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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scientists Muzzled Again!

Once again Rick Mercer reminds us how the public are not permitted to see any information that is not 'approved' by Herr Harper.

"Well another week, another story about scientists in Canada being muzzled. This time it's eggheads up in the arctic studying climate change – a joint project between the Canadians and the Americans. And of course our government told them they had to sign a piece of paper saying they could never discuss their findings in public unless a political staffer in Ottawa said it was okay which is never going to happen.

Now of course the Canadians did what they were told, they signed on the dotted line because, well, they want to eat. But the American scientists went ballistic because, well, they’re Americans and you know what the Americans are like. It’s freedom of speech this and freedom of speech that. And the way they were carrying on you'd swear that they had been transported back in time and dropped behind the Berlin wall at the height of the cold war. Nope, you're in Canada in 2013. You want to do science in these parts you better get used to it. And get over yourselves. It's not like scientists are the only ones being told to shut up in this country. No, it's everyone.

Remember when Canada used to have a Veterans Affairs Ombudsman? He used to go on TV every night and scream bloody murder every time the government abused our veterans. Well, he's gone. They got a new guy in there now. Do a Google news search, he barely comes up. And then there's the Cabinet. If scientists have been muzzled, half of the Cabinet has had their voice boxes removed. And then there’s the backbenchers. They have taken to communicating with a series of blinks and twitches like in a hostage video.

So if you are a scientist, don't take it personally, times have changed. The days of discussing science and your findings in public, they’re over. It is a bygone era like smoking in the supermarket. This is the new Canada. Thank you for not talking."

But how many are listening Rick?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Time Flies

In a recent on line 'conversation' with a fellow Green about land value taxation I referred to an earlier 'conversation' I had with former green leader Frank de Jong and after having posted my reply went looking for the original post. A quick search via google failed to find it but being one of those folks who keep everything (unfortunately not just electronic records) a little digging in my archives found the response. A further search on line using tighter terms found the article on line and much to my dismay and consternation I found it to be dated 2007! Where did those years go, has it really been that long, how long have I been letting off steam on the internet?

A quick look at this blog reveals that it has been on line since January 2008 and has 219 posts, hardly up to some bloggers volume but not a bad effort, enough to garner some 1000 or so 'hits a month. So then I had to go see what my other online efforts revealed, Democracy Under Fire has without a doubt recited more attention from myself and readers in recent times, I am no less interested in rural affairs that I was 8 or 9 years ago but have come to the realization that without a functioning democracy trying to bring rural issues to the fore is simply an exercise in frustration.

So having launched that blog two years later in Feb 2009 I was not surprised to see that it had garnered about the same number of 'hits' over time on about the same number of posts at 225. That I am finding it difficult to keep up the effort is perhaps understandable, on a personal level I have little to write about although god knows there are enough items on the political scene, be it on rural affairs, municipal, provincial or federal shenanigans or the ability of any of us 'peons' to have any impact upon those that profess to lead us, I am simply getting tired of it all.

The only thing that keeps me going is the miniscule possibility that one of my posts may make someone somewhere seek a little more information, come to the realization that we are all reliant upon each other, that our governments at all levels are generally interested in only two things = power and money. That the ever decreasing rural population who maintain our fields and forests are in danger of extinction, or at the very least relegated to a position of irrelevance in the minds of much of the urban population and out 'lead’s in Queen Park and Ottawa. That unless we actively protect those things we take for granted, like democracy, freedom of information, the air we breath, the seas and lands and forests of our great country, the science that lets us evaluate their heath and so many other basic things that are under attack from governments, corporations and foreign interests they will all be eroded as we sit and do nothing.

This then is my bit towards that activity, its small, it perhaps has little impact but at least it is an effort to make a difference. You input may be different but I urge you to do your bit, as I say at the top of Democracy Under Fire “Democracy requires dialogue” and it matter not if you agree or disagree with my point of view it is the dialogue that is important.

Oh.....and the rant clears my mind and makes me feel soooo much better!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The “structural pathology” of the governance system in Canada,

Dr. Bell spoke yesterday (Feb 1 2012) before the Kelowna Joint Review Panel hearings on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, outlining “four diseased elements” that put the pipeline proposal in a social and political context and he condemned as dangerous Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s concentration of power and the apparent depth of his associations with corporate interests.  When Bell finished speaking, he was surrounded by reporters.  Here’s what he said:

