All posts by Kevin Grandia

About Kevin Grandia

Kevin is the President of Spake Media House Inc. a consulting firm that helps people who want to change the world communicate powerfully online. Named a "Green Hero" by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the "Top 50 Tweeters"on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning. He is formerly the Director of Online Strategy at Greenpeace USA and has been writing on climate change and other pressing social issues for more than seven years. He was the managing editor of that in 2011 was named one of the top 25 blogs in the world by Time Magazine. He recently helped launch and is a contributor to DeSmog Canada

Canada Election 2015: Where do the parties stand on climate change?


Canada Election 2015- Where do the parties stand on climate change

With only a couple of weeks left in the Canadian federal election, voters are starting to ask fundamental questions about where the major parties stand on important issues like climate change. Canadians already rank climate and environment as a top issue both during and between election cycles.

But with both the federal election on the horizon and international climate talks scheduled in Paris for late November, Canadians have a real opportunity for their votes to translate into substantial climate action on the global stage.

Pressure is mounting for Canada to play a leadership role at these negotiations, with major trading partners like China and the United States already jointly announcing their emission reduction goals and commitments in advance of the talks.  

And Canadians are showing a desire for strong climate leadership. Even provinces like Alberta are defying stereotypes by showing a broad public desire for climate action. A recent poll by EKOS found that 53 per cent of Albertans support stronger climate policies and about the same support an economy-wide carbon tax to help solve the problem.

Environmental group Environmental Defence recently issued a new report that outlines where each of the major parties stand on climate. Here DeSmog Canada breaks those climate positions down with further analysis of each party’s election platform: 

Liberal Party and Trudeau on Climate Change

When it comes to actual carbon emission reduction targets the Liberal Party has been rather vague so far in this election, making a promise that they will “provide national leadership and join with the provinces and territories to take action on climate change, put a price on carbon, and reduce carbon pollution.”

In their election platform, Trudeau and the Liberals have committed to a $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Trust that will fund projects that help reduce carbon emissions.

On the international policy side, the Liberals say they will attend the Paris climate summit and within 90 days “establish a pan-Canadian framework for combatting climate change.”

The Liberals also state in their election platform that they support the G20 commitment to phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels in the medium-term and that they will work with the U.S. and Mexico to develop a long-term North American clean energy and environmental agreement.

NDP and Mulcair on Climate Change

The NDP has committed to a nation-wide cap-and-trade system that includes a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major sources like the Alberta oilsands. According to the Environmental Defence report, the NDP’s plan puts Canada on track to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2025, with a baseline measure of 1990. By 2050, the NDP plan on climate change would see Canada’s emissions drop by 80 per cent. These targets and commitments would be legislated making them much more difficult to reverse by future governments.

The NDP also commits to establishing “Green Bonds” which would allow Canadians to “invest up to $4.5 billion over four years in ‘clean energy, climate resilient infrastructure, commercial and industrial energy retrofits, and other sustainable development projects.'”

A further $1.5 billion would be spent over the next four years in “green programs” like retrofitting homes to be more energy efficient and local clean energy projects for northern and remote communities.

Conservative Party and Harper on Climate Change

As the incumbent party, it is fair to judge the Conservative party’s performance on their record to date, even more so than their election promises. While Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been mildly better on climate change in the last couple years (by, for example, agreeing with other G7 nations to phase out fossil fuels by 2100), the bar has been set rather low. This isn’t help by the fact that members of the Conservative party still consider climate change a theory consisting of “alarmist claims.”

Under the Harper government, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada have ever so slightly dropped, but as the CBC points out in a recent analysis of claims on climate change made by Stephen Harper, those slight reductions had nothing to do with policy actions by the Conservatives and were instead a result of the major economic recession in 2008 and 2009.

As for Harper’s commitment in this federal election on climate change, his party highlights the commitment they put forward for the Paris negotiations that would see Canada reduce its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 measured on a baseline of 2005. However, the Conservatives have made this commitment on a sector-by-sector basis and one of the sectors left out of this commitment is the Alberta oilsands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Emissions from the oilsands, Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions have increased 79 per cent since 2005. They currently account for nine per cent of Canada’s total emissions and that portion is expected to jump to 14 per cent by 2020.

In a recent analysis the Conservative Party’s commitment was found to be the weakest of all the G7 countries.

The Conservatives have announced some funding for green projects, like a Public Transit Fund, but say funding for that program would not start until 2017.

Green Party and May on Climate Change

No surprisingly, the Green Party offers a very ambitious set of commitments on climate change, proposing emission reductions that are more than double those of Conservative Party of Canada. The Green Party plan would see Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduced by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Green Party also commits to a “fee-and-dividend” system, which is similar to a cap-and-trade system and would set an initial price on carbon of $50 per tonne across all sectors, including the Alberta oilsands.

