Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade, Mar 5: Indigenous youth arrested at BC legislature last night

Indigenous youth occupying the BC Legislature last night with supporters outside

Powerful actions have continued through the week demanding that RCMP and CGL stand down.

Last night five Indigenous youth leaders we’re arrested inside the BC Legislature for occupying Scott Fraser’s office after he refused to meet any demands regarding the removal of the RCMP and CGL from Wet’suwet’en Territory.

This morning during a press conference at the legislature Indigenous youth took the court injunction off the building and burned it in a ceremonial fire on the lawn.

Across Canada yesterday thousands of students walked out of class and held demonstrations in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en with rallies at over 30 universities.

In Tyendinaga Mohawk territory the construction of a village at the site of the earlier rail blockade continues, and a new blockade has gone up in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

And on Wednesday people delivered over 30,000 petitions to the export development bank of Canada demanding that no public money be given to the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline. The Export Development Bank of Canada is responsible for public financing of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and is considering a major loan to CGL! A public loan could keep a project alive that may otherwise be dropped by investors as public pressure increases and the LNG market collapses.

Sign and share the petition here

While getting CGL and the RCMP off of Wet’suwet’en territory is a difficult struggle, this movement is powerful and is expanding every day! Let’s keep the pressure on!

Find or post an action near you

COME TO CAMP

People on the ground at the Unist’ot’en Camp are still calling for supporters who can stay at camp for at least two weeks. If you can do this in the near future please fill out a registration form here.

Words by @siiamhamilton

“At 6:30 PM on March 4, seven Indigenous youth were invited by Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation to discuss the Wet’suwet’en Struggle. After a number of hours, discussions broke down, and the Indigenous youth and Scott Fraser could not come to an agreement that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and CGL (Coastal Gas Link) remove themselves from Wet’suwet’en land. Despite the continued affirmations that the British Columbia Legislative Assembly youth occupation is a peaceful and a ceremonial vigil in solidarity with our Wet’suwet’en relatives in the north, 5 of the 7 Indigenous youth who were invited into the office for a meeting were violently arrested after hours of detainment inside the parliament. ⁣

These arrests happened behind closed doors. The Victoria Police Department refused to allow legal observers and lawyers access to the youth as they were being arrested and detained. Despite their legal councils’ request that letters of representation be given to the youth, the police refused to allow them access to this information. While each youth was carried out, allies and supporters repeated messages of love and protection. The police refused to disclose where they were being taken or what they were being charged with. ⁣

We are asking Canada and all of its citizens to remove for the vail of silence when Indigenous bodies are being forcibly removed from unceded lands by the state. Reconciliation can’t only apply when we are saying yes. Consent cannot exist if NO is not an option. ⁣

Reconciliation is dead. ⁣
The revolution is alive. ⁣
The whole damn system is guilty as hell. ⁣
Canada is racist. ⁣


ARTICLES

Growing support for Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders Shakes Canadian Politics

Groups linked to oil companies funded facebook ads denouncing rail blockades

Warren Buffet’s company backs out of Quebec energy project due to anti pipeline blockades

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth authorized redeploying RCMP in response to Coastal Gas Link Injunction

To understand BC’s push for the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline think fracking, LNG Canada, and the Site C Dam

Reconciliation ins’t dead. it was never alive, Mohawk activist says

Indigenous youth burning injunction on BC legislature grounds this morning

Student rally in Halifax

Rally at University of Victoria

March in Kahnawake

March in Winnipeg

Petition Delivery in Montreal

New Blockade in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory

Rally at SFU

Video update of the Wyman Rd Village in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

Rally in Winnipeg

Love and Rage,
Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade

Ten per cent of northeast B.C. oil and gas wells leak — more than double the reported rate in Alberta: new study

A survey of the province’s database shows wellbores releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — every single day amid weak regulations and inconsistent monitoring

Gas well Farmington B.C.

A well on farmland near Farmington, in B.C.’s northeast where there has been a fracking boom in recent years. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Northeastern British Columbia has been a major centre of conventional oil and gas production since the 1960s. More recently, the shale gas sector has also targeted the region.

One of the issues the oil and gas industry faces is the leakage of gases from wellbores — the holes drilled into the ground to look for or recover oil and natural gas. Methane leakage from wellbores has become an important issue because this greenhouse gas is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

My colleagues and I recently examined a database containing information about 21,525 active and abandoned wells located in the four main shale gas formations of northeastern British Columbia: the Montney, Horn River, Liard and Cordova basins. This represents almost all of the conventional and shale gas wells existing in the region.

Our study was the first to examine the data contained in the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission Wellbore (OCG) Leakage Database.

We found that almost 11 per cent of all oil and gas wells had a reported leak, together releasing 14,000 cubic metres of methane per day. This is more than double the leakage rate of 4.6 per cent in Alberta, which may have less stringent testing and reporting requirements.

Our research in northeastern B.C. also found weak regulations on mandatory reporting, continued monitoring and the use of protective measures — oversights that represent risks for the environment.

Shale Gas Plays Northeast B.C. Map The Narwhal

A map showing the location of B.C.’s main shale gas plays. Map: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

Deficiencies in wellbore design, construction a concern

Shale gas, principally methane, is exploited through the combined techniques of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Shale gas fracking has increased as conventional gas reserves have declined after decades of exploitation.

Northeastern B.C.’s shale gas reserves are estimated to hold 10,000 billion cubic metres of methane, enough to supply worldwide consumption for almost three years.

All modern oil and gas wells are constructed in a wellbore, which typically traverses many geologic layers containing brines and hydrocarbons. Fracking involves the deep underground high-pressure injection of large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into the wellbore, to fracture the rock and release the natural gas, petroleum and brines. Pipes and sealants (usually cement) placed in the wellbore protect it against collapse and squeezing, and prevent fluids from moving between geologic layers.

But these structures are not always fail-safe. Deficiencies in the design or construction of the wellbore, or weakening of the pipe or sealant over time, can connect layers that would naturally remain geologically isolated. In a deficient well, the buoyancy of the underground gas causes the fluids to be pushed towards the surface through these connections.

Wellbore leakage can occur along actively producing wells or wells that have been permanently abandoned after their productive life is over.

The possibility of leakage from these wells has raised environmental concerns, especially since leaky wells are likely under-reported.

In addition to the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming and climate change, these leaking wells could contaminate groundwater and surface water with hydrocarbons, chemicals contained in fracking fluids and brines.

