Saturday, December 31, 2011

CWB: Farmers Should Sue for Damages

By John W. Warnock, The Leader-Post December 31, 2011

The Harper government has quickly pushed through legislation abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) single desk. This was done without...
Combine in wheat field.
PLT photo

Friday, December 30, 2011

The People's Corporation Loses the Common Touch

If you like this blog, please consider making a donation. Thanks! Larry

Dear Editor,
It's sometimes referred to as "the people's corporation." I don't believe the CBC deserves that endearing title any longer.

Just last night, we were treated to another spectacle on "The National."

Each member of the high-profile "At-Issue" Panel, to one degree or another, pooh-poohed almost every question posed by viewers as part of a year-end special.

No, they chimed, there is no serious gap between the rich and poor in this country. On the contrary, Andrew Coyne informed us, huge progress is being made in reducing poverty in Canada. 

Rex Murphy seconded the motion, reminding us, we've actually never had it so good! (Rex seldom opens his mouth but to change feet!) 

No, the Occupy Movement has had no real impact. (No one offered, of course, that this might be because blind, narrow and stupid politicians refuse to recognize good, new ideas even if they are there for all to see.)

No, paid corporate lobbyists aren't really all that bad, either.  (Try reading
"The 10 Worst Corporate Lobbyists" & see if you agree.)

And no, there are no major problems with our present, non-elected Senate. (Never mind that it is now dominated by trained Harper seals, some embroiled in blatant conflicts of interest, which have dragged on, unaddressed thanks to an impotent "Ethics Commissioner.")

And no, a switch to proportional representation is just not in the cards for Canada. The panel's inference seemed to be, we probably don't need it anyway, because we are all in such darn good shape without it!

So who are these panelists, anyway?

Well, Andrew is a columnist for the ultra-conservative National Post and son of James Coyne, former Governor of the Bank of Canada. While these things should not, in and of themselves, disqualify him as a "man of the people," they sure do make it harder!

Rex is a courageous defender of multinational corporations, a vicious critic of environmentalists and climate scientists, and a mass distributor of false information about global warming. (When not appearing on programs on CBC Radio or TV, he also contributes to the same, right-wing paper as Andrew, the National Post.)
Rex Murphy caricature (L.) courtesy of By the Bay Art Studio 

Chantal Hébert, also a print journalist, has been a voice of reason before. But lately, she seems more interested in protecting the status quo, including our antiquated electoral system, than anything else.

Bruce Anderson, the "new guy," is not even a journalist. He apparently has a background in public relations. And we all know PR people are never known to "spin" the facts.

Sadly, it was Peter Mansbridge himself, (CBC photo r.) the panel moderator, who put the icing on the cake. Apart from a weak attempt to reign in Andrew on the rich-poor topic, he failed to mention that, earlier this month, he had himself reported: "The gap between earnings by the rich and the poor is widening in almost all OECD countries, including Canada, where the top 10 per cent of Canadians earns 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent." 

(Please also read: "Canadian CEOs vs. the 99%. No Contest When it Comes to Pay.")

For whatever reason, I believe the CBC (esp. TV news) is fast losing its "common touch," retreating instead into a comfortable and smug cocoon of self-importance. Sadly, it too seldom speaks any longer for ordinary Canadians and too often for those who can already afford to speak for themselves.

I would expect this of "the corporate media." 

The CBC is supposed to be different.

Larry Powell
Roblin, Manitoba CA

Monday, December 26, 2011

‘Secret’ Environment Canada Study Warns of Oil Sands’ Impact on Habitat

Postmedia News  22'11 - Mike De Souza
OTTAWA — Contamination of a major western Canadian river basin from oil sands operations is a “high-profile concern” for downstream communities and wildlife, says a newly-released “secret” presentation...Details here.

Courtesy of the Guardian

Santa, Give Our Farmers Some Love

Laura Rance Wpg Free Press 12/24/2011
Some moisture, some better prices very welcome under the tree. Details here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The True Spirit of Christmas is Alive and Well in Winnipeg!

For a few years now, my stepdaughter, Coralee Crowe, has been involved with some friends, making blankets and distributing them at random to needy people in the City of Winnipeg at Christmas time. This year was no exception. 

I decided it's time to put aside for awhile, the usual kinds of stories on this blog, (which some might consider "gloom & doomish,") so that my readers (and I) can be reminded, there's another world out there, where hope for a better future burns as brightly as ever.  

And where people like Coralee never give up that hope.

Coralee, your mom and I are proud of you! 

If your objective this year was to make a difference in someone's life by your contribution to 100 Good Deeds, then consider your mission accomplished.    

