Green elections and oil pipelines (November 1, 2020)

Good Sunday Morning

Welcome to our 9th month of pandemic- November. Hard to stay cheerful, but we must keep trying!

Getting back to trying to share actual news about oil and pipelines, but first some really good Green news!

You all know this by now, but we can celebrate strong election results across Canada.

First, the strong showing by BC Greens thanks to amazing leadership from Sonia Furstenau and a sterling track record from Adam Olsen. The votes are not all counted yet, so do not count out the chance of more Green MLAs.  Great news from Jeremy Valeriote, projected to win West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, defeating two-term Liberal incumbent Jordan Sturdy. Ridings to watch in the mail-in vote count are Nelson-Creston and Green candidate Nicole Charlwood, Victoria Beacon Hill and Green Jenn Neilson and Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Nicole Duncan.  Looking at the preliminary results suggests these are not close races, but when you realize that more people voted Green in Oak Bay-Gordon Head in 2017 than the total number of ballots counted so far, it is way too early to concede anything.

Typical of Horgan’s recklessness was his apparent failure to realize that under BC election law, counting of mail-in ballots cannot begin until 13 days after the election. On Thursday in procedure and house affairs committee, I was shocked as Dr. Bonnie Henry testified John Horgan never sought her advice before calling a snap election. She found out the same way the rest of us did.  Mind you, she was very careful to avoid any criticism.  When I asked her about whether low voter turn-out could be related to the increasing rates of COVID during the election, she demurred, only confirming that COVID did increase during the campaign.

But, so far, BC has had the lowest voter turn-out in recent history at 52%.  So the NDP “majority” is a lot like Harper’s in 2011 – 45% of the 52% of the people who turned out voted NDP.  A mandate from less than 24% of eligible voters.

More good Green news was the strong second place finish for leader Annamie Paul in the Toronto-Centre by-election.  Some may doubt that I am genuinely thrilled with that result, but I am.  Of course, I would be happier if she had won, but this was a safe Liberal riding.  It is likely the safest Liberal seat in Canada  — being held Liberal for 28 years. And the Liberals ran a star candidate. Literally a star of CTV television news and social fun programming, I am sure Marci Ien expected a cake walk.  Instead, Annamie Paul gave her a run for her money, ending up with 32% of the vote.  That is the best result any federal Green has ever had anywhere in Ontario.

Just as Sonia did in BC, Annamie never ceased condemning the recklessness of a snap election in an area with some of the highest COVID rates in Canada. And just like BC, voter turn-out was low – even for a by-election – with only 32% of eligible voters casting a ballot. COVID in politics may lead to super-spreader events, but not spreading the level of voter engagement.  This anti-democratic aspect of pandemic elections does require further study.

Meanwhile, the whole media-fueled notion that I should retire in order for Annamie Paul to run in Saanich-Gulf Islands was put to rest in these two interviews with CBC – one with me and one with Annamie.  I loved her line that “We’re not looking to substitute seats. We’re looking to gain seats.”

I have to say, it is a bit frustrating to be depicted as somehow selfish to think I should continue to do my work in parliament. I stepped down as leader to help build the party with a fresh face. I modeled the plan on good succession – staying in parliament (I hope!) to support a new leader. It is rare in politics, but that’s what Alexa McDonough did for Jack Layton, who also led his party without a seat in parliament until the general election. True, most leaders retire from politics when they step down, but that’s generally because they head to the hospital to get the knives out of their backs. And some, the walking wounded, like valiant Stephane Dion, continue to stay on through the next three leaders of his party.  But people have short memories!

Meanwhile, our new leader continues to make waves, including across the pond – in The Guardian. and at home:  Watch for this one on November 4th – Annamie in conversation with Paul Wells –

My favourite recent good Green news may actually be about the New Zealand Greens. Thanks to having a cooperative spirit – entirely due to getting rid of First Past the Post in 1994 and adopting MMP for fair voting – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with a whopping Labour majority, is including Greens in her Cabinet.  Green Co-leader James Shaw will continue as Ardern’s climate minister, allowing him to help implement the act he brought in in the last parliament – the Zero Carbon Act- while Green co-leader Marama Davidson, who is Maori and has been a victim of sexual violence, will head up a new portfolio focusing on ending violence against women and families, as well as responsibilities to combat homelessness.  I love Ardern’s confident embrace of Green expertise, saying that James Shaw knows the issue “inside-out.”    There is a Confidence and Supply Agreement underpinning the arrangement (more and fuller details here):

At this point, in my little Sunday Morning missive, I am taking an entirely different tone. From now on this newsy bit is mostly a rant about how much I hate oil pipelines. And here I share what was a real shocker for me.  I learn more every day as I dig into the dreadful conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  (this little fact sheet is out of date but a good backgrounder on what this is about:

There is a legitimate and desperate concern that the Armenian population is about to be subjected to ethnic cleansing. The damn pipeline, called the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan between Azerbaijan, transiting Georgia, to Turkey, is responsible.

