Liberals hell-bent on Site C Dam

hell-bent-on-SiteC-dam

by Ray Eagle

When the Peace River hydro-electric dam system was first conceptualized in the ‘60s, Site C was seen as just another river section that could provide additional power to augment the Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. There was no recognition of the attributes most now acknowledge: highly productive farmland, First Nations sacred sites, important animal habitat and a scenic rural landscape. There was only a determination by then premier W.A.C. Bennett’s Social Credit government to construct the dam; in 1971, BC Hydro began engineering studies.

Interestingly, energy Minister Bill Bennett made a recent admission, saying, “If I looked at it [the Peace] strictly as someone who loves the outdoors, it’s a beautiful place… But as somebody charged with the responsibility to help make sure we are meeting our future electricity needs, I also have to look at the valley as a very natural place for another dam.”

It was not until November 1983 that BC Hydro went before the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), then newly created by premier Bill Bennett (W.A.C.’s son). A 315-page summary, while denying the dam’s immediate need because of BC Hydro’s abysmal forecasting ability, clearly had no concerns about eventual inundation of the valley: “While the Commission recognizes that major impacts will result from Site C, it concludes that they are not so large as to make them unacceptable… the impacts can be successfully and acceptably managed.”

BC Hydro was determined not to give up and on September 18, 1989, the Vancouver Sun reported, “BC Hydro has stepped up plans to build Site C hydroelectric dam… quietly reviving the multi-billion-dollar project shelved by the Provincial cabinet in 1983… Hydro’s move has projected needs, which may or may not be realized.”

In fact, it was merely a ramping-up of a state of readiness for when the go-ahead came from the BCUC, but controversy continued to follow the dam. On May 10, 1990, the Vancouver Sun reported remarks made by then Energy Minister Jack Davis at an Electric Energy Forum: “Power projects initiated by BC Hydro will be increasingly guided by environmental concerns because of mounting public pressure. We have the scope to be different without building Site C.” However, during a 1991 Social Credit party leadership campaign, the winner, Rita Johnston, declared in her policy statement that she wanted to accelerate construction of the ‘$3 billion’ dam. Johnston’s leadership was brief because the Socreds were defeated in October of 1991.

Despite these twists and turns, BC Hydro persisted and in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, its staff worked diligently to keep the dam alive, continuing with advanced engineering studies. Questionnaires were distributed to assess impacts to the socio-economic life of the affected communities, studies were updated on forestry, wildlife, archeological sites and a whole range of issues, especially First Nations’ concerns. Public meetings were held and newsletters distributed to inform the citizens of BC Hydro’s intentions, as well as to offer reassurances. It was even stated, “It must be recognized that public involvement requires the provision of information, however incomplete…”

From 1990 to 2010, the public was mostly unaware of BC Hydro’s determination as its staff worked diligently to keep the dam alive, including its Northern point-man David Conway.

Through 2007 to 2009, Conway held a series of ‘stakeholders’ meetings that, again, engaged local people. At an October 20, 2008 meeting he bold-facedly told the assembly, “. . . no decision has been made yet to build the Site C project. We are in a multi-stage approach, regarding Site C as a resource option and are focused on project definition, which includes geotechnical, socio-economic, wildlife, fish studies and consultation.”

One of the concerns expressed was shoreline erosion, which, ironically, has recently become a major issue. Also while emphasizing the growing need for power, alternatives were quoted such as Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and wind projects. Conway also mentioned upgrades to both the WAC Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. Surprisingly, he admitted a good potential for geothermal, a concept dismissed by Energy Minister Bennett.

Whether the purpose was to placate the participants or to hide Hydro’s intensions, it is obvious that, back in Vancouver, company management and Premier Campbell had a different schedule.

Fast forward to April 19, 2010, when Campbell made his announcement from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam that Site C was on again, now claimed as a ‘clean energy project’ and “an important part of BC’s economic and ecological future.” Campbell’s ecological reference ignored any mention of the factors that now form today’s growing opposition.

Campbell claimed the dam would power 460,000 new homes and repeated the mantra of an increasing power demand of 20 to 40% in the following 20 years.

In 2011, Campbell faced a revolt over the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). It was rescinded, but with a 9% approval rating, on March 19, 2011, he resigned. However, for the wily Campbell, a sinecure awaited from Stephen Harper: that of Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

When the ‘gung-ho happy face’ Christy Clark won the leadership in the May 2013 provincial election, she pushed LNG as the solution to BC’s economic woes and claimed Site C was now vital to power LNG plants, Campbell’s domestic needs forgotten. Were the voters influenced by the LNG bait? The forecast NDP win disappeared, though Clark lost West Point Grey to NDP’s David Eby and had to run in a West Kelowna by-election.

No LNG plants have emerged, though two are planned, perhaps: Prince Rupert’s Petronas and Woodfibre. In a recent desperate switch, Clark is now trying to sell Site C power to Alberta.

With her brash style, it is difficult to gauge Clark’s popularity, but she faces negative issues such as class-size, twice lost in the courts, the highest child poverty rates in Canada and the evidence of massive funding from the business sector, much of it out-of-province. And her approval of Kinder Morgan, aided by a company financial handout, will certainly raise questions.

With regards to Site C, Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg has written about politicians’ fascination with mega projects, describing the rapture they feel in building monuments: “Mega projects garner attention, which adds to the visibility they gain from them.”

This describes Christy Clark and her determination to build Site C while the call to stop it grows stronger, as proven by Peace farmer Ken Boon’s daily media bulletins. Approaching the May 9 election, opposition grows stronger (with the recent appearance of a very large white elephant!) in the determination to protect the many vital attributes along this historic river.

Ray Eagle first became aware of Site C in the mid ‘70s. He has helped fight it through the Wilderness Committee and many published letters in provincial papers. Wilderness Committee: wildernesscommittee.org, 604-683-8220. Contact Ray Eagle by email at r.eagle@telus.net or call 604-922-8507.

Your natural health products under illegal attack

Health Canada moves to put natural remedies in checkmate

by Shawn Buckley

We all have defining moments when it becomes clear that what we believe is simply not true. In the area of the regulation of natural health products (NHPs), I have had two defining moments that made it clear my beliefs were false. Prior to these two defining moments, I actually believed Health Canada wanted to protect us. I also believed the wishes of the people meant something to the government.

My first defining moment happened during a trial where I was defending an NHP company from Health Canada charges, such as selling their product without a licence. At the time, only the chemical drug regulations existed and such a product could not be licensed. A Health Canada inspector was in the witness box. I suggested to her that the purpose of Health Canada was to protect the health of Canadians. I thought this was a no-brainer suggestion. I fully expected her to say yes. She did not. Rather, she explained that the purpose of Health Canada was to enforce the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. People in the courtroom were stunned. We all believed that the purpose of Health Canada was to protect us. This was a false belief.

The purpose of Health Canada is to enforce the law as it is currently written, not to protect our health. Fortunately, in that case, the court acquitted the company of all charges finding it was legally necessary for the company to protect people rather than be in strict compliance with the law. This was a case in which I asked the Court to rule that Health Canada caused deaths by restricting access to a natural remedy.

