Monday, September 06, 2010

Has Environment Canada Been Compromised by Conservative Intimidation?

Alberta premier "Special Ed" Stelmach says he wants to get to the bottom of Tar Sands contamination of the surrounding watershed but that's hard to believe.   The Klein/Stelmach clown car has gone to great lengths to keep that very information from ever coming out.   But world-class hydrologist, the University of Alberta's David Schindler was one voice the Alberta Conservatives repeatedly failed to silence.

It was Schindler's bulletproof research into the Tar Sands toxins oozing into the Athabasca watershed, scientific proof that drove a stake through the heart of nonsense from laughable government-funded agencies, that forced Stelmach's hand - leaving him nowhere to hide.

Now Stelmach's fallback position is to let the scientists, experts like Schindler and his government's own bought and paid for stooges, sit down and talk it over.  Schindler's response was chilling:

Schindler [said] that Stelmach's suggestion is "probably not a bad idea," but noted he has met with government scientists in the past.

"They're really afraid to do much in that environment," Schindler said. "Environment Canada is the same. If you want to keep your job, you keep your head low."

In  other words, Schindler is claiming that government scientists, including those at Environment Canada, fear speaking out may cost them their jobs.   What he suggests is that our conservative governments have compromised our environmental agencies.   Who do they think they are, the Mob?

This ought to be investigated.   Parliament should get to the bottom of this.   These scientists at EnviroCan work for you and for me.  We're entitled  to the full benefit of what they know.  That information is our property.   Stephen Harper doesn't own it.  It is not his to purloin and conceal because it contradicts his message, his policy.   If the Harper government is suppressing EnviroCan's staff, he's depriving you of your property for his own political advantage.

This is one area where the opposition parties have really failed the Canadian public.   Beyond a meek whine or two, they have sat docile and submissive while Stephen Harper tightly gagged the public and armed services.   The opposition has, for four years now, enabled Harper to substitute his skewed message for the information we deserve to be receiving directly and unfiltered from our public servants and armed forces.

The current situation reminds me of something I learned from my father, that rights have real value both to those who foolishly take them for granted and for those who would take them away from us.  He also taught me that we don't have a single right that's ever safe from forfeiture and that virtually every right we hold today has been paid for at some time in the past, often more than once, and paid for in blood.

Chalmers Johnson, in his book Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic, offers an insightful discussion of the importance of access to government information to the health of democracy:

"James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, considered the people's access to information the basic right upon which all other rights depend.

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it," Madison later wrote, "is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.  Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

"...federal appellate judge Damon Keith wrote in his 2003 ruling against the Bush policy of holding hundreds of deportation hearings in secret, 'Democracies die behind closed doors...  When government begins closing doors it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people.  Selective information is misinformation.'"

Of course Chalmers is writing about American democracy but the principles he states are applicable to all democracies.   Harper uses his control of information to wrest from the Canadian people a degree of real power beyond that ever entrusted to him at the ballot box.   And he gets away with it thanks to a thoroughly cowed opposition.



Ffib said...

How could anyone not think that this government in particular or most governments we have had in the past would put corporate greed above environmental concerns. The only difference with this one is that it has been one of it's prime objectives. Especially when it comes to the oil sector.

The Mound of Sound said...

Willy, you sly old dog. I followed the Ffib link and - who knew? Great site, fine work, very worthwhile. If you're reading this, follow the Ffib link above.

CoteGauche said...

In a related story - OJ is still looking for the real killer.

double nickel said...

Just read the newspapers. The heads of many public services have been whacked in the past 4 years. You think the people further down the food chain haven't been paying attention? The politicization of the civil service (federally and in most provinces) has been going on for decades. For this reason I despise politicians, regardless of political persuasion. Once in power, they're all the same.

LMA said...

This coming week, Nancy Pelosi will be meeting with Stelmach, Pembina Institute and aboriginal reps. to discuss the Tar Sands. Hopefully, Pelosi is aware of Schindler's research and Alberta's pitiful record of monitoring Tar Sands pollution and enforcing regulations.

The Opposition just turns a blind eye to the Tar Sands, and I agree Double Nickel, once in power, most politicians sacrifice principles and policies to get relected. Thank God for activist groups such as Greenpeace!

Ffib said...


Thanks for the plug, it is appreciated.I


Anonymous said...

Corruption and greed govern this country. There is so much poison leaching, into lakes, rivers, streams and the lands. Clean drinking water, is like gold, and will be fought over, as oil is. Read about the, Water War Crimes. The contamination,of the Athabasca watershed, is, a very serious matter. You can live without oil, but you sure as hell, can't live without water. Clean water is, getting very scarce, all over the world. Man is the most destructive animal on earth. The lakes, are polluted, our rivers and streams, are being polluted. The land is becoming toxic. Our air is being poisoned. The oceans, are dying. Man, has even polluted space, with debris. However, man is also, the stupidest animals on earth. Our politicians, are dirtying and polluting, every back yard, including their own. China's pollution, is even drifting in to Canada. By all means, let's send them, some more pollution.

The Mound of Sound said...

Maude Barlow points out in "Blue Covenant" that 23% of our freshwater resources are already seriously contaminated.

It's more than curious that Canada neither has specific standards for freshwater but we've never surveyed and inventories our groundwater resources either. That helps perpetuate the myth that we have enless reserves of water. That's simply untrue.

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