07/24/12

The Garage Sale of Canada

I’m minding my own business, inquisitively searching the web for information pertaining to community instead of the sheer madness and reeking greed happening at the top. Have been thinking about my daily life and not the “big picture”, more about the community in which I reside and those who make up my circle of friends and loved ones. Writing the last few articles made me turn my head a bit and I saw what appeared to be a trail running alongside the road my writing takes me.

After ducking under a couple of low slung limbs of Fir and squeezing past some bushes, I took its path and for a week, met and encountered people and places, wrote and loved a lot of moments, each one fully engaged. It is a path I’ll stay on for awhile for it’s got a good vibe to it. It’s all about community; because this is where changes can be made of things that affect us the most. The following path will be less taken for awhile.

But suddenly, because no matter how hard you need to get out, something sucks you back in. I ran across an article about another foreign corporation buying off another piece of Canada and thought wow, is there going to be anything left? And how much have we already sold off? As it is, 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. The following is but a smattering of what I found.

July 2012. A Chinese government controlled corporation, The China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC Ltd.), purchases the Calgary-based oil and gas firm Nexen Inc. (Canada’s 12th largest energy company) for $15.1 billion US cash. If the deal goes through it will be the largest foreign transaction that the Chinese government has ever made. The Canadian government and Nexen’s shareholders will have to approve the deal, by deciding whether the deal will be a “net benefit” to Canada. Interestingly enough, Nexen’s CEO, Marvin Romanow and executive vice-president Gary Nieuwenburg, stepped down from their positions in January.

Last year, CNOOC Ltd. bought the oil sands development company, OPTI Canada, which was under credit protection, for $2.1 billion. OPTI owned the other third of the Long Lake oil sands project that Nexen didn’t.

Since 2005, CNOOC has invested over $2.8 billion in various Canadian projects, including stakes in MEG Energy Inc. and a 60 per cent interest in Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd. and have a firm foothold in the oil sands, also owning interests in Syncrude, Athabasca Oil Sands and Penn West Energy corporations.

July 2012. Calgary-based Talisman Energy sells a 49 per cent interest in its UK division to the Chinese state-controlled Sinopec Corp. for $1.5 billion. 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. They are also one of the biggest investors in the Enbridge pipeline.

July 2012. Swiss-based Glencore International PLC pays $6.1 billion to take over Viterra Inc., a Regina-based agribusiness. Deal to be completed after a review by regulators in China, Australia and New Zealand, where Viterra has operations.

June 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.

The natural gas facilities in Kitimat, to be completed by 2017, are owned by Dutch Shell, Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina Co. Ltd.

February 2011. PetroChina, the state-owned international oil and gas, corporation, buys 50% partnership with Encana Corporation, in deep shale gas development in northeastern BC and northwest Alberta.

In the last two years over 77 Canadian technology firms have been sold to foreign companies, mostly American. Because, as entrepreneur John Philip Green says, although there are “a lot of great stories to be told, a lot of people working really hard, really smart people doing world beater stuff, the biggest obstacle to being the next RIM (Research In Motion) is just that people sell out so quickly.”

San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, a leader in business software, purchased the Canadian companies Goinstant, the Toronto software company, Rypple and Fredericton-based Radian6, which specializes in digital marketing. Larger U.S. companies acquired Vancouver’s Singular Software, Ottawa’s Headwall Software and Halifax’s GoInstant. Toronto’s Scriptlance was bought out by the largest company in its field, the outsourcing and crowd-sourcing marketplace, Freelancer.com, which is based in Australia.

Brazilian mining giant Vale acquires Toronto-based Inco, the world’s second-largest nickel producer company, for $19.4 billion in 2007.

U.K.’s Rio Tinto takes over mining and aluminum company Alcan in a $38-billion US deal in 2007

Swiss company Xstrata acquires Toronto-based copper and nickel mining company Falconbridge in a 2006 deal that values the company at approximately $24.1 billion.

US Steel Corp. takes over Canadian steel-maker Stelco in 2007. The federal government sued US Steel after it said the company failed to live up to promise it made to maintain investment in Canada. A settlement was reached in December 2011 under which US Steel will maintain Canadian operations until at least 2015 and make a further investment of $40.7 million.

Graphics chipmaker, ATI Technologies based in Markham, Ont., is acquired by the US company, Advanced Micro Devices, in October 2006 in a deal valued at $5.6 billion US.

