Category Archives: International

Kinder Morgan Bait & Switch: Backdoor pipeline to Washington State refineries could save Trans Mountain Expansion

Washington Governor Jay Inslee meets with BC Premier John Horgan in Victoria (Flickr/Province of BC)

By Joyce Nelson

In a widely published June 3 op-ed for Postmedia newspapers, Thomas Gunton – a former B.C. Deputy Minister of Environment – decimated the Trudeau Liberals’ decision to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and build its expansion project.

But instead of urging that the Trudeau government stop this controversial purchase, Gunton stated this: “Ironically, their purchase of the pipeline may provide them with one last chance for changing course. If they insist on building TMX they could appoint a multi-stakeholder task force including First Nations to consider redesigning the project to reduce its worst impacts by scaling down the size of the expansion and directing increased shipments to refineries in Washington State. This would avoid tanker exports from Vancouver, reduce the number of Alaskan tankers through Georgia Straight, and allow for the phasing out of the higher risk aging pipeline.”

This suggested “redesign” to benefit Washington’s major refineries may have been the plan all along, or at least since November 15, 2016 when Gunton’s former boss – B.C.’s former premier Mike Harcourt – suggested that Kinder Morgan and the federal Liberals “consider an alternate route” to avoid Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. Even before Trudeau had given federal approval to Kinder Morgan’s expansion project, Harcourt was here urging that the tarsands diluted bitumen (dilbit) be shipped “to either Deltaport or just across the B.C.-Washington state border to the Cherry Point refinery” in order to avoid “insurrection” in B.C.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has a southern leg – called Puget Sound Pipeline – which splits off at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Terminal in Abbotsford, B.C. and delivers tar sands dilbit to several refineries in Washington State, including the Ferndale Refinery (owned by Phillips 66), the Cherry Point Refinery (owned by BP), the Andeavor Anacortes Refinery (now owned by Marathon Petroleum), and the Shell Anacortes Refinery (owned by Shell Oil).

The Puget Sound Pipeline currently has a capacity of 170,000 barrels per day (bpd), but in the documents filed for its IPO in May 2017, Kinder Morgan indicated that they want to significantly increase that amount, according to Sven Biggs of’s Bellingham, Washington office.

That finding seems to have been part of the reason that the local council of Whatcom County (located in the northwest corner of Washington State), voted 6-1 in June 2017 to effectively put a moratorium on the export of unrefined oil and coal from their area. But refined oil products are allowed in order to protect the hundreds of highly-paid refinery jobs in the state.

Oddly, none of the press coverage of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s visit to B.C. in November 2017 mentioned Kinder Morgan’s Puget Sound Pipeline. Inslee had expressed concerns about the Trans Mountain expansion project in terms of ocean oil tanker spills and threats to whales in the region, but apparently no reporter asked him about the southern leg of the project which brings dilbit to Washington’s refineries.

During Inslee’s November 2017 visit to B.C., I was writing my latest book – Bypassing Dystopia, published in April by Watershed Sentinel Books – and decided to contact Sven Biggs for the chapter on Kinder Morgan. Biggs told me by email that under Kinder Morgan’s current expansion plans, the capacity of the Puget Sound Pipeline branch “will be increased to 225,000 bpd and in the IPO that the company filed earlier this year [2017] to raise money for the expansion they said it could one day be expanded to 500,000 bpd.”

With regard to Gov. Inslee, who is co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance, Biggs told me, “I am not aware of him taking a position on the existing Puget Sound Pipeline or Kinder Morgan’s plans to increase the amount of oil flowing through it.”

In February 2018, Gov. Inslee won praise from environmentalists when he rejected a proposal for a huge oil-train shipping terminal in his state. Weeks later he was back in B.C., appearing to support B.C. Premier John Horgan’s efforts to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but this time reporters were more skeptical.

Tom Fletcher, writing for Grand Forks Gazette, noted, “Inslee sidestepped a question from a Vancouver reporter about his own state’s use of the pipeline to supply crude to its refineries at Anacortes, Cherry Point and Ferndale, some of which is sold back to B.C. as refined fuels.” The National Post’s Tristan Hopper called out the “hypocrisy of Washington State”, noting “Alberta oil products shipped through the Trans Mountain pipeline supplied 28.5 per cent of Washington’s petroleum needs in 2017. In fact, the majority of product now moved through the Trans Mountain pipeline ends up in Washington hands.”

Most important, The Tyee’s Mitchell Anderson wrote a major article exposing the extent to which Washington refineries already profit from Trans Mountain: “How badly is Canada missing out by not refining our own oil? The oil industry has a colourful term called the crack-spread to describe the profit margin for refineries between buying crude and selling refined products. Washington refineries buying Alberta bitumen have some of the largest profit margins in the world – up to $45 US per barrel in 2013. Not surprisingly, Vancouver also has some of the highest retail gasoline prices in North America.” 

Anderson cited a recent report indicating that Shell and BP refineries in Washington are especially poised to profit from the Trans Mountain expansion.

Of course, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s threat to cut off oil and gas shipments to B.C. provided good reason for Premier Horgan and Gov. Inslee to discuss access to refined products. And as the Ottawa Citizen noted, “…there are plenty of Washington State refineries ready to start sending gasoline over the border in a moment’s notice.” [6] That may have been the plan all along, with Washington State refining for the entire Pacific Northwest region.

After Prime Minister Trudeau announced his intent to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline and proceed with its expansion, Gov. Inslee wrote an op-ed in The Seattle Times stating: “This project runs counter to everything our state is doing to fight climate change, protect our endangered southern resident killer whales and protect communities from the risks associated with increased fossil-fuel transportation – by rail and by sea.” Once again, Gov. Inslee was silent on the southern leg of Trans Mountain, the Puget Sound Pipeline feeding the BP, Shell, Marathon, and Phillips 66 refineries.

Now we have Thomas Gunton suggesting a “redesign” for the pipeline expansion that actually matches what Kinder Morgan has been planning for the Puget Sound Pipeline. 

On June 7, the Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter reported that Ottawa’s proposed purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline project would “make it the owner of [the] spur line that feeds Alberta oil to Washington State’s refineries”. [8] Hunter noted that Gov. Inslee “has been working closely with environmental organizations to impose new regulations and taxes on the transport of heavy oil through his state.”

But it must be said that Gov. Inslee’s May 30 op-ed mentions resistance only to oil transport “by rail and by sea”. Transport of dilbit by the Puget Sound Pipeline goes unmentioned, as does future export and transport of refined gasoline from Washington’s refineries by tanker and barge.

As usual, we are being “played.” Stay tuned.     

Joyce Nelson’s seventh book, Bypassing Dystopia: Hope-filled Challenges to Corporate Rule, has just been published by Watershed Sentinel Books. It is the sequel to Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism and can be ordered at . …


Trumplandia vs. Clarklandia: How BC stands to lose on LNG, lumber and trade



Part one in a series by Kevin Logan

February 17th 2017

As the faux populist facade fades and the new reality show “Trumplandia” begins to emerge from the ruins of the Democratic elite’s embrace of hedge funds and wall street masters, one thing is crystal clear: Big oil and gas is now in the driver’s seat and Trump is just a hollow front man with a small army of propagandists and zealots hellbent on reshaping the world.

In Trumplandia, Hillary’s replacement for Secretary of State is none other than the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex “don’t frack my backyard but yours is fine” Tillerson.

