Mainstream News Articles of interest
- Published on Thursday, 23 May 2013 13:00
- Written by editor
- Published on Sunday, 12 May 2013 07:00
- Written by editor
Physicist pulls out of conference hosted by president Shimon Peres in protest at treatment of PalestiniansHarriet Sherwood and Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem
Tuesday 7 May 2013
Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president's conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres's 90th birthday.
Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He...
- Published on Thursday, 09 May 2013 04:00
- Written by editor
CHEK news story
Election coverage Raven Coal Mine
May 08, 2013
- Published on Sunday, 05 May 2013 03:00
- Written by editor
Victoria – Beacon Hill Candidates Meeting on Poverty, Homelessness and Harm Reduction
Location: First Metropolitan United Church Hall, 932 Balmoral Rd.
Date and Time: Tuesday, May 7, 7 p.m.
Hosted by the Downtown Service Providers.
Contact: tel. 250-370-1506 or 778-977-3494
Victoria Beacon Hill All-Candidate Debate
Location: Garry Oak Room at Fairfield Community Place, 1335 Thurlow Rd.
Date and Time: Thursday, May 9, 7-9 p.m.
Hosted by: The Fairfield Gonzales Community Association
Moderator: John Farquharson
Victoria Swan Lake All Candidates Meeting
Location:Garth Homer Society, 813 Darwin Ave
Date and Time: Thursday, May 9, 6:30-9 p.m.
Co-Sponsored by: Hillside Quadra Neighborhood Action Group, Camosun Community Association, Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association
Moderated by: Stephen Andrew, Legislature Reporter- Anchor | CTV News Vancouver Island
6:30-7 p.m. candidates meet and greet
7-9:00 p.m. moderated debate:
- Published on Thursday, 02 May 2013 12:30
- Written by editor
- Published on Wednesday, 01 May 2013 08:30
- Written by editor
Globe and Mail Comox Valley riding profile:
- Published on Friday, 12 April 2013 08:00
- Written by editor
- Published on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:05
- Written by editor
Heather Scoffield, Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:6 PM
OTTAWA - When the Harper government included a radical overhaul of the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the last omnibus bill, outsiders scratched their heads and wondered out loud where that idea had come from.
Documents obtained through the Access to Information Act show it came, in part, from the pipeline industry.
The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association met with senior government officials in the fall of 2011, urging them not just to streamline environmental assessments, but also to bring in "new regulations under (the) Navigable Waters Protection Act," a CEPA slide presentation shows.
A copy of the Oct. 27 presentation made to then-deputy minister of trade Louis Levesque was obtained by Greenpeace Canada and shared with The Canadian Press.
At the time, the federal government was preparing for a major overhaul of environmental oversight as part of its plan to launch its "Responsible Resource Development" initiative in the 2012 budget.
With so many of the pipeline-related rules in flux, the CETA board of directors decided to hold its fall strategy meeting in Ottawa, and meet with Levesque at the same time.
They had a concise but aggressive wish list, the slides show:
— Regulatory reform so that each project goes through just one environmental review;
— Bolster the Major Projects Management Office (tasked with steering resource projects efficiently through the bureaucracy);
— Speed up permitting for small projects;
— Make government expectations known early in the permitting process;
— Support an "8-1-1" phone line to encourage construction companies to "call before you dig";
— Modify the National Energy Board Act so it can impose administrative penalties, in order to prevent pipeline damage;
— New regulations under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
The main message was to tell federal decision-makers that if they were serious about "one project, one review," they should look at the entire array of reviews that resource development faces, CEPA president Brenda Kenny explained Wednesday in an interview.
Their plea was for Ottawa to clean up a messy system, strengthen their oversight if need be, but also fix archaic legislation like the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which subjected pipelines to another layer of scrutiny even though pipelines are almost always drilled underneath waterways and don't impact the water.
"If you're serious about sustainable development, it's very helpful to have a clear environmental assessment that is going to address any and all environmental impacts very well, and to then have that inform thoroughly the triple-bottom-line decisions that rely on that input," said Kenny.
