Canada’s EV charging networks are growing at pace, but more is needed

Petro-Canada's national EV charging network. Photo credit Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada’s national EV charging network. Image credit: Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada and Tesla completed their national charging networks last year and a raft of charging infrastructure has been announced for completion this year and next. Here’s our round up of what’s live, what’s been announced and what may be still to come

Last June, a report from BC Hydro found that 70 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said concern over the range limitations of electric vehicles was the main reason why they wouldn’t consider purchasing one.

But is “range anxiety” still a legitimate barrier to EV ownership? The answer, thanks to Canada’s numerous rapidly expanding EV fast charging networks, increasingly seems to be no.

For prospective EV owners with long distance drives in mind, the expansion of DC fast charge networks is of the utmost importance. Fast chargers are capable of delivering full range charges in less than an hour, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. As such, a fast charger’s installation at a location effectively ensures the surrounding region is easily EV accessible.

Level 2 chargers, which typically take a few hours to fully charge an EV, are also crucial as they allow drivers to charge while at destinations, such as places of work, shopping malls, business districts and tourist attractions.

Electric vehicle sales continue to grow rapidly, nearing three per cent of total Canadian vehicle sales in 2019. As that growth continues, continued investment in and roll out of charging infrastructure will be necessary.

According to Natural Resources Canada, there are currently 11,553 EV chargers open to the public at 4,993 stations across Canada. Over 1,850 of those chargers are DC fast chargers.

A number of those chargers belong to one of several expansive charging networks announced in the past few months. Here’s a review of who’s making long distance EV travel easier than ever for Canadians.

National networks

Petro-Canada

Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network
Petro-Canada Trans-Canada EV Fast Charging Network. Image: Petro-Canada
  • Completed 2019
  • 40 fast charging stations

Canada’s first non-proprietary, cohesive nationwide EV fast charging network came courtesy of Petro-Canada, whose Electric Highway was completed in December of 2019. The network currently boasts 40 fast charging stations between Halifax and Victoria, British Columbia. The majority of the charging stations are located along the Trans-Canada highway, allowing for relatively simple access for those crossing any large stretch of the nation. Drivers pay per minute of charge; Ontario stations currently charge a rate of $0.33 per minute.

Tesla network

  • 898 superchargers, 1,400 Level 2 chargers
  • 584 locations

In late December, Tesla also activated a series of new proprietary charging stations along the Trans-Canada Highway, several of which contained Tesla’s new ultra-fast V3 250kW chargers. Nine of these chargers are currently hosted at Canadian Tire locations, with that number set to eventually increase.

Tesla’s Canadian charging network was first established in a limited capacity between Toronto and Montreal in 2014. It now stretches from Vancouver to Halifax without any major gaps, and is absent only from the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

Although only Tesla drivers can take advantage of this network, they represent a rather large fraction of Canadian EV drivers – in the first nine months of 2019, 54 per cent of all battery electric vehicles (and 34 per cent of EVs) sold in Canada were Teslas.

Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire Corporation's EV Charging Map as of January 2020. Source: Canadian Tire
Canadian Tire’s EV Charging Network. Image: Canadian Tire Corporation
  • 2020-2021
  • 240 fast chargers, 55 level 2 chargers
  • 90 locations

Canadian Tire announced in January its plan to open a network of 240 fast chargers and 55 Level 2 chargers at 90 Canadian Tire retail locations across the country by the end of 2020. The network was developed in collaboration with FLO, Tesla and Electrify Canada, who will jointly supply the chargers. Although charging speeds vary by location as well as by car make, Electrify Canada’s fast chargers are currently capable of charging at 350kW, or speeds of up to 30 kilometers per minute.

Chargers are already operational at 21 Canadian Tire locations nationwide. Andrew Davies, senior vice-president, automotive, Canadian Tire Retail, has hinted that this year’s expansion is merely the beginning, saying at the network’s launch that “this is the first step in our plan past 2020”.

Both Canadian Tire and Petro-Canada’s networks received partial funding from the federal government through Natural Resource Canada’s Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative. Canadian Tire’s network received a $2.7 million investment, while Petro-Canada’s electric Highway was granted $4.6 million.

Through the NRCan program, the federal government is investing $96.4 million in electric vehicle and hydrogen charging stations across the country. A separate NRCan initiative, the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, is investing $130 million in the construction of chargers on streets, at workplaces and in multi-unit residential buildings between 2019 and 2024.

Electrify Canada

  • 2019-2020
  • 32 fast charger locations
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020
Electrify Canada live and planned locations 2020. Source: Electrify Canada

Also still in progress is the Electrify Canada network. Electrify Canada, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, last fall announced a commitment to install a network of 32 fast charging stations across the nation by the end of 2020. Three of these stations are currently open, including two at Canadian Tire retail locations in southern Ontario and the flagship location at Toronto Premium Outlets shopping centre in Halton Hills.

This first phase of construction will include locations only in Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta. Following 2020, according to CEO Rob Barossa, Electrify Canada will “continue to expand mainly on routes [highways] and other locations that we see fit.” Electrify Canada is the Canadian counterpart to Electrify America, which has installed over 1,500 fast chargers across the United States since 2016.

Volkswagen also announced recently that those who purchase its e-Golf electric vehicle will receive two years of free 30-minute charging sessions from Electrify Canada stations.

Provincial progress

In addition to the cross-country networks, there are several provincially-backed and local charging networks connecting Canadian EV drivers in a number of different regions.

Electric Circuit

  • Launched 2012
  • 294 fast chargers, 2,104 Level 2 chargers
  • 1,445 locations

Quebec’s Electric Circuit, owned and operated by Hydro-Québec, currently consists of more than 2,300 charging stations. Last year, plans were announced to add at least 1,600 new fast charging stations over the next 10 years in addition to the 296 which are already operational.

B.C. Hydro EV

  • 2013-2020
  • Over 100 fast chargers
  • Over 85 locations

The provincial utility of British Columbia, the province with Canada’s highest rate of EV adoption, operates a major fast charging network. The B.C. Hydro EV network currently consists of over 70 locations with over 80 total fast chargers, mostly along major highways and in urban centres. B.C. Hydro has plans to expand their network to include over 85 locations with over 100 chargers across the province in 2020.

Accelerate Kootenays

  • Completed 2019
  • 13 fast chargers, 40 Level 2 chargers (part of the above BC Hydro network)

Peaks to Prairies

  • Completed 2019
  • 19 fast chargers, two Level 2 chargers
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ACTO
Peaks to Prairies Network Map. Image: ATCO

In Western Canada, the Peaks to Prairies program in southern Alberta and Accelerate Kootenays program in B.C. have funded the installation of 32 high-speed charging stations in areas that despite being heavily travelled, were previously underserved by pre-existing charging networks. The two programs are not networks, but rather funding initiatives which received financing by local governments, private investments, and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The Accelerate Kootenays stations operate in part on the BC Hydro EV network and in part on the FLO network; Peaks to Prairies operates fully on the FLO charging network.

Map of Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario
Map of the Ivy Charging Network locations in Ontario. Image: Ivy Charging Network

Ivy Charging Network

  • Coming 2020
  • 160 fast chargers

Last month saw the official launch of the Ivy Charging Network, a joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One which will see 160 fast chargers installed throughout Ontario by the end of 2021. One hundred of those chargers will be opened at 43 stations, mostly located in rural Ontario, by September of this year. The following year will see 30 more sites with a total of 60 fast chargers installed in urban areas including Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Newfoundland and Labrador Trans-Canada Highway EV Fast-Charger route
Route 1 is the easternmost stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. Map: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
  • Coming 2020
  • 14 fast chargers

Newfoundland and Labrador has also announced plans to build 14 high speed chargers along highways in the province by the end of this year.

A more even distribution of EV charging infrastructure between urban and rural areas has been shown to increase consumer confidence in electric vehicles, and in turn, bolster rates of adoption.

Looking forward

Despite the current surge of growth in Canadian fast charging networks, there still remains much work to be done.

“Infrastructure is the biggest thing,” Peter Hatges, national sector leader, automotive at KPMG Canada, recently told BNN Bloomberg.

“That’s probably the number one thing the government can put its attention to, over incentives.”

Hatges recently authored Canada’s Automotive Future, a KPMG report examining the coming impact of electric and autonomous transport on Canada’s auto industry. The report described availability of charging infrastructure as the most significant challenge standing in the way of widespread adoption of EVs.

Indeed, as the amount of EVs on Canadian roads climbs, so too will the demand for robust and expansive charging networks. Canada has set a target of 2040 for having all new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission vehicles. As such, those looking to continue to build charging infrastructure networks in the next decade will have their work cut out for them.

Public sector funding will continue to be crucial to respond to this coming demand, including the aforementioned Natural Resources Canada incentive programs. In his mandate letter to Natural Resources Minister Marc Garneau last December, Prime Minister Trudeau also called for the building of 5,000 new electric vehicle chargers across Canada.

It will take years of continued leadership and financial commitment, however, to reach a future where fast charging infrastructure will support a fully electrified Canada.

Natural Resources Canada’s Electric Charging and Alternative Fuelling Stations Locator

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?

No.

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

FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE WET’SUWET’EN’S FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS

Blockades of rail lines, roads, ports and more have been happening across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

Public protest and round dance in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto in support of the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Jason Hargrove

Public pressure is building through mass protests, road, rail and ferry blockades as people across the country are showing their support for the Wet’suwet’en’s right to choose what happens on their unceded ancestral land.

