Alberta ending separate offices for climate change, environmental monitoring


Alberta Premier Jason Kenney watches as his cabinet is sworn into office in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Jason Franson

“What’s going to suffer is Alberta’s international reputation (and) our overall approach to science and evidence-based decision making,” said New Democrat legislature member Shannon Phillips, who was environment minister in the previous government.

The intention is outlined in a Sept. 10 email from Alberta Environment and Parks deputy minister Bev Yee, obtained by The Canadian Press.

Yee outlines a departmental re-organization under which the climate change office created during Phillips’ tenure will disappear. So will the environmental monitoring and science division, initially created as an arm’s-length agency in 2014 by the provincial Conservative government and brought back into government by the New Democrats.

Both will be “integrated into the new structure,” says Yee’s email.

“The primary drivers and intended outcomes of this reorganization include enhanced business integration, the achievement of efficiencies, and providing better support to achieve government priorities,” wrote Yee.

The changes are to be effective Oct. 15.

Yee said in an emailed statement Friday that the process is about increasing effectiveness.

“This reorganization will bring many of the department’s brightest scientific minds under one division and eliminate some of the administrative overlap that can prevent them from doing their best work.”

In an email, department spokeswoman Jess Sinclair said the climate change office has been incorporated into Alberta Environment’s general policy effort “in order to ensure that (department) policy is developed with an eye to the overall management of pollution in the province.”

But Phillips said the moves downgrade both climate and monitoring policy.

“We no longer have a government that is interested in putting forward credible climate change policy or credible monitoring and science in the oilsands,” she said. “I have serious questions about the resourcing of environmental monitoring in the oilsands.”

Phillips suggested the change is a prelude to cuts.

“It’s easier to hide the cuts if they’re absorbed within the department.”

Environmental groups called the changes part of a pattern in Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government to roll back climate and environmental policies.

“If this government didn’t have a very clear agenda to stall climate action and harass environmental organizations, then I might be willing to consider this normal operations for a new government,” said Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada.

“(But) I can’t help but see the elimination of their climate department as part of their overall strategy.” MORE

 

The global assault on environmental rights behind Jason Kenney’s war


File photo of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney by Tijana Martin

MichelleBellefontaine@MBellefontaine ·

I have been updating my story all day. The quote from Kenney has been included, along with the reaction from Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. http://cbc.ca/1.5277846 

Amnesty International says Jason Kenney’s ‘fight back’ strategy violates human rights | CBC News

Amnesty International Canada says the Alberta government’s plan to fight people who criticize the oil and gas industry exposes them to threats, intimidation and violates their human rights.

cbc.ca

MichelleBellefontaine@MBellefontaine

Here is the video of @jkenney making remarks in Fort McMurray today about the jailing of Greenpeace activists is Russia

Embedded video

Authoritarian governments moving in lockstep to discredit environmentalists

“Foreign funding” has emerged as a powerful propaganda cudgel for governments to turn on environmental and human rights activists around the world.

The leader of Russia’s Ecodefense sought political asylum in Germany this June to avoid imprisonment in Putin’s ruthless crackdown on environmental groups designated as “foreign agents,” a term that in Russian denotes “spy” or “traitor.”

In Narendra Modi’s India, where flooding and drought threaten more than 100 million lives, a 2014 intelligence report called dissident environmental and human rights organizations a threat to national security, accusing them of “serving as tools for foreign policy interests.”

“The world is facing the most pressing moral imperative in the history of human civilization, and Jason Kenney’s inquiry has all but criminalized opposition to fossil fuel expansion, before a single witness is called. ” @Garossino #cdnpoli #oped

Despite being praised by Stephen Harper for his visionary global leadership, Modi ​​was nothing short of brutal. Cancelling the licences of 20,000 NGOs, his government froze bank accounts and raided offices, including those of Amnesty International India and prominent human rights lawyers who had challenged his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

To prevent a Greenpeace India activist from testifying in the British parliament about the local impact of a British mining company’s Indian operations, Modi’s government blocked her from boarding her flight to the UK, then put her on a no-fly list. MORE

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Premier Jason Kenney takes aim at Amnesty International Canada in letter

Alberta can delay wage arbitration talks with unions, Appeal Court says

Alberta’s public sector workers are looking at all options if the UCP government attempts to roll back rights. As Tom Vernon reports, the vow comes after the court of appeal sided with the government on Bill 9.