In the end, they got almost everything they wanted except the 8-1-1 hotline. Federal regulators ruled that idea out, mainly because the number is already being used by telephone-health services in many provinces.
The first budget omnibus bill in June contained a replacement for the Environmental Assessment Act and also a provision to remove pipelines and power lines from provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Predictably, reaction from environmentalists was negative, while business and the natural resource sector reacted positively to the changes.
But then the government surprised many close observers by going even further in a second omnibus bill, C-45. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was changed to the Navigation Protection Act, significantly reducing its scope over Canada's waters.
Transport Minister Denis Lebel has argued that the changes were in response to demands from municipalities, who found that the act was tying them up in red tape as they tried to build bridges and culverts, said spokesman Mike Winterburn.
But over the decades, the act — originally written in 1882 — had morphed into a central pillar of environmental legislation. Critics say the major changes in C-45 were never discussed in that context.
"I never really knew where this call for change came from," said NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.
At the time, the House of Commons environment committee was reviewing the Environmental Assessment Act, and the need for changes did not come up despite vibrant discussions about how to streamline approvals for resource development, she said.
"It was never in any documents, it was never an addendum to testimony or anything like that. And in some private meetings I've had with some industry reps, they too have expressed to me that they don't know why the Navigable Waters Act changes were made."
While Leslie said it's perfectly acceptable for industry groups to present the government with lists of policy recommendations, "what's not normal is that those changes are accepted holus-bolus, without any consultation."
The changes prompted another outcry late last year from environmentalists, who were then joined by First Nations across the country who took to the streets in protest.
Now, as U.S. President Barack Obama has signalled his intention to focus on climate change, the Harper cabinet is scrambling to tout its green credentials and prove the worthiness of Canadian pipelines — especially since Obama's decision on the Keystone XL pipeline is pending.
Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy co-ordinator, Keith Stewart, wonders if the government and the pipeline industry are having any regrets, given the push-back.
"I think it's a case of 'be careful what you ask for,'" he said.
Both the pipeline industry and the federal government want faster approvals as well as "social licence" in the form of positive public support. But achieving the first goal is limiting their ability to achieve the second goal, he added.
"The pipeline companies ultimately got the kind of changes they wanted to Environmental Assessment legislation and the Navigable Waters Protection Act in the 2012 budget omnibus bills. This may prove to be a pyrrhic victory, however."
CEPA's Kenny does not agree. Rather, she said she wishes critics would recognize that the federal government has now set a higher environmental standard for pipelines by consolidating their processes.
"It's unfortunate that this has become so emotional. There's a misunderstanding of the implications, to be blunt."
Read it on Global News: Global News | Pipeline industry pushed changes to Navigable Waters Protection Act: documents
- Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 14:48
- Written by author
The development of Alberta’s oilsands is the subject of some contention nationally.
Photograph by: © Todd Korol / Reuters, Reuters
Federal scientists have uncovered evidence that contaminants wafting out Alberta’s oilsands operations are collecting on the bottom of remote lakes up to 100 kilometres away.
The chemical “legacy” in the lake sediments indicates that oilsands pollution is travelling further than expected and has been for decades.
“The footprint of the deposition is potentially larger than we might have anticipated,” says Derek Muir, a senior Environment Canada scientist, who will present the findings Wednesday at an international toxicology conference in the U.S. where the oilsands are a hot topic.
A team led by federal scientist Jane Kirk, also of Environment Canada, will report that snow within 50 kilometres of oilsands operations is contaminated with a long list of “priority pollutants” including a neurotoxin that “bioaccumulates” in food webs.
Kirk’s colleague Joanne Parrott will report that melt water from snow collected near oilsand plants is toxic to newly hatched minnows in the lab.
But perhaps the most dramatic findings is that pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are building up in lake sediments up to 100 kilometres from the oilsands operations.
“That means the footprint is four times bigger than we found,” says David Schindler, an aquatic scientist at the University of Alberta. He and his colleague Erin Kelly made headlines in 2010 when they reported that airborne heavy metals and other pollutants from oilsands operations were contaminating the landscape up to 50 kilometres away.