Such a raw front bench display of state capture by this industry is remarkable, especially after having been subjected to a so-called populist campaign full of “I feel your pain” rhetoric designed to appeal to the bottom half of the American populace who have been cut loose by the major parties and no longer have a voice.

Masters of the Universe like Tillerson have dominated the globe by crushing and fleecing nations, people and the environment. As a result, anyone expecting something other than a petro-dictator in the Secretary of State’s chair is clearly detached from reality. See Canadian Arch Conservative David Frum’s ominous warning outlining how the new Trump Administration will set the world on fire in a relentless bid to establish The Donald as the richest most powerful autocrat on earth.

Why this matters to BC

The current government hung most of its political capital in the last election on developing a new LNG industry. With grand designs to shoot from nowhere to first and compete with Qatar and Australia, the BC Liberals embarked upon an ambitious agenda scouring the coast for any exploitable opportunity to set up shop and fleece BC of its stash of gas.

BC's gift to the world- Premier Christy Clark
Premier Christy Clark at a recent conference, working hard to build an LNG industry for BC (Flickr CC Licence / BC Govt)

Most of the plays are riddled with shenanigans and BC Liberal insiders as the now retiring Energy Minister himself claimed, “There is lots of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes.”

Since the last election, BC has been mired in conflict as Clark’s oil and gas agenda set about a process that many claim is akin to legalized bribery, or in the least a good old fashion greasing of the skids.

Much of the enabling deals have been done with untold millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Though the agreements with relevant First Nations and stakeholders are not publicly available, it does not take long for one to realize that the fleecing of the BC Taxpayer by this industry is already well underway.

This has left coastal communities, First Nations and the rest of BC tattered and torn with the rise of a small, new petro-class emerging as the most influential in our political dialogue, despite being a terribly insignificant contributor to BC jobs and prosperity.

Gas sector a burden on BC treasury

A fracking drill near Dawson Creek in northeast BC (Two Island Films)
BC’s gas sector is highly subsidized by the government (Two Island Films)

In fact, since the last election, the BC gas industry alone has cost the provincial treasury hundreds of millions of dollars. A far cry from the much-vaunted 100 billion dollars in revenue to fill a so-called LNG “Prosperity Fund” promised by Clark. Which, by the way, she recently filled with 500 million of your tax dollars in a brash bid to prove her Government has “delivered” on the prosperity promised last election.

In so doing, Clark simply adds insult to injury. Such bald faced lies and politicking with taxpayers dollars is nothing new for the BC Liberals, but Clark has brought the thing to a whole new level.

Clark’s Crony LNG capitalism hurts communities

One of the most audacious LNG proposals being stick-handled by the Liberals’ former Attorney General Geoff Plant is the Vancouver Island play, Steelhead LNG, that would see both a floating LNG terminal and a huge land-based terminal straddle the entire southern Island with a pipeline that, after coming under the ocean from the US, would make its way from Brentwood Bay to Sarita Bay.

And the proposal comes with all the trimmings of any major oil and gas initiative. Community infiltration, data mining and surveillance of stakeholders both for and against, as well as the typical onslaught of petro-propaganda. In addition to, “legalized bribery,” add community unrest, controlled opposition and political infiltration.

The Island is no stranger to fleecing by major industries, however the oil and gas agenda playing out in BC is unprecedented and its implications will alter the very fabric of Island communities by putting us on a path we have never before traveled.

How Trumplandia threatens Clarklandia’s LNG plans

A quick google of “Trump LNG” reveals the following headlines on the first page of results:

Trump’s America-first energy policy looms as LNG threat

Will Trump make the US the top LNG exporter?

Trump’s energy policy shake-up could threaten Australian LNG

How Trump Could Change LNG Markets

LNG Exports: US to Overtake Australia

Feds Deny LNG Export Through Oregon Developer Turns to Trump

When asked in November if Trump would deliver for his coal company supporters and look to exporting LNG rather than displacing domestic coal power generation, his response was “What is LNG?”

While this clearly underscores the notion that he is simply a front man, void of any real understanding of domestic energy complexities, let alone the very real and strategic geo-political implications, he has stacked his deck with energy zealots who do. That said, we can glean from his “America First” rhetoric some potential outcomes.

In order for him to deliver for his coal supporters and the domestic natural gas industry, it’s very likely Trump will pursue both with great vigour, as the more LNG exports the US embarks upon, the less potential for domestic displacement of coal-generated power.

If Trump decides the US should be the top LNG exporter, as one of the above headlines claims, then LNG in Canada will be officially on notice, and the audacious Steelhead proposal for Vancouver Island would be the first on a very short list for the Trump Administration to review due to the fact they intend on exporting American gas through Canada.

Softwood & LNG: BC’s low-hanging fruit for Trumplandia

Raw Canadian logs for export (Paul Joseph/Flickr CC Licence)
Raw Canadian logs for export (Paul Joseph/Flickr CC)

The Steelhead proposal, much like the Softwood Lumber Agreement, is low-hanging fruit in the new Trumplandia. No doubt, both are up for review in a bid to reflect the strongman’s election rhetoric and “prove” that he was right about how all the countries are “ripping off America” and “stealing good jobs.”

Cracking down on softwood and LNG would fit The Donald’s political persona to a T. They are also deliverables he could manage in fairly short order, just as we have seen with his approval of both Keystone XL and DAPL through executive order.

One way for The Donald to deliver on that style of rhetoric is to disallow the export of American Gas through Vancouver Island and instead channel it to other proposals that have been wallowing under the Obama administration along the US West Coast.

This is very important to consider, mostly due to the fact that Russia is obviously more influential in the new Trumplandia. Putin would clearly prefer North American gas be exported to places like Japan versus Eastern Europe or even China.

Indeed, with the deathblow Trump delivered to the TPP, he clearly intends on renegotiating trade deals and that will be the death knell to some LNG proposals in BC, as Japan (and even Petronas from Malaysia, who has traditionally supplied Japan) had hoped to secure our gas resource for generations with the TPP deal.

But The Donald is having none of it – no more “dumb deals!” Instead, Trump is just gonna one-off nations with bi-lateral agreements designed to deliver for Americans. And that is where your softwood lumber fleecing kicks in and LNG development in BC is threatened.

Clark outmatched

All of this runs up against the Clarklandia fairytale of a BC First LNG utopia, or even a restoration of the moribund forestry industry, as no doubt The Donald would rather see America continue fleecing us of our resources and exporting them from the US so he can deliver on his jobs and prosperity promise.

Clearly, this new realty is finally settling in among Clarklandia cohorts. Clark, who first dismissed The Donald’s influence over the BC Economy, softwood lumber and things like LNG, recently flip-flopped and it’s now her “first priority” to set up a dream team to deal with The Donald.

This could include a new office in DC for Clark’s newly-appointed Trump Czar David Emerson, or maybe even in the Trump Towers in a bid to get his attention and ensure the Trump Train does not displace her government’s economic prosperity mythology with the new and brutal America First reality.

Oil and gas, forestry and other cross-border trade relevant to the success of Clarklandia are all up for grabs. And this is where it gets tricky.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence

Does The Donald care about Clarklandia’s economic mythology or her re-election? I doubt it, but no doubt Clark and her party’s rabid right-wing core have some appeal as they have handed the Republicans Billions in the past by dismantling Forest Renewal BC and sending those Billions – that once stayed in BC – over the southern border, which helped fund the re-election of the likes of George W Bush.

