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As the Energy East Pipeline dominates ever more headlines, editorials, ads and press conferences in my home province of New Brunswick and elsewhere, I’m reminded of an interview given by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the CBC Radio’s The House in February 2013.
Mayor Nenshi said:
We’ve got a resource that is valuable to us and to our kids and to our grandkids, and we know that someday it’s not going to be that valuable; someday we’ll have a low carbon world. And I think it would be deeply irresponsible for us to leave that resource in the ground so that it will be worthless for future generations.
Ponder that statement and you get to the heart of the current lust for pipelines out of Alberta, whether south, west, north or east. You get to the heart of why the Energy East Pipeline, a project barely contemplated just a year ago, has quickly received nearly universal adulations and blessings, and seems on an ultrafast track to reality.
But before we place our chips on the pipeline, perhaps the costs and benefits are worth closer scrutiny.
Almost every assessment of the pipeline stresses the economic gains it will provide to New Brunswick. A recent report by Deloitte and Touche (commissioned, interestingly, by TransCanada, the company building the pipeline) suggests our province will earn about $700 million in tax revenues over 40 years. That sounds like a lot, but, in context, it’s roughly $20 million per year in a province with an annual budget of about $8,000 million, or about 0.25 per cent of our budget. Not exactly a windfall.
The same report suggests NB would see about 1550 direct jobs as a result of the pipeline. That sounds tempting too. But over 90 per cent would be temporary, lasting three years at most. In context, NB’s construction industry presently provides 27,000 jobs, or nearly 20 times as many.
Finally, because Alberta oil is landlocked and therefore traditionally sold below world prices, it’s been suggested that bringing it east will lower energy prices for us. As rosy as it might be to imagine that world oil prices will suddenly drop because Alberta crude has arrived in Atlantic Canada, it’s probably more realistic to expect that Alberta crude will get more expensive as soon as a pipeline links it to us, and the world market.
So — economic glitter perhaps, but not necessarily economic gold.
It’s interesting, and perhaps telling, that the Deloitte and Touche study specifically excluded any assessment of the environmental aspects of the pipeline project. So has much of the official conversation. That’s like ignoring elephants in the room.
First, there’s the issue of pipeline integrity and the potential for spills. Pipelines have a long and mostly successful history, so it’s probably fair to assume that if they are well engineered, constructed, maintained and operated, the risk of ruptures is small. A spill is possible, but it’s probably the baby elephant in the room.
The jumbo elephant, quietly ignored in most of the conversation so far, is climate change. No matter what any of us may wish to believe, burning oil produces greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gases are warming our planet and disrupting our weather. The Energy East Pipeline, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the hinted Beaufort Sea option – all are big, new drinking straws stuck into that bituminous milkshake called the oil sands, serving it up to an addicted world that needs to break its addiction.
The International Energy Agency, a leading global authority, has stated that if we are to put the brakes on climate change, most of our known global fossil fuel reserves must remain untouched in the ground. Kudos to Mayor Nenshi for implicitly acknowledging that; but shame on those who interpret it as a signal to get as much oil to market as quickly as possible while it’s still worth something. Hence the pipeline bonanza in which we are being asked to partake.
Jobs come and go but climate change is permanent. Years from now, our grandkids will look back on the decision we are facing today. I can’t imagine them being very sympathetic or understanding if we choose to trade away their long term climate stability for our short term prosperity. But that’s the very trade we’re contemplating as we consider the Energy East pipeline.
What 7 days without power is like 3:58
Tens of thousands still in the dark in Ontario 3:36
The little generator that could2:11
- NB Power warns of outages into new year as storm threatens
- Latest storm updates
- Montreal vows to clear city streets by New Year’s Eve
- NB Power pushes restoration date back to New Year’s Eve
- CBC Weather Centre
- Ice storm’s beauty, ruin captured in stunning photos
- Insurance and the ice storm: Are you covered?
- Ice storm aftermath: Staying safe during power outages
About 30,000 customers in Ontario and New Brunswick remain in the dark one week after a major ice storm blanketed Central and Atlantic Canada, and warming temperatures have caused new power outages in Toronto.
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said early Saturday that melting ice falling from trees and other structures has led to fresh damage. At about 1 a.m. ET the number of customers without power had dropped below 20,000 for the first time, but by 8 a.m. it was back up to around 23,000. The number is hovering at 18,000 as of mid-afternoon Saturday.
- Ice storm aftermath: Staying safe during power outages
- Insurance and the ice storm: Are you covered?
- Get the latest forecast information at CBC Weather Centre
“Over the morning hours we’ve been moving backwards, but I’m sure our crews will attend to those and we’ll start moving in the right direction again over the next couple of hours,” he told CBC News Network.
Calling it a “story of ups and downs,” Haines pointed out that the current tally — 18,000 — is about the same number that crews have been bringing power to each day.
The falling ice caused at least one injury when a Hamilton worker was struck in the head, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said. Officials couldn’t provide an update on the worker’s condition.
“This is Day 7 and there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ford in an interview with CBC News midday Saturday. “What that day is, I can not tell you…We’re trying our best.”
In response to the backlash the mayor and other officials have received from people still without power, Ford said “it tears my heart out.”
“We have crews from Ottawa, we have crews from Windsor,” he said. “I share their frustration…it’s all hands on deck [and] we are moving as fast as we can.”
Haines said computer simulations have shown three days, but that there are variables at work like the new outages and the arrival of more crews. The provincial utility, Hydro One, said the outages outside Toronto are largely over, which has allowed it to send crews in to help the city.
“I’m hopeful certainly by the early part of next week the vast majority of customers will be back,” Haines said.
Working around the clock
Haines, who noted that the average Toronto Hydro customer is equivalent to 2½ people, said he sympathizes with people.
“What we can do is work around the clock and we can bring extra resources in from far and wide … we will not stop until the power is on for everybody,” he said.
Haines and Toronto Community Housing CEO Gene Jones (who is still dealing with outages in about 80 housing units) said they will perform a postmortem after the outages are over to see what they might do better next time.
Haines stressed the enormous scope of the damage:
- Forty per cent of the city’s power lines, which would cross Canada twice, have been affected by the storm.
- Thirty-thousand pieces of equipment have been installed back into the grid and about 47,000 metres of cable have gone back up into the air.
- The City of Toronto says about 20 per cent of the city’s tree canopy has been damaged and it could take seven weeks to clean up all the fallen limbs, Haines said.
Amid the rising anger and frustration of those still in the dark, utility companies are pleading for patience, saying crews are working around the clock and nothing else can be done to speed up the process.
That’s little consolation for people who have been in the dark for a week, including Carmen Andronesu, who is one of more than 1,000 residents who live in a condo complex in Toronto’s north end.
“No matter how much you try calling here and there, it’s like you cannot find help from anywhere,” she said.
Wynne promises help for food spoilage
In a morning news conference, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the concern she’s heard most around the province is spoiled food. She said she’s looking at providing help and would offer details over the next couple of days when a plan had been confirmed.
“We’ve reached out to food suppliers to try to come up with a way of compensating people and getting some extra food — or food vouchers, something to folks, so that’s what we’re working out over the next couple of days,” she said.
Ford said Toronto won’t be looking into any sort of compensation until the power has been restored.
“I can’t give any numbers or any assurances that we can reimburse anyone,” Ford said.
11,000 without power in N.B.
About 11,000 customers in New Brunswick are also struggling through a long power outage, mostly in St. Stephen and the Saint John area.
Some people won’t have their power restored until the new year, according to a tweet from NB Power on Saturday. Gaetan Thomas, the utility’s CEO, said extra crews are being brought in from Quebec tonight, which means more than 200 crews will be working in the province to restore electricity.
Thomas said another large storm, forecast for tomorrow, will also hinder their efforts as it brings freezing rain and snow.
In the rural southern New Brunswick community of Titusville, people without power have been heading to the generator-powered general store to buy kerosene, propane, candles and water.
Owner Mark Carline said the storm and outage has caused him to reflect.
“I think we were all reminded and humbled by the fact that at any given time we could be set back to this state, where we’re scrambling [to get] the basic necessities.”
In Quebec, the outages are almost over: Hydro-Québec tweeted late Friday night that they were “almost there” with only about 400 customers left who needed power restored.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting for their power to be restored after a weekend ice storm wreaked havoc from southwestern Ontario to the Atlantic Coast.
Across Ontario about 350,000 people remained without power early Monday morning, and hydro officials were advising that it could take until Wednesday to get everyone reconnected.