Coastal GasLink (formerly TransCanada) is proposing a 670-kilometre pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat in British Columbia where it would be processed in a new liquefied natural gas plant on the coastal shore. A portion of the pipeline runs through these Indigenous lands.

For years, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have been saying “no” to the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline project. When the corporation started moving onto the land, the Hereditary Chiefs asked them to leave. In response, the corporation obtained a court injunction and on February 6, armed RCMP officers forcefully removed the Hereditary Chiefs, Wet’suwet’en land defenders, and their supporters from their own land.

Here are five things you should know about the Wet’suwet’en’s fight for their rights:

1. The United Nations recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada must too.

The Council of Canadians supports Indigenous sovereignty, including the implementation of the United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP clarifies the rights of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent regarding projects that impact their lands and livelihoods. It also clarifies that Indigenous Peoples will not be forcefully removed from their lands. The British Columbia provincial government passed UNDRIP into law in November 2019.

A UN committee has urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP and immediately suspend work on the pipeline. The RCMP has offered to move its detachment near the Wet’suwet’en camps to Houston, but this is contingent on the Wet’suwet’en allowing CGL to continue to build the pipeline. This is contrary to the eviction notice and would not actually be a removal, as Houston is in Wet’suwet’en territory.

2. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hold rights and title on ancestral lands that has been recognized by Canadian courts.

Infringing on this right jeopardizes the integrity of how the Canadian and British Columbian governments treat Aboriginal rights and title for the future.

In the 1997 case Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, Canadian courts recognized that the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hold rights and title over ancestral lands. The Hereditary Chiefs have spent years fighting for this recognition in Canadian courts, and achieving it lays the foundation for their ongoing stewardship of ancestral lands in line with the way their community has done for generations. CGL needs their consent to be able to continue building its natural gas pipeline.

It must also be noted that for 23 years, the Canadian government has failed to reconcile its laws and priorities to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Placing a pipeline on this land would permanently alter the on-the-ground context for the rights and title of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. It violates the principles that the Hereditary Chiefs have successfully fought to have recognized, which they have practiced for generations, and which allow them to continue to care for the land in ways consistent with their traditions. These traditions prioritize the health of the land for the future, which is important in the face of the climate crisis.

3. The authority of Hereditary Chiefs pre-date the authority of Band Councils.

Hereditary Chiefs represent different houses that make up the First Nation as a whole. Their titles are passed down through generations and pre-date colonization. According to the First Nations Drum, “the Wet’suwet’en nation is made up of five clans, and within those, 13 houses. The five hereditary chiefs representing the clans are all opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline running through their territory, while the elected council gave their go-ahead.”

The article goes on to state that, “elected chiefs and council generally hold authority over reserve lands and their infrastructure. Traditional chiefs oversee the territories and hold ceremonial and historical importance to First Nations.” This isn’t a question of taking sides, but of recognizing what the Supreme Court has decided – that it is the Hereditary Chiefs who have jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

The Indigenous electoral systems came as a result of the section 74 of the Indian Act, which Canada imposed on First Nations. “It was designed to eradicate the hereditary system and create something more recognizable for the western government,” the article adds.

Both Hereditary Chiefs and Elected Councils are working on behalf of their people and hold unique roles. CGL has exploited the differences of opinion related to this project by moving forward without consent from the full community. Using the injunction from British Columbia, CGL would permanently enforce that division and jeopardize the existing mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples to give or refuse consent.

The Wet’suwet’en Chiefs emphasize their right to protect their lands.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have maintained their use and occupancy of their lands and hereditary governance system for thousands of years. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are the Title Holders and maintain authority and jurisdiction to make decisions on unceded lands.”

4. This is a clear example of corporate capture and how corporations have the power to override fundamental rights.

Government policies are aligned with the interests of Coastal Gaslink, a corporation that will profit from this pipeline as Indigenous rights are sacrificed.

In fact, permanently undercutting the Hereditary Chiefs’ rights and title seems to have been a longstanding corporate goal of Coastal GasLink, in part indicated by the fact that CGL asked local leaders to contract out of those rights for the future. The Canadian government is choosing to hold onto their colonial mandate, mobilizing state violence through the RCMP and corporate interests, instead of aligning government practices to reflect a proper nation-to-nation relationship. Governments – provincial and federal – could choose to honour the Hereditary Chiefs’ right to say “no,” respect that they have refused the pipeline, and shift Canadian legal systems to pave the way for a substantive and just reconciliation.

These events are an example of how governments assume that “Canadian interests” – or, in this case, the interests of a corporation – are prioritized, undercutting Indigenous rights and title, no matter how clearly those rights are recognized within Canadian law.

In addition, the climate crisis means we should be saying no to new pipelines, not allowing oil and gas companies to build them. We must move away from polluting energies, not build new infrastructure to move them. The Council of Canadians has a long history of supporting people and communities that want to protect their land, water and air from polluting extractive industries such as fracked natural gas.

Council of Canadians Campaigners standing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

5. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters have called for peaceful actions in support of their concerns.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and supporters have asked for disruptive, but peaceful actions because they heighten pressure significantly for policy makers to change their decisions. The level of action makes it clear that people are no longer willing to allow colonial dispossession to take place, and that we support the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, including the ability to say “no.” The historic injustices, including denying these rights, must end, and it will take people coming together to make that happen.

This moment builds on the history of Indigenous resistance to colonial actions. It is inspiring to see people around the world joining the Wet’suwet’en’s call to action. This situation is tense and complex in many ways, but it is also a way to say that ongoing colonization and dispossession can no longer be tolerated.

Ways to add your support:

There are many ways you can get involved and add your support. If you haven’t already, please write to your Member of Parliamentphone your MP, join local solidarity actions, or read the links below to learn more.

Other Resources:

Wet’suwet’en Crisis: Whose Rule of Law? (The Tyee, Feb 14)

The Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer (First Peoples Law, Feb 13)

Industry, government pushed to abolish Aboriginal title at issue in Wet’suwet’en stand-off, docs reveal (The Narwhal, Feb 7)

Wet’suwet’en: Why Are Indigenous Rights Being Defined By An Energy Corporation? (Shiri Pasternak, Yellowhead Institute, Feb 7)

Corporations don’t seem to understand Indigenous jurisdiction (D.T. Cochrane, The Conversation, January 16, 2019)

Unist’ot’en Supporter Toolkit

A who’s who of the Wet’suwet’en pipeline conflict

From outside Wet’suwet’en Nation, conflict over gas pipeline seems complex, but key players have emerged

Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) of Tsa K’en Yex (Rafters on Beaver House) has been a prominent spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The conflict over a natural gas pipeline project in northern British Columbia has swelled across the country, drawing intense attention to the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

To outsiders, the organization and the dual Wet’suwet’en power structures can seem confusing, and parsing who has legitimate authority over the decision to support or block the pipeline can be challenging.

Along the pipeline’s route, 20 elected First Nation councils have signed benefit agreements, but across the country, Indigenous groups have taken part in demonstrations and blockades to protest the project.

Here’s a guide to some of the main Wet’suwet’en people who have emerged as leaders, spokespeople, advocates and opponents of the project, and how they fit into the nation’s elected, hereditary and corporate organizational structures.

Note that there’s the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which has an elected chief and council, and the broader Wet’suwet’en Nation, which includes both the elected bands within the colonial system of governance and a traditional hereditary clan system, which has responsibility for a broader unceded territory covering 22,000 square kilometres.

IN FAVOUR OF THE PIPELINE

Five of the six elected band councils within Wet’suwet’en Nation have signed benefit agreements with the pipeline company, Coastal GasLink (CGL), a subsidiary of TC Energy. (Hagwilget Nation is not on the pipeline route and has not signed any agreements.)

The elected councils, which also include Witset First Nation, Skin Tyee Nation, the Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band) and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, represent First Nations on reserves created by the federal government under the Indian Act.

Karen Ogen-Toews

Karen Ogen-Toews is a former elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. She signed one of the agreements to approve the pipeline, and remains a vocal supporter of the plan.

“In my heart I know I’m doing the right thing. I’ve done the right thing for our people and my heart is in the right place,” Ogen-Toews told CBC News. “If our people are living in poverty, the way to overcome it is through proper training, trades, education and a job.”

Karen Ogen-Toews is a former elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and signed one of the agreements to approve the pipeline. She now runs the First Nations LNG Alliance. (Chris Corday/CBC)

 

She’s now CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, a collection of First Nations that are taking part in and supporting liquefied natural gas developments in B.C.

Construction work on the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is underway along the Morice Forest Service Road, near Smithers, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Troy Young

Troy Young runs a Wet’suwet’en-owned company. He’s the general manager and director of Kyah Resources Inc., which is owned by a Witset First Nation Limited Partnership.

Kyah Resources has a contract to provide pipeline-related work, including clearing, heli-logging, road building, security and first aid services, according to the B.C. Supreme Court injunction decision.

Young’s comments were included in the injunction decision. He argued a delay in the pipeline construction “would have a severe impact on the local Wet’suwet’en community and the Wet’suwet’en people.”

Gloria George, Darlene Glaim and Theresa Tait-Day

Gloria George, Darlene Glaim and Theresa Tait-Day were stripped of their hereditary titles in recent years after creating the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition. They held titles in Tsaiyex (Sun House), Cassyex (Grizzly House) and Kwen Beegh Yex (House Beside the Fire), respectively, though their loss of title remains in dispute.