So when one considers the billions of dollars up for grabs with trees and oil – and now the new play with gas – one understands why the current Clark Liberals are very interested in sitting down and striking a new deal with The Donald that will see our resources fund his re-election campaign, like her predecessor Gordon Campbell did with the “W.” All in a bid to continue BC Liberal rule of this province and avoid the wrath of an America First protectionist president.

If the dream team is successful in their bid to hold power, the ‘Wrath of The Donald’ will most certainly be delayed until after the re-election of the BC Liberals in May, but after that, all bets are off.


Rafe: Trump win was a vote against the “establishment” – but don’t count on them realizing it

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr CC Licence

Fresh from the heady feeling of predicting an election result, indeed an American presidential election, and having the reasons pretty accurate, I’m encouraged to take the next logical step. I only go over a bit of old ground to make the point that if we do not understand the depth of the problem – I suspect that the elite doesn’t even know there is one – then we might just as well have a drink or two and see what happens.

This is the most solidified establishment in modern history. It runs through several strata of society and includes members who profess not to like what they see as the “establishment”.

My father would have faded away even to find a union leader next to him in his comfy Anglican pew, even though he only went to Church once a year (though that once with great enthusiasm) and the union leader would have been no less surprised and uncomfortable. Today, they would seem part of the same elite fraternity to an environmentalist who sees them both as the forces destroying the river.

The folks that run things are like universities of elites, where the colleges don’t like each other very much, but have a strong commonality of purpose – to run things – and the students can’t wait to guillotine the lot of non-elites.

Loss of tradirional political discipline exposes imponderables that didn’t used to be – speaking just of the United States, where do the armed forces stand? Here is the eternal steadying tradition of the president being the Commander-in-chief, which suddenly is not such a sure or, indeed, comforting thing. Whether this hitherto stability will stand the shock of Donald Trump is the number one question.

There is good news and bad news.

The good news is that institutions are not easy to bring down, least of all when there is no organized force with that directly in mind.

The bad news is that when they do come down, it’s with a hell of a crash and there is a lot of collateral damage. Moreover there may be someone ready to help with the crash launch. That brings on the next imponderable.

To say it’s difficult to get a constant theme out of Trump’s mumblings is putting it mildly. What does he really want to do? Does he know? Trump has an enormous following as I write this but they’re scarcely a homogeneous group and seem to have as their only thing in common being thoroughly pissed off at something or someone or both. Just as the former elite came from disparate unorganized units, so does the Trump outfit, as any look at a Trump crowd clearly indicates.

The first concern, then, is domestic and there simply is no precedent from which to work. We have seen malevolent dictatorships crumble and we’ve watched benevolent aristocracies and all other manner of a governments go but the United States of America, and what it has become in fact and psychologically over the last 260 years, is just not readable on the evidence and leaves us in the highly dangerous “waiting game.”

Foreign affairs, of course, is the scarier part. Contestants, in whatever the contest, love weakness in their opponents and will probably exploit it even though there may not be much point at the time. It’s a natural reflex.

When we are talking about a game where the stakes are not very high, no big deal, but we’re on survival where missteps under the most benign of circumstances yield catastrophes. I needn’t begin to mention nightmares waiting to occur that exist all around the globe.

There is always one saving grace, otherwise known as MAD, when referring to nuclear warfare. In most international contests of any consequence there are huge doses of self interest available, namely survival, to keep some sanity inside the war room. Unfortunately, leaders have not always responded well to the obvious and even good counsel available. In the situation that exists in the world today, failure is not acceptable.

One cannot be blamed if after all of this time, being exposed to Trump blatherings, one becomes just a tad irrational. I am now going to be just that by saying “you never know”.

Ironically, President Warren Harding, who fights it out with W for being the worst of the lot, once said “the White House is an alchemist”. By that he meant one can never be sure what the person occupying the Oval Office will be like until time has passed. Admittedly, it seems a wild dream to suppose that Donald Trump could turn out to be a decent president, but this is as good as most dreams available to us.

The real issue is not Donald Trump – he is just the catalyst. The issue is slow, rumbling, unforseen, huge, undisciplined change by the “post-elite” who don’t get it yet and show no signs of doing so.

It’s a watching game and a very scary one.


Why Donald Trump will probably beat Hillary Clinton

Why Donald Trump will likely beat Hillary Clinton
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore / Flickr CC Licence)

Of course Donald Trump could beat Hillary in November. I think he will, but before going further, let me say that this would be any enormous worldwide tragedy and we must pray that there is a God and He will save us.

Back to the election.

Trump is in a lot better shape than the pundits give him credit for and he couldn’t have done it without a hell of a lot of help from Hillary.

She has been in the race too long and it’s showing. She’s displaying her temper and a lack of judgment – not to mention her recent health issues – things that everyone has but no-no’s when you’re running for president.

But let’s get to the underlying reason Trump is doing so well.

Whole new ballgame

The media and pollsters have been caught out making outdated assumptions and asking irrelevant questions. They’re looking at this contest through the prism of elections past and are still declaring their choice of issues and missing the main one. It’s easier that way – research and thinking take up booze time.

It’s an entirely new ballgame and I refer back to articles I’ve done here and elsewhere saying that society as we have come to know it is mortally wounded and it’s impossible to predict just what it’s going to look like a decade from now.

The first major clue for me anyway, was on the environmental front. Environmentalism was always a leftwing issue and often the loony left at that.

With the arrival of global warming, it suddenly occurred to the masses that there were troubles in River City and that maybe those grubby long-hairs marching with the placards had something after all. When science, almost to a person, backed up the demonstrators of yore and the evidence grew almost daily, suddenly the middle class caught on and development no longer trumped all other considerations.

The secret, always suspected, was out of the bag and we learned that the Establishment had been lying for a very long time and that the public had naively come to uncritically accept what they were told by their “betters”. Once it became obvious with the climate issue that all these good corporate citizens, our politicians and community leaders had not been telling the truth, it was a very short step to assuming that anything they said was suspect. This manifested itself in movements like Occupy Wall Street by young people and outrage increasing through social media.

The Mainstream Media had no choice but get into the Establishment life-boat. The world over, the rich increased the gap between themselves and the poor and as that gap widened, carrying more and more power with it, the resentment of the poor became stronger and stronger.

Brexit offers clues to Trump’s success

Photo: diamond geezer / Flickr CCThe latest and best example of this was Brexit in Britain, England especially. I wrote an article on the subject that that the main issue was being obscured by the media and that the underlying cause of discontent simply wasn’t being recognized.

Now there are lots of reasons that Brexit went as it did and no doubt all made a contribution. In my view, however, there was one principal cause and one sub-cause that really did the EU in.

The same “pissed off mood” existed in Britain as elsewhere and those who were that way and voted “Leave” probably wouldn’t recognize that. “Real Reasons” are hard to determine, especially if you don’t try.

I offer as an hypothesis that the “Leave” vote was that deep down feeling of resentment of being fooled, aggravated by more recent “insults”, as many people felt that they had been cheated and subjected to a “bait and switch” by those set in authority over them.

If you look back at the process you will see that the first referendum in 1975 simply wanted to know if Britain, having finally been accepted by de Gaulle wished to stay in the common market. The operative word throughout was “market”. This was not portrayed as approval of any kind of a political union and had it been, it clearly would have failed. To Britain, an economic deal looked like a pretty good idea and they voted for it by a substantial margin.

