The News Rundown
- As much of the southern coast of BC digs out from its annual once a year snow event (while the rest of Canada is laughing at our woefully unprepared coastal cities), lots of people will likely have not been paying that much attention to the news. Of course, while much of the attention has been focussed on the weather, with another small part dedicated to following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's every movements as they look to move to Victoria full time, there has actually been news going on.
- At this moment in time, I'd like to thank the laws of Canada for enabling Freedom of Information requests from our respective governments. Without them, we'd likely not know even half of the things that our governments try to do that they don't want us to know about.
- This past week, in the print and online version of Focus Magazine, a local Victoria magazine that pertains to local Victoria issues that people might care about, there was an article released by David Broadland that exposed the City of Victoria's creative number fudging to make them look better at reducing greenhouse gas emissions than they already are. But first, before we look at that, let's look at how we got to this point.
- Mayor Lisa Helps, since being re-elected in 2018 has focused so much on reducing GHG emissions in her second mandate almost to the exclusion of all else. In a letter dated Oct. 1, 2019, the City asked the Ministry of the Environment for more legislation on the recovery of municipal costs arising from climate change from major fossil fuel corporations. These costs could include steps taken against volatile weather patterns, drought, wildfires and erosion. The letter asked the province to consider legislation to help local governments recover these expenses.
- In response, the provincial government has officially said ‘no’ to helping the City of Victoria recover compensation from fossil fuel giants for costs associated with climate change.
- Environment Minister George Heyman responded on behalf of Premier John Horgan: “The causes and solutions to climate change are many and complex. At this time, the province is not considering legislation in relation to the recovery of municipal costs arising from climate change.”
- He added that the province has, however, committed to a three-year, $902 million investment into CleanBC, its program to manage climate-related risks and carbon pollution reduction targets.
- Just yesterday, Lisa Helps released 'Victoria 3.0', what she describes as an economic action plan for a "sustainable, growing city" to grow a high value economy in the downtown core, celebrating Victoria's high tech sector and ocean and marine sector. This Victoria 3.0 plan is meant to work alongside Helps' Climate Leadership Plan, a document meant to significantly reduce Victoria's GHG emissions by 2050 by 80% from 2007 levels, mostly by switching to 100% renewable energy.
- The CLP has ambitious targets, and the city released an update that showed it as doing much better than in actually did in reducing GHG emissions.
- An engineering company's report obtained from the City of Victoria through an FOI request shows that the City cheated on its first attempt to plot a critical path to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The way in which the report’s findings were changed suggests that the City was intent on manufacturing information for its Climate Leadership Plan that would provide support for policy directions it was already pursuing, or wanted to pursue.
- Stantec Engineering was hired by the City to assess the municipality’s emissions in 2017. The City published its Climate Leadership Plan in 2018.
- While the 66-page CLP report is full of high-level visions and soft goals, the only hard information about emissions, and how those might be reduced, were numbers that appeared in percentage breakdowns of the sources of emissions, and in a wedge graph titled “Pathways to 2050 GHG Emissions Reductions.” These were attributed to a “GPC Compliant Inventory, 2017.” Focus requested the inventory and the City released Stantec’s report to us in late October. There are several interesting differences between the information in the City’s Climate Leadership Plan and Stantec’s report.
- What Stantec reported to the City was a total 2017 emissions of 465,482 tonnes of CO2-e, in accordance with the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Basic+, otherwise known as GPC.
- What the City of Victoria did was then fudge the numbers and report the 2017 numbers as “387,694” tonnes and “370,000” tonnes on different pages, thereby reducing at least 77,788 tonnes of emissions with six taps on a keyboard.
- If the emissions Stantec estimated had been used, the paper pathway the City had plotted for reducing those emissions by 2050 would have missed its target by a wide margin.
- A more telling difference between Stantec’s and the City’s account of emissions is the way in which the categories used by Stantec were changed by the City. The city ended up lumping Stantec's 7 categories into just 4.
- Adhering to the GPC categories creates transparency, which in turn allows accountability. Adhering to the GPC Basic+ protocol is also a requirement for any city that wants to be listed on the Carbon Disclosure Project’s A-List, or is a signatory to the Compact of Mayors. Because of the way the City altered Stantec’s reported emissions, the CLP doesn’t meet the requirements of either of those projects. Neither is it GPC compliant. Perhaps the City ought to take the "Leadership" claim out of its climate action plan.