Public health and environmental consequences of leaky wells

There are three main consequences to public health and the environment from wellbore leakage:

  1. The contamination of aquifers and surface waters from gases, brines, liquid hydrocarbons and hydraulic fracturing fluids.
  2. The contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, especially from venting methane.
  3. The explosion of methane accumulated in poorly ventilated areas.

According to the B.C. OGC database, leakage had occurred in 2,329 of 21,525 tested wells.

Altogether, these leaking wellbores are releasing greenhouse gases equivalent to 75,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This is roughly equivalent to the emissions from 17,000 passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, there is no record of the frequency of testing for wellbore leakage in B.C., nor are there requirements to monitor deep aquifers near oil and gas wells for contamination.

Although current regulations stipulate that all incidences of leakage must be repaired prior to well abandonment, there is no monitoring program in place for leakage after wells have been permanently plugged, buried and abandoned.

There is also the possibility that the venting gases will contain hydrogen sulphide gas, which is poisonous and deadly at high concentrations.

Leaks under-reported

Only wells that show wellbore leakage must be reported to the B.C. OGC and included in the database. According to regulations, all wells drilled after 2010 should be tested after initial completion and all wells drilled after 1995 tested upon abandonment.

There is no monitoring program in place for the inspection of wells that have already been abandoned. These abandoned wells could leak for a long time before the leakage is detected and repaired. Recent studies have also documented methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania.

Shale gas exploitation can have environmental impacts long after a well has been abandoned. Provinces should implement regulations that require monitoring wells after abandonment, reporting the results and applying corrective measures to stop leaks from abandoned wells.

To this day, very few field investigations have been carried out in B.C. to directly monitor the leakage from abandoned wells. One showed that 35 per cent of investigated abandoned wells exhibit emissions of methane and hydrogen sulphide gas or a combination of both.

The discrepancy between the database reports and the field study — as well as recent observations that human-made methane emissions are underestimated by 25 per cent to 40 per cent — suggests that wellbore leakages in B.C. may go unreported.

To improve health and environmental safety, active surveillance and monitoring are necessary. SOURCE

 

 

Why Trudeau’s Circus Act May Not Survive the Blockade Crisis

Events in BC keep knocking the PM off balance. Will Liberals give him the hook?

TrudeauSpinningTops.jpg

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Is the curtain coming down on the Justin Trudeau era in Canadian politics?

When the next election rolls around, both the Conservative and Green parties will have new leaders. Even NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is newish.

No one should be surprised if the Liberal party follows suit. The case for dumping Justin Trudeau before the Liberals face the electorate again gets stronger by the day.

The federal government’s handling of the Wet’suwet’en protest against TC Energy Corp.’s Coastal GasLink project has been a month and more of Amateur Hour come to politics.

First, the prime minister ignored the crisis in favour of a foreign trip to promote a temporary seat for Canada on the UN Security Council. That made him look completely off rhythm.

When he finally did cut his travels short and returned to Canada, Trudeau claimed that protesters in violation of court injunctions were the problem of the B.C. government because it was responsible for enforcement and policing.

As Singh tweeted at the time, “pretending the federal government has no role is a failure of leadership.”

Although Trudeau advised patience in dealing with the Wet’suwet’en protests, a course far wiser than Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s shrill demand for frontier justice, the PM backed away from his own stand on Feb. 21, declaring that the blockades must come down.

No one on the Indigenous side listened, and the police were called in. That made the PM look hypocritical. Again, Singh skewered Trudeau, tweeting that it was heartbreaking to see “land defenders and Indigenous matriarchs dragged off their land.”

And when new blockades sprung up in places like Saskatoon and L’Isle Verte, as others were taken down in Ontario and Quebec, Trudeau simply exuded weakness.

The Wet’suwet’en and the Mohawk Warriors showed more resolve than the leader of the country, as they continued to defy the law — or from their perspective, to follow a higher one.

Irresponsible, hypocritical and weak are not the stuff of which leaders are made.

Trudeau has made himself chief juggler in a circus of incompetence. Already the damage to the Liberal government has been great.

The mortal sin of politics

At the height of the crisis, Via Rail Canada laid off 1,000 workers, and Canadian National Railway another 450.

Critical supplies of important items like propane dwindled to dangerously low levels in Eastern Canada.

As freight trains ground to a halt in front of solidarity blockades, Canadian ports saw a dramatic drop in landed cargo. Vessels diverted to more reliable ports in the U.S. They may or may not come back when rail service is fully restored in this country.

In his handling of this crisis, two weeks too late, Trudeau has committed the mortal sin of politics: he has made everyone unhappy. If in losing the last election, Scheer missed an open net on a breakaway, as Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay quipped, the PM has scored on his own net in overtime.

Indigenous activists are disgusted by the PM’s flip-flop on the use of the police against them on their own territories. It is about as far as a politician can get from any known theory of reconciliation.

Nor has Trudeau’s failure to meet personally with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs created much confidence in his leadership. The swagger and spontaneity seem gone. Only the cynical political calculations remain.

Provincial premiers and business leaders are equally unhappy. They have criticized the PM for doing damage to the economy by not acting quickly and forcefully enough to get freight trains moving again.

For the official opposition, it has been the perfect opportunity to use the prime minister as a political piñata. Not only have his actions angered both protesters and business leaders, the polls show Canadians too are disenchanted with their prime minister.

In a recent DART Maru/Blue poll, 69 per cent of respondents agreed that “Canada is broken,” the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Trudeau is not governing well.

As for the standoff with Indigenous protesters, the poll found that just 27 per cent endorsed the PM’s course of action. By comparison, 36 per cent of respondents thought the hapless Scheer had done a good job.

With that kind of opening, political rivals pounced. Scheer claimed that the PM had actually “elevated” the crisis by his approach to it, that relying on protesters rather than police to take down the blockades early in the standoff was not leadership, but abdication.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney used the crisis to drum up support for his kneejerk Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, aimed at what the premier described as “green, left militants” who do things like blockade railways. That will soon be a crime in Alberta with serious consequences.

Kenney seems to be echoing former Conservative public safety minister Vic Toews, who put opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in the same category as terrorists. Kenney also blamed Trudeau for driving investment away by creating the appearance of “anarchy” in Canada.

Despite the string of stumbles and bumbles, there was still a chance for the PM to recover. If he could negotiate a settlement to the crisis, what would otherwise be seen as feckless dithering might be turned into statesmanship. Again, the federal government faceplanted.

What’s been ‘arranged’?

Consider the murky, March 1 “arrangement” with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs aimed at defusing a bitter dispute over the construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline through that nation’s traditional territory.