Up-Yours-DelorsIt was under the presidency of Jacques Delors, an unelected bureaucrat, from 1986 till 1994. that the Common Market inexorably moved to a political union. Delors was detested by many in Britain.

It is a long history and I don’t wish to oversimplify it but just point out that by the time of the Brexit vote on June 23, 2016, the same massive irritation with the establishment that we saw in North America was also present in Britain and a substantial part of that irritation came from Jacques Delors and a political union they neither voted for but in fact opposed.

For many, the Brexit vote was a chance to rectify what they saw as a “bait and switch” scam by the elite that started off as a marketplace and ended up in a huge, meddlesome bureaucracy in Brussels.

Public ready for a brawl

Enter the US election with the same festering distrust of the establishment. The pundits and the pollsters, stuck in a time warp, are overlooking reality and the “garbage in, garbage out” rule comes into play.

Much of the public, both on the right and on the left, is thoroughly pissed at where their social, economic, and political masters have taken them and they aren’t much interested in debates under the Marquess of Queensbury rules, seen as the Elite’s rules, preferring a brawl if necessary.

This has given Trump a big advantage. As long as he hammers at Clinton, the dissident voters are happy and don’t much care about the truth or fairness of the attack.

In fact, the more outrageous he is, the more popular he becomes. Many wonder how Trump can get away with it and it’s because a large part of the American public is quite willing to let him get away with it if it gets the job done and turfs out what they see as the enemy.

Trump fights by own rules

In the meantime, Hillary Clinton is playing right into Trumps hands. The more she calls his supporters names the more they support him. It stands to reason that when she calls Trump bad names, they support him if only because Clinton represents all of the things they’re mad at and the more bumps on the nose of the privileged, the better.

It is not all Hillary’s fault of course. I doubt there are many politicians of consequence prepared to fight a man like Trump because he doesn’t fight by the old rules and they don’t know how to fight by the new ones.

Paradoxically, Trump could probably buy out the Clintons 100 times or maybe 1000, yet the Clintons are seen as the ones who have taken advantage of the system and enriched themselves at the expense of the least well off. That is a base canard but the reality is that this is how it appears to disaffected voters, and appearances are as good as facts in politics.

I will now assure the victory of Hillary Clinton by making a famous Mair political prediction – which will, as always, be wrong – and say that Donald Trump will succeed President Obama next January…and may God have mercy on all of us if for once I’m right.


Elizabeth May, Rafe Mair debate Israel, BDS and Green Party’s future

Elizabeth May (photo: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr) and Rafe Mair
Elizabeth May (photo: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr) and Rafe Mair

UPDATE: Following heated debate – including that with Rafe Mair highlighted below – Elizabeth May has decided to stay on as Green Party of Canada leader.

What follows below is my recent exchange of letters with federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May over her high-profile dilemma with the party endorsing the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. But first, a few words to set the stage.

I began to hear rumours as you all did that Elizabeth May was going to quit the leadership of the Green Party over its resolution to support The BDS initiative, a worldwide effort to force Israel to treat Palestine and Palestinians fairly.

I then received a copy of a letter, generally circulated, sent by the former Director of Communications for the Green Party of Canada, Kieran Green, to Ms. May.

I must tell you frankly that, along with many British Columbians, I was much impressed by Ms. May’s accomplishments, supported her editorially here and elsewhere. We became friends.

I was and remain extremely disappointed and believe that Elizabeth May has let a great many people down and, perhaps worse, has taken, forgive me, the evil side of an issue, on the wrong side of history, and an issue that has nothing to do with the cause for which so many supported her so wholeheartedly.

I only hope that we don’t learn that she carries an offer from Justin Trudeau in her handbag.

Here is the correspondence between us, plus some highlights from Mr. Kieran Green’s letter to Elizabeth May:

Kieran Green’s Aug. 10 letter – select passages

[quote]…Today, Israel continues to commit crimes – bulldozing homes, building illegal settlements. In fact, Israel has violated more different international laws than just about any nation in the world today, including, but not limited to: illegal use of inhumane white phosphorous munitions; violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; use of collective punishment against civilians; expropriation of property from an occupied territory; claiming sovereignty over land in an occupied territory; extrajudicial executions; torture; deliberate military targeting of emergency medical first response personnel and vehicles; deliberate targeting of civilians; denial of humanitarian aid to a civilian population; use of civilians as human shields by military personnel. Many of these are explicitly war crimes under International Law…

…In supporting BDS, the Green party of Canada has stepped to the right side of history. Which side will you stand on?[/quote]

Letter from Rafe Mair to Elizabeth May – Aug. 11

[quote]Dear Elizabeth,

I whole heartedly with Kieran Green’s letter to you.

This is not a matter of anti-Semitism as the state of Israel and now you would have one believe is the issue – so convenient to Netanyahu – but a question of fair play for a minority driven out of their lands, now, by international law, occupied lands to be returned to their owners. Why you would support contrived self pity over the clear rights of Palestinians under international law, not to mention civilized morality, is beyond me. Anti-Semitism is not even an issue except as a phoney, self-serving whine. I spent 25 years in radio receiving complaints from the Canadian Jewish Congress, as an automatic reflex, any time I criticized the state of Israel.

Indeed, there is anti-Semitism as a major social issue in the world but in this context it is an irrelevant issue, contrived by Israel, not to draw attention to discrimination against Jews, but to serve its national interests.

Of course there has been atrociously uncivilized behaviour on both sides – that is the hallmark of war, especially civil war with deep religious hatred. However you may wish to parcel out that blame, there’s plenty to go around. For the Green Party, a party of moral principles, to deprive the Palestinian people of international and Canadian support for nationhood after all these years and suffering in refugee camps is, frankly, unbelievable. There is no question but that the Jewish lobby, both in the United States and Canada, has flogged the case that any support for Palestinians is anti-Semitic, a grossly unfair tactic which should be condemned by all decent people. I can’t believe that the Elizabeth May I know and admire could fall for this crap.

It’s abundantly clear that by no means is this the attitude of Jewish people in general – certainly not those that I have known, was law partners and political associates with, and travel with and see socially. It is not easy for them to get into a societal row over such matters; it never has been and never will be. Demographic groups tend to avoid internal squabbles; certainly mine does. While I don’t say that’s right, it’s natural not to want communities and even families fighting one another. Having said that, it’s the clear obligation of those who supply money and other support to the state of Israel to make it clear that depriving Palestinians of their own nation, by occupying and destroying their homes, “legally” stealing the land and building houses on it, is not on and will not be accepted, let alone supported. 

I find it impossible to understand how Elizabeth May, the humanitarian I’ve come to admire so greatly, would stake her leadership of the Green Party not on a “Green”  issue, which would be understandable, but in support of an Israeli government whose policies violate principles of basic humanity. How ironic, how awful it is to contemplate that the person who established The Green Party as a political force for such good in this country is apparently about to preside at its funeral.

I beg of you to reconsider.

Most sincerely,


Reply from Elizabeth May to Rafe Mair – Aug. 12

[quote]I gather Rafe’s missive went to more than me? Perhaps I should share this with you.

The Green Party should not have tried out Robert’s Rules of Order.  We have always used consensus based decision making. We always find common ground through mutual respect and shared values.  We actually violated core values in leaving consensus decision-making. ‎It is an absolute parallel with the electoral reform debate. Parliaments that operate under FPTP are like Roberts Rules of Order – nasty. Majoritarian and prone to policy lurches thru winner take all votes. Proportional Rep democracies strive for consensus and operate much better.  We accidentally backed into a process that violates our core values-   Just as we make the case that Canada should move to consensus!

