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There is a palpable sense of distress across Canada, as Canadians see their country being dragged and bullied down a path they do not like to a future they do not recognize.
The Conservative government was elected in May 2011 with an electoral majority supported by only 40% of Canadians, with 60% strongly opposed.
In the fourteen ridings which the Conservatives won by the slimmest majority, where a different result would have overturned the Harper majority, just 6,848 votes made the difference ‚Äďand we have since learnt that some non-Conservative votes may have been suppressed by illegal Robocalls from Conservative party offices misdirecting them to non-existent ballot-stations.
In the eyes of many, the Harper government is not democratically legitimate. It did not win a popular mandate to govern, and it may have won its majority by electoral fraud.
Now the government is showing its true colours by jamming an enormous number of major changes into a 425-page Budget Implementation Bill C-38 that amends 70 different laws, and by trying to force the legislation through in days. Full list - see www.bit.ly/L0GCru
By so doing it is denying Parliament the ability to debate the huge number of changes contained in the Bill, everything from the elimination of fisheries habitat protection to pensions reform, from ending farmers‚Äô grazing rights to giving cabinet the power to overturn any future National Energy Board ruling that blocks a resource development on environmental grounds.
As a concession, the government set up a subcommittee to review the environmental changes but then sent three cabinet ministers to the session who took up most of the allotted time, limiting question time to 20 minutes.
So detrimental is the Bill to Canada‚Äôs environment that is has been called the Environment Destruction Act, and on Monday June 4th websites across Canada are joining the national BlackOutSpeakOut campaign to protest this assault on Canada‚Äôs democracy. We are all being urged to call our nearest Conservative MP to protest both the Bill and the way democratic debate being suppressed. For details go to www.leadnow.ca and www.blackoutspeakout.ca.
And all this when the government is also determined to sell Canada‚Äôs oil to China by piping it across BC and shipping it through some of Canada‚Äôs most dangerous waters, and when the CO2 level in the Arctic has reached 400ppm, the highest it has been for fifteen million years. No wonder the frogs are worried.
What are we to do? That‚Äôs the critical question. Persistent protest and political pressure are the immediate answer ‚Äď but what about the long term? How can we stop Canada from being forced down this path to an American-style corrupted democracy that promotes a militaristic, tough-on-crime, rah-rah for the oil industry who gives a shit about climate change future?
And yet we have only ourselves to blame. By splitting the vote three ways (four ways in Quebec) we have handed the Conservatives their majority, and now we are suffering the consequences.
There are three ways through the impasse. The first is that two of the three non-Quebec parties should merge. Realistically, this doesn't appear to be happening, but three years is a long time in politics before the next election in October 2015.
The second is that either the Liberals or the NDP should make a strong enough commitment to proportional voting to persuade progressive Canadians to give them their support for the sole purpose of changing the way we vote. This the New Democrats have done:
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre committed to a fair, mixed-member proportional system. This will be a fundamental plank of our next election platform.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Thomas Mulcair (www.ndfv.ca)
Giving our full support to the New Democrats would mean abandoning the Liberals and Greens except where a candidate clearly has the best chance of defeating the Conservative. As soon as Canada has proportional voting, each party can flourish, and Green-Liberal or Green-New Democrat coalitions will become the norm, as they are in Europe.
The third solution is that the Greens, who can command up to 7% of the vote, should agree to a temporary political alliance with the New Democrats and consciously choose not to run candidates against them except in ridings such as Elizabeth May‚Äôs where they have a clear chance of winning.
For Green Party loyalists this might seem like a disaster, but for Canada as a whole it would be a triumph.
This line of thinking tells me that it is Green Party members who hold the key to change. If the Greens would endorse such a strategy, knowing that an NDP victory in 2015 would bring proportional voting and a chance for the Greens to win many seats at future elections, it would greatly increase the chance that this could change everything, and end this deeply troubling period of Conservative rule.
All that we are calling for is fair, proportional democracy ‚Äď and the Greens may have the key to make it happen.