Below is Coralee's report to friends and family on how things went this year (2011). 
"Cael, myself, Terry and Heather headed out last evening to accomplishing the final stage in our 100 Good Deeds mission. We began the night dropping off gifts and blankets at two separate residences of single parents. 

"A miscommunication and misunderstanding (and slight language barrier) changed our first mission as the father was working towards seeking visitation rights to see his son...and his wish for Christmas was for us to try to send his son a gift through his lawyer. He would not accept the small gift we had for him but I did convince him to accept the non-perishable hamper. He was very humble and told me he was working very hard and doing everything possible to get his son back. He overheard Cael tell me he was thirsty and, without hesitation, offered Cael a juice he had in his fridge. Here was a man who was sleeping on the floor (I could see the blankets and pillows made up in the bedroom) and had only one chair in his living room but was offering up his last juice.    

"Our second stop was a single mom with two young girls (3 & 5 years old). We entered the house to find two very excited and sweet little girls. They were over the moon to see the gifts we had for them and carefully placed them under their bare Christmas tree. When we showed them the blankets that we made for each of them the 5 year old squealed with delight "we love them." It was a very special moment. Their enthusiasm and appreciation was a gift all in itself. We made up two gift bags for "mom" from the girls and  they were gleaming when I told them that they were for them to give to Mom at Christmas. The mother was very appreciative and  I do believe started to tear up when Heather told her that we were happy that we could help her out during the Holidays.. 

"The rest of the evening we drove the streets delivering our random acts of kindness. We targeted the laundromat again and surprising a man who was waiting for his laundry to be washed. We surprised another on Salter waiting for a walk sign and another whom was picking up waste and garbage around his home on Higgins. A young man and his daughter (approximately 3 years old)  heading into a Native Youth Centre on Dufferin St were very grateful and taken back by our random generosity. He made his little girl acknowledge us with a "thank you" and  as I was heading back towards the van I heard him yell out "and Merry Christmas to you."  Our last random act was to a couple that we followed down the street after they exited a 7-11. Both the woman and man's face lit up when we handed them over their new blanket.  

"A half dozen of our blankets were also delivered by Tamara and her family to the Children's Hospital yesterday afternoon. They will be handed out to children who will experience the hospital environment either through surgery or an over night stay. My family, as well as Tamara’s family, have both spent many hours at the Children’s Hospital and may you find comfort in knowing that you are helping a child cope during a very terrifying situation, and providing their parents with a moment of peace as the fear in their child's face escapes. I know how special this moment is as Dave and I were “those parents” when Chase was given a small blanket before his surgery in Edmonton this past spring.  

"Thank you again for your efforts to make 100 Good Deeds a reality. Thanks to all of you for taking time when life couldn't be more hectic and setting it aside for a family or individual you have never met.  This morning over breakfast Cael says  “Mom, remember how happy those girls were when we gave them presents to put under their tree.”  It seems that I was not the only one to walk away with a warm heart and a valuable lesson this year.

"Last night I once again discovered how great it feels to not only give to others, but to have so many good people in our life. We are blessed to know each and every one of you and we thank you for your friendship.

"From our family to yours Merry Christmas and a SAFE holiday season.
The Crowe’s"    

PLT: Please also read: "Unwrap a Gift Economy"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Greg Selinger Strikes a Blow for Fire Safety - Shuts Down "Occupy Winnipeg!"

If you like this blog, please consider a donation. Thanks! Larry

PLT: Congratulations, Mr. Premier, I feel much safer now that you have evicted the three remaining protestors from the camp in Memorial Park. It was, after all, a firestorm waiting to happen - perhaps enveloping your place of business - the provincial legislature - if not much of the capitol, itself! (Sarcasm intended.)

Might we now expect provincial authorities to move in on owners of million dollar homes and evict them under cover of darkness, if they do not have firewalls installed between their houses and attached garages?  

Of course not. That would be ridiculous! 

But is it any less ridiculous to bring down the heavy hand of government on the Occupiers and no one else? The inference here seems to be that any fire where there are a few tents - (perhaps $89 specials from Canadian Tire?) would represent a much larger hazard to public safety than the massive fire which recently destroyed the huge home in Linden Woods, (L. KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) apparently one which might have been prevented, but for lax building codes in effect when the home was built.

Might this be a shining example of what Occupiers everywhere have been saying since Day One? (i.e. There is one set of laws for the top 1% - another for the rest of us.)

