Archive for August 2011

Agreeing with Conservatives

14 August 2011

It is an uncommon thing for me, but from time to time I do find myself agreeing with the Conservative Party of Canada.

One such instance occurred today when I read news that the Conservative Party of Canada had sent a letter to Michaela Keyserlingk of demanding that she stop using the CPC logo in the banner seen here.
Keyserlingk banner

While it is easy to sympathize with Keyserlingk for her husband’s death from asbestos-caused mesothelioma, it is also clear that the CPC logo should not have been used in this way without permission.

The copy of the banner that I found on-line and copied here for discussion has a little triangle in the CPC logo that does not appear in the actual CPC logo. Even so, I think it is fair to say that the logo is still close enough to the real CPC logo as to possibly create confusion between the two and lead one to think that the CPC may have somehow endorsed the banner. (I don’t know whether that triangle appeared in the original banner, maybe not)

In my opinion it would be ludicrous to present the idea that the CPC endorsed anything opposing the free and unfettered export of nice, safe, Canadian chrysotile asbestos. In fact Christian Paradis as Canada’s minister of Industry stated in November 2009;

“We have shown our support for the position of safe use of chrysotile by opposing twice the inclusion of chrysotile under the Rotterdam Convention, and be assured that as long as the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is in power, that’s how it will be.”

Listing chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention would not ban sales of it, but would require that it be labeled as a hazardous substance. True to their word, the Harper government again successfully opposed listing chrysotile in June of 2011.

Clearly the CPC would not endorse Keyserlingk’s banner and the logo is misused in it. Fortunately we have the Harper government to take quick action against such abuses and to protect the Canadian economy from interference due to unimportant things like deaths caused by Canadian products overseas, where we sell the stuff now since it is too hazardous to use at home… um, in spite of being “safe” you see. So. Bad Keyserlingk! Eh?

Yes we can!

13 August 2011

Voter turnout in BC is appalling. In the 2005 provincial election only 58 percent of eligible voters bothered to vote. The 2009 election saw that drop to 50 percent. For all the anger around the issue, the recent HST referendum saw about 52 percent of ballots returned.

Some non-voters in the provincial elections may have the excuse of being too busy to make it to the polls. However, the HST ballot could be mailed or dropped off any time over a period of weeks. It is pretty hard to justify an excuse of “too busy”.

Perhaps some voters just don’t care? That is the response given by some in polls on the topic. Could British Columbians really have the attitude “Do what you want, it’s OK with me. Give my tax dollars to your friends, shut down services, trash the environment. I don’t mind.” Maybe it’s me, but I can’t see that being the true attitude of more than a handful of people.

Elections Canada’s “Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters”1 indicates dissatisfaction with politicians and government and a sense of the act of voting being meaningless as it brings no real change. That is just the sort of sentiment I find in talking with people who are not engaged with one party or another. They just don’t feel that their vote can make a difference.

To those non-voters I say; Just look at the numbers! The last federal election put in place a majority government with only 39 percent of the votes from the 61.4 percent of voters who turned out, or about 24 percent of overall eligible votes. Gordon Cambell’s Liberals won a majority in BC in 2009 with 46 percent of the popular vote. That’s 46 percent of the 50 percent who voted, or 23 percent of eligible voters.

The disenfranchised in BC comprise some 48 percent of eligible BC voters. That 48 percent could be the strongest block of voters in the province! They, you if you have been among the non-voters, could be an overwhelming force in the future of BC! If you have had enough of the Liberal/Socred vs NDP flip-flop in this province that seems to be two sides of the same diminishing value coin; then I urge you to take a good look at the Green Party of BC. Read the Green Party plan online. Download the Green Book 2011. I believe you will find there a vision for real change in BC that forward-thinking individuals and businesses can get behind to bring about a tide-change in our province. To borrow a line from U.S. President Obama, “Yes we can!”


1. Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters

BC Staycation

7 August 2011

I’m not sure whether to title this “BC Staycation”, “Playing Hookie”, or “Really Long Lunch”.

Yesterday Cary and I decided to bail on work at the
and go for lunch at
Monkey In The Garden
Where we had what they call wraps and a piece of pie
organic lunch
Much of it grown right there on their organic farm
organic garden

Michael, Brandie and Char were friendly and happy to talk about their organic farming techniques, the food and drinks they prepare and local sights. The lunch was beautifully presented, beautifully flavoured and healthy.

After lunch we left with some locally roasted coffee, a variety of tomatoes, soapnuts for the laundry and some frozen “beety borsch” for later.

