In the harbour
1. Muskrat Falls
“An ongoing blockade against the Muskrat Falls hydro project in Labrador took a dramatic turn on Saturday as land protectors stormed and occupied the Muskrat Falls work site itself,” reports Justin Brake, editor of the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent:
As about 200 people gathered at a Nunatukavut rally early in the afternoon, about 60 land protectors cut the lock on the site’s gate and entered the site.
Led by residents of Rigolet who said they were defending their food and way of life, they were joined by several trucks including one driven by the mayor of Cartwright.
The land protectors who entered the site included Elders, children and even one Anglican minister.
Once at the site, the land protectors shook hands with Nalcor energy workers who had been flown in by helicopter in an effort by Nalcor to circumvent the blockade.
Innu Elder David Nuke was among those who occupied the site.
While Nalcor issued a statement expressing concern for the safety of everyone at the site, Nuke emphasized the protest was a peaceful, non-violent one. As rumours spread that RCMP tactical units were on their way, Nuke and other Elders instructed those present in how to respond in a non-violent manner to possible violence from the RCMP.
“Let them do their violence. Don’t fight back,” Nuke instructed a crowd in the site’s cafeteria.
“Even if they body-slam me down on the cement, don’t you guys go yelling,” explained another land protector.
Brake is giving continuous updates on the situation via his Twitter account and is posting new articles at The Independent as he writes them.
The Independent has also premiered St. John’s musician Liz Solo’s video “Everything is Leaking,” about Muskrat Falls:
It is inarguable that climate change needs immediate attention and that we cannot get off fossil fuels quickly enough. But we should ask ourselves the question: How did we get in this predicament in the first place?
In large part, it was simple ignorance: we didn’t know, or we chose to ignore, that burning fossil fuels would bring about cataclysmic changes to our atmosphere and oceans.
That’s not the entire story, however. Each step of industrialization and the building of the fossil fuel economy was and is accompanied by brute force. Mining fossil fuels, burning them, and dumping the waste emissions is a kind of brute force — economists can discuss externalities, but we all know that we can’t simply dump our waste on our neighbours and be done with it. Everything has consequences, and to ignore the consequences of fossil fuel emissions is a brutal assault on our neighbours and our world.
Beyond that, the mechanics of burning fossil fuels always involves brute social and political force. Burning fossil fuels is necessarily a top-down social arrangement, starting with the oil and coal being mined from the ground. The Cape Breton coalfields were never a worker’s paradise, just as the modern-day Canadian-managed Columbian coalfields are dependent upon the exploitation and abuse of local people. Westray-style mine disasters don’t just happen; they occur because mining profits are valued more than the lives of the miners, and that equation translates into how mines are (mis)managed and (under)regulated for worker safety. Likewise, increased yields from fracking earn enormous profits for capitalists, but landowners and well users have no power to restrict or even regulate the drilling — they are forced to accept it.
The transport and burning of fossil fuels also involve top-down political decision-making, as generating facilities are forced onto poor and politically weak communities. I could spend the rest of the day writing about the force involved in the use of fossil fuels… but it’s important to note that these top-down political actions were and are always justified with rhetoric around virtue — this will provide jobs, cheap energy, etc. The greater good trumps any individual person’s or community’s objection. The powerful are virtuous.
So now that we’re suddenly realizing we have to get off fossil fuels, how are we going about it? Yep, through a brute force, top-down political process. There’s no room for democratic debate, or even dissent, from fishermen opposing tidal generation or Indigenous people objecting to the loss of their fish and water supplies.
The attitude is: You’re going to have to accept what we’re forcing down your throats because we are the virtuous, suddenly concerned about the burning of fossil fuels, which we had virtuously forced upon you before.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have tidal generation or hydro power. I’m saying that in making this transition off fossil fuels, we also have to radically alter our social and political relationships.
2. Examineradio, episode #84
Jordan Brennan is an economist with Unifor and a Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard University. In a recent report, he trashes the Nova Scotia Liberal government’s neoliberal austerity agenda. He argues that cutting government spending when the private sector is also belt-tightening is exactly the opposite of responsible economic stewardship.
Also, we speak with four of the newly-elected city councillors: Lindell Smith, Lisa Blackburn, Shawn Cleary and Richard Zurawski. Each talks about how they’re gearing up for joining council, how they hope to address a living-wage ordinance, and which councillor they’d most like to job shadow.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
3. Pride boycott
“Some members of Nova Scotia’s LGBT community are boycotting Halifax Pride after growing tension within the organization in recent months,” reports Rachel Ward for the CBC.
The decision to not ban a pro-Israeli table at next year’s Pride celebration is the proximate cause of the boycott call, but divisions within Pride have been widening for several years, as some feel that more marginalized segments of the community have been further pushed to the sidelines as Pride becomes more mainstream.
