Leading by example

A huge kudos out to Alberta Liberal leader David Swann for this gem that all federal MPs should pay attention to:

As a commitment to the issue of financial accountability I will be posting the monthly statement of expenses for my constituency – Calgary Mountainview – in the coming weeks. This information will be available directly on my website for constituents and all Albertans to review.

The provincial Auditor General in Alberta has the ability to see MP expense reports, so I’m not sure if this is already a little better than the federal situation, but nevertheless, honest politicians are hard to come by these days.

When will BP ruin BCs coastlines?

By the time you finish reading this post, well over 5500 litres of oil will have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil continues to pour out of a busted well and the slick continues to grow and has already hit land in some parts of Florida. Meanwhile, closer to home, the question that seems to be off of the provincial radar is when will our offshore wells be built so they can threaten our fragile habitats?

It has been over a month since an explosion rocked British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizons oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The blast left eleven people missing and presumed dead and well over 790,000 litres of oil has gushed into the sea. There has been little success at stopping the flow so far.

It seems hard to tell if any remorse is being felt by the heads of BP for a disaster that is shaping up to be worse than the Exxon Valdez spill in the North Pacific years ago. Perhaps their biggest fear is either the public relations hit or that they will not be able to profit off this spilt oil.

Just a week prior to the last provincial election in 2009, Premier Gordon Campbell signalled that a provincial Liberal government would continue to lobby for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium that inhibits BC from building wells at sea. This position was in line with the Liberal’s 2001 commitment to have an offshore drilling industry in BC by 2010.

Days later he squeaked by with a slim majority government. It was soon leaked that the provincial deficit would be much larger than promised and that BC, along with Ontario, would be implementing an HST. It should not be a surprise then that after dropping twenty points in the polls that Campbell would not want to broach the subject of offshore oil wells.

Yet with the recent tragedy in the Gulf, it is more pertinent than ever to find out what our far-too-secretive government is up to. While the typically oil-friendly federal Conservative environment minister Jim Prentice has backed off from any new offshore projects and has reaffirmed moratoriums on drilling off BC’s shorelines.

Darrell Dexter, the newly-elected NDP premier of Nova Scotia, was quick to pledge his continuing support to offshore moratoriums in his province and even Barack Obama has gotten behind a temporary slow-down. Obviously no leader would want to publicly come out as pro-drilling right now, so I guess Campbell’s silence on the issue speaks as much to the issue as a press conference would. There is currently no sign that Campbell plans to back down on offshore drilling.

As a non-renewable resource, it is quite clear that at some point in the future we will run out of oil. And while there is still a lot of it underground, the remaining supplies are in increasingly difficult regions to access. Whether it is in the Alberta tar sands, under politically unstable regimes, or deep under the Arctic ice sheets, there are many political and environmental issues that must be addressed if we want to responsible drill for this oil. And while a leak off BCs coast may be containable, imagine the damage that could be done were a disaster to befall an arctic well, with hundreds of thousands of litres of oil covering the undersides of the ices sheets.

Of course, I personally would love to see the end of the oil age in my life time, the fact of the matter is that this laptop I am typing on, the synthetic portions of my clothes, and countless other products use barrels and barrels of oil, let alone the amount that we use for energy. A lot of work has been done on alternative energies, and there is a huge need for more investment, but until those industries are positioned to meet the demands, we will either have to continue drilling for oil, or massively cut out consumption.

I believe that it is possible to extract oil from the tar sands and deep underwater both safely and with as little environmental damage as possible, however, if our leaders fail to discuss if they are even interested in such activities, how are we to trust them to ensure the proper regulatory regimes are in place when corporations do begin to stick their pipes in the ground?

Joyce Murray shills for Big Natura

I’m sorry Joyce Murray, you just lost any chance to get my vote to stop the Cons from taking Vancouver-Quadra.

Here’s her latest statement in the House of Commons, dissected:

Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, each year during the first week in May, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors leads a national awareness week in support of naturopathic medicine.

Naturopathic physicians are primary health care professionals with a minimum of seven years post-secondary education.

Nope. Only BC, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan actually license naturopathic doctors, everywhere else in Canada they can just go by ND with whatever training they feel like. It’s also worth noting that any number of years studying pseudo-scientific ideas does not make it any more legitimate. You can go to clown college, astrology school, or take UFO classes, but none of those qualify you to effectively treat diseases.

They practise naturopathic medicine, which is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and treat the underlying cause of the disease.

From the first line in Wikipedia: “Medicine is the art and science of healing. It encompasses a range of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness.” The unique thing about naturopathy is that it blends real, evidence-based medicine, with pseudo-scientific ideas that have been debunked repeatedly. There is no reason to have a separate section of medicine where bogus treatments are included, except to rip people off. Apparently Ms. Murray supports a two-tier health system, only rather than at least getting cured for their money, people are being scammed by under-regulated snake-oil salesmen.