- Guy Dauncey
$5 a line. Max 5 lines, non-profits, low-income free. 1‚ÄĚ box ad $50
* Volunteers wanted TLC Picnic at Sooke Potholes, Sat June 9th 1-877-485-2422
Volunteers wanted TLC Picnic at Sooke Potholes, Sat June 9th 1-877-485-2422
THE RIO EARTH SUMMIT
The big Rio Earth Summit is coming up on June 20-22nd, 20 years after the first Earth Summit. Our planet faces enormous challenges when it comes to protecting the atmosphere, forests, oceans, topsoil, fresh water and species that sustain our very existence, so a global gathering of the world‚Äôs leaders ought to be the very thing that is needed to get us on track and create a sense of hope, resulting in a practical course of action to address the many challenges.
The Summit has established two main themes. They are the development of a sustainable green economy that also addresses the eradication of poverty, and a streamlined institutional framework to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.
There are some great objectives, but progress towards agreement on the negotiating text is painfully slow, and expectations are currently falling through the floor. At one point, the text ballooned to 6,000 pages before being cut back to 80 pages. There‚Äôs no sign of and end to the constant disagreements between the North and the South, no sense of urgency, and no sign that key national leaders will attend.
Alongside the official Summit thousands of people from NGOs and businesses will also attend, including 15-year old Tessa Owens from Victoria, the youngest member of the Canadian delegation, and Naomi Devine, who left Victoria in February to cycle all the way to Mexico and then ride the bus to Rio. They are both with We Canada, which is mobilizing Canadians to take action for the Summit and wants Canada to commit to creating a sustainable future and a green economy and be a leader on the global stage. Who knows what influence the many activists will have once they get there? Maybe they can change the game.
Another person who is going to Rio with the intention of making a difference is Polly Higgins, the London barrister and author of the book Eradicating Ecocide. Her team‚Äôs goal is to stop the destruction of the Earth by getting the world‚Äôs leaders to stand up at the Earth Summit and say ‚ÄúLet‚Äôs make ecocide a crime‚ÄĚ - the 5th crime against peace, after genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. She defines ecocide as ‚Äėthe extensive damage to, or loss of ecosystems, of a given territory‚Äô. An international law of Ecocide would make CEOs and heads of state legally responsible for protecting the Earth, facing jail terms for serious offenses ‚Äď and she is not shy about including the Alberta tar sands as one such crime because the scale of the devastation.
What can we do to stop the proposed Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat, expansion of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline to Vancouver, and oil tanker traffic through the dangerous waters of the Great Bear Rainforest?
It‚Äôs a nagging question that‚Äôs in many people‚Äôs minds. The thought that the oil from Alberta‚Äôs tar sands, having devastated the boreal forest, will be piped across 733 creeks, streams and rivers and then shipped through some BC‚Äôs most dangerous and difficult waters, all so that the owners of the oil can get rich by selling it to China ‚Äď well, it‚Äôs getting a lot of people upset.
What can we do? I have assembled Taking Action on the Tar Sands, the Pipelines and Oil Tankers, and put it on the Earthfuture website at www.earthfuture.com/econews/action with links to all the petitions, how to make your submission to the Joint Review Panel, how to ask your local council to join Prince Rupert, Terrace, Masset and other councils in passing a resolution against the oil tanker traffic, the link to the video On The Line about the route of the pipeline, and other suggestions. And don‚Äôt miss ‚ÄėWhat Is Harper Afraid Of?‚Äô by Franke James, at www.frankejames.com
Kim Slater from Whistler is running 1,170 km this summer from Jasper to Kitimat to connect with community leaders who want their voices heard against the oil sands, and in support of a sustainable national energy strategy. Her details are there too. The Harper government‚Äôs plan is presumably to get the Review Panel Hearings done by the fall, and to have the Enbridge pipeline approved by cabinet before May 2013, when the provincial election will likely see the New Democrats elected to power in BC with a huge majority. This means that the push will be on this summer and fall to make a difference.
WHAT IS THE OIL SANDS EROI?
EROI stands for Energy Returned on Energy Invested ‚Äď it‚Äôs a measure of how much energy you have to use to get energy. In the early days of oil you needed the energy from one barrel of oil to extract a hundred barrels, for an EROI of 100:1.
Today, since all the easy oil has gone, one barrel only gets you fourteen barrels. In Alberta‚Äôs oil sands, because so much energy is needed to extract the oil from the tar, one barrel gets you only three barrels. And by the time it has been shipped to China it will only give you 2.4 barrels. That‚Äôs part of the craziness of the whole endeavor. The numbers come from a detailed analysis by Prince George engineers Chris Peters and Norm Jacob in their submission to the Northern Pipeline Joint Review Panel. You can find the details of their work in a recent BCSEA webinar slide presentation at www.bcsea.org/past-webinars.
