Politics and its Discontents

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Reflections, Observations, and Analyses Pertaining to the Canadian Political Scene
Mis à jour : il y a 49 min 4 sec

Harper Regimed Deservedly Mocked and Disdained In House

il y a 5 heures 14 min
I often marvel at the ability of the Prime Minister and his minions to keep a straight face as they baldly lie to all of us. At least those lies came in for some much deserved mockery yesterday in the House of Commons:

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Another Reminder Of The Regime Under Which We Chafe

lun, 10/20/2014 - 14:53


I hope none of us forgets this, just one small part of the Harper programme to promote ignorance, stifle informed discussion, and ravage the environment.Recommend this Post

Let The Sun Shine

lun, 10/20/2014 - 08:04


Like the vampires of fiction who cling to the darkness as they carry out their nefarious, life-depleting ravages on their prey, the Harper regime best operates in the dark, away from the light of public scrutiny as it continues to suck the vitality out of our democracy. (Sorry for the lurid metaphor, but it does seem to be dramatically apt.) While it is a topic I have written about many times on this blog, I am sure I'm in good company when I say that only by bringing as many of these deeds into the light do we stand a chance of Canadians rejecting this perversion of government.

To that end, I would like to bring to your attention the following email I received from Democracy Watch, one of several NGO's that work tirelessly to promote the principles of open and accessible government as a way of promoting democratic principles and participation. After reading the missive, I hope you will consider signing the letter it talks about. The link is contained within that letter:



Since 2012, the federal Conservative government has been claiming to have an open government plan. In fact, every independent report has shown more excessive secrecy in the federal government than any time since the so-called Access to Information law passed in 1983.

The law is so weak it really should be called the “Guide to Keeping Government Information Secret” law.

Right now Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement is proposing a plan to the international Open Government Partnership that will only make already public information a bit more easily accessible.

This will do nothing to end secrecy that encourages waste, abuses and corruption – the law needs to be strengthened to require more transparency, with stronger enforcement and penalties for anyone who keeps information secret that the public has a right to know!

Please click here to send your letter now calling on the federal Conservatives, and governments across Canada, to make key changes to laws to open up government and make it more accountable to you.

Minister Clement and the Conservatives are only taking comments on their proposed plan for a very limited time – please send your message by next Monday, October 20th.

And please Share this with everyone you know – see more details set out below.

And please help keep this campaign going until these key changes to open up government are won. To donate now, please click here.

All together we can make difference!

Thank you very much for your support,

Duff, Tyler, Brad and Josephine
and all the volunteers across Canada who make Democracy Watch’s successful campaigns possible
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Just A Reminder About The Regime Under Which We Chafe

lun, 10/20/2014 - 06:04


In case you missed the story of yet another example of a Harper-led CRA threat against charities that object to the regime's policies of environmental despoliation, you can read about it here, here, or here.Recommend this Post

Michael Harris' New Book

dim, 10/19/2014 - 08:23


Veteran journalist and current national affairs columnist for iPolitics, Michael Harris, has just had his new book on Stephen Harper published. While the 500-page tome, entitled Party of One: Stephen Harper and Canada’s Radical Makeover, may offer nothing startlingly new to those of us who follow national politics closely, it serves as both a useful reminder of the democratic depredations Harper is responsible for, as well as an alert to those who are so disengaged as to regard him as a benign presence on the political landscape. While few of the latter will likely read the book, I suggest it would be a useful exercise to email the link to this Star article about the book to friends and associates who might fall into that category.

Some pretty impressive people offer solid testimony against the kind of 'regime change' that has been instituted under the Harper cabal. One of them is Farley Mowat who, in the last months of his life, said this to Harris:
“Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada”.

“We took Parliament for granted, but, like the environment, it turns out that it is an incredibly delicate and fragile structure. Harper has smothered MPs and is destroying Parliament.”Jim Coyle, the article's writer, points out that Michael Harris has always been drawn to stories of injustice and abuse of power. It is precisely what he found in researching Harper's reign:
“A lot of the things that (Harper) was doing struck me as not only unjust but unjustifiable.

“In doing the research I found I was not the only person who thought so, and people a lot smarter and more involved in the system understood the nature of the threat that he presents.”Says former Commons Speaker Peter Milliken:
“Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”Powerful and damning words from a respected parliamentarian.

