No Scrutiny Please, They’re Saudi.

This op-ed appeared in The Ottawa Citizen on October 1, 2015. 

In 2014, on the shores of Lake Geneva and next to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a lavish ceremony was held to honour the recipient of the Moral Courage Award — an annual honour bestowed by UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO dedicated to “(monitoring) the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter.“

Surrounded by Canadian diplomats and at least one fellow cabinet minister, Jason Kenney was feted “for demonstrating the courage to lead in upholding the founding principles of the United Nations, and defending the true principles of human rights.”

Lauding the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer declared: “When others have been silent while serial perpetrators of human rights abuses like Iran and Syria seek to hijack the UN’s human rights and anti-racism causes, Minister Kenney has been a clear and consistent voice for their millions of victims, opposing tyranny, hypocrisy and injustice.”

Accepting the award “on behalf of my colleagues and Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” Kenney sought to reiterate what he, his colleagues, and the prime minister have long portrayed as their unequivocal stance in defending the rights and dignities of those living under the world’s most oppressive regimes.

“Human rights are not subject to interpretation,” he said. “They exist by virtue of the dignity of the individual person. They cannot be written off simply because a handful of particularly brutal regimes have been given a veto powers in a bureaucratic body.”

You’d expect, then, after word leaked that Saudi Arabia, a leader in the abuse of human rights, restriction of religious freedom, and repression of women, was selected to head a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council, that both Kenney and Harper would be among the prominent human rights advocates – including UN Watch – leading the condemnation of the appointment.

One could argue the confluence of events coinciding with this incomprehensible decision — allegations of indiscriminate killing of civilians and ethic cleansing of Shiites in the Saudi-led aerial campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen; the imminent beading and crucifixion of Ali al-Nimr, nephew of a well-known Shia cleric and prominent critic of the Saud dynasty, arrested as a 17-year-old high school student for taking part in pro-democracy protests — made it incumbent upon Kenney and Harper, both of whom position themselves as global leaders in human rights advocacy, to front the charge in seeking to have the UNHRC appointment rescinded, to call for for an investigation into atrocities in Yemen, to demand clemency for a man condemned to death simply for seeking political reform.

Instead, they’ve offered absolute silence on each crucial matter detailed above. That’s not to say the government’s relationship with the Saudis has gone entirely unmentioned in recent days: When questioned about the ethics of his government’s secretive, multi-billion dollar arms deal with Riyadh — secured without the requisite human rights assessments or assurances such weaponry wouldn’t be used against the civilian population — Harper defended Saudi Arabia as a valued ally. He was concerned only, evidently, about possible job losses in Ontario should the deal be axed.

A key element of the Conservatives’ re-election bid has been to present themselves as warriors against fundamentalist ideologies and extremist entities. That they’ve deemed a woman who — entirely of her own accord — wears a niqab a greater threat than providing arms to a regime which adheres to and exports the actual medieval ideology which imposes draconian dress codes on women hints at the emptiness beneath the government’s veil of nationalistic rhetoric and international proclamations of moral authority.

Further reading:

Ten facts about Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia

This thread of links.

Questions for the Minister: HERE and HERE 

Need To Know: On Syria And The Migrant/Refugee Crisis

This was initially meant to be a lengthy Facebook post for those who look to me for information on complex matters (which I do happily, by request). However, it received such appreciation and requests to make it open to all (which I eventually did) that I thought I’d post it here, too, but with additional links/further info for those seeking a one-stop landing for information on the issue.


Here’s a round-up of information on the current migrant/refugee crisis, the impossible situation in the Middle East driving it, and what – if anything – can/should be done.

First off, however, regarding the loathesome, xenophobic memes making the rounds, courtesy of extremist websites/blogs, FB pages, and media personalities:

The FB page I’ve seen many sharing patently fake anti-Mulsim nonsense from – Britain First – is a NEO-NAZI OPERATION. It’s a white-supermacist organization, full-stop. If you find yourself sharing anything from that page/site – especially when it comes to anything about Muslims or Islam – perhaps you need to re-examine your own values before calling into question the beliefs of others.

A few helpful links on that:


The same goes for the bigotry emanating from other notoriously-ignorant FB pages – Right Wing News, Chicks On The Right, The Blaze (Glenn Beck’s operation), Fox News, The Rebel, Atlas Shrugged – or the personal pages of disgraced conservative figures like Allen West, Sarah Palin, Pamela Geller, Franklin Graham, Ben Carson, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Ezra Levant, Brian Lilley, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with being C/conservative, or holding a C/conservative world view. That’s not who these people are, nor what they represent. All of the above are part of a hateful segment which no respectable person takes seriously.

Granted, once in a while a few of those pages might post something innocuous (often one of those feel-good viral memes from other sites). That’s fine. It’s their intentional misinformation and fomenting of hatred that’s the problem.

There are reputable C/conservative publications / personalities in existence. These are not them.

A few quick (but hardly thorough) links debunking some of the most-shared — and so obviously BS — anti-refugee memes:




And related:

Here’s Shannon Gormley, deftly tackling the xenophobic nonsense:

And now…

The full story of the boy whose death woke the world up to the already years-long humanitarian catastrophe:

One of just many reports by Terry Glavin, who broke the Kurdi story:

A simple (but in being simple, not nearly thorough) explanation of why people are fleeing Syria:

More on that, with a deeper look at the death toll of ISIS versus the death toll of Syria’s Assad regime (Spoiler: ISIS isn’t the problem):

A phenomenal visualization of the death toll from Syria’s ISIS/Assad civil war:

In the war on ISIS: Friends, foes and in between

The new Cold War in the Middle East:


“Why can’t they just go home”? Because THERE IS NO HOME TO GO TO.



Liz Sly, on the emptying of Syria:

Her photo essay on children who only know life inside refugee camps:

And her early – and important – examination of the refugee crisis looming in the Middle East:

A must-see photo gallery of Syria’s children, and the hell they’re living:

The nightmare that is life for those who’ve not fled:

And the dilemma many are faced with:

After 4 years of conflict, more than half of Syria’s population of 22 million have been driven out:

On that note: It’s not just Syria, or migrants from Syria. We are also involved/supporting/enabling the bombing/destruction of Yemen



And, of course, Afghanistan, Iraq …



Some Iraqis are abandoning the fight against ISIS for safety in Europe:

Afghan NATO translators who helped coalition forces are having to take illegal routes West after having their asylum applications rejected:

To those demanding to know “why aren’t Muslim countries doing anything?!”

