07/24/12

The Garage Sale of Canada

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

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

But suddenly, because no matter how hard you need to get out, something sucks you back in. I ran across an article about another foreign corporation buying off another piece of Canada and thought wow, is there going to be anything left? And how much have we already sold off? As it is, thirty-six sectors of the Canadian economy is majority foreign owned, including the chemical industry, rubber industry, computer industry and the petroleum industry. Zero sectors in US are majority foreign owned. The following is but a smattering of what I found.

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

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

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

July 2012. Calgary-based Talisman Energy sells a 49 per cent interest in its UK division to the Chinese state-controlled Sinopec Corp. for $1.5 billion. Sinopec is the same corporation which paid $2 billion last year, to buy the Alberta oil and gas firm Daylight Energy and back in Sept 2008, as the bubble burst in most democratic countries, they purchased Vancouver/Calgary based Tanganyika Oil for another $2 billion. They are also one of the biggest investors in the Enbridge pipeline.

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

June 2012. Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas, offers $5.5 billion to buy out Progress Energy Resource Corp., their Canadian partner in northeastern BC gas fields.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

06/22/12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 2011. Canada withdraws from Kyoto Treaty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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