Posts from our progressive community

CBC Folds, Finally. On-Air Talent Barred from Paid Speaking Gigs.

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 16:25
Was it Amanda Lang's excesses or the scolding Mother Corp got from the Guardian's George Monbiot?

In an email to CBC staff shared with, top management told reporters all staff must get approval to appear at conferences or to moderate debates or events. It also notes, “CBC/Radio-Canada will no longer approve paid appearances by its on-air journalistic employees.”

The news comes after a slew of controversies over stars at CBC taking money for speaking at events. From chief business correspondent Amanda Lang to chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, the broadcaster has previously defended the practice as separate from their journalistic activities.

Is our children learning? A British Columbia FSA story.

A Creative Revolution - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:34


Is our Children learning? - G.W. Bush, during the push for the failed US No Child Left Behind debacle.


A couple weeks ago, I received a notice in my daughters backpack telling me about some testing that is to be done. Glowingly talking about how IMPORTANT it was......etc. But that these tests would not in fact make any difference to my kid's grades or anything, merely for statistical purposes. For magical funding that never arrives. There are a lot of questions as to what happens with these test results? But then......

My brain twigged....Oh Yes. The numbers that the Fraser Institute programs into their broken data sets to give one of their ideological "report cards". You may recall those? Where they "grade" schools based on the FSA numbers. Real estate is bought and sold based on these numbers by parents who mistakenly believe them.

Fraser Institute is an ACR favourite topic. If I mean in the same vein as spiders and other creepy crawlies

The next week, I received a sealed envelope that held an informational package from the teachers federation that confirmed my hunch. It included an opt out form which I signed and sent back.  Besides the massive waste of time from the actual curriculum and the incredibly stupid waste of money that could be used for books and other things the schools need.... I am not going to allow my child's hard work to be used as cannon fodder for a tobacco-big oil- conservative funded think tank. A think tank that is seeking to destroy the public school system on the altar of Milton Freidman. (here is a cute bunny picture to sooth your brain if you clicked that last link)

Today......The Principal called me to ask why I had signed, and I told her.

 But its the LAW. She said.

Pardon me? I will just keep her home during the test then I said.

So she interjected that the tests are being held from now until February the 20th. (So they they would lie in wait or something to force test her? Or, we would have to keep her home for a month?) She seemed to think it was important that I knew her kids took it. Why she thought this I have no idea, still puzzling over that one. It wasn't like we were talking about a possibly dangerous physical activity and I needed reassurance that no harm came to her kids? Or that she was being condescending and telling me it should be good enough for the likes of my kids? 

My next stop was the BC teachers federation where I spoke to a gentleman about the whole thing, to see what our rights are as parents.

Next up! the School superintendent. Condescending much? Heh.

He pushed all the wrong buttons. Big mistake. Big. HUGE.

At one point I asked what the repercussions of said "law" were if she decided not to take the test...... and he decided to attempt to shame me for my bad bad parenting. You would not want to embarrass her or anything would I? That is pretty much where the conversation left the rails. It was like talking to one of the converted. Hallehleuah!

Now, some parents pull their kids from stuff like sex ed, or field trips that are actually part of the school curriculum, but thats ok in our schools, because.....Personal values..... Its part of their morally held beleifs, or they don't feel comfortable.

But to not have your child tested because you actually know the damage this testing causes to all the schools of BC and you do not want to add to it? Apparently closely held ideas with actual proof,  and beliefs not of the squirmy/religious variety are not applicable.

But there is also this; kids who are "special needs" or in ESL classes, or who are having reading difficulties, are excused. Exceptionable circumstances. One of the people I did talk to today asked me if my kid is receiving extra supports. Nope. My kid is a bright little button with good marks, and really agreeable at school. (Not the latter at home. LOL ) And then it kinda made sense if you look at it from another angle. They don't always include the kids who won't get good marks if they have a label or who are struggling.  :) Marks would be higher ya think? (See this link for a HI-larious guide to the twisted gnarled paths that the Fraser Institute uses to get to their forgone conclusion) 

I was also made aware of the fact that some schools may have been holding cram sessions to ensure better results. Hours of valuable class time to practice for a test that is supposed to create a random snapshot of the education system to evaluate it- But that do nothing whatsoever for their grades..... Makes TOTAL sense.  Cheating or gaming the system is what some of us would call it.

