Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Port development trumps BC agriculture

with 4 comments

Canadians did not vote for this. The expectation they had was that electing a Liberal government would produce a rapid, radical change of direction from the Conservatives. Instead of that we have seen what is apparently always the way with Liberals: campaign on the left, govern on the right. It was certainly my bitter experience in the first Canadian election I was able to vote in after I became a citizen in 1992. I read “The Red Book” which set out a Keynesian agenda for the country, so I voted Liberal. Then Paul Martin became Finance Minister and we went on with all the conservative policies I had voted against. Of course I did not get caught twice: I voted Green last time. Not nearly enough people did that, so we are forced to repeat history.

The opponents to the Massey Tunnel replacement have long held the view that real reason for this megaproject is further port expansion. Once the tunnel has been replaced by a bridge, the tubes will be removed from the river bed, and dredging will commence. Of course, the Environmental Assessment for the project ignores this completely. And ports are a federal responsibility. We now have confirmation from federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay:

“We do not want to lose agricultural land but it’s no good producing products that you can’t move, either,” MacAulay said, answering a question from Country Life in BC following a presentation to Greater Vancouver Board of Trade members on September 12. “So it’s one way or the other – the port in Vancouver has to be efficient to move the products to market. The Asian market is a big market, only going to get larger, and we want to be there.”

So we can now add loss of land from the ALR to the Site C project, the Lelu Island LNG project and the almost certain federal approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the “sunny ways” of our new Prime Minister. Yes, I am sure he looks very appealing to many when he takes his shirt off. But I do not think that is nearly enough to justify his policies.

Of course I am risking a lot by openly opposing this government. We have already seen how the practice of the Conservative Government

  • audits of the environmental charities for political activity, ignoring the Fraser Institute far more blatant flouting of the same law;
  • removal of Canadian citizenship with no right to an oral hearing, no right to have the matter referred to a judge, and no right to even know the extent of the case against them
  • Creation of a “New”CSIS as a secret police force

continued by this government. Of course, if I do find myself without citizenship I will not actually be able to prove that it was environmental activism that was used to brand me a terrorist – but that is already happening.

Is Trudeau any different than the old boss?

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2016 at 1:20 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Pete Seeger wrote the applicable question way back in 1955: “when will we ever learn?”
    Then in 1970 when Pete Townshend said: “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”


    October 17, 2016 at 4:02 pm

  2. I’m not sure what to make of your post, Stephen. Especially the link to the Rabble article. Seems to be a bit all or nothing.

    When you start counting the positive things, The Kid has done a lot more in a year than Harper or Chretien together did in the previous 20:

    – Actively negotiated a climate deal in Paris that exceeds every previous deal to limit carbon to two degrees, with a proviso to strive for 1.5 degrees. It is expected to be ratified in parliament and passed into Canadian law very soon. Ratification = law.

    – Actively negotiated a deal on hydrofluorocarbons just three days ago, one of the most potent greenhouse gases of all. This one was a surprise, and it’s equivalent to taking something like 100 million cars off the road. It will take a few years to enact, but this was a huge first step.

    – Has drawn the line in the tar sands on carbon pricing by threatening to impose a price on all provinces that will balance out and peak at $50 / tonne in 2022. Yes, that’s not enough, but it’s $50 a tonne we currently don’t charge on a national basis. BC currently charges $30 / tonne, but has frozen it there, so even that opportunist Christy will have to dial it up.

    – The Liberals are considering selling the federal holdings in most of the airports across the nation to the private sector and using the revenue to fund infrastructure, an important piece of which is transit. Given the advent of the peak in cheap conventional oil in 2005, and the fact that most Canadians cannot take personal responsibility seriously to limit or curb their air travel gluttony, this appears to be a very smart move prior to the inevitable spikes in fuel surcharges arriving in the early 2020s. This will allow the government to limit the accumulation of debt when funding projects.

    Here’s the conservative Globe and Mail’s position on the carbon tax:

    Add to that the carbon tax that will be imposed by Alberta in the new year on top of their policy to replace coal in electrical generation, and offer government support for renewables. When did you ever hear that from Alberta before? Even Enbridge of Northern Gateway infamy is now investing billions in wind (with a little in solar) in Alberta which has enormous potential for renewables.

    Then there is the phenomenal 1/3 rise in renewables over the last decade in Canada, with hydro still playing the largest role. Wind and solar now have an 11% share in Canada’s electricity, up from 4% a decade previously, and beat out nuclear. This can be attributed to liberal-minded governments holding power in Ontario and Quebec. At the same time coal and oil have been halved in electrical generation, mostly in Ontario, and this coupled with pledges from Alberta and Saskatchewan to eliminate coal largely negates the issues with methane in hydro reservoirs, although that should certainly be accounted for in the life-cycle costs. The only fossil fuel that has risen for electricity production in Canada is natural gas, but that is quite small compared to the expansion in renewables. The total electrical production in Canada reached almost 150,000 MW in 2015, about 2/3 from low or zero carbon emission sources. As the result, emissions from electrical generation nation-wide decreased by a very significant 40% from 2000-2014. We will need a lot more, but this is major progress that has to date largely been ignored.

    Does this not provide inspiration and the foundation for progressive environmental policies to march on to replace all carbon fuels on a national scale ? The federal Liberals may be swayed by vested interests to approve pipelines for export, but these projects could very well be doomed if prices rise to the point more recessions reoccur. Society has an affordability ceiling with respect to fossil fuels. Renewables, especially wind and solar, are now price-competitive with coal (and will be even more so with worldwide carbon taxes on the rise), and market forces combined with climate policy may well decide that the world should switch to renewables while also cutting back on energy use altogether.