The Caterpillar Inc. takeover of locomotive builder Electro-Motive in London, Ont., in 2010 is questioned when Caterpillar closes the plant permanently in February 2012, after failing to obtain demands workers accept pay cuts as deep as 50 per cent.

Besides being the biggest purchaser at Canada’s garage sale, China is also our second biggest trading partner, behind the US. In 2011 Canada exported $16.3 billion worth of merchandise to China and imported more than $48 billion. We export commodities and natural resources, such as raw logs, and paper products, with 25% of what we export being the minerals nickel, copper and potash. And of course we will soon be exporting fantastic amounts of oil and natural gas.

We import from China more than three times what we export because of our thirst for appliances, electrical equipment, toys, clothing, rubber and plastics. Selling our natural resources for manufactured goods in return makes the trade relationship between China and Canada highly unusual says Gordon Betcherman, a professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a weird trade pattern. It’s exactly the pattern you would expect to see between a rich, developed country and a much poorer developing country – except it’s exactly flipped.”

 

 

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/06/19/f-canada-china-trade.html

 

06/22/12

2nd Period of Oh Canada, where art thou going?

We have just been advised we can head out onto the ice for the 2nd period. As we all stood, one of the defensemen did a Mel Gibson in Braveheart and screamed at the top of his lungs, “FREEDOM!” We all chuckled and headed on out, all pumped up.

As we got to the bench the crowd was quiet. A few kids and our parents and wives clapped and cheered but most of the crowd was engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother which was being shown on the JumboTron, while at the same time wolfing back $8 drinks, $15 hot dogs and proudly wearing their new $200 Canadian jerseys, with somebody else’s name on the back.

Once on the ice, it felt odd. The ice I mean. It seemed to be slanted ever so slightly down towards our end. One of the trainers, who had spent the game so far, squeezing a tennis ball to death, nonchalantly went over to the boards and dropped the ball onto the ice. Sure enough the ball rolled, quite quickly I might add, down to our end.

I skated over to Harper’s bench and was surprised to see him sitting on his own chair, separate from the bench; it looked like a throne of some kind, weird. Anyways I yelled at him “Fine. You want to play that way?” He didn’t answer but Canada’s Defense minister gave me the finger. So play we did.

The first few minutes went quite well considering there was excessive obstruction and interference. Not by Harper’s team, because he spent a lot of time standing in front of his bench, berating his team for one thing or another, but by the officials, who now numbered six and had sticks in their hands, so they kind of played us since Harper was busy. We actually scored a couple of goals to make it 12-4. Well on our way up the comeback trail. We cheered and patted each other on the ass.

Feb 2010. In preparation for submission of a pipeline proposal, Federal Fisheries officials and Enbridge Inc., meet to discuss any issues pertaining to the responsibilities of protecting fish habitat. The pipeline proposal will be crossing over 900 waterways. Meetings do not go well. Enbridge had no care for avoidance of sensitive areas and wanted most all streams designated Low Risk, while federal fisheries were deeming many to be medium or high risk. Enbridge had no hesitation crossing spawning channels or for wildlife species listed under the Federal government’s Species at Risk Act or under the BC government’s endangered species list. The exchange ended later in 2010 when Enbridge filed its application to the joint National Energy Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, who are now considering the project.

June 2010. Just as Enbridge prepares to file its pipeline application, the BC government begins to seek regulatory approval for the Site C dam on the Peace River. Site C will be the third dam on the river, with one of the others being the W.A.C Bennett dam. Costing an estimated $8 billion dollars, the lake formed by Site C would be 100 kilometres long and cover over 9000 hectares, including over 5000 acres of one of the richest, fertile agricultural areas in BC. Much of the power generated by Site C is slated to be sold for a cut rate, to Enbridge Inc., so that their pump stations would be able to keep pushing that oil along and to the LNG producers and their liquefied natural gas plants, for the process of liquefied natural gas compression.

The TransCanada Corporation out of Calgary, will be building, owning and operating the natural gas pipeline that will run 700 Km (435 miles) from north-eastern BC to the same port as Enbridge is planning , Kitimat BC. Cost is expected to be $4 billion and create 2000- 2500 jobs for the initial construction stage, not many afterwards. The natural gas facilities in Kitimat, to be completed by 2017, are owned by Dutch Shell, Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina Co. Ltd. The pipeline will carry 1.7 billion cubic ft of natural gas per day. One of the ways the natural gas will be extracted will be by fracking.