So what‚Äôs the EROI for wind and solar? The numbers are quite encouraging. For solar PV, the US Department of Energy calculated that over a 30-year lifetime solar PV will produce 26 to 29 years of net energy, translating into an approximate EROI range of 8 to 27. For wind, the European Wind Energy Association calculated that an offshore turbine covers its energy investment in 6.8 months, land-based in 6.6 months, giving an approximate EROI of 35 to 55 for a 20-30 year lifespan. Compared to 2.4 for oil piped to China.
THE BENEFIT CORPORATION
So now for something completely different. One of the fundamental reasons why so many things are going wrong in the world is because our civilization is using a legal framework for business that requires a company to maximize its returns to its shareholders. In the movie The Corporation this kind of behaviour was correctly labeled as psychopathic. A director‚Äôs legal duty to maximize a company‚Äôs returns requires decisions to be made which offload costs and damages onto workers, local communities, the environment and the atmosphere if they can get away with it.
the B Lab, a non-profit team of committed people who saw the problem and wanted to fix it. To this end they created the Benefit Corporation, a new legal framework which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. A certified B Corporation adopts a new legal structure which expands the definition of fiduciary trust and corporate accountability so that they require a company and its directors to make decisions that are good for society, not just for their shareholders. It also requires it to publish an annual Impact Report and to appoint an independent benefit director. In a regular company, when an owner wants or needs to sell, he or she is obliged to take the highest price regardless of how evil the buyer might be, of if they want to fire all the workers and strip the assets. Being a certified B Corporation means that a company can only be sold to a company that accepts its mission unless there is a 2/3rds super-majority of shareholders.
So how is it going? Seven states in the US (including New York, California and New Jersey) have adopted laws creating benefit corporations, and 533 companies have become certified B Corporations across 60 different industries, including 48 in Canada. These include Salt Spring Coffee and Living Forest Communities, which is building an eco-hamlet at Elkington Forest on the Trans-Canada Trail south of Shawnigan Lake.
How big is this? It‚Äôs potentially huge ‚Äď the start of a revolution. It‚Äôs a profound shift away from domination by the quarterly return, and the inherent conflict between doing business and making the world a better place. A B Corporation must pursue either a general public benefit or a specific benefit such as helping low income communities with products or services, or preserving the environment. When seen alongside the movement to create more cooperatives and for companies to embrace employee share-ownership, it‚Äôs a game-changer.
How does a business become a B Corporation? There‚Äôs a five-step process that begins with taking an impact assessment in which your business must score at least 80 points out of a possible 200. It‚Äôs all laid out at www.bcorporation.net.
Are you a member of the Peninsula Co-op? If so, there‚Äôs an election happening for the Board of Directors and three people are running on a platform that wants to see the Co-op more engaged in the local economy and environmental sustainability, exploring alternative energy opportunities for its membership and focusing on supporting more local food production. The three candidates are Glenn Davidson, Roger Hart and Jack Thornburgh. If you did not receive your ballot papers, call 250-652-5752 www.peninsulaco-op.com
GARRY OAK RESTORATION
Can you help win the battle against invasive species at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse? Volunteers are restoring the endangered Garry Oak Ecosystem, home to more than 100 rare and endangered species, by removing invasive plants such as Scotch broom and spurge laurel. Volunteers are working mid-week and on Saturdays June 9th and 23rd. To help, call 250-812-8133.
NO BAN ON PESTICIDES
After 8,700 submissions, the proposed ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides in BC has come to naught. The Liberal majority on the Legislative Committee set up to examine the matter decided that there was not enough scientific evidence to justify an outright prohibition, and that there should be increased public education and Integrated Pest Management instead. The committee was chaired by Liberal MLA Bill Bennett, a self-confessed climate denier, so ‚Äėscientific evidence‚Äô can presumably be used for variable needs.
Following the announcement, NDP leader Adrian Dix introduced the Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act, presumably seeking to force the government‚Äôs hand. Premier Christy Clark has said she favours a ban, as do the Canadian Cancer Society and the Union of BC Municipalities.
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