1. McNeil targets carbon tax
In an op-ed written for Local Xpress, Joanne Light points out the Stephen McNeil’s anti-carbon tax positioning comes along with significant bureaucratic restructuring:
Before Diana Whalen was abruptly removed from the provincial finance portfolio in 2014, she conducted nine public sessions called “Let’s Talk Taxes” across the province. The idea was to test the public’s tolerance for certain tax reforms. One of the questions was whether Nova Scotians would accept a carbon tax. The answer was mostly favourable, as long as it didn’t punish low-income households.
Not only was Whalen ushered out of Finance, but in 2015, the whole “Climate Change Nova Scotia” division in the Department of Environment was put on the back burner, if not eliminated altogether.
They still have a website and phone number, but list no staff. The last report for the division’s “Climate Change Adaptation Fund” program — launched in 2010 to support communities in identifying and assessing the threats and opportunities related to climate change and to build Nova Scotia’s capacity to adapt to new and different climatic conditions — was in 2014.
It seems the Nova Scotia government is now in the clutches of climate-change deniers, but wait, there’s more. The executive director of that division, the highly qualified environmental science graduate, Jason Hollett, went with his boss, then environment minister Randy Delorey, to the Finance Department where Delorey took over as minister from Whalen. Hollett’s title now — wait for this — is executive director of corporate strategic initiatives! A top climate-change professional is now using his skills and our taxpayer dollars to develop strategies for corporations.
I remind readers that “corporate” has a different meaning in bureaucratese — in this case the corporation is the government itself, not private and publicly traded corporations out there in the world — but Light’s observation stands all the same: Stephen McNeil has apparently either killed or defanged Climate Change Nova Scotia.
Further, according to a private message sent from Andrew Younger to Light, which she then forwarded to me, the premier is at the same time building a new bureaucratic structure to combat a carbon tax. “McNeil is using the Finance unit to come up with ways to argue against any form of carbon pricing,” writes Younger. “They tried to keep the existence of the unit secret, but everyone is on secondment (such as Jason [Hollett]).”
2. Phil Pacey
John DeMont and Judy Haiven remember Phil Pacey.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I’ve been feeling saddened, ashamed and disgusted in the aftermath of the Thanksgiving Day flood that struck parts of CBRM.
I’ve been living in Cape Breton for a little over a year. I moved here from Toronto to start a new life and work career. When I first heard about heavy-garage pick up I was impressed that a community would clean up old and unused belongings for free once a year (something unheard of in Ontario).
On Oct. 10, my basement apartment, along with the basements of thousands of others, was severely flooded and damaged. We all lost many valuables, expensive equipment and personal belongings.
Despite my husband and I leaving our home in Glace Bay for three days with no power, heat or hot water, we felt immensely blessed to still have a basement that can be repaired and insurance that will cover the cost. Others are not so fortunate.
I understand that some people make a living by collecting old, useless and/or discarded ‘junk’ (as some people call it) to take home, rebuild and then resell at value. I am not condoning or bashing this in any regard. I can actually admit that I have done this at certain points in my past.
The real disturbance, however, is that people are driving through neighbourhoods to take the belongings of others for their own personal benefit.
There are two reasons why this is not OK, the first being the obvious health hazard. Many curbside belongings are covered in mold and sewage. Though people may think some of it can be salvaged, it still poses an increased threat of waterborne diseases such as the typhoid, respiratory issues and many others. This is how diseases start and an epidemic of sickness begins.
We need to heed the advice of our health-care authorities and leave the contaminated belongings to be transported by the authorities to a safe place.
Secondly, the junk you see on the curb is not junk at all. It is your great grandmother’s quilt, the dresser an uncle made you on your 10th birthday, the hockey trophy you won from your first playoff season, your college diploma or the albums of photo memories kept away in a box for safekeeping in your basement. It’s a person’s story and a piece of their history that was destroyed.
I understand that ‘stuff’ can be replaced and we can’t take ‘stuff’ with us when we die, but let’s be more respectful of our neighbours. Let’s not just look at their curbside belongings as ‘stuff’ but rather the immense sense of loss and grief they must be experiencing. Let’s reach out to help our fellow neighbour instead of being greedy and taking away.
Candice MacLennan, Glace Bay
Here’s a video of the decimated forests in the Cape Breton Highlands:
Robert Devet has more.
Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — the committee will consider the Halifax Grammar School application.
No public meetings.
Thesis defence, Earth Sciences (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Sharane Simon will defend her thesis, “Sedimentology of the Fluvial Systems of the Clear Fork Formation in North Central Texas: Implications for Early Permian Paleoclimate and Plant Fossil Taphonomy.”
Senate (3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — here’s the agenda. I’ll pop by to say hi.
The De Rham complex (4:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Kristine Bauer, from the University of Calgary, will speak on “Calculus of functors and the De Rham complex.” Her abstract:
The calculus of functors, pioneered by Goodwillie in the 1980’s, refers to a way of examining functors which topologists and algebraists often use to distinguish and classify algebraic or topological objects like algebras. The De Rham complex of a commutative algebra over a field, the algebraic analogue of De Rham cohomology of a manifold, is precisely one of these functors. The De Rham complex is closely related to cohomology theories for non-commutative algebras, such as cyclic (co)homology and crystalline cohomology. Goodwillie and Waldhausen observed that the De Rham complex can be thought of as Taylor tower, in the sense of functor calculus, of a certain forgetful functor. Making this observation precise lead my coauthors (Eldred, Johnson and McCarthy) and me to develop a new kind of functor calculus tower. In this talk, I will explain how this new tower works and how it recovers the De Rham complex, and how this suggests another possible model for functo! rs related to non-commutative algebras.
