Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Green Party of Manitoba candidate in Wolseley, David Nickarz. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Green Party of Manitoba candidate in Wolseley, David Nickarz. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Next April, Manitobans will elect a new government. Based on recent polling, if that election were held today, the winners would likely be the Progressive Conservatives. A September 2015 poll of 1000 Manitobans by Probe Research indicates 45 per cent of decided voters province-wide would vote PC; the governing NDP was tied for second place with the Liberals, at 20 per cent.

Of course, having the most votes doesn’t guarantee one the election in our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system. Support for the PCs is overwhelming outside of Winnipeg (where the Tories have 59 per cent of decided voters and NDP holds third place with 16 per cent). But in Winnipeg, where a slim majority of the seats are, the situation is more competitive; the Tories and Dippers are in a statistical tie (35 and 32 per cent respectively) and the Liberals are beginning to challenge at 27 per cent.

Despite being almost invisible, the Liberals have shown steady growth among decided voters both outside and inside of Winnipeg. NDP support has declined in lock step with Liberal advances while Tory vote in and outside Winnipeg has remained fairly stable. If the Tories do win next year it will likely be because the NDP hemorrhaged crucial support to the Liberal Party.

Given that the Liberal Party has not done anything to date to distinguish itself, the NDP could still win this one if it can convince soft supporters that a Liberal vote is not only a wasted vote, but a dangerous vote because it will lead to victory for the dreaded Tories. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.

Whether the next government is formed by Dippers or Tories, the outcome will be the same in at least one very important respect – it will be business as usual. Neither party has shown real interest in or capacity for discussing the major issues of the day, much less offering solutions. (The same goes for the third party in the Legislature, with its promise to allow Uber to compete with taxi companies, but I digress.)

By major issues, I’m talking about the failure to address widespread poverty and inequality in Manitoba society that manifests itself as the thousands of children in provincial care (we have one of the highest rates in the world), the growth of food bank usage, the epidemic of homelessness  and our nation–leading homicide statistics.

As serious as these are, they pale in comparison to the existential challenge posed by climate change. Whether or not Manitoba matters in the overall scheme of things, the province has consistently failed to meet its own carbon emissions targets and, recent announcements notwithstanding, shows no sign that anything is about to change.

As well, the province has shown no interest in stopping the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline – a project that is will enable the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. Not only is tar sands expansion a driver of global climate change, the pipeline itself is an environmental menace that should have no place in Manitoba.

So, as you may have guessed, I’m not at all optimistic about the outcome of the next election. I do, however, have reason to hope that we will see the beginning of change in my little part of the province.

I reside in the provincial constituency of Wolseley – a neighbourhood in central Winnipeg where the Green Party of Manitoba has placed second in each of the last three elections.

This time around, the Green candidate is David Nickarz. I like him and think he’d make a great MLA. He’s youthful, mature, energetic, intelligent and a seasoned environmental campaigner. You can read his bio, here.

I’ve decided to support his bid for office because we need to have at least one Green voice in the Legislature. Neither of the likely winners will provide this. The NDP has had more than a decade to deliver on the environment and in some regards we have moved backwards. As for the Tories, the environment is not even on their radar.

And so Dave Nickarz will have my vote and my volunteer time. If the Greens will make a breakthrough anywhere in Manitoba, it will be in Wolseley. As shop-worn as the phrase is, it really is time for a change.

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Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Energy East Pipelines, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Oil Pipelines (Canada), has applied to build the Energy East Pipeline, a project that will use aging natural gas pipelines along most of its route to move explosive, toxic diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refining facilities on Canada’s east coast.

The plan is fraught with risks to human health and the natural environment, but the National Energy Board, the federal regulatory body charged with assessing the suitability of this project, seems determined to turn a blind eye to the most serious ones.

The elephant in the room that the NEB is most anxious to ignore is the climate change that will be unleashed by the continued development of the Alberta oils sands, a northern Alberta mega project that will strip-mine an area the size of Nova Scotia and in so doing, will unleash enough carbon to push the world to the edge of uncontrolled climate change. Without pipelines, oil sands development will shrivel, and with it, the potential for further environmental damage.

In Winnipeg, a citizens’ coalition has challenged the National Energy Board to “consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects.”

Here’s video I recorded at its December 8, 2014 news conference in Winnipeg. Below is the text of the coalition’s open letter to the NEB.

An Open Letter to the National Energy Board on TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Dear Mr. Watson,

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge the National Energy Board to amend its review of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. We believe that the review process must consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the cumulative impacts of producing, refining, and burning the oil that would flow through it, if the project were approved.

