Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Elizabeth May Raises Alarm in House Over Controversial Canada-China Trade Deal


Check out this press release from Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, raising concerns over a new trade deal with China quietly signed by Stephen Harper last month. May rose in the House this week to state her objections to the deal and call for an emergency debate in the House. (Oct. 1, 2012)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, will rise today in the House of Commons following the conclusion of Routine Proceedings to request an Emergency Debate on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). This follows the delivery of a notice of her intention to Speaker Andrew Scheer on Friday.

In her notice, May stated that the “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy” posed by FIPA – signed by Stephen Harper on September 9, but kept from the public and Parliament until quietly tabled on Wednesday last week – warrants much greater transparency and debate.

According to the Policy on Tabling Treaties in Parliament, FIPA must be tabled in the House for 21 sitting days before it can be ratified. Then, the Privy Council can, without any public or Parliamentary consultation or review, sign it into law.

“I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this isperhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA,” May stated, “and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.

“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”

Read more: http://elizabethmaymp.ca/news/publications/press-releases/2012/10/01/may-to-request-emergency-debate-on-canada-china-investment-deal/


Former DFO Manager, Minister: Harper ‘Disembowelled’ Science Budget for Enbridge Review


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on evidence that despite his feigned commitment to “listen to science” on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, Prime Minster Stephen Harper has “disembowelled” the science budget for the pipeline review. (Aug. 20, 2012)

VANCOUVER – While Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the fate of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to tankers on the British Columbia coast will be based on science and not politics, documents show some of that science isn’t forthcoming.

And critics say there is no time for the science to be completed before a federal deadline for the environmental assessment currently underway.

Documents filed with the National Energy Board show the environmental review panel studying the Northern Gateway project asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada for risk assessments for the bodies of water the proposed pipeline will cross. The pipeline is to traverse nearly 1,000 streams and rivers in the upper Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat watersheds.

The department didn’t have them.

“As DFO has not conducted a complete review of all proposed crossings, we are unable to submit a comprehensive list as requested; however, this work will continue and, should the project be approved, our review will continue into the regulatory permitting phase,” DFO wrote in a five-page letter dated June 6, 2012.

The response went on to say there “may be differences of opinion” between the company and the department on the risk posed by the pipeline at some crossings. It provided two examples of crossings of tributaries to the Kitimat River where Enbridge rated the risk as low but Fisheries rated it medium to high.

DFO said the federal ministry will continue to work with the company to determine the risk level and level of mitigation required.

“DFO is of the view that the risk posed by the project to fish and fish habitat can be managed through appropriate mitigation and compensation measures,” said the department’s response.

“Under the current regulatory regime, DFO will ensure that prior to any regulatory approvals, the appropriate mitigation measures to protect fish and fish habitat will be based on the final risk assessment rating that will be determined by DFO.”

Earlier this month, Harper told reporters in Vancouver that “decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project, and that’s how we conduct our business.”

He went on to say “the only way that government can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.”

But the federal government recently sent letters to 92 habitat staff members within Fisheries and Oceans in B.C., telling them that their positions will be cut. Thirty-two of them will be laid off outright.

The cuts will mean the department in B.C. has half the habitat staff it had a decade ago.

All but five of the province’s fisheries field offices will be cut as part of a $79 million — 5.8 per cent — cut to the department’s operational budget, including the offices in Prince George and Smithers that would have had the lead in monitoring pipeline effects.

The marine contaminant group that would have been involved in a spill in B.C. has been disbanded and the fisheries and environmental legislation gutted, said Otto Langer, a retired fisheries department scientist.

“He (Harper) says the science will make the decision. Well he’s basically disembowelled the science,” said Langer. “It’s a cruel hoax that they’re pulling over on the public.”

Former federal Liberal fisheries minister David Anderson agrees.

Alberta bitumen must be diluted with toxic condensate just to make it flow

Meet ‘Dil Bit’: The Enbridge Testimony Stephen Harper Doesn’t Want Heard


The following statement was made by Miranda Holmes today at the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel hearings into the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in Comox, BC.


