Opinion

Tue, 2014-04-22 12:27Guest
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If the U.S. is an Oligarchy, What Does that Make Canada?

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This is a guest post by author and filmmaker Michael Harris. It was originally published on iPolitics.

Why do I know that Stephen Harper would hate these guys?

You have probably never heard of Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page but their message just might wake up dozing Canadians oblivious to the decline of our democracy.

They are professors from Princeton and Northwestern universities and they have just pronounced American democracy dead. Some have already called this the “Duh Report because the ugly truth has been apparent for quite some time: The United States is now the land of the rich and the home of the knave; an oligarchy.

I know. Stephen Harper would say the professors are perpetrating sociology. Perhaps. But sociology beats the ongoing Big Brother impersonation that this prime minister passes off as democracy.

Tue, 2014-04-15 15:38Guest
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90% of B.C. Hates the Grizzly Hunt, So Why Are We Still Doing it?

grizzly bear hunt bc, nathan rupert, desmog canada

This is a guest post by Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

We want these bears dead. This is the message the B.C. government’s “reallocation policy” sends to the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, to British Columbians, and to the world.

This policy also prevents the implementation of an innovative solution to end the commercial trophy hunting of grizzlies and other large carnivores throughout the Great Bear Rainforest.

With the mismanaged, and some would say depraved, B.C. grizzly bear hunt having commenced this month, the controversy surrounding the recreational killing of these iconic animals is spiking once again.

A hard-won Raincoast-led moratorium on grizzly hunting in B.C. was overturned in 2001 by Gordon Campbell’s newly elected Liberal government with no justification other than serving as an obvious sop to the trophy hunting lobby. So, what was supposed to be a three-year provincewide ban was revoked after one spring hunting season. Raincoast, recognizing the then-new premier’s mulish intractability on this issue, decided to take a different approach.

Thu, 2014-04-10 09:31Sandy Garossino
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Six Shocking Truths You Should Know About This American Foundation

Moore Foundation

In recent years, Canadians have heard a lot about those extremist American conservation foundations. They’ve been called radicals, money-launderers and even compared to Al Qaeda in Canada’s Senate.

More recently, an oil-related group, British Columbians for Prosperity (which bears remarkable similarity to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity), alleges that these foundations are carrying out a really complicated American conspiracy to, er, hurt Canada by, um, not letting any of its oil go to foreign markets.

So I looked into some of these allegations and discovered some shocking truths about the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation that Canadians really need to know.

Sat, 2014-04-05 10:34David Tracey
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Education, or Advertisement?

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When artists depict the future, we should take the time to listen. What if they’re warning us of something that could be avoided?

Brawndo! It’s got what plants crave!”

This slogan for the popular sports drink ‘Brawndo’ is the mantra of citizens in Mike Judge’s 2006 film ‘Idiocracy.’ It’s information everyone has memorized, word for word, ready to trump anyone who would dare to question their precious ‘Thirst Mutilator!’ And because they believe so absolutely in the claim, they can’t understand why their plants won’t grow when they stop watering them altogether, instead feeding them only Brawndo – since, of course, it’s got what plants crave.

The film depicts a society so degraded in educational norms, and so smitten by emboldened advertisement, that its members passively accept the most powerful and obvious ideas thrust upon them. The words are so loud and the font is so bold; how could it be a lie?

Education was replaced by advertisement. No one needed the slightest botanical leanings, since everyone knew that Brawndo was all that plants need. The ad had taught them this; the ad had made it clear.

What does it matter to us? We needn’t worry; it’s all comedy or science fiction. It’s just a joke.

Yet every now and then, black comedy becomes reality.

Sun, 2014-03-30 14:06Carol Linnitt
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Why, When We Know So Much, Are We Doing So Little?: Jim Hoggan on the Polluted Environment and the Polluted Public Square

jim hoggan, the polluted public square

Speak the truth, but not to punish.”

These are the words the famous Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh told DeSmogBlog and DeSmog Canada founder, president and contributor Jim Hoggan one afternoon in a conversation about environmental advocacy and the collapse of productive public discourse.

Over the course of three years Hoggan has engaged the minds of communications specialists, philosophers, leading public intellectuals and spiritual leaders while writing a book designed to address the bewildering question: “why, when we know so much about the global environmental crisis, are we doing so little?”

Hoggan recently recounted some of the insights he has gained into this question when he spoke at the Walrus Talks “The Art of Conversation.”

He begins with the basic axiom shared by cognitive scientist Dan Kahan, “just as you can pollute the natural environment, you can pollute public conversations.” From that the logic follows – if we’re serious about resolving our environmental problems, we are going to have to attend equally to the state of our public discourse.

In Canada, says Hoggan, we face particular challenges when it comes to polluted pubic conversations, especially with the heightened tenor of rhetoric regarding environmentalism and energy issues surrounding the oilsands and proposed pipelines.

The ethical oil, foreign funded radicals campaign,” he says, “has made Canadians less able to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively, and think things through collectively.”