I have no idea how many Canadians are aware of the abysmal results in the US with the teach to the test methodology of schooling. The ensuing awful result, is something they have attempted to tie around the necks of teachers with pay cuts based on myriad standardized tests. Many schools can no longer offer any sort of Art, PE or fun activities into school. It's all about the tests. See this nine year study that found testing was caused more harm than good.  Kids who are not engaged will leave school before graduation, the good teachers will resign in disgust.

We are no where near that here, even though it appears that many conservative types in Canada would love to emulate failure.

The FI would love us to base teacher pay on merit pay. IE: student performance. The schools that perform the lowest are usually in socio-economically depressed areas, and that would be the main driver for how kids learn. We have studied this many times and we know this as a fact, perhaps those administering the FI need some remedial edumacation themselves. They don't read too good. :)

Charter Schools are big in the US, school vouchers. Ask Sweden about that too.

A few years back, the FI gave the polygamous school at Bountiful top marks.  Bountiful teaches creationism as science, and cannot offer graduation certificates. Rather disturbing, no?

Blast from the past.....Recall when the FI tried to interject their climate change denial in the schools?  OHHH! Do you also remember the time they told us second hand smoke was ok, in a study that was funded by tobacco companies? Ah. Oh, and I just recalled the FI "study" that concluded... 

Obesity isn’t an epidemic so we don’t need more government regulation, the study concludes, and besides, the obese die younger, saving us precious health care dollars. Nothing to worry about. 

So. At the end of all of this; we are asking our smart, wonderful, kind little girl if she would prefer to just read a book during this hoopla. This is the same kid who tells her little sister that we will not be buying Littlest pet shops at Amazon, because Amazon the company is bad to their workers. Who knows that Walmart is the same, and who also knows what poverty and hardship does to children and families. The same wonderful person who takes spiders outside, and cried when her bean plant passed away. 

Teachable lessons. Honour, respect and standing up for what is right. That is our job, and the BC Government should consider this a lesson as well.

Wonder if they take lessons very well? 

I think the answer to that is obvious.  They don't even follow the laws of the land. 

Bonus giggle. The film Rock n Roll high school popped into my head last night. The subplot other than the awesomeness of the Ramones; The principal wanted the school to become a place of boredom and no fun. 

Crank it. 



Is Harper Collaborating With the Saudi Princes to Crush Their Shiite Minority?

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:59

Stephen Harper is beginning to catch a bit of flack over the sale of 15-billion dollars worth of Canadian-built light armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

At first blush it's hard to understand what Saudi Arabia, that already has a significant armoured force but shows no inclination to use it except to suppress pro-democracy dissidents in places like Bahrain, wants with those LAVs.  Maybe it's got something to do with this, the simmering religious conflict between the Sunni House of Saud and Shiite Iran.  Could the Saudis be gearing up to crush their own Shiite minority?

Last October, Saudi Arabia’s Special Criminal Court sentenced Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr — a popular Shi’ite cleric and outspoken political dissident — to death.

This was not an ordinary criminal trial, even considering Saudi Arabia’s liberal use of capital punishment. Among other charges, the prosecutor sought to convict al-Nimr of “waging war on God” and “aiding terrorists,” even calling for the cleric to be publicly executed by “crucifixion.” In Saudi Arabia, this rare method of execution entails beheading the individual before publicly displaying his decapitated body.

The widely revered Shi’ite cleric was ultimately convicted of “disobeying” the king, waging violence against the state, inviting “foreign meddling” in the kingdom, inciting vandalism and sectarian violence, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s relatives. However, al-Nimr’s family and supportersclaim that the ruling was politically driven and insist that the cleric led a non-violent movement committed to promoting Shi’ite rights, women’s rights, and democratic reform in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian Shi’ites have long complained of state-sponsored discrimination and human rights abuses by conservative Sunni authorities.According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabian Shi’ites “face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment.”

In early 2011, anti-government protests erupted in the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is home to nearly all of Saudi Arabia’s 3 million Shi’ite citizens and nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. Throughout 2011 and 2012, al-Nimr was a leader in these protests, in which activists demanded the release of the “forgotten prisoners” — a reference to nine political prisoners who had been detained then for some 16 years.

After Saudi Arabian, Emirati, and Kuwaiti forces entered Bahrain to help quell a non-violent Shi’ite uprising in the tiny island kingdom, Saudi Shi’ites expressed solidarity with their Bahraini counterparts. This prompted officials in Riyadh to fear that growing Shi’ite dissent could trigger a crisis in the strategically vital Eastern Province, which borders several other countries with sizeable Shi’ite populations. So between March 2011 and August 2012, the Saudi government waged a harsh crackdown on Shi’ite protestors, killing over 20, injuring several dozen, and detaining over 1,000 others, including 24 children.

