Disturbing Trends

Let’s get one thing out of the way to begin with. Canada is a strong democracy that enjoys (mostly) free elections, a range of civil liberties, and an independent judiciary.  Our lucky country consistently ranks among the world’s most democratic nations according to Global Democracy Rankings.  We’re also awarded Freedom House’s top ranking for political freedom and civil liberties

But does that mean that we can all lounge back on our La-Z-boys with a bag of chips and a six pack to enjoy the Winter Olympics in comfortable apathy? 

Sadly, the answer is no. 

In fact our democratic traditions have been taking a real kicking lately, but the beating has been delivered in ways that are not easily captured by the broad brush indices of global democracy rankings.  To hammer the point home, here’s a resumé of some recent, highly disturbing stories in four different areas of our national life. Continue reading

Review: The Longer I’m Prime Minister

The following Review that I wrote of Paul Wells’ excellent new book on the Harper years originally appeared on the Green Party of Canada web site about three weeks ago.

Book Review

“The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada 2006 -”

by Paul Wells (Random House canada, 2013)

Reviewed by

Andrew Park (Federal environment Critic)

He won, but he won’t last…the people are on to him, and soon his own party will turn on him”.  But of course Stephen Harper kept winning: in 2006, again in 2008, and by the time he won his majority in 2011, winning was getting to be a habit.

Yes; in spite of a plurality of Canadians consistently voting for other parties, and millions actively hating the man, Harper keeps winning.  And as inexplicable as it may be to you and me, millions of others have voted for the man because they like – LIKE! – what he represents.

Paul Wells’ grand objective in his history of Harper in power are to tell this unpalatable truth to Canadians, and to explain how it came to be.  His secondary objective, less successfully fulfilled, is to paint a portrait of Harper that delves more deeply into his personality than the stock in trade, often unflattering stereotypes that are often pinned on him.

In fairness to Wells, he could never have realized this second objective.  Harper, we are told, did not cooperate with him.  But neither did he block the project, and the absence of Harper’s first person voice is compensated for by the compelling, colourful, and often expletive-littered testimony of his current and former staffers. Continue reading

The continuing saga of the environment in Canada

Andrew Park:

Here is a reblogged post from Sarah Boone, who does a good job of summarizing several (sadly) disturbing new reports from the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable development, The Canadian Academies, and Environment Canada.  While the cuts to environmental spending instituted by the Federal Government will play out over decades, these reports show that their effects are being felt right now.  And, in case anyone feels I am just demonizing the Federal Tories reflexively, we have to bear in mind that their cuts come at the end of over about two decades in which successive governemtns wittled away at environmental spending.

Originally posted on Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere:

My last post was about Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, and her office’s rebuttal to an opinion piece in which I concluded she’s not the best thing that’s happened to the Environment portfolio. Not that there are any Conservatives who would do much better, but her heavily pro-northern development focus and admitted scorn for science (including the validity of climate change and associated threats to northern wildlife, such as polar bears), are somewhat of a liability.

In light of her comments regarding the Harper government’s ‘investment’ in the Canadian environment, I decided to highlight a few reports that have come out in the past couple of weeks that expose the lie in such statements.

First up was an Environment Canada report on Canada’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Quietly released during the height of the Duffy-Wallin-Brazeau Senate scandal, the report concluded that we’re not on track to…

View original 711 more words

The empire (seeks funds to) strike back

Andrew Park:

For anyone who thinks that the phrase a “Tory War on Science” is an exaggeration, I offer this reblogged post from the brave government scientist at “Unmuzzled Science”. It records plans by Greg Rickford, the newly minted Minister of State for Science, to raise funds for attack ads against my friend and colleague Diane Orihel.

Of particular note is the letter by Rickford’s assistant to his constituents, in which Diane is described as one of a group “radical ideologues” who are apparently seeking to besmirch Mr Rickford’s record.

Well, as a typical tory puppet of the PMO, we can probably trust Mr Rickford to besmirch his own reputation. he has already demonstrated in public statements that he has little understanding of the way university research is communicated and published.

But far more shameful is his apparent willingness to follow Joe Oliver in lashing out at fine Canadians like Ms Orihel, who are fighting their corner to keep the tory wrecking ball at bay.

Originally posted on unmuzzledscience:


“I find your lack of faith… disturbing.” Greg Rickford, hoping a few bucks might help him learn some Jedi mind tricks to assist with silencing government scientists. And a sweet Halloween costume. vader_choke

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, so I thought you should see it too.

Someone today sent me a recent article by Michael Harris on ipolitics, describing a letter that someone in the constituent offices of Minister of State for Science and Technology, Greg Rickford, sent to his party faithful. The article (behind a paywall) is here.