Canada Since 1960 (Tuesday, 1pm, Library Room LI135) — Judy Haiven and Larry Haiven will talk about their contributions to Canada Since 1960: A People’s History – a Left Perspective on 50 Years of Politics, Economics and Culture.
In the harbour
5:30am: AIDAdiva, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Quebec with up to 2,050 passengers
5:30am: Tosca, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
5:45am: Regal Princess, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from New York with up to 4,271 passengers (the ship seems to have bypassed its original scheduled stop at Saint John)
11am: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
2:30pm: AIDAdiva, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
3pm: Seoul Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
3:30pm: Regal Princess, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
4pm: Bahri Jazan, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
4:30pm: Bruarfoss, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Portland, Maine
8:30pm: Tosca, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3am: Berlin Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
4am: Seoul Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
6:30am: Seven Seas Mariner, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 779 passengers
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Word up here is that the moose culls in the highlands national park are a result of the clear-cutting of the Margaree watershed over the last 15 years. Their habitat was slowly destroyed so they moved North.
I grew up in an area of Canada where hydroelectric power was cheap and plentiful and renewable.
There are many pluses but it would appear that nothing changes when it comes to first nations concerns.
Hydroelectric power should be clean, renewable and moral. All people affected by such development should be heard. It seems for Muskrat Falls, unsurprisingly, that has not been the case.
Pretty funny stuff today. Jordan Brennan is employed by the same company that is the direct benefactor of the destruction of those Cape Breton Highlands pictured above. Thanks for the financial report though!!!
westray didn’t happen because of profits, it happened because of jobs.
the province needed the mine to provide jobs, and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. that included lax safety inspections.
NS governments are so desperate to provide jobs in rural areas that they push through and support dubious schemes against any rational concern for other effects.
look at the forest management – companies who need hardwood cant get it, because we just want softwood to burn in biomas or pulp.
The jobs/profits/safety at Westray are linked together. You can’t separate them.
As far as biomass, we burn everything. Softwood is required by PHP and NP mills.
Workplace safety is as much a personal responsibility as it is a corporate responsibility. Stuffing rags in safety alarms is not an action of managers, directors or owners. At Westray one miner being well aware of the dust and the dangerous conditions told friends at a residence that if the mine blew they were to make sure they told the public about the conditions in the mine.
Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster in Wales where a coal mine spoil tip slid down the hill and killed 116 children in a school as well as 28 adults. The mine was government owned and the dangers of the tip were well known.
” n an article about “the terrible story of Aberfan”, Huw Edwards reminded readers of the Sunday Telegraph that it “was a man-made disaster”.
He was marking the 50th anniversary of the colliery tip collapse in the Welsh village that cost the lives of 116 children and 28 adults on 21 October 1966.*
In so doing, he argued that the lessons of Aberfan “are still of profound relevance today” because “they touch on issues of public accountability, responsibility, competence and transparency”.
One of those issues relates to the media, specifically the failure of national newspapers to hold to account the state-owned National Coal Board (NCB) and its high-handed chairman, Lord (Alf) Robens.
His conduct, wrote Edwards, “was, by general consent, thoroughly reprehensible”. He tried to avoid blame for the tragedy, lied to the tribunal of inquiry and refused to pay for other dangerous tips to be cleared.
Edwards wrote: “Those in charge of a public body found liable for a disaster on this scale would be justly denounced, vilified and prosecuted. There would be charges of corporate manslaughter brought”.
At the tribunal, the NCB’s lawyers argued that the collapse was due to a “critical geological environment” and insisted there was no way of knowing that a slide was foreseeable ”
At the time I was with many Welshmen and that event cannot be forgotten.
Safety is personal responsibility, but there are limits to that. Particularly when a company and/or government lie to you about the hazards you are exposed to. Corporate culture is integral in successful safety programs. The government and their lackeys are essentially worthless.
In my experience, safe job sites are ones where workers get fired for safety violations. We can do better than self-preservation.
I’ve been on a job site where a person died due to violating safety rules (he fell about 60′ onto concrete while working without fall arrest gear next to an open hole). Fortunately, I didn’t witness it, or have any relationship with the unfortunate, but at least the company I was working with and the project managers were not culpable in his death, which is a massive improvement over the way things were pre-ww2.
A lot of social progress (especially workers rights) in the 50’s and 60’s was partially the result of elite concern about the armed, trained and experienced workforce returning from ww2, and ironically, many of the same socialist policies that fuelled Hitler’s rise to power got implemented just about everywhere in the industrialized world to prevent a putsch.