Monday, April 30, 2012

Reloaded: Your Corporatocracy At Work




Back there, I endeavored to illustrate how Big Business interests keep being embedded with our government's policy-making, going as far as dictating how laws are written - all thanks to compliant politicos and with the sole purpose of serving the interests of Big Business.

In addition, I've made much on APOV (one recent example here) of Prime Minister Harper's (and his government's) anti-science attitude, especially with regards to climate change scientific research and monitoring.

Here's where it all comes together, folks.

First, we have this little tidbit of news (emphasis added):
Cuts force Environment Canada to trim monitoring of emissions, water

Federal budget cuts at Environment Canada have forced the agency to scale back its monitoring and oversight of a program designed to help the mining industry meet emission standards.

In an email to employees sent April 23 and obtained by Postmedia News,
Environment Canada personnel were told that the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program, "will prioritize work based on risk" and "not always provide guidance on a facility-by-facility basis." The email also said that cuts will require the agency to cut some of its wastewater monitoring programs and water conservation efforts.

It's not clear how many jobs will be lost, but the government said the cuts will save about $3 million, eliminate duplication on water monitoring and
save money on a program that already has a high rate of compliance.

(...)


The Environmental Effects Monitoring Program, or EEM, has been around for 20 years and has helped the mining and pulp and paper industry meet federal environmental guidelines by being both a watchdog and an adviser.


The program was first introduced into the pulp and paper sector in 1992, then again 10 years later in 2002 to the mining industry.
The EEM's role was to ensure that industry wasn't affecting local waterways and fish habitat.

>Studies in the last four years from the office have shown that in the years since it was introduced, lower levels of toxicity were found in fish habitats. However, those studies still found reproductive issues in fish habitats, specifically the size of reproductive organs.


The Conservatives are cutting more than $5 billion in spending over the next three years. The cuts announced in the March budget mean that the EEM will see 20 per cent of its budget cut.

Now, let us hear the usual hypocritical, double-talking platitudes from Harper and his Harpies, trying to spin again a way out of their mendacity (emphasis added):

"This will not affect our ability to meet air pollution and GHG (greenhouse gas) targets," Environment Minister Peter Kent said in a statement. "This approach is aimed at implementing the broader federal regulatory reforms . . . and it will enable (Environment Canada) to focus its efforts on areas where the biggest effect can be achieved, and where lower-cost options, such as developing codes of practices, will not do enough."


"We will prioritize the program's work based on risks. We will also continue to help industry meet their regulatory obligations, but we will not always provide this guidance on a facility-by-facility basis," John Moffet, Environment Canada's director general for legislative and regulatory affairs, wrote in the email to employees.

(...)

Kent said the program will continue, albeit in a reduced capacity. "The same level of effort as was provided to establish the program is no longer needed now that the program is over a decade old and has widespread high levels of compliance," he said.

Ah, that good old tortuous logic whereby less is more, and what has been efficient is now "no longer required" (because, you know, there will never be again any need for such monitoring and oversight ... right?). And perish the thought of establishing/enforcing codes of practices and, you know, regulations.

As always - Harper and Co. talking the (mendacious) talk about the environment, yet never actually walking the walk. Here's some notes added in proof:

(...) remember this from our bullshitting Prime Douchebag of some three years ago?

"Canada won't meet its Kyoto targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but can be a world leader in battling climate change."
And what magnificent leadership we have provided so far (and even recently), eh?

Hence, I proclaim that "for too long we have heard your bullshit with regards to fighting climate change" - or, in other words: "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; and fool me thrice ...?"

Case in point (only but a very small sample, by the way):

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, four years ago, on the Clean Air Act. “After more than a decade of inaction on the environment by the previous government, Canada’s Clean Air Act is the first step in turning things around to protect the health of Canadians.”


Environment Minister John Baird, three years ago, on the Bali climate talks. “With the United States now signed on to this framework the results of this conference show progress and we see that as an important first step.”


