A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Environmental Regulations Gutted

The following is from Elizabeth May's press release and highlights some of the concerns with the attack upon environmental regulations contained in the Budget. It is, as Ms May points out, clear that the Harper regime cares little about protecting our natural heritage but believes that commercial activities take precedence and that the Minister and Cabinet should have overriding authority in such matters.

OTTAWA – Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, spent most of her afternoon reading the 420 pages of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
“Most of Bill C-38 has nothing to do with fiscal matters or what a budget is supposed to do.  Instead, it attacks environmental legislation, amending the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, and repealing the Kyoto Implementation Act, along with cancelling the National Round Table on Environment and Economy,” said May.
Putting all this in the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-38) means that none of the environmental laws being changed will ever go to the Environment Committee or be examined by environmental experts.
“This should have been called the ‘we don’t care about the environment’ act,” said May.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) gets the biggest wallop.
CEAA is essentially repealed.  The original 79 page Act will shrink to a 40 page Act, creating a whole new scheme for review. The scope is incredibly narrow -- only those elements of the environment under "legislative authority of Parliament" will be assessed, namely fish, aquatic species, and migratory birds.  No other species or ecosystems are included, nor are health, socio-economic effects, physical or cultural heritage or any other elements that have traditionally been part of environmental assessment.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will, on receiving a complete application, within 45 days decide if ANY environmental assessment is required, with wide discretion.  Environmental reviews are no longer required for projects involving federal money.  The Minister is given very large levels of discretion to decide if there should be a panel review. Cabinet will be able to overrule both CEAA and the National Energy Board (NEB).
The new equivalency rules downloading Environmental Assessment to the provinces may turn out to be the largest problem. There are also retroactive sections, setting the clock at July 2010 for existing projects.
“Instead of a rigorous thorough process to ensure the environmental safety of projects, we are left with politicians deciding which projects should go ahead,” said May. “The checks and balances that were the strength of CEAA are now gone. It is a transparent bid to ensure that pet oil projects and pipelines are guaranteed to happen despite the potentially harmful impacts.”
C-38 also guts the Fisheries Act’s habitat provisions.  “Apparently, the only important fish are those that are ‘commercial, Aboriginal and recreational’ and, once again, the biggest problem is the creation of equivalency so that the Fisheries Act and its regulations do not apply in the provinces,” said May.
Also in C-38, the NEB absorbs the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) whenever a pipeline crosses navigable waters.  The NWPA is amended to say a pipeline is not a "work" within that Act. The NEB Act is also amended to put Cabinet in a superior position to over-rule its decisions.
The Species at Risk Act (SARA) is also amended to allow the NEB to permit activities that kill or harm endangered species.
“The Harper Conservatives have systematically gone after each of our environmental laws and dismantled the underpinnings of environmental protection in this country,” said May.
Environmental charities are also attacked.  The charities sections of C-38 now preclude any gifts which may result in a political activity. Foreign charities can only provide funds to Canadian charities if the Minister is satisfied the foreign organization is "carrying on relief activities in response to a disaster, providing urgent humanitarian aid, or carrying on activities in the national interest of Canada."
“I always thought protecting our natural heritage was in the national interest of Canada. I guess the Harper Conservatives disagree,” said May.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Co-operatives—the proven alternative to capitalism

This is a repost of an article by Bill Longstaff on his blog. I can only add that particularly for small town Canada and rural communitys that co-ops would seem to be the answer to letting small independent businesses survive the massive onslaught from multinationals.
In this, the International Year of Co-operatives, we cannot remind ourselves too often of the tried and true alternative to conventional capitalism. Co-operatives have for generations offered a more humane approach to economic activity than competitive enterprise, even while competing successfully in a capitalist marketplace. They have provided a full range of economic services at the local, national and international levels, combined with social benefits absent from capitalism.