All Canadians have been told is that a proposal has been made by the federal government and the provincial government of British Columbia that the Hereditary Chiefs will now take back to their people. That proposal in part is to recognize Wet’suwet’en land ownership of 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory in northwestern B.C. As for the full Monty on the deal, Trudeau says he will leave the release of details to the discretion of the Wet’suwet’en.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has made clear that the federal government offered recognition of land title without asking for anything in return.

No wonder.

The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Wet’suwet’en title to traditional lands and waters 23 years earlier in the landmark case of Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. Back then, the issue was clear-cutting forests on the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en. Though today it is about pipelines, the collision between government and First Nations remains inextricably linked to the environment.

It is true that the Supreme Court didn’t cross every “T” and dot every “I” of that landmark ruling. But the only thing new in this so-called “breakthrough” agreement after talks in Smithers, B.C., is the prospect of an endless round of implementation talks around the 1997 decision — in other words, a classic example of governments ragging the puck.

Nor has there been any mention, at least publicly, about how this agreement would deal with other First Nations with overlapping claims on the same territory as the Wet’suwet’en.

So far, there is no good reason to believe this deal will ultimately be embraced by the Wet’suwet’en Nation in two weeks or so. That’s because the negotiations failed at three critical levels.

First, the proposal does not deal with the issue of the Coastal GasLink pipeline itself. In fact, the position of both parties remains unchanged. The governments insist the project will go forward; the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs continue to oppose it. Since government negotiators have made clear that any agreement will not be retroactive, further protests appear inevitable.

Nor has the policing issue been dealt with. The Wet’suwet’en wanted the RCMP completely out of their territory. Instead, the force closed their outpost, euphemistically known as the Community Industry Safety Office. It moved its 20 officers to a detachment in nearby Houston, B.C.

But RCMP patrols of the Morice West Forest Service Road, inside Wet’suwet’en territory, were set to continue after negotiations ended. Since the Wet’suwet’en have said that out means out, it is hard to imagine how they will be satisfied with a continued RCMP presence on their territory. They are still under surveillance.

Finally, the Wet’suwet’en wanted all workers on the Coastal GasLink project off their traditional lands. Instead, work was scheduled to resume on the project after the draft agreement was reached by Chief Woos for the Wet’suwet’en, and ministers Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart, Scott Fraser, for the governments involved.

PM as expanding target

Why does all of this matter?

With all the big issues outstanding, it is difficult to see a long-lasting solution coming out of the Smithers negotiations. That is ominous. As Douglas Porter, the chief economist of the Bank of Montreal told the Financial Post, the last month of painful disruption to the economy from the blockade will have long-term damage if it was not a one-off.

Protests sparked by the Coastal GasLink project are not the only white water Trudeau is facing. When work begins in earnest on twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline, that project too is certain to meet with vigorous protests.

What those potential protesters have learned from the Wet’suwet’en is that crisis democracy works, as writer Robert Jago of the Kwantlen First Nation and the Nooksack tribe recently told The Tyee. Standing up to this government on matters of principle, rights and constitutional law, gets the attention of the big boys.

Since the PM made the dubious move of buying TMX, he will have little option but to force it through, even as the price-tag for construction spirals out of control toward the $12-billion mark. That will leave Trudeau looking like a reactionary colonialist to the Indigenous community and a faux-environmentalist to all those people who once embraced the star of the Paris climate talks as their champion.

In other words, B.C. could easily end up being Trudeau’s political Waterloo, the place where his words and deeds no longer align.

When you add in the cancellation by Teck Resources Ltd. of its $20-billion Frontier Mine project, and the lingering bad taste left by the PM’s unethical performance during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, it is easy to see how Trudeau will be targeted by his political opponents: He will be painted as the leader who is all image and no substance, who says one thing and does another, who wants to have it both ways on all issues, but usually delivers to the corporate side.

At the deepest level, it comes down to the perils of charisma politics. A charismatic leader is like a shot of adrenalin, as Trudeau proved in 2015, when he took the third party in Parliament all the way to a majority government.

At the time, former federal environment minister and B.C. MP, David Anderson, told me that when a political party places its bet on leader star-power, it is a two-edged sword. They can lift a party up in a big hurry, but they can also bring it down even faster. Again, Trudeau proved that in 2019, losing his majority government to an inept contender.

It will take more than a beard to hide the brewing leadership problem faced by the Liberals.  [Tyee] SOURCE

 

Ford’s Ontario pushes nuclear energy as part of its climate change fight

Progessive Conservative MPP Lindsey Park (centre) poses with the president of Women in Nuclear Canada, Lisa McBride (left), and Matthew Mairinger, the Canadian Affairs Chair at the North American Young Generation in Nuclear on March 5, 2020.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government will count nuclear power, including technology that’s at least 10 years from deployment, as a clean energy answer to tackle climate change.

The latest move to push forward the Ontario government’s nuclear agenda comes in the form of a motion introduced on Thursday by the PC MPP for Durham, Lindsey Park, whose riding includes the Darlington nuclear plant that is in the early stages of a major refurbishment expected to cost $12.8 billion.

It reads: “That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should include nuclear energy and the development of Small Modular Reactors as a clean energy option in its environment, climate change and clean energy planning and policies.”

The motion, which was debated and then passed by the PC-controlled legislature on Thursday, comes after the premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick agreed in December to work together to push forward the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

Saskatchewan is a major miner of uranium, producing around 20 percent of world supply, while New Brunswick is home to Canada’s only nuclear plant for electricity generation outside of Ontario.

But critics fear the Doug Ford government will be diverting funds that would be better served by focusing on proven and affordable clean technologies that don’t have the risk of catastrophic accidents and unanswered questions about long-term storage of radioactive waste hanging over them.

“We have a climate crisis right now, we can’t wait ten more years for some solution that may or may not be delivered,” said Mike Schreiner, MPP for Guelph and leader of the Green Party of Ontario. “We have solutions right now that are cheaper and cleaner and this government is literally ripping them out of the ground.”

The Ford government has cancelled more than 700 wind, solar and other clean energy projects, including two wind farms that were mid-construction. It has also dismantled the cap-and-trade system that put a provincial price on pollution and funded a range of green initiatives, and is taking its fight against the federal carbon price to the Supreme Court.

SMR technology is currently at an early stage of research and development. It is expected to make extensive use of factory-built modules that can be transported by truck and incorporate inherent safety features allowing them to be run without a high degree of technical supervision. Such modules would typically have a capacity of less than 300 megawatts, or between 10 and 20 times less than Ontario’s three existing reactors.