As for investing in green programs, Elizabeth May and the Greens would commit $500 million a year to a “Green Climate Fund” that would assist developing nations in addressing climate change, an additional $180 million a year in clean energy research and development and $1 billion a year for a “Green Technology Commercialization Grants.”

The Green Party would also reintroduce tax credits for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, create a national plan for public transportation and provide tax incentives for renewable energy storage facilities and for the manufacturing and purchase of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

If climate change is an important issue to you, there is one big thing you can do. Bigger, I would argue than changing your lightbulbs or buying a hybrid car and the like. The single biggest thing you can do to help fight climate change in Canada is to vote for the party you think is going to make the biggest difference.

Check out each party’s platform for more details. While you’re at it make sure you’re registered to vote and don’t forget to put October 19th in your calendar!


Why privacy matters in this Canadian election


Why privacy matters in this Canadian election

While you are out this weekend enjoying the last days of summer on the beach and the RCMP come by to check whether your cooler is full of (gasp) beer or wine, you have every right to tell them (I would suggest politely) that no, they cannot look in your cooler.

Now I am not a lawyer (although I did consult one to write this article), so don’t come looking for me if the whole exchange doesn’t go smoothly, but the law is very clear in Canada that the police only have a right to search your cooler if they have reason to suspect you have alcohol or something else illegal in inside.

And this extends to all sorts of other things, like driving your car, which reminds me of the old police shows where the local rebel is pulled over and when he asks the sheriff why he was pulled over the sheriff pulls out his baton, smashes a tail light and says, “broken tail light.”

Even the redneck sheriff knows that in order to pull a person over he has to have a reason for doing so.

In Canada, we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. We have the right to go about our lives without being bothered by the police, unless the police have a justifiable reason for doing so.

In fact this rule is so important that it is embedded in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under section eight, which states that:

[quote]Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.[/quote]

While section eight of the Charter protects all sorts of things, one of the biggies is our right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

So unless you are acting like a drunk idiot at the beach this weekend, it is reasonable for you to expect your privacy and the RCMP cannot butt into that privacy by demanding (or even politely asking) to see the contents of your cooler, backpack or whatever other personal belongings you have with you.

National insecurity

If it is the case that the police, or any other form of law enforcement, are not allowed to search you or our belongings without reason, how could it be okay in Canada for law enforcement to search and seize our personal information and digital conversations without probable cause?

The RCMP might not have reasonable grounds to search your drink cooler while you lay on the beach, but under new laws rammed through with little debate by Stephen Harper and his Conservative government, law enforcement agencies like the RCMP and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), will have more power than ever to monitor, collect and share the information you are transmitting on that fancy new iPhone 6 Plus of yours, or any other electronic device you have.

Your right to privacy is extended to online activities, which was confirmed in a 2013 Supreme Court of Canada case involving Telus, in which the court ruled that Canadians should have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to electronic transmissions like text messaging and emails.

So what is the government to do if it has a burning desire to monitor more of its citizens’ activities – especially online – in the name of national security?

What the Harper government did with Bill C-51 is loosen the definition of what behaviours are considered an indication of potentially illegal activity. By broadening the definition of what activities are considered a possible threat to national security, the government now has more reasons to monitor your behaviour.

Loosening and broadening the definition of what is an indication of possible criminal activity is the key trick in Bill C-51 and harms your right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

“Critical infrastructure”

Arrests begin on Burnaby Mountain in Kinder Morgan standoff
Burnaby Mountain/Kinder Morgan arrest (Photo: Brad Hornick/facebook)

It is in the definitions section of the final version of C-51 that was passed June 15, 2015 where we can see the introduction of very broad terms to define what is an “activity that undermines the security of Canada.”

For instance, one such activity that would undermine the security of Canada (according to C-51) is the “interference with critical infrastructure.” In the context of pipeline protests this is a cause for concern for those citizens who want to show up and voice their opposition to the construction of a pipeline.

In the definitions section of C-51 there is a statement that, on the surface, would seemingly protect pipeline protestors: “For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”

But it is the broadness and vagueness of this text that is concerning, especially when Conservative party members have a history of labelling those speaking up on environmental issues as “eco-terrorists.”

