The latest CN train derailment in Alberta involving cars containing crude oil, coming on the heels of the deadly Lac Mégantic disaster in Quebec, is bringing Canada’s dramatic rise in transport of oil by rail into sharp focus.
And for good reason.
Close to 275,000 barrels of crude are now shipped by rail every day, criss-crossing through towns and cities. That’s up from almost none five years ago.
The media has been abuzz about the best and safest way to get more tar sands oil to thirsty markets: pipeline or rail?
The Fraser Institute, ever the opportunists, published a report on the matter this month. The right-wing think tank argues that pipelines are demonstrably safer, and that opposition to them (Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Energy East) promises to expose Canadians to higher risk involving a product that will find its way to market one way or another.
What you won't read in the Fraser Institute's report is what makes shipping oil by rail so dangerous. Lack of regulation, for one, allows the industry to police itself.
But pipelines are prone to devastating spills, too, and there’s good evidence those spills, on balance, are bigger and more damaging than rail.
What a convenient frame for the oil industry and the Fraser Institute. Here's the problem: Canada has no plan to reduce climate pollution, so this rail versus pipeline debate is happening in a vacuum. That needs to change if we're going to have an informed discussion.
But we're still waiting for the government's twice promised emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector, and we know that even with regulations, Canada will fail to meet our modest target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020.
Too bad Harper's government has been so busy gutting our emissions monitoring capacity.
Photo: shannonpatrick17. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.
This week is Citizenship Week, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper took the opportunity to “encourage all Canadians to welcome newcomers and acknowledge the contributions that they continue to make to the fabric of our great nation."
Nice sentiment. Too bad his Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Tim Uppal, appeared on a Vancouver TV station just last week to explain how older relatives of immigrants are such a burden.
This attitude could help explain why the Conservative government decreased the family reunification quota by 50 per cent in its first five years in office. Earlier this year, it followed up by tightening the rules to make it harder for parents and grandparents to be accepted.
Photo: 96434059@N00. Used under a Creative Commons NC-ND 2.0 licence.
After slipping in proposed changes to undermine bargaining rights in the government's budget implementation bill, Treasury Board president Tony Clement appeared on CBC's morning radio show in Ottawa on Thursday to try and explain his move.
The radio host asked plainly about which government employees would be classified as "essential," an arbitrary designation that would block their right to collective strike action. Clement tersely responded, "look, you’re going through a speculative question and answer and I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna indulge you in that."
When asked when he would inform the public, Clement responded, "when we are ready to tell the public."
When asked whether or not essential workers would be identified as essential in advance or if the designation could be made just as employees were contemplating collective action, Clement mumbled something about "natural justice."
The host asked Clement to clarify his answer. Clement said, "nope. Next question."
The interview played out pretty negatively on social media, with streams of tweets criticizing Clement’s appearance.
Watching the feed, Clement did manage to find a handful of tweets lauding him. Despite getting into trouble in the past for his Twitter antics, Clement retweeted them - no matter how ignorant they were or unhelpful they could be as the government's go-to guy on the civil service.
Here are the ones Clement retweeted:
[&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="//storify.com/PressProgress/tony-s-ottawa-morning-meltdown" target="_blank"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;View the story "Clement retweets selectively" on Storify&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;]