Another devastating indictment comes from veteran diplomat Paul Heinbecker, a former ambassador to Germany:
“Canada’s diplomacy is hugely different under Harper”. “It is a reversal of our history.

“We have become outliers. We are seen as more American than the Americans, more Israeli than Likud. Given what our foreign policy has become, I would not have joined the service today if I were a young man.”Former information commissioner Robert Marleau joins in on the condemnation of Harper's contempt for anyone or anything that disagrees with him:
[W]hen his government was found in contempt (of Parliament), Harper treated it like a minor, partisan irritation. Parliament is now a minor process obstacle.

“Canadians are sleepwalking through dramatic social, economic and political changes surreptitiously being implemented by a government abusing omnibus bills and stifling public and parliamentary debate”.

“Mr. Harper has not played within the rules. Having attained absolute power, he has absolutely abused that power to the maximum.”
All and all, Harris' insights appear to be ones that we have an obligation to share with less-informed and less-engaged Canadians.

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With An Eye To The Future

sam, 10/18/2014 - 06:42


It is to state the obvious that all progressives long for the day that the Harper regime is ousted from office. What is not so obvious, however, is what shape our country will take once that happens.

There are those who place their faith in Justin Trudeau. Others look with hope to Thomas Mulcair. And then there are others who see little to cheer about in the leadership or politics of either.

The other day The Mound of Sound, who falls into the latter category, wrote a post on leadership, concluding with the following observation:
The thin gruel served up today is a bowl filled with petty technocrats that come in varying flavours of authoritarianism. It's a bland and self-serving offering, devoid of vision, courage and commitment. I fear he is all too correct in his assessment, one that is intimated by Thomas Walkon in today's Star. Entitled Stephen Harper’s legacy fated to endure, Walkom offers the proposition that it is far from certain that the dramatic changes Harper has made during his tenure will be undone by a government led by either the NDP or the Liberals:
True, both the Liberals and the NDP expressed outrage when Canada Post announced its plans [to cut home delivery] last December.

True also that, after a rancorous debate in the Commons, both voted against these plans.

The New Democrats sponsored a cross-Canada petition to oppose the cuts. Alexandre Boulerice, the party’s critic for Canada Post, continues to raise occasional questions in the Commons.

But Canada Post is plowing ahead with plans to eliminate home delivery for almost 1.3 million households by the time of next year’s election.

And neither Mulcair nor Trudeau is promising to reverse that decision if the Conservatives are defeated.On Harper's tax cuts:
They won’t touch them.

Mulcair would raise corporate taxes. However, he says an NDP government would not reverse any of the personal income tax cuts Harper has introduced.

Trudeau says his Liberals wouldn’t reverse any tax cuts at all — personal or corporate.

Both parties slammed Harper for cutting the GST. Yet, if elected, neither would raise it back to its previous level.Walkom point out the further damage Harper could do before he is tossed from the political arena:
Harper may be able to torpedo his rivals’ pre-election spending plans simply by giving away, in the form of tax cuts, all of Ottawa’s expected multi-billion dollar surplus.

The result? Even if Harper loses the next election, much of his legacy seems fated to remain.Such is the timidity of today's political 'leadership' that I fear both the Mound's assessment and Walkom's predictions are all too accurate.Recommend this Post

The Dangers Are Only Too Apparent And Predictable

ven, 10/17/2014 - 11:51


I was taking a bit of a break from blogging today when this came up, a sobering object lesson in the environmental disasters that we flirt with on the West Coast:
A 135-metre container ship laden with bunker and diesel fuel is adrift off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria is reporting.

The Russian container ship Simushir is about 25 kilometres off Tasu Sound, according to the centre.The Council of Haida Nations has issued an emergency alert in case the ship makes landfall, in part because the ship is reportedly carrying 500 tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel.Recommend this Post

We All have To Stand Against This Blatant Reign Of Intimidation And Tyranny

jeu, 10/16/2014 - 15:00



Although I have written many posts on this topic, each new incident once again evokes in me a visceral reponse bordering upon hatred for this government. The Harper regime is back at it again, using the CRA to intimidate people who are critical of its policies or in any way impede the flow of oil progress.