My second defining moment happened when I was lobbying in Washington DC concerning proposed changes to how their dietary supplements were regulated. We had just finished meeting with a Senator. While we were packing up, the Senator’s aid asked if he could speak to us. This aid was around 50 years old and had been an aid to senators and congressmen his entire working life. In short, he was a Washington insider. He explained to us that, at that time, there were one and a half full-time pharmaceutical lobbyists for every senator and congressman. He went on to explain that the influence of the pharmaceutical lobby is so great that most senators and congressmen are aware of the share prices of the pharmaceutical companies. He was, in effect, trying to make it clear to us that we would in no way have any influence on government policy, as we could not compete with the pharmaceutical lobby. I knew that there was a strong pharmaceutical lobby in both the US and Canada. I simply did not appreciate how pervasive it was. In my defence, this was before the release of Dr. Shiv Chopra’s book Corrupt to the Core, which gave an inside view of corruption within Health Canada. Dr. Chopra’s book should be required reading for anyone who thinks Health Canada can currently be trusted to protect us.

These two defining experiences made it clear to me that:

  • Health Canada is not there to protect my health. They are there to enforce the law (regardless of the flaws in the law) and
  • I could not count on the law being drafted to protect my health where my interest in health conflicted with the interests of the pharmaceutical lobby.

My dealings with Health Canada over the years have strengthened my belief that Health Canada is not there to protect us. In every instance where I have been involved as a lawyer and Health Canada is seeking to take an NHP away, Health Canada has never taken into account the risk of removing the NHP from Canadians who may depend on it. In the court case I referred to earlier, I led evidence of deaths caused by Health Canada restricting access to a NHP. Despite warnings that restricting access to the NHP could lead to deaths, Health Canada never took into account the danger of removing the product. Health Canada was only concerned with enforcing the law, regardless of the law causing harm and death. I have never seen Health Canada do a balanced risk analysis (i.e. one that balances a risk posed by a product against the risk of removing the product) to ensure that the safest course of action is taken. Health Canada is only concerned with strict compliance with the law, even if strict compliance will lead to harm.

Because Health Canada always demands strict compliance with the law, you should be very concerned about any moves to strengthen Health Canada’s ability to take natural remedies away.

Currently, Health Canada is signalling they want to change how natural remedies are regulated. These changes may signal the endgame for any practitioner or company that is more concerned with good health outcomes than the over-regulation of natural remedies.

Currently, NHPs are regulated as a special type of drug. Much of our knowledge of natural remedies comes from experience. For example, the British Navy learned that the vitamin C in limes prevented scurvy. Limes or lime extract could be licensed as an NHP based on this learned experience. It would not be necessary to run expensive clinical trials to prove limes treat scurvy. Indeed, if it were necessary to run expensive clinical trials for a lime scurvy remedy, we would never have access to limes to treat scurvy. This is because of our intellectual property right laws.

If a chemical drug company invented a new drug they wanted to use to treat scurvy, they would have a patent on the new drug. Their patent would prevent any other company from selling a copy of the drug until the patent expired. The patent, in effect, creates a monopoly. Because there is a monopoly on the drug, the company can afford to go through the expensive clinical trial process. If they are successful, they can recover the costs of the clinical trials by charging a high price for the drug. They have a monopoly so the high price has to be paid. This is why new drugs are so expensive until after the patent expires.

An NHP company wanting to sell a lime extract for scurvy would not have a monopoly on their product. They did not invent limes and will have no intellectual property rights to limes or lime extract. In short, they cannot patent limes or lime extract. They would not be able to raise funds to go through the clinical trial process, as they would not be able to recover the cost by charging high prices. This is because they would not have a monopoly on the remedy. Any other company could copy the product and sell it at a lower price because there is no patent.

If you want to maintain your access to natural remedies, it is essential that NHPs are not subjected to the same types of evidence as is required for chemical drugs. Unfortunately, Health Canada is currently proposing subjecting NHPs to the same evidence standards imposed on chemical drugs. Not only does this ignore the differences in intellectual property rights, but it also ignores the risks of further restricting our access to natural remedies.

It is important to understand that there has never been a death caused by a NHP in Canada. Years ago, I made an Access to Information Act request of Health Canada asking for evidence of any deaths caused by NHPs going back to confederation in 1867. Health Canada could not point to a single death caused by a NHP. When our current NHP Regulations were introduced, the Regulatory Impact Statement made it clear it was inappropriate to regulate NHPs the same as chemical drugs because the NHPs had such a low risk profile.

Unfortunately chemical drugs do not share the low risk profile of natural remedies. Indeed, chemical drugs are one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Even over-the-counter chemical drugs like common painkillers and cold remedies cause a number of deaths each year. It is because chemical drugs are so dangerous that restricting our access to natural remedies will lead to death and harm.

Let me use nattokinase as an example. Nattokinase is a naturally occurring enzyme that can thin the blood. It is freely sold in the US. It used to be freely sold in Canada. Then Health Canada decided to restrict our access to nattokinase saying it was risky. I searched Health Canada’s Adverse Reaction Database and could not find a single harm event, let alone a death, caused by nattokinase in Canada. When I searched the same database for harm and death caused by the chemical drug blood thinners, there were many reports.

When Health Canada is demanding a natural product be removed and it is unsafe to follow Health Canada’s direction, the current penalties under the Food and Drugs Act are fines of up to $5,000 and/or three years of jail. Most persons or companies who have put a natural remedy on the market can survive such penalties. This enables them to act responsibly when following Health Canada’s direction would put Canadians at risk. If Health Canada’s directions are not followed, Health Canada can apply to a Superior Court for an injunction or other orders to ensure the law is followed. However, a Court will also have the opportunity to hear about the risk of removing a product, and will try to steer the safest course.

Health Canada is wanting to change the status quo. They want to be able to order recalls for NHPs without involving a Court. They also want to increase the penalties to fines of $5,000,000 a day for any violation, including for not following Health Canada recall orders. In addition, any management or employees involved in the violation could also be personally subjected to the $5,000,000 a day fines. I cannot think of a single NHP company that could withstand such fines. In effect, resisting Health Canada directions when it would be unsafe to follow them will be at an end.

Anyone who is concerned about giving a regulatory body the absolute say about what remedies are available should be concerned about the proposed changes. When new regulations and/or amendments to the Food and Drugs Act are introduced, we are all going to have to be ready for action. This is the most threatening proposal since the infamous Bill C-51. I am inviting all readers to do three things to prepare: 1) For a more thorough understanding of the proposed changes, visit www.nhppa.org and read my Discussion Paper on them; 2) Visit www.charterofhealthfreedom.org to familiarize yourself with the Charter of Health Freedom, which is a solution to the over-regulation of natural products, and 3) Financially support groups that will be resisting these changes. Advocacy for your health rights does not happen in a financial vacuum. You will either support groups such as the NHPPA or they will not have the resources to work on your behalf.

We are entering a time where unless we stand up and be counted, we will forever lose the right to decide for ourselves how we will treat ourselves or our loved ones when we/they are sick. Will you be counted?

Shawn BuckleyOriginally published in Vitality magazine, December 2016 (www.vitalitymagazine.com) Excerpted from the article “Freedom of choice threatened – again.” Shawn Buckley is president of the National Health Products Protection Association (www.nhppa.org).

Mayday! Abandon the Christy Clark ship of fools

There is no money to help the most vulnerable citizens, but Clark’s Liberals spend billions to help their friends and financial supporters. It is a greedy, hateful style of government.
– Norman Farrell

by Bruce Mason

Let’s cut the crap and cut to the chase. Let’s quit cutting fake bait and wasting more precious time chucking good money after bad. We’ve tossed more than enough of our precious legacy and life-blood overboard, feeding the insatiably greedy sharks and their minions that float at the top of the financial food chain. Truly fed-up, it’s past time for a reset; it’s time to change course, right here, right now.