The letter (which I was also sent) that Harris writes about says a recent article in the Toronto star suggesting that Rickford might not be the best candidate for his current ministerial position are somehow unfounded (I have my own opinions on the matter), and seeks a fundraising campaign in order to better…

View original 143 more words

Cognitive Dissonance

I could have sworn there was a glacier there a minute ago

Here is a recent photograph of yours truly – the GP, the Grumpster – standing next to a marker that says 1992.  So what, you say?  Well, I was standing on that spot (or close to it) in 1992, and just behind me was the Athabasca Glacier.  Between the day I was there in 1992 and September 23rd, 2013, that glacier had retreated at least 200 meters.


  Figure 1.  The GP by the former edge of the Athabasca glacier

In fact the Athabasca glacier has retreated about 1.5 kilometers since 1898, and has lost about half its volume during that period.  Much the same could be said for the Saskatchewan glacier (Figure 2), which has been retreating at a rate of up to 25 meters a year

The retreat of the Athabasca and Saskatchewan glaciers have obvious implications for the supply of water flowing into two major Alberta rivers, the Athabasca and North Saskatchewan.  Continue reading

Muzzling and the right to know

 I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!

This phrase was coined by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography of Voltaire as a condensed description of the great man’s devotion to freedom of speech.

In Canada, unfortunately, the Harper-Cons attitude seems to be “I disagree with what you say, and if you try to say it, I’ll use the weight of my powers to crush you, redact you, and deprive you of employment”.

The latest skirmishes in Harper’s war against knowledge and information played out in the last 24 hours.  First, we have the inexplicable decision (by “environment” minister Peter Kent) to prevent 25 years worth of research by the National round table on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE) from being kept in the public domain.  Continue reading

Unmuzzling the Scientists




                                                                      Image from scienceuncensored.ca

Do you hear that sound………………………?

What, you don’t hear anything? 

Well, it’s not surprising, because that sound – or lack thereof – is just an Environment Canada (EC) Scientist hard at work.  What; you thought Environment Canada Scientists were extinct – victims of overzealous harvesting by the Federal Government?

Happily, that is not the case.  A few isolated populations of EC and DFO scientists are hanging on to their jobs in fragmented office habitats scattered across the country.  And the silence – well, you can’t hear them cos’ they have Duct tape firmly clamped across their mouths.

It’s for their own protection really – and yours, because if they contradicted some pet government doctrine, well, that might confuse you, or make the government look like they were wrong about something. 

And we couldn’t have that!

OK, so they don’t literally have Duct tape across their mouths, but they do have secrecy-minded gatekeepers between them and the public, and “minders” shadowing them at conferences. And they are increasingly hemmed in by rules about who they can or can’t talk to, whether they can publish their work in a timely manner, and even whether they can apply for grants. Continue reading

Andrew Park:

To wax Shakespearian for a moment, the COP 18 talks are full of sound and fury – and in the end, the heroic efforts of civil society notwithstanding, they will probably signify nothing, except another year of inaction on the international climate file

Originally posted on CYD-DJC:

An hour ago, two members of the Arab Youth Climate Movement were  arrested. They held up a banner in the COP18 conference centre that read, “Qatar, why host, not lead?”. Onlookers erupted in cheers as they were escorted out. In their wake, the mood was sombre. The process at COP is failing, the deal on the table is not an ambitious one. The brave action of these young men is getting them deported from the country.

All day, security have been eyeing us, the youth. Following us. There have been a series of sanctioned actions, led by young people whose demands for a secure future are increasingly ignored in the plenary halls.

For the first time ever, the Canadian Youth Delegation met with Environment Minister Peter Kent. Though we have requested meetings in past years, this was the first time it was granted. Other climate organizations, who had also not previously…

View original 285 more words

Cop18 Updates and Earthgauge Radio on Climate Change

Our gallant Doha conference attendee, Alana Westwood, asked if I would post the following:
CYD (Canadian Youth Delegation) releases report on Canada’s failure to meet international commitment
The CYD-DJC is releasing the report Commitment Issues: Tar sands extraction invalidates Canada’s obligations to the UNFCCC and undermines global climate change negotiations. This  technical report details the role of Canada’s tar sands in ensuring the nation’s failure to meet international climate commitments. It calls for a moratorium on new tar sands to developments, as this is the most effective way for Canada to have any hope of adhering to the commitments it has made to the UNFCCC.
The full report is available here, and the executive summary is available here.Le resumé analytique est disponible en français.front page
The lead author is Mark Bigland-Pritchard, Ph.D with contributions from CYD members Karen Rooney and Alana Westwood.You may also want to check out the latest podcast from the excellent Earthgauge Radio, in which Kevin Anderson, one of the UK’s leading climate scientists, gives some very inconvenient and disturbing climate truths……

Cop 18 Climate talks: A view from inside Part II

Canada gets First Place Fossil of the Day in Doha

Our fearless youth representative in Doha, Alana Westwood, reports on Canada’s dubious achievment of a first place “Fossil of the Day” award for our refusal to back financing of climate adaptation measures in developing nations.


Yesterday, Canada received the ‘honour’ of a first-place Fossil of the Day (the award is given for bad performance during the negotiations). Though not our first Fossil in Doha, it is our first time owning the top of the podium all to ourselves at COP-18.

What did we do this time? Continue reading