Uh, they are.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees are hosted in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Lebanon, Turkey & Jordan have taken so many refugees that it’s changing their demographics.


The tragic lives of refugee children in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, after being shuttled on trains and branded with numbers, refugees are being housed in former concentration camps. Yes, you read that right.




Some key explainers on the many factors fuelling the crisis:

1. U.N. Funding Shortfalls and Cuts in Refugee Aid Fuel Exodus to Europe:

2. Why migrants risk everything for a new life elsewhere:

3. 8 reasons the refugee crisis is happening now:

4. The migrant crisis: here’s why it’s not what you think –

What can WE do? Two of the most respectable voices in Canada:

1. Roméo Dallaire: Response to Syrian refugees ‘atrocious’:


2. Great interview with former chief of defence Rick Hillier:

Asylum seekers will keep coming, regardless of the chilly welcome from the West:

We should – and can – take in 20 times more refugees:

Excellent primer from Laura Payton on where Canadian policy stands:

Glavin, on the Conservative’s recent policy change:

Meanwhile, refugees are left to plead for family reunification:

A group of notables lay out eight steps to get more Syrian refugees into Canada:

Refugees are, in fact, a huge economic and cultural boon to society — not a burden. They are not welfare-seekers.


Why our chance to help those in desperate need is also a potentially historic economic opportunity:

And no, we do not give refugees better health care or government services than citizens receive





No matter the nonsense which continues to come from the current Conservative government:

Harper says only bogus refugees are denied health care. He’s wrong.

Why how we refer to those seeking asylum matters:

On fears of radicalization – nothing fights radicalization like opportunity.

Compassion towards needy Muslims is part of the antidote to a hateful jihadist ideology


Things to note re: the claims of ISIS infiltrating migrants.




ISIS doesn’t want Syrian migrants to flock to Europe, either:


Further reading – Follow the journey of the refugees with these in-depth journals:



Sun News Network: Let The (Incredibly Lazy) Astroturfing Begin!

It has been fascinating to watch the Conservative campaign strategy evolve over the past two weeks; working in tandem with Sun TV in a quest to secure a Harper majority, and to destroy the opposition leaders.

Aside from the standard issued talking points submitted by the Conservative war room and subsequently written into Sun TV scripts, the Tories are running a co-ordinated effort with their Sun Media counterparts as they try desperately to reach that magical number of 155 seats.

Take for instance, week number one (April 18-22) where the focus was entirely on Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Party, and the ‘threat’ of a coalition:

Brian Lilley, on Ignatieff and the Liberals:

“Michael Igantieff wants to be in power, but do we know where he stands?  He has flipped and flopped on so many big issues that it’s tough to know.  Look at his parliamentary record. Look at where he and his party stands. A quick glance shows that they would bring about a national daycare program to raise your kids for you, and they’d regulate what you can do with your own children by outlawing spanking and any use of force.

Now that part’s important.

Any use of force would be illegal. That could include making it illegal for you to strap your two year old, your wiggly two year old, into their car seat against their will … no parent would be allowed to strap their screming kid into a mini van.

The Liberlas would also expand ‘harm reduction sites’ from Vancouver to other major cities across Canada. What does that mean? Government sanctioned (drug) shooting galleries in a neighbourhood near you.

Oh, and convicts in jail? They’ll get ‘harm reduction’ as well. That’s right, free smack for junkies in jail and a needle exchange program to administer illegal drugs in Canada’s prisons.”

Note, that the ‘harm reduction site’ Lilley despises so much refers to Insite, Vancouver’s safe injection site which Harper has been fighting to have shut down despite clear, scientific, evidence the program saves lives.

You can listen to Lilley, Adler, and Levant discussing this issue, and alternatives  to Insite (such as dumping drug addicts in a deserted place – yes that what Lilley actually proposes), BY CLICKING HERE.

(Let’s not forget Lilley’s “Exclusive: Ignatieff planned the Iraq war!” fabrication, which made star appearance during their first week on the air.)

Enter the weekend, a monumental surge in the polls by Jack Layton and the NDP, and a shift in strategy for week number two (April 25-29), the week of Sun Media’s “Layton caught in Bawdy house!” smear campaign.

Charles Adler, on Layton and the NDP (April 26):

“Jack Layton’s resemblence to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou – it’s uncanny, both in appearance, and in policy.

NDP love for big government has the potential to turn Canada into the next Greece, with a top heave public sector that could break the neck of the economy. This prospect is scaring a lot of citizens of Adler Nation.

From Peter in Port Rowan, Ontario, he says ‘in my youth I lived in Communist East Germany and we had to adore Vladimir Lenin – now I see a remarkable physical likeness in Layton to Lenin – their socialist policies are pretty close also. De we really want that kind of a Country? God help us and do not let this come to pass.’

Wait a minute … Jack Layton, George Papandreou, Vladimir Lenin – it’s getting a little eerie, don’t you think? Three men, three moustaches, three power alley hair-do’s …”

“Layton doesn’t need 100 (seats) to become Prime Minister. He could do it with fewer than 80. What are the consequences of a coalition led either by the NDP or by the Liberals? David Frum made that clear last night, said that Harper would not govern if he get’s a minority. And the premise is, if Harper doesn’t get the magic 155 seat total, Jack — with the help of Igantieff and Duceppe — Jack could move into 24 Sussex with Olivia.

The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Adler and his favourite (not-an-actual) Liberal Dan Donovan, on Layton (April 29):

Adler – “At this point, what’s most important, I think you and I could agree, what’s most important is not having the NDP at 24 Sussex, I think that’s what’s crucial. So here’s my question to you: If the Liberals end up in the number three spot as now appears likely, if they’re number three will they be willing to do some sort of deal with Stephen Harper, to give the Country as much stability as possible, and to keep Jack and Olivia out of 24 Sussex? I think that’s the question tonight that most people are most interested in pursuing.”

Donovan – “We’ve agreed and disagreed on many things over the past year, but I think one thing we both can agree on is that Jack Layton would be an absolute calamity for this country, and I think a lot of Liberals, like myself, who want reform in the party and want us to reach further and do things better do not see a Jack Layton led coalition.”

Take note of Adler’s statement from April 26: “The ‘Stop Jack’ campaign, in the next few days, may proove meaningless if the blood is already in the water.”

Two days later, on April 28, the domain was registered, and the ‘stop Layton’ Astroturf campaign was officially launched. That evening, Stephen Taylor, director of the National Citizen’s Coalition (NCC), wondered aloud if there were “Liberals out there who would rather vote for Harper than see Jack Layton form any sort of government.”