Make no mistake about it; we’re at the epicentre, caught in a perfect tsunami storm of hot air and tidal waves – the greenhouse gas regression or green revolution – on a collision course. The eyes and hopes of much of this planet are pinned on us in BC where Greenpeace first set sail. We are not only up to the task, but we also don’t have any real choice.

After 16 years hosting The Daily Show, Jon Stewart observed, “Bullshit is everywhere. The good news is bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy and their work is easily detected. So I say to you tonight, friends, the best defence against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.” And may we add, be somebody, do something?

One of my most trusted and vigilant sources is Norman Farrell, a long-time accountant with a well-developed, keen sense of smell. Dubbed “master researcher” by one of my mentors, Rafe Mair, Farrell’s outstanding blog, https://in-sights.ca/, has several thousand posts on everything from “Accountability” to “Wilderness Committee.” He told me, “People have questioned my opinion, but never my facts.” It’s well worth bookmarking and supporting.

Just before this issue of Common Ground went to press, Farrell posted “Pull down the veil of lies” (February 26), utilizing Ministry of Finance numbers to show how the record and promises of Christy Clark (Neo)Liberals are “egregious dishonesty,” in conflict with basic truth and common sense.

In the recently released 2017 Budget and Fiscal Plan, the government that got elected by promising a “Debt-Free BC” forecasted the provincial debt will grow $11 billion to a total of $78 billion over the next three years. But that last number doesn’t include $100 billion-worth of contractual obligations, as if non-existent and without impact.

BC Debt including Contractual Obligatons“Contractual obligations became a major financial commitment in the mid-2000s when BC Liberals privatized public services and moved major capital projects off balance sheets,” Farrell reports. “Schools, healthcare facilities, bridges, highways and power installations – although commissioned by and for the public and paid for by the public – were financed by private organizations and therefore excluded from direct provincial debt.

“People in need of social assistance have had benefits frozen for a decade,” he adds. “There is no money to help the most vulnerable citizens, but Clark’s Liberals spend billions to help their friends and financial supporters. It is a greedy, hateful style of government.”

To wit, Rich Coleman, the second most powerful politician in BC – he’s deputy premier, minister of natural gas and minister responsible for housing – boasted on behalf of his government’s record on poverty: “We have to remember that a person on social assistance, a single person on social assistance in British Columbia, gets double the annual income of a person in the Third World,” he huffed, adding a Trump-like insult-to-injury: “I know you don’t like it when I tell you how good this country is, but that’s fine. All I ever hear is negative, negative, negative, destructive, pessimistic attitude.”

No doubt, Big Rich would include Farrell’s honest, meticulous facts. Here’s something else to mull: if I gave you $1 every second, in one minute you would pocket 60 dollars. After 12 days, you’d be a millionaire, beyond the wildest dreams of most of us. At that rate – to hand over a billion – for you to bank the kind of numbers our politicians toss around would take almost 32 years.

Let’s get serious. Rather than investing in public retrofits, renewables, transit and care giving sectors of health and education to stimulate a rush of well-paying jobs, and instead of improving the lives of hard-working British Columbians – especially First Nations and others receiving a raw deal in an unequal economy (the highest in Canada and growing exponentially) – the BC (Neo)Liberals are attempting to bribe voters with tax money taken during Christy Clark’s term and dating back an unrelenting 16 years in office.

Interesting times. Frustrating as hell, as well, as we fall further behind, as summed up in a recent email from another former high-level politician and talk show host, Rafe Mair: ‘’Thank God for a business oriented govt. BC Hydro bankrupt – debt doubles under Christy – LNG a huge and very bad joke – Budget surplus from kids dying, ignored mentally ill, abandoned homeless – Phoney, ‘balanced budget’ – LNG at Squamish into the atmosphere, shit in Howe Sound to kill restored fish runs, whales, porpoise and dolphins, tankers to keep us all rich and dead – Kinder Morgan to pollute Burrard Inlet, Salish Sea, Gulf Islands and Straits of Juan de Fuca with bitumen leaks and spills.

Now, ICBC’s massive losses from their monopoly insurance company. And to top it all off, a self-styled beauty queen for a premier, who keeps airlines and photographers prosperous with our money, never answers questions and is incapable of telling the truth. BC is in the very best of hands, don’t you think?”

A last word from Norm Farrell: “Because corporate media does not report the above figures, it is up to citizens to correct the record. Do so at every opportunity during the election campaign. Blow up the myth that Liberals, while pandering to special interests, are competent financial managers.”

Do more than just vote, which is every citizen’s right and enviable responsibility. Google the platforms and join the campaigns of the optional parties: the opposition and our best chance, NDP, the Green Party and even the Conservatives. Ask questions, become informed, talk it up. Be able to honestly look anyone in the eye, including future generations, and say, “This is what I did, up to, and including, May 9th, 2017.”

Bookmark Norman Farrell’s site, in-sights.ca, sign-up for his emails and support IN-SIGHTS through donations, a wise investment in your/BC future.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

Internet surveillance

Is your data ending up in NSA’s hands?

photo of David Christopher

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by David Christopher

How many websites have you visited today? How many emails have you sent? How many times have you logged onto Facebook? How often have you used services like Slack or Skype?

If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t be able to answer these questions. Even as I write this piece, I have 16 tabs open in my browser, I’m logged into Facebook and my office’s instant messaging service is chirping away.

The Internet has become such an interwoven part of my daily routine that it’s impossible to keep track of how many websites I visit or emails I send. One of the best things about the Internet is that ‘it just works.’ Few of us give any thought to what’s actually happening to our data when we hit ‘send,’ click on a link or tap ‘reply’ to an instant message.

Unfortunately, what’s actually happening to our data on its journey around the Internet has deeply concerning privacy implications. Over the years, spy agencies such as the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) have built incredibly powerful surveillance systems capable of collecting vast quantities of our private communications data, including emails, video and voice chats, photos, videos, stored data and social networking details, and analyzing it for anything supposedly ‘suspicious.’

Although we like to think of the Internet as a ‘cloud,’ most of it relies on Internet Exchanges – buildings that connect the most important Internet cables together. Although these Internet Exchanges ensure our data reliably makes it from point A to point B, their physical nature makes us far more vulnerable to surveillance.

The NSA has taken advantage of this by installing listening posts, or ‘splitter rooms,’ in key US cities where Internet Exchanges are located. When your data travels through one of these Internet Exchanges, it is almost certainly subject to being intercepted by the NSA and stored at the main NSA Data Center in Utah. Once outside Canada, your data is treated by the NSA as foreign and loses Canadian legal and constitutional protections, representing a major loss of privacy.

Even more worrying is this surveillance is not restricted to when you visit a US website or send an email to someone south of the border. A team of experts at the University of Toronto and York University, led by Professor Andrew Clement, have been researching this extensively as part of the IXmaps project. They’ve concluded that at least 25 percent of domestic Canada-to-Canada data travels via the US where it is subject to NSA surveillance.

