Overtime – Oh Canada, where art thou going?

Once in the dressing room and after taking off our helmets and fetid, wet gloves, most of us reached for our cellphones. Especially those of us who had friends or relatives in the crowd, hopeful they got away safe. But oddly enough nobody could get service. Just as there was going to be a collective confused murmur of “what the f…” the door opened and our general manager entered the room. He had been escorted down from the press box, not saying a word until the door was closed behind him.

He explained that everyone leaving the arena were prodded into lines and for their own and others safety, all had to submit to a hand-held breathalyser test and each had to give a sample of their DNA. Most did, I suppose just thinking; get me out of here I just want to get home in one piece. Those who did not submit were immediately taken out of line and whisked away.

Just as we all stood and roared in unison “bullshit” the door opened, and two deputy ministers entered our room. We could all see they had an escort behind them of individuals who kept one hand inside their jackets. This stopped us, now a thirsty pack of wolves, in our tracks. The dark glasses they wore, even though they were in a dressing room in the bowels of an arena, were totally uncalled for.

One of the deputy ministers announced that there will be no overtime period and with no one left in the arena, the media will be reporting the game as a victory for the Harper government. Sports shows everywhere will be airing highlight reels of Harper himself scoring the winning goal three minutes into OT “after a beautiful end to end rush, displaying world class skill, Harper unleashed a wrist shot which was simply peerless to anything ever seen in the game.”

The deputies quickly left the room; the door was slammed and we could hear it being locked from the outside. Just before chaos could erupt in our room, a large manila envelope was slipped under the door. Coach picked it up and pulled out what was confidentiality agreement forms, similar I’m sure to the ones many Americans signed on 9/11. They stressed that if any one of us ever came out with the truth our lives would be destroyed, including those close to us, and that we would be paid an incredible sum of money for agreeing and signing, of course, with our blood.

Included was a just released page from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, titled, Standard Lexicon of CSIS Terminology. It explains how the individuals they watch and follow, no matter whether an individual is just expressing thought or speech protected by the Charter of Rights or is someone who is engaging in criminal behaviour or who poses a national security threat, will now be labelled as such; “a terrorist is someone who has or will engage in, assist, commit, or conduct a politically, religiously or ideologically motivated act of violence.” An extremist is someone who “holds an extreme belief or interpretation of an idea, ideology, cause or issue, who may incite others to hold similar views and/or advocates extreme measures, including the use of violence to draw attention to or advance a desired goal.” If labelled a supporter, you are an individual who “supports a particular organization, cause, issue, idea or ideology and who purposefully diverts or redirects attention and/or time, funds or propaganda towards this organization or cause.” And finally one can now be labelled a sympathizer as someone who “may be inclined to favour a particular organization, cause, issue, idea or ideology, but who will not purposefully divert or redirect attention and/or resources.”

We all sat down in our stalls perusing the forms, depressed and angry at the same time, knowing we had probably lost the game before it even started. Even though we seriously felt it was a game we could have and should of, won. A couple of players ripped their forms up and after we were allowed to leave, we never saw them again. The rest of us sadly signed the papers.

The game had taught us the lesson that we shouldn’t be relying on government at the federal level, and until proven otherwise, the provincial level either because their game and agenda has nothing to do with people. We’d stay quiet, go home and become a prized consumer. Cars would be purchased, homes built, lawns tended and cruises taken, though a few of us would use the compensation paid for giving up our souls, to assist and build some wonderful little communities and take care of many people, unconditionally. Resigned to a life of wearing the mask of mediocrity, we left the arena for the last time and rejoined our herds.

And each day afterwards, we slowly lost our ability in facing truths. Especially the truths of the hell on earth which could very well be the end result of the lost battle between the never satisfied human desire and the reality of a finite world.

Many countries now and throughout history, especially the most fascist ones, throw a whole plate piled high with their agendas at the populace in one fell swoop. But the platters shatter and cause far too much friction, which usually leads to revolution and war. Today scraps from the plate are systematically thrown at us piecemeal instead, with the actual plate kept intact and protected, though the silly buggers don’t realize it’s dissolving in their greedy hands.