On the morning of April 29, Taylor introduced to the public for the first time, feigning ignorance of its origin in the process.

That evening Adler spent a good portion of his show promoting the cause (as detailed above),  building on a plea he issued to readers earlier in the day:

 “A few years back, (Ignatieff) cracked a few standing beside Stephane Dion. There is very little doubt that when the clock strikes 12 on Monday night, the party of Chretien and Trudeau will have struck out, finishing No. 3 for the first time ever. The big question on Tuesday morning will be, how does the Grit family deal with sickly Uncle Grit?

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Stephen Harper must scrub up, then go into the operating room.

The PM needs to find the right scalpel to save Uncle Grit’s life. If he can find a way to give Michael Ignatieff a shred of dignity, he might be able to prevent Ignatieff from seeking revenge by cutting a deal with Jack Layton, making the NDP leader prime minister.

There is a coalition government in Britain today. It was formed by the party that got the most seats with the party that got the third-most. It was formed by the Conservatives and Liberals. Do we still have a British parliamentary system?

Suck it up boys. The country is surely worth it.”

On April 30, Harper himself began trumpeting the strategy, both on the campaign trail and through the media, telling the Toronto Star,

“I believe that as the choice becomes clear … a lot of traditional, Liberal, moderate voters, are going to look and going to say that the Conservative platform — and where the Conservative Party is taking the economy — is a hell of a lot closer to what I think than what the NDP has in its platform …”

“I think a lot of Liberals who understand that, are going to think twice and I think ultimately, rather than follow their party blindly down an alley toward the kind of merger with the NDP that Mr. Ignatieff mused about, I think they will take a hard look at voting for this (Conservative) party, and I welcome that.”

As Canadians head to the polls in what, by all accounts, promises to be an historic election, it’ll be interesting to see how the partnership bewteen the Conservatives, Sun Media, and the NCC continues to unfold.

If Harper fails to get his majority, you can be sure Sun Media will be urging Liberals to ‘do the responsible thing’ and ‘save the country from Layton,’ knowing full well a full merger between the Liberals and the NDP is a very real possibility.

And if that happens, the prospect of a Conservative government completely evaporates, not only for the current election cycle, but quite possibly well into the future.

Cross-posted at 

Below is an actual picture from Adler’s show, comparing Layton to Lenin

Ezra Levant vs Reality – A Prelude To Fox News North

The battle between supporters and opponents of Sun TV News – the Fox News style channel headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former communications director Kory Teneycke – reached new heights when members of the ‘Fox News North’ team took issue with a growing online petition urging the CRTC to reject Quebecor’s (QMI) request to “make it mandatory for cable and satellite networks to provide access to the channel ‘for a maximum period of three years to effectively expose and promote its programming to viewers across Canada’.”

In an article entitled Anti-Sun TV News campaign in U.S., Sun Media (QMI)’s Brian Lilley alleges the petition is the work of “a group of left-wing Americans supporting interests in Canada that don’t want to see competition in news broadcasting … backed by a lobby group that has taken millions of dollars from currency speculator George Soros.”

What followed is known as the “saga of the Great Sun TV Petition,” in which Teneycke, fellow Sun Media (QMI) personality Ezra Levant, and Conservative blogger/activist and founder of the Stephen Taylor, took to twitter to express their ‘outrage’, as ‘someone‘ spammed the petition with the names of journalists, actors, and fictional characters, and simultaneously penned an editorial about “why Canada needs Sun TV News.”

In their co-ordinated effort, Teneycke, Levant, and Taylor not only attacked – a global online advocacy community whose co-founder and Executive Director, Ricken Patel, happens to be Canadian – as a foreign operation, but specifically, and repeatedly, refer to George Soros – a progressive philanthropist who is despised by Right Wing America.

By connecting Soros to the Avaaz petition, Lilley, Levant, Taylor, and Tenycke aim to stoke fear in their followers who, more often than not, are avid consumers of extreme Right Wing media such as Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Andrew Breitbart (, Pamela Gellar (,, and Judi McLeod (

Soros can be found at the centre of nearly every conspiracy concocted by the aforementioned, widely discredited media sources, who’ve alleged:

Soros is a Nazi Collaborator
Move over, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. There’s a new kid on the block: Soros
Obama-Soros Blueprint For US Surrender To Islam
Soros’ New World Order
Soros is Obama’s Secret Boss
The Oil Spill Was An Obama-Soros Act Of War Against The United States
Soros Is The Anti-Christ
Soros is The Biggest Enemy Of Freedom
Soros And Obama: Crime Inc.

As if on cue, Levant – who spent the summer of 1994 in Washington, D.C., in an internship arranged by the Right Wing Charles G. Koch Foundation Summer Fellow Program – used his Sunday Sun column to import the ‘Soros is scary’ propaganda from his conspiracy theorist counterparts in the U.S.

In his piece Moral hollowness at work, Levant claims Soros, a Hungarian Jew born in 1930, survived the holocaust by ‘collaborating with the Nazis.’

“First he worked for the Judenrat,” writes Levant. “That was the Jewish council set up by the Nazis to do their dirty work for them. Instead of the Nazis rounding up Jews every day for the trains, they delegated that murderous task to Jews who were willing to do it to survive another day at the expense of their neighbours.”

This oft repeated ‘nazi collaborator’ smear is taken from the pages of The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, a thoroughly discredited book written by right-wing pundits David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

Levant’s fictitious claim that Soros “collaborated with the nazis” and “worked for the Judenrat,” is based wholly on unsourced allegations, originating in The Shadow Party, and echoed by Right Wing pundits.

Moving on, Levant writes:

“(Soros’ father) hatched a better plan for his son. He bribed a non-Jewish official at the agriculture ministry to let (Soros) live with him. (Soros) helped the official confiscate property from Jews.

By collaborating with the Nazis, (Soros) survived the Holocaust. He turned on other Jews to spare himself.

How does Soros feel about what he did as a teenager? Has it kept him up at night?

Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes asked him that. Was it difficult? ‘Not at all,’ Soros answered.

‘No feeling of guilt?’ asked Kroft. ‘No,’ said Soros. ‘There was no sense that I shouldn’t be there. If I wasn’t doing it, somebody else would be taking it away anyhow. Whether I was there or not. So I had no sense of guilt.’

A Nazi would steal the Jews’ property anyways. So why not him?”

The assertion that Soros confiscated property of other Jews – including the imaginary interview Levant creates by cropping and rearranging portions of the actual 60 Minutes Soros interview – was debunked years ago, when the 60 Minutes interview was first selectively edited by conservative columnist Martin Peretz.

