Good Sunday Morning on the August Long Weekend!
It is hard to write the words “Good Sunday Morning” on a day forever shrouded in grief and mourning – August 6, Hiroshima Day. Normally this day finds me in the Japanese Garden and Peace Park in Ganges on Salt Spring Island, created through the extraordinary generosity of the Murakami family. I was pleased to find this link to their amazing story on line, otherwise I would be tempted to write a very long letter to you with nothing but the saga of the Murakamis!
As a Green MP and leader of the only political party with a central and core value of the pursuit of peace and non-violence, I remain a leading voice in the call for nuclear disarmament. In that endeavour, I am honoured to work closely with former MP, former Senator and Canada’s former Ambassador for nuclear disarmament, the Hon. Doug Roche. And it is to Doug Roche that we are indebted for this article making it to the CBC website.
As the film about Oppenheimer competes with Barbie on box office records, Doug Roche spoke of Joseph Rotblat, the only physicist to leave the Manhattan project on moral grounds. Joseph Rotblat left the nuclear weapons project and later began Nobel Prize-winning disarmament work in Pugwash, N.S. His work also led to Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein penning a draft manifesto that launched the peace movement, and it was through that movement that my mother became a friend of Lord Russell.
All this to say, I am reminded this morning of the unpublished manuscript Bertrand Russell pressed into my mother’s hands when we visited Wales when I was a small child. (Small footnote, my little brother and I were specifically not included in the invitation to visit Lord and Lady Russell for tea. They did not enjoy small children!) The manuscript titled History of the World in Epitome (For Use in Martian Infant Schools) ran in its entirety: “Since Adam and Eve ate the apple, man has never refrained from any folly of which he was capable. The End.” Mom gave it to Norman Cousins and Norman used it for the title of what was then his new book about the need for disarmament, In Place of Folly, published in 1962.
And here we are over sixty years later with the increased risk of nuclear war and Canada not even willing to sign on as an observer to the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
So, on this Hiroshima Day, let’s recommit to taking political action to move our own government toward lasting peace through nuclear disarmament.
There are twin threats to our survival as a species – nuclear war and the climate crisis. And for bone-headed stupidity in the face of the accelerating climate emergency nothing came close from any level of government in Canada as this week’s surprise announcement from the Alberta government. Danielle Smith’s government announced a moratorium on approval of new wind and solar projects of more than one megawatt: Renewables industry feels burned by Alberta’s sudden pause on project approvals.
For years, Greens have maintained that renewables are competitive with fossil fuels to generate electricity. And now with the business case proven, projects were set to go ahead on private land with investors set to make a hefty profit delivering electricity at low rates and creating thousands of jobs when Smith pulled the plug. Halting renewable energy will increase electricity rates while costing jobs and revenue for municipalities and landowners.
I am including great detailed analysis on the negative impact on Alberta’s economy of nixing renewables from the Pembina Institute: Alberta hits the brakes on affordable electricity projects.
The motives for obstructionist policies of Alberta in promoting fossil fuels at least made some sense when Big Oil and industry pushed to protect fossil fuels. But the dollar signs and investment interests are on the side of renewables as Alberta pushes back, and to add insult to injury, Smith claims concerns for the waste left by renewable projects. Meanwhile Alberta faces an existing liability from oil sands, abandoned oil wells and mining of as much as $260 billion – for which they failed utterly to secure industry funds for cleanup. Cleaning up Alberta’s oilpatch could cost $260 billion, internal documents warn.
The liabilities are broken down into three categories. After the $130 billion estimated mining liability, the next largest category is the $100 billion cost of cleaning up conventional oil and gas wells. The third group of liabilities, provincially regulated pipelines, came in at about $30 billion, according to Wadsworth’s February presentation.
And this letter about the idiotic federal decision to buy the TMX pipeline ran in Friday’s Globe and Mail:
re Gary Mason: “Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a disaster for everyone but Alberta.” (August 2):
“As the only Member of Parliament to serve as an intervenor in the National Energy Board review of the former Kinder Morgan project, I can attest to the reality that there was no economic evidence the Trans Mountain pipeline would be good for Canada’s economy.
“The National Energy Board said its mandate did not include reviewing economic factors, a finding which did not constrain its conclusion that the project was in the “national interest.” Also lacking was any evidence that a spill of diluted bitumen could be cleaned up in the marine environment.
“The ironic bottom line for the Trudeau Liberals is that violating climate and environmental promises, while shovelling $31-billion to the Alberta oil sands, has garnered little political credit in that province.
“It is never too late to stop wasting money and worsening the climate crisis. Canadians now own this disaster and will be on the hook for its losses.”
I’m sharing an article I wrote that appeared in The Hill Times:
“As in the fights to arrest acid rain and protect the ozone layer, Canadians need to rally behind the political leaders with a clear vision and the courage to get there. As the climate crisis accelerates, we are increasingly unprepared. The voices of the few who deny that burning fossil fuels has led to expensive and terrifying extreme weather events are dwarfed by the reality. Yet we are still increasing our dependence on fossil fuels and failing to take necessary steps to save lives. We can no longer avoid our national failure to act to mitigate and respond to the future impacts of the climate emergency. Canada responds to multiple crises as though we were 13 separate and sovereign fiefdoms instead of 10 provinces and three territories operating as one nation. For decades, provincial and federal governments have utterly failed to co-ordinate an appropriate response to avoid this and a multitude of other threats to our future posed by the climate crisis. But this level of dysfunctional response is not baked into our federation, nor to our Constitution.