In hardest hit Toronto where the ice splintered a huge number of trees, and turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks, nearly 250,000 hydro customers were still in the dark by 3 a.m. At a press conference a few hours later, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said crews had brought that number down to 200,000 customers. Some in the city may be in the dark through Christmas, The Toronto Star reported.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told a Sunday afternoon news conference that the province would provide support to municipal emergency crews as they scramble to do their jobs.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called it one of the worst storms in the city’s history, but said he was not yet ready to declare a state of emergency.
The Toronto Transit Commission warned to expect delays on all surface routes and shuttle buses were put into use between some subway stations. The Sheppard Line and Scarborough RT Line were both closed due to bad weather and buses are in service instead.
Buses were also operating betweenWoodbine Station and Kennedy Station Monday morning. Subway trains were also bypassing Yorkdale Station and North York Centre Station due to power outages.
GO Trains were operating on an adjusted schedule to cope with the bad weather.
Air travellers, however, were still being frustrated by numerous flight cancellations and delays at Pearson International Airport. The airport is advising travellers to check with their airline about flight status in advance and to give themselves lots of time.
You can reach Air Canada’s automated flight system at 1-888-422-7533.Travellers flying with WestJet can call 1-888-937-8538.
Flying with Porter? You can find out more about your flight at 1-888-619-8622.
The storm system also coated much of southern Quebec in ice, and continues to produce freezing drizzle in parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Some 50,000 customers in Quebec and about 6,000 more in New Brunswick were still without power as of late Sunday night.
A few local photos:
David Suzuki Foundation supporters who live in Western Canada often have eyes riveted on Ottawa to see what the federal government’s next move will be when it comes to environmental issues. So we sometimes too easily overlook Canadians in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador — coastal regions, like ours, on the front lines of climate change.
As oceans warm, water expands and sea levels rise. Melting glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets add to the water volume. Scientists predict oceans could rise by more than a metre before the end of the century. They’re also increasingly convinced that escalating carbon emissions are linked to the risk of extreme weather events and intensified storms, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or super storm Sandy in the U.S. in 2012. A key finding from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is that Atlantic Canada faces similar risks if climate change is left unchecked, with more severe storms causing surging tides, flooding and widespread coastal erosion.
For his captivating documentary, Climate Change in Atlantic Canada, Ian Mauro, an environmental and social scientist at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, interviewed farmers, fishers, local residents, First Nations community members, scientists and business people from all around the Atlantic provinces. All say climate change is affecting their communities and livelihoods. They also agree something must be done and that the “business as usual” scenario is no longer an option.
The heart of the problem is our seemingly unquenchable thirst for mainly fossil-fuel based energy resources. As our desire for comfort and efficiency grows, so does our energy consumption, prompting the search for sources increasingly difficult to extract. The wordstar sands, shale gas, offshore drilling and fracking have only entered our vocabulary in just the past few decades – including in Atlantic communities, many of which now also rely on these fossil-based industries to fuel economic prosperity.
But with current talks about oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, shale gasfracking in New Brunswick, and moving tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the East Coast, we must ask if economic profit and prosperity for a few are worth the environmental and social risks to so many — especially when the latest IPCC report suggests that to avoid global catastrophic climate chaos, we must leave much of the known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground.
In light of what the scientific community is telling us about the scope and impacts of climate change – largely a result of burning fossil fuels – we owe it ourselves and our children and grandchildren to consider the implications of the choices we’re about to make in Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country. As former Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Scott Vaughan reminded us before leaving his position earlier this year, Canada is not prepared for a major oil spill off the East Coast. And, as New Brunswick Chief Medical Health Officer Eilish Cleary points out regarding the economics of shale gas development, “[We] cannot simply assume that more money equates to a healthier population.”
Coastal regions such as Atlantic Canada have a long cultural history based largely on fishing, tourism and other marine activities. Although fossil-fuel activities have been in Atlantic Canada for decades, proposed new on- and offshore energy projects will likely put Atlantic Canada’s existing economy and way of life at risk, affecting tourism and fishing in the ocean and on rivers like New Brunswick’s famous Miramichi.
When it comes to climate change, our future will not be determined by chance but by choice. We can choose to ignore the science, or we can change our ways and reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s up to us and our leaders to consider and promote energy alternatives and other solutions that modernize our energy systems, provide a clean, healthy environment for our families and offer long-term economic prosperity.