Environment Minister Jim Prentice, last February, on the submission of Canada’s emission targets to the Copenhagen accord. “We took our first step down that road on Sunday, January 31, 2010.”


Environment Minister John Baird, this weekend, on the Cancun accord. “This represents the first step to a single, new legally binding agreement … A first step.”


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, last week, on the Copenhagen accord. “Mr. Speaker, the Copenhagen accord was only a first step.”

When always stuck at "first step", you go nowhere fast - eh?

In the meantime: Canada formally abandons Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Talk about "not affect(ing) our ability to meet air pollution and GHG (greenhouse gas) targets" ... indeed.

Then, let us move on to a second little tidbit of news, very much à propos (emphasis added):
Oil lobbyists approved Harper’s climate policy as ‘elegant’ approach

The federal government asked the oil and gas industry last fall to review its foreign climate change policies, which were then approved by lobbyists as “an elegant” approach, reveals newly-released correspondence.

The government was consulting the industry about European climate change legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, according to an email exchange between senior bureaucrats at Natural Resources Canada.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an oil and gas industry lobby group, is opposed to the European Fuel Quality Directive legislation, because it believes it unfairly discriminates against bitumen, the heavy oil derived from the oilsands sector, which the government describes as the “fastest growing source of (greenhouse gas) emissions in Canada.”

“I talked to (CAPP president) David Collyer about the possible Canadian position on the FQD that we discussed — everyone in same basket, at same level, until they prove otherwise,” wrote Mark Corey, an assistant deputy minister at Natural Resources Canada, in an internal email sent on Oct. 14, 2011. “He said his initial impression was that he liked it, but would confer and call me back.”

(...)

Corey wrote in the email, sent to his deputy minister, Serge Dupont, that (Natural Resources Minister Joe) Oliver’s position would be crafted with industry input, explaining that Collyer had also discussed the matter with the association’s vice-president of markets and oilsands, Greg Stringham.

“He said they liked the proposal a lot,” Corey wrote in the email, released through access to information legislation to Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based conservation group. “He termed it as an elegant solution that is worth pursuing.”

The email also said that Collyer would “quietly talk to a few more players,” and that another senior bureaucrat would then “write the position up so that it could be raised with the minister, if you are comfortable, as a possible position around which we could try to build support.”

Under pressure from Canadian lobbying, Europe recently agreed to perform an impact study, postponing its decision until 2013.

“Of course it’s regrettable that there’s a delay, we want to have this legislation in place as soon as possible,” the European Union’s ambassador to Canada, Matthias Brinkmann told reporters last week.

Brinkmann that the legislation was designed with a “science-based” approach to assess the climate footprint of fuels used for transportation and their feedstocks. Bitumen from the oilsands, which requires large amounts of energy, water and land in its production, ranked among the most polluting sources of fuel, based on a life-cycle analysis of its emissions.

But the European assessment ranked oil shale and coal converted to liquid fuel as more polluting sources of energy in its proposed legislation.

Travis Davies, a spokesman for CAPP, said it was normal for bureaucrats to consult with industry about information (...).

(...)

Although the government was warned by bureaucrats not to become “cheerleaders” for the oilpatch, three years ago, when it launched a lobbying and marketing strategy to defend the Canadian industry, federal officials have since allowed its efforts to evolve into a sophisticated campaign, funded by taxpayers, that has included special training on lobbying for diplomats, regular meetings with industry representatives, and outreach to “select” foreign media outlets.

“The federal government is supposed to represent the interests of Canadian citizens abroad, but it’s clear that the oil industry is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to our role on the world stage,” said Gillian McEachern, deputy campaign director at Environmental Defence. “This is another example of the erosion of Canada’s democracy at the hands of the tarsands lobby, which not only threatens Canada’s air, water and land but is actively trying to prevent good climate actions in other countries.”