Watch the video

The Alberta Court of Appeal has sided with the provincial government in its bid to delay wage arbitration for tens of thousands of public sector employees.

In a split decision released Friday, the judges set aside an injunction granted by a lower court in July that had been blocking the delay.

Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government passed the law in June to defer arbitration until at least November.

The government said it first needed to hear from a panel looking at the province’s finances. That panel’s report, released earlier this week, said the province has habitually overspent and restraint is needed.

READ MORE: Alberta panel says savings to be found in health, education changes

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees challenged the legislation, arguing the law violated three-year contract agreements that froze wages in the first two years, but had a provision for binding arbitration in the third year.

The union sought the injunction to give it time to pursue a separate legal challenge questioning whether the legislation is unconstitutional. That court action is ongoing.

Workers affected include teachers, nurses, social workers, hospital support staff, prison guards, conservation officers, toxicologists, restaurant inspectors, therapists and sheriffs. MORE

Federal probe finds ‘co-ordinated’ social media bots in Alberta election

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discusses the accomplishments of his government in its first 100 days in office, in Edmonton on Wednesday August 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discusses the accomplishments of his government in its first 100 days in office, in Edmonton on Wednesday August 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — A federal agency investigating the recent Alberta election has found evidence the campaign featured tactics including co-ordinated, false social media postings.

In a report released late Friday, the Rapid Response Mechanism — created by the G-7 to monitor foreign influence on democratic elections — identified social media accounts that demonstrated “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.”

The agency was created by the G7 at the 2018 conference in Charleboix, Que. It is intended to strengthen co-ordination between members in identifying, preventing and responding to threats to G7 democracies from foreign actors using social media to meddle in elections.

The agency is based in Canada.

On its website, it says it investigated the Alberta vote to see if foreign players were involved.

“The Alberta election was identified as being at risk of interference because of the extent to which environmental issues were debated,” it says.

No organized influence was exerted from outside the province’s borders, it found. However, Albertans seemed keen to use those tactics themselves.

“(We) identified communities that demonstrated a suspicious account creation pattern that is indicative of troll or bot activity,” the report says. “It was mainly comprised of supporters of the United Conservative Party.

“The pattern was not identified within communities of supporters of the Alberta Liberal Party or Alberta New Democratic Party.” MORE

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Suspicious accounts spread disinformation in Alberta election, federal report says

Andrew Weaver to Jason Kenney: ‘Every day you keep opening your mouth, more people come to the B.C. Greens’

B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver (Image: David J. Climenhaga)
Image: David J. Climenhaga

When it comes to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is not a fan.

This will not come as a complete surprise to anyone who follows either Alberta or British Columbia politics. Weaver, after all, is the leader of the B.C. Greens. He is also a PhD climate scientist. In some circles, either of those factoids might be enough to make folks conclude they are natural enemies.

Just the same, when it comes to Premier Kenney, Weaver is scathing. “He’s just a bully,” he said dismissively in his office in the provincial legislative building in Victoria last week. “He’s a bombastic bully that I think is looking out for his own interests and not for the interests of Albertans or, frankly, broader Canadians.”

“I find him very confrontational. He’s not somebody that I personally think I can trust. Those are my views.”

Weaver compares Kenney’s vision unfavourably to that of Peter Lougheed — “an esteemed statesperson who … recognized that the wise approach to policy development would be to ensure that you put something aside in the good times.” Or Rachel Notley’s — “she was trying to navigate a very difficult situation whereby there are still a large number of Albertans who believe, and I would say foolishly, that their prosperity lies in extracting bitumen from the tar sands.”