I’ll be touring Atlantic Canada with local and national experts at the end of November, premiering Mauro’s film and holding conversations with Atlantic communities about climate change and energy issues. Please join us and be part of the solution!
With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation-Quebec Science Project Manager Jean-Patrick Toussaint. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
About a dozen people from an Idle No More group based on the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve are marching today against shale gas exploration.
They blocked the Seaway International Bridge, also known as the Three Nations Bridge, connecting Cornwall, Ont. and Massena, NY for about an hour early on Saturday afternoon.
The group gathered to raise public awareness about the dangers of fracking, the process used to extract gas from the earth by injecting fluid into shale rocks to release the natural gas inside.
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne posted a note to its Facebook page on Nov. 6 saying its members had met with the group of protesters prior to the march and they confirmed bridge traffic wouldn’t be disrupted.
The council said in the note that the group vowed instead to undertake an educational campaign and pass out leaflets during the demonstration. However, the protest veered onto the bridge, forcing local police to close it.
According to Cornwall police, the bridge has since re-opened and traffic is flowing freely.
No arrests have been reported so far. Akwesasne police were unavailable to comment.
Akwesasne straddles the border between Quebec, Ontario and New York.
Oil and gas executives at an industry conference in Montreal sipped on a rather unique beverage this week, the National Post reports — fracking fluid.
During a lunch presentation at the Quebec Oil And Gas Association’s annual conference, Halliburton Canada vice-president John Gorman handed out glasses of the company’s “CleanStim” fracking fluid, and some 20 to 25 execs — Gorman included — took a sip, the Post reported.
Talk about a potent potable.
Gorman said Halliburton “only had to replace very few chemicals with some food additives” to create a fracking fluid safe enough to drink. But the company maintains its fracking fluid is “not intended for human consumption.”
It was a publicity stunt, of course, one that Halliburton — which used to be headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney — has repeated multiple times in recent years.
It’s meant to show that environmentalists’ concerns about toxic fluids in fracking operations are overblown.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a U.S. congressional committee earlier this year that he drank Halliburton fracking fluid.
And it was likely not a coincidence that the latest round of fracking fluid drinking took place in Quebec, which has instituted a moratorium on fracking.
That moratorium has frustrated some energy companies hoping to jump-start the fracking industry in the province, and led to a lawsuit against the federal government.
Lone Pine Resources says it plans to sue Ottawa for $250 million under NAFTA provisions. The company claims Quebec’s moratorium on fracking beneath the St. Lawrence River, instituted in 2011, takes away the company’s “valuable right” to frack.
Violent clashes broke out earlier this month at Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick when police tried to enforce an injunction against an ongoing protest against shale gas exploration. Shale gas is typically extracted through fracking, which is a process by which water and chemicals are forced into rock formations in order to extract oil or gas.
Besides concerns that toxic chemicals could leak into the groundwater from fracking operations, some studies have suggested fracking exploration is causing earthquakes.
A new study from the British government, released this week, says fracking isn’t a public health risk, so long as it’s well regulated and well run, the Guardian reported.
- Halliburton exec’s new drink of choice: Fracking fluid (mining.com)
- Top Haliburton executive sips fracking fluid with colleagues in industry show stunt (business.financialpost.com)
- What Fracking Means for Bottled Drinking Water (knowyourbottledwaterblog.com)
- Fracking (xufenghuang.wordpress.com)
- Peak Oil Denial: Skimming Over Facts (peakoil.com)
- Fracking hysteria prompts industry code of conduct to quell fears (business.financialpost.com)
- ‘Low health risk’ from fracking (bbc.co.uk)
- Study: Fracking Sucks Up Freshwater At Alarming Rate (mintpressnews.com)
“Canada is a developed country and it is having an implosion of the sort that we’ve only seen in the developing countries,” said Rebecca Adamson, president and co-founder of First Peoples’ Worldwide, the group that conducted the study.
“We’ve always seen this erupt when a government refuses to be clear in upholding indigenous land tenure.”
The Indigenous Rights Risk Report studied 52 U.S. resource companies and 370 projects around the world, including 16 companies and 76 projects active in Canada. The aim of the survey is to assess how likely it is that conflict with indigenous communities could result in costly shutdowns.