As evidenced by the unedited portion of the interview, the conversation between Kroft and Soros bears little semblance to the version scribed by Levant:

Kroft: You’re a Hungarian Jew …


Kroft: … who escaped the Holocaust …

Soros: Mm-hmm.

Kroft: … by posing as a Christian.

Soros: Right.

Kroft: And you watched lots of people get shipped off to the death camps.

Soros: Right. I was 14 years old. And I would say that that’s when my character was made.

Kroft: In what way?

Soros: That one should think ahead. One should understand that — and anticipate events and when, when one is threatened. It was a tremendous threat of evil. I mean, it was a — a very personal threat of evil.

KROFT: My understanding is that you went out with this protector of yours who swore that you were his adopted godson.

SOROS: Yes. Yes.

KROFT: Went out, in fact, and helped in the confiscation of property from the Jews.

SOROS: Yes. That’s right. Yes.

Kroft: I mean, that’s — that sounds like an experience that would send lots of people to the psychiatric couch for many, many years. Was it difficult?

Soros: Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don’t … you don’t see the connection. But it was — it created no — no problem at all.

Kroft: No feeling of guilt?

Soros: No.

Kroft: For example, that, ‘I’m Jewish, and here I am, watching these people go. I could just as easily be these, I should be there.’ None of that?

Soros: Well, of course, … I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was — well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in the markets — that is I weren’t there — of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would – would — would be taking it away anyhow. And it was the — whether I was there or not, I was only a spectator, the property was being taken away. So the — I had no role in taking away that property. So I had no sense of guilt.

As they say, context is everything.

Soros had ‘no feeling of guilt’ because the property was going to be taken whether he was standing by watching, pretending to be the Christian Godson of an employee of Hungary’s Ministry of Agriculture, or whether he was among the Jews apprehended by the Nazis.

He did not, himself, take any property, nor did he condone it. He was an adolescent who watched it happen; who was powerless in the face of certain death; who could have done nothing to stop what he witnessed.

The remainder of Levant’s article plays out in the same fashion; inaccurate claims, misattributed quotes, baseless allegations.

Borrowing again from the Right Wing blogosphere, Levant claims “(Soros) called the world’s financial crisis ‘the culmination of my life’s work’.”

Had Levant bothered to locate the original source of this claim, he’d have learned the entire article has since been pulled, and replaced with a statement acknowledging that Soros “in fact made no such comment.”

The article reaches an ultimate low, however, when Levant invokes Soros’ dead mother, stating “he is a man who boasted he offered to help his mother commit suicide. Apparently he didn’t see enough death in Hungary.”

This repulsive attack reveals far more about Levant than it does Soros; Especially given that, in full context, Soros in no way ‘boasts’ about offering to help his mother end her life.

In 1994 at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Soros reflected on the experience of dying and bereavement in America while endorsing the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.

In his address, Soros explained how he “chose the problem of dying” as an area promote a better understanding “because of some very personal experiences in connection with the death of my parents, both of whom I was very devoted to and loved dearly.”

“My father died at home in 1963. He was terminally ill. Although he agreed to an operation, he didn’t particularly want to survive it because he was afraid that the combination of the illness and the operation would invade and destroy his autonomy as a human being. Unfortunately, that in fact is what happened. After the operation he had very little time left. I’m afraid I kind of wrote him off at that point. I was there when he died, yet I let him die alone. I could see him, but I wasn’t at his bedside. The day after he died I went into the office. I didn’t talk about my fathers death. So I kind of denied his dying, I certainly didn’t participate in it. Afterwards, I read Kubler-Ross and learned that I might have maintained contact with him if I tried. Had I read Kubler-Ross earlier I would have probably held his hand, because I did love him. I just didn’t know that it might make a difference. I forgave myself because I did not know any better

My mothers death was more recent. She had joined the Hemlock Society and had at hand a means of doing away with herself. I asked her if she needed my help; I offered it, although I wasn’t particularly keen to do it. But I would have helped her because I felt that I owed it to her. At the point of decision, however, she did not want to take her own life, and I’m glad she didn’t. Her decision gave the family a chance to rally around and be there as she prepared to die. And this time we did maintain good contact right to the end.”

Hooray for context.

Before ending this piece of fiction disguised as an article, Levant labels Soros as a “sociopath” who “has turned his attention to Canada” using “one of his front groups, called Avaaz” to petition the CRTC to reject “Sun Media’s license for a TV news channel.”

“The petition is a fraud!” Levant rages. “And the whole campaign is run out of New York.”

Cue the scary music for Levant’s grand finale:

“Do you think Soros should determine what you can watch on TV? Do you think that decision should be made in New York? Is our freedom of speech just another trinket for him to buy and sell? Hasn’t Soros silenced enough voices in his life?”

Really, Ezra?  “Hasn’t Soros silenced enough voices in his life?”


As stated earlier, Avaaz is a global operation. Launched in 2007 with the intent to “organize citizens everywhere to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want,” Avaaz “has grown to 5.5 million members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history.”

Being a global operation, Canadians are able to launch petitions for Canadian interests; Decisions “made in New York?” Not at all.

So where exactly does Soros factor into this debate?

He doesn’t.

Despite the repeated assertions of the contrary, Avaaz is not a “front group” for Soros, and by all accounts (excluding the unproven claims saturating conservative websites), Soros is, in no way, involved with this organization.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story, eh Levant?

After all, it helps draw attention away from reports of last year’s New York lunch date between Prime Minister Harper, Teneycke (driving force behind Sun TV News, who was still Harper’s director of communications at the time), News Corp. (parent company of Fox News) chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Fox News president Roger Ailes.

Though they’re (now) claiming not to be a Canadian version of Fox News, the ‘journalism‘ exhibited future Sun TV News host Ezra Levant provides a clear example of what Canadians can expect from Teneycke’s tabloid news organization, post ideological purge.

Fair and Balanced.” “We Report, You Decide.” “Hard NewsStraight Talk.”

They distort, you comply.

The CRTC wants to hear from the public regarding Sun TV News’ application. Make your voice heard in a single click!

You can also weigh in by signing the petition.

Cross-posted at


Two updates:

First, Kory Teneycke has resigned from Sun Media (QMI) as an RCMP investigation into the spamming of the petition edges closer to him. (Replacing Teneycke is former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s spokesman, Luc Lavoie — so it’s one Tory insider for another.