Tait-Day said the coalition was formed to set up a process for the hereditary groups to consider projects on Wet’suwet’en territory and negotiate agreements, according to the injunction decision.

The coalition has a board with five members, including George, Glaim and Tait-Day and two others representing all five of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary clans.

“A few house chiefs cannot make decisions for our nation. Everyone in our nation is equal and has a voice that deserves to be heard,” said Tait-Day in an affadivit filed in B.C Supreme Court.

According to the Environmental Assessment Office, the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition was not among the list of Indigenous groups CGL had to consult with on the project.

AGAINST THE PIPELINE

While the elected band councils have agreed to the pipeline construction, the hereditary chiefs have maintained opposition to the project.

They assert Wet’suwet’en territory was never ceded to the federal government, and that they have responsibility over it and to the Wet’suwet’en people who aren’t confined to the pockets of reserve governed by the elected chiefs and councils.

In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Aboriginal title rights in Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia, a decision that recognized Wet’suwet’en have a system of laws that predates colonialism.

 

The hereditary chiefs and their respective houses are nearly all represented by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en for the purposes of consultation with CGL, with the exception of Yex T’sa Wilk’us (Dark House) of Gilseyhu Clan (Big Frog Clan).

The Wet’suwet’en Nation is organized into five clans. Within each clan, there are two or three houses. It’s at the house level that chiefs hold hereditary title. Each of the 13 houses also has various chiefs below the head chief, including wing chiefs, sub-chiefs and alternate chiefs.

Currently, four of the house hereditary chief positions are vacant, leaving nine hereditary chiefs. Eight of the hereditary chiefs have clearly opposed the pipeline and this group signed an eviction letter to CGL in early January ordering workers off unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

The chiefs who signed the letter are:

    • Knedebeas (Warner William), Yex T’sa Wilk’us (Dark House)
    • Woos (Frank Alec), Cassyex (Grizzly House)
    • Madeek (Jeff Brown), Anaskaski (Where It Lies Blocking the Trail)
    • Gisday’wa (Fred Tom), Kaiyexweniits (House in the Middle of Many)
    • Hagwilnegh (Ron Mitchell), G’en Egh La Yex (House of Many Eyes)
    • Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), Tsa K’en Yex (Rafters on Beaver House)
    • Smogelgem (Warner Naziel), Tsaiyex (Sun House)
    • Kloum Khun (Alphonse Gagnon), Medzeyez (Owl House)

Samooh (Herb Naziel), hereditary chief of Kayex (Birchbark House), doesn’t appear to have voiced a position on the pipeline and did not sign the eviction notice.

Chief Na’Moks

Chief Na’Moks has frequently served as spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, and has thus risen to prominence in media coverage of the issue.

Chief Na’Moks is joined by fellow hereditary chiefs as he speaks to media at the office of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

 

“We do expect [RCMP and Coastal GasLink] to meet and discuss things,” said Na’Moks in early January in the face of an injunction order and enforcement by police.

“We need them to understand that what they are doing is destroying our lands, our ecological sites, our burial sites,” he said. “They have no comprehension of how important it is to our people.”

Chief Woos

Chief Woos has also played the role of spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, especially when the issue in question involves the land of the Grizzly House.

Woos was part of the delegation that travelled to Ontario and Quebec to meet with members of other First Nations who have established solidarity rail blockades.

Chief Woos (Frank Alec) speaks to media after a meeting with members of the Mohawk Nation on Feb. 21.(CBC)

 

In a press conference after the meeting on Jan. 21, Woos spoke out against the police enforcement of the court-ordered injunction against the blockades on Wet’suwet’en land.

“We demand the remote detachment community-industry service office established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory without our consent be immediately removed, and that the RCMP are completely removed from our territory and cease patrols on our lands. Out means out,” said Woos.

“We demand that all CGL activities cease within Wet’suwet’en territory while nation-to-nation talks are going,” he said.

Chief Smogelgem

Chief Smogelgem is central to one of the three blockades, or checkpoints created in opposition to the pipeline. Along with the title Smogelgem of Tsaiyex (Sun House), Warner Naziel holds the hereditary title of Toghestiy of Medzeyex (Owl House).

He is one of only two named defendants in the injunction against the Wet’suwet’en blockades along the pipeline route.

Chief Smogelgem (Warner Naziel), left, and Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson, right, are the only two people named in a B.C. Supreme Court injunction order granted to Coastal GasLink. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

 

Naziel helped set up an original blockade in 2012, according to the B.C. Supreme Court injunction decision, and assisted the emerging group known as Unist’ot’en with trapping, hunting, gathering and logistical support.

Freda Huson

Freda Huson has served as spokesperson for Yex T’sa Wilk’us (Dark House) and Unist’ot’en. She holds the hereditary title Howihkat within Dark House.

Unist’ot’en is a camp created by Wet’suwet’en pipeline opponents to strategically reoccupy land along the pipeline route. It’s associated with Dark House.

Huson, along with Naziel, is named in the injunction as a central character in the opposition to the CGL pipeline.

There are three camps set up by Wet’suwet’en people opposing the CGL pipeline along the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C. (CBC)

Molly Wickham

Molly Wickham is a member of the Gitdumden clan who speaks for the group behind the Gidim’ten Access Point at 44 km, along the Morice Forest Service Road. The B.C. Supreme Court ordered an injunction barring people from obstructing CGL workers at the camp, resulting in 14 arrests on Jan. 9.

Soon afterward, Wickham coordinated the construction of a new camp at the 27-kilometre mark near the RCMP checkpoint, as directed by the hereditary chiefs. She is seen in a video posted on social media Jan. 19 appealing for help from supporters.

Molly Wickham speaks to supporters in a video posted on Facebook on Jan. 19. Wickham coordinated the construction of a camp known as Wet’suwet’en Access Point at 27 km on the Morice Forest Service Road.(Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory/Facebook)

 

“Come out, be self-sustaining. Be dressed for the weather. Come to 27 km for a day. Come to 27 km for a few days. Come and support us on this front line on Wet’suwet’en territory,” said Wickham as a generator hummed in the background.

According to the injunction decision, Wickham made public statements that the people occupying the camps were doing it to prevent CGL from completing the work required to get permits and authorizations, “and to ultimately prevent the pipeline project from being completed.”

Rob Alfred

Rob Alfred is identified in court documents as being associated with a group calling itself Tsayu Land Defenders, which established one of the Wet’suwet’en camps along the pipeline right-of-way.

Rob Alfred, left, takes part in a rally alongside Chief Na’Moks and Antoinette Austin in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 10.(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

 

Alfred holds the hereditary title Ste ohn Tsiy under Chief Na’Moks in Tsa K’en Yex (Rafters on Beaver House), and is active on Twitter using the handle @showmekittys.

“This isn’t just about a pipeline. It’s about Indigenous title,” Alfred told CBC News. “We wouldn’t have this conflict if the governments would step up and deal with that issue. I do wholeheartedly believe the project won’t be completed as is.”

SOURCE

11 things you need to know about the oilsands as Teck abandons plans for Frontier mine

Image result for 11 things you need to know about the oilsands as Teck abandons plans for Frontier mine

As the mining giant walks away from its controversial open-pit project proposal, nearly a decade in the making, some say the news is proof of the oilsands’ end. But the Alberta resource, home of 96 per cent of Canada’s oil reserves, may not be going away any time soon

This was supposed to be the week when the federal government made a decision on a massive new oilsands mine — one that, no matter the outcome, was sure to aggrandize a roiling, existential debate over the future of the oilsands themselves.

There has been no shortage of headlines swirling around Alberta’s oilsands and the fate of the Frontier mine: Some warned that approval would “kill [Canada’s] emissions targets.

Others, like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, said a rejection meant Canada is aiming to “phase out” the oilsands.

On Feb. 23, with just a few days until the decision deadline, Teck Resources, one of Canada’s largest mining companies, pulled out.

It was an unexpected move, even though Teck itself had long raised doubts about whether the Frontier project would ever be built, approval or not — particularly as it relied on oil prices that are much higher than current market reality.

In a letter to Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, Teck’s CEO Donald Lindsay offered myriad reasons for the decision, including that “global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change.”

Advocates, political leaders and pundits were quick to weigh in.

For Premier Kenney, the surprise pull-out was a result of “federal regulatory uncertainty and the current lawless opposition to resource development.”

For Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, it was “devastating news” and a result of the way “Justin Trudeau’s inaction has emboldened radical activists.”

Alberta’s former NDP Minister of Environment Shannon Phillips said the company pulled out of the proposal because “Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan has been dismantled” by the UCP.

For others, it was a “a signal victory,” a result of “unprecedented public backlash” and “great organizing” — or the logical outcome, because “high-cost, high-carbon projects are no longer economically realistic in [a] world that is taking climate change seriously.”

With so much political spin swirling around this latest development, we thought it was a good time to pull back for just a minute and recap what else is going on in Alberta’s oilsands.

We hear so much about them, both across the country and around the world.

Few of us have seen them for ourselves.

Read on for an overview of just how much oil the oilsands produces, how much carbon pollution it emits, what’s actually happening on (and under) the ground, how the whole thing fits (or not) into Canada’s climate goals — and a little tidbit on another time a massive oilsands project was cancelled at the 11th hour.