Their findings have been criticized by oilsands proponents, but the Environment Canada scientists report they have not only “confirmed” the Schindler-Kelly findings but found evidence PAHs can travel even farther.
Muir, a world authority on chemical contaminants, teamed up with Queen’s University researchers to look at the sediments that have been collecting for a century on the bottom of six remote lakes, five of them within 35 kilometres of the oilsands and the sixth lake 100 kilometres away. The lakes are undisturbed and received only atmospheric inputs, the scientists say.
They found that PAHs in the sediments “increased precipitously beginning at the early 1970s” and have climbed 2.5 to 23 times over pre-1960 levels.
“It is quite distinct in all the lakes,” Muir said in a telephone interview from California where he will present the findings at the annual meeting of the North American Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
He says the rising levels of PAHs in the sediments “seem to parallel the development of the oilsands industry.”
In four of the five shallow lakes located within 35 kilometres of oilsands operations the highest PAHs levels observed are from the most recent sediments collected in 2009-2010.
PAHs also turned up in sediments Namur Lake, located in a remote provincial park and known for Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling, and Northern Pike. Muir said samples taken about 100 kilometres northwest of the main oilsands operations show PAHs levels have more than tripled in Namur Lake’s sediments since the 1960s.
“To see something outside the 50-kilometre zone was a bit of a surprise,” Muir said. “Having said that I have to caution it was only one lake.”
He said the PAHs increasing in the lake sediments have a different signature – or ”fingerprint” – than PAHs generated by forest fires and other natural processes.
In the 1970s and 1980s the PAHs shifted to a more “petrogenic, in other words petroleum oriented, and more combustion source,” Muir said, noting that the chemicals could be from both upgraders, which convert oilsands bitumen into crude oil, and oilsands mining operations that release petroleum-based hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.
The PAHs levels in the sediments, with the exception of the lake closest to the oilsands operation, were lower than “guideline limits,” says Muir.
“So overall we don’t think that the PAHs have yet reached a level in the sediments of these lakes where they are going to be toxic to aquatic life,” said Muir. He notes that contamination levels are comparable to those around urban areas.
But he said “there is definitely a concern about it.” And more work in underway to sample sediments in other remote lakes in the region.
His colleague Jane Kirk built on Schindler and Kelly’s work by testing for heavy metals and other contaminants in snow at 90 sites located up to 200 kilometres from the oilsands plants. She reports that the “aerial loadings” of 13 “priority pollutants” were 1.5 to 13 times higher at sites within 50 kilometres of the upgraders and highest within 10 kilometres.
Muir says the elevated levels of methyl mercury is “probably the highest concern” because it is a neurotoxin that accumulates in food webs.
“We don’t really know the fate of the various metals including mercury as they go from snow, to melt water to run-off and then into the aquatic environment,” Muir said.
The Environment Canada work is part of the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oilsands Monitoring. The federal and Alberta governments have billed it as a “transparent and accountable” system designed to improve understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oilsands development.
Environment Canada earlier this month said scientists were not available to comment on their findings of contamination around the oilsands. The department’s media office arranged this week’s interviews with Muir and Parrott after Postmedia News obtained details of the reports the scientists will present at the U.S. conference on Wednesday.
Parrott and her colleagues in an Environment Canada lab have been exposing fathead minnows, which she describes as the “lab rat of the fish world”, to melt water from snow collected three to four kilometres from oilsands upgraders and mining operations. The snow was collected in 2011 and 2012 along the Athabasca River, which has several species of fish that have long been a dietary staple for aboriginal people in the region.
“The larval fish didn’t do very well in that snow at all,” says Parrott, who will report at the conference that melt water was “toxic to larval fathead minnows at 25 to 100 per cent.”
Once the melt water was diluted with water in the Athabasca River, Parrott says it was not longer toxic to the minnows.
She and her colleagues are expanding the testing to look at how young fish fare in the spring freshet and tributaries feeding into the Athabasca River.