Oh, and another thing, Mr. Premier, you have now carved out a political "non-niche" of remarkable uniformity among North American leaders, including the likes of Rob Ford and Michael Bloomberg, those "progressive" mayors who worship the kind of law and order which protects elites over everything else.  You have just blown a golden opportunity to show the world that your NDP government, the only one in Canada, is somehow different. 

You are no different. 

As for the protestors, your camp may have been an insignificant annoyance to some. To me, it was a humble but shining expression of the human spirit, bent on improving things for the 99% of us who need it. Congratulations for what you have done! I hope you continue in some form or other!

Please also read: "Of Banksters, Occupiers and Head-Knockers."

The Home of "Canada's Reindeer" is Being Destroyed. They Need Your Help!

Please donate generously to this Nature Canada cause.
 PLT; If there were any justice in this world,  it would be the tar sands corporations (and their mindless investors) who are paying the bill to help our caribou. Afer all, who else (apart from our hollow, compliant politicians) is responsible for denuding vast areas of precious boreal forest,  depriving these bautiful, vulnerable animals of critical habitat!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 20 Worst Wall Street Banks Funding Our Filthiest Polluters

Dec 13, 2011 Alternet
A new study identifies the top 20 "climate killer" banks by the amount of financial support they give the coal industry. Details here.

PLT: Please also read, "How Ethical are Canada's Ethical Funds?"

Greenpeace's Year in Pictures (Video)

Durban: Where the Climate Deniers-in-Chief Ran the Show

Mark Hertsgaard -The Nation - 12/21/11
A different and more dangerous breed of climate denier commanded the stage at the recently concluded international negotiations in Durban, South Africa. Details here.
Courtesy of Alternet

Study Documents Nigerian Children Died From Families’ Gold Mining

Environmental Health News
Large numbers of infants and toddlers have died from lead poisoning in Nigerian villages where their parents process gold ore inside their family compounds, according to a report…Details here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Dirty Salvage Operation

Residents retrieve a car which was washed away in Friday's flash flooding in southern Philippines Monday. With funeral parlors overwhelmed, authorities organized the first mass burial of unidentified victims who were swept to their deaths in one of the worst calamities to strike the region in decades.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Does Politics Trump Science in the Obama White House?

Politico - Dec 15 '11
President Barack Obama turned it into a campaign-trail talking point: He would end the Bush administration’s “war on science.” Read more:

Smog over New York.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lax Federal Monitoring Putting Canadians at Risk: Environment Commissioner

By Jason Fekete, Postmedia News December 13, 2011
OTTAWA — The public safety of Canadians is increasingly at risk because the federal government is failing to monitor and enforce its regulations on dangerous goods and decades-old oil and gas pipelines, Canada's environment watchdog warns in a new report. Details here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

White Christmas? Dream on: Environment Canada says Snow Less Likely Over Time

By: Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press - 12/12/2011

TORONTO - Dreaming of a white Christmas may be a holiday tradition, but Canadians are more likely than ever to wake up instead to the dreary brown reality wrought by climate change, Environment Canada said Monday. Details here.

The shrinking Columbia Icefield, an important source of meltwater for Canada's prairie rivers. PinP photo.

A Stunning and Disturbing Tableau of Mother Earth - a Must-See Video!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Canada's "Law and Order" Prime Minister (Letter to the Editor)

If you like my blog, please consider a donation. Thanks! Larry

Dear Editor,

If Stephen Harper is so keen on becoming a "law and order" Prime Minister, why does he seem to have so little regard for the law, himself? Since coming to power about six years ago, his government has been riddled with a litany of dirty tricks, domestic and international crimes.

The most recent is his scandalous decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Accord, a legally binding, international agreement to limit human emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing catastrophic climate change. (Have you noticed Manitoba's tragic and terrible flooding lately?)

Even China put Canada to shame at the recent climate talks in Durban, showing a willingness to "step up" and show some environmental leadership while Harper showed none. His "operative" at the talks, Peter Kent (who I now refer to as our "Minister of Environmental Destruction"), once again proved, neither of them really works for you, me, our children or our planet, for that matter. Make no mistake, they are, quite simply, the handmaidens of the likes of Syncrude, Suncor, and other big, rich, powerful players in the Alberta tar sands, earth's largest energy project and quite likely its dirtiest. 

His administration has been muzzling climate scientists since day one, threatening them with dismissal if they speak out about the gravity of the situation.

Then there was the court ruling which declared that the Harper government had broken the law in the way it is clumsily proceeding with the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was just the most recent in a string of court decisions that ruled against the government on this matter. Rather than pausing to consider compromise or co-operation in the face of all of this, the Prime Minister is ruthlessly pressing ahead with a court appeal and a clamp down on democratic debate with heavy-handed measures like closure.

