Week Five: Pulling back focus

If we accept the popular expectation that the “real” federal election starts next week after Labour Day, for this week it is interesting to pull focus back somewhat, from what has been covered environment-wise on the election trail (pipelines, spending on infrastructure) to what has been taken up by media outside election coverage.

These items contribute to how we might think about climate change and living in our environment, yet for the most part they occupy a non-election space, not technically anchored by the daily doings of Stephen Harper, Elizabeth May, Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau, or their parties, but no less influential upon our lives and the state of federal governance post-Oct. 19.


This week Barack Obama is in Alaska for the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic. As this Globe story outlines, whereas other countries are sending their environment ministers, Canada is sending a bureaucrat, which can be read as a symbolic failure to buy in on “immediate action” to safe-guard the region, or at best a distancing of members of the current federal government from whatever decisions are made or discussions had.

Foreign ministers from five of the seven circumpolar nations – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, all of which are expected to back Mr. Obama’s call for immediate action to cut emissions and protect the Arctic – will attend the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER).

Only two countries – Canada and Russia, where resource exploitation, not curbing carbon emissions, is the top Arctic priority – won’t send a minister to hear Mr. Obama’s call for action.

Neither Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson nor Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who led the Arctic Council during Canada’s two-year chairmanship, will attend the two-day GLACIER conference hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Anchorage, Alaska. Instead Ottawa is sending a senior bureaucrat, Daniel Jean, a deputy minister. Moscow will be similarly represented by an official, Russia’s U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

This is no peripheral issue. Arctic energy extraction and sovereignty, the potential for having to move isolated and remote communities to safer ground in the years ahead, and other ramifications and results of climate change need to be dealt with. One might take issue with the U.S. government’s showcasing of “climate impacts in the Arctic as a harbinger for the world”–something like showcasing canaries in coal mines, which undermines the agency of people who live in the region now–but the political task at hand isn’t really shelve-able.



Media coverage of the Unist’ot’en Camp on the weekend highlighted two omissions from serious political debate or elaboration since the election was called: the ramifications of Bill C-51, and what happens if First Nations communities say no to proposed energy pipelines. This CBC story published Friday highlights concerns that the RCMP would use the new law to carry out mass arrests, seriously hindering the camp’s ability to bar entrance to unceded traditional territories by energy company surveyors and workers. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued its opposition to the potential move on the weekend, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joined a list of prominent people and organizations offering their support to Unist’ot’en. For its part, the RCMP released official word that it had no such plans:

The BC RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peacefully protest says Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, on behalf of North District RCMP. To clarify, the BC RCMP has no intention of ‘taking down the camp’ set up by the Unist’ot’en. We value the Wet’suwet’en culture, the connection to the land and traditions being taught and passed on at the camp, and the importance of the camp to healing.

Among a cross-section of resources to continue monitoring this story, this journalist’s Twitter feed is particularly useful.


Energy notes

Alberta is beginning serious work on refining its approach to energy royalties/provincial revenues with a new panel and a reach-out to Albertans.

For those interested in engaging questions of what comes after oil, however, check out video from this Petrocultures panel that took place in Edmonton and linked media coverage.

In this interview with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, the absence of carbon capture from the election agenda is queried.

Global News offers in-depth analysis of “what you need to know about oilsands and the 2015 election.”

This year’s multi-element Atkinson Series is focused on the oil sands and “examining the costs of Canada’s oil sands bargain.”



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