I want to be clearer about why I opposed the resolution on BDS. Of course, I do not condemn people in the BDS movement.  In fact I am sponsoring a petition to reverse the House of Commons vote to demonize the movement itself.

My concern is that it is very divisive and, fairly or unfairly, is seen as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.  How divisive it is is very clear from what it just did to our party.

Criticism of Netanyahu’s actions is appropriate. In fact, I was the only party leader to criticize the excessive reaction by Netanyahu in bombarding Gaza in 2014.   The demand for Palestinian rights is appropriate.  This is all in existing GPC policy. Endorsing a series of social movement tactics is not something a political party does. For example, we can call for a two state solution and for Israel to stop the illegal expansions in occupied territory. We do not need to support one particular set of slogans and demands from a movement that is not a political party and whose demands make no sense for a party looking for solutions the Canadian Government can deliver.

Unfortunately, as noted above, the debate was run under new rules – Roberts Rules of Order.  Had we followed our usual and time-worn practice of consensus based decision making, this resolution would never have passed. It was too divisive.  A compromise would have been found.

As well,  due to a misunderstanding, my microphone was cut off in my only intervention, after 90 seconds.  What I had wanted to do when my mic was cut off was support the call from retired members of the Israeli security forces. This new group, Security First, is taking on Netanyahu. It calls for an end to illegal expansions by pointing out it makes Israel less secure. Supporting the same demands as being made by an outside group, BDS, but coming from retired Israeli defense and Mossad members is much smarter and will be more effective.

The range of options to get Israel to live up to international law could include sanctions and consumer boycotts.  In fact language like that was in a compromise amendment I wanted to support.  But it was ruled out of order.  It would have allowed us to speak in our own words, to keep us from being hijacked by a one-issue movement.

So to be really clear, I respect what many in the BDS movement are trying to do.  And I do not think the movement can be condemned as anti-Semitic, although it does attract some who are. It is just wrong to make an outside, and highly controversial movement, our policy.

I also look at what moves governments to change as Gandhi used to – by examining what will be effective. He once said he knew non-violent civil disobedience would move the British to leave India because he knew their conscience could be pricked. But he did not think it could work against a dictatorship.  The sanctions movement against South Africa worked because South Africa was a country with Commonwealth colonial history. It really stung South African Afrikaners to be thrown out of the Commonwealth. They wanted back in. It was their “family.”

Israel is entirely different.  It is a country established from the ashes of the unspeakable genocide. It feels surrounded by enemies. Its leadership and citizenry is not pricked by conscience by these tactics; it does not feel excluded and wishing to be accepted.  It feels under assault and threatened. It draws more inward and erects more walls – figurative and literal. Through a history of victimization and genocide, boycotts and sanctions are experienced by the mainstream Canadian Jewish community, by Greens in Israel and by the Israeli government an attack on Israel’s right to exist.  It does not move or promote change.  I am convinced BDS will never advance peace or Palestinian rights. Working to promote the views of retired Israeli armed forces members and promoting more Canadian government support for Palestinian rights, for aid and development assistance is where we should be as a party.  Unfortunately,  I was not allowed to say any of this in the plenary debate.

You may still condemn my views, but at least you have the benefit of knowing what they are.


Rafe Mair’s reply to Elizabeth May – Aug. 12


I find it difficult to accept the breakup of a party in which Canadians placed so much hope on a failed microphone. For that’s what it amounts to. If you think the national party can carry on without you, you’re kidding yourself. Après vous, le deluge. Naturally that would have to change but for the next couple of years, the party and Elizabeth May will be synonymous unless, of course, you quit. The BC Party under Weaver is finished as I told you over a year ago. What a disaster.

I don’t need any lectures on the horrors of  the Holocaust. It happened at the most impressionable time of my youth and for the rest of my life I shall remember the Atrocity films we all watched and the dozen refugee kids that came to our school for Grades XI & XII. We all learned a hell of a lot from these brave contemporaries who became classmates and friends. One of them, Tommy Korican, became an outstanding Canadian diplomat.

Your letter betrays, however, a fundamental error and Netanyahu and his gang will love you for it.

The Holocaust had nothing to do with the Palestinians.

You can argue that they should all have read the Old Testament and embraced Zionism, but would you and your family have done so?

There is no point going over uncountable miles of tragic ground. There is an Israel and it must be able to protect itself. But surely to God those that support and finance her have to condemn and force a halt to her egregious lawlessness in simply stealing Palestinian land and displacing Palestinians with settlers, no? How can you even say a word about Israel without your anger rising at this massive ongoing crime, permitted if not encouraged by the US in particular? How would you feel to be a nation of ancient occupants told that you can’t be a nation until Mr. Netanyahu says you can? The only weapons at our disposal are aid and support.

We have an obligation to Palestinians to bring some order and sense to this tragedy. Do you have any idea, Elizabeth, how Israeli Arabs are treated? The gross discrimination in all matters, much including municipal and school funding? The constant harassment with checkpoints and intolerable delays? What the hell has this to do with the Holocaust?

Of course, as I said in my last letter, there’s blame on both sides, plenty enough to go around. But when you open your eyes and look at the 2016 situation, the next move is clearly Israel’s and as long as there’s a Netanyahu, and there always is one close at hand, undeterred if not actually encouraged by the West, there can never be justice for Palestine and Palestinians.

The Green Party self immolating in Canada is sad but we’ll get over it. The Green Party destroying itself because it can’t deal with international issues because a mic didn’t work, meaning I suppose that but for a short, sharp lecture from the leader all would have been well, makes you all look like damned fools who couldn’t run the Village of Lions Bay, much less a country. If it weren’t so serious it could be a P.G.Wodehouse book.

Leadership is much more than what one does on the hustings and, critically, includes what the leader leaves as a legacy.


Rafe Mair,
Lions Bay, BC[/quote]


Rafe: Lessons Canada should but won’t learn from Brexit


Rafe- Lessons Canada should but won't learn from Brexit - Part 1

Everybody seems to have a theory about Brexit and I am no exception.

Britain was never in Europe entirely. It is a long torturous history from the beginning of the Common Market to now but it goes back much further than that. I don’t suppose it’s too big a stretch to say that the original invasions of Great Britain from Europe were all part of an effort to bring the islands together with the mainland.

Over the years the British, despite the occasional common monarchy, thoroughly mistrusted the French more than that they saw economic advantages in any union. Oddly enough, Britain’s only enduring alliance with Europe is with Portugal, going back to 1386.

Churchill’s ‘New Europe’

Winston Churchill surveys the damage after a German bombing raid
Winston Churchill surveys damage after German bombing raid

It was after two massive wars in the 20th century that spawned the idea of peace through economic arrangements and there are many who credit Churchill as the author, arising out of his famous speech in Zürich in 1948 where he called for a united states of Europe.

Not for the only time in his career he was badly “non” quoted because after he spoke of united states of Europe, he said these words: 

Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia – for then indeed all would be well – must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.

Churchill long nurtured the notion of the English speaking world and saw not only the political connections as important but also free trade arrangements which had been augmented over the years. He certainly saw no reason to sacrifice those arrangements to the uncertainty of a European market full of countries Britain had mostly been at war with and few of which it had strong trade relations with.