Okay, fair enough, it is not the pipeline that is to blame, nor the huge influx of oil money to the Azerbaijan government.  The government could have spent its new oil money on schools or hospitals or peacebuilding.  But it didn’t. Since the completion of the pipeline in 2006, Azerbaijan has spent an estimated $20 billion on armaments. (It is estimated that Armenia has spent half a billion on weapons).

So Armenia is outgunned – literally.

Canada sold Turkey drones that ended up being used in the conflict. Turkey denies it, with the usual diplomatic cover of “plausible deniability,” but everyone knows how Canadian technology ended up in the rubble of buildings where Armenians died.  Russia sells to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, but it sells relatively little to Armenia and a great deal to Azerbaijan. Recently, Israel became a significant source of highly sophisticated weaponry for the Azerbaijani side. Israel hopes to build a stronger rampart against Iran by supporting Iran’s neighbor, Azerbaijan.  Of the power players, so far, ironically, only Iran seems to be interested in peace.

Canada must do more. We have halted sales of drones to Turkey, but we could do much more. Turkey is a NATO ally. Pressure needs to be applied. More nations need to work in a peace effort. Canada’s closest embassy to the conflict is in Moscow. We are long overdue for some on-the-ground diplomatic presence. I have had good exchanges with Global Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and the prime minister. Canada is mostly one of the good guys… but not very effective without more energetic efforts for peace.

Closer to home, the dreaded TMX pipeline had a very bad week indeed.  Poor engineering has stalled construction near Kamloops. The company – our tax dollars at work – was trying to directionally drill under the Secwepemcetkwe ( as it is known to the Secwepemc people on whose territory the construction is taking place) or Thompson River when something went wrong. HTTPS://CFJCTODAY.COM/2020/10/29/TRANS-MOUNTAIN-EXPANSION-HITS-SNAG-MUST-RE-START-DRILLING-BENEATH-THOMPSON-RIVER-IN-KAMLOOPS/

In a press release from the Secwepemc Land Defence, former TMX engineer Romilly Cavanaugh explained:   “Horizontal directional drilling is a very costly process requiring numerous pieces of heavy equipment and a large number of personnel. TMX’s failure this week to install a new pipe beneath the Thompson River will result in significant additional costs, and likely a delay in the project completion date. Redoing the crossing will easily double or even triple the costs at this work site, and a second attempt may go the same way as the first.”

But, the pipeline is in the national interest, of course, and all of us pesky opponents should just accept the inevitable— not actually.  Energy expert David Hughes wrote a blistering report for Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- chock full of those things that TMX supporters loathe – facts.

The report Reassessment of Need for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project   makes it abundantly clear that the previously non-existent case for the pipeline is now even worse.  Andrew Nikiforuk did a great job in The Tyee laying out the bad news for all of us unhappy pipeline owners:  Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst.

As ever, Andrew Nikiforuk does a great job, but check out the report for one major conclusion that the Tyee article does not mention. The Canada Energy Regulator’s (formerly NEB) forecast of oil and gas production in Canada means the oil and gas sector alone will exceed an 80% emissions reduction target in 2050 by 81%. Net zero by 2050 as the government has promised is impossible on current information. Transitioning off oil and cancelling the lunatic TMX pipeline project is urgent and necessary.

So, dear readers, so long for this Sunday.  Let’s hope that by next Sunday we have reason to celebrate. November 4th is the day the US officially exits the Paris Agreement. Let’s hope the signal has been sent by next Sunday that the US is back in.

Love and all that good stuff – stay well – be kind – try to find something beautiful every day and celebrate that!!



PS Coming events that might be of interest:


November 8:  FairVote Canada webinar: Join the new Green Party leader, Annamie Paul, and Green Parliamentary Leader Elizabeth May for a discussion with Fair Vote about electoral reform and democracy!


November 19: Webinar on the push to get Canada to sign on to the UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons: where there is also a registration link.


November 20: Join us for an important ZOOM conversation with Seth Klein, Elizabeth May and Anjali Appadurai, three prominent Canadian activists who will offer their perspectives on the climate crisis and the role we can play to mitigate its impacts and create a bold new vision based on justice and right relationship with our Earth.  To register:

Final PS: Some time this month you will receive duplicate Good Sunday Mornings. We in SGI are shifting the distribution to the Green Party software called GVote. To ensure subscribers don’t miss an issue, we will send out from both existing and new software sometime in November. More details later this month. Thanks.

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