09/30/13

You have got to be kidding me – The 2013 Queens Jubilee Awards

 

Diamond_Jubilee_Medal_webOnce again, to honor and commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II ascension to the throne of the British Empire last year, Canada awarded another 60,000 “deserving Canadians” the Diamond Jubilee Medal. Each Member of Parliament will be giving 30 medals to their fellow citizens “for their contributions to the country, their province or their region.”

The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to their country, or achievements abroad which brought credit to Canada. It is an award that can honor anyone, from ditch digger to bureaucrat. Unfortunately, morality, maturity, character or ethics are not factors in the selection process. And one could only hope that 99% of the medals given out, from Haida Gwaii to Newfoundland, are for contributions to their communities and fellow Canadians, and are people who make a difference that they are here and alive, and assisting their neighbours in whatever way they can.

I wrote an article on the inaugural awards given out last year, and of my sheer amazement when a member of parliament gave medals to two anti-abortionists, prone to fire-bombing, with one of them in prison when given the medal. But since we must award ignorance and entitlement in equal shares, continue to enact laws and regulations simply to protect the stupid and the corporations, and to continue to have to suffer fools, some of the selections for the Diamond Jubilee Medal this year has made me mutter in my beer, you have got to be kidding me, really. I shake my head in befuddlement and embarrassment.

Lucien Bouchard is a lawyer and politician who up to 1990 was a member of parliament and held various positions in the Progressive Conservative government under the Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney. Bouchard stepped down from the Conservatives in 1990 after the Meech lake Accord, which he felt wasn’t sufficient in determining the rights or distinctions of Quebecers. PM Mulroney would later state that trusting Bouchard as much as he had was his most costly and regrettable error as PM. Bouchard would go on to form the Bloc Québécois, and lead them in the 1993 Federal election where they won 54 out of 75 ridings in Quebec, giving them the second most seats in the House of Commons. It was the first and only time in the history of Canada that a separatist was the leader of the opposition. Bouchard quickly realized that most of the 54 elected Bloc members didn’t speak English well enough to participate on the Common’s floor in parliament so he declares that henceforth, Bloc members will only speak French, which they still do today.

In 1995 the Quebec referendum was held, which would decide whether Quebec would separate from Canada. How close was it? – 50.58% against separation, 49.42% for. The next year Bouchard was elected premier of Quebec and held the position until 2001. In 2002 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II, the QE II Golden Jubilee medal was awarded to those Canadians who had made “an honourable service in military, police, prison, and emergency forces, or for outstanding achievement or public service.” Bouchard received one, and today he receives another, proving being a monarchist or not, and wishing Quebec was separate from both the Queen and Country is not a criteria.

Then we have Alfonso Gagliano, former accountant and politician, who worked in government as a Liberal, from 1984 to 2002 in various capacities, including Minister of Labour, Canada Post, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Political Minister for Quebec. It was always whispered that he had links to Montreal and Quebec organized crime, but to-date Gagliano still denies any involvement. In 2002 he was given the post of Canadian Ambassador to Denmark, but in 2004 was dismissed for being perhaps involved in the “sponsorship scandal.” The scandal involved Gagliano when he was Minister of Public Works, and a $100 million program that was set up intending to raise the federal government’s profile in Quebec, but instead simply went to Liberal friendly ad agencies.

With an overall operating cost of $14 million, the Gomery Commission was established to conduct a public inquiry into the scandal.They would find that $2 million in contracts were given out without any bidding process, $250,000 was found to be added to one contract for no additional work, and $1.5 million was awarded for work that was never done. At the conclusion of the inquiry, Gagliano would be the highest ranking Liberal to ever be charged with deliberate dishonesty, rather than negligence. Soon after, Liberal Premier Paul Martin expelled Gagliano from the Liberal party for life. But this year Gagliano has won a Queens Jubilee Medal, for being an outstanding Canadian, and instantly tarnishing all those who actually deserve the award.

Another Jubilee winner this year is Pamela Wallin, a television journalist and game show host, who in 2002, was appointed Canada’s Counsel General in New York City by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretian. She held the position for four years, then in 2006, sat on the board of Bell Globalmedia. A year later she would be sitting on the board of Oilsands Quest Inc., Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc., an investment and wealth management firm, and on the advisory board of BMO Harris Bank. As a bonus, the same year, she was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada.

In 2009, on the advice of Conservative Prime Minister Stevie Harper, Wallin was appointed a Canadian Senator. Four short years later, in 2013, she would step down from three paid positions she held outside of the Senate, when she became embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, where in Feb. 2013, Senators Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, and Mac Harb were forensically audited on suspicion of fraudulent claims. In May 2013 Wallin resigned from the Senate Conservative caucus, and in August was ordered to pay back $121,348 in improper expense claims. In September she would write a check and pay it off. The case has been referred to the RCMP, and Wallin is under a continuing investigation.

Coincidently and astonishingly, fellow Senator Brazeau, also won the Queens Jubilee Medal this year. A Quebecer, Brazeau was the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, amidst a sexual harassment complaint brought against him to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and facing allegations of improper spending of funds received by CAP for aboriginal health programs, Prime Minster Stevie Harper recommended Brazeau to become a senator, and so he became. At the time Brazeau tried keeping both, his senator’s seat and his national chief of CAP job, thus collecting two publically funded six figure incomes. He wilted quickly and the next day resigned from CAP.

While sitting as a Senator, Brazeau had one the worst attendance records of all 105 members. From June 2011 to Apr. 2012 for example, the Senate met 72 times; Brazeau was absent 25% of the time. As Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Committee he was absent 31% of the time. On the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples he was absent 65% of the time. Enough said.

In Feb 2013, he was kicked out of the Conservative Party after being arrested for assault against a woman. Recently suspended as a Senator, Brazeau is also under RCMP investigations into housing expenses and tax-filings, prior to him becoming a Senator, as well as currently under RCMP investigation for Breach of Trust.

Other recipients of such an honour, were 36 year-old Ray Novack, who lived above Harper’s garage for four years when Harper was serving as leader of the official opposition, and who is now Harper’s brand new Chief of Staff, after Harper lost his old Chief of Staff to the Senate scandal. And, also brand new, Deputy Chief of Staff, Jenni Byrne, who also won the Jubilee Medal. And heck, why not? Justin Beiber also received the Queens Jubilee Medal. Methinks for being a cartoon character.

I myself know a fellow who is into car crime. Enjoys smashing windows, stealing cars then destroying them, but who also happens to keeps dozens of Canadians in work, from cops to insurance companies, tow-truck drivers, mechanics, jail guards and repairmen. It’s like he creates an economy around him, helping other Canadians provide for their families. He has been staying home over the past few weeks waiting for his own Queens Jubilee Medal to come in the mail, and is confused and worried because it hasn’t arrived yet.

 

06/17/13

An Essay on Democratic Dysfunction, the 2013 BC Election, Lack of Voting and Status Quo.

“Bad politicians are sent to government by good people who don’t vote.”
William E. Simon, philanthropist, businessman, and Secretary of Treasury of the US from 1974 to 1977 during the Nixon administration.

“In a democratic government, the right of decision belongs to the majority, but the right of representation belongs to all.”
Ernest Naville, 1865.

victoria legislature

One hundred and forty-two years after John Foster McCreight (1827-1913), an MLA (member of legislature) for Victoria City, was elected British Columbia’s first premier, of its first parliament, Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party of BC, which is not affiliated with the federal Liberal party in any way, shape or form, nor the federal Progressive Conservatives, and quite unlike the Provincial Conservative Party, but a little like the old Social Credit party, won BC’s 2013 provincial elections. They rejoice with their hands in the air, goofy soma-like smiles on their faces, yelling the sound-bite, “the people of BC have spoken,” and proud that they now have the mandate to govern as they see fit. While in actual fact not very many British Columbians had actually voted for them.

But for the fourth consecutive time, the popular vote within our current voting system has declared them a majority government, and it’s once again status quo, here we go. It is not so much the idea that not very many people have to vote anymore to achieve such status quo, it’s that unfortunately, here and elsewhere, when using the first-past-the-post system of the Westminster form of government, the majority of the people who do get out and vote don’t count.

Federally it’s just as bad. The current Harper Conservative government are an absolute majority government even though, of those who actually voted, only 39.6% voted for them, which meant over 62% of all eligible voters were pushed aside. The fact is that at all levels of government across Canada the norm is about 30% of the population have the majority of representation in the legislatures, while 70% of Canadians do not. And it’s been going on for quite awhile.

In 1972, in British Columbia, Dave Barrett formed the first BC NDP (New Democratic Party) government with just 39.6% of the vote. In 1991, New Democrat, Mike Harcourt formed government with 40.7% of the vote. In the next election, the NDP under Glen Clark received the majority of seats (39) yet were second in the popular vote, losing 12 seats to the Liberals, under Campbell, who had gained 16 seats with 41.82% of the vote, but only won 36 seats and became the opposition. In 1999, Glen Clark resigned over the “fast ferries” and bribery scandals, and the respected New Democrat Dan Miller, followed by Ujjal Dosanjh, adeptly stepped into the breach as interim leaders and ran the province until the next election in 2001, where the Liberals, again under Campbell, won all but two seats of the then 79 seat legislature, with 57% of all the votes. By 2009 the NDP under Carole James would get back up to 35 seats but still lose to Campbell’s 49 seats.

Since the sixties, the pattern has been that the NDP get about 40-41% of the vote, while the Liberals consistently get about 45% of the vote. There have been only two anomalies, in 1972, where the NDP under Dave Barrett earned 38 seats and in 1991 with the Mike Harcourt led New Democrats, winning 51 seats. The highest per cent age of voters the NDP have ever received was in 1979 with 46% of the vote, but still lost the election, while their lowest was in 2001 where they dropped to 21.65% of the vote.

After the election, Clark jubilantly announced, with that ever effervescent smile and giggle, as if she had just gotten high, “We can now change the future of our country. We can become the economic engine that drives Canada, and for the first time in the history of Confederation, we can step up and punch our weight in this Confederation. We can be the ones who lead this country for the first time in British Columbia’s history and it will be up to us, because British Columbians want that. That is what they voted for. They didn’t vote for perfection, they voted for hope.”