*Note – as of January 2011, Teneycke is officially back in the saddle at Sun Media (QMI) *

Second, George Soros is threatening to sue Sun Media (QMI) – which includes Levant.

HERE is a snippet of Levant’s twitter attacks on Soros, and HERE is a snippet of Levant’s attacks on me following the publication of this article.


Update – Saturday September 18, 1:00 am

Sun Media (QMI) and Levant issue a retraction and apology for Levant’s column:

On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Upon receiving a letter of complaint from Mr. Soros’s legal counsel on September 13, 2010, Sun Media Corporation always intended to publish a retraction and apology for this column. Despite constant efforts on both sides, Sun Media and Mr. Soros’s counsel were unable to reach agreement on the content of a retraction.

The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.

Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused to him.

Canadian Immigration, Conservative Xenophobia

In the United States, debate surrounding Arizona’s new harsh immigration policy – the ‘papers please‘ law – moved from arguing the merits, necessity and constitutionality of SB1070, to a nonsensical discussion about the 14th amendment; the part of the constitution which guarantees American citizenship to all persons born in the United States. Republican lawmakers, seemingly unsatisfied with even the most draconian elements of the ‘papers please’ law, felt it necessary to take immigration reform to the extreme, calling for a repeal of the 14th amendment.

Explanations given to justify the radical proposal have ranged from the farcical (‘anchor babies‘), to the downright hysterical (‘terror babies‘). Less conspiratorial, but equally inaccurate, is the mysterious ‘crime wave‘ Republicans argue demonstrates the need for immigration policy overkill. This argument was recently discussed, and debunked, on the Rachel Maddow Show:

MADDOW: You might have also heard the one about Phoenix, Arizona, now being the number two kidnapping capital of the world.That‘s become a mainstream conservative talking point trotted out over and over again by Republicans. But when PolitiFact, Texas checked out that claimed when it was made by the lieutenant governor of Texas in June, they found it to be, and I quote, ‘false.’ Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain repeated it a few weeks later on Meet the Press.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the number two kidnapping capital of the world? Does that mean our border is safe? Of course not.


MADDOW: Same claim, same results-and I quote, ‘false,’ according to PolitiFact. Despite that, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, undaunted, is still going for it.


SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Phoenix is a very large source of kidnapping. It‘s called the kidnapping capital of the United States.


MADDOW: It‘s like it‘s too good of a talking point to stop using it even though it‘s not true. Jon Kyl also distinguished himself by going to great detail about how awful illegal immigration has made crime in his home state of Arizona-a state you would think he would take care to know some factual things about.


HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS: In some of these border towns that were thought to be susceptible to lawbreaking of illegal immigrants, the crime is actually down. Crime in Phoenix, for instance, is down significantly over the last couple of years.

KYL: Well, that‘s a-that‘s a gross generalization. Property crimes are up. Certain property crimes on certain parts of the citizenry are up.


MADDOW: Property crimes are up, violent crimes are up-define up, Senator Kyl. Let‘s take property crimes first. There were about 231,000 property crimes in the state of Arizona last year, in 2009. That was down from the year before, which had about 262,000 property crimes-a number that was down from the year before that, which was down from the year before that. Property crimes there, down in Arizona right now.
Senator Kyl also mentioned violent crimes being up. Let‘s have a look at what he thinks about up in this context. In 2009, there were 26,000 violent crime offenses in Arizona, a number down from the year before, which was also down from the year before that, which happened to be down from the year before that.
So, down, down, down, down, down-also known in anti-immigrant white people politics as up.


MCCAIN: The United States of America has an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen, and numbers that stagger those who are unfamiliar with the issues.


MADDOW: Yes, they are staggering numbers-for the exact opposite reason of what you mean.Whether or not you want to run on an anti-immigrant platform is up to you. It‘s a political decision. Everyone gets to choose their own political strategy. But as they say, you do not get to choose your own facts.

The common thread linking the various Republican arguments for repealing the 14th amendment is fear – fear of non-white citizens; fear of men, women, and even children, who ‘don’t look like you.‘ To justify their deeply held anti-immigration ideology, Republicans are presenting misinformation as fact, disseminating fear as a means to a legislative end.

Canada, for the most part, has been immune to such radical immigration demagoguery, as we are a nation built on immigration; from the Europeans who first explored in the 15th century, to the estimated 1.5 million displaced persons, war brides, evacuated children, and refugees who passed through Pier 21 – the gateway to Canada – between the years of 1928 and 1971.

Canada’s history of immigration is so cherished, the stories of migrants so important, that on June 25, 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper designated Pier 21 as a National Museum of Immigration.

“No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free and open immigration,” Harper declared. “In every region and across all professions, new Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life. It takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family. Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.”

What a difference a year makes.

The harrowing voyage of the MV Sun Sea, in which 492 Tamil refugees endured months of squalor in dangerous waters to escape “mass murders, disappearances and extortion” following 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka, mirrors the experience of so many migrants who passed through Pier 21.

However, unlike Pier 21, there were no counsellors waiting to hear the Sri Lankan’s stories; no team of volunteers eager to swiftly process and fairly evaluate the prospective new residents. Instead, the men, women and children aboard the MV Sun Sea arrived to allegations, leveled by the Harper government, of ties to terrorism and human trafficking; accused by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews of being a “test boat” for an apparent mass immigration conspiracy.

As for the Prime Minister, compare the above remarks made at Pier 21 just fourteen months ago, to this statement he gave following the arrival of the MV Sun Sea:

“Canadians are pretty concerned when a whole boat of people comes – not through any normal application process, not through any normal arrival channel – and just simply lands.

We are responsible for the security of our borders, and the ability to welcome people, or not welcome people, when they come. This trend gives us some significant concern, and we’ll take whatever steps are necessary going forward … We will not hesitate to strengthen the laws if we have to.”

So Harper, who one year ago asserted “it takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family,” no longer feels those “who make the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian.”

Instead, he seems to have adopted the Republican ‘immigrants are scary’ mantra; using the MV Sun Sea as a political prop in an effort to appear ‘tough on immigration.’ Furthermore, like his ideological equals to the South, Harper has proposed changing existing legislation to suit his ideology; specifically the 1985 Supreme Court Ruling which guarantees constitutional charter rights to refugee claimants in Canada.

The Conservatives’ anti-immigration demagoguery has been amplified by Sun Media (QMI), the organization known as Fox News North, now headed by Harper’s former director of communications Kory Teneycke. Sun Media (QMI) has fervently tried to vilify, discredit, and slander the Sri Lankan migrants, even going so far as to incite violence against future refugees.

