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, March 29, 2013

Conservative Regime.Spin Debunked

You have all seen those Taxpayer funded Ads extolling the Harper Regimes new legislation to require double hulled oil tankers in Canadian waters as if its something new that will prevent spills. As is usual it is all spin and lies, in a recent article Elizabeth May debunks that statement and a number of others from this unprincipaled regime......

Yesterday Harper’s ministers announced we would find these new measures in Bill C-57, the just tabled for First Reading Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act. I have read C-57. This now takes top honours in the on-going competition for most over-hyped legislative title. I have read it and it is essentially a housekeeping act. It deals with the skies, through changes to inspections of aviation accidents and aeronautic indemnities. There is no environmental aspect to the “skies” component. Then there are the amendments related to “seas.” The Marine Act is amended to change the date for the approval of a new director of a port authority. The only oil-spill related components are in the Marine Liability Act. The act is brought into compliance with the 2010 International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage and Noxious Substances by Sea. So, nothing about double-hulled tankers.
The reality is that since 1993, all new tankers are required, by international agreement, to be double-hulled. According to a great summary on the issue by Mitch Anderson in September 27, 2010 The Tyee, (“No, Double Hull Tankers Do Not Ensure ‘Total Safety,’”) there were only 50 single-hulled tankers operating anywhere on the planet that year. None were allowed in North American waters.
Has the virtual removal of single-hulled tankers ended the risk of oil spills? Not actually. Despite the exuberance of Joe Oliver’s rhetoric, double-hulls possess no magical powers. Their use has not ended the risk of accidents and oil spills.
Collisions with barges and freighters have caused oil spills of millions of litres in ports around the world. Double hulls can be sliced open and oil spills out.
The Transport Canada website was prettied up for the announcement, with a “fact sheet” transparently designed to create the impression the British Columbia coast is routinely plied by hundreds of super-tankers.
Here are some of the claims from the Transport Canada website:
  • Oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada’s West Coast since the 1930’s.
  • In 2009-2010, there were about 1500 tanker movements on the West Coast....
  • A federal moratorium off the coast of BC applies strictly to oil and natural gas exploitation and development, not to tanker storage or movement.
I think most readers will not need any help from me debunking that bunk. The 1972 moratorium was precisely against oil tanker traffic along BC’s north coast. Moreover, the 1500 tanker “movements” refers to what Transport Canada defines as “every time a ship (or vessel) commences or ceases to be underway.
Underway is defined as "a vessel that is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.” And by tanker, they mean “a cargo ship fitted with tanks for carrying liquid in bulk.” Not oil tankers. In 2011, the total number of oil tankers in and out of the Port of Vancouver was 82. None of them were super-tankers and none of them operate without risk.
In the on-going war of words to get super-tankers carrying bitumen crude into our waters, it is amazing any media covered Joe Oliver’s announcement as if anything meaningful had been added to the discussion.
Elizabeth May is the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
First printed in the Island Tides.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TVO – Your Rural Ontario

I recently viewed a TVO Agenda segment on Rural Ontario which among other things discussed “What is rural Ontario”, something which I and many others have tried to define unsuccessfully. The guests included freelance writer, farmer and former editor of our local paper Jim Merriam whose articles about rural issues I always enjoy when I occasionally see a Sun Times paper with his column in it. Also present was Rob Hannam, Chair of the Rural Ontario Institute and two other guests. As always with Steve Pakin hosting an interesting discussion ensued which I will not try and outline here except to say that despite being unable to define 'rural' there was consensus on a couple of issues several of which I have written about on these pages time and time again.

Those being Infrastructure, Internet and Communications and the benefits that rural communities bring to our urban counterparts, not the least of which is the agricultural input to our food basket. One guest pointed out that rural is as much a state of mind as a place, it is as perhaps indicated in the term used to describe what farmers do “cultural”, this I feel is very much a good description and perhaps why we out here in the country have such difficulty getting our point of view across to urban residents and politicians and why we likewise have difficulty with understanding the city folks point of view. There is a considerable cultural difference.

As the guests all agreed the answer is in communications, communications, communications – but how we as rural communities enable that dialogue is the difficulty, once again our guests agreed .... they had no suggestions as to how to improve the conversation between the two solitudes. As regular readers will know I have previously suggested that for rural areas where considerable travel is often necessary for face to face gathering to discuss such issues the internet could be a great tool, unfortunately it seems that rural folks have yet to realize the power of this tool. Whether that is due to no having a suitable forum in which to participate, the general feeling of 'I cannot make a difference' that currently infects our society,a lack of a decent internet connection in many rural areas or some other roadblock is hard to tell. I did note that Jim at least did have a high speed connection that enabled him to participate by skype, I can but dream of such and whether it would even be affordable or have very limited volume limits if it was available is also debatable, I cannot even review the ½ hr TVO program without hogging much of my monthly allocation and even then not as a streaming video due to speed limitations.

As Steve pointed out there is a perception out there that say rural folks are such a small (and ever declining) percentage of our population that the political machine and the urban majority may not need to bother with those 'whining farmers and country bumpkins”. It is difficult for those whom I have previously identified as “The Forgotten Minority” to counter these perceptions when that old country adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is so true and there are so many wheels falling off across Ontario. That the panel were all optimistic as the the future of our rural and farm communities was good to hear, I just wish I could agree with them.

Before I wind up this post I must give the Rural Ontario Institute a bit of a plug for their efforts to provide links to rural and agricultural information on their web site. They have so many links that it is almost overwhelming but the Rural Ontario Reader and their links page will give a good starting point for those researching or seeking more information on rural issues. I just wish that the efforts to create an interactive forum for rural issues started by the FWIO and supported by the ROI or something similar was a better and more widely used method of allowing rebuttal and dialogue on rural issues.

Thanks for this panel discussion Steve and TVO, lets see some more programs on rural issues in the future.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Paying for NOT Generating Wind Power.

One of the problems with the power derived from industrial wind farms is that it is not always available when needed, however the opposite is also true as it can be pumping out power when it is not needed. In order to regulate this over supply of power it now seems we are going to pay those companies who already receive a higher price for their output than the current market price to NOT generate power!

“Ontario wind power companies have reached an agreement that will curb electricity output from wind turbines when there’s surplus power on the grid. In return, the companies will get compensated for lost output, within certain limits.”
“Until now, wind power has had almost unrestricted access to the power grid, under rules designed to encourage the development of renewable power in Ontario. Wind power is especially tricky to deal with, because there’s a lot of it and the wind often blows strongest overnight or on weekends, when demand is low. “
“As more wind power floods onto the grid, the combination of wind and nuclear sometimes leads to power surpluses, forcing Ontario to sell power to its neighbours at a loss, or even pay them to take it.”
“The IESO had estimated that coping with surplus power production will cost Ontario’s power system up to $200 million a year if market rules don’t change. “

This in addition to to the cost of keeping enough capacity from other sources on standby to pick up the load when the wind is not blowing but the demand is high. Until such time as this type of power generation is linked to storage solutions such as pumped water reservoirs and hydro generation it will never be a viable means of supplying electricity when needed.

I note that such arrangements also exist with nuclear generating stations however in that their power is available 24 / 7 / 365 and they receive far less per MW for their power the two cannot be considered similar arrangements.