18 Feb 2017

Ineffective 350.org divestment campaign should give way to
direct corporate actions

Students at Dalhousie University in Halifax are a determined lot. Campaigning against the burning of fossil fuels, they have occupied the office of school president Richard Florizone.

The students also created a six-foot-high dinosaur to signify that investing in pollution-causing industries is a skeleton in the university’s closet.

Divest Dal is one of at least 34 academic-based campaigns across the country pressuring administrations to divest holdings in fossil fuels on ethical grounds.

However, the Dal effort suffered a setback when the Dal administration announced it would not sell off an estimated $20.5-million in fossil fuel holdings.

“We did not accept the Board’s no vote . . . .” says Laura Cutmore, a Divest Dal organizer, in an email. “We will continue to campaign towards divestment for as long as it takes.”

Students at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS) protesting.

Divest Dal works with the support of 350.org  by far the largest group in the world involved in campaigning, and they have a lot of faith in 350.org’s leadership.

350.org, which operates gofossilfree announced with considerable fanfare that the campaign urging institutions, mostly universities, churches, and pension funds to divest their endowment holdings in fossil fuels is working well.

Canadian 350.org organizer Cam Fenton wrote in an email: “In a matter of years it has grown from a student led campaign on a few campuses to something that is impacting some of the largest political and financial institutions on the planet.”

The 350.org website claims that “our movement is strong and the fossil fuel industry is fighting for its life.”

Whoa! Not so fast.

28 Jan 2017

We shouldn't weep for broke but lying mainstream media

What a difference some 50 years has made in one of Canada’s most important and powerful industries!

Back in 1970, the Senate of Canada called an inquiry to investigate the exorbitant profits made by Canada’s handful of media barons.

Skinflint media mogul Roy Thomson had declared that owning a radio or television station was like having a license to print money. He added that owning a newspaper was even better, because a license was not required.


The Senators hummed and hawed, and made some recommendations that were mostly ignored by the powerful media owners, who continued to make big profits.

How times have changed. 

A report from the Public Policy Forum of Montreal released on January 26 says the Canadian news industry “is reaching a crisis point as the decline of traditional media, fragmentation of audiences and the rise of fake news pose a growing threat to the health of our democracy.”

Whereas the 1970 report was entitled “The Uncertain Mirror”, the new appeal for support is called “The Shattered Mirror.”

Now mainstream media are unable to sell enough advertising to provide the amount and quality of news coverage that once seemed routine. So the giant corporations are humbly appealing to the federal government to provide support for various media and make adjustments to the media landscape.

The report does not provide a specific prescription to bring corporate media back to health. Nothing in the report could even begin to provide the billions of dollars that would be needed to restore newspapers to what they were say 10 years ago. That was before corporations fired more than 10,000 journalists. 

8 Nov 2016

I'll bet you didn't know you own billions of dollars in coal stocks

Sometimes huge issues just slide along under the radar until, all of a sudden, they blow up. The shock can come from a brown envelope slid under a door, a “scoop” in the media, or an opposition politician discovering a serious failure in government.

I’m waiting for an explosion to occur at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. This organization has assets of $287-billion and provides pensions for the 19-million Canadians who pay into it.

The Investment Board is dangerously gambling and putting our future in danger by investing billions-of-dollars in risky fossil fuel companies. Moreover, the Board is knee deep in unethical investments in the coal industry.

Coal sludge from a North Carolina site mined by Duke Energy.

The collapse of a huge cooling pond dam at a coal mine in North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew last month didn’t cause a stir in Canada, but it should have. The facility in question is owned by Duke Energy – perhaps the most vilified energy company in the United States – and the Pension Fund Investment Board is heavily invested in Duke.

Earlier, a Duke pond leaked dirty effluent into a North Carolina river.  The company paid a $102-million fine continues to face numerous law suits while it is involved in a $3-billion clean-up. The loss had an impact on the Canadian investments.

1 Nov 2016

Why are our environmental groups
supporting weak climate targets?

Canada is far behind many other countries when it comes to meeting its carbon reduction targets. We have an “inadequate” ranking on the international mechanism tracking carbon emitters, says Climate Action Tracker.  Many other countries/regions, such as Norway, the European Union, the United States and China, are well ahead of us.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s recently announced that all Canadian jurisdictions must adopt a carbon pricing scheme by 2018 with a minimum price of $10 per tonne. The price must rise to reach $50 per tonne by 2022. The goal of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 will not get Canada anywhere close to its promises to the United Nations.

The Canadian targets are “nothing short of a disaster for the climate,” says Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Canadians probably believe that our major environmental groups are busy lobbying and pushing the federal and provincial governments to do much more. But no, this is not the case.

Strangely, while many individual groups carry out excellent and productive projects, the country’s environmental community is doing very little to pressure governments to do a better job.

No group criticizing the government

A survey of the top 20 or so environmental organizations shows – from what I could find – that not one group is conducting an ongoing, strategic campaign lobbying the federal government for not doing more.