Many voices have been heard during these hearings, yet one has remained silent: the oily character at the centre of the debate. I think that’s a shame and so I am using my time before the panel to allow this character’s case to be made.

Hi, my name’s Dil Bit. That’s short for Diluted Bitumen, but I feel like I’m amongst friends here, so let’s not be too formal.

I come from the tar sands and, as you know, Alberta totally digs me. Alberta’s so generous she wants to share me with everyone.

If she gets her way, I’ll be passing through British Columbia a lot in the future, so I thought I should introduce myself properly.

As fossil fuels go, I’m a bit unconventional. But, as Alberta’s favourite son Steve will tell you, I’m totally ethical. (And don’t let those jet setting celebrities tell you any different.)

I’m also way better than conventional crude oil.

For instance, my total acid concentrations are up to 20 times higher than conventional crude. My sulphur content is up to 10 times higher and I’m up to 70 times thicker. Pretty impressive, eh?

Yeah, it’s true I can be a bit abrasive. Bits of quartz, pyrite, silicates, sure I carry them around. It’s just the way I’m made.

So conventional crude doesn’t have my grit. So what? No need to point out, like those granola eaters at the Natural Resources Defense Council did, that putting me in a pipeline is “like sandblasting the inside of the pipe.”

I don’t know why the Americans have taken against me, because – like so many of them – I pack some serious heat. Thanks to my true grit and my thickness (I like to think of it as strength), I make pipes hotter than conventional crude – and harder to monitor. In fact, pipelines carrying me are16 times more likely to leak.

See? I told you I was better.

I’m Alberta’s most precious resource. You think she and Steve are going to let just anyone transport me? No way.

For my travels through British Columbia, they’re going to use Enbridge, a fine, upstanding company with an excellent track record. Why, it took Enbridge 10 years to spill half as much oil as the Exxon Valdez. And they didn’t just spill it in one spot – they spread it around.

Regulators in the US thought the three million litres of me Enbridge spilled in Michigan was so funny they compared the company to those great comedy characters the Keystone Kops.

If Enbridge maintains its current success rate it should be able to meet Steve’s federal standards, which allow undetected pipeline leaks of less than 2% of capacity per week.

For the Northern Gateway project that means Enbridge could legally leave 11 million litres of me a week behind on my way to Kitimat without getting into any serious trouble. And why should they? Eleven million litres of me would be more than three times funnier than Michigan, right?

That’s good news for me, because I’ve heard there are some mighty pretty places in northern BC and I think it would be a shame not to get to know them better.

And it’s good news for BC, because your premier’s promising lots of jobs out of oil and gas exports, and cleaning up after me will sure keep people employed.

Sorry if any of the spots I’m going to wreck is one of your favourites, but I’ve got to keep Alberta happy. You know what she’s like. 


Harper Backtracks on Enbridge Review Panel – Says He’ll Listen to Science


Read this story from CBC.ca on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to BC amid his government’s apparent shifting stance on its favoured Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Contrary to previous assertions that he would push the pipeline through regardless of the Joint Review Panel’s findings, the PM is now assuring British Columbians that he will listen to science and maintains the panel’s independence. (August 7, 2012)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is defending the independence of the environmental review process underway for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, telling reporters in Vancouver the project will be evaluated scientifically and a green light to proceed would not be based on politics.

“Decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project. And that’s how we conduct our business,” Harper said.

“The only way that governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically and not simply on political criteria,” the prime minister added.

On Friday, the federal government announced a firm deadline to ensure the joint review panel charged with evaluating the pipeline completes its work by the end of 2013, without further delays. But Harper’s cabinet will have the final say on the project.

“The government does not pick and choose particular projects,” Harper said, “the projects have to be evaluated on their own merits.”

Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, to move bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands across B.C. to a new marine terminal in Kitimat, B.C., for export to Asia, has been identified by the Harper government as beneficial to its international trade strategy.

