Friday, October 30, 2009

Chris Shaw sues City over civil rights

UBC professor and Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw. Photo The Blackbird.

I was planning to spend Vancouver's long Olympic Winter hiding under a rock.

Indeed, I didn't see the point of picking a fight against the mighty Olympics. How does one even start doing that? So I resigned myself. Calendar cleared, TV unplugged, mind set to zen, heavy books stockpiled: I was ready to kill some Olympic time.

My plans have been upset. The BC Government and Vancouver City Council have turned over my rock. The brats. Against my will and my better judgment, they have thrown me back into service as an anti-Olympic activist.

Here's what happened. The Campbell government is about to pass Bill 13 which will allow three cities – Vancouver, Whistler, Richmond – to enact repressive bylaws designed to quash public protest during the Olympics. Last July, Vancouver City Council preemptively voted a bylaw precisely to that effect. All they are waiting for now is the Provincial nod to bring that monster to life.

This past Friday, I sat down for lunch with someone who has actually decided to pick a fight head on with the authorities: UBC professor and Olympics watchdog Chris Shaw, who is suing the City of Vancouver with fellow activist Alissa Westergard-Thorpe over its anti-protest bylaw. I wanted him to explain what he was up to.

Shaw obliged gracefully. The Canadian Charter of Rights – particularly its section 2 – is an insufferably boring irrelevant old rag, he explained, if this bylaw ever comes to be. Among other things, the bylaw orders that, under penalty of heavy fines and prison time (yes I know: what?!), there will be:
  • no signs on a stick
  • no blocking of someone's view with that sign
  • no voice amplification device
  • no interfering with another person's enjoyment of the pro-Games celebrations (whatever that is supposed to mean)
  • no material that does not celebrate the Games
Obviously, this has ceased to be about the Olympic games. Whether you are a personal fan of the 5 rings or not, you've got to hate this bylaw. The blow that this legislation strikes to our most basic civil liberties is mind expanding.

So much for the image of Vancouver's City Council as being a progressive bunch. The cat is out of the bag. Vision Vancouver has obamized itself. It has sold out to the transnational corporate agenda and neoliberal shock doctrine, like so many other leftists before them. As I ponder the number of true progressives sitting on this Council (some of which I know personally and whose good intentions I can vouch for), I measure the massive pressure that they have been submitted to, as they approached the iron core of the corporate planet. Nobody, left or right, can resist such crushing forces.

While I am sitting across the restaurant table from Chris Shaw, I realize the relevance of his legal action and the supreme intelligence of it. If he wins, Bill 13 is killed in its tracks, the Charter of Rights is strengthened as it builds precedent against such laws in the future. If he loses, he fully exposes the crowd control agenda of the corporate-government complex, and lays the ground for a public backlash against this bill. Brilliant.

The Olympics? They are a mere distraction. They are so totally... 2010. In Shaw's analysis, the corporate elites and their political sycophants are already many years down the road actively planning their next strategic moves. A legal framework allowing swift and decisive use of force against public discontent is one of such strategic moves which deserves careful advance planning, as it may deliver a stunning checkmate against the public in the event that things went south for the elite class.

Shaw has figured it all out since day one, while the rest of us were still happily waving our Canadian flags and cheering about this “Our Time to Shine” nonsense.

What a towering figure, I thought, as Shaw was paying his bill and on his way out to his next appointment. When do I get to see that guy sitting on City Council representing my interests? Shaw for Mayor!

Another tall giant also living in our remote regions, Rafe Mair, recently paid a vibrant tribute to Chris Shaw in a Tyee editorial soberly called Chris Shaw Was Right. I'll let you read his splendid column, but here is one quote that stood out for me:

“The IOC has been given the right to decide where Canadians can exercise their rights and where they cannot – and what form their protests may take!”

No way I am going back under that rock now. Not after hearing the voices of Chris Shaw and Rafe Mair. I have already offered my services to Shaw in any capacity that he sees fit, and I encourage everyone of you to do so too (he's at I mean, hello – those are your freedoms! And if that brings the under-cover agents of the ISU breathing down my neck and checking my daily whereabouts (Shaw calls them the “Incredibly Stupid Unit”), so be it.

The supreme irony is this. Had government not drew first blood by voting this barbarian law that was supposed to deter me from taking action, I'd still be busy setting my comfy retreat under my rock.

And they would not have heard of me.


Private power: scam of the century

Photo: government of BC.

You may have hit some headlines this morning announcing that the Campbell government has ordered BC Hydro to reclassify Burrard Thermal as a backup power plant and thus write it off its roster of electricity sources.

If you need some background on the story, here is a report from Georgia Straight's Matthew Burrows.

People of BC beware! You are being manipulated by the Campbell government.

The "decommissioning" of Burrard Thermal is a politician's smoke screen to justify the awarding of thousands of unneeded megawatts to private power corporations.

Here is why. Burrard Thermal is a backup plant. Always has. Always will be. And so Campbell's announcement that this plant will be used as a backup plant changes nothing at all in the real world. On paper however, BC Hydro has just "lost" 6,000 GwH which need to be "replaced". How? Well, through private power of course!

