Until this year, the purpose of the annual Canadian federal budget was to project government revenues, lay out spending priorities and forecast economic conditions for the upcoming year. Reading Budget 2012, announced last week by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, it soon becomes clear that this government has no intention of being encumbered by such pedestrian fiscal objectives. The Harper government has instead opted to present what is first and foremost a policy document – one that brazenly asserts the government’s ideological agenda for the coming three years.
If the overriding economic policy goal of this government was not apparent previously, with the release of Budget 2012, there can no longer be any doubt. The Harper gang has dispensed with even the pretense of meeting its basic environmental fiduciary responsibilities in favour of the almost totally unimpeded exploitation of Canadian resources.
Just how bad is it? Well, don’t take my word for it. Last week on CBC, the respected columnist Chantale Hebert of the Toronto Star, hardly an eco-zealot, said this was the most anti-environment budget she had seen in her 20 years covering Parliament Hill. Even the very moderate, if not conservative, editorial board of the Globe and Mail singled out the environmental provisions in the Budget saying “The Conservatives are continuing their dishonourable attack meant to intimidate environmental groups, in a budget item that stands out for adding a needless new cost.”
Read the full article here.
Check out my latest article in the Common Sense Canadian on the planned Trailbreaker pipeline. Although the project has yet to be officially confirmed, speculation is rife that Enbridge wants to see tar sands oil transported from northern Alberta through Montreal to Portland, Maine where it would then be shipped to foreign markets. With all the media attention surrounding the proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines, Trailbreaker has been slipping under the radar…so far.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
It seems the Canadian government is quite serious about plans to triple production of tar sands bitumen and would not be satisfied even if they were somehow able to bulldoze public opposition to Keystone and Gateway.
This so-called Trailbreaker project would appear to present fewer regulatory obstacles, as it would not require construction of a new pipeline. Instead, the flow of the existing Portland-Montreal pipeline, which currently brings oil from Africa and the Middle East into eastern Canada, would simply be reversed.
Enbridge, the company behind both Trailbreaker and Northern Gateway, has already requested fast-track approval from the National Energy Board of their $16.9 million plan to reverse the flow of tar sands crude from western Canada to Montreal. Yet according to Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, this is merely phase one of a plan that would then be followed by a reversal of the Portland Montreal Pipeline. The NRC believes that by splitting the project into pieces, Enbridge is attempting to bypass full regulatory and public scrutiny.
Read the full article here.
My latest article on the fight for better public transit options in Toronto was just published in the Common Sense Canadian. The ongoing squabble in Canada’s largest city over light rail vs. subways provides other North American cities with a textbook example of how NOT to address urban transportation challenges at the municipal level. It would appear we can all thank Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford for the kind lesson.
Bracing For a Transit Fight in Toronto
Written by Mark Brooks Thursday, 19 January 2012
This week’s humiliating budget defeat for Toronto mayor Rob Ford, which reversed $20 million in proposed spending cuts, has put new wind in the sails of those fighting to see improved transit services in Canada’s largest city.
On his first day in office, Mayor Ford fulfilled a campaign promise by announcing his intention to cancel the Transit City project, a plan proposed by former Mayor David Miller and the Toronto Transit Commission in 2007 that focused on improving service to the city’s woefully underserved suburbs. Among other initiatives, Transit City called for the construction of new rapid light rail lines connecting seven areas of the city, as well as new rapid bus transit lines. Upon cancelling the project in December 2010, Mayor Ford announced that the “war on the car” was over. Claiming that light rail transit (LRT) on roadways is a bad idea, he instead proposed an expansion of the existing Toronto subway system, a plan that would serve fewer residents at a much higher cost.
So just what is this transit dust-up all about and why should anyone outside of Toronto even care?
Click here to read the article on The Tyee web site. Here’s an excerpt:
How do we reconcile what science is telling us about the link between repeated head trauma and CTE with the fact that, almost to a man, the NHL’s fighters say their jobs are worth the risk? Understanding this proclivity to accept serious, perhaps fatal, risks could shed some light on another issue that was debated last month in Durban, South Africa under the auspices of the United Nations climate change summit (COP 17).
Climate science has evolved considerably over the last 20 years to the point that we are now virtually certain that humans, through the emissions of greenhouse gases, are causing climate change. We also know that the impacts of climate change are likely to be very serious if nothing is done to reign in global emissions dramatically. Even the International Energy Agency, hardly an environmental advocacy group, recently warned that the “door is closing” to avert catastrophic climate change.
Yet despite years of repeated, urgent warnings from the scientific community, global emissions are up 49 per cent since 1990 and no new deal emerged out of Durban to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol.
For the most part, the public and the media recognize and acknowledge the risks of continuing to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, yet we have thus far been unwilling to accept or support any substantive economic measures that might impact us personally. As with fighting in hockey, we know climate change might cause serious problems, even death for some, but as the current system is our meal ticket, it’s worth the price.
I am pleased to be acting as an Ottawa correspondent for the excellent online publication The Common Sense Canadian, British Columbia’s premier environmental news journal. CSC combines cutting-edge video, audio, and reporting and editorials from former BC Environment Minister and Hall of Fame broadcaster Rafe Mair, documentary filmmaker Damien Gillis, and a host of formidable contributors and guest editorialists who bring you the stories and opinions our establishment media won’t publish.
My latest article, reprinted below, examines the negotiating position the Canadian government has adopted at the ongoing Durban climate change summit and in international climate negotiations more generally. You can read it here in full on the CSC website.
