Archive for the ‘Politics’ category

Canada’s Deep State?

19 September 2018

What a mindset. A Director of the Global Business Futures Initiative at the Haskayne School of Business on the topic of the Calgary Winter Olympics bid;

“I don’t think it really helps the unemployed geologist or petroleum engineer. There’s no drilling for oil in an Olympic project” (Sept 17, 2018 Calgary Herald).

It’s like “Hey, want a pizza?”  “I don’t know. Is it good for the oil industry?”

This Global Business Futures Initiative was started this year with a million dollar ‘gift’ from an anonymous donor. Director Adam Legge was formerly president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Legge, on the school website “My aim is to work and ensure that business can adapt better to the changing world, and be viewed as a positive catalyst for making the world a better place,”

Based on his comment on the Olympic thing, I’d say that “adapt” bit is a fail.

Late last year this same school of business hosted an event “The Global Energy Challenge: What is the Future of Fossil Fuels?” with Keynote speaker Michael Greenstone, a Milton Friedman Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago, Director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, and Director of the Becker Friedman Institute.

If you’ve read anything on the horrific 1973 to 1990 dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile, the names ‘Friedman’ and ‘Chicago School’ probably ring a bell. Chicago schooled economists came to power with Pinochet. It was a period of economic growth termed the “Miracle of Chile”. However its success came with cuts to things like education, health and housing; sweeping privatization on one hand but State control of key industries such as oil; and the demise, quite literally, of working class power through torture, assassination, imprisonment and exile. Income disparity remains high in Chile, very much more a miracle for the  top 1% than for most everyone else.

A “Dollars and Sense” blog post in 2004 said that ‘the legacy of the dictatorship still lingers over Chilean public opinion and political discourse: The economics departments (with one or two small exceptions) all speak with a single, free-trade voice, the independent research centers are silent, and the government and the press laud the idea of more and greater export possibilities. In this climate, as a Chilean colleague said: “You can be critical, but if we say these things we will be committing economic suicide—our careers will be destroyed.” Less than 15 years removed from the end of the military dictatorship, in Chile dissent is still largely an unpracticed art.’ [bold added]

The day after Legge seemed to suggest the value of a thing can only be measured in oil, the Calgary Sun demonstrated that, like Chile, dissent is also unwelcome in Alberta.


Berman had been invited as keynote speaker to a conference of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Some might think of schools as a place for reasoned exchange of ideas, and the teachers stewards of that process. However in Alberta, a province where school curriculum includes at the grade 4 level content on oil, natural gas, and coal, but not wind, geothermal or solar energy, this appearance by Berman seems to be an unbearable affront to many.

Berman has requested security for the trip due to threats, vitriol that comments from Alberta government and opposition Parties have only stoked. As Berman said on social media, “How are we going to move forward if we can’t even talk about it?”

Kevin Taft, former leader of the Alberta Liberal Party and author of “Oil’s Deep State” says that a deep state captures and harnesses institutions of democracy for its own use. While Big Oil has had a voice in Alberta school curriculum for some time, and clearly has a friend in the Global Business Futures Initiative and the anonymous donor who bankrolled it, apparently the deep state in Canada has not yet harnessed Alberta teachers. And that has some very angry.


COP 21: Setting The Stage for What’s Next

14 December 2015

Impressions from a quick look at COP 21’s Paris Agreement.


Ok. So I’ve begun to dig into this Paris deal finally. Yes, it is historic and to be cheered given the level where it plays. Just as the Alberta Climate Plan was historic and to be applauded, given its context.

It is notable, given concerns around these subjects late in the negotiations, that the text contains;

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”

Thank you Canada for standing for the right side of that piece.

However, for you and I who live on the ground in the real world and who have infants who look at us with trust; there can be no pause.

– Intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within 2C scenarios, despite all the talk of a 1.5C target, which btw is not a target but a commitment to ‘pursue efforts’. Nearer to actual target is “well below 2C”, which is nice but not quite the same as memes you may have seen singing about a 1.5C commitment.

– Actual national targets are not legally binding so provide all the room necessary for political expediency to take the place of necessary responsible action.