I am a family physician, in clinical practice for just over 36 years in rural BC. As a professional reflex, I have a sensitivity towards the behaviour of others, and towards the impact of my own conduct.
While still in medical school, I learned that many of the most important influences on a person’s health derive not just from what doctors do, or even from the choices made by patients themselves, but from broad trends in the community – from the immediate neighbourhood right up to the planetary environment.
When I began my practice, however, the term “ecosystem” was unknown, and the term “environment” referred almost exclusively to a person’s immediate social or physical situation.
Today, thanks to global telecommunications and transportation, and especially the Internet and social media, our worldview has expanded greatly. As we humans have multiplied exponentially, we have learned that we can degrade the functional capacity of our planetary home, which in turn affects our survival.
In 1995, I helped to found the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment or CAPE. Our purpose was to scientifically examine the intimate inter-relationship between human and ecosystem health, and improve the former by addressing the latter. With 5,500 members, CAPE has become the environmental voice of the medical profession.
Today, however, I am here not as representative of CAPE or any other organization. I am speaking as just one person, and as a physician.
I want to address what one might call “structural pathology” in the governance system in Canada, which has led to the contention surrounding the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project – which I have followed closely since its inception.
Your work as members of the Joint Review Panel is taking place in a social context. As a medical professional – with, I might add, extra training in psychotherapy – I would like to examine four diseased elements in this social context, and suggest remedies for them.
The first pathological element is historical.
Up until about 400 years ago, the land base subsumed within Canada was home to various peoples, originally from Asian roots, broadly connected by culture and race. They lived, like all our forebearers once did, seeking survival in an unforgiving but also bountiful natural world. Through a combination of force of arms, disease, mass immigration and various legalistic arrangements – including a genocidal strategy called the residential school system – the land base occupied by the original inhabitants of this country was progressively reduced, and their role in society was relentlessly marginalized. The small land base and the few prerogatives left to them thus have become critically important to their well being.
In Salmon Arm, I have patients, neighbours and friends who are aboriginal, who embody the experiences I’ve just referred to, both in their physiology and in their psyches. Many First Nations communities, with similar individual and collective experiences, are in the path of the proposed pipeline.
The second element in this structural pathology is the electoral system.
Elections to the House of Commons are based on the “first past the post” system. The elected candidate just has to get one vote more than any other candidate – even if only a minority of citizens actually vote in the first place.
This kind of selection procedure, in a community with many disparate parts, is psychologically grossly inefficient. Especially in complex or conflictual situations, it generates a mixture of cynicism, despair and anger.
The third element in this structural pathology is the nature of the Prime Minister’s Office, or PMO.
In Britain, the PMO is surrounded by powerful committees and advisory bodies whose comments and decisions have a major influence on government decision-making and cannot be readily ignored.
In Canada, the PMO has vastly more political power. It has, in fact, absolute veto power over several hundred different government bodies.
Political power in the Canadian system is profoundly more centralized than it is in Britain, and far more than it is in the United States, with its system of “checks and balances”.
Frankly, if Stephen Harper doesn’t like your report, he can, and by every indication he will, shelve it.
This concentration of power in one element of Canada’s political structure, for whatever murky historical reason, is an invitation to social disaster. The illusion of “efficiency” in political decision-making is subverted by the opportunity for hard-line autocracy.
In the 21st century, when my patients are being encouraged to take increasing responsibility for their lives, such a concentration of power is anachronistic and backward.
The final element in Canada’s structural pathology is the expansion of the influence of the “corporation”, a business model that uncouples personal responsibility from profit, and places dollar gains above all others.
It is significant that as I sit talking to you here the Enbridge consortium is applying to expand its Kitimat terminal from 11 to 16 oil tanks. What clearer demonstration of absolute confidence in an eventual approval could there possibly be?
Taken together:
  1. the relentless marginalization of First Nations, with their intimate connection to the ecosystem;
  2. the electoral system, which readily generates non-representative governments;
  3. the huge concentration of political power in the Prime Minister’s office; and
  4. the rise of corporate influence.
These elements create the pathological state that leads directly to us being here today.
The planet is overcrowded, heating up, and steadily depleted of its natural capital. But now we have a Prime Minister who is forcefully using the overwhelming dominance afforded his office, to try and reshape this country to his dated views.
Stephen Harper, according to recorded evidence, has longed to be able to exercise such intense power, and identifies with doing so now (several years ago he formally changed the phrase “federal government” to “the government of Stephen Harper”).
His own religious background suggests reasons for his overall orientation, but his willingness to mask his own renowned intensity behind a rigidly bland “persona” is a truer indication of his deep commitment to power.
This approach to governance, exercised by a Prime Minister and government elected by a minority of Canadians, has deepened the already strong alliance between the corporate sector and the government. The former, fixated on immediate- and short-term financial profitability, is drawn to the latter, intent on maintaining its ascendancy, and vice versa.
The result, in a situation like the one we are addressing today, is growing social pathology. Frustration, anger, cynicism, depression and distrust of leadership are on the ascendancy, as noted in the Edelman Trust Barometer, released just before the World Economic Forum in Davos.
A patient of mine in his mid-twenties came to my office recently to say that he was deeply depressed and anxious, not about his love life, or his financial situation, but about the overheated, depleted future he was heading towards. He felt that the government in this country was acting now to make it worse for him and his young children later.

So what is the cure for this disease?

It is four-fold, in my opinion.
  1. First, we must, as a nation, work out a respectful, mutually satisfactory relationship with Canada’s First Peoples – not destroy their culture by stealth.
  2. Second, we must reform the electoral system to make it radically more representative.
  3. Third, we must alter the power balance in the federal governance system so that one person cannot pre-empt democratic processes as Stephen Harper is now doing.
  4. And fourth, we must rein in the overwhelming power and influence of the corporate sector.
Until we do these four things, our country is vulnerable to political, social and ecological upheaval that will retard our development as a nation, and likely offer ruin to the lives of future generations.
And it’s going to make my personal and professional life more difficult, as I minister to the anxiety and physical suffering of particularly the young people in my community.
I therefore personally pledge my energies and experience – here, today – to bringing about these changes, by whatever means possible.
I hope you will too.
And I also hope you will reject this flawed and destructive project, the inevitable result of such a flawed and destructive – and pathological – process.

As posted at http://elizabethmaymp.ca/news/blogs/2013/02/02/dr-warren-bell-on-the-northern-gateway-pipeline/