Harper and Aglukkaq Missing In Action

CSOTAI spent three days this past week as part of the media team covering the Climate Summit of the Americas, and the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Toronto. It was my first experience as an accredited reporter and a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Being a member of the press has its privileges and its responsibilities.

One of those privileges was the chance to spend three intense days with our Premier, Environment and Climate Change Minister, First Nations Grand Chiefs and Chiefs, Governors, Mayors, and former Presidents and Vice-Presidents, including every climate change denier’s nemesis, Al Gore.

But the majority of the delegates were business leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers, and community leaders. They were there to acknowledge that the tide had turned, that the change to a low-carbon economy and society was already underway, and that the era of fossil fuel energy was going the way of the dinosaurs.

One of the responsibilities of the press is to report honestly and accurately, without bias or exclusion, in a news report. An editorial commentary has free reign for opinion. This is an editorial.

While two cabinet ministers from “Our Government™”, Tony Clement and Lisa Raitt, attended the Economic Forum, no one from the federal government showed up at the Climate Summit, prompting Governor Jerry Brown of California to tell Stephen Harper to “Get with it!”

While Leona Aglukkaq frolicked in Nunavut, and Stephen Harper picknicked in Rouge Park with Earth Rangers attired children in the photo op, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuk defender and a member of the Order of Canada spoke to the Climate Summit delegates from her heart and soul. She stated: “What is needed is a debate on human rights – it is a moral and ethical imperative.”

This is much more than an issue of climate science and economic opportunity. In the Arctic this is a critical issue of social justice and the failure to address it is criminal.

ERHarperWhen the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment fail to show up for the debate, it sends a very clear signal to Canadians. It says, “We really just don’t care.” The road to to Paris, like the road to Hell,  is paved with election photo-ops. So while Harper posed for the press with his new children’s crusade, and Aglukkaq fiddled in the far north while the Arctic melted, the Province of Ontario stood up, was counted, and took action.

On Thursday, July 9, 2015, Ontario and 21 other states, provinces and regions signed the first-ever Pan American Climate Action Statement. Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico, best summed up the significance of this event: “We now have clear evidence of states, provinces, cities, and businesses leading the way on climate action and achieving strong economic growth at the same time. This Summit has been an incredible demonstration of this bottom-up momentum and should inspire more ambition by all on the road to Paris.”

Our current federal government is missing in action. Sending Stephen Harper or one of his minions to Paris, would be as embarrassing for Canada on the world stage as if Rob Ford had still been in office to open Toronto’s Pan-Am and Para-Pan-Am Games. In October we will have the opportunity to pick a different team to represent Canada at the Climate Summit in Paris. Let’s hope that we pick a team that understands the science and cares about the human condition.


Skid Crease, Caledon




Praise Be To You, Francis

images-9Laudato Si’, the Encyclical released on June 18th by Pope Francis, has brought the issue of accelerating climate change back to the front burner of religious, business, and political discussion. And he made it quite clear he doesn’t want bitumen fueling the burner.

Naturally, the encyclical was immediately praised by environmental groups, alternative energy entrepreneurs, and green politicians. And as equally predictable, it was denied by Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Business, Conservatives and Republicans. Jeb Bush, U.S. presidential candidate and a Catholic, quipped about Francis’s encyclical, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” No, Jeb, but I have a good idea from where you do get your economic policies. And it’s a lot warmer than Florida.

The entire encyclical is available online. To read it is almost like having a conversation with the Pope. And it is a direct and honest conversation. He wastes no time acknowledging humanity’s fingerprints on the acceleration of climate change and the desecration of Our Common Home, the Earth. His main focus is on the ecological crisis, but he spends equal time on social justice issues, recognizing that the poor in both developed and developing countries will pay the greatest price for our consumptive sins.

Most notably, he makes it absolutely clear that the biblical line giving humans dominion over Earth, does not mean we can greedily consume it into extinction. It means we have to live wisely and well for the common good of all creatures, and for the well being of generations to come.

He also holds to account all government leaders who have talked big on the global stage and have done little of significance in policy and practice. He bravely exposed the myth that trading carbon credits, or carbon cap-and-trade deals are solutions to reducing our dependence on fossil fuel extraction and use. All the Canadian political leaders might want to re-examine their policies on that one.

For me, the key point of the encyclical was to make clear that our current Conservative Reform Alliance Party government, and the Canadians who voted for them, could be going straight to Hell if we don’t immediately get back to science-based decision making and come up with some actual policies to deal with and mitigate the impacts of accelerating climate change.

Laudato Si’, Francis!


Skid Crease, Caledon

Our Grandchildren’s Budget

Yes, Canada, what we sow, so shall we reap – but not until 2080 when our current Prime Minister’s grandaughter will have to deal with the mess.

JoeExcept for election marketing, the latest federal budget completely missed the reality of 2015, including global climate change and the rapidly increasing gap between the few rich and the very many not rich. The former mis-manager of the Natural Resources portfolio, Joe Oliver again put foot in mouth when he revealed the long term impacts of “Our Government’s™” latest budget.

Yes, income splitting and pumped up TFSAs will only benefit the top 10% of income earners and seniors in Canada, and it will deplete billions of dollars from federal coffers for future programs, but, what the heck, the grandkids can clean it up.