Human rights, Canada’s reputation at risk

Again though, I am not a lawyer, but here’s what a group of prominent experts, including 106 law professors, had to say about C-51:

[quote]Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security. Given the secrecy around national security activities, abuses can go undetected and without remedy. This results not only in devastating personal consequences for the individuals, but a profoundly negative impact on Canada’s reputation as a rights-respecting nation.[/quote]

Stephen Harper, the hypocrite

The kicker here is that while the Harper government wants to invent new reasons to watch what you do, the same does not go for Prime Minister Harper himself, who is so tight with his own information that he is rarely even willing to talk to the media!

Stephen Harper wants you to be willing to give up your privacy, but is not willing to make his activities and those of his government more transparent and open.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist and constitutional lawyer who worked with whistleblower Edward Snowden to expose the massive intrusion of privacy by the US government against its own citizens and countries around the world, has a very well-thought-out opinion on why people should have a reasonable expectation of privacy and why if you are not doing anything wrong, you should still expect that privacy.

And on the hypocrisy of those, like Stephen Harper, who call for less privacy, but take steps to further protect their own privacy, Greenwald had this to say:

[quote]…the people that say that, that privacy isn’t really important, they don’t actually believe it. And the way that you know that they don’t actually believe it, is that while they say with their words ‘privacy doesn’t matter,’ with their actions they take all kinds of steps to safeguard their privacy. They put passwords on their email and their social media accounts, they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors. All steps designed to prevent other people from entering what they consider their private realm and knowing what it is that they don’t want other people to know.[/quote]

Watching over your back

In this election, like most elections in recent history, public safety is a hot issue, and every party wants you to think they have your back when it comes to protecting you, your family, friends and fellow citizens.

But there is an important line that needs to be drawn between watching your back and watching over your back.

Our right to a reasonable expectation of privacy is stated pretty clearly in our country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a right that past generations fought and died for and not something to be taken lightly.

And our right to privacy is definitely not something that should be compromised by a new set of ham-fisted laws that were rammed into existence with little debate.

So vote smart in this election if privacy is something important to you, because it matters, and what is a law today can be changed by a new government tomorrow.

As a first step, go here to to see the official vote count and who voted for and against Bill C-51, and consider voting accordingly.

Or here’s the crib notes: the Conservatives and Liberals all voted in favour of C-51, while every other party voted against it.


Third Party Advertising 101 for the Canadian Federal Election

Third Party Advertising laws during a federal election can be a challenge to navigate
Third Party Advertising laws during a federal election can be a challenge to navigate

Given that we could be going into a federal election here in Canada as early as this weekend (sigh) and I have a lot of folks asking me about the rules and regulations around election advertising by third parties, I thought I would share the most important points for those interested in knowing more about the regulations.

To be clear, I am not a lawyer, just a guy who can’t help but stick his nose in elections. I actually hope this summary sparks a few more people to get involved as third parties in this election.

You can read the entire section provided by Elections Canada here: Election advertising handbook for Third Parties, Financial Agents and Auditors (EC 20227) – July 2015.

What I am doing in this post is pulling verbatim the most important points, to provide an overview and a general understanding. If you are planning on advertising as a third party during the election, I would suggest reading the entire Elections Canada handbook on the rules and regulations and also consult a lawyer familiar with the area.

Do social media and websites count?

Off the top and before we get into too many details, the one big question I am asked is whether a website or posting content on Twitter and Facebook is considered election advertising and the answer to that question is clearly NO.

The election handbook states clearly that:

The following are not election advertising:

  • Messages sent or posted for free on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook
  • Messages sent by e-mail or through other messaging services (including texts sent through a cellular or mobile network)
  • Content posted on the third party’s website

Elections Canada does provide a clear scenario that is related to many of the questions I am getting about online election advertising – the following is not considered an election advertising expense:

[quote]During the election, the third party sets up a website to promote a registered party. Even though there are costs to produce and host websites, these are not election advertising expenses.[/quote]

Elections Canada defines (and quite clearly in my opinion) what counts as an online advertising expense:

[quote]Election messages communicated over the Internet are election advertising only if they have, or would normally have, a placement cost (and meet all the other requirements for election advertising).[/quote]

Again though, if you’re unsure, consult your friendly neighbourhood elections lawyer. Further down in this post are a few more details on what is considered an eligible advertising expense.

What’s a “third party”?

Here’s the barebones that you need to know about third party election advertising taken directly from the Elections Canada Third Party Advertising Handbook:

[click on any of the headers to go to the pertinent section of the Third Party Advertising Handbook]

1. Definition of a “third party”: 

“For the purposes of election advertising, third party means a person or a group other than a candidate, registered party, or electoral district association of a registered party.”