A common market

From the outset, the Labour and Conservative Parties were each divided on this issue and the divisions in some cases ran very deep. For the average Briton, the overriding feature was the avoidance of yet another bloodbath and the coming together of France and Germany, originally in a Coal/Steel Pact, went a long way toward solving the problem.

The notion originally sold to Brits was a “common market” not a political union. In fact the political operation was pretty loose with an unelected executive in one city and a toothless parliament in another. The executive wielded most of the power and was unaccountable to the public.

Politicizing the union

As matters progressed, the European centrists eased into  a not terribly subtle process of politicizing the union without saying so. The history of this starts with one Jacques Delors.

However much Britain may have accepted membership in what was to become the EU, there were everyday irritations which probably need not have taken place. One might find, for example, that the garden hose they had to buy didn’t fit the British faucet and things of that nature. These piss-offs didn’t kill the EU but they certainly did nothing to inspire affection. 

Jacques Delors became the President of the European Commission in January 1985, laying the groundwork for single market within the European Community, which came into effect on 1 January 1993. There was no public vote to ratify this new arrangement.

Thatcher and co. push back

In the autumn of 1988, Delors addressed the British Trade Union Congress, announcing that EC would force the UK to bring in pro-labour legislation. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded with her famous “Bruges Speech” on September 20, 1988, where she said that she had “not rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed by a Brussels superstate”.

Up-Yours-DelorsThe fat was in the fire. Whereas, as recently as the early 1980s, much of the Labour Party had opposed the EC, while the Conservatives had favoured joining, after 1988 it was to be the Conservatives who were divided, with Thatcher and her supporters opposed to further European integration.

Delors bore the brunt of British Euroscepticism. This was best exemplified by The Sun’s headline on November 1, 1990 reading, “Up Yours Delors” in response to his attempts to promote further European integration and a single currency for the EC, and labelling Delors “the Froggie Common Market chief”.

I need hardly say that the English, especially, are super sentimental and place a lot of stock in their institutions. I happened to be there when the switch was made to decimal coinage and the controversy exists to this day, especially as to the names of the new coins.

When there was first a threat to the pound – and it was a real one – and then to the Royal family, probably not so real, the backs of many English were up. My thought when prime minister Cameron announced the referendum was that the “toffs” and others would not deal with the real issues on voters minds. This referendum wasn’t being held in the clubs of Pall Mall or on the verandah at Lords but in the public houses all over the land. Dealing just with England, where the majority for Brexit sprang, what were the issues of that time?

Freedom of Movement

Certainly the breakdown in relations between Germany and France, with Germany one more time becoming the dominant nation in Europe, was very disturbing. This went right to the guts of the matter for wasn’t this new relationship the basis of peace forevermore?

There was also rising resentment at further loss of sovereignty to the EU, the question of the pound lingered and the English particularly did not want to give up their pound for the Euro, however irrational or economically inconvenient that stubbornness might prove.

But the elephant in the room was the Freedom of Movement principle, in operation since the creation of the European Economic Community and primarily designed to support the economies of EU countries by providing a mobile work force. Never wildly popular, the massive refugee situation made this into a problem that not all the “liberals” in the UK could explain away.

I don’t mean to suggest that there weren’t many more issues than these because of course there were but the folks holding a glass of good old English bitter saw their security threatened, more and more loss of sovereignty and Britishness, and hordes of unwelcome tawny Muslims swamping their “scepter’d isle”.

That’s the great weakness of popular democracy – the guy in the pub gets to vote too and might just not agree with his betters.

Canada not big on democracy

Canadian Senate Chamber
Canadian Senate Chamber

Canada has never cared for democracy much. It certainly wasn’t what the Fathers of Confederation had in mind when they made sure that the elite wouldn’t have the last say with the Senate. It seemed such a good idea to ensure that regions with smaller populations would have some clout at the centre but good ideas can be carried too far if left to work like they’re supposed to.

The solution was to make sure that Ontario and Quebec always ran things, that only the wealthy were eligible and then, just to make absolutely sure, the Senators for each province were appointed by the Federal government. All serious attempts to change this anomaly have been strangled at birth.

Voters surprise PMs

There have been referenda, notably on Conscription in 1942 and the Charlottetown Accord referendum in 1992.

Neither worked out quite like those in charge wanted.

Mackenzie King’s vote on conscription managed to further aggravate French-English relations, which have not fully recovered yet. The Charlottetown Accord was, in my opinion, a huge success for the people but shattered Prime Minister Mulroney’s political career, that of his successor, and, for some years, his political party. There has been no appetite amongst the chattering classes for any more referenda.

On the other hand, In would argue that Charlottetown whetted the appetite of the public for a direct whack at the PM from time to time, but this notion has been ignored by the elite, even though there has been an ever increasing grumble amongst the people that they’re not satisfied with the present system of governance.

Tree-huggers go from villain to hero

Don’t stretch from this that government by “initiative” is just around the corner. What’s happened is a slow but steady build up of resentment against the institutions and people set in authority. The establishment, political and economic, has chosen to pretend it’s not there. Yet, whereas not too long ago environmentalism was seen as a left-wing issue exclusively, if anything, they’ve been left behind in the struggle to preserve what we have rather than destroy. This isn’t a matter of changing fashions but a combination of issues amounting to a true renaissance.

Kinder Morgan may win in court, but it's quickly losing social licence
Citizens protest Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion outside BC Supreme Court (Photo: AJ Klein/facebook)

People began to see that there was more to life than a new bridge or a bigger skyscraper.  They watched inexhaustible supplies being rapidly exhausted. It became clear that both industry and government, and often unions as well, were not only being economical with the truth but lying through their teeth. What was absolutely essential wasn’t essential at all, unless making a bunch of money was the object.

Oceans and lakes and wild animals took on a new meaning. Tree huggers, once condemned by the decent sort of person, found themselves supported by the majority who, unlike the developer and the government, could see limits to the number of valleys and trees to be exploited. When oceans no longer teemed with sea life but plastic bottles and toilet paper, alarms slowly but steadily spread and continue to this day. This brings us, in a strange way, to Brexit.

Justin can’t have his cake and eat it too

Justing Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)
Justin Trudeau and his now-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould meet in Hartley Bay on the BC coast in 2014 (Flickr / Justin Trudeau)

Glamour doesn’t last anymore and the public simply won’t accept Justin Trudeau, the hero of the environment, in Paris and Justin Trudeau the man frantically trying to build more LNG plants, pipelines and expand use of fossil fuels. There was a time when that sort of hypocrisy was expected, but times have changed and Mr. Trudeau and leaders like him all over the world are waiting for another large shoe to drop.

How is it possible, ordinary folks ask, we have the world’s worst polluter, the tar sands, yet after all the lofty pledges at Paris, are moving to develop them as quickly as possible. How is it possible to square that circle?

Of course the Liberal party has found that you can do this if you’re not bothered by hypocrisy. They never have been.  A very good example occurred in my area of Howe Sound where the Trudeau government had scarcely taken over before they approved Woodfibre LNG in Squamish, on a shocking  environmental assessment, then held a seminar through their local MP to teach us why Climate Change was bad and how to avoid it!

Collision course

The public is no longer fooled and, as the warnings of Science increase exponentially, combined with an unwillingness to accept a word as told by developer or government, the collision comes closer.