The xenophobia propagated by both the Harper government and their colleagues in the press is disgraceful to who we are as a nation. It is an insult to our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who went to great lengths to journey here; who are among the proudest residents to call Canada home.

To discredit those who seek refuge within Canadian borders, fleeing circumstances such as war, poverty, oppression, and corruption, before they have a chance to present their case, does a great disservice to the generations of migrant Canadians on which the Country was built.

Those who’ve attacked the migrants aboard the MV Sun Sea would be wise to listen to the stories of past immigrants, for “too many people in Canada forget that people crawl across minefields to get here.” ~ Ignat Kaneff, Bulgarian born Great Canadian.

Cross-posted at

This is the ‘General cc Ballou’, the ship that carried my Polish grandparents to Pier 21 from a camp in Germany following the Second World War.



I encourage you to read the personal accounts of those who came to Canada through Pier 21 HERE. It’s a proud part of our history.

Lies, Damned Lies, And The Census

“(The Unites States), and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.” – Stephen Harper, 1997

In an astonishing display of incompetence, and a complete disregard for the facts, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is forging ahead with plans to scrap the mandatory long form census. The move, cited as “government stupidity” by the former directer of the United States Census Bureau, has drawn the ire of academics, statisticians, economists, genealogists, medical associations, provincial and municipal governments, religious organizations, and charitable groups, just to name a few. It has also prompted criticism from former head of Statistics Canada Ivan Fellegi, and resulted in the very public resignation of Harper’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh. In a letter posted to the Statistics Canada website, Sheikh wrote in part:

“I have always honoured my oath and responsibilities as a public servant as well as those specific to the Statistics Act. I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

It cannot.

Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister.”

(Sheikh’s letter was quickly removed by the government. Anticipating this act of cowardice by Harper, I captured a screen shot for documentation.)

Sheikh’s revelation flies in the face of assurances given by Industry Minister Tony Clement, who claimed he’d “asked [Statistics Canada] specifically, ‘Are you confident you can do your job?’ They said ‘If you do these extra things: the extra advertising and the extra sample size, then yes, we can do our job.’ ”

Clement’s false assertion that he had the support of Statistics Canada is one of the many flawed arguments put forward by the Harper government in efforts to garner support for the unpopular, and purely ideological, policy decision.

The primary justification given for scrapping the long form census were based on Conservative allegations of ‘outrage’ by ‘ordinary citizens “who felt [the long form census] was an intrusion of their privacy.” Taking this explanation one step further, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier insisted he personally “received an average of 1,000 e-mails a day during the [2006] census to my MP office complaining about all that, so I know that Canadians who were obliged to answer that long-form census – very intrusive in their personal lives – I know they were upset.”

So, were Canadians really up in arms over the census in the past? Not according to the Canada’s privacy watchdog, whose office received a grand total of THREE complaints regarding the census over the course of the last decade. Furthermore, a comprehensive study undertaken by Statistics Canada following the 2006 census fails to substantiate the government’s claim of widespread privacy concerns from citizens. The 53 page StatsCan report, which garnered over 1,200 responses from “government agencies, municipalities, non-profits, community groups, academics, private businesses and ordinary citizens,” makes no mention of Canadians finding the census intrusive or overly burdensome.

As for the “thousands of e-mail [complaints] a day” Bernier claimed he’d received during the 2006 census period, he alleges “these messages were obviously not filed for future use by my staff and were deleted.”

Of course they were.

Regarding the reliability and accuracy of information gathered through a voluntary questionnaire, one only has to look to our neighbours to the south, who in 2003 experimented with a voluntary survey in place of a mandatory census. What resulted was an expensive mess of skewed and degraded data, prompting an about face on the very idea of a voluntary form.

Even so, despite having already proven to be a costly blunder, Industry Minister Clement took to twitter to refute criticism from experts who’ve warned that a voluntary survey would result in key segments of the population being underrepresented. Clement’s argument? “Wrong. Statisticians can ensure validity w larger sample size.”

The scope of ignorance displayed by that single tweet was summed up with devastating beauty by Andrew Potter of Maclean’s:

“Clement’s statistical illiteracy is so profound it gives one vertigo. The notion that simply making the sample bigger can’t fix a skewed sample is something undergraduates learn in first-year classes, yet is somehow beyond the mental grasp of a senior minister of a G8 country. And the comedic benefit of watching Clement fail first-year economics is undermined by the cold realization that he fundamentally does not understand the intellectual foundations of the files that he controls. When he is cornered by his intellectual betters, moreover, Clement’s instinct is to reach for the debating-hall comforts of cheap populism.”

Thus is the crux of the matter: The ill-advised move on the census is based not on tangible arguments nor on substantiated data, but on a shrewd political calculation made to play to the Conservative’s ideological base. Notice the champions of doing away with the long form census are Right Wing ideologues who read from a single script of talking points; Who share in a fundamental lack of understanding surrounding the importance of the long form census, and who exhibit a callous disregard for the people who’d be impacted the most.

Even Tom Flanagan, influential conservative and former chief of staff to Harper, fails to see the justification behind the move, noting “it’s just never been an issue in the Conservative movement. It just literally comes out of nowhere as far as I can see.” Flanagan is also critical of the underhanded manner by which the Conservatives made the change, believing “it was an exercise in bad government to suddenly spring this on the public without any previous discussion, no consultation at all. You don’t deal with the public that way in a democracy.”

Unfortunately, as recent events have demonstrated, the Harper government isn’t particularly concerned about a functioning democracy. They remain oblivious to the havoc created as a result of ill-conceived policy decisions, and at this moment, remain unfazed as a world class Canadian institution devolves into chaos. Regarded as the international gold standard, the legacy of Statistics Canada at risk of being permanently tarnished through no fault of its own; Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale, echoing the sentiment from within Statistics Canada, telling reporters that “[Statistics Canada’s] reputation is hanging by a thread at the hands of a bungling minister and a Conservative government that simply doesn’t believe in fact-based decision making.”

Indeed, ignoring evidence while crafting policy has become a recurring theme for this government; One who’d rather build talking points to support their desired legislation, than build legislation based on indisputable, real world, information.

Our current legislators would be wise to heed the advice of André Pratte of La Presse:

“Before this government does even more harm to the institution that is the government of Canada, the intelligent people within the federal cabinet have a duty to rise up and stop the pillaging. Otherwise, the Harper government may be remembered as one of the most incompetent and harmful governments this country has ever known.”