1. Does all of Canada’s oil come from the oilsands?

Whether through conventional wells, fracking, or off-shore drilling, Canada’s vast oil reserves can be accessed in a myriad of ways. But 96 per cent of Canada’s proven oil reserves are located in the oilsands, according to Natural Resources Canada.

The oilsands accounted for 64 per cent of Canada’s total oil production in 2018 — that’s 2.9 million barrels per day.

2. So, what does oil production in the oilsands actually look like?

The Alberta oilsands are most well-known for their massive open-pit mines and associated tailings ponds. They are criticized as being “the largest (and most destructive) industrial project in human history” and for looking “like a war zone.”

Open-pit mining in the Alberta oilsands requires digging up boreal forest in order to extract vast quantities of bitumen. The Frontier mine would have covered an area of 292 square kilometres roughly 110 kilometres north of the oilsand’s industrial heart near Fort McMurray. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC

But not all oil from the oilsands comes from the open-pit mines for which the industry is famous — it’s actually just under half of production.

Currently, more than half — 53 per cent — of oil produced from the oilsands is extracted through another method: in-situ technology, which is very different from open-pit mining. In-situ oil development involves drilling two horizontal wells deep below the surface. In steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), the most common in-situ method used in the oilsands, steam is pumped into one well and oil is pumped out the other.

Nexen Long Lake SAGD oilsands

Bitumen from the Alberta oilsands is extracted using steam assisted gravity drainage or SAGD, an in-situ method, at Nexen’s Long Lake facility. Photo: Jason Woodhead / Flickr

In-situ production typically involves a lot less land disturbance (no strip mining), but is responsible for more carbon pollution per barrel produced.

Only 20 per cent of the oil reserves found in the oilsands can be accessed through open-pit mining. The other 80 per cent is too deep below the surface for open pit extraction so it is accessed through in-situ production.

3. What was the Frontier mine project, again?

There are already seven open-pit mining projects in the oilsands. Had it been approved, Teck’s Frontier oilsands mine would have been the eighth.

The Frontier mine was one of the largest, if not the largest, oilsands mines ever proposed in Alberta.

Open-pit mining requires the removal of what’s known in the industry as “overburden.” In northern Alberta, the overburden consists of boreal forest, wetlands, peatland and soil.

The Frontier project would have involved permanently stripping away 14,000 hectares of wetland, 3,000 hectares of peatland and 3,000 hectares of old-growth forest.

Proposed site of Teck's Frontier Mine 30 km south of Wood Buffalo National Park. If built, it would be the largest mine ever constructed in Alberta's oilsands.

A small body of water at the proposed site of Teck Resources’ Frontier Mine, 30 kilometres south of Wood Buffalo National Park. It would have been one of the largest mines ever constructed in Alberta’s oilsands. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC

4. So, the tailings ponds situation. What’s that all about?

Since the oilsands started operations in the 1960s, an estimated 1.5 trillion litres of tailings — a mixture of waste water, clay, sand and petrochemical residues — have accumulated in containment ponds built near oilsands operations.

Tailings ponds, contained behind large dams, are designed to prevent industrial waste water considered highly toxic, including arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury, from contaminating the local environment.

Alberta’s tailings pond are enormous, spanning some 220 square kilometres, nearly a quarter the size of the city of Calgary or twice the size of Vancouver.

One single tailings pond, located at a Syncrude operation, is contained by the largest dam in the world, holding 540,000,000 cubic meters of material.

Tailings ponds in the oilsands are unlined and there have been documented cases of contamination leaking from these pits into the Athabasca River. NAFTA even conducted an investigation into the threat tailings ponds pose to the environment.

There are currently no known methods for cleaning up the tailings ponds, although industry has considered ‘capping’ the unlined pits with fresh water to create ‘end pit lakes,’ a proposal that has been heavily criticized.

The group Environmental Defence advocates against the creation of any new tailings ponds in the oilsands, “until industry successfully demonstrates that it is capable of properly reclaiming them.”

In the last 50 years, Alberta’s oilsands companies have only received reclamation certificates for about 0.1 per cent of the total land disturbed, according to the Pembina Institute. Industry reports it has put reclamation efforts into about seven per cent of land affected by tailings — but it has not yet received final regulatory certification to confirm that.

Alberta’s tailings pond are enormous, spanning some 220 square kilometres, nearly a quarter the size of the city of Calgary or twice the size of Vancouver. Photo: Alex MacLean

5. What impact do the oilsands have on the climate?

Crude oil produced in the oilsands is the most emissions-intensive oil in North America.

The Oil-Climate Index, which ranks various sources of crude oil on the continent, consistently places Canada’s Athabasca sweet synthetic crude oil at the top of its ranking of oil sources arranged by carbon emissions per barrel of oil produced.

According to the government of Alberta, the oilsands are currently responsible for 70 megatonnes of emissions annually.

To put that in the national context, in 2017, Canada’s total carbon pollution was just over 716 megatonnes, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the group representing the oil and gas industry, says on its website that oilsands developments “account for 10 per cent of Canada’s [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

The Canadian Energy Research Institute — funded in part by industry associations — estimates the oilsands will be responsible for 100 megatonnes of emissions by 2026, a substantial increase when the country has committed to a dramatic overall reduction.

But, increasingly, estimates of oilsands carbon pollution provided by the provincial government and industry are being called into question.

6. Are oilsands emissions estimates accurate?

It depends on whom you ask.

There are concerns that the Alberta government and industry are underestimating the total carbon pollution coming from the oilsands.

Recent reports suggest that the federal government disputes Alberta’s estimates of emissions stemming from the oilsands, pegging the total at 87 megatonnes this year, nearly 30 per cent higher than Alberta government estimates.

study published last April in the journal Nature, led by air-quality scientists with the federal government, also found the emissions associated with oilsands production were much higher than industry reported.

Using aircraft to collect on-site data, the researchers found significant “discrepancies” — to the tune of 30 per cent — between what they were measuring and what companies were reporting.

“The overall impact of the differences between measured and reported [greenhouse gas] emissions found here is large,” they wrote.

Canada has set ambitious targets to reduce nationwide carbon pollution — goals which will leave the oilsands behind if rapid changes aren’t made.

Rising steam and smoke at the Syncrude Mildred Lake upgrade refi

Syncrude’s Mildred Lake refinery in the oilsands. Photo: Alex MacLean

7. What are we doing about all this carbon pollution?

Canada’s climate commitments peg our mid-century greenhouse gas emissions target at 80 per cent below 2005 levels, which is the equivalent of a total national greenhouse gas emissions budget of 150 megatonnes by 2050.

This means the oilsands, if changes aren’t made, could account for more than one-half of the country’s entire carbon budget.

A December poll found 76 per cent of Canadians think the country needs to be “doing more” when it comes to climate change, while 64 per cent said “Canada should capitalize on the global need for fossil fuels.”

Climate change was reported to be the number one issue in the most recent federal election.

But climate action is tricky in Canada, where the provinces exercise jurisdiction over natural resource projects and their environmental impacts. Canada has requested Alberta impose provincial restrictions on oilsands emissions but the province has been slow to respond (see #8).

Syncrude's upgrading facility at the company's Mildred Lake oilsands site. Photo: Alex MacLean

Syncrude’s upgrading facility at the company’s Mildred Lake oilsands site. Photo: Alex MacLean

8. Wasn’t there talk of capping the total emissions of the oilsands?

Yes, but there’s a catch.

Alberta’s previous NDP government passed legislation in 2016 introducing a 100-megatonne cap on total emissions from the oilsands.

But no regulations were ever introduced to set that cap in motion. Kenney originally made it clear he intended to scrap the cap, but has since said he’s “prepared to be pragmatic.”

The government of Alberta’s website still says it will “seek the advice of the industry, regulators, environmental organizations and Indigenous and Metis communities on the implementation of the 100 megatonne limit,” although there are still no plans in place for regulations.

Wilkinson recently told CBC, “if you take all of the various projects that have already been approved in the oilsands and you assume all of them get built, you’re talking about 130 megatonnes.” He is pushing for regulations to be developed to ensure this doesn’t happen.

As former Natural Resources Minister Amerjeet Sohi put it, “a cap without regulations is meaningless.”

Just last week, Wilkinson asked his provincial counterpart in Alberta to “follow through and fully implement its legislation to limit emissions to 100 million tonnes from the oilsands.”

But even if emissions from the oilsands were capped at 100 megatonnes, they would still take up two-thirds of Canada’s total emissions budget by 2050.

9. Is the industry getting better at reducing carbon pollution?

You’ve heard it once and you’ll hear it again. The oil and gas industry and its supporters (like the Alberta government) say the emissions intensity of oil produced in the oilsands is decreasing.

That was stated in an open letter signed by the CEOs of three major oil and gas companies last year. “We’ve reduced the emissions intensity in the oilsands by about 30 per cent over the past two decades,” they wrote, adding “a number of oilsands operations are producing oil with a smaller greenhouse gas impact than the global average.”

But the truth is more complicated.

As Macleans magazine put it in a 2019 article about emissions trends in the oilsands: “in the race to tell a better story, oilsands advocates — including the ones elected to political office — will reach for the best-sounding proclamations they can extract from the sludge of data.”

Yes, the oilsands have become more efficient at producing usable crude from the thick sludge that is mined at the oilsands — a process companies have been working on for half a century.