- The City eliminated three of the seven categories for which Stantec had found significant emissions (see pie charts above). That included the category “Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU),” which had the highest rate of growth in Victoria—66 percent over the last 10 years. The City also eliminated the GPC categories “Transboundary Transportation” and “Off-Road Transportation,” which accounted for, combined, 35 percent of all territorial emissions. Lastly, the City moved multi-unit residential buildings out of the GPC category “Residential Buildings” and lumped it in with the GPC category “Commercial & Institutional Buildings and Facilities.
- In the City’s version of Stantec’s report, single-family homes have suddenly become greater emitters than Stantec had found for single-family and multi-family buildings combined. Perhaps to stymie any efforts at holding the City accountable, it then moved multi-family residential buildings in with “industrial” and “commercial, institutional” buildings and found that this category now had emissions of 124,062 tonnes, only slightly higher than the 123,370 tonnes Stantec had attributed to just commercial and institutional buildings in its assessment. In a similarly puzzling shift, the City made a separate category for single-family homes and held it responsible for a bigger percentage of emissions than Stantec had found for multi-family and single-family residential housing combined.
- In essence, the city was trying to hide industrial emissions that have been growing steadily as Victoria grows and does more business, as well as shifting the blame to single family home dwellings, in order to capitalize on growing anger at housing prices in the region.
- It may be entirely coincidental, but there is a move afoot at City Hall, led by Mayor Lisa Helps, to eliminate single-family zoning throughout the City of Victoria. If it comes to that, the mayor and her supporters will be able to point to the Climate Leadership Plan and say, “Look, our GPC Compliant Inventory shows this will address a big source of emissions.”
- Another of City Hall’s controversial directions might be at the heart of the difference between Stantec’s findings and the City’s spin of Stantec’s findings regarding transportation emissions.
- Stantec found that “On Road Transport” accounted for nine percent of total territorial emissions. Victoria’s version boosted that to 40 percent. This category is intended to measure emissions from cars, trucks and buses that don’t cross the City of Victoria’s boundaries. In other words, it’s not intended to include vehicles that make longer trips, too long for most people to make by walking or cycling. Emissions that result from longer trips are counted under “Transboundary Transportation,” a category the City eliminated.
- In the City’s version of reality, cars, trucks and buses making short trips on its streets are the single biggest emissions problem by far. That version supports its choice to spend money and create community division in the hope of getting people to cycle instead of driving a car.
- Stantec found that “Off-Road Transportation” (marine, aviation, other) accounted for 12.4 percent of emissions, even higher than on-road transportation. Yet the City’s climate-action brain trust deep-sixed these emissions altogether, perhaps influenced by the tourism lobby.
- As we can see from the deep dive into the report, the City of Victoria has taken an accurate and globally compliant report and turned it into a tool to further their own misguided goals, while covering up the real emissions problems and blame them on others problems that this mayor and council don't agree with. This is classic decision-based evidence-making, rather than evidence based decision making, as it should be. Victoria is trying to tailor reality to suit their goals, rather than make their goals based on reality, and that should worry everyone.
- The Supreme Court of Canada struck down on Thursday British Columbia’s attempt to regulate what could flow through an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline.
- The BC government wanted provincial permits to be required before oil could be shipped which would have given BC a veto over anything flowing through a pipe.
- Natural resources and pipelines are a federal responsibility and the federal government has jurisdiction over pipeline projects.
- This case goes back to 2018 where the BC government asked the BC Court of Appeal if such permits were in bounds, this was part of the legislation that poured cool water onto the Trans Mountain pipeline requiring the federal government to step in and buy the project.
- The BC court of appeal said no, allowing the project to effectively continue and Chief Justice Richard Wagner on Thursday said that the Supreme Court agreed with the BC Court of Appeal.
- BC Premier John Horgan said he was disappointed, saying, “Our government takes our responsibility to defend the interests of British Columbians seriously, When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue to do all we can within our jurisdiction”.
- Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage were very pleased with the outcome.
- Minister Savage said that it was a “clear and decisive decision that sets out a clear message to all governments that they need to stay in their own lane… and that all jurisdictions need to be respecting that.”
- She went on to say that this was a good signal to investors in that it now means there’s one rule for energy projects across Canada bringing back predictability and certainty.
- 6 Indigenous communities (compared to the hundreds along the route) filed legal challenges along with several environmental groups. The court dismissed the concerns from the environmental group and only agreed to hear those from the indigenous communities.
- 2 of the 6 have since withdrawn their challenges after signing agreements with Trans Mountain. The case involving the last 4 was heard in December but no decision has been made yet.