Further reading: A breakdown of how the long form census information is used, and a breakdown of the consequences of ending the mandatory long form census.

Cross-posted at

Chevron – Because BP Wasn’t Drilling Deep Enough

Fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana, upwards of 100,000 barrels per day of oil are gushing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon well into the Gulf of Mexico. With the equivalent of one Exxon-Valdez seeping into the Gulf every three days, mass devastation of the wetlands, wildlife, and marshes surrounding the area is a forgone conclusion. Those who make a living in fishing industry, often through family businesses inherited from generations past, can only watch as their entire way of life is slowly consumed by the crude.

The catastrophe aboard the Deepwater Horizon was not supposed to happen; BP all but guaranteed the well’s safety, submitting in it’s 2009 exploration plan it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” If an accident were to occur, BP insisted, “no significant adverse impacts are expected … due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented.”

BP’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Oil Spill Response Plan fares no better in accuracy, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) noting BP’s plan “is studded with patently inaccurate and inapplicable information … most notably the response plan contains no information about how to cope with a deep water blowout, … does not contain information about tracking sub-surface oil plumes from deepwater blowouts, … (and) lacks any oceanographic or meteorological information, despite the clear relevance of this data to spill response.”
Among the “outright inanities” found in the farcical plan is the inclusion of “sea lions, seals, sea otters (and) walruses” as “sensitive biological resources” in the Gulf, listing a Japanese home shopping website as a “primary equipment provider for BP in the Gulf of Mexico Region (for) rapid deployment of spill response resources,” and forbidding company spokespeople of promising “that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal.” Perhaps the most egregious example of BP’s utter ineptitude at disaster response readiness lies in the contact referenced to monitor the impact oil would have on local marine and wildlife. Listed as the emergency contact is Dr. Peter Lutz, former biologist and university professor. The problem? Dr. Lutz died of pancreatic cancer in 2005.

The disaster in the Gulf can be traced back to the Bush/Cheney administration, and is a direct result of the incestuous relationship between Republican lawmakers and the oil industry. Between the years 2001 – 2008, the Bush White House cut funding to clean energy research and development, provided multiple tax breaks and subsidies to the Oil and Gas industry, approved drilling along coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and lifted the decades old moratorium – put in place by George H.W. Bush – on offshore oil drilling. But by far, the single most destructive element of the Bush/Cheney energy platform was in allowing the industry to self-regulate.

“The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and collecting royalties from companies – decided in 2005 that oil companies, rather than the government, were in the best position to determining their operations’ environmental impacts. This meant that there was no longer any need for an environmental impact analysis for deepwater drilling, though an earlier draft stated that such drilling experience was limited.”

The fallout of these industry-friendly policies can be seen throughout the Gulf region; toxic subsea plumes comprised of oil and chemical dispersants; marshes, wetlands and wildlife saturated in heavy crude; pristine beaches spotted by a repeated deluge of tarballs.

As days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, the sense of helplessness felt by those directly effected by the spill has now engulfed an entire nation; All the while, the oil continues to flow, unabated, into the Gulf of Mexico.

Ironically, as North American attention is focused primarily on the crisis in the Gulf, drilling quietly began on an even deeper well some 430 km off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Located in the Orphan Basin, Chevron’s Lona 0-55 exploration well is being drilled in 2600 meters (8530 ft) of water; nearly twice the depth of BP’s 1500 meter (5000 ft) deep Deepwater Horizon well. Because this class of ultra deep exploration poses a substantially greater risk than did the BP rig, one would assume greater precautionary measures and safety procedures would be required to gain approval to drill such a well.

Such an assumption, however, would be incorrect.

The long standing rules governing offshore drilling in Canada were once rigorous, requiring oil companies to install specific safety equipment, such as certain types of blowout preventers and safety valves. So detailed were the regulations, they directed a wide range of procedures, from how companies were to carry out the cementing process, to how they should conduct pressure tests. Thorough environmental assessments were made by the federal government, and were mandatory prior to awarding a drilling contract.

But much like the Bush/Cheney administration, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative colleagues have implemented industry friendly policies, gutting environmental oversight, and handing over regulatory duties to the industry friendly boards.

Under policy changes that came into effect late 2009, deep well operators are asked to “set environmental-protection goals, list the equipment they will use to achieve those goals and disclose their plans for inspecting, testing and maintaining such gear;” Governmental inspection and specific safety equipment installation is no longer required.

Environmental protections were the target In March 2010, when Harper shifted assessment duties from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, to the pro-industry National Energy Board (NEB). Environment Minister Jim Prentice was also given free rein to severely limit, essentially cancelling environmental assessments on any given project; a move he argued would “get good environmental outcomes,” but without “delaying and frustrating projects through unnecessary red tape.”

Another component of Harper’s watered down legislation deals specifically with emergency response plans; particularly the requirement of relief wells. Prior to the 2009 regulatory changes, Oil companies were mandated to present a detailed list of contingency plans as well as identify a specific rig to drill a relief well. Required information about the stand-by rig included its “operating capability, its location, contractual commitments, state of readiness and the schedule for mobilization to the well site.” Now, as a result of Harper’s regulatory revisions, the requirement for thorough, detailed relief well plans no longer exists.

Because Chevron is drilling at record depths, reaching farther into the deep than has ever before been attempted, the policy changes enacted by the Harper government are a grave cause for concern. But beyond the weakened set of rules governing the oil industry are specific questions surrounding Chevron, and the federal-provincial agency – the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) – who approved, and is regulating, the Lona 0-55 well.

Like the NEB, who’s industry insider members include a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of fame, the C-NLOPB has come under fire for it’s close ties to the Oil and Gas sector. C-NLOPB chairman and CEO Max Ruelokke is a veteran of the offshore oil industry, and at the time of his 2005 appointment to the C-NLOPB he was general manager of AMEC Oil and Gas.

Between 2000-2008, AMEC was “delivering deepwater Gulf of Mexico production to market” including “engineering, procurement, inspection, construction management, health, safety and environment, action tracking, quality assurance / quality control, environmental support, and flow assurance.”

Location – Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana, US.
Client – BP.

According to project manager John Barnes, AMEC “developed and implemented an innovative health, safety, and environmental management system; successfully managed stakeholder interfaces; and ensured minimal impact on Louisiana’s environmentally sensitive wetlands – a great result.”

