Harper Government

Tue, 2014-07-29 10:26Guest
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"The West Wants Out" of Ottawa's Energy Superpower Plan

chief ian campbell of the squamish first nation

This is a guest post by Will Horter, executive director of the Dogwood Initiative. It was originally published in the Toronto Star.

Earthquakes happen rarely in Canadian politics, but the fault lines are shifting again on the West Coast. As the next federal election draws closer, conditions below the surface should remind political observers of another seismic event a generation ago.

Back in the early 1990s, Stephen Harper and the insurgent Reform Party forced a tectonic shift, unleashing a powerful wave of western alienation that has realigned Canadian politics to this day. Their slogan was: “The West wants in.”

You could sum up the feeling in British Columbia lately as, “The West wants out.” Today you could get in your car in Kenora and drive clear across the Prairies to the coast without ever leaving a blue Conservative riding. But the road through the Rocky Mountains could become tricky indeed if Harper’s party doesn’t change course.

Wed, 2014-07-23 07:00Carol Linnitt
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Pen Canada, Freedom of Expression Charity Supported by Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel, to Undergo Political Activity Audit

margaret atwood, pen canada, charity audit

Pen Canada, a Canadian charity that fights for freedom of expression and represents more than 1,000 writers and supports is the latest group identified for a political-activities audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The group has been a vocal opponent of some of the Harper government’s recent policies, including the muzzling of federal scientists and the alleged surveillance of Canadian citizens as revealed through the Edward Snowden leaks.

Follow revelations of mass state surveillance, Pen Canada advocated for an adoption of “International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.”

The organization also spoke out against restrictive communications protocols, implemented by the Harper government, that prevent federal scientists from speaking with the media about their research. “The federal government’s restriction on media access to publicly funded scientists have become a serious infringement on the right to freedom of expression in Canada,” the group wrote on its website.

Federal auditors appeared at Pen Canada’s offices yesterday, asking to review internal documents, the Globe and Mail reports.

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:37Carol Linnitt
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Canadians Don’t Share Federal Government Priorities on Energy and Economy, Opinion Research Shows

public opinion research, northern gateway pipeline

The average Canadian doesn’t place the economy above other concerns like education, health care and environment according to a a public-opinion survey analysis performed by the Privy Council Office (PCO), a group of the Prime Minister’s top advisors, in January.

As the Canadian Press reports, the research suggests major federal government policies don’t line up with Canadian priorities.

The analysis followed public opinion research of 3,000 survey respondents and 12 focus groups, conducted by NRG Research Group, on behalf of the Finance Department. The PCO is not obligated to routinely make its research public.

The research showed Canadians have “little enthusiasm” for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, “even among supporters,” the January 25 PCO report on the findings states. Since then the pipeline was federally approved.

Mon, 2014-07-21 11:26Carol Linnitt
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Charities Bullied Into Muting Their Messages: Researcher

gareth kirkby, canadian charities, audits

Canada’s charitable sector — the second largest charitable sector in the world, after the Netherlands — has come under threat from federal policies that hinder advocacy groups from doing their work, according to new research.

As DeSmog Canada and other outlets have reported, numerous charities — ranging from development organizations to women’s rights groups — have lost their funding from the federal government during the last several years.

Most recently, in June of 2012, the federal government announced $8 million would be devoted to investigating and auditing charities to ensure their activities comply with Canada Revenue Agency rules. (DeSmog Canada recently revealed through Access to Information legislation that, in fact, more than $13 million has been dedicated to these audits).

Several individuals and organizations have criticized the audits as politically-motivated.

So far, we haven’t heard much from the charities themselves under audit, because, with resources already stretched thin and sometimes multiple federal auditors scrutinizing their work, speaking out has been seen as too much of a risk.

But what charities haven’t been able to say for themselves is now outlined in a new analysis by former journalist and graduate student Gareth Kirkby. His research on the ‘chill effect’ that resulted from the ongoing audits was brought together in his thesis (attached below), recently submitted to faculty in the public communications department at Royal Roads University.

Fri, 2014-07-04 12:15Carol Linnitt
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New Poll: Canadians Overestimate Oilsands Contribution to Economy, Yet Still Want Clean Shift

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

A new poll released Friday shows the majority of Canadians assume development in the Alberta oilsands has a much larger impact on nation’s economy than it actually does.

According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country’s economy.

The oilsands, according to Statistics Canada, account for only 2 per cent of the national GDP.

Despite the misconception, however, 66 per cent of Canadians still support a transition to a cleaner economy that would limit dependence on the oilsands.