From here on in, I will be bringing up even more numbers, sorry, but we are talking politics here. Problem is once you bring up numbers and percentages, people’s eyes begin to glaze over. I see it all the time and get kidded by my friends when I bring them up. I am told in equal representation that the numbers are confusing me from seeing reality, that the status quo way of doing things, in this case, as to how our electoral process works, is “just the way it is”, and that besides, “it’s all we got.” I don’t buy that and feel such dysfunction is not written in stone, but is merely what’s been advertised as such, because we allow it to happen. With this I am told I’m being un-Canadian. But just like a great picture, numbers can also bring about a thousand words, though I shall not be so well winded. Though I must admit, far too often, my spinnaker is billowing out too forcefully in front of me to back off.

Though the Liberals were re-elected as the “majority government”, their leader, Christy Clark, lost her riding, and is currently not an elected official. In fact and oddly enough she has never been elected by the populace to be premier, but she is BC’s 35th premier, of its 40th parliament, and representing more than 4.6 million British Columbians. Of these, 3.1 million are registered voters, but only 1.6 million of them (54% of eligible voters) made the effort and voted, 706,240 (44.14%) of which voted Liberal, which gave them 49 seats, and a 58% majority of the 85 seat legislature. The NDP were given 34 seats, with 39.7% of the vote, the Green Party had 8.1% of the votes and gained one seat in Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, and the final seat went to re-elected Independent Vicki Huntington in Delta South, who received 4.8% of the total votes. Interestingly, other than the Green Party’s Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, this is exactly how the last election in 2009 ended up.

Born in 1965 in Burnaby BC, Ms Clark attended Simon Fraser University (SFU), the Sorbonne, in France, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, never graduating with a degree in anything. She was the MLA for Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain from 1996 to 2005, serving as Deputy Premier under Gordon Campbell in his first term as leader, from 2001 to 2005.

In 2001, as Minister of Education, she introduced changes that proved to be very unpopular, with teachers, parents and the public at large. The changes were challenged by the BC Teachers Federation through the court system, and eventually found to be unconstitutional. In 2002 Clark introduced Bills 27/28 forcing striking teachers back to work, and it would take the BC Supreme Court nine years to arrive at the decision that Clark’s decision to do so was also unconstitutional. During the BC Rail scandal, Clark was deputy premier, and though there were allegations that she participated in the scandal, nothing has been proven or tested in a court of law, and it was deemed that there was no need for a public inquiry.

BC Rail was a BC Crown Corporation and was promised numerous times by the government to never be sold. But after decades of shoddy and somewhat unscrupulous bookkeeping, and the public being told that it was always losing money, it was put up for sale. There were many bidding for the purchase, and the shady bookkeeping spilled over into shady dealings and lobbying. It ended up being sold/ leased for 990 years to CN Rail for $1 billion, though the actual track and other assets such as real estate and a marine division remain in public coffers. Miraculously, since CN Rail took control of the line, it generates profits of about $25 million per year.

In 2003, due to suspected improper conduct and corruption by government officials, including Premier Gordon Campbell, deputy premier Christy Clark, and their advisors, search warrants were brought about and executed on the legislature of BC. Among others, ministerial aides, David Basi and Robert Virk were charged in 2004 with two counts each of Breach of Trust, covering their nefarious behaviour, leaking insider information, and for receiving bribes. The next year Clark resigned her position and left politics to become a radio talk show host, after first trying to run for mayor of Vancouver, but losing to Sam Sullivan in Sept. 2005.

The Basi-Virk trial took six years to get underway. As the trial started in May 2010 a publication ban was put on it and then, the day before the trial was to end in Oct 2010, Basi and Virk both pled guilty to lesser charges and sentenced to two years less a day house arrest, with Basi being fined $75,600. With a straight face and hidden tongue in cheek, Premier Campbell angrily announces that “they’ve (Basi /Virk) spent the last seven years claiming to be innocent when they know they were guilty, costing taxpayers literally millions of dollars, when they knew they were guilty.” He punishes them, by of course not only having to pay his government’s prosecuting fees of $14 million, but also paying Basi and Virk’s $6 million in legal fees too. In Jan 2013, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed auditor general John Doyle’s application for government documents concerning the paying of Basi and Virk’s fees, because it would be an invasion of solicitor-client privilege. So we will probably never know what really transpired.

At the same time, Mr. Campbell was also feeling the heat and backlash of promising in the previous election that he would not bring about a consumption tax, called the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), but soon after he was elected he came out and indeed implemented it. He then dismantled the Children’s Commission, which pushed 700 unfinished child-death review cases into a dark closet.

In early 2011, a few months after the Basi/Virk trial ended, Campbell, leader of the BC Liberal Party for 17 years and premier for nine resigned his position. Six months later, in Sept. 2011, it was announced that he would be received into the Order of British Columbia, for “demonstrating the greatest distinction and excellence in a field of endeavour which benefits the people of BC.” The same month he was given the role of Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and moved to London, family in tow.

After Campbell announced his resignation, Clark pushes aside her microphone at the radio station and declares that she wants to be leader of the Liberal Party and premier, though at the time not even having a seat in the legislature.

At a Liberal leadership meeting in March 2011, the party membership voted for Ms Clark to be their leader and swore her in. Still needing a seat in government, a by-election was run in ex-premier Campbell’s old riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, and Clark beats New Democrat, David Eby by 595 votes. It’s the first time a governing party had won a by-election in 30 years.

David Eby is a civil rights lawyer, Professor of law at UBC, and a research associate with Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He has also served as president of the Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network and is the past executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. And tit for tat, two years later, in the election just completed, Eby defeated Clark by more than a thousand votes, leaving Clark once again with no seat.

In June 2013, re-elected Liberal MLA, party whip, and millionaire wine-maker, Ben Stewart stepped down so that Clark could possibly be elected in his riding of Westside-Kelowna in an up-coming by-election. Westside-Kelowna is a good location for Clark’s attempt to be elected. Stewart won this year’s election with over 58% of the votes, but the riding, a land of vineyards, retirement communities and a large Native reserve, also had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the province, with just over 40%. So all Clark needs is for two out of every ten eligible voters to vote for her and she’s in. Until such time, she is not permitted to enter the legislature, but oddly enough can still dictate policy, and still receives a paycheck. Because in 2007, all of the MLA’s at the time got together and implemented a new plan for severance pay for those who lose their ridings or retire. Soon after, everyone’s salaries magically increased 29% and their infamous gold-plated pension plans were restored. Five years later, amidst a recall vote over the HST mess, in 2012, the MLA’s at the time secretly met once again, and voted to extend the severance to also include any member who happens to be recalled for dubious behaviour.

Update: July 10th, 2013. Ms Clark wins by-election in Westside-Kelowna. With 46,000 voters eligible to vote, only 17,012 (37%) made the effort. Clark recieved 10,666 votes, 62% of those who voted, but only 23% of all registered voters (less than one in four of eligible voters). Great for Clark and the Liberals, not so much for democracy.

Eligible MLA’s receive their $101,859 base annual salary ($6,790 per month) for 15 months, while they look for other work. With Clark losing her seat, the transitional allowance automatically kicked in, but three weeks after the fact, she announced that she will pay back what has been paid to her since that time. Meanwhile she continues to be paid a $91,673 annual salary that comes with being the premier. Perhaps this is another reason she’s smiling all the time and so bubbly.

Two incumbents in the past election, New Democrats, Joe Trasolini and Gwen O’Mahoney, were on the job only 13 months and were defeated in their ridings, but both are eligible to continue receiving their hundred plus grand salaries for the next 15 months. As to just regular folk working as government employees, when their jobs are terminated they receive four weeks’ severance for every four years worked.

Of the three other major parties, the leader of the BC Conservatives, John Cummings was defeated in his riding of Langley, while the leader of the BC Green Party, Jane Verk, was defeated in New Democrat Carole James’ riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill. Currently the only party leader to actually hold a seat in the legislature is the NDP’s Adrian Dix, because enough people actually voted for him.

Mr. Dix was re-elected MLA for Vancouver/Kingsway, getting 57% of the votes in his riding. He has been the riding’s MLA since 2005. As a thirty-five year old, chief of staff to Premier Glen Clark from 1996-1999, he was dismissed for back-dating a memo, and went on to become a political commentator until 2005, when he first ran in Vancouver/Kingsway. Though not necessarily possessing much charisma, or a Clark smile, it’s been said he is deadpan funny man and thinks before he speaks. Fluently bilingual, having lived in France, Dix is afflicted with type-1 diabetes, and was born and raised in Vancouver. Married to a poet and writer, he studied history and political science at the University of British Columbia. He ran for the leadership of the NDP party in 2011 on a platform of rolling back reductions in the corporate tax rate, supporting the redirection of carbon tax revenue to pay for public transit and infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, supporting an increase in the minimum wage rate, creating a provincial child care system, restoring grants to post-secondary students, reducing interest on student loans, and restoring the corporation capital tax on financial institutions.

A week after the election he addressed the media for the first time, admitting that he and his party simply did not do their jobs well enough, especially when it came to holding the Liberals accountable for the flaws in there definition of policy, and for taking the “high road” and not calling the Liberals on their attack ads and smear campaign. He promised a comprehensive review, stating “I can assure you this review will spare nothing and no one, least of all me.” Saying he is but a servant of his party’s caucus and members, he hopes the party will learn the lessons before them. Staying on as party leader until the mandatory leadership review in November allows his party to decide the future and direction in which they feel they should go.

Overall the BC election was of the vein of judging candidates by their charisma, personal charm, and personality, instead of the issues in our lives. Liberals were allowed to advertise any way they liked, even if much of it flew in the face of truth or reality. The NDP didn’t question or respond to the Liberals advertising, no matter how low they went, which in the end might have been what would have made a difference. The Liberals went with the “Strong economy. Secure future” as in securing their place as a party associated with business, capitalism, status, success, and wealth, no matter how much a pipe dream it has become, with climate change and the planet’s environmental crisis, never entering the picture.

For the most part the election campaign played out like a really bad reality show and often seemed surreal. It’s like you see their lips moving but just can’t pickup what they are saying, though you do notice their smile and what they are wearing and feel you know them because you have watched multiple times, the ads they produced and acted in. Learning about the candidates and not the issues, in ten second sound bites and then on game day, not even bothering to vote.