An illustration showcasing a Rolls Royce reactor module, one of the many SMR designs currently being developed, on a truck. Many such modular reactors are designed to be small enough to transport by truck or shipping container. (Rolls Royce)

The Ford government is pushing SMRs as a possible replacement energy source for some industry and for remote First Nation communities and other rural locations that currently rely on diesel generators. They also say other provinces are interested in using the technology to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Doug Ford wants to fight climate change with nuclear power, including tech at least ten years from deployment. Critics say he’s ignoring proven, cheap clean tech that doesn’t risk catastrophic accidents or raise questions about radioactive waste.

Dianne Saxe, the former provincial environmental commissioner whose role was done away with by Ford, said the motion risked diverting money that would otherwise go to proven green options.

“If what they mean is they are going to spend heavily on building new nuclear, then I’m really concerned that it is going to drain money away from what we already know is clean and works, which is wind and solar and biomass and small hydro and storage,” she said. “That’s where most of our money should be going and if they’re diverting money away from that it’s a bad idea.”

She argued that while all sources of energy have drawbacks, none but nuclear have consequences “that create a mortal danger to every generation after us for a hundred thousand years.”

Ontario currently gets around 60 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power. Along with the Darlington refurbishment, it is also spending $13 billion to refurbish six of the eight reactors at the Bruce nuclear plant on Lake Huron. Both of those refurbishments were approved by the previous Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, while the Ford government is looking to further expand the life of the aging Pickering plant until 2025.

Park said in an interview that Ontario needed to embrace more nuclear in an electricity supply mix that also should include wind, solar, hydro, and even natural gas

“I don’t think you can be an environmentalist serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 without supporting nuclear energy as part of the supply mix,” she said.

But the Ford’s government actions in dismantling of green energy, abandoning a wide range of energy efficiency programs and rebuffing an offer from Quebec to provide it with a long-term supply of cheap hydroelectric power, mean that gas-fired generation will largely fill the void left by nuclear refurbishments and lead to a tripling of emissions from the province’s electricity sector in the next decade.

The nuclear industry cheered the motion, saying that it would provide clarity to investors and other potential partners, and said it would mean nuclear projects would be eligible for government programs targeted to clean technology.

“The recognition that nuclear is clean sends a clear message that the government sees nuclear as part of its climate change plan and that provides confidence to investors and other possible partners,” said Erin Polka, a spokesperson for the Canadian Nuclear Association. “Companies might not undertake a project if it’s ambiguous whether the project would be eligible for support as clean energy. Why go to all the trouble of planning and applying just to learn you don’t qualify? Clarity is good.”

Park told National Observer that SMRs present Ontario with an opportunity to show leadership: “We’re at a critical time in history and also in the province of Ontario where we have this new technology for nuclear that is on the horizon and we have other provinces in Canada telling us they are waiting on us to take the lead,” she said, referring specifically to Saskatchewan.

“They are waiting on us to do the prototype and so if that’s successful that is something they could implement in their province to replace coal,” she said.

Saskatchewan currently gets almost half of its electricity from coal and another third from natural gas, according to the Canada Energy Regulator.

In response to that idea, the Green Party’s Schreiner said that “Saskatchewan can wean itself off coal right now with lower cost wind and solar solutions.”

He said that nuclear currently cost around 9c per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and could rise to 15c/kWh with the Darlington refurbishment while the cheapest estimate he had heard for small modular nuclear was 16c/kWh. The Nation Rise wind farm the Ford government cancelled was selling power at 7c/kWh. He noted that wind and solar contracts recently signed in Alberta were even cheaper.

The federal Liberal government is not necessary opposed to SMRs, saying the country is well positioned to capture a share of the emerging global market it estimated would be worth some $150 billion per year by 2040. It is currently reviewing the 50 recommendations of the Canadian Small Modular Reactor Roadmap in areas including waste management, regulatory readiness and international engagement. SOURCE

More than a pipe dream: How turning on your tap could create electricity

More than a pipe dream: How one city generates power when people run their taps

(Shutterstock)

Hydroelectricity is a greener way to generate power than burning fossil fuels, but big hydro dams come with their own environmental problems. Those can include greenhouse gas emissions from flooded and rotting vegetation and the potential to kill fish.

But there are smaller-scale sources of hydro generation that can have a lower impact. In fact, one of them is right under our feet — namely, the pipes that make water flow when we turn on the tap.

Halifax is the first city in Canada to exploit in-pipe power. In a 2014 pilot project, it installed a turbine — basically a water pump that runs in reverse — in a single pipe in a Halifax suburb. Since then, the 31-kilowatt turbine has been generating roughly enough electricity annually to power 25 homes and selling that back to the grid for about $30,000 a year.

“The technology has, I would say, a lot of great potential,” said James Campbell, a spokesperson for Halifax Water. “On larger scales, that could really be quite significant.”

Campbell noted that there’s a lot of energy already in a municipal water distribution system: “It’s a constantly renewable resource that’s flowing anyway.”

The energy comes from the fact that water is under high pressure when it flows downhill from a water treatment plant. That pressure has to be reduced as it moves through the system, “or else it would just be blowing the taps into people’s homes,” Campbell said.

Typically, the system relies on pressure-reducing valves that use friction to release the extra energy as heat. Capturing the energy is a matter of running the water through a turbine instead. The turbine, which is made by U.S.-based Rentricity, has an estimated 40-year lifespan and has required little maintenance so far.

Frank Zammataro, CEO and co-founder of Rentricity, said the technology was originally designed following the 9/11 attacks as a way to generate emergency power using water towers in New York City. Rentricity has 15 installations so far, mostly in U.S. municipal drinking water systems, although it’s expanding into industries like agriculture.

Zammataro estimates about 75 per cent of municipal systems in North America have the right conditions for installation — sufficient flow and pressure generated by gravity when a water source is at a higher elevation (such as on a mountain or in a tower).

Besides Rentricity, at least nine other companies are testing similar technology around the world, from Portland, Ore., to Israel to the Philippines.

The challenge, Zammataro said, is that municipalities and especially industry want the system to pay for itself in a short period of time.

The in-pipe turbine in Halifax was funded by grants and a provincial program that allowed small electricity producers to sell power to the grid at guaranteed rates. At those rates, not taking into account the grants, Halifax Water’s $500,000 turbine would be paid off after 17 years in operation. However, the provincial “feed-in tariff” was cancelled in 2015, and no other in-pipe turbines have been installed.

Zammataro said the cost and efficiency can be optimized if water system upgrades and expansions are planned and designed with in-pipe turbines in mind. SOURCE

Why this Six Nations family violence centre puts men and women in the same shelter

The shelter is based on Indigenous teachings around everyone working together to repair harm

“I only knew how to do what I did at the time,” says Mike Bomberry. “Now I know better.” Once a Ganohkwasra client, he’s now a speaker and counsellor. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

By his own account, Mike Bomberry used to be a violent guy.

He worked on construction sites, where he was known as someone who would be happy one minute, volatile the next. His addictions — some drugs, but mostly alcohol — made him impossible to predict. His marriage was so mutually abusive, “mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually,” that he and his wife went to Ganohkwasra, a Six Nations domestic violence shelter and support service, for counselling.

Little did he know at the time, he was walking into a unique program that’s been a model for at least two other First Nations shelters in Ontario, and informed shelters as far away as Japan and New Zealand. At Ganohkwasra (a Cayuga word meaning “love among us”), men and women stay in the same shelter, and often sit in the same group therapy sessions.

That’s drastically different from most domestic violence shelters, where men in general have limited access, and if abusive partners show up, police are called. Women and children live in secure environments with little to no contact with the other partner, who seeks out their own voluntary or court-ordered counselling.

Bomberry says Ganohkwasra’s multi-gender environment is rooted in teachings he heard back to his childhood at his longhouse, and allowed him to understand how his behaviour was hurting him and his partner. He’s now eight years sober, and a Ganohkwasra men’s counsellor.

“I never once felt judged by the stuff I did in my life there,” he said. “I was allowed to speak my truth even if it was harsh, and it had an edge to it.”

Intake assessment is key in determining who fits with the coed shelter model, says Sandra Montour. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

 

Ganohkwasra doesn’t compromise safety, says executive director Sandra Montour. There are limits to who can stay there.

No one can be violent, she said, and restraining orders are accommodated. If a victimized partner asks that the other not be there, that person’s safety and comfort is the priority. The intake process is key, Montour said.

“Everyone gets assessed for the appropriateness of the shelter.”

But overall, she said, traditional teachings emphasize the nature of duality. At any given time, men occupy at least some of the shelter beds. All of the clients cook together, live together and participate in therapeutic healing activities.

“We’re taught about the teachings of the twins, the good and not-so-good twin,” Montour said. “Each one of us as individuals has a choice about which one we listen to. Any of us at any time could become not so good.”

The multi-gender model “reflects Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” says Robyn Bourgeois, an assistant professor in Brock University’s Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies. (Brock University)

 

“We’re very different here in the whole scheme of shelters. We know that. [But] this is the way of our people. This is the way we operate.”

While each First Nation has different teachings, the notion of duality is a common theme, says Robyn Bourgeois, a Cree assistant professor in Brock University’s Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies. She studies violence against Indigenous women and girls, and she’s a fan of the Ganohkwasra model.

“In general, Indigenous peoples really believe in a holistic approach to issues,” she said. That notion says “there’s a sickness in the family and we’re going to fix that family, and everyone needs support.”

There are other pluses to the coed approach, she said.

Some mainstream shelters don’t allow teenage boys, for example, so moms have to choose between safety and leaving one of their kids behind. The format also works better for people who are transgender or non-binary, a group her recent work shows has difficulty accessing shelters.

And not everyone entering a shelter wants to make a clean break, she said.

“I was wrapped up in my trauma,” says Mike Bomberry, who is Mohawk and gives talks about Ganohkwasra. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

 

“They don’t want necessarily the relationship to end,” she said, “but they want the violence to stop.”

For Bomberry, at least, stopping bad habits was a difficult process. He had seen counsellor Diane Beaver, who he still calls his angel, for about three months when she called him out on his bravado.

“She said, ‘Are you going to keep bullshitting me, or are you going to start telling the truth and really get down to the work?'” he recalled. “I said, ‘Who the F do you think you are?’ I saw it as a challenge. I was tricked into my healing.”

Bomberry says a key part of that healing was understanding his own childhood trauma, and how it caused him to self destruct as an adult. He also learned to be vulnerable, and to separate anger and violence. He teaches that now.

Anger “can be a positive emotion,” he said. “It tells us there’s injustice. It tells us that we’re uncomfortable. It tells us we’re not living in our truth.”

“Violence is a deliberate act of either physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually hurting somebody. We can be violent with our words.”

Bomberry, 37, has given multiple talks on his personal transformation. With clients, “I really try to bring that understanding and be in that place of non-judgment.”

“As men, society tells us that we’re allowed to have a few basic emotions, and one of them is not weakness or vulnerability,” he said.

“It’s OK to be angry … It’s OK to have those feelings, but it’s not OK to be violent.”

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Tree of Peace is depicted around the shelter, including in the floor tiles. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

SOURCE

Police not probing recent rail disasters, crude oil derailments, deaths for possible negligence

Finger pointing among railways, outside police, safety officials in investigations, CBC finds

No police are investigating two derailments within two months along CP’s rail line near Guernsey, Sask., despite known track problems. (Matt Smith/The Canadian Press)

Public police forces are choosing not to investigate major accidents at CN and Canadian Pacific Railway, including recent crude oil train crashes and deadly derailments, a CBC News investigation into Canada’s rail system has found.

Instead, the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and other forces routinely defer to little-known federal railway police run by CP and CN, leaving the companies to investigate themselves with no outside police looking into potential criminal negligence.

It’s infuriated some families of workers killed on the railways who claim a “double standard” where outside police are willing to move in to clear blockades along Canada’s rail lines but routinely don’t investigate rail corporations in the event of major disasters or fatalities.

“It makes me angry,” said Tara Jijian, whose husband was killed working at CP’s rail yard in Regina.

“Because the blockades and protests affect the economy somewhat, everybody rushes to make sure that, you know, ‘We have to clear this off, this has to be dealt with,’ ” said Jijian.

“But when it’s a person that is killed on those same railway tracks, the police just absolutely refuse to get involved.”

WATCH: Tara Jijian says CP rail police are preventing outside investigation of her husband’s death.

Tara Jijian says RCMP, Regina police won’t probe her husband’s death. 0:25

Instead, outside police defer to the railways, which since the 19th century have employed their own fully authorized federal police forces, which have all the powers of regular police.

But unlike public police, rail police lack any civilian oversight, are paid for by private companies and are not governed by any formal police act.

CBC has uncovered a string of recent major rail crashes where no police force of any kind stepped in – or only railway company police investigated — leaving what some say is a vacuum of accountability when it comes to potential criminal negligence on Canada’s rail lines.

Fiery derailments, no police

In three recent derailments that leaked millions of litres of crude oil in Saskatchewan and Ontario, no police agencies investigated, CBC has found.