The greatest benefit is that they are democratic institutions—one member/one vote—as opposed to capitalist corporations—one share/one vote, a classically plutocratic arrangement. By providing equitable investment in the economy and reducing the excessive influence of wealth in society, they answer the Occupy Movement's two concerns about corporate power. They help create community locally, nationally and internationally. They are amenable philosophically to both left and right—they are capitalist in the sense that ownership is private but socialist in the sense that ownership is equitable.

Their capacity for success is illustrated nicely by the Calgary Co-operative Association. Principally involved in supermarkets, the Co-op also provides service stations, home health care, pharmacies, travel agencies and liquor stores. It has 440,000 members—40 per cent of the city's population. All its employees are member-owners, sharing power equitably with the customer-owners.

Needless to say, I am a long-term member. I buy almost all my groceries there as well as my booze and gas for my car. I round out my co-operative experience by doing all my banking at First Calgary Financial, the city's major credit union. Going co-op to the max is my way of helping to build a more humane and democratic economy.

The co-operative is here, and it works at every level. Globally, one out of five people are already members of co-ops. We need look no further for an answer to capitalism with its inequities and its insults to democracy. By maximizing our own economic relationship with co-ops and pushing our governments to favour co-operative enterprise over competitive enterprise, we can replace the misguided mantra "we must compete in the global economy" with the more civilized "we must co-operate in the global society."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Herding Chickens!

Having replaced our flock of chickens that was killed off by an ermine this winter with some “good used” laying hens and figuring that after a couple of weeks locked in the pen they should know their way home by now, we let them out to roam yesterday. In that they are just going into their molt and thus the egg production will fall off a little for a few weeks the extra protein they will find from scratching up fallen leaves and searching for insects saves buying more feed. That we spent the afternoon teaching them not to do so in our flower gardens (and any one who says chicken cannot be taught has not seen how quickly they learn what the sound of the lid being removed from the feed bin means!) made the lazing in the sun rather less lazy was more than offset by the amusing antics of Mr P our Peacock, the sole survivor of the earlier decimation.

Mr P has been roaming outside and responding to any loud noises with his distinctive HOOOONK since mid winter and apparently thinks he is now in charge of outside operations. With a dozen or so chicken wandering around we were fascinated to see him disappearing around the back of the house only to reemerge the other side with two or three chickens in front of him. A few minutes later off he would go again and several chickens would come into sight closely followed by Mr P. He was herding “his” flock and they were not allowed to wander too far!

A little while later we saw him giving these females his full display, tail up showing all his colours and turning to make sure they got the full impact. Unfortunately the chickens seemed singularly unimpressed but we wonder what would have happened if our rooster was still around......

And that my friends is how to do nothing and rest after on a sunny afternoon, even Masie our Australian Cattle Dog just lay on the step and said 'well if he is going to keep them in line then I will not bother'.

Update - Day 2
4.30 pm, about the time we shut in the hens and feed them a little grain we hear almost continuous vocalization from Mr P, hard to ignore as he is LOUD. Upon investigating we find that all the hens are in the pen and Mr P is standing at the door keeping them in, obviously very proud of himself. He is not just a pretty bird after all!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bob Newhart to Stephen Harper