This time, the victims are birdwatchers, yes, that's right, birdwatchers - The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists.

CBC reports the following:
The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists, a registered charity, is apparently at risk of breaking tax agency rules that limit so-called political or partisan activities.

Earlier this year, tax auditors sent a letter to the 300-member group, warning about political material on the group's website.

The stern missive says the group must take appropriate action as necessary "including refraining from undertaking any partisan activities," with the ominous warning that "this letter does not preclude any future audits."It appears that the Harper-directed CRA has accomplished its goal, at least in part, inasmuch as officials of the group, whose revenues amount to a mere $16,000 per annum, are refusing comment, less they attract even more wrath.

But not everyone has succumbed to intimidation:
Longtime member Roger Suffling is speaking up, saying the issue is about democratic freedom and not about arcane tax rules.

Effectively, they've put a gag on us," he said in an interview, noting that the letter arrived just after the club had written directly to two federal cabinet ministers to complain about government-approved chemicals that damage bee colonies.

"You can piece together the timing," said Suffling, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo. "The two things are very concurrent."The other 'sin' of this group, it would appear, is the fact that it
has also had a guest speaker to talk about the oilsands, and has publicly defended the Endangered Species Act from being watered down.Of course, the usual suspects, who I do not believe for a minute, deny any political direction or purpose:
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's office ... denies there's any link, saying the agency operates independently.

Canada Revenue Agency officials say they do not target any one charitable sector, and are choosing groups impartially, without input from the minister's office.

The decision to launch an audit is also not based on any group’s position on the political spectrum, charities directorate chief Cathy Hawara has said.Those denials might work with gullible children, but not thinking adults.

I grow weary of the totalitarian tactics of this regime. I hope my fellow Canadian feel the same.Recommend this Post

The Folly of Harper's Economic Emphasis

jeu, 10/16/2014 - 09:20


While no reasonable person would suggest that Canada should immediately turn its back on it resources, the folly of self-described economist Stephen Harper is the undue weighting his regime has placed on that sector for fiscal health. Other countries have been looking toward the day when our dependence on fossil fuels will be diminished and are therefore diversifying, and a strong case can be made for the economic benefits of renewable and other green energy projects. However, our Prime Minister has continued in a full-court press as if the Alberta tarsands were the only game in town.

The folly of that approach now becomes evident with the precipitous decline in oil prices, largely due to a slowdown in growth worldwide that, ironically, may very well be the key to curbing climate change. However, even if this a temporary blip, the warning should be heeded.

An analysis by Don Pitt makes for some sobering reading:
About a year ago, I read a report forecasting this would happen. It wasn't exactly top secret, and hardly from a subversive group. Titled, The future of oil: Yesterday's fuel, it was published in the right-of-centre Economist magazine.

The Economist article suggests that this is not going to be just a blip but more of a sea change, as global oil demand plunges permanently. The article quotes a study by Citibank saying that oil use is already falling in rich countries. Most oil is burned to propel vehicles, and increasing fuel efficiency, including conversion to electric and hybrids, means we are using less for that.

It rejects the argument that growth in places like China will push oil use ever higher, saying emerging economies will see the advantage of leap-frogging to new technology and won't pass through the first world's gas-guzzling phase. In the year since that report, an explosion of solar in India, and an analysis by Lazard saying renewables had become as cheap as fossil fuels, only made the case stronger.
The implication for job losses in Canada goes well beyond employment in the oil patch.
“Canada’s economy is now very oil dominated,” economists Rory Johnston and Patricia Mohr at Scotiabank said a few months ago as the Northern Gateway project was being approved by Ottawa.

Businesses based across Canada that feed into the sector, like railroads, engineering firms, construction companies and equipment makers will also be sideswiped if the decline leads energy producers to pull back production. Twenty-five cents of every dollar invested in new business plans goes toward oil and gas projects, Scotia estimates.

If exports and investment in the energy sector take hits, experts suggest the broader economy will feel the chill and begin to slow.It would be nice to think that these hints of things to come would have an impact on the monomania that the Harper regime is seized of. Unfortunately, past ideological performance suggests nothing will change under the current administration.Recommend this Post

Rick's Latest Rant

mer, 10/15/2014 - 12:52
In his latest, Rick Mercer turns his acerbic wit on the theft of copyright being engineered by the Harper regime to facilitate its campaign of attack ads.

