Friday, January 7, 2011

Facebook Wall Posts, Part IX

My 9th installment of Facebook Wall Posts. There are some good picks here today, including a few about Peter Kent, the latest in a series of Federal Ministers Against the Environment. Enjoy!

Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement: Why isn't Anybody Talking About This?

Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement: sort of like NAFTA, only with Europe. Maude Barlow discusses why this proposed free trade agreement, currently being negotiated by the Harper Conservatives, will jeopardize future legislation and regulation aimed at protecting our environment. Barlow concludes that ultimately this deal will bad news for Canada. Funny how hardly anyone is talking about it. Might it be an election issue, the same way the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was back in the 1980s? Nah. Elections don't seem to be about issues any more.

What's in Store for Cyclists in Toronto?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford once opined: "Roads are built for buses, cars and trucks." Looks like he's not just paying lip service to that sentiment. He wants to get the bikes out of the way of cars in downtown Toronto. His solution? Ban bikes? No. Build separated lanes for cyclists, where a curb and maybe parking area stand between the flow of motorized vehicular traffic and the flow of cycling traffic. One Way roads like Richmond Avenue? Well, maybe take out a lane and build a separated two-way bike thoroughfare. These kind of anti-cycling actions on the part of Rob Ford are probably ones that cyclists in Toronto will find that they can live with. And embrace. And maybe throw a parade. Let's see if this comes to fruition. I'm not yet ready to jump on the Ford bandwagon, but this would be a good news story for a City suffering from dangerous conditions for cyclists. And maybe serve as an Ontario-based example for the rest of us.

Calling Out Right-Wing Myths: Lower Tax Rates for the Rich Do Not Lead to Better Outcomes for Society

Great editorial from the Ottawa Citizen's Susan Riley. We all need to be doing more of this: challenging the assertion that lower taxation rates for the wealthy, along with lower corporate taxes, leads to a healthier economy. On both, Riley points out that the facts show otherwise, especially when it comes to lowering the taxes paid by the rich. Why do Canadians continue to believe in the completely discredited notion of trickle-down Reaganomics? It's probably for the same reasons that conservative are perceived as being the sound financial managers. Again, the facts say otherwise. Will our right-wing media start telling the truth to middle class Canadians about these misconceptions? Don't count on it, although obviously I'm linking you to articles which appear in the mainstream media. The voices in the mainstream, though, continue to be the exception rather than the rule.

Ethical Oil and the Tar Sands: The Latest from Canada's Newest Minister Against the Environment

Well, that didn't take long. Canada's newest Environment Minister, Peter Kent, spoke yesterday about the tar sands as providing "ethical oil" to consumers. He also indicated that since claims of the tar sands being the single most environmentally damaging undertaking on the planet are false, the oil produced from the tar sands somehow isn't "dirty". Not sure how he reached that conclusion, as all of the science shows that oil produced from mined bitumen is, in fact, the dirtiest kind of oil ever produced. Given this, I'm not sure that I'd call the tar sands "ethical" (but I certainly would call them "dirty"!). Just another marketing ploy from the newest Minister. Ho-hum. There used to be a time in Canada when the Minister of the Environment actually advocated for protecting the environment. Here we have yet another Minister who believes that our current industrial model and its dirty processes should be allowed to continue at the expense of the environment. This has to change. Well, maybe Kent will surprise us yet, and start taking the actions recommended by a number of reports released lately to at least start collecting scientific data and cleaning up bitumen mining sites.

Environment Minister Peter Kent Wants to Clean Up the Tar Sands!
But Don't Get Too Excited...It's Not What You Think

Canada's New (but not "improved") Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent wants to clean up Alberta's dirty tar sands! Wait for it…He wants to clean up their dirty REPUTATION, rather than actually clean up the industry. Kent believes that the tar sands produces ethical oil, and is concerned that their reputation as a dirty producer is misguided. This despite the fact that oil produced from bitumen mined in the tar sands IS the dirtiest oil produced in the world. It may be true that those producing the oil are well-compensated employees, and tax benefits derived from oil production are going to democratic governments in Edmonton and Ottawa. That doesn't change the fact that the tar sands oil production is contributing disproportionately to global greenhouse gas emissions due to their unique industrial processes. But Kent doesn't want you to think about that kind of environmental destruction, and economic crisis it will lead to when as the impacts of climate change take hold. Short term gain for a few = long term pain for the many: that's Conservative Ethics 101.

Why Inequality is Bad for You (yes, YOU!): Carol Goar

Carol Goar makes some convincing arguments regarding why YOU should be worried about inequality and poverty. She says that unless your family is making more than $120,000 a year (which puts you in the top 20% of Canada's income earners), your real wealth will continue to decline over time. That's what the "shrinking middle class" is all about. Goar says that you have an interest an economic stake in fighting against poverty, because nations with lower levels of inequality are more resilient in the face of economic downturns. Given that we are living at the time of the end of cheap energy, we know that the economy will remain sluggish, at best. Time to plan for the future facing us, and curbing the growing disparity between rich and poor is one part of the solution.

Children and Tobacco Continue to Mix Despite the Conservatives So-Called "Law & Order" Agenda

A letter to the editor of Sun Media from Winnipeg tobacco store owner Brad Cartman, who argues that we should prohibit convenience stores from selling tobacco. Cartman has a strong argument. For me, though, what's really interesting is Cartman's description of how effective the Feds have been at curtailing tobacco use among children. In Cartman's assessment: not at all, and he points to recent changes to prohibiting the sale of filtered flavoured cigars. The tobacco companies got around that one: you can still buy flavoured cigars, just not with a filter. The outcome: an even less healthy product, which is more expensive (extra tobacco is needed to increase the regulated weight, which adds to price). When it comes to kids and tobacco, the Conservatives "law and order" agenda seems to break down. Whose priorities are the Cons looking out for here? Yours and your childrens? Or maybe the interests of others?

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