Tue, 2014-03-25 09:50Guest
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Massive Shellfish Die-Off in B.C. Heralds a Future We Can and Must Avoid

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This is a guest post by Caitlyn Vernon and Torrance Coste.

The February 25th headline, “10 million scallops are dead; company lays off staff,” hit British Columbians like a punch in the stomach. The shellfish industry has been an economic powerhouse on central Vancouver Island for decades, providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue every year – over $30 million in average wholesale value. 

But when we talk about shellfish, we aren’t just talking jobs and economics. We are talking about food. Shellfish harvesting is one of our most robust local food systems, and the prospect of losing this industry makes us all feel, quite frankly, a little hungry.

Of the possible causes of the recent scallop die-off, ocean acidification seems the most likely. Ocean acidification is directly connected to climate change and to our runaway consumption of fossil fuels. In short, acidification occurs when carbon is absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere, making the water more acidic. Acidification strips the ocean of carbonate ions, which marine species like scallops and oysters need to build their shells, therefore reducing the ability of these species to survive.

Mon, 2014-03-24 10:52Chris Genovali
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Exxon Valdez Anniversary Offers Lessons for Protecting B.C.'s Wild Salmon

Canada's northwest coast stands alone as one of our planet's last unspoiled coastlines. Its rich assemblage of wildlife, wild rivers and intricate landscapes makes it qualitatively different from any other place in the world.

British Columbians have increasingly come to cherish this maritime commons of waters, islands, and forests. According to an Angus Reid public opinion poll, wild salmon — the foundation species on which this coastal bounty is built — are as important to British Columbians as the French language is to Quebec.

With March 24 marking the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, this disaster provides a lens into considering the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project and the risk it poses to wild salmon, one of our country's greatest natural assets. The Valdez spilled more than 41 million litres of crude oil. Negative impacts from the spill are still felt, with only 13 of the 32 monitored wildlife populations, habitats and resource services injured in the spill listed as fully “recovered” or “very likely recovered.”

A recent report by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation concluded that the consequences just to wild Pacific salmon from Enbridge's project are not a risk worth taking. The report, “Embroiled: Salmon, Tankers and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Proposal,” explores the connections between the oil industry's anticipated activities on the B.C. coast and how those activities could adversely affect salmon.

Tue, 2014-03-04 16:50Guest
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Harper’s “Dictatorship for Democracy” Coming to an End?

This is a guest post by journalist and filmmaker Michael Harris. A longer version of this article originally appeared on iPolitics.

Don’t be surprised if something big happens inside the hermetically sealed world of the Stephen Harper Party — and sooner rather than later.

It could be the departure of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, or a spectacular policy pivot, or even an election from space. Some people think there is still a chance it could be a Harper resignation.

Prime Minister Harper, like senators Duffy and Wallin, is beginning the most painful journey of all — from key political asset to major party liability.

It is a slow process, but can reach runaway elevator speed if the cable snaps. Harper is at the stage where it is beginning to fray.

Wed, 2014-02-26 09:55Russell Blinch
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Harper‘s Support for Democracy Falls Short at Home

obama harper north american leaders summit

Do democracy and freedom begin at home for Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

Recently the Prime Minister told Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych he will be judged on his actions, not words, as violence against the country’s pro-democracy protesters steadily escalates. Harper signed a joint statement at the North American leaders summit in Toluca, Mexico, saying “[the leaders] agreed they will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that actions mirror words.”

The Prime Minister also called for an emergency debate in Parliament this week, saying “we understand that this violence is occurring because the majority of the population is very worried about the steps taken by their government that very much remind them of their anti-democratic and Soviet past.”

While Canadians will no doubt be relieved to see the country and its leadership take a meaningful stance against the oppression and violence of President Yanukovych’s regime, there’s sure to be some cognitive dissonance associated with Harper as a ‘democracy-for-the-people’ spokesperson here at home.

Tue, 2014-02-18 10:03Kevin Grandia
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So Who Does Rex Murphy Work For?

Rex Murphy

There is a brewing controversy swirling around longtime CBC commentator Rex Murphy and his relationship with Canada's oil industry.

As long time readers of DeSmog know, Murphy has been a vocal supporter of the oilsands industry and a booster of those who attack the scientific realities of climate change. (Here's a compilation of some of the articles we have written on Rex Murphy over the years).

Now questions are going unanswered by the CBC, and avoided altogether by Murphy himself, about a conflict between Murphy potentially being paid to speak at oilsands industry events and his role as a commentator at the CBC.

First to report on the potential conflict was Press Progress, after analysing 25 of Murphy's public speaking engagements.* The outlet found sponsors for Murphy's pro-oil public appearances included the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Enbridge, TransCanada and Suncor among others. Longtime investigative journalist Andrew Mitrovica wrote on iPolitics that he was taken on a “disturbing odyssey into the CBC’s Byzantine world of subterfuge, duplicity and plain lunacy,” as he tried to unravel Murphy's relationship with the CBC and the oilsands industry in Canada. 

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