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On Encouraging Political Participation

mer, 10/15/2014 - 06:11


The other day I wrote a post on John Cruickshank's TED Talk about the low level of political participation among young citizens. His thesis was that as a society, we are losing our news-reading and news-watching habits thanks to the myriad options offered by our current technologies. Asserting that news reading is a skill, the devolution of that skill has affected our ability to think critically and be civically engaged.

A well-considered letter to The Star, however, argues that without structural changes in our political system, measures to encourage participation will be ineffectual:
Re: What's the big threat to democracy? Distraction, Insight Oct. 11

I read the dissertation by John Cruickshank on the threats to our democracy. Unfortunately, the analysis and subsequent conclusions are flawed.

The real threats to our democracy come not only from a disengaged younger electorate (understandable given the hardships they face relative to older generations in income, housing and equality of opportunity), but rather from a perversion of the existing democratic institutions by our current plutocracy.

Political parties have “gamed” the system to their advantage. Our current body politic is often about demagogues using power seized through campaigns of fear or misinformation to obtain power; with little recourse for voters if perverse and discriminatory policies ensue.

The newly elected representative quickly finds out that they are merely trained seals, told what to say and when, with little chance to have their views fairly considered on important matters.

To just encourage people to vote no matter what is not the answer. I would proffer that an uninformed voter is more dangerous to our electoral system than one who is informed but chooses not to participate. It could be argued that the uninformed who choose to exercise their right to vote are willing participants to the demagoguery that is pervasive.
Merely asking relatively uninformed citizens to go out and vote once every four years in the current antiquated system is not the answer. The answers will begin once we seriously consider measures to not only encourage civic engagement, but with an accompanying corollary of institutional reform.

This will include some type of proportional representation to better reflect the views of all voters, greater use of plebiscites, allowing recall votes, and having party leaders chosen by their caucus to make them more accountable to the members, rather the reverse. The guise of greater voter turnout will not lead us there.

However, if a major political party were to propose such visionary reforms, then we might experience a sea change in civic involvement.

David Dos Santos, MississaugaRecommend this Post

Has Olive Garden Lost Its Way?

mar, 10/14/2014 - 16:26
Although we didn't eat at The Olive Garden this year when we visited our son in Edmonton, last year we did. It was quite disappointing, a far cry from years ago when we had the restaurant chain in Ontario. The following video perhaps explains why:

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The Globe And Mail: Same Old, Same Old

mar, 10/14/2014 - 07:08


We are currently receiving a three-month free subscription to The Globe and Mail, a paper I supported for many years until it returned to its largely right-wing nature after vanquishing its putative competition, The National Post, and jettisoning many of its finer writers. At least getting it free for this period allows me unimpeded access to the front section of my paper of choice, The Toronto Star, since my wife very generously reads the Globe at the breakfast table.

When the free subscription period ends, I shall not continue with the Globe, as my wife and I are clearly not part of its intended audience. I was reminded of that fact this morning as I read what was essentially a two-part editorial on tarsands oil.

Part 1, entitled Canadian oil scores a well-deserved win overseas, begins on a note of triumph:
It’s encouraging that Canada was able to exert “immense” pressure (in the words of a European Commission official) so as to moderate the terms of a proposed EU fuel quality directive that would have discriminated against Canadian exports of bitumen from the oil sands. Canadian persistence has been admirable, and no doubt the successful Canada-EU trade negotiations helped.The piece than appears to dampen its enthusiasm by broaching the subject of those pesky carbon emissions, but then the basis of the paper's concern becomes evident:
Even so, Jim Prentice, the Premier of Alberta, is right to warn that, though this is “positive news for Alberta, and for all of Canada,” this country cannot afford to appear to be a reluctant foot-dragger on the environmental front.