This phenomenon is known as “boomerang routing.” For example, an email sent from Vancouver to Toronto may ‘boomerang’ via Chicago. Even an email sent from one part of Vancouver to another may travel via the US, largely as a result of years of monopolistic practices by major Canadian telecoms, poor regulatory oversight and underinvestment in Canada’s Internet infrastructure.

At OpenMedia, we’ve worked with IXmaps researchers on a new educational platform to raise awareness of these issues in a project made possible by the financial support of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (www.priv.gc.ca/en/)

Our platform includes an informational video, a series of infographics, a detailed FAQ and some pointers to tools to better safeguard your privacy online. See openmedia.org/en/IXmaps

David Christopher is communications manager for OpenMedia, which works to keep the Internet open, affordable and surveillance-free. openmedia.org

Christy, Justin, Kinder Morgan – Take a hike

Stanley Park seawall

The Burrard Inlet is a damn good reason to say “No” to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. It’s our living room, meeting place, our Malecón and public square.

by Bruce Mason

Whenever our Premier (or PM) crave something “world class,” we recommend Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway, which includes the Stanley Park Seawall. As the planet’s longest, uninterrupted waterfront path, it’s one of humanity’s most inspiring Commons. Awe-inspiring, priceless and free, experiencing it does one a world of good.

But it’s never free from threat, much like many irreplaceable regions – the Peace, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, Howe Sound, the once-mighty Fraser – and too many places where Clark recklessly proposes deadly fossil-fuel mega-projects. One has to wonder why anyone would risk screwing up, as the world embraces cheaper, renewable options and better jobs.

Long walks through sacred spots – in ‘our moccasins,’ work boots or flip-flops – should be leadership prerequisites. Contemplate before judging those who Christy calls the “Voices of No.” See clearly why her “Path to Yes” is the wrong direction and a sacrilege.

Disagree? Well, the Burrard Inlet is a damn good reason to say “No.” It’s our living room, meeting place, our Malecón and public square. It’s the stage for Vancouver’s 40th Annual Folk Festival and boasts championship fireworks, decades of polar bear swims, carolling ships and the Kit’s Showboat. Our outdoor rec room for beach volleyball, picnics or just chilling out, where a glimpse of one of 80 endangered orcas – our NHL team logo – is as thrilling as any overtime goal.

I count the freighters constantly at anchor in the port (a raison d’etre for Confederation). Fifteen, 20, more? Start at the head of the Kinder Morgan/Trudeau Black Snake. Christy says it’s now safe to triple pipeline-terminal capacity and increase tanker traffic seven-fold. All converging at the foot of a mountain and major university in a seismic zone. Yet someday, somehow, greenhouse gases will be cut. Highly unlikely (or is it Notley).


stop the pipeline start the music


The Burnaby Fire Department reports, it’s “…not the appropriate location for expansion…” noting, “…significant constraints to emergency/fire response, including safety and effectiveness of firefighters, evacuation, sulphur based gases, toxic smoke plumes and property protection.” Wise advice, recalling 2007 when the existing pipeline ruptured, spewing sludge 40 feet in the air, covering homes, trees and wildlife. It dumped 78,000 litres of crude and poisoned 15,000m of shoreline, requiring the evacuation of more than 220 residents.

Over four hundred Aframax tankers have been approved annually, each 245m long, 100m longer than the Spirit of Vancouver Island ferry at 167m. Longer than Vancouver’s tallest building, the Living Shangri La (200m). Try fathoming that between an index finger and thumb.

Other structural landmark comparisons include the ever-enlarging Alberta tarsands footprint, now the size of Florida. In Calgary, where many cheer the approval of more pipelines, the Husky Tower is only 191m tall, compared to the length of an Aframax tanker (245m). South of the border, outraged resistance rapidly grows in the shadows of the Seattle Space Needle, 60m shorter (184m).

The tankers’ huge mass, inertia and steering difficulty necessitate three tugs, a turning diameter of 2km, and 15 minutes to stop. Depth and beam restrictions restrict their travel to daylight hours and they must have a minimum one-mile-visibility, at a maximum six knots, at high tide, with a volume capacity of maximum 80 percent. They sit 13-metres deep, perilously close – 1.5m – to the prescribed maximum draft. Double-hulls, despite Rachel Notley’s assurances, are little comfort, having breached elsewhere.

According to the independent group, Concerned Professional Engineers (www.concernedengineers.org), it is “a gross negligence of decision makers to not evaluate risks and consequences of hitting Second Narrows Bridge.” Warning of a catastrophic severing of our main transportation artery, they remind us of previous “collisions with the railway bridge by much smaller vessels; twice knocking out service, requiring re-building.”

The possibility conjures up the nightmarish collapse during construction of the Second Narrows Bridge on June 17, 1958, indelibly etched in the minds of those alive then; 19 workers plunged 30m (100 ft) to their deaths. In honour of the lives lost, it was named Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

Now, the cargo: dilbit. Short for bitumen (asphalt) diluted with petro-products to enable pipeline flow. The exact mix of ingredients is an unexamined trade secret, but tankers hold 30 Olympic-size pools of highly corrosive toxins that sink, unrecoverable, in inevitable spills.

“New approvals are problematic… bordering on irresponsible,” says Wendy Palen from SFU’s Biological Sciences. From universities across North America, she’s just one author of new peer research of more than 9,000 studies.

Their conclusion: claims that a spill can be effectively cleaned up or mitigated are unfounded. No ocean-based studies exist of how dilbit behaves in marine environments, rough seas and changing temperatures.

Christy? Justin? “World leading” science? Is Trudeau’s promised $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded response and recovery a deceitful fantasy? “Permission granted” is a surprise to disapproving mayors and First Nations. Two-thirds of those along the 1,150-kilometre route also disagree; 120 nations from both sides of the border drafted a Treaty Alliance Against Tarsands Expansion. As Trudeau/Clark “conditions” are studied – carefully, this time – numerous court cases are prepared.

This shortsighted, national economic fix is just that: a quick shot-in-the-arm for oil addiction, from stranded assets. From the tens of thousands of jobs promised – mere mumbo-jumbo – 50 permanent may materialize. Millions of dollars for the Canadian economy boast foreign owners, who would turn a barely contained trickle through Canada’s third largest city into their very own gusher, shipped through the Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits to foreign markets.

From the seawall – built to buffer, but also to enjoy, nature – their deal resembles the long-ago sale of Manhattan for $24 in beads and trinkets when public land, like air and water, wasn’t considered saleable by native inhabitants. A decade ago, a storm devastated Stanley Park. Now, oceans and winds are rising. To risk people’s livelihoods for something that few people (customers) want is way, way too risky. Especially since Trump has approved Keystone XL.

In 1986, I wrote a feature for the Province entitled, “Miles of sea and sand.” I had the incredible experience of talking to folks at many of our beautiful beaches – Wreck Beach, Spanish Banks, Locarno, Jericho, English Bay, Ambleside, Dundarave, Eagle Harbour and Whytecliff. Over and over, people expressed the importance of these landmarks in their everyday lives. For me, these conversations are as memorable and transforming as Expo 86.

Some people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. With all due – but decreasing – respect, take a hike!


Change agents worth following

Poll after reliable poll shows that the majority of people in BC oppose the Christy Clark/Justin Trudeau fossil fuel mega-projects, as much as two-to-one.

by Bruce Mason

The 1% who have pocketed, and hidden, half of the world’s wealth are delighted by people who think nothing will ever change. In that context, mere optimism is a political act. So, too, is pessimism; acquiescence is one form of obedience. To look at the myriad difficult problems facing humanity directly in the eye, as challenges and opportunities to create a better world to leave to our grandchildren, is somewhat radical in these dark times.