Canada is home to six of the 21 projects deemed to be at highest risk of collapse according to the group’s analysis — more than any other country. Countries such as Argentina, Indonesia and Ghana are its peers on the list.
The Canadian government is “operating like a third-world country,” Adamson said, adding that its approach to indigenous rights more closely mimics the Philippines and Brazil than the U.S and Australia.
Signs are pointing to an increasing number of protests and possible violence in the country, she added.
First Nations have been on a legal winning streak in Canada, with nearly 200 court victories recognizing their right to be consulted — and in some cases accommodated.
But companies operating in Canada have no clear regulatory guidelines for how to deal with aboriginal communities, creating an uncertain business climate.
“Canada is caught in a moment of schizophrenia because the Canadian court systems are upholding these cases the way that would be expected from all of the developed countries that uphold the rule of law,” Adamson said.
The Harper government’s stance on First Nations and resource development has been called into question in recent years, particularly in the wake of controversial changes to native rights in Bill C-45, the Idle No More protests and after violence erupted at a protest against fracking in New Brunswick this month.
Story continues below gallery
Elsipogtog First Nation Protest Fracking Projects
Canada’s risk level was graded three out of five — medium risk — higher than other industrialized countries like the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, which had a risk level of two.
Canada’s risk level started at a two when the study began two years ago, but after a series of flare-ups the group moved its risk factor higher citing an inconsistent enforcement of indigenous rights.
The group said Canadian projects scored so poorly partly because of the government’s failure to uphold its obligations to First Nations, which is in turn inflicting financial and reputational damage on companies trying to do business in the country.
“The Canadian government may be pro-business but its policies towards First Nations will have very anti-business results,” Adamson said.
“You can already see this in the fact it has the highest number of risky sites. Eventually the companies pull out.”
Houston-based Southwestern Energy’s project in New Brunswick made headlines earlier this month when violence broke out between police and First Nations protesters. That project was ranked highest of the Canadian projects with a risk rating of 4.2 out of 5, the same score as a project in Nigeria.
The company has said the blockades have cost it as much as $60,000 per day. It’s a consequence the report said shows why it makes good business sense to respect indigenous rights and work with their communities and a perfect example of what happens when governments ignore aboriginal sovereignty.
The report concluded that Southwestern “executives were ill-prepared and uninformed for how First Nations in Canada can impact their operations, thus leaving investors and shareholders at risk.”
Cliffs Natural Resources oft-delayed chromite project in Ontario’s Ring of Fire region also ranked highly on the list, with a score of 4.1 out of 5.
The surrounding First Nations in northern Ontario have many concerns about the impact of a giant mining development on their land and traditional way of life. They say an environmental review of the project was too weak.
Cliffs has cited frustration with hold-ups from government and First Nations fordelaying and potentially cancelling the project, saying if it is forced to walk away, it will send a bad signal about Canada’s mining climate.
Some ever-controversial oilsands projects rounded out the riskiest Canadian projects.Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Apache/Chevron/EOG Pacific Trails Pipeline, as well as Murphy Oil’s Alberta Bakken project and its Peace River Oil Sands project were assigned a risk rating of four.
Canada’s oil industry looks to governments to settle issues on land claims, treaty rights, traditional territories, consultation processes and royalty/revenue-sharing positions, said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers spokeswoman Geraldine Anderson, adding CAPP wouldn’t comment specifically on the report.
The clash between resource extraction and indigenous rights is expected to become more pronounced in the coming years as indigenous people increasingly see their rights enshrined at national and international levels and exercise them more effectively.
At the same time, a shrinking number of available resource discoveries means companies are pushing into more remote regions and Indigenous lands.
The study found that most of the 52 companies studied were ill-prepared to engage and work with indigenous people — a whopping 90 per cent of them had no clear indigenous policy at all.
The report says the moral imperative alone has not been effective in forcing companies and governments to respect indigenous rights. The group aims to show companies that there are good financial reasons to accommodate aboriginal communities, namely avoiding protests, bad press and legal battles.
- UN: Canada faces crisis over indigenous issues (boston.com)
- Aboriginal Consultations Bypassed (indigenouscanada.wordpress.com)
- United Nations envoy arrives in Canada to document Aboriginal concerns (mining.com)
- First Nations aren’t swayed by vague promises (theglobeandmail.com)
It’s the “Wild East” of the European Union. Here nationalism, cronyism,anti-Semitism, anti-Roma racism and corruption — above all corruption— strut and dominate the public arena.