[quote]A third party may incur election advertising expenses totalling $500 or more in relation to a general election or a by-election if the third party is:

  • an individual who is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or resides in Canada
  • a corporation, if it carries on business in Canada
  • a group, if the person responsible for the group is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or resides in Canada[/quote]

2. Registration requirements: 

“A person or group must register as a third party immediately after incurring election advertising expenses totalling $500 or more.”

And, “Registration cannot take place before the election is called. The person or group must apply for registration by submitting the completed and signed General Form – Third Party to Elections Canada.”

Here is the PDF form you need to fill out and send back to Elections Canada: General Form-Third Party.

[On a personal note, this is a free and easy process to do early in the election cycle and a pain once you get going and want to advertise.]

3. Appointing a financial agent:

“A third party must appoint a financial agent before applying for registration. In addition, a third party has to appoint an auditor if it incurs election advertising expenses totalling $5,000 or more.”


[quote]Who can become a financial agent of a third party?

  • an individual who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada

Who is not eligible to act as a financial agent?

  • a candidate or official agent of a candidate
  • a chief agent or registered agent of a registered party
  • an election officer or a member of the staff of a returning officer
  • an individual who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada[/quote]

4. Appointing an auditor:

“The third party must appoint an auditor if it incurs election advertising expenses totalling $5,000 or more. This may become necessary before or after registration.”


[quote]Who can become an auditor of a third party?

  • a person who is a member in good standing of a corporation, an association or an institute of provincially incorporated professional accountants
  • a partnership of which every partner is a member in good standing of a corporation, an association or an institute of provincially incorporated professional accountants
  • provincially incorporated professional accounting designations include: Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Who is not eligible to be an auditor?

  • the third party’s financial agent
  • a person who signed the third party’s application for registration
  • an election officer
  • a candidate or official agent of a candidate
  • the chief agent of a registered party or an eligible party
  • a registered agent of a registered party[/quote]

5. Definition of a contribution:

“A contribution is donated money (monetary contribution) or donated property or services (non-monetary contribution).”

6. Who can contribute to your third party group:

“Individuals who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, and businesses or other organizations that operate in Canada, can make contributions to a third party for election advertising purposes.”

7. Who CANNOT contribute to your third party group:

[quote]The third party is prohibited from using a contribution made for election advertising purposes if it does not know the name and address of the contributor, or if it is unable to determine to which contributor class the contributor belongs.

The third party cannot use a contribution made for election advertising purposes if the contribution is from:

  • a person who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada
  • a corporation or association that does not carry on business in Canada
  • a trade union that does not hold bargaining rights for employees in Canada
  • a foreign political party
  • a foreign government or an agent of one[/quote]

8. Definition of election advertising: 

“Election advertising is the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or the election of a candidate, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated.”

[Personal note: I find this definition vague and would recommend you get clarity from a lawyer if you are unsure whether your activities qualify as election advertising]

9. What is NOT considered election advertising:

  • the transmission to the public of an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary, or news
  • the distribution of a book, or the promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value, if the book was planned to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election
  • the transmission of a document directly by a person or a group to their members, employees or shareholders, as the case may be
  • the transmission by an individual, on a non-commercial basis on the Internet, of that individual’s personal political views

10. Declare authorization on your ad copy:

“The Canada Elections Act requires that a third party identify itself in any election advertising and indicate that it has authorized the advertising. This authorization has to be in or on the message. Failure to do so is an offence.

The following wording is suggested: “Authorized by the <name of the third party>.”

11. Election advertising categories:

There are three categories defined in the handbook and I would recommend reading them thoroughly as they will help clarify whether your activities qualify as election advertising. The three categories are: traditional advertising, advertising on the internet and fundraising activities and advertisement.

12. Election spending caps for third parties:

“The third party election advertising expenses limit for a 37-day general election period called between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 is:

  • $205,800.00 in total
  • $4,116.00 in total in a given electoral district”

Note though that if the election is called earlier, there is some math to do, because you will be able to spend more money:

“If an election period is longer than 37 days, the election advertising expenses limit at the national and electoral district level increases as follows:

  • the initial limit is divided by 37
  • the result is multiplied by (number of days in the election period–37)”

13. Contributions:

“For contributions over $200 made for election advertising purposes in the period beginning six months before the election was called and ending on election day, the contributor’s name, address and class, and the amount and date of the contribution, have to be reported.”


