontario’s nuclear plants in the 1990s that described standards as “minimally acceptable” and led to the immediate shutdown of seven reactors (and a huge increase in the use of the province’s dirty coal plants.)

Then there’s the radioactive waste left behind for untold future generations to contend with. The total radioactivity in Pickering’s spent nuclear fuel is 200 times greater than the total radiation released to the atmosphere by the Fukushima accident in 2011.

Maybe the risk involved in storing 15,000 tonnes of radioactive waste next to the source of our drinking water and surrounded by millions of people would be worth it if we had no alternatives. But we have plenty of options to keep our lights on and our beer cold. What we don’t have is any viable solution for the long-term storage of highly radioactive waste that will have to be kept absolutely secure for hundreds of thousands of years.

There’s no shortage of happy talk about deep geologic waste disposal or even miraculous waste-consuming mini breeder reactors (a technology long since dismissed by countries around the world due to its horrendous risk profile). What you won’t find are any actual operational solutions — or even any ready-to-implement plans on the near horizon.

And then there’s the danger to your wallet. Nuclear power — with risks so huge that no commercial insurance industry will touch it for any amount of premium — is no bargain. Today, Ontario Power Generation is charging 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power; within 5 years that will jump to 16.5 cents as OPG deals with the huge cost of rebuilding Darlington’s reactors.

That is three times the cost of renewable power we could secure from Quebec, twice what Ontario was paying for wind power (and about equal to solar) four years ago, and eight times what we pay to help our industries and businesses improve their energy efficiency and reduce their need for power (and their bills).

So, the calculus is simple. On one hand we have a fading technology — nuclear now generates half the power it did worldwide 10 years ago — with rising costs and security concerns, and a long history of bringing in projects behind schedule and massively over budget.

On the other, a 100 per cent renewable system where costs continue to plummet, technology — including storage — is leaping ahead, and safety is about making sure workers wear harnesses, not radiation monitors. Which one would you choose for your neighbourhood?

Angela Bischoff is director of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, an NGO working to move our province to a 100 per cent renewable electricity system.


Michael Ivanco
Nuclear Scientist

If you really want to address global warming and reduce your carbon footprint, then embracing a clean energy solution that electricity can provide is your answer.

Fortunately, Ontario is a world leader from hydro to nuclear; we have developed noncarbon solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a safe and effective manner.

Clean, cheap and efficient electrical power is what helped drive the Ontario economy in the 1950s and ’60s. Now it is once again ready to power our electric cars, rapid transit systems and factories. Nuclear is the most cost effective, and scalable, solution we have available.

We developed a unique nuclear power technology for making electricity, the CANDU reactor. CANDU reactors were built in Canada, mostly in Ontario, and also in several other countries. In Canada, they were built at a time when electricity demand growth was high and the only alternative was to build coal-fired generation.

To date, CANDU reactors in Ontario have produced over 3000 TWh of electricity and in displacing coal, have avoided the release of over 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put this in perspective, this is more than four times Canada’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from all sources.

CANDU reactors produce more than 60 per cent of Ontario’s electricity, affordably, reliably and with zero carbon emissions. Indeed, the carbon emissions from Ontario’s electricity generation are amongst the lowest in the world, at 30 grams of CO2 per kW/hour. The electricity generated by nuclear power in Ontario is cheaper than natural gas, wind and solar, the latter being the most expensive.

Some people will try to tell you nuclear power is no longer needed because of advances in wind and solar power generation that can replace nuclear power. This idea is a fantasy. There are only two economically viable ways of generating electricity on demand that are carbon free and independent of weather conditions: hydroelectricity and nuclear power.

By way of example, in 1990 Germany vowed to replace all coal and nuclear powered generation with renewable energy in a program called Energiewende. At that time its single largest source of electricity generation came from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal. Since then it has spent hundreds of billions of Euros developing their wind and solar generation capacity.

After 30 years Germany has shut down half of its nuclear plants but in 2019 more electricity was generated by burning fossil fuels than by any other method. Germany’s greenhouse gas footprint is 360 grams of CO2 per kW/hour, 12 times our own and its electricity costs are the highest in Europe. As any scientist will tell you, when the data doesn’t fit your idea then your idea needs some adjustment.