And the scraps keep a-coming. It’s surprising we don’t choke on them.

May 2012  Access to Information Act changes include all ministry’s being transparent in their dealings by allowing freedom to access of information within 30 days, after which it stays secret. Worst offenders of holding out and keeping their dealings hush-hush include Transport Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Correctional Service of Canada and the Canada revenue Agency.

By June 2012, Parliament’s budget watchdog Kevin Page, says that only 18 of 82 federal organizations have complied with his request for more details about the fiscal impact of the $5.2 billion being cut from the federal budget, through Bill -38. Without these details about how the government plans to make ends meet, the parliamentary budget officer said he is not able to do his job and inform MP’s about exactly how Ottawa is spending taxpayers money, so our MP’s can supposedly tell us. Thus Harper’s office is in violation of the legal obligations under the Parliament of Canada Act, which requires the federal government to release financial and economic data in a timely matter. Page’s staff have gone through every line of those reports that have been issued and have not been able to piece together a complete accounting of the government plan, or even if there is such a plan at all.

June 2012. The National Round table on the Economy and Environment, formed in 1988, interestingly enough by the Conservatives of that time, to produce research on how business and government policies can work together for sustainable development, has its funding cut. Budget per year was only $5 million. Their mandate was “A modern economy and a sustainable environment are not mutually exclusive. They are mutually reinforcing. Indeed, one requires the other”.  They have now been imagined to be a threat to the corporate federal government’s agenda, with funding being pulled, I’m sure, for “ideological and policy reasons.”

Funding was also pulled for the group, Rights and Democracy, as well as for research and advocacy work funded by Status of Women Canada.

Since Canada is following the lead of other countries in a cycle that has been going round and round for thousands of years, the transfer of our resources to the wealthy few will continue. Such governments protect and enhance those few by directing public resources to their needs. Though there is incredible thought, energy and money, poured into the financial and consumerism worlds, not much attention goes to productive or infrastructure investment. Which brings debt, because remember, people are no longer a resource, only their money is. Government and household debt levels continue to rise, money is only saved when another cut to something that affects our daily lives is made and added to the now long list of unmet social needs. The road becomes paved to becoming another third-world country. Corporations meanwhile think nothing of debt. Most are currently sitting on humongous obscene amounts of cash reserves and even if they screw up, we bail them out. So Canada, like nearly everyone else, has deemed that economic benefits will now always outweigh environmental risk. Thus, we here in British Columbia, have Enbridge Inc., TransCanada and Kinder Morgan, Asia’s insatiable need for oil, and the grotesque profits it brings.

Enbridge’s “Northern Gateway Project”, a pair of pipelines projected to run 1,177 km (731 miles) from Northern Alberta to Kitimat BC. The pipelines will run through the Mackenzie, Fraser and Skeena watersheds and cross over 800 streams, nearly 700 of which are fish bearing waterways. One 36” pipe will pump 525,000 barrels a day of bitumen Alberta crude west and one 20” pipeline will pump 193,000 barrels a day of imported natural gas condensate in the opposite direction. This condensate is a toxic mix of liquid hydrocarbons that forms in the extraction of natural gas and is used as a thinning agent to dilute and transport such things as heavy oils.

The projected cost to build is $5.5 billion, while the payoff to Canadians will be $2.6 billion in local, provincial and federal tax revenues spread out over 30 years of the pipelines expected lifespan, about $86 million per year. The pipelines themselves might not last as long though, as they will deteriorate at a faster rate due to the acidic sulphuric abrasive and viscous nature of the bitumen running through it. There will be 3000 temporary jobs during construction and 104 permanent jobs when completed, split between BC and Alberta.