– Carbon neutrality is left to the second half of the century, kicking the can down the road again.

– Longer term goals require carbon extraction from the atmosphere, which means we’re not going to reduce emissions enough, but are going to count on our children to invent something.

– “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

“as soon as possible” Define “possible”. Possible as in ‘nothing else we can do’, or possible as in ‘best that can be done while keeping party donors happy’?

“best available science” in a context of funding and supporting science to come up with solutions as though this were a war-time effort? Or science like under a Harper or US Republican government?

Lots more to read, and lots good in this agreement, but so far imo it looks like aspirational text that can be easily ignored.

Much of the big money is going to go where it thinks it can make more money. It still falls to the grassroots to ensure that the necessary “reputational reasons” are in place for political players (note the deliberate choice not to use the word “leaders”. Those are too rare) and financial bigshots to do what is needed to at least not make a sham of this deal.

In summary, imho, this is huge, historic, stupendous, earthshattering! And on the ground, for you and I, makes not a damn bit of difference. We on the ground still have to stop the pipelines, stop the coal, stop the fracking, stop Site C, stop deforestation, unbridled industrialization, and all the abuses of global capitalism, and as it stands here in Canada do it in a context that still includes C-51.

To borrow a line from the 4th Healing Walk, we still have to Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing.

So, tomorrow is another day, just like the other one.


Some thoughts from others;

The Paris Agreement: Paper Heroes Widen the Climate Justice Gap – John Foran

COP21 Final Blog – Day 13 – Elizabeth May and NZ Green MP Kennedy Graham

Climate Change: Not just a Lefty/Greeny Crisis

4 March 2014

earth_from_spaceAnyone can find content from environmental organizations about climate change. Somehow, crazy as it seems, it can sometimes get framed as a “Lefty” issue too. Like Conservative voters don’t need things like food or water so climate change impacts won’t touch them.

So I’ve had a bit of a list of sources of information that don’t fall into categories of the ‘usual suspects’. And too many times I’ve found myself searching all over the place for that list.

So here, now, is that list on this blog. Hopefully I’ll be able to find it quicker next time.




Munich Re

Society of Actuaries

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society a good 20 question primer.

National Research Council

World Bank

Oil sands emissions must be tamed

22 January 2014

So, a young person by the name of Salina Mathur wrote to the Sudbury Star about Neil Young’s tour and oil sands emissions. Naturally the climate change deniers came out in droves.

I got one post on there, but subsequent replies to people have disappeared so I can only assume they’re not getting past the moderator for whatever reason.

I’m trying to respond to a question from there, here.

“craig” asked “How are we not honouring treaties? And be specific”

Well, Craig…

Your question is almost overwhelming. The problems in Canada are systemic and have been since Canada became a country.

One example is the Manitoba Act, negotiated between the Red River Metis and the government of Canada to bring Manitoba (such as it was at the time) into Canada. Canada failed quite intentionally to fulfil its side of the bargain, the facts of which came out in the Supreme Court case won by the Manitoba Metis Federation earlier this year.

There are many other examples if you care to look. I can’t possibly detail them all for you here.

From CBC news;

“Since 1974, the federal government has paid compensation totalling over $2.6 billion to settle 343 specific claims. Hundreds of other claims are still outstanding.”

343 cases where people had the wherewithal to sue Canada to make it live up to its agreements.  $2.6-billion in settlements.  Aside from the settlements, what are the costs to engage in those cases and the hundreds of cases still outstanding?  And aside from the costs, is this how we want the government that represents us as Canadians to deal with people?  It certainly isn’t how I deal with people, either personally or professionally.

I am from BC, mostly not treaty territory. But to choose just one shameful example from here as a demonstration of the sort of thing that goes on, consider the Cheslatta Carrier Nation.  They were given 2 weeks notice (some sources say 10 days) before their homes were bulldozed and burned to make way for construction of the Murray Dam in 1952.  You can read about it here. (PDF)

So that was from the 1950s.  How about now?  Again I’ll use local examples because it’s easy for me, I’m familiar with them so don’t have to look up stuff.