As with the EU, the elite find it best not to listen, or think they hear things they don’t. It came as a huge shock to London to learn how so many Brits were angry at issues thought to be dead. The “higher purpose persons”, in the late Denny Boyd’s marvellous phrase, assumed that issues most important to them led everyone else’s list too.

The obvious solution is not to hold referenda where Jack’s as good as his Master, but rely upon “good old parliament” to go through democratic motions and make sure that, as always, the Golden Rule applies and that those who have the gold rule.

But what if this silly notion of real democracy prevails and Trudeau, like David Cameron, finds he must consult the public directly.

One thing is sure – the elite won’t have any idea of what the public is really thinking, the pollsters will ask all the wrong questions, and the “rabble” will rise.

Brexit really did happen, was not confined to Britain and is a very long way indeed from being a spent force.

Trudeau 'disappointed' at Obama's killing of Keystone XL...Get over it

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ at Obama’s killing of Keystone XL…Get over it

Trudeau 'disappointed' at Obama's killing of Keystone XL...Get over it
Justin Trudeau visits US Capital in 2013 (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

It’s official: After seven years of withering on the vine, the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast is dead, by President Barack Obama’s hand.

Newly-minted Canadian Prime Minister and avowed Keystone supporter Justin Trudeau is reportedly disappointed at the decision but says he respects the US government’s right to make it. “The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and cooperation,” said Trudeau in a statement.

Obama finally came to the long-awaited decision on the basis that the project would “not serve the national interests”, adding:

[quote]The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.[/quote]

He also noted that it had taken on an “overinflated role” in the climate debate and relations with Canada.

The announcement explains proponent TransCanada’s recent request to the US government to “pause” its pipeline review – which the Obama administration rejected just two days before officially killing the project. It evidently didn’t want to drag the process out any further, preferring, at long last, a clean break.

On that note, Mr. Trudeau would do well not to sulk over the death of a project he once ventured to Washington, D.C. to defend.  Trudeau also argued in a speech to Canada’s oil men and women at Calgary’s Petroleum Club that then-PM Harper’s downfall was his ham-fisted handling of the file, not the fact that he was backing it. Trudeau argued that he could do a better job selling the project south of the border. “Alberta’s interests have been compromised more than just about anyone else’s by Mr. Harper’s divisiveness,” Trudeau told the energy industry.

“It has made enemies of people who ought to be your friends, and turned what should have been a reasonable debate into an over-the-top rhetorical war. Most importantly, it has impeded progress.”

But he made no bones about his support for the project, saying:

[quote]Let me be clear: I support Keystone XL because, having examined the facts, and accepting the judgment of the National Energy Board, I believe it is in the national interest…On balance, it would create jobs and growth, strengthen our ties with the world’s most important market, and generate wealth…Most of all, it is in keeping with what I believe is a fundamental role of the Government of Canada: to open up markets abroad for Canadian resources, and to help create responsible and sustainable ways to get those resources to those markets.[/quote]

Apparently, Mr. Obama didn’t share those views – nor did the woman who wants to replace him in the Oval Office, Hilary Clinton. The former secretary of state, who at one time oversaw the project’s review, has spoken out against it during her presidential campaign.

By the time Mr. Trudeau took over the file from Harper, it was clearly too far gone for him to do anything about it. Now, if he’s serious about forging a new relationship with Obama and the US, he would do well not to shed a tear over Keystone and to move on to more important matters.

The Grinch who stole Climate Christmas

The Grinch who stole Climate Christmas

The Grinch who stole Climate Christmas
Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t show much climate spirit in Lima

The heroic efforts of Who-ville to negotiate enough binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions to prevent Earth’s average global temperature from rising above a critical 2°C were held in Lima, Peru, this December. Whether the Climate Christmas event, called the 20th Conference of the Parties, would actually receive a real present was uncertain.

Saint Nick and his reindeer are no longer predictable. Global warming is melting the Arctic ice so the North Pole’s workshops, cozy cottage, reindeer barns and good-and-bad lists have been thrown into disarray. The elves and the entire Christmas gift operation may have sunk into the mush of last summer’s melt.

And even if a real present arrived, it might be stolen by a Grinch. As everyone knows, they do not like Christmas presents, especially the kind that reduce GHGs. And this is precisely what happened. No real present arrived. Each country’s binding reductions were stolen and replaced by vague promises of “intended nationally determined commitments”.

Public marches, leaders refuse to lead

Ban Ki-moon, the enthusiastic and ever-hopeful Secretary General of Who-ville, prepared for the Climate Christmas event by organizing a special September Climate Leaders’ Summit meeting in New York, hoping to excite enough enthusiasm for Lima that the real present would arrive even before the COP 21 meeting in Paris in 2015. Over 300,000 people marched in New York to support greenhouse gas reductions, and the leaders of about 125 countries attended the city’s UN negotiations. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, did not attend. Instead, he just went to its banquet.

Emissions controls for oil and gas sector “crazy”

Indeed, Canada’s Prime Minister is proving to be somewhat of a Climate Grinch. His government, having abandoned its legally binding Kyoto GHG obligations, will not even be able to meet its 2005 emission reduction commitments for 2020. Mr. Harper has been promising since 2006 to place emission regulations on Alberta’s oil and gas industry — the country’s fastest growing source of GHG — but has yet to do so. And now, since the price of oil has dropped below $60 per barrel, he says emission controls would be economic insanity — he hasn’t explained why he didn’t implement the controls during the previous 8 years.

Stephen Harper: Climate Grinch

Indeed, the Prime Minister says as little as possible about climate change. Jeffrey Simpson, writing in Who-ville’sGlobe and Mail (Nov. 15/14), gives a very credible argument for Mr. Harper to be designated a Climate Grinch:

• First, writes Simpson, the Prime Minister is “distinctly uncomfortable when forced to discuss [climate change].” This is one of the most obvious clinical characteristics of the Grinch Syndrome. Abject silence hides the repressed resentment, frustration and defiance seething within. Even the most oblique reference to climate change — merely a mention of carbon dioxide emissions, global warming, extreme weather or sea level rise — gives credibility to a scientific certainty that the Grinch believes to be a contrived fiction of the imagination.

• Second, the core of his Conservative Party is still filled with climate change deniers, so Mr. Harper maintains and entrenches his political support by cultivating and projecting his Climate Grinch personality. A man and a party heavily invested in the economics of an oil and gas industry will perceive any overt communication about climate change as a threat to be avoided at every opportunity.

• Third, “Mr. Harper doesn’t like being pressured.” And the world community — Ban Ki-moon in particular — is certainly pressuring Canada because of its appalling climate record. Like pushing a long and recalcitrant rope, a Climate Grinch just bunches into indignant and obstinate knots when pressured.

• Fourth, Mr. Harper doesn’t believe in climate deals; they haven’t worked in the past and they won’t work in the future, so participating in them is just a waste of time. He has his own messianic plans for Who-ville. A Climate Grinch believes in the unquestionable wisdom of the free-market economy, not in some vague and pagan illusion of humanity living in a state of sustainable harmony with nature.

• And fifth, the only good climate deal is one in which every nation in the world joins under equally ambitious conditions, a stipulation so extreme and disconnected from political realities as to be conspicuously obstructionist.

Visions of pipelines

A Climate Grinch is happiest when party loyalties are not violated, when political support is not threatened, when economic plans are not disturbed, when heated pipelines are humming a yuletide carol of flowing bitumen, and when fossil-fuelled lights are blazing atop every plastic Christmas tree in the whole world.