Harper’s Climate Death-Wish:
Withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol only the latest effort to derail climate change action
Amidst the ongoing circus that constitutes the United Nations climate change summit (COP 17) currently underway in Durban, South Africa, Canada has once again distinguished itself as the country most hostile to virtually any serious international effort to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada has long been considered a climate change pariah by the international community. We were the only signatory to the Kyoto Protocol to simply ignore its responsibilities following ratification and our country’s total emissions are now more than 34 per cent above our Kyoto targets. Not only did the previous Liberal government fail to do anything to meet its Kyoto obligations, in recent years the government of Stephen Harper has gone a step further, becoming increasingly obdurate in its efforts to deliberately obstruct the progress of international climate talks.
Why the antipathy of the Harper government toward limits to carbon emissions? Well, as you might expect, the tar sands are one factor. Tar sands reserves are now valued at a stunning $14 trillion and oil companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in exploiting the resource, money that could boost federal tax revenues considerably.
This is only part of the story however.
Read my article published in the Common Sense Canadian: Could the Tide Slowly be Turning Against Dirty Oil?
I am pleased to be contributing to the excellent online news and commentary publication The Common Sense Canadian. My first article, entitled Obama’s Keystone XL Reversal: Could the Tide Slowly be Turning Against Dirty Oil?, appeared on their web site yesterday. The full article is printed below.
Strolling around Washington, D.C. last weekend, I came upon an impressive memorial to the famous wartime president Franklin Roosevelt. Upon the gray granite walls were inscribed many of FDR’s most memorable quotations. “Men and nature must work hand in hand,” he wrote in a 1935 message to Congress. “The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.”
Having traveled to the U.S. capital to cover the latest protest of the Keystone XL project, I wondered what FDR might say about TransCanada’s controversial pipeline proposal. A pipeline that would transport tar sands crude from northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, Keystone has been described as a 2700 km “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” in the words of author and activist Bill McKibben. Protest organizers had hoped to encircle the White House with at least 4000 people in what McKibben called both an “O-shaped hug” and “house arrest.” Instead, at least 10,000 protesters showed up, young and old, from all over North America, ringing President Obama’s residence three-deep. Read more…
My interviews with Laure Waridel and Jonathan Glencross in the current issue of Alternatives Journal
The current issue of Alternatives Journal includes my interviews with Laure Waridel, winner of the 2011 Earth Day Canada’s Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award, and Jonathan Glencross, one of the 2011 Earth Day Canada Hometown Heroes. Both are impressive individuals with inspiring stories about how one person working with a only small group of committed people can bring about significant positive changes at the local level. Here are the articles reprinted below.
Love your iPhone, iPod or some other MP3 player? Great. But what are you going to do when it comes time to get rid of it? Did you know many electronic gadgets such as MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals that are not safe to simply throw out in the trash?
The latest issue of Alternatives journal, on the theme of Music and the Environment, includes my article on digital waste in the music industry. There are some solutions emerging to help reduce the production of electronic waste and for the safe disposal of MP3 players. The problems is that many people simply don’t know about the options that exist. We still have a long way to go. I’ve posted the full article below and here is an excerpt:
The explosion of portable MP3 players over the last few years has created a host of new problems. Yes, CDs contain metals and petroleum-derived plastics, but MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, which have been linked to health ailments including kidney damage and neurological impairment. When MP3 players are discarded in landfills, these chemicals can leach into groundwater. Adding to the problem is the short life span of most MP3 players. With 300 million iPods sold since 2002 and a virtual stranglehold on worldwide digital music sales thanks to iTunes, Apple has been singled out by green groups that have accused the company of encouraging the “planned obsolescence” of its ubiquitous gadgets.
The real cost of music, and how you can trim the bill.
I download almost all of my music these days from iTunes, and rarely visit a music retailer. It seems that I’m not alone. Compact disc sales in North America have dropped 52 per cent since 2000. Digital downloads, on the other hand, increased 13 per cent in 2010, and digital sales now represent more than a quarter of the music industry’s global income. The transition to digital music means less aluminum goes into CD production, paper liner notes disappear, and fewer environmentally damaging plastics are used to make discs, jewel cases, vinyl records and cassette tapes. What’s more, digital music has the potential to reduce the energy used to produce and deliver music to consumers, all of which must surely be good for the environment, right?
The current issue of Alternatives Journal includes my review of Clive Hamilton’s ‘Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change‘. The article is reprinted here below.
I have a friend I’ll call Dave. An educated,
rational and intelligent man, Dave can
be counted on for thoughtful, reasoned
arguments, except on one issue: climate
change. He has read the overwhelming
evidence, but Dave remains certain that
climate change is a myth. His proof?
He has none that hasn’t been dismissed
repeatedly by climate scientists. Still,
Dave remains steadfast and I could never
understand why. Clive Hamilton may
have given me the answer.
My review of ‘Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a finite planet‘ by Tim Jackson has just been published in the latest issue of Alternatives Journal. Here it is below…
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics
for a Finite Planet, Tim Jackson, London,
UK: Earthscan, 2009, 264 pages.
Reviewed by Mark Brooks
Former Alberta environment minister
Lorne Taylor was reported to have
remarked to David Suzuki that without
a strong, growing economy, Canadians
simply could not afford to protect the
Most economists today continue to
promote the idea that the wealthier the
economy, the more money we will have
to reduce pollution, invest in green technologies
and protect wilderness areas. So
why on Earth would we want to dispense
with the pursuit of economic growth,
particularly when the global economy is