Ten years ago, Hydraulic fracturing was introduced, which uses huge amounts of water mixed with sand and dozens of chemicals like benzene, which is all injected under extreme pressure to shatter the underground rock reservoir and release gas trapped in the rock pores. One of the offshoots of fracking is tremors and earthquakes. Fracking operations in northeastern BC are currently removing as much as 135 billion litres (35 billion gallons) of freshwater per year, with daily withdrawal an estimated 227 million litres (60+ million gallons), from 540 creeks, rivers and lakes, and then afterwards the left over toxic sludge mixture contaminates groundwater and natural aquifers.

Because we are running out of traditional supplies elsewhere, we now have to get oil and gas from harder to get places, thus oil sands and fracking. Fracking in Arkansas is attributed to causing more than 600 earthquakes in 2010, nearly equaling all of Arkansas’ quakes for the past 100 years. In October 2010 alone they had over one hundred quakes. Quakes happen because fracking changes the fluid pressure beneath the plates that make up the earth’s fault lines. The areas of BC and Alberta, where much fracking occurs, happens to be in the major geological structure referred to as the Peace River Arch, which extends from High Prairie, Alberta to Fort St.John, BC. The area has been deemed a serious earthquake risk area. In April 2001, northeastern BC and northwestern Alberta shook from a quake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale. The quake was centered 40 kilometres from Dawson Creek, which lies within the Montney Shale field. Also in the area is the W.A.C Bennett dam, with no damage reported. In another area of fracking operations, the Horn River area near Fort Nelson, there has been more than 30 earthquakes since 2009.

Alberta meanwhile, reports with a straight face that they have drilled 167,000 fracking wells and report not one documented case of toxic leakage into groundwater and that there has not been a single report of any quakes related to fracking.

June 2010. With Enbridge’ s pipeline proposal and the BC government’s hydroelectric dam proposal both rearing their heads, British Columbia’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Blair Lekstrom, who represented and is from the Peace River, resigns. Reason given publicly was issues with BC’s tax policy. He leaves both Cabinet and caucus, but still sits as an independent. “When I was elected, I promised myself, my family and my constituents that I would not change who I am to do this job, and I have reached a point where my beliefs and values no longer align with my government. If I was to stay, it wouldn’t be who I am. I didn’t do this to slight anybody or hurt anybody and I never went into this job to climb any ladders. My priority is to listen to the public and that’s my view on why I was elected and I’m going to follow through on that.”

July 2010. One of Enbridge’s pipelines running from Alberta through Michigan, in the States, springs a leak. Over 3.7 million litres (one million gallons) of oil sands crude spills out into Talmadge Creek, that flows into the Kalamazoo River. A 35 mile stretch of the river is still closed to this day, with cleanup costs to-date of $585 million. In reality, it is a fact that Enbridge’s pipelines leak more than once a week on average.

In 2012, Industry figures show at least 3.4 million litres (898,000 gallons) of hydrocarbons have leaked from pipelines in Alberta every year since 2005, while Sean Kheraj, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto, calculates that the oil and gas industry has spilled over 27.6 million litres (7.3 million gallons) in Alberta alone, between 2006-2010. Since then, several major incidents have upped that number significantly, including a 4.1 million litre (1.1 million-gallon) spill near Little Buffalo, N.W.T and two ruptures in 2012 that totaled at least 946,000 litres, a quarter million gallons. As of late, Enbridge Inc., had a spill near Elk Lake Alberta of 230,000 litres (61,000 gallons) and a pipeline owned by Plains Midstream Canada, leaked up to 475,000 litres (125,000 gallons) of oil into the Red Deer River in central Alberta and flowed into the Gleniffer lake reservoir. In fact, a spokesman for Alberta’s energy regulator admits that the province’s pipelines averaged two failures per day in 2010. While Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford states that while pipeline risks are real, they remain minimal.

In November 2010, the Harper government begins to impose strict rules on when and how its researchers can publically discuss their work to us, the funders of their work. Canada’s science community is being filtered through the Ministers office, with most often information disappearing in the translation. Reason being, research is getting in the way of government policy decisions, which are not science based and so the obligations science proposes are dismissed. Science is seen as a problem that needs to be managed rather than a source of data to be used. Yet the reality of science is that it is based on criticism and then finding answers.

Because of such a gag order on Government scientists to not to speak to media under any circumstances without permission from Harper, scientists en-mass are leaving Canada, while non-government scientists working at universities muzzle themselves fearing loss of funding or other forms of reprisals.