So the PM has sent his Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, to the Lima Climate Christmas event with instructions to set no new targets and make no commitments. She is to make only a token request to reduce the emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), those potent GHG chemicals that were supposed to replace the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were wrecking the planet’s ozone layer. Since the HFC’s represent a mere 1 percent of Canada’s emissions, the symbolic gesture will neither disturb Canada’s oil and gas corporations, the generous funding they give to the Conservative Party, nor the visions of pipelines dancing in their heads.

Meanwhile, as the rising GHG emissions force global temperatures ever higher, as extreme weather becomes more common, and as the deadline for yet another hopeful climate agreement looms, Ban Ki-moon continues to press for Canada “to become ambitious and visionary for the global future of people and the planet.”

Grinches, however, are not dissuaded from their opinions or diverted from their objectives by the sentimental drivel of grandiose global hopes. They say what they mean and they mean what they say, all with a heart “that is two sizes too small.”

David Suzuki: Leaders must put people before politics

David Suzuki: Leaders must put people before politics

David Suzuki: Leaders must put people before politics
G7 leaders meet in The Hague in 2014

When we elect people to office, we give them power to make and enact decisions on our behalf. They should have a vision that extends beyond the next election and the latest Dow Jones average — to our children and grandchildren.

We expect our leaders to have a clear picture of our world and the conditions necessary for human life and well-being. If they don’t, how can they make informed decisions? So let me outline some simple, scientifically validated truths about us and the world we live in — truths that should guide our political decisions.

We are, above all else, biological beings, with an absolute need for clean air from the moment of birth to the last death rattle. We take air deep into our lungs and filter whatever’s in it. Plants on land and in the ocean take in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis, creating the atmosphere we depend on.

We are about 60 per cent water by weight, so we need clean water to be healthy. When water falls to Earth, it’s filtered through tree and other plant roots, soil fungi and bacteria, cleansing it so it’s safe to drink.

All the energy in our bodies that we use to move, grow and reproduce is sunlight captured by plants in photosynthesis and converted to chemical energy, which we ingest. We eat plants and animals for our nourishment, so whatever they’re exposed to ends up in our bodies. We need clean soil to give us clean food.

These are basic, biological facts and should be the prism through which any decision is made at individual, corporate or government levels. Protection of air, water, soil and the web of life should be the highest social, political and economic priority.

We’re also social animals. Scientists have shown that love during childhood is essential for healthy development. Children who are deprived of love at critical points can develop a variety of physical and psychological deficits. To avoid those, we have to work for strong families and supportive communities, full employment, justice, greater income and gender equity and freedom from terror, genocide and war.

Finally, we are spiritual creatures who require sacred places, a sense of belonging to the world and a recognition that we are not in charge of nature, but dependent on the biosphere for our health and well-being. We are not outside of nature; we are part of it.


To be fully healthy and human, our most elemental needs are biological, social and spiritual. Politicians ought to know this. Their role is to protect and enhance those necessities of life; otherwise there is no vision, direction or leadership.

That’s why it’s absurd for a politician or government representative to speak about any aspect of the economy without acknowledging the threat of human-induced climate change. Many oppose doing anything on ideological grounds, but the science is overwhelming and compelling, and the need for action is clear. What can you say about “leaders” who choose to ignore the best available evidence to the detriment of the people they are elected to represent?

Surely those who act only for short-term economic gain, imposing destructive consequences on generations to come, must be held responsible. We must also consider the consequences of rapid and excessive exploitation of fossil fuels on the world’s poorest people, who have done little to create climate change but are most affected by it.

Even though Canada ratified the legally binding Kyoto Protocol, which spelled out our obligations to reduce the risk of climate change, many of our “leaders” have wilfully ignored scientific evidence and urgent calls to meet the protocol’s targets, and Canada eventually abandoned the agreement. What should we call that?

And what can we say about “leaders” who can see something is wrong and have the means to respond but choose not to? This is what Canada is doing — in the face of overwhelming evidence and pleading of other industrialized nations.

Our elected representatives deserve respect for their commitment. But the elevated status and power of politicians also carries responsibilities. Many are abrogating those responsibilities for ideological reasons that have nothing to do with our well-being.

Pro-Keystone XL bill stalls in Senate

Pro-Keystone XL pipeline bill stalls in Senate

Pro-Keystone XL bill stalls in Senate
Sen. John Hoeven has been unable to gather the votes for his pro-Keystone XL bill (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

By David Espo, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Senate supporters of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline conceded Thursday they lack the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation authorizing immediate construction of the project, but said they remain hopeful of prevailing.

“At this point we’re still working to get 60,” said Sen. John Hoeven. R-N.D., as he and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced a bipartisan bill to end the delays and build the proposed oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.

Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, faces a tough re-election challenge this fall, and has said she will use all her power to make sure the project is built.

In remarks on the Senate floor, she said supporters of the project think:

[quote]There is so much potential for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico … to become completely not only energy independent, but an energy powerhouse for the world…what signal does it send if America is not willing to do its part when it comes to production right here?[/quote]

11 democrats support bill, but still not enough

In their statement, Landrieu and Hoeven said the legislation has the support of 11 Democrats and all 45 of the Senate’s Republicans, a total of 56 of the 60 that will be needed. “A vote on the bill is expected in the coming days,” they added.

The obvious targets for additional support include six Democrats who voted in favour of a non-binding proposal 13 months ago that expressed general support for the project: Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Bill Nelson of Florida.

Among the group, Casey noted he has twice before voted in favour of the project, and said it was “probably a good guess” to assume he will do so again.

Carper said he is undecided, and intends to meet with Landrieu, Hoeven and others in the coming days.

Johnson, Coons and Nelson indicated Thursday they do not support the legislation to require construction.

Senators want to know where Obama stands

In an interview, Johnson said he wants to know President Barack Obama’s position. Ian Koski, a spokesman for Coons, said the lawmaker “believes the law makes clear that it’s up to the (Obama) administration to make permitting decisions like this one,” and not up to Congress.

Nelson’s spokesman, Ryan Brown, said the Florida lawmaker favours the pipeline’s construction, but won’t vote for the legislation because it permits the oil that would flow through the project to be exported.

Bennet could not be reached for immediate comment.

The proposed pipeline would carry oil from Canada to the United States, where it eventually would reach Gulf Coast refineries. Supporters say it would create thousands of jobs and help the United States get closer to a goal of energy independence. Opponents include environmentalists who say the project wouldn’t create much permanent employment once it was finished, and say it would reinforce the nation’s use of an energy source that worsens global warming.

White House delays Keystone decision indefinitely

The legislation is the latest response in Congress to the Obama administration’s recent announcement that it was delaying a decision on the pipeline indefinitely, citing a Nebraska court case relating to the project.

The House has voted previously to approve construction of the pipeline.

The White House has not taken a formal position on the legislation, although Democratic officials in the Senate as well as Republican lawmakers say they expect Obama likely would veto it if it reaches his desk.

In a sidebar dispute, some Republicans said the vote should occur on an amendment to energy efficiency legislation that is expected to reach the Senate floor in the next few days. That would present Obama with a more complicated choice, since large numbers of lawmakers in both parties are likely to favour the broader measure.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., said a vote on a free-standing bill that deals only with the pipeline is insufficient “because it will never see the light of day. The president’s not going to sign it.”

He said the pipeline’s fate is in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., “and how serious he and our Democratic friends are about this issue.

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Alan Fram contributed to this report.