If the NEB continues to refuse to assess upstream and downstream impacts you are leaving essential questions unanswered:

  • What are the global climate impacts of burning the oil this pipeline carries?
  • Understanding that this project would enable tar sands expansion, what consequences would Energy East have on the world’s ability to keep global average temperatures below a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise?
  • What would be the economic and health effects of increased tar sands production on communities, including First Nations communities, near the tar sands and along the pipeline?
  • What are the projected economic costs of the national and global climate impacts associated with any project which increases tar sand production? Who would be most likely to bear these costs?

What kinds of climate adaptation plans would be required based on the climate impacts of this proposed project? Who would develop them? Who would pay for them, and how?

Without a full and transparent accounting of the global climate impacts and associated economic and health costs of this project, we cannot in good conscience consider the National Energy Board to be acting in the best interest of Canadian families. Without including these critical questions, how can we believe the NEB to be undertaking a legitimate review of the proposal?

It is in your power to add these areas of concern to the “list of issues” for consideration. If it is currently outside the scope of the regulatory powers of the NEB to address these questions, we urge you to exercise exemplary moral leadership and refuse to review this pipeline and petition Parliament to grant you the legal authority to do so.

For a resilient and stable future,

No Energy East Manitoba – Energy Justice Coalition

Idle No More Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg Students Association

350.org

The Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter

Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement

Kairos Canada (Cambrian-Agassiz Region)


It has been said of Stephen Harper that he never saw a war he didn’t like. So it should be no surprise that he has been unabashedly at war with the environment since gaining power in 2006.

Whether it has involved shutting down world class environmental research, muzzling scientists, gutting environmental protection laws or attempting to demonize environmental activists as terrorists, Harper’s strategic objective has been to facilitate the corporate rape of our natural resources. He has pursued this objective with no regard for the health of our land, air and water, our people or the generations to come.

Despite Harper’s best efforts, Canadians are fighting back and opposition, in the form of demonstrations, occupations,  road blocks and court battles, grows daily. Following are three recent presentations I have recorded of people who are making significant contributions to this fightback.

Dennis LeNeveu: Stop the Energy East Pipeline

dennis leneveuDennis LeNeveu is a retired scientist who worked for many years in the field of nuclear fuel waste management and radiation and industrial safety. In this presentation he discusses the many reasons Canadians show oppose the proposed TransCanada Pipeline Energy East Project, a proposal that he says risks the health and safety of the environment and the many people who live along its route. His presentation is available here.

Chris Turner: Stephen Harper’s War on Science

chris turnerChris Turner is the author of The War On Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. He spoke about Stephen Harper’s campaign to suppress Canadian science at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg on November 6, 2014. His presentation was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project. His presentation is available here.

Diane Orihel: Big Dreams, Big Science: Saving Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area

diane orihelOn November 6, 2014, Dr. Diane Orihel spoke on the struggle to save Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area from destruction by the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper and the important role that this scientific institution has played in protecting the world’s environment. Her talk, also at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project and can be viewed here.

Some Useful Links

There are dozens of organizations that are fighting Harper’s agenda. I you haven’t already done so, join one. Here are some of my favorites. Please feel free to add your faves in the comments section.


Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro's Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Yesterday, after a week-long occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station, representatives of the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake brought their protest to Winnipeg. Community members and local supporters rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s downtown headquarters to pray, sing and tell their story to Winnipeg media.

They began with a prayer and followed with a moment of silence and an honour song for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the young reservist murdered in the recent attack on Parliament Hill. Then representatives explained what led the community to evict Hydro staff from the Jenpeg housing complex and to occupy the generating station.

In a statement circulated on her behalf, Chief Cathy Merrick invites Winnipeggers to empathize.

“Imagine if the once pristine waters in the lake by your cottage became murky and the shoreline continually washed away. Imagine your favourite childhood camping sites eroded right off the map, your industries undercut, your favourite golf course denuded, your ancestors’ graves dug up, and your place of worship defiled. Imagine if you had to constantly fight for compensation and mitigation, while paying monthly bills to the victimizer.”

According to Merrick, the Pimicikamak are asking for “a public apology, a revenue sharing arrangement, environmental cleanup, a say in how water levels are managed, and aggressive Power Smart programs to reduce our bills.”

Here is my video report:

I don’t normally reprint news releases. This time I will make an exception. At the end of the news release are two videos I recorded earlier this year that speak to this issue. In the first, Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, of the Environmental Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba, talks about the research that is the subject of this news release. In the second, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May explains why Canada needs an energy policy that is good for Canada’s economy and its environment.


Health Study Reveals Alarming Links Between Oil Sands Contaminants and Incidence of Illness

July 7, 2014, Edmonton, AB – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, released a report Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, and is the first report of its kind to draw an associations between oil sands produced environmental contaminants and declines in community health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

This report has been peer reviewed by Health Canada and other health and environmental agencies. Integrating scientific research methods and local knowledge, the report is the result of three years of community-based participatory research that incorporates both the traditional knowledge of community members and scientific monitoring techniques.