We have learned how to utilize and contain nuclear energy for the benefit of humankind. While there have been three famous accidents, fatalities have been very few. Near Fukushima, Japan in March of 2011, approximately 20,000 people died from a tsunami. At the nuclear plant, there were three fatalities, all from drowning. By contrast, it is estimated, on the low end, that at least 1,000 people around the world die every single day as a result of pollution from coal-fired generation. Some credible estimates are as high as 10,000 per day.

Nuclear technology has developed to the point that small modular reactors (SMR) can power communities or industries and are one-tenth the size of a traditional site. These can serve remote communities, heavy industries and replace coal and gas plants.

We currently face an existential threat from global warming caused by human-made greenhouse gas emissions and we need all the useful tools that are available to combat this threat. Wind and solar are weather dependent, expensive and can provide only a partial solution.

Those who argue that natural gas is an acceptable alternative are peddling a falsehood because, at the end of the day, it still emits hydrocarbons and is increasingly it is produced by fracking, which is environmentally problematic on its own. Nuclear power is safe, reliable and efficient. It is one of the best tools we have to combat climate change.

The energy contained inside the nucleus of atoms is the most powerful energy in the universe and you have to respect that. But we have learned how to tame it and we should use it for our benefit.

Our ancestors did not walk away from the discovery of fire, despite its inherent dangers, and we should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that nuclear energy does not exist. We should respect it but not fear it.

Michael Ivanco is a nuclear scientist and the past president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates.


PLANET PLASTIC: How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades

The battle pits Udall and his allies in Congress against some of the most powerful corporate interests on the planet, including the oil majors and chemical giants that produce the building blocks for our modern plastic world — think Exxon, Dow, and Shell — and consumer giants like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Unilever that package their products in the stuff. Big Plastic isn’t a single entity. It’s more like a corporate supergroup: Big Oil meets Big Soda — with a puff of Big Tobacco, responsible for trillions of plastic cigarette butts in the environment every year. And it combines the lobbying and public-relations might of all three.

Americans have occasionally crusaded against “problem plastics” — scapegoating packing peanuts, grocery bags, or drinking straws for the sins of our unsustainable consumer economy. We’ve been slow to recognize that we’re actually in the midst of a plastic pandemic. Over the past 70 years, we’ve gotten hooked on disposable goods and packaging — as plastics became the lifeblood of an American culture of speed, convenience, and disposability that’s conquered the globe. Plastic contains our hot coffee and frozen dinners. It is the material of childhood, from Pampers to Playmobil to PlayStation 4. It cloaks our e-commerce purchases and is woven into our sneakers, fast fashion, and business fleece. Humans are now using a million plastic bottles a minute, and 500 billion plastic bags a year — including those we use to bag up our plastic-laden trash.

But the world’s plastic waste is not so easily contained. Massive quantities of this forever material are spilling into the oceans — the equivalent of a dump-truck load every minute. Plastic is also fouling our mountains, our farmland, and spiraling into an unmitigatable environmental disaster. John Hocevar is a marine biologist who leads the Oceans Campaign for Greenpeace, and spearheaded the group’s response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Increasingly, his work has centered on plastics. “This is a much bigger problem than ‘just’ an ocean issue, or even a pollution issue,” he says. “We’ve found plastic everywhere we’ve ever looked. It’s in the Arctic and the Antarctic and in the middle of the Pacific. It’s in the Pyrenees and in the Rockies. It’s settling out of the air. It’s raining down on us.” MORE

Disputed environmental claim championed by Tories comes from Shell insider

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

See Carol Clemenhagen’s other Tweets

None of Seeley’s background with Shell, or the fact that he was hired by LNG Canada to provide advice on emissions, is mentioned in the Vancouver Sun sponsored article, which was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division. The news agency did not return a request for comment.

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is at least 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

The oil and gas industry — the largest contributor to methane emissions — flares or vents methane into the atmosphere. Methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

Trudeau urges patience as Wet’suwet’en mull over proposed deal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in Ottawa. File photo by The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he knows people are impatient for a resolution to tensions involving a disputed natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, but time is needed to respect the traditions of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Speaking to reporters in Halifax Tuesday, Trudeau acknowledged the opposition of some Wet’suwet’en leaders to the Coastal GasLink pipeline has led to difficult times for many Canadians over the past few weeks.