For example, the stalling of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is a result of immense pressure from the environmental movement, which harms Canada’s legitimate economic interests. (italics mine)
Which leads us to Part 11, Carbon policy: lagging on the home front. Intially, it appears to be offering a counterbalance to Part 1, faulting the Harper government for its sluggish pace and vague policies on reducing carbon emissions:
The government’s plans for limiting carbon emissions are vague and incomplete. Even at that, the work is lagging behind schedule. There is no clear path forward. And much of whatever progress Canada has made on these matters has been accomplished by the provincial governments, not Ottawa.However, it emerges very clearly that it is the optics of this delay, not the ongoing environmental and climate degradation, that is The Globe's true concern:
Such silence and delay give Canada and Canadian oil a bad name, not least in the U.S. They amount to damaging weapons in the hands of the American opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would benefit both Canada and the U.S. So it is clear that nothing has changed at The Globe since I cancelled my subscription. The self-named newspaper of record continues to see the world through the bifurcated lens of business imperatives and those who oppose or challenge those interests; the paper clearly continues to subscribe to the notion that anything wrong with our version of capitalism can be fixed with a little tinkering around the edges and some effective spin.

I'll take The Star's social agenda and citizens lens over that any and every day of the week.
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Fighting The Darkness

lun, 10/13/2014 - 06:41


Knowledge is power, and withholding knowledge is crippling.

So states scientist Sarah Otto, in an op-ed piece in today's Star. Sadly, when we apply that truth to the Canadian reality, it becomes apparent that all of us are confined to metaphorical wheelchairs.

Referring to a report released last week by Evidence for Democracy, Otto laments the sad state of ignorance fostered by our repressive federal overlords:
Overall, we earned only a 55-per-cent grade, on average, for the openness of communication policies for federal scientists here in Canada. Compare that with the U.S., where the average grade using the same methods was 74 per cent in 2013.A few specific examples, only the tip of the iceberg according to Otto, attest to our government's contempt for openness:
- Scott Dalimore, a geoscientist at Natural Resources Canada, was prevented from doing media interviews about his research on a 13,000-year-old flood.

- Kristi Miller, a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was prevented from publicly discussing work she published on salmon.

- David Tarasick, an environmental scientist at Environment Canada, was prevented from speaking publicly about his research on the ozone layer.And this statistic should be quite sobering to all citizens:
A recent survey was conducted by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing scientists in 40 federal departments. It found 90 per cent of scientists felt that they cannot speak freely to the media about the work they do.Otto, who was asked by government scientists to speak up for them, learned some other facts about their muzzling that should outrage all Canadians:
I have been told, in confidence, about important results being held up from publication in scientific journals, waiting for approval, about missed opportunities to inform the public about research, and about cases where scientists were asked not to publish, chillingly because “we want the public to forget” about this issue.While she ends her article with some specific suggestions to remediate this deplorable state of affairs, longtime observers will conclude there really is only one viable fix, the opportunity for which comes next year when, I hope, sufficient numbers of informed Canadians go to the polls to cast judgement on the current cabal.Recommend this Post

Why So Much Ignorance In This Age Of Technology?

dim, 10/12/2014 - 07:11
I have always thought it ironic that in this age of interconnectedness, when we have almost unlimited sources of information at our disposal, so many of us are abysmally ignorant of the things that should matter. The level of civic disengagement in North America, for example, has facilitated the devolution of so many of our democratic institutions into mere channels of undue influence for the minority, ensuring that the needs of the many are subjugated to the wants of the few. Inaction on climate change, the ongoing degradation of ecosystems, the ever-widening disparity of incomes and the erosion of social programs are but the more egregious examples of this decline.

John Cruickshank, the publisher of the Toronto Star, attributes this phenomenon to 'distraction.' In his paper, he writes about a recent Toronto Ted Talk (not yet available on the Ted site) in which he examined the problem through the lens of young people who, both in Canada and the United States, have a voter participation rate of about 40%. However, he points out that the lack of voter participation is merely the most obvious manifestation of the level of engagement:
Voting’s just the marker. More critical are civic interests, habits and knowledge: The debates in the lunchroom about taxes and spending or public meetings over a new airport or a mega-quarry. The less visible indicators of democracy’s vitality.

It’s no coincidence youth voting is so similar in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not a question of national culture. And don’t blame “the kids today.” It’s a decades-long shift. It spans generations and geography.