On top of this, there were the concerted efforts by Conservatives to subvert the Committee system in the Commons, as well as serious election fraud. (Remember the crafty "in and out" scheme to fund elections?) While some of the "dirty tricks" may not strictly speaking, be "crimes," it is the leader of a party and a government who sets the tone and creates the "culture" for what happens down the line.

It is against this backdrop that Harper is committing billions of our tax dollars to new prisons, fighter planes and warships, as if he has the moral authority to act as policeman to the world, let alone enforce tougher laws on we ordinary Canadians.

And we wonder why there's an "Occupy Movement!"

Perhaps some space needs to be reserved in Harper's shiny new "slammers" for himself and his accomplices, er, I mean, cabinet ministers, for all the crimes they are committing against us!

Larry Powell
Roblin, MB

Ancient Climate Record Points Toward Potential Rapid Climate Changes

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2011) — New research into Earth's paleoclimate history by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies director James E. Hansen (l.) suggests the potential for rapid climate changes this century, including multiple meters of sea level rise, if global warming is not abated. Details here.

PLT: Dr. Hansen is one of those rare birds - a scientist/activist! Here, he is shown being arrested at demonstrations at the White House, protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline. We need more like him!

Climate Conference Approves Landmark Deal

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — A U.N. climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement Sunday on a complex and far-reaching program meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades. Details here.

PLT: Canada continues playing its role as a dinosaur, leading us further into world isolation as a climate criminal. Even China has showed more leadership there than we did! Shame!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Break Growth Records

CBC News Dec. 5 - '11
Emissions rebound fast from global financial crisis, driven by developing world. Details here.

Hotter, Drier, Meaner: Trends Point to a Planet Increasingly Hostile to Agriculture

By Douglas Fischer - De. 5'11 The Daily Climate 
A host of data – from sediment cores to ongoing drought in East Africa to computer models – point to one conclusion: Our increasingly hotter, drier planet is going to be a tough place to farm. Details here.

On Climate, Canada is a Rogue State

Nov 29th, 2011 Marc Lee · Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
On Sunday, CTV leaked Canada’s intentions to pull out of the Kyoto treaty process on climate change. What is significant about Kyoto is that it is a legally binding...Details here.

Is Canada's Environment Minister Bullying Poor Countries at the Climate Talks?

Mike De Souza, Postmedia News December 3, 2011
DURBAN, South Africa — Signs of progress emerged Saturday at international climate change negotiations as thousands took to the streets urging global leaders to step up their efforts. Details here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three Quarters of Climate Change is Man-Made

 Quirin Schiermeier - 04 December 2011 - Nature

Independent study quantifies human influence on global warming. 
Details here.
Lk. Manitoba PLT photo

Friday, December 2, 2011

Once Again, The National "Afflicts the Afflicted and Comforts the Comfortable!" (Letter)

If you like my blog, please consider a donation.Thanks!Larry

Dear Editor,
I think the CBC should change its name from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the Canadian Business Corporation. Boy, has Big Oil ever found a friend in important branches of our national broadcaster!

While there are, mercifully, some notable exceptions (such as "The Current" and "Quirks & Quarks," - radio programs who actually tell the truth about climate change), The National still lags far behind, with its pro-industry bias still out there for all to see. 

Lately, the Corporation has found a new "darling" in the likes of David Wilkins, a former US Ambassador to Canada. Wilkins now gets his paycheques from the Canadian oil industry! 
David Wilkins, (l.) "ambassdor-for-hire" 
 But The National didn't see fit to mention that when he led the newscast the other night, spouting his pro-oil, anti-science propaganda.

Ironically, the Radio program, The House, committed an almosty identical sin with another former Ambassador last summer but issued an apology after I complained to the CBC Ombudsman.

Sadly, CBC Manitoba is similarly failing to inform its listeners/viewers of the reality and seriousness of our climate crisis.

On the contrary, it recently provided air time to Michael Hlinka, a conservative commentator, singing the praises of the proposed, misguided Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta tar sands into the southern 'States, while condemning President Obama for being "political" for delaying it. Odd, isn't it, how such individuals can overlook the fact that it is the forces arrayed against this project who have science on their side - not him!

And then, of course, there's Rex Murphy, (r.) the pompous, opinionated commentator on both CBC Radio & TV. His latest rant was against Nobel Prize-winning, human rights activist Bishop Tutu who has taken a public stand against Canada's "Mordor," the tar sands. 
At the same time,  Rex managed to badmouth sincere environmentalsts everywhere while praising the Harper government for its plans to withdraw form the Kyoto Accord. He was practically salivating at the likelihood that the Durban environmental summit will fail to reach an agreement on the limiting of greenhouse gases.