Schindler says water in tributaries where young fish hatch in the spring can be largely melt water.
“My big concern is that slowly because of mortalities at spring melt, that this will erode the fishery, killing off the embryos,” says Schindler.
Parrott’s findings may explain why fish numbers the Muskeg River, a tributary of the Athabasca, have plummeted in recent decades, he said.
Schindler also says they may also explain why deformed fish are turning up in Lake Athabasca. “I think what could happen is that the few embryos that manage to survive, deformed as they are, struggle down to Lake Athabasca,” he said. While the deformed fish may not have a high load of contaminants, he said the fish look “so horrible” people won’t eat them. “I think that’s fair enough, they wouldn’t sell in Safeway,” says Schindler.
He says the Environment Canada scientists should not just present their findings at scientific conferences but also at the Joint Review Panel reviewing Shell’s proposed Jackpine oilsands mine expansion, 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
Schindler would like the expansion delayed until the environmental impacts of existing oilsands operations are better understood.
“They should say: ‘Hey wait a minute, maybe we should get the monitoring system in place and see what the real state of the system is now,’ before this approval is made,” says Schindler.
- Published on Saturday, 27 October 2012 06:06
- Written by author
- Published on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 04:57
- Written by mic
- Published on Saturday, 20 October 2012 02:34
- Written by mic
People’s Assembly of Victoria participant Anushka Nagji, above, is asked by a Victoria police constable to walk on the sidewalk as she passes out Occupy This Christmas bookmarks to passersby asking them to give generously to food banks and shelters last November on Government Street. Nagji spoke to the News this week about where the Occupy movement is a year later in Victoria.
Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Published: October 19, 2012 9:00 AM
Updated: October 19, 2012 3:19 PM
At this time last year, Occupy landed in Victoria.
Tents, tarps and couches began to fill Centennial Square, launching the local incarnation of an already well-established international movement.
For six weeks, activists braved the fall weather before an injunction by the City of Victoria put an end to the encampment.
But even as tenters packed up and the square emptied last November, a common question buzzed on the lips of activists: what’s next?
“I really tried hard to keep it going by having assemblies and trying to raise issues I thought people could rally around,” said Robert Duncan, a member of the People’s Assembly of Victoria, which steered the protest by consensus. “People were swearing up and down that there was going to be a lot of camping again (in the) summer, but it didn’t happen.”
Inevitably the group dwindled, said Duncan, who works in a group home. “There is a lot of complacency. People don’t feel the issues are touching them in a major way – yet.”
So what happened to the movement?
One year later, the News caught up with four activists heavily involved with the People’s Assembly.
- Published on Friday, 19 October 2012 16:13
- Written by mic
It’s been a year since a group of individuals calling themselves the People’s Assembly of Victoria gathered in Centennial Square in support of the global Occupy movement.
Looking back, many of us in the media found covering the group’s activities at times an exercise in frustration. As people accustomed to finding distinct themes, objectives, solutions and resolutions in our news coverage, we found it tricky to write about a loosely organized collection of individuals that seemed bent on refusing to be defined.
We saw divides emerge – a clear generation gap developed – and those willing to have a discussion about Occupy often found themselves in disagreement over what the movement stood for and what it hoped to accomplish.
But it wasn’t strictly about arguing that Wall Street is bad, that capitalism promotes corruption, or that the distribution of wealth increasingly favours the rich. People who chose to have a discussion, if they didn’t throw up their hands having failed to get their point across, sometimes found themselves taking new ideas away, or grateful for a chance to offer their perspective.
Encouraging communication between disparate groups or individuals may have been one of Occupy’s key accomplishments.
Interestingly, the website for the People’s Assembly of Victoria (occupyvictoria.ca) gives its supporters tips for being interviewed by the media. In general they speak to inclusivity and courteousness, sticking to specific topics instead of making blanket statements, and being pro-change, not anti-system.
It’s information that might have helped writers who, at the height of the protests last year, struggled to create a level of understanding about the local Occupy movement and why it was relevant in Victoria.