Each year during Naturopathic Medicine Week, naturopathic doctors hang up their lab coats and teach communities across Canada about naturopathic medicine, how naturopathic doctors can be valuable additions to health care teams and how they work with patients to identify the most effective solutions to individual health needs.

My biggest issue here is that even real doctors and scientists rarely wear lab-coats. This just paints a false picture that NDs are equivalent to real doctors. They’re not. If they were, they would be MDs and have completed real medical school.

Naturopathic Medicine Week is an excellent opportunity for all Canadians to learn more about achieving optimum health and I encourage Canadians to visit local naturopathic physicians in their communities.

I encourage you to stop shilling for Big Natura and stand up for evidence-based medicine. Our health care system is fragile enough as it is from years of Liberal and Conservative incremental cuts, it doesn’t need a woo-infestation to further discredit it.

For more debunking of Naturopathic Medicine Week, see the blog Skeptic North.

I signed the HST petition

I just got back from the Kitsilano Community Centre where the line-up to sign the anti-HST petition was out the door (about 20-30 people). The line-up was continuous with people showing up as others left.

While they said that they only have a few hundred signatures for Vancouver Point-Grey (my riding, which is represented by premier Gordon Campbell), they only just started collecting here on Thursday. Meanwhile, a few interior and northern ridings have already surpassed the 10% requirements.

Regardless if you like the HST in principle, or even this specific implementation of it, it is a great sign that despite dropping voter turnouts, democracy hasn’t died in Canada. This petition is especially important since this implementation was not debated or mentioned in the election last year, but was brought forward within days.

Meanwhile, businesses and the government are skirting the law attempting to defend the HST, despite the fact that none of them officially signed up to oppose the initiative. If they wanted to speak they should follow their own rules.

So it is starting to look to me like this petition may actually succeed and result in a public referendum on the legitimacy of the HST. If it makes it to that, you can bet that the government is going to lose it bad. After that, if the Liberals still don’t repeal it, they’re likely going to start losing their seats in recall initiatives (potentially including my own slim-margin winning MP).

Finally, the last thing I learned today was that the HST is coming into effect as early as May 1st for advance purchases for this summer. This includes airline and sporting tickets and community centre recreation passes.

So go find a location to sign the petition if you haven’t yet.

Conservaspam returns!

It has been so long that I almost forget the odd joy I get from opening my mailbox to find a Conservaspam leaflet from an MP on the other side of the country telling me how evil those Liberals are.

While today’s version is a repeat of the Just Visiting campaign, it does reference the “Coalition with the Ottawa NDP [sic] and the Bloc Quebecois.” Also, not that there is no longer any comment space on the return slip, I guess they never read the comments anyway.

With the recent progress made against these 10%ers, this may be one of the last ones I ever get.



Open letter to Joyce Murray re: Israeli Apartheid Week

As I wait for my plane to Calgary then on to Toronto, I submitted the following to my Liberal MP Joyce Murray who recently criticized Israeli Apartheid Week as anti-Semitic, racist and intolerant:

Dear Ms. Murray,

It was with great disappointment that I read your recent statement Re: Israeli Apartheid Week. You state that "dissent and opposition to individual actions of the Israeli government are both legitimate and permitted," yet then make baseless accusations that the proponents of IAW are anti-Semitic, racist, and intolerant.

Please direct me to evidence that IAW seeks to destroy the state of Israel, and does not merely attempt to draw attention to the plight of the people of Palestine.

Many prominent Israeli’s consider the treatments of Palestine to be reminiscent of the South African Apartheid including former Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analogy#By_Israelis).

Pro-peace debates are what are needed, and the only side that is not at the table is the pro-Israeli side. This isn’t about Jews versus anti-Semites, it’s about two people’s rights to autonomously rule themselves.

Do the Liberal Party, and you personally support a two-state solution?

Ian Bushfield

I’m not convinced it’s a movement

While I might get trashed on ProgBlogs as a neo-Con troll for being contrarian, let me elaborate my thoughts on the future of the CAPP protests.

Over 200,000 people joined the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group in the past few weeks, impressing everyone (except those who cannot be impressed by their opponents), and somewhere on the order of 25,000 people turned up to protests yesterday morning (which I reluctantly admit slipped my mind when I slept in after a late-night on Friday).

NDP and Liberal partisans want to see this as a win for the left and for progressive causes. A reaction to Stephen Harper and all his evils over the past 4 years.

And it would be really great if we could see it entirely as that.

But when you listen to many of the quotes coming from the non-partisans in the crowd, you hear lots of “get back to work” and even on CBCs Test The Nation, the politician team was faced with similar heckles.