This is the problem with politics in most developed and supposedly democratic societies. As Bill Durodie, the program head of Conflict Analysis and Management Programs at Royal Roads University’s School of Peace and Conflict Management, has said, in many of these countries, especially at the local, municipal, and provincial/state levels, “none of the major parties could even manage 10 per cent of the available votes, and end up effectively representing nobody but themselves.” He believes society has become disengaged from politics, which we have, and that the fundamental problem for modern politics is that, “there are few with any resolute and identifiable principles anymore, either among the parties or the voters.” All over the developed world, the people that do vote do so based on their feelings about the candidate and their party and what is reported about them, with “image and style trumping insight and substance at every turn.”

As mentioned earlier, in this election 54% (1.6 million) of eligible voters made it their duty to vote and be engaged. Nearly one and a half  million others decided to sit this one out, meaning only 54 of every 100 eligible voters actually did so. Out of these 54 citizens, not even 24 of them voted Liberal. In all, 706,240 people voted Liberal, only 22% of all eligible voters, or about 6% of the population.  Breaking it down even further to make it more Orwellian, less than three out of ten eligible voters voted for the current majority government. Winning a popular vote with two out of ten people voting for you seems more like a dictatorship than a democracy. But once again, status quo, don’t you know. Interestingly enough, status quo comes from the Latin phrase “in stat quo res errant ante bellum”, “in the state in which things were before the war.”

Geographically, the interior and North East areas of BC, where the dams are built, the jobs are, where the pipelines hopeBCMapto run, the fracking for natural gas continues, and the fresh water supply becomes ever more toxic, voted Liberal. As to the 59% of BC’s population who live in the Lower mainland, Downtown Vancouver, East Vancouver, New Westminster and Vancouver’s eastern suburbs voted BC NDP, with the Fraser Valley, Richmond and parts of Delta all voting Liberal. Vancouver Island and BC’s coastline ridings were overwhelmingly, either NDP or the Green Party, except for the Comox Valley and Parksville-Qualicum, who voted for Liberal candidates.

On Vancouver Island, where 16% of the population of BC live, there are 14 ridings, eleven went NDP, including ex-premier Carole James, in her riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill, two went Liberal, and one went Green. With a population of 344,630, Greater Victoria and its city, Victoria, the capital of British Columbia and where the legislature sits, will not have a voice at the government caucus table for the first time in 60 years. But then even in the upper chamber of the Federal government, in the appointed and not elected Senate, there is no one representing the 750,000 people of Vancouver Island, yet comparatively, Prince Edward Island has 145,000 people and four senators. New Brunswick has the same population as Vancouver Island and has 10 senators.

As to the exact goings-ons of our latest attempt for democracy in BC and how it all went down per individual ridings, those who gathered the most votes in their ridings include Liberal Stephanie Cadieux, in one of the largest ridings, Surrey-Cloverdale, with 59.46% (18,000) of the votes from a total of 51,000 registered voters, second was Liberal Rich Coleman, Fort Langley- Aldergrove, with 15,989 votes, and third with most votes, was Liberal Ralph Sutton, in West Vancouver-Capilano, with 15,777 votes.

As to the largest share of the votes in a riding, the just mentioned, Ralph Sutton was at the top with 67.03%, but was followed closely by NDP Jenny Kwan, with 64.32% of the votes in her riding, Liberal Andrew Wilkinson in Vancouver-Quilchena with 64.32%, NDP Katrine Conroy in Kootenay West with 63.04%, Liberal Bill Bennett in Kootenay East with 63.01 %, and NDP Bruce Ralston of Surrey-Whalley with 61.43%. Those close to 60% were NDP Shane Simpson of Vancouver-Hastings (59.46%) and Liberal Stephanie Cadieux Surrey-Cloverdale (59.46%). Interesting about the Kootenays, Kootenay West had the fourth largest share of votes in a riding and went NDP, while the fifth largest share of votes happened in Kootenay East, and went Liberal.

All parties picked up more votes than in the election in 2009. The BC Conservatives led, picking up 51,332 more votes, to go from 2% of the votes in 2009 to 4.8%, Liberals received 44,285 more votes, but dropped from 45.8% of the total votes in 2009 down to 44.1% this year. The NDP received 24,435 more votes, but dropped to 39.7% this year, and the Green Party had 11,991 more votes than they did in 2009, but went from 8.2% of the votes to 8.1%.

The top two ridings for voter participation were ridings where there was a strong Green candidate running. Most fully engaged was Oak Bay- Gordon Head with 71% voter turnout and where Green candidate, Andrew Weaver, was elected as MLA.

Mr. Weaver is one of Canada’s top scientists and is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria. In 2007, Weaver was a contributing member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and who, along with former US vice president Al Gore and others were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now deputy leader of Canada’s Green Party, since Jane Sterk was unable to land a seat, he and Green Party leader, MP (Member of Parliament) Ms Elizabeth May, are Canada’s only Green Party elected representatives.

Ms May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada from 1989 to 2006, was elected in 2011 in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding, as MP. She is a respected environmentalist, writer, activist, and lawyer. Her permanent residence is in her riding, the town of Sidney, just up the road a bit from Oak Bay-Gordon Head. She was recently voted “Hardest Working MP” and “Best Constituency MP” by fellow members of the Federal government, which makes sense considering that though she alone sits representing her party, she seems to make more of a difference with her time in parliament than most all of the silenced backbenchers combined, especially the Conservatives. Being open and transparent, having moral rectitude, a backbone, character, and thinking before speaking in a language a non-politician can actually understand, goes a long way it seems.

Second best voter turnout was in Saanich North and the Islands with 70.02% of eligible voters making the effort. It was a very close race, with all three candidates picking up over 10,000 votes each, with the margin between first and third only 379 votes, and was between NDP, Liberal, and Green. New Democrat Gary Holman was awarded the seat.

Third in turnout was in Delta South, where independent Vicki Huntington won re-election with a 69.03% turnout. Of the top five highest turnouts, four were on Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile many of the largest populated ridings had the lowest voter turnout. And I’m just saying, but it could be because of language barriers and cultural differences. Worst voter turnout, at 43%, was Richmond Center, followed by Surrey-Whalley, Richmond-East, Kelowna-Lake Country, Burnaby-Deer Lake, Vancouver-Kingsway, Burnaby-Edmonds, and Westside-Kelowna, all having well below 50% turnout. Hovering at 50-51% voter turnout were Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, Vancouver-False Creek and Vancouver-West End.

The Liberal’s list of promises during the election was lengthy and was never questioned enough, especially by the NDP. Most of the promises were based on the assumption, and myth, that capitalism and unlimited growth work will win the day. Her party’s platform is based on increasing natural resource development, especially liquefied natural gas (LNG), and holding the line on taxes, by not expanding the carbon tax, or instituting a capital tax on financial institutions. She also promised a five-year freeze on personal income tax, with the exception of the highest income earners, a $250- per child back-to-school tax credit for parents, a $500 tax credit for teachers who coach, dropping the small business tax from 2.5% to 1.5% as of 2017, dropping the corporate tax rate down to 10% by 2018, training more doctors, increasing hospice spaces, expanding the BC Training Tax Credit, opening a BC film office in L.A California, and to conduct annual forest industry trade missions to Asia.

After the Liberals won, Clark stated that her economy driven mandate will only work if her MLA’s start saying “no a lot more than they say yes.” She has promised economic security based on new jobs, infrastructure, investment and royalties. To build the province’s “new economy” the Liberals are banking on the LNG industry, and the revenues from which they say will pay down BC’s debt within 15 years.

The day after becoming an MLA, someone who knows a bit about the world’s natural resources, Green Party’s Andrew Weaver, declared that the current predictions of provincial revenues from natural gas are a “fantasy” and it makes no sense to invest in the expansion of natural gas with the intention to sell to Asian markets, because Russia, which has 20 times the natural gas resources of Canada, has just recently signed long term export agreements with China and other Asian countries.

There are of course plenty of other Asian markets that are perfectly willing to buy up all of our limited natural resources. Though the question remains, what happens to us when the resource is gone, forever, in 20 to 30 years? But then look at BC’s forestry business, where instead of more wood products, such as furniture or lumber that a British Columbian could actually afford, and not have to buy plywood from North Carolina or some other place instead because it’s cheaper, no, we chop down our trees, take off the limbs and send the whole log overseas.

Though I’ve got to hand it to Clark, after being elected, she did declare opposition to the proposed Enbridge oilsands crude pipeline, that would run 1600 km across BC, pumping 550,000 barrels per day to Kitimat, on the coast, then perilously make its way by tanker to open water and beeline for China. A parallel pipeline would run back to Alberta, carrying imported diluents, a flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, which will help the heavy sludge of oilsands crude flow along the pipeline. Clark declared there are simply too many unanswered questions about how Enbridge will respond to a spill. Though she also left the door open to see what Enbridge’s response will be to her opposition. Which is very noble and all, especially considering most British Columbians do not want the pipeline. But in reality, whether a pipeline is built or not in BC is not up to us, it’s up to the Harper Federal government. Clark and the Liberals gave up the right to have more influence in the matter over a year ago. In spite, I suppose Alberta could now decide to start charging BC for it’s already in place LNG pipelines, running from Northern BC across Alberta to the United States.

The centerpiece of the Liberal’s platform is debt reduction, and they have promised to dedicate half of future surpluses to it, enact more balanced budget legislation, and include penalties for ministers who do not meet their budget targets. But no matter what is promised as to balancing the budget or not, or controlling spending or not, the reality is that in most industrialized and democratic societies, the amount of debt and spending is over the top, and there is nothing more corrosive to the future of any economy if debt continues to accumulate through a succession of operating deficits. And as in most other industrialized countries, whether at the federal or local level, government is creating huge debt, and will continue to do so because they have all become so concerned and preoccupied with salaries, pensions and perks, instead of infrastructure and the needs of the people.

Over the past ten years, if you factor in both operating expenses and capital spending on schools and infrastructure, the BC Liberals have over spent $14 billion, bringing BC’s total accumulated operating and capital debt over the past fifty years to nearly $40 billion, or $8,300 per British Columbian, and which has been determined to have a 54% chance of defaulting within 30 years. Our current overall debt is more than $62 billion. Interest charges alone are about $1.9 billion per year, more than the entire budget for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. But Clark promises balanced budgets in each of the next three years. Great idea, except it will mean borrowing another $3.5 billion to do so.