This summer, the BC Utilities Commission dissented with Campbell's plan to sell out our rivers. The independent commission ruled that BC Hydro's request for new energy was grossly inflated because energy conservation has not yet been properly tapped into.

To justify the "need" for private power in spite of this ruling, the Campbell government needed to come up with a magic trick. Burrard Thermal provided just that.

The problem of course - are you ready for this? - is that run-of-river energy plants are structurally incapable of providing the energy needed by British Columbians. Indeed, those private power plants produce their peak energy in the spring and summer, whereas we need most of our energy in the winter. It's a hard fact dictated by the laws of hydrology.

Consequently, the majority of electrons produced by private run-of-river plants are destined to California, profiting the bottom lines of General Electric, Plutonic Power, and other transnational corporations, but not British Columbians.

This private power business is the scam of the century. Or at least in the early part of it, who knows what they'll come up with next.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Farmed fish prey on wild salmon !

Partly digested wild salmon smolt found in Atlantic salmon. Photo Alexandra Morton.

From Alexandra Morton's blog:

According to a Marine Harvest press release 40,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from their pens in Port Elizabeth in Knight Inlet on Oct. 21. Two days later commercial fishermen were catching them 40 km away.

I examined 20 Atlantics caught on the north shore of Malcolm Island and one had a salmon smolt in it's stomach. There are not many salmon smolts in the area at this time of year so it was surprising this Atlantic managed to find and consume one in only two days out of the farm. This picture shows the partly digested salmon smolt from this male 8 pound Atlantic salmon.

When 1,000s of wild salmon, herring and blackcod juveniles get lured into fish farms by the lights and food, it is hard to imagine the farm salmon don't eat them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sockeye crash judicial inquiry

[This from Alexandra Morton.

The link to the MP's petition discussed below is here. You have to print it out and send it (free postage) for it to count.

It's easy as pie if you have a double sided printer. Otherwise no worries, just throw it in a good old fashioned envelope ;-) and mail it without postage to:

Peter Julian, MP
Room 178 - Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6]

Hello All

Good News Finally! Peter Julian, Member of Parliament – New Westminster has just launched a petition for a Judicial Inquiry into the Fraser sockeye crash.

CONSIDER THIS: If there had been a Judicial Inquiry into the declining North Atlantic cod, we would have rebuilt that fish stock by now because we would have discovered that the critical research by Dr. Ransom Myers of DFO was being suppressed by DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans).

Here we are again. DFO is completely silent, they have not even acknowledged that the Fraser sockeye crash pattern is extremely specific and provided the media with misinformation.

A judicial inquiry will place people under oath so they can be heard over the politics.

Please go to Peter Julian’s website

And download the petition document, and sign.

This has to be a paper copy, there can be 1 signature on a page, or a full page of signatures, the address is on the document and postage to the federal government is free.

You cannot say you care about wild salmon if you don’t make this effort. This will make a very big difference in the future of BC and the eastern pacific.

Alexandra Morton


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dear Hedy, save the Fry

Hedy Fry at the 2009 Vancouver pride parade.
Photo Harper Valley

Hon. Hedy Fry
Member of Parliament, Vancouver Centre
Denman Place Mall
106 - 1030 Denman St
Vancouver, BC V6G 2M6

October 1, 2009

Dear Hedy,

I have been living in the West End for the past 13 years. I ask you to use the parliament question periods to relentlessly ask PM Harper what his plans are to bring the sockeye back from the brink. So far, his plans have been limited to PR campaigns in Norway to let people in power know that BC was open for fish farm business.

I don't need to tell you how essential the sockeye is to our entire coastal ecosystem. You live here. You know.

The link between sea lice and fish collapse is clear. Marine Harvest has actually helped better demonstrate that link by using the SLICE neurotoxin to delouse its farms. That boosted the pink salmon tremendously, they are back in great numbers this year. However, SLICE only lasts for 6 weeks, and by the time the sockeye smolts came out the sea lice had returned.

A striking short documentary by local film maker Twyla Roscovitch shows the extent of the sea lice infestation on sockeye, and also brings us some very sad news: based on observed levels of sea lice infestation, next year will be another disaster year for the sockeye. Please Hedy, if you have not seen this documentary yet, do it now.

Fish farms are at the epicenter of this calamity. How else can one explain that in a same year, pinks would be thriving while sockeye would be crashing? The climate change explanation, in particular, does not cut it.

SLICE, unfortunately, cannot be used as a long term solution because the sea lice adapt. This has been abundantly documented in Norway, a country which has learned this lesson the hard way by virtually losing all of its wild salmon runs to fish farms.

Hedy, your work is cut out. Talk, cry, scream, do whatever it takes in parliament to grab the attention of our autistic prime minister. Open pen fish farms must be shut down immediately.

If Marine Harvest wants to do the right thing and run closed fish farms instead, they will have my blessing and support. But we CANNOT afford to wait until they make up their mind.

Thank you,

Ivan Doumenc
Vancouver, BC

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Private power: Why we are winning

Anti-IPP rally in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Photo Petra Drncova

I have been on the losing end of enough environmental battles to recognize a potential victory when I see it.

Over the past few months, the raging battle to stop the privatization of British Columbia's rivers has morphed into a distinct win opportunity. Here is why:
  • Today, the public is well aware of the scheme to privatize British Columbia's rivers. A year ago, it was not. This is one of the key accomplishments of the past provincial election which was so disheartening to many. It has put the independent power producer (IPP) issue on the map, defeating the government's objective of privatizing our rivers by stealth.
  • The BC government has already lost the private power battle in rural British Columbia and is in full retreat there. Local communities throughout the province are mad as hell at the scheme to dam and divert their rivers and creeks. They have never forgiven Campbell for Bill 30 which strips municipalities of their zoning authority. The West Kootenays, in particular, are a hotbed of explosive popular discontent over the private power gold rush. People have expressed it loud and clear in public meetings, protests, letters to the editor, public comments, etc. Civil disobedience is the next step in the Kootenays if nothing changes. The government is now in damage control in this region. In all likelihood, it is preparing to kill the highly controversial Glacier/Howser project in an attempt to calm down the population.
  • Over the summer, the BC Utilities Commission slapped the government and its corporate friends in the face by rejecting BC Hydro's 2008 call for power, on the basis that it was "not in the public interest". In spite of fierce astroturf attempts to discredit the BCUC in the public eye, this decision gave a tremendous credibility boost to the claim that IPPs are indeed a corporate scam.
  • The BC Liberals responded to the BCUC's decision by overriding it, which is tantamount to an institutional coup. Indeed, the BCUC is an independent public body and its decisions are meant to be binding. When a government uses its executive power to override a legally binding decision, you know that this government's policy is on shaky ground.
  • About half of this year's BC government throne speech was dedicated to justifying the BC Liberal "green" energy plan. To say the least, Gordon Campbell felt that he had some explaining to do to the public regarding his private power agenda.
  • The BC government has finally admitted the obvious, after years of vociferous denial: that so-called "run-of-river" private power projects are primarily meant for export to California. However, California's existing laws do not recognize our energy as "green". The California lawmakers have refused to amend that legislation in spite of massive lobbying efforts by the BC government. So much so that the only option available to gov. Schwarzenegger - Gordo's "green" buddy - was to recently veto a California state legislature bill unfavorable to run-of-river. Another executive override to a legally binding decision. Shaky ground indeed.
  • Both Campbell and Schwarzenegger are at all-time popularity lows in the polls. An election tomorrow morning in either place would wipe them out of office. Not the best of positions to perform an executive override to a legally binding decision. Did I mention that the ground was shaky?
  • California will not need BC's ungreen energy in the future, because it is rapidly building its own green solar power capacity, having recognized that solar is clean, abundantly available at home, cheaper by the month, and brings badly needed jobs to that state's failing economy. The rationale for importing BC's energy to California is running thin. It can only, at best, be justified as a temporary stop-gap measure until California's solar capacity comes online - five years, ten at most. This is one of the reasons why the California legislature is so reluctant to greening up BC's ungreen energy. Opening the floodgates to that energy would potentially sabotage the takeoff of California's nascent solar industry.
  • In the context of a stubbornly deep recession and global energy bubble, the world is entering an era of energy overproduction. This means that the energy pie can only shrink over time for corporations engaged on that market. As a result, corporate players are fiercely fighting among themselves for a piece of that pie. British Columbia is no exception. In particular, small IPP players are not pleased with the mammoth-size Bute Inlet "run-of-river" project put forward by Plutonic Power and General Electric. Indeed, if that 1,027 MW project is approved, there will only be scraps left for smaller players. This makes them tactical allies of environmental groups and grassroots organizations, at least for a time. That could be amusing.
  • Speak of public discontent. With the unraveling of the US financial bailout scam, the average citizen in BC, like elsewhere, is increasingly skeptical (that would be a euphemism) about the true intentions and motives of large transnational corporations. So when the BCUC says that private power projects are not in the public interest, and grassroots groups deconstruct the IPP scam, people are rather inclined to listen.
I was a witness of that a couple weeks ago when an astroturf pro-IPP group calling themselves "BC Citizens for Green Energy" (!!) published a letter in the Georgia Straight and was subsequently shot down by an avalanche of unhappy public comments who called them off as frauds. The astroturfers left the scene with a digital nosebleed, it wasn't a pretty sight.

For all those reasons, I'm pretty upbeat about our chances of seeing this campaign through to a successful conclusion. I'm definitely more optimistic about our chances than I was a year ago. I am quite confident that our adversaries are in an opposite mood right now - especially after thinking for a brief moment that they had wrapped it after the last provincial election. They have had disaster after disaster since then.

On the wall of the Wilderness Committee's office in Vancouver, there is a quote that sums for me the mood of this IPP campaign:

First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.