Spending over five and a half billion dollars on a new pipeline is chickens feed to Enbridge considering that on July 3rd 2012, the American, Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the largest fine they have ever produced, to Enbridge Inc for $3.7-million, “for failing to adhere to regulations for maintaining pipeline integrity” and for the fact the company attempted to restart the pipeline even though multiple leak alarms were going off. In reality, Enbridge’s pipelines to-date, leak more than once a week on average and according to industry figures, at least 3.4 million litres of hydrocarbons have leaked from pipelines in Alberta every year since 2005. But Enbridge has done well financially despite its inability to keep oil out of our environment as they most recently had a 31% rise in revenues in the first quarter of 2012. But of course they want more. Besides the Northern Gateway pipeline through BC and Alberta they are also trying to expand their tar sands pipeline system to the east coast as well, sending the corrosive sludge through New England, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where a major spill would devastate the area’s drinking water and wildlife habitat.

The seventh-largest corporation on earth, run by the Chinese government and known as the most “over the top” greedy and corrupt organization in the world, the Sinopec corporation, is putting up half ($50 million) of the upfront cash to get Enbridge underway, the other half is coming mostly from the Chinese corporations Sinochem and the China National Petroleum Corp. Sinopec is the same corporation which paid $2 billion last year, to buy the Alberta oil and gas firm Daylight Energy and back in Sept 2008, as the bubble burst in most democratic countries, they purchased Vancouver/Calgary based Tanganyika Oil  for another $2 billion. This deal gave them control of many oilfields in Syria, Iran and Canada. And despite what mainstream Western media reports about Iran, the entire world has diplomatic relations with them, even Canada, and though all are not buddy-buddy or friendly relationships, they are not perceived as a threat as they were under the previous regime either. In fact only two countries in the world believe they are a threat, at least to them, and do not have diplomatic relations with Iran, the United States and Israel. Go figure.

Back to Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, the pumping stations that will be built along these lines to pump and push the oil along will need a lot of power. This is where the Site C dam, mentioned during the second period comes into play. As for the review of their bid, which is currently taking place, and will no doubt run into next year, and considering the pipeline will run through BC, the provincial government is only registered as a intervener in the federal hearing process and passed the January deadline for submitting any evidence about the project without handing anything in. For some reason holding back a plethora of technical background information that could assist in making any recommendations. Incredibly they have decided to sit in the stands and will be playing no part in the production or analysis of evidence or contribute in any way to any discussion of Enbridge’s proposal. Alberta has though, as they are a full participant and filed a lengthy brief about the benefits of the pipeline. Where it could get interesting, and where British Columbia could make a difference, lies when and if Enbridge gets the green light at the federal level, they would then have to deal with BC, because there are mountains of provincial licences, permits, leases and approvals needed for any work to be even started. But that might be a pipe-dream as well.

Meanwhile TransCanada Corp.’s proposed natural gas pipelines running to Kitimat received good news, with one of the world’s largest shale gas discoveries in June 2012, in a remote corner of northeastern BC. Perhaps as much as 48 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas is available, which could supply US needs for almost two years. Only one of three test drills was fracked (multiple- hydraulic fracturing process). This one well was fracked six times and in its first month produced enough gas per day to make it the most prolific shale-gas test well ever drilled.

Kinder Morgan meanwhile, who already has a pipeline which runs from Edmonton, Alta to Burnaby, BC, is planning to twin the line. The costs to build estimated at $5 billion and once again, most of the job creation will end after construction phase. They will be able to increase their flow of oil from 300,000 to 850,000 barrels a day.

While a poll by Strategic Communications put 79% of British Columbians supporting a ban on oil tankers, there will very soon be the day when over 1.3 million barrels of oil and over a billion cubic ft of natural gas is being pumped to BC’s coast. From there tankers of liquefied natural gas and oil will navigate 185 km of inner coastal waters, from Kitimat down through Douglas Channel, which has many navigational and clearance challenges, crossing Wright Sound, then passing between Gil and Princess Royal Islands, the first being the island the BC Ferries, Queen of the North, bounced off and sank in 2006, the latter island being the Great Bear Rain Forest National Park, through Whale Channel before entering Queen Charlotte Sound and bee lining for China. In sections of this inside passage route the width of the channel is less than 1000 metres or .6 of a mile wide, with most of the route having absolutely no room for error whatsoever. As for the oil, it will be bitumen, which if spilled in water sinks, making it difficult to clean up. Oddly enough, at least the few regulations that are left, Canada’s pipeline regulations do not specifically address shipping bitumen.