He said his government has been focused on trying to find a solution, but added that current tensions stem from Canada’s dark history of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

“We know that centuries of marginalization, of oppressive, broken government policies have created a situation that is untenable,” Trudeau said.

“It is not an easy process. It is a process we are all impatient with that needs to move forward, but we need to remain positive because the only path forward for our country is for all of us to work together and that is what we’re going to stay focused on doing.”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior federal and B.C. cabinet ministers reached a proposed agreement over the weekend, but details are not being released until the Wet’suwet’en people are consulted through their traditional feast protocol, which could take up to two weeks.

Trudeau says his government is respecting this process, and will not discuss details of the agreement until the Wet’suwet’en “have an opportunity to share it and discuss it internally,” he said.

But the prime minister also sidestepped a question about how the deal will affect the pipeline project.

All parties have made it clear the agreement touches only land and title rights generally. The natural gas pipeline itself remains in dispute.

Five Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs from councils that support the pipeline released a statement saying they are pleased that progress was made in the talks with the provincial and federal governments but they said the agreement was reached without input from all the Wet’suwet’en communities.

The statement said they “envision” the elected chiefs and council of the various Wet’suwet’en communities will be included in a review of the deal.

“We need to be engaged in our feast hall, in our respective communities to ensure all of our clan members are heard and acknowledged,” it said.

The hereditary chiefs could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday the pipeline project will go ahead.

“This project is underway. It has been approved and ratified. It’s going to be completed,” Horgan told the B.C. legislature Monday.

He noted the tentative agreement with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs is “forward looking,” dealing with their role in future discussions of land rights.

“There was not, at any time, any objective to go in and convince people to have a different point of view. We had a frank discussion. There was disagreement. The project will proceed. Dissent is appropriate. Unlawful dissent is not,” Horgan said.

Trudeau noted the federal and provincial governments had been working previously with the Wet’suwet’en Nation on rights issues, including a deal signed with Ottawa in 2018 giving the Wet’suwet’en full jurisdiction over their own child and family services.

The new deal, if agreed to by the community, will build on this work, Trudeau said.

While not saying so overtly, Trudeau’s remarks intimated that Ottawa hopes the deal can help lower the opposition to the pipeline project.

“Obviously we have come to what is hopefully a new level of solutions and collaboration with this most recent agreement,” Trudeau said.

“We understand that this is a challenging situation for everyone, but we must remain committed to reconciliation and to the respect and partnership that must underly the path forward we take.”

Meanwhile, Canadian National Railway Co. has started to recall most of the 450 workers temporarily laid off last month during the height of rail blockades that brought the company’s eastern network to a near standstill.

The blockades sidelined more than 1,400 freight and passenger trains and, according to analyst estimates, cost the company scores of millions of dollars.

CN chief executive JJ Ruest says the recovery process will take several weeks as shipments of bulk and consumer products ramp up.

At the ongoing rail blockade south of Montreal on the territory of the Mohawks of Kahnawake, discussion is ongoing about whether the barricades should remain, a spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

Kanentokon Hemlock, a traditional chief of the Bear Clan, said the tracks will stay blocked as the community builds a consensus on its next steps.

The Mohawks have been in contact with the hereditary chiefs in B.C., who had expressed their gratitude for the support they’ve received, Hemlock said. However, he says it’s up to the Kahnawake Mohawks to decide if and when the blockade comes down.

“They were just really thankful for the support and everything from this way, but it’s on our end now too, as well, (to decide) on how we’re going to continue to support them moving forward,” Hemlock said in a phone interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020. SOURCE

GTA: ‘The smell is very appealing.’ Five-storey timber-based building in Liberty Village has been completed

One of Toronto's first official wood buildings has been completed in Liberty Village

A five-storey wood building in Liberty Village is the first among several timber-based projects planned or on the go in Toronto to be completed.

Construction on the outside of the $60-million project at 80 Atlantic Ave., near King Street West and Dufferin Avenue, is done and interior finishes are expected to be complete in time for occupancy this summer for commercial and retail tenants.

The Star was recently granted a tour of 80 Atlantic, a 90,000-square-foot building that is fully leased to three tenants including Universal Music.