BN: Mr. Prime Minister, I am so pleased you agreed to take my call.
BN: Thank you for that, but I am not actually from Vermont…. It was a television show.
BN: Great, well I wanted to start by asking you about the decisions in your budget. It is a pretty anti-environmental budget. There is a lot in there for supertankers and pipelines and expanding fossil fuels, but nothing to address the threat of climate change.
BN: No, sir. No one has ever thought I was radical before….. I hardly ever take jets… not sure about foreign-funding. Does that include being an American? Is that foreign? OK….just calm down, I will move on.
BN: To change the topic, I am wondering why the budget says the government is committed to connecting Canadians by internet and then there is no more money for internet….
BN: Yes, well I see you put some money into internet and high speed access in the past….
BN: No, I wasn’t trying to talk about on-line warrant-less access. I am not sure what that is…
BN: I certainly do not stand with child pornographers. I don’t sit with them either. … No I wasn’t trying to make light of child pornographers or… no, not internet predators either….
BN: Thanks for clearing that up, but what I wanted to know was how Canadians will access the internet in communities that have relied on Community Access (it was called the CAP programme), and now it is gone….
BN: So they just don’t need the internet in remote communities?…… Yes, I agree we are doing well by phone.
BN: I also notice you have eliminated the National Round Table on Environment and Economy. Wasn’t that established by a previous Conservative government? ….. Right, not one that you liked. A bit too left-wing? I see….. I have read that your Environment Minister thinks you don’t need the environment and economy round table any more because it was established a long time ago, in a time when Canadians did not have the internet. …. Yes, and he says that now you have the internet, so you don’t need this advisory body….. No, I am not trying to trick you. I just wondered about cutting the internet when the internet is replacing the round table…..
BN: Sure, not everyone needs the internet. The important thing is that you have it when you need it. Yes, of course, and other peoples’ internet too….. So, for food safety, the budget is moving information off the labels and on to the internet, so the people in remote communities do not need to read that food information? …. No, I am not a foreign funded radical. …. Yes, sir, I respect the office of Prime Minister of Canada. I am sure it is a very nice office…..
BN: I apologise, absolutely, it’s just that I find a certain amount of humour in this…..
- click -

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tankers to Kitimat

No matter which side of the debate you are on regarding the Enbridge oil pipeline and the proposed oil tanker traffic in the waters off the west coast the following series is a must read. Written by a Captain of a chemical tanker who regularly plies the affected waters and indeed uses the terminal at Kitimat, his three (thus far) articles '54 North and Plan to Nowhere Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 raise some issues that must be addressed and clarify who is responsible for what when it comes to navigation in these waters.
What follow is a very small clip that outlines the scale of these tankers as compared with the current traffic in the Straights.

“The federal government actually cut the budget of the one department responsible for upgrading the vessel traffic services in the critical area. As has been pointed out previously, Enbridge which originally stated that they would be installing new VTS radar and nav aids has made it clear that they have no intention of bearing the cost and are negotiating with the federal government.

None of this is aided by the offerings of Enbridge. This disingenuous bit of propaganda needs to be addressed.

At the link above, Enbridge provides a picture of a chemical tanker arriving in Kitimat on 16 March 2012, and then goes on to provide numbers which demonstrate a continuous flow of tankers between 1982 and 2009, and why don't all you environmental activists just chew on all those wonderful facts. 

Well, since I commanded a chemical tanker into the port of Kitimat, I suppose I should clear up some of the fog which the Enbridge spin-merchant has dumped.

Chemical tankers are considerably smaller than the ships Enbridge is proposing to bring to Kitimat. Most chemical tankers max out at about 40,000 DWT.

Enbridge is proposing the following size ships:
AFRAMAX - 120,000 DWT
SUEZMAX - 200,000 DWT
VLCC - 315,000 DWT (eight times the size of a large chemical tanker)

Enbridge tries to downplay the cargo by suggesting that the current shipping traffic is carrying petroleum products, therefore they are not introducing anything new. Except that they are. 

Current and past product into and out of Kitimat was mostly methanol and condensate. Petroleum products they are, but they are actually highly evaporative liquid by-products of natural gas. A spill would cause some immediate damage to be sure, but it would evaporate in short order and there would be little in the way of a persistent effect. 

What Enbridge is proposing, (and what they are attempting to favourably compare to a highly evaporative liquid), is actually a liquefied, unrefined, thick crude oil, much more akin to tar than it is to methanol. A spill of that type of product would create lasting devastation for decades - if you could ever get it cleaned up at all.”

Then there is this:-
Unlike the waters around southern Vancouver Island and the south BC coast generally, none of the sea areas, inlets, arms, passages or any other tidal waters area ( in or near the Hecate Strait) or port have coastal radar coverage intended to monitor or aid marine traffic. In fact, there is not even a traffic separation scheme intended to prevent the interaction of ships in the restricted waters of the inside passage.

Go read these comprehensive and detailed assessments regarding tanker traffic to Kitimat. 

A Tip o the hat to The Galloping Beaver for this one.