    Yes, the federal Liberals have approved the first BC LNG project (with 160-odd conditions), but market conditions will prevent Petronas from firing up the plant while the world gas price continues to react to a glut. Yes, they approved Port expansion to include a coal port, amongst the expansion of container facilities. Yes, the Liberals may ‘reluctantly’ approve Kinder Morgan with perhaps 400 conditions, but they risk losing a big chunk of support on the South Coast, including from me.

    And that is the dilemma. After three decades of placing conscience and narrow party identity first, and thus effectively throwing my vote into the garbage, and after seeing the amazing power of a million strategic voters like me tossing out the Harperites who disgusted the populace with ultra-social conservative policies (amongst a thousand other things), I will not throw it away again at progressive parties that do not hold the balance of power. Doing so will ensure the barbarians will rise to government again and cancel every bit of progress. The federal Green Party does not offer that alternative at present, and neither does the NDP, though that could change.

    Proportionality is not perfect, but it may allow the Greens to influence the Liberals and / or the NDP to cancel pipelines, beef up their environmentally and socially progressive policies and look at fostering value-added economic innovation to replace the drawers of water and pumpers of oil mentality here, or be defeated. My vote will be placed on the best collection of policies, and that has less to do any longer with any one party affiliation.

    Under proportionality the Greens would have won ~500,000 votes and probably 18 seats in the last election. That’s enough to hold the feet of a minority government to the fire.


    October 18, 2016 at 4:06 pm

  3. I only addressed sins of commission. The sins of omission are even greater: the problems of still Conservative boards controlling not just the port but also the CBC and Canada Post.

    And now this

    “Completely incoherent about-face from Trudeau:
    “Under Stephen Harper, there were so many people unhappy with the government and their approach that people were saying, ‘It will take electoral reform to no longer have a government we don’t like’. But under the current system, they now have a government they’re more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling,”
    Electoral reform was not just a fun way of disenfranchising conservative voters. The Liberal reign has been so on message so far, but this comment is oddly tone-deaf?”

    and this

    “Justin Trudeau said he’d fix public services and repair the relationship with the workers who deliver them. Now is the time for action.”

    Stephen Rees

    October 19, 2016 at 1:44 pm

  4. It’s only been a year. I prefer to see how a government performs over their full term before judging. I do not vote on pure party affiliation any more, and believe that has been ineffective under the winner-take-all system. Math supersedes conscience every time under first-past-the-post. If Trudeau doesn’t enact a proportional or preferential voting system (with or without a referendum), then there is a great risk the million who put him into power — or more accurately, removed a tyrant from power, thus making room for the Liberals – will dissipate in several directions and the Conservatives will leak through the cracks once again. With proportionality I will have two or more ranked votes, none of them Conservative.

    And Kinder Morgan? Should Trudeau approve it, then the question remains, What Asian market is buying heavy Canadian bitumen? Robyn Allen sought an answer to that question and found evidence that sales to Asia of raw bitumen are minuscule at best even at the best of times. Most of it heads south in existing pipes to Koch Industries refineries tooled for heavy oil, and that’s where the vast majority of the jobs are created (i.e. not in Canada). The KM pipeline is not currently justified on a market, let alone environmental, basis. Build it and they will sell? That’s not guaranteed. But good political vibes from Alberta is.

    Let’s say the Greens suddenly obtained a majority, then proceeded to close the tar sands overnight and turn off all the pipeline spigots the next day. As right as those actions may be considering the skimcoat of a remaining carbon budget we have left, you cannot justify kneejerk impetuousness as sound planning. The reaction would be bitter and full of ridicule, and a groundswell of suddenly jobless people could tip the Greens out for generations. That is obviously an exaggeration, but it illustrates that a blunt policy to do anything similar in even over one four-year term will chronically underestimate the power of vested interests when they are backed into a corner.

    We desperately need a plan to wind down carbon in the economy. But that plan has to be reasonable and critically well-timed. Rejecting the most effective party in 20 years regarding climate policy over their fairly moderate sins won’t accomplish that. Neither will shutting down the petroleum industry. Instead, ignore them.

    Focusing solely on enacting a national harmonized carbon tax and heavily promoting and funding renewables, sustainable urbanism, electric urban and intercity transit, a national clean electricity smart grid and energy efficiency is absolutely the right direction to take, in my view, while offering retraining and alternative employment for former oil industry workers. At their peak in 2014 before the downturn in world crude prices, the “energy” industry (invariably oil and gas) employed only 300,000 people, or less than two per cent of all jobs in the nation. Likewise, the fossil fuel industry comprised only 10% of the national GDP, with all natural resources ringing in at a whopping 20% (source: Natural Resources Canada). Changing the industry is entirely possible over say, a 10-year period, but maintaining incrementalism is key.

    Why incrementally? Mark Jacobsen and his students and faculty at Stanford University have done an incredible job of calculating the energy transition requirements for 139 nations to displace all fossil fuels with renewables by 2050 (~75% by 2030) to keep warming under two degrees, and did it after tabulating the planetary carbon budget and latest climate agreements. The Figure 16 graph on page 43 of the 2016 report linked below illustrates the proposed timeline, and wisely indicates a reduction in overall energy use to almost 12,000 terawatts without fossil fuels from the equivalent of 19,400 TW with fossil fuels.

    We need a government that can adopt this report and act on it. The 2020s will be a crucial decade, and we currently have three parties of four who are philosophically in harmony with action on climate change, some more than others. Working together would be ideal.


    October 20, 2016 at 2:46 pm

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