Wood buildings are becoming popular because the material has environmental benefits, as wood "locks in" CO2 taking it out of the atmosphere.

While the ground floor, parking garage and elevator core at 80 Atlantic are made of concrete, the second floor upward is primarily wood — wood ceilings, beams and support columns. The floors and roof panels are made of nail-laminated timber, while the columns and beams are made of glulam, a process by which lumber is bonded together with a water-resistant adhesive.

The nail-laminated wood is all spruce — a combination of white spruce and Engelmann spruce from B.C. and Alberta and black spruce from Ontario. The glulam is all black spruce grown in northern Quebec and harvested near Chibougamau, Que.

The nail laminated wood is all spruce, a combination of white spruce and Engelmann spruce from B.C. and Alberta and black spruce from Ontario.

The wood provides a wide, open-air esthetic and a fresh aroma.

“The smell is very appealing for our clients,” Kosei Masutani, an asset manager for Hullmark, the developer of the 90,000-square-foot building, said during the tour.

The building was designed by Toronto architectural firm Quadrangle.

“Compared to the average office building downtown this has a warmer feel to it,” Masutani added.

Ontario revised its building code limits in 2015, allowing wood buildings to be up to six storeys high, as opposed to the previous four storeys.

Wood buildings are becoming popular in Toronto. Sidewalk Labs, a Google sister firm, wants its proposed city of the future on the waterfront to be condos and apartment buildings made of wood.

And 80 Atlantic is among several “mass timber” buildings set for Toronto in the coming months and years, including an office building coming to Wade Avenue in the Junction Triangle area, the Scoop condominium well underway on St. Clair Avenue West near Keele Street, and George Brown College’s planned Arbour building on Queens Quay, along Toronto’s waterfront.

Aside from the esthetic appeal, wood buildings’ popularity is also due to its environmental benefits — wood sequesters or “locks in” CO2 taking it out of the atmosphere, therefore mitigating greenhouse gases, as opposed to the burning of fossil fuels used in the making of concrete, a common component in most buildings.

In addition, the popularity of wood buildings has been buoyed by Ontario revising its building code limits in 2015, allowing wood buildings to be up to six storeys high, as opposed to the previous four storeys.

The ground floor, parking garage and elevator core at 80 Atlantic are made of concrete, and the second floor upward is primarily wood.

There’s proposed legislation to change the Ontario Building Code again to allow 14 storeys.

And last summer the province announced it is investing $5 million in Ontario’s first cross-laminated timber facility. It’s located in St. Thomas.


Justin Trudeau says climate policy is the new free trade. That’s more of a wish than a plan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses for photos with new Canadians as he attends a citizenship ceremony at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. on March 3, 2020. Trudeau says the free trade debate that divided Canadians in the 1980s is much like the discussion around climate change policy today, Susan Delacourt writes.

Climate change is the new free trade, or if you prefer, green is the new black.

Justin Trudeau and his deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, have been trying out this metaphor in recent days as a route out of Canada’s environment-economy impasse.

“Think about the free trade debate here in Canada in the 1980s,” Trudeau told a mining conference in Toronto on Monday. The country was fiercely divided over whether Canada should enter into a trade deal with the United States, he reminded his audience, and the issue divided families and regions. Yet barely five years later, in the early 1990s, the prime minister said, Canada-U.S. free trade was expanded “with very little fuss.”

“That’s exactly the same situation we’re in right now, where the debate over climate change, the debate over economy versus environment is just as polarized, just as divisive,” he said. “But as we saw from the free trade debate, that can flip fairly quickly. It won’t be easy but we all know, you all know, that’s where we need to go.”

Freeland was also shopping that comparison around in weekend interviews, on CBC Radio’s The House, for instance, when she recalled how her mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, was a New Democrat candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona during the 1988 free-trade election.

“And one of her main issues was opposition to free trade,” Freeland told The House. “Fast forward to today, and we now have a strong national consensus across the country, and across parties, that trade is the right thing for our country.”

There are indeed some parallels. Climate change today, like free trade back in the 1980s, is pitting business against civil society, left versus right, global versus local, and definitely region against region.

Both debates touch on the existential and the very future of the country — in the 1980s, it was about what would put our economy in the black and today, it’s about what will keep Canada green.