The prime minister reiterated his government’s position that trade with the Asia-Pacific region is of “vital interest” to Canada and British Columbia, as the country’s Asia-Pacific Gateway.

Harper also reminded reporters of investments in last spring’s budget to bolster federal government inspection and monitoring for resource development projects such as this one.

Harper was in Vancouver Tuesday to announce a new type of employment insurance benefits for parents of seriously ill children.

Journalists in B.C. were keen to get questions to the prime minister after sharp criticism of Enbridge from the prime minister’s senior cabinet minister for B.C., James Moore, last week. Harper did not contradict Moore directly, but appeared to offer a somewhat softened version of the government’s previous position on the pipeline.

Reporters were kept well back from Harper and Moore on Monday when they attended Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain’s annual summer barbecue.

Public Opinion Set Against Pipeline

Harper’s stops on the West Coast this week come at a challenging time for supporters of the pipeline.

Public opinion polls suggest the majority in B.C. is against the Northern Gateway pipeline project. Some First Nations along the route are determined to block it.

Enbridge’s efforts to garner approval for the project have been set back by recent oil spills along other Enbridge pipelines, including damaging revelations about the way Enbridge handled its 2010 spill in Michigan.

Last spring’s budget implementation bill streamlined the regulatory approval process for major natural resources development projects like Gateway. A firm deadline has now been set to ensure the joint review panel charged with evaluating the pipeline completes its work by the end of 2013, without further delays.

Cabinet will have the final say on the project. A statement from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s office Friday continued to emphasize its potential to create jobs and economic growth.

But last Wednesday, Harper’s senior minister in B.C. James Moore told a private radio program in Vancouver that Enbridge had put a “sour taste in the mouth” with its past actions and wasn’t doing enough to win the confidence of British Columbians generally, and its First Nations specifically.

Moore said doubts about the Enbridge pipeline were “widespread” and repeatedly denied the Harper government would simply ram through approval for the pipeline, despite recent changes to streamline the approval process.

It was not immediately clear from Moore’s remarks whether he was speaking only for himself as a senior minister representing the province’s concerns, or whether his dressing down of Enbridge was an early signal of a still-evolving position from the federal government.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/08/07/pol-gateway-tuesday-harper-bc.html

BC Conservative MP James Moore

Conservative MP James Moore Dumps Enbridge for Kinder Morgan, Needs Refresher on Company’s Record


And so it begins.The spin to jettison Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline in favour supposedly “safer” alternatives.

This narrative will play out in two ways. The first was demonstrated by Conservative MP James Moore on CKNW’s Bill Good Show earlier this week (read the full interview here). After slagging Enbridge for its poor public engagement and safety record, the MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam moved onto what he presented as the superior alternative. 

And I think, you asked the question, who else is there out there? I think if you look at the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the way in which they are very judiciously and responsibly engaging with British Columbia’s First Nations, the way in which they’re taking environmental challenges seriously, they way in which they’ve operated for 60 years without any spill—there’s one on land that had nothing to do with Kinder Morgan, but had to do with contractors who were tearing up the streets in Burnaby. There’s a difference, I think, night and day between a company that gets public engagement, Aboriginal engagement, environmental stewardship and Enbridge, which I think their track record is not one that I think any other company should follow if they want to do business in BC.

Bear a few things in mind when you read these extraordinary statements by Mr. Moore. First, Moore, the Federal Heritage Minister, is a rising young star in the Consetvative Party – particularly in BC.

Second, nobody but nobody in Stephen Harper’s button-down caucus opens his mouth – especially about something so key to the Prime Minister’s agenda, not to mention such a hot button issue – without having first received explicit directions to do so from the very highest echelon. What this clearly means is that Moore has been tapped to do Harper’s Enbridge damage control in BC – and the choice of the Bill Good Show to debut this new framing was as calculated as a Catholic Sunday Mass.