This leads me to feel that while their is a strong anti-Conservative element to the protests, much more of it comes from the (smart) framing by the organizers as though all politicians are getting a 3-month holiday or vacation.

Which is of course somewhat false, as every politician does have a lot of work to do outside of parliament.

I think it bears a little comparison to last years protests over the coalition (of which there were sizable pro- and con- positions, however both sides were pretty heavily partisan), in that from the average person or Conservatives point of view, politicians were being slimely and trying to change the election (I know that’s just the Con lie, but it did work). Meanwhile, on the coalition side, we saw Harper being slimely, and we didn’t like it. All-in-all, Canadians I think get really pissed when their apathy is taken for granted. We seem to want our politicians to make very slow, minor changes and to not really stir the pot. Treat our democracy like crap, and we get mad.

So we’ll have to see how this “movement” transforms between now and the March resuming of parliament. Will it translate into anything beyond a bunch of people pissed at Harper granting a paid vacation that we all wish we could take, or will it actually culminate in some real changes?

Will this result in democratic reforms on the powers of the executive as the NDP is proposing, some form proportional representation, as Ignatieff is almost now hinting at, another election that could see the end of Harper the PM (or yet another Harper minority, which might result in the same angst from within) or just more of the same partisan brinkmanship that has defined the past decade of Canadian politics?

Only time will tell.

10%ers done right

With the overwhelming amount of negative and partisan 10%er mailouts, it’s easy to forget that they can actually be used constructively to help rebuild trust in politicians.

Exhibit A is NDP MP Megan Leslie who used her 10%ers to notify constituents about an art gallery display that she put on in her constituency office.

Exhibit B (below) is my own MP Joyce Murray, who used a flier to remind constituents about the importance of the Paralympic Games and to recognize Abraham Rogatnick, who recently passed away but is remembered as “father of Vancouver’s contemporary arts scene, architect, professor, mentor, intellectual, philanthropist, actor, author, and friend.”

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Now, Ms. Murray did include a comment form which I filled out with concerns about either Bill C-311 or the HST (I don’t remember), but she did reply to me at last with her stance on the NDPs Climate Change Accountability Act:

Dear Mr. Bushfield:

Thank you for your correspondence concerning Bill C-311, an act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

I have chosen to support Bill C-311 as it serves as a symbol for change. It signals that Canada is prepared to take strong action on the critical issue of climate change.

Unfortunately, I was not able to be in Ottawa during the vote to extend debate on this legislation. As the representative for Amateur Sport and the Olympics, I had a responsibility to be present in Athens, Greece, to receive the torch for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The Liberal Party of Canada has always been committed to combating climate change and creating a sustainable, low-carbon economy. It was a Liberal government that negotiated and signed the Kyoto Protocol, and ratified it in 2005, despite Conservative opposition. Under the previous Liberal governments significant funds were dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, partnerships were negotiated with the provinces, industry and the public to seek their cooperation, and emissions began to decline by 2005.

That being said, those Liberal members that voted to extend the Bill C-311 hearings at the Environment Committee are worried that it is an incomplete bill.  They also believe that realistic medium and long-term emissions targets will be set internationally at a United Nations conference culminating in Copenhagen this December.

The climate change crisis is the most urgent ecological and human concern of our generation and the subject of my own Masters Degree thesis almost eighteen years ago.

I have attached to this e-mail a recent speech given by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff which lays out the Liberal platform regarding the environment and climate change.

Best regards,

Joyce Murray
Member of Parliament
Vancouver Quadra

That speech is available here. He sets 1990 as a base year, but in a quick skim I don’t know how much he wants to cut emissions below that level (remember that many are calling for as much as 45% reductions below 1990 level, Canada’s aiming for 3% currently with no effort planned). I should also point out that those Liberals who worried about the “incompleteness” of the bill had no trouble passing the exact same version last year. Nevertheless, the bill is through committee and set to be passed third reading in the New Year (and then hopefully through the Senate this time before any elections).

What no one seems to want to say

China is pissed at Harper and Canada?

Good. May we piss them off more!

China has an abhorrent, dictatorial record as a human-rights abuser and deserves to be called as such.

Someone has to stand up to China. The Liberals don’t want to, the NDP is makes minor mutterings about human rights concerns but still focuses on good relations, and now even Harper’s realized he needs to suck up to get the Chinese money.

How many people need to go silent before we take notice?

Update: It looks like Harper will do the right thing and continue to press for human rights from other regimes:

“In relations between China and Canada, we will continue to raise issues of freedom and human rights, and be a vocal advocate and an effective partner for reform, just as we pursue the mutually beneficial economic relationship desired by both our countries,” he declared.

Now, if only he would stand up for those rights within his own empire-lite.