BC just went through a public engagement process for new water laws.  The First Nations submissions to that process unanimously decried the process as failing to meet the standard of consultation.  Clearly something is broken.

My home town, Chilliwack BC, recently approved rezoning of a piece of land for construction of a hazardous waste facility on flood-plain next to the Fraser River.  Having just found out about the proposal on the day of the rezoning decision, a Sto:lo fisheries advisor and Band Councillor asked the city to delay the decision to allow First Nations time to look at it.  The City refused saying that the Municipalities Act does not require them to consult First Nations on rezoning, only on OCP changes.  A few days later an OCP change was before the City and the City decided it did not need to consult First Nations because in the City’s opinion the proposed change would not impact them.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that if I step on someone’s toe I do not tell them “That didn’t hurt.”  They will tell me whether or not it hurt.  A slightly silly analogy, but I’m sure you get my point.

If you really want specific examples of failures to live up to treaties there are plenty (at least 343 based on that CBC article).  You may find the situation, if you dig into it, distressing.

WaterWealth Project

9 December 2013

I haven’t posted anything here since July! Crazy. The funny thing about that is that I haven’t posted because I’ve been insanely busy. Had I nothing to say, I’d have had all kinds of time to say it!

A key thing I’ve been busy with has been the WaterWealth Project. A project working for local control of the waters that sustain our lives, our quality of life, our economies and our futures. Rooted in inclusive, democratic principles; community action; plain hard work; and some fun, the WaterWealth Project has been making a splash in the communities we’re working in and the province that asserts authority over these waters.

Check out our new video on our Indiegogo page, and if you agree with what we’re doing and where we’re headed please share it around!

WaterWealth Project


Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing

13 July 2013

Alberta Tar Sands
It is hard to take in the scope of destruction that has occurred in the tar sands. The mind can’t connect this toxic wasteland to the boreal forest that used to be alive here.

My mind did not make that connection until nearly a week after the Healing Walk when I wrote that line and had to stop writing for a while. This was, I think, what a friend was looking for when she looked at me shortly after the walk and asked “So?”   I didn’t have much to say at the time.

You can look at the tar sands if you don’t think too much. The tailings lakes look like water. The white sand around them looks like nice beach. The floating orange scare-crows are kind of amusing. The boom of propane cannons is familiar from Fraser Valley farms. Don’t think about the smell and what you might be breathing that a dust mask does not filter. Be thankful for the rain that keeps the dust down.

Think about statistics. Like in 2010 per day;

1,460,000 barrels of tar sands oil produced

465,753,000 litres of water used

241,370 tonnes of greenhouse gases

Per day. Those are big numbers. Nearly half a billion litres of water per day contaminated and dumped into these deadly tailings lakes. Nearly a quarter million tonnes, that’s nearly a quarter billion kilograms, of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere per day. I can look at numbers like that and discuss how the atmosphere surpassed 400ppm CO2 recently or how river flows are declining in Alberta as the glaciers recede and climate change brings us the new boom and bust water cycle that smacked down Calgary and Toronto recently. I can talk about these things and then go have supper and enjoy the drumming in the Healing Walk camp and look forward to a swim in a real lake the next morning.

Just don’t think of life and the fact that this grey, stinking devastation used to be a living place with soil and plants and trees, animals and birds and people. Don’t think of complicity in the loss of life, the utter disregard for life that has occurred here. Don’t think of the radius of harm that reaches out with the weather and the water flowing past this place, taking cancer to the fish and the animals and the people who live many kilometres down river. Don’t think of how federal and provincial authorities continue to promote this foul death as the future for Canada while practising denial and obfuscation in the face of growing proof that this development is killing people in places like Fort Chipewyan. Don’t think about how this is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, contributing to species loss occurring now at a rate unprecedented even by the mass extinction that ended the age of dinosaurs. Don’t think about how this devastation is spreading back to our home towns, pushing pipelines and oil trains close to our schools, our local businesses and our home waters.

Tailings Lake
To think of those things — to really connect the disgusting landscape of the tar sands to the life that was once there, to feel that life and to know the threat to life the tar sands pose — is to wrestle with rage and despair that wastes time and saps energy.