Gagged scientists lately have included; June 2011 Biology researcher who tried speaking about the report she had just completed about viral infections may be linked to higher salmon mortality on the West Coast; Apr.2011 Scientist gagged over his comment, “Dangerous 2 degree increase in global temps may be unavoidable by 2100; After the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant in Japan, in 2011, the experts who are in charge of the radiation monitors on Canada’s west coast, run by Health Canada, are strictly banned from any interviews.

February 2011.  PetroChina, the state-owned international oil and gas, corporation buys 50% partnership with Encana Corporation, in deep shale gas development in northeastern BC and northwest Alberta. Making 15% of BC’s land base now leased to energy companies that develop deep shale gas, mostly by fracking.

Aug. 2011. Two Search and rescue centres, in Quebec City and St.John’s are closed. Reason being the Harper government could save about $2 million a year. Meanwhile at Canadian Armed Forces Base, Base Borden, in Borden, Ontario gets $77 million to build four new kitchen and dining facilities, providing 415 short time job opportunities to the community.

Dec. 2011. Canada withdraws from Kyoto Treaty.

We must remember that such policies are not laws of nature but are laws created by the processes and institutions that engender them and which all can be changed. But changing cultural, social and institutional processes will simply be not allowed to happen. We do not have the political will to make a difference and hold anyone accountable, especially when too many of us are not even holding ourselves accountable. For true national sovereignty is the right of a country to have no one interfere in its life and the right of a people to choose whatever form of government and way of life that it suits. A country’s will is where the people decide whether a government changes or not. This has a snowballs chance in hell to happen if a country does not have its own economy. If it is penetrated by foreign capitol then it is not free. A country cannot make its will prevail if it clashes with the foreign country or corporation which dominates the economy. The power of transnational corporations and banks will make political power obsolete and eventually non-existent.

How has our political will been so far? Other than ridding ourselves of our natural resources and poisoning the environment in which we live to accomplish it, did someone say the East Coast cod fishery? The East Coast of Canada’s fishing grounds was one of the world’s most amazing fishing grounds ever, but by 1992 it collapsed and the cod fishery closes. The West Coast wild Pacific salmon fishery will not last long and within the decade will follow the cod and the Dodo bird.

The Alberta oil sands, also known as the most destructive project on earth, will soon deplete the Athabasca River, the only source of water in the area. Chemicals mix in the river and carry its toxic brew of cancers and pollution downstream. There are now areas where there is an increase of cancer and disease in populations and where even the wildlife has become too toxic to eat. Gigantic lakes, called tailings ponds are so toxic that birds die when they land on the surface. When it rains in Alberta and Saskatchewan it is toxic, what was once called acid rain. Ontario has the same problem. Meanwhile huge areas of the boreal forest are disappearing every day and eventually Southern Alberta will be transformed into a desert and Northern Alberta a treeless, toxic swamp, both not very habitable for children and their children, or for anybody else for that matter. This is not fantasy, it is real and it is happening. Just like the horn going off to end the 2nd period of the game.

We are a pretty tired bunch, legs are throbbing and lungs are gasping, from skating and pushing the puck uphill all period, with extended periods of time stuck down in the deep end. But as in society, when has it ever been a level playing field?

Strange thing happened half way through the period. Harper was called for a vicious cross check into the back of one of our players. He went directly to the penalty box but you could tell he was pissed. Once there, he took off his full cage visor and helmet with neck brace and someone immediately handed him a phone. The game was delayed for 40 minutes, after which time new officials skated onto the ice, eight of them this time, instead of the six. The six original refs were escorted out of the building, thrown into black unmarked vans and driven away by the police. When Harper’s penalty was over, four of the new officials ran picks for his numerous end to end rushes. He scored another 4 goals, but we were credited with two goals ourselves, though in actual fact they were both Harpers’ Finance minister’s fault, for twice, he accidentally shot the puck into his own net.

With one period to go we were down 16-6. As we headed off the ice the arena was pretty quiet with many still sitting but enrapt in their I-Phones, with heads down and thumbs a-tapping. Just as many were crowded up in the concourse watching World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw” on the thousands of televisions that circled the arena, even though it was Tuesday.

We just need to get to the dressing room and regroup we felt. We know we have heart but jeez Louise, no matter how hard we work we just can’t seem to get ahead.

 

 

07/4/12

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