A more apt comparison might be the leadership provided by Ralph Klein, Weaver suggests. “We start giving out Klein Bucks, frittering this away, and we now have a situation where there’s nothing left of the Alberta Heritage Fund.”

Anyway, Weaver continued, Kenney “wants to be prime minister of our country, and this is his pathway there. I think he’s actually taking Albertans back in time, which ultimately will not help them economically.”

The Green leader’s assessment of the future of a petroleum-dependent Alberta is bleak: “Kinder Morgan Canada’s now divested itself. … Statoil’s gone. Total’s gone. Shell’s out. Where do I end?

“We know that the Alberta oil sands (require) some of the most expensive ways of getting oil out of the ground. We know that you must mix it with diluent to make it flow in pipes. We know that everybody in the world has discovered horizontal drilling technology, and we know, for example, that the Trans Mountain pipeline was going to be approved to create a means to get Alberta diluted bitumen to the California refineries, but with the onset of horizontal fracking and the huge reserves in the Bakken shale, that market’s dried up.

“So we have no market left for the Alberta diluted bitumen. And for (Kenney) to suggest that we have to somehow get it to tidewater for economic growth …” Uncharacteristically, Weaver momentarily runs out of words. He shakes his head.

“The fact that Kenney continues to think that there is prosperity in this direction is fiscally foolish. I would think a good Conservative government would recognize that conservative fiscal policy plans ahead. It doesn’t try to continue down this path of race-for-the-bottom economics where we essentially eliminate royalties for our Crown resource, where we basically give subsidies and tax credits to these multinationals — who are looking out for their shareholders, not necessarily for the people here.” MORE

Conspiracy theory of ‘foreign-funded’ tar sands opposition reveals ugly truth

The process of dehumanization, whether around the world or closer to home in Postmedia’s conspiracy-pushing columns, splits our species in two

Image result for ricochet: Conspiracy theory of 'foreign-funded' tar sands opposition reveals ugly truth

The attendees of last month’s “Big Guns” Stampede breakfast put on by Calgary’s oil and gas industry were there for the pancakes, sausages, and “frac juice” cocktails, not the speeches. And so, over the happily chattering sea of cowboy hats and plaid, I had to listen hard just to make out parts of the following:

“We have been beaten to death by the eco-alarmists…. We’ve got people, foreign-funded, taking us to task…. To the eco-alarmists: You have touched the bear. You have awoken the giant. We’re pissed and we’re not going to stand for it.”

Vague public heraldings of coming retribution against foreign-funded environmentalists are generally not part of my childhood memories of Stampede breakfasts. But, then, in those days, Albertans weren’t being told they’re the targets of a coordinated plot.

If they were recognized as fully human, we would need to undertake a rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to protect their inviolable rights.

Across the country’s media for the past year and a half or so — particularly in outlets owned by Canada’s dominant corporate media empire, Postmedia — one can find piece after piece after piece about long-running machinations by U.S. charities and foundations to interfere with Canadian politics by fomenting tar sands opposition throughout the country.

It culminated and reified at the start of last month with Alberta premier Jason Kenney announcing a $2.5-million government inquiry into “foreign-funded special interests” opposing the tar sands. And it will likely resurface again in the Conservatives’ federal election campaign later this year.

There is no reason to take the actual claims of this (absurd) narrative seriously, as other writers have argued in detail.

Rather, what we ought to be concerned about is the narrative’s popularity, because what it reveals is something ugly at the heart of the climate crisis: the importance of dehumanization.

The uses of unpeople

A grisly sorting is underway. As climate change forces our political and economic systems to contend with the problem of who really matters, it is sieving us into two species: people, whose rights are inalienable and deserve full respect and consideration, and unpeople, whose burdensome rights and humanity get stripped away wherever they interfere with state-capital aims.