Where to begin?
Perhaps in the Czech Republic. They’re holding parliamentary elections on the weekend. The reason? The Czech government collapsed because the prime minister, Petr Nečas, was forced to resign.
His senior aide, who was also his lover and is now his wife, had ordered the country’s security services to spy on the prime minister’s then wife and report back. The aide wanted to push through a speedy divorce.
Then there’s Romania where large street demonstrations against corruption are the order of the week, the month, the year, not to mention last year and the year before.
The demonstrations have brought down ministers and governments without ending the problem.
- Police end protesters siege of Bulgarian parliament
- Canadian gold mine project in Romania could go to referendum
The added twist this fall is that the demonstrations have been against corruption AND the development of the Rosia Montana open-pit gold mine, the biggest in Europe, which is owned by a Canadian company.
Next door, in Bulgaria, things are even wilder. In February, 100,000 people stormed through the streets protesting against unemployment, corruption and high electricity prices. The government resigned.
In June, a new government appointed a so-called security czar, Delyan Peevski, a 32 year old referred to coyly as “a media mogul with dubious friends.”
He also had no experience in policing or security. Within 36 hours he was gone, the victim of a huge public backlash. The backlash continued for 40 days, with demonstrations getting bigger and bloodier.
The irony is that bringing these countries into the union in the last dozen years was supposed to be the first step to emptying the swamp of corruption.
Each of these nations had to sign “governance agreements” that committed them to cleaning up their acts. That clean-up hasn’t happened.
Instead European money, rivers of it, has flowed in to build roads, restore buildings and improve a stagnant infrastructure.
Large chunks of that money has simply gone missing. In effect, Europe has magnified, not reduced, the corruption problem by putting more cash up for grabs.
Hungary, a special case
Hungary doesn’t quite fit the mould of the other three countries as it combines nationalism, corruption and the rise of the extreme right.
Once, a dozen years ago, Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, was hailed by outsiders as the best post-Communist leader the country had had.
Now, three years after his return to power in 2010 he has become a strident nationalist who denounces Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, of which his country is a member, as the “new Moscow.”
The EU parliament returned the compliment, officially rebuking his government for working to strip the Hungarian judiciary and media of their independence and for rewriting the country’s constitution to suit its whims.
But that’s only a taste of Hungary’s current anxieties.
The country’s fastest growing party is Jobbik, an extreme right-wing group that polled 17 per cent in the 2010 elections, largely by attacking the Roma minority (roughly 800,000 in a country of 10 million) in virulent terms.
Roma were “Gypsy criminals,” Jobbik leader Gabor Vona, shouted from podiums. Other Jobbik leaders railed against “Jews and financiers” as well.
Jobbik created its own vigilante group, calling it the Hungarian Guard and giving it uniforms and symbols that intentionally recalled those of the pro-Nazi militia of the 1930s and ’40s.
The Orban government tolerated this and then, this spring, went further when its minister of culture awarded the country’s highest award for journalism to a man who had called the Roma “monkeys” and was known for his scarcely-veiled anti-Semitic remarks.
Oligarchs and mafia
Hungary’s position on the Roma is the most glaring, but official attitudes towards that group in all four countries are unforgiving.
It’s an ongoing headache for Brussels and for countries like France that find themselves trying, and failing, to cope with the inflow of Roma from Eastern Europe.
Just as worrying for Brussels is the continuing rampant corruption in these former Soviet satellites.
Bulgaria is the worst case. It is the poorest country in the EU and many leaders in Brussels, not to mention the legion of Bulgarian protestors, believe that much the state is beholden to “oligarchs” or “mafias.”
So glaring is the problem that when tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, this summer to denounce corruption and the government, European justice commissioner Viviane Reding went along, to meet the demonstrators, and tweeted, “Here in Sofia my sympathy is with Bulgarian citizens who are protesting against corruption.”
Alas, the tweets and weeks of protests were not enough to force the government to resign.
Compared to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic is far richer but hardly immune from corruption and cronyism. In the two-year period before Nečas was forced to resign, a former defence minister, a former top aide to a prime minister, an MP and governor of a large province and the mayor of Prague were all charged with crimes relating to fraud, bribes and corruption.