Murphy cleverly manages to give plenty of air time to Big Oil on his other program, "Cross-Country Checkup" (where he is supposed to be somewhat neutral), while avoiding any meaningful discussion on our climate crisis. In other media, like the National Post, he was still lamenting just this summer over "Climate-gate," (which he and other climate-deniers jumped all over, claiming it was a scandal which proved that human-caused global warming was a fraud). His column came about a year or more after no less than six major, independent investigations had shown that this was simply not true!

Sadly, many CBC listeners/viewers can no longer be faulted if they mistakenly believe that we can continue to wallow in a future almost totally dependent on fossil fuels without suffering serious consequences. They are, at best, being seriously and shamelessly under-informed or misinformed.

But it's OK, Rex, there'll be a job waiting for you in Big Oil, the PM's office or even as a trained seal in the Senate if you ever leave the CBC!

Larry Powell

Roblin, MB

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Global Leaders Call On Canada To Fight Climate Change In New Ad

Huffington Post Nov 30-'11
WASHINGTON -- African leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu have released an ad calling on Canada to step up the battle against global warming, rather than actively promote the use of its tar sands. Details here.

Also watch the video, below, with activist Zodwa Rannyadi of Soweto.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still in Superbug Denial: FDA Rejects Petitions to Stop Feeding Antibiotics to Healthy Livestock.

OnEarth Nov 29-'11
No one can accuse the FDA of rushing to judgement. Details here.

PLT: You don't suppose this is because "Big Food Agri-Biz" is calling the shots here? Naaaah! And we wonder why there is an Occupy Movement!

Is Climate Change Boosting a Lethal Disease in Australia?

The Daily Climate - Nov 29 - '11
For 17 years, the Hendra virus smoldered in its host bat population, only rarely crossing to humans. Then it exploded, likely triggered by heavy rains and floods in Australia earlier this year. And that has public health doctors nervous about climate change. Details here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Oil Sands, World’s Largest Energy Project, Faces Severe Water Shortages

By Andrew Nikiforuk - The Tyee
The oil sands, the world’s largest energy project, will face severe or even catastrophic water shortages due to declining glaciers and snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, warn Canadian water researchers. Details here.

Climate Conference 2011: Canada Says Kyoto Protocol 'Biggest Blunder,' May Withdraw

Tom Zeller Jr. - Huffington Post
Global climate talks got an inauspicious start in Durban, South Africa, on Monday with reports that Canada planned to withdraw fully from the Kyoto Protocol,  Details here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CBC Tells the Whole Climate Change Story for a Change

If you like my blog, please consider a donation. Thanks! Larry

PLT: Bob MacDonald, host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks science show, (l.) has seemed reluctant to spell out all the impications of our climate crisis, both on his own show and on his appearances on "The National." He (& other on-air personalities), repeatedly refer to "El Nino" or "La Nina" when trying to explain severe weather events when, in fact, those phenomena play a role in only a small percentage of our catastrophic storms. But on his show this weekend, Bob actually had guests who explained the story plainly and comprehensively. This is significant for, without such detail, many people will brush off the term "climate change," when used without context whatsoever (as it often is),  as something they can do nothing about. Please click here, scroll down, listen to the podcast and you'll understand what I mean.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canada Should Fight a Pollution Battle Instead of a PR Battle

Huff Post Green - Hannah McKinnon
Climate Action Network Canada - 11/24/11

In the lead up to the next round of UN climate talks, instead of taking responsibility for their own pollution problem, the Canadian Government is focusing on a full scale public relations and diplomatic campaign to ensure no door is closed to Canada's highly polluting tar sands. Details here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Can the Oceans Continue to Feed Us?

By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers - Nov 10 '11
WASHINGTON — Far out on the Pacific Ocean, the world's industrial fishing fleets pursue one of the last huge wild hunts — for the tuna eaten by millions of people around the world. Details here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quiet Shift in Feds' Criteria for Approving Northern Gateway Pipeline

By Gerald Graham, 16 Nov 2011,
'Need for project' now trumps environment in fine print of pipeline documents. Details here.

PLT: And people wonder why there is an Occupy movement!

Time to Test Corporate Leaders to Weed out Psychopaths

By Mitchell Anderson, Today,
Shark-like, they rise fast but risk killing the world economy, concludes a business professor. Details here.