When you supply 15-billion dollars worth of armoured fighting vehicles to a gang of cutthroats like the House of Saud, you're complicit in whatever they do with them.  Prominent Saudis like Prince Bandar bin Sultan have openly stated that the Saudis are gearing up to exterminate Shia Islam.

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
More here, here and here.

Salvaging Order Out of Chaos

The Disaffected Lib - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:26

I don't want to blame America for this but, somehow, on its unipolar watch, much of the world was set ablaze.

It's not just Afghanistan (along with neighbouring Pakistan) and Iraq although they're both beset by violence by non-state actors they simply cannot quell. Syria, ditto.  Libya, same same.  Lebanon, it's on the cusp.  Yemen, who can tell what's going on there.

Then you've got the African charnel houses.  Central African Republic, check. Congo, check.  Somalia and Sudan, check.

Did I mention Mexico?  Well there's some wholesale carnage going on there.  As for Guatemala and Honduras, they're pretty much out of sight, out of mind for the West.

Southeast and East Asia.  Order more or less prevails, for now, but it's a seller's market for modern instruments of mayhem, especially submarines.  Why the city state of Singapore needs six modern submarines, I'm not sure.  Vietnam is deploying modern Russian u-boats with missile capability and the open secret is they're intended to deter China.  Japan may be on the verge of shredding the last vestiges of its post-WWII pacifism, especially if it can score an order from Australia for new submarines.  The F-35?  Korea's in, so are Japan and Australia. Can't imagine what they've got in mind for those.

Sorry about this but I'm just working off the top of my head.  Apologies to all the hell holes I inadvertently overlooked, places like Ukraine and the Stans.

The bedeviling part of this is that most of these conflicts are what are termed "new wars" to distinguish them from "old wars" of the sort we're familiar with that were typically conducted between state-actors.  New wars are like a floor party at an asylum, everyone's invited and the cutlery drawer is unlocked. They're a melange of state-actors, quasi-state actors, non-state actors and a smattering of garden variety criminals and thugs.

Old wars tended to have winners and losers.  Wars past were ordinarily fought for something discernible that could define victory for the winner and defeat for the less fortunate side.  And there were "sides" which, we're finding, really helps keep the conflict focused.  New wars can be pretty wobbly with the participants pursuing their own objectives that might not be compatible with lasting alliances. Yesterday's ally can be today's adversary.  It's like herding seriously feral cats that are armed to the teeth and are equally skilled in assassination and improvised explosive devices.  In other words it's best not to rely too heavily on the old "my enemy's enemy" rule.

The overall situation is, well, chaotic.  There's really no better word for it.  The global litter box is getting pretty ripe and there are a lot of repeat customers lining up for their next turn.  A report prepared for the World Economic Forum meeting now underway in Davos, Switzerland, warns that the risk of inter-state conflict over resources is looming.  And the focus is on water - who will get it and who will have to go without.

We may have to wait a few years to discover whether those will be fought as new wars or old wars.  Wars of subsistence, wars of survival, resource wars.  It brings a new dimension to "losing."  What do you do after your neighbour gets control of your water?  Move, I suppose, if you can.  Try to get your kids to some place where they've still got water.  Migration.

The World Economic Forum has even released a lovely chart as part of its Global Risks 2015 report that lists threats according to their impact and probability.  It makes pulling double shifts in an ebola ward seem not all that bad.

Surely this is somehow futuristic.  These identified troubles lie well off on the horizon.  Actually, no.  The WEF report is based on a 10-year time frame.  These are calamitous, catastrophic events you can expect to read about over the next decade.

Some of the countries at risk of resource war are already immersed in conflict, usually religion or ethnic-driven.  Others are on the cusp of conflict.  New meat for the butcher.

For a while I hoped this chaos might lead to the emergence of a new, bi-polar world order.  Impaired little states would seek the patronage of either the US or China and we'd be back to something resembling the good old days before the Soviet Union imploded.  I no longer think that's going to happen.