Those who can be degenerated into unpeople perform a crucial function for the contemporary order. If they were recognized as fully human, we would need to undertake a rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to protect their inviolable rights. Having a humanity that can be conveniently stripped away, however, permits something clearly more important: the prolonging of the period during which the economy can stay wedded to the old energy infrastructure; the ultra rich can horde the wealth we might otherwise marshall towards a renewable energy transition; and political elites can hold power by campaigning as though we need not make a choice between continued fossil fuel dependence and a habitable climate. (Consider how just last month it was determined to be in the public interest to proceed with a tar sands mine, despite adverse effects on Indigenous communities.) MORE

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OIL LOBBYIST TOUTS SUCCESS IN EFFORT TO CRIMINALIZE PIPELINE PROTESTS, LEAKED RECORDING SHOWS

Ecocide Law places Canadian politicians in jeopardy

“I began to realise that rights in isolation are not enough. If you have rights, there are corresponding duties and obligations – it’s like two sides of the coin. And what gives enforcement to your rights are the responsibilities that are put in place in criminal law.”— Polly Higgins

Image result for polly higgins

Polly Higgins, Earth’s lawyer, focused on making Ecocide the fifth crime against peace under the jurisdiction of  the International Criminal Court by 2020. Her untimely death has energized her followers to realize this goal.

Polly’s Ecocide act gives primacy of jurisdiction over national governments’ law. It also removes the defence of intent. Whether the intent of an action is to avoid ecocide is irrelevant.  The test is whether the principal actor knew or should have known that their actions would result in Ecocide.

The Ecocide Act focuses on bringing those with principal responsibility for acts of Ecocide, be they corporate directors, politicians, financiers, insurers or individuals, to justice for the destruction of our Earth. 

Several Canadian politicians could find themselves charged under this law.

Here are some possible future headlines: 

The International Criminal Court  charges Justin Trudeau with Ecocide

Image result for justin trudeau The Alberta tar sands and Ecocide are virtually synonymous. Using public money, Justin Trudeau has heavily subsidized  tar sands producers, ignoring the IPCC’s call to reduce climate-destroying emissions; he has encouraged the rapid  exploitation and expansion of Canada’s largest sacrifice zone; he has allowed the development of vast, toxic tailings ponds, ignoring their environmental legacy and threat to humanity and future generations; he has used public resources to buy a pipeline to triple tar sands bitumen transportation to offshore markets.

Trudeau’s defense,  that he was always protecting Canadian jobs, would be dismissed as irrelevant.

The International Criminal Court  charges Andrew Scheer with Ecocide

Image result for andrew scheer

Andrew Scheer is vulnerable to charges because he argues that Trudeau’s efforts to develop and exploit the tar sands are not happening fast enough. As a cheerleader for tar sands development as the lynchpin of the Canadian economy, Scheer would find himself vulnerable.

The International Criminal Court  charges Jason Kenney  with Ecocide

Image result for jason kenney

Jason Kenney’s boosterism of the Alberta tar sands puts him in legal jeopardy. His oil and gas subsidies, his removal of environmental safeguards, and the support for fracked natural gas with its huge environmental footprint and  its serious contamination of water, all can be cited as evidence of his willingness to prioritize Alberta’s economy over his duty to protect the public’s right to a healthy environment. 

The International Criminal Court  charges John Horgan with Ecocide

Image result for john horgan

Allowing construction to continue on the Site C Dam and the flooding of rich farmland to provide cheap electricity to carbon intensive natural gas fracking operations cannot reconciled with Horgan’s duty to protect the environment.  John Horgan has offered subsidies and tax breaks to B.C.’s single largest carbon polluter, LNG Canada.  LNG development is notoriously carbon intensive. The LNG Canada project would emit 8.6 megatonnes of carbon per year in 2030, rising to 9.6 megatonnes in 2050. Fracking is associated with massive water use (the average frack uses between five million and 100 million litres of water), radioactive waste, earthquakes, dangerous air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Health impacts were removed from the purview of the scientific panel tasked with reviewing fracking.  His support for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline development on Wet’suwet’en territory continues to ignore First Nations’ rights and their opposition.


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