Clark would later announce straight-faced, that the government’s budget will also be based on three themes, “giving children more opportunities than we had, caring for those who cared for us and leaving BC as beautiful as we found it.” Oxymoron doesn’t even get close to explaining this comment.

But then our economy is mostly determined by what happens elsewhere in the world anyways, no matter what three year plan the Liberals have, because nothing in government is long term. As we all know their wheel is geared to run for about three years then switch and spend the final year campaigning.

In the very near future, the economic reality for Canada and the world will have everything to do with the emerging countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, who today combined, represent a third of the world’s economy. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the international body which promotes policies that they feel will improve the economic and social well being around the world, estimates that in seven years, in 2020, these countries will be the second biggest driving force of the world’s economy.

Capitalistic democratic countries such as Canada, the United States and those in Europe, operate with such short term focus because they judge time quarterly, perhaps proving that the concept of living for the moment is actually something really irrational. Government is now big business, unfortunately it’s not run by business people, but by lawyers and bureaucrats, and without the profit part. They are also forgetting that life is about people and with continuing high unemployment and growing income equalities; you’d think they would worry about that. But then, heck, they even ignore the fact that the Earth is but one planet.

And yes, of course economic development is important, but it must also mean sustainable development that respects the wishes of all those who live there, and the environment in which they live in. With most of voters in the most recent election voting for either the New Democrats or the Greens, this obviously shows that the majority of people in BC want investment and jobs that produce clean energy. But if the goal is not to reverse the destruction of the earth’s ecosystems, all else, including life, becomes moot.

The only thing decided in the 2013 BC election was that we will be maintaining things as they were, with a few deciding its status quo for everybody. Just like most all levels of government in Canada, where we are ruled most often by simple reactionary governments run by despots, who possess far too much power for anyone’s good. Just like the Romans, you would have thought we had learned that lesson and gotten past it, silly us. Leaders who have their own mandates, and who keep their members in check and obedient by the unelected party whips, by being told how to vote, what questions to ask, and how to beg and bark like a dog. Their governments far too often, will only consider action on just about anything until the corporations, financial institutions or foreign interests, whom already own too much of Canada’s resources, say so.

The BC Liberals will continue to protect the existing systems of power and the future of the economy, they will promise accountability and sustainability and truly believe that capitalism’s economics will win over good sense and foresight when it comes to coping with any problems along the way, arrogantly believing that the ability of engineering and technology will save the day. Much like the thinking of CEO Rex Tillerson at Exxon-Mobil’s 2013 annual general meeting, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” obviously not aware whatsoever that a simple share dividend or larger market share, doesn’t mean anything, if it has no planet to survive on.

In reality the continuously expanding bubble is actually beginning to hiss and becoming a permanent contraction. The essential resources for economic expansion and survival, that are abundant, accessible and safe to obtain, are nearly all gone. Our government knows this, but will never admit it. But then we don’t want to admit it to ourselves either it would seem. For many it’s far too much to handle, we are overwhelmed. And is undoubtedly one of the main reasons of low voter turnout, and for the acceptance of our current voting system as “oh well that’s just the way things are.” More like it’s just the way the government likes it. There are alternatives of course, there always are.

More than 33 countries worldwide use the Westminster form of government. This democratic parliamentary system of government is where there is an executive branch which derives its democratic legitimacy from, and held accountable to, the legislature/parliament. Amongst these countries there are at least four different voting systems used.

In 2005, and recommended by the BC Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, 57% of British Columbian voters, voted to get rid of our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and replace it with the proportional voting system, the single transferable vote (STV). However, just before the final vote was to be taken, the majority government, who were elected as such with only 45% of the votes, and somehow gained 97% of the seats in the legislature, declared that a 60% minimum threshold was needed, so the idea was rejected. Another vote for STV was taken in 2009, and was nothing but a misinformation campaign, using words, numbers and grammar improperly and making it perhaps too complicated in its description for most people, and there was mass confusion, especially for non-English speaking citizens. It also failed.

Operating a first-past-the-post system, with just one winner in each riding means half of voters don’t actually elect anyone. In the 2011 Federal election seven million votes elected no one. In the 2008 Federal election nearly one million people voted Green, yet no one was elected, while in Alberta alone, about 700,000 voters allowed Harper’s Conservatives to gain 27 seats in parliament. In the Prairies, the Conservatives received nearly twice as many votes as Liberal and NDP combined, but somehow took seven times as many seats. In fact, that same year, more Canadians voted in the finals of the Canadian Idol TV program, than had in the election.

Thus our provincial and federal governments have no idea what the majority of Canadians need and want, nor who we are, especially with them also getting rid of the long-form census. Sadly, even if more people voted using our current voting system, it would still not create fair representation of the majority of the people.

Comparatively, in 2011, in Ireland, and using the STV system, only 18% of those who voted did not have a candidate that won. The same year in New Zealand, and also using the STV, only 3% voted for losers.

The STV system works with voters in combined local districts getting to elect anywhere from five to seven representatives instead of just one. On each ballet is listed all the individual politicians, from all parties, of that local area. A voter then lists these candidates by order of preference, 1st choice, 2nd, and so on. If your first choice doesn’t have enough votes to be elected and sure to lose, your vote is then transferred to your 2nd choice, and so on. Similarly, if your first choice has more than enough votes to win, your vote is transferred to your next favorite candidate, and so on. Each vote ends up where it’s most needed to get the group of representatives most wanted. No vote is wasted on a candidate that has no hope in being elected, and with every vote having an equal impact on the outcome, one can vote their conscience. All results would be totally proportional. The best person that represents the needs of the community is chosen, not the person who best represents their party. The legislature and parliament would represent nearly everyone, which is called a democracy.

Such proportional representation, awarding seats in the legislature on the percentage of votes received, equals fair representation. Over 80 countries use elements of proportionality in their voting systems. Australia has used such a system since 1918, and is used at all levels of government, including their senate. No candidate can win if they do not have a true majority of over 51% of the vote, and there cannot be a majority government with less than 51% of the vote. Compulsory voting was enacted in 1924, and began with an average of 95% of registered voters doing so. If one fails to vote and is not able to provide a reasonable explanation for not voting, they are fined $20. But like elsewhere, Australia has been seeing a drop in the numbers of those who vote. In the past few elections, some municipality’s votes are down to 80-85 %, which is still far better than Canada’s (50%) ,which ranks among the lowest in voter turnout in all the industrialized countries of the world. In contrast and besides Australia, Belgium and Denmark have 80% of the voters showing up.

According to Fair Vote Canada, if the proportional STV system, based on fair representation, was used in the 2013 BC election, the vote would have been 41 Liberal seats, 33 NDP, six Greens, and four Conservatives, instead of its outcome of 49 seats for the Liberals, 34 for the NDP, one Green, one Independent, and zero Conservatives.

Online voting, meanwhile, is a good idea because we’d then be able to be more informed, as an uninformed choice is not a choice at all, and we’d be able to vote on other issues as well, instead of just once every three to four years. But voting should never be taken for granted nor should it simply become an inconvenience, where in-between tweeting and texting friends every four to five minutes, answering e-mails, or playing with you new phone app, you have to take a second to vote, just to get it over with. Voting should be both, a right to fair representation and a duty to participate.

But whether proportional voting, first-to-the-post, online and/or mandatory, they are all simply systems trying to deal with the same problem, which is not enough people vote to properly determine our futures. Standing by and allowing a very few to make the decisions for us, and tell us what road we will travel, and how we are to behave is so bovine. If only but a few of us vote, the people elected, whether ruling or opposition, go to government and vote according to their party and their ideology, and not to the wishes of the constituents, who really, don’t number that many anyway. They decide what the interest of the people shall be. If this is the case, it is not a democracy but a republic.

It seems that British Columbians will occasionally, about every ten years or so, get riled up enough to go to the polls and hope for change or salvation. Unfortunately this is not the place where such things reside anymore. Another reason so few vote anymore is because we are busy in our own lives and place in society and have realized that voting doesn’t change anything, especially when over 70% of the population’s votes don’t mean anything when they do. We have become alienated and disaffected from the whole political process.

It also doesn’t help that the country to the south of us is so dysfunctional and spiralling down a toilet, and that whenever they speak, especially if it’s a Republican senator, it is filled with contradiction and ignorance, and everyone looks at each other, asking, did they just say that in their out-loud voice. They feel they can run around and try to control the world when they can’t even control themselves, while in reality they are controlled by an “intelligence community” and Wall Street. They make democracy something obscene; with the way their citizens have given up their rights and freedoms in order to feel secure and safe, but unemployed, dissatisfied with life, violent-prone, fat and hungry.

If we continue to become disengaged within our own communities, how on earth are we to become engaged in politics, when it has simply become another reality show, with really bad actors, using the same old script?

Integrity and character has been replaced with entitlement and personality, with too many politicians possessing the charisma of street walkers and used car salesmen, but unlike such working citizens, believing they are not accountable at all, and are so very far out of touch. They are often having difficulties with their expenses, which any politician has a right to claim, but they instead ignore the obligation of disclosure to whom pays the bills, which is we the people, and through it all, a never ending stream of scandal, with one abuse of privilege after another.

Consider those who vote the least, 18 to 24 year olds. Less than a third of them vote, while in 1980, two-thirds of the same age group voted. The difference is that today any expectations for “participation, self-realization and control over their lives” cannot be gained through our current electoral machine. Many see that besides the erosion of democracy, the basics of society, such as freedom of the press, having a system that is not corrupt, the right to peaceful protest, and having a rule of law which is the same for everybody, are being undermined, and they understand that ultimately elections do not usually affect such things.

We have become either not interested, too busy, or simply don’t care to vote anymore, by not being informed rationally or honestly, thus not being motivated to vote. This is good for the one party who operates within a system where, once again, as long as they get 2 or 3 people out of 10 to vote for them, they’re in. We’ve become disgusted with a politician’s behaviour, lack of scruples and integrity, sociopathic tendencies and sense of self entitlement. A sense of powerlessness pervades over us, but is kept at bay with a status quo of style over substance.