The major players, the US and China, are facing enormous environmental challenges at home.  Both are very vulnerable to catastrophic sea level rise.  Both have major, low-lying coastal cities and infrastructure.  Both face dwindling freshwater reserves.  China has an enormous pollution and contamination threat affecting air, water and its soil.  The United States is bracing for a probable mass-migration out of Central America.  Russia fears China has plans to relocate excess population to sparsely populated Siberia. India and Pakistan fear that China has plans to scoop their shared resource, the Himalayan headwaters.

As for Canada, it might be wise to give up our fantasies of foreign intervention. We have a lot of turf to protect, a lot of resources to secure with, by world standards, a minuscule population.  We must revisit our priorities and perhaps focus more on long-term goals like overhauling and upgrading our essential infrastructure to meet the demands of the harsher climate era, the anthropocene, we're now entering.  We can't even begin to secure our own borders against a determined challenger.  We could start by looking at the world as it is, not the world we delude ourselves into believing we can make it.

Another Compelling Video From Operation Maple

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 07:56
Operation Maple (Take Canada Back) is continuing its fine job of reminding us of the terrible way we are governed, offering us frequent and compelling evidence that demonstrates how the neo-liberal agenda, pursued with such diabolical glee by the Harper regime, is continuing to undermine our country. I suspect its resources, and others (the Salamander, for example, has some interesting ideas in this regard which I shall soon write about) will become increasingly important as we move ever closer to the next federal election. Please visit their site and disseminate their material as you see fit.

The following video explores the history of the free trade agreement and its costly consequences, consequences that continue to this day and promise to grow even more grave under the Canada-China Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and the Canada-Eu (CETA) deal.

Our sovereignty as a nation continues to erode thanks to these agreements, brokered with such secrecy, with the only true beneficiaries the corporate elites and the multinationals.

Recommend this Post

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 07:02
Here, on how the now-infamous story of Eric and Ilsa bears a disturbing resemblance to how Brad Wall has handled Saskatchewan's finances.

For further reading...
- Again, the original Eric and Ilsa story is here, with Rob Carrick following up here. And the story was picked up (with appropriate criticism) here, here and here among other places.
- I've also commented in this post, and I'll note that the point applies equally when it comes to Saskatchewan: in fact, Saskatchewan's GDP has more than tripled since 1990 without generating much more than the insistence that we keep prioritizing GDP growth over doing anything useful with it.
- Other GDP and income references within the article are here on a global basis, and here for Canadian provincial numbers. 
- Finally, CBC reported on then-Provincial Auditor Bonnie Lysyk's findings as to how the Wall government has managed to run deficits even in boom times here.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 06:37
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Amy Goodman discusses Barack Obama's call to reverse the spread of inequality in the U.S. And Seumas Milne writes that the effort will inevitably challenge the world oligarchs have built up to further their own wealth and power at everybody else's expense:
In most of the world, labour’s share of national income has fallen continuously and wages have stagnated under this regime of privatisation, deregulation and low taxes on the rich. At the same time finance has sucked wealth from the public realm into the hands of a small minority, even as it has laid waste the rest of the economy. Now the evidence has piled up that not only is such appropriation of wealth a moral and social outrage, but it is fuelling social and climate conflict, wars, mass migration and political corruption, stunting health and life chances, increasing poverty, and widening gender and ethnic divides.

Escalating inequality has also been a crucial factor in the economic crisis of the past seven years, squeezing demand and fuelling the credit boom. We don’t just know that from the research of the French economist Thomas Piketty or the British authors of the social study The Spirit Level. After years of promoting Washington orthodoxy, even the western-dominated OECD and IMF argue that the widening income and wealth gap has been key to the slow growth of the past two neoliberal decades. The British economy would have been almost 10% larger if inequality hadn’t mushroomed. Now the richest are using austerity to help themselves to an even larger share of the cake.
Perhaps a section of the worried elite might be prepared to pay a bit more tax. What they won’t accept is any change in the balance of social power – which is why, in one country after another, they resist any attempt to strengthen trade unions, even though weaker unions have been a crucial factor in the rise of inequality in the industrialised world.

It’s only through a challenge to the entrenched interests that have dined off a dysfunctional economic order that the tide of inequality will be reversed. The anti-austerity Syriza party, favourite to win the Greek elections this weekend, is attempting to do just that – as the Latin American left has succeeded in doing over the past decade and a half. Even to get to that point demands stronger social and political movements to break down or bypass the blockage in a colonised political mainstream. Crocodile tears about inequality are a symptom of a fearful elite. But change will only come from unrelenting social pressure and political challenge.- Meanwhile, Helena Smith sees the public revolt against ill-advised austerity in Greece as the first step in pushing back.