Some say we are in a tomb; others think of it as a womb and suggest we breathe and push. One bright light to follow in our ongoing global rebirth is Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), afnd spokesperson for the international Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.

Recently, in the fight against pipelines, he has wisely warned: “This is a global movement and not just a fight against another dirty pipeline… This is not simply an indigenous issue; climate change and the catastrophic impacts that we have witnessed to date and the potential impacts that will manifest in the future, are a matter of grave concern of all people around the world.”

The UBCIC

For their rapidly growing number of friends and allies, the UBCIC have created the “Coast Protectors Pledge” at coastprotectors.ca. Another site is RAVEN (www.raventrust.com). However, once again, Phillip notes, “People shouldn’t become too focused on the indigenous efforts and the dimension of the issue and court battles. It creates a false sense of security amongst the general population that they don’t have to be overly concerned because the indigenous people will take the lead and save the day.”

Another person to pay attention to and support is the seemingly indefatigable Shirley Samples whose non-stop posts reached some 20,000 followers on two Facebook pages: “Stop Kinder Morgan” and “We Love This Coast.” Her posts are a clearinghouse of current news and opportunities to fight back.

It is past time to do more than just share information, sign petitions and hit send. Show up and donate as well. Poll after reliable poll shows that a majority in BC oppose the Christy Clark/Justin Trudeau fossil fuel mega-projects, as much as two-to-one.

Here are just some of the organizations to look up on the Internet: Sierra Club of BC, Greenpeace, STAND (previously ForestEthics), Dogwood Initiative, Georgia Strait Alliance, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Council of Canadians, as well as smaller grassroots groups such as BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder-Morgan Expansion) and NOPE (North and West Vancouverites Opposed to Pipeline Expansion).

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

seawall photo © Steve Smith

We can’t afford Christy Clark’s government

share of wealth in BC

If this government were in Russia, or China, the Balkans, or some developing-world country, it’s behaviour would just be written off as nepotism or corruption.

by Bruce Mason

We can’t continue to overpay Christy Clark and Rich Coleman & Company while they extract wealth for their election donors and foreign investors. BC’s in bad shape. For too long, the province’s deterioration has been ignored, neglected or deliberately misdiagnosed. Instead, the standing-government’s focus is the lucrative business of fund-raising, raking in $12.3 million last year – $8 million from corporations – including controversial pay-for-play dinners with the premier, some with a tab as high as $20,000. The pay-off included topping up Clark’s salary, a practice banned everywhere else except Saskatchewan.

A recent exposé of the corruption of Clark’s government by one of the world’s most-highly regarded sources, the New York Times, was greeted with a media maelstrom, long-overdue gasps and many red faces. “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash,” the headline screamed. But it’s not new news. BC’s local media has repeatedly reported on this issue. Why did it take the New York Times to shock a global audience in summing up the warning signs of our government’s bad habits? The rhetoric is a lot like confirming the causes of their persistent cough and shortness of breath to a two-pack-a-day smoker who has heard the warnings a million times.

Christy, apparently, has needed more than her $195,000 premier’s salary, plus additional perks and benefits. Post-Times fallout, she vowed to quit her additional $50,000 annual stipend – $300,000, in total – in favour of a filter-tipped expense account. But BC neoliberal outliers, caught sneaking an oil-addicted puff, with the other hand in a cookie jar, won’t quit or cut down on their consumption of large corporate and foreign donations.

Times reporter Dan Levin justified his disclosures as a “Kafkaesque dystopian nightmare of shady politics and conflict of interest. If this were in Russia, or China, the Balkans, or some developing-world country, it would just be written off as nepotism or corruption. Checks and balances are important and hopefully this will spur British Columbians to take a closer look at how their government behaves.”

Among other things, the Times noted Clark Liberals pocketed more than $718,000 from Kinder Morgan, the infamous, Texas-based pipeline giant whose Trans Mountain pipeline Christy just rubber-stamped with a wink, a grin and a green light.

Reaction to threats of corruption included our woefully out-of shape, out-of-touch, many-titled and entitled Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Gas Development, and Minister Responsible for Housing Minister, Rich Coleman (whew). “Laughable,” he said, adding, “I do find it a bit rich when they’ve just spent about a billion dollars on the presidency in US.” Rich, who if re-elected may also be appointed Minister of Silly Walks, added, “We go out and work very hard to raise money and make those connections.”

That recalls his previous insults, especially the one regarding unaffordable accommodation: “I guess some people just have to get up and whine every day.”

The costs of making the Liberal war chest the top priority are enormous and twinge-worthy.

The Broadbent Institute’s PressProgress (www.pressprogress.ca) recently published three graphs, which confirm the results. The prognosis is as clear and worrisome as medical charts. While Christy took credit for jobs created, so-called balanced budgets and the elusive joys of pipe-dreamed fracked LNG, a very small group has absconded with BC’s wealth.

Clark’s carefully crafted takeaways and talking points don’t ever include this jaw-dropping divide between extreme wealth and poverty in BC, currently Canada’s highest and growing exponentially.

This disparity has also been reported (see Common Ground, June 2015) by Andrew MacLeod in his best-selling, award-winning book, A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour). Once again, it’s clear confirmation that this province’s obscene inequity is the direct result of the BC government’s deliberate policy to shift the tax burden away from wealthy donors.

Earnings of the top 10% began to spike at the 2000 millennium, while the share of BC’s bottom 50% sunk just as dramatically, as then-Liberal-premier Gordon Campbell introduced regressive tax policies to disproportionately benefit fat cats.

PressProgress also quotes the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, noting that the BC Liberals’ “decade of tax cuts” and “regressive changes to the provincial tax system” helped to “exacerbate growing income inequality,” a practice perfected in Christy’s reign. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition reports our provincial income gap is growing the fastest in Canada, noting, “The average household income of the top 1% in BC has increased by 36%” since the mid-2000s; the most current data from StatCan highlights that 10% in BC now own more than half of the wealth in our province.

The results are ubiquitous across BC. More people are slipping through gaping cracks into homelessness, joining the skyrocketing number of workers with full-time jobs sinking beneath the poverty line. Half of the folks in BC who turned to food banks in 2016 were low-wage breadwinners, up 3.4% from 2015. We have the highest child poverty rate in the country and we are the only province with no poverty reduction plan. More than 12% of BC wage earners reported dealing with food insecurity in 2016, along with Canada’s highest rents and lowest business taxes.

Our heel-dragging BC Liberals’ minimum wage was frozen at $8/hr. for a decade, before gradually and reluctantly rising to $10.85/hr (2016), still Canada’s lowest. One-quarter of BC’s workforce – half a million folks – currently earn under $15/hr, well below what most families need to make ends meet. As wages stagnate, costs for food housing and child-care costs are rising. In Vancouver, the price of a detached home jumped 19 times, relative to median household income, and the ratio for condos increased six times.

The obvious next question from any patient who receives such a stark diagnosis would be: “How long have I got?” The answer: until the provincial election, May 9, 2017.

Clark, whose attention span resembles a hummingbird, is taking time out from serving her corporate donors to beak about the Liberals’ truly laughable, much too-late, inadequate and distractive efforts on affordable housing investment, clean tech innovation, etc.

