Monday, September 19, 2011

Environmental Transparency: what you don't see, can't hurt you!

                  Oh dear! The Harperites are at it again, it seems. Defaulting on their campaign promises. What this time..?

                   Remember the promises about "responsable government"? A government is responsable when it informs citizens of common dangers. This is so because, technically speaking, the government is supposed to be acting - in democracies anyway - as the agent of the people. You do not expect your banker to be rifling your accounts or your grocer to be short changing on the weight of the veggies you buy.

                 So too with governments. One of their functions is national defense. "Defense" - in the large sense - includes warning people of dangers, for example, a radioactive cloud arriving on the Pacific cost from damaged Japanese reactors. If the government failed to do so, the public would, in fact, be justified in calling the government to account for its failure to inform. We all know damn well this is true.

                 Now, since we accept the consensus opinion of the scientific community on the risks posed by climate change, we consider it totally unacceptable that the Harper government would suppress reasearch and  monitoring programs relating to anthropogenic climate change. This however is exactly what the Harperites have done!

                  Incredible! Do these guys have no shame? Or are they so brain-washed by the propaganda machine of the oil industry they serve that they really feel such programs and research are "a waste of time and money" in a time of budget restriction? Although, even here, given the way the economy is behaving lately, it is arguable that the feds should actually be spending money in strategic areas - renewable energies, energy conservation, public transport.. - even if this means going into deeper debt for a while.

                 The consequences of further budget cuts to Environment Canada will be long reaching and unpredictable. For those who reject the scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change but who do believe in the threat of ozone eating CFC gases, consider the following:

"... the Canadian cuts also threaten to erode the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement that obliges Arctic countries to monitor the ozone layer and maintain scientific ozone research.
Closing down Canada's ozone stations and the Toronto data archive "would clearly be seen as eroding the regulations of the Montreal protocol,"... "Once such an erosion process starts other countries can follow and may start to question other parts of the regulations under the Protocol.""

                   We are treading on very thin ice here! Global problems, like Ozone Layer Depletion which could reduce crop outputs and further destabalize the third world, need to be faced multilaterally, that  is, "internationally". Harper and his gang, in a move to gain cheap votes from their right wing core - populism, in other words - are dismantling multilateral structures and institutions, the destruction of which will entail unknowable - but extremely heavy - long term consequences.

internal blog link: mar 6, 2012;postID=7082523677780259320

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Transparency: losing control over our privacy rights

            Canada is a democracy which protects the civil rights of its citizens, right?

            So here's a theoretical question: which is more important to the Harper government, trade with the USA or protection of privacy and civil rights here at home?

            Well, you might be inclined to say, given that Canada is a democracy which protects the civil rights of its citizens, that's really a no brainer! Rights trump trade..

             Think again! Former diplomat Gar Pardy - who has worked on US-Can relations - has issued a warning: Canada is thinking of trading off privacy and civil rights protection against trade in recent negotiations with the States.

               Who is Mr. Pardy? 

              And here is his warning, in an Ottawa Citizen piece dated September 12, 2011:

"The essence of the security measures in the Shared Vision declaration requires the transfer of information to the United States on, potentially, millions of people, most of whom would be Canadian citizens. Officials with the Canadian Shared Vision working group negotiating with the Americans, in briefing interested Canadians this summer, were frank in declaring that increased Canadian co-operation on security was the price to be paid for the removal of border restraints and constraints. They were equally frank in stating that the privacy rights of Canadians could be affected in paying that price."

                  The former diplomat's conclusion is chilling:
"If Canadians are not vigilant they may soon discover that the Americans have more control over their privacy rights than we do at home."

                   Once again, we are forced to face the inevitable: in the neocon - and neocon wanabe - hierarchy of value, despite all the hairy chested talk about "freedom", "choice", and "individualism", profits trump civil rights and civil society everytime.
                    Forewarned is forearmed, for those with wit to see..
                    Au pays des aveugles, les borgnes sont roi / in the land of the blind, the one-eyed are king