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.

 

 

06/27/12

3rd period of Oh Canada, where art thou going ?

In between periods our dressing room was pretty quiet, a pretty frustrated bunch. The fans meanwhile, though they had multiple things around them to keep them distracted, were becoming board, but as the 2nd period had run down, more of them began to notice that there was a game being played on the ice. And as more watched more became frustrated at what they were seeing.

Especially how Harper arrogantly skated around calling all the shots and he and his team had no intentions of playing by the rules or with any sort of integrity. Though his team had been selected by the fans to represent them, they didn’t seem to represent anybody other than their leader. Regulated by obscene pension packages, pay and perks to follow his lead and under no circumstances were they to speak out against any of his decisions and policies or heaven forbid vote against anything he says.

By the end of the second intermission, all around the arena, cellphones began to be turned off. The concourse began to empty, as people went back to their seats, now interested in the outcome of the game. They knew who we were, for we were them and because of that they were unwilling to ignore the unfairness anymore.

This period, the final period, we have collectively decided to put aside anything to do with our egos and play for each other, our loved ones and all Canadians. And if our best is not good enough we will lose and go home to dry out our sweaty gear and make what is really important to us, important again; our lives, families, relationships and communities. Because after watching and playing against the Harper government we have seen the blatant disregard of their responsibilities to the people of Canada, and how they operate with no worry of being held accountable. It is very obvious in the arrogant way they play and move their lips that they cannot be relied upon anymore to fulfill our needs at the provincial and community level. While in many cases the teams that represent the provinces are unable and unwilling to meet our needs either. So it all comes down to community. Where we don’t need to have a team, we just need each other.

Drafting another government team, to simply operate in the same broken system, isn’t really much of an option, considering Liberal or Conservative policies on the whole are very similar. The battle between them is waged by pointing out the few differences each have and throwing everything they got at that. The system is what’s broken.

The only power we have over our government is voting. Federally, the majority of Canadians forfeit this right and people get elected who become a member of parliament and cease to represent their constituents and who instead represent only their leader of their party and the policies that come out of his office. In between elections, we the people have no say at all in what the government is doing. As a matter of fact MP’s obviously don’t either, throwing their consciences and what’s good for the country easily aside as they do.

If one was to be looking at selecting a team amongst the most developed and richest countries in the world, one would want to look at their performance and competitive nature.

The French based, international economic organization, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), formed in 1961, compares policies, economic progress and world trade of the 34 most developed and richest countries on the planet. They try to co-ordinate the domestic and international policies of its members and keep track of the world’s countries’ GDP (gross domestic product). Though the GDP does not fully define social and economic well being and how we are doing as a society because it defines only the total market value of goods and services produced by a country in one year, and really has nothing to do with if one is happy in their life or not, it is interesting to look over the OECD’s global competitiveness rankings of 2011 and see how Harper’s Canada is doing.

Of the G7 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States, Canada is 2nd worst after Japan in global competitiveness. As to the GDP performance of all OECD countries, Canada’s GDP growth is projected to be equaled or surpassed by Chile, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and Turkey. Our unemployment rate is just below the OECD average. Countries whose deficits are smaller, as a percentage of GDP than Canada’s, include Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

OECD also rates Canada 22nd in poverty, and 25th in social spending, Though Canada prides itself as having the 9th largest GDP in the world, it is rated as such; 22nd in poverty, 25th in social spending and research and development, 21st in tax load, with the 4th highest in personal taxation amount. Meanwhile, in 2006, Canadian banks made a profit of $89 billion and paid only 15% income tax. Canada is 54th in the world as to doctors per 100,000 patients. Cuba has been under a blockade for over forty years and has twice as many doctors per 100,000 patients. As far as spending on education as a % of GDP Canada is ranked 91st in the world.

The horn goes to start the third period; we throw our legs over the boards and are off to the races.

Feb. 2012. Harper Government abandons, the $1 billion to establish, Long Gun registry because it claims it is an invasion of privacy. All gathered information pertaining to non-restrictive firearms to be destroyed. Same month, they introduce legislation to allow police to read e-mails and view surfing habits of any individual. Bill C-30 would require telecommunication companies to hand over customers’ personal info to police without a court order. Supreme Court of Canada ruled such a thing is unconstitutional. Bill was passed after being tweaked to make it indeed mandatory for police to let you know you’ve been wiretapped, but only after it is concluded, and which could go on for years. Supreme Court of Canada was happy with that.

Canada’s continuing disconnect between the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10), which is expected to increase population of Canada’s prisons with its priority being “tough on crime” and reality. Bill C-10 is a prison promotion strategy not a crime prevention or rehabilitation bill. Yet expected cuts to federal Corrections will be more than $295 million, $85 million in 2012 alone. Though there is more overcrowding in prisons with less staff, the Harper government has no intention of building prisons. Responsibility of warehousing any prisoners has been simply passed onto each province.

Bill C-10’s amendments include more mandatory sentencing. Thus judges are to ignore specific circumstances of the offender and the offence. These new laws (passed on March 12, 2012 by a vote of 154 for, 129 against) have created such things as; if found growing 6-200 marijuana plants will give you a mandatory minimum of 6 months, but not more than 2 years, with a maximum of 14 years. While someone sexually assaults a child or forces a child to have sex with an animal will only get a minimum of 1 year and not more than 10 and if a person admits guilt of such an offence, upon summary conviction will be given, not more than 18 months and a minimum of 90 days.

And because that great pendulum of life never stops swinging to both ends of its arc and never slows in the middle, Bill C-10 dictates that if you are growing five marijuana plants in your garden as an herbal medicine, whether sick or not, will put you in jail for a minimum of 6 months with a maximum of 2 years less a day, the same sentence for being found guilty of publishing child porn and distribution of. While any sexual interference, invitation to sexual touch and sexually exploit any child will give you a mandatory sentence of only 90 days on summary conviction, 1 year on indictment.

March 2012.  Major reductions of environmental oversight, including closing of BC’s Command centre for emergency oil spills. In all, $3.78 million is cut from the Environmental Emergency Program. Environmental emergencies will now be nationally co-ordinated. How emergencies will now be handled is, if in need of assistance in a disaster, any advice or assistance the Harper government can give us will now be by telephone. Across Canada emergency response personnel are being slashed in half, the rest are being relocated to Quebec. Environment Minister Peter Kent says the program will function just fine with a reduced staff and without six of its regional offices, including ones in Vancouver and St. John’s. The Harper government’s response to questions pertaining to oil response plans, usually end with conceding that “successful” spill cleanups, recover 10 to 15 per cent of the oil.

Internationally respected Nova Scotia-based scientist, oil spill expert and the executive director of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Kenneth Lee, is informed his position will be terminated.

Overall and across the country, more than one thousand workers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada have received the same notices. “I’m no longer surprised but I’m increasingly angry and I’m also extremely wary of what the future means for Canada,” said Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University. “The government’s decisions lately are reducing our governmental scientific capacity and what that means is that it’s reducing or seriously compromising the ability of science to contribute effectively to those decisions that affect the well being, the safety and the health of Canadians and their environment.”

April 2012. Five and a half thousand Federal services jobs cut, predominately in Health Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, Agriculture Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Investment Development Agency, Citizenship and Immigration, Canada Heritage, Veteran Affairs and anything to do with monitoring the environment.

Also in April, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland’s population of over 2 million people lose the domestic and international, Emergency Disaster Response Team, due to budget cuts. The Response Team had been setup and trained, with the tools and skills needed to respond to an earthquake or such disaster and quickly act to save lives. But was not able to show any profit I suppose.

Back in the game, we are all sitting on the bench or leaning over the boards, waiting through yet another delay. One of Harper’s players, the Public Safety minister, had been playing an atypical stay at home defenseman’s role all game, but in the third period he and the goalie, a senator, had built up a brick wall in front of their net, with only a couple of holes where you could see twine showing through. Once again winning another one-on-one battle, we had managed to get the puck out of our zone, crossed center ice and dumped the puck deep into their end. The Public Safety minister was caught unawares as he was shooing the goalie to the bench, for they didn’t need him anymore since the brick wall in front of their net was now completed. Anyways, the puck came rifling into his zone and with a brick in one hand and his stick, upside down, in the other; he quickly got up and skated hard for the corner to retrieve the puck but lost an edge and crashes into the end boards. We swore he was out cold. The officials huddled around him and medical personnel were soon scurrying across the ice to his prone body. Put on a stretcher, he was wheeled off the ice, one arm slowing rising with a thumbs- up. The crowd cheered, without malice, only in support and hope that it was not too bad an injury and for a healthy recovery, because well, we’re Canadian.