- Lisa McKenzie discusses the vilification of the working class in the UK. And Carol Goar notes that Canada's workers of all classes see little hope of improving their lives with time and effort:
It is true that the 52 per cent of Canadians who describe themselves as middle class are concerned about their jobs, their ability to pay their bills, their lack of retirement savings and their children’s prospects. The Liberal leader has put his finger on a real problem.

But it is bigger than he thinks. A substantial chunk of the adult population — 45 per cent — is trapped below the middle class. They think they’re stuck there for life, no matter how hard they work.

“The key finding (of the poll) is that Canadians have very low confidence in their social mobility,” Worden said. “They don’t think they can move up.”- Finally, Delavene Diaz examines some of the economic costs of climate change. And Alison shines a spotlight on the National Energy Board members recruited by the Harper Cons to impose as many of those costs as possible on Canada in the name of oil extraction, while Andy Blatchford reports on what our federal and provincial governments are losing in their bets on fossil fuels.

Tearing Away At the Nation's Core

Northern Reflections - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 06:29

The Harper government is busy preparing new anti-terror legislation. But, Colin Kenny writes in today's Toronto Star, we don't need new legislation. We need adequate funding of the institutions which apply the laws we already have:

No less than eight pieces of anti-terrorism legislation have successfully passed through Parliament since the Twin Towers fell. These laws made comprehensive changes to Canada’s legal landscape to ensure the country has the powers it needs to prevent terrorism.Harper himself has acknowledged this, stating just recently to the press that, “the reality is that our security agencies are able, in the vast majority of cases, to identify threats that are out there and to prevent them from coming to fruition.”
So why the new legislation? The prime minister believes it is an all important a wedge issue:

Harper sees the passage of further counterterrorism legislation in Parliament, no matter how unnecessary, as a valuable wedge issue that will help with his re-election. Last year, the prime minister’s handlers went to great lengths casting him as a reincarnated Ronald Reagan on the world stage, unafraid in staring down the Russian bear.

Now, they’re trying to burnish this tough guy image by having Harper pretend he’s making big strides in combating terrorists by passing superfluous laws.
It's all about votes at home. It's always been about votes at home.

Mr. Harper's economic strategy has also always been about votes at home. Yesterday, the Bank of Canada drove another nail into his economic strategy. While he has been buying votes, he has also been shredding the nation's core principles -- something he will continue to do with his new anti-terror legislation.

Rick's Latest

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 05:55
As usual, Mr. Mercer does us all proud as he yet again lambastes the obdurate, arrogant Mr. Harper, this time over the fact that he doesn't play well with others (a.k.a. the provincial premiers).

Recommend this Post

Stephen Harper and the Fall of the Oily Messiah

Montreal Simon - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 04:47

For almost a decade he was able to fool countless Canadians into believing that he was the Oily Messiah.

The Great Economist Leader who would lead us to prosperity down the tarry road to Greater Alberta.

Even if he left the rest of the country in ruins, and the planet in flames.

But yesterday that myth was officially shattered by the Governor of the Bank of Canada. 
Read more »

It's Nearly "Duffy Time" Again

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:38
We're just over two months away from the start of the trial of senator Mike Duffy.  It's scheduled to open April 7 and continue to May 12, when it will adjourn to be completed from June 1 to 19.  That's 41 court days in all.

With trial prep, motions and 41 days in court, that adds up to one huge legal bill for a guy who, rumour has it, is somewhat impecunious.

I'm guessing those will be the longest 41 days in the political career of Stephen Joseph Harper.  It could turn into an ordeal for a lot of the players including the PMO types and the Tory Senate leadership.

The known facts raise far more questions than they answer.  People are going to be examined and cross-examined on a number of those issues, some of which go uncomfortably close to the prime minister himself.

I'm surprised this has gone on as long as it has and I'll be even more surprised if the trial proceeds in April.   I thought this might be settled with a quiet plea bargain deal - no time/conditional sentence/various charges withdrawn - over the Christmas break.  Anything, just make it go away soon to put as much distance as possible between Duffy and the next election.

That hasn't happened and I'll spend some time over the next couple of weeks to see if I can find out why.

DILBIT does the Nebbies

Creekside - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:06

The National Energy Board has sided with Kinder Morgan in refusing the Province of BC's request for more details on how KM would handle an oil spill from KM's proposed $5.4-billion Edmonton-to-Burnaby Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. 
None of our business apparently. Kinder Morgan cited "commercial, security, and privacy reasons" for their redactions.