With not a single mention of climate change initiatives, be that alternative energy research and development investment, or a carbon-pricing policy, or funding for mechanisms to meet our broken-promise reduction targets, the budget was a clear indication of Conservative Reform Alliance Party pre-election values. As one commentator put it the day after the budget was tabled:

“Let’s face it, if you believe in social justice, First Nations equity, women’s and children’s issues, advancement for the 90%, and meaningful environmental policies, you probably weren’t going to vote Conservative anyway.” The 90% reference covered everyone from the poverty line to the upper middle class, most of whom are all working either coupon to coupon or paycheck to paycheck. Of the upper class, it is really the .01% who control just about everything in Canada.

As the Harper’s Magazine April 2015 stated in their Harper’s Index, by the end of 2016, the richest 1% of the population will control 50% of the world’s wealth, and I may add, the world’s politicians. If you are not filthy wealthy or from a major fund-raising cultural block, you are of no value to “Our Government™” so don’t expect the future budgets to change much.

Nice work Joe. I hope those Made-in-China/Vietman/U.S.A. New Balance budget running shoes carry you far and wide. Who knows, with acumen like that you may even pick up a job with Barrick Gold.


Skid Crease, Caledon


It’s The Environment, Stupid

HarperCCIt was no great surprise to the citizens of Canada, and to the world, that “Our Government™” once again missed it’s obligations to the inhabitants of planet Earth. In whatever rarified media room the Harper government creates its fantasy kingdom, it is far removed from the realities of accelerating climate change. Again, we missed our promised global climate emissions reduction plan deadline.

According to NASA, 2014 was the warmest year on record since weather records have been kept. 2015 also saw the Arctic ice set new records for minimum winter ice pack and researchers are waiting to see what the summer thaw will bring. And with greenhouse gases hovering at 400 ppm, we have reached our threshold for atmospheric overload.

All of this scientific information should lead an environmentally literate government to begin urgent dialogue with the provinces, and then enact federal policies on carbon taxing, sustainable green cities infrastructure funding, and investments in research and development for renewable and low-carbon energy sources.

Alas, “Our Government™” has not even begun the provincial dialogue, and Harper recently stated that regulating the oil and gas industry would be “crazy”. Well, crazy is as crazy does.

There is simply no understanding, or will to understand, the co-benefits of dialogue with provinces, municipalities, First Nations, and concerned citizens that would result in new research, infrastructure support, and weaning off the corporate teat of uneccessary oil and gas pipelines that force unwanted industrial assaults on Canada’s peoples and places.

Paris is coming, and our current Prime Minister is incapable of leading us into the future.

On this Easter weekend, let us all pray for the resurrection of Canadian intelligence, and the election of an environmentally literate leader in October. Of course, that means we will all have to become media literate to read past the distractions of terror, trials of Senators, tax-break promises for hard-working families, and rural voter end-runs.

And don’t forget that $7.5 million going into “Our Government™” advertising during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Oh, so crazy … like a fox.

Our current Prime Minister’s “Best Before” date expired a long time ago. Time for some serious spring cleaning. It’s going to be a long, hot summer.


Skid Crease, Caledon


The Absolute Irresponsibility of Rona Ambrose

RonaIt was in November of 2006 that Rona Amrose confirmed to the world that she was not fit to be a Minister of the Environment. Having felt the heat at early international meetings on Climate Change, this rookie minister in the new Harper Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) government, made herself conspicuously absent from the UN Conference on Climate Change in Nairobi, Kenya. She sent in her departure notice as Chair of the Conference electronically, at the same time confirming that “Our CRAP Government™” would not be able to meet it’s Kyoto oblligations. This earned Canada it’s first “Fossil of the Year” Award.

2006 was quite a year for this new CRAP government; within months of taking office, they had shut down the Environment Canada website, eliminated the One Tonne Challenge program (which my American colleagues had called “the best citizen awareness program on climate change action in the Americas”), censored Environment Canada scientists, and shredded the youth voice inclusion from Students On Ice in the CoP11 UN Convention on Biodiversity.

Last week, Ms. Ambrose, now repackaged as the Minister of Health, announced to the world that it was “irresponsible” of parents to ignore the overwhelming science behind the safety of vaccinations. So, the overwhelming consensus of 95% of practicing, published and peer reviewed climate change scientists can be ignored, but don’t mess with my measles vaccine.

Now, good citizens of Canada, follow the money trail here. Big Pharmaceutical companies have as much influence as Big Oil companies on governmental decisions. There is more going on here that the safety of our children. Granted, I do have trust in most of what my doctors tell me, and my children have all had their appropriate vaccinations. However, the massive advertising for everything from Hepatitus to HPV to the Flu (that really worked this year, eh?) has me wondering.

Big Pharm spends millions of dollars in focus groups and with advertising companies to figure out how to convince us to fear for our health and buy their products. They also make billions of dollars in sales and government approved vaccination programs. So there is a healthy profit in keeping us “healthy.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 150,000 deaths yearly from measles. It is conservatively estimated that there are 3,000,000 deaths yearly (one research group, DARA, takes that up to 5,000,000)  from climate change related heat waves, cold snaps, insect disease vector expansion, food production changes, and  water, air and soil pollution from the fossil fuel industry. The WHO currently estimates that there will be an additonal 250,000 deaths per year due to accelerating climate change.

And yet, Ms. Ambrose, you chose to throw your support behind the science of vaccinations and the safety of a few hundred in Canada , selectively ignoring the science behind accelerating climate change and the security of seven billion in our global community.

Once when I questionned why our First Nations peoples are still trying to access clean drinking water and adequate sewage systems. a wise young friend replied, “It’s because they have no economic value to our government. Just like the Palestinians.” And I would add, climate change scientists.

I wonder if there is a vaccine to prevent irresponsibility. I know just the politicians on whom it could be tested.


Skid Crease, Caledon