And it appears to be driven by the devices and content that now dominate and consume our waking lives — our smartphones and tablets, our laptops and PCs and, at least for a little while longer, our TV screens.All of these devices, while potentially quite useful, also have a tremendous power to distract. How many times, for example, will you be at the computer when the email signal rings and you switch immediately to it? Or how about a link or a popup in an article that takes you far away from your intended purpose? (I'll just take a minute to watch that footage of George Clooney going to his Venice wedding. Oh yeah, now what was I just doing?)

All of which is to say that news has a far more tenuous grip on us than in days of yore. For Cruickshank, it becomes a simple equation:
No news habit. No engagement.Those who have learned to pursue the news become politically active.
The drift away from substance actually began, he says, with the proliferation of cable channels that, for the less-than-committed consumer of news, offered a welcome alternative. Much Music, MTV, etc. had an allure that the nightly news didn't.
As soon as alternatives emerged, more and more younger people failed to learn news skills and habits.

They were looking for distraction, not information about the world.

But even if this population only reluctantly followed the news, their political behaviour was just like that of the most committed news junkies. They voted: 80 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls in the Canadian federal election of 1958 — the year the CBC television signal first went coast to coast.Canadian citizens aged 65 and older were still voting at the 80-per-cent level in the federal election of 2011. But the participation rate of each successive age group Boomers, X’ers and Millennials were lower by a greater and greater margin.

Mirroring their increasing failure to develop news skills.Cruickshank has some specific suggestions on how to reverse this terrible trend, which I will leave you to discover by reading his article.

You may also find these two brief videos about his Ted Talk of interest:



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Something We Are Not Supposed To Think About In The War On ISIS

sam, 10/11/2014 - 15:50


The Guardian reports the following:

Australian Super Hornets pulled out of an air strike on an Islamic State target in Iraq when the risk of killing civilians became too high, defence officials have revealed.

RAAF aircraft have carried out three missions in Iraq since joining the battle against Isis but have not fired on any targets, it was confirmed in a briefing given by the chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the chief of joint operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston, and the officer commanding No 82 wing, Group Captain Micka Gray.

Johnston said an Australian combat “package” of F/A-18F Super Hornets had tracked a target on the first night of the missions, with plans to fire on it, but the risk of collateral damage was too high.

“They had identified a target which it was tracking, that particular target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of the collateral damage so it discontinued the attack at that point,” he said.
This is clearly something that Harper Inc. et alia want us to pay no attention to.Recommend this Post

Something To Be Thankful For This Weekend

sam, 10/11/2014 - 08:28


The National Energy Board inspires little confidence in many of us, often appearing less an independent regulator of the energy industry and more an extension of the Harper regime's tarsands' agenda.

It is therefore both a surprise and a delight to read that they are actually showing a bit of backbone when it comes to Enbridge's Plan 9 line reversal to bring tarsands crude to the East for refining:
The National Energy Board has slammed the brakes on Enbridge Inc.’s plan to start shipping western oil to Montreal this fall through its reversed Line 9 pipeline, saying the company failed to install shut-off valves around some major waterways.

In a sharply worded letter to Enbridge this week, NEB secretary Sheri Young said the board is not convinced the company has met the safety conditions which the regulator set when it approved the plan to reverse the pipeline’s direction of flow last March, and that Enbridge cannot begin shipping crude until it addresses those concerns.
Infamous for the Michigan spill four years ago that saw 3.3 million litres of diluted bitumen go into the Kalamazoo River, a spill whose repercussions are still being felt, Enbridge has proven itself less than a sterling protector of the public good, and appears to have learned little from the disaster, as evidenced by the Line 9 concerns:
At issue is the company’s approach to safety when the pipeline crosses “major water crossings.” Once it designated a river or stream as a major water crossing, Enbridge was required to install valves on both banks so the flow of crude could be quickly shut off in the event of a pipeline break.

The regulator said Enbridge had failed to provide clear justification for why it designated some streams as major water crossings but not others. It must now go back to identify which waterways involve major crossings, based on whether a spill would pose significant risk to the public or the environment.And here is a sobering statistic:
Currently, only six of the 104 major water crossings it has identified have valves within a kilometre of the banks on both sides, the regulator noted.
Adam Scott, project manager with Toronto-based Environmental Defence, appears to have taken an accurate measure of the company's integrity:
“They clearly just figured they could get this thing rubber-stamped, and push through without actually improving the safety of the pipeline. So we’re happy to see the NEB has said no.”