In addition, 76 per cent of Canadians believe that, in light of climate change, the country should shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Sat, 2014-06-21 13:14Carol Linnitt
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Katie Gibbs: Canada's War on Science is Raising a New Generation of Science Advocates

Katie Gibbs. DeSmog Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion around Canada’s “War on Science” over the last two years, prompted by a major gathering of scientists in Ottawa during the summer of 2012 who announced the “Death of Evidence” in the country. The scientists marched in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. The rally’s lead organizer, scientist Katie Gibbs, says the Death of Evidence protest made way for a whole new breed of young Canadian scientists who are eager to stand up and defend their laboratories. It’s about more than just science, says Gibbs, it’s really all about democracy.

Katie Gibbs was known around the lab as the graduate student who cared deeply about the implications of her science. “While I was doing my PhD, I was kind of the rabble-rouser on the floor. You know, I always had volunteers coming to the lab to pick up posters, or storing protest signs under my desk, that sort of thing,” she told DeSmog Canada.

Most of the professors she worked with didn’t participate in any kind of advocacy, she said. “My supervisor, in particular, he wouldn’t even write a letter to the editor.”

In the summer of 2012, however, it wasn’t Gibbs pushing for the Death of Evidence rally, the event that forced Canada’s science crisis into the public eye. Instead a group of professors at the University of Ottawa began organizing a public event and turned to Gibbs when they realized they needed someone brave to be the face of the march.

What was interesting was that it was a group of professors that started thinking around the rally. My supervisor poked his head into my office one day and said a bunch of professors were meeting to talk about doing something in response to the Omnibus Budget Bill. He said, ‘does anybody want to come,’ and I was like ‘hells yeah!’” Gibbs said, adding she became lead organizer after that meeting.

Fri, 2014-06-06 09:38Mike De Souza
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Top 10 Quotes from Canada's Muzzled Scientists

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This article is part of DeSmog Canada's ongoing series “Science on the Chopping Block.”

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a strong case for parents to accept scientific evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines.

We do have scientists and medical professionals who do great work and verify this and I just think its a tragedy when people start to go off on their own theories and not listen to the scientific evidence,” he told the CBC in an exclusive interview.

Don’t indulge your theories, think of your children and listen to the experts.”

Within his own government, scientists and professionals who do research and gather evidence, are urging the prime minister to take a second look at his own theories.

Tue, 2014-06-03 14:39Carol Linnitt
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Obama’s New Climate Plan Leaves Canada in the Dust

In the ongoing battle to win approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canada has repeatedly justified its climate inaction by pointing to the fact that it shares similar emission reductions targets to the U.S. In August of last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper even wrote a letter to President Barack Obama inviting “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector” if such efforts would help green-light the Keystone XL.

But this week’s announcement that Obama will use his executive authority to introduce a nationwide emissions reduction plan that targets more than 1,000 of the country’s most highly polluting power plants might leave Canada squarely in the dust.

Obama’s new plan — already being called the “most ambitious anti-global warming initiative of any U.S. president” — will introduce new standards by 2015 to decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of power plants (responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution) by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by 2030.

Wed, 2014-05-21 09:53Raphael Lopoukhine
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Government Cuts Leaving Forests Unwatched, Say Former Federal Scientists

federal cuts to science, forestry, desmog canada

This is Part 1 of the series “Science on the Chopping Block,” an in-depth look at federal cuts to science programs in Canada and what they mean for some of the country's most important researchers.

As cuts to science budgets and programs continue by the federal government, former scientists and academics who’ve lost their funding say the cuts have upended their careers, compromised knowledge about Canada’s environment and undercut development of the next generation of scientists.

Since the cuts began about five years ago, the federal government has either reduced funding or shut down more than 150 science-related programs and research centres and dismissed more than 2,000 scientists.

With the recently announced cuts to Environment Canada, by 2017 the department will be operating with close to 30 per cent fewer dollars than it had in 2012.  

As the impacts of the cuts grow, DeSmog Canada has reached out to former government and university scientists to hear their stories.

Fri, 2014-05-09 14:10Madeline McParland
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New Federal Regulations Allow Fisheries and Environment Ministers to Authorize Pollution in Fish-Bearing Waters

pollution fish-bearing waters, harper government, west coast environmental law

Fish-bearing waters are less protected from pollution after regulations passed by the federal government give Fisheries and Environmental Ministers the ability to grant blanket-authorizations to pollute if the polluting activity is related to fish-farming, research, or falls under other federal or provincial regulations or guidelines, which are not legally binding.

Deregulating pollution in fish-bearing waters is short-sighted and irresponsible. They represent yet another attempt by the federal government to abdicate its responsibility to Canadians to protect fish and fish habitat,” Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel at the West Coast Environmental Law Association said.

Dumping pollutants, such as drugs, aquatic pesticides and biochemical oxygen-demanding matter, into fish-bearing waters is prohibited in Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, except with a permit. The new regulations bypass permits and exempt pollution in a wide-range of circumstances, including aquaculture.

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