Climate scientists and governments around the world have agreed that humans must rapidly slash greenhouse gas emissions, mainly produced through consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation, to avoid irreversible damage to life on Earth.

In December, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government announced that Canada would withdraw from the world’s only legally binding treaty on global warming, the Kyoto Protocol, to focus on negotiating a new binding treaty by 2015 that would come into force several years down the road.

Cue in yet again the usual hypocritical, double-talking platitudes from Harper and his Harpies, as well as from the lobbyists:
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has championed the industry’s concerns, explaining that the oilsands are important to the Canadian economy as well as energy security, but only represent a fraction of global emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

(...)

Travis Davies, a spokesman for CAPP, said it was normal for bureaucrats to consult with industry about information, and that this doesn’t “sugarcoat’ the fact that there is an environmental component to oil and gas production. He also said CAPP supports policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as long as they are science-based and reward transparency.

"Science-based", my own scientific ass - indeed.

Climate change denialism is anything but science-based - it is in fact nothing more that complete rejection of scientific evidence in favor of selfish corporate interests.

Conclusion: the anti-science policies of Prime Minister Harper and his government are not only dictated by their own religious interests but, especially in matters of the environment, all the more dictated as well by the mining/oil/resource industry - but what about the expert opinion of actual scientists? Pshah!

So, now we know why Harper and his Harpies have ever been happy at doing nothing about climate change ...

And never mind our health or that of our country's environment - as long as there's money to be made at the expense of it all.

Welcome to your Corporatocracy, eh?

Q.E.D. - yet again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anti-Science Harper: Whereby I Say (Again) - Q.E.D.


Back there, some two years ago, I discussed how Harper and his Harpies shut down the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), all the while spinning about keeping it funded and even going as far as lying about what they were actually doing. One of the points I made as "note added in proof" was the following:


Indeed - ever since Harper and Co. took power in early 2006, science funding has been drying up all across the board in Canada. No shit. Really.

Hell - even a creationist is currently our Minister of ... Science and Technology! What else did you expect?

Results? Here's one.

Here's another one.

And another one.

And another one.


(...)

Whether it is about climate change, biomedical sciences, physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics, et al. - Harper and his Theocons are effectively killing scientific research in our country.

And guess what? They ain't done yet (emphasis added):
HARPER: (...) But we do have to cast our minds in terms of the economy, in terms of our budget, to tackling the deficit. That will obviously be the next phase to ensure that the extraordinary measures we’ve had to undertake don’t result in a permanent deficits. Right now we do have, we still have the lowest deficit in major industrialized countries; we have the lowest debt ratio but those assets have to be protecting through prudent management and our focus will start to be on exit strategies from the extraordinary fiscal measures we’ve undertaken.

(...) I won’t speculate on what will be in the budget but I will say — and you’ll hear me say this both nationally and internationally because as you know I’m chairing the G8 and co-chairing the G20 — that we’ll be talking about, both nationally and internationally, the necessity of continuing the stimulus measures in the short-term but beginning to think in the medium term about serious exit strategies from some of these economic measures. And also how to continue to advance key economic priorities in a period of constrained spending growth which we will need to see in the next few years. We still have to be able to advance key files that will continue to build the strength of the Canadian economy.

I’ve given my cabinet ministers — all of my cabinet ministers now — comprehensive mandate letters to re-examine their priorities in terms of this major direction. We’ll also review all government legislation. We’ll decide what we’re going to proceed with. We’ll decide what we may combine. We’ll decide what we’ll drop and, of course, we’ll be taking a look at what new measures we might be able to introduce going forward.
"Security" expenditures and generous (free) money to banking institutions aside (of course), wanna bet where there will be further budgetary cuts to reduce Teh Deficit?