Broadcaster Bill Moyers "Nailed" the Motivation Behind the Occupy Movement - Even Before it Began! (Video)


Uganda's Protected Mabira Rainforest Threatened Again by Sugar Production

By Rainforest Portal, a project of Ecological Internet - November 21, 2011


Public Happy Face on Ottawa's Cuts Smeared by Official's Private Memo

Mike De Souza - Vancouver Sun - Nov. 20-'11
OTTAWA — A senior Environment Canada bureaucrat who publicly defended the federal government’s plans to slash funding and eliminate “redundancy” within the country’s ozone monitoring programs, privately approved a briefing note that concluded there was no duplication in its network, Postmedia News has learned. Read more here.

PLT: It is truly a sad day when a Prime Minister can instil such fear in his public servants that they feel compelled to tell a different story in public than in private, just to keep their jobs! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Be - Without Water? A Video of the Struggles of Citizens of New Brunswick Against Fracking

EU Lawmakers Call For Action to Protect Bees

(Reuters) - Nov 15'11   European Union lawmakers on Tuesday called for stronger action to protect Europe's bees, saying that the rapid decline in the bee population could PLT bumblebee photo affect the growth of important food crops. Details here.

New Report is First To Quantify Health Impacts From 
World's Worst Toxic Pollution Problems

Blacksmith Institute - New York - Nov 9'11

Report Identifies Top Pollution Problems and Sources, and Reveals Surprising Finding About Corporations and Pollution. Details here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

CBC Radio Explores the History of the Embattled Canadian Wheat Board (Podcast)

Wheat.  It is the most important cereal grain in the world and, along with fur trapping and the railroad, it made Canada.

We are one of the largest wheat exporters on the planet, about 19 thousand tons a year, more than any other crop. There are some 75,000 farmers across the Prairies who make their livelihood from it. And to sell their wheat, they have depended for generations on the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Wheat Board, as we know it today, was established in 1935 to control prices, so as to benefit farmers in the Great Depression.

Now, however, the Wheat Board could be gone by Christmas. The Conservative government has been promising to get rid of it for years, and with its majority in parliament, is making good on that promise.

It's hard to say what it will mean to farmers and the rest of us. If anybody has an idea, it is John Herd Thompson, who has documented the history of the Wheat Board. Winnipeg born-and-bred, he earned his PhD at Queen's University and has taught at McGill, Simon Fraser and the University of Alberta.  For more than two decades, he has been Professor of History at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  He joins us from a studio there.

Click here, then scroll to the last half of Hour Three.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Of Banksters, Occupiers and Head-Knockers

What to do with the Occupy camps. How about - let them be! 
by Larry Powell
A peaceful camp
It's hardly surprising. 

The mood of Canada's elites is becoming increasingly ugly as the "Occupy" movement continues to "hang in there" for a lot longer than they likely expected. 

It is, after all, what elites do. They simply cannot tolerate those who challenge the very system that keeps them in power.

Cops are already being ordered to start knocking some heads in some Canadian cities, as well as south of the border.

Neither is it surprising that some news media are misrepresenting what the movement is all about. 

A recent editorial in the Dauphin Herald, for example, dismissed the protesters as "whiners," whose support is dwindling. (In fact, the movement has persisted and spread to many parts of the world.)

The editorial also proclaimed, "It was the squandering of tax dollars (by governments) which originally created the movement!"


The newspaper obviously got the Occupiers mixed up with their polar opposites, U.S. "Tea-Partiers," and Republicans, who are unbending in their support of tax cuts for the rich and cuts to health care and other government services which might help ordinary people!

While I have yet to hear a single Occupier defend government "squandering," it was actually the growing gap between the super rich and the rest of us, which motivated them. This is all made worse by the criminal actions of bankers and rich corporations (who still, to this day, run around Scott-free, while countless Occupiers have been jailed for exercising their democratic rights to freedom of speech and assembly!) Meanwhile, those "banksters" and other "upstanding paragons of corporate virtue," like British Petroleum, are given free-reign to exploit our resources and pollute our planet (all, tax-free, of course)!

Many Canadians seem to be under the impression that things are better here than in the 'States - that banks are better regulated, for example. That is true - partly.

But the belief that our big banks have been "soldiering on" without the help of our hard-earned dollars, is also a myth. According to one very capable, investigative columnist, the Harper Government quietly issued those banks a bailout amounting to $75 billion in 2008. Michel Chossudovsky heads the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization. Chossudovsky claims that, taken on a per-capita basis, that is on par with the infamous bailouts the US government made of its own crooked and failed financial institutions a few years ago.  

(Here, our own, "vigilant" corporate media seemed to have missed that story.)

Keep in mind these same banks, all five, invest billions in the Alberta tar sands, helping to destroy our natural world and climate, at the same time.