In early December, when 33 tanker cars crashed and exploded southeast of Saskatoon, CP Railway said their police service did not investigate and referred inquiries to the RCMP.

“The RCMP has been involved and has jurisdiction,” a CP spokesperson said.

The RCMP appeared dumbfounded.

“I’m not totally sure where you are getting your information,” the RCMP told CBC, pointing back to CP police and the Transportation Safety Board as the lead agencies.

“In this case we were only there for traffic control and to assist if required with any type of evacuation,” the RCMP said.

Two months later, just seven kilometres down the same CP rail line, a second crude oil train derailed and exploded, forcing evacuation of the hamlet of Guernsey.

WATCH: Drone footage shows second derailment in two months

There have been no reports of injuries after a train derailed near a Saskatchewan hamlet. Emergency response says 12 of the 31 cars that derailed are on fire. 0:33

Neither CP police nor the RCMP investigated, despite striking similarities in the crash on the same rail line where regulators had earlier found problems with the track.

In northern Ontario, neither OPP nor CN Police are investigating the derailment of an oil train near Fort Frances on Feb. 18, 2020, involving 26 crude oil tanker cars, CBC has confirmed.

OPP in northwestern Ontario say they are not looking into a Feb. 18, 2020, derailment near Fort Frances. (Transportation Safety Board)

 

Unlike in a highway car crash where police investigate, in rail a crash the Transportation Safety Board is the agency with the responsibility of probing causes and coming up with safety recommendations.

But the TSB does not lay charges and said it is not “legally competent to assign fault.”

The TSB says that’s up to police.

“The fact that TSB is investigating does not preclude any other agency from investigating in accordance with its own mandate (e.g. police, coroner, regulator, etc.),”  TSB spokesperson Geneviève Corbin wrote in an email.

Railway police say outside forces are welcome to step in.

“The RCMP not only have jurisdiction to investigate offences that occur on CP property but are duty-bound to do so,” said CP spokesperson Jeremy Berry.

(CBC)

 

The RCMP and other forces point back to railway police and say they won’t intervene unless asked.

This finger pointing and jurisdictional dodge ball means that in Canada, public police forces seldom — if ever — investigate failures by railways in major disasters, including after a runaway train in the B.C. mountains last winter that killed three crew members.

In connection with that crash, a Transportation Safety Board official has publicly called for the RCMP to investigate potential criminal negligence.

CBC asked both CN and CP whether, in the past 20 years, they’ve ever called in outside police to lead investigations into a major railway incident involving a death, serious injury or derailment. Both declined to answer that question or answer whether they have ever criminally charged an employee related to railway operations.

The RCMP, OPP, Toronto Police or Hamilton Police — all of which helped clear recent rail blockades — couldn’t point to a single case over 20 years where they used their authority to probe a railway crash or fatality.

Rail corporations ‘above the law’

A lawyer for the families of Jamie Jijian, who was killed in CP’s Regina yard in 2012, and Kevin Timmerman, who was killed in CN’s Saskatoon yard in 2015, is going to court to challenge the railway police system.

“The problem is that it puts an elite group of corporations above the law,” said Tavengwa Runyowa, who filed a constitutional challenge last month after seeing a documentary by CBC’s The Fifth Estate on the B.C. derailment case.

“We cannot have a situation in Canada where corporations can own the police who will investigate them, and tell nothing to the victims of the people who died on their premises. We’re saying it’s unconstitutional,” said Runyowa.

In the challenge, the families are arguing that Jijian and Timmerman were denied their right to life, liberty and security of person through a failure of the railway police to effectively investigate their own companies, which they allege allowed safety problems to persist and ultimately costing the two men their lives.

Watch: A lawyer calls for an end to railways investigating themselves.

CN and CP declined to comment and have not yet filed a response with the court.

In the case of Jamie Jijian, the family pleaded with Regina police to step in to conduct an independent probe.

They received a leaked internal Transport Canada death report that’s usually kept confidential, which pointed to failures at CP. It concluded Jijian was crushed to death moving rail cars in a yard amid snow-covered tracks, an “atypical track configuration” and a “risky” decision by a supervisor.

But Regina police refused.

“Despite your assertion that there is a conflict of interest in this matter, it remains our position that this falls within the jurisdiction of the CP Police Service,” a lawyer for the Regina police wrote to Runyowa.

Similarly, in Saskatoon, no outside police stepped in after the 2015 death of CN conductor Kevin Timmerman.

He was walking along the tracks in the CN yard when he was struck from behind by a train.

TSB rail safety advisory concluded that the yard traffic co-ordinator had changed the work plans inside the yard, rerouting a train, and failed to alert all the crew on the ground.

Timmerman’s family says CN police have refused to provide any information.

The Transportation Safety Board is looking into track or maintenance failure in a Dec. 9, 2019, derailment near Guernsey, Sask., but says it isn’t ‘legally competent’ to assign fault. (Transportation Safety Board)

 

“If it was a traffic accident or a murder or anything like that, the RCMP within Canada would investigate it, and there’s reports and there is accountability to everybody, right?” said Lori Desrochers, Timmerman’s former spouse.

“Here you’ve got a police force that’s paid by a company. Well, of course they’re not going to call out their employer,” she said. “When it comes to fatalities, the RCMP should be involved.”

The families have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Attorney General David Lametti and Transport Minister Marc Garneau, as well as the commissioners of the RCMP and OPP, pleading for changes in the policing of railways.

“We are concerned with what appears to be a double standard in how the RCMP responds to railway policing incidents,” their letter said.

Tara Jijian is angy that public police forces are willing to clear blockades along rail lines, but don’t routintely investigate rail corporations in the event of major disasters or fatalities. Her husband, Jamie Jijian, was killed working at CP’s rail yard in Regina. (Submitted by Tara jijian)

 

“When Canada’s railway companies need assistance, for example policing the Wet’suwet’en protests and their supporters, the RCMP readily intervenes,” wrote Runyowa.

“However, when there is a workplace death, derailment, oil spill or other railway incident that may be attributable to railway companies themselves, the RCMP defers to the private police forces that the companies fund and control.”

CP Rail’s police chief said in a statement that the Canadian Pacific Police Service is compliant with the Railway Safety Act and is “independent of CP when acting pursuant to their law enforcement powers.”

CN declined to respond to questions from CBC.

‘Untenable, unprecedented’

Canada’s biggest rail union, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, is calling for the total abolition of railway police.

Curt Griffiths, a professor of policing studies at Simon Fraser University in B.C., calls railway police a “historical anomaly” left over from the late 1800s when Canada’s railways were being built.