I won't give the obvious answer. Instead, I'll let our Prime Poseur say the closing words (emphasis added):
So look: I’m convinced that the country, this country, will be a positive contributor to a realistic fight against climate change. But ultimately, this government, the national government, will make those decisions and it will make those decisions in a way that treats all parts of the country fairly.
How reassuring, n'est-ce pas?

How reassuring indeed - case in point (emphasis added):

Environment Canada cuts eliminating research, monitoring and partnerships

Scientific research, monitoring and partnerships are disappearing from Environment Canada's budget as part of a multimillion-dollar reduction in spending. Here is a partial list of cuts confirmed by the federal government.

* Emergency disaster response: Spending reduction of $3.78 million per year as part of nationally co-ordinated model. Environment Canada can continue to provide information and advice ``from a centralized location.''

* United Nations Environment Programme Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS)/water: Canada has managed the international database examining water quality around the world since the 1970s, but will save $851,000 per year by 2014-15 by ending its funding and asking another country to take over.

* Canadian Environment Technology Advancement Centres: Centres established in 1994 with funding from Environment Canada to offer advice and support to small businesses for commercialization and development of new products. But government says other organizations must jump in to support because Environment Canada ``does not have the mandate or accountability to develop an environmental industry in Canada.'' Anticipated savings of $1.2 million per year.

* Research on industrial emissions measurements: The department to achieve annual savings of $718,000 by moving away from doing its own measurements of industrial pollution, and relying instead on outside sources of measurements to be assessed and reviewed for quality assurance.

* Urban waste water research: Environment Canada aiming to save about $1.2 million per year mainly in areas of wet weather and wastewater technology research.

* Waste management: Environment Canada aiming to save about $400,000 per year by reducing waste management activities since this is the responsibility of the provinces and municipalities.

* Integration of monitoring for water and air quality: Government says there is duplication and is projecting savings of $4.9 million ``by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental monitoring,'' including reduction in number of ozone monitoring stations. Scientists have asked the government for evidence supporting its plans to reduce spending on monitoring.

Oilsands monitoring is not affected since it is supposed to be funded by the industry.

* National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy: Environment Canada projects savings of $5.2 million annually by eliminating the advisory panel, established by the Mulroney government to do research and special projects informing decision makers about the links between business and protection of the environment.


In other words, we have the typical hypocritical and intellectually dishonest, outright mendacious, Harper & Co. double-talk - i.e. "less is more" and "let's private/corporate/industrial interests perform 'responsible', 'voluntary', monitoring" ... ri-i-ight - here's what I wrote in this respect 5 years ago (emphasis added):

As the Harper conservative minority government keeps backtracking and spinning on the Kyoto Accord while standing against reducing (let alone getting rid of) tax breaks to oil producing companies, and with coal, gas plants and tar sand operations in Alberta now being the worst greehouse emitters of the country, it looks as if Canada's earned reputation as a world-leader on the environment question is gradually going down the drain.

But we are not quite yet from going all the way of the Bush administration and its love for, to paraphrase former Vice-president Al Gore, "Big Oil, Big Energy and Big Corporations".

Now, I am all for a free market-based economy. Competition drives initiative and creativity, leading to better (or new) products as well as to better (or new) services, and henceforth to a better and greater choice for consumers. This in turn will usually translate well into job creation or maintenance, along with better salaries. And this in turn will usually translate into better individual spending powers and higher standards of living.

However, trusting in corporations to "do the right thing" with regards to the welfare of society and/or the environment is pure nonsense. The reality is that companies live by one thing and one thing only: the bottom line. Hence, companies will do anything, regardless of whether they initially had good intentions or not, to keep profits not only high but also to increase them as well. In other words, companies will cheat, lie or steal, even go as far as to use spying, sabotage and violence, as means to protect and increase their profit margins. This is simply the nature of the beast.


Five years ago, we were "not quite yet from going all the way of the (G.W.) Bush administration".

But today, now we are "there".

So all I can say is - Q.E.D.

"Going down the drain", indeed ...

And whoop-dee-doo ...