What is puzzling is how indignant some people are that homeless people are actually moving into the camps. Imagine that! A basic tenet of the "Occupy" movement is that we need a more even distribution of wealth. Why, then would they turn away those who are suffering the most from this imbalance?

I recently had the privilege of visiting the "Occupy Winnipeg"
site, twice in October. Yes, there were homeless there, sitting around the bonfire, drinking the industrial-strength coffee,  and sampling the occasional, meagre bit of food. (Which renders as doubly ludicrous, suggestions that they are there "just to have fun.") To me, their presence just proved that the movement is inclusive and hardly prepared to turn away our poorest, who perhaps themselves best exemplify the inequity with which our wealth is distributed.

It should also be noted that, on the first day of "Occupy Winnipeg" there were also working people, environmentalists, representatives of First Nations, the embattled Wheat Board, and so on. 

One union representative there told me he believed Harper was out to crush the labour movement. He cited recent examples of how the government moved to bring ruthless ends to strikes in both the public and private sectors this year. Its back-to-work decrees, in both cases, came down with unprecedented haste. For postal workers, they imposed a lesser settlement than even the employer would have granted! For Air Canada flight attendants, the government locked in entry-level wages which are below the poverty line, while doing nothing to prevent obscene bonuses for corporate executives. 

Was that labour rep wrong? I don't think so.

One of the speakers told the gathering on opening day, Harper had broken an election promise and abruptly ended funding to the Canadian Environmental Network. That has thrown the future of this group into disarray and uncertainty. The Network has been co-ordinating the activities of various Eco-groups across the country and helping governments implement enlightened legislation to safeguard our air, water and soil, for decades. 

Does this strengthen the argument that, under Stephen Harper, Canada's policies are becoming the most hostile toward the environment of any nation in the world? 

Sounds like!
To suggest that this movement has been controlled by whiners and reduced to squatter camps is to do a great disservice to thousands of sincere, caring people, determined to build a better world.

(All photos by PinP.)


Rick Mercer on the Death of the Wheat Board (Video)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Annother Tory Outrage

PLT: At least one Tory MP is actually threatening legal action against a retired Alberta farmer, Norm Dyck, who had the audacity to write a letter-to-the-editor, criticizing the government for its attempts to kill the What Board. 
1) First, Mr. Dyck's brief note, 
2) his explanation of what happened,
3) his actual letter
4) and a PLT comment!

1) Friends of the CWB:   I have already spoken to my friend and former farmer neighbor Art Macklin so he knows of my 'offensive' letter and approves of this circulation action.  Please forward to any individuals who are concerned re the threat to Democracy by actions of the Harper Government.  Thanks 


2) Yesterday my Federal MP Chris Warkentin Peace River,  while meeting with him in his office in Grande Prairie accompanied by two members of Kairos, while I was speaking on the subject of the CWB was less than receptive to any input on this topic.  Input specifically as to the requirements of section 47.1 of the Act which I calls for a grain producer plebiscite for the proposed changes of removing single desk selling as per Bill C-18.  Mr. Warkentin has a totally different understanding of this legislation as do Ag Minister Gerry Ritz and the Prime Minister.  

Instead of hearing any further points, Mr. Warkentin visibly agitated, advised me in the company of the other two in the Kairos delegation  that he has considered defamation charges or something of that nature if he did not get an apology via the newspaper for my letter.  (see attachment above.) 

My 'offending' letter has been published in the local Herald Tribune here in Grande Prairie and also in the Peace River Record Gazette.  The Western Producer called me for confirmation last week so I anticipate it will also appear there shortly.  I also sent it off to the Lethbridge Herald and the Red Deer Advocate.

So I would very much appreciate it if you folks would distribute widely this letter and this note of threat to me by my MP Chris Warkentin, Peace River.

I do not know how to attach this to the number of e-mail recipients that have been sent my way of late on this Crucial Bill C-18 now before the Senate.  This unprecedented affront to Democratic process could indeed become law if we remain quiet. Perhaps some of you and your contacts will feel moved to write to one or more members of the Canadian Senate since Mr. Harper and his majority have rammed this through the House limiting debate last week.  

If something should ever come of this I would go to jail before paying a fine or issuing an apology to Mr. Warkentin for expressing my Democratic right to Speak out via the press on the facts pertinent to Bill C-18 in a manner that at least 3 Newspaper Editors have not found libelous .

regards to you all;

Norm Dyck  retired farmer, 72 years of age


                    3) Harper's About Face on CWB and Democracy  

We all recall when House of Commons page, Bridgette Marcelle shocked the staid House during the spring Throne Speech by holding up her sign saying "STOP HARPER" .  At that time, a majority of grain farmers and supporters of the Canadian Wheat Board already knew in their gut what was on the horizon.   An attack on the CWB to remove single desk selling is now well underway in Ottawa by the Harper Government. 