Little has changed since then in terms of the redistribution of wealth, either in the Capital Region or globally. That doesn’t necessarily mean Occupy failed. For an unfocused, unfunded gathering of malcontents, the movement was remarkably successful – it woke people up and changed the conversation.
- Published on Sunday, 14 October 2012 06:55
- Written by registered
B.C. Premier Christy Clark didn’t mention during her trade mission to China last November that most of the coal mining jobs created by a $1.4-billion Chinese investment in B.C. would be filled by Chinese workers.
Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh , THE CANADIAN PRESS
How long does it take to train a coal miner?
Granted, at least in Canada, it’s been a while since all that was required was a strong back, a desperate need of a job and a high tolerance for dangerous and dirty work.
But five years? That’s how long the provincial government has known that a company proposing an underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge in northeastern B.C. wanted to bring in experienced miners from China as part of its operating plan because of a lack of skilled underground miners here.
As Vancouver Sun reporter Peter O’Neil noted Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark didn’t mention during her trade mission to China last November that most of the coal mining jobs created by a $1.4-billion Chinese investment in B.C. would be filled by Chinese workers. But at least her officials should have known that the rationale given in 2007 by the Canadian Dehua International Mines Group for bringing in miners from China appears to be essentially unchanged in 2012, despite her government’s focus on jobs for British Columbians.
As O’Neil reported, the first of a group of 200 temporary Chinese workers approved by the federal government will be arriving in B.C. in the coming weeks to start work on one of four projects that could provide employment for 1,600 to 2,000 Chinese miners and an estimated 480 to 800 jobs for Canadians.
Oakland police chief seeks to fire two officers, discipline 42 others for misconduct during Occupy protests
- Published on Sunday, 14 October 2012 04:48
- Written by mic
Posted: 10/12/2012 04:13:38 PM PDT
Updated: 10/12/2012 09:00:43 PM PDT
OAKLAND -- In the largest mass discipline in department history, police Chief Howard Jordan wants to reprimand 44 of his officers, including firing two, for various forms of misconduct in their aggressive handing of protesters during Occupy Oakland events in the past year.
Jordan announced the recommendations Friday morning as city officials released a much anticipated summary of internal affairs investigations sparked by complaints made against officers during the often violent protests.
Jordan also confirmed that it was one of his officers who fired a bean bag into the head of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, seriously injuring the protester, while also epitomizing what many said was the police department's unnecessary forceful reaction to the protests. Jordan refused to say if one of the two officers he believes should be fired is the officer who fired the bean bag at Olsen.
- Published on Saturday, 13 October 2012 20:16
- Written by mic
Published: October 9, 2012, 2:57 pm
- Published on Friday, 12 October 2012 15:17
- Written by editor
The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), which will come into effect at the end of October, is Canada's biggest foreign trade treaty since NAFTA. What are its implications for BC?
Posted: Oct 12th, 2012
A Canada-China investment treaty, known as FIPPA, will hamstring BC from negotiating a greater share of profits and creating regulations related to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline for the next 31 years once it comes into effect at the end of October, an international investment law expert warns.
"This treaty, in effect, will pre-empt important elements of the debate of the Northern Gateway pipeline and may frustrate in a very significant way the ability of the current BC government or any future government—if the NDP were to win in spring—from stopping that pipeline or bargaining a better deal for BC," said Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Law professor who specializes in international investment law.
Van Harten noted that arbitrators in foreign investment agreement disputes will most likely judge in favour of Chinese investors in cases where the host country attempts to impose new or updated regulations that may interfere with the investor's bottom line.
"If this treaty comes into effect, and there's any Chinese ownership whatsoever in assets related to this pipeline—minority ownership, ownership we generally don't know about—then Canada will be exposed to lawsuits under this treaty, because the BC government will be discriminating against a Chinese investor, which is prohibited by the treaty."
The treaty will protect investors' rights for 31 years as of November 1.
- 14 reasons why Canada-China investment deal needs more time, debate
The Northern Gateway is a controversial pipeline project proposed to run from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta to the north coast of BC. It would build a twin pipeline running from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, BC.