The second alternative to the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat is one that will only work if Enbridge’s reputation is deemed salvageable – and let’s face it, at a spill a week, that’s looking increasingly doubtful. Neverheless, there may well yet be a move to reroute the Kitimat line to Prince Rupert, dumping the perilous planned port at the end of Douglas Channel in favour of a safer harbour just up the coast.

In many ways, Rupert is the more sensible choice, although the pipeline route itself is potentially riskier in this case, transiting several hundred km down the Skeena Valley – a vital salmon artery, rife with geological instability. It is for this reason the Prince Rupert option lost out to Kitimat back in 2005 when both were still on the table.

No matter the comparative safety of the Port of Prince Rupert, many other concerns about the pipeline, the Tar Sands it would carry and whose expansion it would facilitate, and the dangers of a spill in BC’s rugged coastal waters – particularly in Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait, which the tankers from Prince Rupert would still transit – remain unchanged in this scenario.

Moreover, Enbridge’s credibility remains a major obstacle no matter what. The choice could be made to switch to a different pipeline company altogether, such as TransCanada or Kinder Morgan (the company from whom Kinder bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Terasen, had a rival bid to build a pipeline to Rupert in the early 2000s)…but I wouldn’t bet on the Prince Rupert option, for all of the above reasons.

Rather, as James Moore predictably indicated, the twinned Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver would seem to be the alternative the powers that be will most likely glom onto to salvage their dreams of expanding the Alberta Tar Sands and accessing new Asian markets.

It is for that reason Mr. Moore needs a refresher on Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based energy giant that has indicated it wants to boost its bitumen pipeline capacity through BC from 300,000 barrels a day to 850,000, meaning a five-fold increase in tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet, the Gulf Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Moore was wrong on everything he told Bill Good about Kinder Morgan’s track record.

First, to his claim of good aboriginal engagement on the part of the company, just ask the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, in whose territory the pipeline terminus lies and the tankers would transit. They came out last month, along with their neighbours the Squamish First Nation, to sign the “Save the Fraser Declaration”, joining over 60 BC First nations who’ve already declared their opposition to oil pipelines and tankers through BC.

The Musqueam First Nation of Vancouver, who also have a big say in the company’s plans, had already signed onto the declaration.

The Tsleil-Waututh have voiced their concern about the lack of consultation they’ve recieved on this matter from the BC Liberal Government and stated in April after the company made its plans official, “We want to make it crystal clear that we will oppose any and all increased oil tanker traffic in the Inlet and we oppose the notion of Kinder Morgan turning Vancouver into an oil port city.”

To Moore’s point that Kinder Morgan wasn’t to blame for the rupturing of its line in Burnaby in 2007, he must not be aware that the company plead guilty in 2011 in provincial court for the spill. The court heard that the pipeline’s owner should have done a better job of monitoring work near the line that tore into it, as this Global TV report shows.

Moore must also be ignorant of or deliberately ignoring the leak of 110,000 litres of oil the company suffered at its Abbostsford tank farm earlier this year.

Moreover, with drastically increased bitumen flow and tanker traffic – up to nearly 400 a year from the company’s port in Burnaby, if it gets its way – comes vastly increased risk; or, as my colleague Rafe Mair and many others remind us, certain calamities. And with such a disaster in the waters of Vancouver or the Salish Sea come enormous consequences, both environmental and economic, as Rex Weyler has illustrated in these pages.

Kinder Morgan may not have faced the same scale of public opposition to its plans as Enbridge has seen – but that’s only because it just made its plans official a few months ago. Campaigns are already developing to target the Texas company (full disclosure: I’m part of one of them) and with the likes of Moore shaping this new narrative – dumping Enbridge for a supposedly “safer” Trans Mountain option to Vancouver – the spotlight will increasingly be on Kinder Morgan.

Either Mr. Moore is deliberately deceiving the public about Kinder Morgan’s track record or he’s simply ignorant of it – and being from Vancouver, frankly, he should know better.