Single desk selling is central to the CWB's marketing strength that benefits all producers equitably regardless of size.  The Board pays out to producers, confirmed by an Annual Outside Audit each crop year, all returns on grain sales less about 9 cents for operational costs.   Can we expect such financial transparency from the grain cartels if Mr. Harper's Conservatives are successful in their efforts to hamstring the Board? 

The Harper Government has introduced a very divisive and devious Bill, notably Bill C-18 presently before the House.  This Bill if passed will by-pass current legislation put into law on Oct 7, 1997 by the then Liberal Government.  The pertinent section is 47.1 of the CWB Act.   

This section is unequivocal in its intent that no Minister responsible to the CWB shall bring in or exclude any grains for marketing outside the jurisdiction of the CWB without first having consulted with the Board and furthermore; any such proposed change can only be legitimatized and implemented by a clear transparent producer vote.  Knowing this is the current law, Mr. Harper supported by Peace River MP Chris Warkentin and other members of their government are knowingly and willfully engaged a a series of procedural House shenanigans to do an end run around the democratic process by ramming through Bill C-18 and subverting the law.  This action is reminiscent of authoritarian regimes, denying farmers the legitimate right to vote on a critical change to their Board at a time of financial instability in already jittery markets that grain sales are affected by. 

Harper's Federal Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz, who is responsible to the Board, has shown absolutely no evidence despite repeated requests from opposition members of the House, to validate how the Board could function commercially for the benefit of farmers with the loss of its single desk selling mandate.  The proposed changes in Bill C-18 with allowing farmers the option of bypassing the Board on export grain sales will essentially hollow out the Boards marketing strength and ultimately the international grain cartels will be the winners .    

During the election the governments standard response was on CWB policy was 'that farmers must decide the future of the CWB'.  That is all rhetoric and election promise now that Harper has his dubious majority.  With a mere 40% of those who voted supporting him, his government promise on CWB policy has deceptively altered.  Where Harper previously championed governing by the rule of law  we are now witnessing him and his Government flaunting the law!

Prairie and Peace River grain farmers from the 1930's fought for and won the marketing powers that have been granted to the CWB so it can equitably serve them.   The majority of them know what is at stake. The grain cartels will fair just nicely without aiding and abetting by the current Government!  The House page Bridgette Marcelle was right.

Norm Dyck
9257 - 96 Ave.
Grande Prairie, Alta
4) PLT: Go ahead, Warkinton, you anti-free-speech zifhhbab8883x - sue me, too!

Friday, November 11, 2011

US Energy Dept. Panel Warns of Environmental Toll of Current Gas Drilling Practices

Pro Publica Nov 10 - A federal energy panel issued a blunt warning to shale gas drillers and their regulators today, saying they need to step up efforts to protect public health and the environment or risk a backlash that stifles further development. Details here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Maine Farmer Heads Group
 Challenging Genetics Giant

The Portland Press Herald - November 9

A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen on Utne Reader's list of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," published in the November/December edition of the magazine on newsstands now. Details here.

Has Business as Usual for the Tar Sands Come to an End?

Environmental Defence
Dear Larry,
The first cut is the deepest. Business as usual for the tar sands industry has come to an end.
Today, we can all celebrate a huge victory. President Obama has agreed to delay the construction of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in order to further review its potential impacts, including climate change.

This shows the importance of standing up for the clean energy future we want. Just 3 days ago, 12,000 Americans showed up at the White House to urge President Obama to stick by his pledge to reduce dependence on oil.
Canada needs to pay attention to this message. There is no such thing as “business as usual” for the tar sands industry any longer. The longer Canada delays getting serious about reining in tar sands pollution and transitioning to a clean energy economy, the more of this type of controversy we should expect.  
The delay announced today has the potential to not only protect a water source that provides 3 million people with safe drinking water from the damage of an oil spilll, but it also gives more time to consider the impacts of the proposed pipeline on efforts to fight global warming. Our collective efforts are having an impact.
The near-doubling of tar sands exports to the U.S. that would be needed to fill the pipeline would take North America in the wrong direction, increasing our dependence on oil at a time when scientists around the world are calling for us to dramatically transition away from fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change.
This would not have happened without your hard work, and the thousands of other people like you who have voiced opposition to continued tar sands expansion.
Please consider sending a message to the White House to thank president Obama for listening to these concerns.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...