But the constitutional standing of the tar sands – one of the world’s largest and most carbon-intensive energy projects – is just what’s at stake in a treaty rights claim the Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) is bringing against the Governments of Alberta and Canada in a case that promises to be one of the most significant legal and constitutional challenges to the megaproject seen in Canada to date.
Signaling the high-stakes of the whole dispute, it has taken five years of beleaguered fighting just to have the case go to trial. Canada and Alberta – the defendants – fought tooth and nail during those five years to have the claim dismissed outright, saying the case put forward by the BCLN was “frivolous, improper and an abuse of process.”
This is a guest post by Derek Wong, sustainability consultant and founder of the blog Carbon49.com.
Did you know our government spends money subsidizing fossil fuel energy to keep prices artificially low?
A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study uncovers just how much these subsidies amount to and urges governments to stop these market distortion practices. So just what kind of numbers are we talking here?
Using the IMF’s numbers – the Canadian portion from the full report (pdf) – I calculated the real price we pay for fossil fuel energy and the results are astonishing. With additional data provided to me by the IMF office in Washington, I discovered energy subsidies are higher than I expected. In fact, far higher.
This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, one of Canada's most distinguised sustainable energy economists, and was originally published on his blog, Sustainability Suspicions.
Why is Alberta’s policy a regulation and not a tax?
Alberta’s government officially says it doesn’t have a carbon tax, and I agree. But if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone claim it does, I could buy a lot of anti-oil sands ads, and maybe a politician along the way.
I hear about Alberta’s so-called carbon tax from business people, politicians, journalists, environmentalists, sometimes even economists (who should know better). But the policy in question is, in fact, a “performance regulation,” that sets a maximum “emissions-intensity” for industries, and fines them $15 for each tonne of CO2 emissions in excess of that maximum.
Prior to the release of the Canada Revenue Agency’s 2003 guidelines on charities and political activities, individuals from Canada’s voluntary sector expressed the belief that Canada’s policy should look a lot more like England’s.
The rule that says Canadian charities must limit political activities to 10 percent of their time and resources should be scrapped, they said, and a Canadian charitable commission, similar to that which exists in the UK, should be set-up to regulate the sector.
Charitable organizations in England have historically enjoyed both government support and the legal right to speak out, and the Third Sector (voluntary sector) has a track record of making social change. The past decade, though, has been one of massive change for law and policy on charity in England. In some respects, Canada does seem to be taking some cues from England when it comes to the voluntary sector, but probably not in the way those who asked for it back in 2003 had hoped.
“We’re very happy because this is the kind of thing that just by the Commissioner looking into it and bringing the fact to the public, I think the policies with change. Because these things just don’t withstand scrutiny if they are out in the open and the public knows what’s going on. It’s indefensible to conceal publicly financed government science from the public. It makes no sense from a democratic point of view. Citizens need to know what the facts are so they can decide on critical issues like climate science, the tar sands development and pipelines and all sorts of other issues,” he said.
On February 20th the University of Victoria’s ELC and Democracy Watch released a report detailing several cases of muzzling and requested the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) launch a formal investigation. Just over one month later, on March 27th, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault’s office announced the complaint fell within its mandate.
The OIC announced it will investigate a number of federal departments, including Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources Canada, in regards to the development and implementation of their policies.
Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a wealthy, fossil-fuelled energy superpower and an international climate pariah. For Part 1, click here.
Like every other country in the world, Canada has promised to help keep global warming to less than 2 degrees C. However Canada's political and corporate leadership are committed to turning the country into a fossil-fuelled “energy superpower.” With a drug lord's just-providing-a-service hypocrisy Canada has openly declared it's future is tied to the profits from dumping hundreds of millions of tonnes of climate-heating carbon into the atmosphere every year.
And the world's new energy superpower plans to grow those annual emissions to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020 giving one of the least populated countries a gigantic carbon bootprint.
Most of this climate-wrecking carbon energy will come from Canada's tar sands located just underneath the pristine boreal forest and wetlands of northern Alberta. The oil industry likes to call them “oil sands,” although there is no liquid oil only a tarry bitumen mixed deep in the sandy soil.
The most urgent environmental threat to Canadians isn’t climate change, the declining health of our oceans, or the extinction of species. It’s the pollution filling our nation’s public square.
The public square – the forum for free debate that we depend on in a democracy – is being choked by misinformation, denial and bitter adversarial rhetoric. It is causing the Canadian public to turn away in despair, creating an epidemic of mistrust and what’s worse, disinterest.
Instead of open and healthy debate, dysfunctional public conversations have become the norm, preventing us from confronting the reality of our destructive impact on the planet. We seem unable or unwilling to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively and deliberate collectively.