Warning: watch your diet, including the flood of sugary, big-budget government junk infotainment. And exercise is recommended, such as protest marching, volunteering and door knocking on behalf of more organic and healthy alternatives. The Liberal status quo is unsustainable, even downright dangerous, for you and your friends and family – especially your children.

Please email the issues in BC that concern you most to: brucemason@shaw.ca.

The High Price of Dishonesty and Deception

For ruthless men and women who strive to win at any cost and make it in a Trumpian universe, the new president provided tactics. Always take control.

by Roxanne Davies

Of all the horror films to come out of Hollywood, the one that creeped me out the most was Rosemary’s Baby. The psychological horror flick was written and directed by French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who, despite his personal foibles, is a talented filmmaker.

Polanski’s 1967 film follows tormented wife Rosemary Woodhouse (brilliantly portrayed by the waif-like Mia Farrow). Unbeknownst to her, she was chosen to bear the Devil’s spawn. Farrow’s wide-eyed innocent face fills the screen as she experiences physical and emotional changes beyond her control. When she rips into a piece of raw chicken, it will turn the stomach of the most avid carnivore. Yet it’s the last scene that truly shocks. Rosemary walks into a dimly lit chamber to see her baby for the first time. Seated around the room are all the people she thought she could trust: her husband, her doctor, her crazy neighbour, every one of the people closest to her complicit in the diabolical scheme. What terrified me was the ease with which the people closest to the victim were able to cover their deception.

Deception: anything that deceives or is meant to deceive; a delusion. For Rosemary, the consequences of deception and lying resulted in the birth of an evil spirit. For our American neighbours, it seems to have resulted in the surprise election of Donald J. Trump. A New York Times columnist likened Trump’s win to a moral and ethical 9/11. A rich white guy with a trophy wife told his supporters the sky is falling and he would save them. A xenophobic, misogynist of dubious ethics and morals with a short attention span now has the nuclear code. A thin-skinned pugnacious Chicken Little was elected to the most powerful position in the free world.

How on earth could Trump win the election? He wasn’t a polished politician; he was an outlier who even alienated fellow Republicans. Because he says it like we think his supporters smugly declared. They were tired of lies from the chattering class, professional pundits, career politicians, financial analysts, industry regulators. Name an industry and its privileged leaders lie.

For Trump, lying is a form of communication and a way of gaining power. We watched and listened with a mixture of horror and fascination as he sniffed his way through an inaugural speech filled with jingoistic rhetoric.

Some say Trump is no fool. He is a communicator who used a kind of wonky neuro-linguistic programming to mesmerize his audience. In 3AM Tweets, he shared his most incoherent ideas and bypassed the bewildered mainstream media. Trump says he fiercely protected his five children against the danger of smoking, drugs and alcohol, yet he has exposed them to the most dangerous and addictive substance on Earth: a lust for power.

For ruthless men and women who strive to win at any cost and make it in a Trumpian universe, the new president provided tactics. Always take control. Act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t. Brag about your accomplishments, and never your mistakes. Find your opponents Achilles’ heel and never let go. Tell people you will give 100% percent or make it look like you do. And most importantly: even if you lose interest in what you are doing, there will be times when you will have to stretch the truth or downright lie. If women can control their fluttering lashes, they have the uncanny ability to be better liars. Smart agencies and corporations know that. Women are often the face of a company about to deliver some bad news or ‘alternative facts.’ Intelligent and ambitious men and women must wean themselves off the toxic value of lying to gain power and privilege.

If there is any comfort to the majority of people who did not vote for Trump, this 45th president might be the most analyzed and dissected in recent history. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. If Trump fails to deliver what he has promised, let him remember that many of his most ardent supporters pack weapons.

Roxanne Davies lives in North Vancouver and is devoted to writing family memoirs and essays on a variety of topics. roxannemilanadavies@gmail.com

Free at last! Canada without NAFTA

John A. Macdonald called free trade with the US “veiled treason.” A century later, Pierre Elliott Trudeau called the FTA a “monstrous swindle.”

by David Orchard

David Orchard
David Orchard

Donald Trump has said he intends to renegotiate or cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This would be good news if we take the opportunity to get out of the NAFTA straitjacket and begin using Canadian resources for the benefit of Canadians. Under the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – chapters 4 and 9 and NAFTA chapter 6 – Canada gave the US the right to take the same proportion of any good, including all forms of energy, that it was taking over the previous three years, even if Canada itself goes short. The US is now taking about 60% of our oil production and with the prospect of large new pipelines to the US, which cripples the idea of an east-west pan-Canadian line because we have a finite supply of oil, that percentage will rise. Under (NA)FTA, the US has the right to continue taking this 60%, and more, of our total supply, in perpetuity. Further, Canada has agreed to never charge the US more for any good, including all forms of energy, than it charges Canadians.

Meanwhile, in addition to charging some of the world’s lowest royalty rates, we are selling our oil to the US at far less than the world price – a subsidy from Canada to the US of roughly $30 billion per year – while Canada pays some $10 billion a year to import foreign oil, mostly from Saudi Arabia and the US, into eastern Canada at world price. Does that make sense?

No self-respecting country would, as Canada did under Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien, sign away its resources, its sovereignty and its future in this way and most Canadians are still unaware our country has done so. (Mexico refused to sign these energy sections in NAFTA and exempted itself from their terms.)

Eighty percent of the world’s oil resources are held by state-controlled oil companies. Yet, in the 1990s, Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments privatized and sold our national oil company, Petro-Canada, which in a few years had grown to become one of Canada’s largest companies. Norway, which has less oil than Canada, voted to stay out of the EU and today has a trillion dollar (and growing) surplus. It has used its oil and its national oil company, Statoil, to make Norwegians the richest people on Earth with free childcare, free dental care for everyone under18, free university education and generous old age pensions. There is zero government debt and homelessness is virtually non-existent.

By contrast, Canada, a far richer country than Norway, has massive provincial and federal debt, totalling some $1.2 trillion, after decades of pouring increasing amounts of oil, gas and other resources across the border. The provinces are desperately offering to sell off profitable crown corporations to pay their bills, while also implementing huge budget cuts. Canada has miserly old age pensions, high university tuition and no national free pharmacare, childcare or dental care.

If we continue in this way, the resources will be gone. Norway will hand its savings to its grandchildren, but what will we say to our generations to come?

Algeria used its oil to build Sonatrach into the largest company in Africa. Mexico’s publicly owned national oil company, Pemex, is Latin America’s second largest company, producing 40% of Mexico’s federal government revenue. Italy’s state controlled oil and gas giant, ENI, brings in $150 billion a year. Brazil’s publicly controlled Petrobras has grown into a world leader of advanced technology, the southern hemisphere’s largest company; its power kept Brazil’s stock market steady during the 2008 whiplash. Libya, until it was subjected to a horrific US-led NATO attack in 2013, in which Canada played a significant role, used its oil revenue to move its citizens from the poorest in the world in 1960 to the highest standard of living in Africa.

NAFTA’s Chapter 11 contains a dispute settlement provision allowing US and Mexican corporations to sue Canada for any law or regulation, which they think causes them “loss or damage” and which they feel breaches the spirit of NAFTA.