CTV Video: Harper’s Environment Minister Says Support for Enbridge Unchanged in Wake of Scathing US Report


Check out this video news story from CTV on the Harper Government’s decision to ignore the damning report out of the US on Enbridge’s poor pipeline safety record. Environment Minister Peter Kent maintains his government’s support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is unchanged as the company is roundly criticized for is disastrous spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2012 – even though he acknowledges he hasn’t read the report in question. (July 18)

VANCOUVER — A scathing report out of the United States that criticized just about every aspect of Enbridge Inc.’s response to a pipeline spill in Michigan won’t change the Canadian government’s support for the company’s proposed Northern Gateway project, the federal environment minister said.

A report by U.S. investigators released last week concluded Enbridge (TSX:ENB) bungled its response when millions of litres of oil began to pour in and around the Kalamazoo River in July 2010, comparing the company’s handling of the spill to the “Keystone Kops.”

The report has provided fuel for critics of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project, which would carry crude oil along 1,170 kilometres of pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast. Even B.C.’s premier has demanded answers.

But the report won’t change the opinion of the federal Conservative government, which has hailed the Northern Gateway pipeline as important for the country, said Environment Minister Peter Kent.

“Pipelines are still, by far, the safest way to transport petrochemicals in any form,” Kent said in an interview Wednesday.

Kent said he had yet to read the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report.

John Weston, Conservative MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country has let down his most vocal constituent, Rafe Mair

Another Open Letter to MP John Weston on Tankers, Salmon – from his Constituent, Rafe Mair



When we met at the meeting at the North Vancouver church last night, on pipelines and tankers, you mentioned that we have known one another for some years ,as we indeed have. Far from having any dislike of you, my feelings are quite the opposite. I often remember the tour you took me on of Boston when I came to address the Harvard Canadian Club, of which you were a member.
I’m going to get right down to cases. You have disappointed me in that I thought that you might just buck the system and stand up for your province but you have manifestly failed.
You said last night that you voted for Bill C-38 because it would enhance “process” around fish habitat. That was a lie, John, and I’m surprised that a good Christian would make such an egregiously false statement. You voted for C-38 because you had to – just as one of your colleagues did after expressing some public concerns. The truth of the matter is this was the Budget and you had no choice. What you could have done and should have done, seeing you are a “process” person, about which more in a moment, is support those MPs irate that the budget process should be abused to contain substantive policy changes (fish habitat, for example) in it.
Let’s get down to what you said last night. I had accused you of knowing nothing about the environmental catastrophe of pipelines and tankers and while I applaud your honesty am stunned to hear a BC MP admit he knew bugger-all about the subject matter of the controversy but relied upon “the process” to see that environmental concerns are addressed.
Your big word was “process” – a nice, lawyerly approach except you miss the entire point, and please pay attention: These hearings, be they over pipelines, tanker traffic, or so-called “run-of-river” projects do not address whether or not the project should be done in the first place.
These are, to all intents and purposes, done deals. While the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board, and is to assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act, you know and I know that your government is going ahead with the Gateway project, irrespective of the Panel’s findings.
This isn’t so you say? The government has an open mind on the matter?
Don’t you know what your Natural Resources minister has said ad nauseum?
Watch and read his comments such as, “Environmental and other ‘radical groups’ are trying to block trade and undermine Canada’s economy, according to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who has also stated, “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade.”
Prime Minister Harper said in a Q & A, “I think we’ll see significant American interests trying to line up against the Northern Gateway project, precisely because it’s not in the interests of the United States. It’s in the interests of Canada…they’ll funnel money through environmental groups and others in order to try to slow it down but, as I say, we’ll make sure that the best interests of Canada are protected.”
John, read what your leaders have said…take the time I did on the Internet and you will find that to your Prime Minister and the Natural Resources Minister, the Gateway is a done deal and the hearings simply provide a way for environmental groups to delay.
In fact, Oliver deals extensively with timelines and the need to get this project running “expeditiously”.
I have been to enough of government sponsored “hearings” to know that they are a sham. As I’ve said, “Id rather have a root canal without anaesthetic than attend another.”
Surely, John, prisoner of the system though you might be, you must admit that your government is bent on approving Gateway and in fact your leaders admit it. That being so, John, how can you baldly state that there is “process” of any meaning here?
There are some issues that go straight to the heart our social community and how we want to live.
One such issue, 20 years ago, was the Charlottetown Accord which would have dramatically altered the Canadian system of governance. To the people of British Columbia, the pipelines and tanker traffic similarly go to the very root of what we believe in and how we want to live. We’re dealing with the very soul of BC and you would have us believe that we are getting a process within which we can make our feelings known in a meaningful way?
You know that Gateway is a done deal as far as your government is concerned and that the hearings are not designed to discover what the people want to see happen to our province. The plain truth is that no matter what the Panel recommends, your government will approve the projects.
On the questions about the Fisheries Act, to say this will enhance “process” is rather like, “In order to save the village it was necessary to destroy it.”
For habitat to be protected, development must be prohibited, for the moment you open it to “process”, you condemn it to destruction. I tried to make you and others understand that some things by their nature cannot be mediated, nor can impacts be “mitigated”, an awful weasel word. The example the minister gave of a carp pond was puerile and dangerous. It’s not carp ponds you’ve exposed to the front-end loader but the BC salmon about which you know nothing. How can you take away protection from development without knowing what the hell you’re doing?
The DFO was politicized back in the 1980s by Tom Siddon in the federal government’s giveaway to Alcan and its Kemano Completion Project. This is a very sad chapter and you should know that the Mulroney government suppressed a devastating report by DFO scientists which condemned the KCP in no uncertain terms. The scientists (dubbed the “dissident” scientists by Alcan, a sobriquet they bore with honour) were given early retirement, transferred or refused promotion they were rightly expecting). That 1984 Report was released in 1992 by me after I received it in a brown envelope. If you want the inside story on that I will introduce you to Dr. Gordon Hartman, one of those dissident scientists.
The person to talk to about the gutting of the enforcement arm of DFO is Otto Langer, an ex-DFO man to whom I would be happy to introduce you.
John, you are an embodiment of almost child-like naiveté who has been captivated by the elected dictator system we find ourselves in. You have allowed yourself to self-hypnotize into believing untruths because you must  – then perpetuating dangerous falsehoods. It’s rather like the Stockholm Syndrome, where you’ve fallen in love with your captors.
I think it was Senator Daniel Moynihan who said, “You’re entitled to make up your own mind but not your own facts.”