Even as Ruelokke witnesses the disaster with the BP well, the former AMEC general manager sees no additional risk with Chevron’s well; Nor does he support a drilling moratorium. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, a Conservative who in 2006 blasted Harper for being “in bed with the oil industry,” is himself downplaying the potential impact of a spill, suggesting “the colder water and thicker crude in the Orphan Basin would mean the oil would sink to the bottom instead of washing toward the coast.”

The assurances of the safety of the Lona 0-55 rig, including Ruelokke’s claim “we would never allow (a disaster like is happening in the Gulf) to happen. Our policy, procedures, training, equipment are such that it will not happen,” are simply not supported by the facts.

Subsequent to the grilling of the five major oil companies (Chevron included) by Washington lawmakers, it became apparent that BP’s ineffective, error riddled emergency plan was identical to the plans of the other four oil companies; identical in that they were literal photo-copies of one another, bound behind different company logos. In essence, the flawed contingency plan BP had in place at the time of the blowout is the same flawed contingency plan currently in place by Chevron; Even as it drills the world’s deepest offshore oil well.

Furthermore, the failure of the blow out preventer on the Deepwater Horizon has raised concerns about a repeat occurrence on the Lona 0-55, who’s blow out preventer “has shortcomings that could hamper efforts to respond to an emergency.” This is a problem, Chevron says, they “are aware of.”


The apparent lack of concern by the Conservative government, the federal and provincial regulatory boards, and Chevron itself regarding the unprecedented depth of Lona 0-55 is particularly puzzling given that in 2005, Chevron’s own report warned it could not clean a major spill:

“Physical recovery of spilled oil off the coast of Newfoundland will be extremely difficult and inefficient for large blowout spills. First, the generally rough sea conditions mean that containment and recovery techniques are frequently not effective. Second, the wide slicks that result from subsea blowouts mean that only a portion of the slick can be intercepted.”

For a province that boasts how “few fishing destinations in the world rival Newfoundland and Labrador,” the grave impact on the fishing industry in the event of a spill has yet to resonate with Premier Williams. The staggering cost of the clean up effort, given Chevron’s admitted inability to handle a blow out, would also leave taxpayers on the hook for the vast majority of the clean up effort. In Canada, oil companies are only liable for up to $40 million – that’s $35 million less than the U.S. liability cap of $75 million.

The parallels between BP’s Deepwater Horizon well and the risky game being played off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are worrisome. Though the oil industry boasts advancements in drilling technology and the ability to explore in ever deeper waters, there has been little progress made toward making drilling safer.

The consequences of failing to invest in safety technology for drilling are clearly laid out in a report by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. In comparing techniques currently being used to try and stem the leak in the Gulf to the techniques employed 31 years ago in a similar well blow out, Maddow uncovers the failure of the oil industry to match advancements in drilling safety with advancements in drilling capabilities.

“The Ixtoc rig erupted in the middle of the night in 1979 in June, as it was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling was being done by a company called Sedco. It later became known as Transocean-the operator of the rig that blew up this year in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason the Ixtoc explosion turned into a massive uncontrolled leak 30 years ago is because the well‘s blowout preventer malfunctioned. Does it sound familiar? The blowout preventer failed to stop the Ixtoc leak and what followed was an environmental disaster the likes of which the country had never seen before … Nine agonizingly long months after the Ixtoc well exploded, a pair of relief wells finally allowed the engineers to cap the leaking well.” […]

“Same busted blowout preventer, same ineffective berm, same underwater plumes, same toxic dispersants, same failed containment domes, same junk shot, same top kill-it‘s all the same technology. The Ixtoc well, which couldn‘t be plugged for nine months, was in roughly 200 feet of water. Now, in 2010, we‘re using the same exact techniques to try to plug a well that is leaking in 5,000 feet of water.”

Now with Chevron drilling in 8,530 feet of water, the chance these failed maneuvers would effectively stop a leak at even greater depths is virtually non-existant. The Lona 0-55 well off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador carries with it a higher degree of risk than did either the Ixtoc or Deepwater Horizon wells; Still, the tested, effective response measures necessary to mitigate those risks has yet to be developed. With Oil companies raking in profits of billions of dollars every year, there is no excuse for the failure to invest in drilling safety technology. Furthermore, the catastrophic impacts resulting from weakened regulatory policies should serve as a lesson to all who wish to move beyond dependence on foreign oil. North America cannot drill its way to energy independence, nor can it rely on scant offshore oil reserves as a stable source of energy. The only way to achieve energy independence is through advancements in renewable energy technology. While the need for fossil fuels will remain well into the future, we can limit our dependance on oil through innovation, investment and a clean energy strategy.

In order to prevent another Deepwater Horizon disaster, strict regulatory policies must be put in place. No further drilling contracts should be awarded until adequate safety technology is developed, and demonstrated to work, at the depths oil companies wish to drill. Tax breaks and subsidies to the industry also need to end; The money, in turn, invested in clean and renewable sources.

If we hope to make real advancements toward a clean energy future, bold action is required from both government and citizens alike. Time and again, world leaders have proclaimed the need and the desire to break the oil addiction. Unfortunately, the tangible action necessary to achieve this lofty goal have been few and far between. Desire, intention, and imagination can only take society so far; Now, a firm commitment and a clear course of action are what’s required to attain a future without a dependance on fossil fuels.

To quote essayist V. Havel, “It is not enough to stare up the steps – we much step up the stairs.”

Cross-posted at

UPDATE: June 25, 2010

I received this message from Annie Roy on behalf of Environment Minister Jim Prentice, requesting a correction:

Subject: [Corrections] Minister Prentice corrects a fact on environmental

Minister Prentice would like to correct a statement in the article entitled “Chevron – because BP wasn’t drilling deep enough” by Alheli Picazo which appeared on June 21, 2010. With the proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Minister of the Environment would not have the authority to cancel an environmental assessment as stated in the article. The changes would provide the Minister of the Environment with new authority to focus an environmental assessment on key components of a project, if appropriate. The discretion is intended to provide legal certainty and to ensure that resources and efforts are invested where it matters the most.

While Mr. Prentice may not like what I’ve written, my reporting on his powers to allow projects to go essentially without a thorough environmental assessment is accurate.

From the Globe and Mail: […] legislation giving Environment Minister Jim Prentice wide-ranging powers to scale back the scope of any assessments. Under the changes, Mr. Prentice could limit environmental reviews to parts of a contentious project, and not evaluate the development in its entirety.”

Here is the key phrase in the legislation:

15.1 (1) Despite section 15, the Minister may, if the conditions that the Minister establishes are met, determine that the scope of the project in relation to which an environmental assessment is to be conducted is limited to one or more components of that project.