In BC and Canada, and other than the couple of Green members and a few independents, the leaders of both the ruling and opposition governments and their ministers, chiefs of staff and party whips, nearly every other MLA or MP backbencher, sit back like trained seals, occasionally roaring out “hear hear”, stomping their feet or pounding their desks. Their sense of entitlement gained from a, “set for life pension”, excellent pay and all the most lavish of perks, is actually the near rotten fish tossed their way, which they have eagerly gulped back.

The elite of the world and the governments they control are simply out of control. And really don’t care if the great curtain of Oz is lying on the floor like a dirty rag. Far too often the stench of blatant corruption, immorality, greed and a total lack of empathy permeate everything they do, say and touch.

In Canada the government mimes other capitalistic democracies by slashing guidelines for corporate behaviour, removing any accountability that they might have, and are ever more controlled by corporate lobbyists to micromanage the provinces and country. They would also like to privatize everything as soon as possible, which is not a bad thing, except the fact the privatizing is going to foreign interests. As to public service, it is becoming both private and secret.

Frustration reigns supreme above all else because the economic standing that a large lower-middle class, and working class once had has been slowly erased over the past thirty years. At the same time “the wealth and income derived from labor, which is how we citizens pay our way, has been transferred to capital, while the growth of productivity doesn’t translate into wage gains anymore”, because it’s usually transferred overseas.

Further frustration comes from the myriad of contradictions in government spending, such as, in BC, each MLA receives $19,000 a year for accommodation in Victoria when the legislature meets. Over the past few years, on average, they gather together about 40 days a year. Staying in a nice place on the inner harbour for 40 nights, using the “government rate”, costs about $8,000. Meanwhile a British Columbian living on disability income is expected to find accommodation with $4,500 per year; or that the chiefs of staffs and some MLAs are making upwards of $10,000 a month, while the majority of the province are trying to make do with $28,000 a year; or that BC has the lowest corporate tax rates in Canada, as well as having, for over ten years now, the highest child-poverty rate in Canada. In reality there is really no poverty per se, in any democratic country, just poor distribution of the wealth.

Our current democratic dysfunction is affecting the pulse of our collective consciousness. Instead of meaning and purpose it’s leaving us awash in a feeling of emptiness and unease. The distractions put in our faces are gladly taken, but deep down we are longing for change and reform. The distractions paralyze us to act for the now, not even wanting to think about the future. The only two roads being offered are either just sucking it up, turning ourselves off and pretending that everything’s okay, or standing up and acting. Unfortunately standing up and being heard can bring much to bear against you, too much than most people are willing to absorb and pay for, especially if it disrupts their daily lives or takes away any of their stuff. It’s why there is a lack of leadership in the world today. For anyone who is truly righteous and who stands up for others, we have a tendency as a society to marginalize, ostracize, defame and/or assassinate them, before they do too much damage to the status quo. And we must especially remember that whenever the word revolution is bandied about, there must be a very concise and exacting explanation for what that means.

Because our corporate governments are mostly being driven by capitalistic greed, the powers that be and who control them, will never allow their power to wane. Indeed many of the largest controlling institutions are, as they say, too big to fail. But capitalism gets away with its growing violence to both the environment and the fabric of our societies, much like the Bible got away with its extreme violence, degradation of women, and declaration that the planet’s resources are god given and meant to be used up as it see fit, because most times governments back it up, through repression of their people.

Far too many of us actually believe we can successfully, psychologically ignore and deny the planet is changing. Where escalating heat waves, droughts, floods and destructive mega storms have simply become natural events, and we are more mesmerized by the latest fashion or phone app. But it has been proven that messages based on fear, such as climate change, can cause people to feel dis-empowered and less likely to take action at all. That is why governments always promote a fear of something, whether it’s the Huns, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, crime, drugs or other religions and races.

Those who have just given up, have not only given up on themselves, but have also damned their children and their grandchildren as well. We have raised the standards of living so high over the past fifty years, and so gorged on the earth’s limited resources that future generations have no hope in hell of living in similar high fashion.

There is also the train of thought that there is such low voter turnout here in Canada, and elsewhere, because it’s a sign our political system is stable and that nobody votes because we are all relatively happy with our government; that life isn’t so bad and people do not see much significance in what the government is doing, and as long as we can continue to cheaply fill our gas tanks, we’re good to go.

The only problem with people today going merrily on their way seeking happiness is that most often we are seeking it in all the wrong places. Deep down we are all so very terribly bored, and so we think by making everyday distractions important they become a part of our daily routine, which makes it easier to get through the day. As deep is the reality that, as a biological species we simply need food, water, a roof over our head, and to be loved. But as long as we keep giving ourselves over to booze, pot, pills, celebrity fascination, the hope of winning a lottery ticket, that our car defines us, and that as long as we are able to maintain all of the other material comforts of our lives, we’ll accept most things without complaint.

So it comes down to, people don’t vote because they are happy with their lot in life, as long as something doesn’t happen in their own backyard, or understand that elections don’t really change anything in their daily lives, unless one becomes ill, hurt, abused or assaulted, of course, and can’t pay for the repairs. Or people don’t vote because they don’t give a shit and usually live their lives as such. Or people don’t vote because they look at the candidates and their parties and nothing meaningful is there to vote for. This I feel is the biggest reason many don’t bother to vote, for though society is crying out for leaders, there aren’t any.

What is needed, especially today when decisions are often needed to be made quickly for our futures sake, are individuals who bring forethought to the changes needed in our modern society and changing planet, and who understand what it might mean for democracy and basic human rights. Leaders willing to do battle in the only war any civilization needs to fight today, the one between the public good and private profits. It’s too bad that very few politicians today draft and pass mandates with positive results, which become a part of their legacy long after they are gone from office. Needed are leaders who are willing to bring about reform, no matter how bumpy the road might be, nor how many arrows glance off their brows. Men and women who are willing to speak for all citizens, not only those that support them, and who understand the importance of transparency and accountability, and who will promote policies that will improve the economic and social well being of the world. Someone who doesn’t cheat, steal or lie would be a huge evolutionary step forward.

In the 2013 BC election there were many talented individuals who were able to gain a seat in our legislature. Many are very qualified people, with business degrees and political science majors, and who are accountants, lawyers, and managers. All I’m sure having the best of intentions, and are very intelligent, which is often the problem, because more often than not it’s the really smart individual that is needed instead. And yes, there is a difference. But of all of those elected, there weren’t very many leaders. Someone the true majority of British Columbians believes in.

Premier Christy Clark may be the leader of the BC Liberals by way of our current voting system, but is she really the honourable leader we need in this changing world, or just the CEO of the government of BC, who on the world stage is a somewhat charismatic, teen-like, bubbly, minor celebrity with a nice smile who may or may not make any difference at all.

No matter Ms Clark, or the Liberal party’s intentions, are they strong enough in their convictions to represent all British Columbians, or just the princes of capitalism, or will they succumb to the problem that has followed politicians around since the first civilizations, in that power nearly always corrupts. As the Greek historian, Herodotus, explained in the 4th century BC, “Even the best of men, were he granted such power would alter the train of his thoughts. Insolence will be engendered in him by the advantages of his position, and envy …With these two in his soul he is filled with every wickedness, for insolence will cause him to break into many acts of wantonness, and envy into many more.”

I’ll end this essay with the issues of our sense of being overwhelmed, and the common adage, why bother to vote when it won’t mean anything. In our current voting system this is true, as is the reality that whoever of the two or three mainstream parties are in power in BC, nothing will change. The Liberals will continue to sit in the back seat of the speeding capitalism high-end sedan, as it hurls towards the edge of the cliff, with them all fighting over who can sit up front, and the New Democrats won’t stray too far from the middle of the road in their mid size “working man’s” pickup truck. Neither is what we need nor want, for we need action and reform. Meanwhile the Greens will cruise along in the latest hybrid, giving sage advice and sound alternatives.

But at any intersection, with the light switching to amber, the Greens slow down and stop just as it turns red, and take a look around. The New Democrats weave around them, quickly look left, then right, and boot through the amber. A few seconds after the light turned red, the Liberal sedan comes racing through the intersection nearly clipping an elderly man using a walker, just missing running over a university student, and nearly t-boning a local beer truck, but without even a glance or acknowledgement continues on, leaving the chaos in their dust.

Over the past hundred years, societies have had to deal with many issues, each separate and distinct as they usually happened piecemeal, from world wars to civil rights, the right to vote, women’s rights and the environment. Today is like a perfect storm arising seemingly just off in the distance, while in actuality is closer than we think. Income and wealth disparity, lack of accountability, corporate generated repression, blind greed, entitlement, consumerism, endless war, too big to fail institutions, crumbling infrastructure and climate change, all blending into one all-encompassing planetary crisis. Issues that need to be confronted by strong leadership and a populace willing to change, not for our sake, for we will be dead before it gets totally out of control, but for our children and their children. It would be completely irresponsible, immoral, suicidal, and just plain mean to leave such societal and political dysfunction and a deteriorating planet to future generations.

Distractions indeed have kept us busy. Our repression of anxiety, anguish, grief, and our natural human instincts and feelings, have sucked any courage we might have had right out of us. We have become, what was once sung “comfortably numb.”

We must not lose sight of the concepts of one small step at a time, but at the same time admitting that we must also confront the issues before us rather quickly, and have the courage to do so. For every action there is a potential reaction, with the future not yet written nor known. We must never forget that you who are reading these words, matter, we matter, and we are never too old or young to act, stand up and speak. Most importantly we must remember that hope is harvested, not given nor elected.

 

Further perusing – Tom Englelhardt  “Acts Of Courage”   TomDispatch.com

 

10/2/12

CAMA? Say it isn’t so Stevie Harper.

Why does the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper hate science so much? I pondered.

Over the past year I’ve written many articles of my opinion or rather confoundedness, over the decisions made by the Harper government of Canada. Besides the ever quickening pace of trying to sell and export our limited natural resources as fast as possible, our government is also picking up the pace as to selling the companies that extract said resources, mostly to China. The government openly panders to the energy corporations, yet hinders working Canadians, all the while chiseling away at our basic human rights and civil liberties, especially women’s and children’s, and specifically dismantling most environmental protections and controls. At the same time our government gets rid of the jobs, shuts down the work and tapes shut the mouths of a world renowned, respected science community, especially in natural resources and environmental science and technologies. From constant barrages of omnibus bills to funding cuts to nearly every government agency that deals with the environment and people or the safety and care of both.