In Romania, a report in July by the country’s National Agency for Integrity said that half the mayors should resign because of conflicts of interest. They sat on the boards of companies their cities were giving contracts to.
Throughout all of this, EU leaders look on and cluck censoriously. They do little more.
It has been less than a quarter-century since these countries cast off the Communist yoke. But whether it’s the centralization of all power, as in Hungary, or the dead hand of corrupt elites, the ways learned in the days of Soviet domination persist.
The Wild East still thrives.
- Why There Has Been a Rise of the Far Right (hungarianfarright.wordpress.com)
- Neo-Nazis mobilise against minorities in Czech republic (dokmz.wordpress.com)
- Jobbik’s menacing shadow over Hungary (politics.hu)
What was to be the final day of hearings in Toronto on the controversial Line 9 pipeline was cancelled Saturday, as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to oppose energy company Enbridge’s plan to reverse the oil pipe and increase its capacity to carry crude.
“They try to make it seem like we’re not going to have a spill. And it’s very likely that a spill will happen somewhere along this line,” said protester Nigel Barriffe, who lives near Line 9 in northwest Toronto.
Enbridge was to make its closing submissions to the National Energy Board on its plan to reverse the line, so it would flow from Southern Ontario to Montreal, and increase its capacity to move crude oil.
But the National Energy Boardannounced late Friday that Saturday’s hearings were off, saying the way the previous day’s hearings ended raised concerns about the security of participants. Protesters were out in force for Friday’s panel hearing, but there was no violence during that demonstration or Saturday’s rally.
- Line 9 pipeline hearing postponed after protests
- Pipeline plan threatens First Nations communities, NEB hears
On Friday, protesters, many gathered under the banner of the Idle No More movement, first milled outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to rally against the Line 9 pipeline and to show solidarity with demonstrations at New Brunswick’s Elsipogtog First Nation against a shale-gas project. They were eventually allowed in slowly, after the NEB determined that there were enough seats.
After an anti-Line 9 deputant completed her official submissions to the NEB panelists, the demonstrators began chanting and moving up to the front of the room toward the panel.
There was a brief scuffle with security. Then the NEB panel members were escorted by security and police out of the room, as was an Enbridge representative.
The NEB didn’t provide a date for when Enbridge will present the closing arguments that had been slated for Saturday.
Protest organizer Amanda Lickers said the NEB should have found a way to let Enbridge make its case in support of the reversal.
“I think that if they were really concerned about security, they could have still done it over the web…. There could have been ways to make the presentation happen.”
Critics cite environmental risks
The panel heard this week from interveners stating the reversal would put First Nations communities at risk, threaten water supplies and could endanger vulnerable species in ecologically sensitive areas.
Jan Morrissey of a Toronto residents’ group showed up early Saturday morning for the hearing, only to learn it was cancelled.
Morrissey said she’s disappointed she won’t get to hear Enbridge’s final reply to arguments made to the board by critics of the reversal.
“It’s sort of like reading a book and not getting to see the last chapter,” she said.
The pipeline reversal would increase the line’s capacity to 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, up from the current 240,000 barrels.
Enbridge has also asked for permission to move different types of oil, including a heavier form of crude from the Alberta oilsands.
Opponents say the crude Enbridge wants to transport is more corrosive and will stress the aging infrastructure and increase the chance of a leak.
But Enbridge has said what will flow through the line will not be a raw oilsands product — although there will be a mix of light crude and processed bitumen.
Line 9 originally shuttled oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal but was reversed in the late 1990s in response to market conditions to pump imported crude westward.
Enbridge is now proposing to flow oil back eastward to service refineries in Ontario and Quebec.
The company has experienced several devastating spills on its pipelines, including one in Michigan that leaked 3.3 million litres of oil into the Kalamazoo River and has already cost the company more than $1 billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes there is at least 684,000 litres of bitumen still in the river.
- Final day of Enbridge Line 9 pipeline hearings cancelled over security concerns (globalnews.ca)
- Line 9 hearings by National Energy Board overtaken by protest (cbc.ca)
- Enbridge pipeline: Toronto criticizes emergency plans (metronews.ca)
- Thousands march against GMOs, Monsanto across Canada (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- CBC: N.B. shale gas solidarity protests spread to other regions (sacredfirenb.wordpress.com)
- Anti-fracking protesters torch cop cars in New Brunswick (washingtontimes.com)