Nor is it entirely clear how the free-trade example provides a practical road map for depolarizing the current discussion over climate change. Senior federal government officials say it revolves around changing the nature of the debate — evolving from a binary, Yes/No discussion to a more practical conversation about how to get to climate targets and grow the economy at the same time.

While it’s true that free trade eventually moved to that practical type of discussion, it wasn’t because of any great effort or grand, depolarizing campaign.

All the passions that were stirred up by the great national debate of the 1980s died down mainly as a result of time. Mulroney won the 1988 free-trade election with a majority and the country had five years to get used to Canada-U.S. free trade. Trudeau is correct: there was “very little fuss” when Jean Chrétien came to power in 1993 and approved a wider North American free trade deal, but that was mainly because the issue had faded from the grand national drama it had been in 1988.

Goldy Hyder, head of the Business Council of Canada, says he does believe that there are useful parallels between free trade and the environment/economy debate, but he is citing more recent history. Hyder has been urging Trudeau’s government to tackle the climate change issue as it tackled renegotiating NAFTA with the U.S. after Donald Trump won — drawing on advice from all sides as an advisory force.

“We need to depolarize and depoliticize,” Hyder says.

Trudeau has been saying much the same thing: “That’s where we need to go.”

So far, however, the idea that climate change will go the way of the free-trade debate still seems more like a wish than a plan. It will presumably take more than a simple declaration that green is the new black, or that things will “flip fairly quickly.” SOURCE

Ottawa’s offer to recognize Wet’suwet’en land rights could be a game-changer for Canada. Here’s how

Chief Madeek (Jeff Brown), front left, hereditary leader of the Gidimt'en clan, and Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale), front right, carry a flag while leading a solidarity march after Indigenous nations and supporters gathered for a meeting to show support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation, in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 16, 2019.

OTTAWA—Who owns the land, really?

That question is at the centre of the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline: the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say it can’t pass through the nation’s territory without their permission, but Canada’s legal framework does not acknowledge Wet’suwet’en ownership of the territory they claim.

At least not yet.

On Sunday, ministers from the British Columbia and federal governments stood with a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief to hail a “milestone” proposal to recognize the nation’s “title.”

The government has long said an important element of its reconciliation agenda is the recognition of land rights and title for all Indigenous nations that wish to pursue them.

But what does that actually mean for the relationship between First Nations and the Crown? And how might it reshape how decisions are made — on resource development and other issues — across Canada?

What, in other words, are we talking about when we talk about “Aboriginal title?”

So, what does it mean to recognize “Aboriginal title?”

“You’re just returning or recognizing what’s already theirs,” said John Borrows, Canada research chair in Indigenous law at the University of Victoria.

For millennia, Indigenous nations governed, traded, hunted, fought and travelled throughout the territory that is now called Canada. Then European colonizers arrived and declared themselves sovereign. Sometimes there were treaties to formalize this claim — in which Indigenous peoples formally ceded territory — but oftentimes the colonizers simply considered the land open for settlement.

Just because the Crown asserted sovereignty, however, didn’t mean it was necessarily so. According to Borrows, the courts have found that Indigenous land rights “survived the assertion of sovereignty,” and have not been subsequently wiped out by provincial or federal laws.

The Crown’s claim over large tracts of land in places like B.C. has been chipped away by a series of court cases that have gradually ruled Indigenous claims to the same land are not inferior to claims from the settler government, Borrows said.

Those cases includes the landmark Tsilhqot’in decision in 2014, in which the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a B.C. Indigenous nation’s “Aboriginal title” for the first time. “The idea here is that (title) is a pre-existing right that has not been extinguished,” Borrows said.

Does recognizing “Aboriginal title” make land into private property?


Borrows explained that courts have outlined how Aboriginal title has an “inherent limit.” Because it refers to land that is owned collectively by an Indigenous nation, rather than individually, “you have to preserve that land for future generations,” he said. “You can’t sever the historic relationship with the land.”

Eugene Kung, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, added that Aboriginal title land can only be transferred to the government — not to individuals or a corporation.