We pull out of the Kyoto agreement yet have no national plan to battle climate change and carbon pollution. Local environmentalists and First Nations are branded foreign radicals, with Greenpeace called a “Multi-issue extremist group.” The charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the governments environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels are threatened to be revoked, while journalists follow the lead of their corporate controlled employers by way of the Prime Minister’s office. Anything to do with safeguarding our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans has been gutted or dismantled, such as the Navigable Waters protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.

The incredulous concepts that are entering government policy making should be scaring the bejesus out of you, it does me. Each new decision the federal government makes gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has all seemed so confusing. But if you know history it is yet another remake of the chapter we’ve all seen before and which I will name at the end of this article.

We are already degrading our land and creating ever more inequality amongst people, what’s suddenly the big rush? What is taking prestige over reason? Why the desperate maddening pace and disregard for the earth? Why has reform become a dirty word to politicians? Why is the Harper government so adverse to science and rational debate?

But then a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had heard of CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, no I answered, having no clue. “Check it out”, he replied. And so I did. And the confusion I once felt is gone, now I’m seriously afraid.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, was formed in 1887 by the Canadian evangelical pastor Albert Benjamin Simpson. Simpson, born on Prince Edward Island in 1843, was raised in a strict Calvinistic Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition, though later he converted to Evangelicalism and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Canada and the United States and by 1880 arrived at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, in New York City, where he began to put together doctrine which emphasized global evangelism. Moving to what is known as the New York Tabernacle he began to preach his word and eventually his and others words would transform over the decades to become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. CAMA is based out of New York with a strong base of operations in Alberta. There are about 500,000 members in the States, mostly all Republicans and about 130,000 in Canada, mostly all Conservatives and mostly all living in Alberta. They have about three million members worldwide.

The tenets of CAMA’s gospel are; Jesus our savior, sanctifier, healer and coming king, as well as the “pursuit and promotion of the Higher Christian Life.” Their commitment is to promote a biblically-based world view centered on Jesus Christ.

Their values  include developing their pastoral and lay leadership; where women are strictly not allowed, nurturing the pastoral staff and their families, belief in Biblical conflict resolution, encouraging creativity and innovation in submission of spirit, empowering churches and strategic building of churches in all communities of the world. They also have an Environmental Transformational Plan, which describes their “life zones” or spiritual realities, but the plan has taken ecology completely out of context.

CAMA’s Church Planting Life Zone for instance believes in an environment perpetually growing, where “church planters and church congregations pregnant with new church planting ideas would be welcomed, encouraged and assisted in giving birth”, which means building a new church and finding new members is encouraged and would be supported by CAMA, and of course, “sources of funding would be accessed in order to provide a steady stream of resources for church planting opportunities.”  Further, in each Church Planting Zone, “multiplication-minded leaders are motivated and encouraged by catalytic events designed to expand their thinking and accelerate their passion.” Other life zones include the Global Seamless-Link Life Zone, Leadership Life Zone and Pastoral Health Life Zone, all placing much importance upon the church, its executive and the Second Coming of Christ.

Their core values begin with the authority of the bible, literately every word of it as it is written, and leadership, where they state that they intentionally identify and train “godly” leaders. They uphold biblical justice, minister to the poor and oppressed of only their communities, and encourage and strengthen marriages and families. Divorce is frowned upon and if caught as an adulterer one loses their right to ever remarry.

As far as stewardship of the earth they view “all our resources and possessions as God-owned and we use them with integrity, accountability and maximum effectiveness.” The world was created for them to use as they will, that God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage.

As to prayer they believe, “We do nothing until we pray”. The Canadian members pray for Canada and its government and that “Godly agendas are required through minority rule.” They pray for those “utterly unreached people group-those under the domination of Islam, closed Hindu and Buddhist nations, etc.” All non-believers of their doctrine are considered the “lost people’. They also pray for their church leaders, pastors and executive to receive the spirit of their God in “remarkable new ways” and for them to be “strategic in service.”

CAMA members truly believe the Second Coming is “imminent and will be personal and visible”. Much like the evangelical Jehovah Witnesses have believed that every year is going to be the last one, since 1870; where Jesus Christ will physically appear on earth and will reign for one thousand years and then there will be the Final Judgment. After which time, the universe, including the microscopic parts of heaven and earth, will be renewed to become a new and fresh heaven and earth. They also believe the world to be only 6,000 years old.

To survive the second coming they pray that their churches have the “budgets, decisions and staffing that reflect their kingdoms values.”  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be born again and “justified, sanctified and granted the gift of eternal life as adopted children of God.”

Fields of flowers, blue clear skies, cold crystal clean water and natural resources will be renewed and the chosen one’s will live on, to use the world to their will and a vicious cycle would seemingly begin anew. I know the Bible well, and unfortunately nowhere does one find a story about a Third Coming.

Other  beliefs of CAMA include that the free market is divinely inspired, with libertarian economics being God’s will and that God is opposed to government regulation or taxation for he created government for limited purposes only and whom should never intervene in the workings of a free market economy. They also oddly enough, though I am sure Charles Darwin isn’t their kind of scientist, seem to believe in the new social Darwinism, where the adage has been changed to the survival of the richest, not the fittest, will somehow benefit society and everyone else are simply lacking the motivation and ambition to help themselves.

Besides not having any regard for the environment and not putting any belief in science, they have utter contempt for homosexual relationships, abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia and the use of marijuana. They demand the complete loyalty of their members to their organization, possess extreme disdain for mainstream media, but then don’t we all in its current state, and believe wholeheartedly in the Dominion Theory, where humans were made to subdue and rule over all of creation. Because when it all collapses, no worries, God will fix it.

Because the Christian and Missionary Alliance do not put any faith in the notion of climate change due to human contribution and don’t think much of science in general, they are closely affiliated to another appendage of themselves in the Cornwall Alliance, a right wing coalition of scholars, evangelicals and economists, many who are Christian Alliance members, and formed in 2000 with the introduction of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. Their motto is Dominion, Stewardship and Conservation; they “aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.” Their main threats are science and anything to do with monitoring the environment.  They indeed have a very evangelical biblical view of the planet, but then as do so many other faiths and organizations. It’s why they all despise each other so much, would like very much to rid each other off the planet and to be just left alone, to be the only one left when human endeavor drives off the edge of the cliff. While extremists at both ends of the spectrum seem to have no qualms on creating an Armageddon themselves if they have to, just to prove their points.

Within the Cornwall Declaration are statements that were surreal to read, seemingly out of this world, time and place. I kept looking around, thinking someone was playing a joke on me or perhaps I was even being punk’d. The statements within the declaration include that policies to combat climate change would and are, destroying jobs. Besides, they say the trillions of dollars it would take to combat our affect on the planet would bring “no net benefits.” They also assert that any impediment on economic development such as raising energy prices, would take away the ability of the worlds poor to rise out of poverty, thus “so condemn millions to premature death.” They believe one of the worst things to do would be to continue trying to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, because it will only increase the price of energy and harm the world’s economies. In fact they flat out deny that carbon dioxide is harmful to the planet because it is “essential to all plant growth.” Believing the energy from their God’s planet must be abundant and affordable until the day he soon arrives, they feel fossil and nuclear fuels as being the perfect sources for this. Policies to control global warming they deem, “fruitless and harmful”, because the earth is “self  regulating and self correcting” and besides the earth was made to be used, so that humanity may flourish and display God’s glory.

As far as alternative and renewable forms of energy, they believe that such things as wind and solar power will only be good enough for either “poor or rural peoples.” Going further into the declaration; they do not feel that humanity is only consumers and polluters but instead we are producers and stewards. One of their main goals is to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of both, the earth’s resources and corporations, and if there is to be any collective action it must be taken at the most local level possible. They also wish everyone would just recognize their proper place in their God’s created order.

I began this article asking a few questions about the madness that seems to be enveloping Canada. The denying of science’s role in environmental and social decisions; cutbacks to fading social programs such as unemployment, pensions, health and welfare; the attempt to become a militaristic badass in the world;  the ongoing destruction of our basic human rights; the death of our will to vote; and the insane and desperate need for the status quo to continue.

The outcome of the last federal election, where 39% of those who voted elected a majority Conservative government, brought forth once again, the Harper government. It would seem we Canadians have a democracy problem. According to the Harper government’s agenda and policies, especially at the quickened pace as of late one can only surmise what’s behind such asinine decisions. Well surmise no more.

Yes, kept behind Oz’s curtain, glimpsed at only briefly, with nearly no one knowing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for nearly twenty years. He has always been questioned of perhaps having a hidden agenda. He does and it could very well be his God’s agenda, heaven forbid.

Other notable members of CAMA include many TV pastors and healing evangelists such as F.F. Bosworth and Clement Humbard; Billy Graham’s first African-American evangelist, Preston Manning; founder and former leader of the Reform party of Canada, and the now deceased, American Evangelist Billy Graham, who became a member of CAMA in 1933 but who was actually a Democrat and not completely on the religious right, once saying that Jesus did not have a political party.

Another long standing CAMA member is former Canadian Conservative cabinet minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Chuck Strahl, who in June 2012 was proudly given the chairman’s position of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the lone watchdog which oversees Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), by his close friend Stephen Harper. The sounds you should be hearing are the goose bumps bubbling out of your skin.

Is the Prime Minister of Canada really basing his decisions on what Canadians need and want today and tomorrow or instead on what was written by many and then translated dozens of times, two thousand years ago? His positions on research, statistics, protestors, journalists, First Nation’s people, women, children, pipeline opponents and climate change cannot but make one wonder what is exactly going on here. Though with his buddy Strahl now in charge of Canada’s Secret Service we may never know. Heck I could even disappear or be tagged as a radical dissident after this article is posted.