- The fight put forward by the BC government cost BC taxpayers $1m which has now been effectively wasted.
- It’s also important to note that the decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada was unanimous.
- The Minister was clear though that there will be no celebration until there is oil flowing through the pipeline.
- The CEO of Maple Leaf Foods Michael McCain spoke out Sunday against the U.S. government, days after an Iranian missile shot down a jetliner, killing all 176 people on board -- including the family of a company employee. Of the 167 passengers, 138 were travelling to Canada via Ukraine. Many of the Iranian Canadians were affiliated with Canadian universities, as students or academics who had travelled to Iran during Christmas break. The crash was the largest loss of Canadian lives in aviation since the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.
- McCain said in a series of tweets that "I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry" over what he describes as a "needless, irresponsible series of events in Iran."
- "U.S. government leaders unconstrained by checks/balances, concocted an ill-conceived plan to divert focus from political woes. The world knows Iran is a dangerous state, but the world found a path to contain it; not perfect but by most accounts it was the right direction," he wrote, saying he feels that "a narcissist in Washington" destabilized the region: "A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart; destabilizes region. US now unwelcomed everywhere in the area including Iraq; tensions escalated to a fever pitch. Taking out despicable military leader terrorist? There are a hundred like him, standing next in line."
- The tweets were sent from the packaged meat company's official account, though McCain characterized them as "personal reflections."
- In much of the media following the Iran plane downing, CTV, CBC and others have repeatedly used weasel language to blame Trump, not Iran for the plane being blown up by Iran. CBC, for instance, still refers to the incident as a "plane crash", rather than what it actually is, a terrorist act by a hostile foreign government.
- CBC is defending McCain's rant against Trump, posting supportive articles such as "Business group urges companies to follow Michael McCain's lead after anti-Trump tweets".
- CBC's article quotes Leor Rotchild, the executive director of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, in saying that "more companies should take bold stands the way Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain did in a surprising bit of online outspokenness this week".
- Even Trudeau knows that the Canadian left and the mass media in Canada wants to blame Trump for Iran shooting down a defenseless jetliner filled with innocent Canadian civilians.
- That’s probably why — after being bombarded with questions, claims and reports that the real culprit in the downing of Flight 752 was Donald Trump — that Trudeau looked to spread the blame during an interview with Global News last Monday.
- “If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” Trudeau told Global News.
- The truth is there have been tensions in the region for a very long time and nothing the Americans did can be used to excuse Iran’s actions. The Iranians may make that claim, but it is sad to see Canada’s state broadcaster CBC push that idea and see our PM give it credence.
- So it's good to see Trudeau walk that line back and blame Iran unequivocally for the plane downing. As he announced compensation to the tune of $25,000 for families who lost loved ones in the shooting-down of Flight 752 (intended for short term travel and funeral arrangements), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau changed his stance once again and put blame squarely and solely on the Iranian regime: “The Iranians bear full responsibility for having shot down a civilian airliner with 57 Canadians aboard, 176 passengers.”
- It had been his position as recently as last Saturday when he blasted Iran after they admitted that they had shot down the plane that they bore responsibility.
- Meanwhile, Michael McCain is trying to lobby our government to be softer towards China. He called on parliamentarians to back off on calling for sanctions for Chinese officials last month, according to a copy of a letter that was sent last month from McCain to Senators Leo Housakos and Than Hai Ngo. It was in reference to a motion introduced in the Senate by the pair that called for Magnitsky Act sanctions for human rights abuses against Chinese and Hong Kong government officials in relation to the ongoing protests and treatment of Muslims in China.
- “On behalf of Maple Leaf Foods and the entire Canadian livestock and meat industry I appeal to you to withdraw this initiative. In making this request, I am not making any judgment on the issue of human rights abuses in Hong Kong or in China. But the simple fact is that Canada acting alone on this ensures two certain consequences: (i) Chinese human rights policies will not change and (ii) Chinese retaliation will be uniquely directed to Canada,” McCain wrote.
- The motion has not yet been voted on in the Senate, and while it’s common for industry representatives to send similar letters advocating for or against parliamentary measures, Housakos tweeted about the letter today, questioning McCain’s “consistency.”
- Referencing the letter, Housakos said that McCain “cited concern for his employees, ie the impact on their jobs. He didn’t seem overly concerned about human rights then and he didn’t seem overly concerned about his employees and their jobs last night.”