One of our coaches returned from checking out the extent of the injuries to tell us that the injured Public Safety minister was in his dressing room, awake now and obviously concussed by his screaming that tomorrow he will table changes to the rules of hockey to include yield signs embedded along the blue lines at three foot intervals, stop signs to be plastered across the glass at both ends and there was going to be a speed limit as to how hard one can skate and shoot the puck. At least we hoped he was concussed. We guffawed; yeah right we pretended to say.

Their injured player was then replaced by an elderly Chinese fellow, who strangely enough had skates on but never took a shift and wore an impeccable black business suit. Whenever Harper went to the bench to take a breather, the elderly Chinese fellow would lean into him, whispering into his ear.

In 2005, as a lowly Member of Parliament, Harper opposed an omnibus bill the ruling Liberals were trying to shove through. “In the interests of democracy, I ask how members can represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation”, he raged.

May 2012 Changes to 70 different laws are put forth by Harper government, of which there will be minimal debate, all under the “Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act”, Bill C-38 (Omnibus bill). Passing omnibus bills are speedy and efficient because there is no discussion or research or considerations of the evidence and impact. Right up a government’s alley. Bill C-38 is passed 157-135 on June 19th, 2012 and contains over 400 pages. Many in the press and even Cabinet doubt many members of parliament know what they even voted for or what is actually included in the bill, but all do know enough to admit that most of the changes have nothing whatsoever to do with economic performance.

Environment Canada which protects Canada’s environment through conservation, including providing weather and meteorological information has its Ozone monitoring division shut down. Environment Canada’s total budget is $1 billion per year but will be cut down to $854 million with 11% of their staff to be terminated. Comparatively in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget is $10.3 billion, their National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agency’s budget is $5.5 billion. Funding for any programs that inform Canadians about state of environment, including monitoring of heavy metals and toxic contaminants are slashed. Public funding for environmental sciences for Canadian universities has run out of money and expected to end in 2012.

The smokestack pollution monitoring specialist team of Environment Canada is also being dismantled, compromising the department’s enforcement capability and credibility of environmental reports on greenhouse gas emissions and indicators of environmental sustainability in Canada. Harper government feels they can save $718,000 per year and instead rely on sources of information such as the U.S. In June 2012, Environment Canada’s top bureaucrat, deputy minister Paul Boothe, announces he his taking early retirement and stepping down after what he describes as a “very challenging” past couple of years.

The non-partisan, Canadian Environmental Network, which was the best two-way communication channel between public and federal government on all matters environmental is shutdown, yet only needed $536,000 in funding. Were muzzled because what they are proposing goes against present Harper government policy.

And the puck keeps getting whacked about; Canada repeals Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions; Harper’s federal cabinet will now have the authority to approve any new pipeline projects as well as the ability to set limits for regulatory reviews. If the National Energy Board, which oversees such projects, disapproves any of them, cabinet can now force it to reconsider; changes to how permits under the Species at Rick Act are authorized; changes to Fisheries Act include that they will now only focus on major waterways and not every single body of water, such as streams and small-river fish spawning grounds; to offset less enforcement capabilities, stiffer fines for industry players who break environmental regulations and laws. Not that they can’t afford it.

In a hockey player’s head, where the game is 70% mental and the rest in his head, it’s real easy to figure out that if an industry makes a mess on the planet, they pay to clean it up, get fined millions and the CEO goes to jail. No raises in salary, bonuses, bailouts or subsidies to be paid.

May 2012. Cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard, especially on the West coast, includes shutting down Kitsilano Search and Rescue center, as well as three Marine Communications Centers in Vancouver, Comox, and Tofino. The Kitsilano Rescue center has saved over 55 lives so far this year. Last year they responded to over 285 emergencies. The area they cover is one of the most congested marine areas in Canada, year-round. The area includes Howe Sound, English Bay, Vancouver Harbour, Indian Arm and parts of the entrance of the North arm of the Fraser River, with over two and a half million active people surrounding their area of responsibility. On a daily basis, night and day, they are there for everything from swimmers to stand up paddlers, kayakers, sailors, power boats and sail, jet skis, cruise ships, freighters and soon to be, twice as many oil tankers. It is estimated that there will be 50% cut to response ability to all emergencies, often times instances where every second counts.

Joint Emergency Preparedness Program established in 1980, which helped cover the costs of emergency preparedness, such as developing municipal emergency plans, conduct local exercises and purchasing of generators and rescue vehicles is cancelled, along with shutting down all operations at the Canadian Emergency Management College, which offered training to emergency responders since 1954. Provinces, municipalities and fire departments across Canada are now expressing their concerns for public safety.