Stop the Destruction - Start the Healing
Instead have faith in the ceremony performed by the elders to the four directions as we walked the 14 km loop of Highway 63 in the heart of the tar sands. Think of the rain that cleanses the earth. Think of the capacity of nature to restore itself if given half a chance. Think of the positive energy and the sharing of stories, culture and knowledge among the hundreds who came to witness the tar sands first hand and to raise the call to “Stop the Destruction. Start the Healing”.

Dene Nation Banner
Think most of all of the baby born in the camp at midnight on the fourth of July, on the eve of the fourth annual Healing Walk, in a teepee on a buffalo robe.

Some said it was the fulfilment of a prophesy. I don’t know, it was not my prophesy to look for fulfilment of. I do know that this baby, born at that place at that time, represented to me renewal and the resilience of life. This baby represented the obligation that all of us share to find better ways of being and to make a better place for him and all the babies of today and for generations to come.

Healing Camp Baby
This baby will never know me. But I will remember him and how his birth made my heart glad even in that awful place. I will remember him and my obligation to stop the destruction and start the healing so that one day the Athabasca River will run clean again. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that one day … maybe in this baby’s lifetime … people will be able to eat the fish again without fear. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that the wealth that was in these waters and sustained people in this part of the world for millennia, now stolen to pad the accounts of global corporations already wealthier than nations, can be restored to sustain people again. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that this baby -and all of our children- don’t have to.

All our children

Stop the Destruction – Start the Healing

Canada Day 2013

1 July 2013

Canadians value justice.  We think of our country as a place of democracy and evenhandedness.  We want our children to be left better off than we ourselves have been in terms not only of financial wealth, but in terms of the wealth that rests in the health of our home lands and waters, and the freedom and security of our way of life.  These shared values unite us.  Let us work together to make them real.

July 1, 2013 marks Canada’s 146th birthday. Of course in 1867 the Dominion of Canada only included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the much smaller than present day provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The word “Dominion” in “Dominion of Canada” was inspired by Psalm 72:8 from the King James Bible and intended as a tribute to the Monarchy. Sir John A. Macdonald, who became first Prime Minister of Canada, argued for the name “Kingdom of Canada”, but did not prevail.



Beginning in the 1850’s and through the 1860s there was a movement of primarily English speaking Protestants, many of them Orangemen, to annex Rupert’s Land into Canada. This movement originated in Upper Canada (later Ontario), a region so named because of its proximity to the headwaters of the Saint Lawrence River relative to Lower Canada which appears higher ‘up’ on our usual North-at-the-top oriented maps.  Such was the importance of waterways to travel and commerce at the time.  Promoters of Canadian expansionist ambitions saw the Red River Settlement as a potential home base from which to spread British values into the West.

After confederation, the Dominion of Canada negotiated with England for the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada. British Parliament passed the Rupert’s Land Act in July 1868, which set terms including payment of monies and land grants to the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). The transfer was to occur on December 1, 1869. Unfortunately no one discussed these dealings with the inhabitants of the land.

In the Red River Settlement, lands that had already been purchased from the HBC by residents were now sold by the HBC to Canada. Canadian surveyors working in the Red River area prior to the transfer came into conflict with the French-speaking Metis Andre Nault, who called upon Louis Riel for assistance. Riel, accompanied by a group of Metis, peaceably but firmly made the trespassing surveyors withdraw from Nault’s hay privilege.

Soon after, the Metis formed a National Committee and made it known that the Canadian government’s proposed Lieutenant Governor of the Settlement, Minister of the Interior William McDougall, a man who referred to the Metis as “semi-savages and serfs of yesterday”, would not be allowed access to the Settlement unless Canada negotiated terms with representatives of the Settlement. This refusal to allow McDougall access was enforced when on November 2, 1869 a Metis party turned back McDougall at the border with the United States.