How the carbon pollution from a barrel of oilsands crude compares to crude oil from other parts of the world is a different question, which has been studied more extensively in recent years.

As a 2019 article published in the journal Science put it, “extraction and processing of heavy oils and oilsands with current technologies is very energy and carbon-intensive.” And, the authors noted, “the ability to reduce the intensities is challenging.”

The same paper found oil produced in Canada (remember that the majority of Canadian oil comes from the oilsands) was far more carbon intensive than the global average.

Canada’s oil ranked fourth in the world in terms of emissions intensity, trailing only behind Venezuela, Cameroon and Algeria.

Decisions by investors, from central banks to pensions to global investment funds, to pull out of oilsands projects have revolved around the relative intensity of emissions from oilsands crude.

10. Is producing oil from the oilsands economical?

Producing oil from Alberta’s oilsands is expensive, and some economists have their doubts about how long it will remain profitable.

“One thing that many people fail to realize is just how important the global price of oil is for the level of economic activity in Alberta’s oil and gas sector,” Jennifer Winter, assistant professor of economics at the University of Calgary, told The Narwhal last year.

As Jeff Rubin, former chief economist with CIBC World Markets, previously told The Narwhal, it all depends on world oil prices, which are by no means guaranteed.

“Look at the returns you’ve gotten from the oilsands over the last five to six years,” Rubin said. “And consider how viable that resource will be if, in fact, the world does mitigate climate change.”

He noted that global action on climate change in the long-term could further reduce world oil demand, pushing prices lower.

Alberta oil doesn’t do well when prices are low. It’s more expensive to produce than in other jurisdictions, like Saudi Arabia.

Rubin also told The Narwhal that oil in other jurisdictions like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will be economically viable for much longer than Alberta’s high-cost oilsands. “That’s the kind of oil that’d be the most commercially sustainable, if in fact we’re going to mitigate climate change,” he said.

All of this leaves the economic future of Alberta’s oilsands up for debate.

Open-pit mining Alberta oilsands

Heavy haulers in the oilsands mines carry loads of up 400 tons and cost approximately $5-6 million each. Hauler tires, with a lifespan of about on year, cost $50,000 each. Photo: Alex MacLean

11. Isn’t this all kind of … déjà vu?

Yep.

“The Canadian government … is totally responsible for the failure of the [oilsands project],” wrote a Globe and Mail reader in 1982. At that time, the country was up in arms about the recent cancellation of the Alsands oilsands mine, first proposed in December 1978 and approved in 1979. The company said economic concerns were responsible for the cancellation.

The reader went on: “Almost no one expected the government to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, but kill it they did. Now what? How much longer is the Canadian public going to put up with an interventionist government that has a growing adversary relationship with business?”

The Alsands project had promised thousands of jobs and billions in economic revenue.

Almost forty years later, it’s hard not to see some parallels between that ill-fated project and Teck’s proposal to build the massive Frontier oilsands mine in northern Alberta.

Like Frontier, Alsands was hailed as a cure to economic woes. Its success was seen as a litmus test for the future of huge oil projects. And it failed.

A 1983 article in the Globe and Mail blamed the project’s cancellation, at least in part, on “a deteriorating world oil market.”

Headlines about Alsands project ran in papers across the continent, including the New York Times, which wrote, “Alsands was one of several projects that Canada was counting on to revive its lagging economy.”

And sweeping statements about the future of the oilsands were common, too. The 1982 headline in the Edmonton Journal asked if this meant the “end of megaprojects.”

Here we are again — but this time the project cancellation comes in the midst of a much larger and potentially game-changing debate about how the oilsands fit into Canada’s plans to combat the growing climate crisis. SOURCE

Clearing the air on Teck Frontier: Here are the expected benefits — and harms — of the oilsands project

Cabinet’s difficult decision made more precarious as project becomes a litmus test for climate and unity

In this file photo from Jan. 22, 2020, supporters and opponents of an oilsands mine proposed by Teck Resources rally outside the Calgary company’s offices. (Julie Prejet/Radio-Canada)

A lot of ink is currently being spilled over the federal government’s upcoming decision to approve — or not — Teck Resources’ Frontier oilsands mine project.

Premier Jason Kenney and members of his cabinet insist that the Frontier project is critical to Alberta’s economic prosperity. The Mining Association of Canada’s Pierre Graton stresses that Teck completed a  “world-class, independent and rigorous assessment” and that the project was determined to be in the public interest by the joint review panel (JRP) that reviewed it.

Environmental groups argue that approval is fundamentally inconsistent with Canada’s climate change commitments.

The project is being framed as both a test of Prime Minister Trudeau’s resolve to combat climate change, and a referendum on the federal government’s support for Alberta’s economic interests and its commitment to national unity.

Our purpose here is not to take sides, but rather to lay out the facts and relevant legal context as clearly as possible so that Albertans — and indeed all Canadians — can come to their own informed views about the desirability, or not, of this project and what, if any, larger importance to attach to the federal cabinet’s eventual decision on the future of the mine.

The JRP did indeed conclude that Frontier is in the “public interest,” but that conclusion speaks only to the provincial side of the story.

Under the federal regime enacted by the previous Conservative government (the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012), the JRP was restricted to determining whether the project is or is not likely to result in “significant adverse environmental effects.”

The JRP concluded that such effects are likely, and further, that they “weighed heavily” upon its assessment.

‘Justified in the circumstances’?

Although Premier Kenney has said that approval should have been automatic, the legislation plainly requires that cabinet first determine whether such effects are “justified in the circumstances.”

How significant are the adverse environmental impacts?

Frontier is among the most destructive oilsands projects assessed to date.

The project is large, both in production and surface disturbance, and the JRP concluded that numerous significant adverse environmental effects were likely, including on wetlands, old-growth forests, wetland and old-growth reliant species at risk (including Canada lynx and woodland caribou), the Ronald Lake bison herd, and the asserted rights, use of lands and culture of Indigenous groups who use the project area.

Map showing the location of the Ronald Lake Bison Range in relation to the proposed Teck Frontier oilsands project. (CBC News Graphics)

 

Further, these effects will be exacerbated when combined with other existing, approved and planned projects in the area.

Both its surface water management and mine closure plans are currently prohibited by Alberta’sWater Act, in addition to being based on unproven long-term solutions.

Frontier’s remediation and reclamation plans, which like all of its predecessors must address the contentious issue of the project’s tailings, are marked by a high degree of uncertainty.

Teck’s plan would see 240 million cubic metres (about 100,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) of fluid fine tailings accumulate on the landscape by 2037.

Tailings ponds and other oilsands reclamation liabilities are a serious problem in Alberta. The JRP acknowledged these concerns and the possibility that, without regulatory reform, “the province is at risk of having to pay substantial amounts of public money.”

Substantial is right.

Billions in liability, even after end of mine’s lifespan

Teck estimates that reclamation liabilities on the site will peak at $4.3 billion in 2037, and that $2.9 billion of reclamation liability will remain when the mine ceases production in 2066.

Teck’s reclamation plan requires “45 to 65 years or more” of post-closure care. Sixty-five years after the mine’s expected closure would be the year 2131.

These plans are directly relevant to cabinet’s decision, since tailings ponds affect migratory birds and endangered species, and are known to seep into groundwater and adjacent waterways, all of which fall under federal jurisdiction.

Tailings drain into a pond at the Syncrude oilsands mine facility near Fort McMurray in this file photo. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

 

Teck’s mine closure plans also call for end-pit lakes to remain on the landscape. These lakes, filled with water drawn from the Athabasca river, are expected to be completely integrated into the local water system, including discharges into the Athabasca River that would require federal permits.

The problem is that we still don’t know if this is going to work.

In what can only be described as a traditional oilsands shrug, the JRP found that the information provided by Teck was sufficient “given end-pit lakes are many years away for the Frontier project and the understanding of end-pit lakes is improving with ongoing research.”

One read of the recent Alberta Energy Regulator decision for Syncrude’s Mildred Lake Mine tailings plan will tell you that our understanding is indeed improving, but not always in a positive way: “The sustainability of [one of the end-pit lakes on the site] with or without tailings placed in the pit is uncertain,” the regulator found. Hope is not an environmental management plan.

Greenhouse gases will also weigh heavily on cabinet’s decision.

How Frontier actually compares on emissions intensity

The JRP did not make a final determination with respect to the project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, estimated at 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

“Determining Canada’s ability to meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not part of the panel’s mandate,” we are told. That may well be true, but determining whether these emissions are significant or not definitely was part of its mandate, and its omission here hampers cabinet’s decision-making, which is supposed to be informed by the JRP’s expertise.

How emissions-intensive would this project be? Teck’s CEO Don Lindsay recently claimed that “it’s not dirty oil,” since “the carbon emissions are half the industry average in North America per barrel.”

Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck Resources, is seen in this file photo. (Lyle Stafford/Reuters)

 

This claim was quickly picked up by Premier Kenney. Frontier barrels, he claimed, would be “half the carbon emissions of the average North American petroleum project.”

These statements are wrong, and mischaracterize Teck’s own claims that Frontier will be among the lowest GHG intensity oilsands projects, with a lower emissions intensity than about half of all oil refined in the United States.

A careful read of the evidence directionally supports Teck’s claim — Frontier would rank around the middle of the pack for barrels consumed in the U.S. — but both Lindsay’s and Kenney’s claims that it would be half the intensity of the average barrel consumed are incorrect.