The NEB is also rather coy when it comes to identifying the former energy industry links among the members that make up their own ranks.  NEB bios are full of expressions like "contributed to the creation and development of major energy projects" without getting into exactly which projects and companies they represent. So to augment that lack of info - here's the Nebbies...

Not to pick on "Bob" in the toon specifically here but rather than the NEB stating that Mr. Bob Vergette was once "Vice President, Operations with a major North American liquids pipeline company", it would seem rather more to the point given NEB's current Trans Mountain review to include the info that company he was VP of was Trans Mountain Pipelines - even if it was a decade ago.

NEB Chair and CEO Peter Watson - formerly Deputy Minister of the Alberta Executive Council til last June - is at least straight up about NEB priorities. Last November he explained that "the board's main job is to ensure proper construction of the pipeline" while he saw environmental concerns as more "the job of the provinces and pipeline company".

NEB Vice Chair Lyne Mercier : 29 years with Gaz Metro.

Roland George : according to NEB "worked primarily in the private energy sector for over three decades", is also a Gaz Metro alumni, and held senior positions with the Canadian Energy Research Institute, or CERI, a not-for-profit tarsands booster. 

Philip Davies : Vice-President, Law and General Counsel of SaskPower ; VP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Encana Gas Storage

Shane Parrish : Manager of Business Development for Canadian Petroleum Engineering

Ron Wallace : From NEB : "At AGRA, he was involved in major oil and gas operations throughout the former Soviet Union and Russia where he managed major project assignments in conjunction with the World Bank."
Also "senior management positions with Petro-Canada and CanStar Oil Sands Ltd."

Kenneth Bateman : "VP of Legal Affairs for Enmax, a large energy distribution, supply and service company"

Alison Scott : Deputy Energy Minister of Nova Scotia and offshore oil promoter

James Ballem : former Conservative MLA and PEI Minister of Environment and Energy.

Mike Richmond : energy lawyer and Co-Chair of the Energy and Power Group at McMillan LLP; and on the board of the Ontario Energy Association.

Jacques Gauthier : one time personal envoy to Harper in 2010 for the Vancouver Olympics, served on the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service, and was "senior VP and CEO of Kruger Energy Inc., where he headed up a new division dedicated to the development of renewable energy" . 
NEB bio : "Mr. Gauthier has contributed to the creation and development of major energy projects in Canada, the United States and Europe."

The only NEB member who doesn't seem to fit comfortably into the oil and gas sector insider mold is David Hamilton - Chief Electoral Officer and Deputy Minister and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. 

Could be it's possible to be just a bit too much inside : 
NEB : Onshore Pipeline Regulation Incidents 2000 to 2012 :

"A truly captured regulator " said Marc Eliesen, a senior energy executive who once served as CEO of BC Hydro, when he quit his role as a NEB intervenor in the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tarsands-to-tankers expansion project.

This post an update to Norm Farrell's from 2013 as more players have been added since.

Collected DILBITs

The Real Problem With Contemporary Journalism

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:52

The current scandal engulfing the CBC and Amanda Lang has made its way overseas into the cross-hairs of The Guardian's George Monbiot.

After providing a summary, with appropriate links, of the sordid Lang tale that encompasses massive conflict of interest and management collusion, Monbiot has this to say:
CBC refused to answer my questions, and I have not had a response from Lang. It amazes me that she remains employed by CBC, which has so far done nothing but bluster and berate its critics.But the CBC's indefensible stance is not the real subject of Monbiot's essay, merely part of the context for his thesis:
[T]hose who are supposed to scrutinise the financial and political elite are embedded within it. Many belong to a service-sector aristocracy, wedded metaphorically (sometimes literally) to finance. Often unwittingly, they amplify the voices of the elite, while muffling those raised against it.Studies and statistic prove his point:
A study by academics at the Cardiff School of Journalism examined the BBC Today programme’s reporting of the bank bailouts in 2008. It discovered that the contributors it chose were “almost completely dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators who questioned the benefits of having such a large finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.” The financiers who had caused the crisis were asked to interpret it.The heavily biased reporting on that catastrophe, however, was only representative of a deeper malaise:
The same goes for discussions about the deficit and the perceived need for austerity. The debate has been dominated by political and economic elites, while alternative voices – arguing that the crisis has been exaggerated, or that instead of cuts, the government should respond with Keynesian spending programmes or taxes on financial transactions, wealth or land – have scarcely been heard. Those priorities have changed your life: the BBC helped to shape the political consensus under which so many are now suffering.And what about fair and balanced reporting? A fiction, according to Monbiot:
The BBC’s business reporting breaks its editorial guidelines every day by failing to provide alternative viewpoints. Every weekday morning, the Today programme grovels to business leaders for 10 minutes. It might occasionally challenge them on the value or viability of their companies, but hardly ever on their ethics. Corporate critics are shut out of its business coverage – and almost all the rest.