I am not anti-religious, I do believe in spirituality; the spark of energy every living thing on the planet possesses and that we all share. Most organised religions have made a lot of money and gained much power over the millennia trying to control that spark. Usually by making that spark of energy negative and flawed as it were born and the only way to bring light back into it is by sacrifice, devotion and fear of either one god or many gods. On the flip side, whatever belief system a person has to keep them feeling centered, their lives rewarding, fulfilled and honest is right for them, for the Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of religion, but it also protects our rights of freedom from religion. This is one of the reasons Canada is such a diverse place, where no matter one’s personal religion or race, its live and let live.

But if a Republican evangelical belief system enters the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, we Canadians should know about it, and seriously consider “the virtues of democracy over theocracy.” Remember, everyone not within the republican evangelical tribe are the “lost people” or “the others”, especially if you happen to be disabled, elderly, poor or a veteran.

More frequently, the Harper government’s policies are going against most Canadian’s values, with the words irresponsible, unethical, blatant and arrogant being bandied about more than usual. Any programs for promotion of renewable energy and home-energy efficiency have been thrown to the wayside. Yet in reality, investing in renewable energy will create more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could and the investment would be highly likely to pay off, it has to, for survival’s sake. Unfortunately the Harper government is continuing to rely on our economics to grow their way out of the problem of climate change and  haven’t realized yet that it will be too little too late and will not work. The earth does not care about economics. Instead of dealing with the causes of climate change it seems the world’s leaders would rather “watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”

The English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was often referred to as the “prince of paradox” for his prolific and diverse published works. He was a true radical, meaning he sought the root or origin of an issue, any issue and eventually became a Catholic to boot. Over seventy years ago he would write, “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” He felt government was going to operate in a way where, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”, quite astute that Gilbert, I do say.

Meanwhile we Canadians have another three years with PM Stephen Harper as our country’s leader. The question of where does his ideas come from, whether from fellow Canadians or from God, needs to be asked. Is policy, especially towards the environment, really being motivated by religious faith over reason? But then whether religion is a factor in government policies or just plain old greed, they are both of the same cloth. It is being proven daily that the diffusion of aggressive social conservatism based on evangelical beliefs is impossible to keep out of politics here or in the States. The difference is in the States they are oblivious to how ignorant they are to their ignorance and in Canada we just don’t hear about it and simply don’t ask. As far as the media and Stephen Harper’s religious affiliation goes it’s been mum’s the word.

The vision of a conservative society, where the privileged few would rule but understand the responsibility that came with such power, of being accountable to all citizens, whether they be poor or not, and who would act only for the common good, was held by many great leaders over the past century. Since killing off some of these great leaders in the late 60’s, the new religion that has become termed “conservatism” has arose, widening even further the inequality of our society, ignorant to any responsibility to the people or the public good, and is ego maniacal, quasi-psychopathic and greedy.

What will our environment and society look like in three years? Will we have sold off most of our resources by then and continue to ignore extreme weather and a ravaged oil soaked land and sea, as our infrastructure crumbles around us, with too high food prices, more starvation and ill health?  Will most social programs once supplied by the government be gone and communities will be more on their own and somehow funding themselves instead? Will homosexuality once again become stigmatized, forbidden and eventually against the law like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and protest of any kind could very well be?  Will a new private prison corporation build more prisons to house people who were either caught or even suspected of smoking a joint? Perhaps more fines, impoundments, licence removal and in many cases, jobs lost, because there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with the limit point oh oh. How far shall I go here? Switch over and start reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all over again to verify how much truth and foresight both authors spoke? Especially Orwell’s notion of “doublethink”, which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, which could be the Harper government’s problem believing in greed and God at the same time.

The Conservative right, on both sides of the border, may have abandoned truth and fact but we must not. The facts are the obligations to the things that matter in our lives, such as our health, meaningful work, family and our environment. One of the reasons our cultures are fracturing apart and decaying is because of our use of disengagement and distraction as an excuse for our ignorance; it is eating away at our souls. We continue to buy what corporate governments sell and lose value in the simple truth. While empathy, which has been taught over the past few decades as being “soft” and which is nearly extinct in many places, is actually as powerful as intelligence and knowing the facts in being a force with which to act. But we have been disengaged for so long we’ve forgotten how to drive standard.

First gear definitely has to be asking if indeed our future is being planned by ourselves and those who represent us or being dictated upon corporate ideology and make believe. Switching gears should be easier after that especially when more and more people realize that they are not alone. There are so many good things being done to better the planet and our lives, by many people, companies and yes, even a few corporations, the world over. Unfortunately the richest corporation’s ravenous quickening pace is leaving a diseased, spoiled wasteland behind.

I’d love to ask Stephen Harper; What if we destroy the ecosystems and non-human species of the planet, change the climate, melt the polar ice caps, acidify the oceans and rivers, use up all the earth’s resources and Jesus Christ does not arrive? No sign at all, no phone call, nothing, what then?

Ending this article as if I had included a drawing I did of Muhammad, I ask what of humanity in the scenario above? Would the laws that would have been put in place by then, which is not so far off as many think, be similar to the laws that became the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, released in Germany in 1935, by the degenerate psychopathic Adolf Hitler? The first law of this doctrine is similar to many documents worldwide, though in this case “kindred blood” sort of curls one’s nose hairs. But say the word “Reich”, was replaced with the Harper Conservatives of Canada, if indeed influenced by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the word “German” perhaps replaced with Evangelical. This could be the new Charter of Rights they desperately seek. The Republicans in the States would fit the bill as well and we know what carrot they are blindly following.

“A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who through his behaviour, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.”

And so it began. More laws were to be added, starting with the simple banning of homosexuals, Jews and most all religions, foreigners, undesirables, the homeless and poor and elderly, writers, dissidents, thinkers, artists and many other “lost people”, whether man, woman or child. The banning would then become incarceration in work camps, with the final step being the Jewish issue, which was taken care of a few years later when Hitler attached another law, a Conservative Harper, omnibus type bill, which was called the “Final Solution” and after the smoke cleared, more than14 million people, 6 million of them Jews, had faced their Final Judgment and would die, because they were not members of his tribe.

Do we not bring up such past evils and horror; so that we can make sure they never happen again? This time though, the earth will soon be incapable of handling the human drama of our egos, the way we live, think and treat each other and it. We must not continue on being dismissive any longer or go “quietly into the night”. The Second Coming is nearing, but it’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with us and our actions as a species today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Further reading;

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/religions-fair-game-if-it-motivates-politics/article4450326/

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20060220_121848_121848

 

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

 

 

 

 

10/19/11

The Occupy and Fed Up and Can’t Take it Anymore Movement

“Evolution does not unfold in a neat, linear fashion; it is a messy complicated affair.” Palaeontologist Adam Yates

 

The Occupy Movement that is spreading around the world is the merging of people concerned about globalization, concentration of wealth and power, erosion of basic human rights and the economic and social marginalization of the majority. Our once progressive nations are now becoming regressive, where our current economic system isn’t working for the majority anymore.  Since we became viewers instead of doers and consumers instead of citizens the road that our governments are pushing us down is the road to totalitarianism, where sooner than we think, most all aspects of our lives will be subject to state control.

The issues driving this protest are diverse; corporate greed, environmental sustainability, social inequality, income disparity, homelessness, poverty and the erosion of fundamental human rights. It is a rising up against a system that benefits the wealthy elite at the expense of the working class, with citizens feeling excluded from the decisions that are extremely important to their lives. It is about the financial mismanagement that continues to push us further into economic recession and how corporations control and influence the political agenda, for any system that promotes greed does not include accountability, with the underlying issue being the lack of morality and no ethical leadership.

This is why many, especially anyone making over one hundred thousand dollars a year, are not getting it and are confused over why the protests are happening at all. It all comes down to basic human nature and the ego. Many of the top 1% who possess the majority of the wealth,  besides thinking irrationally that no matter the problems with our societies or of the degenerating environment, they will be insulated and unaffected from it and will be able to buy their way out, also possess unhealthy, excessive pride, which gives them over-confidence, arrogance and contempt. They are overly vain and become snobs, because they feel they are above others, who are to them “lesser humans”. This excessive pride does not acknowledge that others outside of their immediate circle are of equal worth. On the other hand, natural and realistic pride gives a person the confidence to recognize that the world contains natural hierarchies of both aptitude and attitude.

Many of the problems today, whether social or environmental, are caused by the globalization of market forces, which also drives income inequality. The riots in Britain this past summer were caused mostly from the barely contained anger of an unequal society. The crashing of global markets in 2008 was caused by greed and bad decision making by the principle players, by not understanding the moral implications of strategic decisions. Their problem was how they viewed their roles and as the 2001 accounting scandals that brought down Enron and others proved, they have no ethics either.

The super-rich of the 1920’s lived on income that came from holding assets; today the super-rich accrue their wealth from paid compensation. According to a survey carried out in Canada, in April/2011 by BMO Harris Private Banking, 94% of respondents with investable assets of $1 million or more said they have made their money on their own, either as self made professionals and/or business owners, with only 6% inheriting their wealth. Nearly 80% said  that they enjoy greater wealth than their parents and 70% said they are currently the same or better off than they were before the 2008 financial collapse. Surprisingly, less than 58% felt their children would be able to manage their inheritance.

In 2009 Canada’s highest paid executive. Aaron Regent, the Chief Executive Officer of Barrick Gold, earned over $24 million in wages. The same year the median income for a single Canadian was $22,800. Over the last 20 years, the income of 80% of Americans has stagnated while the top 1%’s income has nearly doubled, with the richest 1% of Americans taking in 25% of the income and controlling 40% of the wealth. Startlingly, the pace of widening between those who have and those who do not is rising faster in Canada than in the United States.

In Canada, over 33% of the wealth created in the past 20 plus years has gone to the richest 1% of Canadians, about 246,000 people, with most of their wealth gained from 1998-2007. But then the bubble burst, which it will always do, for as far as capitalism goes its flaw is that it is a system based on unlimited, infinite growth working within a finite framework. Canada’s once progressive approach to social programs and tax policies aided in keeping the disparity in income in check. Now that we are becoming more regressive, minimum wages have stagnated, with real income after inflation barely increasing. Unionization is decreasing. There is tighter access to unemployment benefits and lower welfare payments, while the tax rate for the richest 1% has dropped from 80% in 1948 to about 38% in 2009, with them paying about 18% of total taxes paid. From 1976 to 2009, the richest 20% of Canadians doubled their income difference over the poorest 20%, from $92,300 to $177,500, while the median income of the other 80% of Canadians rose only 5.5% over the same timeframe. With the top 20% of earners receiving 51% of total income earned.