MCFN Chief Steve Courtoreille says, “This report confirms what we have always suspected. about the association between environmental contaminants from oil sands production upstream and cancer and other serious illness in our community. The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Programme has released data about the increases in these contaminants, but fails to address and monitor impacts to First Nations traditional foods. We are greatly alarmed and demand further research and studies are done to expand on the findings of this report.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats, and beavers harvested by community members. Bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.
Contaminants in wildlife, as well as limited access due to declining water levels, have nearly eliminated the consumption of some traditional foods; fish caught in Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River are no longer trusted, while muskrat populations have declined precipitously.

ACFN Chief Allan Adam notes that “It’s frustrating to be constantly filling the gaps in research and studies that should have already been done. This demonstrates the lack of respect by industry and government to effecting address the First Nations concerns about impacts our Treaty rights and the increases in rare illnesses in our community. We need further independent studies done by internationally credible institutions like the World Health Organization.”

Community health and wellbeing have been in sharp decline. The study reveals a link between the Oil Sands and illness in Fort Chipewyan unlike the 2014 cancer report by Alberta Health Service which simply aggregated limited data.. Indeed, cancer occurrence in Fort Chipewyan is positively associated with the consumption of traditional wild foods, including locally caught fish.

“Communities are facing a double-bind”, says Stephane McLachlan, head researcher for the study. “On one hand, industry, notably the Oil Sands, causes a substantial decline in the health of the environment and ultimately of community members. On the other hand, the existing healthcare services are unable to address these declines in human health. These Indigenous communities are caught in the middle, and the impacts are clear and worrisome.”

Researchers and the community leaders urge further investigation of contaminant concentrations, in addition to the mitigation of existing occurrences. The report also emphasizes continued community-based monitoring and calls for improved risk communication from government and industry. A full copy of the report will be available online at www.onerivernews.ca



Winnipeg, Feb. 17, 2014: Suzanne Patles of the Mi'kmaq Warriors Society, speaking at at Thunderbird House. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Feb. 17, 2014: Suzanne Patles of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, speaking at Thunderbird House. Photo: Paul S. Graham

It is time to “warrior up” according to Suzanne Patles of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society. She spoke at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg on Feb. 17, 2014 as part of a national tour to raise awareness about the struggle at Elsipogtog First Nation against shale gas fracking and police repression, as well as their ongoing assertion of nationhood.

Their blockade in opposition to shale gas fracking at Elsipogtog First Nation (located in Kent County, New Brunswick) came to national attention on October 17, 2013 when the it was attacked by dozens of RCMP officers armed with assault rifles, pepper spray and dogs.

Forty members of the blockade were arrested, and a number of members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society face charges.

Seen at the opening of the video is the Keewatin Otchitchak Traditional Women’s Drum Group, which performed at various times during the evening.

The Winnipeg stop of this national speaking tour was organized by the Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter, Boreal Forest Network, Thunderbird House, Winnipeg-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).


October 26, 2013: Diane Orihel, founder and director of the Coalition to Save ELA, speaks to a workshop in Winnipeg on water quality sponsored bu Idle No More Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

October 26, 2013: Diane Orihel, founder and director of the Coalition to Save ELA, speaks to a workshop in Winnipeg on water quality sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Dr. Diane Orihel is the founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.The Coalition to Save ELA is a nonpartisan group of scientists and citizens concerned about the future of Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area.

Located in northwestern Ontario, the ELA consists of 58 small lakes and their watersheds that have been set aside for research. Since 1968, these lakes have provided scientists with a natural laboratory to study the physical, chemical, and biological processes in living lake ecosystems. Research conducted in the ELA has been critical to maintaining the quality of fresh water in Canada and many other countries.

Last year, the federal government announced plans to close the facility in 2013. Supporters of the ELA mounted a vigorous national and international campaign to maintain federal support. They have been partially successful, insofar as the Ontario government has committed to a short-term agreement to work with Winnipeg’s International Institute for Sustainable Development to spend up to $2 million a year. Under the agreement, IISD will oversee lake monitoring and the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue its remediation work.

Celebrations would be premature. According to Orihel, “it is now illegal to conduct whole eco-system experiments at ELA.” And whole ecosystem experimentation is precisely what put ELA “on the world map,” according to Orihel. And hence, the campaign to save the ELA continues.

Orihel spoke recently at a workshop on water quality and oil fracking. This workshop was sponsored by Idle No More Manitoba as a part of its Red Feather Campaign in solidarity with the people of Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, who have been resisting plans to frack for oil in their territory.

Her topic was “The Five Main threats to Lake Winnipeg.” These threats, in the order in which she presented them, are nutrient pollution. toxic chemicals, climate change, invasive species and the “federal government under the leadership of Stephen Harper.”

I recorded the workshop on Oct. 26, 2013 at Neechi Commons in Winnipeg.