On BBC News at Six, the Cardiff researchers found, business representatives outnumbered trade union representatives by 19 to one. “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world,” the study said. This, remember, is where people turn when they don’t trust the corporate press.He ends by listing the media's myriad failures, and the grave consequence of those failures:
...their failure to expose the claims of the haut monde, their failure to enlist a diversity of opinion, their failure to permit the audience to see that another world is possible. If even the public sector broadcasters parrot the talking points of the elite, what hope is there for informed democratic choice?
Monbiot's piece should be required reading for all concerned about the condition of that great protector of democracy, the fifth estate. As well, we would be indeed foolish if we failed to understand that the insights he offers apply, not just to Great Britain, but to Canada and much of the rest of western world, as well.Recommend this Post

The Winter That Wasn't

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:51

I put a stand of firewood in my garage this year figuring it would spare me having to go out to the woodshed in back on cold winter nights.  I figured it would hold enough firewood to get through maybe six weeks of winter heating. As things are looking now, the modest cache in the garage won't even need refilling this winter.

Crocuses and daffs are coming up.  Trees are budding.  The herbs are re-awakening.  Before long it'll be time to fire up the lawnmower.

I never did get to dig out my snow shovel from the dark recesses of the garden shed.  We had a sprinkling of snow, maybe half an inch, one morning but it was gone as fast as it had arrived.

My daughter has noticed it too.  She figures we've entered a "sweater" climate. Her fireplace now turns her home into an oven so it's easier and more pleasant for all concerned just to throw on a sweater.

It's something of an annual rite of passage out here to needle our Eastern kin with accounts of early spring sprouting while they're still digging out from the latest blizzard.  It used to be good fun.  It's not funny any more.

What does this warming mean?  For urban dwellers it brings some obvious benefits in even lower heating costs and driveways that go from one year to the next without need of clearing.  But we share this big, sparsely populated, island with a great variety of wildlife for which this change may hold ominous consequences.

Warm winters mean reduced mountain snowpack.  That snowpack plays a vital role, especially during our summer "drought" months.  It's essential for salmon to spawn.  Not enough fresh water to dilute the seawater at the mouths of spawning rivers and the salmon will simply not head upstream.  If they do go up and spawn it takes a steady flow of cooling meltwater to keep their eggs from overheating and dying.  And, of course, the salmon spawn is critical for the survival of bears, wolves, eagles and scavengers of all sorts.

Those of us who live along the coasts - Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic - tend to see the changing climate perhaps a little more clearly than the inland population. From early-onset sea level rise to marine species migration there is a range of changes showing up at our doorsteps.  And just noticing it makes you wonder, okay, what's coming next?

Harper Intimidation Tactic Backfires

Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:39

As noted yesterday, the Harper-led CRA attacks on charities inimical to the base continues apace, the latest 'victim' being Dying With Dignity Canada, which is having its charitable status 'annulled.' However, this time it appears that the bully's strategy has backfired.

As reported in The Star, Dying With Dignity Canada is not going to appeal the decision, instead seeing it as a real opportunity:
“We won’t be opposing it, simply because it would be lengthy, time consuming, costly and a distraction from our core work,’’ Morris said in a telephone interview from Toronto.

She hinted strongly that once her group’s status is officially gone, it will use its website to begin endorsing politicians and parties who support the physician-assisted suicide position.

“We’ll be able to say here’s a candidate, come look,’’ Morris said.

“It’s unfortunate we’ll no longer be able to issue tax receipts, but it will also be a real freeing from constraints, because as a charity we’ve really had to follow careful guidelines from the (revenue agency). We’ll no longer need to do that,’’ Morris added.A visit to their website shows a wealth of information on the topic of dying with dignity, surely fulfilling the educational component that comprises a good part of CRA-conferred charitable status, and solidly giving the lie to the Agency's alleged reason for revoking that status.