In this case, a middle-of-the-pack ranking means Frontier barrels would be just about “average” emissions intensity, not half the average.

What about the other side of the ledger?

Thousands of jobs, billions in taxes

If built, which Teck itself has admitted is uncertain even with approval, Frontier is estimated to generate $70 billion in government revenues and create 7,000 full-time jobs.

Teck uses highly dubious economic impact analysis to justify the project. That notwithstanding, the same analysis, were it to be re-done today, would almost certainly generate lower values.

The figures in the application are based on 2011 oil market projections, and forecast oil prices have declined significantly since that time. While some have argued that the investment could be viable if average oil prices are above $65 WTI (assuming very small discounts on heavy crude oil), that still positions the project as a multibillion-dollar bet on pipelines being built and oil prices being much higher than we see today for most of the next 50 years.

So what if prices aren’t high? Isn’t that for the company to deal with? Shouldn’t the government let the market sort it out?

Not so fast.

Whether Frontier’s significant adverse environmental effects are “justified in the circumstances” appears to depend largely on the positive economic ones. The JRP is explicit: “the economic benefits for Alberta and Canada and the expected social and economic benefits for Indigenous communities outweigh the adverse environmental effects.”

The environmental damage doesn’t change with the oil price, but economic benefits do. As oil prices change, so do the taxes, royalties and returns to investors that inform the benefit side of the equation.

These likely benefits have dropped — a lot.

Updating those forecasts

Moving from a 2011 oil price forecast to a current equivalent would reduce expected revenues from the Frontier project (all else equal) by about a quarter, while reducing taxes, royalties and return on capital each by about a third.

If oil prices follow the $65 plus inflation break-even cited by the Canadian Energy Centre, that would reduce revenues by almost two thirds, and taxes, royalties and returns to investors by about three quarters.

At today’s oil prices, plus inflation, revenues would be reduced by three quarters relative to 2011 forecast levels, and taxes, royalties and returns on capital would be reduced by about 95 per cent.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

 

Cabinet’s decision is far from automatic. It must weigh the project’s significant adverse environmental effects against its (relatively uncertain) benefits and determine whether the former are justified.

Proponents also expect it to render a decision that will be able to withstand judicial scrutiny in the event of a legal challenge. While Canadian courts generally take a deferential approach to such decisions, the case law does suggest that significant changes in the original circumstances surrounding the project or material defects in the underlying report can undermine cabinet’s decision, if not taken into account.

At its core, it’s a problem as old as our environmental assessment system itself: elected officials must decide whether a project’s benefits outweigh its significant environmental harms. Whatever cabinet decides, we should all be able to agree that we’d be worse off if such decisions ever became merely automatic.  SOURCE

‘A demonstration of unity’: Ontario teachers holding protest at legislature in province-wide strike

Job action by 4 major unions shuts down public and Catholic schools

Catholic teachers represented by OECTA participated in a one-day strike on Jan. 21. The province’s public and Catholic teachers are on strike Friday. (Maria Rodriguez Espina/CBC)

The unions representing Ontario’s public and Catholic school teachers kicked off a day of protest they said is aimed at sending a message to Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Today’s mass protest at the legislature coincides with a province-wide strike that will leave about two million students out of class.

“Here’s my challenge, Doug Ford, Stephen Lecce: come out of this building today and talk to the 30,000 people,” said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).

Bischof said today’s action demonstrates unity and should force the government back to the bargaining table.

“I think today it will accomplish a demonstration of unity,” Bischof said Friday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“When you have a government that claims there is a division between the rank-and-file leadership and the union membership when no such division exists — when you have a government that claims that there is a division between parents and educators when overwhelmingly parents support not just our positions but our actions — then I think a demonstration of unity is absolutely vital to show that the government’s messaging is false … and it puts additional pressure on them to get back to the table.”

The job action by the four major teachers unions in Ontario shuts down schools across the province on Friday, leaving about two million students out of class. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

 

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the French public teachers’ union are actively bargaining with the province and both met with provincial negotiators on Thursday. But the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) last met with the province on Jan. 31, and Bischof’s union has not been at the table with the province since mid-December.

“The only place to take the wage issue off the table is in fact at the table. And given that the government has not signalled to the mediator that they’re prepared to bargain productively there, we haven’t been at the table for over two months,” Bischof told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“When we get to the table we’ll have the opportunity to do the kind of creative problem solving that’s meant to occur in negotiations but we need a willing partner.”

‘It’s difficult on the kids,’ parent says

Neha Hans, while dropping off her son at a day camp in Mississauga, said she hopes the unions and the government come to a resolution soon.

“It’s been … bad because we just have to find day camps every single time to get to, and it’s difficult on the kids,” she told CBC News.

“One day it’s school, the other day it’s not. Getting them settled back in school is very, very difficult.”

Parent Neha Hans says she hopes the unions and the government reach an agreement soon. (CBC)

 

This is the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education unions will all be out of their classrooms on the same day, the unions say.

Lecce called Friday’s job action “deeply concerning,” particularly when considering the impact on parents and children.

“I think the mission of the government, given the parents of this province have been very clear that they don’t want their children’s education to be compromised and they don’t want their lives to be upended, is that all parties have an obligation to stay at the table and get a deal,” Lecce told Metro Morning.

Lecce said he wants union leaders to heed the concerns of parents who want their children in school.

“We want to get a deal. Obviously this cannot go on forever and I think the people of this province have been clear that this is having real impacts on their lives. We do not lose sight of that,” he said.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he wants union leaders to heed the concerns of parents who want their children in school. (CBC)

 

Members of the four unions in Peel Region also plan to hold a mass picket, with teachers set to form a 30-kilometre line from Caledon down to the lakeshore in Mississauga.

Lecce has been signalling flexibility on class sizes — one of the most contentious issues in ongoing negotiations, particularly for secondary teachers. He has said he would rather make further moves on class sizes than on compensation for teachers.

CBC Toronto will bring you special live coverage of the teachers’ strike action at Queen’s Park starting at 12 p.m. ET. You can stream the special on the CBC News app, cbc.ca/toronto and on CBC Gem.

(CBC)

 

Premier Doug Ford’s government announced last spring it would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate.

Lecce has since offered to instead increase average high school class sizes to 25 and require two online learning courses, but the unions have been pressing for no class size increases and for no mandatory e-learning courses.

All the teachers’ unions are asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, while the government won’t budge beyond offering one per cent. It passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years.

The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights. SOURCE

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Zero-waste grocery shopping is tricky but not impossible

Around 800 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually, ending up in the bellies of wildlife and along shorelines, according to Plastic Oceans International. And despite recycling programs, a lot of what you chuck in the blue bin can still end up in landfills.

But zero-waste living is a growing movement. Thousands of social mediainfluencers are sharing their trashless journeys. Plastic-free shops are popping up and the phrase BYOC — bring your own container — is becoming normalized.

So last week, I tried a new diet. The only rule? Don’t buy anything that comes in disposable packaging. That meant no containers, bags, wrappers or jugs.

I had some prior experience with this. A few years ago, I did Plastic Free July. It was a challenge for me — and food was the main culprit.

Many of us in Canada are used to one-stop grocery shopping. Going plastic-free, however, requires more planning and time.

I’m fortunate to live in Toronto, which has a number of stores that encourage a BYOC mentality, carrying the basics you’d find at a big-box store, minus the plastic. Many more have popped up around Canada, including in VancouverCharlottetown and Sudbury.

I had all the supplies I needed: reusable bags, containers and jars of various sizes — things most people have in their homes anyway. And so off I went on my plastic-free odyssey.

Quick win: fruits and veggies

The easiest feats were in the produce aisle, given that most fruits and vegetables have a protective layer. I used some cotton bags I had for smaller items such as brussels sprouts. Otherwise, I left them unpacked until weighed and paid for.

A timeless idea: buying in bulk

Bulk Barn has a reusable container program that allows customers to shop with their own containers — as a result, grains, spices and snacks were no sweat to gather. (Bulk Barn sometimes even offers discounts for BYOC.) Many other stores also have bulk sections, but may not be as accommodating. I found the bulk option was cheaper than buying these items in the grocery aisle, and led to more conscious consumption.

Trickier: Proteins and bread

For meat, bread and cheese, I visited a number of specialty shops as well as a major grocery store. All of the stores I visited accommodated my requests. I used a cloth bag for bread, which had to be bought fresh from a bakery. When buying meat and cheese, the employees weighed my items prior to placing them in my container and then labelled the price.

That said, my items were almost double the cost of the pre-packaged equivalents, though fresher and higher quality in most cases. I also had to be sure to thoroughly clean these containers with soap and hot water after use, especially if I had stored raw meat in them.

Challenge: Oils, condiments, most beverages

I didn’t find any waste-free alternatives to cooking oils or most condiments. Most beverages were off-limits, too, seeing as they come in cans, bottles and cartons.

I spotted only one option for milk — a brand with a glass jug deposit program. But since I stick to plant-based milks as a personal preference, that was out. Making it from scratch using a nut milk bag is one alternative, but it wasn’t a realistic option for me. I caved mid-week and bought a carton of oat milk for my loose-leaf black tea and oatmeal at breakfast.

Another challenge: Anything instant or frozen

Frozen and instant foods are often wrapped in multiple layers of packaging, and that looks unlikely to change.