In a nutshell, the 246,000 Canadians whose annual income is $200,000 or more are the richest 1%. One-tenth of a per cent of these individuals make over $2.8 million a year. Anyone earning $100,000 or more annually is in the top 5%. Globally, anyone making $53,000 a year or more is included in the richest 1% of worldwide income earners.

A huge fallacy has been countries using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to show that an economy is doing well. GDP is used to measure a country’s total economic value. It measures total output produced within a country’s borders, whether produced by that country or not, in a given period. GDP per capita is not a measurement of but is considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.  Countries base many of their legislative, financial, social and economic decisions on the GDP which seems ludicrous considering the facts that the GDP does not include assessment of quality of life, does not indicate growing economic and social inequalities or for variances in income, or for such things as household production, volunteer or unpaid services. It does not account for any “underground” economies or account for the value of all assets in an economy. It also does not account for amassing objects of value, increase in wealth or creation of wealth. It does not adjust for quality improvements or new products, does not include environmental and social impacts, costs for environmental clean-up and restoration nor for births and deaths. The GDP is what props up the world’s financial plutocracy and the concept that with capitalism, especially in the banking sector, people don’t matter. It robs us of any financial democracy. But then we are in societal denial about many things, especially thinking that we can continue to try to fit the square peg of our self-indulgent, consumer society into the round hole of the environment.

During the first decade of this century, under the guise of the GDP indicating a rising standard of living, steady growth in the world’s economies, very little oversight and hardly any reform 2008 came along and the proverbial shit hit the fan. The global financial market imploded. Corporate controlled media had been giving the story that we were in an age of wealth, while in reality it is the age of debt. Marketing, spending, entertainment, sports and politics have kept our eyes diverted, while drugs and alcohol keeps us occupied and complacent. It is no wonder that the worlds #1 health problem will soon be the state of our mental well being.

There was no public inquiry into the causes of the crash and no calling to account of those responsible. They were allowed to simply walk away from the crash, uninjured and would be actually compensated very well for their inferior and irresponsible driving. To bailout their greedy and irrational behaviour they were paid from tax revenue diverted from medical care, education, social security, jobs creation and addressing climate change. Many corporate leaders were given multimillion dollar bonuses, with the added dividend that the speeding up of the dismantling of public service resources makes populations dumber and more controllable. Incredible amounts of public money were paid to save the system without fixing it. The United States bailed out their villains on Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion, about the same amount they spend on their defence budget annually ($670 billion), and about the same amount they owe China, their largest foreign debtor.

Believing that some of the bailout money would trickle down is sheer fantasy. Left to the current devices of capitalism money always floods upwards. Politicians simple become cheque writers and do not have the will to stand up to global finance or the wealthy because those are the people they actually work for and represent. Much like all the empires throughout history, as they fall there is inherent corruption within the system. Members of a political party do not follow the concerns of those they represent, they follow the concerns of the party and what the corporate lobbyists, who wine, dine and play them, tell them what the concerns should be, in confidence of course.

The Canadian Government, currently called the Harper Conservative Government received 39% of the votes in the last federal election yet rules by a large majority of the Parliament and is every day becoming a classic case, which time and time again has proven, will eventually rot  from within from apathy, smugness and placidity. Politicians are no longer men and women of the people but men and women of the governing class who preside in the realm where honesty and openness are rarely seen and their false vanity soon becomes cynicism. Eventually they will very nearly believe they have been placed in government by god himself. This has happened more often than not over the past few thousand years.

On certain levels, we the people knew this was going to happen because we could feel the changes in our personal lives. The huge majority of people do not live so grandiose lives as do those in the corporate world. For most of us life is earning enough to eat, having a decent job and having a modest home to live in. Our lives are the daily contacts we have with our fellow human beings, our interactions and our relationships. This year (2011), polling has determined that well over 60% of Canadians are living pay check to pay check.

Politics in Canada and the United States is an affair where few actually vote, especially among the young. Elsewhere in the world people are literally sacrificing themselves, and often dying for even the right to vote. When we do vote we are voting for a party instead of whom one represents.

The Occupy movement is being accused of having no leadership or definition. Instead, so far it is being led by everyone standing up and being allowed to voice their concerns. Though the powers that be have the media clamouring for a definition, they must remember that our current modern age began over five hundred years ago, when our need to understand led to definition. To get the Occupy movement to announce a definition of what they represent now would be clearly skipping the understand part. And once defined, accurately or not, would put itself in the hands of the richest 1% whose primary activities are transaction and consumption, and at which time the cool-aid would be then passed around.

What the world needs now and is craving, is ethical leadership. Unfortunately in the past whenever great ethical and empathic leaders would appear they would eventually become marginalized or killed off.  But that is changing, for there are many wealthy people today who are very concerned about their fellow humans and the environment, there simply is not enough of them. Our banks and our economies may soon sink into bankruptcy, but we should not allow ourselves to become morally bankrupt at the same time. One can only imagine the difference if more corporate leaders, bankers, traders and political lobbyists were actually morally enlightened. Corruption, the stink of capitalism, would be rare. Imagine politicians speaking for and representing the people that they live alongside in their communities and regions instead of living in fear of speaking out against the party and being just puppets, putting in just enough effort and time to receive obscene pension packages. A far changing difference would be having the 10% of humanity who manage the various societies for the wealthy, continue to be educated in accounting and economics but also in the values of self reflection and the study of virtues, such as humanity, justice and courage. Developing responsible business ethics is not the answer we need now, but might be what’s needed to prevent any future damage.

The leaders that are needed today are men and women of good character. Leaders, who will admit their mistakes, humbly seek advice and retain their personal integrity. Such corporate leaders today have led companies that are holding their own through the current financial crisis. They possess a strong value system and with an ability to reflect on these values and tendencies have encouraged better communication and more transparency in their business transactions.

What started as a global financial crises became a debt crises for individual nations, which is now seeping back into the financial system causing further bailout plans. But austerity measures won’t work and will probably simply speed up the downward economic spiral. The Occupy movement has many issues that are important to humanity and how we do things, as well as issues vital to the earth’s deteriorating environment. They don’t have the answers but do agree that something has to be done now, today. And that everyone must start making a difference equally. We have arrived at the point in time of our history where we have become aware that communism and capitalism don’t work. As to what will work is what we need to find out, but we must first understand what we need before defining what it is we need.

There are a lot of sound ideas out there on what should be done. A huge step in the right direction would be getting away from global and national banking. The enormous profits big banks make do not create new jobs, fund the renewal of our infrastructure, build a new green economy, eradicate poverty or tackle climate change. The new money that is created only enriches the wealthy. Far too many of us are becoming slaves of distant lending and credit card companies. Household debt is climbing drastically, even though we can’t afford it; student fees rising to life-long debt levels, rents and a housing market that is becoming as fantastical as thinking one will be alright as soon as they win 20 million dollars on the lottery. Instead we should perhaps ponder about having local, public savings banks which support small business and ordinary people.

Another need is for more dispersed ownership and control of a nation’s natural, human and financial capitol, whereas the financial industry returns to a more mutual ownership. For example, all print, whether newspapers, books or magazines; publishing houses: television, film and radio is all owned, in Canada and the US, by about 2-3 corporations, which is very scary close to being all owned by just one.

Instead of hiding behind the curtain of the GDP perhaps each community could discuss what each sees as its future and what opportunities are there for locally based businesses and lasting, stable jobs. And to also incubate initiatives among diverse groups that perceive and think ahead to future dangers and make long lasting decisions to correct its course.

As to the gap between rich and poor, the reality is that when equality is greater in a society it brings about such things as; with everyone having at least a decent standard of living with their basic necessities taken care of, it brings about the elimination of poverty, which translates into better physical health thus less health costs. More education would bring higher levels of trust between peoples, which would reduce imprisonment and prisons and also bring about less drug abuse and less obesity.

With rising health costs and the fact that in North America in 2011 the largest wave of the wealthiest, most educated and professionally accomplished people in the history of mankind, the proponents of what is happening today, as well as a majority whose illusions of retiring to a life of leisure is now compromised, reached the age of 65 yrs. This generation has been very lucky in that most of their wealth was gained from a housing boom that saw the average home value rise nearly 80% over their lifetime. Housing values over the next decade is forecasted to either go sideways or decline. The new generation are already in debt and their future will be living in a debited society. With the majority of people in Canada now elderly, it is interesting to note that of the factors determining our health in Canada, only 25% of the quality of the health care system accounts for our good health. For 50% of us Canadians the factors determining our health includes childhood development, education, social status, community connection, income and work history. While for 25% of us our health is determined by biology, genetics and physical environment.

The Occupy movement started with people looking around empathically and finally standing up and saying enough is enough. With lists of issues and needing answers, the dialogue already created is going a long way and is growing with each passing day. The movement is global, for the gap between those that have and those that do not is widening everywhere. People are simply fed up and it’s not that they won’t, it’s that far too many cannot take it anymore, not just what the world has become now, but as to what it will be like for our children and their children. Far too many of us continue to believe in the naive concept that, “My father did better than my grandfather. I did better than my father, while my children, i hope will do better than me”.

The wealth, prestige and respect of a few leaders gives them the freedom to go out into the world and instil change, to care and to stand up and speak for their fellow humans no matter where they were born on the earth. This is their passion and who they are, but as mentioned earlier they are but a few. Others who have wealth have passions as well but it is for the need of more wealth. Instead of being an important person to their family, community and the world they are simply trying to buy themselves the title and the respect that comes with it. The rest of us only want a fair shake and need to realize that for about 70 to 80% of the world’s population, any changes will have to be done collectively and individually.

The irresponsibility and greed of the super-rich have already caused one crash but we the public bought them a new vehicle, which we are once again standing on the sidelines, watching as it speeds headlong for the edge of the abyss sucking everything along with it, with all the principle players fighting over who is going to steer or at least who gets to sit up front.

The collective consciousness of our world is what must be changed and has nothing to do with where and to which environment we were born into. All wise men and women, who we have deemed as being true prophets, throughout the history of humanity, have always stressed the point that each person must strive to create positive change only into their own lives to affect change globally.