Monkey in the Garden is near Spences Bridge on Highway 8. Open weekends from the end of May through September for drop in and any time for reservations. I whole-heartedly recommend going there when you can. More info at

We also did some hiking & sight-seeing.
A wonderful, quick BC staycation.
near Spences Bridge BC

Renewable Natural Gas!?

6 August 2011

gas fire

“Renewable Natural Gas” the Fortis ad read.

I was reading a story on the local newspaper website and the banner ad above caught my eye.

Renewable natural gas!? To say I was skeptical would be a grand understatement. On investigation it turns out they are referring to biomethane. Fortis residential customers in certain areas who do not have contracts with independent gas marketers can opt to pay a small premium of $0.53 per gigajoule and in return Fortis will inject biomethane equal to 10% of the customer’s gas use into the system.

Biomethane is produced from wastes and is considered carbon-neutral in BC. Customers who sign up for the renewable natural gas program with Fortis get a 10% reduction in carbon tax on their bill. In practice it could be argued that biomethane used this way is better than carbon neutral. The biomethane displaces natural gas that the customer would have burned, and the gas naturally produced by landfills, agricultural waste and wastewater treatment is upgraded and used, rather than just escaping into the atmosphere. Fortis is planning to expand the program as more biomethane becomes available.

Fortis says the extra cost will amount to about $4 per month for the average household. Seems like a small price to encourage use of waste gas, cut carbon emissions and perhaps help reduce, even if only in a tiny way, domestic demand for fracking.

I signed up. I guess sometimes those on-line ads do work.
For more info see Fortis BC

The Public Need The Info

2 August 2011

Have a look at the following pair of quotes.

1. “There is an urgent need for public scrutiny of the influence of senior-level bureaucrats in the management of Canada’s natural resources.”

2. “Government control of information must end and the undermining of Canada’s public scientists must stop.”

They look like they could be from the same source, don’t they? Perhaps different drafts?

Let’s look at another pair.

1. “Scientists were also explicitly ordered then, as they are today, not to discuss ‘politically sensitive’ matters (e.g., the status of fish stocks currently under moratoria) with the public, irrespective of the scientific basis, and publication status, of the scientist’s concerns.”

2. “… key federal science based departments and agencies including Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada, have implemented new communications policies that have resulted in an incapacity to communicate sound independent scientific information ….”

To anyone following recent news all these quotes likely seem familiar.

Let’s look at a third pair of excerpts.

1. “… the intimidation and ‘gagging’ of employees familiar with the project evaluations done by DFO with respect to the Task Force and the court case to the point that they fear for their jobs,”

2. “… was forbidden from discussing her recent salmon-genetics research with the media.”

Ah, “DFO”, “Task Force”, “court case”, “salmon-genetics” … Cohen Commission or something?

Have a look at just one more pair of quotes.

1. “… poorly served by the present institution in which fisheries science is inextricably linked to, and affected by, a political bureaucracy. It is difficult to imagine how wise policies for dealing with uncertainty can be devised in the present administrative atmosphere.”

2. “… continued disregard for evidence-based research and it is another case of the government’s “command and control” approach. Media and public access to federal scientists has become politicized ….”

These all certainly sound current don’t they? Now have a look at the sources of these quotes.

1. May 1997 Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
“is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?”
J A Hutchings, C Walters, R L Haedrich

2. July 28 2011 Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) news release

May 1997 and July 2011. Fourteen years and look how far we’ve come with regard to government interference with and disregard for publicly funded science. Recent cuts to Environment Canada will mean less scientists and less science so less need for government to suppress that science. Still not really the progress Canadians might hope for.

The PIPSC news release was a response to muzzling of DFO scientist Kristi Miller regarding her salmon research. Miller will be a witness at the Cohen Commission (Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River) on August 24th. More science not quite comfortable for the government can be expected when Alexandra Morton appears before the commission on September 7 and 8. Fortunately Morton is not on the government payroll so generally enjoys a greater measure of freedom with her scientific voice outside of the commission.

I believe that Canadians prefer scientific evidence over government controlled ‘spin’ on issues of importance, fisheries being but one example. We must demand our right to public access to publicly funded research. I urge everyone to attend these hearings, and to write, email or tweet their MLAs and MPs to send a clear message that Canadians do not accept suppression of scientific views, whether or not those views align with government policy around an issue. For those interested in the salmon issue specifically, you can also help by attending the rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on August 30.

For more information see;