My takeaway

I concluded that the only solution for the problem items would be to make my own. But I can’t be a one-woman brewmaster, chef, baker, barista, juicer and confectioner.

I can, however, transition away from trash by incorporating new habits over time.

“The material is not the enemy. It’s our addiction to single-use,” said Vancouver-based marine plastic researcher Rhiannon Moore, who runs a blog documenting her low-waste lifestyle. “I want to support farmers and producers that are making things with less waste and travelling a shorter distance to get to me.” SOURCE

Pipeline approval record reveals conflict with Wet’suwet’en years in the making

Documents from B.C. approval process reveal fraught battle behind conflict roiling the country

Na’Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, is one of the hereditary chiefs with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have made clear their objections to the Coastal GasLink pipeline from the start of the project. (Dan Mesec)

A battle between the hereditary chiefs of a B.C. First Nation and a company planning to build a natural gas pipeline through their territory in the northwest of the province has exploded into the Canadian consciousness with cross-country protests.

Rail blockades that began earlier this month in opposition to the project have crippled the country’s transportation network, but the paper trail behind Coastal GasLink’s pipeline approval reveals a conflict years in the making.

The root of the current clash can be found in reasons given for an environmental assessment certificate issued by B.C.’s ministers of environment and natural gas development on Oct. 23, 2014.

The province acknowledged concerns from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and other Indigenous groups — and gave the green light to the project anyway.

The very next entry in the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) approval record is a Wet’suwet’en “title and rights” report that same year telegraphing the tensions that would block railroads and ports more than five years later.

It concludes that the chiefs can’t rely on the province, the EAO or the company behind the project — TransCanada — and its technology “to somehow protect our aboriginal title.”

And they draw on a string of broken promises from the time “the first white settler fenced” their lands to the establishment of B.C.’s biggest silver mine in Wet’suwet’en territory and onward.

“The promises have continued, but the devastation of our lands and resources have continued without any long lasting protection and agreement with the Crown,” the report said.

‘Issues, concerns and interests’

The EAO record of the Coastal GasLink project contains thousands of pages of documents filed in relation to the proposal to build the 650 km natural gas pipeline from the community of Groundbirch, 40 km west of Dawson Creek, to LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export facility near Kitimat.

The company’s initial project description was filed in October 2012.

Supporters in Regina voice their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, whose opposition to the natural gas pipeline has drawn protest across the country. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

 

It promised to “build and maintain positive long-term relationships” with potentially affected Indigenous groups, ensure that “input and concerns are gathered, understood and integrated” and to “ensure that concerns and issues with respect to environmental or socio-economic effects … are addressed, as appropriate.”

Although the project ultimately gained the support of 20 elected band councils along the route, the office of the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs has never wavered in its objections.

The first Aboriginal Consultation report, filed in May 2013, details 31 categories of “issues, concerns and interests” ranging from the potential for adverse effects on fisheries, wildlife and water and air quality to concerns about fracking, caribou, medicinal plants and confidentiality around the sharing of traditional knowledge.

‘Lack of capacity, funding and expertise’

Notes filed from a regional meeting held in Prince George in November 2013 give a sense of the challenges facing all First Nations when it comes to environmental assessments and the multitude of companies like TransCanada looking to satisfy requirements for projects.

“There is a lack of capacity, funding and expertise in First Nations to meet what is required,” reads one comment.

“We are inundated by requests: letters, meetings, funding proposals. How do we engage to meet these timelines? We don’t want to miss the opportunity to intervene and disagree.”

This picture, filed as part of a Wet’suwet’en rights and title report, dates back to the 1890s and the construction of a stone trap to harvest salmon in Wet’suwet’en territory. (Office of the Wet’suwet’en)

 

Representatives from a dozen First Nations attended that meeting, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation — a Burns Lake-area band of around 300 people that is a different entity from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. One of the questions was whether the meeting itself was considered consultation.

“There are different levels of consultation,” was the response.

“The courts have found that government does not clarify process very well, so this session is designed to clarify and to hear concerns and have a follow up. This is part of the consultation process, but it is too narrow to be enough to fulfil our entire duty to consult.”

‘Life and death’ for Wet’suwet’en

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en sent EAO manager Brian Westgate a letter in April 2014, six months before the office gave a green light to the pipeline.

At that time, Wet’suwet’en environmental co-ordinator Mike Ridsdale wrote that they considered the pipeline application “incomplete.”

A First Nations protester stands in front of a transport in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

 

“It does not contain sufficient information specific to Wet’suwet’en cultural needs, and it does not consider the specific impacts to Wet’suwet’en territories, which also impacts Wet’suwet’en rights,” Ridsdale wrote.

“The potential for significant adverse impacts upon the Wet’suwet’en environment, culture and constitutionally protected rights is real.”

The EAO responded, citing spreadsheets of data collected to allay the fears of the hereditary chiefs.

But three weeks before the province gave the project ministerial approval, Ridsdale wrote again, complaining that the company’s data lacked “complexity, value and significance” to speak to issues that were “life and death” for the Wet’suwet’en.

Ridsdale claimed the “lack of information” was “an injustice to the Wet’suwet’en people” saying that the significance and magnitude of the pipeline’s potential effects couldn’t be determined because of the weakness of the information.

“How can the Wet’suwet’en have any assurance of the protection of our values, when the supplied ‘conditions’ do not acknowledge Wet’suwet’en title, rights and associated interests of our territories?” he asked.

Obligations ‘fulfilled’

The assessment moved ahead regardless — and five days later the EAO gave the pipeline its recommendation.

That document concludes with a section “weighing impacts on Aboriginal interests with other interests.”

It said natural gas projects “have the potential to bring tens of billions of dollars in investment to British Columbia between 2014 and 2022.”

The EAO conceded that “traditional subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping may be altered,” but said the potential for adverse effect on the Aboriginal rights “has been avoided, minimized or otherwise accommodated to an acceptable level.”

And so they concluded that the provincial Crown “had fulfilled its obligations for consultation.” SOURCE

10 things you should know about socialism

What do we mean when we talk about “socialism”? Here are ten things about its theory, practice, and potential that you need to know.

1. Socialism is a yearning for something better than capitalism

Socialism represents the awareness of employees that their sufferings and limitations come less from their employers than from the capitalist system. That system prescribes incentives and options for both sides, and rewards and punishments for their behavioral “choices.” It generates their endless struggles and the employees’ realization that system change is the way out.

In Capital, Volume 1, Karl Marx defined a fundamental injustice—exploitation—located in capitalism’s core relationship between employer and employee. Exploitation, in Marx’s terms, describes the situation in which employees produce more value for employers than the value of wages paid to them. Capitalist exploitation shapes everything in capitalist societies. Yearning for a better society, socialists increasingly demand the end of exploitation and an alternative in which employees function as their own employer. Socialists want to be able to explore and develop their full potentials as individuals and members of society while contributing to its welfare and growth.

Karl Marx, date unknown. Photo from Bettmann/Getty Images.

 

Socialism is an economic system very different from capitalism, feudalism, and slavery. Each of the latter divided society into a dominant minority class (masters, lords, and employers) and a dominated majority (slaves, serfs, employees). When the majority recognized slavery and feudal systems as injustices, they eventually fell.

The majorities of the past fought hard to build a better system. Capitalism replaced slaves and serfs with employees, masters and lords with employers. It is no historical surprise that employees would end up yearning and fighting for something better. That something better is socialism, a system that doesn’t divide people, but rather makes work a democratic process where all employees have an equal say and together are their own employer.

2. Socialism is not a single, unified theory

People spread socialism across the world, interpreting and implementing it in many different ways based on context. Socialists found capitalism to be a system that produced ever-deepening inequalities, recurring cycles of unemployment and depression, and the undermining of human efforts to build democratic politics and inclusive cultures. Socialists developed and debated solutions that varied from government regulations of capitalist economies to government itself owning and operating enterprises, to a transformation of enterprises (both private and government) from top-down hierarchies to democratic cooperatives.

Sometimes those debates produced splits among socialists. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, socialists supporting the post-revolutionary Soviet Union underscored their commitment to socialism that entailed the government owning and operating industries by adopting the new name “communist.” Those skeptical of Soviet-style socialism tended increasingly to favor state regulation of private capitalists. They kept the name “socialist” and often called themselves social democrats or democratic socialists. For the last century, the two groups debated the merits and flaws of the two alternative notions of socialism as embodied in examples of each (e.g. Soviet versus Scandinavian socialisms).

Early in the 21st century, an old strain of socialism resurfaced and surged. It focuses on transforming the inside of enterprises: from top-down hierarchies, where a capitalist or a state board of directors makes all the key enterprise decisions, to a worker cooperative, where all employees have equal, democratic rights to make those decisions, thereby becoming—collectively—their own employer.

3. The Soviet Union and China achieved state capitalism, not socialism

As leader of the Soviet Union, Lenin once said that socialism was a goal, not yet an achieved reality. The Soviet had, instead, achieved “state capitalism.” A socialist party had state power, and the state had become the industrial capitalist displacing the former private capitalists. The Soviet revolution had changed who the employer was; it had not ended the employer/employee relationship. Thus, it was—to a certain extent—capitalist.

Lenin’s successor, Stalin, declared that the Soviet Union had achieved socialism. In effect, he offered Soviet state capitalism as if it were the model for socialism worldwide. Socialism’s enemies have used this identification ever since to equate socialism with political dictatorship. Of course, this required obscuring or denying that (1) dictatorships have often existed in capitalist societies and (2) socialisms have often existed without dictatorships.