Are there really any jobs for Canadians coming down the Enbridge pipeline?

Enbridge ‘Jobs’ Argument Rings Hollow as US Vets Recruited to Work in Canadian Oil Industry


The argument we hear most frequently from the Harper Government in favour of bulldozing through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines is the major job benefits the project would carry for Canadians. But recent talk of importing foreign workers from the United States and China make a mockery of that boast.

The latest evidence to this effect – a job posting on the American website run by Veterans of Foreign Wars, which helps vets find employment – bears some claims that are so absurd as to beg the question whether it’s a hoax. Some of the figures cited are highly suspect; nevertheless, on the whole, it provides telling window into an alternative narrative emerging around the Tar Sands pipelines issue. The posting reads:

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce that its partly owned veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada, that could see thousands of U.S. veterans heading north to work on their oil pipeline.  

“This is a great opportunity for veterans, transitioning military, National Guard and reservists, and their family members,” said Ted Daywalt, founder and CEO of VetJobs (www.vetjobs.com), a recognized industry leader in helping veterans find work.  

Though America’s Keystone Pipeline is delayed, the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border and have an immediate need for tens of thousands of workers,” said Daywalt, whose website averages more than 55,000 daily job postings by employers strictly interested in hiring veterans. He said the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation anticipates a shortage of 114,000 workers in the Alberta area, and they want to hire American veterans to fill that shortage. 

According to the development corporation, the positions being offered are long term, with many paying as much as 30 percent more than similar industry positions in the United States. Some positions will require a move to Canada, but many others will allow veterans to commute — working several weeks in Canada, then one week back home. (emphasis added)

The posting came my way via a BC-based environmental discussion listserv, Land Watch, and has provoked some interesting questions.