As for the Kinder Morgan line, a tanker every single day will be entering Vancouver harbour, amidst a metropolitan population of over 2 million people.

So the way it works is, we first send huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and our environment in extracting the oil and gas, it will then shipped in vessels that also spew their fair share of gases into the air as they race across the Pacific Ocean. After it is unloaded it will then be used, with a large part of it ending up in our atmosphere, in our water, within the land and infused into our very bodies.

June 29th, 2012. Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas, offers $5.5 billion to buy out Progress Energy Resource Corp., their Canadian partner in northeastern BC gas fields. Offer worked out to be 77% above the price of Progress Energy stock, with stipulations that included keeping all of company’s Canadian employees. The companies plan on building a liquid natural gas terminal in Prince Rupert, BC for shipment abroad. The same week of this announcement, Spectra Energy Transmission Corp., has a natural gas leak and flash fire at one of their pipeline compressor stations in northern BC, injuring two workers. A few days later another section of their pipeline bursts and though Canada’s Transportation Safety board is investigating it is not known how much sour gas may have been leaked.

Canada’s biggest natural gas producer, Encana, plans on increasing the pace at which it develops liquids-rich natural gas and oil with a $600 million increase in spending this year, increasing its 2012 capital program from $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion and in 2013 it plans to spend $4.5 billion. The company closes about $2 billion in transactions per year and is expecting to drill approximately 350 oil and liquids rich wells in 2013, taking production to 60,000 to 70,000 barrels per day.

In 2010 the BC provincial government produced the Clean Energy Act. It outlined 16 objectives, including a plan to “to generate at least 93 per cent of the electricity in British Columbia from clean or renewable resources and to build the infrastructure necessary to transmit that electricity.” It defined clean or renewable resources as being biomass, geothermal heat, hydro, solar, ocean, wind or any other prescribed resource. Natural gas was not included as a clean energy source.

But recently, in June 2012, the BC government added natural gas to the list of clean or renewable resources. The B.C. Chamber of Commerce says the move will be a boost to the energy industry and means BC Hydro, public producers and even the liquefied natural gas plants themselves could generate power to fuel LNG operations. “It’s clearly going to increase global warming pollution in British Columbia, which will take us further away from our laws that really did show lot of leadership when it comes to the issue of climate change,” said Ian Bruce, the David Suzuki Foundation’s clean energy and climate change specialist. While Professor Marc Jaccard of Simon Fraser University agrees, simply calling a fossil fuel “clean” doesn’t make it so.

Reality is, as a nation, we are moving away from the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And though we are selling much of our resources to China, they are also building more than 400 nuclear reactors as we speak, as well as shifting to solar and other renewable energies faster than we are. Presently each person in China generates an average of four tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. In comparison, each Canadian generates twenty tonnes per year, one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation on the planet.

June 2012. Before the global Rio+20 Earth Summit even begins, Canada desperately tries to prevent the conference from adopting commitments of cutting down greenhouse gases caused by fossil fuels because the commitments have accountability’s attached, as in if a country does not meet its commitments it has to pay subsides. In Canada’s case, if all existing subsidies were taken out of the agreement, it would save over $1.3 billion per year that it currently pays and allow an even more quickening pace to emitting greenhouse gases. Many countries found Canada’s actions “embarrassing.”