Otherwise, the concept of Aboriginal title — which is enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution — is very much like the popular conception of private property, said Robert Janes, principal at JFK Law in Victoria, B.C. SOURCE

Did free cash drive people to quit work? Not according to a new study of Ontario’s basic income experiment

James Collura, a former participant in Ontario’s now-cancelled basic income pilot project, says the experience encouraged him to embark on a new career. He is shown at his new workplace, Zee Float.

Three-quarters of people who were employed before joining Ontario’s ill-fated basic income pilot project continued to work while receiving the no-strings-attached monthly stipend, according to a new study.

And more than one-third of those low-wage workers were able to move to higher paying and more secure jobs, according to the study by McMaster University researchers being released Wednesday.

The findings shatter the belief among skeptics that basic income discourages people from working. It also appears to contradict the Ford government’s charge that the experiment was “failing” before it was cancelled in July 2018, the report argues.

Based on a survey of 217 former participants in the Hamilton-Brantford area and 40 in-depth interviews, the report also found those receiving basic income had better mental and physical health, fewer hospital emergency visits, more stable housing and an improved sense of well-being.

Wayne Lewchuk, a McMaster University labour and economics professor, was the lead researcher on a study of former basic income recipients in Hamilton.

“These findings show that despite its premature cancellation by an incoming government that reneged on its electoral promise to see the pilot through to its end, basic income recipients in the Hamilton-Brantford pilot site benefited in a range of ways,” the report says. “In this sense, the pilot was nothing short of successful.”

The findings are “particularly surprising” since most respondents received basic income for less than 17 months, including nearly one-third who got it for less than 13 months, it adds. The $150 million provincial experiment was expected to last three years.

The report, funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, McMaster University and the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, acknowledges it can’t fill the research gap created when the project was cancelled.

“The results do, however, dispel some of the fears of the opponents of basic income including that it will lead to a wholesale abandonment of paid employment,” it says.

For those who were working before the pilot project, the basic income meant they could take chances on a new job or career, according to the researchers, who conducted a 70-question online survey from January to August last year.

Several respondents became self-employed. Others were able to leave a bad job and search for something better or upgrade their skills. And some used their basic income benefits to spend more time with family members or children who may have special needs, the report says.

Respondent James Collura says his $900 monthly basic income benefit gave him the courage to ditch a “dead-end,” part-time job as a bank teller in Hamilton for more “fulfilling” employment at a float-therapy business.

“With basic income, taking a leap from a secure job suddenly became something I was more comfortable with,” he says.

Although Collura, 29, took a slight pay cut and lost his benefit package when he left the bank, he says his new job has enriched him in other ways.

“It has given me the space and the freedom to explore who I am and what I would like to contribute to the world,” he says.

In addition to sparking a new “entrepreneurial spirit,” Collura says the change has also spurred an interest in volunteering.

“I was more willing to give to my community because I felt that my community was giving to me,” he says.

McMaster economics professor Wayne Lewchuk, who led the research, says respondents’ motivation to find better jobs seemed to come from improved self-confidence as well as their better state of physical and mental health.

“It would be interesting to know if in the long-term, these people actually ended up better,” Lewchuk says. “Unfortunately, since the pilot was cancelled, we don’t have any data to speak to that.”

Several examples cited in the report include a 24-year-old man with mental health issues who worked several part-time jobs before basic income, but often experienced discrimination because of his condition. Basic income made him feel “much more motivated” to get a university education so he could find a job with better wages and working conditions, the study says.

For many participants, basic income proved to be “transformational, fundamentally reshaping their living standards as well as their sense of self-worth and hope for a better future,” it adds.

Concern that basic income would give people more money to feed bad habits was also dispelled by the research. For example, over half of respondents who smoked tobacco and just under half of those who drank alcohol said they either cut down or quit. Only a few individuals said they smoked or drank more.

One woman said she entered a treatment program for alcoholism and has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings ever since, the report says.

Basic income also had a “noticeable impact” on the use of health services, with many survey respondents reporting fewer visits to health practitioners and hospital emergency rooms, according to the report.

Hugh Segal designed Ontario's ill-fated basic income pilot project and says new findings show the extra cash helps stabilize individuals and reduces social costs.

“The results strongly suggest that basic income has the potential to improve the physical and mental health of participants and reduce their demands on public health resources,” the report says. They also show “the stability basic income provides can help recipients move to better paying employment and to play a fuller role as citizens in society.”