For starters – beyond the matter-of-fact assertion that “the Canadians are moving forward on their side of the border” with our highly controversial proposed pipeline projects – there’s the eyebrow-raising jobs claim. Creating 114,000 jobs would essentially mean doubling the current employment of the entire Canadian oil and gas sector, and yet the ad only mentions pipeline construction jobs specifically.

Even Enbridge (whose new ad campaign touting myriad economic benefits sputtered recently over a spoof by Province cartoonist Dan Murphy that went viral) and the project’s looniest boosters acknowledge the pipeline would provide a few thousand temporary jobs at best. Once it’s built, BC would see only several dozen permanent jobs. A recent study by the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada suggests the workforce of the Alberta Tar Sands – which altogether employs just 20,000 people, constituting 15% of Canada’s total oil and gas jobs – will rise by 73% by 2021, but that pales in comparison with the numbers being thrown around by Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The posting rings true on another front, though – the fact that both BC and Alberta are approaching full employment territory, putting paid to the argument we need new jobs at the expense of our environment. BC and Alberta are both seeing strong job growth today – with unemployment in BC falling by .8% from May to 6.6% in June (though some of BC’s lower unemployment numbers derive from workers heading across the border to Alberta). Alberta lost a handful of jobs in June, but its unemployment rate remains at a paltry 4.6%.

We’re told ad nauseum that we need to accept the certain risk of pipeline leaks and tanker spills because we badly need the jobs that come with these projects, yet the plain fact is we don’t have the workforce to provide tens of thousands of new employees for Tar Sands-related development.

One line in particular stands out in the job ad, namely that “…[the] veterans jobs board has secured an exclusive employment initiative with Alberta, Canada…” Secured? With whom? The Alberta Government? The Government of Canada? Has an American company signed a deal with our government(s) to provide foreign labour to Canada, and if so, why have we heard nothing of it from our elected officials? It could be this is just exaggerated salesmanship on the part of this jobs site, but these are questions that need answering.

Another question the posting raises is why would we pay these workers 30% more in Canada than south of the border? This claim seems to conflict with the other major challenge to the jobs argument – the recent revelation that state-owned energy giant PetroChina wants to build the Enbridge pipeline. The advantage to Enbridge from this proposition is a significant discount on labour, as the Harper Government recently changed our laws to allow companies operating in Canada to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than the average wage for Canadians. This hardly seems like the policy of a government concerned about creating oil and gas jobs for its citizens.

And again, these direct job-related concerns are on top of the certain environmental and economic calamities of pipeline leaks and tanker spills – which would also be a huge blow to BC’s tourism and natural resource-dependent economy.

Perhaps a larger issue at hand is the matter of Canadian energy security and economic sovereignty.

The picture now emerging is of Chinese and American companies harvesting our bitumen, using Chinese and American labour to extract it, and building the pipelines to transport it back to their own countries to refine it (where the real jobs are), along with the profits from the whole operation. Moreover, we’re only a trade deal away from it being illegal to stop exporting oil to China once we’ve started. We’ve already sacrificed much of our resource and economic sovereignty under NAFTA and the privately controlled American corporation, NERC, which we’ve empowered to regulate our public energy system. Now we’re talking about recently retired American soldiers coming up here to build our oil infrastructure, which is more than a little unsettling.

Finally, in addition to the hollowing out of the “jobs” argument, the macro-economic impacts of expanded pipelines and Tar Sands development have been questioned by the likes of Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, economist and former ICBC CEO Robyn Allan, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Thus, when Stephen Harper and his minions declare the Enbridge pipelines would be good for “the economy”, we must ask the key question: “Whose economy?” US veterans, Chinese migrant workers, China itself and the mostly-foreign shareholders of multinational corporations? Check.

The public of BC and Canada? Not so much.