[quote]For reporting purposes, the Canada Elections Act identifies the following classes of contributors:

  • individuals
  • businesses
  • commercial organizations
  • governments
  • trade unions
  • corporations without share capital other than trade unions
  • unincorporated organizations or associations other than trade unions[/quote]

14. Deadlines for reporting:

There are three deadlines you need to know about and you can go to the section on reporting here, in general though they are (summed up in my own words):

  • when you think you’re going to spend more than $500 you need to register right away
  • if any of the info on your original registration changes then you need to submit a new form right away
  • within four months after election day you need to submit a final Third Party Election Advertising Report

Here’s all the contact information you need for Elections Canada and also below (because I am just so darn helpful) is another link to the PDF document you need to fill out if you’re going to register as a third party in the 2015 Canadian federal election:


Elections Canada

30 Victoria Street

Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M6



Political Financing

1-888-523-9333 (toll-free)


Click here to download a PDF version of the Election Canada General Form-Third Party.

So you have no excuse now! No matter what party you’re supporting this election – New Democratic Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, the Green Party of Canada – or whatever issue you want to get out there in front of voters, get out there and make your voice heard above the noise!

International Coal Summit's pipe dream of carbon capture and storage

International Coal Summit’s pipe dream of carbon capture & storage


International Coal Summit's pipe dream of carbon capture and storage

A new study released today at the UN climate conference underway in Warsaw, Poland finds that new coal plants cannot be built if we are to keep global warming below the 2° Celsius threshold.

That is, unless the coal industry can deploy commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The report, titled: New unabated coal is not compatible with keeping global warming below 2°C, finds that of all the fossil fuels, coal is the easiest to substitute with renewable technologies and that:

[quote]The current global trend of coal use is consistent with an emissions pathway above the IEA’s [International Energy Agency] 6°C scenario. That risks an outcome that can only be described as catastrophic, beyond anything that mankind has experienced during its entire existence on earth.[/quote]

In other words, CCS better work and work fast.

Carbon capture on agenda at coal conference

Down the road from the UN conference, the Polish government (of all people) is hosting the “International Coal and Climate Summit” which heavily features CCS experts and discussion panels.

There will likely be little talk at the coal summit of just how ridiculous the idea of commercially deployed CCS is becoming.

Carbon capture and storage  technology has been a “future” solution for many years now, with governments abandoning experimental projects due to cost overruns and lack of progress. Governments like the United States, at the behest of the coal lobby, have pumped billions into CCS technology experiments, yet it continues to fail as a commercially viable option.

A recent study by the Global CCS Institute found that the number of large scale CCS projects has dropped to 65 from 75 over the last year. If this was the grand solution to the urgent issue of climate change, you would think we would be seeing more projects coming on line, not fewer.

Even if we saw a breakthrough in CCS, huge issues remain. The first hurdle is finance.

As renewable energy technology prices continue to drop and reach parity with fossil fuels like coal (something we are already seeing), CCS begins to make less and less sense from a financial point of view. Coal prices will inevitably go up to cover the costs of CCS development making it uncompetitive with renewable energy.

A second big hurdle is regulation of carbon storage. CCS can only work as a solution to climate change if the captured carbon stays safely in the ground forever. So who is in charge of ensuring that all that carbon stays underground? Coal companies? If a coal company takes on that responsibility, what happens when that company goes under? Who then is responsible? Taxpayers?

What if there’s an earthquake near a carbon storage facility? A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes that even a small earthquake event in the US has the potential to release stored carbon back into the atmosphere, making “large-scale CCS a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In the United States, the coal industry argues that the government (read: taxpayers) should take on the responsibility and the liability for stored carbon – a convenient stance for the coal industry.

Finally there are the logistics of capturing carbon and moving it either by pipeline, train or truck to a designated storage facility.

2008 article on CCS by author Jeff Goodell describes the challenge of transporting carbon best:

[quote]Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba, Canada, argued recently in Nature that ‘carbon sequestration is irresponsibly portrayed as an imminently useful option for solving the challenge [of global warming].’ Smil pointed out that to sequester just 25% of the CO2 emitted by stationary sources (mostly coal plants), we would have to create a system whose annual volume of fluid would be slightly more than twice that of the world’s crude-oil industry.[/quote]

Smil’s own words, to sequester just a fifth of current CO2 emissions:

[quote]… we would have to create an entirely new worldwide absorption-gathering-compression-transportation- storage industry whose annual throughput would have to be about 70 percent larger than the annual volume now handled by the global crude oil industry whose immense infrastructure of wells, pipelines, compressor stations and storages took generations to build.[/quote]

Any practical thinker should by now be asking themselves: Wouldn’t it just be easier to put up a bunch of solar panels and wind turbines? 

Unfortunately, the mythical distraction of ‘clean coal’ and still unrealized CCS commercialization remain a shiny penny for the technocentric crowd.