June 2012. The “Experimental Lakes Area” research facility in Ontario, run by the Department of Oceans and Fisheries, to be closed by Mar. 2013. Brought about in 1968, the facility is internationally known for research into everything from acid rain to climate change to fish-farming, essentially all the ways that human activity can affect fresh water systems. It is here where scientists, led by Dr. David Schindler, discovered that phosphates in detergents and household products were causing lakes to turn green with algae. It led to international changes in ingredients for those products. “It’s obvious in the changes to the Fisheries Act and the CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act) they are hell-bent on doing whatever they can that, in their feeble minds, will save them some money. But they are not consulting anybody as to how they do it.” Prof. John Smol, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change at Queen’s University and has used the facility for his work into the early history of lakes, called the decision “short-sighted” and said it is unrealistic to assume universities will take over the work. “They’re being cut too,” he said, adding, “If you stop doing research to identify the problems, then you don’t have to deal with them.” Though the facility has been threatened to be shut down many times over the last 40 years, by both Liberal and Conservative parties, Schindler is not so hopeful this time. Given the Harper government’s record so far, “They’re obviously closing the site because they don’t want to be pestered by science”, he lamented. Also shutdown is the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory and the First Nations Statistical Institute.

Disturbing fact; Thirty-six sectors of the Canadian economy is majority foreign owned, including the chemical industry, rubber industry, computer industry and the petroleum industry. Zero sectors in US are majority foreign owned.

Proving the point ever more that while governments continue to cut costs by becoming smaller, it will be more up to us and our communities to provide many of our social needs and run things, which on many levels will be a good thing, though the transition to that end will be a bumpy road indeed; after the roof of a mall collapsed in Eliot Lake, Ont., in June 2012, the federal government announces they have no intention to reverse its decision to cut funding to the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP), which includes funding to heavy urban search and rescue units. Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Public Safety, says it’s now up to the provinces to take over that responsibility. “We funded them (the provinces) up until this point. It’s time for them to step up and continue with the funding and the training. It is their responsibility.”

The Harper government, with blinders firmly in place, continues its cuts to employees and services, desperately seeking their goal of cutting over 19,000 positions over the next 3 years to save $5.2 billion. Since March 2012, 13,000 employees, in forty one different government departments and agencies have been issued notices of termination.

End of June 2012, another round of cuts, with the majority being in Human Resources and Development Canada, Service Canada, which is responsible for programs such as unemployment insurance, passports and helping Canadians find jobs, and the Canada Revenue Agency. The administration of Service Canada’s grants and contributions program dropped from 97 communities across Canada to 30, while the Integrity Services will operate in only 65 communities, instead of 122.

There were further cuts to nearly 400 members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, most all highly professional and qualified people, and to Parks Canada. Fisheries department offices with habitat management staff in particular will be reduced to 14 from 63 positions across Canada, with most small offices closing.

Overall the biggest cuts have been to and will continue to be, Human resources and development and most social programs. The biggest cuts thus far besides those mentioned just above, have been to the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Correction Services, Department of Defense, Health, Skills development and the Department of Justice.

But of course the cuts actually run deeper for they come with a price. June 2012. Canadians not working for the federal government will maybe see some sort of severance pay if they get laid off. If you keep working or quit, you’ll probably never see it, but working for the fed is another ball game entirely. In 2011 the federal government paid out $1.2 billion in voluntary severance to servants who remain on the job, retired or quit on their own. They can also receive some of it now and the remainder when leaving service. Many also receive additional cash, besides regular severance benefits, which is paid on termination of employment regardless of circumstances. This year and next the government will need over $2 billion to cover such severance expenses, which by that time severance packages will be fading from existence. Besides all this, federal public servants are also entitled to what is well known as being very generous pension and benefit packages, similar to a point, to what federal public servants were getting in Greece, before the bottom dropped out of their world. At the same time the majority have squat when they retire, many times through no fault of their own, but of life and the hands it deals.

Abuse of sick-leave privileges by federal employees alone cost Canadians more than $1 billion a year. Federal employees average 18 sick days a year, two and a half times the rate of the private sector and twice as much as the rest of the public sector. The majority of the reasons being mental issues, which sounds like working for Harper’s team is either too toxic and/or expectations and policy are sometimes hard to swallow. While in the private sector most people who get sick can’t afford to take time off.