Unbeknownst to McDougall, the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada had been postponed following news of the unrest in the Red River Settlement. On December 1, 1869, the original date for the transfer, McDougall forged the Queen’s signature on a proclamation he drew up, crossed the border and proclaimed that the Hudson’s Bay Company was no longer in control of Rupert’s Land

This resulted a situation Prime Minister MacDonald had written to warn McDougall of (a letter McDougall did not receive in time), wherein the HBC’s authority was ended, but Canada’s authority was not established. In this absence of government the residents were in a lawful position to form a government for protection of life and property. This the Metis National Committee did on December 8, 1869.

Metis representatives travelled to Ottawa and, after being briefly jailed, negotiated an agreement that formed the basis of the Manitoba Act. Among the provisions of the Manitoba Act was 1,400,000 acres of land to be set aside for the children of the Metis, in the area where Winnipeg is today. Manitoba (a smaller Manitoba than we know today) joined confederation July 15, 1870.



A couple of months before, a Canadian military expedition had been dispatched to the Settlement. Upon learning that elements within the expedition planned to lynch him, Riel fled to exile in the United States. It is interesting to note that while in exile Riel was three times elected to Canadian Parliament. Out of fear for his life, Riel was never able to take his seat in the House of Commons (and as we know, when the government did get hold of Riel, following his leadership in standing up for Metis rights in Saskatchewan, he was soon hanged).  Upon arrival in the Settlement the Canadian expedition engaged in crimes of the worst order against Metis citizens. This, coupled with on-going hostility from Ontarian settlers in following years, contributed to the dispersion of many Metis from Manitoba to point west and south.

The Metis never did receive the 1.4 million acres of land promised by the Manitoba Act, a deliberate act of the Canadian government which continues to vex the country today.

On 8 May 2013, the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) won a Supreme Court decision against the government of Canada. The MMF provided documentary evidence that the government of Canada under John A. MacDonald carried out a deliberate plan to deny the Metis their land and to overwhelm the province with settlers more amenable to the government. The Supreme Court agreed with the Metis claims, finding that “The federal Crown failed to implement the land grant provision set out in s. 31 of the Manitoba Act, 1870 in accordance with the honour of the Crown.” and stating that “So long as the constitutional grievance at issue here remains outstanding, the job of reconciliation and constitutional harmony remains unachieved.”

Unfortunately this court decision does not seem to signal a settlement of the issue any time soon. The Harper government responded to the decision by stating that the ruling does not spell out any specific remedy for the Metis.

This small piece of Canada’s history, too briefly told here, exemplifies the conflict, discrimination and disregard for law that lies hidden beneath the polite fabric of Canadian identity. In its dealings and treaties with First Nations and Metis, the government of Canada has failed to act “in accordance with the honour of the Crown” from the formation of the country to the present day.

Recent unilateral removal of protections of rivers and lakes by bills C-38 and C-45 helped spark the Idle No More movement across the country. These omnibus bills, a type of bill once denounced by Stephen Harper as undemocratic and counter to the “conventions and practices of the House”, made changes to the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act such as; removing protection of fish habitat (as if the fish can just move elsewhere if their habitat is damaged, like humans moving out of a flood zone), reducing protection of fish species to include only those of commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries value, and even changing the name of the Navigable Waters Protection Act to the Protection of Navigation Act.  First Nations argue that these and other changes imposed without consultation by these bills infringe on treaty rights and ignore indigenous sovereignty.

The omnibus bills were followed by (among other things) imposition of Bill S-8, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which has been characterized in an analysis commissioned by the Assembly of First Nations as “An empty and dangerous response to pressing needs”.  With this Act the government of Canada overrides the authority of First Nations bands on reserves with respect to drinking water, expressly overriding constitutionally protected rights.  S-8 imposes costs and responsibilities on First Nations without addressing capacity to meet them, and once again fails in the Crown’s duty to consult.

All the while, the government touts small and narrowly focused investments, such as the June 18 announcement by Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl of $10-million for recreational fish conservation measures, as progress.  While in that measure we can agree with Strahl that “Local residents know best how to protect and conserve fish habitat”, there are an overabundance of disquieting actions readily found by those who care to examine this country we call Canada.

This Canada Day let us spend some time looking honestly and thoughtfully at the Canada that is, and imaging the Canada we want.  Then with that in mind, let us each ask ourselves “What’s my first step?”

The author is a descendant of Red River Metis.