Young people on Parliament Hill protesting pipeline construction, but when it comes to fighting climate change, environmental groups have decided not to campaign against the Liberal government. 




Some groups have made one-off statements criticizing the government, but these do not constitute a campaign.

Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart did say that “thirty per cent by 2030 isn’t good enough. We have to go farther.”  But it does not seem that the organization will be lobbying governments re carbon levels.

25 Oct 2016

Young activists win 'badge of honour' with civil disobedience in Ottawa

Ninety-nine young environmental activists achieved their goal on Parliament Hill on Monday by carrying out acts of civil disobedience. The boisterous group climbed over restricted-area police barricades near the Peace Tower.

Those arrested were part of a group of 200 protesting the possible construction of the Alberta to B.C. Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Some carried a giant banner reading: “Climate Leaders Don’t Build Pipelines.”

The 99 arrested were taken to a police station where they were issued citations and told not to appear on Parliament Hill for three months. They will not have criminal records, but police took their personal information. It’s unclear whether the information will go into a police database.

Protest spokeswoman Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, a third-year University of Toronto student, told media that pipeline approvals are a deal-breaker for many younger voters who helped propel the Trudeau Liberals to a majority government in last October’s general election.

One of the 99 protesters arrested in Ottawa. 
Fully intent on breaking the law, many of the 200 protesters on the Hill had been schooled in what they should and should not do during their law-breaking task. Called Climate 101, the protest was specifically for young people. It was organized by 350.org, a leading climate change fighting group.

Facing protesters on Parliament Hill is a routing activity for police – some 25,000 people were on the Hill a year ago to oppose climate change.  http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/organizers-say-over-25-000-at-ottawa-rally-for-climate-change-1.2679364

But for most of those arrested, Monday’s experience was their first brush with the law. When police officers placed a hand on their shoulder, there is no doubt their stomachs were churning.

However, it’s likely that many of those arrested will be ready to take part in future aggressive actions to protect the environment and slow climate change. They’re angry that the battle to slow global warming is being lost.

They don’t trust Trudeau 


First of all, environmentalists do not trust the Trudeau government to do the right thing and stop approving fossil fuel related projects. A go-ahead for Kinder Morgan is their biggest fear.

15 Sep 2016

Will Harper protect Canadian secrets at "the Donald Trump” of law firms?

Former Conservative Prime Minister  Stephen Harper apparently isn’t satisfied with having destroyed a lot of wonderful and important things in Canada. Now he has signed on with Dentons, the world’s largest elite law firm, to spread his dark viewpoints around the globe.

Dentons proudly announced Monday that Harper – who does not have a legal degree – and his new consulting company will work from its Calgary office.


For Harper, the appointment is his reward from the corporate set for many years of stalwart service. He will now be able to stuff his pockets with greenbacks and 76-cent Canadian dollars.

The recently resigned Calgary MP will no doubt stick a Canadian flag on his suitcase as he peddles his anti-social ideology. Hopefully, this will be Harper’s final insult to our national pride.

Dentons is like an octopus. It has more than 7,200 lawyers in over 50 countries, and seems to be constantly expanding.

In easily translatable jargon, Dentons  said Harper has teamed up with the firm to provide clients with “advice on market access, managing global geopolitical and economic risk, and maximize value in global markets” – i.e. postulating himself based on the credibility he gained during none years as PM.

The Donald Trump of the legal set


“Dentons is the Donald Trump of the legal vertical,” writes legal expert and columnist Mark A. Cohen. “The firm is brash, bigger-than-life, and something entirely different. It receives a disproportionate amount of press because it is always doing something that drops jaws.”

The firm surprised the legal/business world by forming a partnership with a huge Chinese firm closely tied to the Communist Party. They employ more than 6,000 lawyers that are working on hundreds of projects, both inside the country and internationally.

7 Sep 2016

As Mansbridge Exits: Does the CBC have the courage to build a TRULY GREAT news program?

The latest water cooler chat among many Canadians this week is speculation about who will replace Peter Mansbridge as host of The National, CBC-TV’s flagship news program. He announced earlier this week that, after 30 years as host of  the program.

The long-time anchor seemed to be trying to give his departure considerable significance by announcing 10 months ahead of time that he is leaving. Also boosting his own importance, his departure also coincides with the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday.

One wonders if Mansbridge expects an honorary star-studded tour hosting The National from CBC stations across the country, much like the retiring New York Yankees’ star shortstop Derek Jeter was honoured in every ball park during his last year.

Now CBC executives say they are going to usher in “the next phase” of The National. 

Jennifer McGuire, the General Manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, told The Globe and Mail she sees Mansbridge’s departure as “an opportunity to reimage the program.” She said the CBC will look at increasing the digital delivery of The National.

Finding a new host for The National should not be the CBC’s main goal.