Blame Canada's carbon complacency for the Philippine typhoon

Blame Canada’s carbon complacency for the Philippine typhoon

Blame Canada's carbon complacency for the Philippine typhoon
Fort McMurray, Alberta (photo: Kris Krüg)

The human tragedy playing out in the Philippines deserves a moment of pause to think about how we can help and to reflect on what it must be like to be in the shoes of a mother or a son who has lost everything.

Experts are saying Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest ever recorded. Anyone who thinks that this typhoon is not due to the atmospheric disruption and rising sea levels resulting from our changing climate has their head firmly planted in the comfortable soil of ignorance, ideology or both.

Scientists at esteemed organization like NASA and the Royal Society have been warning us for years that warmer oceans will lead to stronger weather events, like typhoons and hurricanes, and rising sea levels will lead to larger and more devastating storm surges.

Something is definitely up with the weather

Typhoon Haiyan is the latest and most poignant, not to mention the most tragic, example of what is in store for humanity as governments like Canada continue to allow fossil fuel producers to pump carbon pollution into our atmosphere unregulated.

So if we know that the intensity and devastating impacts of Typhoon Haiyan are a result of climate change and record levels of industrial greenhouse gas, what is Canada’s level of responsibility for what happened in the Philippines?

The impacts of climate change are a cruel joke in that it is the poorest most vulnerable countries that are being hit the hardest, but it is the developed nations, countries like the US and Canada, who are responsible for the majority of the climate pollution in the atmosphere.

Canada, who is by far one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas, will likely not see any major impacts of climate change for many decades. The Philippines by comparison is a very minor producer of carbon pollution, but that country is feeling the results of Canada’s unwillingness to act on climate change. Industry in Canada gets to drink Tequila all day long, but it is developing nations that are feeling the nasty hangover.

Canadians want climate leadership

To be clear, I am not blaming individual Canadians for what happened in the Philippines. Canadians want leadership on climate change and they are demanding that the government listen.

I am blaming Typhoon Haiyan on the Canadian government and all those actively involved in blocking moves to reduce carbon emissions and cheerleading the accelerated expansion of carbon-intensive resources like the oil sands.

In a functioning democracy the will of the majority ultimately dictates decisions by lawmakers. Unfortunately our democracy isn’t working too well at the moment, with divided parties, split votes, weak-willed leaders and a majority government not elected by the majority of the people.

As individuals we can switch all our lightbulbs to CFC. drive less and make our houses more efficient etc., but all those actions (while very important) are not going to come close to compensating for a federal government that refuses to put in place the measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by industry. This is a government that refuses to listen to the people.

A recent opinion poll found that more than 76% of Canadians want our government to sign on to an international agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,. The Canadian government not only refuses to do sign a deal, it is considered a laggard at climate negotiations by many in civil society. This weekend there are events planned across the country to put pressure on our government leaders to regulate carbon emissions and halt projects like the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

These carbon mega-projects ensure that Canada will continue to grow as a source of greenhouse gas. They will also ensure more destruction and dead children on the other side of the planet. Watch CNN’s coverage of Typhoon Haiyan tonight.

Look at the dead children covered in tarps as their mother sits in the rubble that was once their house, and I dare you not to show up this weekend and demand our country lead on climate change.

Team Harper should rack a win at climate negotiations...if they're smart

Team Harper should rack a win at climate talks…if they’re smart


Team Harper should rack a win at climate negotiations...if they're smart

With another round of international climate negotiations opening this week in Warsaw, Poland, and a new poll finding Canadians wanting leadership on the issue, Stephen Harper and his Conservative government have an opportunity to begin turning the tides on what has been up until now an abysmal failure.

Since taking the helm, Harper and his party have floundered at the United Nations climate events, with the likes of former environment minister John “Bull in a China Shop” Baird ham-handedly relegating our country to perpetual fossil of the day and year awards.

Canada’s fall from grace

As someone who has been working in and around these international climate talks, and other such global negotiations, for many years now I have witnessed first hand Canada’s fall from grace. Our small country (population-wise) has historically hit well above its weight in many international forums, with a reputation for neutrality and expert diplomacy. Now, we are called a “petro-state” and a fly in the ointment at such talks.

Up until Harper, Canada has been a international leader on global efforts to battle environmental issues. Former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was an outspoken global leader on reducing CFC’s and his leadership culminated in the Montreal Accord that saw 191 countries agree to phasing out ozone depleting chemicals.

Under Jean Chretien and the Liberals Canada was one of the first countries to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global climate change pollution, and that leadership started a domino effect with many countries following our lead. Harper’s lack of performance, and in many cases outright opposition to deal on climate change, is not only being noticed by the international community, it is also starting to be noticed at home.

New poll: Canadians want climate change to be a top issue

A poll out late last week finds that a large majority – almost 60 percent – of Canadians agree that climate change should be a top issue for the Harper government. A whopping 76 percent say that Canada should sign on to a new international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

While I am the first to admit that public opinion polls can fall well short of reality, in this case there is substantial proof at the street-level. Everyday people and not just the media or opinion-makers are wanting Harper to rejuvenate Canada’s international reputation on the issue of climate change.

Canadians to rally for climate this weekend

Look no further than the hundreds of events being planned across the country for a “Defend our Climate, Defend our Communities” day of action being held this coming weekend. Such a show of discontent in the streets and in front of MP’s offices has to have Harper and his minions at least a little worried.

And it is only going to get worse for Harper as more and more extreme weather events pile up week after week on the nightly news. Climate change is no longer a theory. The atmospheric disruption and extreme weather scientists talked about almost 20 years ago when Canada signed on to the Kyoto Protocol is now “the new normal.”

Harper could redeem himself in Warsaw

With these talks starting this week and next in Warsaw, Harper and his new environment minister, Leona Aglukaqq, have an opportunity to redeem themselves. It would be good for our international reputation to do so, not to mention my children’s children who, as it stands today, face a pretty bleak future. And according to public opinion polls, a strong stance on climate by Harper would be good politics.

So what’s stopping him?

Canadian communities to rally for climate as BC, Alberta pen pipeline deal

Canadian communities to rally for climate as BC, Alberta pen pipeline deal

Canadian communities to rally for climate as BC, Alberta pen pipeline deal
Last year’s “Defend Our Coast” rally in Victoria (photo: TJ Watt)

Just this morning, BC Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Allison Redford have announced that they have penned a deal to ram a pipeline from Northern Alberta’s oil sands fields to the West Coast. And according to news reports, there is “tentative” support for other pipelines.

In Canada we are at a major cross-roads, with some big government leaders pushing pipelines that will lock the country permanently into the “petro-state” column, while at the same time scientists, environmental experts and economists saying that we are lighting a “carbon bomb” for the long term.

Politicians, like Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Clark and Redford think building massive pipelines to the US and off our coasts to send unprocessed oil sands from Alberta to out-of-country export facilities is a wonderful idea.

At the same time, scientists at esteemed scientific organizations like NASA, say that building Keystone and pumping more oil sands out of Alberta pretty much guarantees runaway climate change and atmospheric disruption.

On one hand, a political win and some short term payouts that will mainly go to foreign oil companies like ExxonMobil and PetroChina. On the other hand, extreme weather, droughts, wildfires and heat waves for generations to come.

Big bucks for foreign oil companies, drought and wildfires for Canadians! The choice is yours. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I think my kids deserve a safe and stable future.

Time to stand up.

On Nov. 16th, Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast will gather at events to voice their opposition to the direction politicians like Stephen Harper want to take our country.

Will you be there?

Vimeo video by Zack Embree

Koch Brothers could make $100 Billion on Keystone XL Pipeline

Koch Brothers could make $100 Billion from Keystone XL pipeline

Koch Brothers could make $100 Billion on Keystone XL Pipeline
American oil billionaires David and Charles Koch

A new study released today concludes that Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is given the go-ahead by U.S. President Obama.

The report, titled Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb, and produced by the think tank International Forum on Globalization (IFG), finds that David and Charles Koch and their privately-owned company, Koch Industries, own more than 2 million acres of land in Northern Alberta, the source of the tar sands oil that will be pumped to the United States via the Keystone XL pipeline.

[quote]The Kochs have repeatedly claimed that they have no interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline, this report shows that is false.” Said Nathalie Lowenthal-Savy , a researcher with IFG. “We noticed Koch Funded Tea Party members and think tanks pushing for the pipeline. We dug deeper and found $100 billion in potential profit, $50 million sent to organizations supporting the pipeline, and perhaps 2 million acres of land. That sounds like an interest to me.” Nathalie continued, “We all know they will use that money to fund and expand their influence network, subvert democracy, crush unions like in Wisconsin, and get more extremists elected to congress.[/quote]

Download a PDF copy of the study here: Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline.


Ex-Harper Minister Solberg renews Flat Earth Society membership

Flat Earth map drawn in 1893. The map contains several references to biblical passages and various jabs at the "Globe Theory"
Flat Earth map from 1893, containing several references to biblical passages and jabs at “Globe Theory”

Writing in the Calgary Sun the other day, former Conservative Party Cabinet Minister Monte Solberg claims there is “good news on the climate front.”

Now before we get into this too far, this is the same Solberg who in 2009 celebrated the end of global warming because it was really cold in Saskatchewan that winter. Conveniently missing the idea that it’s called “global” warming and not “Saskatchewan” warming, and we will see different rates of warming in different regions of the world.

Solberg’s latest “good news” refers to recent claims by conspiracy theorists, former energy lobbyists and bought-and-paid pretend climate experts that the upward trend in planetary warming has stalled out.

Now I’m not a scientist and neither is Solberg, but here’s a chart of actual warming measured by NASA over the years:

Nasa global temperature

Again, I am not a scientist, but that is one big giant upward trend in warming that starts right around the time we all started burning a lot of coal and oil in the late 1800’s.

Cool earth, flat earth

Of course, like any good 9-11 or moon-landing conspiracy theory, this chart of actual measured temperature rise will never convince folks like Solberg and other members of the flat earth society, that the earth is warming and will continue to rise.

Honestly, I could put up no end of charts showing the reality of our warming planet and there will be a dismissive argument for every one of them. Conspiracy theories are infallible, that’s why they just get nuttier and nuttier.

In his Calgary Sun opinion piece, Solberg relies on a very nuanced argument to downplay the whole reality of the situation we are facing on our planet, writing:

[quote]In 2007, leading science guys at the IPCC projected that the planet would warm at a rate of .2 degrees every 10 years. They now say the rate is only .12 degrees.[/quote]

Now go back to that NASA chart. Whether we are looking at .2 degrees or .12 degrees, that big upward spike in warming is the reality. No matter what Solberg or anyone else in the flat earth society wants to think. No matter how much they want to quibble on the fringes about computer models and projections, that big swoop up in actual observed global temperature is the reality.

Predictions coming true

We are coming into an age now where the scientific predictions made 20 years ago about a warming planet, atmospheric distruption and more extreme weather, are actually being observed in real life. We are even as a global society trying to soften this new reality by calling it the “new normal.”

So if that’s the reality, the question is: will you find solace in Solberg’s “good news” or will you look up and face the truth of the matter?

Honestly, I won’t blame you if you side with Solberg, because as the old saying goes: “Ignorance is bliss!”

With all this Oil and 'Energy Security' where's the Money

With all this Oil and ‘Energy Security’, where’s the Money?

With all this Oil and 'Energy Security' where's the Money
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, discussing trade on a visit to China (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Ask yourself this: why, if Canada has the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, is our country in such massive debt?

Why do post-secondary education prices continue to soar for our youth?

Why is our health care system continually going on life support?

Why does Canada have some of the highest child poverty rates amongst the so-called developed nations?

[quote]If Canada has the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, why is our country in such massive debt?[/quote]

After all, as our government will tell you, we are the Saudi Arabia of the North.


Canada leaking oil profits

While the tar sands do create much-needed jobs for some, for the most part Canadians get nothing for handing over our oil reserves to foreign oil companies to ship overseas. Most countries ask oil companies for a large percentage of their profits in exchange for access to the country’s oil.

Alberta Tar Sands
Canada gets all the environmental impacts and few of the benefits from operations like this one in Fort McMurray, Alberta (photo: Chris Krüg)

For instance, in Norway, they ask oil companies for about 70% of their profits. That might sound high, but the oil sector in Norway is a booming success and a major driver of the economy.

In Canada, our country does not collect any royalties. Alberta collects a pittance – about 12%.

Instead of money, the outlook for Canadians and oil is not wealth, it is the long-term consequences of pollution, lakes of toxic sludge, foul air and polluted waterways. We’ll be dealing with those issues long after the likes of Petro-China have moved on.

The longterm outlook for Norway is very different from ours. Despite having only the 22nd largest proven oil reserves, Norway is on track to have stowed away more than $1 trillion for their people and future generations. Note: that is a “t”rillon, not a “b”illion. As the Business Insider said just today, “Norway has more money than it knows what to do with.”

Canada a Petro-State?

Why has it come to this you ask? Why is Canada so oil-rich, but so poor?

I would propose that our politicians are to blame. And Stephen Harper is the latest in a long parade of politicians who rely on the deep pockets of the oil industry to fund their political campaigns. If a politician was to propose higher royalties for oil and gas companies, they would see campaign money dry up from not only the oil companies, but the companies behind them, like the banks and large investment firms.

However, if a leader was to emerge and demand that we make the tar sands work for Canadians and not PetroChina, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum, that person could reap the support of millions of Canadians who agree with this injustice.

If we had a leader that stood up for Canadians, instead of oil companies, we too could have more money than we know what to do with and could start to repair the damage wrought on us by politicians addicted to oil.

The Common Sense Canadian is proud to introduce Kevin Grandia as a new contributor!