After initially copying the Soviet model, China changed its development strategy to embrace instead a state-supervised mix of state and private capitalism focused on exports. China’s powerful government would organize a basic deal with global capitalists, providing cheap labor, government support, and a growing domestic market. In exchange, foreign capitalists would partner with Chinese state or private capitalists, share technology, and integrate Chinese output into global wholesale and retail trade systems. China’s brand of socialism—a hybrid state capitalism that included both communist and social-democratic streams—proved it could grow faster over more years than any capitalist economy had ever done.

4. The U.S., Soviet Union, and China have more in common than you think 

As capitalism emerged from feudalism in Europe in the 19th century, it advocated liberty, equality, fraternity, and democracy. When those promises failed to materialize, many became anti-capitalist and found their way to socialism.

Experiments in constructing post-capitalist, socialist systems in the 20th century (especially in the Soviet Union and China) eventually incurred similar criticisms. Those systems, critics held, had more in common with capitalism than partisans of either system understood.

Self-critical socialists produced a different narrative based on the failures common to both systems. The U.S. and Soviet Union, such socialists argue, represented private and state capitalisms. Their Cold War enmity was misconstrued on both sides as part of the century’s great struggle between capitalism and socialism. Thus, what collapsed in 1989 was Soviet State capitalism, not socialism. Moreover, what soared after 1989 was another kind of state capitalism in China.

5. Thank American socialists, communists, and unionists for the 1930s New Deal

FDR’s government raised the revenue necessary for Washington to fund massive, expensive increases in public services during the Depression of the 1930s. These included the Social Security system, the first federal unemployment compensation system, the first federal minimum wage, and a mass federal jobs program. FDR’s revenues came from taxing corporations and the rich more than ever before.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, center, and his New Deal administration team on September 12, 1935. Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images. 

In response to this radical program, FDR was reelected three times. His radical programs were conceived and pushed politically from below by a coalition of communists, socialists, and labor unionists. He had not been a radical Democrat before his election.

Socialists obtained a new degree of social acceptance, stature, and support from FDR’s government. The wartime alliance of the U.S. with the Soviet Union strengthened that social acceptance and socialist influences.

6. If 5 was news to you, that’s due to the massive U.S.-led global purge of socialists and communists after WWII

After its 1929 economic crash, capitalism was badly discredited. The unprecedented political power of a surging U.S. left enabled government intervention to redistribute wealth from corporations and the rich to average citizens. Private capitalists and the Republican Party responded with a commitment to undo the New Deal. The end of World War II and FDR’s death in 1945 provided the opportunity to destroy the New Deal coalition.

The strategy hinged on demonizing the coalition’s component groups, above all the communists and socialists. Anti-communism quickly became the strategic battering ram. Overnight, the Soviet Union went from wartime ally to an enemy whose agents aimed “to control the world.” That threat had to be contained, repelled, and eliminated.

U.S. domestic policy focused on anti-communism, reaching hysterical dimensions and the public campaigns of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Communist Party leaders were arrested, imprisoned, and deported in a wave of anti-communism that quickly spread to socialist parties and to socialism in general. Hollywood actors, directors, screenwriters, musicians, and more were blacklisted and barred from working in the industry. McCarthy’s witch hunt ruined thousands of careers while ensuring that mass media, politicians, and academics would be unsympathetic, at least publicly, to socialism.

U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy led a campaign to put prominent government officials and others on trial for alleged “subversive activities” and Communist Party membership during the height of the Cold War. Photo by Corbis/Getty Images. 

In other countries revolts from peasants and/or workers against oligarchs in business and/or politics often led the latter to seek U.S. assistance by labeling their challengers as “socialists” or “communists.” Examples include U.S. actions in Guatemala and Iran (1954), Cuba (1959-1961), Vietnam (1954-1975), South Africa (1945-1994), and Venezuela (since 1999). Sometimes the global anti-communism project took the form of regime change. In 1965-6 the mass killings of Indonesian communists cost the lives of between 500,000 to 3 million people.Once the U.S.—as the world’s largest economy, most dominant political power, and most powerful military—committed itself to total anti-communism, its allies and most of the rest of the world followed suit.

7. Since socialism was capitalism’s critical shadow, it spread to those subjected by and opposed to capitalist colonialism 

In the first half of the 20th century, socialism spread through the rise of local movements against European colonialism in Asia and Africa, and the United States’ informal colonialism in Latin America. Colonized people seeking independence were inspired by and saw the possibility of alliances with workers fighting exploitation in the colonizing countries. These latter workers glimpsed similar possibilities from their side.

This helped create a global socialist tradition. The multiple interpretations of socialism that had evolved in capitalism’s centers thus spawned yet more and further-differentiated interpretations. Diverse streams within the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist tradition interacted with and enriched socialism.

8. Fascism is a capitalist response to socialism

A fascist economic system is capitalist, but with a mixture of very heavy government influence. In fascism, the government reinforces, supports, and sustains private capitalist workplaces. It rigidly enforces the employer/employee dichotomy central to capitalist enterprises. Private capitalists support fascism when they fear losing their position as capitalist employers, especially during social upheavals.

Under fascism, there is a kind of mutually supportive merging of government and private workplaces. Fascist governments tend to “deregulate,” gutting worker protections won earlier by unions or socialist governments. They help private capitalists by destroying trade unions or replacing them with their own organizations which support, rather than challenge, private capitalists.

Frequently, fascism embraces nationalism to rally people to fascist economic objectives, often by using enhanced military expenditures and hostility toward immigrants or foreigners. Fascist governments influence foreign trade to help domestic capitalists sell goods abroad and block imports to help them sell their goods inside national boundaries.

Blackshirts, supporters of Benito Mussolini who founded the National Fascist Party, are about to set fire to portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin in Italy in May 1921. Photo by Mondadori/Getty Images. 

Usually, fascists repress socialism. In Europe’s major fascist systems—Spain under Franco, Germany under Hitler, and Italy under Mussolini—socialists and communists were arrested, imprisoned, and often tortured and killed.A similarity between fascism and socialism seems to arise because both seek to strengthen government and its interventions in society. However, they do so in different ways and toward very different ends. Fascism seeks to use government to secure capitalism and national unity, defined often in terms of ethnic or religious purity. Socialism seeks to use government to end capitalism and substitute an alternative socialist economic system, defined traditionally in terms of state-owned and -operated workplaces, state economic planning, employment of dispossessed capitalists, workers’ political control, and internationalism.

9. Socialism has been, and still is, evolving

During the second half of the 20th century, socialism’s diversity of interpretations and proposals for change shrank to two alternative notions: 1.) moving from private to state-owned-and -operated workplaces and from market to centrally planned distributions of resources and products like the Soviet Union, or 2.) “welfare-state” governments regulating markets still comprised mostly of private capitalist firms, as in Scandinavia, and providing tax-funded socialized health care, higher education, and so on. As socialism returns to public discussion in the wake of capitalism’s crash in 2008, the first kind of socialism to gain mass attention has been that defined in terms of government-led social programs and wealth redistributions benefitting middle and lower income social groups.

The evolution and diversity of socialism were obscured. Socialists themselves struggled with the mixed results of the experiments in constructing socialist societies (in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc.). To be sure, these socialist experiments achieved extraordinary economic growth. In the Global South, socialism arose virtually everywhere as the alternative development model to a capitalism weighed down by its colonialist history and its contemporary inequality, instability, relatively slower economic growth, and injustice.

Socialists also struggled with the emergence of central governments that used excessively concentrated economic power to achieve political dominance in undemocratic ways. They were affected by criticisms from other, emerging left-wing social movements, such as anti-racism, feminism, and environmentalism, and began to rethink how a socialist position should integrate the demands of such movements and make alliances.

10. Worker co-ops are a key to socialism’s future

The focus of the capitalism-versus-socialism debate is now challenged by the changes within socialism. Who the employers are (private citizens or state officials) now matters less than what kind of relationship exists between employers and employees in the workplace. The role of the state is no longer the central issue in dispute.

A growing number of socialists stress that previous socialist experiments inadequately recognized and institutionalized democracy. These self-critical socialists focus on worker cooperatives as a means to institutionalize economic democracy within workplaces as the basis for political democracy. They reject master/slave, lord/serf, and employer/employee relationships because these all preclude real democracy and equality.

 
Homesteaders, relocated by the U.S. Resettlement Administration, a federal agency under the New Deal, working at a cooperative garment factory in Hightstown, New Jersey, in 1936. The U.S. Resettlement Administration relocated struggling families to provide work relief. Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.
For the most part, 19th and 20th century socialisms downplayed democratized workplaces. But an emerging, 21st century socialism advocates for a change in the internal structure and organization of workplaces. The microeconomic transformation from the employer/employee organization to worker co-ops can ground a bottom-up economic democracy.

The new socialism’s difference from capitalism becomes less a matter of state versus private workplaces, or state planning versus private markets, and more a matter of democratic versus autocratic workplace organization. A new economy based on worker co-ops will find its own democratic way of structuring relationships among co-ops and society as a whole.

Worker co-ops are key to a new socialism’s goals. They criticize socialisms inherited from the past and add a concrete vision of what a more just and humane society would look like. With the new focus on workplace democratization, socialists are in a good position to contest the 21st century’s struggle of economic systems.  SOURCE