Unfortunately we Canadians seem to have lost our way, and in doing so lost our control as well. Canada has become another victim of the reality of a free market and globalization in that it goes both ways. For it also extends the exploited third world model to industrialized countries such as us, where transnational corporations and banks create a planet of two-tiered societies; extreme wealth and privilege on one hand and repressed masses who don’t realize they are repressed on the other. We are giving away freedom and justice for peace and security because quite frankly, we are far too often worn down, both mentally and physically. With most simply trying to stay within their created realms of routine, wearing masks of mediocrity and capes of gloom, that many times make us feel useless. We have become addicted to distraction through prescription drugs and/or alcohol, coke, smack and crack, to aid in staving off the depression of trying to cope with such a quickened pace of our societies. We are becoming a self medicated society. Perhaps I’m repeating myself once again but disconnects are going off all over the place.

Economic calculations have no regard to the planet we all share, while cupidity and avarice continue to spur on economic development. We just can’t get enough or be ever satisfied. We are following the rules that we and the corporate world are making up as we go but which are not rules that govern the existence of the planet. Our arrogance, ego and greed blinds us to reality which is, if the planet goes, we go and that we humans did not discover the earth nor does it belong to us. No one gave us the earth and said go forth and take care of it. We are here because of billions of years of animals struggling so that their children grow up and reproduce. As a species we have arisen out of the earth, just one of many creatures who are a product and benefit of a vast flow of evolution since creation.

Canada is now 145 years old and much like every other country in the world is an ongoing experiment in politics, sociology and economics. We’ve made mistakes before and are now making mistakes again that our children and grandchildren will have to deal with after we are gone. But all could be corrected if we realize the most important aspects of being a human must be returned to us, such things as guidance; a source of direction in life, where references, standards and principles govern moment by moment decision making and doing. Instead of being dependent on social, unstable norms we must start to abide by our much stronger inner direction. We need more true wisdom; a perspective on life, a sense of balance and understanding that embraces judgment, discernment and comprehension. The difference between a distorted, nothing seems to fit world view and a world view where all parts and principles are properly related to each other. And finally we must regain the real definitions of power, which is the faculty and capacity to act. The strength and potency to accomplish something in our lives, to overcome deeply embedded habits and have the energy to make choices and decisions on factors related to our lives and the planet’s life.

A source of direction, wisdom and power are all interdependent and when they are all present together they create a noble personality, a balanced character, which being a Canadian used to be all about. For there are two extremes to power, one is immobilization and a puppet or sheep mentality, where we are pulled and pushed by someone else. The other extreme is acting according to one’s own principles and values, instead of being acted upon by others.

As humans we supposedly possess self awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will, traits which other animals do not possess as they are programmed by instinct and/or training. And as humans we are responsible for our own lives, with our behaviour a function of our decisions and not our conditions. This is what we must get back.

The road the Harper government is leading us along and the game they are playing is condemned to failure because all though history there has been but one cure for error against making and repeating foolish and far-reaching mistakes and against self-deception, and that is criticism. Both, Harper’s government and all Canadians must realize that improvement comes only when we open ourselves to learn from our mistakes, no matter how much it pains us to do so, when others tell us we were wrong. Criticism is what many of us, especially incompetent leaders, most hate to hear, even though a premise is only strengthened and confirmed when it can withstand opposition.

History has taught us that the most profound and tragic times for our civilizations has been when openness and free speech are suppressed. When those in power go on and make devastating errors in judgement it is usually because there is no comment or consent from those people below them, no accountability. But then what no other culture has ever been able to successfully master is making accountability apply to those in power. It is a reality and a paradox that every time one interest group tries to hold another accountable, a conflict arises between privacy and accountability, people demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.

Only by insisting on accountability can we remind public servants that they are servants. Accountability is also how we are supposed to maintain some sort of confidence that business is not cheating us or that industry is not poisoning the environment. Questioning authority ensures freedom far more effectively than any other social systems that are based on reverence or trust.

As Canadians this is where we need to return to. Holding our government and most importantly ourselves accountable for what we do. Instead of asking, oh Canada, where art thou going? We should already have an idea where that is, because it should be a place where we as a people decide where we must go, a place where we don’t have to feel guilt and shame when we look into our children’s and grandchildren’s eyes because of what type of environment, country and planet we will be leaving to them.

 

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.”

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

 

 

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