- So while McCain wants to ease up on China, he's taking our largest allies, and the biggest help we could have against China in the US to task over something they weren't responsible for. The CBC giving credence to Michael McCain's deranged anti-Trump rant after the evidence is all there that Iran was solely responsible for the plane being shot down is reprehensible, especially given his stance on our sovereignty with China.
- With Iran admitting to shooting down the Ukranian plane, talk has shifted to blame.
- This has caused most everyone to be asked about Iran including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper while he was visiting India.
- Both CTV and CBC ran with headlines suggesting that the former Prime Minister was advocating regime change in Iran.
- CBC wrote: “Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper says peace in the Middle East will only come if there is regime change in Iran”
- And CTV wrote: “Harper calls for Iranian regime change in wake of downed jet”
- What is regime change?
- The transition from one political regime to another, especially through concerted political or military action.
- Where have we seen this? Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya amongst others.
- The headlines were changed to “Harper says change needed in Iran to bring peace to region” from the CBC and “Harper speaks out on Iran in wake of downed jet” from CTV.
- What Harper did say was the following: "I don't think any of us believe that Iran would have deliberately shot down an aircraft, but the very fact that Iran – believing such a thing could happen – would be allowing normal civilian traffic, I think, tells you something about the nature of that regime and its priorities… I do believe we need to see a change in Iran if we're going to see peace in the Middle East.”
- He went on to say that many in the Middle East are working closer together today than they have in the past: “I see an increasing number of states in the region — Israel, that I'm close to, certainly the Sunni Arab monarchies, others who are increasingly trying to work together and see a common future and common interests — and you have this one actor that quite frankly is … based on religious fanaticism and regional imperialism and, as I say as a friend of the Jewish people, frankly an anti-Semitic state.”
- Both the CBC and CTV issued clarifications on the matter removing the “regime change” quote but given the fact we have video of the Harper conversation, we have to ask, why even go with such a headline?
- Chris Selley of the National Post said that the fact two media outlets did this and issued clarifications, not even corrections, said, “colossal embarrassment necessitating deep introspection.”
- He made the point that we make week by week here at Western Context.
- Canadian politics, in particular the media, is purely for show.
- The country will not collapse immediately if a Liberal or Conservative government is elected so the stakes are low.
- And he points to the 2019 campaign where there was the endless media scandal regarding Andrew Scheer’s views on abortion, whether it was appropriate to campaign in Winnipeg after flooding, and whether or not it was appropriate to dig up dirt on the leader of the People’s Party.
- He boils it down to that this is understandable due to the need to keep up with the 24 hour news cycle. And that during the campaign he’d see colleagues and he could only imagine them speaking the truth: “I’m here in Delta, B.C. and there’s f–k-all to report. Back to you, Kent.”
- The issue becomes so apparent when reporting needs to be applied to things that matter. Stephen Harper as a former Prime Minister has a voice that carries weight.
- Saying that a former Prime Minister thinks war is the best way to go does no one any good at all.
- Flipping back to Iran now, since the admission protests have broken out with what looks like thousands. Though the exact number can not be ascertained. The last time Iran had protests of this magnitude, the government shut them down by targeting protestors with snipers. The west should open their eyes and realize what is happening in Iran.
- The only western leaders remotely close to seeing this are US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- Boris Johnson said, “let’s dial this thing down” and the Iranian nuclear deal wasn’t working and it should be replaced with a Trump deal.
- And the truth is that under the Iran nuclear deal, they were free to research scientifically and then when the deal lapsed, it would be just a matter of implementing whatever reactors to process fuel or uranium for weapons they designed.
- Trump tweeted in Farsi to the Iranian people saying, “To the brave and suffering Iranian people: I have stood with you since the beginning of my presidency and my government will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely. Your courage is inspiring.”
- The tweet became the most liked Tweet on Twitter in Farsi in history.
- While the frank discussion has been hard to find this week on Iran with shoddy media reporting, what former Prime Minister Harper and President Trump said, needs to be heard. it was not.
- As Chris Selley said, “This isn’t a Canadian federal election. It’s real life, and needs to be covered as such.”
Word of the Week
Regime change - the replacement of one administration or government by another, especially by means of military force.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Changing Emissions and Regimes
Teaser: The City of Victoria changes numbers in a report on emissions, the Supreme Court rejects BC’s appeal of Trans Mountain, and the Maple Leaf Foods CEO has an anti-Trump rant on Twitter. Also, CBC and CTV falsely accuse Harper of wanting an Iran regime change.
Recorded Date: January 17, 2020
Release Date: January 19, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes