Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘Tar Sands’

PandaGate – Panda Pandering

Posted by Don McLenaghen on April 21, 2013

Okay last of three,  this time we talked about how Canada got our panda loan.


We have already talked about pandas and how the Chinese government has used them as an aspect of their foreign diplomacy. This leads us to the big question…

So, why did Toronto get some panda?

harper-as-nixonWhen Nixon went to China, it was a political gambit. The relationship between China and the Soviet Union was at a low and this was seen as a good time to widen the wedge between the world’s dominant Communist nations.

web-tueedcar26co1In hindsight, it seems to have worked.

Harper has put economics ahead of politics, in hopes of creating a “strategic partnership” with China.

HARROP-TOON-chinaTo put it in the devils…er, I mean Harper’s words…
“Our country is looking for new markets for our goods and services and…is an area of tremendous opportunity…We hope to expand on our strategic partnership with China and, in particular, we hope to deepen the economic and trade ties between our two countries.”

CHINA-CARTOON-2Peter Harder, a former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and now president of the Canada China Business Council put it like this “I would attach great significance to the fact that China would place in Canada’s care the pandas that are coming…It’s a signal of their desire to have economic as well as cultural and people-to-people relationships, and to that extent, I think it’s a significant development.”

The Panda Politic in this case has been thrown in reverse. Instead of China seeking the favour of a foreign nation with the offer of Pandas, Canada is attempting to show it is willing to play ball with China. Pandas now being lent to nations that have pleased the Chinese government as a sign of fealty.

DEW3241.pvwSome observers, notably the Financial Post, see it as an economic sellout to China that has too much influence in Canada already with little regard to playing by ‘western’ rules such as intellectual property rights or industrial espionage.

Is it appropriate for Harper to greet the Pandas while ignoring ‘more important’ events?

There has been a lot of criticism about Harper’s taking time out of his schedule to ‘officially’ welcome the landing of the Pandas. They will not actually be viewable for several weeks as they spend time in standard quarantine.

mi-ott-nishiyuu-parliament3It is a question of priorities. What is more important? The issues of the nation or Harper’s personal legacy of sowing sufficient fidelity to the Chinese state?

While in Toronto, Harper missed a chance to address a crowd of thousands of the Idle No More movement as they welcomed over 400 “Cree Walkers” who traveled by snowshoes to Ottawa, some from over 1600 Km away.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, did say he will eventually meet the Cree Walkers to hear what they have to say.

DEA3795sq-1024x1024Another criticism was of Harper being able to clear time for the Pandas but has not placed the same importance on meeting with the provincial Premiers as a group to discuss the economy, healthcare…anything really. He actually snubbed the Premiers late last year when they held their annual meeting on provincial affairs.

It might have been nice for him to get some face-to-face opinions about the then upcoming but just recently presented budget or shall we say ‘Economic Plan’.

PandaSARRecent leaks and document releases have shown that when it comes to Big Oil and other corporate interests, the Harper government seems to take great effort and time to ensure they serve the needs of the business class. Likewise, the main function of the mission to China a year ago was not to get pandas but to ensure that China knew Canada was for sale…er, open for business. The Pandas were the reward for confirming Canada was a vassal, er…compliant…er, I mean a nation ‘Open for business’.

It seems that the successful request for the Pandas came directly from Harper but under the ‘implied’ condition by the Chinese government that Harper travel to China to make the announcement personally.

RTXXX1KSo far it seems the arrival of the Pandas is a perfect photo opportunity for Harper…a man known to manufacture stage sets to make him look more…more…um, more human. So far so good…for him.

One could wonder what else was put on the table to entice the Chinese, who had been refusing earlier requests for over a decade, to loan us the pandas?

murphy_fipa2Correlation, not causation, shows that Canada has signed the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which many on the left, right and center complain is very one sided. It strengthens Chinese private and state owned corporation’s rights at the expense of Canadian sovereignty.

web-jenkins-norther-gateway30China in the middle of last year purchased a major player in the Tar Sands, much to the consternation of those who worry about a foreign nation owning a Canadian resource in the purchase of Nexen for over 15 billion by China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

Encana sold half its share in Alberta Shale gas to PetroChina just prior to the Chinese changing their mind on the Pandas.

friedcar03-030212China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation purchased for 2 billion the Canadian oil and gas firm Daylight Energy about the same time. It previously got the Harper Government approval for a 4.65 billion stake in Syncrude Canada, one of the world’s largest producers of synthetic crude oil from oil sands and the largest single source producer in Canada. At the time, many commentators worried about the influence of the Chinese government had over Canada…and its politics.

Well, it seems things have gone quite well…for China, but at least we get to look at some Pandas (not without a hefty price tag) for a decade…YEAH Harper…NOT!!

Canada's Economic Action Planda 2



Posted in Don's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The dishonesty of “Ethical Oil”

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 29, 2011

A member of my research team pointed out a story they thought interesting. It was a boycott organized against the Chiquita Banana Company who apparently announced that it would no longer buy Canadian oil. The article, that was the lead to this story, went to great lengths to point out that Chiquita was actually supporting ‘unethical’ oil and thus we should stop buying their bananas. In an uncustomary move, members of the Harper Cabinet, Rona Ambrose and Jason Kenney, supported this ‘grass roots’ boycott. It has a Facebook page and everything. The group that was the ultimate source of the story and the boycott is ‘’.

Fortunately, I had heard of this group before, so before blindly supporting a cause that on the surface seemed to coincide with my own, I did a little research.

First, the complaint against Chiquita was the claim that instead of buying oil from good old Canada, they would be purchasing it from evil countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. This was bad, because those countries have poor human rights records. Saudi Arabia does not give women the vote or equal rights. Venezuela is a socialist dictatorship with a poor record on press freedoms. Canadian Oil is ethical because we are a democracy and have good human rights records.

Now, Chiquita, as part of an environmental movement called Forest Ethics, stated it wanted its trucking partners to avoid using Tar Sands sourced oil. This does not mean that it demanded truckers buy Saudi oil. In fact about half of Canadian oil has nothing to do with the tar sands. Even the foreign oil is being sources from different counties; Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are a shrinking source of imported oil.

Okay, but let’s take a skeptic look at Before heading to the website, I thought I would create a list of expectations. If their intent is to promote better ‘ethics’ seen as human rights, you would expect for them to have on their site a number of examples of both how bad human rights are in some countries as well as success stories. Their Raison d’être, implied by their “ethical oil”, is that we can influence countries to respect human rights by our oil and gas purchases. I would expect them to have a list of the most unethical countries and a list of the most ethical. I would expect there to be a list of companies that we should patronize based on where they source their oil. When I buy gas, I don’t BUY Saudi gas what I do is buy Shell or Petro Can gas.

So, went to their website, and what I saw was enlightening. Their stated goal is to promote Ethical CANADIAN tar sands oil vs. what it calls conflict oil. It seems they are trying to conflate conflict oil with conflict diamonds. Now the term ‘conflict’ has a very special meaning with regards to international trade; it refers to resources (usually but not exclusively diamond) mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. The sellers of these conflict items are almost always facing war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. They have been ostracized from the global community which is why they must sell and buy in the ‘off market’.

Beyond the ‘about us’ page, little if any mention of conflict oil (its apparent reason for existing) can be found on their website. What can be found is plenty of support for the Tar Sands, supporters of the Tar Sands and vigorous condemnation for ANY one who even hints that the Tar Sands is not the best thing for the planet.

Now it claims to be a Non-profit however it was created by a former Harper Government advisor to promote the ideas of a book “Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands” by Ezra Levant. Levant is a former tobacco lobbyist. However, ‘green-washing’ (and I have yet to find a more obvious and blatant example of this) does not have to provide its ‘corporate’ masters a profit. In fact, good green washing is done on a wink-and-a-nod, where reliable people set up an ‘astoturf’ group, knowing in the future they will be rewarded for their efforts. They state on their website they take no ‘corporate’ donations; however they don’t state that they don’t take money from the executive who run those corporations. It is sad and I think disgusting that such a front group is asking for donations from ‘real’ Canadians to promote an issue that is against their own self-interests (assuming they are not one the directors of the oil companies).

Okay, but let’s say it’s BAD at getting its ‘real’ message out; that regardless of the ‘intentions’ of the group, how do their other arguments stand up?

It does make some claims beyond ethics, first it helps Canada be energy independent…however, oil is sold on the global market, and since the National Energy Program ended in the mid-80s, eastern Canada has become more and more dependent on non-ethical tar sands oil. They claim we should support Canadian companies, however the majority of those involved in the Tar Sands are not Canadian…in fact one of the largest investors is China. Which of course raises the paradox that if China owns Tar Sands oil and China has horrible human rights abuses, does that mean that Tar Sands Oil is itself conflict oil?

What about the ‘ethical’ label? They have so narrowly defined ethical as to make it powerless. It is true inequality is bad but is it better or worse to destroy the environment, down nations under rising ocean levels, wipe out ecosystems and plunge billions into starvation?

Now, I mentioned earlier, that Chiquita originally took its stance against Tar Sands oil based on the recommendation from the group ForestEthics. I thought I would check out their site to compare.

First, it does not promote any particular ‘project’, like the tar sands. Their goal (supported by the posting, stories and write-ups on the site) is not against ‘tar sands’ par-se, but for the preservation of old-growth and ‘ancient’ forest…be they endangered by Tar Sands, mining, gas exploration or even forestry companies. There is no stench of corporate green-washing.

They do promote practises that can make (almost) any activity sustainable and non-injurious to the forest. This site seems that its main goal is not lobbying for Big Oil but promoting environmentalism that is compatible with industry. They are not even, from what I read, radical environmentalist. Their position seems to be ‘working with industry to preserve our forests’.

Oh, yes just in case you thought Chiquita was taking this stand for completely ethical reasons, I should point out it did it in response to environmental groups criticising Chiquita’s rival Dole for not making a strong stand against Tar Sands Oil…which led to Facebook embarrassment for Dole…a mistake Chiquita did not want to emulate so it came out against dirty Tar Sands oil. So, Chiquita is not so much an environmental warrior as an opportunistic PR campaign that happens to be the right thing to do.

I still like bananas.

Posted in Blogs, Don's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Michael Ignatieff visits UBC: Greenpeace makes environmentalists look bad

Posted by Daniel Gipps on January 17, 2010

Greenpeace protesters disrupt town hall

Michael Thibault/Crimson Phoenix Photography

On Friday, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff came to UBC as part of his Cross-Canada campus town-hall series. The event was definitely successful, with one of the Liberal organizers estimating about 1,200 people inside UBC’s Norm Theatre as well as outside in an overflow area connected via video. While I doubt that number is accurate, it certainly was impressive to see so many people come out to hear from, and ask questions to, the leader of the official opposition.

The focus of the questions was on the environment, and specifically climate change. Ignatieff was asked many questions ranging from what he will do to meet the Kyoto Protocol, which he more or less dodged a committal answer to, to whether he supports the Alberta tar sands. To his credit, he did give a strong and committed answer, even though those asking him the question were openly hostile towards him, and hardly gave him a chance to speak.

Ignatieff made it clear many times that he will continue to stand behind the tar sands. The National Post quotes him as saying, “If you’re asking me to shut down the tar sands, it’s not in my power to do so, and frankly, it’s not in the national interest of our country to do so”. What Greenpeace seems ignorant of, or more likely, chooses to ignore, is that the Constitution Act of 1867 specifically gives jurisdiction on matters of natural resources to the provinces. Not only is it a bad idea to just shut the tar sands down, it is not even possibly for Ignatieff to do this if he wanted to. The courts would almost certainly rule against the legality of any legislation designed to do that.

It seems to me that Greenpeace and some other environmental organizations absolutely hate the ideas of individual freedom, rule of law, and populist but limited governments. To them, these long established ideas that have existed to benefit individuals and protect us from overbearing governments exist only as barriers to their own specific goals. Rather than educating individuals to act more environmentally friendly, or at the very least educating voters so that they know the facts about global warming and can vote for logical, evidence backed solutions like a carbon tax, they would rather disrupt civil town-halls, destroy coral reefs while campaigning to save them, and disregard science all in pointless attempts to put in place policies that few Canadians support.

Greenpeace needs to go back to its roots, back to when it followed science not activism, and when it was about education not protesting.

Posted in Blogs, Daniel's Blogs, Emeritus | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 663 other followers