Also in Bill C-38; forty departments and agencies, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which does environmental reviews, is cut back to three, as in 3. “To speed up approvals for projects that will bolster Canada’s economy.”  Included in these cuts are the job losses of Canada’s only marine-mammal toxicologist, Peter Ross and his team, almost all employees who monitor ocean pollution across Canada and the entire Department of Fisheries and Oceans contaminants program, which will be shut down in Apr 2013. Overall, the Fisheries and Oceans Department will be slashing about 400 positions from its 11,000-strong workforce. The Harper government’s chest is puffed out on this one, proud that the cuts between Fisheries and Canadian Coast Guard will produce about $79 million in savings for Canadians.

Once again thinking like a hockey player, does this mean that each one of us, nearly 35 million Canadians, gets a cheque from the government for two dollars and twenty-five cents? After all these cuts, job losses, responsibilities to our environment taken away, where no one is personally accountable and our health and welfare thoroughly compromised, it just doesn’t seem like a good deal. That’s not even the price of two litres of gas for gosh sakes.

Crazy period, the third: after play had resumed, the Harper team wasn’t even trying to score anymore. But then considering they were up 16-6 and their net was bricked over, why bother? We did. We’re Canadian.

With ten minutes to go, the Harper team just either sat on the boards with legs dangling over or sat on the bench, having conversations with a surprisingly large number of men in business suits who had crowded around their bench. They watched and laughed at us at first but soon grew bored. You see, once we realized they were not going to even attempt to score again, we being Canadians, thought fine we’ll keep trying. We wasted precious moments all lined up in front of the bricked over net and with slap-shots from ten feet out tried to break that wall down. But then one of our best players, a two-tours in Iraq and two-tours in Afghanistan combat veteran had simply had enough. With a blood curdling scream he smashed his stick to pieces on the ice and charged the brick wall. He skated full out and hit the wall with the best shoulder check I had ever seen, and the wall moved. Three of Harper’s minsters were watching and in unison, raising their arms, pointed at us and yelled, “Hey, look at what they do”.

With one more shoulder check into the wall it began to give. We all dropped our sticks and raced in as one and literally threw ourselves at the wall. It was ugly. We didn’t realize that the brick wall was actually really weak and not built very well and it gave pretty easily, with nearly all of us receiving some sort of injury. Skate blades were thrashed from stepping on the bricks, arms and bodies cut and bruised from the posts and crossbar, with seven players actually entangled in the net, took forever to extract them.

By the time the eight officials could pull us off the pile and get things sorted out. Harper was proposing an end to the game, clearly perturbed. But before any actual decision was made, the crowd began to boo. The decibel level was incredible; we were startled when it started. After five minutes of this immense, uninterrupted and passionate sound, the game was allowed to resume.

Our team, now bleeding, sore, covered in brick and mortar dust and rolled up gauze sticking out of our noses and seriously looking like true Canadian hockey players, were ready. Each player was very aware and focused on the job at hand. We scored right off the face-off to make it 16 to 7.

Hardly noticeable at first, but as we lined up for the face-off after the goal, a rumble began. It wasn’t necessarily loud but it had a deep mid-range resonance to it and was passion felt. We could feel it on our bums when sitting on the bench, and in the diaphragm in our throats. The crowd, all Canadians and of many colors and representing all three coasts, were repeatedly chanting one simple word, “We”. It felt and sounded like a pulse to us and it made each one of us a little bigger, faster and better. The Harper team acted like the classic deer in the headlights or very similar to how one looks watching TV with a remote in one’s hand.

We scored, on average, one goal every 37 seconds to tie it up. This was pretty good no matter what level of hockey, but considering various sorts of gas had been rained down on us from the rafters and from whence came clubs, spikes and rubber bullets, we were pretty proud of ourselves, an effort for the ages. Harper’s team had finally been called on a few infractions and for the final 30 seconds anyways, actually seemed to care what they were doing. No one scored and the game ended a tie.

As we headed for our dressing rooms, we noticed that police in riot gear had moved in and were amongst the crowd, forcing everyone, under the threat of being pepper sprayed and fined thousands of dollars, out of the arena. We made sure our loved ones and friends were safely leaving before anything got ugly, and headed to the dressing room to prepare for overtime.

The adage is, in overtime anything can happen. But our team had a bad feeling about this one.

 

 

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