Mr. Scott said it appears from the NEB letter that Enbridge will be required to reopen construction on the line to install valves at all the major water crossings that it identifies.
A small victory in the overall scheme of things, perhaps, but one sufficiently sweet to savor.Recommend this Post

Some Critical Thinking About The War Against ISIS

sam, 10/11/2014 - 06:12


Contrary to what governments want their citizens to do, that is precisely what the following Star letter-writers are engaging in as they ask the right questions and point out what should be obvious about the war on ISIS terrorism:

Chantal Hébert overlooked the sanest voice in Parliament when she analyzed the stands of the three main parties on the war against Islamic State. She accused Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau of electioneering rather than clear thinking. Too bad she didn’t mention Elizabeth May’s brilliant speech on the issue. While agreeing with Harper that Canadians support the need to address the evils of terrorism, she reminds us that recent history has shown that wars have only made matters worse; that we need to sign the arms trade treaty in order to keep the weapons out of the hands of terrorists; and we need to figure out what leads these young men to such acts of extremism. She also points out that a decision about going to war needs much more than a single day of debate in the House of Commons.

Katy Austin, Elmvale

The Conservatives’ fundamental argument to justify the use of CF-18 war planes against the Islamic State in Iraq is a moral argument. ‎Their claim is that Canada will demonstrate and build national character through air attacks against the militants. They argue we have a duty to ourselves above all others to strike Islamic State since our action will be morally right.

But is national character ‎really the main test to use when making a decision about bombing Iraq? Is it not better to test the decision against strategic security questions such as: Is it really our fight and not the fight of regional powers? Why did previous massive military interventions in Iraq and other places fail to end the threat? Why expect a different outcome this time? Why aren’t the militaries of Saudi Arabia or Egypt deployed instead since both these regional states are amply supplied with American war planes by the U.S.?

Brad Butler, Etobicoke

In view of the beheading of innocent American and British nationals and the many brutal atrocities committed by Islamic State, it is difficult to remain passive and uninvolved. There is a natural and visceral desire to punish or destroy — as an act of revenge or to teach them a lesson. So bombs away!

But is this the best and most logical reaction? The answer is clearly No!

History has many examples to show that bombing will not provide a beneficial long-term result. While bombing will slow or momentarily halt an Islamic State advance in Iraq, it will not provide a victory over that foe. Nor will it have a beneficial result in Syria. Well-trained and motivated boots-on-the-ground (primarily Iraqi and Kurdish boots) are needed to thwart the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq. Reaching out to moderate Sunnis is also needed. Syria is another complicated matter and a no-win situation.

Harper has committed our soldiers to this battle for three reasons: in order to satisfy a U.S. request, to appease his political base and to inflate his image as a decisive leader. None of those reasons is sufficient to get involved in a combat role with CF-18s and support personnel. Iraq has requested support with training, weapons and humanitarian assistance. That should have been Canada’s response.

Bombing will have a strategic impact for the Islamic State similar to the Sept. 11 attacks for the U.S. — namely to motivate, recruit and engage a sleeping element. Perhaps that was the underlying reason for the beheadings. If so, Islamic State has won this stage. Is this a sign of its future success?

Dennis Choptiany, MarkhamRecommend this Post

"Flirting With Fascism"

ven, 10/10/2014 - 06:01
That is the lacerating assessment offered by CTV's Don Martin as he editorializes about the impending theft of copyrighted material engineered (and originally intended to be hidden) by the Harper regime in their next omnibus bill. Documents leaked to the media have made the public aware of this nefarious scheme, which would allow political parties to use any news footage, public commentary, etc. that they choose in political attack ads.



Clearly, and unsurprisingly, there is no depth to which this cabal won't sink to hang on to power.Recommend this Post

Rick Mercer Assesses Andrew Scheer's Job Performance

jeu, 10/09/2014 - 13:44
Unsurprisingly, the House Speaker gets a failing grade.

My two favourite lines:

“Show me one person who believes he’s done a good job on the decorum front. 308 meth addicts on the dance floor have better manners.”

"We [should] replace the Speaker with a bag of flour with a smiley face drawn on the front with a sharpie.”




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