BC's Fraser River sockeye face increased risks as many DFO employees working in habitat protection stand to lose their jobs

Harper Wasting No Time Slashing DFO Habitat Jobs as Notices go out to Staff


According to Otto Langer, the former senior DFO scientist and manager who first blew the whistle on Stephen Harper’s plan to gut the Fisheries Act, the job cuts associated with Harper’s program will soon be taking effect in BC. Langer sent out the following warning on June 27.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now “red-circled” – i.e. they are being affected by Bill C-38 with it’s budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (i.e. DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in the BC-Yukon region were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In the Pacific Region, they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 – an approximate 33% cut in staff. Also, all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down, with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc. are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and natural gas pipelines go across northern BC, there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc. to respond to potential disasters – the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops.

The office in Port Hardy has looked after salmon farming issues, which it will be unable to do now.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s, i.e. 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the past 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove the “Habitat Management Program” title from their organization and from their offices, etc. in that they are now to be called the “Fisheries Protection Program”.

In summary, this puts DFO back to where they were in the late 1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in the Pacific Region, but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what they can do for a living when laid off and where they move to to get a job to support their families, etc. I am told the already very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C-38 and now it has received its final blow – the willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities.

One can now say that the Harper Government has ‘right-sized’ the workload for the reduced number of staff! They will protect less habitat, despite the incredulous claims of DFO Minister Ashfield and many Conservative MPs that DFO will provide the fishery with better, more focused protection. More staff-related budget cuts have been outlined for 2013 and 2014.

All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC-Alberta border, i.e. Central and Arctic Region, will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now “fisheries protection” staff), most will be closed and the number of offices having habitat-type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area – i.e. Canada.


Former Conservative Environment Minister Prentice Warns Harper Govt. on Ignoring First Nations


Read this column from The Georgia Straightby Charlie Smith on former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice’s veiled warning to the Harper Government on the consequences of ignoring First Nations’ opposition to major resource projects. (July 1, 2012)

Sometimes, you stumble across an intriguing article where you least expect to find it.

This weekend as I was perusing a Vancouver Sun special section on energy, I spotted the byline of Jim Prentice. He’s the senior executive vice-president and vice-chairman of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Prentice also happens to be the former Conservative environment minister who announced his resignation from the Stephen Harper government in 2010 because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Coincidentally (or not), this came shortly after he visited Haida Gwaii with environmentalist David Suzuki.

Prentice was a Progressive Conservative before his party was taken over by the more right-wing Canadian Alliance. Its roots were in the old Reform Party of Canada.

Harper, a former policy director of the Reformers, likely went a bit berserk at the sight of his environment minister hobnobbing on The Nature of Things with Suzuki.

Now in his role with the bank, Prentice writes that the objective of developing and exporting Canada’s hydrocarbon deposits is a “defining moment” for the country. He used the same language in a speech last month to the Business Council of B.C.

In the article, Prentice never mentions the proposed Enbridge or Kinder Morgan pipelines by name. However, he acknowledges that “the constitutional and legal issues surrounding west coast energy corridors, terminals and shipping are extraordinarily complex”.


One section of Prentice’s piece is worth repeating verbatim:

To begin, however, the constitutional obligation to consult with first nations is not a corporate obligation. It is the federal government’s responsibility.

Second, the obligation to define an ocean management regime for terminals and shipping on the west coast is not a corporate responsibility. It is the federal government’s responsibility.

Finally, these issues cannot be resolved by regulatory fiat—they require negotiation. The real risk is not regulatory rejection but regulatory approval, undermined by subsequent legal challenges and the absence of ‘social licence’ to operate.

There are billions of dollars at stake for Corporate Canada in the efforts to export raw bitumen through Kitimat and the Port of Vancouver and ship this product via supertankers to Asia.

In the article, Prentice is, in fact, appealing to the Harper government to modify its approach of not seriously negotiating with First Nations.

Read more: http://www.straight.com/article-723126/vancouver/former-conservative-cabinet-minister-jim-prentice-issues-veiled-warning-stephen-harper