Former conservative senator Hugh Segal who helped Ontario’s former Liberal government design the basic income pilot project, says the study confirms findings from a mid-1970s experiment with basic income in Dauphin, Man.

“The way basic income stabilizes individuals and reduces costs to social services like health and psychiatric care is the same in a big city (like Hamilton) as it was in rural Dauphin,” he says. “That is very encouraging and important.”

“The employment findings also mirror what happened in Dauphin where labour force participation remained the same except for young single men who were able to quit their jobs to complete high school and for mothers who were able to look after young children,” he adds.

What would have been available

The numbers behind Ontario’s ill-fated basic income pilot, which was axed by the Doug Ford government in July 2018.

$150 million

How much money was allocated to the pilot, over three years.


The maximum amount a single person would have received in one year under the pilot.


The maximum amount a couple would have received in one year under the pilot.

The McMaster study results will be helpful for legislators in P.E.I. and British Columbia who are considering basic income projects in those provinces, Segal says. The Ford government should also heed the study findings, he adds.

“Hopefully the government will give some thought before its budget, and before it puts together its next set of (welfare) programs … and do something that is much more constructive and that is actually progressive conservative as opposed to just small-minded conservative,” Segal says.

Under Ontario’s pilot, launched by the Wynne government in April 2017, single people received annual payments of up to $17,000 — about twice as much as someone on welfare. Couples got up to $24,000 and those with disabilities received a $6,000 top-up. People who worked saw their basic income reduced by 50 cents for every dollar earned until their income reached $34,000 for singles and about $48,000 for couples.

The project’s goal was to determine whether regular, unconditional payments improved housing, health, education, employment and social outcomes for people living on social assistance or low-wage jobs in an efficient and non-stigmatizing way.

About 4,000 people in three test sites — Hamilton-Brantford, Thunder Bay and Lindsay — received the basic income as part of the experiment while about 2,000 people were to be studied as a control group.

Before it was prematurely scrapped, it was the largest, longest-running pilot of basic income in North America. It was cancelled before any government research could be conducted.

An online survey of 424 basic income recipients conducted from mid-December 2018 to mid-January 2019, by the grassroots Basic Income Canada Network, found similar improvements in participants’ health and well-being, but did not focus as deeply on employment outcomes as the McMaster research.

Former participants launched a class-action lawsuit in March 2019 against the Ford government for breach of contract. SOURCE

Is the withdrawn Frontier mine project worthy of its newfound political weight?

‘It’s always a bit more complicated once you peel back the layers,’ says CBC’s Aaron Wherry

Teck Resources Limited’s zinc and lead smelting and refining complex is pictured in Trail, B.C. Teck withdrew its application to build a massive oilsands project in northern Alberta on Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Teck’s now-withdrawn Frontier oilsands mine project was always questionable in viability, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a major talking point in Canada’s tug-of-war between climate change and the economy, says CBC reporter Aaron Wherry.

“It’s hard to say that one project should be a referendum on the future of an entire industry, or that it should be a referendum on the future of Canadian climate policy,” Wherry told Day 6 guest host Saroja Coelho.

“But because there’s so much uncertainty, and because it was such a major project, it was very easy for all sides to say, ‘No, look, this is where you need to draw a line.'”

Teck withdrew its application for the proposed Frontier oilsands mine on Sunday.

In a letter explaining the withdrawal, CEO Don Lindsay wrote that his company supports Canada’s action on carbon pricing, but that federal and provincial governments need to reach an agreement when it comes to climate policies.

Wherry explained that the project speaks to two major, unsettled political issues: frustration over the future of the oil and gas industry, and questions over Canada’s 2030 and 2050 goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The withdrawal also happened to coincide with weeks of protests and blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern British Columbia.

Wherry downplayed suggestions that the heightened political climate may have been the key factor in Teck’s withdrawal.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson agree that the Frontier oilsands mine would have brought work to Alberta – but have different ideas about why the project failed to go forward. 3:08

“It’s obviously a politically potent idea that the unrest of the last few weeks has contributed to this. … Of course, though, with most political attacks, it’s always a bit more complicated once you peel back the layers.”