Nonetheless, as a result of Harper's sleazy intolerance of opposing views, I suspect that the profile of Dying With Dignity Canada has been considerably enhanced.

Sorry it didn't work out for you this time, Stephen.Recommend this Post

They Didn't Know What They Were Doing Or . . .

Northern Reflections - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 06:06


In last Sunday's New York Times Paul Krugman tried to answer the question, "Why do conservatives hate good government?" His answer was pretty convincing:

Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.
What they seek to establish is a rigid, class society -- where everyone knows his or her place. In today's Toronto Star, Carol Goar argues that Stephen Harper is well on his way to establishing ssuch a society, where movement between the classes is non existent. A poll from Pollara suggests that:

A substantial chunk of the adult population — 45 per cent — is trapped below the middle class. They think they’re stuck there for life, no matter how hard they work.

“The key finding (of the poll) is that Canadians have very low confidence in their social mobility.They don’t think they can move up.”

Consider some of the poll's other numbers:

  • Half of Canadians (49 per cent) said they were worse off financially than their parents.

  • More than half (55 per cent) were pessimistic about the employment outlook for their adult children.

  • Eight out of 10 working Canadians said their salaries were not keeping pace with the cost of living.

  • More than three-quarters (79 per cent) were worried about being able to afford health care as they aged.

  • A sizeable majority (85 per cent) agreed that “income inequality is no longer about the gap between rich and poor; but between the very rich and everyone else.”

  • As Reformers, the Harperites sold themselves as the champions of the little man. But once in power, they became the little man's worst enemy. With everything they have touched, the Harperites have produced the opposite of what they promised.

    Either they didn't know what they were doing. Or they lied.

    Wednesday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 05:47
    Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

    - Frances Russell writes that NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements are designed to make it difficult for democratic governments to exercise any meaningful authority. And Rowena Mason discusses how the EU-US TTIP is particularly directed toward throwing the public to corporate wolves, while Glyn Moody notes that there are plenty more similar agreements in the works even if the TTIP fails.

    - George Monbiot discusses Amanda Lang's interventions on behalf of her business connections as a prime example of how far too much of our media is trying to serve the wealthy rather than questioning power at all.

    - Jonathan Sas reminds us why an entrepreneurial government is in everybody's best interest:
    A growing body of evidence, and the analyses of scholars like Mazzucato, is starting to open our eyes to the true value of government participation in innovation strategies.

    Mazzucato raises concerns that the roles of public and private sectors in countries like Canada are becoming increasingly out of balance, with the “parasitic” private sector capturing most of the benefits of public sector investments, but not adequately reinvesting to fund new waves of innovation. She characterizes a system where the risks are socialized and the rewards privatized.
    How will governments rise to the challenges of a highly competitive global marketplace and growing income and wealth inequality? What can be done to continue changing perceptions about who should take and benefit from risks? How do we begin to articulate a clear, common agenda for smart, equitable, and innovation-led economic growth?
    Only a different conversation about government’s role in innovation will create a new narrative — one in which Canada is reaching its full potential as a leading investor in the wealth and wellbeing of all its citizens. - And Hugh Grant, Manish Pandey and James Townsend study the consequences of privatizing public services like hospital laundry, and find that it results in the public incurring widespread costs and losses for no real benefit.

    - Finally, Lawrence Martin writes that Thomas Mulcair is absolutely right to challenge Stephen Harper's attempt to sell fear and hate as his election platform

    The Humiliation of Jason Kenney and the Desperation of the Cons

    Montreal Simon - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 04:38

    Yesterday I wrote about how Jason Kenney was embarrassed, when he claimed in a CTV interview that the government would use budget cuts to easily balance the budget. 

    But wouldn't touch the rainy day fund set aside for emergencies, like natural disasters. Because you know, the Con regime is a RESPONSIBLE government, 

    Only to have an anonymous Finance Department official say exactly the opposite. They're NOT planning budget cuts, but they ARE thinking of going after the rainy day fund.

    Which as I pointed out, left Kenney looking like an idiot or a dunce...
    Read more »

    How to Stop Stephen Harper From Using the War to Win the Election

    Montreal Simon - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 00:36

    I hate to ask this question, because I hate to criticize the opposition parties at a time like this one.

    But when will they understand that our war in Iraq is just a sideshow?

    Understand that the real war is the battle to defeat Stephen Harper and his Cons and take this country back. 

    And stop falling into Harper's obvious traps.

    Like they did yesterday.
    Read more »


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