These disputes are not heard by Canadian judges in Canadian courts, but by special tribunals operating behind closed doors, using not Canadian law, but NAFTA rules. There is no right of appeal. Since 1994, Canada has been sued 35 times by US corporations under NAFTA, reversed several of its laws, paid out $200 million in NAFTA fines and faces claims of $6 billion more. The US has not lost a single case.

(NA)FTA gave US corporations sweeping rights to buy up most of the Canadian economy. Called “national treatment,” it prohibits Canada from restricting or screening new US investment in Canada and grants American investors, citizens and corporations the right to be treated as if they were Canadian citizens. With a low dollar and low interest rates, the wholesale take-over of Canadian companies is proceeding in a torrent. Our standard of living and real wages have declined, jobs and factories have disappeared and almost a million Canadians now use food banks.

Freed from (NA)FTA, Canada could go on to use its natural resources to create Canadian owned and controlled industries, with all the benefits and security that could mean for Canadians. Instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign machinery, electronics, ships, aircraft and jet fighters, we could build our own. We once created the world’s most advanced jet fighter, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. Canada is a huge market for foreign automobiles. Countries from Korea to Italy and Sweden, far smaller than Canada, with a fraction of our resources, have built their own auto industries. So could we.

Our founding fathers would be outraged at the giveaway of our raw resources and the casual sale of our railways and iconic corporations: from Hudson’s Bay to Stelco, the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board, built by western farmers and given away for a song, and Nortel, Canada’s giant, high tech powerhouse, allowed to go down, its parts picked up by Google and its other foreign competitors.

For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that, without an economic border, Canada would not long have a political border with the US. John A. Macdonald called free trade with the US “veiled treason.” A century later, Pierre Elliott Trudeau called the FTA a “monstrous swindle.”

Both John A. Macdonald and Georges-Étienne Cartier were determined to build Canada into “a northern power,” a competitor to the US, not a resource colony. We can see their vision in the magnificent Parliament buildings they left us, the world class railways they built to bind the country together and one of the world’s longest lasting and most admired constitutions.

The idea that Canada would sign away its precious non-renewable resources to another country, our greatest competitor, and that it would allow itself, at the whim of foreign corporations, to be sued for following its own goals, would have been unthinkable to our founders. Let’s take this chance to get out of these destructive agreements, the FTA and NAFTA, stand on our own two feet and make Canada an independent power on the world stage.

David Orchard is a farmer and the author of The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. davidorchard.com davidorchard@sasktel.net

People power will stop Woodfibre LNG

protesting the proposed Woodfiber LNG project

Last month, MLA Jordan Sturdy and MP Jonathan Wilkinson hosted a meeting in Squamish with local government and indigenous leaders with the goal “to enhance transparency with respect to progress of the (Woodfibre LNG) project.”

More than 150 supporters stood outside to voice their opposition to Woodfibre LNG, as their representatives walked into the meeting at Squamish Municipal Hall, with banners reading “No Pipelines, No Tankers, No Woodfibre LNG.” People travelled from as far away as Vancouver, Bowen Island, Whistler and the Sunshine Coast, taking time off work on a Friday morning.

“Woodfibre LNG has donated more than $60,000 to the BC Liberals in 2016 alone. That’s pretty cheap to buy a rubber stamp for your environmental assessment. But Woodfibre LNG is not a done deal. Every community around Howe Sound has expressed their opposition to Woodfibre LNG. More than 10,000 people have signed the Howe Sound Declaration in opposition to Woodfibre LNG. People power will stop this project,” said Tracey Saxby, one of the co-founders of My Sea to Sky.

Following the demonstration, supporters wrote messages to their representatives in chalk:
“BC LNG is one big lie.”
“Focus on renewable energy.”
“Save Howe Sound.”
“For our kids.”

LNG tankers put Howe Sound residents at risk

Based on International Safety Standards, we know that Howe Sound is the wrong place for an LNG export facility. Canada still doesn’t have any safety regulations for LNG tankers and the information being used by the Technical Review Process of Marine Systems and Transhipment (TERMPOL) to develop LNG tanker regulations is old or flawed. Public safety is not being taken seriously.

Woodfibre LNG threatens the recovery of Howe Sound

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent cleaning up the toxic legacies of previous industries, such as the Nexen chemical plant, the Woodfibre pulp mill and the Britannia Beach mine. As a direct result, Howe Sound is slowly recovering: the herring and the whales are coming back. Woodfibre LNG threatens this recovery through underwater noise, which impacts herring, salmon, whales and other wildlife.

Air pollution from Woodfibre LNG will impact public health at a social cost of over $20 million per year.

Even though Woodfibre LNG is using electricity as the main power source, there will still be significant air pollution during operation. Woodfibre LNG is estimating air pollution emissions of 295.7 tonnes of nitrous oxides (NOx) and 43.8 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (SO2) every year.



Source: My Sea to Sky, a volunteer organization that was started in early 2014 in opposition to the proposed Woodfibre LNG project. More than 10,000 supporters have signed the Howe Sound declaration. www.myseatosky.org

photo by Les MacDonald

Post-truth – Word of the Year

Post-truth encompasses fake news on the Internet and in corporate media, numerous stories and issues ignored, politics, packaged as a game, and elections, as a half-time show.

by Bruce Mason

We should be truly grateful for the freebie gift of “post-truth,” handed to us by Oxford Dictionaries as their choice for Word of the Year in summing up 2016.

As in ‘post-truth politics,’ the adjective relates to “when objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion.” Pretty much wraps up contemporary reality, perfectly. Nine letters and a hyphen to help us address and understand our common global Frequently Asked Question (FAQ): “What’s happening?” Post-truth provides a handle on what’s ahead – a ready-made resolution for 2017.

Humanity, divided and falling, is being conquered by post-truth. The dark-art master is president-elect of the self-destructing super-power south of our border. For example, there is widespread belief in the US that millions of voters cast ballots illegally. However it has been determined in post-election studies there were four such documented incidents, or 0.000002 percent of the tally. When confronted with the facts of voter fraud, Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway responded that Trump was “messaging to his supporters and to the rest of the country the way he feels.” But it’s also practised and perfected by our prime minister and premier, the ‘princess’ of post-truth. They fiddle around the edges of existential crises while preaching nonsensical rubbish about fossil fuels, oil spill recovery, Reconciliation, ‘Real Change’ and the like, as if they are actually doing something constructive in our collective downward spiral.

Jon Stewart popularized p-t, and Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” has the same quality: seeming, or being felt to be true, but not necessarily so. Casper Grathwohl, head of Oxford Dictionaries, won’t be surprised if post-truth becomes the “defining word of our time.”

Justin Trudeau vows to price carbon emissions – by 2018 – to “show leadership that, quite frankly, the entire world is looking for.” Undeterred by an assertion that climate change is a “hoax,” he congratulated Donald J. Trump: “Our shared values are strong. Our common purpose, to build countries where everyone has a fair chance to succeed, and where government works first, foremost and always, for the people it serves. The Canadian government will continue its hard work toward these ends, and we offer our hand in partnership with our neighbours as friends and allies.” A post-truth mural, and masterpiece.

Truth is we can’t expand tar sands AND keep our promised climate targets, clean oil spills, honour First Nations, or find the will to get on with what is urgently required. Trudeau, initially perceived as an ‘anti-Trump,” now provides fuel and pipes for a climate bomb that The Donald is fusing with mega-tons of infantile denial and ignorance of reality.