“It’s quite unbelievable actually that you’re leaving it to a railway police to investigate itself when there are particularly serious injuries or deaths involved and potentially negligence,” Griffiths said.

“I think most Canadians are going to be surprised that you have police officers with all the powers of a public police officer with none of the accountability,” said Griffiths.

Kevin Timmerman, shown with his grandson, Spencer, died when he was struck from behind by a train while walking along the tracks in a CN yard in Saskatoon in 2015. (Submitted by Lori Desrochers)

 

Griffiths believes Canada’s laws need to be rewritten to make investigation of rail disasters the job of the RCMP and to take it out of the hands of railway company police.

“The current arrangement is untenable. It’s actually unprecedented these days and it cannot be fixed within the existing situation. You have to change the structure and you have to change the arrangement: they can’t be both public and private police.”

Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, has not been available for an interview.

In a statement, Transport Canada said outside police have “discretion” and “can investigate any criminal conduct if they have jurisdiction over the area where the accident occurred,” citing the Lac-Megantic derailment in 2013 as one example where both RCMP and Quebec provincial police took charge.

However, the federal regulator declined to answer questions about reforming railway police.

As Quebec rail blockades come down, supporters demand Indigenous rights be respected

Encampments blocking lines through Kahnawake, Listiguj had been in place since early February

After dismantling the rail blockade, Mohawks from Kahnawake built a new barricade in a green space near Montreal’s Mercier Bridge on Thursday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The remaining blockades halting rail traffic in Quebec were taken down Thursday, putting an end to three weeks of protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia.

Supporters in Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory on Montreal’s South Shore, and in Listiguj, where Mi’kmaq activists had blocked a rail line that connects the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick, dismantled their encampments Thursday afternoon.

But they stressed their fight isn’t over.

In Kahnawake, people marched through the streets, temporarily blocking traffic, with a banner that read: “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”

Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker who lives in Kahnawake, said the decision to take down the blockade on a CP Rail line should be seen as a message of “good faith to all of Canada.”

“Depending on how Canada moves forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands will no longer be violated. We will not back down until these standards are met,” she said.

Roxann Whitebean, a Mohawk writer and filmmaker, addressed reporters in the middle of the highway. She said Indigenous rights must be respected. 2:06

The encampment was relocated to a green space near the Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked connection between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.

“We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay for as long as the Wet’suwet’en need us,” said Whitebean.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation in Wet’suwet’en as well other Indigenous communities.”

The blockade in Listuguj, Que., was taken down soon after. Raquel Barnaby, a spokesperson for Mi’kmaq activists, said their goals had been met.

“Our goals were for the RCMP to back away from the Wet and for hereditary chiefs to be at the table,” she said. “We just want to end it on a positive note.”

Supporters in Listiguj took down their encampment Thursday. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

 

Other blockades across Canada have already come down.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would run through traditional land.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, arguing it was hurting the province’s economy.

Injunctions were obtained against both barricades, but never enforced.

Legault told reporters last week Quebec provincial police hadn’t moved in because there are AK-47s in Kahnawake. The comment was decried as “reckless” by leaders in the Mohawk community.

After the blockades came down, the premier said on Twitter the “negative effects that these blockades had, particularly on public transport users & on the economy, are deplorable. Solutions must be found so that it does not happen again.”

Highway 132 near the Mercier Bridge was briefly blocked after the barricade in Kahnawake was dismantled. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

 

In a statement on its website, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said Thursday the blockade was a “sincere and peaceful expression of support” for Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

“Even in 2020 it seems that it takes a crisis for governments to truly engage,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.

“We have been advocating for meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and safety for all people.”

Supporters of the blockade in Kahnawake say they want Indigenous rights to be respected. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

 

SOURCE

With rail blockades lifted, effort begins to measure economic damage

Bank estimate puts economic cost of blockades at 0.3% of GDP, equal to all Canada’s growth in late 2019

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau speaks during an announcement in Ottawa last month. On Thursday, he spoke to reporters in Washington about the economic impacts of recent rail blockades. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The blockades are over — for now.

Next comes the effort to calculate their economic impact — and it’s just getting started.

Canada’s transport minister said it will take six months to assess the damage, following weeks of turmoil that culminated in the lifting Thursday of the remaining Quebec rail blockades.

That longer-term uncertainty was underscored by other news that broke Thursday: Warren Buffett’s investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, bailed on a $4 billion investment in a Quebec liquefied natural gas plant and blamed recent instability.

When asked what the economic effects might be during a trip to Washington, Transport Minister Marc Garneau replied: “Serious.”

But he said a variety of factors need to be measured to fully grasp the effect, and that will take time.

Those factors include any layoffs; delayed or suspended industrial production; and adjustments to shipping routes.

He cited those shipping routes as an example of why it’s difficult to immediately calculate an impact.

Garneau said some international shippers going through B.C. and, to a lesser extent, through Quebec and Nova Scotia, might have turned to temporary solutions — including ports in the United States.

Scotiabank estimates that recent rail blockades reduced Canada’s overall economic activity by 0.3 per cent for the current quarter.  (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

 

What’s unclear is how many suppliers will return to the same routes they used before the protests.

“I can’t give you a precise number because these numbers will probably come out in about six months, because of the lag that occurs in assessing economic impact,” Garneau told reporters in Washington.

Garneau was in the U.S. capital meeting with American officials and promoting Canada’s effort to create new air-travel safety protocols in the wake of the disaster involving the Iranian-downed flight PS752.

Interest rate cut

Meanwhile, in Toronto, the Bank of Canada governor cited a series of reasons for this week’s interest rate cut.

Stephen Poloz said the central bank was already contemplating a rate move before the coronavirus struck.

Blockades were one of several reasons.

“Not surprisingly, the threat to the global economy of COVID-19 — the coronavirus — played a central role in our deliberations,” Stephen Poloz said, according to the prepared text of remarks delivered Thursday.

“Of course, the coronavirus is not the only issue on the table. … In addition to the impact of COVID-19, there are other factors: the strike by Ontario teachers, unusual weather and the rail blockades.

“We can hope that all of these factors prove to be temporary, but it seems that we are headed for at least another quarter of very slow economic growth.”

Reduced growth

An early private-sector estimate estimates the cost of blockades at 0.3 per cent of Canada’s economic activity for the current quarter.

For the sake of context, that’s equivalent to the entire growth estimated for the Canadian economy in the final quarter of 2019.

Cargo containers sit on idle train cars at port in Vancouver on Feb. 21 due to rail blockades. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

 

Scotiabank’s deputy chief economist, Brett House, said it’s early for a perfect assessment; but he said last year’s CN Rail strike offers a useful reference point for what to expect.