CBC should address the fact that neither The National nor any other CBC news program is trusted very much by the public. The content of CBC News programs is just like programming at mainstream media, and the public doesn’t like either.

A Statistics Canada General Social Survey of national opinions for 2013 and 2014 revealed that only 40 per cent of Canadians had confidence in media.

Canadians don’t like mainstream news because they believe it lacks balance and that it reports lies.

The public is much smarter and more skeptical when digesting the news today than it was back in the 1960s when CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite was believed to be only second to God when it came to telling the truth.

One of the reasons people mistrust programs such as The National is because we have access to excellent upstart news sources on the Internet. Many sites are run by talented journalists who have fled the mainstream.

19 Aug 2016

Olympic groups wasting $-millions
while athletes struggled to get to Rio

Dozens of athletes from Canada and thousands from developing countries have had a difficult time raising the money needed to train and take part in the Olympics Games in Brazil.

In Canada, more than two dozen world-class athletes were so hard up for support that they resorted to launching crowdfunding campaigns to supplement the money they receive from government and perhaps corporate sponsors.

On the tiny Pacific Island country of Nauru, judo participant Judoka Uera  had to hold barbecues and knock on doors to get the funds he needed Getting to Rio fulfilled Uera’s lifelong dream.

However, hundreds of other athletes who had the same dream and could have qualified for Rio were unable to attend because of a lack of support.

Given the financial difficulties faced by athletes, you would think the Canadian Olympic Committee  (COC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would provide every dime possible to sports bodies to provide funding.

Not so.

In fact, both the COC and the IOC are guilty of greedily spending millions of dollars on themselves while struggling athletes scrambled for a few bucks to get to Rio.

COC spends $10-million-plus on office


The Canadian Olympics Committee’s main task is supposed to be fostering Canadian participation in the Olympics. So it’s a bit of a shock that it is spending $10-million on a new office – Olympic House  – in Montreal. Included in the grandiose facility is a $2.9-million board room, called the “Lausanne Room” – a tribute to the international masters which have their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

An artist's rendering of the stylized LED-light Olympic flame that will 'burn' outside the Canadian Olympic Committee offices at Olympic House in Montreal. 
In addition, hundreds-of-thousands of dollars are being spent on a spectacular outside lighting system for the office. To top it off, the Committee spent more than $1-million on a launch party for its new headquarters.

8 Aug 2016

Will World Social Forum
become leader the Left needs?

The annual gathering of the World Social Forum  (WSF) – the left’s response to the elitist annual Davos World Economic Forum  – is in session  in Montreal until Sunday, August 14.

More than 1,000 self-managed sessions  have activists discussing and creating progressive alternatives to traditional political, economic and social policies that they will take back to their own countries.

While as many as 100,000 people have attended sessions some years in some developing countries, perhaps 10,000 are taking part in Montreal.

Participants from the South found it too expensive to travel to Montreal. In addition, hundreds of activists from some countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco, Iran, Nigeria, Haiti and Nepal, were being refused visas.

WSF Meeting - Senegal
Montreal was selected this year because it has been the site of strong social and political activism over the last few years.

Meanwhile, the federal government seems to want to censor free expression at the WSF. It has distanced itself from the gathering following complaints that its programming included anti-Semitic content. According to news reports, the WSF was told last week to remove the Canadian government logo from its list of partners after two Liberal MPs expressed disgust over what they called a “blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon” on the event’s website.

The Forum is an exciting event writes John L. Hammond of City University of New York: “The scene bursts with energy as people who work on particular causes at home—feminism, the environment, indigenous rights, economic justice, human rights, AIDS treatment and prevention and many more—compare notes and strategies.

Networking, discussing key issues, and building alliances are the main activities at Forum sessions. The Forum can best be described as a “process”, an incubator facilitating new visions and ideas.
The activism bred at the WSF has supported change and revolution in several countries.

23 Jul 2016

Baton Rouge police fumble mass shooting;
procedures, racial attitudes must change.

Baton Rouge police respond to shooting of fellow officers.
On Sunday July 17, his birthday, a black man, former highly-regarded U.S. Marine Gavin Long, shot and killed three Baton Rouge police officers and injured three others.

The murders, following the killing of five officers in Dallas, also by a black man, increased racial tensions and hatred in the United States beyond the crisis level of the 1960s, when black people were attacked and beaten across the South during their fight for civil rights.

Gavin Long’s attack on Baton Rouge police was calculated and brutal. Nevertheless, an analysis of Long’s actions, and the response of the Baton Rouge police, reveal the failure and poor procedures of the policing system that almost certainly exist in many American communities.

Had police acted differently and if policing techniques were more sophisticated in Baton Rouge, fewer police might have been killed – or the deadly confrontation might not have occurred at all.

The militarization of local police forces across the U.S. made Gavin Long, and no doubt many like him, fear and mistrust police. Many police departments now behave more like a military force, sometimes abusing people rather than acting like a community service with the goal of protecting all citizens.