From 2013 to 2015, Canada’s government granted $3.3billion in subsidies for fossil fuel extraction incentives and research and development (R&D), essentially paying polluters $19 for each tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. Critics liken it to taxing cigarettes with one hand while giving breaks to tobacco companies on the other. Three+billion could jump-start renewables to catch up with the rest of the world (ROTW). However, in fairness, the rest of the world also supports fossil fuel, to the tune of $5.3trillion a year, equivalent to $10m a minute, every day, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That’s more than the world spends on health, including subsidies and support, as well as on pollution and the costs associated with extreme weather.

But, as the Guardian asked on October 29, “Think Canada is a progressive paradise? That’s Mooseshit! We broker deals for an obscene number of weapons, and we frequently run roughshod over the rights of indigenous people. And don’t even get us started on your favourite wonderboy, Justin Trudeau.”

The byline is Jesse Brown, co-author of Canadaland (Touchstone), who adds, “Despite Trudeau’s progressive branding, Canada is right where Stephen Harper left us. A year since the election, we’re still selling arms to Saudi Arabia, still cutting $36bn from healthcare and still basing our economy on fossil fuel extraction, running roughshod over indigenous rights… while backtracking on a campaign promise for electoral reform.”

“Decision-based evidence-making, to maintain the status quo, not ‘evidence-based decision making’ promised in the election,” says NDP MP Nathan Cullen, a member of the electoral reform committee, charged with finding an alternative to (“the last”) first-past-the-post.

Meanwhile, too few Canadians are aware of our shiny, new privatization bank. “Unprecedented,” enthuses Canada’s top business lobbyist, John Manley (a former deputy prime minister and frequent corporate elite mouthpiece), “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” The Liberal plan: sell off public assets to raise money for a wave of private investors to build and operate infrastructure. One planner, Adam Vaughan, insists that “to be afraid of the private sector when fixing Canada’s infrastructure is shortsighted, stupid, irresponsible.”

Really? A November Ipsos Reid/Ontario poll found 75 percent of those surveyed oppose privatization. In London, Paris and Hamburg, governments are bringing work back in-house from private contracts. Ditto for water management in Sooke, Port Hardy and White Rock, garbage collection in Port Moody and recreation in Cranbrook, etc.

Few Canadians deny the need to fix congested roads and crumbling bridges; overcrowded, underfunded public transportation; and emission-reductions to avert climate catastrophe, floods and fires. But privatizations aren’t what we voted for.

Closer to home, the Woodfibre fracked gas plant in Howe Sound cleared a hurdle when, at last month’s BC Liberal convention, kicked off with “Free Enterprise Friday,” a sustained standing ovation greeted the news. “Jobs and the Cleanest LNG in the world,” they cheered, “BC is #1” But it’s one of five projects promised, by 2020, which might be delivered (maybe) – a $1.6bn fossil fuel investment, 650 construction jobs and a mere 100 ongoing, when/if it becomes operational.

At the same time, a new poll found 73% in BC want to pause Site C Dam construction. BC Hydro admits we won’t need new power until 2028, at the earliest. The *poll was conducted by Insights West for DeSmog Canada. In it, 92% support efficiency measures and wind, solar and geothermal power added to the grid, as needed. A small minority favour what Christy vows to get past the “point of no return,” before the May election.

A final few words about Word of the Year (WOTY), a labour of love from folks who pore over millions of words to find the ones that pop up most often. The idea: track change in language and choose those that capture “the ethos, mood or preoccupations” over the last 12 months.

The WOTY is the most impactful, the one wee word at the top of minds and tips of tongues as information transmogrified into commodity, truth into a brand and disinformation, a product universally marketed, 24/7. Post-truth encompasses fake news, awash on the Internet and in corporate media, the numerous stories and issues ignored, politics, packaged as a game, and elections, as a half-time show.

Post-truth is created and normalized by elites that fear our collective will, above all else. So it also provides a catch-all awareness, to connect myriad dots and disparate progressive causes together – those that really matter –where they belong. We have much more in common than not, including the desire for health, happiness and connection with others. There’s money enough hidden in tax havens, obscene loopholes and subsidies, and dark money, dirty beyond laundering. Our common future is too important to be left to the greedy and their puppets and corporate media stenographers. Only we the people make real change. No one else should, or ever will.

Too revolutionary and far-fetched? Harry Truman said, “I don’t give anybody Hell, I just speak the truth and it sounds like Hell to some folks.” The unvarnished skinny is, and always has been, so-called “ordinary people.” The 90+ percent can find and stand on common ground in collective strength that resides in empathy, compassion and respect for human values, skills, decency and dignity. Justice, equity, the best possible environment and government to serve people not corporations, seem like lost myths. The truth is we have no real choice and little to lose by envisioning a world beyond post-truth. We must stand for and create a better world, and word, in 2017.

* See www.insightswest.com/


Post-truth in pictures

In our highly digitized, post-truth world, the ancient sage Confucius would undoubtedly revise the maxim, “One picture is worth a thousand words” to “millions of words.”

Picture this: The Donald screaming at photographers to turn around and click on crowds at rallies. Or selfie-king Justin Trudeau, sometimes shirtless, sometimes dressed to the hilt (Vogue magazine), inside Buckingham Palace, or backstage hugging the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, or in other venues where press photojournalists have limited or no access. Justin, it appears, won’t step foot outside 24 Sussex Drive without cameras or audio on-hand. And then there’s the flood of old-fashioned press releases, massaged and spun to near-death in today’s Newspeak.

Not to be outdone, Christy Clark, coined “Premier photo-op” by the NDP opposition, has adjusted the focus for the upcoming election (May 7, 2017). Since cancelling the fall session of the legislature, she has mimicked the endless US-style election cycle in highly flattering and proliferating “government” ads. Now she’s hired three-time photojournalist winner of the year, John Lehmann, away from the Globe and Mail. He will document her black-top electioneering, with his fee picked up by the Party. Good job the BC Liberals have a multi-million-dollar war chest.

That investment is already paying off in spades in a crop of new pics. Access and angle are everything in picture storytelling and, in the past, Christie has been justifiably ridiculed for photos of herself in hard-hats and saris, draped in Aboriginal art, or scarily propped up behind podiums and in front of larger-than-life slogans. She already has three video camera persons at her disposal, but in Lehmann’s camera-and-consumer-ready work, it looks as if our Prem has had a world-class makeover, no longer appearing so divisive, strident and clichéd.

Not to worry about words, though. Her government communications army now numbers more than 200, 10 times the number of reporters in BC’s press gallery. Post-journo candidates for BC Libs include former BCTV morning man, Steve Darling and LNG front-man, Jas Johal.

The duo may or may not earn their stripes to lurk in Victoria hallways. But Lehmann will still have lots of company in leg cafeterias and watering holes. Stephen Smart (CBC, CTV and CKNW) is Clark’s press secretary. Ben Chin, (CBC, CTV and City TV) is communications director. Sean Leslie (‘NW legislature bureau chief) landed a senior communications gig in Social Development. Scott Sutherland (Canadian Press), Graham Currie (CKNW), Jeff Rud (Times-Colonist) and Brennan Clarke (Black Press) are all on the government/taxpayer payroll. And, of course, Clark’s pal Pamela Martin (BCTV) is BC Liberals’ director of engagement.

BC is indeed #1, including its #1 spin doctoring for the best government we can buy (on sale), yet again.

scary clown illustration by Thomas Voidh