He said his bank estimates that the strike cut two-tenths of one percent from quarterly GDP, and that the losses were later recovered — as demand for the stalled goods persisted, and they were eventually shipped to customers.

“That [activity in 2019] just got delayed. It essentially just moved growth from one period to the next,” House said.

“We’d expect a similar kind of dynamic from the blockades — where the impact on shipping is compensated for in the next period, by an increase.”

He cautioned, however, that the strike was easier to anticipate than the blockades, and the uncertainty over potential future disruptions could lead to a greater impact.

“A continued threat of blockades will lead people to find alternative transportation routes and alternative suppliers,” House said.

“The uncertainty created by blockades potentially coming up at any time and any place could be a dampener on growth, going forward.”

The lifting of blockades remains tentative, as Wet’suwet’en people consider the provisional agreement reached with government officials in a dispute involving a natural gas pipeline. SOURCE

‘Clean hands’, climate change and the problem with saying Canada’s not the problem

Peter MacKay’s claim that our emissions total is ‘minuscule’ doesn’t really work as an excuse for inaction

Peter MacKay speaks to a crowd of supporters during an event to officially launch his campaign for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in Stellarton, N.S. on Saturday, January 25, 2020. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Peter MacKay isn’t saying he would do nothing to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. But he does have a narrow reading of the degree to which Canada shares the blame for climate change.

While MacKay has said Canada has an “obligation” to do “our part,” he also has cast doubt on whether Canada can meet its target for 2030. He has twice said that “we’re not the problem” and has described Canada’s share of global emissions — 1.6 per cent — as “miniscule.” His most forceful statement on the issue of climate change so far may have been a colourful analogy involving nudity and organic produce.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer makes a 2019 campaign stop as climate protesters wait outside with their signs in Saskatoon. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

 

His framing isn’t new, of course. Andrew Scheer’s climate platform for last year’s election prominently included a claim that Canada is a “small contributor” to a global problem — supported by a line graph comparing Canada’s emissions to the output of China, the United States, India and the European Union.

But such attempts to downplay Canada’s contribution have to contend with both the math of global emissions and the example of one of the country’s more successful federal conservatives — Brian Mulroney.

Canadians still among the highest emitters globally

The annual rankings of global emissions are indisputably dominated by a handful of major emitters  But at 1.6 per cent, Canada ranks tenth among all nations in total emissions — more than 183 other countries, including large economies like the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. Per capita, Canadians are among the highest emitters in the world — producing more than our fellow humans in China and India.

If Canada’s totals emissions aren’t the problem, then presumably the same can be said for the 183 countries that emit less than we do. But it’s also not obvious why any line should be drawn at Canada.

If 1.6 per cent isn’t enough to matter, it’s also hard to say that Germany (2.2 per cent), Iran (1.9), Saudi Arabia (1.7) or South Korea (1.6) should shoulder much of the burden.

Absolving those nations would leave just five countries to deal with the problem: China (27.2 per cent), the United States (14.6), India (6.8), Russia (4.7) and Japan (3.3).

Chinese boys look at their smartphone in front of their house next to a coal fired power plant on November 27, 2015 on the outskirts of Beijing, China. (Getty Images)

 

There is no solution to climate change that doesn’t involve reducing the emissions from those countries. Together, they represent 56.6 per cent of all national emissions.

But 56.6 per cent is not 100 per cent. If the other 188 nations of the world absolve themselves of their responsibility, that leaves the other 43.4 per cent unaccounted for.

It’s also worth noting that other countries are already ahead of Canada in reducing their emissions. No one is asking Canada to go it alone.

There are other arguments for MacKay to contend with here, too.

The price of passing the buck

If every tonne of carbon emissions has a negative impact on the environment — a reality reflected in a measure known as the “social cost of carbon” — then doesn’t it make sense to account for that harm, or restrict it?

Would stronger domestic emissions policies not do a better job of positioning Canada to compete in a low-carbon economy, as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have argued?

And what about the threat of carbon tariffs? In the future, countries could begin to impose border charges on goods that originate in jurisdictions that fail to enforce stringent climate policies. Members of the European Union, for instance, have threatened to apply such tariffs on American products in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord.

The Canadian Steel Producers Association has now asked the federal government to consider “carbon border adjustments” as part of a plan to get the domestic steel industry to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Ultimately, there’s also the basic moral argument: today’s leaders and citizens owe it to future generations to do what they can to limit or avert the damage caused by climate change.

Crowds march on the Alberta legislature for a climate rally addressed by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on Oct. 18, 2019. (Emilio Avalos/CBC)

 

The Conservative Party’s turn toward worrying about “global emissions” last year seemed to follow from an unwillingness to propose alternatives to the Trudeau government’s domestic policies — in particular the federal carbon price.

Perhaps realizing that whatever plan they pitched to reduce Canada’s emissions would carry an economic cost equal to or greater than the Liberals’ approach, the Conservatives pivoted to the notion that Canada could help other countries cut their emissions, and get credit for it — at no cost to Canadian consumers.

At the very least, it’s not clear why Canada couldn’t do both — by taking sufficient action to meet our own targets while also offering to help other countries meet theirs.

It’s also fair to ask whether those two things are, in fact, connected — whether reducing our own emissions would put us in a better position to pressure other countries to do the same.

U.S. President George Bush gives a thumbs-up while meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Ottawa in this 1990 file photo. Bush’s administration signed the acid rain accord with Canada in 1991. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

 

Thirty-five years ago, Brian Mulroney wanted both Canada and the United States to reduce the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that were causing acid rain to fall on both sides of the border.

American officials were reluctant to act, but the prime minister still went ahead with domestic action — negotiating a deal with provincial governments and industry to reduce the emissions from Canadian facilities.

“I believe you clean up your own act first before you can expect major concessions from someone with whom you are bargaining,” Mulroney said at the time.

Years later, Mulroney argued that his “clean hands” approach was not merely “the right thing to do” — it undercut American doubts about Canada’s motivations, he said, and gave Canada “moral leverage” in its discussions with the United States.

Canada’s role in creating the acid rain threat was perhaps more straightforward than its role in climate change, and it may have been easier to convince our closest ally to join our efforts.

But four months ago, Mulroney cited his own approach in the context of global climate change and the responsibility of Canadian leaders.

Reading aloud from a recent media report, Mulroney noted criticism of Canada’s climate targets and the fact that Canada’s per-capita emissions were second among the G20.

“So, what are we, as Canadians, to do?” Mulroney asked. “Lead.” SOURCE