“Back in the 1980s, these same eastern Canadian provincial governments and Ottawa were actually capable of ending the threat of acid rain. It wasn’t easy, but it got done. Tough talks between the federal government and each of the seven eastern Canadian provinces to halve acid rain-causing emissions actually worked. With the domestic plan in hand, Ottawa then negotiated with the Ronald Reagan Administration to get the United States to meet our targets.
“During the acid rain battle, not everyone was onside, and New Brunswick dug in its heels. Then-premier Richard Hatfield even testified before the Commons committee against the agreement, but it didn’t delay action. In the end, New Brunswick moved from laggard to leader in putting scrubbers on all the fossil-fired power plants in the province and shutting one down altogether.
“Several key lessons have emerged from those successes from the 1970s and 1980s: leadership from the top matters. Consistent policies matter, policy coherence matters, and ensuring agreements—whether domestic and bilateral, or global—have teeth really matters.
“The failure to move through federal-provincial co-operation to avoid the current existential threat is baffling. We know how to do this. We did it for acid rain, and we negotiated a successful global treaty to save the ozone layer. But current governments have consistently rejected or ignored lessons from history.
“One key marine ecosystem in the region has been ringing alarm bells for climate scientists. The Gulf of St. Lawrence, kissing the coastlines of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and western Newfoundland and Labrador, is undergoing dramatic changes due to shifts in massive ocean currents. The multi-billion-dollar fishery is at risk. Typically, cold water from the Labrador Current used to bring water with high oxygen levels to recharge the gulf. Recent years have seen the Labrador Current displaced by the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream bringing de-oxygenated waters—threatening the whole ecosystem. It is now identified as one of the critical dangerous tipping points of massive climate shift.
“Recently, a new tension in the federal-provincial response to the climate crisis has emerged. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick want the federal government to commit to the hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to protect the low-lying land connector called the Chignecto Isthmus from being overwhelmed by storm surges and sea-level rise driven by the climate crisis. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc has said no. This is a lost opportunity in getting Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to the table to cut greenhouse gases, and a bargaining chip in cutting those provinces’ coal-burning emissions. It’s also a sensible and necessary infrastructure investment.
“The climate threat to the Chignecto Isthmus is not new. Back in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had warned of the huge threat to Nova Scotia of a warming climate. Then-Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey grasped the threat and was alarmed, and we worked together to raise awareness. We discussed it after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, and called for a detailed study of the risk that climate change-induced sea level rise and storm surges could overwhelm the isthmus. Back in 2017, we held a joint press conference to rally concern that we needed real climate action to avoid the national economic disaster of Nova Scotia being physically separated from New Brunswick and the rest of Canada. On July 18, 2023, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said they want Ottawa to cover the whole $400-million to $600-million bill to protect the vulnerable isthmus. The feds said they are prepared to cover up to half the cost, but Houston has pushed back, saying he is willing to go to court over the matter.
“Most provinces seem to agree that the costs to them created by the climate crisis should be zero, and the costs of the climate crisis should be 100 per cent the federal government’s responsibility. And Ottawa keeps obliging: approving fossil fuel projects, increasing subsidies to help the industry, and actually purchasing a climate-killing pipeline. LeBlanc is drawing a line on climate spending, arguing it is not for the federal government to take on all the costs of protecting the isthmus, but it’s the wrong line. It will be very interesting to see what the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decides.
“There is no political movement to separate Nova Scotia from the rest of Canada, but there is a real risk it physically will happen. Had provincial governments listened to Casey’s warnings, perhaps they would have phased out coal. Meanwhile, the key to a prosperous post-carbon economy lies in electrifying as much as we can for heating and transportation. And that would be possible if we had an integrated north-south-east-west electricity grid. We could use the grid like a battery, storing up increased production of renewable energy from solar, wind, low-flow hydro, geothermal and tidal power, and pulling it out when needed, sharing across provincial boundaries. But that would require at the very least cooperative between provincial agencies to set aside their current monopolistic supply-based business models for one grounded in a smart grid. We need to harness collective energies to transform federal-provincial squabbles into collaboration. We are years late in even talking about the critical need to build the national electrical grid. But we need the vision of that linked smart grid, such as we already see in the nations of the European Union to be shared and supported by Canadians as the key to prosperity in the post-carbon economy. The longer we postpone that conversation, the harder the transition will be.
“As in the fights to arrest acid rain and protect the ozone layer, Canadians need to rally behind the political leaders with a clear vision and the courage to get there.”
That’s all for this week! Sending much love to all. Thanks to the wonderful group of Greens who came to yesterday’s SGI annual picnic. It was my first big outing and it was so wonderful to see everyone!
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens